How do we metastasize the goodness?
May 31, 2022 by Mike Ferguson
Speaking on the broadcast “Leading Theologically” the day following the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Presbyterian author, speaker, facilitator, composer and musician David LaMotte said that while it’s important “to name the horror of what humans are doing to each other,” it’s also crucial that we acknowledge that most of the world is at peace.
“How do we metastasize the goodness?” he asked host the Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty of the Presbyterian Foundation. “How do we spread the things that are right and leave no room for the rest?”
“I don’t advocate looking away” from recent awful news reports of violence in Texas and New York and California, LaMotte said. “But in order to be mobile at all, we have to keep some semblance of hope. I need to keep reminding myself that there’s beauty everywhere.”
“I’m not saying everything’s cool. It’s definitely not OK,” LaMotte told Hinson-Hasty. “We have serious work to do. But to do the work, I need to not be completely immobilized by despair, because hope leads to action, and action can lead to any number of possibilities. With inaction, things generally go in the same direction, in my experience.”
“We have work to do. It’s a long struggle, so how do we maintain sustainability in a time when we see people burning out left and right,” including nurses, teachers and pastors, “who catch it from people on all sides,” LaMotte said. “When I see teachers, I always thank them for their service. Pastors: than you for your service.”
Just before the pandemic began, a friend gave LaMotte two rules for community: bring what you have and ask for what you need. LaMotte appreciated those rules so much he wrote and recorded a song about them. “I never want to be the voice that further burdens people who are already carrying too much,” he said. “There is toxic self-aggrandizement to thinking I have to be the one to fix this all the time. And yet we need to show up for the work at hand.”
Jesus does “a wild thing” issuing the Great Commandment, LaMotte said. He simply answers the question, “which he never did,” LaMotte said, normally electing to answer questions from disciples and others with parables or with another question. Jesus’ answer is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. In Matthew’s account, he adds, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
According to Jesus, “everything else you ever learned has to be filtered through these two things,” LaMotte said. “I don’t know why Christians don’t hold up those verses at football games.”
“We could start a movement!” Hinson-Hasty replied before asking about a “Let’s be neighbors” sign hanging behind LaMotte. The sign read: “You are our neighbors. No mater who you vote for, your skin color, where you are from, your faith, or who you love, we will try to be here for you. That’s what community means. Let’s be neighbors.” To learn more, go here.
LaMotte said that message became even more valuable following the 2016 election, when in his neighborhood “it felt like the sidewalks had been torn out. There was generalized fear and anxiety. People lost their commonality.”
“When your car battery is dead, no matter who you voted for, knock on my door and I’ll jump your car battery,” LaMotte said. “We have to be in relationship because it matters. When we silo, we can’t make decisions together. People are seldom transformed by being rejected. They’re transformed by love … If we’re humanized, we can be transformed.”
“If we’re going to make any change in the world,” Hinson-Hasty said, “we’re going to have to know each other.”
“I’m also really conscious you and I are straight white guys with U.S. passports,” LaMotte said. “We sit here with a great deal of privilege. My to-do list is not everybody’s to-do list. … I’m not in a place to issue edicts as to what everybody ought to do. I think this is what we ought to do, but it’s a lot easier to see systems from the edges of the systems.”
Making peace, LaMotte said, is not the same as making nice.
“It involves engaging conflict. It’s really hard work,” both in families and in the public square. “If you’re not engaging,” LaMotte said, “it’s not peace work.”
LaMotte’s new book, “You are Changing the World Whether You Like It or Not,” will be published this fall by Chalice Press.
Hinson-Hasty called LaMotte “the perfect guest for today, a reminder we are connected to each other, that hope — not despair — is the final word.”