Won’t you be my neighbor?

When I look at you, what do I see? Red? Blue? Black? Brown? 

No. I see neighbor. Like the ‘love your neighbor’ kind. Like the ‘treat your neighbors as you want them to treat you’ kind. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered that masterfully. We are all one another’s neighbors. Mr. Rogers, favorite of generations, promoted the value of being a good neighbor.

So I want to share as a neighbor a few thoughts swirling in my head. I really don’t want to needlessly add to the plethora of words on social media. But I want to share what I have observed and realize it is hard to keep silent. We all observe things. In my quest for discernment, I want to rightly observe and wisely conclude. I have seen us all rightly observe issues to a degree, but often fall (or jump) to various conclusions. And that proves to be divisive and deadly. I have seen and personally experienced the effects of others jumping to wrong conclusions, and how it devastates relationships. How much more on such a large scale as our country?

So maybe I will begin this way. Don has an autoimmune component to his body. In short, his body, with each system created and designed to work together to benefit health and life, receives a wrong message to his immune system. That which is designed to seek out and destroy any rogue cells, any bacteria or viruses or cancer – basically anything that would cause illness, poor health and death – actually turns on itself. Somehow it now ‘believes’ that nerve tissue is the enemy and has garnered its forces to damage any nerve tissue it locates. It once turned against his own thyroid tissue – and destroyed it. When all systems work together, including this needful protective immune system – health is enjoyed. This message it has received is untrue and wreaks havoc over his whole body. At one time, he had a an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae, an enemy stealthily hiding parasitically deep in his nerves and destroying them, but that enemy is no longer alive. (Yes, it’s a long story, but for another time) Ironically, his own body system has now furthered the original damage, producing pain, limiting use, restricting sleep and affecting his whole body. 

In the big picture, we as people, as the human race, have so much in common. We truly are more alike than different, sharing the same needs physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The needs to be loved and have purpose, etc. are universal. Our Creator is of such majesty and magnitude that He is expressed in infinite numbers of ways through each of us individually and collectively  – through our thoughts, talents, skills, backgrounds, ethnicities, skin color, etc. Our differences beautifully distinguish us, but now are used to divide us. 

As US citizens, we have a common Constitution set up for the prosperity and protections of our nation. Though we all experience that differently, the structure is for our health and benefit. 

However, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is at risk. And sometimes those pursuits are not for the benefits of others, but rather exploit them. These are not the wholesome pursuits of which I will speak.

Knowing that each of us are all created as image bearers of God, I will always stand for life for others, beginning with the pre-born. I cannot fathom a group that celebrates the ‘right’ to take the life of another – over 60 million in our country alone. This ‘right’ is sadly reminiscent of those who held to the belief that one people group could ‘own’ another and require forced labor from them, exercising their ‘right’ to abuse, hunt down, and destroy those made in the image of God. We fought a war against that ‘right’ and for the rights of those caught in slavery who could not speak for themselves. I stand for the rights of babies who cannot speak for themselves. No, I cannot endorse a platform that not only allows this atrocity but promotes it fully aware of the excruciating pain they experience as they are being dismembered, even up to birth. It is science. It is an unthinkable, unconscionable stain that runs deeply in our country. 

This is deadly autoimmunity at its worst. This is turning against our own humanity, DNA, our own legacy and future – our life. 

Beyond her baby, I also stand for the woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and am devoted to walking with her to other life-giving options – life-giving for her as well as the baby. I love the option of adoption, not just because we have adopted two children of our own, but because it is a wonderfully creative option, providing a place for those possibly considered ‘unwanted.’ If we allocated the money designated for abortions through Planned Parenthood toward adoption, many more babies and children would be embraced into loving homes. This is something I can stand for and endorse. Our compassion and creativity can extend beyond only offering abortion as an option. And then calling it ‘good.’

I also stand for the lives of those abused, the minorities and those marginalized in our society. For the elderly, medically/emotionally fragile and those with disabilities. I would like to feel that I would not stand by taking photos of George Floyd being choked to death, but would be among those seeking for other means to help him. However, taking this and other several injustices to the streets for awareness as a demonstration of the need for reform is very different than unleashing hatred and destroying and looting and dismantling a whole system. This is not seeking justice, by turning it against others. This injustice is not the answer to injustice. Rather than allow it to be considered ‘normal’ or peaceful while whole lives and livelihoods of other lives who also matter suffer, we need to speak up and redirect this sense of injustice to building relationships and improvement of needed reforms. Many of those businesses were set up by immigrants who came to live the dream of establishing businesses to benefit their community; many were minorities where their ‘neighbors’ came in and helped themselves to the contents of their stores. This is turning against our own communities – a deadly form of autoimmunity that benefits no one.

This is divisive autoimmunity.

Further turning the hatred toward those with blue uniforms trained to protect society ironically takes the prejudice some have experienced and retargets it toward another people group. No one group as a whole should be forced to pay for the sins of the few. This is not justice. This is further erosion of the value and dignity of life, of not recognizing the image of God upon those He has uniquely created to bear His love, His light, His justice, His wisdom, His peace. This redirecting of hatred objectifies individuals, which somehow justifies the hatred and murder of fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters.

This is the wrong message of autoimmunity turned against itself.

