Living in This World, Political Theology, Politics

Feel the Burn

The grown-ups at my house don’t watch a lot of TV outside of baseball season, but this being a presidential election year, I have been drawn into watching some cable news coverage. I’m undecided most days; my spouse is not (sorry, I won’t tell you more); our voting age children #FeeltheBern.

When I turn on the foolishly big television intended to make us feel like we’re sitting at the ballpark, and I punch in the channel for the latest debate, press conference or expert analysis, I often find myself watching and listening to distressing behavior at what feels like an unsafe distance. It’s up too close, the red-faced hostility, the fallacious allegations, and the self-aggrandizing claims.

I wonder what the world is coming to, how we will avoid destroying ourselves, and things that matter to us. I feel some mixture of frustration, apathy, and despair. I exercise my privilege, therefore, to press the mute button, or I change the channel to see what’s on HGTV, or I turn the darn thing off and go to bed.

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Daddy, Tommy and me – Monumental Methodist Church, 1966

It’s the truth that I grew up starry-eyed about politics because the politician I knew best was my daddy. We practiced our own civic religion; our polling place was at the Methodist church where he learned about faith. I remember vividly walking there from our house and going into the booth with him before I was old enough to read the names on the ballot. I associate goodness with the sound of that lever being pulled to register his vote and open the curtain that revealed us again to the world. Everything about his speech was thoughtful, careful, strong, but gentle.

I wonder how I would have felt if I had been in the Temple courtyard that day Jesus came in and started turning over the tables, knocking over the cages and freeing the birds intended for sacrifice, shouting that his Father’s house had been turned into a den of thieves? Did he not raise his voice? Did he not cause a disturbance? Did he not protest the way things were?

How do we discern the difference between righteous indignation and attention-seeking tirades?

We ask ourselves, what is the underlying intention of the person raising his or her voice? What is the agenda of the person causing the disturbance? What is the desire of the person protesting the status quo?

If we’re people of faith, we ask ourselves, do these loud voice do more than invoke God? Do they align with the values Jesus lived and died to teach us? And, perhaps even more importantly, do they express our Resurrection hope?

I’m not looking for a savior among political candidates, nor do I think that only certain varieties of church-going Christians can express that hope. I am looking for an affirmation of what matters to me, which will allow me to be faithful as I mark a ballot. I hope I’ll feel that burn.

Prayers for Pastors, Transfiguration

Transfiguration (a prayer for pastors)

St. Pete Beach Sunset
St. Pete Beach Sunset

I’ll admit it, Holy One.

I struggle with this story.
I struggle with it,
and what it means.
I definitely struggle with
how to preach it,
year in, year out.
I grapple with the idea
not of what light once was
but of what we have made it,
not a gift from you to help us see,
or a means of sorting out order from chaos,
but as a badge of superiority,
an ID of supremacy.
It’s more than a metaphor now;
we have given it literal power.
A brown man with his brown friends
climbed a mountain,
saw historic figures
and recognized them,
suddenly looked brighter,
with clothes whiter than bleach
could make them,
and I could argue for
a spotlight effect
or something,
but in truth,
we’ve made the narrative
of light v. darkness
so sick,
it’s hard to do.
Yet it seems to be true
that your light
wherever it shines
puts things in focus
makes us able to see
better, even clearly,
for the first time
what matters.
In this season
of argument and fear,
help us to see
better, even clearly,
what matters now
(what always matters):
safety from violence
enough to eat
clean water
for all children
for all people
wherever they live.
Faith, Friendship, Marriage Equality, Politics

My Cup of Hope

Light Princess came downstairs this morning as the kitchen counter TV, tuned to the news, blared a commercial with Christmas music.

Offended, she exclaimed, "It's not even Thanksgiving yet!"

I agreed. "I got a Christmas cup at Starbucks yesterday."

I prepared for her disgust, but instead she smiled.

"Well, they sort of put me in a good mood, so I guess it's okay."

And it was true, that on a morning when I felt discouraged, my first response to a Christmas cup was to cry out, "No! It's barely November!!" But then I noticed the words on the cup, which include "Wish" and "Joy."

And the first one I saw was "Hope."

Some of us might be about up to here with the idea of hope. We hoped and hoped all last year, and we rejoiced on Election Night, but on the other side of the country, people felt then the way my friends and I feel now.

It's possible that word got to bound up with a human being, one who doesn't share my position on the issue of marriage. I mean, he really, really doesn't. 

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. (Psalm 146:3, NRSV) 

I don't like thinking of this verse in reference to a President for whom I voted. It felt like a *great* verse six years ago, when we were going to war and the colleagues in my preaching group were still trying to figure out how to talk about it in a sermon. He even acted like a prince, that President–in my opinion–but I see how inclined we are to make them into princes, all of them, even if only the ones we prefer. Princes or fools or mustachioed villains, however we dress them in our minds, do not put your trust in them. They cannot manifest our hopes single-handed. They may not share them. They may not even care about them.

We've got to find our hope in other places. 

I start with my kids. They are 23 and 19 and 14, and two of them voted, and all of them are angry. They're learning a hard lesson that other Christian people did not hear the gospel the same way they heard it in this house and in the churches that formed them. It makes no sense.

LP will go tonight to the big GSA meeting where LGBT students and their straight allies from many schools will gather to unpack what has happened.

For my No on 1-voting neighbors and the onlookers from away who don't reckon these things from a faith perspective, it's almost easier. They can shut out the religious voices, or try to, and make plans for the next campaign. They don't have to figure out a way to talk to the ecumenical colleagues at the next community event or clergy group meeting.

My friend, RevFun, went to see a priest yesterday. God, he's brave. He's braver than I am. He wanted to tell a priest how this felt and why it was wrong.

I know the priest he went to see, not as well. I've met him once. I wonder if he felt equipped to have the conversation. I wonder if any of them do.

My friend E wrote a beautiful reflection on the power of the widow who gave her mite, and another E wrote he would "watch the sun come up tomorrow, and go back to work repairing the world. Who's in?"and my musical colleague J used Facebook to share his feelings about how this experience led to deeper self-acceptance and my friend B simply said in a status update, "B W is not going away…"

We are all in some way part of the United Church of Christ, and we are motivated by our understanding of the gospel message that we are to love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and our neighbors as ourselves. Make no mistake about it.

That's my cup of hope this morning. I put no faith in princes, but in the next generation and in the people of God, who are not going away.