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I’ll have to say I love you in a column

By Mike Ruffin Writing is what I do. I try to observe life’”both the life I live, insofar as I can see it, and the lives that others live, insofar as they allow me to see them’”and then write about what I see. I am a Christian writer, by which I mean I am a Christian who writes. My writings don’t always live up to some folks’ standards and expectations of Christian writing, by which I mean I don’t always quote the Bible, mention God, or refer to Jesus. But I can no more separate my identity as a Christian from my writing than I can separate my breathing from my existing. I write everything I write from the worldview I’ve been given over half a century of doing my best to accept and offer God’s grace, love, and mercy as I have experienced them in Jesus Christ. The heart of this Christian writer is breaking over what I see happening in and to our nation. And I want to write about it, not just because writing is what I do, but because a writer is who I am. Writing is how I react. It is how I respond. It is how I try to contribute to a solution. I suspect that some of you think I write what I write because I want to be contrarian or because I enjoy stirring up controversy. Some of you may also think that I write just to insist that I’m right and others are wrong or just to prove how smart I think I am. I can’t claim that my motives for writing what I write are always pure; in fact, I’m sure they aren’t. But I’ll tell you one thing: I try my best to have love be my main motive. I look at the world, I look at the nation, I look at the local community, I look at the lives of my family members and my friends, and I try to address situations with love that shows itself in compassion and empathy. Whether I’m writing about religion, politics, or anything else, I’m trying to present ways of thinking that might lead us toward a better world, nation, and community. I’m also an American. I love this country. I want us to always be moving toward living up to our ideals. As a Christian writer who is also an American writer, I want to write about what’s going on right now. Out of love, I want to write about the many instances of excessive force used by law enforcement officers against young black men. I want to write about the anger, the fear, and the discrimination that fuels much of the upheaval we are experiencing in these days. I want to write about how hard it is for black parents to have to teach their children how to respond to authorities in a way that won’t get them killed. Out of love, I want to write about our society’s deeply ingrained economic inequities. I want to write about how the ever-increasing hording of wealth by a few people and the doling out of barely subsistence wages to millions of people (many of them minimum wage-earning workers deemed ‘essential’ during the pandemic) is an unsustainable economic model. I want to write about how frustrations over social and economic disparities can be tamped down only so long before some act of injustice causes them to erupt. I want to write about how some of the worst looting that goes on in our country is done by some of our richest people, our largest corporations, and our most powerful politicians. Out of love, I want to write about how worried I am that we are moving toward authoritarian rule that tramples all over the Constitution and that cares nothing for anything except attaining and preserving wealth and power. Out of love, I want to implore us to wake up, to realize how wrong and harmful the direction we’re headed in is, and to do all we can to turn things around. I want us to commit to doing the long and hard work of addressing the systemic problems in our nation that contribute to racial division and economic disparity. Out of love, I want to pour my heart out in this column so you will know how troubled I am about where we are and where we’re headed, and so you’ll think about why you should join me in being troubled. I believe that it is God’s love working in me that compels me to write the things I write. As best I can tell, I write what I write out of my love for you, for our nation, and for our world. You may not think that I write what I write out of love. Even some of my fellow Christians may not think so. If you’re one of them, please allow me to ask you a question: what is God’s love working in you compelling you to do? I hope and pray that God’s love will compel us all to do what we can to overcome our divisions and to heal our brokenness.

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