In Orthodox iconography
we often see
the bare foot
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
crushing a snake.
It is a symbol
of her victory over evil
to be a servant
In recent years
the snake has been co-opted
in alt-right iconography,
a symbol of defiance
and fierce independence
leaving little room
Don’t tread on me, Mother Mary.
According to the Pew Research Center, President Trump has the highest rating among Republicans during the first month of his presidency since Ronald Reagan. He also has the lowest rating among Democrats and overall. What are we to make of this?
A starting point is that the problem is much bigger than President Trump. I saw an interesting discussion which may shed some light on this in a Facebook writers group. Someone posted to the group about an article in the Chicago Tribune, Publishers are hiring 'sensitivity readers' to flag potentially offensive content.
The post has now gotten ninety five comments ranging from “I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous.” and “Hmm, next, ban drama since it may cause negative emotional reactions” to “It's just another type of editing, I don't see anything to get up in arms about” and “This sounds like a great idea. It'll hopefully stop authors accidentally writing very offensive things”.
Others talk about losing the scare quotes and “sensitivity writer” and about how when people see the word “sensitivity” they get all up in arms. Another person noted, “Sensitive to sensitivity as a concept. It's totally meta, man”.
Where does this backlash against sensitivity and political correctness come in? My academic friends may see this as a reaction to emerging counter-narratives and my friends interested in issues of diversity and justice, may think of the quote “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. Yet I’m not sure that helps us find any sort of middle ground, and others suggest that there can be no middle ground with evil or oppression.
I think the blog post by Bishop Doug Fisher puts it into a good context, Desiring a Christ-Centered Life, Not a Trump-Centered Life
“Will you seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”
“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” With God’s help, we can do that.
Dear Senator Murphy:
I write to you today to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens shout not be elevated to the office of U.S. Attorney General. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For his reprehensible conduct he should not be rewarded with the position as U.S. Attorney General.
I regret that I cannot come testify in person against this nominee. However, I ask that the statement by Coretta Scott King, whose letter of March 19, 1986 is the basis for this letter, be made part of the hearing record.
I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions and speak up against efforts to abridge the freedom of speech or the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The recent Executive Order barring refugees from Syria and certain other Muslim countries has stirred up many reactions across the country, including two responses from the Episcopal Bishops in Connecticut. On January, 30 they shared a Bishops' Letter regarding Refugees which said, among other things, “We cannot be idle as this Executive Order threatens to undermine the values that we stand for as Americans, as Christians, as Episcopalians in Connecticut.”
A few days later, they wrote another letter, Follow-up on Bishops' Letter Regarding Refugees which included, “We have received a substantial amount of communication in response to our letter of January 30. In fact, we have received more reaction to this letter than to any other letter sent by us in the last five years.”
The response felt to me like a capitulation to those who put fear over faith but I suspect it was intended more as a response out of the Episcopal tradition of “via media” or “middle way”. It made me think of The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers Facebook post on inauguration day. I have repeatedly shared this post because I believe it is very important. In it she writes,
Remember that, every time we host or interact with President Trump or any other elected official, we do so first and foremost as representatives of our crucified, resurrected Lord.
As a communications professional, I really like this. When confronting thorny issues in communications it is always wise to return to the mission statement. Representing our crucified and resurrected Lord is a pretty good way of putting it. In the Book of Common Prayer, we describe the mission of the church saying, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.”
I believe the intention of the second bishop’s letter was along these lines, but was that really the fruition? I am less sure. Instead,it sounds a little like a letter from the Laodicea church, neither hot nor cold.
The second bishops’ letter goes on to say, “Many of the responses, both in favor and against our letter, noted that we neglected to mention the need for our country’s borders to be protected from international threats of terrorism.” This is an important point, but it falls very close to promoting dangerous misunderstandings about the nature of security. The bishops’ letter talks about the responses being almost evenly split. Yet we must remember, the via media is not a plebiscite, it is an attempt to discern God’s will for us by listening to all sides.
So, what can we say about our safety? First, I will refer to the STATEMENT BY SENATORS McCAIN & GRAHAM ON EXECUTIVE ORDER ON IMMIGRATION. They start off by acknowledging the safety issue: “Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.”
They then reject the premise that the Executive Order improves safety:
Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.
Yet there is a deeper issue. Ultimately, our safety comes from the Lord. What makes us safe is doing God’s will, even if it requires us to do something as unpopular and perhaps even as unsafe as taking up our cross to love our neighbor, including those neighbors who are fleeing war in Syria.
There have been a lot of discussions online recently about the Trump inauguration as well as the march the following day. Here are some of the things I’ve been seeing and saying:
One friend wrote about Trump saying he was giving the government back to the people and my friend hoped that the marches would be women taking him up on it.
Adapted from a friend: Trump said he was giving the government back to the people. Here's to the women marching today to take him up on that. Here's to the Muslims, and Mexicans, and people of every shade and color, every level of ability or disability who are also taking Trump up on this. Here's to the old white men, like myself who support those marching, believing in liberty and justice FOR ALL, believing in loving our neighbors, not matter how different they are from us.
Several people shared posts like this:
Posting this so it will come up in my facebook memories:
Inauguration Day: 1/20/2017
Copy and paste so we can see if "America will be great".
I responded to these posts in various ways, ultimately ending up with something like thisL
Is this how we measure greatness? The price of gas and the value of stocks? How about other measures? Infant mortality rate? Suicide rate among veterans? Number of people who are homeless? Number of people uninsured? These are the numbers I'll be looking at. They must all go down for American to be great.
Here are some statistics that I’ve gathered:
Infant Mortality rate: 5.8/1000
Veteran Suicides per day 20
Homeless on a given night: 564,708
Uninsured rate: 9.1%
Happiness Index 7.104 (13th world wide)
Here are some of the sources I used:
CIA World Fact Book 2016 estimate of U.S. Infant mortality rate: 5,8 deaths/1000 live births.
One person summed it up quite nicely:
America does seem great again today. Maybe it's just all those women in Washington.