Jeff Bass, Executive Director, Emmanuel Gospel Center
Last night I attended a community meeting at the Boston Islamic Center in Roxbury Crossing. Over 2,600 people came together in my neighborhood to hear Mayor Walsh, Senator Warren, and assorted leaders and citizens from the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization challenge us to stand together against bigotry and for community.
Like many in Boston’s blue bubble, I was shocked and deeply disappointed by the results of the November election, and I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to get a handle on our new and emerging reality. I have been asking myself, “What was I missing?” It would be arrogant and naïve for me to continue to ignore my own arrogance and naïveté as I process this. So what do I do now?
As I heard speaker after speaker affirm last night, my first responsibility is to listen. As a White Evangelical male organizational leader, growing in listening is especially important for me.
I know many people who are angry, and many who are fearful—not just about the divisiveness in our country, but about the impact the election will have (and is having) on their families and neighborhoods. One friend wrote that she feels like someone is pointing a gun at her children saying, “Don’t worry, I won’t pull the trigger.” Even though the gun is not pointed at me in the same way, can I appreciate the danger that she and so many others are experiencing? Can I begin to understand the pain and betrayal they feel?
At the same time, I know people who are hopeful—even excited—about a change in leadership and the opportunity for the country to move in what they see as a new direction. They had a different set of “deal-breakers” in the election (change, the economy, the Supreme Court perhaps). Can I understand their views, and appreciate their decisions? Can I empathize with the pain they’ve felt these last eight years that would lead them to choose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton? It’s unfathomable to me, yet look at what happened.
So I have a lot to learn, and I’m going to start by doubling down on listening. Well. And a lot. This means taking the time for more conversations, more reading, and more pressing into new relationships. And when I do, I want to seek first to understand, feel, relate as best I can, before I say or do anything else.
As we create space at EGC staff members to speak up with our perspectives on what we are learning and seeing in the church in Greater Boston, and as we weigh in on issues that affect us, I hope that we can stay grounded in listening.
If you’d like to talk about any of this, please let me know. I’d love to listen.
Jeff Bass and his wife Ellen live in Roxbury Crossing, about a mile from the Islamic Center.