Does Prejudice Have To Be Personal Before We’ll Recognize It?

Does Prejudice Have To Be Personal Before We'll Recognize It? from genevalopez2012.com

President Trump has often been accused of racism and fear-mongering and the latest Republican campaign ad endorsed by Trump, has once again brought these allegations to the forefront.  Many of his supporters adamantly dismiss these claims as outrageous and ridiculous, stating he simply tells the truth.

The thing is, Friends, our language matters.  The way we say things is important, and most especially when we are leading an entire country.  The manner in which we present information is critical.  The POTUS often uses scare-tactics to prey on the fears of America.  When discussing the problem of illegal immigration, he has referred to immigrants numerous times as rapists, murderers, and “very bad people.”  And yes, there have been some horrendous crimes committed in this country and elsewhere by individuals who entered the USA illegally.  I’m not denying that or justifying it, nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t discuss those cases when looking at policy changes to our immigration system.

The issue, though, is to hear the President speak, one would think that these bad apples are the majority and they are not.  The majority of individuals who have entered this country legally or illegally, are simply looking for a better way of life for themselves and their families.  Many are trying to escape extreme poverty, government corruption, and/or terrible violence.  Most are just trying to give their children a chance at life.  Not even necessarily a chance at a good life, guys!  Just an actual chance to live to see their 16th birthday!

But President Trump doesn’t talk about these things.  Of course not.  That wouldn’t fit in with his political agenda.  That wouldn’t build that wall.

To be fair to him, though, the President’s fear-mongering is nothing new in politics.  Look back in history and we see countless incidents from politicians and news rooms from all sides who have employed the same tactic.  It’s just easier for us to see it when we, or the causes we support, are the scapegoat.

I’m a Christ-follower.  Do you know how many people in history have been viciously murdered by individuals in the name of God, in the name of the same God I love and serve?  Millions, my Friends.  Millions.  Yet, I would find it ridiculous if people started using those facts to denounce Christians as dangerous.  Why?  Because I know we’re not all like that.  In fact, most of us aren’t.

I support the 2nd amendment, though I support some policy changes regarding gun laws.  Lots of people I know do, too.  And lots of people I know get so frustrated with the fact that after another mass shooting in America, politicians and the media prey on our fears and lump all gun owners into the same category: dangerous.  My news feed will be inundated with people’s arguments that most gun owners are responsible citizens and they’ll be furious with “the other side” refusing to distinguish between the majority and the bad apples.

I don’t support abortion because of my religious and moral convictions.  Yet, there have been quite a few individuals with allegedly the same convictions as my own, who have committed heinous crimes against abortion clinics.  I would never condone such actions and I certainly don’t want to be associated with them.  I definitely don’t want my convictions and those of the majority who believe like me, to be judged by the violence of that minority among us.  That would be crazy.  Right?

I support our law enforcement.  I believe they should be respected and appreciated for their work and sacrifices.  I also know, though, that not all who wear that badge, are good people.  There are incidents where minorities have been profiled, unjustly apprehended, and yes, even murdered by racist cops.  But I recognize that most of the men and women behind that badge are not like that and I would never condone violence against them based off the disgusting actions of the minority among them.

I’m a 34-year old white woman in America.  I didn’t live through the Civil War. I didn’t own slaves nor do I condone it.  But my ancestors did.  I know plenty of white racists today, sadly.  There are white supremacists marching around in KKK hoods and preaching hatred even today.  But I definitely don’t want to be associated with those kinds of people.  In fact, it annoys me when people assume that I am a racist because of the color of my skin, the history of my people, and the actions of a bunch of morons who happen to have the same skin tone as I do.

Am I making my point, here, Friends?

