Engagement Without Understanding Leads to Violence
Violence is born out of ignorance. It’s an ignorance that does not care to understand another individual. Without empathy or understanding, it’s not possible to reconcile with someone who is different from you.
You may want to read:
- Please Understand My Culture before You Rebuke Me
- Silo Christians Do Not Enter Their Culture: They Critique It
- Open Letter to My Culture: I Have an Identity Too
In 2016, our family visited Washington, D.C. for a few days. One of the things that caught my attention as we were touring the many monuments in central D.C. was the ubiquitous disrespect the youngsters had around those monuments like the Vietnam Memorial.
They were talkative, immature, joking around, and not sobered at all by the significance of these marble and steel reminders of why we are a great country. At the Lincoln Memorial, there was a sign that read, “Quiet Please.”
Ironically, while touring the Freedom Tower in NYC a week later and the two memorials placed at the footprints where the Twin Towers were, the young people were noticeably quieter. The entire crowd was respectful, sad, and reflective. I assumed it was because they either remembered that tragic day in 2001 or they were only a generation removed from the event.
It seemed as though WW1, WW2, Korean War, and the Vietnam War were facts from the history books but not something that connected to the young person’s life. The “Towers” was a different experience. I suppose a few generations from now the kids running around the Freedom Tower will be as disrespectful as they were in Washington.
Warning — I can’t wag a condemning finger at them (Matthew 7:3–5) because I had a similar feeling when walking by some of the Native American monuments. I’m not familiar with their story and haven’t lost what they lost. And I have not taken the time to enter into their suffering narrative.
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. — Hebrews 13:3
It was disheartening to see the disrespect among the youth in our country. It was apparent to other people too. I was talking to a guy from Kentucky who was at the Korean War Monument, and he brought up the rudeness that he observed among the young people.
Go Into All the World
This cultural problem has a critical ramification that I must consider. Some of these youngsters will not care about my passion or reverence for Christ. It’s not their story or their cause, and when my time of disrespect or persecution comes, there will be no sympathy because the Christian country that we used to live is becoming smaller and smaller in our collective rearview mirrors.
The events these monuments represent are archaic to the millennial mind, and so is my religion. But rather than bemoaning this dark truth, I have been reinvigorated to practically respond to this problem that separates me from disinterested and angry people.
Recently, I was listening to a Christ-mocker talk about race relations in our country. The interviewer asked him what one thing a person could do to understand the frustration of the black person. The man answered, “Talk to a black person.” I thought his response was brilliant.
He continued by saying don’t try to teach or foist your view on the person. Don’t engage merely for making your points. Sit and listen to them (James 1:19). Ask them what it is like to be black. Enter into their story for empathy and understanding purposes. His point astounded me.
It is easy to yell about the irony and misdirection of Black Lives Matter. It’s tempting to be disgusted by the irrational anger that kills an innocent life through abortion. And to some degree, we should be offended, but an offense must not lead to yelling points that do not move either group toward reconciliation.
The problem is that both sides are right to a degree and both sides are hellbent on touting their “percentage of rightness” without considering that maybe the other group owns a few of those “right percentage points.”
It reminds me of a married couple who have valid points, but neither one of them are willing to enter the narrative of the other person to understand “their rightness.” Somebody has to be more mature. Someone needs to step up and set aside their “right logic” for a moment while trying to understand the other person. Our culture is not willing to do that, but Christians are more mature than that.
Enter Their Story
One of the things I have been motivated to do is talk to black people. I have always enjoyed being with black people, but I’m talking about a more intrusive and personal way. While on our trip, I met a kind black man in a coffee shop in Vermont. We chatted for 45-minutes.
I met a lovely black lady on Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. We had a helpful conversation too. I was not pressing them so I could make my points. I was asking them about them. It was not the time for me to teach or pontificate. I wanted to enter their stories.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. — Hebrews 4:15
My dad was a hardcore bigot. He hated black people. He was an ignorant man, which is at the core of racism and other forms of hate. He did not want to know black people. If all the folks you encounter are monochromatic, you may have a problem. My dad had a problem. He lived an anti-gospel life.
Jesus was famous for entering the narrative of people who were different from Him. He understood them, which in some cases brought them to redemption. That was my story. Jesus cared about me. His care, kindness, and concern for me opened the way for Him to teach me something.
Call to Action
- What if you find a person who is different from you and talk to them about their experience? What if you engage the gay person? The young person? The elderly?
- Will you sit down with a black individual and talk to them about what it’s like to be black? If you’re not white, will you speak to a white person?
- Who is different from you? Will you enter into their story? Will you listen to them? Engagement without understanding leads to violence.
Originally published at Rick Thomas.