In Tolerance

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It’s the season where the leaves burn bright before letting go.  Before November 8, I had already resigned myself I would need to emulate them.  Let go of any hope of the country of my birth ever being truly what it is called to be in my lifetime.  For the last 8 years I have watched the values and faith I hold dear be ridiculed, accused, mocked, attacked, put on trial and whittled away until I just could not see things ever turning around.  I didn’t dare to hope for change because the president of hope and change had already killed much of mine.

{Update: Yes, I know that this is a very strong statement.  But it is an honest one.  I understand many of you feel very differently and I want you to know I’m simply sharing from my limited and imperfect perspective.  I’m not stating a hard fact.}

I did not want to write this post.  I’m conflict averse and I realize putting this out there in the current climate is a dangerous move.  I will offend some of you.  I might lose friends.  I am subjecting myself to a potential barrage of angry sentiments by those who disagree.  But I can’t not speak.

So let me start by telling you what I voted for.  Not who.  What.  And even if you disagree, please know you are welcome here.  I do not punish friends who think differently by withdrawing relationship.

I voted for a Supreme Court that honors the constitution, not a revisionist interpretation of it.  I voted for the rights of our most voiceless and vulnerable members of society, the not yet born. I voted for the legacy of the first woman president to be one built on integrity and truth. I voted for the Bill of Rights… for all Americans. I may not agree with you but I will always defend your right to have and to voice your own opinion.

I voted for the rights of the states to make decisions about what is right for themselves and for every American to have a place at that table of discussion. I voted for legal and equitable immigration. I believe we are to welcome visitors and immigrants, but we must also live by the rule of law.  That means, if that rule of law is no longer effective in an area, we need to change it, not ignore it.  I believe God created nations to carry redemptive gifts and the current move toward globalism strips nations of their God-given identity.

I voted for limited and appropriate government, that is held accountable for its actions by those who consent to its governance. I voted for creativity and innovation in education, not a centralized dictated curriculum. I voted for parents to have the right to choose what is best for their children and families. I voted for the small businesses and the entrepreneurs who are trying to provide for themselves while serving their communities well.

I voted for solid national security that does its best to protect and serve, while remaining transparent and connected globally. I voted for caring for those who have served our nation putting their lives on the line. I voted for an economy that will benefit everyone with greater opportunity to work and earn a fair wage and pursue their dreams. I voted for the next 40 years.

I woke up the morning after watching the landscape of our nation change overnight with an odd mix of emotions. I can’t say I felt joy. Relief, yes. Gratitude, yes. Joy, not really. Our nation’s gaping heart wound spilling raw pain did not allow for much celebration.

I get it. Millions in our nation now feel some of what I felt much of the last 8 years: marginalized, judged, silenced, mocked and overlooked while facing growing threats to their values and freedom. I cannot rejoice over that. I will not.  This isn’t about winning.  I pray it isn’t because if it is, everybody loses.

Even though we have had our first African American president for 8 years, our country is more racially divided than ever. Not empowered. Angry, hurt, defeated and divided… Real empowerment is about honest conversation and hard choices that help us forge a way forward together. 

What is touted as tolerance is actually a social totalitarianism that flips the tables and promotes the oppressed to become oppressors. I am all for true tolerance. But for tolerance to exist, it must allow dissent. Biblical empowerment is about mutual honor and the maturity to hear one another out, own our stuff and if need be agree to disagree without denigrating or disparaging one another. 

I believe there is systemic injustice and that injustice needs to be addressed. But righting one wrong by “wronging” the other side is neither social justice nor reconciliation. It is revenge.

I believe in honoring, loving, inclusive dialogue, but not at the expense of only one type of opinion being allowed to have a voice. The climate of political correctness that enshrines fear of offense and personal comfort over honest dialogue and genuine learning is a threat to everyone’s freedom.

If we cannot honor the election process that grants us the freedom to voice our opinion, it will not be long until we no longer have that freedom. I would write this regardless of who won the election. I don’t have all the answers but I believe we will find more of them together than we ever will apart. 

I find the way people are responding to the election outcome incredibly disturbing. In the real world, there aren’t social safe places with sanitized language.  In leadership, offense and opposition will come.  I feel we have done such a disservice to the younger generation by not providing the relational tools or emotional resiliency to handle the black and white wins and losses in life.  We don’t always get our way.  Not everybody is a winner all the time.  That is the hard truth that many of us have had to stomach the last 8 years of an administration we deeply disagreed with.

But this country is bigger than one presidency, bigger than one person.  We do not have to be defined by or victim to our circumstances.  We can still choose to live in ways consistent and congruent to our values while honoring those who see things very differently.

I know many think Trump has emboldened hate speech or action. Now I certainly did not and do not approve of some of the rhetoric used in his campaign.  But I think what we see now is in large part the overflow of 8 years of swathes of the country having their dignity stripped (at least in perception), their voices not heard, their finances dwindle, their concerns about corruption in big government overlooked and their rights threatened if they even so much as whispered disagreement to the prevailing political norms.  This is a social wound infected with bitterness that has been festering on both sides for years.  It is no excuse for hateful language or actions.  But it might explain some of the frustration behind them.

Donald Trump is no more responsible for the actions of a few fringe followers than Hillary Clinton is for those behaving badly on her side.  If you fear for your lives or feel threatened, I am so so sorry.  That is not the America I want to be a part of.  But blame-shifting prevents us from getting at the roots issues.  It can no longer be “I’m with her” or “I’m with him” if we want to move forward.  It needs to be “I’m with what is going to be best for America”, honoring the fact we are a diverse pluralistic nation with many perspectives, experiences and differences.

I have as many friends suffering right now as I do who are celebrating. Honestly, I wrestled over the vote and I strongly considered a write in candidate or not voting at all. I did not make my decision lightly.  In a perfect world, we’d have perfect candidates.  We do not live in a perfect world.

For those of us who had their candidate “win”, we need to choose who we are going to be so very carefully lest we become the fulfillment of everyone else’s fears. There is simply no place on either side for anything less than humble, honoring, honest, respectful dialogue that seeks to heal wounds and find solutions.  Together.

The problems are many, the people flawed, the path steep, prayer is more needed now than ever. Tonight I remember and hold on to this:  The early followers of Jesus turned the world upside down, not by their legislation but by their love.

In this turbulent time, may we beloved, go and do likewise.

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