I’ve always been interested in the underlying narratives of our political process, so an article in Mother Jones, I SPENT 5 YEARS WITH SOME OF TRUMP'S BIGGEST FANS. HERE'S WHAT THEY WON'T TELL YOU. particularly caught my attention. It talks about the Trump supporters narrative:
You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.
If you look at the waiting in line narrative, it is easy to see Obama as the cutter-in-chief and Trump as the person that will stop all this line cutting. It is easy to see Clinton as someone who has already made it through the line, who was born at the front of the line. You can see Sanders as someone who is saying that the line is rigged. If you support BlackLivesMatter, you are very painfully aware of how the line is rigged against black people. If you are white and middle class, seeing the dream slip away, or the possibility of slipping away, the Trump version of the narrative may sound very real. You can also see Stein and Johnson as telling people they are waiting in the wrong line.
It all sort of depends on where you are in the line. Are you a well to do liberal wanting the line to move a little more quickly and fairly for those behind you in line? Are you a conservative a little further back in the line worried about being moved further and further back in the line? Are our part of the dispossessed and disenfranchised for whom the American dream is simply an unattainable dream? Are you someone who has started looking for a different dream?
To a certain extent, I agree with Sanders. The line is rigged. It needs to be fixed. To a certain extent, I agree with Stein and Johnson, it is the wrong line. Yet with any of that, I would be buying into the Trump supporters’ narrative.
Back in 2013, Franklin Graham wrote about America having a heart problem, quoting Ecclesiastes, “The hearts of the children of man are full of evil” and Matthew, “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder”. He then goes on to talk about his opposition to gun control, because it won’t address the heart problem.
I’ve been reading St. Augustine recently, and this is the sort of tortured logic that would have given him palpitation.
Rev. Barber spoke about the heart problem from a different perspective, saying that religion and politics is being used to "camouflage meanness”. When I listen to Graham and the Barber, I hear much more of God’s love in Rev. Barber’s words.
I believe both Graham and Franklin are pointing to a different narrative, one that we heard in the Gospel last week in Luke 16, “You cannot serve God and wealth”. This is where I have a lot of issues with the prosperity Gospel. Yes, God wants to bless all of us abundantly, but that blessing isn’t about material things. It also isn’t something reserved for just the good people, just those who are deserving.
Matthew 5:45 reminds us that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
No, the real narrative of this election is that God calls us, in the words of Micah 6:8 “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”.
Are you going to stand in line along with Trump supporters, squabbling about who gets what? Or are you going to step out of line to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and welcome the stranger in our land? Are you going to serve God or serve wealth? Are you going to walk humbly with God?
The pollsters may not view this as a winning narrative, but I honestly believe that the American dream is based on this loving kindness and that it is deep enough in our psyche that even if we do not use the language of religion, the majority of the people in our country desire Godly compassion more than they desire ill-gotten wealth.
A form of poetry I’ve been very interested in recently is called ‘found poetry’. Here is what I’ve found recently.
The second and sixth stanza are from a political campaign, but I changed one word in the latter stanza for more impact. The first is a comment a friend made about those quotes. The third stanza is from Matthew 20. The fourth is from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and the fifth is from the musical Jesus Christ, Superstar. I end off with putting the question in the form of the questions asked during baptism in the Episcopal Church.
While some people looko at the political quote as a poor political analogy, I think it is really a great analogy for the Christian life.
Eating the skittles
the way of the cross.
“If I had a bowl of skittles
and I told you
just three would kill you.
Would you take a handful?”
“You do not know what you are asking, Jesus replied.
“Are you able to drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We are able,” the brothers answered.
“You will indeed drink My cup,” Jesus said.
“After supper he took the cup of wine;
and when he had given thanks,
he gave it to them, and said,
"Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant,
which is shed for you
and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Whenever you drink it,
do this for the remembrance of me."
“I will drink Your cup of poison
Nail me to Your cross and break me”
“Let’s end the politically correct agenda
that doesn’t put God first”
“If I had a bowl of skittles
and I told you
just three would kill you.
Would you take a handful?”
“I will, with God's help.”
