Yes, the Bigger Table is Open to Trump Supporters (And No, I Don’t Expect Them)

I recently released my first book called book called ‘A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community.’

It the continuation of my twenty year journey as a local church pastor and online activist, to try and craft spiritual communities where all people are truly welcome—especially those most often excluded based on gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religious tradition, nation of origin, or less rigid theology. 

Given the clarity with which I’ve declared my contempt for our current President and my exasperation with those still supporting him, lately I get a fairly loaded but still reasonable question: 

“So, John,” they ask me, “is your ‘bigger table’ open to Trump supporters?”

Well, yes it is—though sadly I don’t expect many of them to pull up a chair or to stay very long and here’s why:

The bigger table as presented in the book, is built on a commitment to four non-negotiables for all those who gather there:

Radical hospitality: Everyone is equally celebrated and effusively welcomed without reservation—because they have the same inherent worth.
Total authenticity: People can be a fully non-edited version of themselves and know that won’t be a deal breaker for their full inclusion.
Real diversity*: Difference in worldview, religion, experience are all not only expected, but seen as necessary and beautiful.
Agenda-Free Relationship: You don’t meet someone with the expectation of changing, fixing, or saving them. You simply listen to their story and count it as equally valid and meaningful as your own.

These are the humanity-honoring preconditions for every person coming to the bigger table we’re building, which is likely problematic for those currently supporting this President—a man whose entire campaign and first year in office have been defined by exclusion; by fear of the other, by the hoarding of advantage, by the marginalizing of the outsider. Donald Trump isn’t just seeking to make the table smaller—he’s trying to legislate out all but the wealthiest and whitest. He’s attempting to buy the table and deny access to the lion’s share of those seeking to be present. 

And this is the crux of the matter: to align yourself with this President (the one of muslim Bans and Mexico walls and healthcare sabotage and Supremacist coddling and LGBTQ condemnation and Dreamer expulsion—is to loudly champion the smaller table, and to clearly declare a vast portion of the world unequivocally uninvited. It is to ratify his contempt for humanity by proxy, and there’s really no other way around it.

To see all that you’ve seen and to still contend that this President has the slightest bit of compassion or decency or competency, points either to a complete lack of sense, of awareness, or of character—all of which make fellowship with real barrier-shattering diversity a tall order. Reiterating this President’s platform and his conduct or declaring it reasonable or normal, in nearly every way takes a chainsaw to the bigger table.

Donald Trump’s steadfast base (composed mainly of white Christians) have never not been welcomed at the table, and that’s why this all will be difficult for them. In order for his proponents to meet people in relationship while upholding those fundamental non-negotiables that affirm the intrinsic worth of disparate humanity—they really have to stand in direct opposition to him. It’s virtually impossible to simultaneously claim alignment with this President—and with a table where equality, diversity, and empathy all get seats. So as much as someone like myself (seeking to be the people of the bigger table) truly extends the invitation to the world, I know that many Trump boosters will not come or stay very long because they are still holding too tightly to prejudice and hatred, to grab hold of what is being offered there: a place where those things are of no use.

Yes, everyone is invited and welcome where the people of the bigger table gather, but those not committed to hospitality, authenticity, diversity, and relationship without religious agenda—probably won’t come. Those who use FoxNews as their primary source of information will likely reject the heart of the bigger table, because they have been indoctrinated to see so many potential table mates as a threat. Given Trump’s dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ people, Muslims, women, immigrants, and people of color—my guess is that most of his most ardent cheerleaders won’t show up to make those groups feel they’re seen and heard and respected, and that simply isn’t up for discussion.

If LGBTQ men and women aren’t truly welcomed at the table, it isn’t big enough.
If people of color don’t get to be fully present and heard, it isn’t big enough.
If non-Americans don’t have an equal  seat, it isn’t big enough.
If Muslims can’t be there without feeling threatened, it isn’t big enough.
If women are asked to take a lower seat, it isn’t big enough.

This isn’t virtue signaling—it’s unapologetically demanding an equality that has been absent.

The dream of the bigger table is to create  space where no one feels they are disqualified from dignity.
It is a non-partisan, non-sectarian aspiration.
It claims no political ideology and no theology—beyond an apologetic of love that allows everyone proximity.
It isn’t about making America great, it’s about making humanity human.

Yes, the invitation to the bigger table is open to the world—but active violence, discrimination, and bigotry will have to wait in the car because they are not welcome. 

There’s a chair for everyone at the bigger table, but not everyone will want to take a seat—because they’re not used to making room for the world.

And they’re going to need to if it’s going to be big enough.

Trump supporter, consider yourself fully invited—but know what your RSVP will require.

