Reading One Star Reviews as an Act of Peacemaking

I’ve read so many articles in the past few years on the need to step out of our comfort zones, to see and hear experiences from “the other.” That our nation and world wouldn’t be so divided if we just know people from different backgrounds. That our churches would come together if we were able to bridge opinions over a meal.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 1.51.35 PMI fully agree with these sentiments. Until we sit down with people whose life experiences and worldviews are different from our own, it is too easy to vilify those who think differently. It becomes second-nature to characterize an entire group based on what we see portrayed rather than what we know through relationship.

This is so much easier said than done. How many of us look up people of extremely different political views and ask them out for a coffee? How many of us actively seek out neighbors whose views on immigration, on gun safety, on religious freedom frighten us? It’s hard to do. When I look at my close group of friends, we mostly think alike. We see the nuances as differences but to an outsider, we are pretty homogenous.

I was talking with a friend about how I love to read one-star reviews of books I’m enjoying. Usually close to the halfway point, if I’m really connecting with a book, I’ll check out the really low reviews on Goodreads. It’s always interesting reading why people don’t connect with aspects of a book I love.

Some of the time, low reviews are based on dislike of writing style or format. Those aren’t as interesting as the ones who don’t connect on a personal or moral level. I look for the reviewers who are offended or who just don’t get the point of the book. Recently, I read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and was impacted by his thoughts and perspective of apartheid and oppression. As I read through the one-star reviews, I noticed quite a few people called Noah racist or anti-Semitic. Reading their reviews gave me a new lens for why Noah’s book is so powerful and necessary.

As my friend and I talked about this practice, she pointed out that this is an easy entry into the world of peacemaking. Reading an entire book from an opposing point of view may be too much right now. Sitting at a table and having a meal with someone on the opposite side of an issue may feel too threatening. But reading a review? It takes less than two minutes.

Some reviews totally reinforce my stereotype of certain groups. But I’ve found that the more opposing reviews I read, the fewer people seem like a stereotype. I still may not agree with them. I may even still roll my eyes at the reasoning for dropping a book by a star or two. But my mind is opening up to different sides of an idea.

Maybe this practice will help me when I meet those folks in real life, whose ratings of books and political views are so much different than my own. By exposing myself to one star reviews, I’m taking baby steps toward the everyday peacemaking and activism I long for.

Do you read one-star reviews? What are small ways you practice everyday peacemaking? 

We’ll be digging deeper into this idea of reading one-star reviews as an act of peacemaking over in The Red Couch Book Club’s Facebook group. If you’d like to join this discussion as well as other conversations about faith and social justice, I’d love for you to join!

What I Learned from My Disappointment in Wonder Woman

This month’s theme at SheLoves Magazine is “Elephant in the Room.” What are things we don’t really talk about, though are glaringly obvious? I immediately thought of my response to Wonder Woman and how disappointed I was that we’re not ready for a truly feminist superhero. Here’s an excerpt, but I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

Annie-Rim-Wonder-Woman3We are in a stage of parenting where going to the movies is a low priority. The amount of planning and coordinating seems better spent on a date in which we look over a candle-lit table and have a great conversation. But when Wonder Woman hit the theaters, I knew I wanted to prioritize this film.

 I spontaneously texted my mom as we drove to church—Can you watch the girls after lunch? We want to see Wonder Woman. A quick affirmative text back meant that we suddenly had a date afternoon!

I had read articles about what an incredible film this was, from a feminist point of view, from a spiritual point of view, from a comic book nerd point of view. I went in with expectations high, ready to be inspired and filled with the fire of girl power.

I left disappointed. I won’t go into all the reasons it didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations—from the fact that, after Diana leaves Themyscira, island of the Amazonian women, the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (in which two named women have a conversation about something other than a man) to the reality that it is still the male hero who saves the day.

As we drove home, my husband enthusiastically declared it a 5-star film!!! (All exclamation points belong to his optimistic nature.) I hemmed between 3.5 and 3.75 stars. (All precise decimals belong to my overly analytical nature.)

When will we stop taking baby steps? I asked. When will we finally have an action movie with a female hero, no strings attached?

I often feel this way about life, in general. I get so tired of taking baby steps. When people tell me that Black Lives Matter—it just takes baby steps for the system to change. Or when I hear that we do want to honor Indigenous Lands—it just takes baby steps for the government to treat them as sacred. Or that women are making strides in the workplace—it just takes baby steps to earn equal pay and sustainable maternity leave.

When are we going to take an actual step? When are we going to stop relying on milk and move to solid foods? Head over to SheLoves to read the rest!

What about you? Did you love Wonder Woman? Where are some places you long for leaps rather than baby steps?

Baby Steps

When Bea learned to walk, our world drastically slowed down. No longer content to ride in the Ergo or stroller, she insisted on going herself. This newfound independence was amazing to watch, but the days of long hikes and walks seemed to be over – we were now in a space of one mile, very slow rambles.

Learning to take baby steps
Learning to take baby steps

We would walk a bit, find a rock or twig, and wait while she examined it. Everything could be – and was – explored, so we learned to stop and look and wait alongside our inquisitive daughter.

The world has felt like its taking baby steps lately. In the midst of these excruciatingly slow changes, I’ve been trying not to lose patience; to practice the art of waiting. Perhaps not passively, but patiently.

We’ve had centuries to recognize and remedy racism, yet we are still faced daily with examples of injustice against people simple for the color of their skin. Baby steps toward reconciliation. One of God’s first commands was to care for the Earth and its animals, yet we continue to add chemicals and hormones, creating toxic waste through the ways we process our food. Baby steps toward restoration. The church has, in so many ways, shown hypocrisy and judgement rather than hope and grace. Baby steps toward redemption.

I’m sure the people who have gone before me look at my own baby steps with impatience and wonder why I can’t catch up. And, I look at those behind me and wonder why their journey is just now beginning. And yet, as we all take baby steps together, the world slowly changes.

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.