Tag Archives: christian response to trump

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Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington

This coming Sunday, January 14th, is Martin Luther King Sunday. Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on:  ”Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington.”  This Sunday has always been about more than remembering events in the past–we at Riverside take the opportunity to speak to issues of concern for our nation and world as we live up and through Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community.  Join us for an effervescent Sunday of music and proclamation.

If you’re going to give into something this year, give into hope.  If you’re going to throw up your hands and resign yourself to something, let it be love.  If you are indignant and angry (and if you’re not then you are not, as the saying goes, paying attention), then wage peace.  There is a world to heal, be a healer.  Enough with self-hate. Enough with ruining or being complicit in the ruin of the world. Let’s come together. Right now.  ~See you Sunday

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Dear Dishonorable Republican Majority

“We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities,like the wind, take us away.”  ~Isaiah 64:6

Dear  Dishonorable Republican Majority:

It is Advent and we who happen to be Christian and honor this season as a time of hope for what is born in Bethlehem now have little choice but to see you playing the role of the puppet ruler, Herod, depicted in the Gospels as a  ruthless and traitorous sycophant of Rome.   And yes,  as well you have stepped into the role of the inn-keeper who delivers to Mary, about to deliver her holy child, and to her husband, the bad news that there is no room in the inn.  Off to the barn with you! How dare you be needy and without money to secure a place in the inn?   You, Republican Majority Congresspersons, are, however, decidedly not the Wise Men who come seeking the child to honor him. Nor are you the shepherds, poor and at risk in the fields, who receive the angelic announcement that there is a prince of peace born to counter the reptilian minions of Rome.  But yes! dear Republican Congresspersons who have just decided to transfer a gigantic amount of wealth from the needy, the meek, the poor, the sick and at risk so that your wealthy donors might benefit, you are the very same reptilian princes who prowl in predation in the Christmas story while the great Lizard King sits mad in the White House, fumbling toward nuclear war.  While you do nothing.  Well, not exactly nothing because you have just taken steps to raise deficits by a trillion dollars —something you preached against repeatedly in years past—as you destroy the flimsy medical access net provided by President Obama. Even a flimsy medical access is too much in your estimation.  You now have in sight the goal of dismantling Medicare and Social Security. Bang the drum slowly.

Well, I’m just a pastor. I and my congregation will be reading and repeating the Christmas story and celebrating the news that the blessed mother of Jesus sang about:  the powerful will be brought down, the hungry filled and the rich sent away empty. The meek are getting ready.  And you, you will fade like a leaf and your iniquities will, like the wind, take you away.  That is a warning. From the Prophet Isaiah. From the mother of Christ. From the Galilean, who was considered by people like you as smitten by poverty, too powerless to count.  Get this though, dishonorable governing class:  That Galilean is  raised from death.  May your dreams and sleep be haunted by his pronouncements of solidarity with the oppressed.

To you Christians, take hope. Christ assured us,  ”In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have  overcome the world.”  To people of peace and good will everywhere, we stand with you in this dark night.  May your works of justice and mercy shine like stars in the firmament.

Stasi Archives

The Archives of Grace and Truth

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness.  ~ Exodus 23:1

When a dignified general joins hands with a malicious liar in a scurrilous attack on a widow of a soldier and the congresswoman who comforted her,   then the depths of despair this single act brings to an entire nation is devastatingly profound. We wake up in that moment–if we awaken at all–to just how lost we have become.  This president lies incessantly, daily and about the most sacred things.  General Kelly has polluted his character by joining hands with a malicious witness.  Shame.

After the fall of the Soviet Empire, countries that had been oppressed by the lies and cruelty of that empire began to unearth their archives in an effort to tell the truth about what had happened to them.  The Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, kept a watch over its citizens, turning neighbors against neighbors.  I recall reading about a couple, Vera and Kanud Volenberger, who had grown up in East Germany.  After the Berlin Wall fell, Vera became a German congresswoman and was instrumental in getting the archives of the Stasi opened so people could read their files.  She read her file and discovered details so intimate, details of her health and her husband’s and her finances, excerpts from letters she had written to her children that she realized the only person who could have possibly known her that well and told the Stasi was her husband. She confronted him and he admitted to having been the informer on her.

Americans are waking up to the truth that our president has pitted American against American.  He is the great divider-in-chief, polluting our entire society with lies.  The former President of the Czech Republic nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and honored by George W. Bush with the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, Vaclav Havel, referred to the country in which he had grown up as a “morally contaminated society.”  This sounds very much like the prophet Isaiah’s confession when he cried out in the temple, confronted by a Holy God who expects truth, “woe is me, for I am  a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.”  America is polluted by the lies of presidents and generals poured from unclean hearts and mouths.

There is another archive.  It is the archive of grace and truth. I take this phrase from Dr. James Melvin Washington and his book, Conversations With God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans.  He prayed, “Thou who grants clarity, thank you for permitting us to have access to the archives of Thy grace and truth.”  We desperately need to break open these archives! Testaments of faith, hope and love; the affirmation that we are made in God’s image; the expectation that God is holy and expects us to be holy and just.  The East German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg tells how important the church was to him and others in the midnight of Communist oppression.  The church, he explained, was the one place in their society where they could tell the truth about themselves.

