Statement on #Charlottesville

Every Lord’s Day, we gather as a community of faith to proclaim what all Christians believe. The Nicene Creed begins, “We believe in God, the Father Almighty.” When we claim that God is “Almighty” we reveal a very powerful God (God of powers or Lord of powers may sum up “Almighty” well). Yet, this all-powerful God chose to relinquish all power and became powerless in the form of a human child. This child eventually grew up and taught us how to “walk in love”. We know the rest of the story: The world rejected his teachings, sought truth elsewhere, and “He suffered death and was buried.” But in a twist of fate, look what happened: “On the third day He rose again.” That’s a surprise, and is still surprising today if we allow its truth to sink into our bones. What this means is that love has won and death has been conquered.

Living into the faith of the Christian Creed sneaks up on us. There are times when it is simply words, but at others God seems to reveal its words (and meaning) to us when we least expect it. In Charlottesville, VA this past weekend the worldly powers that be were on full display that reminded us of the mob violence that killed our Lord (“He was crucified under Pontius Pilate”). The Good News of Jesus Christ is that He set us free to love without fear. Any thing, group, ideology, or politic that does not allow freedom to love is anti-Christ. When we are shackled to hate, stereotyping, and ignorance we run the risk of binding others to us in a show of vengeful force. Ultimately, the chains can be released but only by the grace of God. It is by His grace that we are saved.

Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI once stated this about our All-Powerful God:

“The highest power is demonstrated as the calm willingness completely to renounce all power; and we are shown that it is powerful, not through force, but only through the freedom of love, which, even when it is rejected, is stronger than the exultant powers of earthly violence” ~ from his Introduction to Christianity, p. 150.

As Christians it is our duty to continue to seek, experience, and reveal this “freedom to love”. Everything else confines us to the powers of this world. Pray for those who are shackled by hate. Lift up those who have been injured or died. Renounce the “evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God” and instead “persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent, and return to the Lord.”

Remember: We protest hate, bigotry and violence by our very lifestyles. This week, style your life around the freedom to “walk in love as Christ loves us” and continue to pray for those who persecute this love. When we do this we are in heavenly company.


Identity Politics in The Body of Christ

Today at the 110th Annual Council meeting of The Episcopal Church of Atlanta in Middle and North Georgia, Resolution 16-7 passed after a two-hour floor exercise that included countless amendments, amendments to amendments, debate, anxiety, and opinions.

Let me go ahead and show my cards on matters such as these, and say I oppose the Church involving itself in what is sometimes labeled, ‘identity politics.’ The Episcopal Church’s slogan is, “All are welcome,” and I have come to the simple conclusion that all means all when it comes to welcoming the stranger, the neighbor, the enemy, and the other. Where I felt a ping of sadness was that the Church felt it necessary to specifically name and label groups of people instead of letting “all” stand as is. Let me give you some background and context for my sadness.

I believe the Church’s genesis point of where we meet one another in Christ has shifted. It has shifted from experiencing each individual person as divine mystery, created in the image of God to a group identity politic. The original identity politics held the Church as the Body of Christ, with Christ being the head (Col. 1:18). The telos of Christ’s Church, then, was to allow the Body to grow into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). Put another way, we used to believe in the content of one’s character instead of the color of one’s skin, one’s sexual orientation, one’s disability, one’s rights, etc. I sometimes wonder… What if The Episcopal Church got out of the rights business and back into the relationship business?

I understand the context of why Resolution 16-7 was written. The United States is still recovering from a tumultuous election, and half the country is in a panic. The proposal wanted everyone to know that the Episcopal Church welcomes all no matter what, but with acknowledged  skepticism, I wondered if the resolution would truly get outside the echo chamber that is The Episcopal Church.

One of the problems with allowing so much energy and resources to filter into identity politics is that groups, by definition are exclusive; whereas, the Church of Jesus Christ is inclusive. There is a certain groupthink that takes place, and anyone outside the groups’ normative ways of thinking is dismissed as a racist, homophobe, bigot, etc. Why would the Church support a construct such as this?

I desire the Church to get back to the basics of Holy Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as a catalyst for furthering our relationship with God, self, neighbor, creation, other, and enemy. At its best, the Church lives into this day in and day out; however, I am growing weary with The Episcopal Church and its strange social justice bedfellows. There are other options, and ways to live, move and have our being in this important work of reconciliation, but I believe the starting point is not with rights. It’s with relationship.

Now that I showed my own biases, and in conclusion, let me simply say the hard work I experienced in the room today was beautiful and inspiring. The way Bishop Robert C. Wright held the tension, yet allowed and made room for the Spirit to move was truly impressive. All the Christians who stood up, spoke from the heart, and truly listened to one another. I believed we experienced one another as the Body of Christ. I believed compassion and spiritual health was strengthened. I believed all were truly welcomed, and why not? Although I disagree with the results of this resolution, I am forever grateful for the journey into deeper relationship one with another, and for that I say, “Thanks be to God.”

The Similarities of Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter Movement

Imagine a king’s court where the royals sit on elevated platforms, in elaborate chairs made of gold, and comfortably cushion their rumps with red velvet. The king and queen have their crowns and stately attire on. The court itself welcomes the immaculately dressed lords and ladies. Perhaps a string quartet is playing off to the side, and prim and proper dance, food rituals, and status are held in high esteem. There are both spoken and unspoken rules that revolve around attire, speech, dance, food, as well as how to approach and speak to the king and queen. It is a tranquil scene. It is a scene of status quo.

Enter the court jester. He pays no attention to the rules of the court. In fact, he sees it as his job to question the rules through his actions. He jumps up on the large dinner table, grabs an apple from a lord, takes a bite, and then throws it against the wall. He then goes over to the musicians, and plucks violently at the strings of a cello in an abstract form of music. He pays no attention to the royals, but rather makes fun of their clothes, rings, and proper ways of doing things.

The jester plays his part. Many are offended by his actions, but a few understand both his motives as well as his engagements. He is bringing to light the spoken and unspoken rules of the court, and is questioning them. He is curious about the status quo and who its guardians truly are. What will be the result of his actions? Will the ones who are mostly offended rein him in out of fear and/or nostalgia? Will the ones who understand him join in with his questioning and enact change? Perhaps it is not the court jester’s role to provide these answers, but to provide the questions in order for prince and pauper to debate and decide.

In my opinion, the court jesters of today’s political landscape come from two different extremes, but are essentially doing the same task. They are bringing to light both the seen and unseen rules of American society, and are publically questioning them. On the right, we have Donald Trump, and on the left we have the Black Lives Matter movement. Trump invites himself into the American political process, but does not play by the rules that television watching Americans are used to. He disrupts the social rules of order by calling into question, “that’s just the way it is.” By doing so, he is attracting a large following, while those who are used to “that’s just the way it is” are scratching their heads.

This is happening within the Black Lives Matter movement as well. American blacks are showing white Americans that there are spaces that remain “black,” and there are spaces that remain “white.” It is an unspoken rule that has now been exposed. One reason blacks seem to be “disrupting” white democratic presidential candidates is to reveal “white space” and to expose in a very micro-way what is and has happened in this country on a macro level.

The combination of having court jesters on either side disrupts the status quo, and it will be up to Americans to reflect on what this means going forward. What will be the result of their actions? Will the ones who are mostly offended rein these movements in out of fear and/or nostalgia? Will the ones who understand them join in with their questioning and enact change? Perhaps it is not the court jester’s role to provide these answers, but to provide the questions in order for prince and pauper to debate and decide.