The other night I argued fiercely and publicly at length with an agent of the Federal government whose job it is to create and enact policies that are designed to destroy economically poor communities.
After the event, we spoke again, and I handed him my card and told him he should remember my name, as I had committed his to memory, and we would no doubt see each other again. He laughed, and said he would, and then thanked me for my courtesy in our exchange. People later were concerned about why I was so “polite” to him after the event.
Here is the deal: The last 11 years of ministry for me have been a ministry of rehumanization – working to recognize and promote the humanity of those society has sought to dehumanize. Folk who are poor. Folk who are queer. Folk who are trans. Folk who are without homes. Folk of color.
The Powers That Be seek to dehumanize us and the Jesus story is all about how we recognize and restore humanity to the other.
Because of this, I won’t dehumanize people. I won’t call people names. I won’t make fun of The President’s body shape or skin tone. I won’t call his followers idiots. It is possible to disagree with a person while still recognizing their humanity. In fact, I think if we are to survive as a species, it shall be essential.
(I am sure someone out there is making a list of all the times I have failed at this. I assure you, my own list of those failures is far more complete than yours. Yet and still, I strive to be better than I am.)
I can disagree with what the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi said and stands for and yet have a cordial conversation and not call him dehumanizing names. Because the truth is, he is not his policies or his ideas but a human being, and thus, as we believe in my faith tradition, made in the image of God.
My decision to not dehumanize people who disagree with me doesn’t mean I don’t take those disagreements seriously, and it doesn’t signal any lack of commitment on my part to the cause of justice, and, as US Attorney Hurst found out, it doesn’t mean I won’t call you out. Rather, it is *because* of my commitment to the liberation of all people that I am committed to this – because we all need liberation from the forces that hold us hostage and seek to destroy us.