"The language of “unity” and “building bridges” offers a relational bandage to the problem of a systemic invasive virus. What we need is not unity, but solidarity, because solidarity requires the oppressor to change as a precursor to being in relationship with the oppressed. Solidarity does not ask the deer to run toward the lion whose mouth is still stained with our blood from its last attack." Dr. Chanequa Barnes Walker
In the last few weeks, there has been an amazing outpouring of demands for unity. Some from Conservatives, most I’ve seen from Liberals, all targeted at “Liberals” to reach across the aisle and offer understanding and compassion to Trump voters.
I confess I muted every single one. In 30 days, all those white moderates will reappear on my page and I will continue to love, challenge, and educate them. They are my people.
But I needed some space. Because where were these calls four years ago to “Conservatives” telling them to reach out and offer understanding and compassion to those genuinely aware of how the election results would impact criminal justice reform, their immigration status, lives, and safety.
Why, when I expressed fear for my friends and pain at my faith community’s betrayal of what I thought we stood for, was I told it’s all my fault? I am too liberal, not a good Christian, and deceived by the crooked liberal media. “You should probably stop talking about these things because people are going to avoid you.”
And as I mulled on how painful it was for me…a comfortable, white, cis-het Christian woman…to hear calls for unity, I thought. “Ah, this is a good topic for Decolonizing our understanding of the Bible.” So I took a week off to give it proper attention.
And I find myself empty handed. Yes, the Bible does talk a lot about unity, perfect harmony, being of like-mind. As I read them, I could only hear them in the oppressor’s voice—bend to my will so we may have peace again.
It is idol worship to think that we have the power to force unity where it doesn’t exist. Unity only comes from the Spirit, from relationships, from love. And while we use the phrase “it takes two to tango” the unity demanded in a great deal of churches only requires those most oppressed, most marginalized, and most harmed to do the dancing.
But here’s the thing. That isn’t me! In a list of privileges, I have almost every. single. one. It isn’t my task to seek unity with those the most like me, even if our ideology is radically divergent.
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Source unknown
I don’t have to spend (all) my energy talking to people who think wearing a mask is oppression and that having church over zoom is a violation of their religious liberty.
In 2016, I believed deeply in the possibility of unity. I cried over the division that my eyes had finally been opened to. And I left my conservative bubble to offer compassion and understanding to the people my community had harmed with our votes—those outside the circle of white Christian privilege. And well, that has been a hard and beautiful journey that has not ended.
And I still believe in unity. We truly cannot heal without each other. I have lament, repentance, curiosity, and love to offer. I cannot list all that I have received in return.
And the verse that comes to mind when people who believe in upholding negative peace talk about unity is the story of Lot’s wife. In 2016, I started walking across the bridge towards people the most different from me. My people not only pushed me off the bridge, but pulled up the drawbridge behind me. It didn’t change that I was going where God asked me to go.
To turn back now is to turn into salt—maybe not literally—but the lover of puns in me thinks about how salty I feel and the salt of tears when I look towards my former home. I’ll always hold one hand backwards because oh my, the big and loving God that is present out here in the wilderness, but I still have some dancing to do. And I can’t do it well looking backwards.
Besides, there are still a whole bunch of white liberals that need to read Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Artic.../Letter_Birmingham.htmlN