On Not Being the Enemy

I was off Facebook and most of the Internet yesterday. I am thinking of doing this every Sunday as a sacrament. A visible sign of divine grace.

You know, this lady wrote that my baby and I were filled with Satan the other day. To be fair, she was responding to two things: one was a reply to my Grandma explaining that I had not marched last Saturday for the right to kill my baby as she had posted above, but for several vulnerable populations (including women) who have been devalued by our president. The second was a picture of the 3-year-old refugee Aylan washed up on the shore of Turkey. I thought that was also a pretty sad picture, responding to my Grandma’s sentiments that her picture of the women’s march was so very sad.

I’m not sure if the lady was responding to me and the people I marched with (my husband and daughter), or the dead refugee baby, with whom I am in kinship, because the measure of our compassion towards others lies in our ability to see ourselves in kinship with them. To that end, in the face of that refugee baby, I saw my own child.

In the faces of me and the Syrian baby, this woman saw Satan. (I guess she hasn’t read Father Greg’s Tattoos on the Heart.)

I read this comment after I had walked into my bedroom at midnight and glanced down at my baby in the exact sleeping position as the baby refugee whose picture I had posted, and I prayed (as I sobbed and woke J and hyperventilated) that God would never let me see my child’s face without the face of these other lives. I prayed my heart would remain broken until we legislated refugees (who were ranked yesterday as below our own in their rights for safety), back in—Muslim, Christian or otherwise. In the language of my people, I prayed for vicarious trauma.

(Also, it *is* actually a Muslim ban if you’ve decided to maybe let some Christians in after all.)

I understand that some other people have this type of deep conviction for unborn babies. If that’s you, we overlap in our singular value for life. Please read this first and take Internet communion with me right now in this shared value, even as we disagree with how to live out our shared value.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I thought: What would be the antithesis of the spirit of Satan in a person? I decided one good start might be to send out messages of love to others who are politically and theologically oceans away from me. And then to offer the Internet grace for 24 hours. I thought it might also include bringing peace lilies to the two mosques within a mile of my apartment. So the baby and I took peace lilies to my Muslim neighbors this morning. (Well. Except we couldn’t find the peace lilies, so we brought Tulips.)

 

In the spirit of Christ who compels me to love my neighbor as myself, I have decided I would want to feel loved and cherished and safe in my neighborhood, so I will love my Muslim neighbors unto that.

I am thinking my baby and I could do this for each population devalued by our president. We could go to World Relief. We could go to The Center on Halsted. We could go to Black Lives Matter Chicago via the Illinois Justice Foundation. This could be my weekly act of personal resistance. We could personify the word resist.

An old friend asked me yesterday to stop judging her. She thought because she wasn’t using her voice on Facebook but instead off Facebook “where it matters” I had assumed she wasn’t active. This actually broke my heart. I had not assumed that about her.

For the sake of clarity: No matter your political affiliation, if your voice has been on or off Facebook advocating for the rights of any vulnerable population, I am thanking you.

I do feel pretty sad that a specific subset of people I am baptized with in faith have remained silent in the face of multiple injustices. These are the ones who voted for Trump on the value of life but have not leveraged their voices for any other life at risk outside of the womb. If that is not you, don’t pick up this burden. It’s not yours.

If my sadness feels like judgment to you based on tone, we should probably both do a gut-check. In the words of my friend Kim, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but if in my anger and disgust I do, please forgive me. This isn’t about you. It’s about my deep conviction that [welcoming refugees/access to clean water/not assaulting women/AND SO ON] is at the fundamental core of my faith and patriotism.”

BUT! If you’ve been on Facebook advocating in the last 10 days since the inauguration, you have given me life. Your voice has mattered to me in this context, and I can’t tell you how mobilized and hopeful you’ve made me. You told me which terminal to go to at O’Hare. You gave me the phone numbers to the White House switchboards, and you told me when those were full, and then you gave me the next set of numbers. You gave me the twitter handles of my representatives. You invited me to a pasta dinner at your house to address postcards. You gave me Mary Oliver and Brennen Manning and Walter Brueggemann. And you sent me all those messages. You have shown me I’m not alone. My use of Facebook is honing in on its purpose these days.

If your feed is draining you, I’m so sorry.

It’s possible MY posts are draining you. I’ve been told I’m pretty angry lately. People are kind of irritated about my negativity. They tell me what they really miss are pictures of my 8-month old and trunks full of puppies.

