On Painting People

Our country is wrought with unrest. People will not get along, people will not communicate but God calls us to peace. “What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.” I hope we can manage a better response than Tybalt. But he did have a point, he asked: you want peace when your sword is already drawn? If we can paint the others as having drawn first than we feel justified in brandishing ourselves.

This is how school yard fights work. One person eggs the other on in hopes the he takes the first swing so then now the first guy feels justified in with any response.

Too often we seem to enjoy sticking within out studios and painting our enemies any color of debauchery so that we can thus dismiss them for all their shades of silliness. I see the irony a bit, in that a recent last post involved drawing some large strokes myself but hopefully it came across that I was attempting to inform and encourage dialog among ourselves with regards to the Spirit. To encourage thought is one thing but to indict your opponents and shut down communication is quite another, especially when it was you who applied the evil villain mustaches upon your opponents in the first place.

This is why when in actual debate rarely do the opponents come off as black and white as they do when speaking about them in a vacuum. This is why King Solomon reminds us that it is a fool who answers a matter before he has actually heard it out. This is why I have to remind even myself not to only read myself, which is probably a fine reminder for us all.

So how do we get to peace and justice when everybody has different view points and swords already drawn?

The current method seems to be to simply criminalize our opponents so that everybody will point and say “see?” People are rarely this black and white however. Rather than building bridges we are saying “You need to agree with me!” I think a better message is this: If you are thinking of being my brother? It don’t matter if you’re black or white.

It is time to exegete Michael Jackson. He is of course right if we want a brotherhood of mankind then there must be a certain level of color blindness that we need. By that I do not mean ignoring differences, we have to acknowledge differences or we will never dwell together in unity. The reason is because differences are obvious and to ignore them is to ignore a part of that person. The bigger point he makes is that he does not want to live his life as a color. I think this is the first step to achieving any kind of community. People who do community well don’t need to be continually reminded of how wonderfully multicultural everything is. People who do community well are firstly and fore-mostly identified by a willingness to extend a friendly hand. I could think about myself all day long if I wanted to, but I would rather not, that makes it hard to see other people clearly.

Whatever colors my background, race, sex, prejudices, etc. are, they are nothing more than what helps me see my face in the mirror; they should not however, be glasses that I carry outside my apartment and force and redefine everything else by. When they are carried outside and applied to everyone else guess what everyone else has to do? If we carry around our identities as weapons then others will learn to weaponize their own as well, or at least carry around shields. I don’t wanna be startin’ something.

I remember when I first walked onto the campus of Moody Bible Institute. I was approached about joining the Hispanic group on campus and part of the reason was to raise awareness of some sort of plight that we all had and to feel a part of something. I politely declined, and here’s why: I didn’t want to be any part of belonging or not belonging to a particular group. What I wanted instead was to actually assimilate into the culture as a whole, the whole school, not simply a small sector. I am after-all now an alumnus to the whole institute not just a certain bit of it.

I believe their hearts were in the right place but I remember wanting to distance myself from any kind of “us” and “them” labeling that I saw forming simply by asserting some racial differences. I know that the minute I buy into that mindset is the time I perpetuate it. I would rather extend my hand than talk about what color it is. I have never chosen to be different or a victim and so I have never thus lived as one. It is true that this may be easier for some than others but we all have choices to make. I have racial differences and so do most of us, but I would rather use that fact that we all have some racial differences as a means to join together rather than a reason to faction. Dr. Martin Luther King famously said people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color their skin. Truer words haven’t been spoken. Why not gather together because of values rather than color tones?

I have seen good-natured desire for multiculturalism and diversity devolve into sectarianism in practice. Unfortunately the need to celebrate our differences has slipped into the need to denigrate others

There is a phenomena of unrest in our culture that could be addressed if we used our mirrors for fixing our hair rather than a staging ground for the next assault on someone who looks different. This goes both ways. Sometimes we may think we have the corner on offense and we get to remain as the victim and sow as much discord as possible. But this is one of the things that God hates. Sowing discord among the brethren. This principle extends to all possible brothers and sisters. We need to stop telling people to Beat It, just because they are different from us. A difference of life experience does not grant the previously oppressed free rein to be beat and kick someone while telling them it is fair. Tit for tat is no way to live. I don’t want to get so caught up in my own thinking that I do not consider others.

Our differences are never a reason for discrimination thus they are never reasons to progress into the area of misbehaving. It is our character that frees us to be friends. Dave Chapelle had a great skit about this. He used the extreme examples of a mummy, a werewolves and Frankenstein acting out in public and then calling the people bigots for not liking them as mummies, werewolves or Frankenstein completely ignoring their crass and terribly disruptive behavior. The skit was great in reminding us that we all do things that should give us pause. I know this sounds like I am only talking about race but I am talking about all the things that are dividing us.

Let’s be honest, there can be both virtuous and deplorable white people and black people. There can be both noble and base Hispanics and Muslims. There are can be both principled and vapid straights and homosexuals. The issue is always character but instead we seem to hide behind caricatures of people to keep the persuasion going. Instead of looking at the behavior that tends to attract or repulse, we assume it is because of our characteristics instead of our conduct. This is the difference between race/ethnicity/gender and the culture or sub-cultures they entail. One can be totally acceptable while the other can be completely toxic. When we equate the two, what Dr. Martin Luther King hoped will be a key distinguishing mark and a cause for unity, will never be identified, thus reconciliation will never happen. We should not paint people, but perhaps we should point out toxic behavior?

We do this because behavior can be changed. New better habits can be established and growth is always possible. Every single day is a chance to renew. That is why today is the day of salvation. You may think you are “Bad” in either the good or traditional sense. But we will never progress as in peace if we do not watch our mouths and interactions. Does the whole world have to answer right now just to tell us once again, who’s Bad? Is this really how we want to live with people? Michael Jackson reminds us: We can change the world tomorrow, it could be a better place. The Apostle Paul says:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

Paul says this not at all meaning there are no differences of people but meaning these categories matter not at all in their relationship to Jesus Christ and thus they shouldn’t be stumbling blocks for unity. Some had used this verse to try to continue slavery but that would be an example of a toxic sub-culture of even the church. This was pointed out and the world changed for the better. The best way to do this is to come to Jesus Christ where he calls us as one. Jesus is calling us to himself, to unity and to love. It shouldn’t be a surprise to us at John’s words:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice,“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Rev 7)

People from all tribes and nations will be present before the throne. If salvation belongs to our God, then let’s put down our paint cans and extends our hands.

thanks

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