I also stand for the lives of those being trafficked. The current administration has rooted out hundreds of traffickers and brought those enslaved to freedom. Freeing those caught in this modern day slavery is an issue we can all participate in; we can use our energies toward something purposeful. We can together use our talents, skills, energies and using them together as one body, one nation, to protect and ensure liberty for others who cannot speak for themselves. This would take those wrongs in our history and seek positive ways to learn from them and redeem them. Wouldn’t it be great to eradicate this atrocity in our lifetime?

This would be a good use of ‘immunity.’

Some have said that the conservatives are ‘one issue’ voters. If the issue is LIFE, then may that be said of me. But I qualify it in that it includes all forms of life from the womb to the tomb, covering all peoples. Mother Teresa saw the face of Jesus in all ‘life’- the poor, the lepers, the marginalized. 

Just as the message in an autoimmune component gets distorted and used against its own body, so I have seen the message against this current administration get lost and distorted. I have heard those decrying how misogynist our president is, yet seen half or more of his cabinet/representatives are women who are fiercely loyal to him and his platform. (Forbes 6/29/19 ‘Hundreds Of Women Have Lead Roles In The Trump Administration. 45 More Await Senate Confirmation’-Roslyn Layton)

I have heard that he is racist, yet seen him promoting minorities and elevating their standard of living in many ways, among them through funding for colleges, school choice which levels the educational playing field, innovation for economic advance in businesses and work, second-chance initiatives for those in prison, etc. He has denounced white supremacists multiple times, though that narrative persists. Those who know him best (not the media) say he is neither racist nor misogynist.

This President has gathered those around him strong in character – unquestionably in areas where he is not, which is a sign of a good leader. I say this not to justify those character flaws, because I have no defense for them. I recognize there are other areas where he is not deemed a good leader. However, God is his Judge, just as He is for all past presidents and just as He is mine. I choose discernment and leave judgment to God.

His record in keeping our alliance with Israel strong is admirable. His seeking peace, and success in forming treaties with those long-standing enemies is also admirable. This has been the unsuccessful aim of many presidents who have gone before for decades.

His strong stand for religious rights is notable, stronger than any president I am aware of, including rights of those on college campuses and businesses to be protected against those who would seek to override them. On the world stage, he and our VP sat before the UN in advocating for religious rights of people of all faiths undergoing persecution. (‘Trump Calls Religious Freedom an ‘eternal right’ in UN Speech’ By Megan Briggschurchleaders.com – September 24, 2019)

What you seek for, you find. If you seek to find many good things this administration has done in these four years, you can find much to celebrate, much for the good of our ‘body’, our nation. And if you seek to find negative things, you can also find things to criticize. This is also true of the contender with his 47 years of seeking to evoke change. And of course, in the history of our country there is noble and not-so-noble.

The decision before us is not merely between two flawed men running for the highest office one can seek. It is between two opposing ideologies; as you look at the platforms and those who are on either ‘side’, it really is between seeking to protect our Constitution and improve the lives of those in our country (and world) and those who lean towards following the path of socialism, a path other countries have taken and it has taken them away from the freedoms we experience and take for granted. One only has to read history and listen to immigrants who have fled those countries to come here to get a fuller picture of that path. Redefining it does not change the outcome.

We face a spiritual battle for the soul of America. Our true enemy knows that a house divided against itself cannot stand, just like an autoimmune-directed body will eventually destroy itself from the inside out. Red is not the enemy; blue is not the enemy. We, as one, are red, white and blue (making periwinkle, one of my favorite colors!) To use another analogy, we have two eyes, each seeing something from a different vantage point, each needful to see the full and deeper picture. Each can separately conclude that the other eye is not seeing rightly and seek to diminish or eradicate it. But then the whole body suffers. We need to vote our values and respectfully recognize that others are doing the same.

As neighbors, we have the privilege of seeing one another and believing the best, of loving each other despite holding a different viewpoint, and still seeking for the best wholesome health of our country. Even among believers there is a divide regarding what it means to vote our personal consciences. I know there are those who differ from my viewpoint, but I don’t love them any less and I hope they don’t love me any less. Love is not only a commandment revealing the loving reflection of our Creator, but it is also something that benefits us all as a body.

I read a friend’s blog, one who recently lost her husband, musing on the realities of long-lasting friendships and our political stands. Here is a quote from her…

“If you’re like me, and you see things the way I do, vote red. Vote as red as you can. And if you’re not, and you have blue ideas, vote blue. Stand for your values and vote for your causes.

But live purple. Live with the understanding that relationships matter, that your friends and family are yours for a reason, and that as Americans (and if you’re like me, then as a Christian), we have countless examples of people who found the way to live in peace.

It might mean honest conversations, or even a debate. It might mean agreeing to joke good-naturedly about it. It might even mean avoiding the topic entirely. I mean, seriously, it could really be a healthy thing to talk about something else, you know?

Vote red. Vote blue, if that’s your view. But live purple. It just might make more of a difference than you think.” Donna-Jean Breckenridge

Final thought – while we have to practice physical distancing protocols this year, let’s not distance socially. Let’s continue to bring our hearts together and not do the ‘autoimmune thing.” So neighbors, let’s live out “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

And live purple.

What do you think?