“Do your own work.”
This was my response to someone at an event called “Christianity and the LGBTQ Community.” This particular individual had asked the group how to stay engaged with people who see things differently than he does. To paraphrase, he basically said this: “I know they have their views and I have mine, and no one is going to change, but we still need to talk.”
In my opinion, there lies the problem; no one from either side is really trying to do the work to really talk, and that just seems counterproductive if we really want everyone to move forward together.
Honestly, there is a lot that hits close to home for me with the hot topic of marriage equality. I have so many feelings and thoughts associated with this and other related topics. And every time I see that Red Equal sign on my Facebook newsfeed, something within me moves.
I have been moved so much now by this trending campaign that I began feeling overwhelmed by it all. I’m not about to have a breakdown or anything. This stuff just takes up a lot of space in my head and heart in a way that is hard to put into words sometimes. It just feels increasingly burdensome for me because I care.
I care about so many people who are impacted by this. And I just want so badly for people to have some genuine, open conversations about these issues. And I get frustrated when people reduce these conversations to an “us” vs. “them” framework, to either being for or being against something.
These issues are also more than just picking sides about something. These issues are about real people.
I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, and still it seems like lots of folks are more interested in just finding people who agree with them and then bashing those who disagree. That simple framework doesn’t work for me, particularly since I am for everybody. I care about the real people on either side of a social issue, so I just refuse to get caught up in that trap; I’m not here for any of that.
As I see it, these issues are way more than about constitutional right and wrong. Although I’m glad that Supreme Court Justices are talking about this stuff, these issues will still matter regardless of what the SCOTUS determines. Again, these issues impact real people on both individual and institutional levels, real lives that have immeasurable complexity and value.
That being said, I think it is more than possible to be a person of deep faith and conviction who remains engaged in social justice. I think I am entirely capable of doing this and not trapping myself into close-ended dialogues that position people against each other rather than for one another. I don’t mean to be evasive or vague; I just find that the practice of “loving your neighbor as yourself” enables me to have those challenging conversations that the aforementioned individual wanted to have. This practice, if I am really doing it, gives me plenty of work to do.
This is what I mean when I say “do your own work.”
Some of my hardest work is examining my own heart and dealing with my own sin. Some of it is praying for those who act like enemies and hate me, who do me all kinds of wrong. Some of it is being honest with those around me about how I feel and what I experience, particularly when it means saying something that is hard to say. Some of it is being in relationship with and having dialogue with those whose views and experiences differ from mine.
It’s through this hardest work that I really learn and grow. That’s when I can really feel it. That’s how I get the critical feedback that I’ve never gotten before. That’s when I hear the stories I’ve never heard. That’s where I lean into the discomfort of it all, take the risk, and tell some of my story. That’s how I am able to spend legitimate time walking in someone else’s shoes and immersing myself in their experiences, receiving the gift of someone’s life. That’s when God shows up and I really change.
This doesn’t mean I understand, relate, or agree with everything that someone says. This means that I’m trying to be genuinely open to people because I see them as worthy and valuable, as created by God, even when I see things differently than they do. This means that I am remaining committed to investing my time, energy, and resources in supporting people’s lives with love. I know that sounds really cliché, and yet those are the words I have.
I stated this once before when writing about the plight of the underdog, and I think folks who don’t identify as heterosexual are clearly a kind of underdog in our society. I won’t repeat what I’ve already written. Rather, I will declare that I’m all for supporting disenfranchised groups of underdogs, advocating for them and with them as the Spirit leads me. I believe that my freedom and justice is ultimately tied to other people, and so I will do my work.
And I believe if I really do my work and you really do your work, then we will definitely do our work. And we have to do this work together.
Love Love Love,