DATE: Thursday, February 24
OK, I admit it, the post title is a tad bit provocative. But, left or right, the very idea of finding commonality is intriguing. For even though all of the terms used above are ideologically and semantically loaded, I believe it is a given that our "sides," whether in the halls of congress or the coffee hour of a small-town church, are not supposed to find common ground.
After all, what if we did find that place where we truly find common understanding and appreciation about our perspectives? For some of us, we would lose our identity, no longer defined by the battles with the ideological nemesis. And still others would say that finding common ground about anything: policy, theology, vernacular, etc., would just water down one side or the other giving way to a mushy and moderate middle.
For when it gets right down to it, isn't the real goal in all of these "conversations" to beat the other into submission and prove that our side is right?
Nay, I say. Nay.
I reject this adversarial mentality because at the core of our discourse should not be an obsession with winning the future, but our common yearning to discover where God is leading us. We are at our best when we maintain a healthy place where disparate theological and political views can passionately wrestle. It is in these times of healthy conflict that I believe we most fully discover who we are and who we are becoming. But we must also be able to agree on a few things, not in the particularities, but in our general understanding of our common humanity.
It is with this yearning that I offer this list of five and affirmations and five confessions that I believe I hold in common with many of the folks who sit on the other side of the proverbial aisle. I am no mathematician, but think of these are both our lowest as well as our highest common denominators as passionate, opinionated and faithful human beings. I offer no solutions to the problems of our misunderstandings and misconceptions, only a hope that if we can humbly see one another beyond the sound-byte character redactions that fuel so many of our conversations. We just might have a chance.
This I confess...
I don't give people the benefit of the doubt: Too often I assume too much about people with whom I disagree. I place folks in a box because of one statement made, one experience shared or another personal association, and I never let them out. I forget that at our core, we are each complex creations and should be treated and seen as such.
I expect from others what I do not demand of myself: The same grace, patience and openness that I hope is extended to me during times of disagreement, I have a diffiuclt time offering at the onset or in return.
I only sometimes believe in democracy: Majority rules is GREAT when it lines up with the way I would vote. But when elections sometimes don't go my way, the "will of the people" is probably wrong.
I often overestimate and overstate my own influence, expertise and erudition: This not only causes to me to take myself a too seriously and enter conversations ill-equipped but it can also lead me to condescending linguistic head-patting that says, "When they get smarter they will see that I'm right."
I am rarely as witty as I think I am: Too often, but with good intention, my snark gets the best of me and I become mean-spirited and toxic. I may mask it as ironic and playful, but in the end it is about me tearing you down.
This I affirm...
I believe I can change the world: As I dip my toe into my 40s, I am still as idealistic and passionate as ever about my ability to change the world for the better. Tactics, strategy and context may change, but when I see something that I think is wrong, I yearn to to be part of making it right.
I am passionate: I do not take lightly the causes I embrace or the beliefs I hold. Sometimes my passion and intensity is driven by my heart and other times my mind, but in either case, it is my deep yearning to move forward what I believe to be right, true and just.
I love my country: Always yearning for us to be moving toward something better, at the heart of both my most severe critiques or gushing accolades is a deep gratitude to be a participant in this great experiment called the United States.
I am a person: Like most every human being, I fall in love, experience disappointment, find beauty all around me, let my emotions get the best of me, over-think decisions, yearn for community, want to be heard, cry, laugh...
I'm guided by my faith: I believe, speak and act out of a deep commitment to my Christian faith, a faith guided by Scripture, Christ's call on my life and my community of faith.
I am sure there are more confessions and affirmations that I hold in common with "those people" over there, but these will serve as my own reminder of our common humanity. For no matter how committed, justified or confident that I am about what I believe, I must always remember that the same passions are held by someone else on the other side -- and maybe, just maybe, the most faithful outcomes can only be discovered if we seek them together.