I think every single one of us in some way or another have experienced frustrations at being grouped into the same category as extremists and minorities in our individual groups.  Most of us don’t have any difficulty identifying how unfair or ludicrous it is to be scapegoated against when we are the victims of such actions.  So why is it so difficult for us to not hold ourselves, to not hold the individuals who we align ourselves with, to the same standards?  Why can we not see past our politics, our religions, our genders, our races, etc and recognize prejudice even when it’s not personal to us?  Do we have to be the scapegoat before we’re willing to step up on our soap boxes? Do we have to be the victims of bigotry before we are willing to demonstrate integrity?

I’m not an “open all our borders and let anyone come and go as they please” advocate.  I believe in a system to immigration.  I believe in enforcing immigration laws when they make sense.  But I do not support, nor will I ever support, preying on the fears and lack of understanding of my country to bring about changes to the broken system.  I will never support any leader’s policies on the issue, who demonizes entire populations based on the terrible actions of a minority among them and refuses to address all the truths on a subject, not just the ones that support their agenda.

Does Prejudice Have to Be Personal Before We'll Recognize It? from genevalopez2012.com

The Biggest Threat to Christian America? Christians.

Christians: Christian America's Biggest Threat from genevalopez2012.com

 

“When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)

I fear for the Christian faith in our nation, America, but probably not for the same reasons so many of my Conservative friends do.  I’m not living in fear of the Liberals, the Muslim refugees, the feminists, the LGBTQ community, the ACLU, and any other alleged enemy of our Christian ideals.   No, I’m much more frightened by my own brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to have forgotten that our entire Faith is based on Love and that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples only by our love for one another (John 13:35).

We have our precious Supreme Court Justices, now.  We have our National Day of Prayer.  We have our unwavering support of Israel.  We have our real news stories that always align perfectly with what we think we know and believe to be true.

But at what cost, my Friends?  I’m not saying that any of those things in and of themselves are bad, but I am asking, what did it cost us?  With all of that, do we also have more converts to our Christian Faith?  Do we have more people who don’t know Christ as their Savior, asking us how to know this God we serve?  Because while we posted that meme with the derogatory message against the “Libtards,” “Snowflakes,” and “Idiots” on our Facebook wall, we followed it right up with that inspirational message about the goodness of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Surely that counts for something.  Surely that “Libtard” who doesn’t know Christ, knows me by my love for others NOW.

We have become so fearful that our supposedly Christian ideals will be trampled on by those who do not know Christ, that upholding those ideals has become more important to us than even Christ himself.  We have forgotten to look to Jesus as our example of how Christ-followers should respond to a world lost in sin. We have forgotten, as Christ shows us through His own life, that it is entirely possible to uphold Truth, refuse to compromise our beliefs, and still love those who do not yet know that Truth.

Instead, like the disciple, we have responded to the lost who threaten Christ and His teachings, with violence, whether physically or verbally. And while we’re busy thrashing about our swords with little thought to our words or actions, Jesus is pleading, “No more of this!”  While we’re busy looking for that next best meme to attack our “enemies,” Jesus is still trying to work on patching up the bloody mess we’ve left behind in our last self-righteous rant against those who don’t yet know Him.

Let us be reminded that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  And while Jesus was blameless and more pure than any of us before or after Him, He never once fought or slandered those who persecuted Him, falsely accused Him, beat Him, or crucified Him.  In fact, some of His very last words that day were, “Father, forgive them.”

But before any of this, after His miracle of feeding the 5,000, people recognized Jesus as the One who had been prophesied about and they, not understanding from an eternal perspective, wanted to make Him king on earth.  And what was Jesus’ response to this?

 “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”  (John 6:15)

Perhaps, then, in trying to force a Christian kingdom on this earth,whatever the cost, we not only further isolate the lost, but we also isolate ourselves from the very One we say we are defending, leaving us with a shiny earthly kingdom that has absolutely no eternal value and consists of only those who look just like us, think just like us, and vote just like us.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me when I lose my temper.  Forgive me when I get in the way of Your Kingdom and Your ways.  Forgive me when, rather than lead others to You, I become a stumbling block in their path to You.  I pray that You would help me trade my earthly perspective for an eternal one.  I pray that You would lead me and guide me in standing firm in what Your Word says is true, while also loving others as You have commanded me to do.  Help me find the balance of a resolute Faith, unwilling to compromise Truth, with the tempering of Your unconditional love for all mankind.  And when I am tempted to yield my sword of self-righteousness against those who oppose You, help me instead, respond as Jesus would. 

