Heading off soon for a week’s vacation with family, I look forward to kayaking and birding, playing music and reading, lots of walking and biking, much sharing with loved ones, and pondering a lot in my heart — especially mulling over how on earth we can help each other bridge these damning divides that are devastating our society (and world) and diminishing all of us.
The following thoughts began to form this morning when I was hanging out with my horse Feather. As I’ve written earlier, “the horse is the priest,” she who mediates the Sacred, the one who sparks our imagination and en-courages us. So thank you, Feather, for encouraging me.
So much is going on around us in the world, and it’s not new, not really — wars rage on, and global capitalism takes its death-dealing toll on humans and the rest of creation. Donald Trump is emblematic of the worst that global capitalism has to offer anyone, including his own supporters. But there is more going on than Trump’s idiocy and greed.
In the context of capitalist greed, with Trump’s erratic behavior ever in the news, something new is emerging among Americans. I’m thinking of a debilitating connection between (1) our deeply human proclivity to FEAR what we don’t understand; (2) our equally human tendency to GRASP onto whatever we imagine will protect us; and (3) our postmodern skepticism that anything is TRUE or anyone is trustworthy. The new part of this link is the postmodern skepticism which is breeding cynicism toward every one, and every institution, that makes any truth claim, and contempt toward people who don’t think like us about the social and political conundrum in which we find ourselves.
Years ago, President Obama was criticized by his opponents for suggesting that fear was driving folks to cling to “God and guns.” Politically savvy or not, Obama was right, and today we witness this same flight of many Americans into a self-serving, judgmental, fundamentalist Christianity and an equally fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment.
However, we progressives who tend to scorn our neighbors’ flights toward God and guns are taking flights of our own, are we not? I mean, aren’t we dashing as fast as we can into communities of Resistance in which we can feel relatively safe and protected from the dangers unleashed upon us and others, historically and still today, by right-wing Christians and other fundamentalists, including white racists, anti-Semites, and male supremacists?
Of course we believe that “we” are right and “they” are wrong! Many of us and our loved ones have scars to show for the damages done to our bodies and spirits by bad religion and gun violence. In good faith, we progressives must not, and honestly cannot, back away from, or dilute, our values and strong beliefs — these are our spiritual core, the well springs of our lives. From our values and core beliefs, there is no turning back.
And isn’t one of our most fundamental, core, beliefs in the healing, liberating power of mutual relation? Making connections with others that call forth the best in who each of us is?
Here’s what I do believe: In the Sacred Spirit that generates mutuality, we need to reach out to our siblings, our sisters and brothers whose views we oppose, and ask them to tell us who they are. Not preach to us, Not lecture to us. Not try to convert us. We don’t need to be condescended to. We need to listen to, and hear, the personal stories of people with different values and beliefs, people who are willing to share with us. And we need to share our own stories — not to convert, lecture, preach, or condescend. Each of us — they and we — need to be given space and time to present ourselves, to show who we are.
We are all afraid. We are and they are. Somehow we need to en-courage ourselves and others to speak honestly and respectfully of ourselves and others: “To hear each other to speech,” in the words of feminist theologian Nelle Morton.
I think we can do it. We can start with just two or three gathered together, or ten or fifteen folks in a room talking around a table with food in our midst. Or twenty or thirty of us sitting around a “fishbowl” of people of diverse beliefs, people willing to share their own stories as a springboard into a relational movement.
God help us.