By Pastor Bob Evans
North Idaho has unfortunately been saddled with the ugly image of being a hideout for white nationalists/supremacists. There are still Confederate flags waving on poles and stuck on trucks in certain areas, as ignorance is displayed with pride.
I attended a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) event at the Gardenia Center in early December to be an advocate for human beings of differing sexual identities. I felt deeply some of the fear that resides in the hearts of our brothers and sisters.
Immigrants are worried, Muslims are terrified and women see a brand new assault on their bodies and human rights. All the anxieties that exist in these areas that were finally being resolved somewhat, have now been rekindled and quickly nourished into a worrisome flame.
For the majority, it is impossible to think that we would relapse in our hearts to a place that would allow bigotry—much less sanctioned bigotry. Bigotry, fear of the other and the absolutely furious idea that one religion is better than another has no place in the world at all. If they did have a place in the world, they would not cause any problems.
There is a line in “The Star Spangled Banner” that refers to the U.S. as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” We are not free unless all are free of every stripe and color, except those who are thieves, murderers, haters and predators of all kinds. We are not brave if we are afraid of our neighbors because of ethnicity, sexuality or religion.
I know that there are many who actually believe that their beliefs are sanctioned by God, while others beliefs are looked at as evil. This kind of thinking in the 21st century would be laughable if not true. As it is, any kind of world peace seems to be undone by the very religions that are supposed to be bringing peace, as they become the bedfellows of those seeking power and domination; Humanism and atheism, or any other “isms,” are not exempt from this accusation either.
If it is basically “fear” that is at the root of our anxiety towards each other whom we may deem different.
We must ask, “What is my fear of the other?” and we must answer this question honestly. If we do not ask ourselves this question and respond honestly, sooner or later we will find ourselves to be the object of suspicion and hate.
Here in the West, a perfect example of this is portrayed in the voices of those Evangelicals that feel Christianity is under attack. It is not under attack, rather it is feeling the outcome of building walls of exclusion.
The majority of us in North Idaho believe in being, at least tolerant, of those different from us, if not being completely accepting and affirming. We are asking ourselves the important questions while holding ourselves responsible for the answers. In this all too obvious time of “gnashing of teeth,” we must pull together to stand in solidarity against hate of any kind, directed against anyone. We must be, and continue to be, proactive in our quest for equality and equity. We must all be a voice for those who have none, or whose voices are under threat of being silenced.
Bob Evans is the pastor at Emerge ‘N See United Church of Christ in Sagle. To learn more about his church, check out www.emerge-n-see-ucc.org.