This coming Sunday is Social Media Sunday (#SMS16) and I’ve been seeing a lot of activity around it. I am glad to see people sharing ways to proclaim God’s love through social media and I worry that often the discussions end up being about social media, and not about God’s love.
This thought came back to me as I read AT&T #InspiredMobility and #SMS16 Twitter Party. When corporate marketing and social responsibility people get involved, when I see phrases like “Thanks to AT&T there is an easy way to find inspiration online” I get concerned.
When I speak about communications and social media, I often urge people to go back to the mission statement of the organization. What are you trying to accomplish? In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, we find
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
A recent tweet, highlighted in discussions about #SMS16 said, “God loves selfies! So post your selfies cause God loves selfies (and you)!” This was, in my opinion, a great tweet. From a communications perspective, it focused on the mission statement. From my religious perspective, it focused on what really matters, God’s love. I commented
As a social media professional and activist, I've always been ambivalent about #chsocm, #sms16, and related efforts. Too often, at least to me, they feel like they are about social media and marketing, and not about God's love.
So this tweet caught my attention. It returns our focus onto what really matters. God loves you. We need to boldly proclaim this. We need to ask, in all of our media how it helps "to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.".
I’ve been thinking along the same lines in my political discourse recently. I am generally avoiding political discourse online these days, because it seems too toxic, too far removed from what really matters. Yet two posts caught my attention yesterday.
The first was Craig Casey’s Facebook post that starts "If I gave you a bowl of skittles and three of them were poison would you still eat them?"
"Are the other skittles human lives?"…
Go out and read it.
I shared the post, saying
Generally, in spite of running for office yet again, I'm trying to stay out of most of the political discussions this year. They have become too toxic, too counter-productive. What is needed is proclaiming the Gospel.
This, perhaps, puts the Gospel into a post-modern construct that addresses the underlying issue that has gotten lost in so much of our current political discourse.
As one friend put it, very succinctly, "Eating the skittles is following the way of the cross."
One friend responded asking
Or is it because you favor Jill Stein or miss Bernie? I've never known you to not have a preference.
I have a very strong preference. I am voting for Hillary. I've been pretty clear about this in my writings for months. She isn't the perfect candidate, but I believe voting for her is closest to voting my beliefs.
Yet there is a much bigger issue. I believe our whole political process has become horribly corrupted. We have lost our focus in politics about what really matters. Our politics is driven way too much by a sick combination of fear and greed. I suspect most people don't think of the politics of who will do the best for our economy or who will best protect our way of life as being based on fear and greed, but that is really what it is.
We, as a nation, appear to have lost touch with our fundamental moral character. It is that moral character, that love of neighbor and welcoming the stranger that is the real basis for making America great again.
The reason I avoid most of the political discussions is that they seem to be arguing, in a destructive toxic manner, which response to greed and fear is best, instead of challenging the underlying dynamic.
This leads to the second article I shared yesterday.
School lunch worker quits after being forced to refuse hot meal to poor student.
The title pretty much says it all, but you should read the full story.
“As a Christian, I have an issue with this,” said Koltiska, of Canonsburg, Pa. “It’s sinful and shameful is what it is.” …
“God is love, and we should love one another and be kind,” Koltiska said. “There’s enough wealth in this world that no child should go hungry, especially in school. To me this is just wrong.”
With both of these, we return to the underlying mission, in a language that the unchurched can more easily understand. God is love. We are called to love one another. It is pretty simple and is a stark contrast to the political discourse of the day. It illustrates, I believe, very vividly, the Gospel lesson for Social Media Sunday, Luke 16:19-31 which starts
Jesus said, "There was a [well tanned] rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table [including Skittles and cheese sandwiches]; even the dogs would come and lick his sores….
On October 23rd, the South Central Region of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will have its Fall Convocation. (More on this coming very soon). We are asking people, “What do you bring to the table?” as we talk about how we support one another’s ministries.
Perhaps I’ll post a picture of some Skittles and a cheese sandwich from the Convocation on social media, a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where we will feast on what truly nourishes us, God’s love, a love we are called to share with one another, even, or perhaps these days, especially, online.
