Like many, I found this reported exchange between a young person and a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial very troubling. As additional reports and videos have come forward, I have became even more disturbed. The level of disrespect shown by the young people towards many of those gathered to participate in the Indigenous Peoples March was completely deplorable—in person and, more especially, in the vitriol expressed on social media.
On countless occasions, I have held up our baptismal vow to “respect the dignity of EVERY human being.” I usually do so on occasions when I witness a gross injustice towards an individual or group of people. The question for me of late has been, in doing so, have I truly shown respect for EVERY human being? Including those that I perceive as perpetrating the indignity and disrespect?
Recently I was engaged in a conversation about respect for others in which the person that I was talking to made their views unapologetically clear to me when they said, “That’s the point. I don’t respect this person.” I responded, “Is it the PERSON that you don’t respect, or the deplorable ACTIONS of said person?”
My reflection on this conversation and its broader implications is that this is not just semantics. In fact, I would suggest that the baptismal vow is very clear. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
We are called to strive for justice and peace—as in, we are to strive for reconciliation through telling the truth in love every time we experience an injustice. Yet, we are to do so in a manner that does not diminish our understanding that those who are committing such injustices are no more or less inherently a beloved child of God because of those actions.
I am acutely aware how hard it is to respect the dignity of EVERY human being. I am also acutely aware that I have vowed to do this with God’s help. This, my friends, is the heavy lifting of becoming the Beloved Community.