Thursday, October 4, 2018

Esther's Story (and Ours)

Sermon given at All Saints Episcopal
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Proper 21b, Track 1

I don’t usually do this, but I do want to issue a content warning before I begin because today I will be touching on issues of sexual assault and violence.  If these topics are harmful to you, please do not hesitate to do what is right for you.

Many times in my life as a priest, I have found myself called to name the emotions in the air when the people I’m with may be struggling to do it for themselves.  There is power in naming what we are feeling and experiencing – it often deflates it a little, and makes it possible for us to attend to whatever it is that is going on.  So I feel like today I have to start by just naming that for many people it’s been a really hard couple of weeks.  My communication platforms have been full of stories from survivors of abuse in many and various forms.  These are stories of people I know and people I don’t.  These are stories of women, and men, and persons of nonbinary gender identities; of children to the elderly.  And when this amount of trauma is broken open, it becomes hard not to reflect on my own experiences of abuse, times when violation and harassment has happened to me too.  For many of us, it has been really, really hard.  So let’s start there.

Part of what has been so hard in hearing the sheer volume of these stories, is that we realize the amount of cruelty that is possible, the way people can viciously harm other people, is seemingly boundless.  The bulk of these stories have been told to no one.  Some tried to report the assault and still no justice was served.  It is those stories that so many survivors cite as the reason they have never come forward, and instead suffered in silence.  And I think part of the reality of life in America in the 21st century, is that our cultural narrative tells us that victims can seek justice, that people who have been assaulted and harmed should expect the perpetrator to be punished.  Yet, part of what has become painfully clear is that too often this is a false narrative.  While the laws have come a long way recently, making things like marital rape and sexual harassment illegal, the reality is people – particularly women – still experience this on a daily basis and often with little or no recourse.  These crimes are ones in which the victim is interrogated as if she did something wrong, to precipitate the attack.  Victims know this is the case, so they often decide not to be retraumatized by reporting the assault.  Furthermore, when a man can boast about grabbing women’s genitals with no repercussions and still be elected to the highest office in the world, we can no longer delude ourselves into believing victims can seek justice here. Thus, due to this absolute disconnect between perception and reality, there is a tremendous amount of suffering happening in our culture right now.

I know survivors I have worked with and many others are now asking the crucial and difficult question: so where is God in this?  Interestingly, today the lectionary has given us this snippet from the Book of Esther.  We don’t tend to be very familiar with Esther and that’s a shame.  Our Jewish siblings read the book of Esther in its entirety every year during Purim.  Indeed, the book was probably written to explain and codify the celebration of Purim – a sort of Halloween type event where the kids wear masks and there’s a dramatic reading of Esther.  It commemorates Queen Esther saving the Jewish people from annihilation, thus defeating anti-Semitism.  But it is about so much more than this.  It is about racism, and misogyny, and religious persecution, and salvation from all of that.  The story is set during the Exile – when the Jewish people were sent to Babylon and were forced to live among people who were culturally different from them and who didn’t share their religion.  So part of what Esther looks at is how can the Jews remain Jews while living in an a foreign land, without their Temple (which was God’s house on Earth), without respect for their culture, or their religious values?

By this time, Babylon has been conquered by Persia, and so the story is set in the Persian royal court in the capital of Susa.  Esther is an orphan who, probably as a young teen (like 12-14 years old) is swept up in a literal round up of beautiful virgins into the King’s harem.  Make no mistake: at this time, women are property, they have no rights or say in their life choices, and they were passed from their father’s possession into a husbands’ (who she did not choose).  We know that the King has already gotten rid of his wife Vashti because she refused to dance naked for him and his drunken friends.  You see, this is what happens when a woman asserted herself.  She refused to obey her husband’s demoralizing request, and so she is gotten rid of (perhaps killed – we don’t know).  And Vashti is made an example of for all wives as a warning of what happens to a woman who disobeys her husband.

So now Esther is in this harem of girls who spend one night with the King and can’t approach him ever again unless he summons them.  This is sexual servitude that is not consensual for these young girls.  Esther’s cousin/guardian, Mordecai, warns her not to tell anyone she is actually Jewish, so she doesn’t.  And because she is very beautiful the King selects her to be his new Queen.  Meanwhile, a villain named Haman rises to power within the King’s court and he tries to force Mordecai to bow to him, which as a Jew, he refuses to do.  So Haman plots to wipe out all of the Jewish people.  King Ahasuerus agrees and sends a royal decree that this genocide would occur on the 13th day of the 12th month of Adar.  The Jewish people have no recourse, no protection, no way to stop this atrocity.  The King has ordered it.  It will happen.  Mordecai implores Esther to go intercede with the King on their behalf.  But she hasn’t been summoned by him in a month and the penalty for going to him out of turn is death.  She knows being Queen does not protect her or release her from the consequence.  Mordecai responds: we die either way, so why not try?

