Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Advent as the Antidote


Originally posted at Misfits Theology Club.

I quit Lent this year. I didn’t really, but in retrospect, I should’ve. When the COVID lockdown started, it was unsettling. Everything was different. People were dying. The world seemed lost. I didn’t figure it out until Easter, but, in the time of global pandemic, Lent doesn’t make sense.

The liturgical year is a re-enactment of Jesus’ life, a way to tell time that corresponds with the cycles of hope and despair, suffering and salvation, which mark human existence. We observe these seasons as a reminder. In a world that is easily distracted by wealth or privilege or competing attempts to ascribe meaning to self-indulgence, we’re prone to forget reality, if not ultimate reality.

In normal times, at least for us in the wealthy West, Lent is a welcome and necessary focus on the suffering our culture spends so much time helping us avoid. As we walk through the pains of human existence, through the eyes of Jesus, who chooses willingly to identify with the poor and oppressed, we can better understand our responsibilities to each other. We recognize and remember that salvation costs something.

It’s often said that white congregations focus on Good Friday and minorities emphasize Sunday morning. This alludes to the divergent experiences of privilege and oppression. Those Christians who don’t look like me don’t need to be reminded of the cost of salvation, or the very real place of suffering in the human condition.

In normal times, I need Lent. Yes, it’s the epitome of privilege that I can choose a specific season to focus on and attempt to understand the depths of suffering in the world, but it is also reality. Without those intentional periods, despite my everyday attempts to avoid the seclusion and separation to which modern society gravitates, if I don’t make space for suffering and sacrifice, my culture will do its level best to ensure I never see it.

Ideally, we’d be able to focus on all aspects of God’s Kingdom and Christian living at all times. We’d be able to balance the positive and the negative, the suffering, sacrifice, and celebration all together in a messy, but helpful mix. I’ve tried and I’m just not that good at it. I need the rhythms of the Church Year to keep me honest.

Not this year, though. Lent just didn’t make sense. I did not need to be reminded that people are suffering, that the world is not as perfect as I’m led to believe, that peace and justice and equity and salvation don’t just happen. I was reminded of those things every day. More of it on Sunday wasn’t helping.

But its for that same reason I’m really looking forward to Advent. In the same way Lent was the exact wrong season for us to be in a global pandemic, Advent is the perfect time to experience an overwhelming problem that is beyond our control.

Advent is my favorite season – largely because I’m a control freak and I constantly guilt myself into believing I’m not doing enough. I love Advent, because I’m given permission to pass the buck, to admit I can’t solve all the problems in the world – that no one can – and to put all the weight of responsibility back on God.

Advent is the season to shake your fist at the heavens and exclaim, “Why the heck are you letting this happen?”

Now, I don’t believe God pulls strings in everyday life. I don’t think God controls the weather and I don’t think God can keep my car from running out of gas until I get to the next exit. I don’t have a conception of God that lends itself to the unexplained.

I’m also not one to abdicate human responsibility. I don’t think we, collectively are incapable of living and being the people God created us to be. While I don’t think humans naturally possess the ability to bring about our own salvation, I do whole-heartedly support the idea that, as part of God’s salvation of the world, we’re invited and included (and perhaps necessary) for that future to become reality.

We can do what God has called us to do. We have a part to play in the fulfillment of all things. We just can do it by sheer force of will. Like most gospel-related issues, this is one of control. We attempt to tackle, solve, and overcome our problems with power and force. If we give more, work more, try harder, accomplish, then we can bring about the solution to all life’s problems.

Advent is the season where we admit that’s just not true. You cannot conquer your enemies by cunning or guile or brute force. We can only “win,” by persistence. Advent is the season where we remind ourselves to keep our heads down and keep at it. War, poverty, hatred. Racism, inequality, violence. These are the insidious enemies of the gospel and they remain so because we continue to attack them on their own terms.

COVID has shown us we can’t win through bluster. We can’t wish or will it away; stubborn refusal to acknowledge the power of this particular enemy has not effect (or maybe the opposite effect). That does not mean it can’t be defeated. God has promised and given us the power to overcome. It’s just not done the way the world tells us it should be.

We are powerless to defeat real evil, if we expect the victory to come tomorrow or the next day, or even in our lifetime. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, but it does mean we take a different approach. Advent is the season where we let go of our allusions of grandeur and say, “God, your way better work, because ours sure isn’t.”

