President Carter, in this one small and virtually unheard of event, gives us a blueprint for making foreign relations genuinely relational. And if the presidents who both preceded and followed him had adopted that same approach we would certainly have a different and much more peaceful world.
trump has only one challenge that lies between the rock-bottom point he has reached and a road to liberation: honesty. Peter recognized his betrayal. Peter allowed his heart to be laid bare. Just think about it, the only thing lying between trump’s hellish existence and the sweet joy of liberation in Christ is his willingness to be honest.
There is a question that is too honest and too disquieting that I hardly can say it loud to myself. But it is the honesty of it that I feel I cannot escape and a question I feel has to be spoken, even to be written out. I cannot help but wonder, since this question has secretly been swirling in my mind throughout my adult life, and even before, that perhaps others wonder this too. The question is simple, but yet, pierces me even as I write it: does anything I do really matter or make a difference?
For years - almost my whole life - I have waited for this day; anticipated it with eagerness and expectation. And now it is finally here. Opposite Day. You have no idea how long I have tried to guess when it would be here. And for so long as a kid I kept wondering who it is who would be the one to announce its arrival. I should have known it would be a group of people who claim biblical fidelity and leadership in holiness. I never would have guessed this name because it never existed until a couple of years ago and the name itself is one of the oddest names of a group I have ever heard of, but thanks to the Wesleyan Covenant Association, Opposite Day has arrived!
And then this bigger question has constantly dogged me from the earliest days of walking with Jesus: if we as followers of Jesus are called through, prayer, Bible study, and participation in other means of grace and spiritual disciplines to center ourselves in God, and if we believe that God truly has a preference for the poor and vulnerable and, through Jesus, was and is incarnated among those on the margins of society, then why do we continually try and position ourselves in the center of power and the places that reinforce our prior perceptions and judgments?
In considering that the past is but prologue and there is nothing new under the sun, we who work for the liberation of all of creation need to continue to steady ourselves because the hate speech and attacks against us are only beginning. In what is a sure sign of white, Christian fragility, trump and his evangelical henchmen (emphasis upon “men”) are going to go after us particularly with the charge of socialism as we head into 2020.
But these days, when evangelicals have placed donald trump as the head of evangelicalism, then being a jerk is just being another self-centered, self-consumed American Christian. Sadly, every week I run into more people who have been hurt by this kind of jerky, America-first Christianity. People will surely continue to leave the church because of it too. It is ruining the church’s missional engagement and is a serious form of abuse. Jerk, for many people, has become all too synonymous with evangelical and worse yet, with being Christian.
My main frustration today, and immediately when Barr’s letter to Congress came out, was with the fact that our criminal justice system is deeply broken. Though trump and his crime family have broken all kinds of laws right out in the open, the criminal justice system is working over time to profile, arrest, indict, and sentence to prison for years at a time people of color and poor people.
So, if progressives do not want to follow the same hypocrisy of conservatives who claim to want to biblical holiness while ignoring vast passages in Scripture (especially those passages that show that justice is personally contextual in nature), then we will do well to stop saying we want full inclusion. Instead, we want to highlight and follow the voices of people who have been systematically ostracized by this current structure, namely LGBTQ people, people of color, people who have left the UMC (or were forced out in some way), and lay people.
Providing access entails sacrifice to those in power and with affluence, but this sacrifice gives life and benefit to all. Denying it, as the moneyed political classes were doing in Amos’ time, and as they continue to do it in our time, only brings about destruction. And this is why we must pursue justice like our nation and our world depends on it. Because it does.
The one thing that kept coming back to me though - haunting me, really - is remembering something a professor named Bob Lyons said in his Poor in Scripture class in seminary that has shaped me so much in my life. We were talking about pacifism and he was saying that claiming to be pacifist is easy and requires no sacrifice. Then he said, “I don’t believe you can be a pacifist unless you drive like a pacifist.”
But for too long progressives in the church have wrongly believed, as many did with President Obama, that having someone who at least uses the same progressive rhetoric meant that full inclusion and egalitarian structures were right around the corner. I have been hearing that for years. And you know what? It hasn’t happened. You know what else? It won’t happen. We don’t need progressive bishops or agency heads. We need structural change.
The Bible has historically been the source for seeding dreams and imaginations among oppressed and marginalized peoples. These seeds often sprouted into movements for liberation and justice. What will a Bible in the hands of those who forcibly teach it on behalf of the state do but to ensure social and political control? The Bible in the hands of those seeking liberation is wild and unchained, but for those charged with maintaining order, the Bible preserves stasis.
Thus, I am incredibly restless. Whatever is next for any kind of Methodist rebirth HAS to come from those directly impacted by the injustices committed at this General Conference and that means the amazing LGBTQ leaders who led the charge at General Conference for health and wholeness for the church universal. Sadly, they were rejected and that is why they need to lead whoever wants to follow next. My struggle right now is how to be an ally. To follow and faithfully respond. And as to how to do that, I really do not know.
This is what compassion is and this is what Gregg Taylor shows us in his book. This is a powerful and heart-piercing read and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. I hope you will not only get it for yourself (because I have a feeling you need compassion almost as much as I do), but I also hope your church or Sunday school class or college ministry will devote time to study it.
My yearly group is not perfect, but it’s the group I have... and I am thankful that amidst our differences, it helps me continue to realize who the real Jesus is, and how I can faithfully live so that others might experience peace with God, access to all the blessings that God desires for all God’s children, hope that cannot be taken away, and the knowledge of the love of God that has been poured out for us all.
And Ralph Northam is now saying he wants to use taxpayer money to go on a three year-long short-term mission trip when what he needs is an extended poverty simulation. The problem is you can’t do a poverty simulation when you are the governor. To fully experience the transformation that comes with racial healing he must and foremost give up control and learn; he must shut up and listen.