So, here I sit … by nature the speak-up type … on the fence. How did that happen?
I have said for many years that I value the voices of the radicals because they challenge our assumptions and can help bring our thinking into balance. Radicals or extremists usually come to the forefront as reactionaries when the pendulum on an issue has swung too far in one direction. Yes, they may overstate their case, or swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, but without their voices we might never question how imbalanced things actually are (because that lack of balance has become the new status-quo).
Similarly, I have always had trouble respecting “fence-sitters.” At best, I’ve viewed them as apathetic. At worst, I’ve judged them as uncaring or cowardly. More recently, however, I have come to think it might actually be wise to seek out the fence-sitters and hear what they have to say when faced with a situation where extremists on both sides are screaming loudly. Here’s why:
- At the very least, if you are one of the radicals making noise, talking with the fence-sitters will help you see how your message is being received by those you are trying to persuade to join your cause. I mean, let’s face it, in battles of epic proportions the people on opposing sides aren’t typically trying to come together. They’re each trying to get their way, win the battle, shoot the other’s argument down. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but seriously, if you’re not convincing a fence-sitter with your rhetoric, you’re certainly not going to convince the opposition.
- Talking with a fence-sitter might help you understand the valid points the opposition is making. Again, if you’re one of the radicals, you probably have trouble actually hearing the other side’s case because your senses are so inflamed against them.
- Don’t believe you could actually be that calloused against the other side? Appalled at the idea that you might be biased, or worse yet, not completely informed on the matter? Yeah, that’s another reason to speak with a fence-sitter. It’s a good opportunity for a heart check and, quite likely, fact-checking.
I suppose at this point, it might be good to mention the specific issues/incidents which have led me to think the fence-sitters might not be as uncaring as I once imagined. One is the racial tension in my own community (see prior posts here) and the other is a horrible situation in a local church which has spilled over into a Bible college I care about (see one article here, and one here … for the rest of the story, it won’t be hard to follow the rabbit trail to find details).
These circumstances have taught me the following about fence-sitting:
- It is difficult to have your voice heard when you refuse to join one camp.
- It is hard to convince people you care about them when you won’t agree with them completely.
- If you want to hear the opinions and insights of the fence-sitter, you’ll probably have to seek them out because they shy away from speaking publicly as they don’t want to be labeled with either side. And, possibly, because they’ve seen how horribly each side has treated those who oppose them.
- Just because someone does not grab the bullhorn, does not mean they don’t have some definite opinions.
- When a fence-sitter is someone close to the situation, and they haven’t made complete enemies of either side, they probably have information you need to hear.
- Fence-sitters often find themselves there because they care deeply about the people involved in the battle. If you want to gain an ally, spark up a conversation with them.
As promised in my last post, here’s another example of good that happened in Ferguson on the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown.
Peaceful demonstration of opposing viewpoints in Ferguson – August 9, 2015
It’s hard to see in the picture, so I circled it. But there was a group of protestors waving an upside down American flag. This solitary woman decided to do a little flag waving of her own – right side up. There are several reasons I think this is a great symbol of the good that occurred in Ferguson on the 9th:
- I think this woman was brave to voice an opposing viewpoint against the backdrop of a much larger and angrier group.
- This is what America is supposed to be about – the rights of individuals to express their views on either side of an issue.
- There was no violence by either party in the protest, but their points were clearly made.
As I post this, it is 11:57 pm and things are heating up again on West Florissant Avenue. Frozen water bottles have been thrown at police. Arrests have been made. And one portion of the crowd was maced by a police officer. I’m certain there is still good happening even in the midst of that chaos. As alderman Antonio French (who, by the way, is another person I believe is doing a lot of good) reported:
Continue to pray for those working for change while still promoting peace. Pray with me that things do not escalate tonight.
Despite the turn of events last night, more good happened in Ferguson than bad yesterday. Of course, the good does not get as much media coverage. And what coverage it does get is not shared as quickly or thoroughly as the bad on social media. So, I dedicate this series of posts to the MANY who are striving to make Ferguson, and the rest of our nation, a better place. To those who are BEING the change they want to see.
