I listened and I heard, “We need both wings to fly, so how can the left and right come together and respect the challenge of different perspectives?”
I stopped the video, went back, and listened for the third time. Nadia Bolz-Weber was at it again and she caught my attention with those words.
We need both wings to fly.
Now, if you are so angered by the actual state of the union and the world, that you cannot continue reading, please continue reading. I am that person too. This piece is for us – you and me. This month I have been tuning into a virtual conference, The Ally Tour. It’s fantastic and real. Really real. All the reals. The women speaking are pastors, reverend doctors, community organizers, journalists, and from diverse backgrounds. They are black, white, and Latina. They have different views, grounded respect for each other, and are tackling the worst wedgie topics out there (ummm, abortion anybody? No? How about race and immigration?) in order to bring women together. They are not backing away from being accountable, they are grinding through the yucky stuff and listening to each other. They are bringing God’s hope to all of us participating in our PJs on the other side of the screen.
Ahhh, remember when we were all able to listen without the distraction of memes, inflammatory headlines, and tweets? (oh how I hate the tweets!) Frankly, it’s been a minute since I sat down and listened to somebody with different opinions. How about you?
I am so deeply convicted in my ideology, and so flawed as a human, that I don’t always listen to the other side. Being totally honest, I like my ideology. I am an enneagram 1. I’m all about social justice and doing what is right. I am “The Reformer” (sorry enneagrammers, I reject “the perfectionist” tag – that is not my thing.). I want people to believe what I believe. Don’t we all? Isn’t that why we can’t listen well anymore? It’s only been in recent months that I finally decided that I was so damn tired of reading the fact-less battles, the snarky posts, and the Facebook fights that it was time to try something else. That’s where my friend comes in. Let’s call her Casey.
Casey and I chat every week for about an hour and a half. We meet on Zoom, naturally, at a set time, and after a few minutes of catching up, we dive into the topics of the week. She lives in the South while I am from New England. Her friends are largely conservative-leaning while mine are more liberal. She grew up in a literalist biblical tradition. I grew up Catholic. We are both now Episcopalian. And we live in two different Americas.
Each week we listen to the other talk about really uncomfortable, stress-inducing, topics that require copious amounts of chocolate to deal with. We go there, friends. We bulldoze through the rubble. Casey will say something the involuntarily shoots my eyes out of my head with shock. When one of my matters-of-fact flies out of my mouth, she leans into the screen, her body saying “are you serious right now?”. There are a lot of “really, I thought in your area everybody believed (insert stereotypical ideology here).” or “Oh no, in my world democrats are this and republicans are that.” And at the moment when we end each week, we know the conversation could go on for hours more.
I have found during this time of listening, with Casey, with the Ally Tour, that my understanding of people is smaller than the mustard seed of faith I need to grow in Christ. I’ve learned about real people with real, understandable, and heartbreaking perspectives about an issue. This brings more clarity, more “ah-ha!” moments to my head and heart. Dots are connected. Light bulbs go off. Greater understanding is gained.
I’ve listened to stories of traumatic reality and gotten incredibly angry for those excluded and cast to the margins. I’ve been reminded that “my truth” is different from “the truth” and that if some news piece inflames me, it is likely packed with the author’s personal bias or is written for profit because truth is for sale, friends. On all sides.
This time of learning, listening, and leaning in has driven home that there is no one answer, no perfect solution, no way to please everybody. However, there is one Body of Christ, and we are it.
We are individual members of the Body of Christ. (check out 1 Corinthians 12 for that beautiful reminder) The Body not only needs all of its parts, but it also needs to fix the mess we are in, as one. Ears without a head have no place to rest. Arms without a torso cannot lift. Feet without legs cannot move. We need every part to function, even if a knee is weak or the back is sore. This means we cannot be manipulated into believing sensationalized stereotypes and should reject anything that demonizes other parts of the body in order to prevent the whole from being severed. Yes, there are bad actors out there; individuals and groups that do not live in the Gospel as we know it. That’s clearer than ever these days. So no, I’m not suggesting we sit down for a cup of tea with a white supremacist. I’m suggesting that we listen, learn, fact check, and do all we can to find common ground and act accordingly. And this work is really hard. Seriously how many times have I said that this year? For. The. Love. Why does it have to be so hard?
So, friends, I leave you this week with an invitation to listen to people with opposing views, to remember they are a part of the same body, your body, and then try your hardest to link arms and work together until peace is achieved. And when we are especially angry, tired, have little patience, and snap like a twig, let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 12, chocolate in hand, mustard seed in our heart, and try again.
What would happen if we listened to one another and tried to work together? I’d love to hear your thoughts.