Good Afternoon Beloved,
On Tuesday night we got a preview of what the next four years of our American life will look like. Donald Trump has won what has been a very divided election, one filled with controversy after controversy, one in which hateful speech has been front and center in the campaign.
If that were not challenge enough, just yesterday the delivery of justice was delayed by the gridlock of the jury deliberations, and a mistrial was called. Now the whole community must wait to see if the prosecutor is going to retry the case, or if Ray Tensing will be set free.
Among the reactions to these events by those who believe in God’s work for liberation of oppressed people in the world, I have heard two reactions that trouble me. One reaction is the statement that these outcomes were pre-ordained. They say that God chose Donald Trump to be president, and we are simply actors in play that has ready been written, playing our part until the final scene. Or that God decided to let Ray Tensing walk, in order to prove to us a lesson. The other reaction is the statement that these events in life are inevitable, “To everything in life there is a season” they say, “and this is our season under the leadership of Donald Trump.”
Over the last several months I have tried to emphasize that the purpose of our faith and the power of our beliefs are what we are compelled to do because of them, belief for belief’s sake is ultimately meaningless. My concern with the two reactions named is that both of them can lead to a disengaged fatalism. “We have no power, we have no control, only God has control, therefore all we can do is pray.” While such a position sounds pious and holy, and may give us something tangible to do other than being overwhelmed and feeling helpless, I believe that our faith must call us to reject these crippling and ultimately dangerous beliefs.
When the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph rose to power in Egypt, God neither did the work of deliverance for the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, nor did God simply resign to let them suffer with the knowledge that they had a heavenly home. God began a plan for deliverance that the people had an active part in. In fact it is possible to suggest that God tailored the plan for the people’s liberation based on the initial resistance of the midwives.
Once the people had been liberated and built their own nation, there was a time when 3 nations conspired to attack them and overthrow their government. Judah neither had the firepower nor the resources to sustain such a prolonged attack. The king went to the priest to ask for help, and after a night of prayer, the priest assured the king that God was going to fight this battle for them. However, God’s activity did not remove responsibility from the people. The army still gathered and suited up for war. Even though the praise team went out first, the army still had to show up for the battle.
Even in the gospels, before Jesus ever got to the cross, Matthew, Simon-Peter, Andrew, James and John all left their professions and changed their lives in order to follow Jesus. Jesus taught them to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, to make room for those who were left out, whether they be tax-collectors who sold out their people for survival or women who had bad reputations in the streets. So if the crucifixion and resurrection are God’s saving event, that even that act of salvation is precluded by the activity of the people.
My point is, brothers and sisters, that this election is not about the unknowability of God, but about our willingness to truly follow God as God’s people. We, as a nation have allowed this man to come to power, and we as a nation must be accountable for how we work, live and act now that he has. Our task as Beloved Community Church is to begin in our own community, to nurture the flame of God’s liberating spirit in our own hearts, and to protect it in the hearts of all those who gather here. As a first step I am fasting from allowing preachers and teachers into my spirit who are not wrestling with how we can, as the people of God, resist the oppression of the Empire. Which means every pastor who endorsed or stood by Donald Trump, or any pastor who has remained silent after Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sam DuBose, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford, III, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and countless others have lost their lives at the hands of police. For 60 days, starting Nov 21 and going until inauguration day, I am cleaning my spirit of toxic theology so that I can hear more clearly what God is calling me to do in the time. I want to invite as many of you as are willing to join me, so that together we can better prepare ourselves to hear what God is calling us to do.
I love each and everyone of you. Keep the Faith,