Esther and Modecai and all the Jewish people ritually fast and pray for her.  Then, she approaches the King’s royal chamber, presumably with great fear and trepidation, and luckily he admits her.  She offers to throw him and Haman a banquet with lots of food and wine, and then one the next day.  Apparently, they are such good parties that the King offers her anything she wants, including half his kingdom.  This time, she asks for the life of herself and her people, the Jews, and she uncovers Haman’s plot against them.  For this, the King orders Haman’s death.  Mordecai is brought in and given Haman’s position.  Esther again asks the king to cancel the genocide, but he won’t stop it.  Instead, he proclaims the Jews are allowed to defend themselves against the attack.  And this is where it gets pretty violent.  So the Jews fight back, although the text indicates they killed “those who hate them.”  They end up doing this for two days, and on the third they feasted and rested.  The book ends with codifying this date and holiday of Purim to be kept henceforth.

So that’s the plot of the story in a nutshell.  What does it teach us?  Esther was a queen – by definition someone with a high level of power and status, and yet, she can be killed at the whim of the king.  Her social status, like a doctorate or professorship at a world class university of today, does not protect her from the ever changing will of powerful men.  The story takes pains to show the King and his officers as drunken, bumbling idiots.  And yet, they have complete power over literally everyone.  (Let that sink in.)  Furthermore, as a Jewish woman in Persia, her life is even more in jeopardy, and she must be very careful to stay true to her faith while also having to conform to the rules and expectations of the Persian culture she now finds herself a part of.  So she blends in.  She hides who she is, what has been done to her, the fact that she cannot exit the palace.  She cannot say no to the King’s desires.  When he calls her she must go to him.  Or die.  Yet, she prayerfully persists.  She survives.  And when she needs to take a stand, to risk her life and her people’s lives, she bravely tells the truth.  And because of this, they are spared, and the Jews prevail.  While I don’t love that they in turn killed their attackers, I think it’s crucial that the bible takes pains to say the Jews ‘killed those who hate them.’  Hate is what motivated the attempted genocide.  Racism, anti-Semitism, irrational fear of the other.  So as is often the case throughout the Bible, God says no.  And the Jewish people live.  Thanks be to God.

Patriarchy, racism, misogyny, rape, hatred, genocide – God worked through Esther and Mordecai – two of the least powerful people in the story – to change the outcome, to stop the inevitable.  Obviously, as this story is over two thousand years old, these horrors didn’t end there.  Esther’s triumph didn’t suddenly bring safety, equality, and the end of oppression forever.  Because whenever one group of people has more power than another, no one is truly safe.  And yet, what this story – and the whole of Scripture – tells us is that this is not God’s will for us.  We are called “for a time such as this,” as Mordecai says to Esther, to look for the ways we can end injustice and oppression, to stop harm from happening to people both interpersonally, and from powerful leaders, who see and treat people as if they are disposable, with hatred and disdain.  And we do it because this is obviously antithetical to Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.  What this story teaches us is that with prayer, and truth telling, and yes, even resistance, we can end injustice, because that is what God wants for us.  It’s not easy.  It’s scary.  It’s painful.  It’s dangerous.  And yet, as it was the community that came together in Esther’s time, so must we come together to do it now.  May God give us the bravery and faith of Esther to do this.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Transitioning...

The news is starting to spread, and as much as I love getting calls, texts, and emails from friends far and near, it will probably be easier to just put the story out there, so here goes.  It is true: I'm in the process of transitioning out of my role at The Belfry.  These words are hard to say - they were hard when I said them to my Board in November, hard when I said them to the student and LEVN communities in January, and hard seeing them in print in the soon-to-be-mailed Footnote (our newsletter) and in the diocesan newsletter.  In other words, I've been sitting with this reality for a long time now, and yet it still seems very strange and not quite real.  I just surpassed the ten year mark at the end of March - a decade of ministry at the Belfry has gone by, and it feels like it's been the blink of an eye and forever simultaneously. 

My commitment to the Belfry and my love of this work has not changed.  But circumstances in the rest of my life have.  Last fall, my husband received an investment to start a new company: https://enhance.co/.  This is extremely exciting, but also needs a huge amount of additional time and attention from him.  The biggest change is that he is no longer working from home, but rather has set up a headquarters with employees and an office, etc. here in Sacramento.  That has been a major shift in the rhythm of our family's life.

