Much of the foundation of Christian faith and life lies in the listening and telling of stories. Stories that are between 2,000 and 4,000 years old; stories that have been curated over the centuries by religious councils and collated into what we know as the Bible. Some of those stories are funny. Many of them are confusing. Some are touching, more than a few are violent; and others produce epiphanies of faith and insight.
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Perhaps it was inevitable. The bloody confrontation in Charlottesville between white supremacists and those opposing their racist ideology poignantly exposed and confirmed the political/racial/cultural/ideological divide that has existed in this country for quite some time.
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is fear. And fear was on full display this past weekend as white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville to make their hate-filled witness.
Fear can easily morph into hate. Hate is fear being acted out. Hate is almost always accompanied by violence, which was the tragic case on Saturday when Heather Heyer was literally run over and a score of others were seriously injured.
Fear can also cause people to run for cover, and try and seal themselves off from the whole horrible business.
I am convinced that the current health care debate is not really about health care, but about who wins. As is often the case in recent politics, winning is the goal, but particularly in this case, the prize is the defeat of the opponent rather than the health of the populace. A high stakes zero-sum game is nothing new in Washington – or in our country, but it has become more divisive; Congress is just one, and perhaps the most visible, arena where these nasty verbal battles are being played out.
“I take Gospel positions; not partisan positions.” That is the litany I hear over and over again from diocesan clergy who, though goaded by the angry and hostile rhetoric coming out of the White House, remain committed to their ordination vow: to employ the Gospel as the lens through which we look at the world rather than the other way around.
At the annual Episcopal Communicators Conference last month, I attended one workshop in particular that was so useful and informative I knew immediately that I would want to share it with our diocese: Video on the fly: how to make quality video on a tight budget.
Fight or flight. Those have long been the first visceral responses whenever human beings feel threatened.
Flight was the first response after Jesus’ gruesome death – by the men. In contrast, the women came to the tomb after the crucifixion, and they were the first ones to tell the story of the Resurrection. Not so with the men. They took off. The disciples fled to an upper room, locked down by their fear, because they figured they would be the next ones to be strung up on a cross.
The alleluias rang out on Easter Sunday, celebrating the Resurrection. The hymns were sung with greater volume, reflecting the joy of the day and more voices in church.
I often wondered why Jesus left the comfort of Galilee to go down south to the chaos of Jerusalem. He had things worked out pretty well in the rural north. He had developed a loyal, if not quixotic following. He was able to teach, heal and challenge without repercussions.
On Saturday, March 4, representatives from 43 congregations in the diocese spent a half day learning how to participate in a three month "Listening excursion," which would involve making space to listen to scripture, each other and to the local community. They will be invited back on Saturday, June 3 to reflect on what they learned and to discern next steps in this ongoing journey into a new way of living.