Photo: Ashton Popiel
You may not remember, but four years ago I wrote you a really cheesy letter expressing the love and hopes that your mom and I have for your lives. Well, your Dad is cheesy as ever so I thought I would write you another letter, this time in recognition of Valentine's Day, on "Love." I can hear you now, "Daaaaaaad ... really?" but you know me, if I didn't express my hopes to you both in the sweet times when it is just us or via a blog that at least 27 people will read, I wouldn't be your Dad ;-)
As much as the selfish and protective parent in me would like to say, "Please don't grow up or experience the world and, for goodness sake, do not fall in love" we all know that your mom and I simply revel in watching you seek and grow into all that God intends for your life. When it comes to "love" it is no different. As we watch you navigate the changing nature of relationships in school, friends and new people in your lives we are grateful for the ways you have handled the teasing, the crushes and the heartbreak that love may bring. But alas, it is also our job to give you as much counsel as possible in order to help you make good choices in life. So in addition to our hopes that you will always love the Oakland A's, take care of your parents when we get old and never forget the joy you bring to our lives, here are my hopes for your life when it comes to "love."
I hope you find love that is soulful ... Now I know that getting married will not be for everyone and that the nature of commitment is changing in the world, so this is not a "You have to get married" hope. Still, as the world opens up to you and you meet people throughout your life, I hope you meet someone who will deeply move you in body, mind and spirit. You will have many friends, some even really good ones, but when you experience love that touches your soul at its core you will be forever changed.
I hope you know love that is expansive ... You know that another person does not define who you are as a child of God, but when you meet a man or woman who takes hold of your heart with care, you do begin to know who you are becoming, what you believe and how you will live in the world. I hope that whomever you fall in love with, together you will rejoice in the journey of discovering who God intends you both to become.
I hope that your mom and I have done okay ... Like many children you have seen your parents go through the ups and downs of life as individuals and as a couple. We've always tried to be appropriate in what you see and know and I hope we have never lead you to believe that love is easy or perfect. So when someone asks you about how your parents were as a couple, it's my hope that you will be able say, "Well, other than kissing in front of us which they knew grossed us out ... they really loved one another, we always knew they loved us and there was a lot of joy in our home." Basically, I hope that you will see in your mom and dad's relationship that we have the greatest hopes for one another which has only made our love that much deeper.
So I think that's it until the next time I'm feeling cheesy, maybe an Arbor Day letter or something ;-) You know that we love you and I apologize in advance for the difficulties that I will have in letting you go as you each grow into the woman you will become. But also know that when it seems like your mom or I don't understand the heartache or the euphoria that you are experiencing, we are trying ... and, not only that, we promise at the depths of our souls to be with you through it all, the tears, the laughter and the love.
We love you.
CROSSPOSTING: If you are so inclined, you are invited to join the conversation within any/all of these different communities where this post has been published: My Personal Blog, SF Gate and/or The Huffington Post.
For the next few weeks our kitchen table looks like it will be Girl Scout Cookie central. Middle is pretty driven - shocking - to sell, sell, sell! We are trying to help her develop a kind and generous entrepreneurial spirit, so we shall see. To find cookie selling Girl Scouts in your area: www.girlscoutcookies.org.
In order to test out the usefulness of the new Facebook Page upgrades, this week, February 13-20, I am going conduct a bulk of my facebook activity: posts, links, updates via my page and not on my profile.
But why, you ask?
Contrary to popular belief I am not generally an early-adopter. This is particularly true when it comes to gadgets of the technical variety preferring to wait until the 2nd or 3rd generation edition. But when it comes to most things social media, I am pretty willing to jump right in. Most of the changes that have come to FB and twitter over the past years have not bothered me as much as they have for some folks and I figure that most changes are actually not going to be launched unless they really are a good idea.
So . . . as soon as I saw an option to upgrade my facebook page, I jumped all over it. I have been really frustrated with my page as it is nowhere near as effective in generating interaction as my profile. And as I have written about before, the profile's 5,000 friend limit creates some problems with being able to connect with causes and new friends. This upgrade is a welcomed change.
