For this piece, I want to speak specifically with one group of people. I want to talk to those who feel like their faith has been overrun and used against them. Who are realizing that much of what they grew up trusting is actually awful and has betrayed them. Those of you who are afraid of the injustice of our time coming from people of “faith” and feel helpless to fix it. Who feel scared, cornered, and enraged. Who, are beginning to take action and speak out. Who are consumed with a desire to do something, anything.
There is a way out, but I don’t think it can be found on our current path.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Fall is a time where nature attempts to teach us something profound.
All things die. And most often, certain things dying means a winter of waiting before new life of spring replaces that which once kept us company.
The old must die, the new must come.
But that new fruit, the growth, adaptation, and change that nature depends upon, would not happen if first, the trees, plants, and wilderness did not let go of last season’s hard work and experience to confront the silent loneliness of the winter.
Sometimes I fear that spirituality in this country is more often about teaching us how to unnaturally hold on to that which is meant to be let go. We need to accept the past season–good or bad. And more, we need to allow the uncertainty and chill of winter to envelop us.
This contemplative season is necessary for your spiritual health, yet most of what we call spirituality today spoon-feeds us a false certainty that our leaves will never wither and die, that change will not happen, that we can be the only tree in the history of the forrest to remain unchanged for 4,000 years.
As humans we ache for simplicity and certainty.
Whether you follow the teachings of Jesus or not, the statement quoted above has woven itself into the fabric of everyday modern western morality.
It seems common sense. It’s intuitive. It’s basic.
We even call it the Golden Rule.
Now, look at it again paraphrased to fit this country in the 21st century (shout out to Carlos Rodriguez, excellent creativity)
What’s difficult to swallow about Jesus’ teaching, is that the core of his message is to embrace the people you hate the most right next to those you naturally love. Rarely is this about them, or even about world peace, but about you.
Peacemaking so very rarely has to do with forcing, coercing, or even articulately convincing others to believe what you do. Rather, it’s about confronting your own inabilities to love, your own darkness, your own eerie similarity to the people you hate.
It’s the KKK member realizing that like everyone of some white European decent, at least part of his genetic structure reflects his African heritage.
It’s the soldier of democracy realizing that she too has been susceptible to propaganda, manipulation, and socioeconomic forces far greater than herself–just like her enemy.
It’s the democrat realizing that he too can be a partisan, stubborn, narcissistic, misinformed participant just like his republican counterpart.
It’s the estranged son realizing that he shares the same blood with his loving family.
This message is radical.
And I don’t mean radical in the colloquial sense, but in its true meaning.
Radical literally means to refer to the root. So someone who is radical simply travels to the root of the relevant topic.
Jesus is espousing radical religion. Treat others like you want them to treat you (even if they don’t!)
So let’s pause take an internal inventory of sorts. Ask yourself:
Are you really mad at your church and the people inside it; what they’ve done with your faith heritage?
Do you disdain, maybe even hate certain politicians and the direction of this nation?
Are you overwhelmed by racism and classism and hearing about it on the news?
Are you scared about your children’s future?
Are you tired of all the confusion and misinformation coming from Washington?
Do you see all of the injustice and all that is wrong around you and just want to shut down?
Does this make you want to just get angry, take to the streets in protest, yell at the TV, but not before crawling in a hole and sulking away?
If you feel this way, you can get angry, you can protest, you can share Facebook posts and join in the dualistic war that has erupted in this nation.
Or we could do something that nobody will notice, that won’t allow you to get it off your chest, feel like you accomplished something just because you had empathy or went to a rally.
We could love our enemy.
I think this where many of us are getting lost.
Loving your enemy looks a lot like winter.
You will confront your own coldness of heart, your own bitterness of spirit. You will feel isolated and alone, dead if not down-right stupid.
“No one else is doing this, this is absurd and pointless” that jaded voice in your head might say.
“Is this really even doing anything?” you might hear in a whisper.
But maybe, this sort of direct, loving, nonviolent, non-resistant confrontation is just what we need.
Maybe we need to let to go of the leaves from last season and go deep inside ourselves and wonder what’s really there. What type of soil am I planted in, that of peace, unconditional love, empathy? Or that of violence, strife, dualism, and war?
Maybe its time we let go of and even accept the past, so we can take stock of the present.
But this might be uncomfortable.
I think many of us were raised to see those in power–government, economic, or spiritual–as good people ordained by God. We gave them our allegiance and trust.
The pastors, the presidents, the congressman, the police, the military.
But for many twenty and thirty somethings these last few years have served as an initiation of sorts.
We lost our innocence and realized that our savior and the kingdom of heaven wasn’t “over there” on Capitol hill, or “up there” in a metaphysical paradise, or “right here” in a church building (to loosely paraphrase Jesus, Luke 17:22-24). Rather, it’s “at hand” and “inside you.”
It’s there when you “loose yourself” and let the leaves of your self-constructed ego fall to the earth and die. What you find when you’re stripped of your leaves might surprise you. I think many of us are too scared to let go and find out, I know I am.
I believe that many of us are still trying to simply reform the over theres, the up heres, and the right theres. We tirelessly polish the image of those we once held so sacred instead of accepting that our enemy was never the immigrant, the foreigner, the terrorist, or the gay person as we were raised, but rather it was those who taught us to have enemies in the first place.
Instead of realizing that those we once trusted betrayed us, we try to reform them. And this only makes us more angry.
I think in fact that most of the anger among millennial Christians right now stems from the frustration associated with unsuccessful reformation. We feel betrayed and and unable to move on. We got stuck in a moment to quote Bono.
We need to accept that our enemies are now actually most likely in the pulpit, the uniform, the white house.
And this is isn’t denominational or partisan. I think we spend too much time trying to get “our man” in power instead of learning the art of engaging those we disagree with.
Jesus never said, “vote democrat,” or “vote republican” or “be liberal” or “be conservative.” Heck, anytime the pharisees or sadducees (the dominant competing world-views of 1st century Jewish life) tried to get Jesus to take sides he would refuse.
But, he would say to love your enemy, neighbor, self, and God. To be one with the father, just as he and the father were one.
Life is such that you will always find yourself engaging people you dislike, even hate!
But this is good news, because if you follow Jesus, you know exactly how to treat your enemies.
As you would want to be treated.
With love and dignity.
With civil discourse and forgiveness.
With patience and long-suffering.
With commitment and love.
With unconditional regard and humility.
We could bless them and their families.
Not because we think they deserve it, but because they too bear the sacred breath of life, the very image of God inside them radiating through all of the noise.
We could pray for the president (regardless of who it is, and not in order to get to God make them think like you!)
We could respond without anger and hatred when they oppress our neighbors (but still respond!)
We could empathize, understand, and engage without violence or rebellion.
Hear me! We must also love and serve the outsider, immigrant, oppressed and incarcerated. And honestly, we need to open our hearts to them and even join them much more than we are right now. But this should be the basic stuff, are we not to do this regardless? We shouldn’t be arguing over that!
I think the distilled message of Jesus is accepting that those you were raised to hate, you are to love, and realizing that those you were raised to love you now hate. And then choosing to love both groups of people anyway, unconditionally and from an eternal source found deep inside you.
What type of concept is this, is it idealism taken too far? Surely this is not what Jesus meant?
Or perhaps we’ve been taught to see such a concept as idealistic because there is no profit in peace.