Thursday, July 18, 2019

It's All Racism

I value diversity, in all forms. Difference keeps life interesting; we are created as unique and distinct individuals who see the world differently. I celebrate that.

I celebrate it ... up to a point. And I get to decide where to draw the line between a perspective that is worthy of my respect and a perspective for which I cannot muster any. Celebrating diversity of opinion does not imply that all perspectives are equally valid. There's a line.

Racism crosses that line. A racist perspective is not worthy of my respect. Racism is sin. Racism is evil. Racism is "antithetical to the gospel itself." Racism is the only issue; every issue is racism.

Over the past three or four years in our nation, latent racism has been revealed, embraced, and mainstreamed. Overtly racist statements are made openly, in public, and without shame. And when challenged, the statements are defended with malice, malevolence, and bitter defensiveness.

For the record let me say this: Telling people of color to go back where they came from is racist. (Though why I should have to make that clear boggles my mind.)

Now, I have no desire to comment here on the president's character; I believe that his own words and actions have revealed more about his character than my thoughts ever could. Maya Angelou said it best when she said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Our president has shown all us exactly who he is, and I believe him.

At first the overt racism was sporadic; it seemed a sideshow or some kind of alternate reality that would soon pass. When it did not, there was indignation and anger, resolve to resist and persist. And then when it continued, we thought it was a distraction from deeper more insidious things, intentionally orchestrated to divert our attention. I no longer consider it a distraction.

The malevolent racist spirit that corrodes our nation is not a distraction from other more destructive activity happening behind the scenes. In fact the very fact that I once considered it to be a distraction is ample proof of just how insidious and evil this malevolence is. The malevolent racist spirit is the only thing that matters; everything else begins there.

As I wrote previously, "And so as disciples of Jesus, as Christians, as people who desire to live as God intends us to live, we have to confront the malevolent spirit permeating our world. We have name it, draw it up to the light, and annihilate it. And then we have to offer an alternative way of being, a replacement for the malevolence that will solidify its destruction once and for all.

That alternative way is called 'love,' by the way. Love, and everything that comes along with it. Things like hope. And forgiveness. And justice, and peace, and grace, and compassion."

I'm still here. And although it feels sometimes like the malevolence is indestructible, we must not allow ourselves to fall into "weak resignation to the evils we deplore." May God "grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving the One whom we adore." Amen and amen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Second Sunday

After a wave of “first Sundays” across the connection, United Methodist pastors woke up to discover it is week two, and another Sunday is right around the corner.

We celebrated last weekend, pulled out all the stops, wore all the nametags, shook all the hands. Preachers brought their "A" game. Musicians filled sanctuaries with joyous praise. Hospitality teams polished up welcome desks. And it was wonderful! It was a party! There was cake! Everyone was there to check out the new pastor, and it felt like a big family reunion where one of the kids is bringing home a new significant other for everyone to meet.

It was great.

And guess what … this coming Sunday is just as important. I might even go so far as to say that this coming Sunday is even more important. A one-time celebration of a special event is awesome and spectacular and fun, and I don’t want to take anything away from all the good stuff that United Methodist churches did last weekend. It was a mountaintop moment.

Faithful, fruitful discipleship is more than just mountaintops. Following Jesus is comprised of mountaintop moments that are connected by long stretches of valley, and those valleys are where life happens. Those valleys are where faith is tested. Those valleys are where we grow and learn and serve and share.

The good news is that there’s another mountaintop coming. We get one a week, actually! How cool is that? When we gather together to be the church at worship, whether it is the new pastor’s first Sunday or the old pastor’s one thousand first, it is the day the Lord has made and we ought to rejoice and be glad in it.

For a lot of us, this weekend will be the second Sunday (or Saturday) of a new appointment. And I hope we pull out all the stops and bring our "A" games and fill the room with joyous praise. Yes, again. Because God is worth it.

God’s grace comes both in periodic bursts of brilliance and in slow, steady streams. We live in valleys interspersed with occasional mountaintop moments. Growing in faithfulness means learning how to navigate both.

It’s the second Sunday, week two. There may not be cake this week. Get up and go worship anyway. I’ll see y’all in church.