Maybe It's Time

Maybe It's Time

I am weary of Evangelicals belittling my faith. As a pastor who still believes in the power and importance of Church, I am saddened and frustrated by the hoards leaving the American church – because of the American church.

So … maybe there really is an “us” and a “them.” Maybe there really are two different churches, two different religions. Maybe this is the 500-year moment.

A Prayer for Charlottesville

A Prayer for Charlottesville

In the past two weeks of vacation Amy and I have driven 3,600 miles. When possible we ventured from the interstate with the top down, enjoying the open road... the hills of upstate South Carolina and the majestic Shenandoah Valley, the lush farmland of the Delmarva Peninsula and endless corn fields in Indiana, the spectacular scenery of Niagara Falls. Ours is a beautiful country – and it is being ripped apart by willful and ignorant misunderstandings… by partisan ideologies… and by old-fashioned hate.

We spent a good bit of time listening to podcasts or news report. We did not listen to a single word from MSNBC… but after 45 minutes of Shawn Hannity, I felt like it was my patriotic duty to pull the car over and just murder the first Democrat I could find! I kid you not… I have never heard such venom, from the host and every guest. I’m sure it’s as bad on MSNBC. By the popularity of these kinds of shows, there is obviously an insatiable appetite for hating the other side. It’s a wonder there isn’t more domestic terrorism – as much hatred as is stoked in these endless hours of rant. As I have been telling you for years, I will say again: turn off talk radio and the talking heads that represent our political extremes. It is impossible to listen to this kind of vitriol and not be infected at a soul deep level. The tone alone is poisonous. There is no dialogue – just endless, angry diatribe.

Our son, Bennett, was away for the summer, and last Saturday we found ourselves with 24 hours to get him home from the Colts’ beautiful indoor stadium in Indianapolis, get his suitcase unloaded, pack for college (spend a little time with Sarah!), and deposit him at Furman University on Sunday at 1:00pm. As we passed by Charlottesville, VA, Amy read reports of the largest gathering in recent memory of white supremacists and neo-Nazis and white nationalists and fascist organizations known by dozens of different, shameful names. You know the story… one crazed man drove his car into the crowd, wounding many and killing a 32 year-old counter protester. And you know all the political fallout.

Former Republican Governor and candidate for President, Mitt Romney, began a long, blistering critique of the president with these words: “I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president's Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.”

A few days later we stood at Mount Vernon, re-living the life of George Washington. The words of Presidential historian, David McCullough, offered at the final exhibit will stay with me: “Teaching the world to be truly great, one must be truly good.” Neo-nazis are parading the streets of our nation today, and their leaders have publicly thanked the President for his support. Our African-American brothers and sisters who have endured more than enough are angry and afraid. Every Jewish house of worship in Charlotte, has been desecrated this week by graffiti and Confederate flags, a reviled symbol whose supporters have no-doubt been emboldened by the President’s support of our sad, confederate history.

We are in uncharted territory – but I do not believe prayer is a useless, trivial gesture in moments such as these. I believe the answer to the confusion and chaos we are experiencing begins in finding an internal peace and then in summoning an internal courage to stand up, to speak out. And we must.

Much more than politics is at stake in this moment.

I will offer several petitions of prayer, ending each with the phrase, “Lord, in your mercy…” and I invite you to reply, “Hear our prayer.”  Let us pray…

In these moments of frustration and conflict, God of great peace, we need you.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

We pray for brothers and sisters whose minds are so twisted by sad, old ideas that their eyes are unable to see themselves in neighbors who look different on the outside… We pray for brothers and sisters whose hearts are inflamed with hatred.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

We pray for sisters and brothers whose passion for peace and justice leads them down the sad path of violence, whose love of that which is right causes them to do that which is wrong, believing violence can be redemptive. May the example of Jesus teach us all that violence can and always only leads to more violence.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

We pray for leaders, at every level, those who are called upon in moments of distress to speak with clarity, to lead with moral courage, to dispense with old dreams and share new visions, to offer comfort through compassionate strength, and to lead by example. For President Trump and all our nation’s leaders…

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

We pray for a nation at war, not with guns and bombs, but with angry words, angry ideologies, angry labels. Teach us the value of words, the power of words, the use of words – that we might listen and learn from one another.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer. 