That’s the desperate hope I need during this pandemic Advent season. I pray it’s hope you find for yourselves during this time as well.


Christ has come. Christ is coming again. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Anti-Abortion, Pro-Roe v Wade

 


Abortion is always tragic.

It’s a loss of life. We can get into biological and theological arguments about when exactly cells become an individual life, but those cells – all cells – have always been a part of the collective reality we call “life.” Our modern, individualistic world focuses on individual life as if that’s the only life that exists. I’d argue individuals are only bit players in the grand reality of existence.

When we say Christians value life, we’re not (or at least we shouldn’t be) speaking only of individual life. Individual lives are indeed important, but only insomuch as they point us to a larger understanding of life. We want to be life-giving people, but that doesn’t mean our primary aim is procreation. It means we are contributing to the health and well-being of all life – usually through interactions with one or more individual lives, but with a higher purpose.

This is evidenced in the traditional evangelical approach to abortion: ban it. We want laws changed to criminalize the practice, not necessarily to put women in jail, but to fearfully discourage abortion as an option. We’re willing to lie to pregnant women about science, laws, health outcomes, and whatever else it takes to influence their choice away from abortion.

If the purpose of our efforts was to limit the number of individual abortions, this might be justifiable on a purely numeric scale (although these tactics remain morally suspect). The Christian aim, though, when it comes to abortion is not to limit the practice, but to eliminate it. Even one is too many!

Laws, fear, and coercion will never eliminate abortion. Making it difficult, scary, or unpopular will indeed stop some women from following through. Desperate women, though, will revert to back alleys, homemade poisons, coat hangers, and “falling” down the stairs – all common abortion practices in times and places where traditional evangelical approaches to abortion dominate.

Legal limits can never stop abortion, because they do not address the desire to have an abortion.

The only means to remove the desire for an abortion is to provide social conditions that preclude the desire. If women and children and families (and men, who are an integral factor in, and often root cause of, every unwanted pregnancy) were supported in true, loving community, there would not be a need for abortion. That’s the goal: elimination, not moderation.

That doesn’t mean Christians can’t or shouldn’t address individual life. Coming alongside vulnerable women, supporting them during pregnancy, and demonstrating your commitment to the value of their life and the value of the life of their future child is important. Adoption, especially adoption out of foster care, adoption of older children, and adoption of those with special needs, are important.

These things are not important, though, because they might limit abortions. These individual actions are important because we have a Christian duty to provide such loving care for all people at all times. There are hundreds of millions of vulnerable women around the world who’ve chosen to have their babies and still live unsupported and unloved. Abortion is irrelevant to the call for us to care for the vulnerable.

The point of life itself is to be a life-giving presence to all people in all circumstances, especially those most vulnerable to the insidious tentacles of trauma, pain, and death. Being present is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. THE end itself.

Guilt, shame, fear, and coercion cannot get us to the Kingdom of God – which is what Jesus called those optimal social conditions that prevent the desire for abortions. This Kingdom is also the future we have been promised. At the core of Christian faith is a belief that the Kingdom is not just a possibility, but a reality. Jesus announced and makes possible the world we seek; we must live into it as it comes into being around us.

The “end” Christians seek, the Kingdom of God, cannot be realized through guilt or shame or fear or coercion. We cannot achieve our goals through those means. The means by which we seek the Kingdom is the goal. We must do all things in love, because love is the only law in the Kingdom of God.

If you are calling guilt, coercion, shame, or fear “love,” because you have good intentions, you have missed the point. That is transactional morality; it is not what Jesus taught.

These conclusions can be infinitely expanded upon, but they are a good start for those who wish to end abortion:


The mandate to love means working for systems that fully support mothers and children.
The mandate to love means ensuring safety and equality for all women.
The mandate to love means holding accountable all people who abuse and manipulate women.
The mandate to love means working to change systems that oppress and disadvantage women.
The mandate to love means naming and addressing racial inequities that disadvantage women of color.
The mandate to love means naming and addressing economic inequities that disadvantage poor women.
The mandate to love means providing community and support to all women in all walks of life.
The mandate to love means organizing society in which every child is treated as if they were yours.

