M. C. graduated in December 2022. They offered this reflection on Grad Sunday (May 8,…
I have lived through enough elections now to realize that this one is different. Elections are always filled with bombastic comments, negative campaign ads, and strong feelings. But this time is different. This time people are genuinely afraid and hurt. I am afraid and hurt. As a Christian community, it is vital that we understand this and respond in love.
Many of the members of the Pres House community are hurting and afraid. You are hurt because you are an immigrant or your parents are immigrants (like mine are) and the message that won on Tuesday was full of anti-immigrant vitriol. You are hurt because you are gay and the message that won on Tuesday said that your identity is not valid. You are afraid because your skin color isn’t white and the message that won on Tuesday suggested we go back to a time when America was great for white people but not at all great for people of color. You are afraid because you are a woman, and the man who won on Tuesday has shown little respect for women on more than one occasion. You are hurt and afraid because, maybe above all, millions of Americans voted for that man and those messages. Those votes feel like votes not against Hillary Clinton but against you. You are hurt and afraid because since Tuesday there are have been so many incidents of anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism, and general hatred perpetrated against Americans by Americans. And our President elect has been silent. I share those fears and hurts. I share them because I love you, and your hurts and fears are my hurts and fears.
I am a straight, white, Christian, man with reasonable financial resources and some savings. This means I have the privilege of not worrying a whole lot about who is President in any given four-year period. My individual life is not threatened if we have a black President, a woman President, or a President endorsed by the KKK. I don’t personally need to feel hurt or afraid. That is my white privilege (for more on white privilege listen my sermon titled, “Solidarity” from October 23, 2016).
But I do. I do because I love my wife and children who are not white. I do because I love my LGBTQ friends. I do because I love immigrants who make our country great (and always have). I do because I love Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and people of other faiths as well as fellow Christians. I am hurt and afraid because the people I love are hurt and afraid.
As Paul says in 1st Corinthians, we are one body. America is one body. That is what makes America great. Just like in the body where the foot cannot say to the hand, “I have no concern for you,” the Christian cannot say to the Muslim, “I have no concern for you.” Or just as the eye cannot say to the ear, “You are in pain? Get over it,” the white person cannot say to the person of color, “Get over it.” For “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” That is what makes America great. And it is what God calls us to do.
So I stand in solidarity with all who are hurting and afraid. And I invite us all (especially my white siblings) to stand in solidarity with those who are hurting and afraid here at Pres House, in your classes and workplace, or “out there” in the online and real world. We are one body. When one member suffers, we all suffer.
Shut Up & Speak Up
How can we love and support each other? I’ll suggest two ideas. The first is to shut up. And the second is to speak up. Shut up and speak up. Pretty simple. The hardest part is to figure when to do one and not the other.
The first thing we can do for each other is to shut up. I don’t mean this to be insulting but simply to make a point. What I mean by encouraging us to “shut up” is that we need listen first to the pain and fear of our friends and neighbors. When someone is in pain, grieving, or afraid the first step is to just be quiet and listen. There is nothing worse when you are suffering than being told to “stop complaining” or “get over it” or even, “it will all be okay.” Well there is one thing worse – that is to be argued with on the merits of your pain. Don’t question it. Don’t discount it. Don’t belittle it. Don’t judge it. The foot cannot say to the hand that was just burned on the stove: “stop whining.” So listen. Let people be upset. Acknowledge their pain and their fears. There may be no single more important thing we can do to be community together than this. As John 1 says, “perfect love casts out fear.”
At the same time, we cannot be silent in the face of injustice. Regardless of who we voted for, we are all called as Christians to love our neighbors and to speak up against injustice. We have seen time and time again across history that silence in the face of hatred and injustice is deadly. The prophets warn us that God is disgusted by our worship and prayers if we don’t stand up for the oppressed and downtrodden in society. It is critical that Christians raise their voices to reject the violence and injustice of sexual assault, torture, deportation, bigotry, and racism.
There are lots of different ways to speak up and speak out. I am proud of people in the Pres House community who have chosen to protest peacefully. Violence is never the answer. But protest can be the voice of God’s people calling out for deliverance. I am proud of people in the Pres House community who have refused to be a passive bystander when they see racism or sexism around them. Keep speaking up! I am proud of people in the Pres House community who are considering how they can change the way they live or work to better stand up for justice. I am proud of people in the Pres House community who have not been silent, who are talking together, praying together, and working together for a more just and loving world.
So let’s shut up. Let’s speak up. Let’s hold onto each other and God in faith, hope, and love.