We live in divided times. Longing for community, or to belong, or perhaps to feel known, we gravitate toward people with whom we share experience and expectation. We find our tribe. Our people. Soon, either intentionally or quite passively, we find ourselves divided into us and them. We cling to our “us,” moving toward them with empathy, greeting mistakes with compassion, going to bat for them, fighting their battles. We greet “them”, however, with skepticism, defining them by their mistakes, assuming the worst, and easily placing them into well-defined stereotypical boxes. Expand Your Us is my effort to confront this divide, to highlight the devastating effects of “us and them” thinking, and to suggest alternatives as we try to form a more perfect union. There is no them, there’s only us.
Through years of research and study, through years of living on the borderland between wealthy and poor, educated and not, black and white, rural and urban, and democrat and republican, I am convinced that there is no us and them. It is a construct, created by people afraid to encounter the perspectives of others. I believe that a culture built on us and them is doomed to fail. I believe that the basis of every us and them is hypocritical, self-serving bullshit designed to exclude others and cause pain. I believe that the best path forward is to commit—personally and as a society—to expand your us.
When you pursue perspectives different than your own, you become a listener and a learner. You see the value in others as you hear their stories. The compassion in you greets the humanity in them, and you are forever changed. You begin to care about the trials they face. You see the danger in legacies of shame or deprivation, and you want to do something about it because they are now your people. You become a person committed to speaking up and taking action to pursue justice for others because you have expanded your us, and you no longer believe that your story is the only story. If we would all expand our us, our eyes would fail to see “them”, and words would fail to dehumanize them, and our society would fail to ignore or abuse them. Expanding your us is the secret to bringing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Expand your us is a movement urging us all to take steps away from us/them thinking. It is a call to be actively anti-racist, to be actively pursuing the skills required for empathetic listening, to be actively aware of our various levels of privilege and to harness the power that comes with such privilege to benefit others. In a very tangible way, expanding your us is the embodiment of a theology that asserts that we are all broken humans, pursued by a loving God who uses His own power to offer others inclusion, community and belonging. There are many ways to expand your us, and I hope this website serves as place to explore them all.