I was raised in a very conservative household. I picketed an abortion clinic when I was barely old enough to remember it. My parents remain, to this day, largely one issue (anti-Roe v Wade) voters. Many of the members of my denomination would largely be appalled if they knew our own Manual of Christian life and practice allows for abortion after much prayer and counsel with a pastor.

My creativity on this issue was sparked by reading John Irving’s novel, The Cider House Rules, which powerfully illustrates not the value of abortion, but the tragic realities out of which women seek abortions. I began to see the problem not as the intellectual moral debate over abortion itself, but the deficiencies of a society that immorally withholds life-giving options from desperate pregnant women.

I began to study the scriptures more directly and think about how to apply Jesus’ words on the Kingdom to this particular issue. All you’ve read above is the summary of that process – a process that’s boiled down to one troubling conclusion:

The Christian mandate to love means ensuring safe access to abortions for those who desire them.

I believe this not because I’ve become persuaded that abortions are acceptable or justified or moral, but because I don’t believe it’s Christ-like for the most vulnerable in our society to pay the price for our collective sin and indifference.

The woman caught in adultery was not justified in her actions. Jesus did not excuse her behavior, but he refused to allow her to be the scapegoat for a society’s sinful indifference.

An abortion is not the “fault” of the woman who seeks it or the doctor who performs it. It is not the “fault” of the child’s father or the laws that allow it. Every abortion is a condemnation of our collective failure to provide the healthcare, emotional support, education, housing, validation, purpose, and physical protection every member of our society is entitled to as a beloved child of God.

We ALL bear collective AND individual responsibility. We don’t ignore individuals in need, but we can’t limit our scope to fixing individual problems. Christian faith calls us to a higher purpose: to embody a people, God’s people, who exist to be an example to the world of God’s Kingdom – a place where, among other things, abortions don’t exist, not because they’re illegal, but because they’re unnecessary.

If you think this perspective on the world is fantastical or unrealistic or impossible, please, let me introduce you to Jesus Christ and the wonderful message of the gospels: the Kingdom of God is at hand. If we fail to see it, it is only because we fail to live into it.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Commitment and the Search for Meaning

Originally posted at Misfits Theology Club



"The injunction of the gospel is... to lose one's life in the service of others, not to keep one's options open."

This is John Meacham’s interpretation of John Lewis’ practical theology in the Pulitzer Prize winner’s recent biography of the late Congressperson and Civil Rights icon.  It struck me as an acutely apt prophetic challenge for today’s commitment-averse society.

If you talk to contemporary pastors, one of the real stressors in ministry is the unwillingness of people to commit to the congregation.  In previous generations, it seems people organized their lives around membership in the body of Christ, as expressed by their local congregation.

“Regular” worship attendance used to mean 50 weeks a year; people might miss worship for vacation or an illness, but rarely anything else.  Those were your core members.  These days, the definition of “regular” is a lot more like 25 weeks a year.  Pastors never really know if even their most dedicated members will show up from week to week.

I don’t think our congregations are without fault in this trend.  We’ve largely avoided engaging in the issues that affect daily life for most people.  We’ve refused to challenge societal norms with the counter-cultural message of the gospel.  We haven’t given people a purpose they find essential to their lives.  Much has been written about moral therapeutic deism and you can read up on it elsewhere.

The typical pastoral complaints of youth sports, beach houses, and the pure enjoyment of just sleeping in aren’t entirely wrong either, though.  There are certainly more and more options competing with what was traditionally a Sunday monopoly for Christian congregations, but I suspect it’s this notion of “keeping our options open” that proves more dangerous to healthy lives.

We may be over-committed today, but not in the same way we would’ve defined commitment in the past.  We’re involved in more things, but much more loosely than we would’ve been twenty years ago.  You’re a member of a gym, a book club, and a congregation, but you keep all of those commitments at arm’s length.  There’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” element whereby they won’t demand rigid attendance and we’re always available to do something more interesting.

It’s a by-product of consumer society.  We’re always open to trading up.  My kid gets recruited for a higher level travel team?  Let’s jump ship, teammates be damned.  My friends want to spontaneously go out for drinks tonight?  There will be another bible study next week.

I don’t want to be a Pollyanna, decrying the lost commitments of the past.  We’ve largely abandoned the shame tactics that made people feel guilty for an absence (“we missed you last week” might be a genuine expression of concern, but more often it sounds like passive-aggressive scolding), but we’ve not yet mastered a loving communication of importance.

