I care deeply about people.
My efficacy and usefulness as a pastor and caregiver (and as a decent member of humanity), is predicated on knowing how people’s hearts work, the way they think, how they respond to fear, what motivates and hurts them. Understanding human beings is my life’s work. It is the work of every one of us striving for empathy regardless of profession or placement.
There are times though, when people’s actions are so profoundly damaging to others, that asking why isn’t the most pressing question; moments when to belabor that question would be irresponsible to those at risk. When you come upon someone in the street inflicting violence on another human being, your first priority is to provide care for the injured, to protect others by moving them out of harm’s way, and to stop the violent act in progress. Only then is seeking to understand the motivations of the aggressor helpful. Only then do you ask, “Why would someone do this?” In the middle of the fray, when people are in danger—there isn’t time.
People are in danger, in these moments.
Right now I’m not interested in knowing why those who still support this President do so, not because they don’t matter or I don’t see their worth or because their stories are of no interest to me—but simply because other people’s lives and families and personal safety are in the balance—and those people merit my attention and urgency. The Jesus of my faith tradition was a shepherd. Yes he cared for the sheep, but he had to pushback hard against the wolves of the world to do it.
Talking to embittered people right now and trying to understand their motivations may help explain the rationale for their destructive choices, but it does nothing to protect those affected by their choices, those who don’t have the luxury of waiting around for an answer, those who don’t have the privilege of time.
And so in these moments, rather than trying to understand why someone would possibly advocate to take away a sick person’s healthcare—I am going to fight on behalf of the sick person and demand that all people be cared for under the laws of this land.
Rather than asking why someone would want to take away an LGBTQ person’s right to marry or why they’d want to make them feel unwelcome in their church or to feel threatened in a bathroom—I’m going to loudly affirm their right to love and worship and urinate as they desire.
Instead of trying crack the complex code that drives someone to persecute peaceful Muslims simply for pursuing their chosen faith tradition—I’m going to stand with Muslims and declare their inherent worth and the beauty of their spirituality.
Rather than trying to help you process why saying “Black lives matter” is such a hardship to you and the implications of your refusal—I’m going to go ahead and tell you that they matter to me.
And so it isn’t that I don’t respect those doing these things, or that their hearts and their fears and their motivations and hurts don’t matter—believe me they do. It’s just that right now, there are more urgent needs: rescuing imperiled people from the fruit of their bad decisions and the fallout of their malicious choices.
In these moments, I’m not really interested in whatever toxic cocktail of bad theology, fear, life experience, nationalism, and personality that have created their responses—as I am helping people who are made vulnerable by their responses. I’d like to uncover and care for the heart of the bully, but in this hour I need to defend the bodies and souls of the bullied.
So with all due respect, if you’re still supporting this hateful, reckless, malignant President, and still applauding and blessing the actions that cause incredible harm to millions of Americans—I’m not particularly interested in figuring out why you’re doing that today. One day I will, but right now I’d rather make sure people don’t die because they get cancer, or commit suicide because they feel unloved, or are forced from a country they love and deserve to live in.
Yes, if you support this President and the sickness he’s spreading I’d really like to one day understand you, but on behalf of those so endangered because of them—first I want to stop the bleeding.