Also this year, my oldest son started middle school.  It has been a difficult transition and difficult year.  We have had to seek out additional resources for him which has entailed driving all over town multiple days each week for these services.  As these happen in the evenings, and I work evenings, and Chris is working into the evenings, something had to change.  We prayerfully discerned that our child needs more of our time than our work schedules were allowing, and so as Chris is launching this new company, I'm going to take on this larger role.

This is not what I thought I would be doing, or the trajectory I had planned for my career.  But we only get one shot at this parenting gig, and it is clear that we are at a critical juncture, and so as deeply as I love and feel called to my work, I believe I now need to focus more exclusively on my family.

I hope God is not done with me, and that after this season of life has passed, that there will be opportunities for me to step back into ministry.  So to answer the question many are now asking me: what am I transitioning to?  Being a full time parent.  As my sweet Zach asked when we told the kids of this change, "But mommy, what are you going to do all day?"  I don't know exactly, but I'm sure there will be plenty to do.  It will be different from the life I've known, but I'm open to seeing what God has in store for me now...

The search is now underway for a new Executive Director of the Belfry: http://www.thebelfry.org/ed-search/  Are you or someone you know looking for such a position?  Please share it widely!  I hope an amazing person emerges to work alongside Casey to take the Belfry to the next level.  I have given my heart and soul to this place, with the hope that it will persist for many years to come.  As I told the Board in my resignation letter, this job was literally a dream come true for me, and I have felt so honored to be a part of the Belfry's story.  I have agreed to stay on in a modified capacity during the search process, so the actual end date is uncertain, but definitely by the end of the program year.  I covet your prayers during this time and thank you all for your support and love during my tenure at the Belfry. 💗

Monday, August 14, 2017

On the Feast of Jonathan Daniels, Martyr

Today is the feast of Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian who was killed during the civil rights movement in 1965.  He and so many others were martyred while fighting, advocating, and standing up for equal rights for all people - you know, fighting for what America is supposed to represent and be all about.

And yet, here we are in 2017, mourning the death of innocent people at the hands of white supremacists, and with a leader who took three long days to denounce racism.  In some ways, he is no different than the elected officials of the South during that time who were blatant in their racism because they could be.  No one that I know remembers Bull Conner with respect and I'm sure history will do the same with this person.  Now, before anyone labels me a SJW liberal (or a slur of some variation) who just hates conservatives, I also want to point out that many, many Republicans very quickly denounced the white supremacists in Charlottesville and racism and hatred along with it.  Clearly, people on "many sides," to use his words, do know the difference between right and wrong.  Hatred is wrong.  Racism is wrong. White supremacy is wrong.  It's not a hard thing to denounce.  Before this past weekend, one would have thought that denouncing racism is at least the politically correct thing to do if not a politically expedient thing to profess - whether one believes it or not.  And in his failure to denounce it, the white supremacists heard exactly what they believed to be true: that he DOES support them and will not stop them.  Some are finding solace in his belated about-face.  Ok so he's on record saying racism is wrong.  But as usual, he says something and then denies saying it and vice versa.  The world knows he said what he meant on Saturday and his reversals mean very little in the face of hatred and death.

Truly, that's been apparent from the beginning of his campaign - that he was so quick to say vile things about entire groups of people and call for violence against them, and he was still elected.  Many people have rightly pointed out that white people are failing - failing to stop ourselves from being racist.  We know who among us is racist - both blatantly and casually so.  Those who will drop an occasional racial slur, who routinely stereotype people in hushed tones.  Sometimes this is simply ignorance: people who are quick to buy into media portrayals because they just don't know diverse people.  And yet, in the age of the internet, there are plenty of ways to expand one's horizons and knowledge of people who are different from ourselves.  Point being: white people know how many among us are racist to some degree, who do condone some of these viewpoints and terrible ideas.  And so often, in order to stay in relationship with these people, we don't say anything.  We let that joke or comment slide, or we listen to a story where we are wanting to correct their ignorance but out of fear or fatigue, we say nothing. This has to stop.

Our churches are FULL of these people, otherwise kind, decent people who are a little bit racist (or a lot, depending).  And clergy, in an effort to love everyone and keep everyone in the fold, have often shied away from touching on these topics.  It's so hard to preach the Gospel when we know people are going to be angered by it.  Even though the Gospel SHOULD make people angry.  Jesus made people angry all the time.  But we're not Jesus and so it's hard for many of us to do.

So I want to take this opportunity to state that racism and hatred are utterly opposed to the will of God.  There is no part of white supremacy that God would condone.  Whiteness and white culture are opposed to the will of God. Why?  Because white culture is about genocide, false superiority, oppression, degradation of God's children, and death.  There is nothing worth saving in white culture.  Of course white supremacists want to "save and protect" white culture.  It keeps them believing they are somehow better than everyone else (classic insecure, bully move).  They are not.  This is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And it's antithetical to the principles this nation were founded upon, even though the authors of those founding documents were racists themselves.