This is the rub.  How do we reinforce the reality that no group is at its best without all its members and also not require those members to bear a larger burden or responsibility than they feel capable of shouldering?

First, the focus of our efforts should be on love.  The root of the gospel is not behavior modification, moral policing, or getting people to heaven.  The Kingdom of God is where everyone feels valued.  Whatever else we do in life, it’s all in a search for meaning.  As Christians, we believe you find that meaning in the eyes and in the lives of other people.  (Peter Rollins will tell you there’s no meaning to find, which may be true, but he still ends up at the importance of engaging in inextricable relationship with other people.)

We all need some place where we can unload the baggage of the week, express our inconvenient frustrations, and be encouraged to act and react out of the core of our being rather than the messiness of our emotions.

Binge-watching trashy reality shows over a gallon of ice cream allows us to do the first.  Laughing and crying with friends over drinks, board games, or ax throwing gives us access to the second.  The third, however, requires the Church.

I try to be very precise with my language.  A congregation is an organized local body of like-minded people.  The Church is the whole of those people, throughout time and space, committed to embodying the gospel.  Which means, your board game club might just be the Church, if it helps you better live out what’s really important.

There are real, foundational truths in the world.  There are a few things genuinely right and good and true regardless of context.  Some things are bigger than us and our emotions and they demand we commit our lives to them if we have any hope of peace in this world.

For Christians, those things are love.  That’s it, just love: reckless, extravagant, selfless love for even the worst human being you see each day.  We might not be called to end our lives in service of that love – as Jesus did – but we’re absolutely called to give our lives to that love.

Love is the gospel.  Whatever and whoever helps us align our lives with that truth is the Church.

Moving forward, Church can’t only bring to mind one very specific image that’s largely defined the word for the last millennium or so.  That’s not to say pews and hymns and sanctuaries are out of date or unimportant, just that they are only as necessary as their ability to foster the gospel of love in those who attend.

The important element, as Meacham says, is that we’ve got people around us who help us commit – not to obligations or guilt or pleasure or fun, but to something real and true and deep and bigger than ourselves.

We like to keep our options open to avoid stress and with an eye towards the false promise that easy satisfaction is right around the corner.  Whatever we’re looking for: meaning or validation or belonging or peace is not found “out there.”  We can only be truly human by going deeper – deeper in love, deeper in relationship, deeper in commitment to one another.

There is no other option, so stop looking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

True Christian Worship

 


When Jesus and Paul write, in scripture, about Christians avoiding lawsuits, they’re not condemning the practice entirely. Lawsuits in New Testament times weren’t about justice, but money (sound familiar); the side with the most cash or political clout won. Biblical prohibitions on lawsuits are about both public perception and fairness.

Christians should be able to work out differences with each other or, at the very least, within the congregation. Far more important, though, is the avoidance of a system that prioritizes the powerful over the weak. Throughout scripture, almost more times than you can count (although, because its the Bible, someone always does), our holy text aligns Christian duty with the poor, the foreigner, widows, and orphans – the forgotten, vulnerable, and marginalized.

We are, above all, to be on the side of the weakest in society.

Modern US Christians know all about the context of lawsuit provisions, that they’re more about fairness than the value of lawsuits, because we sue people all the time. We sue for the rights to do just about whatever we want, whenever we want, if we can even remotely justify it through proof texting.

This is just the modern form of New Testament justice. We’re using the first amendment to the US Constitution as a cudgel, to beat those around us over the head. These suits are not defenses of anything, but offensive maneuvers meant to gain and maintain the powerful position Christians occupy in this society.

I know you’ll hear lots of preachers decry “religious persecution” these days, because Christians don’t have full reign and freedom to act in any manner they see fit, but they clearly don’t understand either the word “christian” or the word “persecution.”

Christians are using lawsuits to ensure “religious freedom,” but the real effect is to establish our beliefs and practices above and beyond vulnerable or marginalized groups in this country. We’re selling it to our people by claiming vulnerable and threatened status ourselves, but that’s not something we’ve got any right to do, since we believe our side has already won (that’s what the whole cross and empty tomb business was about).

Now we’ve got congregations violating COVID orders to meet in person, claiming it’s a religious right.   

