By Conference Minister Diane Weible
I write this the day after the election when the final results are not yet determined. By the time you read this, you may likely know who is projected to have won the Presidential race. I’m glad I am writing this before the results are known because what is on my mind and heart really has nothing to do with who will be the next President of the United States.
What is on my heart and mind is how painful this time is. I’m hurting because I never thought in my lifetime I would reach a point where wearing a mask in a pandemic is politicized to the point where people yell at you if you are wearing one or refuse to go on a walk with you because you choose to wear one. (I lived in Japan for 12 years where people wearing masks was so common you never thought twice about it. An individual might wear it because they are worried about air quality or their own health or the fact that it is flu season. Sometimes even, they were worn for warmth in the cold winter.) To see a mask so politicized is scary to me because it is a symbol of just how divided and broken we have become as a country—as a community.
I never thought that I could not have a healthy conversation with people I care about even if I disagree with them. We have become so sheltered in our silos that if someone has a different point of view, our go-to reaction is to lash out.
I think we can change this, but it will take all of us as people of faith to say we can do better. God wants us and needs us to do better. We have our story and our history and our experience and no one is trying to take that away from anyone else. At the same time, we are asked to learn and understand another person’s story and history and experience. Another person’s story is just as valid as our story is and it is time that we realize we can listen to what another person says or what another person experiences without their experiencing being something that invalidates our experience in any way.
God needs us to figure this out. As people of faith we have a higher call to listen and learn from one another; to learn from one another; to listen deeply. The kind of pain and brokenness that some of our community is experiencing is a pain so deep that it may be hard for those of us who have a different reality to understand if we are limited by the way we see the world. In keeping with the metaphor of Annual Gathering—if all I know of the Elephant is the wide expanse that is an ear, It would be easy for me to turn away from someone describing a tail unless I realize that they are speaking from the same truth of their reality as I am of mine. Only being able to see an ear or a tail does not make understanding the entirety of the elephant any less important. Instead it requires us to work together and listen to one another and see for one another in order to understand the totality of the human community.
My heart hurts. And, as a person of faith, I also carry great hope. The change can begin with me. With you. With us. May it be so.