Let's Tear Down a Wall, Not Build One
Once there was an astounding castle owned by the Castlereagh family, one of the most princely residences in Ireland. But the ancient home fell into decay. The usual happened. When peasants wanted to repair a road or even construct a pig-sty, they scavenged stone from the old dwelling. The stones were already craftily cut, available without digging and carrying for long distances.
When the descendant and heir Lord Londonderry visited his castle, he determined to immediately end the theft of the stones. This was not only his legacy, but one of the greatest glories of Ireland. So he gave orders to his agent that the castle be enclosed with a six-foot wall, believing this would keep out the thieves.
Years later he returned. To his astonishment, the castle was gone, vanished into thin air. In its place, there was a huge wall that enclosing nothing. He sent for his agent and asked why his orders had been ignored. The agent insisted that the job had been done.
"But where is the castle?" asked Londonderry.
"The castle? I built the wall with it, my Lord! Why should I go for miles to get materials, when the finest stones in Ireland are beside me?”
Sometimes the walls we build ultimately destroy the very thing we want to protect.
When we crossed the border from El Paso into Juarez, Mexico, last weekend, I wondered how much trouble it would be to return. Would security be heightened? Would the wait be longer because of so much attention to our Southern border?
We breezed right through. If there was an increased alert status because of concerns for terrorism or another fear, we didn’t feel it.
My biggest issue with the proposed wall between us and Mexico is the signal it sends. Some years ago my neighbor put up a really nice, high wall between our property, and I can’t help but think that it was a little personal. It certainly didn’t help our relationship, as we could no longer even glimpse tangentially what was going on in their backyard.
That makes me feel weird even saying that, like we wanted to peer into their business, but the truth is, I find security in actually knowing that I can count on the neighbors next door.
When those neighbors moved and we met our new neighbors, it was a relief to know they were friendly and welcoming, and that we could sort out any problems with honest conversation.
America may be putting up a wall for a cost of 5 to 7 billion, but we will pay an undetermined cost by jeopardizing our relationship that we can’t ignore. You can’t just shut the door on a country that shares a property line with us.
I am all for security and wise action, and I admire our leaders for taking it very, very seriously. I just don’t think the wall is the best solution.
We have always been the country who says, “Give me your tired, your poor. We’ll take you. We’re better because you’re here. You prize freedom above all else? So do we.”
But I fear that we’re losing that identity in a poorly-hatched plan to build a wall, destroying the very thing we’re trying to protect.
We live in a vulnerable world. It’s tempting to withdraw. The last thing many people want is to feel unprotected and emotionally exposed. So they put up walls to shield against threats or even uncomfortable conversations.
Churches can be guilty of putting up buildings and creating sub-cultures that seem remote from everyday life, in spite of Jesus’ way to live among the most vulnerable.
Our buildings can become walls that corrupt the way within, which was never really about church, but always about being a blessing to the world.
Vulnerability is openness to the possibility of being wounded. Paradoxically, it’s essential to reconciliation and healing.
In A Different Drum M. Scott Peck said, “There is no way that we can live a rich life unless we are willing to suffer repeatedly, experiencing depression and despair, fear and anxiety, grief and sadness, anger and the agony of forgiving, confusion and doubt, criticism and rejection. A life lacking these emotional upheavals will not only be useless to ourselves, it will be useless to others. We cannot heal without being willing to be hurt.”
Our world needs healing. I need healing, and so do you.
Jesus taught that the only way to be healed — the only way to salvation — is through vulnerability.
In my part of Dallas, North Oak Cliff, people are constantly remodeling. Walls are torn down, new structures built up, fences growing higher.
As our community engages in this remodeling process, I’m asking: what walls need to come down? How do racism, classism, and fear keep us from being good neighbors?
What about in your life? What brave thing do you need to do?