A SAFE PLACE TO DWELL

Psalm 133

Please welcome guest blogger, Christiane SwartzChristiane Swartz

I watched in varying levels of shock and disbelief this last year as the campaign and then the election unfolded and rocked our nation. This week I’ve witnessed every single possible emotion, magnified and palpable, play out in excruciating slow motion on social media, among my family, among my friends, in my place of work, and in my own heart. Grief. Fear. Anger. Disbelief. Panic. Jubilation. Rage.  Hope. Despair. Frustration. Pride. Hurt. Hatred. Defensiveness. Righteousness. Relief. Judgement. It’s all there, a cacophony so loud it hurts my ears, my heart and my soul. It is the first time in my life that my blood has run cold and I am fearful of the wave of intolerance and hatred that is gaining momentum in my country.

It’s always present, let’s not kid ourselves. We chalk it up to “those haters” and we choose to either stand against it or ignore it and some of us are blessed to be able to be less affected by it. This election just shone a spotlight on it. But I found myself startled this week out of my own despair and surveillance of the emotional devastation around me, by a simple post on social media. It showed the mostly red map of our country election results and read, “Trump has better coverage than Verizon. Can you hear us now?”

It made me wonder what I’d missed. While I am busy feeling terror about my daughters’ future and decades of work on behalf of women and minorities being undone, while I’m feeling offended by sanctioning of abuse that smacks of social cleansing, while I am quietly feeling hateful towards those who voted against values I believe are the difference between life and death and then gloated about it… What am I missing?

I’m having trouble witnessing all the hate happening right now in our country, neighborhoods and families and reconciling that with my belief that all people are inherently good. The only other option I have is to believe that people behave that way when they are scared. So what am I missing, that while I valiantly “fight the good fight” there is an entire part of the country whose unmet needs are so great that hate seems to be the only option and I just assume they are mean or ignorant; that people who supposedly hold the same political and human values that I do don’t trust the system we have in place to get us there and sanctioned hate to get a new system; that fully half of the country believed so little in any of it that they opted to stay home on voting day in spite of the proverbial handwriting on the wall?  What am I missing?

If I hold to my own need to believe that people are inherently good and love wins, if I read Psalm 133 and take away from it that we dwell together in unity under God’s love, that the love shared from God through us is a grace of God working in us, and that in the act of giving away the love we receive we are blessed eternally with love, if I believe in the “open and affirming” claims I make out loud in my life and with my church… it tells me everything I need to know what to do next. It leaves me with both a need and a responsibility to fully explore and understand the answers to the questions: Where do I find love, comfort, unity and support, especially during times of despair? How do I recognize others’ need for love, comfort, unity and support when it looks different from mine, especially in times of despair? How do I share the love I am gifted and entrusted with in a way that can be received by all of those who need it most?

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3 thoughts on “A SAFE PLACE TO DWELL

  1. I, too, am horrified; but not surprised. I was a local campaign manager in Washington state. More than 35 years ago, it was apparent to me the Democrats had abandoned labor. The systems analyst types then hired as strategists had decided to go after undecided suburbanites. The educated elites did not relate to what had been the base of the party since Populist days nor appreciate the old working class affectionate support for FDR.

    I’m also a former blue collar worker myself, only returning to college late in life. Several times in theology grad school I heard upper middle income women speak of white male privilege. Sure, there is such. But when I asked them just how a white male janitor or clerk or car mechanic is somehow more “privileged” then they, it was clear they hadn’t considered class an issue.

    So then the American working class has been without a voice in decades. A void filled by the religious right, neocon Republicans who saw an opportunity to exploit the anger, and outright demagogues who justify fear and hatred. None of whom, in my opinion, will ever do real economic justice. But because their only alternative was to just say no, working people did. Look at the voting returns for the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Hardly safe places to dwell for folks scraping to get by. Where was the liberal outrage for what happened to them? Note also that these same regions, once full of well-paid union jobs, were the reason for the biggest internal migration is US history– Black people from the south going north for the opportunities.

    4 days ago, Bernie Saunders said he came from the white working class and is “deeply ashamed that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I come from.” It isn’t enough to repeat our usual language like inclusive, multicultural, etc. These words are heard very differently by people whose values contain conservative elements. They want the certainty of hierarchy and law. They feel comfortable with similarity; look at those churches and neighborhoods where everyone is pretty much the same color. What hasn’t been made clear is that whiteness doesn’t mean they have more in common with their economic exploiters than with people of color of the same class. Democrats like the Clintons who support the Wall Street economic status quo aren’t about to raise that issue. Nor does it help to have the educated elites refer to them as “uneducated white males,” a term I’ve often seen in the last few days. The dismissive implications of inferiority are obvious. As I’ve said many times over the years, some of us working people can read, write, and think. This one does.

    So use that liberal inclusiveness, and the central Christian insistence on love, to reach out to those who have felt so very disenfranchised. Yes, some of them aren’t all that lovable. But Jesus was always found at the margins. And if we react with yet more hatred and anger, it only fuels the fire. The values we liberal Christians represent are not only more humane, but are practical in the long run because they work for everyone.

  2. PS– I’m not sure my name will appear on the piece I just wrote on econ justice. I had meant to post it. Rafi Simonton

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