I am not a Republican or a Democrat. I am not a Conservative or a Liberal. And as I have grown in my faith over the last 40 plus years, I have come to realize that I really don’t need to label myself as a Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran or Episcopal, though I have been a part of the congregational life of each of those denominations at one time or another. I am simply a child of God, trying my best to follow the way that Jesus showed us, the way to abundant life, to wholeness, to healing.
Labels can simplify things and simplicity seems like it would be nice because the world appears to be confoundingly complex. But labels often become distractions, dangerous distractions. When we label someone, we objectify them. We begin to think of them as only the label. It opens the door to violence in body or spirit because it is so much easier to harm someone if you have taken away their humanity first. I wonder if, in the objectification of others, we drag ourselves into the cycle and our limited thoughts begin to suffocate us, to deny our creativity and growth by limiting us to the enclosure of the labels we have chosen.
What I am seeking to do with my blog right now is to get us to see past the labels and to realize that real change can only happen through widening our perspectives, through deeper understanding of self and other. I think that being able to see things differently is a gift. I think it was Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote that the gospel was “God’s gift to the imagination.”
Even within the Biblical narrative we hear different perspectives because it is telling the story of God’s relationship with humanity in a myriad of contexts and from diverse perspectives. Why have four gospels, right? Wouldn’t one be enough to get the point across? But each gospel writer gives us something different to think about, something different to value in the experience. They saw things differently. I don’t see that as a flaw in the scriptures or as insecurity of faith or as moral ambiguity. I see it as a starting place for dialogue. Maybe the answers we are seeking are informed by the scriptures but can only be formed through harmonizing all of our voices with those of our spiritual traditions and scriptures. I can benefit from hearing the life experiences of others and when I do, I might look at what the Bible says and see something I didn’t see before. And that can be really good!
I pray that we can begin to ask the right questions and that we, as a country, can learn to have respectful conversations. That’s what I want my blog to be. I don’t want a monologue. I don’t want to make proclamations. There’s plenty of that online already. I really want to understand the issues, to understand how others feel about those issues and, maybe more importantly, why. If social media is going to be something that brings us together, it can’t just be a place to tweet barbs at one another. It is impossible to understand something complex in 240 characters or less. So use the comments section here to share your story, share what is in your heart. Be respectful. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Be vulnerable. I know I plan to be. And I want you to hold me to that!
I think the story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel until he got a blessing is a good metaphor for what we need. It is going to take a lot of hard work, some pulled muscles, some grunting and some groaning. But I think if we stick with the arduous task of looking for solutions together and we keep pushing forward with our imaginations, we will find that, in the end, we are all blessed. As Saint Julian of Norwich reminds us “All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”