My dear, Christian friends, why are you silent?
I can't seem to get the question off my mind.
I, like so many of you, found my heart and mind in a tail spin on Wednesday when by a tweet our President declared a new military policy. A policy that called our transgender brothers and sisters "a burden." A policy that kicked them out of military service because of the "distraction."
I use the exact language of the tweet because words matter.
No one likes to be called a burden or a distraction.
We are all children of God. ALL OF US.
Though it is my personal opinion that crazy things happen in our current political administration every day, this particular twitter decree hit me hard. Very hard. Because it was another decision made by one person based in discrimination and hate.
It was a decision that goes against everything my faith stands for: unconditional love, the worth of every living thing and human dignity.
It was a decision that called out one group of people as "less than" rather than celebrating their citizenship and military service.
What do we do next? I admit it's so easy to direct our anger toward #45 isn't it? Say how we feel about him with like-minded individuals? It's easy to launch mean words into the webosphere and block people online (or in real life) who disagree with us.
But here's where I am: I will not be distracted by the anger toward him. He is what he is. I expect little change in his behavior throughout his time in office.
Yet, what I can be is curious about the movement behind this administration. I can be curious about people of faith who voted him in. I can be curious about those who think a sweeping ban of discrimination is ok.
In the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll, at least 1/3 of evangelical Christians said they "strongly approve" of how our President is leading the country.
This fact troubles me the most.
I follow lots of pastors and ministry types of all flavors online, folks that share my political convictions and those that don't. But these are all people I know who believe in the Lordship of Jesus and Jesus' call to love God and love neighbor as one's self. They love people. Or they wouldn't have gotten into the service business, I believe.
So this is what I am curious about: when a group of our neighbors faces discrimination- this week it's those who are transgender (this is one top of immigrants, Muslims, refugees, etc which have already been targets) and next week who knows who comes next-- why do they say nothing?
Pastors: why do you tweet only about your church visitor services programs?
Pastors: why do you post about how you're having a good day because you dried your hair?
Pastors: why do you tweet only about your vacations or what theology books you are reading?
Are you living in a bubble?
My heart aches when you say NOTHING about the sorrow that is felt in your brothers and sisters' households right. Some of our neighbors NEED us right now. They really need us. They need our voices. They need us to say what is going on in our country is NOT ok.
Because IT'S NOT OK.
I'm all for fun. I'm all for light-hearted moments both online and in person. We all need a break from the crazy. Eat ice cream. Go on vacation. Plan for fall programing in worship. And post about our fun on social media. BUT, when we never SAY anything about how what is going on is NOT OK, then those around us only have one choice. They believe we think it is ok.
Of course, the issue of supporting our transgender brothers and sisters is complex, especially in the context of religious life. This might be your current struggle. You don't know anyone who is transgender. It's hard to be a neighbor to someone you don't know.
My wise and brave seminary classmate, Theresa Thames who is now the associate dean of religious life at Princeton University said it so well yesterday on Facebook: "How can we be outraged with 45 when our denominations are debating whether our LGBTQIA siblings are of sacred worth - worthy of holy matrimony and capable of serving our congregations as clergy. WHAT A SHAME!"
Her post was a reality check for me because the truth is when people of all sexual and gendered identities aren't welcome fully in our churches because we're afraid of the "different" why in the world would we (as in the collective Christian "we") be advocates for them in the larger society?
Clearly, there's so much work to do in our business of being the welcoming congregations that we say we want to be!
But for now, my friends, speak up. If what is happening in our country is bothering, don't be afraid. Say so. Now is not the time to be silent. In the name of Jesus who always championed people before the rules of the empire, go forth and speak up!
Over the past several months, I found myself with more silent and uninterrupted time than I've ever experienced before in my life.
After a couple of months of finding myself with more time than I expected, the temptation was to "just do something." To fill the space with more books to read, more coffees to have with new friends and old friends alike, and more trips to take. Maybe start or learn a new hobby? Maybe get a part-time job just for the fun of it? More of something to fill the void of time that used to be offered to the church.
Sure there were things to do like finish my book manuscript which would fulfill my commitment to the Louisville institute, events to attend connected to my husband's job and the usual of keeping up with house chores and the never-ending pile of mail that always seems to need attention on my desk.
But, still even with all of this "doing" there was plenty of silence left. Still there was quiet. Still even with all of the coffee dates and lunches I could muster energy up to attend, there has been just me. Alone. In quiet. Making friends with this state of being called solitude.
There have been days when I've loved it, savoring every minute.
There have been days I counted the minutes until I could go to bed at night.
There have been days when all I wanted was a friend to call and rescue me from the void that is life in my living room alone.
But the silent beat has gone on.
And this is what I've learned: silence, even as much as we all fight it, is not going to kill us. Nope. It hasn't killed me. Well sometimes it might have felt like it would, but it didn't. And I don't think it will.
Silence has been God's great transformational gift that my busybody soul has needed.
One of the authors I read in seminary but have become fascinated with again the past couple of months is Roberta Bondi. I've loved reading her again because of her focus the desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century who retreated to find solitude. And Bondi writes about what made them tick, how they related to their fellow silent pilgrims, and most of all what they learned about prayer as a result.
As I've stuck close to her book, To Pray and To Love again, I've been reminded that the Spirit often does the best work in us when we surrender to the quiet.
Bondi makes a case for such by saying that when the distractions of our lives are stripped away we have no one or no thing to blame for our laziness, our moodiness, our impulses, or our addictions than the brokenness that is within us. In solitude we realize that life is not about our jobs, our families or even our own ambitions for the future.
Rather, life is about us and God. Life is about all of life flowing out of God's great love for us. Life is dance card full of great opportunities designed just for us to soar.
But only in silence would we know this.
Only in silence would we have eyes to see these things.
And, only when we say no to the temptation of adding just one more thing to our plate do we make room for God.
Life filled with God is worth fighting for even as the hours of silence continue on. At least for now.
I imagine I'm coming to emerge from this season with insights I could have not gained any other way!