Prayer

When God Asks a People-Pleaser to Hate Others

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26

I know what you’re thinking.  “When God asks a people-pleaser to hate others? Geneva, you’ve always been a bit whacky, but THIS has definitely taken the cake, girl!”  I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But hear me out, ok?

I like to refer to myself as a recovering people-pleaser.  Some days, I totally kick the urge to fall into those old, ugly habits and other days, I fail miserably.  So, yeah, definitely still recovering and quite honestly, for as long as I live, I will probably always have good days and bad days with it; I’m just hoping those good days continue to be more frequent and the bad days become fewer and fewer.  

I first experienced God working on breaking these chains in my own life, with my relationships with peers and friends in high school.  Then later, I had major reconstructive surgery on my character in my professional life as a mental health and substance abuse therapist.  My concept of a “good” counselor was rocked when I realized that while being a good listener and being nonjudgmental were, as I presumed, certainly important traits of a counselor doing their job correctly, just as important was the need to speak truth to Clients.  Sometimes – often times – truth was difficult to hear. It was challenging to the listener and it would often be met with resistance and even dislike of the counselor speaking it. And that knowledge was hard for me to accept. Didn’t my Clients need to “like” me as a counselor?  How could I help them if they didn’t like me all the time? Oh, the growing pains I experienced as God transformed my character and understanding of my responsibilities as a therapist and once again chipped away at my natural instincts to please others.

Not so long ago, though, I looked back in awe at how far I had grown as a therapist in this area of my life.  I felt proud to realize that I was confident in gently speaking needed messages to Clients and that I was no longer paralyzed by fear to do so, despite the fact that it didn’t always make me popular with those I was trying to help.  And so I thought I had finally mastered my people-pleasing habits. I mean, where else could I possibly still need work in this area? Hadn’t God challenged me in every way possible to eliminate this habit?

Imagine my surprise when I soon learned that maybe, just maybe, God had actually saved my biggest problem area for last.  It was an area that I wasn’t at all prepared for and it has been met with lots of pain, heartache, and discouragement.

You see, growing up, I was always a bit of a “golden child.”  Gosh, that sounds incredibly snooty of me to say, huh? But that’s the only way I know how to describe it to help you really understand why this battle has been so difficult for a gal like me, so hang in there and let me explain.  I became a Christian very early on in life. I generally did what was expected of me, I made good grades, and I didn’t really go through any scary teenage rebellion. I was the stereotypical first-born child in my family, with my biggest show of irresponsibility being a constantly messy room (which by the way, I am totally paying for these days trying to raise a 6-year old to not be a slob. Sorry, Mom!)  My close-knit, southern family was proud of me and they supported my decisions in life. In the small church we attended, I was a leader. In college, I made phone calls every night to 3 people: my momma, my mamaw, and my aunt, who was like a second mother to me. The overall consensus among my family and those who knew me was that Geneva was a “good girl.”

Initially, I didn’t do any of these things to please others.  They were genuine acts from a genuine place in my heart and honestly, most of it was never a real act of heroism or courage to go against the grain as a teen.  My personality is just naturally inclined to generally follow the rules and live in peace, so if I’m honest, being “good” wasn’t ever something I could really brag about because it never required extreme sacrifice on my part. But looking back, I think I eventually became accustomed to the praise and the accolades to a point that my best behavior wasn’t always being done to honor God, but to please others. And as God’s most recent efforts to eliminate my people-pleasing habits have revealed, perhaps, even, it had become an idol in my life.  

