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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Age of Grievance Post 4

Hello everyone,


I’m writing this to you from June Lake, in the afternoon, on Independence Day.


As I think about this day, I think about the promise that our country holds. I think about this as we are in an election season in a very polarized country. I think about it as I am grateful that I live where I live. Where, even with the challenges that our country faces, we have great potential.


I can remember through my own growing up, thinking how wonderful it is that we don’t have to think about what religion our neighbor has, but that we were all in this place together. I still appreciate this. 


I think about Independence Day as I continue to read this book, “The Age of Grievance,” by Frank Bruni. This week I’ve looked at two chapters.


The first one is titled “Chaos, Clicks, and Catastrophe.”


The title kind of speaks for itself, but I think the author gives us an important reminder here to not fall for whatever is the latest outrage. Rather than get upset about (or sharing to social media) whatever outrage we just saw, we could wait and make sure we have the full story. Sometimes the full story, the real story, is not really what happened.  The author here highlights a few stories where what was presented and what was actual were not the same. It’s a reminder for us to be discerning. 


This advice reminds me of some other advice from many years ago. It’s about how to respond rather than react to something. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something about asking, “Is it helpful?” And if it’s not helpful then to maybe move on. Personally I need to remember this.


The next chapter is titled “The Oppression Olympics.”


I think that this has been my favorite chapter of the book. He starts with an interesting statistic, which I did not know. Here’s a quote:


“Unlike Wyoming, the United States has a substantial foreign born population – it’s nearing 15% of all Americans and that’s an all-time high.” 


I found this quote interesting because immigration is at an all-time high, while at the same time it’s such a small number compared to the total population. The real point of the statistic is to show how through the years that diversity within our country has increased and will continue to increase. 


The emphasis in this chapter is how different groups compete with one another, not in the sense of the best, but rather in the sense of which group has been oppressed more.


The idea here is not in dismissing actual oppression, but rather to recognize how groups are pitted against each other. That does sound rather depressing and so I’m not sure why I would say this was my favorite chapter.


What I liked was the reminder in the form of a couple key quotes. The first is from Andrew Sullivan, who, in a newsletter wrote, 


“We live in the freest, most multiracial democracy in the history of the planet. Of course, traditional prejudices linger, ebb and flow, and the past has helped define the present. But they do not come near to definitively describing the infinitely fascinating interactions between all of us, in every possible combination, our shared humanity, the cross-racial friendships and marriages, our individual personalities, our different upbringings.”


Bruni affirms this quote by adding that this idea “points to the fact that no other country has ever attempted what we’re attempting in the United States.”


I agree with the sentiment. I also think that this is reason to celebrate this Independence Day.

Maybe we can be inspired, even through faith, to see the humanity of those around us.


One last thought is about how we approach differences among us. Often times it feels as if we don’t really have freedom to express ideas because in expressing those ideas we might be offending someone else. The big challenge here is, what about when somebody else’s ideas offend me? Where does it stop?


This is why I think from a faith perspective we hold onto forgiveness. We hold onto grace. We need forgiveness and grace to be able to live together as many different people. Our faith offers us a way to live differently. To even model a different path. It’s not easy!


Now we’re at a place where we don’t really listen to one another. When we don’t really listen to one another, we actually inhibit the ability for any of us to change our minds. What might it look like to give one another space?


To give one another freedom to make mistakes that we can learn from?


Right now it is difficult because it means not being so quick to criticize, but rather to hold onto empathy and a desire to understand one another. I am hopeful that in the midst of our polarization, we can find ways to grow into the ideal of this country, where we can celebrate our diversity, and find ways to work together for the good of all. That at least is my hope in my prayer.


Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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