This week, I got a message from someone I knew growing up. He was one of the “grown ups” at church when we started going there. I had sent him a friend request on Facebook. His message sounded a little ominous. “I’m politically conservative and state my opinions respectfully. Do you still want to be friends?”
Um . . . what? Somehow I felt like I was getting a warning. Look out!
But then it hit me. He’s was wondering if I was going to be an unholy brat if he disagreed with me. Frankly, I understood why he felt the need to ask. Let’s face it. It’s pretty obvious that I’m an unapologetic liberal. And liberals are not looking like a kinder, gentler people lately. We’ve been engaging in a lot of name calling like when CNN reporter Marc Lamont Hill called Bruce LeVell, a member of Trump’s diversity team, one of a group of mediocre Negroes.
This kind of name calling isn’t meant to start a dialogue. It isn’t going to solve a problem. It is simply designed to shut . . . someone . . . down.
For another example, have you heard about the controversy surrounding Veronica Roth’s latest young adult novel, Carve the Mark? One group of people in this fantasy is described as savage, brown and nomadic. I haven’t read the book so I’m taking someone else’s word for that. Those criticizing Roth claim these baddies are another example of demonizing brown people.
Not everyone agrees. Some of her fellow authors believe that Roth has a diverse population of characters and not all “bad guys” are brown, not all “good guys” are white. One of these authors is Sabaa Tahir who was criticized for not falling in line. One commenter berated Tahir questioning whether or not she knows what racism is. Tahir kindly explained just how completely she understands racism, citing numerous racist acts perpetrated against her. She also challenged the notion that minority authors must speak as one, that they cannot have their own opinions, and that there cannot be a dialogue.
Dialogue is a rare commodity in our society. It is almost like we are creating our own Tower of Babel. How? We seem to have the notion that if someone doesn’t agree with you 100%, you don’t need to listen to them, you don’t need to talk to them, and you can get by with calling them every name in the book.
We support this behavior although name calling creates a divide. We condone this kind of public criticism although it doesn’t solve any problem. It is just an attempt to beat someone down.
Seriously, people. We cannot solve problems as Christians as until we are willing to discuss things with people who don’t think exactly like we think. We have to be willing to listen to people who disagree with us. And it isn’t going to be easy. Bad habits are hard to break.
But I saw an interview today about how to get it done. Rev. William Barber challenges people to quit using the labels that commonly color our political discourse. We aren’t left and right, black and white, Republican and Democrat, or liberal and conservative. We are people coming together to address an issue.
The issue takes the floor.
But for this to happen, we have to be willing to step away from the Tower of Babel. We have to be willing to stop the name calling even if we’re just labeling ourselves liberal or conservative. We have to want to renew our ability to communicate. And to do that, we have to listen.
Can you hear me?