I miss that too. It would be really awesome if injustice weren’t so negative, wouldn’t it? If it came in sweet baby faces and teacup Yorkies? I am so disheartened by the literal inauguration of injustice that I legit haven’t slept in 10 nights. I’m one of those people who can’t go to sleep if anything is unresolved.

Which is like, the entire state of the union.

Members of my family and a couple of frequent trollers have called me self-righteous and condescending. They send me verses about judgment and such.

Maybe. Their faces are not in my mind when I’m sharing info and begging for action and calling for integrity within the GOP party. I’m trying to balance rage with life-giving words. In my heart I don’t look down on anyone. I’m not judging you. I don’t even have time to judge you right now. In fact, if you’re a Republican voter who is leveraging your voice to fight for justice and integrity within the GOP, I am thanking God for you!

(I would like to point out that my youngest brother who doesn’t even align with me politically and who I haven’t talked to since Christmas saw my women’s march pictures and text me the next day to say he was proud of me for marching because he trusts who I am. Those words were a gift when the other lady called me Satan and when my grandma thought I marched because I wanted the right to kill my baby. These are the ways in which we reduce each other into black-and-white categories instead of nuanced living beings.)

But, yes, in my heart I am raging. I’m mad like my own child washed up on the shore of Turkey while fleeing ethnic cleansing. I’m mad like I’m losing my own health insurance coverage and I have bone cancer. I’m mad like my own land was stolen out from under me, and then the government was like, We’re sorry, here’s this land you can live on and then later decided to build oil pipeline that had to potential to poison my water. I’m mad like my president wants a registry of people in my own religion. I’m mad like my own civil rights are limited by my different sexual orientation. I’m mad because these rights are not religious rights given by the church, but civil rights given by the government, for example the right to visit my partner in the hospital or be named on a health insurance policy. I’m mad like the president of my country was talking about me or my daughter in that so-called locker room, which was really just his actual life. (Why didn’t I write a blog like this about Bill Clinton, 15 people will ask? Because I was 11 years old and playing with an imaginary family of mice in my closet, which doubled as a magic elevator at the time.)

I’m mad like there are too many other things to list. It’s an entire buffet of burdens to bear on a daily basis, and this was a direct order: carry each other’s burdens. There is no caveat that says, “until you are tired.” I am exhausted. And so on Sundays, I’ll offer myself grace, too.

The reality is that underneath all that fiery red madness is not superiority, but sadness for the people harmed by apathy. If you voted for Trump and I know you to be a person of faith, it might take me a minute, but I want to see you as my ally. I am not judging you. I have been counting on you to be who I know who you are within the GOP.

Senators McCain and Graham gave a great example yesterday of what integrity can look like in the GOP by placing country over party and humanity over country.

///

Brennan Manning said, “In every encounter we either give life or drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

I feel like those of us who are compelled to advocate are in a constant battle between giving life to those for whom we speak (and to each other most days), and draining it from those who would like to be left out of the “negativity”. I guess the greater risk is in not speaking up. Nobody ever died of negativity.

My friend Nicole said, “We are not fading into darkness. Just shining lights. And maybe there’s something uncomfortable in that at first. You know, until people’s eyes fully adjust.”

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I belong to a Christian Counselors Networking group, and last week we talked about how a good portion of the country (including ourselves and our clients) are functioning out of the amygdala, which houses all our gut emotional reactions, our fight-or-flight responses, and black and white thinking, forcing people into either all good or all bad categories. And we agreed we all needed to find our way and lead others back into the prefrontal cortex, where our reasoning and empathy and complexity and nuanced thinking lives.

I will be the first to admit I’ve been all up in my amygdala since November.

Resisters: we have to get out of our amygdalas and find our ways back to the prefrontal cortex. Don’t be the enemy. The enemy would love that.

To borrow a page from my friend Rebecca’s book, who borrowed if from the book of Micah:

I promise to do my dead-level best to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly (JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL).

Every time someone says God Bless America, I promise to whisper, “God, have mercy” even as we have no mercy to offer the world right now.

I promise to offer the Internet grace on Sundays.

I promise to say thank you to each person every time I see them fighting for justice and integrity.

I promise to avoid black and white thinking, but to seek out overlapping shades of gray.

I promise you will not see pictures of my baby girl without active resistance because I don’t want a world for her that doesn’t include the things I’m advocating for.

And I promise every time I leave the material world for the electronic one, to take God with me.

 

 

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