“When I was a kid, I spoke like a kid, I comprehended like a kid, I thought like a kid. But when I grew up, I learned to think like a grown up, and had to set aside my childish thinking and actions.” (I Corinthians 13:11)
I’ve been digesting the news, as slowly as possible despite the fully-open fire hose of information the media wants to feed us. Honestly, it makes me sick. My initial reaction to our national situation was frustration. I’m frustrated because I think I can’t do anything to help anyone. I am not a behavioral scientist but I know a thing or two about feeling helpless, just from my personal experience. Yep. I’ve analyzed it. The feelings of helplessness give way to something else, and it goes any of three directions for me. Sometimes I have to work through all of these. I should have just listed the 4 feelings, but normally I start at a rage baseline or a hopelessness baseline and hope I’ll eventually get to peace. Maybe you’re wired the same way.
I’ve been anticipating the new civil war since I was in college, back in the 80s. Seriously. And I should have anticipated it when I was in High School and became aware of race in America. Kudos to mum and dad, because until I was 13 I had no idea people thought the way they did about race. All I knew was people are people, and we needed to be friends with everyone because deep down we’re all the same. I used to read my Bible more when I was a kid, and if all the verses about how we’re supposed to “love one another” didn’t give me insight, then one other reference reinforced and nailed home the message that we’re supposed to get along. Revelation 5 says that in heaven they will sing a song to Jesus:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”
I get, as an adult, that not everyone believes the stuff in my Bible, much less agrees. We can’t even agree as Christ-followers on interpretations, so I can imagine how many different perspectives there are among people who aren’t Christ-followers. But if I’m right, and even if I’m not right, we have to share the planet so I think we should try to get along with each other. I still believe from my childhood that people are different, superficially, but deep down we’re the same and we should be friends and help each other since everyone has their share (and some have more than their share) of struggles. That concept is reinforced too, in the Bible. Matthew 5:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
I’ve got a friend who bothers to go on Fakebook, and he told me he posted this text as a status update. The saying goes, “Great minds think alike… So do crazy ones.” And so, I’m not saying which of us is great and which of us is crazy, but in processing the crappy news, I’ve been thinking about the same text, among others.
Day before yesterday I was still feeling pretty raged up. I’m not at peace yet. It’s a lot to take in, on primal, emotional, and spiritual levels. We have the strong potential for a new civil war on our hands, and the events in Charlottesville, VA show just the tiniest edge of the darkness peeking out. The hatred is there, the fear is there, and people barely hide it under a veneer of practiced civility. One of my fellow bloggers tells stories about various dystopian futures or civilizations, but I think I’m living in one right now. I don’t like it, but I feel powerless to fix it by myself. And I don’t think anyone would disagree, that America is broken and divided, along so many lines, and at so many different levels. The world is broken and divided, even though we call ourselves civilized, progressive, modern, or whatever.
I didn’t want to comment on this unless I had something constructive to offer. Some resort to fear or apathy, some resort to activism whether peaceful or violent, and I’ve heard the commentary from both sides. What I’m hearing is this: Everybody wants to think they are, or they are part of a group that is, somehow more special than some other group. They want exclusivity, and they want to be able to exert power over someone else, or some other group. And everybody is afraid of either their own sense of powerlessness, or afraid the other group is, or might become, more powerful, and take their sense of power away. And some people call it “power,” and some call it “privilege.” I want to use a different label. At the risk of exposing the social trend, and the weakness of the label when pointing fingers and accusing (another way to try to exert undue leverage over the other social group), I’m going to call it “entitlement.” Both sides of the combatives are expressing their fear as anger. I think the history of our country gives justification to the fear on both sides. But not the criminal violence.