Listen, I’ll be the first person to advocate for Christians to break the law on principle. I believe whole-heartedly that God’s laws are higher and more important than human laws – in fact, I don’t think human laws are worth anything at all and I don’t think Christians should ever feel obligated to follow any of them ever.

Now a lot of human laws align with Christian principles – like caring for those left out and vulnerable – in fact the US legal principle of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority seems entirely compatible with Christian thought and practice. As Paul says, our freedom does not give us license to do anything, but empowers us to care for those around us. Christian freedom is not unfettered.

When this whole pandemic thing started, I was dead set on living without fear. As a general rule, I try not to care too much about death. I’m not a reckless person (I’m pretty risk averse, honestly), but if some moral action will make me less safe, I try not to worry about safety. In March, I was firmly in the camp of going about regular life, COVID be damned. No disease would make me live in fear.

Then I was educated. I found out that not everyone is at the same risk of infection and that symptoms vary wildly among different groups of people. The issue was not about whether I would be infected or not, but whether I would infect others who would have a much tougher time of it than me.

That’s a different story. It’s not about being willing to risk my life or my family’s, but being willing to risk the health and safety of everyone else. This is where the Christian mandate to care for others, to sacrifice our own freedoms and rights for vulnerable people comes into play.

I am willing to risk the lives of others for principle. I won’t kill to save a life. It’s wrong; I won’t do it. That’s a hard and fast Christian principle. Nowhere in scripture, though, does failing to gather for corporate worship rise to such a level. In fact, the earliest Christian worship, the corporate worship practiced by the people closest to Jesus himself, was done in small groups, in homes!

During a public health crisis, worship is not curtailed – since every single thing every single person does at any moment in their life is worship (whether its worship of God or something else) – worship can’t be curtailed. I know not meeting in person is difficult, but it’s not a religious principle worth people’s lives.

If it were just “our” lives, that would really be another matter. Maybe you disagree with me, that meeting, in person, for corporate worship is worth the risk. That’s fine. I’m happy to defend your right to do that, but you’ve got to find a way to do it that doesn’t endanger others. If you want to create some congregational bubble, where people can live and worship together away from the rest of society, by all means, do it. The NBA is doing it. A lot of military installations are doing it. That works.

Break the law, exercise your convictions, but what you’re doing is not Christian worship if it fails to consider the most vulnerable among us (and, by definition, as we covered above, that can’t be us)!

Jesus condemned no one but the religious folks who justified their own self-righteousness. Violating public health orders in places where COVID is running wild is precisely the Pharisaical thing to do. It’s adherence to self-prescribed holy action without regard for the poor and vulnerable.

You may be surprised to know scripture does not talk about AN antichrist – not one single person set up in opposition to Jesus – the term antichrist, in scripture, is reserved for those people who proclaim as gospel some belief or practice that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. That is what this is.

Those pastors who lead others in violating public health orders in the midst of a pandemic are antichrists. There’s no way around it. It’s direct violation of Jesus’ teaching and example to love those who are most forgotten, to put others before one’s self.

There’s plenty of room for religious freedom, if you’re willing to do it locked away in an isolated enclave. This is the choice many sects have chosen over the years. From cloistered monks to modern day Amish. They choose to isolate as an example of what a holy community might look like. The sacrifices required to do such a thing are noble and honorable.

Those of us who’ve chosen to practice our faith in the midst of larger society are no less called to be an example, but being an example of Christian life in the midst of the world looks different. Our freedoms are different, our interactions with those around us are different, because the context is different.

We’re called to avoid Court, because the courts only deal in arguments over power. Christians find power in refusing it, in being willing to lay down our lives – not for our own comfort and convenience – but because its what’s required to care for others.

If you want to risk your life for Christian principle, volunteer at a hospital, get a job as a nurse or an orderly, work in a slaughterhouse or deliver for Amazon. If you’re willing to give up your health and life in service of Christ, do it also in service of others. That is true Christian worship.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Us AND Them

This was originally published at Misfits Theology Club.


Think about that proverbial uncle, that older, white man sitting across the table from you at that otherwise innocuous party. He makes a comment about “colored” people and you can see the desperation in his eyes for validation. In my experience, anyway, that guy is not looking for validation for his racist ideas, but simply asking to be treated as a human being.

This is the dilemma of the moment: cancel culture. Do we invalidate people because of their backward, out-dated, of offensive ideas? Do we cut off and remove people from our lives because they act inappropriately?

