"Love your neighbor as you love yourself." It's all throughout the Bible- from Leviticus to Luke, and it was ingrained in my from my earliest memories. My mother displayed it best, inviting in strangers, immigrants, and lonely people to our dinner table throughout my entire childhood. And with practice, I got better at it. Love my Muslim neighbor. Easy. Love my Gay neighbor? No problem. Love my Homeless neighbor? Of course.
But it feels harder now, because I find myself asking, How do I love my racist neighbor? My bigoted neighbor? My white supremacist neighbor? My complicit neighbor? How do I love my neighbors who voted for Trump? How can I when they (AT BEST) were complicit with ignoring a dangerous pattern of racism, sexism, bigotry, and violence?
The church I read from the Sermon on the Mount, which is always a gut punch for me-
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:38-48
Love your enemies? Pray for those who persecute you? UGH NO. I hate when Jesus says stuff like that :)
I've heard these verses about loving your neighbors as enemies right along side, "But God is still in charge" and I think it's leading to dangerous territory.
Because what does it mean for me to love my neighbor? My racist, bigoted, sexist, dangerous neighbor? Love cannot mean standing by as violence is perpetuated, as white supremacy is legitimized, or as hated is allowed to grow strong.
Loving my neighbor cannot mean allowing them to hate others. So loving Donald Trump does not mean supporting his dangerous perpetuation of white supremacy in his cabinet and advisor choice. No, no, no. Loving my enemy does not mean peace and quiet.
And my neighbor who voted for Donald Trump? I will love them while I hold them accountable for the dangerous and terrible decision they made. I will not legitimize or normalize it. At best, they overlooked racism, at worst they actively perpetuated it. I'm not sorry for telling the truth. Love tells the truth. If you're hurt by my words, then you must understand that love can be painful. Love speaks out against oppression and oppressors, of which you may be one. If you're white, you have certainly benefited from oppression. I know that I have and I am learning how to unpack and dismantle it in my own life.
I realize this message is primarily directed at white people. I cannot and will not tell people of color how they should be responding right now. The violence is so near and hurt so deep, that to say, "just love those who hate you" is perpetuating that violence. I can't tell anyone to do that.
I'm not sure what my next move is. I truly believe that Donald Trump's rhetoric and actions mirror that of Adolf Hilter's in 1930's Germany. I always wondered what I would do in Nazi Germany and I'm trying to decide what to do now. I will not stand by for oppression and violence. I must put my money, my time, my energy, and my skills toward standing up to evil. This requires sacrifice, and I don't yet know what I will need to sacrifice to do so. I do know that I cannot continue to write and listen in a liberal echo chamber. I must go outside my comfort zone and commit to real change.
People of God and Fellow Americans,
Let us never, ever legitimize violence and fear.
Let us never forget that more people voted against hate than for it.
Let us never stop hoping, stop working, or stop loving.