The Courage To Turn Tables

by Rev . Louis Mitchell

Perhaps like many of you, I’m reeling and trying to wrap my head and heart around the election results. But maybe like fewer of you, I know this isn’t a new day or some new reality.

I suspect that the level of violence we’re seeing would’ve happened regardless of the outcome.

The sad and sorry truth is that we’ve been living in dissonant realities for a long time—white and black (and other non-white folks), same-gender-loving and straight (and those who have sex with folks of the same sex, but don’t love them), cis and trans (and those whose genders aren’t adequately captured by either/or terminology), non-Christian and Christian (including those whose faith identities and their practices of love, grace and mercy seem incongruent).

Even in the most liberal and progressive circles, there is a challenge. The time for playing nice has come and gone. The masks are off on a whole new level. There is very little room for tone policing and placating rhetoric. There is no more hiding of wounds so allies don’t feel queasy or uncomfortable.

This has been coming for years. Those of us who have been willing and able to wait our turn, use the tools available, plan and process, attend meetings and conferences to further discuss the needs, while not changing the dominant paradigm, have often been criticized for our patient and well-intended complicity in the political inertia. Our critical constituents are as tired of us as they are of those that seem willing to keep them in the margins—unseen, unheard and unsatisfied. They have stepped more fully into the fray and have grabbed the stage to speak in unpoliced tones of rage, pain, frustration and need—and I’m grateful for them.

So what does this mean for people of faith? 

What does this mean for you and for me? Those of us who have stretched, contorted, self-medicated, prayed our ways into postures of calm, reasonableness—what is our role?

Our adversaries are within and without. Those people and organizations that have long been our “premier” advocates must be called to answer hard questions. Elected officials and public servants must be reviewed and scrutinized, reprimanded and reminded of whom they work for. We who have been deemed elders must also be called to respond to the ways that our relative comfort may have blinded us to the harshest realities faced by those we are called to serve.

I will not point fingers. I will go first. I have been deeply distracted by my own fears and needs. I have been trapped, triggered, fatigued and frustrated. I have attempted to be present when I should’ve been healing. I have offered refreshment from an empty or toxic well.

I am sorry and I will do better. I will look at my gifts and my limitations and listen to your criticisms. I will practice being more responsive and less reactive. I will wedge the doors open, even if it means breaking them.

I will call out rooms that are too comfortable because your angry voice hasn’t been invited. 

I will also have the courage to stand up and turn over a table when I can see that the voices in the room don’t reflect the deepest and most pressing needs of the community.

Photo by flickr user Joe Brusky

Comments (1)


Louis, thank you for this
Louis, thank you for this powerful, honest, and authentic witness to system that have existed but to some feel new. Thank you for being bold, and vulnerable, thank you for the Courage to Turn Tables! I love you!

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