I recently began listening to a podcast by Dylan Marron, “Conversations with People Who Hate Me.” Dylan Marron is a bi-racial, gay man, actor, writer and activist whose work has gotten him many hateful online comments from people because of his presence on social media. In his “Conversations with People Who Hate Me” podcast, Dylan engages in Skype conversations with these very people to talk through the reasons they’ve reacted negatively toward him online. These conversations result in very real, honest, challenging and surprisingly loving exchanges for both Dylan and his guest callers. At the end of each conversation, Dylan asks his guest “Do you regret what you said, and do you still hate me?” Most of his guests have answered him in one manner or another saying, “No, I don’t regret it. We would never have had this conversation.” By the end of many of these conversations Dylan and his guest callers talk to each other as if they are best friends. Each conversation leaves the listener, the guest caller, and Dylan feeling very hopeful that communities and people can reach across lines of divide and find common ground.
Dylan’s podcast is about love and the very real work of not neglecting “to meet one another” where we are at. Through the conversations, we learn the circumstances behind the guest callers’ online negativity and why they made hate-filled comments. We learn about the guest callers’ lives and their vulnerabilities, and we learn that many of the negative comments left online are really attempts at trying to make a real connection.
We cannot neglect the importance of coming face-to-face, of greeting one another in faith and in God’s loving Spirit, as God greets us. God considers us and provokes us to be loving and do good deeds. God does not neglect us and is there for us. God comes together with us. As such, we are charged to come together for others. It may be easy to extend a hand to those with whom we are allies and can find common ground, but learning to “provoke one another to love and good deeds” takes time, effort, and creativity. This scriptural charge to help others become more loving people and to do good deeds, also becomes a dual charge. We charge others, and they charge us right back.
We are charged to come together in fellowship to explore the ways we can come together in love, challenge each other to do good deeds, and break through our habits of non-participation. While we may never know when the Day is to come, perhaps, in answering the charge, we can shine a light in this world that often seems dark. Like Dylan, we may inspire and create ways to break through the darkness and bring more hope and kindness into the world.
Dear God, we examine together all the ways our negative and harmful words and deeds affect each other and ourselves. Help us to explore ways in which we can move from this negativity toward more love and good deeds. Help us to participate in building a better community and world around us. Guide us through darkness and into your light. In Jesus’ name, Amen.