Here are my desires:
that we are able to come together as a nation,
that we share our founding values of justice, freedom, and the rule of law.
that we find a way to civilly debate our differences.
It is also my hope (unrealized) that we agree on a few basic premises. Like the ideas that racism, sexism, and homophobia are evil, that people of differing abilities are of equal value, that immigrants are the building blocks and backbone of our nation, and that our government exists to protect the weakest of those among us and provide for our mutual welfare.
My desires are unmet and my hopes seem almost inconceivable at this juncture in our history. Not that it hasn’t always been a struggle for us but somewhere enough of us have clung to the idea that, while our approaches are different, we are essentially on the same team. Today, it is clear that lines have been drawn to such an extent that it is assumed that some, if not most, of us will be losers.
We argue about human decency while faced with the ignominy of a wannabe dictator who incites hatred and violence against brown people, black people, yellow people, red people, poor white people, women, and queers of all sorts. Part of us knows that maintaining civility is urgently important to the state of the union. Another part knows that evil unresisted multiplies.
So what are good and decent decisions we need to make about the how of our political discourse? I’d like to suggest there is no one right way and that each way has its shortcomings.
Take the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA. A plethora of talking heads have taken sides. They shouldn’t have refused service to Sarah Huckabee. It was an overreach. Against our values as a nation. And yes, it is true that it is not an expression of one of our values – but it is an expression of other values. Namely that we will not participate in that which demeans another. It is called civil disobedience and Sarah Huckabee, as a representative of this regime, having fashioned herself as a symbol of Trump policies and values, is fair game.
This is an unusual time and our ideals and morals are called into question every day that Donald Trump and his cronies remain in power. How are we supposed to participate in public discourse when no one seems to be listening to one another? And then let’s raise the question, “What is a Christian response?” Some answer that it is building bridges. Some believe it is staying open to those with opposing views. To, as Paul of the New Testament says, heap burning coals of love on their heads.
Others answer with a refusal to participate in or validate a system of hatred and oppression. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor, wrestled with the same issues during the reign of Nazism in Germany and ended up actively working for the resistance – even being privy to attempts to assassinate Hitler. His writings from the time remind us that “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
I have come to believe that any way we resist the present culture and the forces of intolerance and hatred is the right way. What is right for me may not be right for you. The more important question is: what is right for each of us? Figure out how you are going to exercise your freedom to speak and act and stand against the devolution of us while we still have those freedoms.
Are you ready to speak? Are you ready to act? Are you willing to resist and to support others who resist this horror show? Can it be okay what we are not perfect at it? Can it be more important that we take responsibility for what is going on in the choices we do make? Can we support one another’s efforts as we challenge something none of us have been up against to this degree before?
The theologian, Martin Luther, would encourage us to “sin boldly” – that is, to do the best we can and then be bold about it. I support the Red Hen Restaurant because they did not insist that their workers participate in their own oppression. I am glad they did it civilly.
I am glad they acted at all.
Their actions call us to action.
May we all step up and take responsibility for what is happening.
One imperfect act at a time.