Glennon Doyle Melton (heretofore referred to as “G”) had some things to say about that at the event I went to on Thursday. She spoke about resisting the temptation to refer to others as “haters.” It’s unkind and unhelpful because people don’t actually think of themselves as “haters.” G said something to the effect of: If you gathered a group of people in a room and told the haters to go to one side and the lovers to the other–everyone would go to the side of love, right? Who thinks of themselves as a hater? No one, that’s who. Even white supremacists think they’re loving, it’s just that they love white people to the exclusion of other races. That’s not the kind of love G practices, and it isn’t mine, either.
And yet, we do have unkind rhetoric that pops up during heated debates. It’s particularly painful in an election year in which social media has become the mode of communication between friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. What do we do when presented with words from human beings conveying, at best, unkind and unloving messages? How do we respond with love and not engage in what my grandmother calls tit-for-tat? How do we build bridges between people we disagree with rather than putting up walls between us?
Last week, my Hebrew Bible class at CTS arrived at the books of Psalms, Lamentations, and Song of Songs. As we have every week, these readings were paired with parallel accounts from the Ancient Near East. Focusing on Egyptian love songs from the reign of Ramesses II in 1290-1224 BCE, I talked a bit about how strange and wonderful it is that we’ve been left with these very human stories:
…we often think of love in other times as being in some way different, restrained, or restrictive because it [was] a different time. Yet there is a timeless nature to love, isn’t there? It is the quintessentially human and eternal aspect of love that, when we read about it, bridges the gap between our world and theirs. Looking at the ancient Israeli texts about love [Song of Songs] and now at the Egyptian ones […], it is a reminder that love is love today, tomorrow, and millennia ago. The challenges are perhaps different, but there’s a universality to the feelings that comes through in these texts.
…Even the heartbreak or separation conveyed feels precisely as it does today. These are human beings living lives thousands of years ago for whom the range of emotions is very real and every bit as relevant as it is today. It humanizes these people we think of only as hieroglyphics in museums, ancient tombs, and textbooks. It makes me wonder who else we might be willing to humanize if only we understood that their love and their feelings are just like ours.
All to which brings me back to the current cultural context and what’s happening between loving-people and other loving-people over social issues (such as LGBT rights, refugees, and where we pee). My thoughts on how we should love are simple: we should love with radical inclusivity. Everyone thinks they’re loving someone, but if your brand of love doesn’t include everyone, it’s not the kind of love I practice.
I don’t care about your politics or mine. I really don’t. I love you and I really don’t care what you think about the national debt and school choice. But here’s the thing: I do care about loving people. I care about loving people as Christ loved them (and as G so honestly modeled for us during the event) arms outstretched, hands wide open, loving until it literally killed him. Loving into, through, and past the pain.
As another sister at the event noted: not every issue is political. Social issues become political when open-armed love is removed from the equation. They become a wedge when compassion for humans is replaced with bureaucratic concern over policies. I think more fruitful discussions can occur between people who disagree if we all just begin from a place of love and of honoring our shared humanity.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,
Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about the things that matter.
So I’ll leave you with this: because I try (imperfectly) to approach everything from a place of love, I cannot keep silent on issues of justice, equality, and inclusion. I can’t. I won’t. So maybe what I say will seem controversial sometimes, it’s just the nature of radical love. Join me, won’t you?
Grace and peace!
In my next post: I’ve been called a “lupus warrior” and a “preacher warrior sister“. Which is weird, because I’m kind of a pacifist. So what does warrior mean?
PS. And thank you to everyone who took the time to read and respond to my last post about anxiety and meeting Glennon. Anxious, sweaty badasses unite!