Since June I have started no less than 10 blog posts. They sit there staring at me from my Google docs “Weekly Blog” folder. Some have only one line. One entry has only a date at the top of the page. I’m considering changing the title to “Bi-monthly Blog” to see if that helps any.
There has been plenty of subject matter. So much, in fact, that I’m having trouble sorting it out and making sense out of it. I’m humbled and thrilled with my new ESL teaching job. My students are amazing humans and I’m blessed to be their teacher. I saw a couple of them last night in Walmart and my heart leapt with joy to see them. Hopefully, I’ll write an entire blog about teaching ESL soon.
On the other hand, I’m still enduring a deep struggle with our country’s new administration and new policies that I believe will hurt many people and the incessant bullying on Twitter which I believe endangers our country and its citizens and serves to delegitimize the US internationally.
The Middle East is always on my mind as well as the natural disasters, one right after another.
Finally, two weeks ago, my dad broke his hip. Lord have mercy, my head and my heart hurt.
And somewhere inside me there’s still a blog post about my weekend at the hermitage.
I want to write about each one of these things, but when I sit down, they get all jumbled up together and I can’t find any words at all.
Today I plan to focus on something that has been slow cooking in my heart for a while now and has been reignited by some recent words from the president. I have been watching my friends weigh in on this subject as well and I hope they will offer me plenty of grace as I may have a different view that I feel I need to express here in my blog, rather than on Facebook. Let’s see if I can complete this thought.
I’ve always been known as someone nice. I made it a point to be as nice to people as I could through my younger years. I thought it was the right thing to do. I was flattered when a long-time friend told me that he always thought I was one of the nicest people he’d ever known. But is it always good to be nice? Sometimes being nice in order to get along can mean keeping silent in the face of oppression. And if you do dare to speak up, will people still think you are nice?
When I was in the eighth grade, I was bullied on my schoolbus. I was made to sit on the floor, I was kicked, and I had marijuana smoke blown into my face on a daily basis. The other kids on the bus, who were not bullying me, either laughed about it or remained silent. Not one person ever came to my defense. As a result of this experience, I am especially sensitive, not only to bullying, but also to injustice and oppression everywhere.
Regarding athletes who sit or kneel for the National Anthem, I support them, and here’s why. First, it is vital to keep free speech alive in this country, especially here and now. We have to work diligently not to let that be bullied away. Second, these athletes have a platform that they are using to send a message. They are not angry, they are not violent, they are quietly and honestly sending a message. We need to listen. Then we are certainly free to decide if we support the message or not. Whether or not they are spoiled and rich is not the issue. I don’t believe they are choosing to disrespect our country, the flag and our veterans, but they are bringing to light issues that desperately need to be addressed. The question is not whether they are being disrespectful, but what are they saying? People are being bullied in this country. They are not just having pot smoke blown in their faces, they are actually losing their lives. There is something terribly wrong here that needs to be addressed.
Not all Christians, but some of the public Christian responses I have seen to this issue frighten me. I grew up in the Christian community. It’s who I am, my worldview is centered around it. In some ways, because of this, I tend to be highly critical of it. I speak up and I question it. And I believe it’s the right thing for me to do, but it can be kind of risky. People might not like me anymore. They’ll stop talking to me. They’ll unfollow and unfriend. People who have known me all my life will assume things about me. They’ll condemn me to hell. But I can’t sit silently by while people are being hurt. So I have decided to turn in my “nice” card.
Children are taught in school (I hope) to speak up when they witness bullying amongst their classmates, I believe I should speak up when I think something is not right in the Christian community. I see things coming from some Christians who are in the public eye that bother me. I see nationalism and patriotism replacing the Gospel of Jesus. I see angry name-calling and blanket support of harmful policies. I see a blind eye being turned to racism, elitism and oppression. There’s nothing wrong with being patriotic and loving your country. But when that is placed above others’ human rights and dignity, it’s nothing less than idolatry. We have left the Gospel of Jesus Christ behind and entered into something else entirely.
Non-violent resistance should not be crushed. This is how change happens, how we learn and grow as a community. We need to truly listen to the message of these athletes. We all need to do a lot more listening and a lot less talking. And while I don’t want to be “nice” anymore, I do want to be kind and gentle. Because nice seems like an act to me, a sweeping the dirt under the rug kind of clean. It’s a fake clean, a cowardly lie. Kind and gentle are authentic like grandchildren who run to greet you at the door with gleeful hugs and kisses. Kind and gentle are aspects of true, authentic love.
May God help us all leave the fake nice behind and put on authentic love for our fellow humans.