Amidst all of the culture wars that our world and society are currently embroiled in, it goes without saying that there’s always room for more grace, and I believe that’s true. If you’ve ever read any books or articles about conflict resolution, they will usually tell you that the blame for a problem can very rarely be 100% attributed to one party. In most cases, both or all parties have contributed at least a little bit to the overarching problem, regardless of whether that split is revealed to be 97% one party’s fault and only 3% the other party’s fault. That’s a pretty significant split, and that doesn’t mean that the one guilty party hasn’t done something wrong. In simple terms, most conflicts usually involve one party who was wronged and another party that committed the wrong, but what this conflict resolution strategy does is to point out that in any given conflict, there were often factors on both or all sides that were key to the situation unfolding the way that it did. And this is the perspective of grace with which I try to approach the raging controversial debates, but so often, it feels like maintaining a posture of grace is getting you nowhere, which very quickly becomes exhausting.
It’s widely believed that a grace-filled approach doesn’t really satisfy anyone, especially because the majority of the controversial issues being discussed in the world today are intricately intertwined with existing power imbalances. It’s difficult, if not impossible at times, to tell LGBTQ people or people of color to have grace and acknowledge their tiny contributions to the overall problems that result in their oppression without making it into a case of victim blaming. This is even more true in certain cases, because the powerful majority will often be quick to take those concessions and admissions of miniscule contributions to the conflict and use them to justify the systems of oppression or institutionalized inequality that are already in place, resulting in zero progression or change. They take the grace and self-awareness of the oppressed to mean that there’s nothing wrong and thus the same inequalities and injustices continue to perpetuate themselves.
However, at the same time, we’ve seen that the opposite doesn’t really tend to work either, when the oppressed go on the offensive, or perhaps even just try to point out the systems of oppression and inequality that are already in place, without even being too pointed. The majority rushes to their own defense. This is where we get movements like #NotAllWhitePeople, #NotAllMen, #NotAllChristians, and the like. But this doesn’t do anything to remedy the injustices that exist in the world either, because this only continues to pit groups of people against each other, when conflict resolution is really what needs to happen. This is because neither group wants to be wrong. The oppressed obviously don’t want to concede because they have been wronged; that’s factual. And the majority doesn’t want to be seen as bigoted, sexist, racist, homophobic, or any other form of ignorant. But all that gets us is a stalemate, with neither side, but mostly the majority side not willing to admit to any wrongdoing. And there we find ourselves deadlocked in conflict.
So what do we do with that?
Honestly, I think that the solution is that the majority needs to have more grace, because if only the oppressed, whether those are gender minorities, racial minorities, sexual minorities, or any other kind, are willing to have grace and be introspective, we really will be stuck at a stalemate.
And that grace can manifest in many ways, but I think that one of the most important is simply listening, listening to our stories, to our hurts, to what we have to say about things that directly affect us. Specifically related to LGBTQ issues and the church, it’s all too common for straight, white, cisgender pastors and speakers to get all the attention for the work that they’re doing with LGBTQ people. While I certainly don’t want to downplay the impact that allies have had, I think that it’s a little hypocritical for people to say that they are our allies and that they care about and love LGBTQ people when they won’t listen to us or let us tell our own stories, rather than trying to tell them for us. Who better to tell our stories than us? Because the bottom line is that we have voices. No one can take that away from us, but it’s a very harsh reality that though we have voices, many people choose not to listen to us.
And that’s where grace comes in. There’s no doubt in my mind that all parties involved in any given conflict need to approach it from a posture of grace, but at the same time, perhaps the majority needs to take its turn at being gracious, and in many cases, having grace starts with actually listening.