My good friend sent me an article from the Washington Post today titled, Opinion \ Crucified man had prior run in with authorities.
After having a chance to finally sit down and read it tonight, my soul was stirred by a more accurate picture of the man of Jesus Christ, both fully human and fully God when he lived and walked on this earth. PARADOX (but I won’t get into that now.)
Jesus WAS radical, he was unconventional and he showed us by his actions aligning directly with his words, how to deeply and genuinely love one another. It seems often that we take this phrase at face value, “love one another as Jesus did” or just, “love one another.” But what does this look like? Actually? Truly? Practically?
At the end of the article by the Washington Post, I watched the video about a Kentucky doctor being pulled off a United Airlines plane for failing to “volunteer” himself to deplane because it was overbooked and they needed space for company employees to travel. When I watched the video, it was shocking and made my stomach turn. He was an Asian man with a heavy accent, but a doctor from Kentucky. The cops who pulled off the plane were not Asian…
This is the ensuing texting conversation that followed with a close friend, with whom I have rich conversations about the current state and climate of our nation. We do not see eye to eye religiously. I will not speak for her religious beliefs, as those are her to share, but I follow the Bible, and Jesus, seeing him as the perfect role model and seek to live like him and honor God in all I do (realizing this is impossible, but also accepting the fact that relationships are not perfect and God loves me unconditionally). We enjoy hashing things out and at the end of each conversation I feel that we have gone deeper and stripped away the surface level getting to the root of what really is going on and truly laying in the depth of our minds and hearts.
Me: I loved that article [you sent me about Jesus in the Washington Post]. But did you see the video of the doctor being dragged off the plane? (the video at the end of the Washington Post article). How awful, it actually makes me sick and my stomach turn
Friend: I couldn’t watch it, but I read about it. Horrible, horrible, horrible.
Me: It’s worse when you watch it. [My other friend] was telling me about it today but I honestly didn’t believe her and thought she was being dramatic. I feel bad for not trusting her. When I watched, it was horrifying not to see people stepping in. Poor, poor man. He kept saying, “I want to go home, I want to go home.” Did you hear about the Air BnB….?
Friend: The Asian woman who got denied? Or a different (ugh that there can be so many)
Me: Who was verbally (over messaging) abused…yes, when the woman said, “one word…Asian” and then something like, “Trump will take care of you” or something hideous like that.
[A bit more texting dialogue occurs between us about a previous article she sent me regarding an interview with a Black doctor who performs abortions but is a devout Christian. Before you get your blood boiling either way, I highly recommend reading the article, or his book for that matter http://jezebel.com/dr-willie-parker-on-why-abortion-rights-are-a-moral-im-1794180318]
Friend: So how do we bridge the gulf between our individual experiences? How do you create enough shared space experiences to encourage empathy? Is that even possible? Sorry, I am in a rhetorical mood.
Me: (apparently didn’t heed friend’s ‘rhetorical mood’ comment) Hmmm, yes it is possible because Jesus did it and he did it being fully human on this earth (and fully God at the same time) PARADOX! Ah! But yes, I think it IS possible, but we have to be very clear about our beliefs, the fundamentals of our existence and why we do what we do. And I think at the end of the day, this world is pretty messed up and people at this point in our history can do anything and justify whatever they want. Morality is relative and that is a very dangerous place to live in. The ‘you do you’ and “I’ll do me’ doesn’t create shared space. I believe it creates a distanced morality where it becomes acceptable, for example, to sit in an airplane seat and do nothing when we see a man being molested and abused. Ya know? I think you’re right, the abortion issue is so polarized and heated [Referring to previous dialogue not included here].
Friend: It feels like EVERY issue is going that way
Me: Which is all the more reason for us to be very conscious about what’s happening around us and to check ourselves when empathy starts going out the window within ourselves…like when we lose our sense of empathy. Also the more reason to know what we are going to do and how we are to step up when we see something wrong. I wonder if I would have been arrested for trying to pull those cops off of the passenger, or if I had helped the passenger, if the cops would have tried to stop me, if I would have even felt at liberty to physically and actively step in or if I would have let fear overcome me. I’d like to say I would have been brave and humble enough to stand up for the man, but I don’t know.
Friend: I know…I ask myself that a lot. The gap between who I would hope I am and who I may actually be seems wide sometimes.
Me: Yeah, it seems there will be/is always a gap…and it often is wide.
Friend: Yeah, I guess sometimes it seems exceptionally wide.
Me: But acknowledging that is to acknowledge that we are not immune from acting like the Nazis did in the Holocaust or any of the other many atrocities in our world history.
Friend: Yup. Precisely.
Me: If we think we are immune then we are deceiving ourselves – seems ironic.
Friend: Yeah totally haha It’s like that poem. You know it? Like “first they came for x and I stood by”
Me: Oh yeah, sounds familiar but can’t place it…yeah yeah, now I know what you’re talking about.
Friend: Basically it requires an incredible amount of effort to act like we are personally being threatened on behalf of another when we are not.
Me: Profound. Instincts kicking in for others, counter-nature.
Friend: Yea. Instinctual response is so strong and yet on behalf of another…
Me: Yeah – or when it’s in a group setting, I think that’s almost harder. Because it happens in just an instant when you have hesitation, then no one steps in. There is always the pause and people go dead silent and don’t step in and speak up. But once there’s momentum and you have one or two people that start stepping in, it opens the situation up for the rest of the group to act.
[More texting dialogue relating group dynamics to a youth group “coffee house testimony” night we had last week, I am a youth group leader, where students shared their stories and relationship with God, and the real struggles they are going through. Also, me reflecting on my opposite experience being in full-time youth outreach ministry for Young Life versus being a youth group leader – such different dynamics.]
Me: As hard as it’s been to lead this year, it has been an honor to be a part of it and watch the youth pastors have such solid and healthy relationships with the kids, with each other, and with the church; like who I was in Young Life is the opposite of who I am at youth group. I’m learning a lot from a different perspective and it hit me last night that the kids we worked with a few years ago are the same kids that come to youth group – just from different socioeconomic backgrounds, but the same struggles. It’s humanizing and humbling.
Friend: Good thing to be a part of 🙂
Me: And it makes me think of what I’m learning about Full Service Community Schools, and goes back to what we are talking about – we do ‘good, philanthropic’ things to help the marginalized and the extreme outliers in our society, but essentially, life is one big, hard mess in general and everyone has the same needs as everyone else. That empathy needs to be extended to everyone – especially our enemies. Ugh, because we all act out of our wounds, personal experiences, and perspectives on life.