I am torn. Sickened. Tired. This past week, I watched and listened in open-mouthed (albeit, silent) horror as humans on either side of the political spectrum flung their insults like twelfth-century bludgeons at other humans, heedless of the harm their words caused. Nay, blood-thirsty and curious of the harm their words caused.
The election has been hard to watch this year, and harder still to discuss with a dispassionate mind. The sharp words, fashioned to kill, and quoted like statements of deeply held belief, have been thrown at living targets, with the intention being, seemingly, to relish the possibility of bloodshed.
The underlying belief of Christianity that we are all fallen, that we are all sinful, that we are all in need of grace and mercy, tells me I must extend forgiveness to those who hurl these statements of hate. And yet, oh, how it is so very hard to impart forgiveness to the unrepentant (Lord, is this how you feel?). I know that we are asked to turn the other cheek to any mortal enemy. We are asked to be tender, to love. We are asked to unburden ourselves of resentment, and to find refuge in the higher power who protects and preserves.
But what I seek I do not find. It does not sit well with my conscience.
Surely, forgiveness does not mean always turning the other cheek. Surely we are not meant to meekly look away as we watch two trains on course to collide. Jesus was radical; he would not have flung words like a pointed club, he would have acted in love. In this culture, where there is already so much prexisting hurt, and hate (from which our virtual world never allows us reprieve) I tend feel that all I can do is hide behind Biblical words of love. I return to the Bible, I read of love, but I also read of God’s indignation, his powerful anger. And I know a cheek offered in submission here is not what obedience to God looks like. I must speak. Though, must I speak in 40 characters or less?
This perspective feels revolutionary. And yet, not at all. To speak of gentler views is to find oneself unwelcome on either side in a steadily escalating battle.
So, I feel both radical and not radical enough. A misfit lost amid the flying arrows.
I know our President (for yes, that is his title) is rife with character flaws for which he is unrepentant. Rather, character flaws of which he is proud. And I want to cry at the injustice when he speaks so irreverently against the diversity, the inclusiveness, the free speech, and the media that our country has fought for. But, am I meant to hurl my own bludgeon back? Am I meant to scream in my shrill small voice, louder and louder, like a goldfinch until I am hoarse with the effort?
Sometimes I imagine that Bonhoeffer (the outspoken Christian opponent of formerly Nazi-run Germany) is standing beside me reading the news. “What do you think?” I whisper, “What would you do?”
“Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I know it to be true, but I can’t help but wonder with what does our new President truly suffer? And if I acknowledge that he may suffer, it is then okay to speak up against him? To shoot off my own cannon of indignation? To tweet until I can no longer speak?
“Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life.
‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink’ (Romans 12:20).
“In the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer