Over the past several years, society at large has descended into staunchly divided battlelines. As I’ve stepped back to distance from the clamor, I’ve found myself looking for the people who are standing between. Truth be told, I’m not currently one of them. The current nature of public discourse makes it hard for me to see a middle ground with a leader whose actions threaten the peace of those I love and serve on a daily basis.
When it’s tempting to give up hope altogether, I think back to the stories I’ve heard of faith leaders on the front lines of peacemaking. Beneath the headlines of police brutality against African Americans were faith leaders in the African American church absorbing pain by creating spaces for lament, protest, grief, modeling hope, faith, and love in real time. I am struck by the strength in their hope for tomorrow, by the boldness of their grief, and by the fortitude of their perseverance.
But the sorrow sinks deep as I watch the white church make minimal response to such injustice, stirring longing, passion, and anger within. I pause to remember the white people I know who do care and act on this conviction to console my angst over those who don’t:
- My youth pastor challenged me to grapple with the realities of racism nearly twenty-five years ago at our very-white-church. He pursues these same conversations with white teenagers in his youth group to this day.
- A history professor in college dedicated a significant portion of his scholarly endeavors to developing and leading civil rights tours for faculty from a conservative Christian college in the Midwest. His steady and informed presentation of realities never experienced or understood by these faculty provided another narrative for their understanding of the racial history of our country.
- A pastor of an urban church in Chicago first taught me that it was more important to be honest than perfect. She has lived most of her life advocating for the poor and racial understanding in the church. Her lifelong example models humility and servanthood.
Compiling seasonal “best-ones” articles from my various social media feeds, I find a string of exasperated voices reflecting the reality that equality is no easy battle. My sorrow is comforted by the memory of these bridge-builders as their example shifts my heartsick disgust toward listening to those who attempt to reconcile both ‘sides of the aisle’. In that spirit, I’d like to share a few of the most insightful resources that are guiding me through the current murky waters of Trump’s America:
Phil Vischer Podcast: Creator of the popular children’s program Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer spends his podcast exploring the current state of the American church with author Skye Jethani. It is perhaps the most thoughtful Christian podcast I’ve heard, at times leaving me in tears. The episode ‘Does Christian Media Stunt Christian Growth‘ is the most accurate assessment of the white American evangelical church I have ever heard, and helped clarify a lot of the current cultural chaos we’re experiencing.
Manwar Ali: Inside the Mind of a Former Radical Jihadist. This TedTalk explores the influences behind radical religion. Manwar drew striking parallels to the dangers of all forms of religious extremism—not just Islam.
Sharon Brous: It’s time to reclaim religion. A Jewish rabbi, Sharon refuses to accept the narrative of religion as divisive and marginalizing, advocating instead that religions can instead use our shared values to foster peace, hope, and interconnectedness.
Megan Phelps-Roper: I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church: Here’s Why I Left. Megan shares how her interactions on Twitter influenced her change in worldview and shares lessons remarkably applicable to our increasingly polarized society.
We need to talk about an injustice by Bryan Stevenson. Bryan’s call for ‘just mercy’ in society provides a model of perseverance and integrity. In his book, he suggests that Christians, like Jesus who stopped the pharisees from stoning the adulterous woman, are stonecatchers.
“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher,” he says. “But that is exhausting. You’re not going to catch them all. And it hurts. If it doesn’t make you sad to have to do that, then you don’t understand what it means to be engaged in an act of faith….But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.”
The Grand Unraveling by Robynn Bliss.
It takes a prophetic imagination to see the Kingdom beyond and past and outside the borders of the country. It takes a sacred vision to imagine a country so radically different that we wouldn’t recognize if but for the scant shades of blue, white and red worked under the tapestry of red and yellow; black and white. It takes hope to see past the present desolation to the promise of full redemption and restoration.
Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap by Phil Yancey. Yancey explores the three biggest losses of this election: civility, religion, and truth.
Why I Left White Nationalism by Derek Black. Former leader of a popular white nationalist movement, Derek shares how friendships with people willing to dialog about his difference influenced him to abandon his supremacist views.