Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Tara Ann Thieke
Of course we all know the internet is a wild wonderland frontier. Iit brings us strange and fascinating discoveries; it also brings comment threads.
How to moderate our unruly avatar-selves is a struggle which has gone on since the dawn of the internet and will continue. But we don't have to wait for a perfectly regulated internet community or the Kingdom itself to improve online discourse. Dorothy Day's "Revolution of the Heart," a phrase which traces its message back to the Gospels, is probably a better starting place than any other. Here are the rules we need in order to follow this message:
Rules for Engaging in Discussion on the Internet
1. Respect the person you are engaged with because they, too, are a beloved child of God. This does not mean you are required to validate their ideas. You are called to love your neighbor, not necessarily their ideas.
2: See 1.
This is the entirety of the rule. There might be some confusion, so let's address possible concerns:
Q. What if their ideas are really, really, really bad?
A. You still must show love and kindness to the person. You do not owe this kindness to the ideas, but you must take care to show it to the person.
A: For three reasons.
First: Because that is how we like to be treated: with respect and dignity, no matter how wrong we may be.
Second: Because labeling people, even if you think that label fits, is not going to convince someone. It is only going to alienate them further.
Third: Because, as stated in Rule One, every human being is a beloved child of God. God desires for each person to be reconciled to Him. If you are the one tasked with bringing Love and Truth to an individual you think has gone astray, why would you instead show anger, disdain, contempt, or rage? All of these will only further alienate them from what you see as the truth. God commanded us to love our neighbors.
Q: About that point two. I find labels very helpful in political discourse: "libtard," "rethuglican," "garbage," "greedy capitalist pig," "tankie,""warmonger," "sexist," "femi-nazi," "baby-killer," "theocrat," "cockroach," "scum."
A: That's not a question and you know it. Every time you label someone you turn your neighbor, a fellow subject who bears the Imago Dei, into an object. You turn a human being whose end is in God into a thing, and thus you can rationalize treating that "thing" however you want. You strip them of their God-given dignity, something that we are specifically commanded not to do.
Q: This person literally is a Nazi. I have an obligation to call them a Nazi, and possibly even to punch them.
A: What happens after you punch them and they are still a Nazi? If they deserve to be punched, and we all know Nazis certainly -deserve- to be punched, what else do they deserve? Surely they deserve more than a punch, which mostly serves to make the inflicter of the punch feel good. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: "Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement, for even the very wise cannot see all ends."
Q: But some ideas are so evil, so dangerous, that we cannot treat our opponents with respect.
A: No doubt some ideas verily are absolutely evil and dangerous. No doubt the people who espouse them are very lost indeed. The world offers hundreds of ways to deal with those ideas. We have seen their fruits: sometimes they bring peace for a day, a year. More often they bring bloodshed, war; in the 20th century they have ended often enough with purges and genocides. The only true revolution is Christ's. He never said we cannot oppose an idea, but we must remember He has ransomed and redeemed us from the bondage of sin. We are called to do differently. No one said turning the other cheek would be easy. No one said loving your enemy would be a walk in the park. If that was the case the world would have become a garden of peace long ago. The reason this is the true revolution is because it is hard. You are asked to walk into the fire and love your enemy as the child of God, no matter what. All other revolutions merely shuffle the same tropes of violence and power.
We want to turn this teaching into something else, and thus we fall off the narrow path in one of two ways. On one side we say there are no real disagreements, thus no real "enemies." This way of relativism makes loving our opponent easy because we're disregard the differing content of our ideas. We go along with sin and create a false peace.
The other way is to change what Christ meant by "love" and tell ourselves actions such as labeling, insulting, name-calling, even violence, are actually loving. We turn our neighbor into an object so we can achieve our greater vision of how the world "should" be. However laudable the vision, it is to become a Machiavellian and depart from Christ in the very act of presuming achieving our vision is more important than following His teachings. People are not means to our ends.There is no earthly paradise so great it justifies abandoning His teaching that we are to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as our self. The moment we rationalize treating our neighbor as an instrument, a means, we have substituted our commandments for His.
Christ is called the Word. Through His deeds, parables, miracles, teachings, and life, His teachings were clear. It is we who wish to re-define words in order to make them more palatable.
At the end of the day Christians have a unique task in this world and we are charged to follow it even in politics. We are called to affirm the truth, but also to turn the other cheek to someone we think is espousing falsehood. Christ was silent in the morning as He stood before Pilate. No matter what sort of bad arguments your opponent employs, you are not to return evil. You are to continue extending mercy, reason, and love to the human being, all without affirming wrong beliefs.
To start labeling, condemning people, and engaging in personal attacks is to give up on your neighbor. It is to shrug off the burden given to us and to forget we will be judged by how we treat others. We are someone else's burden as well, though we may not like to reflect long on that thought. As we grow more comfortable labeling, insulting, and issuing ultimatums, we begin thinking: "My enemy must be eliminated. If they are not with me they are against me."
Of course we know we are called to the opposite. Each of us is aware what is actually asked of us; we simply wish it wasn't so hard. But the path was always called narrow. Violence does not emerge from the blue: it begins in our hearts. The good news is love begins in the heart too.
Let's joyfully engage with those we disagree with more than ever, with gladness when truth is on our side, with willingness to encounter our neighbor and learn from them when possible, and in the knowledge that submitting our hearts to God's mercy and love is the only true victory.
Tara Ann Thieke