 

*Diversity does not mean tolerating active bigotry or violence against people. The table is big, not because you can say or do any horrible thing you want to, it’s big because all people’s inherent worth is protected—especially those usually marginalized. It will not sacrifice oppressed people on the altar of us tolerating their oppressors.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

To The Men on the Other Side of #MeToo

As I watched my social media feeds fill up over the past two days, with hundreds of #MeToo hashtags from women sharing their firsthand experience of sexual harassment or assault, I began to grieve.

I grieved for the sheer volume of the revelations, realizing they will still only barely scratch the surface; how many more women are too traumatized, too protective of their privacy, or simply not yet ready to make such personal declarations to an invisible assembly of relative strangers—many of them, the very kinds of men responsible for these wounds. I know how many more women are carrying these terrible stories around and do not want to tell them.

And that’s the thing: they shouldn’t have to.

No survivor of violence should be compelled to unearth their hidden scars in order to reach those responsible for them. Men, the onus should not be on women who have been harassed or assaulted, to expose themselves to further injury just to show us the scale and the depth of our own sickness. This is our responsibility. We should be the ones doing the soul excavation and the mirror-gazing, and we should be the ones now openly confessing our #MeToo’s, in these moments when the world is watching.

We should be the ones making ourselves vulnerable; the ones sharing with our circles of friends, loved ones, business associates, church friends, and social media acquaintances; how complicit we are in this vile epidemic. 

This isn’t the time for each of us to broadcast our self-created good guy resumes, to defend our personal virtue, or to imagine why these are all some other guy’s stories—because that’s largely the point here: these are probably our stories.

The wounds of the #MeToo’s are likely ones we have been responsible for inflicting, if not in personal acts of aggression:

In the times we stood silently in the company of a group of catcalling men; too cowardly to speak in a woman’s defense.
In the way we’ve voraciously consumed pornography without a second thought of the deep humanity and the beautiful stories beneath the body parts.
In the times we pressured a woman to give more of herself than she felt comfortable giving, and how we justified ourselves after we had.
In the times we laughed along with a group of men speaking words that denied the intrinsic value of women.
In the times we used the Bible to justify our misogyny.
In the times we defended predatory bragging as simply “locker room talk.”

In the times we imagined our emotional proximity to a woman entitled us to physical liberties.

Guys, while we may not believe we have committed direct acts of violence against women (however given the statistics, this is quite likely), we have each participated in a culture of misogyny and sexism that continues to victimize and traumatize, to steal safety and generate fear, to deny humanity and to cultivate disrespect. We are fully complicit in these #MeToo stories, whether we have intentionally acted, contributed unknowingly, nurtured with our silence, multiplied with our laughter, our cosigned with our credit cards.

And in these days, we should not be expecting women to further make themselves vulnerable just to wake our consciences up and to call us to places of decency and accountability that we should already be aspiring to.

We should be the ones stepping from the shadows right now.
We should be the one laying our souls bare.
We should be risking the judgment of strangers.
We should be the ones demanding renovation.

We are the other side of the #MeToo stories.
We are the writers of these awful stories.
It’s time we owned this sickness.
It’s time we stopped it. 

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

Things Trump-Supporting Christians Can Pray About In Church This Sunday

If you’re a professed Christian currently still supporting this President and Administration, and you’re on your way to church on Sunday—here are a few things you might talk with God about, as you stand shoulder to shoulder in a room filled with other supposed followers of Jesus, singing, raising your hands skyward, and imagining yourself righteous:

Pray about the 48 confirmed dead in Puerto Rico; for those who still have no water, no food, no medication, and no way to contact loved ones who are still desperately waiting to hear their voices since Maria—and because your President has spent the past two weeks insulting their exhausted mayor, telling these American citizens they’ve all damaged the budget by their tragedy, suggesting that their people are lazy, and threatening to abandon them completely.

Pray about the tens of millions of sick, elderly, and poor who are slowly being suffocated, as your President sabotages the Affordable Care Act; literally taking life-giving, life-saving care from those least able to procure it; sacrificing the health and healing of human beings simply to destroy Barack Obama’s legacy

Pray about the people of color in this country who recently watched torch-bearing racists march through a city, terrorize clergy, beat people with pipes, and kill a young woman with little more than a slap on the wrist from your President—while he relentlessly crusades on social media against black ESPN reporters and kneeling football players who he called “sons of bitches”.

Pray about muslim families in America who daily face the insults and isolation and violence, simply because their faith tradition has been vilified by your President; that they have been fashioned into a convenient enemy in order to leverage the irrational fears of those who are easily baited, and made to be pariahs in the place they rightfully call home.

Pray about the dozens of Californians who’ve died and the thousands facing devastation and peril as wildfires continue to blaze out of control—while your President takes his 68th golf trip in ten months.

Pray about the families of the 59 people murdered in Las Vegas and the 500-plus who were injured—and about the fact that your President continues to suck at the teat of the NRA, to oppose any sensible gun control measures, and to insure that the next massacre will not be far behind.

