I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Someone makes a well-meaning comment that seems pretty obvious. Black Lives Matter. Please consider whether your Halloween costumes might offend someone. We need to have more people of color involved in discussions about how we can improve education for people of color. Happy Holidays.
Someone else takes the comment as a personal affront and posts a nasty screed, and we’re off to the races. Next thing you know, we’re talking about freedom of speech, political correctness, and who is allowed to express which opinion, but the underlying issue gets carefully avoided.
As I suggested in my blog post about Halloween costumes at Yale, the underlying issue that is being avoided is how to live in a post Christian White Male dominated culture.
The latest is a selfie the Rev. Shelley Best took at a training session for educators in Hartford, where she observed the lack of people of color in a workshop discussing the achievement gap. A person in the background took offense, and now we see
There have been a lot of posts about this, like Susan Campbell’s White people can be unbearably tender.
She ends up with
I would hope the conversation would veer from “But I’m not racist!” to what it means to live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world. We could use a conversation like that.
Well, for me, trying to live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world, I like having a discussion with my wife about whether we want Thai food or Mexican food tonight. I try to respect other cultures as much as I can, but know that I will continue to say insensitive things as I try to learn about other cultures and weave parts I like into my own life.
The candidate denounced his detractors
as a brood of vipers
and was met
with similar derision
from them online.
but no one
on either side
was ready to share
their food or clothes
with those in need.
Yet in the midst of all the chaos
and mindless hatred
all passing our feeble comprehension
in this current age,
Many of my friends are posting comments like, “No more prayers” on social media in response to the most recent mass shooting in America. I understand their point, but I think it is misguided, and I chose the title of this blog post to illustrate this.
One person, whom I’ll refer to as a Radical Humanist attacked me on Twitter when I posted “Make straight the way of the Lord, in San Bernardino, in Colorado Springs, In all those places of darkness where God's lLove seems so far away”
I choose my words carefully. As an Episcopalian, I seek to coexist with people from all belief structures. I seek to find common ground and ways we can work together. Unfortunately, there are radicals in every belief structure that fight against coexistence. Some simply pick fights online, others pick up physical weapons. I’m glad that the radical humanist that attacked me chose to do so only with words, and I challenged him to show me where the compassion is in his words. He could not.
My tweet harkened to the season of Advent, which we Episcopalians are currently observing. It is a time of waiting and watching for the coming of the Kingdom of God, of waiting and watching for Christmas. It is a time of recognizing the darkness that is in the world.
To me, this does not mean not doing anything. In a sermon I preached in the summer of 2013, I said
Yet, another issue with prayer is that too often it is viewed as an excuse for doing nothing. Too often, we feel, when we've prayed about something important, that it's all we can or need to do.
Yet I don't believe that is at all what God has in mind for us. Prayer is linked with mission, with going out to proclaim the Gospel. One of the things I've learned from much time working with various well run volunteer and non-profit organizations, is that when a person says, “I think we should....” and goes on to talk about one task or another, the wise leader responds, “Thank you for the great idea. Does this mean that you are willing to head up a group to make this happen?” Suggesting is volunteering. Prayer should be too.
It is an old problem, either/or thinking. It is possible to do two things, like pray, and act on the prayer. I believe this is generally what God calls us to. I went into this in a comment I posted on Facebook:
I think it is a dangerous path to take saying "No More Prayers" or "God' Isn't Fixing This". It sets up a narrative for the gun culture about Godless liberals taking away their guns. It reflects either/or thinking which contributes to so many of our problems and blocks progress in many cases. Instead, Senator Murphy's approach has a nuance that is much more effective. It is a both/and approach. If you're going to pray, back up your prayers with action.
Saying No More Prayers is very much like saying No More Facebook. We all know the problems with Slacktivism, but telling people not to use Facebook until the issue of gun violence in America is fixed just doesn't seem wise.
My two cents, as a candidate who has gone door to door talking with voters about gun violence, and still posts messages of praying for victims.
Instead, we need to promote the narrative that ending gun violence is the Christian thing to do, as well as the humanist thing, and the Jewish thing, and the Muslim thing, and the thing of all religions. We need to stand with Bishops Against Gun Violence to http://www.claimitgc.org/> Claim Common Ground Against Gun Violence. We need to be part of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. We need to participate in The 2015 National Gun Violence Sabbath Weekend is December 10-14
We need to change the narrative about gun control and gun culture to one of proclaiming God’s love by working to stop gun violence.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Yes, I understand the fear that terrorists seek to instill in us. I feel some of the same fear. Yet I believe we are called to face our fears and show our compassion. Yes, I know that it is hard, yet I’ve hoped our elected officials would show the moral leadership that is so desperately needed right now.
I think of these things as I try to write about my disappointment that both Rep. Himes and Rep. Courtney from Connecticut voted in favor of the house bill that could limit Syrian refugees.
A CNN article about the vote notes:
FBI Director James Comey has expressed deep concerns about the bill, two U.S. officials tell CNN. Comey has told administration and congressional officials that the legislation would make it impossible to allow any refugees into the U.S., and could even affect the ability of travelers from about three dozen countries that are allowed easier travel to the U.S. under the visa waiver program, the officials say.
I pray for Rep. Himes and Rep. Courtney that they might find the courage and compassion that was so sorely missing in that vote.
It seems like everyone is talking about the attacks in Paris to push their own agendas, and instead of resisting the trend, I’ve decided to go with the flow.
Many people are changing the background of their pictures on Facebook to the French flag. At church today, the organist played “We shall overcome” in the background at one part of the service and played the La Marseillaise as the postlude. Others are expressing concern over the recurring drumbeats of war and pointing out that there were also attacks in Lebanon which aren’t getting the same attention. I’m thinking about changing my Facebook picture to the Lebanese flag.
This has brought about various reactions on Facebook:
“I really wish people would stop trying to delegitimize my feels by suggesting that I should be just as heartbroken about places I don't have a personal connection to or where I have friends living”
“Stop it with the #PrayForParis thing. Just stop. If you want to help people, donate to a charity. Donate time. Donate blood. Don't pray - if we've learned anything from this, it should be that the last thing the world needs is more religion.”
In response to one of these, a friend shared, The Empathic Civilisation which is a wonderful video worth commentary on its own.
My thoughts, as they often do at times like this, went to John Donne’s No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Some people may be only able to have empathy for one group of people, for the French, but not the Lebanese, for people who donate to charities, but not for people that pray. Others may have no empathy at all, or all they can do is change their Facebook avatar.
Yet another friend put it in another frame that I think is really useful.
Applying the French tricolor scheme to your drunk selfie isn't the most effective response to terrorism. But compared to launching a bloody, expensive, and counterproductive eight-year occupation of an irrelevant country, it's a master stroke of geopolitical strategy.
Meanwhile, other friends have shared the statement from the Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, In Paris, do we have to love our enemies? Bishop Whalon statement
My agenda? With apologies to those who have no empathy for those of us that pray, I pray that we might all take a moment to become a little more empathetic to those that are different from us, whether it is differences around nationalism, religion, or anything else that separates us.
What we need is not less religion, but less intolerance of those different from ourselves