Happy November! Monday night was a blast for our family. Halloween in Washington proved to be a fantastic evening with new friends, laughing at our kids, & plotting how to best exercise the ‘parent tax’ (from my buddy Josh, not my clever phrase) that allows a percentage of the candy intake to go to the grown ups. It’s the most obviously capitalist thing about me. Taxing Halloween candy. Brilliant!
But last night wasn’t great for everyone. Across town a sweet boy from our church was with his family when he & his dad were hit by a car. The prevailing reports say that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. So there’s a measure of anger that mixes into our deep sadness. Please pray for Max, his family, & our church family.
Telling Parker was hard. Explaining to our son that someone he saw on Sunday is in the hospital & how he got there is emotional. And for Parker, he had two thoughts:
1. What did Max do wrong? Almost immediately, Parker remembered me screaming at him as he stepped into traffic over a month ago. And he assumed that Max had done the same thing. It never occurred to him that adults make mistakes. Adults make bad decisions. Adults can cause pain by being reckless, careless, & stupid. But as soon as I told him that someone old enough to drive had risked many lives to drive impaired, he got to the second thought…
2. Revenge. He was angry. How could someone do this? What did they have to gain from risking so much? Is it ok to say stupid right now? Because ‘stupid’ is a no-kids word in or house. Not profanity, but a hurtful word that he should avoid. How are we going to fight back for Max?
So what followed was a brief chat about how we, as followers of Christ, give up the right to have revenge. Christ took away the penalty for our sin, so we can’t go around repaying evil with an act that separates us from God too — I think he got the point. But he’s still angry & upset & scared for his friend, & that’s perfectly ok.
Here’s one of the things that I love most about my oldest child. He assumes personal responsibility faster & more often than I ever have. It’s so impressive. His first thought yesterday morning was of a time that he was guilty of bad judgment & he assumed that this was a similar story. Of course, it was not.
And that has become the crux of the problem in this season in American history. We call for unity, but naturally assume that those other people need to get on board, or get ‘right’, or correct their behavior in order to be unified. So unity means nothing more than people agreeing with me. To hell with compromise or, it’s uglier precursor, LISTENING!! And now we are mad that our representatives ignore our wishes, pander for our votes, argue about everything but policies, & make more money than just about any of us do… but maybe they are following our lead. Do I expect everyone else to compromise to my way of thinking or my standard of living? Do I care for the needs of others enough to actually invest in something or someone that cannot give me a return on that investment? Is everything that’s wrong with my country or my faith community someone else’s fault? Do I own my part in the present disunity? Do I move in the direction of community with people that aren’t in my circle of influence? Do I care? Or do I just say a lot of words & do… nothing??
I listened to a sermon this week from Crosspointe Church where the pastor makes a fairly provocative statement about our democracy. Basically, he says that if millions of people from a couple of groups within our nation think that they are unheard, misrepresented, marginalized, & unfairly treated, then our democracy has a serious problem. And he goes on to say that it is no longer permissible for those crying for unity to think it must begin somewhere other than ourselves! And I agree.
So here are some things that bother me within our disunity, that I feel prove the points that the marginalized are trying to say:
African Americans make up 6.5% of the US population, but a staggering 40.2% of the prison population
White men have 1:17 chance of ending up in prison. Black men have 1:3 chance! Site NAACP.org & the Netflix documentary 13th, among other sources.
1:3 women & 1:4 men have been victims of domestic violence
1:5 American women have been raped in their lifetime.
The most common country of origin for immigration to the US is NOT Mexico. Since 2013, China & India have had more. In fact, since 2009, more Mexicans have migrated back to Mexico than have come over!!
But we don’t absorb these truths… we let media tell us stuff & blindly believe it. We read contentious websites that accuse whole people groups of ridiculous behavior. We share articles all over social media that we have never thought to fact check. We’d rather meme about Trump & scoff at Hillary. We will blindly ‘feel the Bern’ but we refuse to chase after the hurting, because abolitioning student debt has become more urgent than systematic oppression. We scream that one group hates us, while another group wants to kill babies, all the while oblivious to the fact that abortion is actually down nationwide!!!