Pray about the LGBTQ men and women, and for their brothers, sisters, parents, spouses, and best friends, who are being pushed deeper toward marginalization, further from safety, and ever closer to depression, self-harm, and suicide because this President is aligning himself with those most responsible for their persecution.

Pray about the millions of women whose healthcare, access to birth control, and protection against assault are being chipped away by a President who has proven over and over again that he has contempt for women.

Pray about the dreamers and the immigrants; those with dark skin, those for whom English may be a second language, those for whom America may have been an adopted home or a place of refuge or the desire of their desperate parent’s heart—those who are made to feel unwelcome or threatened or unwanted because of this Presidency’s malice and vitriol.

And yes, pray about this President.

Ask God specifically how his life and body of work align with the Jesus you’ve known all your life; the one you find hope and joy in, the one you read about in the Gospels, the one whose voice you recognize as peacemaker, forgiver, lover, healer, helper.

Ask God if his vile words about women, his cruelty toward those suffering, his vicious social media tirades, his neglect of hurricane victims, his siphoning of funding from public school students and healthcare from cancer patients—if any of it feels at all like the Jesus who talked of loving the least, of caring for the poor, of loving their neighbors as they love God, of the last being first, of the righteous turning their cheeks, of the meek inheriting the earth, of the good Samaritan showing mercy.

Ask Jesus if this President is someone worth a follower of Christ emulating, celebrating, empowering, amen-ing—if he is someone living in that image.

Ask Jesus about saying that the way we treat the lowest and the vulnerable is the way we treat him—and how this President is treating him.

Ask Jesus what the world is learning about his heart for the world, his character, his compassion, his gentleness by the man you elevated to our highest human platform.

Ask Jesus about the kind of world he was trying to usher in when his feet were on the planet—and how this President is doing anything to make it a reality in these days.

And if you can walk out of that worship gathering into another Sunday afternoon, completely unchanged and without sensing the slightest conflict between Jesus Christ of Nazareth and Donald Trump of DC, and without a trace of discomfort at the disconnect between your inner convictions and his tangible actions—pray for yourself, because you have clearly lost the plot of the one who brought the world a Good News that is now completely inaudible in these days because of this man and because of a Church that refuses to stand against him.

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

 

 

If You’re Overwhelmed Right Now

I don’t know you but I think I know some things about you.

I think you’re exhausted right now.
I think you find it hard to fall asleep; worrying what might happen if you do, the monsters you imagine may run amok overnight.
I think you wake up in the morning, and the first thing you feel is a thick dread for the coming day and the brand new terrors surely awaiting you.
I think you fear for people you love deeply; those who give your ordinary days meaning, those who are close enough to touch and who you know are threatened and frightened.
I think you fear for strangers far off in the distance; those whose faces and names you’ll never know and yet whose suffering you still fully grieve.
I think you look at your children across the room and that you mourn the world they’re walking into, that you expend so much energy trying to shield them from the kind of nightmares that they shouldn’t ever have to face in the light of day.
I think you feel the very bedrock of the things you used to stand upon shaking violently in these moments; once elemental truths about country, about God, about the goodness of people and the future of the planet that no longer seem as true.
I think you wear the crippling fatigue of these days in the ever-sharpening lines around your eyes, and in the tired smile you find it more and more difficult to form.
I think you feel fully pressed against your capacity to feel or care or continue.
I think you feel like you’re attending a perpetual funeral for America.
I think you’re at the end of the last thread of your rope.

And I’d like to tell you that you’re wrong to feel these all of things.

I’d like to argue each point with you; to chip away bit by bit at the massive weight upon your shoulders, to expose your every fear as simply a mirage, as just the darkness playing tricks on you—but I can’t do that.

I can’t do that because I’m not convinced you’re at all wrong to feel these things. In fact, probably all I can do is to let you know that I think you’re likely right about all that feels not right—and that I am with you in it.

Maybe the best and only gift I can give you today is to let you know that you’re not alone and you’re not crazy. You are in good company in this plentiful misery.

Perhaps knowing that someone else feels affinity with you in all your frazzled, sickened, outraged desperation is enough to sustain you a little longer. Maybe hearing that at least one other human being is suffering in solidarity with you, is itself a comfort. Maybe these words will be enough to tether you to hope for a little while longer—and that would be a victory.

Because in times when threat comes and grief visits and sadness lingers, the greatest weapon we have is hope; the belief that somehow, in ways we can’t understand or see or make sense of—we will outlast the demons and the darkness and the very non-rightness of the present. All I can offer you is the invitation not to lose hope and pray that in accepting it, I’ll be able to keep going to.

You are not an isolated mourner. The vast majority of us are grieving as you do. Take solace in that. Find some rest and sanity in that.

I don’t know you but I think I know something about you.

I know that I’m overwhelmed along with you.

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.