Just this morning over a cup of tea, my friend and I were discussing a mutual friend’s activism. It turned into a kind of blast fest, I am ashamed to say. “He doesn’t meet people where they are” and “it feels less like engagement and education and more like an accusatory lecture,” were some of the modern-day versions of “by the power of Beelzebul, he drives out demons,” uttered. Even though we both agreed with the underlying message of this person’s activism, we were scared or turned off by the method in which he was moving towards achieving our mutual goal of creating a more just world.
It is important to question tactics and messages when they feel accusatory, exclusive, or dangerous. But it is also our responsibility to enfold, encourage, and join hands with folks along the journey of navigating and forging the path to justice. When we exclude people from the table, refuse to listen and engage, or continuously discuss people’s actions with others but not with them, we are failing our kingdom and only further dividing it. If our goals are the same, perhaps we should join together on this path to justice as opposed to scattering. Today I am repenting for literally and figuratively excluding this friend from the table.
His tactics are different from my own, but we have a lot to learn from each other to reach a broader group and do even more good. It is easy to point fingers at things that we find uncomfortable—to start shouting “demons”—but, as Jesus points out, that cuts everyone off from communion. Dialogue is desperately needed to bridge these divides. It seems difficult, but it comes down to simple conversation. And if we can’t converse with people who want the same things as us, how are we ever going to build bridges with those who oppose us?
- Where have you heard the modern-day equivalent of “by the power of Beelzebub, he drives out demons” lately?
- When have you felt fingers were unjustly pointed at you? Where have you pointed the finger?
- Where can you bridge divides? How can you start with a simple conversation?
Lena Chapin is the development director for Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from John Carroll University, she spent a year in Immokalee, Florida with the Humility of Mary Volunteer Service. Lena worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network from 2016-2022.