I have had glasses since I was two years old. I do not know life without them, and unfortunately most of the kids I grew up with didn’t know life with them. I was teased all the time. My teammates in basketball would snap the strap of my goggles against my head and point out my “big” eyes because of the thick lenses. But the most common and hurtful insult to me was being called “four eyes.” It made me feel alienated.
Alienation, to me, means more than being separated or cast off. The root word says it all: alien. I was foreign, a stranger, of a different species, inhuman. To alienate someone is a very dangerous thing. It does more than distinguish — it dehumanizes.
Sadly, this was one of the first things that came to my mind when asked to write about God and politics. I am not versed on the intersection of theology and politics. My interests are in philosophy and religion. My head is in the clouds, and I just hope my feet are somewhat on the ground. But I, like many reading this, have felt the repercussions of God and politics.
Go back into your recent memory to the mess that followed Dan Cathy’s comments at Chik-fil-a. Forget about who you think was right or wrong. Whatever side you were on, did you not feel alienated? Unwelcomed? That you are bigot? That you are an unnatural wierdo destroying the very fabric of America? It hurts to be blamed, pointed at and chastised. And that is before there are any public demonstrations about how wrong, intolerant and hopeless you are.
I have talked to people who were on both sides of that day. Both sides felt alienated. Yes, we need to stand up for what we believe in and communicate it, but it’s effectiveness is not based on how loud we are or how many people we have on our side.
Look at how Jesus acted when he was confronted by someone different than his lifestyle and beliefs. He had the uncanny ability to challenge someone yet affirm their humanity at the same time. When he was faced with prostitutes he did not condemn them or run from them. He sat with them and talked to them. Why this approach? The prostitute knew how others believed she was leading a horrible lifestyle, but Jesus was the only one to come and demonstrate that she is better than what she is offering yourself. He did not condone her actions, but he dignified her by lifting up her humanity.
And look at the Pharisees. Within this fold of respectable men were the Glenn Beck’s and Bill Maher’s of their day. When the Pharisees heated up politically, Jesus challenged them. But Jesus did not play a game with them. It was not a debate, a time of throwing around thoughts, accusations and insults. No, like an arrow to a target, Jesus moved from venomous debate to the real issue. And by doing so told the Pharisees, “You are better than this. The people need to hear the truth and we are the leaders they believe in! Let’s be honest.” And just like that Jesus refused to play their game and instead encouraged them to fulfill their role as leaders. In his challenge, Jesus offered an opportunity to step forward and move on to something better.
I am sad to say that some of God’s children (whether Republican or Democrat or somewhere in-between) are not following suit. There has been more of an attitude to rub the truth in others’ faces instead of speaking truth in order to build peace and move forward. Jesus made peace, even if there was no resolution (like with the Pharisees), because he was blameless in his attitude and direct in his challenge. Many Christians have done a great job at defending the truth, but have forgot the attitude and resolution-seeking you should have as you defend the truth:
- “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
- “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)
- “So show your love for the alien, for you were once aliens in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
I understand that there are times where common ground cannot be found and there will be disagreement at the root of an issue. And sometimes we will be attacked for what we believe. But let’s do not return persecution with persecution, insult for insult, judgment for judgment. No one leaves a verbal knife-fight uncut.
Whether you are Republican or Democrat, straight or gay, conservative or liberal, pro-choice or pro-life, these distinctions can become political weapons of alienation. As weapons, they deteriorate our communal life. Being called “four eyes” as a student not only defined me but it defined my accusers as divisive and unloving.
Jesus offers us a better example. When we find disagreement among each other, lets first dignify one another before any disagreements spew from our mouths.
Image credits: flickr.com/photos/schani and flickr.com/photos/drew_photography