White people in general, but white Christians in particular, MUST denounce, reject, speak out against racism and oppression in all it's forms.  Jesus told us to love one another.  That's it.  That's all there is.  Just love.

The Charlottesville protest was allegedly done to stop the removal of a Confederate monument.  Across the South, these monuments are being removed - rightfully so.  I lived in the South, I married a Southerner.  I understand the complex feelings people there hold about the Civil War.  But for too long we have allowed them to feel anything but shame for the fact that this war was fought on their part to maintain slavery.  That the Jim Crow laws following the Civil War only maintained oppression and white supremacy.  Indeed, I likely have ancestors who fought for the confederacy, and that is shameful.  They were wrong to do it, whatever their reasons, and I pray that they repented and that God has mercy on them.  This legacy of sin means I must work harder to make a different future, one that is in God's image, that brings the Kingdom ever closer.  These monuments should be a source of shame, and that they're not to some people is telling.  The confederate flag is a symbol of hate, and that anyone, anyone in 2017 can see it as anything else is nothing less than white supremacy.

Again: this is not a liberal/conservative thing.  This is a humanity thing.  Plenty of Republicans denounced the white supremacists in Charlottesville.  After the election I worried our country was swiftly going in the direction of Germany in the 1930s.  There's not a lot of evidence 8 months into this that we're not.  I am determined - and heartened by many of my clergy colleagues - not to let the church continue to be complicit in allowing white people to be at best complicit and at worst active in this downward slide.  The church, if we are followers of Jesus, must reject white supremacy.  We must stop our own ignorance and seek justice and love as did the one we claim to follow, Jesus.

White friends, we must talk to each other, openly, honestly about race.  We must talk about ignorance and oppression.  We must be open to hear that we are wrong, that we have to try harder and do more to help realize the goal of equality.  And that does mean that the future will be different, that privileges we enjoy (conscious or not) will go away.  And while that may feel scary and like a lot of change, it is for the better - for us, for our children, and for generations to come.  But more importantly, it fulfills the vision that God has for us, which is what we as people of faith as supposed to be working towards constantly.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Doing Christmas This Year

I love Christmas.  I break most of the Advent rules annually by listening to Christmas music right after Halloween, and decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving.  I love seeing the lights and often wish the season could last all year long.

But not this year.

Everything in me wants to ignore Christmas.  Cancel it.  Not the Incarnation, of course.  Jesus is coming regardless of whether we acknowledge him or not.  But the festivities and traditions I could easily do without.  The only reason I am doing Christmas at all this year is because I have 3 kids who need and deserve normalcy.  The world has changed and uncertainty reigns.  I am dreading 2017.  I honestly think we're on the precipice of life morphing into something we don't want to experience in ways that will be largely out of our control.  My gut says at this time next year we won't even have the luxury of pretending like everything is normal or ok.  So for now, we have one more Christmas season to enjoy and to that extent, I am going through the motions and trying to do the usual things, hoping that I'm somehow successfully hiding my deep fears about the future from my kids.

But one thing I have decided to not do this year is Christmas cards.  Every year of my adult life I have sent Christmas cards.  Since we got married, I've included a letter about our year.  Every year when we pull out the boxes of decorations, I'll reread some of the letters from years past (14 and counting now), and I'm thankful to have this record of our lives captured in a page or page and a half.

This year, I don't even know what to say.  I'm not interested in feigning hope that I genuinely don't feel.  The dollars we spend on the cards and printing and postage feels overwhelming, and so I'm going to donate what we would've spent to organizations that might actually be our best hope at resisting the evil that is preparing to ru(i)n our country.  A part of me feels like I should suck it up and do the cards; put on the hopeful face, say the right things.  But maybe because I'm already doing that on the daily for my kids, it makes me just have no energy left to do it for grown ups too.  That's just honest.  And this is one of my struggles of the past month: how much do I get to feel my feelings?  With all the rhetoric about accepting the results and mending divisions and coming together - under normal circumstances in a normal democracy, that's what we would do.  But this year is not normal, and the stakes are so much more dire, the consequences already harming people on a daily basis.

Advent is a season of hope.  My hope is in God, and in our ability to follow the One who was, and who is, and who is to come.  But having that hope doesn't mean that lived existence will be a-ok.  My instincts, and understanding of history, tell me that we're about to go into a really dark time.  And its going to be really hard for awhile.  We are not the first people to live through a time such as this, but what we know from others who have lived through it is it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  And I'm just not in a place to do anything but be honest about that.  Not exactly the message one puts on a festive holiday missive.