Stop. Drop. Roll.
I don’t know how old I was when I first learned this 3-step technique to putting myself out, should I ever catch on fire. And I’ve never caught on fire. Not once. But if it ever happens, & shock or panic don’t overwhelm, I have a plan. It’s good to have plan, but a plan is effectively useless if you forget to employ it when the need arises.
Scripture teems with how Christians should physically, personally, & corporately address hurting people. The Good Samaritan stopped & helped, the Rich Young Ruler was challenged to be in a posture of sacrifice, & Christ championed how believers live with & serve the hungry, naked, thirsty, foreigner, ill & disabled, & imprisoned. So what to we do? Practically speaking, how do we help?
Again, tens of millions of people are crying foul, while millions more are effectively saying “no you’re not!” And freedom suffers. Police officers suffer, as the face of oppression that they should not be the face of. The poor suffer. Minorities hurt & continue to be ignored. And it is my job… your job… our job… to just. stop. arguing.
Listen. Listen to the hurting. There is power in listening. I give up my right to speak & empower someone else to speak up, trust me, & feel a little less alone in their trial. It’s what we do with family & close friends. It’s how we treat the neighbor we like so much. Why not the stranger? We cannot be a people of righteousness if we are busy being right.
Drop the Right to be Right
I’ve been married for nearly 10 years. I love it. I love my wife. But I’m still learning that having a valid point or a differing opinion is not always helpful. And when we listen to one another, we are always pressed to respond. But sometimes… ya know… shut up. Keep your opinion to yourself. If a leprechaun walked up to me & was disappointed with the recent lack of rainbows & gold pots, I’m sure I’d have an opinion. And I might even be right. But here’s a dirty little secret about being a comfortable person listening to a hurting or oppressed person…
I have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. I’ve buried best friends, but it wasn’t their best friend. I’ve had no money to my name, but I was not in poverty. I’ve been wrongly accused, yelled at, judged, & ignored… but not my whole life. And not all of the generations of my family.
So I might be right with my speculations, stereotypes & opinions, but that just doesn’t matter here. Listening matters. Humility matters. Having a heart for people matters. And if you listen well, & you do it often enough, & you stay through the sadness & show real concern, maybe they will ask for some advice or guidance or help, & then…
Roll With It
Until Christianity becomes illegal, heterosexuality is banned, white people become the power majority, & pesos outrank the dollar, I will never be oppressed or marginalized. I know that. I also know that I don’t know what the majority of Americans endure on a daily basis. I’m in a coffee shop, blogging on an iPad, spending money that I can comfortably spend on things that I don’t need.
1:6 Americans face hunger. Yes that 17% of our nation. And statistically, there is a hungry person in every American county!!
So remember who you are. Thank God if you’re comfortable! And then go get a little uncomfortable. Love the hurting. Listen to them. Give yourself away. Stop tweeting hate & contention. Stop name-calling. Run every word out of your mouth through the filters of goodness, godliness, & usefulness. Stop being partisan & become passionate about people. All of them. And if you find someone in need, meet the need or find someone who can help you help out.
I won’t blog again until after the election. And I’ll be up all night watching coverage because I love that stuff. But whatever happens, people will still need people on November 9th. Be the person looking for hurting people, & pray that I will be too. There’s an enormous need in America, but not for a leader to protect us. We need each other. And there’s a responsibility attached to being a ‘have’. There’s a calling to Christians. And someone, right now, needs someone.
Be someone. Be someone right now. In your office, be kind. In your home, be humble. In your neighborhood, be communal. In your church, be biblical. In your place, right now, wherever that is, exercise compassion & care no matter hat it costs you or how it makes you feel. People need people today. And they will again tomorrow.