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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Confederate Flag, Dukes, and Compassion

I have pondered for several days my response to those who are defending the Confederate Flag and mourning the loss of the Dukes of Hazzard.  After a bit of contemplation here is what I have to say:

Look, I fell in love with my first husband while he was wearing a Confederate Flag do-rag.  I understand the symbol of rebellion thing.  I understand the nod to history.  I watched the Duke’s of Hazard as a kid.  I understand they are just a couple of “good ole boys.” The thing is I have met a few people since then.  I have heard stories from the hearts of my brothers and sisters of varying races, ethnicities and positions in life.  Therefore, I have come to understand what I see as a symbol of rebellion might hold a different meaning to someone else.  I have come to understand “good ole boys” sometimes use their “good ole boy” connections to maintain their position and power and money.  They may be just helping out friends like “good ole boys” do.  Yet the consequences are sexism, racism, classism, and a world which is far from the ideal of equal opportunity.  

I understand it is just a TV show.  But, listen to that again: it is just a TV show.  Doesn’t it seem like we ought to be able to let go of “just a TV show” even on the off chance it is sending a message of the acceptance of racism or hurting the hearts of our brothers and sisters?  

Remember, racism isn’t just about people using the word “nigger” and hurting someone’s feelings.  Racism is played out in ways which cause poverty and death.  Do we really want to say: “I care about equality for all people unless it interrupts my TV viewing?”  Do we really want to fly a flag just to prove we aren’t held back by political correctness when it might be communicating a message of hate or at least indifference to those who are suffering from racism?  Consider if there was something threatening the lives of your children.  How would it feel to you if someone said, “I don’t care if you say this symbol communicates support for this thing which is killing your children.  I don’t think it has anything to do with that so I am going to wear this symbol loud and proud.  Your children will probably be fine.  See how I love them?” 

Pretty sure you would call B.S. on that.   

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.