What to Do About Us

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, January 19, 2024

What is happening around us is a reflection of us.”

—Danté Stewart

A few years ago, I was a big fan of a primetime show, This Is Us. The show was novel in that it told the story of a family nonlinearly, following three decades of the life of the parents and their three children from birth to adulthood through flashbacks, backstories, and recollections of past events and feelings. In each episode, regardless of the issue, event, or life milestone that occurred in the present, we would get a view of all that happened to each of them in each decade that led up to what was occurring presently. The purpose was to get more than just a complete treatment of the drama. It was also to go on the journey of discovery, understanding, and growth of the family as they sought to be more of a family. In this family, we saw honest wrestling and reckoning with failure, disappointment, and pain to become a better “us.”

In a recent social media post, the writer Danté Stewart lamented that too many of us have not confronted the role our apathy and indifference have played in the current political and cultural environment in “erasing others, weaponizing grief, and empowering misinformation and polarization.” My first reaction was defensive, protesting that I hadn’t been apathetic, disinterested, or indifferent to injustice. But as soon as I stopped defending myself, I realized how often I inadvertently protest a reckoning and wrestling with particular identities and with the truth about where I am located: I’m not that kind of an American. I’m not a Christian like them. How often have we hidden behind the separation of church and state and inadvertently allowed a rigid, life-distorting Christianity to prevail in the public square? How often have we distanced ourselves from our nation’s historic failures and present mistakes? How often have we critiqued and dissented without fully appreciating that those people and policies with which we disagree are possibly a reflection of our failure to speak up, get involved, or lift a hand earlier?

I grieve the state of our nation, including the weakening of our democracy; the extrajudicial killings of Black people by law enforcement; political radicalization, polarization, and violence; the persecution and tormenting of immigrants; and the indifference to and criminalization of poverty. And yet, this is us. Now, what do we do about us? Perhaps our spiritual and prophetic engagement with our neighbors and policymakers about these issues should include an honest reckoning with what this nation is and has become, which reflects choices, practices, and failures that we’d rather not see or confront. Let’s face it all and get on with the work of confession, repentance, and repair. The wisdom of Proverbs assures us that “surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Let’s work on being a better “us.” May it be so.