In a nutshell, this new upgrade gives a page the same capabilities as a profile. This is really good for businesses and for folks who live and interact in the public space. If you are the admin of a page, you now have the option to use faebook as that page. This is exactly what I was waiting for and even in one day, I have already interacted more on my page than have I have in the past few weeks combined.
So if I like it, I will again get to use my facebook profile to interact with people that I actually know and who care about my day-to-day life. I can then use my page for broader conversations about life, faith and baseball.
What feels like a million years ago, I was a signatory on a letter to members of congress about Arizona's law, SB 1070, Presbyterians Issue Statement on AZ Immigration Law. A that time there was great controvery about immigration reform around the country and even greater uproar regarding the ways that AZ was choosing to respond to some of the issues about undocumented folks in their community.
Since then my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has taken a consistent and controversial stand on the side of the immigrant community. In fact, now that Kentucky is thinking about adopting a similar law to SB6, we have again expressed our hope for a different response in an official letter from our church leadership, as well as some Presbyterians decended upon Frankfort to express their deep concern.
One of the things that the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church adopted was an overture that directed our national offices to “refrain from holding national meetings at hotels in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment.” [Full Outlook Article]
As you can imagine, this has created a great deal of controversy not just about immigration, but how we, as a ideologically diverse body, should respond. Does anyone even care what we say? How helpful are boycotts? Do we do nothing? Do we stay out of politics? All good questions for large institutions.
I, for one, am still a believer in the power of the boycott. While this can be tough on some workers in the short term, and risk not being successful, often the only way corporate entities are pressed into change is through their pocketbooks. This can happen through the halting of direct spending or bad press which leads to a reduction of income. For generations, those who are being boycotted will try deflect attention away from unjust practices and blame those who are standing up for those very workers that they are claiming to protect. In the end, we must remain diligent and committed to bringing light to those things that marginalize and oppress. In this case, I beleive that we must maintain our pressure on places like AZ and KY so that we may, in the end, choose to find a better solution to our countries immigration polcies so that we can both honor the dignity of the immigrant as well as be good stewards of our nation's fiscal resources.
It is for this reason that I agreed to sign onto a letter (see below) from the Caucus Nacional Presbiteriano Hispano and Latino Concilio Coordinador urgeing the General Assembly's Stewardship Kaleidoscope Conference to cancel their event to be held later this month in Pheonix. The letter was signed by 163 people among them members of the National Hispanic Caucus Coordinating Council, 4 former General Assembly Moderators, 25 Middle Governing Body Staff, 21 General Assembly Staff, 11 members of our Theological, Educational & Ecumenical Institutions and 88 pastors and elders. We all agree that this event is against what the Church approved in the past General Assembly of not to hold events in Arizona.
While I do stand behind this letter, I also realize that the event leadership was placed in a difficult situation in light of the General Assembly decision. I also have no doubt that they were prayful and faithful in deciding to proceed with the event. I simply do not agree.
Excerpts from the conference leadership's statement:
After prayerful consideration of the action of the 219th General Assembly regarding hosting events in Arizona and the financial consequences of breaking hotel contracts at substantial expense, the Stewardship Kaleidoscope Conference Planning Team has determined to continue with plans to hold the 2011 event in Phoenix, Ariz., at the Phoenix Airport Hilton from February 28 to March 2.
God often gives us choices for which there are not only no perfect answers, but for which there are serious consequences regardless of the decision. We believe this is one of those decisions. We recognize that some governing bodies and individuals will choose not to participate in 2011 in Arizona, and that other persons will choose to be present. We hope to continue the Kaleidoscope conferences beyond 2011 as there is response and need presented by Presbyterians to deepen our stewardship commitment to the work of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and to Jesus Christ.
