Give Thanks, Love Well, Stay Home

I know what you want right now, friend.

You want this to all be over.
You want your home to be full again.
You want to hear the sounds of your grandchildren running upstairs.
You want to show off to your neighbors how tall and beautiful your kids have gotten.
You want to use the table settings you bought 11 months ago that still haven’t been touched.
You want to fiercely embrace people you love and have gone so long without.

You want to get out of the few rooms that have been your entire world for nearly a year.
You want to pack a suitcase and get on a plane and be able to wake up surrounded by those you’ve been missing.
You want to smell your mom’s apple pie when you open a front door that you know like the back of your hand, and feel the beautiful deja vu of being home.

You want a joyful holiday to interrupt this sad repetition.
You want a vacation from the lingering loneliness.
You want to exhale deeply surrounded by your tribe.
You want to feel normal again.

I know you want these things because I want them, too.

I feel it all: the homesickness, the isolation, the incessant grieving over a year you’ve lost, the disbelief at every moment and milestone you’ve been robbed of, the volcanic anger because you want it to be over now.

But it isn’t over now.
It is far worse than it has ever been.
Of all the times not to give in to the exhaustion, it’s now.
Of all the seasons not to abandon diligence, it’s this one.
Of all the days not to lose patience, it’s today.

This virus wants that.

It wants you to say to hell with it all, to give in to the seasonal muscle memory that pulls you toward your people; to think that you can sidestep it simply by wishing it away; to imagine that the familiar faces or the greeting card surroundings or the momentary lightness make you immune to the danger—but they can’t.

Life and death are in your hands and in your plans right now.

The only way this virus does its violent, destructive, deadly work, is by getting the proximity to other people that only you can give it. It cannot have access to human bodies unless you escort it there upon your breath and through your laughter and in your stories—and into the lungs of your grandmother, your children, your best friends, your new grandchild, the person standing next to you at the grocery store, the people they know and love.

And in this way, this vile and unrelenting killer is relying upon you right now—and so are the people you share this place with.

And right now, the painful, counterintuitive but redemptive choice, is to show people how much you love them all by staying away from them.

I know how badly you want this gathering on this year, how much you need a respite from the grieving—but I hope you’ll want more than that.

I hope you’ll want years or even decades to make plans and go on vacations and  celebrate birthdays and attend graduations and make memories and share meals, and do all the living you can. I hope that all those future possibilities and the multitude of lives you are tethered to—are worth more than a few hours this week. 

For your parents and your children, for your best friends and grandchildren, for doctors and nurses stretched to their limits, for strangers walking by you at the gas station, for the exhausted, lonely, and scared humanity you share this life with—postpone your celebrations a few months longer.

The greatest gift we can give the people we love in this moment is to keep our distance from them.
The most tangible expression of our gratitude for this life and the lives around us and for everything we have, is to be still.
The most honorable stewardship of our freedoms in days like these, is to restrain ourselves and to sacrifice on behalf of others.
The most loving act we can engage in this holiday season, is to wait where we are.

Give thanks for this life and stay home.

Dear Judas, (A Letter to the Evangelical Church)


AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Dear Evangelicals,

I thought of you today.

I was reading the Bible. (You may remember the Bible from a sitting president’s recent upside-down, tear-gassed, church steps photo op.)

I came across Matthew’s story of Judas’ final moments here on the planet: overwhelmed with guilt, in a searing, sweaty panic—realizing that he had betrayed his beloved Jesus and sent him to an unthinkably violent death, all for thirty cold pieces of silver that now felt worthless in his hands.

He’d kissed him and he’d killed him, just to gain a quick windfall that he suddenly realized was fool’s gold.

He died knowing he’d forfeited his soul and couldn’t get a refund. 

I wonder if you will ever have such a last-minute awakening: a similarly sickening moment of clarity-come-too-late, when you look around and see all that you’ve destroyed and how many people you’ve grievously wounded—and if you too will realize that you’re now permanently in the red because you have abandoned your namesake for another name that adorns very different kinds of buildings.

