Nick Sandmann, in stepping up to Mr. Phillips and refusing to step aside, smirking as his classmates chanted school pep rally cheers, fawned Native American cries, and did “tomahawk chop” motions, reflected what he has been taught to be as an American Christian. American Christianity is based on a hyper-individualized understanding that Jesus died entirely for your sins, making you unique, but not requiring you to be a change agent to your culture, nor to the economic or political status.
I begin with this because when we are looking at the various plans that have been put forward for the future of the United Methodist Church as they get ready to meet in February for an emergency General Conference I believe we must first ask of these plans, which of these moves us towards God’s sanctification; a sanctification that is entirely focused on loving others and loving more perfectly. As a decision which I will explain, I believe wholeheartedly that the choice for this General Conference is clear: the delegates to General Conference in 2019 must choose Simple Plan.
So, with a new Democratic majority in the House, let me offer a “friendly” note of advice: forget the evangelicals. Seriously. If evangelicals want to join progressive religious people then they are welcome - ALL people are welcome to join, but you gotta be on the same page policy-wise and you gotta keep up.
Too often we dismiss smart-asses and comics because they seem only able to deconstruct. Even more, we also are so tied to the political, economic, and especially social status quo. We sometimes get our identity from the status quo just as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did. But we should listen to the smart-ass or the clown who repeatedly makes fun of the current state of affairs because of its inherent unfairness.
The last thing I know any of us want to think about is the man in the Oval Office (I am trying to not even mention his name anymore if I can help it). But this morning I read Mary’s Magnificat and I could not help but think of this outlaw and oppressive administration. Let me remind us how Mary sang her praise of God, and I will provide some timely interpretation during her song.
I saw this past week mostly white men on social media castigating refugee women fleeing north to the United States who then had to flee the tear gas being shot at them by US officials on the southern border. These have been words not worth the air it requires to speak it. But no matter how much we hate it the middle class in this country love to dish it out.
This is the power of public witness. Public witness events help motivate and mobilize others to action on that issue or even related issues. But just as courage breeds courage, public witness events breed public witness events. Imagination breed imagination, faithfulness breeds faithfulness, and revolution breeds revolution.
So, in moving forward, I want to suggest that our greatest hope in continuing to effectively RESIST donald trump and all that he embodies is not the investigative power of the new Democrat-controlled House. Our hope rests in our ability to build movements for the things I mentioned above that are built among people directly impacted by injustice and groups of people who share the same vision of change.
I am deeply encouraged to see evangelicals leave evangelicalism, but I am now seeing something from some of the evangelicals who are leaving evangelicalism that deeply bothers me. There is something of an expectation among some evangelicals who have left, or who have started to leave evangelicalism who expect to be revered by their newly found liberal or liberationist friends.
white evangelicals have been discipled to hold values dear to them which are antithetical to the biblical Jesus and they have steeped themselves in the fusion of church and state until their teachings are half-truths (meaning mistruths) and their actions oppressive towards others. They are the Pharisees of today.
I am hesitant to write this because I can hardly heap one more thing on my heart that taps into my compassion and especially my anger at injustice, but I feel like I must. I have heard so little about the war being waged against the people of Yemen and the suffering they are experiencing that I feel like it must be talked about.
With this in mind, let’s return to the protests in restaurants and public spaces directed towards public officials. While I again urge these protesters - these brave women and men - to do this nonviolently and to always allow the focus of their protest an out, I also totally understand why their disgust and anger has led them to this kind of protest. The anger comes from leaders who hold absolutely no deference to you or I, the voters.
When we push aside the needy and vulnerable from our sight, whether that is physically pushing them aside or accepting the structured segregation built by the larger society and sanctioned by our churches as legitimate, our worship is meaningless. Worse than meaningless, our worship actually makes God sick
As I see the systems in place right now in our society, I sense there is a great deal of unease and shakiness, even some loneliness, because we are seeing so many of our systems fail and fail badly. And when I say they are failing, I mean that rather than creating access to all people for the opportunity for happiness, abundance, and fullness in life, they are, in fact, limiting that access. They are functioning in such a way that favors opportunities for happiness, abundance, and fullness to a small group of people and not to all.
With the ecstatic blessing of evangelical “Christian” leaders who care more about power and their spite-filled agenda than they do the dignity of women and sexual assault survivors, they have demanded that the Senate not seek to find out the truth, but to force through this nomination. I am disgusted - more than disgusted - that these people claim the same faith as me.
While steering clear of the story of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford is clearly the safest thing for pastors and church leaders to do, it is the wrong thing to do. This is precisely the area that the church can have the clearest voice and can have a tremendous impact, especially in terms of being an agent of healing for those who have experienced sexual assault.
My break with evangelicalism was truly a significant moment in my life, much like the one many evangelicals are now experiencing in their own lives, which is the primary reason I write this. In the evangelical movement’s quest to be socially accepted as well as socially and politically dominant, they are once again running the risk of losing the people that make up their movement, just as they did with me over fifteen years ago. Most importantly, they are running the risk of building a movement proclaiming their belief in a Savior they no longer really follow.