MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #3
(THERE IS USUALLY MORE TO THE STORY)
As we continue to move forward in faith during these troubling times, what are the issues or problems that most concern you? Could these issues actually be invitations to action? When we feel unsettled, tense, or curious about a problem, it may be that we are being compelled by the Spirit to make a difference.
The best way for us to begin working for good is to more fully understand the problem itself. When we take time to learn more about the issues we face, we gain a clearer picture of the reasons certain problems exist, we know more of their extent and magnitude, and we find more practical and useful ways to help. We can become better equipped and prepared for action, clear up our own misunderstandings, and mature and change ourselves – into persons of greater understanding, peacefulness, purpose, and clarity…
I didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008, but when he was elected, I optimistically thought, “Racism is now behind us!” Since then, I have witnessed the deep bigotry that persists and the racist systems that continue to be in place. I have also become aware of some ways that a bit of racism lingers in me. I grew up in a nearly all-white community, so I never had the privilege of knowing any black people until I went to college. I was also told some untruths about the black race by prejudiced adults outside my home (for example, one teacher told me that black people had to be slaves because God was punishing them for the sins of a son of Noah). Since then, I have grown in my understanding, awareness, and compassion for all who are oppressed. I recently learned more about racism – and how my childhood ignorance and misinformation affected me – when I read the book, How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. Learning more about racism gave me a deeper awareness, as well as a greater desire to work for justice.
“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”1
We have biased news sources and social media so readily available these days, which can make it difficult for us to discern truthful facts or to know the whole story. Our own personal biases also get in the way, as we seek out the information that affirms the beliefs we hold, while discounting the information that might make us question our stances. When we pick and choose information according to our own beliefs, we are not seeing the whole picture. One troubling example of this is when we use a Bible verse to uphold and justify what we believe, while not knowing the rest of the context, the history of the writings, the biases of the writers, the symbolism that was used, and even how the books were selected. There is so much more to the Bible’s story and message than one or two verses.
And there is more complexity to the problems in our world than one simple answer can solve. How many posts or memes have we seen or shared that seem to solve all our problems in one concise statement? (If our earthly problems had easy answers, it seems there would be no earthly problems!) Our global, national, and even personal problems are complicated, intertwined, and not easily remedied. One solution may negatively impact another issue or create a new problem. Being aware of this may help us to be more patient and gracious as we work toward solutions, and also inspire us – individually and collectively – to take the smaller steps that can lead us toward a better future.
In my prayer time recently, these thoughts about learning came to me:
Life is a constant process of learning, and no one has all the answers except for God. The most important goal for our learning should be to increase our understanding of God’s love in the world. That is, we take steps to better understand others so we might grow in unity and acceptance; learn to rethink and reframe our political and social systems to benefit all people; strive to find the best ways to care for one another and all creation; grow in our understanding of how God moves us to love; and find the deeper meanings and better purposes of this precious life we have been given.
Today, as we move forward in faith, may we open ourselves to consider new ideas, to seek out information that will change us for the better, to be more discerning in our reading and sharing, and to discover which issues may be invitations for us to learn, understand, and then find ways to resolve them.
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” ~ Vernon Howard
Psalm 32:8 (NRSV)
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Matthew 11:29 (NRSV)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
1Francis Bacon (English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author)
Bible verses taken from BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.