Take a moment and survey the coins in your hand, now, friends.
Roll them around your fingers.
Feel the weight of them.

Your thirty pieces of silver were these last four years,
some Supreme Court Justices,
 a couple hundred of lower court judges,
the temporary high of a few political wins,
the bully pulpit of a President’s Twitter feed for forty-eight months,
and perhaps soon, a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body.

That was your soul’s selling price.

Was it all worth betraying Jesus for, I wonder?
Was it worth brutalizing the already vulnerable and oppressed, whose lives he said he inhabited?
Was it worth aligning with this petulant, profane Caesar in all his pervasive and prolific violence?
Was it worth driving a generation from the Church that Jesus built to be a refuge for wanderers, a balm for the hurting, a destination for weary pilgrims, and a home for prodigals?

From where I’m standing, it wasn’t.
From where I’m standing, you’re bankrupt.
From where I’m standing, you’re stuck.

I’m out here with the multitudes who will never darken the door of one your gatherings ever again because they’ve seen your greed.
I’m here with those whose last remaining tethers to religion have been fully severed seeing you abandon the tender world-loving heart of Jesus, in favor of a thin facade of nationalistic bravado.
I’m here alongside hundreds of thousands sitting vigil for a democracy teetering precariously on the edge of death at your doing.
I’m with the disparate humanity who can find something redemptive and beautiful— anywhere else but alongside you.
I’m here with those whose grief you have manufactured, whose peace you have interrupted with chaos, whose voices you have intentionally silenced: with the poor and hurting and the hopeless.

I’m there because Jesus is there; where he’s always been. You are there with those thirty coins and the time that is running out. He will outlive you.

I imagine you’re not able to mourn any of this right now; that you still feel like you’re winning. You are still in between the payoff and the wake-up, and so all you’re feeling is the fleeting rush of a deal with the devil that always seems like a win—until it doesn’t.

But one day soon (either here or hereafter) you’re going to reach the place all Judases eventually find themselves: realizing all they’ve lost to gain a world:

They’ve lost everything that matters.

Hope those thirty pieces of silver were worth that.

Farewell.

You Raised Me To Be A Good Person. Then You Voted for Trump

To My Older Relatives,

I’m writing to let you know that I’m aware of what you think of me, either because you’ve told me during combustible room-clearing conversations, over terse cold war text exchanges, or in second-hand words passed through the people who now serve as the sole messengers between us.

You believe I’ve changed.

You think I’ve become radicalized by the Left, that I’m a bleeding-heart Liberal, that I’m an anti-Jesus, anti-American baby-killing heretic, determined to destroy the fabric of this nation with socialism, homosexuality, and wide-open borders.

You think I’ve abandoned my faith and my family and you’re really disappointed with me—and I have to tell you that you’re partially responsible.

You say that I’ve changed, and I guess I have: I’ve become the person you taught me to become when I was growing-up.

I’ve become a person who is deeply offended by inequity,
a person who looks out for the underdog,
a person who finds the beauty in the diversity around me,
a person who wants other people to have what I have,
a person aware of how fortunate I am to live here,
a person trying to love my neighbor as myself,
a person who detests liars and predators and con-men.

And the person that I’ve become, in large part because of the wisdom and compassion you poured into me as a child, can’t fathom as an adult how you’ve voted for Donald Trump twice, and how you still support him now.

It’s unthinkable to that younger version of me that you would have embraced this man: his cruelty, his depravity, his petty, vengeful, unloving heart.

That’s not the way you raised me and so whatever issues you have with me now, you need to understand:

You made me this way.

I’m really proud of the person I am today and I’m grateful for the time you spent with me; the lessons you taught me about seeing all people as inherently valuable,
about being a person of your word,
about telling the truth even when it’s costly,
about admitting your mistakes,
about apologizing,

about valuing people over money,
about how we treat people being what defines us.

I was paying attention.
I was listening.
I believed you.
I did what you told me to do and I became who you told me to become—and so now I care about the world and I despise evil and I live open-hearted and open-handed.

