Hello from my study,
There are a multitude of thoughts, emotions, concerns, and fears as I reflect on the pictures of our national Capitol yesterday. I do not mean that to be a political statement, it is a statement of one single individual, a former pastor, a Marine Corps veteran, a person who has Republican leanings (particularly in terms of finances, fiscal policy, and what has been typical defense policy), and yet, in his practice with others, more Democrat and a strong supporter of social justice, caring for the other, and in terms of our environment and education. I lay all that out because I want to be as honest as possible as I try to compose this blog post. One of my long-time friends noted that I have become more political in my speaking and more pointed in my commentary. And while I will agree with him, to some degree, I do work hard to see the other side. There is one former classmate who regularly accuses me of hatred, but I really am not a hateful person, nor am I a bitter person. I know all too well what either of those emotions do, both to the person expressing them as well as to the people around them.
It is easy to point fingers at the other side at this moment, but I choose not to do that. There are processes and things that will have to play out in response to yesterday from at a number of points as well as in considerations of a multitude of levels. What I do hope is that the majority of the American people find what happened yesterday, at the point they broke into the United States Capitol, unacceptable. I noted here, and in other social media, that the violence or looting that occurred last summer was unacceptable. I would note when others do things that are violent, hijacking what was peaceful, that too is unacceptable. At no point, have I condoned violence either toward law enforcement or by law enforcement. I lost what was a significant friendship because I was unwilling to engage in a shouting match about this. I realize that my opinion about the election does not square with everyone else’s, but it is an opinion that has been supported by former Attorney General William Barr, by Republican Governors, Republican Secretaries of State, and by a number of Federal and Supreme Court Justices, a number appointed by President Trump himself. Again, I offer this as a way to be as transparent about my biases as possible.
So where are we? It would be easy to point fingers, lay blame, and explain, or attempt , why I believe my position is reasonable, correct, valid, and you can insert the next work to provide justification, but I choose not to do that. Instead, I want to look at the consequence of a long list of difficulties I believe we face, again, I do not want to put out a laundry list. Let me merely say something that I believe most can attest is accurate. We are hurting as a county, regardless your political persuasion; we are mistrustful as a people, again, regardless your background, education, or economic status; and finally, we have little sense of how to fix it, arguing too often about why it is the other person’s or side’s fault. And unfortunately, we want to believe this problem is something that is on relatively recent in terms of our country’s persona or fabric. Our struggle with equity, justice, and liberty for all (and I mean all) is an aspiration and yet, seldom more than that. Much like the Israelites as they attempted to follow their role as God’s chosen, they were temporarily faithful at best. If you look carefully at the prevalent pattern in the historical books of the Old Testament, they were faithful when they were happy, when they believed they were getting what they wanted or deserved. The lament Psalms are there or a reason. It is what happens when things do not go so well, or they are held accountable for their selfishness, their desires to be God’s chosen, but on their own terms. Throughout scripture, we are reminded how hard it is to be faithful when our faith is tested, how difficult it is to be charitable when we feel we have been maligned or mistreated. We are pushed to forgive when the people we need to forgive have hurt us and mistreated us, and seem to have little desire to change.
While there is more than enough blame to cast on the events of this past week, I choose to stay away from blame, and I would wish instead to consider my own struggle with what it means to be faithful to God, a God who is the God of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, and not more or less to any of them, and second what it means to be a citizen of a Constitutional (Federal) Republic. I have realized for some time, even back to when I was on the clergy roster that I was more universalist in my understanding of the Creator than many. To this day, I find it difficult to believe the Creator who is responsible for all of us, is capricious enough to doom the Taoist who might have never heard of Jesus, but practices their faith more profoundly than I could ever hope. If that is the God we have, we are in some serious trouble. Think about it logically for a moment if you will. Even when our country was in the gripes of the Civil War, both sides prayed to their same Christian God, many believing in their heart of hearts they were being faithful. The arguments that have been appropriately made about how many actions of Jesus would fall into what a number of people would deem social justice (and by extension, socialist) are legion, and not in some demonic sense. The Creator will not be put into a box and be used by either side and thinking it is possible is not only foolish, it is dangerous. The righteous indignation on either side of the political aisle at this moment has some appropriateness, but it also has its limits. Perhaps, the greatest of all the commandments needs to be reconsidered carefully, completely, and literally. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. That is an extreme commandment. It requires some serious reconsideration of our personal requirements. It is difficult to love others; it is difficult to forgive others; it is difficult to see beyond our own personal blinders. Before you believe I am asking for some naive kumbaya manner, which is not as naive as we might think, I am not. I am asking us all to step back and be willing to listen before we act.