In a recent video, a comedy duo was asked what the two major parties in America are, they responded, “the gun lobby and big tobacco”. It often seems like that is what is driving our politics. Really, they are part of the same party, the money party. The other party, which has been particularly silent is the morality party, perhaps in part, because too much of the discussion about morality has been co-opted by discussions about what other people should or shouldn’t do, of sexuality and who’s not good enough, instead of discussions about what each of us should be doing, about loving our neighbor.
I recently accepted the nomination as a candidate for State Representative in Connecticut. At the same time, I am seeking how to more fully live my life as a follower of Christ. I believe it is compassion for our neighbors, no matter what their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual, orientation, nationality, socio-economic class, and so on, that is what truly makes our nation great, and that too much of the campaigns of all candidates, have been campaigns by different aspects of the money party, the what’s in it for me party.
The gospel lesson for this coming Sunday in the Episcopal Church is Luke 16:1-13. It starts off with Jesus telling his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property”. It is easy to hear this and think Jesus is talking about some hypothetical person who is different from ourselves. Surely, we are not squandering someone else’s property. Are we?
At the offering, we often say, “All things come of Thee, o Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” Perhaps we even sing, “All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above”. Yes, I suspect most of us are squandering another person’s property. We are squandering that which has been entrusted to us by God and so much of the political discourse only furthers this.
At church this Sunday, prior to the reading of the Gospel, we will sing the hymn that starts
Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world's golden store;
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, "Christian, love me more."
I will note, that while this is a Christian hymn talking about Jesus, I suspect this applies to many faith traditions and I’d ask my friends in other faith traditions, include various traditions of “no faith”, of agnosticism or atheism, to think about how love of worldly goods relates to love of neighbor and to your own morality.
I’d invite everyone to listen closely to political messages, not only on the national level, but on the state and local levels. Are these messages about loving worldly goods? Putting yourself first? Not loving all your neighbors?
I realize that I am not the perfect candidate in terms of loving my neighbor either. I realize that this is not the sort of message that is tested by political strategists for effectiveness or makes my election less likely, but I am running for something much more than to simply get elected to the state legislature. I am running to truly make America great again, in thought, word, and deed, as a way of life, and not a campaign slogan. I am seeking to serve God and not money.
The Gospel lesson ends off with “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Who will you serve, and how will your service really help make America great again?
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
For the past year or so I have been seeking discernment within the Episcopal Church in Connecticut about how I can best serve God’s mission here in Connecticut. What skills and gifts can I offer? What do I desire? What does God desire of me? Is God calling me to become a priest? a deacon? a lay minister? something else?
How do I balance all of this out in terms of being a loving husband and father, in terms of supporting my family? How do I balance all of this as I seek to show God’s love to the people I meet in my daily life and work as I try to practice self-care as well so I don’t burn myself out? How do I bring God’s love into our current political climate?
All of these things I considered last May during the state legislative conventions. I had run for State Representative in 2012 and 2014. I knew that if I did not run again, there was a good chance that my opponent would run unopposed, that the people from my district would not be given a choice about who their State Representative would be.
Yet running a full campaign is a lot of work. It is stressful on the candidate. It is stressful on the candidate’s family. My wife said that I had done my part by running twice already. Someone else should run.
Here we are in September. No one else has agreed to run. The Working Family Party, hoping to maintain its ballot line has been looking for someone to run, and they spoke with my wife. She agreed that it would be okay if I ran, so today, I accepted the Working Family Party nomination for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut.
At this point, I am not expecting to form a candidate committee, appoint a treasurer, do fundraising, phone banking, door knocking, or many of the other things associated with campaigns today. However, if people step forward to do some of these campaign activities, I will support their efforts.
Given the opportunity, I will gladly speak, debate, write articles, press releases, and further the discourse in whatever ways possible.
My focus remains on how I can best serve God. My goal is to help return our public discourse to one based on respect for all candidates as being created in the image of God. My goal is to help return our public discourse to how God would have us treat the poor, the marginalized, the outsiders, no matter what their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
I ask for your help, your support, your prayers, and your involvement, in my own discernment in what God is calling me to, in our common discernment about how we can help our nation become more loving and compassion.