Today I direct your attention to a piece by Stephanie Paulsell at Christian Century entitled “Our Practices Keep Our Commitments Alive“.
The rise of the #metoo movement over the past year has brought to light numerous examples of men who professed to be pro-woman yet whose actions toward individual women revealed them to be anything but. The moral is clear: It is not enough to say that you are something, you also have to back it up with your actions. Which means that in the present political climate, it is not enough to think our way out of it or profess our way out of it, we also have to practice our way out of it, deliberately and with intentionality.
There are many ways to do this in the public sphere. But there is much to do in our private, day-to-day existence. Paulsell gives several practical examples: Make eye contact, say hi, and make small talk with people who are different from yourself. Acknowledge these people and show them respect. When you do that, they feel safe and experience belonging and connection. When you do the opposite, when you avert your eyes or cross over to the other side of the street to avoid them, then they feel isolated and fearful, and with very good reason in the present political climate.
Other things you can do: Don’t rely on the internet and social media so much; get out there in the real world and meet people face-to-face. Go to places you haven’t been and meet new people. Resist the urge to express yourself via the same old slogans and catchphrases everyone else is using, even those with whom you agree, but instead find new and fresh ways of expressing yourself. Surround yourself with books and read vociferously: read fiction, read the Bible, read history, and think deeply about how these things relate to the world in which we currently live.
These practices will help to transform not just our political culture but our faith communities as well. Listening to sermons is all well and good but when we gather to be the Church by feeding the hungry and otherwise caring for the vulnerable among us, then we have the opportunity to practice being the people and communities that we are called to be. Then our faith communities and our society will be transformed.