I dread almost every election season because it’s always filled with mud-slinging, empty promises, and confusion.  The 2016 presidential elections were no different in that respect, except they seemed to be even uglier than normal.  This country, who I’ve never found to be particularly united, became even more divided than usual. My Facebook feed, like many of yours, was full of opinions, hatred, and nonsense.  I’ve never been a real fan of talking politics because I’ve never been a real fan of conflict. Oh, who am I kidding, I HATE conflict. But 2016 shifted something in me. Though still not a fan of speaking out politically, I found myself unable to keep quiet about some of the things I found disturbing.  And while I was expecting criticism, I wasn’t prepared for who most of that personal criticism was coming from: From people I had been a leader among, I had been admired by, and I had always been supported by. It seemed that my incredibly unpopular opinions on several political matters had hit quite a nerve among those I’d always felt the most comfortable around.  People who had shaped my life in great ways, been there for me in some of my darkest days, and who I owe a great deal of gratitude to for their influence and leadership in my life, suddenly felt like strangers to me. People I loved the most in my life were suddenly disappointed in me, shaming me, and even angry with me. And I wasn’t prepared.

I began to do a lot of soul-searching.  I questioned my motives for speaking out.  I questioned my beliefs. Was I wrong? I mean, according to a national survey, 80+ percent of the white, evangelical population all seemed to disagree with me.  Surely that meant something. I mean, believe me, I was used to having unpopular beliefs.  But I wasn’t used to not fitting in among my own; quite the opposite, actually. This was new terrain for me and I didn’t like it.  Was I allowing my mind to be tainted with worldly influences? These are the types of questions I wrestled with daily. These are the types of conversations I had with God at 3am when I couldn’t sleep.  I mean, how could I possibly be in God’s will here when nearly every spiritual and personal influence I’d had in my life at this point, disagreed with what I was saying. Clearly, I had to be wrong. Right?  

And then, I started praying about it.  People had accused me of being biased in some of my opinions because of my life experiences.  My immediate reaction to those accusations was to dismiss them, but I eventually came to a place of true brokenness and I found myself thinking that maybe they were right.  Maybe I was being biased. I didn’t know anymore. I started praying, “God, all I want is to be in Your will. If these passions of mine aren’t from You, then take them away.  I’m begging You, that if I am out of Your will here, strip these desires and this unrest in my soul away.” That became my daily prayer: “Not my will, but Yours.”

And you know what?  Things started shifting, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking they did.  I didn’t find those passions eliminated. I didn’t find God shutting my mouth. In fact, I came to realize that these weren’t just my personal opinions on topics, but they were things I clearly felt the  Holy Spirit convicting my heart about. I found the courage to continue to speak up for people God had burdened my heart for and to advocate for these causes, no matter the approval or disapproval of others. And while I still struggle at times with no longer being in the good graces among many who are important to me or among those I’ve always related to the most, I am learning that I used to depend on those opinions more than I depended on God’s.  

So does God really expect us to hate our family or our friends?  Of course not. But what He does ask of us, is that we do His will always, no matter the cost.  And rest assured, it’s going to cost us at some point. It may bring us to a place where doing what God has laid on our hearts just doesn’t make sense to our mother, our father, our husband, our wife, our brother, our sister, our son, our daughter, our uncle, our aunt, our grandfather, our grandmother…to anyone.  It might bring us to a place that feels desolate, where it feels like it’s just us standing in our brokenness, defeated, discouraged and confused. But be encouraged, Friends. Throughout all of this, God has been faithful in strengthening me through the wise words of some mighty leaders, establishing new, godly relationships in my life, and giving me the courage to stand for what He has laid on my heart, even if it feels at times that He is the only one supporting me in it.  What about you?  What is He asking YOU to do?

Where God leads, He always, always provides and He is masterful at breaking us, but somehow, if we let Him, He brings beauty from the ashes of our destruction.