Charlottesville, Scarcity, and Me

This past weekend at Highlands Fellowship, our Pastor (Allen Jessee) offered some great remarks about the hatred of alt-right and white supremacy groups. He shared how we are as church will always push back against racism of any kind; there is not a place in the Kingdom of God for racism.

You can watch a short clip of his comments here

I have been experiencing all kinds of emotions over the last few days. It is appaling to me (a white middle-class man) that people my age would be outside with tiki torches yelling and screaming. It felt like I was watching a documentary about something that happened 50+ years ago… except it was 2017.

Everyone was quick to assign blame, except for our president who blamed “all sides”. (I know he made a statement yesterday, but I doubt his sincerity since he has no problem assigning blame to anyone or anything that offends his tiny ego… but I digress). I saw posts from people all across the political spectrum speaking out against these vile acts, which was honestly encouraging. It should not be hard to denounce neo-nazis, white supremacists, or any other group that seeks to elevate themselves above others; we should speak out when we see injustice.

I wonder though, could we take a step back and look a little deeper into the problem? How does something like this happen in 2017?

My 2 cents: Fear. Fear of the other, the outsider, those who are different. We insulate ourselves in groups who share opinions and scream oppression at the mention of equality or giving someone with a different opinion a platform to share. We have become our own echo chambers and consume information just to feed our own confirmation bias.

(Now, for some personal honesty so I don’t just sound like I am yelling from my own echo chamber)

My wife is teaches me so much about bravery and emotions. She is wise beyond her years, and is a student of empathy and honesty. I tend to run from anything that looks remotely like conflict or an event that I would consider emotionally difficult. The problem with this behavior is that I become co-dependant on others feelings about me to define how I feel about myself (i.e. people like me, so I’m doing good. Or, people don’t like me… so I am bad). It all comes down to depleted sense of self worth, based in fear. I lose sight of who I am and who God created me to be; I become a slave to the (assumed) views of other about me.

Now, let’s take that fear and multiply it by 321 million (the number of people living in the United States) and we just might have an equation for hate.

Fear x scarcity = hate

It does not even have to be actual scarcity to bring about hate; perception will do just fine. If you hear “they are coming to take you jobs and you won’ t be able to take care of your family” long enough, you will start to believe it. Or how about, “if you give (women, minorities, others) a seat at the table you will lose your power”. Hit home yet? Hate is taught by people who live in fear. The truth is that empowering other does not take away your power, it just might be the best thing you can do. Andy Stanley says that in a healthy group or organization “you will always have a place for yourself when you replace yourself”.

So, what’s the solution? Well, the first step is to be honest. Darkness and light cannot exist at the same time. Be honest about what is actually happening and what you are afraid of. It takes courage to say “I am afraid of ____ because they are different from me”. There is strenght in confession. It’s why James (biblical writer, not me) says we should be open about our sin.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” — James 5:16

What is interesting about this passage is that James does not say that we will be healed when we clean up our mess and stop sinning. There is freedom and healing in the confession of things we keep hidden. Just speak that truth to someone else.

Speaking the truth in love is about going first. Truth without love is just yelling from your fear tower. Truth with love pushes you to be honest about your own fears, past failures, or current failures as you share something. We cannot heal as a nation until we heal from our own hatred. Let’s choose today to live in the light. We can drive out the darkness with light.