The current social and political climate in America has be feeling torn; between wanting to keep the peace, not ranting, even ignoring it all, and wanting to scream and shout and sob and rally against and for and in general do something.
I am so tired of politics; it’s so tempting to just ignore it, unfollow anyone too entrenched on either side. I did that for a while, during the elections, and even now usually now shut down political discussion over dinner or elsewhere.
But these are defining moments, a significant season. This is not a passing phenomenon, a hot-button topic that will be forgotten in a few months’ time or ‘just a phase’ that we’ll grow out of. I’ve kept my thoughts to myself, for the most part; but then I read quotes like this and I wonder if I shouldn’t speak up?
And these things really, really matter. But I don’t think spewing and ranting and screaming on Facebook and blogs is the answer, either. I know I have a voice, but often the loudest voices are the most divisive ones and I desperately want my voice to remain one of light and truth and hope; a bridge, not a wall. I still hold to my commitment that this place, and my Facebook wall, will not become places of ranting or anger. No ones’ mind will be changed by any of those things.
But in real life, what does it mean? What does it look like?
My closest, dearest Beninese friends, whom I call my family, are Muslim. I can only hope the fact that I love them as extravagantly and openly as I possibly can will show them, in action, that not all Americans hate Muslims. That the words they hear on the news from my country are not representative of the nation… but then, America doesn’t make much sense, for they know that we are a nation of the people, it is what is taught, that America was formed by immigrants, and the beauty of democracy, and they hold it up like a beacon of what all nations here should aspire to look like. But our leader clearly distrusts and hates them. It doesn’t make sense.
And my heart grieves deeply.
I’ve said it before; in my previous life, life before Peace Corps, I didn’t really identify much with national pride or anything political. And then I learned what it was like elsewhere; experienced it, not just read the stories, but met the people affected by decades and centuries of oppression. Where expressing dissent might get you killed. Where opportunities weren’t earned they were bought. Where there is no such thing as a speedy trial or privacy or any of the zillions of other rights we take for granted. That is the history of this continent; now, things are much better, but the shadows of colonialism and oppression and corruption still hang over this land and her people. I realized, truly, that I won the lottery of life, being born in America, and what we have is a precious thing. And heck yes, I’m proud to be an American.
Until now. Now, I am sad. And ashamed.
The great divide.
I feel paralyzed, because, though I hate labels, I am a feminist who also happens to love Jesus and don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. I have dear friends deeply entrenched on both sides of this great divide in which I find myself living. Both labels carry baggage, and usually alienate one from the other. Sarah Bessey nailed it here. I often feel like an outsider to both feminism and Christianity, and I know I am not alone in that feeling...
I really want to be able to talk about it and try to understand all sides of all the issues, though for most people a civil conversation and mutual sharing of ideas and open-minded listening are outside the realm of possibility. I simultaneously want to scream and cry and lament and dream about living, I don’t know, anywhere where the primary headlines and topics of conversation don’t include presidential temper tantrums, and houses are only divided by cheering for different sports teams, not whether or not we should care for the downtrodden, the weak, the marginalized, and the oppressed.
America has changed and it is no longer a country I recognize; but then again, I know I’ve changed, too, and maybe it’s me that I don’t recognize, or that isn’t recognized anymore. I don’t fit in, but then again, I never have; thankfully I don’t need to, in order to make a difference, to leave a legacy of light and truth and love and hope.
Maybe it’s those of us like me, who feel like they have one foot on either side of this great divide; maybe it’s us, by the grace of God, that can pull both sides together. Oh, that it would be so.
So what do I do in all of this? Be the change I want to see in the world. Continue on, as before; putting one foot in front of the other, trying to do the best job I can with what I have been given. I will not put my head in the sand nor will I shout from the rooftops; but I will consistently love, speak truth in love, serve others, love, be grateful, shine light into dark places, and love some more. Because we all need that.
I want to dream for the future, hope for greater things yet to come. I will also pay attention in a way I haven’t until now; we are a government of the people, of which I am one, and I will have my voice heard. I will call my congressional representatives. I will support organizations fighting for truth and love. And I will encourage others to do the same. Regardless of what you believe or which ‘side’ you land on, the wailing and gnashing of teeth does absolutely no good. Try to understand all sides of every issue, do something, love someone, speak truth and dream and hope for the future.
I wrote everything above this yesterday, but something kept me from posting it. Tonight, Nick, our senior chaplain, addressed this very issue from the front of our community gathering. He said many beautiful, true, life-giving things, but I especially loved an illustration he used…
There’s a difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer gives you the temperature of the room, but a thermostat controls the temperature of the room. Let social media and news be a thermometer, telling you the temperature of things out there, but not a thermostat. They don’t determine your emotional state – that is giving them far too much power. Be a thermostat, change the atmosphere in the room.
And also this: Divide has the same root word as diversity.
I don’t want everyone to agree. What a boring world that would be! I want to embrace our diversity – in culture, in theology, in how we approach problems and in the discussion and implementation of solutions. I want to debate and discuss and disagree, yet still love each other and see the best in each other, bring the best out in each other, and offer grace for the rest. God, show me how to be the change I want to see in the world. How to wake up and love the world again, every day, and not give up.