“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” James A. Baldwin
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to make the body of Christ vomit?
Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be so dizzy with dissonance, to be so overcome with vertigo, that there is no stabilizing force to lean upon to steady the swirl of rising acid produced by the Body’s eyes communicating to the Body’s brain that up is down and down is up? That we are mentally, physically, and spiritually unhealthy?
I wonder if clinging to our hates make the Body of Christ nauseous?
I wonder if our fears – of failure, failing our Parents, failing each other – make the room spin fast enough so that we forget how sometimes, we, too, are in the spacious building pointing fingers of scorn amidst a cacophony of laughter, “at least I’m not like you!”
At least we’re not like them.
Who are they?
Are we them?
Those who point from windows and those to whom we point.
Are we dizzy when we see how easy it is to defend the pride fueling one act – or many acts – of patriotic defiance? When we charge a large system as adamantly crooked and we see that cows become victim to desert turtles and bureaucracy? Where we righteously attack and invalidate the legal process of the courts and its decisions. We see them as woefully invalid, biased, unfair, or tyrannical, even. We say, not in our country! No longer! We stand for truth and righteousness. We stand in defense of a brother.
We look over to the spacious building aghast as we defend the pride and the dignity of the small town farmer, his meager resources, his humble beginnings, his “product of his times” comments. We stand to protect him against a system weighted to shame one small LDS family within our ward boundaries.
Are we dizzy? Are we nauseous?
Not at all. We’re righteously indignant.
Though the Hand reaches up to slowly cradle the head and steady the vision, the Body leans backward searching for something on which to balance. We stand resolute, determined to proclaim truth for the poor.
Are we dizzy when we see how easy it is to convict young men or young women from our keyboards and our couches when they walk, or sit, or run, unarmed in our city’s streets, and yet they are injured and killed by the power vested in a duty-weapon for looking suspicious? Do we see the connection to the LDS family in our ward boundaries? Or do we distance and disconnect?
Now we righteously attack and invalidate the individuals who question the legal process of the courts and its decisions. We see people as lacking faith, their feelings as woefully invalid, unfairly biased, or hateful and racist, even. We say, not in our country! We honor the law! We stand for truth and righteousness. We stand in defense of a system.
Are we dizzy when we see how easy it is to defend the pride and fear fueling acts of violence in other communities (because it’s too uncomfortable to admit that it happens in our own)?
Are we dizzy when we charge other parts of the Body with not having enough faith in the system that they feel is adamantly crooked and cannot admit wrongdoing? “Trust the investigation. Trust the legal process. Wait for all of the facts,” we say.
(Just like we did for the farmer?)
Is the room spinning, or is it just me? What Building are we in?
We begin to see that people and families, not just cows now, become convicted – not victims – of failed identity and respectability politics. “If s/he had just done what s/he was asked to do…s/he wouldn’t have been arrested/detained/shot….”
(Hand to Head, Eyes close, Hand to Stomach…. The Body is dizzy.)
No longer are we just seeing people, processes, and victims as we did with the farmer. Instead we’re seeing thugs, distrust of the American court system, and race hustlers. We’re saying that what has happened was what was deserved. We’re blaming and shaming. We’re withholding our empathy and trading it for our enmity.
From Eyes to Hands, and Head to Feet, we are experiencing dissonance, psychological distance, and a dizzying disconnect.
“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:21
Yet here we are in our conversations and our political conversions, saying, “I have no need of you.”
We say, your story is not my story. Your existence in this Body with me is of no importance. We become offended by our hands and our feet and we cut them off, truly believing it is “better to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.” And yet there is balm in Gilead and there are bandages to bind up the wounds on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, aren’t there?
Can we risk injuring the Body further for the sake of defending our offenses? For stubbornly clinging to our hates?
Are we to return Home maimed or halt if we had the opportunity to mend and heal ourselves and one another despite our hates and instead we rejected relational transformation?
It’s been asserted in the field of mental health that we strive for internal consistency when we experience cognitive dissonance. We experience dissonance when we cannot comfortably hold two or more conflicting opinions. When we experience dissonance, we tend to become psychologically uncomfortable.
As members of the Body of Christ, when we experience dissonance and discomfort, what is our response in service of our mental, physical, and spiritual health? Do we sit and let the dizziness clear? Do we stabilize ourselves through the waves of nausea, take in deep cleansing breaths to expand our Mind and open our Eyes? We are expected to willingly see all parts of the Body and their respective necessity to our collective survival.
How are we doing?
Or do we, instead, cling to our hates in such a way that we only temporarily reduce the pain of psychological conflict and actively (or sometimes passively) avoid situations and information which are likely to increase it in the future? This means we are choosing to be blinded to one another’s divinely created existences in this journey we call life. If we know nothing more, we at least know that denying our responsibility to be our brother’s keeper only came up after we invalidated the purpose of our brother’s life and made ourselves judge and jury.
I would suggest that the pain of collective suffering comes from letting go of our hates and embracing the swirl of emotions, the sway of the nausea, the unnerving realization that it is we who contribute to one another’s pain and suffering in our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Sitting with and sifting through this pain is but one way to live the charge to mourn with those who mourn. You may wonder, can we mourn even when we disagree with a rancher and his family, or an unarmed person and their family?
My answer is: Yes.
If we realize that we tend to disagree most when we are too dizzy to see other parts of the Body of Christ clearly, we can, instead, remember that we have need of each Body part because Christ has need to reach one another through all of us.
What makes us dizzy? What can we do to help steady one another on the paths we travel together?