Tiring talk of ‘Purple’

10 04 2018


I’ve written on this subject before, but because it refuses to go away I am compelled to address it yet again.

Well meaning people everywhere are doing their best to encourage healthy and meaningful conversation between people who disagree on the variety of issues being continually instigated by the Trump administration. Journalists, professors, and politicians of every ilk are challenging people to embrace a more civil form of dialogue, particularly when encountering people with whom they may disagree. Because polarization in our nation appears to be growing by leaps and bounds, the message of many is all about learning to bring civility back to our national conversations: understanding other points of view, and coming to the realization that sometimes . . . “opinions aren’t right or wrong, they are just different.”

This is particularly true in America’s Christian community, where much is being written about what it means to be a ‘purple’ church and how congregations made up of both Republicans and Democrats need to learn how to have difficult conversations and still maintain the bonds of unity and peace. And who can argue with such sound advice?

The beauty of creation is indeed found in its diversity, and cultural differences reveal the vast and expansive nature of the Creator. Things are rarely as black and white as we’d like them to be, and so learning to get along with people who think, act, and believe differently than we do is part of what it means to be a member of the great human family. It’s the only way any of us will ever grow.

Which is why for years, such conversations have been an important part of my own spiritual journey. Muslim sisters and brothers have taught me a great deal about prayer and devotion; and the lives of many of my Jewish friends have modeled for me what amazing grace and forgiveness look like. The people of color God has put in my life have taught me volumes about the colorism of our nation, and what it means for me to become an ally in the quest to end white supremacy. And politically, I have always been eager to dialogue with people of a different persuasion than I; discussing everything from the size of government, to capital punishment, to the separation of Church and State.

Such purple conversations, or issues, involve matters where there is acceptable disagreement and perspective. We also call them gray areas, for which there are no single, or easy, answers: like how to negotiate peace in the middle east, or how to better care for the planet. Solutions to such problems are likely found somewhere between the positions of the blue left and the red right; and they require us to embrace differences of opinion and to develop the art of compromise. This is what makes congregations, or communities, purple.

But these are not the issues dividing America today, nor are they the cause of the polarization that continues to grow in our country. The issues dividing us in 2017 are different, and they are not the least bit . . . purple!

Sexism, gender bias, and misogyny, are wrong. Colorism, white supremacy, and inequality, are wrong. Lying, knowingly spreading false and misleading information, and name calling – are all wrong. These are the issues dividing America today, and there is nothing purple about any of them! They are not conservative or liberal. They are not red or blue. They are not Republican or Democrat.

For almost 250 years this country has flown a red, white, and blue flag; but when it comes to certain issues and practices, we’ve spent way too much time trying to color them purple – implicitly or explicitly, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally. And much of today’s outrage is born in this reality. There are some things that some of us are no longer interested in debating. And while we will love those who embrace such distorted worldviews, and while we will care for such people and even be in relationship with them, we’re not interested in discussing such issues with them anymore. Any conversation or behavior on our part, that in any way gives the appearance of our legitimizing certain stances and opinions, or that makes them appear to be acceptable options for average Americans, condoned by either people of faith in specific, or US citizens in general – is no longer an option for us.

We have a President with a blatant disrespect for women, that is rarely condemned by his supporters. When woman are involved, he continually fails to take responsibility for his abusive, abrasive, and offensive behavior: behavior that has led him to two divorces, and to more than a dozen charges of sexual assault and harassment. And even when evidence of his misogynistic ways abounds, he proceeds to attack his accusers, as well as the media reporting on his ‘locker room’ behavior. His inflated ego does not allow him to own his flaws, and far too many of his supporters are willing to overlook them simply because they think he is somehow going to further their political agenda. But ends do not justify the means, and conversations about such things is nothing more than a waste of time.

Hear again his own words when talking about women he finds attractive: “You grab them by the pussy!”

Read those words again, words that I am embarrassed to write: “. . . by the pussy.”

This is the attitude, perspective, and language, of the man too many Americans, and FAR too many Christ-followers, put in the White House!

How does one profess Jesus to be Lord, and then with those same lips try to justify such action? What is there to discuss?

And it doesn’t stop here. If the President’s misogyny is not enough, then consider his deep-seeded colorism. Whether talking about the Central Park Five in 1989, or his failure to name the evil behind the deadly riots in Charlottesville in 2017, we have a president who continues to display an attitude that is antithetical to the Gospel, as well as the best of the American soul. Whether simply playing to his base, or expressing his own sentiments, his ongoing words and actions reveal not just an ignorance around issues of colorism, but a resistance to acknowledging it as what some have named “America’s original sin.”

How much longer are we going to legitimate such evil by making it appear as though such ‘opinions’ or ‘attitudes’ are worthy of our consideration? White supremacist Richard Spencer doesn’t necessarily think Black people are inferior to White people, he just doesn’t want them in this country. In his mind, America was founded as a White nation and he and his followers simply want to keep it that way. And I get that. It’s really not all that difficult to understand. I don’t need to talk with him or anyone who thinks like him in order to better understand that attitude. Rather, I, and countless others, simply want to reject and condemn such a worldview. Period!

And when it comes to lying, and name-calling – that is example being set by our President; an example that even most third-graders know to be wrong. So again I ask: what is there to discuss?

These are the things that are being called out today, and none of them have anything to do with the color purple. Donald Trump’s sexist, racist, and lying ways are not worthy of anyone’s consideration, and people’s ongoing disbelief and anger over his election will not subside if we “just try to see things from a different perspective.” Such purple perspectives have been part of the American psyche for way too long, and they are no longer going to be allowed to exist without challenge. Continuing to debate or listen to people try and explain and/or justify sexist, colorist, or lying ways, does little more than condone such behavior.

Amos writes “Hear this word you cows of Bashan . . . who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands ‘Bring something to drink!’. . . The time is surely coming upon you when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks.”

Since I am not a Biblical literalist, I will not recount the words of Ezekiel, Hosea, or John the Baptist: harsh words, born in a passionate outrage over injustice and immorality, all designed to call people back to God. Clearly, the name-calling in such verses do not represent the best of a community’s attempt to hold people accountable to a higher standard. However like Jesus’ turning over the tables of the money-changers in the Temple, Amos and others offer us a glimpse into a holy anger that is less about incivility, and more about a passionate discontent with systemic and societal sins that are an affront to God. And this is what is so evident in the vast majority of people that I know, who are speaking out against the Trump Administration.

For the past two years I’ve listened to countless people attempt to explain their support for this president. I’ve had far too many personal conversations with people who think that if others would just listen to their rational for voting the way they did, their actions would be understood – as if understanding will somehow lead to acceptance.

But when was the last time anyone had a debate about the merits of Nazism? When was the last time anyone thought it worthy to debate the burning of witches, or using chemical weapons? Sexism, colorism, and lying are no different. There’s nothing to try and understand. There’s nothing to discuss.

The message of the Scripture that I read calls my yes to be yes and my no to be no! So I will continue to say NO: to the unGodly ways of Donald Trump, to the attitudes of many in his administration, and to the worldview of so many of his followers. And let’s stop with all the tiring talk of purple. The issues before our nation today are issues that Americans have colored ‘purple’ for way too long.



One response

17 04 2018

Thanks for this powerful reminder, Bob. Purple is the color of a bruise!

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