Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Really Struggling to Be Who I Say I Am...

I have been struggling with something for a very long time...how to
discern when speaking out is courageous and prophetic and when it
serves only to deepen the chasms which already divide us from one
another. Is remaining quiet wisdom or cowardice? And will my words
really convince you- whoever you are- of the logic and rightness of
my position, when I know in my heart of hearts that none of your
words will convince me to accept and adopt yours?

I have watched and heard and read so many words about things
that I consider vitally important, that I see as matters of justice,
inclusivity, and acceptance and I confess that the words coming
from those whose position, ideas, beliefs are diametrically opposed
to my own just make no sense to me. And they certainly do not make
me back off or take a different stance. The realization that this is
true for me makes me wonder just how efficacious arguing about
things really is. What actually impresses us to not only hear but to
listen to an opposing viewpoint in such a way that it can become
inculcated into one's own value and belief system?

For me, learning is mostly experiential. Oh, I learn a great deal from
the books I read, to be sure, and I'm not about to abandon reading
about and researching matters which captivate and interest me,
matters about which I would otherwise know little, about which I
wish to learn more. So far this year, that has included women's
suffrage, the history of lynching in the United States, the on-the-
ground experiences of the young men and women who have served in
Iraq and Afghanistan (several very interesting books out by and about
them), and the inequities of the criminal justice system in this
country. I feel far more well-informed, but I find that even as I am
captivated and convicted by these situations, sharing them, drawing
others into the urgency I feel is problematic...when I am the one
doing the speaking...the urging...the sharing. And I find that the best
I can do is pass on the titles of books which have so deeply affected
and confronted me, content to leave what happens to other readers
in the hands of the author and, perhaps, of the Holy Spirit.

But it seems to me that what really changes the minds and hearts of
people, myself included, are life experiences: meeting people unlike
oneself and finding that you have much in common...that under the
skin, under the surface differences of age, race, gender, sexual
orientation, nationality, there is a unity of mind and heart, and a
realization that that person- that "other"- can no longer be kept at
arm's length but must be, IS, accepted and embraced and welcomed
in a sharing of oneness, the oneness that exists throughout all
humankind as we come to realize that we are all- each and every one
of us- created in the image of God.

Of course, this still doesn't answer my first questions, does it? Or
does it? Perhaps my powers of persuasion, my energies and
determination are far better utilized to inform myself and to simply
share with others the source of my unshakable stand, not only with
words but with deeds. I kind of believe that's what those early
disciples of Jesus did...what he encouraged them to do...to not only
speak truth and love, but to live it- every moment of every day. And
I seem to recall him saying something about loving one's enemies...
no easy challenge in this day of often-vitriolic Facebook posts and
shared misinformation. So, can I say "I believe..." from a place of
love and respect for that "other" who most challenges me? Can I
live the gospel of love, this day and every day? Or am I simply guilty-
by my own words of judgment and self-certainty- of pointing out the
speck in another's eye, even as I am oblivious to the log in my own?

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