So no Christmas cards this year.  I'm breaking this normal routine in acknowledgement that this is just not normal anymore.  My friends and family are constantly in my prayers, and right now, that is all I can do.  This year, I hope, that's good enough.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

If I Could Turn Back Time

I think we all thought life would be better once the interminable election was finally over.  But I would give almost anything to turn back time.  The anxiety of not knowing what the outcome would be was actually better than this.  Back then, there was hope.  Hope that things would be ok.  Now we know that they most likely won't be ok, and that is actually worse.  We've watched this week as hate crimes have skyrocketed.  I appreciate that so many of them NAME Trump.  The hate crimes scrawled on Episcopal Churches last weekend proclaimed Trump.  The viral video of the man in Starbucks verbally abusing a Starbucks barista shows him declaring, "I voted for Trump."  I appreciate them making the connections for us.  We don't have to speculate if these acts of hatred are connected to our esteemed president-elect.  They explicitly, unequivocally are.

People of Color have rightly pointed out that this is nothing new.  The hatred that is happening now has always been there.  But yes, the veil has been lifted.  The "Heil Trump" graffiti-ers may not have done that before last Tuesday, or at least, they would have written it in a notebook as opposed to on a church building.  And the man abusing the barista may have kept those comments in his head or under his breath before, but now he says them out loud, with the validation/explanation, "I voted for Trump."  Critique political correctness all you want, but none of this seems better to me.  These people were always already racist.  Sure.  But allowing them to make their statements in a public forum doesn't seem better to me.  It's more aggressive and horrible, yes.  Previously people had a sense that they shouldn't say these things out loud.  Or maybe not in certain settings.  Now they just spew, "Go back to your country."  "Heil Trump."  And any number of other racial and homophobic slurs.  I suppose to the extent it proves that America is in fact that bigoted to be true (as opposed to suspected) may have some value.  But the people on the receiving end of the hatred likely aren't feeling glad that people are now showing their true colors.

It makes me nauseous that Muslims are taking off their hijabs (and that legislation was proposed to make wearing them illegal, even though it's clearly unconstitutional), and that Jews are taking off their religious symbols so as to not draw attention to themselves.  This is America.  We're supposed to be able to wear anything we want and practice any religion we want.  And even if that is the law, it makes no difference if people feel unsafe practicing their religion on a daily basis.

What have we become?

I've gone through phases in my life where I was really engrossed in studying the Holocaust.  Mostly because I couldn't understand how it could happen.  How could millions of people be rounded up and killed?  Just like that?  From children's books like "I Never Saw Another Butterfly," to "Man's Search For Meaning," and "Night," and of course, "The Diary of Anne Frank," - I wanted to understand.  The narrative I internalized as a Christian, as an American, was that the Holocaust happened because 'good people did nothing.'  And yet, there's books like, "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed," and the movie, "Schindler's List."  This week I realized this narrative is patently false. Good people during the Holocaust were not doing nothing.  They were acting.  They were hiding Jews and helping them flee the country.  Average people watched their neighbors put on Stars of David and be hauled away, never to be seen again.  And did nothing.  Are they good people?  I think we call them that to assuage our own consciences.  What if we're faced with a similar situation and respond similarly?  We're still 'good,' right?

Morally speaking, if this kind of persecution comes, we can't sit by and do nothing, and call ourselves good.  Or Christians.  We must act,  We must resist.  I can't believe I'm saying that.  One fundamental truth I've had to accept about myself is that I am not an activist.  I really have no desire to protest.  I'll teach, I'll preach, but facing off with the powers that be with a large group of people in a public place causes me great anxiety and is not really where I want to be.  I had accepted this about myself; but this election has awakened the activist in me.  I can foresee that in the not-distant future, I will be present at marches, at actions, using whatever privilege and resources I have to resist what is coming next.  When the president-elect stacks his administration with bigots and white supremacists, the writing is on the wall.  We must stand up to and reject this, and protect those who are now being targeted by run-of-the-mill, everyday hate-filled bigots.

I still have a "#nevertrump" sticker on my car.  I looked forward to taking it off on November 9th.  Apparently it's going to be on there until 2020.  I have never put anything political on my vehicles.  This year was different.  My son said I'll have to take that off when he becomes president or I'll get arrested.  "No.  This is still America, and I still have freedom of speech.  I can't be arrested for saying this."  But why is my son worried about this?  I've seen plenty of terrible bumper stickers about President Obama in the past eight years.  It's their right to say those things.  So my sticker is staying on my car.  And also, I got a compliment on it yesterday afternoon.

