“True peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
We’re 3 1/2 days out from one of the most traumatic elections in modern US history. It’s been brutal, folks. The pain, the grief, the shock, the reality. I was one of those people who believed it would be kind of close, that Donald Trump had indeed made huge inroads and tapped into the depths of American racism, nationalism, sexism, classism, and pretty much every other -ism. But I sincerely didn’t believe he’d win. As the results came in, our hearts sank and the painful reality began to take root.
Since then, many people I know and love and journey alongside in different ways are truly devastated, terrified, angry, confused. And I’m not talking sort-of struggling.
This has cut so many to the core.
How could this happen? How could 81% of white evangelicals–brothers and sisters–support this? How could 52% of white women vote for him? How could that many people not vote at all when so much was on the line? How can this really be the direction our country is headed?
In the midst of the beginning of grief, we are seeing something very harmful begin to gain speed–the call to “make nice.”
The call to “get over it and move on.”
The call to remember “God is in control” (please don’t get me started on that).
The call for immediate “unity as citizens.”
The call for quick “Christian unity” after what for many feels like such a deep betrayal.
The call to “stop protesting and accept the decision.”
The call to “see the potential good in Donald Trump and just wait and see.”
The call to “fear not” as Christians because that’s what the Bible tells us.
I have not heard one of these calls from someone on the underside of power.
I’m not saying they aren’t happening at all, but the statements I have heard pretty much keep coming from white, privileged men and women, many conservative Christians.
They get said all of the time in abusive situations, in life and in church.
“He didn’t really mean it.”
“Give him a chance.”
“You need to submit to his leadership.”
“You’re creating disunity and division.”
“You need to accept reality.”
“Change takes time.”
These are all tactics used by abusers and people in power to keep others down, in their place, shushed, underneath.
It’s often so subtle.
It’s often blatant.
But it’s all the same–it makes the victims the ones who are doing something wrong and completely and totally dismisses the bad behavior of the perpetrator.
People, this man and his platform abused pretty much every group of people except for white men. Everyone. Spewing hatred. Inciting division. Harming innocents. Inspiring fear.
That’s what a lot of abusers do.
Already, so many are completely blinded by the reality of what full-blown narcissists are capable of and the path of destruction they leave behind them (and how crazy they make victims feel in the end).
Power is not coming to the margins saying, “We are so sorry. We made a mistake. We want to listen to you. We want to change.”
It’s not bending its knee or humbling itself (it rarely does), but it’s still expecting those underneath it to bend theirs.
Because that’s how this kind of power works.
Blacks, browns, Muslims, LGBQT friends, those-without-possibility-of-health-insurance, and a whole host of other people on the margins are on the floor or on the streets.
And many Christians, because we’ve often aligned (unconsciously and consciously) with this kind of unhealthy power, are not respecting the pain of the hurting, the devastated, the at-risk, the discriminated against-again-and-again-and-again.
We are so good at trying to encourage people to “make nice.”
Yeah, it’s a whole lot easier to talk about making nice when you are the one who has the power.
Jesus did not make nice.
He didn’t use violent tactics (and I am a firm believer in only nonviolent protesting), but he called out injustice and called it out strong.
The injustice here isn’t that people are sore losers or that a certain candidate didn’t get elected.
The injustice is that people on the margins were and are currently being deeply violated.
The status quo will never change by “making nice.” Every underrepresented group has somehow tried that over time, thinking if they played nicely something would change.
The -isms this election has uncovered are insidious.
And they won’t be uprooted by making nice.
I understand that living in more tension is exhausting. I feel it, too. So many want to move on so things can come to an ease-filled place again and we can get back to our known and comfortable positions, separated from each other, disconnected from the pain and suffering of people not like us.
But thankfully, it’s too late for that.
In the words of Dr. Cornel West, “We have to be willing to die before something new can be born.”
That’s what’s happening here–a holy disruption, a time for something new to be born (warning: it’s going to be a long arduous labor).
Through this process we must remember that “making nice” isn’t an option for people fighting for their lives, the lives of their children, their legacies, their livelihood.
Their fear is real, and platitudes won’t protect them.
We can’t have mutuality without equality.
And for a whole bunch of people in America it’s not just going to “be okay.”
Real peace–the kind we are called to be working toward–requires far more than marginalized people “making nice.”
But here’s my hope (and I’m trying to hold as much of it as I can because I truly believe the ways of Jesus transform, heal, reconcile):
That men and women of all shapes and sizes and experiences will help bear the cost of injustice and bravely honor this holy disruption through brave, consistent, faithful, peaceful, power-shifting practices.
“We have to be willing to die before something new can be born.”
And oh, I’m sure of it–birth isn’t “nice.”