In 2013 Eminem wrote the song “The Monster.” Together, with Rihanna, this song skyrocketed to the top of the charts. It’s a catchy pop ballad, but it’s the lyrics of the hook that capture my attention for this post.
I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
We all have these little monsters that challenge our cherished version of ourselves. We are simultaneously sinner and saint, as Martin Luther said. We are made of great potential and we are fallible.
Walt Witman says something similar.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
My friend, Minister Candace Simpson says that “If I paint someone as a monster, she’s stuck. She can’t be held accountable because monsters do what monsters do. But if I paint her as a human being who has the ability to choose otherwise, I am freed and she is convicted.”
I think we have a tendency to manufacture monsters with people we disagree with.
I’m really good at making people I disagree with into monsters. There was this one time at General Synod that someone was saying something from the floor (anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, more racist than they realize, and anti-anything to do with what the Spirit of God is doing now) and they were driving me nuts. I listened, but not good enough. I made them into a monster. They no longer had a name or a family, but they became my projection of why the church’s spirit is being stiffled. I think I even gave them a super power of church bully status. Every time I would see them in the lunch room there was an internal conversation with myself about the monster that they were.
Guess what. I made them into that monster. Yep, I did that. I gave them more power than they deserve. I stripped them of their humanity and made them into something bigger than they are. Instead, this person is someone I disagree with with a nuanced personhood just as much as anybody on the General Synod floor. A nuanced personhood just like me.
It’s no secret, I’m a Christian who is orthodox in her theology and very progressive in her social and political beliefs. Like many of my progressive friends I have been trying to figure out what in the heck is going on in American politics.
When I’m scared I create monsters to help me cope with my fears.
Maybe you do that, too?
I do that in how I talk about 45 and his picks for cabinet. I strip the humans from their humanity and instead make sweeping comments.
But what if I gave them back their humanity? What if I looked at the fear in my eyes and say “Monster, I’m going to become a friend of yours. I’m going to take some power from you and keep you accountable to be a person who is called to the common good.”
I must humanize the person I want to dehumanize if I want real radical change. I must humanize the person who is anti-lgbtq, anti-woman, and more racist than they know if I want to keep them accountable to the work we are called to as a church. I must look at the fearful, ugly monsters within myself, that challenge my cherished view of me and humanize me again.
The time is ripe for the church to be in the work of humanizing each other. I’m not talking about brushing our differences aside or coming to a lowest common denominator, I’m talking about doing the hard work of learning to be human again.
Thankfully we serve a God who wanted to teach us that the human project is the project that God is about. Not a far away heavenly place, but the human project, the one that took on flesh and bones and became an infant and grew to be the Divine Man called Jesus. The human project, the human Jesus, shows us how to be human again.
Join me in these endeavors. Now is the time, church.