Phil Berwick is someone I met last year. He has been helping to “repaint” the picture of Ferguson, and other areas of St. Louis, with his lovable character “Merferd.” He also moved to Ferguson this year to be more directly involved with the community there. Here are a few video clips, links, and pictures of Phil and his work.
Bob’s Quality Market, a St. Louis landmark for 47 years. My first Merferd outside of the riot zone in St. Louis. I asked if I could paint what was on the poster on the far side of the building, which was a large blank white brick “canvas.” I told him that I knew he was Muslim, and I could just have Merferd saying “I love you,” without the “Jesus.” He told me, to keep Jesus name on the painting.
News channel 5 (KSDK) covered Phil and others who have moved into Ferguson and were active yesterday. You can view that video by clicking here.
And click here to see Phil painting a new Merferd during last night’s protests. As Phil explained, “You will hear [Phil and his wife, Theresa] wail during the painting. It was to drown out the cop hating soundtrack that was blasting from across the street on West Florissant Ave in Ferguson.”
Stay tuned for more posts in this series throughout the day and continue to pray for people like Phil and Theresa who are working for positive change. Also, pray that today’s events also have more positive than negative consequences.
If you don’t have something in this video challenge you or convict you, I just don’t know …
Lord, heal our hearts.
Today my heart is grieved by those who spew hatred. I’m especially troubled by those who claim to be Christ followers yet don’t seem to realize that what they post and share on social media is saying so much about their true feelings towards others. As the St. Louis area still reels from recent events in Ferguson, the last thing we need is more people stirring up animosity.
So, I was tempted today to challenge some of the posts I’ve seen. But then I thought of the Scripture in which God says He can change people’s hardened hearts from stone to flesh. Healing for our region and beyond will require dialogue, debate, debunking and determination on the part of those trying to foster peace. In this moment, though, I am not suited for the battle because my own heart is agitated.
I’m choosing instead to make the irritating posts I see my promptings for prayer:
Holy Spirit, convict hearts as only you can. Lord, please chisel away the callouses and turn these stony hearts into hearts of flesh.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. See what’s happened since Lisa started her blog on May 8, 2014.
Here’s an excerpt:
The busiest day of the year was October 16th with 81 views. The most popular post that day was 5 Controversial Statements about Race and Gender I’ve Really Wanted to Post on My Blog but Haven’t – Until Now.
Click here to see the complete report.
In a previous post, I suggested we start sharing stories of positive experiences with people of other cultures and color to help dispel the fears that drive so much of the prejudice we see. A Facebook post by Kelly Spann is just the type of story I was hoping for and she has given me permission to share. I pray we all actually look for opportunities to share love and common ground. These are the things that will help our community, our country, and the world heal. Here’s Kelly’s story: Continue reading
In the aftermath of the Ferguson riots last night, a young mama of a beautiful infant boy has posted several things on Facebook lamenting – seriously lamenting, bitterly lamenting, heart-wrenchingly lamenting – the idea that her son’s life does not matter in this crazy world. After praying and crying over her posts, I tried to formulate an encouraging response, but I’m not sure it was enough to convince her. It read:
I’m so sorry you hurt in this way. I am sorry we live in a world where these feelings are fostered by those who hate. I pray you will see that your sweet baby’s life does matter to many. It matters to those who are working tirelessly to create change and promote understanding.
I in no way want to downplay your real concern that this message needs to be heard. That people need to speak out against injustice. That too many are indeed callous towards the lives of others. That there is much work to do to combat hatred and bigotry. I just want to be one voice to bring you hope in this despair.
Keep posting pictures of your beautiful baby boy. Keep letting others see your joy in being his mommy. This is a bright spot in an ugly world and often makes me smile as I scroll through my feed. You keep spreading good. I’ll keep speaking on your behalf. And prayerfully, your little boy will grow up in a better world than the one we have experienced.
What does it take to convince someone that people of other cultures and colors do actually care? What does it take to undo the harm so many others have brought? What does it take to help us all see beyond what we’ve been conditioned (rightly or wrongly) to see? I don’t know. But let’s do keep trying.