Pendulum Passivity

I don’t believe in “Pendulum Passivity.”

Since I resigned from serving congregations and started Neighbors in Faith (now a part of Paths to Understanding), many people and many pastors have told me: “History is a pendulum. First it swings one way and then it swings the other. The white nationalism we are seeing now will end or be reduced soon.”

They told me this, I think, to tell me that I was being a bit dramatic. That I was naive about history. That I was over-responding to the dehumanization of Muslims, Latinx, Black, LGBTQ+, Jewish, Asians and so many others.

They told me this, I think, to justify their passivity in the face of this dehumanization.

Over time I have developed a response to this.

In the last century, 262,000,000 people were killed in genocide.

In most of those situations, the murder began with the dehumanization of the minority group. The purpose of the dehumanizing language is to convince people that it was morally right or at least necessary to commit or allow violence against the “them.”

In most of those situations, lots of people stayed silent, remained passive, and thus paved the way for the violence by saying “history is a pendulum – the problem will automatically take care of itself.”

262,000,000 in the last century alone are witnesses to the terrible truth that dehumanization always leads to violence. From the ground they cry out, don’t be passive!

Pendulum passivity is no wise historical perch from which to announce that peace will come on its own, of its own accord.

Pendulum passivity is sin.

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 6:14

Now that we have seen the 250th mass shooting this year in this nation and most recently the white supremacist shooting in El Paso we can see the deadly results as the dehumanization of our Latinx neighbors. The President’s language of “infestation, invasion, and disease” about our Latinx neighbors and the official policy of child separation and the lack of immigration reform is verbal and institutional dehumanization.

How much worse must it get before we not only speak from the pulpit, but lead people into the public square to call for and make change?

There is no pendulum whose fulcrum, together with gravity, will automatically change the future. It is up to all of us.

And my fellow pastors, community leaders, wisdom tradition practitioners, it is up to us.