Every day I wake up to news highlighting the widening split between Americans. The news tells of acts of racial violence; demonization of others; statements that this group or that group isn’t really American; and a retreat toward the comfort of racial and social identity groups at the expense of our common identity. Worse, this discourse and the growing hatred isn’t just contained to the media, but is represented in the comments we leave online, the things we say to one another in public, and the increasing acts of violence committed against groups we don’t identify with. As I see these events play out, watch as they increase in frequency, and notice how our rhetoric has become more and more violent in nature, I see only one outcome for our future as a country if we do not work together to find redemption: open violence, death, and destruction that will engulf our wives, our husbands, our sons, daughters and friends.

At the point where violence breaks out, countless lives will be lost before calm can be restored and a new wound will have opened on the body that is America, one that future generations will have to deal with in addition to those we’re dealing with now. But, is it too late to turn back? Can we find redemption as a people and use this moment to grow into a stronger nation than we’ve ever been before? I think so. Here’s what it’s gonna take to make that happen.

Redemption

My Christian faith speaks of redemption in an eternal sense: The notion that we are better than the worst thing we’ve ever done and that if we ask for forgiveness and recognize the error of our ways, we can one day be restored and find a path forward. I learned from a young age that people are lost without the possibility of redemption; that they have little to gain from owning up to their wrongs without a path to restoration. They see no point in owning up to their wrongs or changing their stance because without a path to restoration, they have little to gain.

But it seems this notion of redemption is missing from America. Our social movements have become increasingly focused on identifying wrongs and holding people accountable for their crimes. Justice has become their number one priority. But justice without a path toward redemption has torn us further apart. Instead of bringing us together to confront our biggest social problems, people have chosen sides. #metoo on one side and #himtoo on the other.  #blacklivesmatter on one side, and #alllivesmatter on the other – most of us falling into place along political, religious, or racial lines. We do not see the merits of the other side, nor do nor do we see the value in admitting when we’re wrong. One online commenter said it best when referring to men admitting their sexual assault, “…Men, DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP!!! Your life will essentially be over – if you’d like to have friends or hold a job ever again, that is.” Without a path to redemption we have decided it’s no longer worth talking to those who believe differently than we do, finding common ground, and changing our behavior to benefit them as well. Instead, the gulf between us widens and the genuine conversations that could strengthen our nation and help us overcome our social problems, are disappearing day by day. They have been replaced by talking heads on TV telling us what we should believe and buying into the demonization that fuels us.

I refuse to believe this is the best we can be. I believe we can create a future where justice and redemption go hand in hand, but it’s going to take some hard conversations to get there. One thing that’s clear to me is that few people will ever admit to their wrongs and change who they are without feeling safe to do so: they will stay silent or fight you. If they believe it will compromise everything else they value, few people will admit that they too are causing harm.

  • Police officers will not admit how the system needs to change or that they made questionable choices in the past if they feel it will compromise their livelihood and family.
  • Black people will not support your view that black on black crime is the biggest concern (though we are well aware of all forms of crime that affect us) if you plan to use it to undermine our arguments for why police brutality must be addressed immediately.  
  • White people will not admit how the history of this country has affected and continues to affect the lives of black people everyday if you plan to label them a racist the moment they do.
  • Black people will not stop calling out racism, if you plan to ignore it, belittle them, and act like they are making things up.
  • Men will not admit to their sexual assault and engage in a conversation about how to improve the lives of women, if you plan to “cancel” them the moment they do.
  • Women will not admit that they have supported false accusers of sexual assault if you plan to lump all or most sexual assault claims into that category.

Without creating safety and a path toward redemption for one another that doesn’t compromise what we find to be most important, there is little hope that we will overcome these challenges in this generation. Instead, we will be like our ancestors, passing the responsibility to clean up the social problems we’ve created to our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. Or, we could decide to do something different. We cannot control the past but we can control how we respond to it today. We do not have to continue to play the game the way others before us played it.

The Challenge

So here’s my challenge: Find someone who you disagree with on one of the big topics of today and talk about why you believe what you believe. As the two of you converse, stop, just for a moment, trying to win the conversation. Stop trying to be right or to convince them that what you believe is the only way. Instead, try to listen and see where you can change your view a little bit to incorporate some of what they are saying into what matters to you too. What do you agree with them on? Where is the common ground? From there, see if you can walk away from the conversation at least understanding what’s most important to the other person.

Don’t know what to talk about? Here are a few of the issues tearing us apart right now: police brutality, sexual assault, mass incarceration, immigration, racism in america, abortion, and LGBTQ rights.

I believe we can honor and hold many identities at once. I am a Black, Christian, Texan. I am a husband, entrepreneur, and human being. And, in addition to all those things, I am an American. Let’s find the thing that unites this country and remember that even though we hold many identities, we are all still one. It’s up to us, working together, to overcome what separates us.