Last week was a grim week. I felt darkness and despair descend on my spirit as I watched the Republican National Convention and listened to the speeches. Pundits and experts agreed: it was an event focused around fear unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory.
I was upset that these tactics work; upset that so many Christians have strayed so far from Jesus’ teachings that they would embrace a platform based on literally everything he stood against. I was forced to second-guess my hypothesis that humans are basically good. And yes, I was scared - not for the reasons the RNC laid out, but scared that these ideas would take root more fully in our communities, in our cities, in our nation.
This week, there was an uptick in my hope. Michelle Obama’s moving speech reminded me of what we have overcome as people; the goodness that has arisen out of tragedy; the beauty that we are capable of. Witnessing a historic presidential nomination, listening to the VP-hopeful tell his story, my spirits were buoyed a bit. I was reminded that there are people (and quite a lot of them!) who believe that justice, hope, and love can move us forward.
But more than realizing the sharp contrast between these two weeks, I realized that I was letting the messages of fear win out. I was letting myself be pushed and pulled by the prevailing currents of our culture. And while it is appropriate to grieve evil and rejoice in good; while it is necessary to fight oppression and advocate justice, it is also necessary that I not be blown about by the wind.
I believe that God, through us, is writing a great story of mercy and redemption that has both everything and nothing to do with cultural currents.
It is everything because we have a responsibility as Christians to follow Christ’s example. This means creating an upside-down kingdom of grace where power means weakness, where hate is met with love, where silence is given a voice, where acceptance extends to the least of these. It means that religion is political because these mandates require an upset of accepted structures. This gospel message must permeate into all cracks of our culture, all areas of our lives.
It is nothing because we believe that God is working, no matter what. Thus, we are required to work no matter what - it is not dependent on how the culture that week makes us feel. This doesn’t mean we rely on catch-phrases like "God is in control," or “things must get worse before they get better,” or that we turn a blind eye to what our culture needs. God is working through us, so it very much means that we stand on our frontline - wherever that is - saying, “let it begin with me.” Let peace, let hope, let love begin here.
Whether I feel depressed after a speech, or hopeful. Whether I’m fighting down a nagging pit of fear, or not. We must work toward these things, friends - no matter what. Too many people fight against God’s work in the world in favor of their status quo: in favor of misogyny, xenophobia, racism, homophobia. Too many people try to force a chasm between “us” and “them." We must stand in the gap.
LET IT BEGIN WITH ME.