On the first day of Community Organizing Training in Baltimore I met Renovation Guy. I was early to the church building where we were meeting, and Renovation Guy was waiting to get into the old brick building next door. His job involved gutting and then refurbishing the two story space for apartments. He impressed me as a person with marvelous gifts unknown to an English major: electrical engineering, plumbing, brick pointing, floor refinishing. RG is ruggedly handsome with a good sense of humor.
At 8 am the doors opened in both our buildings and we went our own ways.
On the second day of Community Organizing Training, Renovation Guy was just arriving and I saw – for the first time – that there were two Confederate flag stickers on his truck. One sticker could possibly be an accident. But there were two. He really means it.
In the training that’s sacredly agitating us this week, we were asked if we have the stomach to do this work. In particular, do we have the stomach to work with people whose opinions we find upsetting/repulsive/repugnant? And if we cannot work with such folks, can we even pretend to love them?
Sometimes Jesus makes me crazy.
I remember meeting a new church member years ago and asked him to tell me about himself: “I don’t like Democrats or artists,” he said without blinking. This was a 20-something guy who was interesting and fun, but then he had to go make it difficult.
He wasn’t kidding either. He didn’t like Democrats or artists. Could I love this new member? Of course I could, because . . . Jesus.
But the Confederate flag guy is another story. And yet . . . Jesus.
If it takes partnering with people with whom we disagree and/or have offensive opinions to change the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ, do we have the stomach to do it? What differences in opinions/life styles/habits make people difficult for us to love. It’s a good question for us to ask ourselves so that we might be better prepared when we meet these folks.
I don’t want my new spiritual discipline to involve loving people who attach Confederate flag stickers to their trucks. But maybe that’s today’s theological challenge. Befriending those with whom I disagree might be the only thing that will begin to change the culture of our country. Loving our enemies is never easy. Errr.
Image of RG’s truck.
I am a hospice chaplain in rural/small cities in North Carolina. Many of my patients have Confederate flags on their properties, even more had Trump sign in their yards. Some of them use the “n” word in my presence. Many of my colleagues voted for Trump and are offended by black lives matter. Some of my family voted for Trump. I stand opposed to all of this. But my work and my relationships aren’t based on agreement, and it not my job to change anyone’s mind. There are days my jaw and head hurt from the stress of keeping my mouth shut. My heart hurts daily from the hate that surround me. This does not answer your question because I am not engaged in community organization or dialogue. But it is a daily struggle. BTW one of my favorite patients had a huge Confederate flag on his wall. My job was to help him understand and model Jesus’ love for him despite his flaws.
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