A friend of mine, who works constantly for a community that nurtures its relations, wondered aloud the other day about the bitterness and anger expressed by some members of the community, usually anonymously, on social media commentaries, often making their observations about someone who is vulnerable or lost, or who is bravely being the being they were made to be, or who is taking a stand on behalf of another approach, another way of being community. My friend wondered how to reign in the comments to withdraw at least that source of wounding and rending us from one another.
I wondered too. I know our social understandings have become very dislocated. As the old myths fall away, the ground we’ve thought beneath us falls like the tissue it was formed from.
We learned we live on land made available by the commonwealth, known in Canada as the Crown, finding out with sudden and awful awareness that there were people living here before the Crown took their land and their homes and their children.
We learned we were living in a time when any one of us (well, white men, mostly, but still..) could become anything by dint of hard work and unflagging effort, mixed in with a little luck, only to discover that all the hard work and effort in the world can’t raise a family on a minimum wage job, or overcome a history of trauma.
We learned government was by the people, for the people and of the people, only to find out that government works for money just like the rest of us and their employers don’t really care too much about the rest of us.
We learned, (some of us), that our divine being was an old white guy with a huge temper who even took the life of his only son while the spirit wailed in the anterooms of power, only to discover, (some of us), that the deity in the sky may be there, and is also here, and here, and here, populating, enlivening, calling out from every being an insistence to love, to care, to nurture the relations and the living world. The power and the responsibility is in our hands. To seek justice, love kindness and act with humility when holding a power not our own.
Freefalling, our old understandings ripped out beneath us, some of us (well, mainly white men and supporters, but still), are looking around for someone to blame. Helped by those who employ the power we’ve abdicated, who point at ‘the other’.
“Don’t blame the way we do things, blame…” Canadians historically have blamed Indigenous people, people of Asian descent, people from South Asia, people from Ireland, Catholics, Women seeking rights as persons, people refusing gender assignment, people refusing to hide their orientation, or migrants in general. Now some are blaming people who dress up and dance and read stories in the Library. And, of course, those angry commentators, expressing their rage at a world that never was, that refuses to be. We blame them too.
We can stop. We can acknowledge that we made the old myths and that, because we did, we can make new ones. Myths like:
We are a people born to respond to the insistence to love in every way we can, every day we can, as long as ever we can. We choose to be defined, refined and made accountable to that myth and none other. What kind of a world would we comment on and how would we comment on it, if that were our myth?
Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister living in Kelowna BC with his partner Laurel Walton. Part of a ministry team, he serves the congregation of Central Okanagan United Church as ‘Community Minister’.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, at https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, June 3rd 2023