Monday, August 14, 2017

A Different World... but not really

I spent this past weekend up in the mountains of North Carolina at a women's conference. Over 350 women gathered together from all over the country for a conference called "The Fullness of Life - Montreat Women's Connection 2017." I had the honor of leading the group through a discussion of Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. And I had the joy of leading two workshops on journaling as a spiritual discipline. I called it "The Fullness of Life: Keeping a Written Record." There was laughter. There were tears. There were stories. There were questions, tons of questions.

In a different world... but not really, some angry, hate-filled people gathered in a city in Virginia, carrying flags and guns and torches and centuries of rage that they unleashed on any and all who were there and any and all who turned on their televisions or looked at their handheld devices. There were tears. There were prayers. There was singing. There was violence. There are questions, tons of questions.

It would be easy to say that those two events, those two gatherings took place in completely different worlds. But they didn't. They took place in the same country. I have no doubt that these two gatherings involved people from the same states and the same cities, the same communities of faith, perhaps even the same households.

It would be comforting to think that no one we know,
no one I know
would spew such anger and hatred,
would avow such violence and mayhem.
But the reality is that we all know people who feel that way about
brown people, black people, Jewish people, Muslim people,
about immigrants, the ones with documents and the ones without documents,
about people on the LGBTQ spectrum.
We all know people who want to "take Am*rica back" and want to make Am*rica great again"
- and what they really mean is to make this country white again,
even though it has never been white.
They sit next to us at church.
They stand in front of us in the pulpit.
They sit next to us in our office cafeterias.
They stand in front of us at work gatherings.
They live next to us in our neighborhoods.
They stand in front of us at political events.

It is not a different world.
"Those people" are our people.
They live among us.
They are us.
If we remain silent,
if we make excuses related to the first and second amendments,
if we deny the true message of those hateful flags,
if we say that it's okay for them to show up with torches and machine guns
shouting about wh*te power,
but it's not okay for black and brown people and their white allies
to gather and march and say that black lives matter,
(which does not mean "ONLY" black lives matter, but rather black lives matter "TOO")
then that is proof positive that it is not a different world.

At the retreat this past weekend, I had many opportunities to sit with new friends,
to talk and laugh and share life stories
and ponder both the fullness and the messiness of these lives we live.
The challenges and the joy of motherhood.
The brokenness and woundedness that we all carry with us.
The terrible decisions we've made in our lives and the grace that we have received.
We hugged each other and cried with each other.
We spoke words of encouragement to one another.
And we also pushed one another to speak up for justice.
To teach our children about race and racism, justice and righteousness.
To stand up for what is true and right - even at difficult times like this.
Perhaps most especially at difficult times like this.

At the end of the conference, we all got into our cars or someone else's car
or onto airplanes and made our way back to our real lives.
Down from the mountains into the valleys of shadows.
Into the hatred and anger that assaulted us from every news outlet.
Into the anger and fear that some of those beautiful women deal with at home.
Perhaps some of those women went home to men who had carried a torch
or some other symbol of hatred in Charlottesville.
All of us are now back in this world we all share.
This nation we all share.

It is my prayer and my hope that each of those women,
myself included,
has reentered her life renewed, recharged,
determined to do the work that will make this a different world.
A different nation.

It is my prayer that we will not only wear pink hats and safety pins
(thank you, Patrice, for this)
without doing anything that makes a real difference,
but that we will stand strong and speak up when we hear racist rants,
sexist slurs, and anti-Muslim or anti-gay bigotry spoken in our presence.

It is my prayer that we will teach our children and our grandchildren,
our partners and our spouses,
our faith community partners and our neighbors,
our co-workers and our friends
that justice is what love looks like in public (Cornel West)
that hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that (MLK Jr)
that the way forward will be with a broken heart (Alice Walker)
and that we who believe in freedom cannot rest
until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons,
is as important as the killing of white men,
white mothers' sons (Sweet Honey in the Rock).

There is work yet to be done. So much work.
There is justice yet to be carried out.
Because a retreat in the mountains followed by a retreat back into our safe bubbles
(for those of us who have places of safety - not everyone has such a place)
can no longer be our modus operandi.
Because the hatred and racism and injustice that have always been
and still are present in the very foundation of this nation
must be named for what they are and they must be eradicated
if we have any hope of this being a different world, a different nation.

But if we remain silent, if we do nothing,
if we aren't willing to be uncomfortable in the ugliness of it,
if we refuse to learn our nation's history around these issues,
if we resist the fact that that history is still being lived out in 2017,
then we will only see more of what we saw this past weekend.
And all our yearning and hopes for a different world will never come to fruition.

What are you willing to do to make this a different world,
a different country,
a safe world,
a safe country
for all who live here and all who come here?
Where are you willing to take a stand for justice?
What are you willing to say at your dinner table,
at your office water cooler,
at your family reunion,
and in the mirror?


Catherine Marcuccilli said...

This is a clear call to speak up in our own spheres of influence. Thank you for that.

GailNHB said...

Catherine, thanks for your comment. That's exactly what this is - a call to speak up and speak out exactly where you are. No one shares our exact circles of influence, so each of us has a place and a space where we can do the work. No one is exempt. No one can pass the responsibility on to other people.

Peace be with you on your journey.