When I posted a cartoon on Facebook, even though it was innocuous and intended strictly for laughs, the barbs were quick in arriving. A friend said, “Your politics are showing.”
I should have expected it.
Some people see offense where none is intended. People will read meanings into artwork that the “real” artists never intended. Ugly as well as beauty seems to be in the eye of the beholder.
Some would say that I am naïve, that anyone who thinks he can make a statement involving the President or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and not have it taken to the full extremity of meaning is not living in the real world.
If that’s the case, I hate that about us. Whatever happened to our sense of humor?
I have no trouble showing my politics.
In fact, I’ll tell you where I am at the moment.
I’m historically a Republican, meaning I am a conservative. Now, I am the son of a card-carrying union member (United Mine Workers) who voted the straight Democrat ticket all his life, even while cursing Harry Truman. My mom used to tease that by voting Republican, she canceled his vote. Even so, my parents voted and kept their sense of humor while disagreeing. Their love trumped (!) their political disagreements.
I’m disgusted with both political parties right now. I like very little about Donald Trump. I like even less about Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump goes through marriages and bankruptcies far too frequently for me to trust anything he says. He has left thousands of disgruntled business partners and disappointed students enrolled in his “university” in his wake. He seems to get up in the morning asking, “Who can I offend today?” I do not want him as this country’s president.
Hillary Clinton is so far to the left that I find it frightening. To me, she epitomizes those who want to turn their backs on the values that have made this country unique in the world and water our strengths down to the lowest level in the name of political expediency. To her, truth seems to be whatever she needs it to be. I don’t want her naming members of the Supreme Court. Bill and Hillary Clinton seem to be about one thing and one thing only: advancing themselves. I do not want Hillary as this country’s president.
And yet, it appears one of them is going to move into the White House early in 2017. And whoever that is will be my president.
And whoever is president, I will support and I will pray for them.
And when that person is president and I’m praying for them, I hope they will prove me wrong, that they are worthy of trust and have America’s best interests at heart.
I wonder if I’m a racist and don’t know it.
I’ve not liked 638 things Barack Obama has done, while approving 326 things he has done. But I pray for him on a regular basis. And when I make a statement critical of him, I resent the way friends of the liberal persuasion insist that this makes me a racist or a fool.
As far as I know my own heart and soul, I am neither a racist nor a fool.
But I may be. I’ve been proven wrong before.
President Obama said something in Dallas this week to the effect that we all have known racism–in our homes, in conversation, even in our own thoughts. Each of us has probably said racist things at one time or the other. And I think he’s right. But the most popular game being played in public life these days is to point the finger at anyone with whom you disagree and brand them as “racist.”
That is so cheap and insulting it almost defies comment.
For most of my life I have heard people say, “Sunday morning at eleven o’clock is the most segregated hour of the week,” referring to the way churches pull themselves into racial groupings. Now, I have lived in metro New Orleans for more than a quarter of a century. For five years I led the 100+ SBC churches of this five parish area. We have many African-American churches in the SBC family, as well as a number of language congregations such as Chinese, Korean, Haitian, Hispanic, etc. Many of our churches have subgroups within their membership of minority races and foreign languages. A few of our churches are essentially half-and-half black and white.
But, my experience is this: It’s not skin color so much as culture that drives churches to be segregated. People simply want to be with those like them, with whom they have most in common.
In my last pastorate, a Baptist congregation across the street from the New Orleans airport, we had a few minority families in our church. I still recall the disappointment I felt when an African-American family came to me and said they were leaving. “We just feel we’d be more comfortable in an all-black church.” And while I hurt at losing them, I understood. We remained friends and are to this day.
After this week’s large rally in Baton Rouge to memorialize Alton Sterling, the young man shot by local police, our New Orleans Advocate was saturated with coverage, photos, and analyses. On the religion page, this headline stood out: “Black Christians feel alone in fight.” The article began: “African-Americans often express frustration at white Americans for overlooking their grief at the deaths of young black men shot and killed by police.” The writer quotes a Black spokesman, “I believe Christians in America, predominantly in the evangelical world, are anemic when it comes to understanding historical American issues and racial tensions and how that has affected the present.” He continued, “Most Christians, when you hear them–predominantly evangelicals–they live with a ‘that was then, this is now’ mentality.”
I understand two things: first, that black evangelical Christians are frustrated with the weak support they receive from the rest of us; two, why whites from my side of the family often respond cautiously.
Please hear me out. I’m not saying I understand how my African-American friends are feeling. To say I did would be insulting to them. I try to. But my experiences are so vastly different from theirs I simply do not. I have no idea how I would feel walking the streets of my neighborhood and having police stop me because of the color of my skin. It concerns me, to be sure. I grieve that it happens.
But what I do understand is that white evangelical Christians are historically biased toward supporting those who work for law and order. When the facts are not fully known, our tendency is to support the police–to believe the cops were doing their duty, that they are put in a dangerous situation on a daily basis, and that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. And when some cops are found to be dirty, to violate that trust, it makes us angry.
We read that Alton Sterling had a long rap sheet. We read where the cops say he was reaching for his weapon when he was shot. The FBI has been asked to handle the investigation and establish what exactly happened.
But until we know, white evangelicals are not going to be rushing to protest police brutality. Most of us will not be attending the rallies until we know.
Keep in mind…
White evangelicals are not monolithic, meaning they are not all of one stripe, one variety, one strain, but are made up of hundreds of variations as to culture and doctrine, ethnicity, heritage, convictions, and politics. To expect them all to act together on anything is demanding what never was and probably never will be.
What we should do is try. Let the majority reach out to the minority in our communities. Let the ministers of the majority white churches show a genuine interest in connecting with their counterparts in the black (and other minority) churches. Let them talk. Let them pray. Let the congregations work on projects together.
And let them be understanding and patient when they disagree on these issues that are dividing us. Let them show the respect and love which brothers and sisters should exhibit when they see opposite sides of a problem. But let them stand firm when some in their churches will insist the others are acting in bad faith and any further attempts at connecting should be abandoned.
My understanding is that the Dallas shooter was upset with the “Black Lives Matter” emphasis, saying it was too little, too weak, and not enough. There will always be such among us. Let our people be strong and stay the course.
Let our African-American believers be faithful in continuing to speak to these issues. Let them persist in pointing out where the rest of us are weak and have failed them. I have no trouble with that. We need voices of dissent among us.
Let us pray for America as we have never prayed before.
But let us never lose our sense of humor. When we do that, nothing good happens afterward.