It’s a positive dilemma, despite its problems. It shows we’ve moved beyond the phase of ignoring the offense. That was our old stand-by response, right? We’d hear the Uncle and see the desperation in his eyes and change the subject, leaving both of us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Because it’s a two-way dilemma.

It’s not just that we struggle to separate other people from their words and actions, but we have the same struggle when it comes to ourselves, as well. If someone judges our actions inappropriate or ill-advised, our first reaction is to take it personally.

“I love you, Uncle Jim, but that’s a really offensive thing to say,” just doesn’t cut it.

It should, by the way. “I love you, but,” should be enough to validate the person and also address their problematic words and actions. It just so rarely works that way.

A lot of that is because we get defensive. We don’t hear the “I love you,” at all or we hear the “but” as invalidation of that love. We hear that phrase as conditional love, which is often more a burden than a comfort. “I want to love you, but you must change.”

Theologically, Christians affirm that love is the only way to change the world. We won’t get anywhere by forcing people into change, through threats, fear, or shame. We live in a world, though, where all of those things are baked into every system. If there are no consequences to selfishness, people will just be selfish.

This is seen in the theological notion of total depravity. Humans are inclined to selfish, sinful activity and only God can change them.

This isn’t wrong, of course, but how, precisely does God change people? Is it through threats of bodily harm? Do we fear Hell so much, we decide to behave? Is it shame or the withholding of love and affection? Those approaches may actually affect what people do, but none of them changes a person.

God so loved the world that God deigned to become a lowly human, live among us, and be executed for showing us a picture of what we could be. Jesus reserved his condemnation only for those prominent figures who refused to acknowledge their own faults and failures.

Love may not be the cheapest, easiest, or most efficient way to get people to say and do the words and actions we want from them, but it is the only way for any of us to become the kind of people we were created to be.

It’s not enough to tell Uncle Jim that’s he’s valuable, regardless of his offensive words and actions, he has to know it, to feel it, to be loved. Part of the problem may be his past damage – that others have treated his so poorly he no longer knows how to receive love – but more likely than not, the root cause (for him and for us), is our inability to separate the value of people from the things they do and say.

That’s not to say we can’t have boundaries. If Uncle Jim is going to continue saying racist things, he’s not going to get a public forum – as far as I can help it – although I have to be careful to continue those conversations in private so as not to transmit my opposition for his ideas to the man himself (and to show I’m not writing him off with his beliefs).

We also have to protect ourselves in those cases where our foundational, bedrock ideas are in direct contradiction to those of someone else. Someone who believes in non-violence is going to be able to sustain only limited interaction with someone who’s quick to justify a fight. They may be able to dialogue and show love for one another in certain circumstances, but they probably can’t be roommates.

We have to work hard to define our relationships in ways that treat people as people (including ourselves) – even if that’s our main disagreement with them. We are called to love our enemies, but that’s much easier if we’re the ones who’ve labeled them enemies than if they’ve intentionally set themselves up in opposition to us.

I imagine this also requires some measure of relationship to begin with. If the only connection we have to each other is disagreement about a certain idea, we cannot see each other as human beings. The offensive words and actions must be secondary to the humanity of our opponents. I must understand you in order to really understand what you say or do.

That doesn’t mean you let the words or actions go, but you must address them in the context of the person you know. And we have to be fair to their humanity – which, at least if you’re a Christian, is equally valuable to the humanity of everybody else.

It’s one thing to stop watching a TV show or not buy concert tickets because the ideas of the actors or musicians are offensive to you – there is no personal relationship there – it’s quite another to say “you can’t work on my car, because you don’t care about the poor,” or “you can’t bag my groceries because you haven’t recognized your white privilege.”

Morality is not a battle to be won. Christians believe love is already victorious, we’re just waiting for the effects of that victory to work their way through the world. Whatever ideas or actions we wish to see eradicated are already dead; we don’t need to kill them again, and we definitely don’t need to kill those people clinging to the corpse.

Racist, sexist, selfish, and offensive words need to be addressed, for sure – ignoring is no longer an option – but we have to remember hate harms both victim and perpetrator, even if in different ways. If we can’t walk beside both parties, with the care and concern appropriate to their specific context, we’re not living out the gospel.

No one gets written off or we’re no better than “them.”