Tonight, I use the Holiday Inn's computer to tap this out. I just came in from outside from an interesting conversation over cigarette with a young man named Ryan He comes from a military family, is in the army himself. And, I am humbled. He told me about his experience in the forces and the sacrifices he's made. While he had a hardened look in his eye, used language like "exact revenge" and other hawkish phrases of it's ilk, it was not difficult to see him as a person. He's angry seeming, bitter seeming, but it was incredibly, well, humbling to hear about his struggles, how he lost his friend in combat, how he had to endure fire and sleeplessness and pain for his country.
I have never known what it's like to be that close to bullet fire.
Don't get me wrong. This post will probably not devolve into a patriotic salute or saccharine declaration of loyalty to my nation. It is not my nation which requires my loyalty, but my greater human family. I hate war. I hate the fact that people have to die over ideology. On 9-11, Americans died of the hatred in the world. Now, we go to Afghanistan and Iraq to die to pay back our enemies. Attitudes like his only seem to perpetuate the evil done against us. Fire with fire. Hate with hate. I can't help but this will make everything escalate.
But, tonight, I realized something. He's a person. And, too often, in rhetoric about how members of conservative persuasions tend to pit "us against them", tend to see the world in black and white and our adversaries as the "bad guys", I have forgotten that behind the conservative opinion, there is a person. He's not just a conservative, a hawk, or any assortment of other labels. He's Ryan. And he has the sovereignty of his experience and has his reasons. Like we all do. My "us" and "them" is no more noble than any other false dichotomies. Even now, I'm bristling at his language but a part of me prays for the to see him, and others like him, my father, with compassion, respect, and empathy. Love is such a hard road, suspending judgment so much more difficult than empathy.
In other news, my ex Wade e-mailed me asking for my forgiveness. We did not part on the best terms. I broke his heart, and, in retaliation, he broke mine with perhaps well deserved, and hateful words. This over a year ago. Since then, I have hated him, hated myself, hated the pain we caused each other. The pain I caused. It was a beautiful thing to find this e-mail, seemed like a very redemptive thing. Perhaps the letter I returned will help us both heal. It seems too much to ask, really, that he forgive. This, too, is humbling. A "follower" all these years and it is still difficult to accept responsibility for mistakes, to love in the face of rejection. To realize that I need to love my "enemies", especially when they are not truly enemies but people I have hurt. There is joy in this, to think some repair can be made, some restoration.
In still other news, I stumbled across the book UnChristian. Basically, it's a research driven investigation into Christianity's image problem, or, more specifically, how we act UnChristian. It tackles gaps in generation, how mosaics and busters (people from 16-29) see the world differently from the older generations. It briefly tackled the differences in post modern and modern perspectives. It's a great book. Though, my pomo age is showing because the author kept using the term moral relativism and my hair bristled and I was like: "relativism? compared to what?..."
It frustrated me even while imparting hope. I look at Jesus and see truth, beauty, freedom, and love. How He made the greatest sacrifice and showed the greatest love, and how He offered us the opportunity to reconcile to Him, ourselves, and each other. Then, I look at the church and see judgment and emotional violence and unnecessary combativeness and how people hate Jesus because of it.
Not to say chapters pointed a finger at me. One in particular knocked me back and made me do some hard thinking. But, this was also redemptive. Change is possible. For me. For the church. And, for the world at large.
We can make a difference.
I'm so thankful for God telling me to pray. I know the hope I've had lately is because of this...