There is little doubt that a significant number of people believe our government has left them behind, and for a multitude of reasons. And yet, how many of us struggle with the role we want the government to play in our lives? Again, before you discount the question, think about it. What do we want our government to do? Social Security, Medicare, any Social Welfare programs that fall under the Federal Government are socialism. That is not a value statement it is merely statement of fact. If you have collected unemployment, assistance of some sort, federal grants for education, it is socialism. It is the government uses the taxes they collect for the social good of the Republic. This is simply what is happening. If you have ever filed for unemployment, if you have received any Federal assistance for your college degree you did not have to pay back, you have been willing to act in socialist manner. Again, I received grants for my education (and there were loans that were paid back). There was a period in the early 1990s where I received unemployment, and I was encouraged by my employer to seek it. Again, I offer these points to try to be transparent in my own participation. When Government offers some Federal program to help the masses, it is socialism. You can justify it however, but it is for the social good, which is the distribution of goods or services regulated by the whole (the Federal Government). Certainly, one can argue they are not part of the Federal whole, but your citizenship eliminate that argument. Certainly there are those who refuse to pay taxes and participate, but they use the things taxes help establish, so again, their house of cards is in danger of falling. What I am trying to say here is pretty simple. We are in this together. We are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Conservatives, Progressives, and somewhere along the spectrum throughout. Our States’ Rights versus Federalism complicates it all, but it is what we have.
I do believe a number of Americans, even within the almost 71 million who voted for President Trump are aghast at the events of this last week. I am sure that there are those who wonder where we go from here, and I am among them. One of my most ardent trollers, a college classmate, believes I hate Republicans and the President. First of all, I do not hate Republicans, and I believe we need probably more than two parties, but we certainly need a strong, thoughtful, and principled Republican Party. The same can be said for the Democrats, as well as those who find it difficult to claim membership in either party. I’m back to where I began some of this. All American citizens who believe in the power of the ballot box, and I am not trying to get into the arguments of this election, but rather that the argument that the ballot still matters. Again, personally, I do not believe the election was stolen and I am glad that every single case (86 of them at this point) was adjudicated. Again, to be honest, I have found President Trump’s actions difficult to stomach on a number of levels, but this is not about him either. It is about us as citizens, as humans faithful to a Creator, one I believe cares for all people. For the good of the country, for the good of the world, we must step back and cry out as the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” If you believe in the power of prayer, I believe it is time we fall on our collective knees and ask forgiveness for our arrogance, for our selfishness, for our own usurping of a gospel that is about all people. Can you pray for the good of all the citizens of the nation and ask that God’s will might be done versus our own? While it is easy with the all the video that has bombarded us, to point fingers and blame. Again, I understand the need for laws, and for consequences, but let’s try to allow all the members of Congress to be heard. While I certainly do not support the entrance of the Capitol Building or the actions therein, I am hurt to my core that a woman, a veteran, lost her life. I am sad beyond words that a Congressional Police Offers was bludgeoned by a fire extinguisher, and subsequently lost his life. If he had a badge on that said I voted for the President would it have saved his life? Just today (and it is now Sunday) a second CPO, has died of suicide. Tragic! Violence begets violence. This is an example of a balanced equation.
There is nothing that can bring anyone who lost their life this past week back to life. Their families will deal with the aftermath of Wednesday’s events for the remainder of their own collective lives. Their Psalms or cries of anguish and lament are justified and understandable. Those who believe that armed insurrection is the way to manage our differences are, in my opinion, wrong. Do I understand frustration? I do, and for more reasons than I need to enumerate. Do I believe we need to step back and reconsider how we debate, how we speak, how we post, how we come to our own conclusions? Without a doubt. But in each of these things, it begins with us, with a careful, honest, and thoughtful inventory of who we are, and the acceptance that we are accountable for everything we say or do. That has never been more apparent than it is now. At this point, we are our own huddled mass. We are wretched refuse in more ways that we would ever hope to admit. When I grew up as a small child in NW Iowa, I was taught some very simple rules: be honest, be polite, be respectful. Those rules might serve us well now. I had many adults in my neighborhood who served as surrogate parents. They all watched out for us kids in the neighborhood. That was the reality of my life. My father would have put it this way: keep your nose clean. That had nothing to do with my nose, it had to do with my actions and how I acted on a daily basis. As I became a student at Dana College, what I know now much more clearly, and appreciatively, was our Professors pushed us to see beyond the words and lessons. They wanted us to take that liberal arts education and become citizens, and actually global citizens. They prepared us to make a difference in a world that has struggled for equity and justice since creation. It is all connected. Nothing happens in a vacuum. In a conversational thread this past week, one of my FB connections asserted it is too late, we are beyond repair (that is a paraphrase, but it is the substance). My response was I am not willing to give up on us. But it has to begin with me and with introspection. Certainly, I have felt some indignation at some of what I have listened to, read, or watched, but I have my own blind spots. As I cry out with my own lament for the world, I pray I can open my heart and mind to those I do not understand and try to see the validity in their view. As I cry out for the hurt we feel as a country, may I find ways to bind up the wounds of others, particularly the ones I may have caused. It is not too late, if we can dig deep and believe we can create a better world. Again, this is not some polyannish wish. I am not hoping with some idealistic sense of miracles. What I am hoping for, willing to work toward is exponentially difficult, but I wish it for my friends’ children and their future children. I am reminded again of a video I have used before, but out of respect for what my parents taught me. Thank you, Mom and Dad.