Tag Archives: reconciliation

Plague

I needed a few days to think and pray before responding to the events in Charlottesville. For me, the deeper message seems to come down to two things.

First, I have been a bigot. I’m not talking about participating in the subtle forms of racism that are part of American culture in the 21st Century. I don’t mean the white privilege that permeates my life – that I got well-educated, that I was raised in the upper middle class, that I can walk into a store and not be bothered, that cops are nice to me. I’m aware of the modern day slavery that is our prison industry, but it probably won’t affect me or my family because we are white. What I’m talking about is a period in my life where I was ignorant enough and blind enough to say things that now make me cringe. I know I was offending folks because they tried to rein me in. What they were unaware of is how much pain I was in. The irony of working in a crisis center while suicidal is not lost on me now, but at the time, I was so busy trying to survive, there wasn’t much brain power left to be aware of anything else. That is no excuse, but it was part of the situation at the time. Still, I said and did things that were mean and insensitive. I wonder how painful the lives of the neo-Nazis are to make them act so hatefully. I wonder how scared those white supremacists are that they no longer have cognitive function to see how self-destructive they are. Did you know that when you are really angry or scared, your higher mental function shuts down? We have evidence of that happening in Charlottesville.

Secondly, this neo-Nazi, alt-right, white supremacy thing isn’t new in our country. I remember being warned about it in high school back in the early ‘80’s. It seems to me to be a virus we keep thinking we have beaten, only to find it popping up again because we stopped actively vaccinating against it. Did you know that fleas and ground hogs have been found carrying the actual plague here in Northern Arizona? Seems unreal, right? It’s as real as the plague seen openly in Charlottesville in the past weeks. And yes, it is killing people. It has been killing people all along, although we have ignored it. Vaccination against this plague means awareness, admission of bigotry and having conversations about the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of racism and fear that govern our lives today. For me, it means supporting affirmative action, asking my friends of in minorities how I can use my privilege on their behalf, and refusing to laugh at or make bigoted jokes.

How are you going to vaccinate yourself? Are you willing to look in the mirror and find your own inner bigot? I can tell you from experience, it’s not fun. It’s not pretty. It’s horrifying and painful. And I’d rather do that than explain to the next generation why I hid in my safe house in the midst of this plague.

Reconciliation

This week we had a special service at CSLP that we call Taize. It’s based on a reconciliation service that was started in the Burgundy region of France in a town called Taize. It was post-WWII and the town had been torn apart. There were folks from all sides, injuries and heartbreak to spare in everyone. Somehow, the folks in that town had to move on and learn to see each other as people again. There’s lots more history on the web and it’s a fascinating story, but I’m more focused today on how it relates to right here and now.

One of my heroes is Eugene Holden. He’s a practitioner within our movement and the director of our World Ministry of Prayer. He recently wrote, “”Let us not be fooled, we are at war here folks. As evidenced by the events in Dallas, Texas. And let us be clear here, this is a not a battle between white and black or good and evil. It is a battle of consciousness. And this battle is an internal one. Internal to the nation. Internal to ourselves. The phrase jihad was initially longer. It was jihad al nufs, meaning battle of the soul. Yes, this is an inside job.”

I agree that our country is and has been at war. We war on drugs, on poverty and on terror. We see each other as colors, as genders and, worst of all, The Other. So we need to figure out how to see each other as people again. It can be done. Yes, people have died. Yes, there’s centuries of history behind the racism and sexism and many other –isms. But what I see in my world is a lot of people that are willing to do better. I hear people of good conscience talking not just about what’s wrong, but what we can do.

What can we do? I’m in prayer a lot. I’m doing a lot of reality checking about whether things are awful or just feel awful. There’s sometimes a difference between my emotional truth and the verifiable facts. Our Taize service is aimed at helping all of us make that shift together. And how about being the voice of moderation on social media and during casual conversations? When I hear “oh-those-awful” fill in the blank with your choice of group or politician to fear “are-going-to-destroy-this-country,” I know that’s the voice of fear speaking, every single time. I answer it with something that says that while it’s important to face facts, we don’t have to forget that these are not the only facts and that we might not even have true facts.

Now, understand, I said I’ve been trying this stuff. I didn’t say it all worked for me or that I do it 100% of the time. What I love about this spiritual path is that I can just do my best in any given moment and that’s enough. I don’t need to be eligible for sainthood anytime soon (or late, for that matter). In this Center, we run the experiments that are required to find our “best practices”. That’s really all we do – keep trying until we find a few things that work. That’s it.

Please feel free to add what you’re trying or make any other comments.