Just as the lyrics for Phobia – by Outkast – are often prefaced with a parental advisory warning, this week’s musing may, as well! Though I realise I have written previously about being political, and about politics and racism – the most recent being Camelot – this last week (following the atrocious horror of the terror attacks in Paris) have rudely led me back to revisit these aspects of our human condition.
In particular, what I have seen occurring in social media has – to be frank – incensed me as a person who identifies in multiple ways: male, heterosexual, privileged, post-modern, and Christian to name just a few ‘hats.’ As with all communication tools, social media can illustrate what makes us sparkle when at our best and illustrate how we are diminished when we are at our worst. This week has held both those tensions!
At our best, I celebrate that places like Nova Scotia are overwhelmed with responses to support and help Syrian refugees. There is an intrinsic – I believe – thread that binds most Canadians to an essential awareness: that this tapestry of multi & interculturalism is what should define us. As such, we endeavour to respect a remembrance of those places from which some of us came as refugees, in order to remain grounded in humility for the gift of safety that has been inherited. And – in turn – at our best we strive to honour the welcome that First Nations offered, in order to be grounded in the humility that some of us now share their home!
Even as I celebrate, however, I have seen racism and Islamophobia occur in my own feeds across multiple platforms. Whether it is a blanket declaration that an entire faith is fundamentally violent or parallels that are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes, in which a particular race should be assigned visible identification, I am righteously pissed off! This anger, this visceral–gut–embodied response to such hate has me struggling to take a breath to ask myself what’s going on in this for me?
Having found some solid footing after wanting to reply instinctively (which would only perpetuate a binary of right and wrong) I have finally integrated something. This integration is something that I had previously appreciated intellectually, but for the first time it feels holistic. It is that as a Christian who endeavours to live and thrive in the gift of diversity and pluralism there must be boundaries and limitations that remind all of us that democratic values are a responsibility, not simply a get–out–of–jail–card–to–say–whatever–you-want–right. For instance, a value that we celebrate is freedom of speech. When divorced, however, from an inherent responsibility, it becomes one way to invoke hate without recrimination.
To utilise stereotypes grounded in phobia that polarise, we must be able to say “no, that is not only inappropriate, it is theologically inaccurate and sinful.” Establishing that there are boundaries attached to how we speak to one another, therefore, is necessary because once phobia comes into play, the next inevitable step is violence. And – as far as I am concerned – that is abhorrent whether I am a secular person for whom the Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenges me to be better or if I am a Christian who constantly hears Jesus’ ministry whispering incessantly – who has been left out and marginalised today?
If anything has become clear to me it is that the intentional use of violence to terrorise Paris, Nigeria and Beirut illustrate that the egalitarian theological values of my faith and the democratic tenets to which I aspire require not only nurture, but an awareness that we can easily become the perpetrators and perpetuators of the very fear that we are confronting. Like a dis-ease, without care and dialogue we may very well become carriers who spread an infection that is soul-devouring and life-destroying. And that – as far as I am concerned – is unacceptable and as such means we must collectively make choices to not just be better, but to be the best people that we can – people who welcome unconditionally. It is in the bright glare of such radical welcome that phobia cannot remain shaded! That, I believe, is a worthy goal for people of faith who endeavour to co-nurture a pluralistic and democratic culture!
In horror’s midst
May we be #compassion
for which #fear longs
May we with #love
embrace other’s #hate
by hate & shame
threaten compassion’s glimmer
our choices that kindle