Friday, November 11, 2016

Christians, Now Is the Time to Empathize with Those Feeling Fear and Rejection

I am thankful to have this post shared on desiringGod.com today:
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/let-s-rise-to-love-those-left-in-fear

This is the heaviest and most urgent thing on my heart this week. I pray all Christians would consider this. Real people - friends - feel singled out and afraid because of specific words aimed at their race, religion, gender, or group by the president-elect or by people jumping on the publicity. This is not about whether you think these thoughts are overreactions or not. We need to empathize, no matter how we voted and no matter how we personally feel about the results. Loving our neighbors as Christ loved us certainly includes having empathy for their fears.

With Christians being credited as heavily supporting president-elect Trump's rise to the presidency, many people are questioning whether these attitudes reflect our hearts too. It's up to us to show our fellow citizens how Christians care for those who are vulnerable and afraid, and to show them the Gospel doesn't have political boundaries.

9 comments:

Zach Del said...

Seriously?! Did you purposefully leave out Latinos? Please tell me that was an accident and you'll address it. If not, you make me sick to my stomach that you would leave out millions of families who are at the highest risk right now.

Zach Del said...

And Latinos?

John Byde said...

So, Anthony, what about all the other people who are afraid, whom you don't mention? The ordinary Americans whom over the last 8 years have been scare of losing their jobs and homes because the economy is stagnant. And what about the hundreds of thousands of coal miners who've lost their jobs because of EPA régulations? And what about the fears of ordinary people concerned about illegal immigration? What about bakers, florists, etc who are afraid they will lose the businesses they've spent years building because some pink fascist will denounce them because they won't bake a cake for their "marriage"? I guess they don't count because they're just the majority, not a minority. We all need to pray to God that the Trump presidency will work out for the best for ALL Americans, but let's help those with real fears, not the imagined fears of what may happen.

Anthony Bushnell said...

No, Zach, I didn't purposefully leave anyone out. I'm sorry if it seemed that way. I picked some examples to try to prompt people to think about what's happening to their neighbors. Unfortunately, if I wanted to list everybody who had been singled out, I wouldn't have had room left for the plea to understand and empathize with all of these people. Latinos definitely have many just reasons for feeling targeted and slurred and excluded after this campaign. It's so clear that I would be disappointed if anyone reading my article wasn't aware of it and couldn't draw the connection. I definitely include them. There are other groups that I couldn't get room to mention who also were wounded and insulted: the LGBTQ community, for instance. I wish I could speak directly about everyone. My goal was to get to people's hearts who might not be feeling very sympathetic at present, and that's what I used most of the space to try to accomplish.

Anthony Bushnell said...

John, I am not dismissing or forgetting any of those people. But those voters won the election. They aren't facing the fears right now that those who lost the election are facing. A Christian is most severely tested in the sincerity of his faith when he responds to those who don't treat him kindly or who are genuine enemies. It is very hard to be generous and sympathetic to people when many Christians believe that a lot of those same people would have shown no sympathy to us. I have charted and observed the trend against religious freedom for a long time, and I know what might have happened under a Clinton presidency. I read updates on cases all across the country every month. But there is no room in Christianity for being unmerciful to others just because they were unmerciful to us, and as much as we are tempted to return in kind or to be indifferent, the love of Christ toward us compels us to do the harder thing: to outdo them in love and show the exceptional power of the Gospel.

Many of the people in the groups I mentioned also had nothing to do with hurting or oppressing the working class or Christians. We have to stop looking at groups and political parties as stereotypes who are either for us or against us. The least compassionate and least sincere thing we can do now as Christians is to withhold sympathy and forgiveness from those who are feeling afraid simply because we feel they were overlooking the people you listed. This is not the time to rebuke people already feeling the sting of a loss. It is the time to show that the love of Christ is more generous than that.

C Mason said...

Anthony, I agree with you. I also would like to see some advise on how to deal with other situations. All you suggested is natural and easy to do for most of my family, because that is just the way God made us. Some things will not be easy. How do we deal with situations with those who are not minorities but who hate Mr. Trump and everyone who either voted for him, a third party, or did not vote at all? How do we act in social situations with people who express this these thoughts (I have others who have included anyone who didn't vote for Mrs. Clinton as Trump supporters)-
I think that anyone who shares Trumps racist, bigoted, anti women beliefs is not worthy of my friendship. Voting for Trump is not what I judge people on, it's who they are, how they behave and their acceptance of difference.

Voting for Trump IS a behavior.

