We Are People, Not Issues

I’ve been rattling this idea around in my head for a while, and the events of this week have sort of brought it to the forefront. It seems like a common sense thing to me, but maybe my common sense is defective. Anyway, here it goes:

I am a person, not an issue. And so is everyone else.

I believe certain things about life that drive my behavior. I live according to a certain moral code, and while not everyone agrees with this code, I seem to get along fairly well with most human beings. I attribute that to the statement above: I try to see people, not positions.

I’ll be honest: I get that from Jesus. After reading my Bible a lot, I’ve noticed that Jesus looked at the person first, and their positions second. The only class of people he reversed that with was the “religious” folks who spent their time pointing out the issues of other people.

Jesus knows irony.

But back to my point: whether we’re talking the Pulse nightclub shooting, the parents who lost their child to a horrific accident at Disney, or any other trending topic in the news, we tend to see the issue first and the people second (if at all). At least, that’s how we do it from the comfort of our laptops. We attack the Christians, or the gays, or the Muslims, or the cops, or the black kids, or the press, or whoever.

And yeah, I’ll raise my hand. I’m guilty of it with certain groups.

Yet the world is calling out for us to see things differently. To see the people first, the issues second (if at all). The men and women who worked at the Orlando Regional Medical Center are being hailed as heroes for their tireless efforts to help those victimized in the Pulse shootings. And what is it that makes them heroic?

The fact that those nurses and doctors worked to save the injured people who came in wave after wave through their doors. They didn’t stop to ask about a person’s issues. They didn’t have people fill out a “Are You Like Me?” form or a Match.com profile sheet to see if they would be compatible with their beliefs. The medical professionals simply saw people who were injured, in pain, and in need of help they could provide.

People, not issues.

I referenced Jesus, so that means I should talk about sin, because after all – that’s what he came here to address, right? Our sin? Well, let me be blunt: the Gospel says that it’s Jesus who deals with sin, not me. And how Jesus dealt with sin was usually to deal with the person first. If I’m going to call myself a follower of his, shouldn’t I do the same?

Look, I don’t deny sin exists in the world, but I can’t fix sin in my own life, let alone someone else’s, so I’m better off starting with what I have in common with others as opposed to what stands between us. And what we have in common is we are all people.

Go back to Pulse for a moment: why were the victims targeted? Because they were gay. The shooter saw them only through a particular lens. He didn’t see them as people. He didn’t see them as individuals worthy of love. He didn’t see them as capable of feeling pain or fear or any of the other emotions that make us human. He only saw them as their “issue”; it’s the simplest and most effective way to dehumanize anyone.

And let me be clear — we dehumanize people all the time these days. I can be dismissed just as easily for being a “religious nut” as for being a “liberal”. Hell, I have people who want to take shots at my family because I refuse to indoctrinate my kids along one party line or another. I — Jason — do not matter because my issues, my views, my positions, are the opposite of what some people think they ought to be. Therefore I can be summarily dismissed, disrespected, and discarded without an ounce of guilt.

I dehumanize people when I drive. If you go too slow, too fast, or too not-like-how-I’m-driving, then I don’t consider you as a person. You are an obstacle to my day. You are an automatic moron. Your issue — which, truthfully, is just the fact that you’re bothering me — becomes your identity.

That is wrong. In fact, let me retype it this way:

THAT IS WRONG.

It is wrong for me, as a Christian, but more importantly as a human, to see you through the lens of my inconvenience. I should see you as a fellow human being. Not because my religion teaches me to, but because that’s just how we have managed to keep the human race alive this long. No matter how often our societies try to dehumanize people for whatever reason, we have always, at some point, stood up and said, “Enough.”

We are people, not issues. I shouldn’t dehumanize someone because they’re Muslim or gay or driving slow in the left hand lane, and I shouldn’t be dehumanized because I pray to Jesus or think the NBA finals are rigged.

We are people, not issues.

Period.

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