Have you noticed the headlines lately? There is so much animosity around us. Shootings, boycotts, fits of anger and rage, death and destruction. It’s enough to make any dooms day preacher cry, “The end is near!” Is it? How did we get to this point? What happened to us? We seem to be shifting from a nation of hope - a beacon of light, a safe haven, a refuge - to a heated, angry, politically polar, racially, ethnically, religiously, and sexually biased mass, ready to explode. Some might say this is a gross exaggeration. Is it? It seems to me that someone has drawn a clear line in the sand, and people on both sides are screaming, “If you are not for us, you must be against us.” Why are we so angry? What has happened to us?
Why are we so ready to take up arms and fight anyone who is not willing to fit our mold? What happened to, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…”? Why are we so afraid of diversity? Now, more than ever, there are loud voices that can be heard from both camps through all avenues of communication – and there is little that can be done to avoid this parade of loud and obnoxious fools. But does anyone really feel heard? What are we really trying to accomplish? I believe that both sides are seeking justice in the only way they know how - publicly. And so, they set out, armed with signs, slogans and singularly minded catch phrases that isolate others and themselves in a few simple words: “Adam and Eve; Not Adam and Steve” “God hates …” “Abortion is Murder”. These statements are meant to summarize a mission, a purpose, and an agenda. But they only serve to further isolate, further anger, and further polarize both sides. The line has been drawn in the sand. You are either for us, or against us.
Personally, I am against both. I will not stand on either side of the line and join the fight if the end result is the annihilation, demoralization, and dehumanization of another person. If this is the price for winning an election, a political argument, a religious debate, I don’t want any part of it. I am tired of hearing about men and women, daughters and sons, mother and fathers, sisters and brothers who are being targeted because of their religion, race, political, or gender views. It is because we are so eager to put each other in a box that we are not getting anywhere. We will never make progress unless we are willing to come to the table and hear each other out. Ignorance will never win. Being strong willed, unbending, and unyielding, only further proves your ignorance to your adversary.
Furthermore, intolerance, for the sake of tolerance is an oxymoron. I am tired of hearing groups say, in short, if you are not for us, you are against us. If you don’t agree with me, then you hate me. Folks, life is not always black and white. It is possible, for people to like you for who you are – gay, straight, tall, short, black, white, male, female – and not agree with or even like everything that you do. I love my friends and I love my family, but I don’t always like the things they do, and I don’t always agree with everything they do. But in good times or bad, I will be there for them, because we are friends, we are family. That is what it means to show love. You love the person because they are a person, not because of their beliefs or actions. If we all had to live up to others expectations to earn their love and affection, then we would never know true love. True love, is unconditional –the end.
As a Christian, I cringe when I hear about churches picketing funerals of our service men and women. I cringe when I read a poster that says, “No f--- in Heaven” and then quotes a Bible verse. And I cringe when see the judgment and condemnation that is poured out on women who have had abortions. I cannot begin to understand the pain that these targeted individuals feel when they see such hate being shown by people who claim to be followers of Christ.
But I will say this. As a child, I was called the N word, because I have cousins who are black. And when our family lost a loved one to AIDS in the ‘80’s, there was no compassion for our family, publicly and very little privately. Though I have never had an abortion, I can only imagine the circumstances that would exist that would drive a young woman to have an abortion.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Things are never as simple as they appear to be. I believe true ignorance is this: when we cannot, do not, or refuse to see the big picture, and we make a biased, uninformed opinion about a person or a group of people, without making an effort to better see and understand the bigger picture.
I recently completed a training class in preparation for our upcoming adoption, and in the training, we participated in exercises that put us in the place of the birth parent, the child, the foster family, and the social worker. I could easily relate to the foster parent; I could also identify and even sympathize with the child; I could see the challenges of our social workers; but I struggled to empathize with the birth parent. After all, for the past several years, I had written them off. They were the ones that created this horrible situation. They were the ones that made these bad decisions. They were the ones that abused and neglected the child. This was all their fault. But with the help of some patient and well trained staff, I was able to come down off my soap box, take a deep breath, and realize that I wasn’t seeing the big picture. After all, most people are not born drug addicts, and alcoholics. Something happened along the way, something went wrong. Someone hurt them in such a way, that they were never able to recover and live the kind of life that I think they should. And this is where it hit home. I was unwilling to offer grace, because they did not meet my expectations. But I don’t see the full picture. I don’t have the whole story. I don’t know what drove that person to the place where they could not care for their child anymore. And I cannot imagine the pain and inner turmoil that ensued as a result of having their child taken from them. So, it is with a broken and humble heart, that I willingly and readily admit that I don’t know everything, that I cannot fix what is broken and I will never have all the answers. All I can do is show them love.
I am tired of the hate. I am tired of the fighting, the arguing, the name-calling, the finger-pointing, and the chaos that ensues because of it. I want more for my children. I want a better America for them. My slogan: I want hope, not hate.