Then later that morning, my secretary received a phone call from someone in the community who was upset because we are having a swing band come and play for our concert series this Saturday evening and he believes dancing to be a sin. Our secretary came back to talk to me about it and as I was whipping out my list of all the scriptures that encourage, and even mandate dancing as an expression of praise (mostly psalms, but there are others, too), he, too, hung up.
Then this week someone sent us in the mail all kinds of "literature" to tell us why we are all going to hell for loving people who don't look like we do: might be different color, different gender, different faith, different orientation, different socio-economic class. Apparently loving those who differ from us is a bad thing. Hm. Apparently the gospels aren't part of her regular reading regimen.
There are so many different opinions in this world, different view points, different understandings of what it is to be people of faith. And yet, every time someone takes the time out of their day to be judgmental, attacking, rude to someone else, I find myself more than a little flabbergasted, confused and, frankly, discouraged by what humans are: what we remain, what we have become, what we seem, inevitably, to be. There are so many real injustices in the world: people being killed by other people, people being abused and mistreated and dismissed and blocked from full living by other people. Why are there still people who waste their time being angry about things that don't hurt anyone else? I wonder why, if they have all this energy to fight and to instruct, they don't choose to fight poverty, or war, or racism and why they don't use their desire to instruct to teach about loving, caring, and being kind to one another. Why is it, with the limited time we have on earth, they want to yell at people, try to change people by bashing them over the head, upset other people about making choices like enjoying the life we've been given through dancing; when they could instead choose to make each day brighter and better and more joyous for someone else?
I know we are supposed to meet unkindness with kindness, to meet hate with love, to meet violence with loving care. Or as Jesus said it, "To turn the other cheek". I know this. I work on this. But it is exhausting sometimes to have to swallow or at least just accept and try to allow the anger, hatred and attacks of others to just roll off our backs. It wears me out.
Still, when I am able to center, my first feeling about these folk is great sadness for them. What must have led a person to believe that anger is the only way to make positive changes? What leads a person to a belief in a hateful, judgmental god? What kind of deep trauma makes it more important to someone to judge others than to help them, to attack people who are happy and doing what they love instead of going after problems that truly injure other lives? What profound fear makes a person anxious about those they don't know or understand, rather than open to learning from them, growing with them and loving them?
And then, from that place of centeredness and compassion, I find myself moving into a different place as well: one not of judging or condemning those who would judge us, but instead into a place of wanting to offer love and support and healing to those who are so broken that they cannot find a way to begin to "love your enemies" as Jesus commands us to do again and again. It is hard to offer that care when those who would attack hang up or send mail anonymously. But I hope that when I am in that situation in person, I will be called to re-center and to choose love and help instead of judgment and anger.
In the midst of my angst about all of this, I found a poem called "Lo and Behold" by Ann Weems, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press,2010. p 90) part of which I want to share here:
In the land of Lo and Behold,
Where Jesus healed the sick,
Even on the sabbath,
And ate with tax collectors
And befriended prostitutes
And outcasts and children,
And cleansed lepers and stilled a storm,
And he told the people to love one another
As much as they wanted to be loved,
And not to judge each other, and not to worry,
And not to store up treasures on earth,
But to give from the heart,
And Jesus told them: Feed my sheep,
And he was grieved at their hardness of heart
My prayer is not just for those who send and call these messages of anger, but for all of us. Let our hearts, too, be opened even when we interact with folk such as those who are angry and attacking. For it is only our open hearts that can have any chance of opening the hearts of others.