My daughter has an opinion.
It makes me laugh, honestly, when she brings it up. Typically we’re driving along, down one of those ubiquitous suburban byways with the big box stores and the car dealerships and, and, and…
This little voice pops up from the back, the developing timbre of her voice on display:
You can’t eat there. You’ll throw up.
The “there” she’s referring to is Taco Bell, the sacred temple of my teenage years (8 soft tacos and a Mountain Dew, please. Oh, can you throw in a Big Beef Meximelt too?) and the context of that story is an off-hand comment by my wife about the food quality of the Bell.
Heresy, if you ask me.
I’m hoping she won’t take that anti-Bell narrative to her grave but in the bigger picture she’ll still live a full life, somehow. What’s more interesting to me is the way that a child who has never tasted a particular food can believe it to be a stomach-wrenching evil to be avoided at all costs.
She doesn’t know that, at least not through experience. She was taught that. She was taught to fear, to avoid, and to hold in low regard this south-of-the-border delicacy (okay, now I’m being ridiculous) without ever experiencing it for herself.
It is formed in her mind and heart, and what is formed comes forward. It is carried on, day after day, generation after generation.
In the wake of the events in Charlottesville last week, many people posted this Nelson Mandela quote:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
I couldn’t agree more, not just because it is right but because of my daughter’s aversion to the Bell.
Hate is something that is formed, just like love. And you can learn to hate something you’ve never experienced, encountered, or suffered through.
And what is formed comes forward.
Naming the darkness and evil that is white supremacy means understanding that it is not just a political issue but an issue of personal spiritual formation. Spiritual formation is not always distinctly Christian. As Dallas Willard once said all of us are undergoing the process of spiritual formation (paraphrase). The question is: what are we being formed into?
Because what is formed comes forward. It’s how we’ll live, how we’ll walk, who we’ll love and who we’ll hate. It’s how we handle our anger, money, bodies, politics, and time.
So as parents, the way we’re responding to hate in all of its forms - white supremacy, prejudice against race or religion or gender — is formational to our kids. They will carry that forward because hate is learned. It is formed.
As individuals, the way we represent ourselves in discussions on race and religion comes out of who we really believe Jesus to be and what we believe He’s up to and more importantly what connection our faith has to social & cultural issues.
Those are not primarily political discussions. They are formation discussions. We talk and write and vote out of the things that are formed deep within us. Because what is formed comes forward.
So if we look at ourselves today, and we can’t find any outrage about white supremacist hate groups that desire to build a country that is strictly European and strictly adheres some white version of Protestant Christianity, then we need to start asking questions about what is formed in us.
To be clear I reject white supremacy, completely.
I also reject any form of Christian practice that supports it. God will deal with the human heart, but I’m simply talking about the “fruit” here.
The Jesus who condones racism is not a Jesus I’m familiar with.
If we look at our marriage and we see attitudes and actions that are inconsistent with the faith we have or the values we profess to hold, we need to start asking some formation questions. What has shaped this disconnect between my inner and outer worlds?
Because hate is learned, it is formed.
Because racism is learned, it is formed out of fear and family and heritage.
Because relational dysfunction is formed out of past examples, family of origin, and experiences with other people that have wounded us.
And what is formed comes forward.
As you look at the things that have happened in the last few weeks or in the last few hours, what do you notice? What is coming “forward” in your attitudes and actions? Where is that coming from - what has been “formed’ in you that allows those attitudes and actions fly free?
May you find what is formed so you can see what’s coming forward. Not only that, but may you know the Father, Son, and Spirit who are passionately and desperately committed to transformation through learning to love instead of hate, to heal instead of wound.