Our news media and our social media are not reliable. They force us into instant judgements. They typically have a particular narrative they’re trying to tell. A group of people is instantly either bad or good, either peacekeepers or rioters, either good American citizens or criminals.
That is the organic path today, the path of least resistance. No longer are we talking about complex human beings that we have to love, but we get to talk about flat caricatures of people that are easy to hate.
As Christians it is our job to resist that. It is our job to fight for the humanity in everyone. The humanity in the voiceless who feel they have no where else to turn. Yes, it is our job to fight to preserve the humanity of protesters, rioters, police officers and politicians alike. It is our job to protect God’s flame burning inside every precious soul. Because if we do not, well, you know what our news and social media, or even our own broken prejudices, will do to them.
It is also my job as a Christian to acknowledge that I don’t know what it’s like to feel completely powerless to change my situation. I am enmeshed in a network of powerful people that I could call if I really felt the cards were stacked against me. It’s my job to acknowledge that I don’t know what it’s like to have my entire complex, beautiful identity distilled down to my skin color. It’s my job to recognize that telling a story in which the powerless are merely thugs and criminals is a temptation too perfect and strong for the powerful to resist.
So when we do see the coverage on TV and in our Facebook feed, as Christians we have to recognize the natural reaction and then search for our Christian reaction. It’s easy enough, almost effortless in fact, to feel like you have it all figured out. “Those rioters are all thugs.” “I would never do that.” “Look, they’re all like that.” It’s easy to despise them, and to feel hatred start gripping your heart.
I’m searching for the Christian reaction to what is happening in Baltimore. I know that reaction is not the path of least resistance. I know that reaction must work to protect God’s holy light that shines in all people. I know that reaction includes not having all the answers and seeking understanding from people different from me. I know I am called to see everyone through God’s eyes. I know I am called to work for peace.
God, help us to protect flame burning in all of us and not burn one another.
God, help us all to fight for one another and not against one another.