A week later, it's just barely hitting me: the grief for what almost was.  We almost had a shot at moving toward more progressive legislation, to finally breaking the glass ceiling.  We almost had it all.  But instead, we're now contemplating how to keep Muslims, and immigrants, and LGBTQ folks and people of color safe.  Part of the rage I feel is grounded in the reality that the future is not going to be good, not what I wanted or imagined.  That now my time and energy has to be directed to fighting for equality and safety for people that should be pre-ordained.  If the popular vote winner was the winner, we would be moving forward right now.  Instead, we're moving backward.  It's horrifying.

One thing that Nazi Germany didn't have that we do is states.  I growing increasingly convinced that a primary locus of resistance will be at the state level.  To that extent, I'm grateful to be in California, a blue state that tends to reject much of these ideals.  So how can we let the state leaders know that we stand with them to resist mass deportation and Muslim registry?  How can we encourage our state government to protect the people here and refuse to participate in these illegal and immoral policies?  That's where I want to focus a lot of my time and energy.

A final thought: I found myself being drawn to listen to a song I haven't played in years: "Dear Mr. President" by Pink and the Indigo Girlz.  It struck me how it was cathartic to hear again, giving voice to my questions and anger.  And yet, the song ends with Pink singing, "Dear Mr. President, you'd never take a walk with me."  The truth of that line directed to GWB was a nod to his elitism and ignorance/distance from the people he leads.  But hearing it now, I realized I wouldn't want to take a walk with this president-elect, because it wouldn't be safe for me to do so.  He has made it clear that he can access women's bodies any way and any time he wants to.  I'm not interested in testing those words because I believe he was telling the truth.  This is truly a sick reality we've landed ourselves in.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes we could go back and change a few things.  Of course we can't undo what has been done, and it sucks to have traded one set of anxiety for a whole new set that feels devoid of hope.  So now, as we look to the future, let us plan, and coordinate and resolve that no matter what, we will not let fascism win here. That the Church will not allow history to repeat itself.  The writing is on the wall - we see it.  So, let us act.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's the end of the world as we know it. And I'm horrified.

The past few days have been a shit storm.  I have so much I want to say, and rather than post endlessly on facebook, I thought I'd try to contain it all in one tidy blog post.  My goal is to speak to those who voted for Trump, and/or those who want to take the position of "what's the big deal?"  Maybe none of them will read this, but I have to try.  I think we're in a moment of time and space where we have to keep trying to help people understand.  There's a lot of really good posts out there already, and I don't know if I have anything new to add, but I still want to try. So here I go.

First, I want to respond to things I've seen repeatedly or have been said to me.

1) "Give him a chance."

We have no choice but to do this.  Trump won the electoral college.  He will take power.  We've given him chances for over a year to do the right thing - show himself to be a decent, rational human.  He has not done that.  And what is his first tweet?  A denunciation of the protests* like a whiny, spoiled brat.  "It's unfair."  IT'S THE CONSTITUTION.  It's our fundamental inalienable rights to free speech and assembly.  At least for now we have them.  I'm not interested in giving him more chances to take those away (which I do think are coming very rapidly - he is already blocking the media).

[*A note on the protests.  Let's ask: why now?  I don't believe there have ever been protests like this following an election.  Why this time?  Why this person?  It has something to do with the popular vote versus electoral college, perhaps.  But it also has to do with who this person is, and the things he has promised to do.  This is not about sore losers.  People have lost in every election and don't protest.  This is different.  This is borne out of genuine fear that less than half of those who cast votes have put a fascist dictator (as evidenced by his own words and promises) into power.  That is why people are protesting, and I'm all for it as long as they are peaceful.  I can never condone violence or vandalism and I know the protesters themselves are trying to clamp down on this.  But trust me, there is much more of this to come.  Too many of us are not willing to let this country quietly go the way of Germany in the 1930s.]

2) "He won.  Just move on."

He won the electoral college, but not the popular vote.  More people don't want him than do.  But yes, he is now president-elect.  I get that.  Claiming he won, like George W. Bush before him, is just not entirely true.  In a direct democracy (which maybe we'll finally get now) he would be heading off on the 6 month vacation he vowed to take if he lost.

'Just move on' is the worst.  This is the epitome of privilege.  So many people's lives will be decimated by this power shift.  People who say 'just move on' believe there is something to move on to.  For many people in this country, now there is not.  What do we have to look forward to?  A loss of medical insurance?  The degradation of the planet?  An exponential rise in hate crimes (already happening)?  End to marriage equality?  An end to freedom of the press?  Mass deportation?  He has promised all of this and it's right there in his 100 days plan.  No, we will not move on to that.  There is no hope in any of that.  Maybe you don't care about all of this, but many of us (nearly 61 million, more than a half million - and counting - more than those who voted for him) do.

