Dear Jesus, You’re Fired From American Evangelical Christianity

Dear Jesus,

We regret to inform you that as of January 20th, 2017, your services are no longer required.

As will happen, changes have occurred in recent months that have now rendered many of your past duties obsolete:

 

  • Empathy is no longer deemed necessary, and so loving your neighbor as yourself is a rather wasteful use of current resources and manpower.
  • Turning the other cheek has proven not to be measurably profitable, and we have eliminated it from our Strategic Plan for the coming four years.
  • We have drastically reduced funding on your earlier initiatives of Compassion, Diversity, and Equality, and will instead be focusing on the more lucrative Fear, Exclusion, and Discrimination programs, which polls indicate our dwindling base prefers.
  • We’ve also made large cuts to the Loving The Least initiative you originally spearheaded, and allocated these funds to our popular Pull Yourself Up By Your Own Bootstrap campaign.
  • Also, given your Middle Eastern upbringing we feel the need to distance ourselves from your image, as our predominately white core audience is uncomfortable with the problematic associations it conveys in this current climate.

As you know, the American people have been choosing our services less and less in recent years, and we need to maximize the smaller market share we now occupy in both the Bible and Rust Belts. President-Elect Trump gives us the best opportunity to do this, and as his vision and yours are so incompatible, we feel it is best to sever ties and retrofit our programs to better align as to be on message with him.

As a result of the these and other factors, we are moving in another direction and are hereby eliminating your position, effective on the 20th.

We will still continue with some of the projects you spearheaded, namely the sunday morning worship services which are still profitable for us, though instead of prominently featuring God So Loved the World, these will now be used to showcase our Make America Great Again campaign which is testing well with our target audience. 

We will still prominently display the Cross of course, as this is continues to be a powerful and lucrative branding tool with our customers, especially combined with the American Flag and the TRUMP name. We’ll also continue to lobby for your name to remain on our currency, for obvious reasons. 

We will continue to selectively use the Scriptures, as they remain invaluable in our efforts to minimize the problematic communities; LGBT, people of color, women, non-Christians, to name a few.

And we’ll continue to aggressively showcase the Altar Call/Sinner’s Prayer/Salvation from Hell initiative, as those nicely undergird our Sin Management, Fear Leverage, and Damnation initiatives, which are still cornerstones of our organization and remain great membership drivers and income generators.

Your past two thousand years of faithful service are greatly appreciated, and to show our gratitude for your contributions we will still mention you as we gather for an hour on Sundays, but beyond that you will not be necessary. As our new boss Mr. Trump likes to say—You’re fired.

We wish you luck with your future endeavors, and trust you will have great success elsewhere, perhaps in the Progressive Church or even the secular field, where your brand of social justice is still a core value.

Warmest Regards and God Bless,

American Evangelical Christianity 

 

Meryl Streep is Qualified and American—and Right

Photo credit: Slate.com

During her Golden Globes acceptance speech on Sunday, Meryl Streep said what a majority of Americans believe: that cruelty and indecency aren’t who we are, that our diversity beautifully defines us, and that our powerful should be accountable for the way they wield that power.

She was right—and she was right to say it there and then,
despite Vince Vaughn’s dagger stare,
despite NRA/Bush advocate, musician Travis Tritt’s ironic social media scolding,
and despite the President-Elect’s petulant, 
childish but sadly completely expected Tweet tantrum at 5:30 AM the following morning.

People telling her to “stay in her lane” are simply wrong.

If you live in this country, if you contribute with your gifts and your work, if you pay taxes and you pay attention—America is your lane. That’s what our freedom means. That’s the heart of our Constitution. Your citizenship gives you both the right and the obligation to speak.  

The idea that Meryl Streep should be silent on matters of politics because she is “unqualified”, is completely ludicrous as well as patently un-American. By such logic, no one other than experienced politicians gets a say in the way decisions that affect us are made—and the rest of us should all silently consent to whatever our elected officials do with the power entrusted to them. (Apparently Vassar, Yale, and Dartmouth educations aren’t an impressive enough resume for someone to be able to speak into the value of empathy and the virtue of not being a jackass.) 

