Writing is a fascinating endeavor. Each time I put some of my thoughts into a blog post, sermon, or story I put a bit of myself on display for the world to see. It’s a process which is both liberating and terrifying. Putting oneself “out there” means being open to being wounded by the unthinking attacks of others.
By this I don’t mean thoughtful critiques or disagreements, I actually find those invigorating. Rather, I refer to the type of non-reflective rejection invoked by those who are unable to see a person on the other side of the words.
In today’s culture it seems people have an uncanny ability to sense even the smallest form of disagreement. Once detected, the “fight or flight” response is triggered, a response which is increasingly becoming a “fight” response. Even more alarming is the blurring of the distinction between “offline” and “online” for this type of behavior. Previously, in all but the most rabid of haters, vicious attacks were “hidden” behind the wall of online anonymity. This is, sadly, no longer the case. Refusing to see “the other” as human, people have no problem cheering venomously when a protester is roughed up at a political rally. Nor are people able to see the sad irony of protesting dehumanizing speech with hatred every bit as venomous as that which they protest.
It seems as though there is a large portion of our culture which will not be happy unless they somehow manage to start a war of retribution against the targets of their ire. These are the people who tell those who aren’t in “the front lines” with them that they must choose a side.
No, thanks. I have no desire to join a righteous horde bent on socially, mentally, physically, and spiritually annihilating their enemies. I don’t have to choose one of the sides from which I am told I must choose. I refuse to play that game, a game which sets fear against anger and hatred against mistrust. The only way to win that game, is never to play.
I choose to stand instead on a field which is marked by discourse, charity, and self-reflection. I choose not to fear those with whom I disagree, or hate those who have a vision of the future different than mine. I choose to listen and, even when I have a strong opinion on a matter, I will choose to respond in ways which I think may echo that openness. Flipping the bird and punching people in the face is not what this world needs.
Sadly, it’s a pretty lonely field. Most people have bought into the narrative that we must have a battle in order to punish their opposite 1. In fact, they describe actions which stoke that narrative into flame as “heroic 2.” Any more, all I am is sad.
I am saddened from the profound lack of discernment I see on the part of people from just about every political angle in our country 3.
I am saddened by liberal believers who see charity as surrender and conservative Christians who call theological construct of shalom “weak.”
I am saddened by people who are willing to “play the game” in order to hold on to, or gain, power.
I was once asked what good sorrow does. I believe sorrow is a much better tutor for wisdom than anger. Springing from a deeper well, it breeds a type of wisdom tempered with compassion, rather than cynicism. This is how I want to live.
Is there ever a time for action? Sure. But when I act I want it to spring from a love for both “the other” who are on “my side” and “the other” who is not. I don’t want enemies, but if I find any I want to love them.
It’s what Jesus commands 4.
- In our political climate you can see then whenever a critical comment is made about someone’s chosen candidate or a group’s actions. If one critiques Trump around a supporter the response is often, “Well you can’t tell me Hillary is better!” When you critique a protestor’s actions the response frequently, “What, you think [name] is actually right?” Neither extreme is able to entertain the notion you aren’t playing their game. ↩
- What I find most interesting, and unsettling, is how the each polar extreme of our politics use the same rhetorical flourishes as the other. ↩
- If you’re pondering who I am to assume the position of “discerning American” please allow me to make two points. First, that’s precisely the type of “fight response” which is destroying public discourse in Western Civilization. Second, I have made it a habit to check out the source material of the various memes and blog posts which fill my social feeds. If a law is cited, I go out of my way to read whatever text is cited. If a damning story is told I try to hunt down primary sources (that is, I search Youtube and Google) which can shed light on any claims which are made. So, yes, I think that puts me in a position of a person who is attempting to be discerning. ↩
- Matthew 5:43 ↩