3) "We have to respect him.  He's the president."

This year is different.  I wish so badly this was Mitt Romney or John McCain that just got elected.  I disagree with most of their policies.  But they are decent people.  They don't spread vile rhetoric and hate speech or incite their followers to violence.  They are respectable people.  Trump is not a respectable person.  He is a bully, a misogynist, a racist.  He is morally bankrupt.  I respect the office of the president.  I do not respect him.

To be clear: my baptismal vows call me to respect the dignity of every human being.  Trump is a child of God.  He has a right to exist and live his life, and be treated as such.  I stand up for that as I would for any other person.  But we are also called to not participate in perpetuating evil systems, and his words (and potential policies) will do that.  So we have to denounce them, and to the extent that he embodies them, good people - Christians - have to oppose him.

Also, I have seen people arguing that God can use deeply sinful people, and then citing Abraham, Moses, David, etc.  Absolutely.  God can use anyone God wants to.  All of those biblical figures, while sinners, also were FAITHFUL people.  They listened to God.  They repented.  Thus far, I don't see much in DT's actions to indicate a similar faith commitment on his part.  Maybe I'm wrong, I pray I am.  But we should be careful not to believe that just because a person ascends to power that that means God wants him there.  Plenty of leaders have believed themselves to be God and have done terrible, inhumane things as a result.  Part of the beauty of our governmental system is that we are supposed to have curtailed power in each branch of government so that a despotic leader can be controlled.  We shall see how this goes, but I don't feel super hopeful right now.

4) "Not everyone who voted for him is racist or sexist."

This is hard for me.  I have family and friends who voted for him.  I wish I didn't know that for a fact, but I do.  I get that people may be looking at a single issue (or several) that compelled them to vote for him.  Does that automatically make them racist/sexist/xenophobic?  When it comes to issues of power, we have to take the totality into account.  People who voted for him due to economics, or to 'drain the swamp,' or abortion also bring about all of the other outcomes: loss of healthcare, deportations, rise in hate crimes, rise in sexual harassment/assault, etc.  Those outcomes harm and kill people.  Real people.  Maybe that wasn't your intention.  But that's the result.  And the lack of denunciation of these crimes from Trump and his ilk is further proof and validation that they are either not bothered by it or, worse, support it.  Which further inscribes the truth of the racism (and all other -isms) of our society.

I've spent the days since the election professionally and personally sitting with terrified people.  People who are not ok and likely will not be ok.  People who now have to rush to get prescriptions filled and medical things attended to before the ACA is repealed (yes, they can do that and will).  People who no longer know if they can finish their studies here either because immigration will forcibly remove them or because the anti-immigrant hate is so strong that it will no longer be safe for them to be here.

[I went over to the protest on campus at the MU Thursday, briefly.  When the students started chanting, "Say it loud, say it clear: immigrants are welcome here!" I started to cry.  My great grandparents were immigrants.  Unless you are of Native American descent, you or your ancestors were also immigrants.  I can't believe this has to be stated!  In America.  And yet, this is where we are.]

This is a collective moral failure: that racism/sexism, etc. continues so strongly in our country.  That it is so strong that Trump could say the things he has said and still be elected.  Is each individual racist?  No.  However, each individual prioritized whatever their "issue" was over all of this - over the lives and safety of real people.  And they did so because in America it was 'ok' to do so.  That's problematic.  I get that saying this is uncomfortable to hear.  A family member unfriended me for saying it.  That's deeply painful to me.  But if we are truly going to "move on" then this has to change, and it won't if we continue to refuse to name it and call it out as unacceptable.

5) "We need to be united now."

I want peace.  I want compromise.  I want to work with people who have very different views than I do to solve the many and various problems we face.  I have faith in our system of government of checks and balances. Like Socrates in the Phaedo, I have chosen to live here, and so that means I must agree with the laws of the land.  If I don't agree with them then I should live elsewhere (this presupposes we have the ability to do that, but that's another post).  By staying, we accept these laws and this government.  I believe in America and our form of government, even if I'm critical of it (and it's been designed to handle such disagreement!) at times.  However, now a fascist proto-dictator has ascended with no checks and balances.  Republicans control both the House and Senate.  His agenda will likely easily pass, and yes, he does have some power to do some of it on his own (hasn't that been a primary complaint against President Obama from conservatives?).  He has unprecedented power, a deep lack of knowledge as to how to govern, and so the call to be united walks a fine line between compromise and complying with this regime.  Many of us cannot comply with fascism, even though refusing to do that comes with great risk.  It's devastating because we need compromise so badly right now, but since that entails give and take, I just don't see that happening.  Congress has blocked and impeded the government's progress in order to avoid compromising with President Obama.  So while voters claim this was a vote to 'drain the swamp,' they kept many of the same politicians in office, and DT seems to be turning to the usual Washington insiders to run things in his administration.

