I hear this a lot from white moderate Christians right now—and I disagree with it every time.
I disagreed with it when families were being separated at the border.
I disagreed with it after the violent racism of the Charlottesville march.
I disagreed with it after Tamir Rice’s execution.
I disagreed with it while anti-transgender bathroom bills were being created.
I disagreed with it after the murder of Trayvon Martin.
Sometimes that torn-ness is a sign of our privilege.
Sometimes it yields silence in matters of justice.
Sometimes false equivalencies are deadly.
Sometimes the fence is a deeply dangerous place to reside.
We make up nearly thirty percent of the world’s cases, while only four percent of the population.
Numbers of cases are still growing in large portions of the country, and we have a shortage of tests and masks.
We have no system of mass testing and we’re still months, if not a year away from a viable vaccine.
People still can’t get toilet paper or hand sanitizer in stores.
We have a leader who a few weeks ago was calling it a “Democratic hoax,” who has lied dozens of times in front of the nation, who shows no compassion for the dead, and who only days ago suggested injecting disinfectant was a possible option—while simultaneously pushing governors to open the economy without testing for everyone and without the possibility of a vaccine for months.
Nationalism is a side.
Contempt for immigrants is a side.
Ignoring science is a side.
People going out and spreading a deadly virus is a side.
A president generating medical misinformation is a side.
These positions are not simply differing perspectives meriting quiet coexistence. They are acts of violence against already vulnerable people based on unchangeable parts of who they are—and we either confront that violence or we abide it.
The coming election will be yet another opportunity for us to take a side, and be certain, there are only two: nurturing this vile movement in our nation or opposing it. We can talk around it with false equivalencies or try and cloud it with semantics or dodge it with decorum—but it is that simple. With our votes or our abstinence, we will speak clearly and eloquently, whether or not what we are seeing from our leadership right now is acceptable—because there will be more humanitarian crises, more national emergencies, more natural disasters.
Sometimes life necessitates a decisive choice; something that pushes you to a side because humanity demands it, and to not make that choice isn’t an act of tolerance or maturity, but of cowardice.
White moderates, especially those of faith, it’s time to get off the fence.
It’s time to choose a side and to do it loudly, confrontation and discomfort and relational collateral damage be damned.
Our tradition declares that humanity is worth it.
I leave you with the words of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr:
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
May we not be lukewarm fence-sitters in these days.