It's very easy for me to love the know-it-all kid, nerdy kid, who gets rejected by his peers at school. Loving the transgender girl who's been shunned by her parents comes naturally for me. It dawned on me recently that I'm not quite as good at loving Franklin Graham, the NRA, and Focus on the Family. Loving people and organizations I disagree with isn't something that comes naturally, nor do I enjoy doing it.
That's what happens when we have strong disagreements-- the natural response is to split off into your own camp, yell at one another, throw food, or sent bullets flying in their direction.
Over past few years, I began to get angry with the fundamentalism I saw especially within church communities and other organizations. Eventually I went another route and got out of fundamentalism...or so I thought. The problem is this: fundamentalism is not limited to the right, conservative end of the spectrum. It's possible to be a fundamentalist on the left, progressive end. It's possible to get so angry at the other "side" that you end up becoming legalistic and cease to see people as people. It's possible to begin to believe that your way actually is the only way.
There are times when I sit nicely in the middle and love to mediate. There are other times when I feel myself drifting to a more liberal, fundamentalist perspective. I don't want to ever be a fundamentalist again. It caused too much damage.
As lent approached, I thought about what I wanted to give up or add to my life. I've always ended up less like Jesus and more of an angry person when I've given up things (especially food) for lent. I thought about adding something, but nothing came to mind of a while. Then as I was scrolling through my facebook feed, I ran across a post Franklin Graham wrote, where he was going off on the evils of Islam. My blood began to boil. I tossed down my phone and called him a number of colorful names aloud. Then this dialogue occurred in my brain. I would like the say that the voice was the voice of God, since it sounds like something He would do.
Voice: "You should pray for Franklin Graham for lent."
Me: "Please don't make me."
Voice: "In fact, why don't you make a running list of everyone you disagree with and pray for them all."
Lent so far has consisted of me encountering, praying for and working towards common ground with the people I may not naturally love or appreciate. This doesn't stop me from still speaking about the things that I believe to be harmful and damaging in the organizations or lives of the "other." It's just forced me to see the humanity and value the "other."
You see, it's when you're sitting across the table from the "other" that you begin to see that they too, are human. They too, drink coffee, eat, and wear pants, They also have a past, a future, a brain, a heart, and desires. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
"Us" and "them" are illusions. There is no such thing as "us" and "them." There's only us.
Anytime I find myself being drawn towards people I disagree with, I consider it to be a sure sign that something divine is going on beneath the surface. I believe God is far more open, inclusive, and loving than any of us even know how to deal with. My understanding of the divine is that he is scandalously loving. Even those of us who feel like inclusiveness is our middle name would probably cringe and cry "heresy" when God when he says to the terrorist: "hey, you're welcome here at the table. Come have a seat. Let's eat together." God drags us, kicking and screaming, into greater and greater levels of love and inclusiveness.
The challenge for us is this: Who is your "other?" Find them. Humanize them. Eat with them. See what happens.