Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Can Tragedy Bring Us Together?

Many of us who were aware of world events in the 1980's will remember the epic words of Ronald Reagan as he stood at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and challenged the leadership of the USSR and especially Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" 

The wall that then separated West Berlin and East Berlin had became a symbol of oppression and bondage.  It was a reminder of the acrimony and mistrust between the east and the west after the fall of Germany at the close of World War Two.  It divided a community that had needed one another to heal from the blight of the Nazis and the war that nearly destroyed them.  When the wall was torn down not long after Reagan's now famous speech, Berliners were once again united and eventually Germany was brought together again as an independent nation now proud and strong. 

We may not have large block and mortar walls dividing friends, families and communities these days but there are many walls among us.  These walls are made in the clash of opposing world views,  polarizing ideologies, and inflexible beliefs.  They are coated on both sides with sharp rhetoric and the tops are lined with barbs of blame and vitriol.  When on one side of the wall it is easy to hate those on the other side and define them by their most extreme words and behavior. It is a simple thing to dehumanize people we don't know or care to know. From those we dehumanize we feel justified to withhold any and all forms of human love and compassion.  The walls weaken our schools and neighborhoods.  They divide our cities and communities.  They polarize political parties and blur a national identity. 

These walls are strangling our society at every level diluting us from a hardy melting pot of cultures and world views bound by a common vision and purpose to a thin fractured society too blinded by the structure of our own world view to see the beauty in that of others.  From the halls of congress to city hall we witness acrimony and asperity spread across the airwaves and the internet from various sides of the walls that exist.  Whether the topic is taxes or pipelines, abortion or drugs, marriage or sexual identity, people are most comfortable speaking with those within their walls while taking shots at those on the other side. In so doing they hope to bring change by inflicting injury, a proposition that seems destined to ultimate failure.  Meanwhile our communities pay the price.  Systemic relationships at the community level are being held together by used chewing gum and cheap masking tape.  Political correctness and pretense take the place of genuine human emotion and protests take the place of real efforts to bring people together.

Having been a member of the clergy for many years now I am no stranger to navigating these walls.    Recently, members of the church where I minister  had what has become a very high profile tragedy occur in their family.  The tragedy triggered a visceral response from many around the world on issues of sexual and gender identity.  As the rhetoric swirled, a giant spotlight landed on the ugly wall between conservative Christianity and the LGBTQ community.  Commentary from both sides of the wall was harsh, filled with blame and bashing. One side chanted, "Your beliefs kill children!" While the other side responded, "Your glorification of suicide as martyrdom kills children!" Both sides have their say, score their points, and celebrate with the like minded while the wall grows larger and larger. 

I wonder if anybody on either side (besides me obviously) has ever stopped to ask, "What if the greatest problem is not in the beliefs, rhetoric or behavior of others but rather might actually be the wall itself.  I can't help but wonder what would happen if people on both sides of the wall would stop thinking up ways to vent their anger toward the other side but instead just reach over the wall and grab a hand on the other side.  Just holding it, not grabbing a hand with the hopes of pulling someone over but taking time to feel the warm flesh of the other, to get to know them and their story, to try to understand where their hearts are, to accept them even if they don't agree with them. I believe that kind of behavior would begin to melt walls in our communities.  We could see walls of racial differences, religious differences, cultural differences and others begin to crumble and fall. In our time we could see real healing begin in our communities. Political correctness would be replaced with real human compassion and caring.  It would make a real difference in how people relate to each other.  We could see each other not as a Christian people or Jewish people, gay people or straight people, black people or white people but just as people.

I don't expect those on the extremes to care much about what I am saying here.  They're too busy lighting up social media, planning their rallies and devising schemes to destroy the other side.  But I hope those of us in the middle of the extremes, those of us who are tired of the walls, those of us who want to love people despite our differences will see it differently.  I am hoping those are the people who will approach the wall and reach over, grab a hand and start the process. 

Lets tear down these walls!


Felecia Johnson said...

Your side judges people when what they preach says judge not least ye be judged. Last time I checked, Christian meant CHRIST is your hate Christ like?? None of have scars in the palm of our hands, only 1 man that ever walked this earth had them and he was crusified for ALL. I don't claim to be perfect, and I know that I am not better than anyone else, what I am us a PROUD LESBIAN!! RIP LEELAH

Tim Tripp said...

