As we enter the final stretch of arguably the most-anticipated U.S. election in modern memory, we find ourselves bathed in headlines suggesting that Russia is hacking into our elections infrastructure, that Iran is blasting the inboxes of Democratic voters with misinformation, and that the giants of social media are straining under the pressure to prevent their platforms’ supposed neutrality from being exploited and weaponized.
Said weaponization includes the notion that Antifa and QAnon are actually organized entities that pose more of an existential threat to our democracy than the actual threats that are in plain sight. In the Caesar’s Palace boxing ring of your own imaginings, is either of them winning any real mindshare?
Here’s the setup:
“Ladies and gentlemen, in the left corner of the ring — representing the liberal, progressive, ‘hate everything that is not liberal or progressive by their own definition’ end of our current political spectrum — is Antifa, which is an anti-fascist action and left-wing political movement in the United States comprising an array of autonomous groups that aim to achieve their objectives through the use of both nonviolent and violent direct action rather than through policy reform.”
And then in the right corner:
“Representing the conservative, alt-right and ‘hate everything that is not alt-right or conservative by their own definition’ end of the spectrum — is QAnon, which is a far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring is plotting against President Donald Trump, who is battling against that same cabal, and that Trump is planning a day of reckoning known as ‘The Storm,’ when thousands of its members will be arrested.”
What’s getting crushed in the midst of all this pugilism are the values of dignity, respect and civility that the vast majority of us were raised with. If you were brought up in the same Christian tradition as me, you were also likely taught to ask of yourself, “What does the Lord require of you?”
The answer being:
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
We were also told repeatedly that the most important biblical teaching from the Gospels is from John 13:34-35:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
So, what happened? Why is the noise coming from the extreme left and extreme right so loud, so overpowering? Why do we have to read and listen to justifications for the total idiocy coming from the extremes, and why is it not drowned out by the voices in the middle?
I think it’s because even though there are more of us in the middle, decency doesn’t raise its voice. Decency just acts. Justice, mercy, humility and love aren’t generally associated with volume. Jesus himself performed a mind-blowing miracle and then instructed its recipient to tell no one about it.
Decency doesn’t find itself ringside at Caesar’s Palace hoping for a total knockout.
For those who think Jesus would have been on the side of the Antifa radicals who advocate burning down the country and starting from scratch, I would remind them that Jesus left unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, knowing that the real battle to be won was in the human heart — not in the Vegas sideshow of politics and public posturing.
For those who think QAnon is actually a thing: What tree are you planning to plant in place of the one “The Storm” will supposedly cut down? What are your actual answers to the problems vexing the nation?
I have no doubt there are those on the extreme right of the political spectrum who would say that because I am proudly and openly gay, I don’t own a gun, and I advocate for the homeless, I am somehow also a huge liberal who is advocating a communist takeover and ultimately will go to hell for being a fag who doesn’t preach biblical truth. In which case they truly do not know what they are talking about and are painting with a wide brush.
Yes, I am open and proudly gay. I have had only one marriage, which will celebrate its 39th anniversary on the 25th of June 2021 and our fifth year of legal marriage on the 21st of November — milestones that I wonder how many of my homophobic accusers have achieved.
I do not own a gun, because as any police officer will tell you how much the mere presence of a gun increases the likelihood of its use — which in my case would undermine my continuing call for us to be nonviolent. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m against gun ownership. But I do think one should demonstrate mental stability before ownership of such a weapon is allowed.
I advocate for the homeless because that is what Jesus said was the biggest concern to our God, and therefore a key to eternal life:
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Creator, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:34-40 NRSV)
Many of those from the extreme left on the political spectrum see those on the right as racist, misogynist homophobes who are advocating a theocracy — and who will not be happy until we on the left are all dead. This my friends is an equally ridiculous viewpoint that is just as dangerous to our survival as a country as the stupidity coming from the right.
The COVID-19 pandemic is another issue which has been turned into a political football; as long as it keeps getting kicked around, people will continue to get very sick and people will continue to die when in fact the death rate could be dramatically slowed. My friends, COVID-19 is a health issue; it does not require complicated measures. But rather, commonsense measures will suffice.
And what, pray tell, are they? My friends, if we would quit arguing and bitching and do five simple things, we would find the need for shut-downs, lockdowns, and economic upheaval would in fact disappear. If people would think about the health and safety of others rather than their own convenience and alleged rights being stepped on, we’d be a lot better off.
Those five simple things are:
- When in public wear a mask.
- Maintain social distancing of 6 feet.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
- If you do not feel well, are coughing, sneezing or have a fever stay home.
And it should go without saying: If you have symptoms or have been around people who are sick or showing symptoms, go to your doctor and get tested.
We in the middle must take back the conversation from the extreme left and right. We must loudly call for justice, mercy, and common sense.
We must advocate, in all that we do, for nonviolence, forgiveness, common decency, and for everything they entail. These words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. need to be at the forefront of our minds: “Violence is not only impractical but immoral.”
Our actions, our lives, our relationships need to reflect this not just philosophically, but in the reality of our day-to-day lives.
We must take seriously this teaching from Jesus:
If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you do not forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? (John 20:23)
We must understand that forgiveness is about our own lives and having a healthy personal outlook, rather than about the one we are forgiving.
We must remember that treating people with common decency does not require the constitution or a law book, just a good and loving heart.
If we are to survive as a world, much less as a country, then we in the middle had better wake up and find common ground with our sisters and brothers to the left or right of center, and as the late John Lewis said, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble,” before someone from one of the extremes does something that is not correctable and destroys any chance we have of continuing to claim:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all… are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
What are you exercising your freedoms in order to bring about? Or are you just gambling in the casino of a fake political discourse, surfing the dopamine rush of scrolling through a distorted and clickbaited worldview? Because the only sure thing there is that it’ll leave you empty and keep you wanting more.
The reason Jesus left Caesar to his palace is because in Caesar’s house, Caesar makes the rules and the house always wins. But only you can be the governor of your heart.
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994, have been in a committed partnership since the early 1980s and have been legally married since 2015.