I posted several responses on Facebook over the last week. For my handful of friends who are not on social media, and so I can keep track of these posts for future reference, I’m also publishing those responses here:
It is heartbreaking to see so many devote their lives to such small stories. The small story of one political figure. The small story of one political party. The small story, even, of one nation against the grand scope of human history.
Participation in democracy is a good thing. Patriotism is a good thing. Advocacy is a good thing. Protesting peacefully for justice is a good thing.
But giving one’s self fully to the cause of politician, party, or country is a diminishment of what it means to be human, especially as defined by the scriptures and the teaching of Jesus. Giving ourselves fully to these causes through the obsessive scrolling of headlines, through the constant verbal barrage we put forth in social media spaces, through the tethering of our emotions to the rise and fall of our political “team”, through the taking to the street and taking up of arms to ram our way to victory.
Friends, there is a bigger story. And there is a more personal story.
The bigger story is one of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. The bigger story is one rooted in the ancient ancestors of the people of Israel, and coming to fullness in the person of Jesus. The bigger story is one of God himself becoming human. The bigger story is that when he did so, his throne was a cross, not a silk-lined chair. The bigger story is that he taught us to love our neighbors, and our enemies. And we are invited to be part of this grand arc of redemptive activity. We are invited to lend healing and peace, insofar as we are able.
The more personal story is one of tending carefully to your local place and people. One of conversations with grocery store cashiers. One of gathering with family and friends. One of holding newborns and caring for the elderly and the ill.
Do not give your ultimate loyalty to small stories.
There is a better way
Following Jesus is possible in any context. I see many Americans, under the banner of Jesus, clinging to their context. They fear the disappearance of a “Christian” America. They fear the influence on their children and grandchildren.
Dear friends, we do not need America to follow Jesus.
Jesus is better, and we can follow him in any and every situation, in any and every location, and in the midst of any and every political situation.
I urge you to stop clinging to your context.
How do we understand the events at the capital over the last few days? While I certainly don’t agree with nor condone the actions of the President and those who follow him (see my previous posts), I am at least able to understand it. I can empathize with the emotional fire behind these inexcusable actions.
May I invite those who are center to left in perspective to a moment of empathy? Don’t hear me condoning any of it. I’m not. But I don’t think empathy ever hurts.
It’s easy for those of us presently employed in white-collar positions to judgmentally type our condemnations from the comfort of our home offices. Meanwhile, in many rural, small town, mostly white contexts, the last thirty years have consisted of:
– Massive unemployment due to the automation and moving overseas of manufacturing jobs and manual labor;
– Plummeting home values and economic hardship as jobs disappear and urban contexts / “superstar cities” replace the idyllic small town as the most desirable places to live;
– A swift economic shift from valuing brawns to brains that disenfranchised a generation of people, especially men, mid-career, leaving them with little to no options for long-term gainful employment;
– The ideological onslaught that to be white is to be guilty, and to be southern is to be guiltiest;
– The philosophical assertion that to be white is to be privileged, despite a crumbling context that feels anything but privileged;
– The demonization of farming and agricultural practices in liberal circles (e.g. documentaries like “Food, Inc.” and the general concept that farmers are creating fructose corn-syrup for the poor, not beneficial nutrition for the world);
– The demonization of the South and the accusation of wrongdoing placed upon an entire nation without nuance and without any affirmation of the good regarding a nation historically held in high regard in which most are thankful to live;
– The demonization of the police as militarized and racially biased despite the only experience of many rural / small town people with police being friendly, warm, and helpful;
– The assumption that to be white is to be racist;
– The corporatization of American business, causing enormous closures of small town businesses that can’t compete with profit margins that are only profitable at scale;
– The lack of control over your own community’s governance and taxation, as urban elites (who know nothing of small town / rural life) set policies;
– The cumulation of all these (and other) factors leading to significant substance abuse, including opioid addiction (which was fueled in part by corrupt urban elites in pharmaceutical and healthcare fields), and subsequent incarceration and death.
You can see how all of this would amount not just to mild political persuasions, but to anger. Anger at not feeling seen. Anger at being repeatedly demonized and undermined. Anger at not being able to provide a basic living for your family. Of course, I realize there is nuance to the items listed above. I realize there are exceptions and variations. Again, I’m not condoning violence or vehemence, but perhaps a moment of empathy can help us to heal. If you are center to left, take a moment to see and to understand. Not to approve of these recent actions. But at least to comprehend.