Category Archives: Justice

Day 6: Bridging Divides (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsI am deeply weary of polarizing conversations. To the point that I want to weep every time something controversial comes up. I already have an intense dislike for confrontation, but this? This is so much more.

I know some people who regularly hashtags their posts with things like #liberalsarestupid. I know others who regularly post things about all conservatives being greedy and indifferent to the poor or hating women. I want to shake someone and shout, “How is this helpful???”

If you see that there are some deep-rooted problems that negatively affect minorities woven into our system of policing, you must hate the cops.

If you state something showing gratitude for law enforcement, you’re racist and ignorant.

If you observe that yes, Israel has a significance on the world stage and in spiritual matters, but maybe that doesn’t give them a blank check to do whatever they want, you’re anti-Semitic, anti-American, and quite possibly, not Christian anymore.

If you support the right to bear arms but think maybe there should be some additional safety measures in place because the world is a messed up place, you’re ignorant, anti-Consitution, and anti-American, and want all the criminals to be able to run roughshod all over you.

If you think that in spite of whatever Planned Parenthood’s claims to the common good are, their roots are horrendous and there’s some shady business going, you hate women and want all the poor, minority women to suffer the most.

On and on. It goes on and on and on. I’d like to add a disclaimer that my examples above are extreme, but they’re not. These are conversations and interactions I observe every single day, and it breaks my heart. We think the worst and say the worst, and meanwhile, there are gaping wounds that need to be healed.

Maybe this isn’t a simple truth. Maybe it’s complicated, or maybe it’s become complicated, even though it shouldn’t be.

However extreme or different our views may be, we all have a vested interest in the well-being of our nation, of the world, of individuals, of families. Nothing will get better by calling names, by assuming that anyone who thinks differently than you is stupid or ignorant or hateful. That kind of language might get article hits and social media shares, but it doesn’t bring healing or redemption or hope or solutions.

The simple, not-so-simple truth? Change starts when we are willing to truly listen, not to tear down each other’s arguments or form our own defenses, but to hear what matters to someone else’s heart and find the common ground we need to stand on and move forward. Change starts when we are willing to challenge our own views and deeply held convictions, while seeking to understand why someone else’s conviction is different than our own.

Unsplash/Nick Scheerbart

Unsplash/Nick Scheerbart

We can all stand there stubbornly holding our ground and shouting insults, or we can close our mouths, open our ears and our hands, and start building bridges.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Healing, Justice

Overcoming Evil With Good

*Dear readers, I’ve been doing a ton of writing for my job recently, which is making it quite challenging to keep up with this space. This is one of my recent pieces I did, and it’s a message really close to my heart so I wanted to share it here too.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

Before you watch the news or search the internet, or maybe just before you begin your day-to-day routines, it might be good to reflect on Paul’s words at the end of Romans 12. It is easy to be weighed down and discouraged by the struggles and very real horrors in the world. We can be paralyzed—so unsure of where to start or how to even address problems so big that we end up not doing much of anything.

But Paul gives us our starting point: Overcome evil with good. What this looks like for each of us will be slightly different, but it is a question we can bring before God daily—what good do You want me to do today?

Practical Mercy

In Victor Hugo’s classic masterpiece, Les Misérables, he tells the story of a man named Jean Valjean, who was imprisoned for 19 years because he stole a loaf of bread. Once he is released, it is only an illusory freedom. He cannot find anywhere to work or stay because he is an ex-convict. He finally finds a compassionate bishop who takes him in, but he repays the man’s kindness by stealing his silverware and slipping away in the night.

The police arrest Valjean and bring him back to the bishop to be charged, but in a stunning display of mercy, the bishop tells the guards that the silverware was a gift and demands that they release him. He challenges Valjean to take the silver and use it to become an honest man—a moment that powerfully transforms his life.

Come on over and read the rest!

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Filed under Faith, Justice, Love

Questions That Break My Heart (Hard Conversations with My Kids)

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I was coming down the stairs this morning, a load of laundry in my arms, when I heard my daughter’s excited voice.

“Look, Mom! Our friends are outside playing! Why aren’t they at school?”

With the day’s to-do list scrolling through my head, I was about to murmur a casual “I don’t know” when I remembered going over my calendar before the kids were up. “Oh, it’s a holiday. They don’t have school today because it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day.”

And even as I kept walking to the laundry room, I heard her little voice again. “Who’s that? Why does he get a holiday?”

I felt the gravity of the moment suddenly demand a pause in the morning. I set the laundry basket down and went into the living room to look at my precious daughter and my precious son, who had stopped playing to come listen. Kids have the uncanniest sense about when something matters.

For just a few moments, I did my best to explain MLK’s legacy to their very tender 5- and 3-year old hearts. We talked about racism and segregation and laws that said certain individuals didn’t even count as an entire human being. We talked about separate schools and separate bathrooms and hate and fear. We talked about a man speaking up and literally laying his life down because this was so important.

I looked at those wide-eyes, and I knew what they were thinking of. Who they were thinking of. Their favorite friend from our former church. The next-door neighbor girl. The three little girls who live behind us who told my daughter she was the first friend they’d made in the neighborhood. (Never mind that none of them seem to be able to remember each other’s names. They just yell, “Hi, friends!” whenever they see each other.)

When I paused in my explanations, my daughter said very emphatically, “That makes no sense. God makes people in all colors. And besides, we’re supposed to treat others how we want to be treated.”

She was so matter of fact, so simple in her understanding of the situation. And unlike other hard things I’ve had to explain to her, where I end up saying, “It’s just complicated. There’s not always an easy answer,” this feels different. It shouldn’t be complicated. It really shouldn’t. I mean, at this point, dismantling the systems and prejudices and hundreds of years of tensions—well, ok, these are daunting undertakings. But they shouldn’t be.

I’ve never been able to wrap my head even a little bit around the concept of racism. I think we all have to work to overcome various biases and prejudices, get over our fear of differences; these are aspects of flawed humanity that are common to all of us. But to actually consider someone less than—less valuable, less worthy, less human—over skin color or accents or different homeland? I can’t make sense of it.

Then she asked the question, the one that shattered me: “But this doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Since the law was changed?”

And I have to look into those innocent, hopeful, compassionate faces and say, “Yes, it still happens.”

I don’t dismiss the progress. I don’t dismiss the years of efforts, the laws changed, the reconciliation fought for. But I see my own thoughts and frustrations mirrored in their little eyes: mere progress doesn’t seem like enough when people’s value and humanity are on the line.

I became painfully aware of my own lack of knowledge and understanding of this issue, even of MLK’s incredible legacy, as I talked with my children. I realize I have a lot more research and learning and listening to do. I want to know more so that I can do more.

Our conversation finally dwindled down, but as my daughter walked away, she said with all the sass and stubbornness she could muster (which, in this girl, is quite a bit), “Well, I’m just going to love everybody” and did her little “so there” flip of the head.

Well then, sweet girl, you’re miles ahead of so much of the world already. And I think that’s an excellent starting point.

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Filed under Change, Hope, Justice