Monday, November 14, 2016

For Christians It's SHOW-time

This past Wednesday morning, hours after the new President-elect was announced, I was on the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara.  A heavy, hallow sense of angst filled the air of the student commons where I walked.  "Where are all of the students?" I asked a worker at the Student Union information desk.  "They were all out late last night in protest of the elections.  "People are really sad," he said, with a abject stare.  A few minutes later, I found myself in line at the student book store about to buy a book.  The girl in front of me, who I had never met before, said directly to my face, "The world is coming to an end!" "What do you mean?" I asked.  She said, "Because of the election, the world is coming to an end."  Not knowing the student at all, I instinctively put a half-arm around her shoulder and said, "I think it will be ok, our country has been through many hard times before, we will get through these hard times together."  She wasn't sure...

A little later that day, I was working-out at the 24-hour fitness in Oxnard where I live.  Oxnard is about 70% hispanic and the gym itself is probably more like 80%.  I love it for that reason.  I have many friends there who hail from multicultural backgrounds.  And yet, on this morning, it was somehow different.  There was an unspoken distance between me and my friends who are people of color.  Why...I wondered to myself, what has changed? And then I realized, it must be the election.  And so, I walked across the gym, bridging the distance of only a room, though it felt like I was bridging the chasm of Checkpoint Charlie, the marker that divided East Germany from West Germany after World War II.  Where only a day before there was brotherly love, now there was a dastardly divide.  I said; "Hey, I hope you don't think that I espouse any of the ideas expressed in this election about race.  That's not how I feel.  That's not what I think." Instantly, I felt the ice between us melt, and the possibility of a renewed friendship once again emerge.

As I had these two encounters in the same day - two encounters of fear, of distance, of division, of awkwardness of splitting, I remembered to myself what one of the names for the evil one is in the Greek language in the Bible.  It is Diabolos.  Although the standard definition of Diabolos is - "slanderer," or "accuser", the Greek is actually much more nuanced.  Diabolos is actually a two part word, as most Greek words are.  The prefix "Dia" means "across", or "between" (as in the word diameter).  The root "Bolos" means "to throw," "to cast" or "to cut".  So, Diabolos literally means, "to cut across," or "to throw across".  And then it occurred to me that that is what our country is experiencing right now - "cutting across",  the middle, "division through the center".  Modern day psychologists have a name for this - "splitting".  The evil one is the ultimate - "splitter".

Now, here is where I need to underline and clarify my main point of this blog-post.  In no way do I think that any person in either political party, in the previous Presidential election is the evil one, or even channels the evil one (although as a Reformed Protestant, I believe that all of us are fallen and can become vessels for either love or hatred at any given moment - all of us).  But there is division, and there is fear, and there is uncertainty and even dread in America.  And, as Christ followers, it is our job - no let me put it more strongly - Christ put us on the earth for the purpose of bridging these chasms of division in the world, "of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves".  And of, whenever possible, clearing the air about what is right and true and what we really think and believe.  And just to remind us, these are our mainstays as Christians;

*  All people are created in God's image
*  All people are redeemable
*  Love is the strongest power in the universe and will outlive all things - even time itself
*  Words matter, and hurtful words cause damage
*  Jesus showed the ultimate love and died for all people

And so this is why...

For Christians It's SHOW-time

It is simply no longer enough for us Christians to feel loving thoughts about those around us.  We must SHOW them.  It is no longer enough for us to have warm loving sentiments about people that come from different cultural backgrounds, we must SHOW our love in concrete actions - in real demonstrations of affection.  Our actions do not have to be to march in a rally (in fact, a postmortem of the 1960's may show how little such rallies actually often produce in the way of change).  But we must SHOW.  SHOWING may be as simple as,

*  Holding the door for someone else
*  Offering a loving comment
*  Using our words to cross the divide, letting those around us know that we are people of love
*  Walking across the room and clearing the air

I know of one woman who told me that the only interaction she has with people of a different multicultural background than the one she self-identifies with is in the people who clean her house.  Even though this is the case, she has decided to SHOW her love by doubling the pay in the coming weeks ahead, and telling them how much she appreciates what they do.  Whatever it takes to SHOW others our actual acts of love and kindness we must do.

On Sunday, after I articulated some of these aforementioned thoughts at the front of my sermon, and how uncertain I was about the future of race-relations in America, a man came up to me after the worship service.  He was an African immigrant.  Beaming with pride and hope, he looked me in the eye and said, "It will be Ok Graham."  And then he said, "Never forget what Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Human progress is neither automatic or inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle'"  "Yes," I told my African immigrant friend, "I suppose you are right."

This past weekend was Veterans Day in America.  It was a weekend where we honored those who have given, as Lincoln called it, "the last full measure of devotion".  In that same speech, the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln also wondered whether this nation "can long endure."  Lincoln's question for his time is now a question for our own time.  And...

For Christians It's SHOW-time

All For Now,


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