Dorothy Day, 19th century Catholic social activist, is quoted as saying, “I only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Dr. King said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Vincent Harding, friend and occasional speechwriter to Dr. King, said to a colleague on a panel of speakers in one of my seminary courses, “I am going to disagree with you in love,” and then proceeded to do just that. In Christian scripture, Jesus commands love of God, self, neighbor, and enemy.
I’m personally challenged by these stalwart leaders in my faith tradition and the moment of leadership we faith leaders across traditions find ourselves in. Mockery is the name of the game today. Critique over connection is often the first move. I’m just as guilty as the next person indulging in laughter over and against another person’s humanity just to blow off some steam. But I keep asking myself, how are we going to lead through this moment in time if all the sides are indulging similarly? Will there come a time when higher ideals prevail to ground our connection and critique? Is there a critical mass of people needed to risk leading in love for the planet and its people to make it through this time? There is no crystal ball. There is only the next right step.
For me, the next right step is continuing to risk connection across differences of race, faith, and politics. Robert Frost, in his poem “Servant to the Servants (1915),” writes, “I can see no way out but through.” Maya Angelou made a similar observation. For me, the way through this time means risking love as the highest ideal. Loving the earth, loving vulnerable neighbors and obnoxious ones, loving colleagues, and loving national and world leaders that I’m least inclined to love. Love is neither capitulation nor sentiment. Love connects over and against withdrawal. Love is powerful. Love is risk. Love is the way through.
[Written to multi-race, multi-faith leaders for Together Colorado Faith Voices, June 13, 2017]