Again, I understand that issues such as these are nowhere near as clear or simple as we would like them to be and we, as a country and denomination will disagree vigourously over immigration. At the same time complexity or fear of conflict should not deter us from speaking and acting in the way that we feel God is call to.
The full letter is below along with all of the names. [Download PDF]. Please share this with others and if you have any questions about the letter or wish to send a word of encouragement and/or solidarity, you should contact the Moderator, Rev. Dr. Mauricio Chacon.
CARTA RESOLUCIóN ARIZONA
The Presbyterian News Service in its General Assembly report included the following item: “After nearly two hours of debate on Thursday evening, the 219th General Assembly (2010) agreed to refrain from holding national meetings in states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color might subject them to harassment due to legislation.”
Once again Presbyterians had the audacity and the foresight to stand against an unjust law, in this case the recently enacted immigration policy in Arizona (SB 1070). Because of this policy, entire communities in this state now live in fear of being separated from jobs, family and friends. The law actually legalizes racial profiling and the demise of basic civil rights for an entire ethnic group. The law even criminalizes people who attempt to bring aid to the newcomers. People of faith especially feel that their basic right to exercise their religious calling to embrace the stranger, feed the hungry and house the homeless is being threatened.
The PNS story continues: “Former moderator of the General Assembly, Rick Ufford-Chase (2004) spoke in support of the measure, as did former moderator of the General Assembly John Fife (1992), who currently lives in Arizona. ‘Racism must be confronted with action,’ said Fife. Ufford-Chase cited PC(USA)’s ‘historic concern for those who stand on the fringe of our society.”
Even Stated Clerk the Rev. Gradye Parsons said that if Pennsylvania, the state site of the 220th General Assembly (2012), had a similar law, “…we would follow the directions of the Assembly.”
In spite of these bold declarations and the will of the highest body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a Stewardship Event is scheduled for February 28 through March 3, 2011, in Phoenix Arizona.
The National Presbyterian Hispanic/Latino Caucus of the Presbyterian Church (USA) wishes to add its voice to those at the Assembly and decry the decision to hold this Presbyterian-sponsored event in Arizona. This action appears to be challenging not only the will of the Assembly, but also the historic, biblical and theological stance of Christians against human-enacted laws that discriminate against a particular group of people because of their ethnicity, culture, language, national origin or immigration status.
We believe the arguments presented by the planning committee do not justify holding the event. Good stewardship is not to avoid cancellation fees but to follow the biblical mandates to “…not mistreat an alien (immigrant) or oppress him...” (Exodus 22:21) as well as other Scripture texts supporting justice for immigrants and sojourners.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter from the Birmingham jail to the white pastors who asked him to wait until later for justice for African-Americans, wrote “A just law is a man [sic] -made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” Definitely the Arizona SB 1070 law does not square with God’s law.
Thus we cannot wait either. Now is the time for the Church to stand with those who are marginalized and oppressed once more. We ask you the leaders of this Stewardship Event, as your brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the same Presbyterian Church (USA) under whose leadership we serve the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to transfer the event from Phoenix to another location.
Expectantly, and with great hope for justice and solidarity,
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE NATIONAL HISPANIC PRESBYTERIAN CAUCUS (4)
Former General Assembly Moderators (4)
Middle Governing Body Staff (25)
General Assembly Staff (21)
Theological, Educational & Ecumenical Organizations (11)
Pastors and Elders (89)
During a recent hot yoga class, my instructor basically told me that I was doing really well, but I needed to get rid of the "game face." Now I have always been a pretty competitive person. I played baseball in high school, I might be a little intense when playing Settlers of Catan and, apparently, I can't even do yoga without finding some way to compete. I mean who could blame me for wanting to hold the the best darn Garurasana in the class? Apparently there is no such thing as competitive yoga at my studio, no score keeping and I guess I will not be getting a trophy at the end of my time for bending myself into a donut.
Sheesh, don't they know that America is fueled by competition?
