Believing the gospel is one thing, living it is quite another
By Andrew Massey
HICKORY, N.C. – Though I worked well past midnight on Sunday, I woke up at 7:00 Monday morning determined to witness history, so I drove to the Donald Trump rally at Lenoir-Rhyne University. My thoughts about what I would experience when I got there were about as clear as fog-covered U.S. Route 321. I had quite a bit of anxiety and apprehension about the day, as this was my first jaunt into political activism of any kind.
Due to the media coverage I had watched about the Trump rally that was shut down in Chicago only days before, I was incredibly surprised at the quiet stillness of both the protesters and the Trump supporters when I arrived around 8 a.m. Aside from the chatter in the line of hundreds of people snaking through the campus and the whisper of hymns coming from the protesters, the scene was very calm.
Initially, I – like a lot of people – was there to see the racist, bigoted circus. The image of ringleader Donald Trump, surrounded by a hoard of toothless clowns and acrobats spouting rhetoric of hate and fear, filled my mind as I took my place in the back of a very long line of people. After waiting in the line for about 30 minutes, I grew bored. I knew also it was virtually certain that I would not get in because of space limitations, and I concluded that maybe I just wasn’t around the “right people.” Maybe all the brash-talking loud mouths were in the front of the line. So, I decided to leave my place in line and check out what the early morning protesters were doing.
He’s already built a wall, just look at this division.” – Protestor at Donald Trump rally in Hickory, N.C.
I awkwardly paced back and forth in front of the protesters, taking pictures and gawking at their signs adorned with bible verses and various messages, such as, “Love Trumps Hate,” crudely written across white poster board. The early morning crowd of protesters was clearly there largely based on their faith. Almost all of the initial protesters were white. They were joined by several clergy who were leading them in songs such as, “This Little Light of Mine” and “Amazing Grace.” The backdrop of the chapel on the Lutheran campus drove home the religious overtones that would dominate the morning, both inside and outside the auditorium where Trump spoke. Notably, many of the pro-Trump folks standing in line could be seen mouthing the words to the old Christian hymns being sung by the protestors.
By 9 a.m., the crowds were getting larger and more diverse, pushing the two groups closer and closer together. An elderly woman in line for the Trump rally began to chant, “Build that wall!” Several comments were made about college kids needing to stop being “entitled and lazy.” At the same time, several black and Hispanic college-aged people showed up and began expressing their outrage at the Trump supporters for their attacks on Mexicans and other immigrants. People on both sides were screaming at each other. For the first time, I began to see fear and anger replace the earlier civility.
As I stood there in the middle of all this with a handful of police and journalists, a short woman in a blue jacket began talking to me. We spoke for a little while about our politics, our faiths and why we were there in the middle of what was turning into a volatile shouting match between two sides wanting to be heard.
Around 10 a.m., another chant of “Build that wall!” began to rumble from the line of Trump supporters. The woman beside me turned to me and said what may have been the most profound statement of the morning. “He’s already built a wall, just look at this division.” I stood there and surveyed the crowd. Black and white, young and old, peaceful and angry together, shouting to be heard, wanting to be understood, aching for peace in such a way that only anger and outrage could express it.
What I was beginning to learn is that believing the gospel is one thing; living it is quite another. My journey in the Christian faith has not always been one of peace and acceptance. As a result, I have not always been kind to those holding differing viewpoints or lifestyles. I have mocked and belittled, laughed at, yelled at, and judged people that I viewed as incorrect or less intelligent.
However, I have come to learn and experience that the only way to truly live the gospel is to be a peacemaker. In doing so, I become a salve to the unspoken and unfathomable wounds that people around us face.
Eventually the environment grew more and more intense due to the actions of both the protesters and the Trump supporters. I was not comfortable choosing a side as I found myself in the middle of people crying out in anger and heading towards each other in rage. So, instead, even a bit befuddled, I found myself locking arms with several of the protesters to form a human wall to keep the sides separated.
So, there I stood at my first protest, locked arm-in-arm with beautiful people that were complete strangers, religiously diverse, of various races and lifestyles.
We were helping to keep the peace! In doing so, I experienced peace. Suddenly, the gospel was more than words – it was love in action. I found the right side is not always the side that shouts the loudest. It is not always the one demanding its own way. Sometimes the “right” side is simply offering peace in the midst of chaos.
© The Lenoir Voice, 2016.
Andrew Massey has a B.A. in Communications from Appalachian State University and is a resident of Lenoir, North Carolina.
On Twitter: @lenoirvoice