The Fragmented Society
Last Saturday on Facebook, a friend posted a link to the Op-Ed The Fragmented Society by David Brooks
Here is the comment I shared:
It is interesting to read this after watching the United Methodist Church struggle with many issues at their General Conference. At one point I watched a live video stream of 'worship at the margins'. This came to mind when I read your comment about moving to the margins.
It sounds like Brooks and Levin have strange views about the nature of identity, cohesion, and the restrictions placed on people whose identity is at the margins. It sounds like Brooks and Levin focus too much on economic and geographic identity.
It seems like we as Christians, need to follow Jesus to the margins of society, eat with tax collectors or their modern day equivalents, no matter what marginalizes them, listen and learn from those at the margins so that we can truly welcome them and show them God's Love.
In a discussion in a religious group on Facebook, the topic of online sacraments came up. It was quickly dismissed as “Worst. Idea. Ever.” by many of the participants and one person asked, “doesn't an ‘online sacrament’ limit the concept of a community of faith”?
I added several comments:
When we talk about an outward and visible sign, perhaps we should be asking if that sign needs to be face to face, or if being visible online counts. Perhaps we need to ask if inward grace can be communicated electronically as well as in the spoken voice or in a silent prayer.
A friend of mine is being ordained to the Diaconate soon. The service will take place a couple thousand miles away. As much as I would like to be, I will not be there in person, but I will be there in spirit. If I could join in electronically, that would be wonderful.
Another friend of mine is mourning the death of her grandmother. I talked with her sister about whether she could join in via Skype.
As a professional online community builder, it feels the other way around to me. an online sacrament broadens the concept of a community of faith. As a person who prays for many of the people in this group and for whom many people in this group have prayed, this online group is an important part of my community of faith.
I think another aspect of this, which is why I think it may be important not to dismiss to quickly or easily, is that it helps get church out of the box. I view online sacraments similar to how I think of #AshesToGo and #FlashCompline
Sons of Confederate Veterans
In one group a person expressed concern about allowing the Sons of Confederate Veterans to use the church he attends. I responded,
I don't think there is an easy answer. I like the sign, The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. I like the mission of the church as it is described in our Catechism, "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."
How do we welcome the descendants of Confederate soliders? How do we wecome the descendants of Union soldiers? How do we welcome the descendants of slaves? How do we welcome pacificists?
The Confederate soldiers and their descendants are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, created in God's image, and loved by God.
How do we show God's love to them and to descendants of slaves at the same time? It seems bigger than something I can do, but then again, so does God's love.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
hatred, envy, fears, injustice
towards those we think
will take away
our God given
rights, privileges, and entitlements;
those that are like us
men who love men,
women transitioning into men,
immigrants who arrived
more recently than our ancestors
without the sort of documents
we think are required
to keep our property safe,
or young mothers
who we think
were given the same opportunities
in the ghettos of our cities
that we had
in our high performing
suburban school districts,
whose ancestors were captured
and brought to this country
to expand the wealth
of our ancestors.
forgive our lack of love
to those who were created
in God’s image
and not our own.
Stir up, o Spirit/Wind
like the winds of a tornado
to blow away our baggage
and all the things
that get in the way
of seeing and serving You.
I see people with baseball caps
“Let’s make America great again.”
and others’ that say
“America already is great”
and I think to myself
it is going to be
a long hot summer
with lots of shouting
and little listening.
What is this greatness they speak of?
Is it the greatness of the city on a hill
in which white European men
pursue their manifest destiny
across the country
at the expense of natives,
and the environment?
Is the greatness
in the resources of this land,
the beauty of the landscape,
and in compassion
for those in need,
no matter what they think,
where they’re from,
or what look like?
What should I write
during the coming months?
“Yes it is! … No it’s not!”?
Somehow that doesn’t seem very productive.
Show, don’t tell.
by writing about a flower budding,
a river flowing,
or an unexpected smile
on a summer afternoon
I can do my part
for the greatness of this country.
One of the themes of the 2016 Trinity Institute conference, Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice was the idea of Counter Narrative. It is an idea that people talk about, in certain circles, but perhaps do not do enough to foster. There is the official narrative, the stories we learn in school or read in the mainstream media; the stories of America as uninhabited or inhabited by barbarians, when Westerners came, the stories of Westerners being welcomed at a great first Thanksgiving meal, the stories of southern plantation life which overlooks the suffering of slaves, the stories of a city on a hill and manifest destiny. A good way to understand the problems of this is by listening to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story.
