A no-brainer preface to all of this: White supremacists/Nazis/Klansmen/etc., are the wickedest of wicked people. Their actions and beliefs are evil and despicable in the sight of God. No ifs. No ands. No buts. I refuse to dignify their beliefs by devoting any further thoughts or words to them.
Issue 1: Pride, arrogance, and statues.
It has taken me weeks to process my own thoughts on recent current events. Mostly those that transpired in Charlottesville, which gave new meaning to the phrase “hitting close to home” for myself and many fellow Virginians. Today, I think I finally figured out what I think.
Everyone seems to be going to war on hate. Many are doing it in a kind of hateful way, as far as I can tell, but that’s beside the point. My aim is not to draw more attention to the haters (either the hate-hating haters, or the truly disturbing, hood-wearing/swastika-brandishing haters). My aim is to turn down all that dreadful noise, and try to speak sense, to speak it lovingly, to speak it to the real live breathing sensible people of the world (despite what you see on the news, I am convinced that we are not actually a minority).
I am not speaking to one side, but two. Or as many as there are. But the two I have in mind are these:
#1: Those crying, “Tear down the monuments! The monuments are offensive!”
#2: Those shouting back, “Leave the monuments alone! They’re a part of history!”
Dear, friends. Our biggest problem is not hate at all. I believe it is pride. There are normal, everyday citizens on both sides of this debate. A few of you may cry foul even at this simple statement, but I am telling you, unequivocally, that I know individuals on both ends, and none of them are evil. If you don’t believe me, then mosey along now, because you’re definitely not going to like the rest of what I have to say, either.
Here is the thing (one of the things, at least).
It’s just a statue.
Wait. Hang on. Hear me out. What I hear from these two opposite extremes is essentially the same thing. Which is this:
My opinions and beliefs about this issue are more important than loving, respecting, and living peacefully alongside those who disagree with me.
Love, love, love, we’re all saying. All we need is love. People all over the world, join hands. Sweet love… it’s what the world needs now! Boo, hate, boo!
It sounds nice. It really does. But I haven’t seen many folks willing to sacrifice their opinion for the sake of harmony, much less for the sake of love. We hold our opinions too dear. We don’t want to loosen our hold. They’re too important to us.
I had a glimpse of my own conceit today. It was upsetting. See, I’m as guilty as anyone of clinging to the supposed righteousness of my own opinions. I’ve been looking at others, and thinking, “Pssh. Crazy. If everyone would just think exactly what I do, we wouldn’t have any of these problems.”
Proud. Arrogant. Me. Ugh.
I don’t want to be that way. I want to love people truly. And you can’t love people by looking down on them, or by focusing on what divides you.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
Love (and I mean that REAL, 1 Corinthians level of love, not the 70’s easy-listening radio breed) is more important than a hunk of chiseled sediment. It is even more important than whatever that hunk might represent. Whether you think it’s a harmless memorial, or a symbol of oppression. The person standing opposite you— a human soul created in the image of God— is of infinite more value than being “right”.
You may be tempted to think, “Okay, whatever, but I AM right, and they ARE wrong.”
Well, that might be so, my friend. Then again, it might not. I don’t care, and it doesn’t matter. We still need to hush our voices, to quiet our souls, to demonstrate love to the supposedly-wrong people. We can’t do that if we insist on harping and clinging and whining.
If I have a plea, it is that we would no longer willingly allow our opinions (whatever they are) to poison the way we think of those who believe differently.
This could go a whole lot farther than our various feelings on statues. But having already poked at one hornet’s nest more than I am comfortable with, I will leave it here.
*Disclaimer: Everything I am saying, I am saying as a follower of Jesus Christ and a believer in love as defined by God the father. If you do not share my faith, you have no reason not to ignore me and I am not offended. If you’re an atheist, of course, the events in Charlottesville and beyond should not disturb you in the first place. For, “If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky and when you hear: State of Emergency! Sniper Kills Ten! Troops on Rampage! Youths go Looting! Bomb Blasts School! It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.”*
Issue 2: Talk in place of action
Everyone has an opinion, and that’s cool. Everyone also likes to broadcast their opinion to the rest of the world, which has become annoyingly easy, thanks to the advent of social media. I can’t condemn this, since I’m doing it, too. But it is still less than cool.
Over the past few weeks, I have read so much anger and complaint wrapped up in these opinions. You’ve all read it, too, so I don’t need to go into detail. I am referring to the racial and historical stuff. It seems to me, in the end, it all goes back to the abominable practice of slavery. I understand why people get angry. What I wish is that we could channel all that anger, all that boundless, powerful energy in another direction.
Because, here’s the thing (another thing… see, I knew there was more than one).
Slavery still exists. In this country. In your own backyard. It is no longer an issue defined by skin color, and people call it “human trafficking” now, but it is no less real and no less abominable.
What I wish people would do is use their anger as fuel. Instead of focusing on the awful things of the past, things we can’t change, focus on present injustices. There are more than enough such injustices to keep us all busy for a good many years to come, let me tell you.
So why aren’t we finding out what we can do to help? Why aren’t we shutting off our phones, closing our computers, and doing it? It might not be fun. I’ll admit that. Still. We should do it anyway.
If all anyone in history had ever done was sit around and grumble about how bad the world was getting, history would be a darn sight bleaker than it already is.
I’ll shut up now. Someone take my soapbox away. Please and thank you.
*From The Modern Thinker’s Creed, by Steve Turner