I went out to walk my dog the other day. As I walked out of my front door I could hear the sound of someone’s voice, but I couldn’t see anyone. That was until I walked a little further and I could see two of my neighbors, talking in the street. This was obviously no regular conversation, because I could easily hear every word that was being said, even from a distance. I quickly translated the volume and tenor of the conversation as meaning that these two were discussing something very emotional. Were they fighting? Was there something happening? Being the fractured, faulty, sin stained human being that I am, my perspective caused me to listen in very closely. I became that nibby-nosed neighbor that everyone talks about. As I walked my dog in the opposite direction, pretending not to pay attention, I was hanging on every word that was being loudly and passionately shared between my two neighbors.
I will not share direct quotes, because I choose to practice more decorum in this arena than my two neighbors choose to practice that day, out in the street. Basically they were bemoaning what has been happening in politics lately. Both were of the opinion that Donald Trump and the Republican Party were right and good and that President Biden and the Democratic Party were wrong and evil. This, in itself, was nothing out of the ordinary because that kind of thinking has been widely shared by many people. I almost stopped listening, at that point, discerning that there was nothing going on here that warranted any attention. It was what then followed in their discussion that caused me to take pause and to be saddened to the very core of my being.
They began to talk about how much they supported the insurrection in our nation’s capital, wishing that it had been successful. They even joked that if they had been able, they both would have been right there participating in an attempt to overthrow our democratic process. They spoke of the people who trashed the hallowed halls of our capital and delayed the democratic process of confirming the legitimate election of our president as heros and patriots. They used terms like voter fraud, Socialism and the American way to describe and defend their point of view. And they did this right out in the street in voices that were loud enough that a nibby-nosed neighbor could hear everything from several houses away. My mind was full of thoughts in that moment.
My first thought was to butt into their conversation, since they were open enough to have said conversation right out in the middle of the street. I was thinking that it was my responsibility to share an alternative view point, for the sake of discussion. I quickly decided against this because I could tell that my emotions were charged and I knew that odds were good that any conversation could and would get ugly, really quick. It was then that I was overcome with a second, much more powerful emotion; deep sadness.
I stood there and gazed upon two good people. My neighbors who I had seen and interacted with for years. Neighbors who had lived long lives, raised families, cared for aging parents and yes, supported political candidates and voted in probably every election that they were legally allowed in which to vote. Here were two Americans who have reached a point were they not only condoned an armed insurrection of our nation’s capital, but openly desired to be able to actually participate in the disruption of our democratic process. My mind simply asked Why? Why all the hate? Why all the misguided passion leading them to condone illegal and totally unpatriotic behavior and actions? And why did they feel emboldened enough to talk in such a way and express such strong opinions, right out in the middle of the street for anyone and everyone to hear?
Here is the kicker: I am sure that at least one of these neighbors of mine is a professing Christian and goes to church regularly. How can this be? How can someone who professes to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior find themselves standing out in the middle of the street condoning armed insurrection and making and encouraging disparaging and hateful remarks about other people, simply because of their political affiliation? A quote from Brennan Manning came to mind as I walked back into my house: “What an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable are Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable.”