We pray for our black sisters and brothers who cannot escape the chains of slavery, which even now still bind the hearts and minds of white people. And we pray for our brothers and sisters at Shalom Park, who are dismayed and dispirited that the dark shadow of Nazi hatred is looming across this land, even this very day.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

We pray for ourselves. We pray that peace might begin with me… that from each calm heart, might resonate a conviction and a courage that embraces the other and that moves our world along that long, bending arc of justice.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

Amen.

As if All is Well in the World

As if All is Well in the World

Again I am sitting in this little farm house on the banks of the Choptank River, just outside of Easton, MD. The calm is as amazing now as when I was here in February for a few days of writing. There is no snow today, but the water is glass. Hardly a sound breaks the still, humid air. 

It’s as if all is well in the world.

Transcending a Sad History

Transcending a Sad History

The President’s most recent ban, preventing transgender persons from serving in the military, is apparently based on concern for the “tremendous medical costs” associated with these enlisted troops. I don’t know what costs are involved. It is difficult to explain complex subjects and difficult decisions in 140 characters. Some subjects (and all people) deserve a more thoughtful and detailed discussion.

Repeal, Replace: a not funny joke

Repeal, Replace: a not funny joke

Steven Wright was a dead-pan comedian. Never cracked a smile. Never altered his monotone delivery. And when each dry joke finished, you had to wonder why it was funny, or if.

“I woke up this morning… went downstairs… Someone had stolen all of my furniture… and replaced each piece with an exact duplicate of itself.”

This joke, which isn’t really funny, except for the delivery, reminds me of the current debate over health care.

Following a Higher Law

Following a Higher Law

Yes, we are a land of laws, and we should be – but following the letter of an immigration law that deports a grandmother who is a 20-year resident of the nation, the wife of a US citizen, a caring mother and attentive grandmother, an upstanding “citizen” in every regard except the paperwork – slavishly following that law will not make us free.

You Cannot Change the Definition of Compassion

You Cannot Change the Definition of Compassion

What I hear in this is, “Once you no longer need our compassion, once you are self-sufficient and successful, once you look more like us, then we’ll recognize you.” This may be one way to look at success, but it doesn’t reflect compassion as I understand that heart-felt, gut-wrenching emotion.

New

New

Is there a better word? New clothes… new car… new house… new job… new day… Don’t those three little letters, N-E-W, sum up all human hopes? 

The poor want a new way, a new hope. The affluent want a new challenge, a new adventure. The living want a new opportunity. The dying want a new reality.

It never ends. When we’re born, everything is new, and we die still seeking newness. Every age, every stage brings newness. Could we live without it? 

Is God is Calling You to be an Angel?

Is God is Calling You to be an Angel?

As this refugee crisis continues to speak to your heads, maybe God will speak to your heart, and you’ll help us respond as a church? Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13.2). 

A Different Set of Rules

A Different Set of Rules

I was away last week, taking some study leave to complete a couple writing projects. I’m holed up in a little farm house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My colleagues and I awoke the first morning to three inches of fresh snow. This fertile land was silenced in white, a gray steam rising off the Choptank River, which crawled underneath the lifeless cold a hundred feet away.

I March With Them

I March With Them

After a few people asked why I was going to participate in the Women’s March on Charlotte, and why was it called a "March for Women" as opposed to a "March for All", I decided that I needed to respond. So I have taken portions of emails I wrote in response to those questions and turned them into this blog post. I am very well aware that everyone that marched will answer the question differently. I can only tell my story.  -Amy

Worshipping Football

Worshipping Football

In the fall of 1976 I put on a pair of those silly men-in-tights pants, strapped on enough shoulder pads to double my body weight, fitted a helmet, melted a plastic mouthpiece to form-fit to my teeth, and for two years playing football for the Bell Street Middle School Wildcats was central to my identity.

Seen it on Facebook!

Seen it on Facebook!

Because he believed Hated Hillary was actually running a child sex ring, that somehow had not been detected, despite her being under unrelenting, continual surveillance, he took a loaded, automatic rifle to a public restaurant, and started shooting.

This unbelievable episode is now cause for a frantic discussion of “fake news” and potential cures for this new, dangerous social ill. Media and sociology and psychology experts from around the country are offering their erudite opinions on what we can do about this new, dangerous trend.

The Repair for Our Ills is Forward Only

The Repair for Our Ills is Forward Only

Last night I spoke to my congregation about having tried to remain mostly silent during this campaign, for fear my thoughts would be viewed as partisan.  But now that the election is over, I want to speak.