I imagine I’m not the only one to find myself suffering from what I might call outrage fatigue this year. Every week seems to bring some new preposterous happening, whether just the White House administration and our clown-in-chief doing or saying something else ludicrous, or scarier things coming from so many places. Nuclear threats. Cover-ups in high places of collusion with foreign powers. The health care of millions on a precipice. People being shot by police officers for the color of their skin. Official resistance to combating climate change. The list goes and on and on. And I feel like with every week, my ability to be horrified by something completely awful gets deadened a little more.
When I started seeing reports out of Charlottesville yesterday, then, I was of course appalled. But I have to admit that at the same time I was kind of numb, and feeling the temptation to kind of check out in despair. (Yes, I’m well aware that even having the option to retreat into a bubble and ignore all of this is a clear sign of privilege.) Friends were saying things on social media like, “THERE ARE NAZIS OPENLY MARCHING IN YOUR COUNTRY! YOU NEED TO BE OUTRAGED!” And while I completely agreed with the sentiment, I was having a hard time summoning much of anything except feelings of sickness and hopelessness.
And then someone posted this picture, of clergy from various faiths linked arm in arm.
(Photo credit to Christopher Mathias, who posted it to his Twitter account here.)
I don’t know why this image hit me so hard, but it did. I actually got pretty emotional. Maybe because religion is so deeply woven into who I am, and at the same time, I am often discouraged by just how bad the track record has often been of religious traditions—specifically those within the umbrella of Christianity, whose tradition is both the one I claim and the one I am most familiar with—when it comes to matters of racial justice and defending the marginalized. But these are the kinds of religious values I believe in. This is the sort of thing I want my religious faith to call me to do. I looked at this row of people and felt hope, and a renewed motivation to figure out how I can contribute to the kind of world I want to work for, and how my faith can be an asset in that work.
I’ve long since given up any hope that our current president will ever take any sort of moral stand on this issue. But I keep hoping that the religious tradition in which I grew up will finally decide that speaking out on moral issues might encompass more than issues having to do with sexuality. (If you think this has nothing to do with Mormonism, consider that a white supremacist Mormon was invited to speak at the ultimately cancelled Unite the Right rally, though rumor has it that she declined for security reasons. And that’s only the most blatant sign of a cultural problem.)
I don’t want to downplay the challenges faced by Mormons as well as other Christians as we grapple with the historical messages and practices of our traditions with regard to race, with sacred texts that mark people as righteous or wicked based on skin color or are silent about the morality of slavery. (Again, I focus on Mormonism/Christianity because that’s what I know.) But my hope is that we can unleash the liberating elements that are also there, as we worship a God who sees us all as her/his children and infinitely precious, and who calls us to something better.
UPDATE: The LDS church has released an official statement. See here.