The “you” you hide inside…

There’s a hymn by John Bell that I’ve loved ever since I first heard it–“The Summons.”

In my quiet time recently, I’ve been spending time with one particular line: “Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?”

I think probably many of us have felt that way–hiding part of who we are even from ourselves so that we can feel accepted…so that we feel “safe.”

But that safety comes with a cost. We may not realize it at the time, but when we hide from ourselves, we lose something really important. We may eventually find it, but too often we don’t. We keep hiding because the alternative is too frightening.

If we don’t hear the voice of the One who truly loves us–who loves us without any conditions–we will never know who we really are…or can be. But the voice never stops calling…never stops knocking…and never stops wanting us to love the “you” we hide.

I have hidden from myself
for many years
shutting the door on hurts
leaving wounds untended
thinking I could leave them behind.

But they’ve walked with me
building stronger walls
closing me off
from possibilities.

Your gentle persistent knocking
has worn me down.
I opened the door
a crack–
and light has flooded in
illuminating the me
I thought I’d lost.

I don’t know her yet–
the me who’d disappeared
but you knocked at the door
you called her by name
and she says
“Here I am.”

Not a “good German”…

In some of my history classes, I heard the phrase “good Germans” when discussing the rise of the Nazi party during the 1930s. I wasn’t alive then…and haven’t lived in Germany…but my understanding of that phrase was that these were law-abiding religious people who didn’t want to rock the status quo. They believed that the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was making their country great again, and while they may not have been happy with all of the actions the party took, they tended to feel that those actions against specific groups were acceptable collateral damage in bringing Germany back from its post-war humiliation and punishment.

I have always said that I didn’t want to be a “good German”—with that understanding of the phrase. I still don’t.

As I was reading an article in the Britannica on the rise of the party, these words struck me:

Upon his release [from prison in 1924, following the failed Beer Hall Putsch] Hitler quickly set about rebuilding his moribund party, vowing to achieve power only through legal political means thereafter. The Nazi Party’s membership grew from 25,000 in 1925 to about 180,000 in 1929. Its organizational system of gauleiters (“district leaders”) spread through Germany at this time, and the party began contesting municipal, state, and federal elections with increasing frequency.

However, it was the effects of the Great Depression in Germany that brought the Nazi Party to its first real nationwide importance. The rapid rise in unemployment in 1929–30 provided millions of jobless and dissatisfied voters whom the Nazi Party exploited to its advantage….[By 1928] big-business circles had begun to finance the Nazi electoral campaigns, and swelling bands of SA toughs increasingly dominated the street fighting with the communists that accompanied such campaigns.

Nazi Party | Definition, Meaning, History, & Facts | Britannica

Hitler was elected to power and worked behind the scenes to consolidate his position, culminating in his word becoming the supreme and undisputed command in 1934, when he executed or otherwise crushed members of the Nazi Party who disagreed with him.

I’m afraid there are too many of us who are being “good Americans” today…and it doesn’t bode well for the future of our democracy.

My faith tradition has been given what we believe to be prophetic guidance throughout the years. This statement I believe is a challenge to keep us from falling into the same trap as those “good Germans” whose inaction allowed the rise of a dictator.

There are subtle, yet powerful, influences in the world, some even claiming to represent Christ, that seek to divide people and nations to accomplish their destructive aims. That which seeks to harden one human heart against another by constructing walls of fear and prejudice is not of God. Be especially alert to these influences, lest they divide you or divert you from the mission to which you are called.

God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.

May we live according to this tweet from late John Lewis:

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

Two countries?

More and more it feels like the United States is separating into two separate countries…not from a war fought with bullets, but in a more dangerous way—from a widening gap in beliefs. I jotted some down as I was pondering this; they are below. I realize that this is not a nuanced list—that individuals on both sides may not agree with everything on the list. But these are beliefs that I have heard or read from individuals / politicians / posts. Is there a way for us to bridge this divide? I used to think so…but I honestly don’t know any more.

May not understand it all, but trust science and scientistsDoes not trust science or scientists
Sometimes challenges the government, but in general trustsDoes not trust the government
Believes that Trump was elected, not ordained; does not believe that everything he did was God’s willBelieves that Trump was ordained by God to the presidency and that everything he did was God’s will
Supports immigration reform; believes immigration makes us strongerBelieves that the borders should be closed – no immigration
Believes that for the good of all, there need to be some limits on personal freedomBelieves there should be no limits on personal freedom
Believes that the right of women to make decisions regarding their bodies should be between them, their significant other, their doctor, and religious advisor (if any)Believes that the right of women to make decisions regarding their bodies should be regulated by the government
Believes in accepting some limits on gun ownershipWants the right to carry guns wherever and whenever they want
Believes that we are a community and need to be sensitive to the things that will help protect othersPersonal freedoms are more important than doing things that will help protect others
Believes that Trump supporters were the primary people involved in the January 6 insurrectionBelieves that antifa and left-wing supporters were the primary people involved in the January 6 insurrection
Believes that Biden is the legitimate presidential winnerBelieves that Biden did not legitimately win the election
Does not believe there was massive voter fraudBelieves there was massive voter fraud
Believes that there should be police reform to incorporate mental health services; also believes there should be better accountability for police in violent interactionsBelieves that those who are shot in interactions with police (especially minorities) deserve what happened to them
Believes that the Covid vaccine is just that—not some nefarious plotBelieves that the Covid vaccine is a way to plant microchips in everyone
Believes that in order to understand how we have gotten to this point in our history, we need to look at the history honestly, and that includes being aware of the problematic partsBelieves that the history that should be taught should only focus on the high points of western culture and maintain the status quo rather than include previously not-heard voices
Believes that LGBTQ+ young people are living authentically, not just going through a phaseBelieves that those young people who identify as LGBTQ+ are merely going through a phase…or that they’ve been indoctrinated
Supports the right of transgender individuals to live authentically without fearBelieves that transgender individuals should not exist
Believes that the decision regarding abortions should be treated as a medical issue, not condemned or individuals charged with murderBelieves that those women who get—and the doctors who perform—abortions should be put to death for murder
Believes that while Christianity is an important manifestation of the Divine, the Divine is not limited to one way of self-disclosureBelieves that Christianity is the only true religion and acknowledging any other way is heresy
Supports compromise and working across the aisleBelieves that any form of compromise is impossible
Believes that climate change is real and we need to do everything we can to slow it down / stop itBelieves that climate change is a hoax

