(The Agony In The Garden by Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix)
If you don’t understand racism, homophobia, xenophobia, bi erasure, sexism, intolerance, ableism, rape culture, transphobia, atheism, suicide, misogyny, or a perspective outside your own, the best thing to do is listen. Don’t speak. Just listen. Immerse yourself in their narrative. Feel their fear. Feel their pain. Feel their struggle. Feel their experiences. Let it penetrate you so deeply that their story becomes your story. Allow yourself to be so vulnerable that you can’t help but curl into the fetal position and weep with them. Love them so much that when they suffer you suffer.
For me, this is what Jesus Christ’s atonement teaches us. This is why I call myself a Christian.
We may know the stories or quote the scriptures from memory. We may agree or disagree about the particulars of his life and subscribe differently to appeals to Jesus’ supernatural abilities or divinity. However, all of that seems secondary to the theme of the story of Christ’s atonement— which is, for me, limitless love and empathy for one another that nothing is beyond reconciliation.
I believe humanity is capable of atoning. I imagine we could love each other so much that your joy would be my joy. Your flourishing would be my flourishing. Your happiness would be my happiness.
I don’t think this qualifies me as a blind optimist. I also believe we are capable of instigating our own extinction with real risks that should be mitigated. I too get discouraged when I scroll through my feed and read hurtful words spewed across our digital world with limited regard to the tangible damage it inflicts and the lives it destroys. I don’t exclude myself from the problem. I have no doubt I have been both the victim and the perpetrator. Though I am not perfect, I still believe in love, remorse and forgiveness. If not, there is little hope for any of us, including the privileged.
Please, stop and listen. Listen to the stories of others. Maybe then we can empathize with one another and atone for our mistakes.