I shared a viral clip from The Daily Show last week on Facebook and made this comment:

“There’s got to be something real to do. It probably starts with turning off the lying propaganda “news” channels forever, putting down our phones, and instead, let’s begin forming our opinions of this country and other people by spending time with people who think differently than we do. Let’s reprogram ourselves from the 24 hour scream fest that passes as information on TV and relearn how to have intelligent discourse on the issues that impact our daily lives. 

I’m going to start hosting a safe place to do just this starting in the fall. I cannot wait to begin. Please keep this plan in your prayers.”

The clip from The Daily Show was part of Jon Stewarts commentary on the horrific history of racism that culminated, in one young life, as a murderous rampage last week. We have all been horrified by the act. The viciousness of the attack, the location (in a church), and the obvious innocence of the victims made this situation a much safer place to shake our heads and collectively cluck our tongues over the horror of it all. But even in this situation there are the arguments over systemic racism vs personal racism. There are points and counterpoints made in various social media forums. There is comparison over how a white murderer is treated compared to a black man selling cigarettes illegally and how a white murderer acts when arrested vs a black man. There is hostility. Over the bodies of innocent men and women we continue our verbal puffing up and defense. It breaks my heart.

My heart breaks not just for the injustice that is all around us piling up until we cannot even see one another, but it breaks for the unwillingness or inability for people to just talk to one another. When did we lose our ability to see another person’s pain? When did we become a people who would prefer to be right over kind? When did our opinion on ‘issues’ tip the scale and become more important than one another? Why are we letting this happen? How can you yell that we are this way because ‘they’ have taken God out of our schools when I cannot find God in the hearts of our people? When did what our institutions are doing become more important than what our hearts were doing? 

Conspiracy theories about the government have become multi million dollar endeavors as they help people prepare for an inevitable culture/civil war. The news media churns the blood in the water every minute – every single minute – of every day. The talking heads talk about how race issues and/or marriage issues will be the death of this once great country. Hour after hour of propaganda can be found tailored to meet you right wherever your preconceived opinions have landed – and you never need think about the ‘issue’ again. You can hear everything you believe delivered to you 24/7 in various formats that assure you that you are smarter than the average person. You can sign in to your preferred website or news station and hear a thousand stories in a week that support your beliefs.

And your opposite – the man or woman who is killing this great country by believing the polar opposite of what you believe? They can do the exact same thing. They have their own media stations and news outlets and internet sites supporting their beliefs and assuring them that they are the ones who ‘get it’.

I fear this is going to end badly. Race issues are at a boiling point – and it doesn’t matter if you believe in white privilege or not. Poverty levels are at an all time high and the wealth divide is staggering – and it doesn’t matter if you think people need to pull themselves up by bootstraps that they do not posess. We have a problem and it is not going to be solved by getting more people into a particular political affiliation. There is not a man or woman alive who could lead us out of this in our current state. Putting prayer back in schools is not going to help – trust me, our children are praying in school. The Supreme Court deciding on ‘your side’ of marriage equality is not going to help and it does not matter which side that is. There is nothing that will happen at a macro level that will make a bit of difference because the problems are rooted in our daily interactions with one another. We need to re-learn how to have thoughtful and kind discourse about important things.

And, so, that is what I’m going to try to move forward. I have made a commitment to do what I can, even when I know it is just a tear drop in the ocean. So this fall I’ll begin hosting “Safe Places for Hard Conversations”. I’m still working out the where and when but I’m excited by the idea. We will provide a safe place to come and ask the questions that are so hard to ask in mixed company. How does a Christian hold the Bible as inerrant and also claim to be an ally for the LGBT community? How can a Christian hold onto their interpretations and beliefs and still show love to someone they disagree with? What is white privilege? How do we impact the wealth divide? Why are people rioting – what good does that serve?  

The goal isn’t to answer these questions – that is a heart issue for people to work out. But, we will share a variety of viewpoints that are presented in a loving and kind manner. We will be safe. We will stop shouting and begin listening. We will get a lot of things wrong and we will change things as we learn. We will forever try. Because my tears and my fears have to go somewhere and the ocean seems as good a place as any.

  

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