But…but…but…

I can almost guarantee that any discussion about the events in the United States over the last several days will be met by somebody saying “But…”

  • But violence and looting isn’t the answer.
  • But if he hadn’t resisted, he’d have been fine.
  • But the police were just doing their jobs.
  • But…
  • But…
  • But…

You can fill in the gaps.

While I don’t condone violence and looting, all of this deflects from what I believe is important. A black man was handcuffed by white police, placed in a position that they were trained was dangerous, had a knee placed on his neck for over 8 minutes–and kept there, even after he became unconscious, and died. It was an unnecessary death.

One death in this way is too many. But–and yes, I’m using that word–this is not the first time situations like this have happened. Unarmed black people–or people legally carrying–shot by white police, who then either face no charges or are found not guilty.

Don’t tell me they deserved it. Just don’t even go there.

Tell me why white men, armed with weapons and having made threats, were allowed to enter a state legislature, wander around with their weapons and then leave on their own with no police action.

Tell me why white men charged with multiple murders are captured and handcuffed and treated politely.

Tell me why neo-Nazis protesting violently in Charlottesville are “good people” while African-Americans are “thugs.”

Tell me why black people, peacefully protesting brutality they see in their communities, are almost always met with police in riot gear, armed with pepper spray and mace, while white protests are not.

Tell me why a black/Latino CNN camera crew is arrested, even after showing their credentials and asking the police to just tell them where they want them to move to…while a white CNN reporter is simply politely asked to move back.

Tell me just how African-Americans are supposed to have their voices heard.

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When we stop saying “but…” and start listening, then maybe, just maybe we can find ways of healing.

My heart is breaking

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a person of color today. My heart is breaking for them–but I’m sure it is nothing compared to their hurt and fear.

I know there are some challenges I face as a woman. But because I am white, I am also aware there are some privileges I have–privileges I have become more aware of over the last several years. Privileges that people of color don’t have.

Perhaps you have not seen these–but these four stories are just a small sampling of the reasons my heart is breaking today:

What do they all have in common? The fact that persons of color were identified as “villains”…and that the white people involved had confidence that their stories would be believed without any questions.

What is happening to us?

Or maybe the question isn’t “what is happening to us”…but rather it is this: why has it taken us (white people) so long to realize the challenges our brothers and sisters face every day?

And there is a corollary question: What are we going to do about it?

There is a poem by Saint Teresa of Avila that says this:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
     no hands but yours,
     no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out
     Christ's compassion to the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
     doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

If we are the body of Christ, then how will we respond?

Is your heart breaking as mine is? What are we going to do about it? Wringing our hands…offering thoughts and prayers…that’s not enough.

If we are the body of Christ, then we have the responsibility to speak out for justice for those who have no voice. We have the responsibility to help others begin to see with new eyes. We have the responsibility to take the privilege we have and use it to speak truth to power…to call for justice…so that others’ hearts will not break because of our inaction.

All children of God…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I am feeling. Yesterday I unfriended someone on Facebook. I was sorry to do that, but I did so because they posted a meme that was a slam at those who find God through Islam. I cannot and will not tolerate comments against another’s faith journey.

I am a follower of the Way–of the one known as Jesus. That is how I have found my path to the Divine.

But I am not arrogant enough to believe that this is the only path to the Divine. It is my path. But the Divine is bigger than I can comprehend…than any of us can comprehend. As the Apostle Paul (from my tradition) said:

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (I Corinthians 13:11-12 The Message)

All religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who allow that tradition to bring out the best in them. Likewise, all religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who use their beliefs to dominate, to attack those who are different.

But at the end of the day, we are all children of God. When we are willing to listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, we can learn more about who God is–and who we are.

The One I worship calls me to share what I have found to be true…but also to listen to what others have found to be true.

We cannot get tired…

There has been so much going on over the last couple of months…life changes coming at us in rapid succession.

We have also been overwhelmed with news reports…lots of news reports with conflicting information. Scientists and doctors say one thing; politicians say another.

And we have a president who–instead of trying to unite us to pull together to get through this pandemic–instead encourages division and eggs on those who want life to quickly go back to the way it was.

It’s exhausting! It wears us out…and we sometimes just want to dig a hole, jump in, and pull it in after us so we don’t have to deal with all this “stuff” any more.

But we can’t afford to do that.

We have to keep supporting science-based information. We have to keep listening to those who are dealing with this virus on the front lines–to what they are telling us to do in order to try to keep everyone safe.

We have to keep working to share what is true–not what someone wishes is true.

Living in an alternate fantasy universe where you can just snap your fingers and have things change is a nice dream, but it’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality. Reality is messy…difficult…and definitely doesn’t always go the way we hope it would.

This pandemic isn’t through with us yet–as much as we might like it to be.

We have to keep on keeping on. Take a rest when needed…and then get back up. We have to listen to those whose life experiences have taught them how to be resilient through continued trauma. We have to support each other in those things that are true and positive. We have to stand tall–and speak out against those things that put down others…that create a toxic environment.

We have to keep on keeping on.

How do we live nonviolently?

A while back I attended a workshop on living nonviolently. That’s a topic that has interested me off an on for a long time. But how do we do it?

I was a young adult during the chaos of the civil rights actions in the 1960s…and was impressed by the stories and videos of other young people my age who calmly faced snarling dogs, fire hoses, police brutality. How did they do it? Could I have done it?

I was also impressed by a scene in the movie Gandhi when he led a peaceful march on the salt works. Men lining up calmly and quietly, several abreast, watching the men ahead of them being clubbed down…and then stepping up quietly to take their turn. How did they do it?

Jesus called those who are peacemakers “blessed.” What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

Sometimes that means stepping into situations of violence and taking blows…without returning them.

Sometimes that means spending time holding individuals and situations up in prayer.

Sometimes that means writing…elected officials, newspapers, whoever else might have influence.

None of us can do all of that. But each of us can do something. If we don’t, then we are part of the .

But I come back again to the question: what does it mean to live nonviolently?

It’s more than just not killing someone (or something). It’s more than just taking action. It’s a complete way of life–because actions come out of our thoughts.

It requires a transformation…of ourselves, our communities, our governments…our world.

Some might say that living this way is impossible. But continuing to live the way we are is not sustainable. Something has to change! And that has to start with us.

We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion – Mother Teresa

I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more. – Chief Joseph

Any type of violence is against God, against religion, against spirituality, against humanity, and against nature. Maturity comes only through non-violence, love, and all-inclusiveness. – Amit Ray

Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another….World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. – Martin Luther King, Jr.