Friday, January 6, 2017

Resistance is Everything ... When Needed

So, I’ve been thinking lately about resistance. It’s been part of my thinking for several weeks now. And I have read a lot about it as well. So maybe one more resistance post is one too many, but I must share.

I spent part of my early adult years watching the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Watching that TV show, I often heard the phrase, “Resistance is Futile.” The Borg, an alien race, used this line with cultures they encountered to make it known they would be assimilated into the collective hive organism that was the Borg. There was no reason to resist that assimilation. It was going to happen no matter what.

I heard it enough times that it became part of “the tapes” that play in my mind. I sometimes would see bad things happening in the world around me and I would do something to change it. But others, I would think, “resistance is futile.” I’m just one person. I can’t make a difference.

As I grew into adulthood, I was confronted more and more often with things that seemed unjust, immoral, or out of balance. Today it feels like we are constantly gut-punched with bad behavior, violence, and inappropriateness. I can’t stand back and believe that resistance is futile. I must say something, do something, and call those doing these things to accountability.

I saw Star Wars: Rogue One over the holidays and was once again influenced by the need to resist those things that are evil, immoral, or morally bankrupt. In this film, a group of resistance fighters band together to steal the plans to the Death Star. It is a story tied inextricably to the first 1977 Star Wars film, which launched a generation of blockbuster rebellion and sci-fi movies. It shaped me in more ways than I can ever imagine. This new film once again takes the watcher to the realm of resistance and rebellion against an evil empire.

I also followed the Twitter hashtag #TheResistanceWill recently and was both inspired by and delighted by some of the tweets. Some interesting posts include:

            #TheResistanceWill fight every single day for equal rights.
#TheResistanceWill be fueled by cookies and milk.
            #TheResistanceWIll not allow refugees to be turned back.
            #TheResistanceWill be inspired by love and not fear.
            #TheResistanceWill be televised, Tweeted, and FacebookLived.

Resistance is essential when confronted with injustice. But just like in the Star Trek TV show and in Rogue One the sides are not always clearly defined. The differences between the factions are not always obvious but resist we must when we see and hear vile behavior, witness inhumanity to others, and see the effects of marginalization.

We live in a time of violence and injustice. We live in a time when political divisions are sharper than they have been for some time. We live in a time when the different “sides” of the inhumanity with which we treat each other are not always clear. So, we are called to make a stand. We are called to decide how we will respond.

When our leaders guide us to care for those who need help, I will support them and work with them. When our leaders guide us to community building and justice seeking, I will support and work with them. When our leaders guide us to create support systems for those who need health care and jobs, I will support and work with them. When our leaders guide us to reform systems of oppression, I will support and work with them. When our leaders guide us to support those on the margins with compassion and humanity, I will support and work with them. When our leaders guide us to build bridges between races and religions that are different than ours, I will support and work with them.

But when the opposite happens, then things change.

So I commit to the resistance when needed this year. When they come for healthcare, I will resist. When they come for Medicaid and Medicare, I will resist. When they come for Planned Parenthood, I will resist. When they come to abuse the environment, I will resist. When they come for refugees and immigrants, I will resist. When they come for women’s’ rights to control their own bodies, I will resist. When they come for my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, I will resist.  When they come for the marriage rights of the LGBTQI community, I will resist.

Here is what I will do …

I will call our leaders to accountability.
I will put my money where my mouth is.
I will march for equality for all persons.
I will work for #BlackLivesMatter and #LGBTQIEquality.
I will welcome refugees and immigrants in my home, community and church.
I will advocate for those disenfranchised by a culture of greed and wealth.
I will call my legislators about upcoming bills and laws.
I will work with local politicians to make grassroots changes.
I will help my church members and others act on their faith beliefs.
I will even risk being arrested to advocate for the rights of others.
I will preach the Gospel of love and grace for all.
I will listen to those with whom I disagree to learn about each other.
I will continue to use my voice for resistance and change.
I will use my social media sites to do this important work and ask you to join me.

I will resist evil and injustice in all their forms.

Resistance is not futile.

Resistance is everything.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mourning 2016 and Hope for 2017

This year has been tough. We have lost a lot and in that grief we mourn.
I mourn the passing of too many from wars and violence.
I mourn the death of old and young from addiction and illness.
I mourn that too many have been lost to racism and classism.
I mourn that we cannot see ourselves in immigrants and refugees.
I mourn the death of way too many from terrorism and hate.
I mourn that too many families spent these holidays without those they love.
I mourn that misogyny continues to be so prevalent.
I mourn the passing of democracy from foreign tampering.
I mourn the lack of safe water for families in Flint.
I mourn that too many have been denied their basic human rights.
I mourn that common decency and compassion seem lost.
I mourn that we never seemed to care for Aleppo's children.
I mourn that the end of racism hasn't happened yet.
I mourn that too many have been left behind.

But I also have hope ...

That we will care for each other more than our own needs.
That we will honor all families and their wonderful diversity.
That we will support one another in our different faiths.
That we will show kindness to all persons we meet.
That we will bring about the kindom of God through love.
That we will find the light every day and share it.
That we will reach out in grace to those different from us.
That we will refuse to normalize misogyny and racism.
That we will work together to bring about justice.
That we will spend our energy on mercy and not hate.
That we will include refugees and immigrants more fully into our world.
That we will share our faith boldly with others on the journey.
That we will welcome the stranger into our families and lives.
That we will love and love and love each other.
That we will find more hope in each other than hate.
That we will live out Micah 6:8 to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

I have hope. We're in this together. And together we can bring hope to others.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stepping into Love

Walking into the JL Zwane Presbyterian Church in Gugulethu Township near Cape Town, South Africa was like diving into a deep basin of love. Singing, welcoming, praising, and preaching were on tap. This is a vibrant congregation of about 1200 members. They have a significant ministry for people with HIV/AIDS, an after school program for children, computer training for all, and vibrant women's ministry, along with many others. 
The infection rate is very high in the townships. As high as 40% of the residents are HIV positive. And that rate is quickly rising in the 14-29 age group. “We are all affected even if we're not infected.” This is what we heard from one of the pastoral assistants who works with this ministry. It is a significant health issue for the people of South Africa.
We met with Pastor Spiwo Xapile, Senior Pastor of the church, before and after the service of worship. He is a brilliant man and a dynamic speaker who moved in and out of Xhosa and English so seamlessly that it was astonishing. We got the start of some of his stories and the end of others. But his message was clear -- Jesus did not come to keep the status quo. He came to transform the world.
The question the pastor asked of us was about inclusion of LGBTQ folks in our own denominations back in the USA. He wanted to know if the church made decisions with that community or about that community?
This church in Gugulethu is trying to do ministry with and in conversation with -- not for or to -- others. “Nothing about us without us,” said Pastor Spiwo Xapile quoting his favorite theological maxim about social justice ministry. 
When he visits US churches he asks them to take him where they would never want to take him in their communities. “Let me see your worst,” he says. “Show me the places that you are embarrassed to show others.”
A pastor Spiwo visited in the US was led by one of the church members to see the worst of their city. Afterward the local paper said to his guide, “I never knew that was going on in Pensacola before.” His African-American guide said, “You never wanted to know.” Wow.
What is the worst we could show about our cities, our churches, or ourselves?
Are we willing to show our worst in order to acknowledge it? Own it? And work to transform it?
That's why Jesus came --- to change the way things are. Let's welcome, sing, praise, and preach from and about our worst places so that we might invite Jesus into the process of transformation and new possibilities. 
That is why he came after all.