Truth and Story

Truth is only truth inside the story in which it is told.

The best way I can articulate what I mean by that is through a previous post on story and truth.

https://jeremywester.com/2018/05/28/4-stories

This idea may be too academic to seem super helpful, but I would argue that it is the essential factor in understanding how we arrived in the chaotic, partisan, broken place where we are as Americans (and United Methodists).

The core problem with partisan brokenness is not really that people believe a different set of facts or that anyone just needs to be convinced about the specific details of what “really happened” in any given moment. The problem is that many of us think that we’re taking part in very different stories. If the story you tell about how things should be has no room for the existence of those different than you, it will, unchallenged and from a position of power, always lead to the overt harm of everyone deemed not “normal.”

To make the jump from one story to another takes far more than pointing out an inconsistent detail or two. It takes the radical experience of being accepted into the life and story of another; a story with enough room for one more; an acceptance that may cause change but never requires it; an experience of already being enough to be worthy of taking part. As long as we focus on proving our point rather than creating the space for acceptance, we’ll simply keep assuming the story that we tell ourselves is the only one that matters.

This is not about one man

I am angry.

I am angry for the pain survivors, male and female, of sexual assault have been subjected to.

I am angry that the majority has stated in no uncertain terms that no woman’s word is ever enough.

I am angry that we’re being shown politics has no place for empathy.

I am angry that those in power have weaponized the pain of a survivor to silence her voice.

I am angry that people assume “believing” a survivor but believing she is wrong is anything more praiseworthy than destructive gaslighting.

I am angry that the hurt and fear and grief and trauma of so many survivors are finally starting to be seen, and yet the majority cares more about quickly confirming a judge than hearing their voices.

I am angry that so many still think it is OK to say with one breath that I believe her and in the next say it doesn’t matter because there is no proof.

I am angry that the majority would conflate the “trauma” of not being seated on the supreme court with the trauma of sexual assault.

I am angry that the majority does not see or simply does not care that they are silencing countless future victims by their complicity in rape culture.

I am angry that so many survivors feel hopelessness, isolation, and shame for the crime committed against them, and the majority has done nothing but reinforce that narrative.

I am angry at the insinuation that this sexual assault allegation is a product of partisan strategy.

I am angry that lies about when survivors report, what survivors remember, and what perpetrators look or act like are not only unchallenged by the majority, but even spoken directly by them and the president.

I am angry that so many don’t realize or don’t care that, intended or not, fair or not, what is happening right now is a referendum on the significance of female pain set against male power.

I am angry that at the highest levels of government belligerent, aggressive, authoritarian voices are valued over compassion, vulnerability, or healing relationships.

I am angry anyone could even unintentionally imply that believing a woman’s pain enough to withhold a vote would be “legitimizing the most despicable thing” in the midst of an “unethical sham.”

My anger isn’t about the results of today’s or a future vote. It isn’t even about whether or not people believe that Dr. Ford’s words are true. I am angry because so many voices are belittling, ignoring, or outright attacking the pain of so many survivors of assault by treating the multitude of stories that are finally coming to light as irrelevant. Responding to the voice of pain is not a partisan issue. Creating the space for healing and wholeness has nothing to do with partisanship and everything to do with creating the kind of world I desire for our children.

This moment is not about one man.

This moment is about what we are saying to the 43% of women and 23% of men who have been or will become victims of some form of sexual violence over the course of their lives. This is about every person in our lives who will know by our words and actions whether we will be an ally or an enemy if they are ever victimized.

I am angry that I see so much pain and I feel like I can do so little, but I will do everything in my power to prioritize the experience and healing of survivors. I can think of no better way to fulfill my life’s call.

I believe survivors.

I believe those who have no one else to listen.

I believe those who speak up against power.

I believe those who have the courage to speak up in a world that cannot hear a painful story without raising an angry fist.

I believe, even if all I can offer in return is to listen.

There may come a day when we, as a nation, err too far on the side of the accuser over the accused. But that day is not today.

That day will not come before those in power are taught to value survivor’s lives and voices as much as their plans for those who are accused.

That day will not come before emotion, empathy, and relationship are considered as valuable as wealth, power, and control.

Someday, perhaps, we will find a way to ensure that the vast majority of sexual assault survivors do not continue to carry the weight of trauma alone.

Until that day comes, I believe you.

On Baptism: Part 2

There are few things in life I love more than the cool, refreshing feel of jumping into a pool on a hot summer day.

You need at least two things for a pool – a hole or a structure big enough to hold a lot of water; and the water itself. The hole in the ground for a pool can be created in ways limited only by our imagination. The water itself isn’t created. We either find a way to put the water that’s already there in the hole or we have no way to feel the refreshing sensation of jumping in.

Standing at the edge of a water filled pool isn’t enough to get that refreshing feeling either. We won’t feel refreshed just by staring at the water or jumping up and down at the edge. To feel refreshed, the necessary and sufficient thing to do is get in.

We use water in baptism because baptism is a little bit like jumping into a pool on a hot summer day. Water is like the grace of God. Grace washes us clean and refreshes us no matter what we’re going through. But you can’t create grace just like you can’t create water – grace is already there waiting for us. And you won’t feel refreshed by standing at the edge and staring at the water – God invites us to jump right in and feel grace washing over us. Baptism is the way we’re invited to jump into the water of grace.

So every time you jump in the water and splash in the pool, remember that God’s grace is all around you too and God wants us to feel refreshed and clean and loved every time we remember the water of baptism.

On Baptism

In United Methodist theology, we view life and faith primarily through the lens of the grace of God. God’s grace goes before us and is at work in our lives long before we even realize God is present and long before we’ve done anything to seek it out. Baptism is a celebration of the work of God’s grace in our lives and throughout God’s creation. Therefore, we believe:

  1. Baptism is more an act of God’s grace than it is an act of human decision. Someone, whether the person to be baptized or a parent/sponsor, does make a choice to celebrate the grace of God, but what matters the most is that God offers love and grace before we ever do anything to deserve it. Infant baptism is an especially clear reminder that no one knows or does enough to deserve the grace offered in baptism – God’s grace is at work even now.
  2. Baptism is more a celebration of the body of Christ than any individual person. While only one person at a time is baptized into the body, we are all reminded that the grace of God makes us one body through the sacrament of baptism. Every time anyone is welcomed into the family of God, we are all invited to experience the grace of God anew.