Like millions of Americans I watched the hearing from the Senate yesterday, finding myself deeply moved by the powerful emotions of both persons. I’ll leave opinions about the outcome to those better informed. The conclusions you and I will reach are influenced by multiple factors – gender, political persuasion, age – to name a few. The fear and fury in that hearing room yesterday seemed, to me, a summary of what my beloved nation has become: millions of aggrieved people fearfully and/or angrily talking across huge divides in understanding of the most basic values.
We have lost the ability to talk reasonably, with any attempt to understand the ‘other side’ seen as betrayal, sell-out, or disloyalty. The other party (as seen from both sides) is not just different or mistaken, it is now ‘evil’ and dangerous. As my son noted yesterday on Facebook, we have descended into tribalism. Sean is about as fair a thinker as I know, but because his coffee shop hosted an event that encouraged ‘coffee with a cop,’ he lost a customer, this in spite of many events that embrace differing kinds of groups. His comment is insightful. “Tribalism has overtaken us. It’s not the dems or repubs. It’s YOU and them picking sides and excluding, giving up on thought, productive action and compromise because sticking with your tribe is the easier option. Drawing lines in the sand is clearer.”
Why am I writing about this today, you may be asking? Isn’t this a blog about spiritual matters? It is! And, the toxic, angry, fearful, hate-filled atmosphere in America is a spiritual problem, one that Christ’s disciples should care about earnestly. How have we forgotten Jesus’ words that tell us one of our priorities is to build bridges, to become those who seek peace? “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” (Matthew 5:9, The Message)
Could we start by eliminating absolute conclusions about huge groups of people from our thoughts and words?
When we say, “All of those …” you fill in the blank, “are stupid, or evil, or …” we shut down reasonable conversation that could lead to clearer understanding. I had a difficult conversation with a young woman yesterday about gender. It was a remarkable thirty minutes when two generations, an older man and a younger woman, tried hard to see the world through the eyes of the other, deepening our understanding a little bit. If that kind of conversation was multiplied by millions, if we would allow another to say things we find ‘stupid’ or ‘offensive’ without jumping to rage or cutting them off, we may both find ourselves richer in the end.
Near the conclusion of yesterday’s hearing, Senator Flake (R.- Arizona) spoke briefly and a word in his comments took hold of me- humility.
Could we humble ourselves enough to listen?
Could we humble ourselves and admit that none of us has all the answers?
Could we humble ourselves and reach over the divide even if it costs us friends?
No matter who we are – male, female, young, old, black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, progressive, conservative – we have a stake in the survival of our country. Whatever we perceive as wrong we can learn by listening and, if we are humble, can discover the art of finding common ground to advance the good. We do not have to give away all our convictions and live in a land of complete compromise, but we can learn to humbly admit that we do not possess all the wisdom needed for life.
I pray for my country this morning with a broken heart.
I confess that I have been a part of the problem, too often rushing to proclaim what is ‘right’ before I have fully understood what is wrong. I have failed to know how the world looks to those who do not share my background, my place, my religion, my gender, my race. I pray to recover the heart of Jesus, shaped by fearless love. I ask Him to lead me to a solid place of assurance of my God’s love so that I will live in bold love for the ‘other.’
The word from the Word is lengthy. Read it with a prayerful heart.
“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.
Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.“ (1 John 3:11-19, NLT)
Go build some bridges to others today to keep America from being torn apart.