Felicia, I can see the pain in your comments; pain caused no doubt by judgment and hate filled words. I am sorry for your pain and anything I might have said or done to cause it. I want to understand in a real way. Your words about Christ dying for all are so true and we all need to remember it. If you can see through your pain to accept my apology, my love and my prayers they are there for you.

Chloe Alexa said...

Rev. Tripp, you speak of walls yet you do not seem to see that the walls were created by such as yourself. When A Trans person explains why and how he is trans to Christians he/she is told it's all in your head. Well yes it is as our brains were made as the Gender we are not mentally. Why with all the available information we have today and all that could have prevented Leelah's demise was never investigated. Sir I would appreciate your educating yourself on Transgender matters so your Church will not be a contributor to another Leelah. That would be a step in REACHING OUT OVER THE WALL.

ChloeAlexa Minneapolis a Trans Lady

Tammy Beth said...

Tim, let me extend very heartfelt appreciation for the wisdom and, yes, courage it took to go public with this commentary. There are those among the vocal Traditionalist community who are no doubt even now counting you among the compromised.

Likewise there are those in the LGB/T activist crowd who will scorn your attempt I'm sure. To some it might seem a wasted effort but I assure you it is not.

Without giving my complete biogrophy, I am a trans woman, fully transitioned for five years. Before that I spent 20 years as a licensed SBC minister, trying hard to be faithful enough that God would "heal" my (falsely so called) affliction. I did that because I'd been taught a false doctrine concerning my condition all my life be the conservative culture I was raised in.

Because of this background I now consider it my calling to attempt to bridge the gap between my fellow trans people and the Traditionalist believers who scorn them. You are not alone in seeking reconciliation.

There are many others, often more high profile than me. I commend to your attention Kathy V. Baldock, Megan R. Sommerville, and Allyson Robinson. All of whom can be found on Facebook and elsewhere.

I hope that you will become an active part of the dialogue. It is a worthy commission to take on and I wish you God's blessing on the journey.

Debi Jackson said...

I'm a Christian parent of a trans daughter and understand the struggle the Alcorn's went through when hearing conflicting messages from the church and from Leelah. We did things differently and have a happy, healthy child. My heart breaks for Leelah, her parents, her siblings, and her friends.

I would like to speak to her parents at some point if they are open to it. I'd like to know how they are doing, how their other kids are coping, and let them know that they can honor her while keeping their faith. You can google my name and see my speeches on the subject. I'm easy to find on social media. My offer for conversation is always open.

Davisd said...

It is a great thing when someone with the power to touch other's hearts by their words, their teaching and their example takes a moment to think and see inwardly and realize that something is not right in how we deal with each other when it comes to issues that are perceived as being black and white. That the way we have been doing things is not necessarily the right way to move forward.

Nothing is that easy and we all know it. It takes time, understanding, willingness to listen to the other, to admit that maybe we are not entirely right, but more than anything willingness to take that first step, to show others that it is possible to change the discourse and to love each other.

Thank you for taking that first step and hope that others will follow your lead and reach out and learn to love those who are different, those who are suffering and those who see no other way out but to end it all. It's not martyrdom, it's a way to stop the pain, to stop living a lie that has become unbearable, a lie that makes life not worth living.

May God keep guiding you and inspire you to show others a better way to love all of God's children's just as they are and for who they are. And may your church members find strength in each other and Jesus's teachings and example to get thru this tragedy.

Tim Tripp said...

Chloe, I completely believe I have been complicit in building walls. I wrote this to invite us all to think about our words and attitudes toward each other, to learn from each other and to reassess our beliefs to see if they need to change. It is an exercise in which we might all benefit engaging.

Tim Tripp said...

Tammy Beth and Debbi, I would love to keep this dialogue going. Please feel free to facebook message me!

Tim Tripp said...

Thank you Davisd! Lets continue to pray that we all choose the path of peace.

Brenda said...

To further your analogy, the LGBT community did not build the wall. It is incumbent upon the church to permit its people to get to know trans people in their own communities and lives. We have been thrown out, tortured (with bogus therapies), and vilified by those who would coerce us in the church. Preach freedom at all levels behind your iron curtain, and things will change.

I'm a refugee from Evangelical Christianity. I escaped the walls. I've lived on both sides.

Tear down your walls, Mr. Tripp.

Vaths said...

Beautiful Tim. Our God is a God of peace, reconciliation, and love. May we truly be a reflection of that spirit.