“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” –John Wesley
Yesterday, I read an acquaintance’s comment on social media where he angrily disputed an article another friend of mine had shared concerning the recent happenings in our country. It was pointed and nasty, insulting and cold. And it was written by a good man.
I am progressively more aware of the capacity for these faceless exchanges to make monsters out of good humans. I am progressively more aware that I could be among them.
I see now that we’re never really talking about politics in these instances. We’re always ever talking about what we’re scared of, what we feel threatened by, what we think is going to be the mandated cause of our ruin.
That’s why good men get scared. That’s why good men become violent.
There’s a vigil happening here in Shreveport, LA tonight, down in front of the courthouse. A few organizations are hosting it; and our town, along with friends and family of the LGBT community, are invited to come and honor the lives of those lost in Orlando. I am so proud of my town for doing this.
But I get a knot in my stomach when I think about going.
I wouldn’t call it a premonition, though I’m just paranoid enough to consider it. No, I can’t call it a premonition since truly I felt the same way when the Black Lives Matter vigil was held at our court house last year. It’s not an intuitive warning when I can identify it as blatant fear. Fear of what could happen at the court house.
“Are you coming tonight?” a coworker asked.
“I’m not sure, ” I replied.
“Well pray for me, ” he said with a nervous chuckle, “I’m scared of getting shot.”
This is our world right now.
I want to go to the courthouse, and yet, here I am, relieved as other obligations (excuses?) present themselves.
My kid will already be asleep. My husband doesn’t want me to go without him. It’s too late to get a sitter.
My inner war has started at this point. Is this conviction? Am I hearing from God? Does it matter a whole lot or can I explain it away? Most of me aches to stand with the LGBT community, to be on the side of humanity, of nonviolence, of active peace and equality driven love. I want to light a candle for friendship, and life, and justice, and acceptance. And hope. I want to light a candle to combat loneliness, and fear, and the idea that there is more evil in this world than good. I want to light a candle because I am a scared, straight, Christian who thinks that love might just be able to wash over a multitude of these things, including our differences.
But I am afraid to go to the court house.
I’m afraid because I have seen how good men and women lash out online when someone thinks differently about the world or Jesus or guns. I’m afraid because I have received messages from people I barely know that are accusatory, infuriated, and unfair. They have been drenched with sharp language forcing our friendship to take a backseat to beliefs. I’m afraid because of the countless blood baths that have taken place in public places already this year.
Of course I don’t feel safe to stand at the courthouse.
In a city, in a town, in a state, in a part of the country where a person could be fearful and angry enough to set my humanity and our relationship aside in order to promote their convictions and stifle mine…where a person can take their anger with them as they go about their day…where they are allowed to carry weapons of war wherever they please…
Why would I feel safe to go to the courthouse?
Black people have waded these waters for centuries. Gay people too.
Exposed. Vulnerable. Targets on their backs simply for being who they are in a country hesitant to embrace their very presence.
And yet, they go to the courthouse.
How brave you are.
I keep wondering what cause will feel big enough to make me decidedly willing to risk being shot by some good-man-turned-monster in my own town.
And yet, in the same thought, I am fully aware that they are all causes big enough. That equality and the right to life are always causes big enough. All the martyrs of the revolutions and the story-telling survivors knew it. The marchers at Selma and the protesters at death row and the Christian Peacemaker Teams in the Middle East knew it.
They would show up at the courthouse.
I’m scared for my son to grow up in a world that needs vigils such as these. I’m scared for my son to grow up in a world where I am afraid to stand beside people who deserve the freedom to live and love and be. I want to be both brave for him and around for him. Maybe equally both.
To my LGBT friends, my migrant friends, Muslim friends, friends of color…I am sorry I am so terrified.
And I am sorry that many of you have had to live much of your lives so terrified as people in the world rage about in their own fear of what you represent for them.
I hope and long for the bravery you demonstrate by just existing as yourselves.
I hope and long for a new way.
I hope and long for a time when we (the shooter, the victim, the scared & straight friend) aren’t so incredibly fearful–when we may love the same, though we may think and live differently.
Lord have mercy on the fear in us all.