Word of the Week

We know there are problems in America.


Economic inequality.

Generations of people held down without proper access to education, social services or healthcare.

And as we see these problems and hear about these problems it's so easy to say, "Well, that's a shame" or "I'm really sorry" and then move back toward the lives right in front of us.

2016 has been a year of great social unrest in our country. Riots. Police Shootings. More Death. More violence. Like I wrote back in June after the horror in Orlando, it's been harder for those of us to move on so quickly without asking ourselves "What can I do?"

There are so many of us who want to live out the words of Gandhi who said:

Be-The-Change-You-Want-To-See-In-The-WorldBut, this is the problem: we don't know where to start. So what do we do? Nothing.

So thank goodness for teachers, prophets and leaders that have emerged in times such as these to help lead the way.

One of these teachers is Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a Disciples of Christ minister serving Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina and the North Carolina chapter President of the NAACP.

He's one the founder of Moral Mondays in his state: a collection of pastors and other deeply committed church folk who protest weekly at the Raleigh, NC state capital to say "Enough is a enough." They speak out (even being arrested if necessary) asking for voting rights to be expanded for all, for better care to be taken of the environment in state laws and regulations, for social programs to be expanded in support of the poorest of the poor, and for more attention to be given to education in the most in need areas (among many other topics). Two of my seminary classmates and friends, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Sarah Jobe have been active participants in this movement for years-- teaching me so much about what faith inspired activism looks like in their context.

But the thing is that Rev. Barber's ministry has grown an expanded to other states-- not just North Carolina. And with him, he's taken a brilliant group of other deeply passionate leaders: Dr. James Forbes, former pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, Rev. Traci Blackmon, the Justice and Witness Minister of the United Church of Christ and Sister Simone Campbell, the leader of the Nuns on the Bus movement. You might have even heard Rev. Barber preach (and I mean preach!) at the Democratic National Convention in July. [If you missed it, you can watch his full remarks here (and they were so good)].

In the past couple of months, Barber along with his colleagues have visited 19 other cities organizing pastors and leaders saying: it's time to be our brothers and sisters' keepers. If one of hurts in this world, we all should hurt too.

All people should have the same quality of life, no matter their race, no matter their education level, no matter where they grow up, no matter what! 

Rev. Barber and company are calling their work a Revival saying "It's Time for a Moral Revolution." We must live out the teachings of our faith to love our neighbors, all of them.

I had the opportunity to attend the revival two weeks ago held in Washington, D.C. at the Pennsylvania Ave. Baptist Church.

Pa Ave Baptist Church Aug 2016

It was inspiring to hear the conviction of Rev. Barber's sermon. It was inspiring to see the rich diversity of people gathered for the event-- who prayed, sang and spoke together words of lament as to the state of America today. It was inspiring to hear the event was not really about the event at all. Rather it was a pep rally of sorts for ACTIONS to come. Actions like:

So all this to say, if you are looking for a place to connect with other like-minded people who want things in our country to change and who want the words of Micah 6:8 to ring forth in our land:

"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." 

Then consider learning more about the work of Rev. Barber and the Moral Revolution. Barber's ministry is officially called Repairers of the Breach-- and you can read more about how you can join this ecumenical movement in your own context here. I'm signing the pledge today of the Moral Revolution saying YES I can join the movement.

blurredlines1Recently while in the religion section of Barnes and Noble, I found two books in that struck me indicative of America at this juncture.

One was entitled Why the Christian Right Is Wrong and the other was God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right

I felt like both covers were screaming at me. Both books not only expressing their views, but expressing their views at the cost of the other. And these weren’t the only ones—there were so many more!

We buy books like this from whatever camp we find ourselves in because it’s so much easier (and fun) to surround ourselves with people who think exactly as we do, right?

And this is where the wars of words begin:

Red State vs. Blue State.

Fox vs. MSNBC

Pro Life vs. Planned Parenthood

And us, religious types are the WORST. We love a good game of us vs. them.

The "them" side isn’t as enlightened, or as smart or as representative of the true faith like we are. We stake the claim of the divide with statements like this-

You believe gay marriage is ok. But we believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

You believe the Bible is without errors. But we believe it is full of them.

You believe all religious paths lead to God. But we believe in Jesus is the only way to God. (The list could go on and on)

And we de-friend both in real life (and on Facebook) once we see the side people fall on.

But what happens when you meet someone who is a "them” who is smart, kind and respectful instead of a monster perceived to have five heads?

Such happened to me recently and it really surprised me.

I met a new colleague. Though we both profess the Christian faith, we’re a unlikely match. But now I call him my friend.

He likes to go on mission trips for the sake of evangelism. I don’t feel this is the best use of my resources.

He likes telling me about his prayers using specific scriptures. I am not one to be showy about how I pray for people.

He chooses to live in part of the country where Christian churches are the norm. I prefer to be surrounded by diversity.

But as I’ve gotten to know this colleague, I’ve seen his heart. I've watched him give and give of his resources to others. I’ve received comfort from his beautiful prayers for me. I’ve found nuggets of common ground in our theological conversations.

Slowly, he’s less like “them” and more like someone I would include in the “us.” Shocking even me.

But, this is what I know:

We're both are children of the same heavenly Parent.

We're both bearers of divine light (even if I still think my choices are the best ones for me).

And he’s challenging me to see God beyond the walls of my own bias.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes: “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

This is why the us vs. them wars never work and can’t be our norm practice if we want to live in peaceful corners of plant earth. God is always in the business of surprises. us-them-we

This does not mean that there isn't a time and place for speaking truth to power and movements for justice but . .

Our best energy, my friends can’t be used up in fortifying ourselves for battle with them.

We’ve got more important work to do! Feeding the hungry, seeing the unseen, uplifting the lonely. Work we can do together.