“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”JK Rowling
How beautiful it would be if we could be a country that felt as united as our name implies: United States. Our union was threatened almost daily over the last four years of the previous administration. It will be difficult to undo the damage that was done. There is still rage on one side and fear on the other, with many of us not knowing how to seek resolution while in grief over what has happened.
What I came to learn during that four years is that there has been and still are deep divisions in our country since our founding, but they were more carefully managed and sometimes hidden from our sight. Over the last four years, encouraged by the past president, these divisions surfaced into full view. For example, I didn’t fully understand the racial animus that many white people felt toward people of color. I didn’t see the ongoing oppression and exploitation that is woven into the basic structures of our economy, our politics, our health care, our daily lives. Now that these things are exposed, we can heal them — that is my hope.
Some of my ignorance is due to my own struggles as a woman in this country where we still do not have equal rights with men. When a person is caught in their own struggle it can blind them to the struggles that others are facing. This inequality is something that must also be addressed by our country and I would like to see this inequity addressed alongside racial inequalities. I cannot imagine what it is like for women of color who are living their lives in double jeopardy.
In fact, I dare to say that the original injustice is that of the subjection of women by men and as long as this basic inequality is thought to be the plan of God (it is not) the idea that one group of humans can subject another group will always exist. We were not created to have power over one another. We are meant to share our power with one another. We are not to oppress or exploit others.
The struggle for power over others, and the desire to be seen as better than others, is at the heart of our divisions. The idea that we live in a black and white, dualistic world is also a problem. Experience tells us that life is much more complex and we need to avoid falling into dualistic thinking.
People of faith who have been attentive to a living, Creator God, understand that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Each and every one of us is deserving of the dignity and respect due to being a child of God. And, we are expected to grow up, be mature children of God, and stop thinking that “God likes me best.” God does not play favorites, but God, like any good parent, does give more attention to those most in need, and cares deeply about how we treat one another. It does not please God when any of God’s beloved ones are mistreated.
Our unity needs to be built on respect for one another. This includes holding people accountable for their actions against others. “Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5: 11) To pretend that all is well when it is not, is foolishness. We do not respect someone by pretending they did not commit an evil act and give them a cheap forgiveness. We do not want a false unity built on pretense. We want a real unity where most of us agree to live in harmony with each other, and those who disrupt that harmony are held to account. We need those who committed acts of violence against us to repent — to turn away from that evil — and determine to do better.
I remember the words of John Lennon, who was able to imagine a world where we could live in peace. Maybe we could start by trying to imagine our country with all of us living in peace with one another, then work to make it so.
“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
― John Lennon, Imagine
My beloved ones in God, let us start with peace in our homes, our neighborhoods, our little bit of the world, and go from there. Grant respect and dignity to each person you meet.