With all due respect to my President's recent call for America to "win the future," while this might be a media-worthy rallying cry for our corporate national life, when the church engages in this kind of thinking, we get into trouble. When American culture talks about winning, it's not solely about being the best at something, but also about being recognized and honored as the best. We stand on the top step of the podium, we declare victory on election night and we hoist the spoils of championships over our heads while singing Queen's "We are the champions!" All the while we look down on the sad sap who came in third, we mock the candidate as he tastes defeat and we take an sick pleasure in visiting the losing team's locker room hoping for that "sore loser" sound byte. American competition is, at it's best, motivating and inspirational and, at its worst, demoralizing and destructive.
Whatever the case, an American understanding of competition has no place in the life of the church. Our "reward" for following Christ's call on our lives is most often not about winning or coming in first, but by simply knowing that, at the depths of our souls, we are doing what God intends. There will be times when our theological beliefs or positions may indeed "win" within ecclesiastical or political arenas, but our challenge is to be faithful to God's calling even if it means the "podium" is a mile away, we aren't even listed on the ballot or the only thing we raise above our heads are prayers of frustration because our voice is not heard. Ultimately, if the church places competition and winning before community, we begin to see others as less-than, unworthy of acknowledgement and, in essence, a failure at being a child of God. And when we can look at someone as not created equally, we can then oppress, marginalize and ignore all in the name of the church . . . a church that somehow is made up of "winners."
Now I am in no way saying that we should stop trying to do well or to seek excellence in the church. All I am saying is that the driving force behind the life of the church must not be one based on winning, recognition or the "reward" at the end of the day. What should drive our life as the church is the knowledge and belief that God has already rewarded us with the very breath we breathe in the morning, the wonder of creation around us and the promise of life everlasting in Christ.
So win, lose or come in dead last, Jesus couldn't really care less.
Just be faithful.
Just be faithful.
Just be faithful.
AN INVITATION: This post has been cross-posted on my three blogs so I would invite you to join the conversation within any/all of these different communities: My Personal Blog, SF Gate and/or The Huffington Post.
[Picture of The Shower of Stoles Project]
The past few days I have had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Creating Change Conference in Minneapolis. This is an annual organizing and training event put on by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
I was there at the invitation of Rev. Janet Edwards [website | twitter] and with the help of the Fenton Group, to be part of a panel about faith and social media. What a great honor it was to talk about how social media can inspire and coalesce movements of justice. My co-panelists were Justin Lee from the Gay Christian Network, Allison Palmer from GLAAD and Alex McNeill from Religion Dispatches. Good folks all.
In many ways this conference was not much different than others that I have attended in terms of schedules and personalities. There were the folks who never saw a button that they didn't wear, there were those for whom the leadership could probably do nothing right and, yes, the conference groupies were a plenty. Really quite sweet and like many events where people with shared experiences and passions gather, it was like a big ol' family reunion.
But . . . despite the the fact that this was like many other conferences, it was different. Here are 10 ways in which this was a unique event and/or particularly interesting to this first-timer. In no particular order . . .
Being an "Ally" is an awkward luxury: I'm going to write on the whole "ally" identity in my next post, but it was good for me to be at an event where I was in the sexual orientation "minority." While I fit the general understanding of what an "ally" is, I have never self-identified myself as such so it was odd to be introduced that way on more than one occasion. Hoping to honor the space into which I was invited, during most gatherings I simply tried to listen and, for the most part, succeeded with a self assigned "do no harm" score of 8 out of 10 ;-) Again, next post will be dedicated to this. Here is a teaser tweet.
Queer Asians are stepping up and out: I attended a workshop on the current status of queer Asian organizing that was sponsored by The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA and pronounced en-kap-ee-uh) and titled, "We're here! We're queer! We eat paneer!" In addition to some fascinating statistics about this history of queer Asian organizations, we heard from Hot Pot in Philadelphia, API Equality LA and American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropty (AAPIP). The stories of my Asian American brothers and sisters who are navigating the nuances of culture amidst the journey around sexuality was inspiring and powerful.