America’s greatness is the fruit of activism, of the voices of disparate citizens raised in all spheres of life when it is called for. We have been continually renovated by our people speaking into the injustices around them, leveraging the power at their disposal. People who call this country Home, should use whatever platform, position, and influence they have to speak into the issues that matter to them. To not do so is irresponsible and selfish.

Meryl Streep was raised a Presbyterian, and as a Christian, I see her words drawing a clear line to the compassionate heart of the Jesus of the Gospels, who spoke of loving “the least of these”; not those who are at all less-than, but those treated as less-than. For me it was a powerful and subversive sermon. Without mentioning religion, the essence of her faith was evident in her manner and her message. I’ve never been able to say that about the President-Elect—and that’s telling.

The great irony is that the same people criticizing Streep for being an “out of touch celebrity” who has no business commenting on politics—voted for one to run the country. They’re the same ones who’ll gladly boost the signal of the Duck Dynasty geniuses, the ever-eloquent Scott Baio, or that wisest of sages—Ted Nugent. (Apparently FoxNews gets all the qualified celebs.)

The truth is, Meryl Streep did something inherently American this week:
She used her moment of attention to speak for empathy and decency.
She affirmed our shared humanity in a way that transcended politics—or should.
She called vile behavior, vile.
She reminded the bullies that we will not tolerate them.
She asked people not to be horrible to one another.

If more people had done that this year—we’d have a much different nation than we have right now.

I’m with her.

A Snowflake Manifesto

Snowflakes are fragile, temporary, inconsequential little things.

They are delicate and brittle and quite harmless—on their own.

But when they begin to attach to other snowflakes, they become stronger, more powerful.
They become dangerous.
They become a force of freakin’ nature. 

Trump lovers like to call his detractors “snowflakes”, as if their feelings are a liability, their passions a reason for embarrassment, their grief a sign of weakness. (The attempted slur is especially ironic, given the absolute historic white fragility of the President-Elect, whose Twitter feed rings like the petulant cries of a perpetually offended middle schooler—but that is neither here nor there.)

Snowflake?

Is that all you got?

I’ll take it.

As a guy who grew-up in Central New York, I spent my entire childhood watching lake-effect snow systems roll in and in the blink of any eye, quickly blanket everything in shimmering, frozen white. I marveled at their ferocity.

I’ve seen snow storms paralyze cities.
I’ve seen them shut down entire parts of the country.

I’ve seen them derail and disrupt everything.
Snow storms alter the landscape.
They stop traffic.
They wreak havoc.

No, one snowflake isn’t likely to make an impact—but I’m betting 65,788,853 can.

I imagine that the shared strength of that many snowflakes is something to be reckoned with. In fact I’m certain that it is. I’ve already seen it happening in the weeks since November 8th; millions of good, compassionate, intelligent people connecting their individual, jagged, beauty into a glorious and forceful response to the hateful environment around them.

Right now a massive, diverse collection of Americans of every faith perspective, every political persuasion, and every walk of life are assembling, and this is why hope isn’t hard to come by these days—because I can feel the weather changing by the minute.

The current climate of bigotry will not stand, because we will alter it. We will change the weather:

We will not allow people to be vilified for their religious traditions.
We will not tolerate the civil rights of any group to be removed.
We will not be divided along lines of color, gender, religion, orientation, or politics.

We will not accept the physically and mentally ill to be left without healthcare.
We will not allow people of color to be discarded by those sworn to protect them.
We will not allow women to be devalued or overlooked with regard to pay, opportunity, or safety.

We will not tolerate elected officials whose allegiances are not with all those they represent.

This is simply the truth. This is the storm that’s gathering. This is the forecast for this nation.

So yes, feel free to call us snowflakes simply because we care deeply, because we feel fully, because we lament the bitterness we’re witnessing. We will gladly wear that title. We’ll revel in it as we gather together.

Because trust me, the coming days will be defined not by the hatred in this land, but by the fierce and loving avalanche that comes against it.

