How do we solve problems? It depends on what the problem is. How do you solve the problem of some homeless guys who the church is helping? How do you solve the problem of people learning to hate other people because of skin color, or nationality, or language, or sexuality, or…? How do you solve the problem of North Korea? How do you solve the problem of drugs? How do you solve the problem of ______?
I don’t think there is an easy answer. That’s because all of these “problems” involve people and people are messy. They aren’t black and white. They aren’t either us vs. them.
There are people who try to classify the world this way. But the problem with this way of thinking is that people themselves become the problem – another thing to be fixed, another box to be checked off. People lose their humanity that way. When people lose their humanity then it becomes acceptable to dehumanize others in terms of words, physical violence, killing, and extremists belief systems. When we dehumanize people – we no longer see people as people – but rather as things.
How do we change this? You can’t force others to change for one thing. We can only model a different way to live. One change is identifying names and using people’s names. It might seem small and pointless, but we know that a person’s name is the most important word they know. Further, when a name is attached to a person, they are no longer seen as the problem, but in a problem situation.
It’s really difficult to judge someone when you know them by name and you have met them face to face and you see their humanity. Not impossible obviously, but a lot harder.
The crappy part about this is actually doing it. As much as I just want to give the one finger salute to the white supremacists and yell at them and call them evil to their face (boy, wouldn’t that feel good and I get to feel all self-righteous), that is not modeling a better way to live. It’s dehumanizing someone who I frankly abhor and makes no sense to me.
For those of us that are Christians, Jesus calls us to live differently. It’s not easy, by any means. I’m not saying that I’m going to go and make a friend with a white supremacist just so I can better understand him. I’m not inviting a white supremacist over for dinner either. But I am a bit more aware of how I respond to white supremacy. First, by not adopting the tactics, language, or attitude of extremists. Jesus calls us to live differently. Sometimes that really sucks. Sometimes I’d rather just let my real feelings rip out and let someone have it. Sometimes I’d rather dehumanize because it would be easier, feel better, and show my obvious opposition. But opposition to evil doesn’t mean we adopt evil ways. We change the message and show a different way of living – an alternative way of living. A better way of living. And we pray for those who are blinded by fear and hatred because that’s about the only thing I know how to do right now.