And that’s why I’ve found myself standing here wondering how you’ve become someone I no longer recognize, how you’ve embraced the embodiment of the ugliness you warned me to avoid, how you stopped taking your own advice somewhere along the way.

You say that you only support the party or the policies and not the man—but I remember you telling me that we are known by the company we keep, that the ends doesn’t justify the means, and that we can’t gain the world (or a Supreme Court seat) and lose our souls. You wouldn’t have tolerated those flimsy excuses for aligning with someone horrible and I won’t tolerate them from you now.

As a child, I looked up to you, and that part of me will continue to love you dearly and be grateful for you.
But as an adult, I see you face to face and I grieve the loss of the person I imagined you were when you were teaching me how to be a good person.

By continuing to support this man you have gone against everything you told me was important growing up: decency, honesty, fairness, maturity, empathy.

Either you were lying then or you’re wrong now.

Which one is it?

The child I was and the adult I’ve become, both want to know.

 

(Note: Many of us have these people in our lives: uncles, fathers, cousins, aunts, grandparents, mothers, older siblings. I hope I speak your heart, even if the specifics are different.)

Say Goodbye, America

America, we will soon say goodbye to something.

One way or another, this year will end with a farewell.

It will either close with a glorious, triumphant blast of freedom—or with the sickening death knell of a once-great nation, gone for good.

Either America will part ways with this president or we will part ways with democracy.

Those are the choices here.

This moment is about each of us choosing which we’re committed to losing.

It is about deciding whether we will fight for this person, or for the disparate, multitudinous We The People who have shaped and defined and co-created it for two hundred and forty-three years.

As a child, I grew up being taught that the beauty of this nation was found in the personal liberties it promised for every human being without condition or caveat, the strength of the system that protected those liberties, and the people of integrity placed in positions of power that defended us against attacks on those liberties, whether they came from within or without.

The very bedrock of who we have been and would be (I was told), was the power of the collective voice of the people to determine our destiny together: of our individual wills tethered together like a sail that would steer us where we dreamed of heading as a country.

I believed that story and it was a story I had complete confidence in—until this week.

Right now, that story is at the precipice of becoming fiction.

In this very moment, as you read these words, our interdependent destinies are being written. I wonder what History will record about us. I wonder if any leaders are going to stand in this day and be courageous; if any of the people around this unhinged despot will decide that the temporary affections of a traitorous madman are not worth the assassination of a Republic. I wonder of the small army of self-righteous professed Christians around him, will embrace the sacred call upon their lives to be agents of justice and mercy to the vulnerable and the oppressed. I wonder how many will forfeit their souls to gain a few seats in Congress. 

And if all else fails, if no one rises to oppose this desperate and transparent coup; if the systems have been so perverted that they no longer hold the will of the people and if those entrusted to lead us have been so compromised that they no longer care to save us—I wonder if we are prepared to do what is required to demand that our will be done.

This has nothing to do with a politician or a political party—it is about the elemental core of America; its beautiful, beating human heart.

If every vote does not count, if each voice no longer matters, if elections are now academic—we are no longer who the songs and anthems declare we are. We are no longer the words chiseled into monuments announcing ourselves as a compassionate refuge for tired, huddled masses who long to breathe deeply in the winds of liberty. We are not a place worthy of the flag or the people who have defended it and died for it.

If we decide to yield the will of the American people to any person or any group of politicians (no matter who they are), we will have severed our last ties to everything that made us a brilliant beacon of light to this world.

We will have co-written the epitaph of this nation in this moment.

So Americans: Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; people of deep faith and of no religious affiliation; people of every pigmentation, orientation, and kind; those of every corner of this country that has given them a home—we need to decide who or what we will say goodbye to right now.

We either say goodbye to him: to a man who is so far beneath the privilege of leading America—or we say goodbye to America.

Those are the options.

Our farewell today, will define us forever.

I pray we’re not ready to say goodbye to America yet.

I think our best years can still be ahead—we just need to live long enough to see them.