Stories are powerful: As with most gatherings of people, especially those who are politically/socially marginalized, the stories of heartache as well as celebration were profound. I was particularly moved by the interfaith gathering that about 50 people attended at the end of the event. I want to thank everyone who shared such personal and often painful parts of their lives in such a public setting. Amazing courage indeed.
Setting a tone of humility: One of the first things that happened at the opening plenary was that some of the Asian American participants were given the platform to express their disappointment that Creating Change was taking place over Lunar New Year. The date caused many - including myself - to chose in their words, "between organizing and being with my family" and that this was a choice that people should not have to make. This was done with care and passion reminding the conference that even groups with the best of intentions, must always be diligent in being aware of who is left out. I was so impressed with the planning team to allow the opening night to be set with a posture of humility and willingness to be challenged. Well done.
Language was salty, sexual and super-funny: Now I will be careful here not to build on any stereotypes or overstep my "ally" bounds, but one observation that I did make was that in all of the five of the workshops that I attended, there was some kind of swearing and/or sexual reference in each one. I think much has to do with the comfort level and sense that people are in a safe and familiar space so are speaking with "family." As person-of-color who articulates life differently in a room full of Asians, I totally get that and it was a honor to be part of the conversations and privy to many jokes that I didn't even get. Definitely an edge for me, but never a deterrent.
God was in the house: Through the "Practice Spirit, Do Justice" track the visibility of religious and spiritual traditions was quite high. From the Two Spirit First Nations Collective starting gatherings off with a "prayer" to the first plenary featuring four religious leaders reflecting on the LGBTQ movement's relationship to faith, there was an awful lot of religion all up in this event. While there was certainly some push-back on this by many who feel as if religions is the root cause of the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ folks, it felyt genuine to those who live in both worlds.
Creating Change needs more options . . . not: For those that were there, good gravy there were a lot of workshops and other activities to take one's time. While it did feel pretty overwhelming given the multiple ways one could choose offerings, it did provide a great opportunity to present a huge breadth of topics and networking opportunities. I attended worships on LGBTQ Muslims, racial and LGBTQ justice, congregational organizing, Queer Asian movements and social media. Not sure they could ever scale back at this point, so if you ever attend, you have been warned, save some time for mapping your time.
Everyone needs entrance music: Took me a while to figure it out, but there was a DJ at all the plenaries working the crowd and playing entrance music for everyone. Pretty fun. Now I always have a soundtrack playing in my head as I live my life, but hmmm . . . I wonder what my entrance music would be . . . I'm thinking I'll go with Ralph Tresvant's "Sensitivity."
Award winners: I got pretty teary during the final plenary when Kylar W. Broadus was presented "The Susan J. Hyde Activism Award for Longevity in the Movement" for his work around transgender and racial justice. The crowd held his decades of work before him with such deep gratitude. Amazing. Then 17-year-old Allyssa Veil was presented the Paul A. Anderson Award for Youth Leadership for her work with young people in her school and community. The pairing of these two awards was pretty cool, giving visible examples of gratitude for what has been and hope for what will come. A special shout out to the crew from Syracuse University who let me crash their brunch table!
People are doing amazing work: In addition to all the links above, here are just a few of the groups that caught my eye, my ear and my heart. You should probably follow The Task Force via their blog as well as on twitter. For a cool art project check out Jeff Sheng's photography exhibition, "Fearless" which captures the lives of openly LGBT high school and college athletes. For entertainment purposes, comic and emcee Kate Clinton is worth a follow as is the hip-hop duo, God-des and She. And the community that I learned a great deal about, LGBTIQQ Muslims, can find support via Al-Fatiha. And lastly follow Zack Ford on Twitter and his blog as I suspect he'll have some good reflections on the event. You should also look back on and follow the twitter conversations via #cc11.
