Mystic Mondays November 14, 2016
On Wednesday I had a counseling appointment and spent half of the $150/hour time in an uncontrollable bawl-fest that I think left both me and my counselor exhausted. I knew it had to do with the election, but I could not put words to it at first. As we dug down to the mother lode we struck emotional gold. My gut-wrenching episode had to do with the enormous sense of responsibility I felt to my congregation.
I was mad at God for putting me in this position.
I knew that many would be licking their wounds and wondering what train had run over them. I also knew that just as many were quietly celebrating that America had finally heard them. Our congregation is a microcosm of American society–passionate citizens on both sides of the Republican/Democrat divide.
It was tough getting there, but by Saturday I knew that I had to address the election from the pulpit. I knew that some would be concerned (given my equally passionate and vocal opposition to Donald Trump’s campaign in my blog) that I might use the pulpit to criticize our president elect. I also knew that others were feeling paralyzed by their inability to reconcile their commitment to their Christian faith and their patriotic duty to support the the president elect.
I needed to say something about how the church would respond and how I would use my pulpit in the coming months and years. I needed to find a way to set the tone so that we could move through this time with some semblance of grace. Here is the letter I read to the congregation yesterday morning. I hope you find it helpful as you also consider the delicate line between faith and politics.
Dear Bethany Friends,
It certainly would be the understatement of the year to acknowledge that much of America feels like a political, spiritual and cultural earthquake hit us this election. Facebook has lit up with a combination of anger and grief on one side and relief and great hope on the other side. It is too early to tell just how long the aftershocks of this earthquake will reverberate through our communities and nation.
As I prepared for today I felt a deep sense of responsibility. If I say nothing about what just happened I feel that I would not be living up to my pastoral duty to offer something hopeful from the gospel to an issue that has rocked us to the very core. On the other hand if I step into this political fray I run the risk of alienating some in the congregation and further dividing us just when we are working hard to come together.
What I want to assure you today is that the events of this past week are not going to change who I am, what I preach and the gospel that I have staked my life on. I have no interest in either personally challenging the president-elect or in endorsing him from the pulpit.
Having said that, however, there are already signs across our country that one outcome of this election is that some Americans are feeling threatened and other Americans are now feeling permission to personally attack fellow citizens. Women and girls are being grabbed and told, “If our president can do it, I can do it.” African-Americans are being harassed and freely called the “N” word. Muslim women are having their head scarves and hajibs torn from their bodies. And protesters are vandalizing businesses, vehicles and public property. This is more than just a political issue. This is a spiritual and moral issue.
If I say nothing in this time I will forever carry on my conscience that I stood by and asked Bethany to stand by silently while we Americans tear each other apart. What I want to assure you is that nothing has changed for me. I will continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that calls us to “Love our neighbor as ourselves.” I will continue to hold up the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, a life that tore down the “dividing walls of hostility.” I will continue to preach that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, for we are all one in Jesus Christ.” I will continue to dream of a time when the Kingdom of God is realized where we lift each other up rather than tear each other down.
I also will continue to preach that humiliating others, calling people names, stroking the fires of fear, and making racist, sexist, and misogynistic comments is a direct affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ. My intention is neither to endorse nor to oppose a particular political person from the pulpit. My intention is simply to raise up the gospel of Jesus Christ and hold all Americans to the same standard—Republican and Democrat, the taxicab driver, the elementary school teacher, the local police officer, and, yes, even the President of the United States. If we call ourselves Christian then character matters!
As long as I am in this pulpit I will not remain silent while we Americans are attacking, humiliating, demonizing or threatening each other with harm. I am responsible to preach the gospel. Our leaders are responsible for our democracy. I will try to live up to standards of Jesus Christ and pray that our leaders will live up to the standards of the American way.
My friends, I want to assure you that this election has not changed the words that will come from this pulpit. I am a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can do no other. You should expect nothing less.
May God guide us and give us courage as we move through this time together. Amen.