The United States is more divided today than at any other point in my lifetime. Divisions between cultures, economic backgrounds, religions, and even men and women are rampant. It might be tempting for those of us “up north” to get a little smug, believing that the things happening in the U.S. could never happen here. Don’t believe it! The same prejudices, rancour, and hatreds we find in the States are in Canada as well and flare up from time to time. Given this, what are we, as believers, called to do? How can we be “salt and light” in the midst of bitter hatred? Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, suggests these action steps:
1. Go deeper in faith. Too many people, Christians included, have no moral compass. We must take time to read, study, and reflect on the words of Jesus—and then seek to live them out in our daily lives.
2. Lift up truth. Many people let their emotions determine their beliefs. In contrast, Wallis challenges Christians to “replace fear with facts when it comes to public discussions about immigrants, refugees, Muslims, racial diversity, and national security.”
3. Reject racism. Whether it’s introduced under the guise of the “alt-right,” White Nationalism, White Supremacy, or Neo-Nazism, racism is a sin against our neighbour and against the God who created us all in His image. Let us see diversity as a gift from our Creator and an opportunity for our nation to encourage full participation for all.
4. Love your neighbours by protecting them from hate speech and attacks. How can we act to support people who are afraid because they belong to groups that have been targeted by those who would destroy diversity? We must watch for, report, and confront hate speech and behaviour wherever we find it—be it against ethnic and religious groups, women, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, or other marginalized people. Indeed, let’s surround those being attacked with a supportive community.
5. Welcome the stranger. Let us invite and welcome immigrants and their families into our faith communities and actively work to help them settle in our communities.
6. Defend religious liberty. Let us embrace Muslims as fellow Canadians and protect them and their mosques from fear of attack. Let us also reject anti-Semitism as part of the White Nationalist movement.
7. Work to put an end to the misogyny that enables rape culture. Make every effort to replace misogyny with mutual respect. Name sexual assault for what it is: a sin and a crime. Support efforts towards gender equality in our workplaces, schools, and political systems.
8. Protest with your best values. The right to protest that which we oppose is a fundamental freedom in any democracy. As Christians, we are called to protest those policies and actions that dehumanize our neighbour but to do so with dignity, discipline, and non-violence. Hate for hate is never an option.
9. Listen. Ultimately, the only thing that will end the divisions and polarizations in our culture is dialogue. So, listen to those you disagree with. Help our congregations to become safe and sacred spaces for hearing each other’s stories—including the painful ones. Listen twice before you speak once!
Jim Wallis concluded his article with these words that all Christians should take to heart: “The days and weeks and years ahead will require much of us. . .. Everything isn’t going to be all right, but we will stick together, sustain each other, and mobilize our energy, time, and resources, to protect the people, values, and commitments we care most about. We will move forward together.”