What We’re Not

Did you see it today on Twitter? It was one of the greatest moments in our nation in decades; a moment I, for one, didn’t think I’d ever see again in my lifetime. Somewhere, pigs are flying over a frozen hell-scape.

First, Mitt Romney tweeted this:

Take down the at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor victims.

And then, Barack Obama – yes, Mitt Romney’s 2012 nemesis – tweeted this:

Good point, Mitt.

Isn’t it exhilarating! Go back and read it again if you want.

Two politicians, two former enemies who said pretty snarky things about each other and spent nine months polarizing our country, agreed on Twitter! This is seriously big news, folks. Our politicians were publicly supportive of one another!

I’m getting all misty-eyed over here.

Can you imagine what this one interaction could do for our insanely divided, fearful, angry, prejudiced, media-saturated country? Without cable, I’m not sure if 24-hour-soul-crushing-news-media is covering it or not, so I’ll just run with the dream of the Sean Hannity’s and Keith Olbermann’s sitting across from each other for a segment called, “WE AGREE ON THAT”

I can see Red Sox and Yankees laughing in the streets.

Crips and Bloods hugging it out.

Christians and Muslims picnicking in the park.

Cats apologizing to dogs.

Oh man…I dream.

KNOWING WHAT WE’RE NOT

It makes sense, though, because it’s way, way easier for a group of people to agree on what they’re not than on what they actually are. I’m a pastor, so I’ll use church as an example. It’s easy for people to all agree that they’re not a certain religion or denomination or sub-group of a denomination. Everyone can sit in the same room and say, “We are definitely not Hindu.” Nothing against Hindu’s, but it’s pretty clear when a person practices or does not practice Hinduism. And people feel a sense of belonging by being with other people who are not what they’re not. (Grammar nazi’s, fire away on that one).

The friction comes from deciding what the church – or people group – actually is. While everyone in the church agrees that they’re not Hindu, there might not be such agreement on, say, how to treat the poor, or what to believe about the Bible, or how to teach people about the multi-layered intricacies of nursery duty.

WE NEED A VILLAIN

I’ve heard it said that any society of human beings – a nation, a church, a tribe, a PTA board, whatever – needs a villain. In fact, most groups of people won’t survive without one. Nothing will rally humans together more than someone with whom they all disagree, or an ideal they all disdain, or an agreed-upon source of all the problems in the world. Where would MSNBC or Fox News be without the opposing party? They’d have nothing to say. Neither network gets ratings by saying things like, “Yeah, I know they’re in the other party, but I agree with them.” Their jobs depend on being divisive, and the survival of many people groups depends on identifying a villain. As a people, humans need a collective enemy if we’re to stay united.

So, sometimes, it’s helpful to remind ourselves what we’re not. And today, politician after politician opted to make an enemy not out of a person on the other side of the aisle, but on the ideals upon which the Confederate flag flies. Both Republican and Democrat called for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the government grounds in South Carolina. They stood as one nation and proclaimed, “We are not tolerant of racism.” Before you fire off your rebuttals about how racism just takes a different form now, or what to do about gun control, or why Benghazi is tied to all this, let’s just pause and enjoy it. Everyone seems to agree that the Confederate flag has no place in our government. That’s great news. That’s a big step forward in history.

As is always the case after horrific events like the shooting in Charleston, something good rises. Life resurrects from Death, and Light shines in the Darkness. It always does. So let’s spend a moment soaking in the Light as we watch the Confederate flag come down in South Carolina, and maybe – just maybe – see a divided nation find its way back to each other by remembering what we are not.

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