Privilege is either a myth or something I haven’t been able to tap into. Power is also a myth or something I haven’t been able to tap into. All I can seem to do is be a servant. It’s not a terrible arrangement all of the time. I help people, they either like it or like it and take me for granted, or they pretend not to like how I did it and complain about how I should have done it. I think the country, and the world, would be a far better place if everyone looked for ways to help and serve others instead of all of the me-first attitudes. And if I may confess any open hatred, it’s of people’s senses of self-entitlement, or group entitlement.
I don’t believe in self-entitlement. Self entitlement shows up in the very existence of exclusive groups, whether they’re labelled correctly as “hate groups,” or whether they’re labelled incorrectly as anything else. Self entitlement shows up in individuals who commit crimes whether they are in positions of authority or desperation. All criminals should be fairly tried and repay their debts to society. That includes the business tycoons and bankers who willfully cheated (and continue to cheat) ordinary people out of their savings and investments. That includes any cop who shoots anyone in the back with anything other than a taser, or any cop who shoots wildly not understanding whether his target is an unarmed innocent or a criminal. That includes anyone who steals or vandalizes property that doesn’t belong to them. That includes anyone who terrorizes or willfully and intentionally injures another person. Driving a car at a high rate of speed into a person or a crowd of people, unless you’re having a seizure or some other legitimate, medically verifiable cause for lack of control, is willful and intentional. If there’s room for error on that point, I would say that if someone is blocking an intersection or public street deliberately, they should move or get arrested. There are some who believe, having asked them to move out of the way, if they refuse and the driver gently leans on the horn, they can allow their car to gently roll forward. In the absence of law enforcement and when I have to get somewhere on time, I respect your right to protest, call that your civil liberty, but I would appreciate it if my right of way, call that my civil liberty, would be equally respected. The other option is to either take a different route if there is one, or call 911 and wait for the authorities to arrive and disperse the crowd for you, which will obviously take a lot longer.
These are broad brush strokes, but you know self entitlement and if you have more patience than I do, you probably just accept the misbehaviors. Self entitled people act out individually in lesser ways: The guy who cuts you off in traffic, the lady at the supermarket who takes the parking space you waited for, the boss who pays himself a hundred or more times what he pays his lowest-paid employee. The vandal who destroys something culturally significant that belongs to everyone as students of history or art; the one who puts graffiti that isn’t art on property that doesn’t belong to them, or the one who smashes windows in someone else’s home, or a store, because they’re bored, or street lights because it’s easier to get away with other crimes in the dark.
I believe in the opposite of self-entitlement. I believe, if we steal or kill or destroy, we’re showing one kind of spiritual origin (see also John 10:10, John 8:41-47), and if we demonstrate the opposite of the above traits that are from self-entitlement, we show the other kind of spiritual heritage.
One (of probably several) news guys gave a TV editorial in which he condemned the violence, called the white supremacists “idiots” and their cause “a joke,” (though, IMHO, if it’s a joke it’s in very poor taste), and wondered out loud that if the news media allowed them to have their little protest and ignored them, and the fearful opposition stayed home and ignored them, it might become a non-issue. If he’s right, the facts that they’re getting news print and TV and social media face time and that people bothered to come out and counter protest makes a big thing out of something that should be laughed at publicly, and shut down firmly and resoundingly in courthouses whenever anyone escalates to criminal behavior.
I wish we could look to South Africa for an example. They’ve had their history, and it was bad, and now the laws have been changed and Apartheid was never socially acceptable, and now it is no longer legally acceptable for citizens of South Africa. There’s fear, on both sides, but they’re in a slow recovery, learning humans are humans regardless of race, and some are even building friendships. But here we are in the United States, on the brink of a civil war based solely on racism, sitting on a powder keg of mutual and opposing fears based on lies, and an intertwined fuse of mutual disrespect based on selfishness. I think the vast majority of us don’t want any part in that war. The President may not have a gift for soothing speech, and he may very well be providing some of the lighter fluid. I’ve never thought of him as a political or social genius. But he’s not the flint or the steel needed for the spark. Friction requires continual motion, one side against the other, one gang hits another and the other gang feels obligated to strike back, and so on, until the big “rumble.”
