When you don’t take the time to learn the history that isn’t neatly packaged in APUSH textbooks; when you don’t allow yourself to be challenged; when you reject statistics that aren’t convenient to your worldview; when you fail to take the time to invest in learning from your brothers and sisters, hearing their plight and allowing your heart to be moved with empathy – neither can you understand the frustration and the hurt undergirding the images flashing across your TV screen, nor can you be part of the solution. Then, there is no healing. Then, we watch the same sad cycle play out again and again.
I know, because I too used to turn a blind eye to these things. But I’m learning that I cannot pay attention solely to the things that affect me – as a global citizen, as a child of God. Justice is a most noble pursuit, but it’s not justice if certain groups are perpetually repressed, if there is no recompense. Patriotism is a great thing. It can inspire men and women to do great things. But let us not sacrifice justice on the altar of patriotism, nor mistake a man or woman’s efforts to draw attention to the ways we can all do better, and should do better, in accord with our founding ideals, to be a lack of patriotism or a punishable offense. Having a heart for defending the rights of all, for improving the lot of all, is a most patriotic venture. What’s more is it’s a Christian one.
What is antithetical to patriotism and to justice, on the other hand, are the human tendencies towards self-absorption or self-concern, towards passivity and ignorance, and towards an abstinence from dialogue, listening, introspection and empathy. Let each of us challenge ourselves to hear the words, to hear the heart of the other side, to bear all things. Let us not be passive; rather, let us take it upon ourselves to actively go out, have conversations, learn from others, and read up on the history and present-day realities that continue to stifle our capacity for growth and reconciliation. Even in the face of harsh words, of discomfort, let us not be afraid of self-criticism nor halted on the path to understanding the heart behind it all.
I challenge you to watch this man speak from his heart, to listen to his words, to be challenged despite discomfort, not to default to our knee-jerk reaction. This man is my brother, just as each man and woman on every side of the fault line are my brothers and sisters. Sit with it. Pray with it.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
– 1 Cor 13:4-8