A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SCOTUS Ruling, Racism, and Loving One Another

What a week!  Such a mixture of joy and sorrow.  

On a national level, that is.  Here we just finished harvest.  The predominate emotion in my home life is relief.  Everyday life goes on even in the midst of the big events on a national scale.  

On a national level there are big events indeed.  There is celebration and joy at the Supreme Court ruling which supports the right of same-gender couples to marry.  There is sorrow as we lay to rest the victims of the shooting in Charleston and continue to wrestle with the causes and consequences of racial injustice.  

I also recognize the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling brought dismay to some of my neighbors.  Those for whom such a ruling seems a violation of God’s law are expressing distress.  I am sorry for your hurt though not for the ruling.  This is not the time to argue with those feelings. Nor will I minimize your hurts and fears.

However, I do have a request as a fellow child of God: please avoid expressing your dismay in ways which spread further hate and claim it as love.  Imagine your beloved, perhaps a spouse, came to you and said, “I love you…just like I love murderers, adulterers, and thieves.”  Would you feel loved?  Would this not be an expression of anger and perhaps even hatred merely masquerading as love?

If you would not speak so to your beloved then do not speak so to any of our brothers and sisters.  We are called to love all people.  And we are in this together.  When any of us is poor, or a victim of violence, or treated unjustly, we are all in danger of poverty, violence, and injustice.  Words of hatred have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are lethal, as they were in Charleston most recently.  

I would also ask we all refrain from expressing our discomfort at the racist reality played out in Charleston by discounting the experiences of our African American brothers and sisters.  The bedrock of building a just world is listening to one another.  Listening does not happen by defining other people’s experiences for them.  Listening does not happen by avoiding truth.  

As brothers and sisters, we rejoice together and we grieve together and so often the two are intertwined.  So, let us rejoice together with those rejoicing over the affirmation of their committed loving relationships while not forgetting those for whom this transition is difficult.  Let us grieve with those laying to rest loved ones in Charleston while rejoicing in the call to reformation ringing across our country calling for an end to the injustice of racism.  Let us rejoice, let us grieve, let us love one another with hearts open to the experiences of others and to acknowledging our own wrongdoing.  Let us move toward justice for all people. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Grief and Patience with the Church

The world is filled with tragedy and heartbreak.  From names near to home like Brandy, Browynn, and Kathryn to tragedy I only know from a distance in places such as Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston sorrow comes and words are inadequate.  I have written in the past about what not to say to a grieving person but the list of things which are helpful to say is much shorter:  “I am sorry.”  “This sucks.”  Share stories, tears, and laughter if you know the person well.  Help in practical, concrete ways when you can.  I wish there was more.  I wish there were magic words.  

And then there is that crotchety voice in the back of my mind which reminds me some people may be shocked by the word “sucks.”  Which leads me to want to respond with, “You’re right the word “sucks” is shocking.  It is shockingly understated.  A more appropriate response to those suffering grief and pain is, ‘It is fucking horrible what you are going through.’”  Because one of the deep sins of many good people, particularly church people, is being more concerned with being polite than being real, more concerned with looking good than acting with compassion, more concerned with covering up pain than standing with those enduring it.  

I recall wandering around my apartment in a state of shock, many years ago, saying to myself, “I am 24 years old.  I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this.”  “This” being soul shaking grief and funeral arrangements for my husband.  I said some version of this to God many times over the coming months and years.  It has taken me more years to hear the answer.  The answer seems to be, “The fact you can even be surprised by such grief means you live an incredible life of privilege.  There are many who live surrounded by such pain.  Do something about that.”  God’s answer to me seems to fit right in with the cuddly God we read of in the scriptures for the coming Sunday when God responds to Job’s horrific ordeal with essentially, “shut up puny mortal,” and Jesus responds to the nearly drowned disciples with something near scorn.  God can seem a jerk sometimes.  

But at least God mitigates his sometimes jerkiness by continuously calling us to do something about the pain in the world.  The Christian church….  Too often the church sits in the midst of agonizing pain and argues about marketing strategies.  Too often the church hears the consequences of horrific injustice and bemoans low attendance.  To often the church sits idly throwing flowery platitudes into the face of a tsunami of horrors and calls it faith.

Often people talk about experiencing tragedy or heartbreak and being stronger for it.  There are ways in which this may be true.  Less frequently does one hear about the casualties of such experiences: the scars which will not go away, the wounds which require exhausting battles in order to heal. (For those who are hurting and for whom these words may be difficult, I am sorry. I wish I could tell you it will be easy.)  Sometimes one of the lighter casualties is one’s ability to tolerate bull.  One of the forms this casualty takes for me is the loss of my patience with the church.  

The Christian church may be dwindling but we are still many in the USA.  Just think of the difference we could make if we moved our focus from numbers in the pews to numbers suffering.  Just think if we fought as hard against injustice as we do against the loss of our buildings.  Imagine  if we entered into the pain of others rather than using Jesus’ name to downplay it.  Just imagine how much heartache could be repelled. 

So, I guess I will continue to search for ways and search for courage to do what God so harshly seems to be telling me to do: finding ways to do something about the suffering and injustice in the world. 

I wish the church would more often join me.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

Heroes: We Need Some Alternatives

Recently there has been much publicity and controversy over a particular public figure (pun probably in bad taste but noted none the less.)  The public unveiling of the new identity of a transgendered person has led to some interesting conversations.  Effects of this event have run the gambit from positive increases of awareness to truly disturbing reinforcement of gender stereotyping and objectification of women (an excellent article on the latter can be read here).

The topic of transgendered people is one about which I am still learning and so it is best I listen instead of speak on this topic.  However, within the good, the bad, and the general uproar, the topic of heroism has arisen.  What I read in regards to heroism is troubling to me.  Whether this particular person is a hero or not depends largely upon the definition of hero which one is using.  The objections I read, though, offer up disturbing alternatives.  The heroes lifted up fall into two categories: people who use weapons and people who play sports.  Indeed some of these folks might be  heroes, yet why such limited options?  Is it merely coincidental these heroes come from fields where the male gender historically has dominated?  There are so many more options.  How about medical workers, educators, scientists, inventors, humanitarian aid workers, those who work to stop violence, and grassroots organizers?  Surely the aforementioned sports and military heroes do often have inspiring stories of hardship and hardwork yet do we really believe no one else does?  Humanitarian workers don't face hardship and sacrifice?  Educators and scientists can't experience personal tragedy and overcome it?  One might say, “but I don’t know the names of any of those people.”  Exactly.  Perhaps we should start celebrating, focusing upon, and encouraging our children toward a more diverse set of options for heroism.  
Despite some of the negatives of the recent media frenzy, considering our heretofore rather limited alternatives, there might be something to be said for celebrating someone who is daring to be different.