Jesus wept…

I wonder if Jesus was ever too angry for words. His approach seemed to be to weep…as he wept over Jerusalem. He had more grace than I do.

I am beyond being angry. I am beyond being pissed. There are no words strong enough to describe my current feelings.

I am a follower of the One called Jesus…who spent much of his ministry among the marginalized, the outcasts, the vulnerable and who reserved his harshest words for those religious leaders who placed severe burdens on those who were already struggling. Today I see far too many who claim the name of “Christian” making statements and supporting activities that are in direct contradiction to what Jesus did and what he called his followers to do and say.

White supremacy is alive and well in the United States—and becoming more rooted in our society. It is not hard to see, if we are willing to really look.

I see people of color—especially young men of color—dreading any interaction with police, fearing (with reason) that those interactions may result in them being abused, arrested, tazed, pepper-sprayed, or killed…regardless of the severity of the offense or whether they are obeying the police commands. Any and every poor choice they may have made in the past becomes a reason why they “deserved” what happened to them, regardless of who they are now. And instead of empathizing with the pain and heartache of them and their families, far too many “Christians” pile more pain on them because of their willingness to believe the worst.

At the same time, far too often young white men who have interactions with police are treated very differently. Some who have been involved in mass shootings have been treated respectfully as they were captured—even provided with breakfast before being taken to the police station. Young white men have pulled guns on police and yet have survived, as the police seem to do all they can to de-escalate the situation…in sad contrast to many interactions with people of color, where the immediate “go-to” seems to be to shoot.

Members of the LGBTQ+ communities continue to fear for their futures. In many states, they can be fired or evicted simply because of who they are or who they love. They are often still subject to “conversion therapy” in an attempt to change who they are. Many churches that worship Jesus—the One who spent time with the marginalized and vulnerable—refuse to allow those same marginalized and vulnerable to be full members unless they change who they are.

At a time when there are many children waiting for forever homes, members of the LGBTQ+ communities are often not allowed to even be considered as adoptive parents…and that rejection frequently occurs in organizations that are faith-based…that worship the Jesus who called his followers to protect and support children.

Transgender children are being especially targeted. There are literally hundreds of bills that would marginalize them. Some would require genital examination before allowing them to play sports—state-sanctioned sexual abuse. Others would penalize parents who support their children in their struggle to become who they know they are, allowing their children to be taken from them if they continue to support them in their medical and psychological journeys.

Many legislators are also demanding that women turn over their bodily autonomy to the state, rather than making difficult decisions about pregnancy and birth with their significant other and their doctor. Some have even promoted bills that would criminalize those who perform and those who receive abortions…including making them vulnerable to the death penalty.

Immigrants are being targeted, seen as the worst of the worst rather than as brothers and sisters who are seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Too many “Christian” legislators demonize them and focus on ways to build walls rather than bridges.

And far too many who claim the name of “Christian” continue to believe and promote lies surrounding our recent election…and support ways of disenfranchising voters instead of making it easier for people to vote and support democracy.

I believe that all of these words and actions are blasphemy. Harsh words, yes…but I believe that if Jesus were walking the earth today, he would be appalled at what is happening in his name.  This is all happening from those who claim to follow the One who said “I am the Truth…”

These words and actions are also why I struggle with identifying myself as “Christian.” I still believe in…follow…and hopefully minister according to the example of Jesus, but I cannot in good conscience identify myself as “Christian” to those who have been abused and demonized instead of being told that they are beloved children of God and my brothers and sisters.

May God forgive us.

Starting again?

It’s been more than a year since we’ve been able to get together in large groups…to meet with more than just the few folks in our bubble. We’re beginning to get the opportunity to do that again in the United States…at least at the moment. Whether we’ll continue to be able to will depend on people getting their vaccinations and getting a handle on the variants that are currently wreaking havoc–listening to the science.

So how do we start again?

Many of us feel socially awkward right now. Our social skills have gotten rusty, and we’re not sure how to sharpen them again.

Those of us who are introverts have felt pretty comfortable. The thought of “having” to interact with large groups may be causing quite a bit of anxiety.

Those who are extroverts can hardly wait! The thought of “getting” to interact with large groups is like seeing the best Christmas or birthday present ever!

So how do we start again?

Do we barge right in as though nothing has happened? I don’t think we can. Too many of us have lost people we care about. Too many of us have found ourselves worn out, trying to create and / or understand new ways of working or going to school. Too many of us have lost the opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime events and we’re still mourning them. Too many news stories about hate and violence have left us shaken.

So how do we start again?

By giving each other grace. By recognizing that some of us are still uncomfortable in large groups. By acknowledging that our social skills have taken a hit. By listening to each other. By apologizing–a true apology–when we accidentally hurt someone by our words or deeds. By treating each other as we would want to be treated ourselves.

That’s how we start again…not just coming out of this pandemic, but interacting with each other every day.