The dominant narrative of the day seems to be one of consumerism, where what matters is getting whatever you can for yourself, and the rest be damned. It is a narrative based on fear; sending troops and building bigger walls. It is a narrative where all people are not created equal, let alone created in the image of God Some of seen as more or less deserving than others, perhaps because of their skin color, the location they were born, or how wealthy their family was when they were born.
I thought of this when I listened to a book on tape by Barbara Kingsolver where she said that $100 is spent every year for every person on the planet, trying to get them to buy more stuff. Friday, I heard Dr. Gail C. Christopher of the W.K. Kellogg foundation say, at a forum on health equity and access, talking about what you see on television and movies, “We are entertained these days by the destruction of life".
The master narrative is about consumerism and inequality, it is about the loss of creativity and spirituality. People talk about counter narratives at conferences. Perhaps they tell some of the other sides of the story, like those talking about the Middle Passage are doing. Maybe they are telling some women’s history, talking about the domestic arts with as much respect as has been shown to the “fine” arts, or highlighting great black and/or women artists and scientists.
Yet what about countering the master narrative in daily life? Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. I set for myself a goal to write a poem a day during the month. When I’ve done this in the past, there have been days that I could find nothing to say, and wrote pieces that weren’t all that great, that were throw aways, just practice pieces. This month I did a little better. I didn’t always get the poem for each day posted on the day I wrote it. Sometimes, I’d let it sit for a day or two before editing and posting, but I did get my thirty poems done. I’ll probably edit my last poem of the month and post it tomorrow.
I’ve also been participating in a Modern Poetry class online. I’ve been reading Frost, Sandberg, and Masters most recently. I’m listening to a book about the transcendentalists in Concord during my commute. Next up is Spoon River Anthology or Big Magic, depending on when I finish the transcendentalist book and when Big Magic becomes available from the library.
All of this shapes into an idea for a counter narrative. Can I write a post, more or less daily, often as poetry, but not necessarily always, that celebrates spirituality and creativity while giving voice to people and things too often overlooked? Can I find others who are willing to write along with me? Can we listen to one another and by listening and writing shift the narratives?
Four years ago, I ran for State Representative. My campaign was a long shot, and while I ran a vigorous campaign, it was relatively low key. Nonetheless, it was hard work. A few days before the election, Super Storm Sandy hit. My mother died in a car accident during that storm and I tried to deal with my grief as I finished my campaign. Many friends supported me during this time. I worked the crowds at events around the district and thanked everyone for their support.
Two years later, I ran again. I ran a more vigorous campaign. At the big Sunday campaign brunch before election day, we found that a couple candidates had just had close family members die. It triggered memories of two years earlier, and when it was my turn to speak, I set aside my prepared words and spoke about why we vote.
I started off by offering condolences to those whose family members had died. I said that one of the ways we show that we care for the person who died and their family and friends who remain, is by going to wakes, to funerals, by showing up and showing our support. I said that elections are like that. It is how we show that we care for our community, our state, and our country. My passionate call to get out and vote was well received.
All of this comes to mind this morning, as we prepare for the Presidential primary here in Connecticut. All of this came flashing back, crashing back, as I read the news this morning. Aspiring campaign volunteer killed ‘execution style’ moments after meeting Pa. candidate “Alex Cherry chatted with Chris Rabb, a Democratic candidate for a seat in the Pennsylvania State House, on Sunday…”
Chris? I met him in politics years ago, and we remain friends on Facebook. Brilliant. Compassionate. The sort of leader we need more people like. I quickly went to his Facebook page, where he wrote, “I am physically okay.
Thank you for your concern and expressions of support for me and my campaign workers who experienced this horrific event.”
This is why we vote. To show that we care. Chris cares enough about his community to take on the grueling task of running for office. He is working to address causes of violence in our communities.
As candidates, we work very hard to spread the word about how we can all work together to make our communities better places, safer places. Please, don’t say your vote doesn’t matter. It does. It matters a lot more than you imagine. It matters to me. It matters to Chris. It matters to friends and supporters.
Please, get out and vote! Get your friends to get out and vote. It is how we show we care.