I love dialogue.  This was part of what drew me to philosophy - I want to be able to exchange and nurture ideas, gaining wisdom and knowledge in the process.  I try to read websites and editorials from people with whom's political positions I disagree.  I listen to radio talk shows from time to time that are dominated by views and perspectives I don't share.  I do this partly to "hear the other side," so I know what they're saying and thinking and can then respond.  But I also do it so that I can be challenged in my own thought processes.  Can I defend my ideals and values?  Can we work together for better solutions that would enhance people's quality of life and end suffering?

And yet now, I must admit, there's a major impulse in me to want to separate from those who have helped elevate this man to the most powerful position in the world.  Having spent so much time with people who are deeply hurt and scared by this outcome, recognizing that my fear for them doesn't even scratch the surface of what they feel because as a cis-hetero-white woman, I am unlikely to be targeted too viciously (although sexual harassment and assault is absolutely on the rise now thanks to the Pussy-grabber-in-chief, and while rape culture is already the norm, it is certainly now worse than before), and I won't be deported or harassed with racial slurs or accusations of being a terrorist.  So if I am emotionally spent and scared, I can imagine how much deeper it is for people who are easier targets.  It's hard for me to dig up understanding for Trump supporters in this aftermath, but I do want to keep trying.  Some are now finally seeing what they have done and expressing remorse/regret.  That's a step in the right direction.  Too many are doubling down with these horrific platitudes I've unpacked in this blog.  Still more are silent.

The New York Times has called on Trump to denounce the hate-crimes and tell his supporters to stop this.  If you voted for him but "don't hate anyone" then speak out!  Hold him and those in your community accountable for this behavior.  It will not just go away.  It's like a monster has been unleashed, and so it has to be called out, and eradicated.  All of us, regardless of how we voted, can and must be part of that.

What now?

Ok so I think it's time for prayer and action.  This is still America and for now, we still have certain rights to use to affect change.  I want to commit to a couple of things:

1) Continue to speak out.  People may not like what I have to say.  Good people cannot be silent anymore.  I may lose relationships over this choice.  I will grieve for that.  On the other hand, I will dialogue with anyone who wants to (dialogue is an attempt to reach mutual understanding, arguing is to make ourselves right - I'm interested in the former, not the latter).  I have a glimmer of hope that as this unfolds people will want to join forces to change this society from the ground up.  Hearts and minds can change.  I will pray for and work toward that end.

2) Find ways to make it known that I will not be complicit in harming people.  Wearing a safety pin is one way, perhaps.  I'm pondering potentially wearing my clergy collar in public a lot more.  I'm well aware that it doesn't carry the same weight as a man in a collar, but it might enable me to intervene and be present for people in ways that if I was in regular clothes, I wouldn't be able to.

3) When I see something I will say something.  This takes a lot of courage and risk on our parts, but as Aristotle has said, doing the right thing is almost never easy.  If it was, we would all always do it.

4) Furthermore, I will support organizations that will be most needed and most attacked in the coming era.  Whenever Republicans are in control, human needs spike because funding for services and resources get cut.  A non-profit colleague told me long ago that in those times, we just batten down the hatches and wait those terms out.  But this is different.  Funds will certainly dry up which will make needs much greater, but the threat to so many other aspects of our lives: health care, freedom of speech, education, etc, are now also on the line, so I need to be willing to help fund organizations that are equipped to do this work.  I was included in an email chain a few weeks ago among Trump supporters.  Instead of responding in anger, I made a donation to Hillary's campaign for each email received.  I think I'll make some more donations for those emails, and facebook posts, etc., this time to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.  That this is happening can leave us feeling helpless, but there are definitely things we can do, and using our funds in this way is one of them.

5) I'll continue to love.  To love God and love my neighbors (all of you) as myself.  That means loving the vulnerable and oppressed, and also loving my - and their - enemies and praying for those who are doing terrible things right now.  I will pray fervently for our elected officials and all in government, that they may seek justice in all they say and do for all people.

And hopefully I can post on here from time to time.  I think we all need to be brushing up on our Bonhoeffer and MLK, and those who are in positions of privilege (who can 'move on') need to listen and listen some more.  If we see something, we have to say something.  We knew major healing would be necessary after this election.  Maybe healing is not possible yet, but we do need to face the 'what now?' question.  Let's do that together, regardless of who you supported.