God bless America. We say that all the time in the good ole U. S. of A. I don’t think anyone really thinks about what they’re saying anymore. But today, I’m begging it from the depths of my being: God, bless America. Being an American living in England hasn’t been the easiest in the past couple of weeks. Everyone has an opinion about the U.S., and very few of them are complimentary. And my more conservative views, inherited “from the land of Trump” are extremely unpopular. I shouldn’t really complain. Everyone has a cross to bear and in the grand scheme of things mine is pretty light. For awhile, though, I took it kind of personally and got a bit frustrated and offended. But things came to a head today, and all these angry frustrated feelings kind of flared up, swirled around, and collapsed back in on themselves, leaving me with an unexpected feeling. Of overwhelming compassion.
My beautiful country, that I love with all my heart, is so broken right now. Bleeding from a million self-inflicted wounds. People are rioting in the streets. Coronavirus, which managed to unite the entire globe with a common enemy, somehow only became another thing to disagree about in America. To mask, or not to mask? Who cares?? America cares. Passionately, apparently. To the point of physical violence, in some cases. A tragedy like the killing of George Floyd exposes an injustice, but our go-to strategy for dealing with issues is to draw our battle lines and start hurling accusations and insults at the other side. We can’t heal like this, because our reactions only tear the wounds wider.
I personally think we have forgotten that we are a nation of people. When we hurl our words and our accusations across cyberspace, we hurl them into a nameless, faceless void. We fling them at an institution, a party, a race, a movement, a gender, a religion. And they are caught by individuals on the other side. By humans who are trying their best, who have their own fears and insecurities and struggles, who are stung by the insults and affronted by the accusations, so they fling something back across the void. We aren’t directing our words at someone specific, so we don’t have to care if they hurt. So they hurt hundreds of people and the shouting match continues. We aren’t in an actual conversation, so we don’t care enough about the people who respond to actually listen or understand their point of view. So people feel ignored and rejected and it reinforces the prejudices they began with.
There is a consistent theme these days from accusers on all sorts of different issues that if you aren’t doing something about (insert issue here), you’re actually not as decent a person as you think you are. As an engineer, I’ve been trained not to bring a problem to the table unless I also bring a proposed solution. Ahhh…that’s the tricky bit. Because what is the solution to something as big, as insidious, as entrenched as racism, sexism, gun violence….? They’re all real issues. They’re all complicated issues. What are we supposed to DO? Write a letter to our congressman (or woman)? Attend a protest? Post a comment on facebook? All these are secondary; they don’t actually get anywhere toward solving the problem, they just “raise awareness” about it. I think people tend to get those things confused. I could donate money or found a charity or sign a petition. But I don’t have the time or energy to devote to even selecting which of the 10,000 causes deserves my investment, let alone the time to actually invest. It’s overwhelming. It’s impossible.
But I’m an engineer, so I have a proposed solution. 2000 years ago a single man started the biggest movement the world has ever known. It is billions strong today. This guy’s name was Jesus. So what did he do? It was very simple: he loved the person in front of him. He did that over and over and over again. He did life and invited others to do it with him. He taught and talked and healed and freed and fed and forgave the individuals he came into contact with and they felt so supremely loved that they couldn’t keep their mouths shut about him and the movement spread like wildfire. He didn’t try to solve everyone’s problems at once. (Well actually at the end he did, but that’s a different story.) But he solved one problem and then another and then another, and by the time he was through, “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25) to record all that he did. So (besides writing this blog), I’ll be doing that. I’ll be at home, on my street, in my community trying to be as decent and useful and loving as I can possibly be to one person, and then the next person, and then the next person. Can you imagine what it would look like if all of Christianity did that? Really truly loved the person right there in front of them? Real change comes through relationship, when people feel heard and empowered and loved. I’ll be doing my best to be that listening, encouraging, loving person in the lives around me, and to direct them to the One who’s much better at it than I. And I’ll be on my knees praying for those little actions to add up to bigger solutions. And praying for America. May God help us. At this point, that’s pretty much our only hope.
God, bless America, land that I love!
Stand beside her and guide her
through the night with the light from above…