A friend posted a story on Facebook the other day, describing antisemitic graffiti found on park benches in the town where she grew up. Her comment was, 'No words, just tears.'
My heart broke for her, as I remember how proudly she would talk about her hometown, when we were in college together. I wanted to comment in a way that might assuage some of that pain, and to acknowledge that I knew this was not just a problem for the Jewish community. The Holy Spirit had me write this:
"The haters are fewer, but they hate with audacity. Maybe loving with just as much audacity would drown the haters out?"
I started thinking about that. What did it mean to 'love with audacity?' How would one carry that out?
I started by looking up the definition of audacity:
1. the willingness to take bold risks.
"her audacity came in handy during our most recent emergency"
synonyms:boldness, daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage, heroism, pluck, grit; recklessness; spirit, mettle;
informal: guts, gutsiness, spunk, moxie
"a traveler of extraordinary audacity"
2. rude or disrespectful behavior; impudence.
"she had the audacity to pick up the receiver and ask me to hang up"
synonyms:impudence, impertinence, insolence, presumption, cheek, bad manners, effrontery, nerve, gall, defiance, temerity;
"he had the audacity to contradict me"
My first thought was to ignore the second definition, negative as it is, but thought again, that it was useful in describing the behavior of those who act out of hate. I'm not going to discuss it much, beyond acknowledging that the kind of terrorist, racist, hateful behavior that has been on the rise is, at the very least, rude and disrespectful and impudent. Nuff said.
But what of the first definition? 'The willingness to take bold risks.' What kind of risks? How bold? How willing? How reckless?
There are no cookie cutter answers to this. One person's risk is another person's standard M.O. I might consider skydiving reckless, while you might say that, done correctly, there is almost no risk at all.
So, in the context of Love, what does audacity look like? For the best definition of love, Paul observed in 1 Corinthians 13,
"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.'
A grownup dealing with Nazi-inspired graffiti at their childhood playground? And they are a proud Jewish person, who understands the full gravity that unchecked hate can wreak? That's hard. Some might say it's audacious NOT to get angry and lash out. Community groups simply going out to clean up the mess, restoring their neighborhood and sparing others from the ugliness of some is a patient response. 'Love is patient.'
Recent desecration of Jewish cemeteries is audacious disrespect. So what does audacious kindness look like? How about Muslim community groups pitching in to help repair the damage in those cemeteries? There are multiple stories of this happening, flying right in the face of the hate that the Muslims themselves are facing on a daily basis. Why get involved in someone else's battle? Because you know what it feels like to be attacked. 'Love is kind.'
Obviously the vandals and the terrorists with their electronically masked voices while threatening little children at daycare are dishonoring others. It's reflexive to lash out at such cowards (see?). Those people dishonor themselves with their behavior. '(Love) does not dishonor others.'
The people who do these things are not, for the most part, naturally evil. I am not justifying what they have done in any way. There is an empty space in these folks, that was never built in them, or that was removed, maybe by force, by some painful event. They were created by the same God who created us. We can hate their behavior, but (and this may seem audacious) we must love them.
Some are born into this culture of hate, which may stretch back many generations. 'It is how we are.' The average person, brought up in these circumstances, does not question them or seek to change them. They know no different.
Audacity, then, might be reckless enough to reach out to the very people who are acting hatefully. To try to understand what is driving them? To care about them? To (gulp) love them?
Consider how you'd feel - what if you were threatened with deportation? Or maybe just your parents? What if your kid's daycare was receiving bomb threats? What if you father's headstone was knocked over, or painted with a swastika? What if your kid was trans, and being bullied all the time, and couldn't even go to the bathroom without worrying about it? Awful, right?
But do you have the audacity to consider how you would feel if your way of life - maybe the only way you've known and your family has known for generations - is threatened? Maybe you live in a coal mining town in West Virginia, or a factory town in Ohio or a family farm in Nebraska. Maybe you didn't go to college, because you had a plan for your life, it was a solid plan and farming or mining or factory work was fine with you.
Now you're in your 40s or 50s, and the world is changing very fast, and your plan is no longer working and you have no options (that you can see). To watch TV, you almost perceive that the world is laughing at you. Mocking your narrow world. Wondering how you could make such a dumb decision. Assuming you are a racist. Mocking your faith.
Politicians pander to you, not because they care, but because there are a lot of 'you' and your anger and fear are susceptible to easy answers and scapegoating 'them.'
Politics and media are not the answer. The answer is person to person, loving one another. Being patient and being kind. Not envying or boasting or keeping score.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1Cor 13:13
God bless you.