The idiot who ran over Heather Heyer and murdered her in cold blood is indefensible. I’ll say it in plain terms: He is a murderer and an idiot. He shall be as nameless to me as he is worthless, a footnote lost in history. I hope that Heather Heyer gets whatever justice her survivors need. Not whatever her fellow counter-protesters want. What seems fair to me would be to put him to work, and allow him to support at least her parents, in comfort, although with their words, they probably don’t want it. He should write a weekly card to them. And after they are comfortably provided for, maybe the rest of the money can provide for his mother, and then if there’s any left, a small percentage to meet his basic needs. TP, food, clothing, water, a cot and a six by six cell. And every day, added to his ordinary labor, he should have to clean a wall on which has been ink stamped, by a robot, “You killed Heather Heyer.” And if he doesn’t work hard enough, there won’t be any money left for him to buy food, so he can go without.
This said, the group of passive-aggressives would like to think that an angry aggressive movement will die out if it’s ignored by the media. But as much as I want that to be true, I don’t think it is. As long as there is an evil one, and his minions, there will be children of the evil one. If Jesus said there is an evil one, there is an evil one. The writer of I John said that Cain in Genesis who killed his brother was a child of the evil one. If true, he’s been around influencing people to do evil things since the beginning. And, if true, the passives who argue it’ll go away are wrong: The angry aggressives will just escalate their behavior until they get attention. I wonder what Cain had in his heart, and in his attitude, and in his behavior, before he became a murderer. We already know what’s in the hearts of the self-entitled. If we ignore them and treat them like children, they’ll have a tantrum and kill someone. There has to be a point at which their destructive behavior must be stopped, their ignorance must be met with education.
I am the LAST person who wants to get involved in a fight, but I’ll speak. My flesh, my humanity, wants criminals to face angry justice and receive fair punishment, and for people to be decent with each other. I watched the commentary, where the guy got maced for getting in people’s faces and yelling his opinion. Hurt me, corner me, and see what comes your way. I get it; it’s a natural, human response. But my spirit asks a different set of questions. I don’t really want to “overcome.” I don’t need to “win.” I need everyone to be treated fairly and respectfully, and I want to help in a way that helps everyone win, not just “my” team, and I want everyone to treat me the same way, and help me the same way.
I don’t wonder what the hate groups would do if counter-protesters never assembled to have a shouting and shoving match, separated by a thin blue line, or thinking they’re safe while standing on a public roadway that’s only barely blockaded off for their assembly. I don’t wonder what would happen if the news media failed to cover the event.
No. I wonder something much more revolutionary.
I wonder what would happen if angry hateful protesters were met with smiling, loving people who didn’t shout angry hateful slogans back at the protesters’ angry hateful slogans. What would happen if the smiling loving people brought cookies and cakes and drinks to give away? What would happen if the smiling loving people asked the angry protesters, “Would it be OK if I prayed for you, right here and now? How can I pray for you? Is there anything special you need, or any trial of life you’re going through that I can pray about? Or should I just ask for God to bless you and show you His love?”
What would happen if the protesters were met with people, praying boldly, lovingly, and kindly FOR their “enemies” to be blessed by God? Just kneel right there in the grass before God, or stand, reach a hand out onto a cold shoulder, and pray hard, and mean it?
I think THAT is what Matthew 5:43-46 is speaking, in our country’s potentially dire situation: It’s hard to hate someone who obviously, truly loves you. It’s even harder to hate someone who’s praying for you, and it may be impossible to hate someone who comes to your angry, bitter rally and brings brownies, cookies, cakes and snacks, hot coffee with optional cream and sugar, ice cold water, and old-fashioned southern style ice cold sweet tea. You’ve gotta have sweet tea.
It may sound stupid to some, but I don’t think so.
Love is more powerful than anything.