So that's it, if you have other bloggers, twitterers and/or links from Creating Change that you think would be good to include, please feel free to leave a comment.
A few weeks ago I posted the following facebook status update:
Exercising my vast pastoral skilz today which included: fixing the wifi, rolling out the garbage bins and unclogging a toilet.
The stories kept rolling in from folks who serve churches and have found great joy in the things that one does that not generally associate with being a pastor. While one of the greatest gifts of pastoring is being part of people's lives during the most despairing as well as the most joyous times, most of our hours are filled with the day-to-day life of "running" a congregation.
Some might say that the pastor should not have to fix plumbing, play taxi driver or manage tenants, and in the best of all worlds this may be true. But . . . for many small churches from inner-city New York to rural Kansas to small town Oregon, the pastor must be a generalist, doing what is needed. It is a calling to pastor a small church, pure and simple. Not everyone can do it, not everyone should do it, but when you discover the joy of this kind of ministry, despite all the crud one deals with, it feels right.
This point of this post is not to debate the finer intricacies of the pastorate, but rather I would love to hear more stories. I know that pastors over the years have found themselves doing things that they never expected nor were every trained to do.
So . . . what are the strange, yet lovely things you have had to do because . . . well you were the pastor?
Oh it feels so good, so justified, so deserved . . . and in the end harmless.
"Sarah, you are an idiot!"
"A-Rod, you are overrated and the YANKEES SUCK!"
"Oh Justin, oh Justin, you just make me sad for the ears of an entire generation."
Yep, I love a well-placed jab, a cutting comment or a stinging dig as much as the next person. And if it could be me that launches that one delectable piece of snark, then all the better. What does it matter? These people are in the public eye, so they should expect it. Heck, they may have even done things that deserve strong scorn and serious critique, so they may even deserve it.
Yes, public figures are public figures and it's fair to say that they should expect it when they put themselves out there: the barbs, the ridicule, the name-calling, but I have a deep belief that for the good of society, we should not accept this behavior as a given . . . no matter who they are directed at.
I can hear my mother's gentle reprimand echoing as I type this. Throughout my life whenever her children would talk bad about someone with undue toxicity. Be it politics, sports or pop culture, she would say, "You know, even ______ has a mother who loves him." Eyes would roll and we would go on our way, but we would stop.
What my mother was teaching us was that no matter the person, the action or the ideology EVERYONE, known or unknown, deserves to be seen as a human being: in my tradition, a child of God beautifully and wonderfully made. We do not have to approve of someone's actions, politics or perspective, but all of God's children deserve to be seen as complex beings and treated with dignity.
Now am not talking about being soft or silent in the face of injustice or giving up the nuances of playful banter. What I am saying is that we need to engage in our challenges and critiques with an eye towards building up the community to which we are connected be it a church, family or country and do so without resorting to tearing one another down in the process.
History has seen great leaders rise up over and over again against injustice without having to resort to playground bullying and name-calling and we have seen justice prevail. In Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech he said,
"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind [sic] to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression."
These words are not just about the physical violence that has one human destroying the body of another, but also the violent words that we use to crush the spirit of our enemies. Tearing one another down, whether in body or spirit, denies the dignity and life that God bestows upon all of humanity . . . all humanity.
We cannot allow this behavior to live on our children. While there will always be a level of nastiness in public discourse, that does not mean that we have to put up with it. In fact, if we do not continue to stand against this type of interaction, things will only get worse and we will spiral downward becoming a people who only knows our worth by what side of the violence we find ourselves.
We must stay strong and persevere in this regard. To borrow another quote from MLK,
"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice . . ."
So to everyone to whom I have directed the nasty comment, demeaning barb or just play mean words: Sarah, Justin, A-Rod and for those times that I rolled my eyes, my mom . . . I am sorry.
I will try to play my part in in placing my hand on the arc of justice, bending it with words and actions of non-violence and dignity.
I hope you will join me.