It’s not a feeling I’m accustomed to experiencing. I always find a place in whatever circle I’m in and I always fill out a needed role. I know what is required of me and I quickly catch on to the subtleties of each position I inherit. I feel comfortable in almost all situations.
Yet, here we are.
I might classify it as depression. I might be going through a rough patch. I might just need to crack open my Bible and pray more adamantly. I have 10,000 reasons to be joyful, right? I should feel satisfied. I should be at peace. My life is honestly a dream come true. Not even Covid-19 has affected my daily life – I could even make the case that it has made it easier. That might be the root of my problem.
This past weekend, I spent a couple days with my daughter, my wife, and my wife’s family at a farmhouse near Madison, Wisconsin. It was a great chance to get away from the world for a little while and play my current favorite sport, disc golf, all around the land. I got to exercise, play my favorite board games, and relax with my wife all weekend. On Saturday night, we gathered around the table for dinner and my father in law prayed these words: “Lord, we know the world is going crazy, so we thank you for the chance to get away from it all and be secluded in peace for this time.” It was then that it hit me. I’ve been restless during these past couple months and I could not pinpoint why until that moment.
I am so blessed.
Sorry, wrong choice of words.
I am so privileged.
That’s closer to how I feel right now.
I write this from inside a comfortable and spacious condo while millions of people could not meet rent this month. Millions of people now face the threat of homelessness since the federal government did not extend the CARES Act that prevented a lot of evictions from happening. Most of these people lost their jobs due to events way beyond their control. It does not matter how hard they work. It does not matter how loyal and consistent they are. This pandemic took everything from them. I know how it feels to wonder where you will spend your next night – my family was without a permanent residence for a year – and I know what it does to your psyche, especially if you are a parent. You feel like a failure. You feel worthless. The world looks condescendingly at you even though it’s not your fault. This is the current reality for millions of Americans.
I have not missed a single day of work at either of my jobs.
I am safe and secluded in more ways than one. I have been able to escape on vacation and take days off without any financial threat. I work from home, which means I don’t continually have to risk my life or the lives of others in order to make a living. I am healthy, my family is healthy, and I don’t have to worry about any medical bills piling up. Even though this virus does not kill most people, the cost of potential medical bills for those who need the assistance could be devastating. While my family has the safety net of health insurance, millions of families in this country do not have benefits (likely because it was tied to their employment, which they lost) and will go into crippling debt if they need a hospital stay. Covid-19 will claim way more lives than any numbers we put on it, we just won’t notice.
Then there is George Floyd. In the past two months, we have ongoing protests of police brutality and ongoing instances of police brutally assaulting those protesters. I have watched countless videos from Chicago to New York to Atlanta to Portland, all of which showing gruesome police brutality against peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment right to gather and speak up. I have watched the mainstream media spin many of these protests as “riots” in order to justify the brutality being seen. I have witnessed completely insensitive and sometimes even immoral posts about the topic on social media from friends who are Christians. I have watched Minneapolis burn, Seattle protesters turn a small section of the city into an ongoing protest, and unmarked federal agents literally kidnapping protesters off the streets of Portland and taking them away in unmarked cars. Breonna Taylor’s murderers – three cops – have still not been arrested for breaking into the wrong house and shooting her 15 times while she was asleep, but I have seen the same city arrest citizens who were peacefully protesting that injustice.
These protesters are standing up for what they believe in and revealing the wicked roots of the government and law enforcement at every turn. They are fighting for justice even as great injustice is turned on them. They are being shot with rubber bullets, tear gassed, and have had flash-bangs thrown at them most nights. They are experiencing war crimes against them from the people who are supposed to be serving and protecting them, but they keep marching. They keep showing up. They refuse to back down to tyranny and oppression.
I write this from inside my comfortable and spacious condo. I have not been to a protest yet – my job and my family responsibilities have kept me from that. I suppose I could go to one, but what difference would that make? It might make me feel better and satisfy my desire to do what is right, but it does no good in the long run for this movement. It would be like going on a short-term mission trip – great for personal fulfillment, but useless for the people on the ground. My life and my responsibilities as a husband and father keep me from continual protests – that job is for others. I made promises I must keep, and that is the right thing to do.
So I look around for another job, another thing I can do to help that does not require me to give up my job and put my family in danger. I could post on social media, but what good does that do? The people who agree with me will like the post while the people who disagree with me will ignore it (at worst) or fight with me (at best). I could then debate those people in the comments section, but no one has ever changed their mind in a comment section and I’m not about to be the first one. At best, we agree to disagree and at worst, we depart from each other and further seclude ourselves in our own thought worlds.
On top of that, I represent a church with one of my jobs. The things I say will be scrutinized and thrown back at me. Speaking my mind, even if it be truth, can land me in hot water. As much as I say I can handle the hot water and as much as I long to speak truth at any cost, I consistently jump out of the water when I can’t take it anymore. I tried standing up for what I believed to be right but then backed down after being scolded. I tried speaking my mind on social media, but didn’t respond to push back when it became too risky to my ego and my stature to continue. I continually convince myself that these issues are not worth the fight, especially not on social media. Is that just a lie I tell myself to remain comfortable? I say that I don’t necessarily have the truth. Is that just an excuse to not speak up when I feel called?
There are other things I could do, right? I could vote for people whose policies I agree with, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the American political system is deeply flawed and politicians will fail me at every turn. I could run for office and try to bring change that way, but the power and authority that comes with that position is problematic. I believe that power corrupts and that Christians do not belong in government for that reason. Plus, systemic change may work for a time, but how much good can possibly be accomplished in a system that is rotten to the core?
I could bring my concerns to my church! Except that we don’t bring up political issues here because we prioritize the “spiritual” and the “eternal” over the physical and temporary, as if those are mutually exclusive things. We don’t fight for social justice because it could detract from the “gospel,” but I don’t know how there is good news in completely ignoring the pain and the needs of others on earth.
I could find another church, one that agrees with me, but my theology says that no church is perfect and we are called to our communities for a specific purpose. We are called to fight through when things get hard, not walk away. We are called to challenge others to grow, not become complacent and apathetic ourselves. Every church has problems and what good is there in going to a church where everyone agrees with me?
I could preach, but I don’t have a position like that, nor is it likely that I will ever have one.
I could wear my Black Lives Matter shirt and post a Black Lives Matter sign in our window, but isn’t that just virtue signalling?
I could read books and books about these topics and educate myself, but what good would that do if I don’t have the courage or position to talk about it?
I could support minority-owned businesses? Contribute to the GoFundMe’s of protesters? Financially support programs that working for justice?
Sure. I guess. Maybe.
But more and more everyday, I become convinced that I am just another white moderate. Just another Christian who says he believes in loving his neighbor but refuses to act in any meaningful way. Just another privileged man safe inside his padded cocoon while millions of people fight for their lives. Safe. Secure. “Blessed.”
“You have 10,000 reasons to rejoice.”
“Just read your Bible.”
“All you need to do is pray.”