Hang on tight and gird your loins, Donald—winter is coming.

 

 

 

 

 

Because Eventually You Have to Get Off the Fence

The fence can be a valuable place for a spell.

Many times it’s helpful to sit between two extremes and to try and find the specific spot of balance that brings compromise. It can be the place where civility and dialogue are cultivated. The fence can allow you to hear differing sides and to broker understanding between them and to craft a way forward. 

But other times sitting on the fence will only get you splinters in your rear end and a nightmare all around you. These are such times.

Though I’d love to find a gentle, diplomatic way of saying them, there are things that need to be said right now without couching or softening: 

Donald Trump is not stable, rational, or normal by any measurement we use for adults.
It’s unacceptable that a President-Elect sides with a Russian ruler over a sitting US President.
Tossing out taunting social media exchanges toward China regarding nuclear weapons is fully reckless.

It’s not alright that the next ruler of the Free World spends more time trolling people on Twitter than taking security briefings.
It’s not acceptable to eliminate healthcare for tens of millions of people without an alternative.
It’s indecent to suggest any religious or ethnic group should be required to register with the Government.
It’s not okay to defund Planned Parenthood when millions of women depend on it

I say these things as a registered Independent and nondenominational Christian. This current crisis in our country is not about the Republican Party. This is about this President Elect and this specific group of Republican leaders, and about the danger they present to all of us. These are not political statements, they are affirmations of our shared humanity. They speak to the worth and safety of the diverse population of this country. They should be nonpartisan priorities. I like to think they are.

I hear the same comments every day by the fence-sitters:
“Both sides are the same.”
“Hillary is as dishonest as Trump.”
“They’re equally bad.”

That’s simply not true and it’s okay to say so. 

Yes, in a perfect world the fence would be a great spot.
Staying in the middle as a polite, objective observer would be wonderful.
But, this isn’t a perfect world.
Things are not always equal. 
The dangers are not always balanced.
Sometimes diplomacy is irresponsible and enabling.
Sometimes silence is participation.

Sometimes the fence is the seat of the coward.

Saying that “both sides are wrong” right now is a cop-out and shows you’re not paying attention or you’re blinded by obligation or affinity:

Both sides are not trying to take away people’s healthcare or right to marry, or their freedom of speech or religion, or of the Press.
Both sides are not filling their leadership with white supremacists and bigots and billionaires.
Both sides are not talking about building walls or registering Muslims or getting reparative therapy for gay people.
Both sides aren’t the source of the exponential rise in hate crimes against marginalized communities.
Both sides aren’t commandeering the Church as a weapon of bigotry and exclusion.

Avoiding these realities simply to maintain some party line is tantamount to treason.

I’m all for understanding people’s hearts and motives, and for finding common ground to build upon, but there comes a time when you need to call out vile stuff clearly and without needing to be balanced or nuanced or polite. 

Both Christians and Muslim families will suffer without access to healthcare.
Conservatives and Progressives will be in the same danger if an impulsive Tweet drags us into war.
The non-wealthy who voted Red and those who voted Blue will endure the same financial burdens if big business stewards our resources and determines our tax codes.

I am a pastor and a person fully committed to the bigger table, and that includes the most Conservative citizens of this country—but I also know that if people come to the table with chainsaws, you don’t let them destroy it. When the Germans were registering Jews, claiming that “Jews have their faults too” would have been a disastrous response and partnership in genocide. Sometimes you need to sacrifice decorum for decency. Sometimes you just need to say that something is horrible when it is.

Every fight for justice in History has been marked by naming evil as evil, regardless of the source. It’s been fought by people who stepped down from the fence and took sides, even if it meant standing in opposition to church or party or tribe.

If your loyalty to a faith tradition or political party or religious denomination supersedes your responsibility to the people you share this world with, if it prevents you from speaking clearly, if it allows you to permit the victimization of others—it’s time to discard it.

Sometimes you just need to get your rear end off the fence for the sake of humanity.

Good people of all political and religious affiliations—this is an invitation to take a side.