Twelve days into 2021, we continue to grapple with the ongoing crises of COVID, economic devastation, racial injustice, and political misconduct at the highest levels of our nation’s government. As more information becomes known about last Wednesday’s insurrectionist attacks on the U.S.Capitol, I listen, read, ponder and discern. What are formative experiences in your life from which you can glean insights for our current realities?
I share with you insights I learned the hard way 28 years ago as a young pastor in my first call. The head of staff pastor, who had been my boss, colleague, mentor & friend, was found guilty of egregious sexual misconduct with multiple women in the congregation. He was married with two young children and had been abusing his clerical power within the trusted relationships of pastor-congregant. When a special investigative committee of the Presbytery conducted an extensive investigation of his behavior, including his interactions with me as an associate pastor, they concluded their investigation with more than 40 charges of sexual harassment & sexual misconduct.
As you might imagine, this was a huge shock to the congregation & church staff. Emotions ranged from disbelief, outrage, fear, to sadness and profound loss. As people navigated these emotions over the days and weeks that followed, one disturbing response emerged. Congregants approached me, other staff and one another, talking about the need for forgiveness, healing, reconciliation. Although not surprised by this reaction, I was disheartened. Nevertheless, I remained clear and firm in my new understanding and communications that this pastor needed to be held accountable for his behavior and should no longer remain a clergy person. Luckily there was a majority of people in the church & Presbytery who felt the same.
An enduring lesson for me from this trial and baptism by fire, especially in a religious setting, was the danger of rushing to forgiveness instead of staying present to the reality of accountability and consequences. I explained to congregants that although this pastor was a child of God and deserving of compassion, he was not entitled to his job and position as a pastor.
Witnessing the current reactions and responses to the violent attacks and brazen misconduct perpetrated January 6th by the US President, by US lawmakers and by thousands of US citizens, it is clear to me their actions were egregious examples of misconduct which need to be investigated and brought to justice. As someone who is against the death penalty, I do not wish ill will or violence upon their bodies; however, I do believe these perpetrators need to lose their jobs and positions of power.
A lethal legacy of White Supremacy in our country is the sickness of using Christian values like forgiveness and healing to circumvent justice and accountability for White persons in power who are guilty of horrendous crimes. This White Christian shortcut of absolution has only served to embolden a sense of superiority and harden the hearts of White Americans instead of the truth-telling required for real reconciliation and healing.
Today is Friday, November 6, 2020. The Word of these past 48 hours has been patience. The etymology of patience is from the Latin word for suffering. How appropriate.
American culture is not known for its patience because we are a culture obsessed with avoidance & denial of suffering. Perhaps these days of waiting are an invitation to turn patience into a practice.
What does patience look like for you? What are ways to acknowledge our individual and collective suffering, as humans and as Americans?
In the coming days, I will practice patience, when I’m driving. Maybe I’ll not get so angry when I get behind a slow driver or when a fast driver is on my tail. Or I can practice patience, wearing my mask, while waiting in line at the grocery store, post office, doctor’s office. Or I will practice more patience at home, with myself and with Chris. Remembering to breathe. Slow down. Do one thing at a time.
We never know the depths of human suffering our neighbors, colleagues, fellow citizens endure. Our patience might just be the act of kindness required for healing. May it be so.
Today is Election Day, November 3, 2020. It is 3pmEST in Asheville, NC. We are having glorious sunshine, in the high 50’s. A cursory look at cities across the U.S., sunshine prevails. Perhaps a sign that Mother Earth is ready to turn, in a big way!
I share the hymn: The Canticle of the Turning, based on Mary’s Magnificat:
Tuesdays are one of my sabbath days. On this historic Election Day, I am lucky to practice slowing down, reconnecting with the flow of my inner rhythms. I ate a healthy, tasty breakfast and lunch. I used my new Rad balls, while lying on the floor, to release trigger point stressors in my muscles. I trimmed the orchid plants. I am laundering towels. I’ve edited Chris’ weekly ACT column. I’ve been listening to NPR’s Here & Now, and 1A.
With gusto, I sang, cried & danced to The Canticle of the Turning.
And now I’m writing this blog post.
I am not feeling anxious. Instead, I am feeling hope-filled as historic numbers of US citizens have already voted, and are voting today. I trust and believe this unprecedented turnout of millions of Americans during a deadly pandemic exemplifies the best of human perseverance and steely determination. So, right now, in this present moment, on this beautiful fall day in the Blue Ridge mountains, I am feeling inspired, open-hearted, and ready to face what lies ahead tonight, tomorrow and in the coming days.
Grief & Rebirth
On this last day of October, the night of a blue moon, it is also the Wiccan celebration of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, which commemorates the dying God who returns to the womb of the Goddess preparing for rebirth at the Yule.
Thanks to http://www.multifaithcalendar.org
What an appropriate time to honor the souls of all who’ve died this past year, as well as the deaths of our own dreams and hopes.
Trusting the wisdom of Creation in these challenging days of human frailty and failings, what is dying within you, preparing for rebirth?
Preparing for 2020 Election
Born in Washington, DC, and raised in the Maryland suburbs, we used to say that our local news was national & international news. 58 years later, it’s hard for me to shake my fascination and addiction to national & international politics. I’m thankful for the ways the DC metropolitan area formed me as a world citizen.
Nevertheless, as we approach November 3, 2020, it’s clear to me that my power and greatest impact, along with voting, is how I act and respond in these coming days of increasing stress, uncertainty and anxious waiting.
My daily practice throughout the rest of October, November and December will be to notice when I’m “othering” those with whom I disagree, sometimes vehemently, and figure out how to speak & act without using venom and rage.
I truly believe there is always a third, fourth, fifth way forward in these polarized, fractured times. For example, as we anticipate the Senate confirmation of Judge Barrett, I sense and trust there are multiple ways forward, including state legislatures passing good, strong laws that protect a woman’s privacy regarding reproductive rights, power over her own body and her right to choose what is best for her body, her psyche and her family.
Such efforts will require time, sacrifice and much struggle. When I feel despondent, I remember Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass, none of whom were alive when the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified or the Voting Rights Act was passed. Yet they never relented in their struggle for justice.
Dear White siblings, be not fooled.
When the President of the U.S. and his entourage, (it’s important to learn their names and positions of power) impulsively decided to walk across the street from the White House to a House of God, their instincts reveal White Supremacy & Christian Nationalism. The videos and photos portray it pure and simple.
If any of the 5-7 White people who walked the hundred plus yards had stopped to acknowledge the humanity, the dignity, the presence of the protestors, the clergy, the media, the police, their actions would have illustrated common decency.
Instead, they were blindly focused on their goal, which was to cross the street, stand in front of a church none of them attend, hold up a Bible as if it were the Flag, (both idolatrous) and blaspheme religious institutions while disgracing the executive branch of the U.S. government.
White siblings, it’s time to stand down. To acknowledge and disrupt our practices of power hoarding & paternalism. It’s been killing Brown & Black bodies since 1619 and it’s killing us. Credit due Tema Okun and her work on white supremacy culture, changework.
Today is the last day of May 2020
The U.S. convulses from 400 years of White people not naming, facing, repairing two truths: White people stole this land from the Native peoples and White people built unjust and racist economic, political & legal systems upon the necks, backs and bodies of Black peoples, through slavery, segregation, redlining, mass incarceration and militarized police.
Genocides of Native & Black peoples. These are the dual pandemics which have infected our nation for over 4 centuries. COVID 19 lays bare what Black and Brown peoples have always known. White Supremacy is the underlying sickness which must be named. It starts with me.