To be more clear....I have not met a trump supporter who is not at least a bit racist, anti women and discriminatory....so I probably would not be friends with anyone who supports Trump
I am,just saying that if someone is wonderful and open minded and somehow voted for Trump, I would have more empathy, but I haven't met one yet-
That is just one exchange, another I have is even more, well, angry.
So for people we have been building relationships over time with and are family, and they express these things- give me some tangible ways to deal with it. We have family get-togethers coming up with people who have now stated these things and I have been with them when they have already made almost our entire time together condescending conversations about anyone conservative. I have listened, asked their thoughts, joked, let them know I am that baby boomer Christian church lady they already have formed opinions of- hugged them, loved them, helped them when they needed help- but now I am genuinely afraid of their derision- I can make it through, but how do I make it through as they attack the rest of my kids and husband? What tangible advice to you have for us facing a situation where we will be the targets?

Anthony Bushnell said...

Ms. Mason, thank you for writing and putting these questions out there. I know how hard that must be. Those three paragraphs you quoted in the middle of your message just leave you speechless for responding. What do you say to someone that angry and aggressive? I don't have a perfect answer, but I will share what I've tried to do and I hope it will be helpful to you. (It sounds like you already practice much of this, but I'll write it out to show my reasons.)
First, I listen. No matter how rude or offensive someone is, I think we lose the ability to treat people as people if we stop listening to their actual words and just allow their tone or attitude to turn us off. Sometimes there is something somewhere in what they say that helps us understand what's provoking them so much. People that talk this way are usually doing it because they are scared (for themselves or for others), or hurting, or mourning the loss of something they were desperately hoping for. Some people get angry and resentful when they are mourning because they react to a disappointment with frustration and anger instead of with sorrow and lament. If we listen, sometimes we discover what they are so upset about, and that can help us show compassion and understanding for how they are feeling.
I have also learned that if I listen long enough, some people will calm down and actually feel a bit apologetic and humbled for what they subjected me to. A lot of people are used to people just fighting back against them, arguing and quarreling and getting nowhere. Or they are used to people ignoring them. When you listen patiently, sometimes you get through to a place where the other person will start talking more reasonably and listening to you. My experience has been that most understanding comes through many repeated conversations, not through one or two. So have hope that if you patiently endure and listen, it may lead somewhere and have an impact.
Some people are just angry and quarrelsome, of course, and we have to learn to identify that problem and leave those people to their tantrums. There is a place for just walking away, or for telling someone (especially family) that you're going to have to leave if this is what they are going to subject you and your kids and your husband to. It's okay to call a halt to nasty words. I’ll post a second comment about that.
Above all, though, pray for people. Don't be discouraged by how much of this you see, but trust the Lord that He is able to work in people's hearts even when we don't see anything happening on the outside. Keep praying and hoping for God to give the person a change of heart or to give you an opportunity to speak calmly to that person so that they hear. If you return good for evil long enough, and show patience and love even where you are receiving rudeness and insensitivity, God often uses that to break down people's pride and to calm them down so that they listen. Don't give up hope that something may be happening through your prayers and patience.
God bless you. May the Lord bring you a great deal of peace and encouragement.

Anthony Bushnell said...

As far as when to end a conversation with someone who is being offensive and angry, the Scriptures give us several examples of walking away from a discussion because the other person is not listening and not trying to reason with you, but only venting and stirring up trouble:
Jesus taught that there are times that people are not ready to listen or to respect the importance of what you have to say, and that it's better to avoid those discussions: "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." (Matthew 7:6.)
The point of what Jesus said is that some people will only treat your pearls (your personal feelings, your testimony, your love for God) with contempt, and they aren't willing to listen or value what you have to say. He was telling us that you don't have to subject these things you believe or feel to unnecessary humiliation and rejection. You can choose to wait or a better time when the person will listen.

Proverbs also teaches that there are people who (because of their attitude or state of mind) are not worth arguing with or debating with, and even warns us to avoid their company:
"If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet."
Proverbs 29:9
"Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself."
Proverbs 26:4
"Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man"
Proverbs 22:24

So there are times where it is completely appropriate to just avoid a discussion or to leave if someone won't stop venting or being abusive. It's one thing to listen to someone who is upset, and to try to understand them and be charitable. But if someone is regularly abusive and insulting, I would encourage you to avoid that person entirely or (in the case of family) confront them about how they treat you. If they can't control their tempers, it may be best to refuse to see them. This is a hard thing, and I pray the Lord will give you wisdom.

C Mason said...

Thank you so much- both your replies give me hope and remind me to pray.