In a culture of pollution, let us find our way toward each other and open the archive of grace and truth.  Step out of the fuming hatreds of hearts on fire with hatred.  Walk into a holy space and time of grace, truth and love.  ~See you Sunday

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Athletes, Anthems and Courage

There are not many White parents who, upon finding out that their Johnny or Jane has been unfairly treated or deprived of classroom resources, won’t speak up and ask the teacher or principal to rectify that situation.  I recall doing so myself when my youngest was in about third grade and late in the year she told me she finally had the chance to use the classroom computer.  I was shocked.  So for nearly the entire school year, the boys had used the computers.  No girls.  Did I march into the school and demand justice and equality?  You bet I did.

So why is it so difficult for White folks to understand that when an athlete respectfully takes a knee or bows out of pledging allegiance to the flag or paying homage to the national anthem, s/he is protesting the injustice and inequity of persons who supposedly are promised “liberty and justice for all” but in truth, are too often denied that promise?  That is not only an understandable protest, it is one that actually honors the principles of the flag and is far more patriotic than the hollow entertainment and spectacles that surround the flag at these events.  Consider  God Bless America at the 7th inning stretch–it may not be blasphemous but it’s close.

Christians especially are caught up in this drama when they should know better.  Church History is a complicated and long history but for the sake of this point, let me simplify and say that most scholars would agree that Constantine and his conversion to Christianity is a watershed moment.  So there is Church that is Pre-Constantinian and there is the Church that is Post-Constantinian.  The Pre-Constantinian Church was persecuted and martyred by the Roman Government.  Paul and Peter and the Lord they proclaimed were all killed by the State. And the reason so many Christians were persecuted and killed is that they would not bow to the images of Caesar and the State.  The Post-Constantinian Church eventually became intertwined with imperial power.  And yes, in America, churches will have the flag prominently displayed in their sanctuaries.  Some will pledge allegiance to it on a Sunday. That is a Constantinian Church, jeopardizing the very Gospel it proclaims.

Were a First Century or Second or Third Century Christian to show up by way of a time machine and see athletes refusing to honor the image of the State, they would quickly conclude that these must be Christians about to be fed to the lions in a large stadium.

Well, Pastor, what do you do?  When I am at a stadium and the anthem is sung, I stand and put my hand over my heart.  But I do not pledge allegiance.  My allegiance is to Christ.  I love my country and am grateful for all I have but here’s the deal—I know that my experience as a White male in this country is vastly different from African-Americans, Women, and GLBT persons.  I don’t blame them at all for opting out or taking a knee at the anthem. That in my opinion is remarkably similar to the early Christians and their passion for God.  And were I able, I’d link arms with those who choose to protest because, protest is not only Protest-ant, it is American through and through.  And I recognize this:  while a game, be it football or baseball, allows me to cheer on an athlete, it does not allow me to dictate their conscience.  They agreed to entertain us but they did not agree to prop up our political views or philosophical opinions.   When we can have a conversation about how justice in this country is predetermined and bends for some while oppressing others, then maybe we will have grown up.

So, no, Mr. President, you are wickedly wrong. These athletes are not “sons of bitches.” They are brave. They are true Americans.  You owe them and the country an apology for your vile speech.

A swamp

How to Live in the Toxic Atmosphere of Political Strife

I was struck Sunday in our worship service by the power and the simple eloquence of the lectionary reading take from Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12.  As you embark upon another week and ponder how you’re going to deal with the various catastrophes, hatreds and toxic rhetoric, I urge you to read these words. Print them out and attach them to the refrigerator or  recite them into your life every day this week.  They are words to live by.  They are words that can help us live in the toxic atmosphere of political strife that has permeated our culture.

ROMANS 12:

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 

10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 

16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;do not claim to be wiser than you are. 

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 

18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

AMEN.  So be it…in our own lives, in the lives of our leaders and within the sacred bounds of our beloved community.

eclipse watcher

Meanwhile Back On Earth

This week many of us were vividly reminded that we are part of a larger universe.  And our solar system is a cul de sac in a very big neighborhood of stars and galaxies.   And we were reminded that  remarkable balances and exchanges are made every day within the concourse and discourse of these very many variables that result somehow in our being sentient beings.  The Eclipse confronted us with these facts about us.  Totality, while not apparent  to everyone who gazed into the heavens, was brief–a brief moment of darkness that allowed brother moon to steal some of the sun king’s glory but even so, blocked by the moon, the sun still wore a diamond crown.

Meanwhile back on earth…  we have been dealing with the eclipse of the presidency and unfortunately, the darkness has only just begun. There is no end in sight as our congress stands by twiddling its thumbs as Rome burns.  One can only hope that the glory of our democracy will withstand this assault on it by an incompetent White Nationalist president.  We should not assume that it will.  And not assuming this brings an urgency to the moment.  Someone or some group of persons who are responsible under the constitution should courageously stand up and confront the eclipse brought about by a lunar-tic disregard for the dignity of that office.

Meanwhile back on earth… hatreds and simmering racist ideologies have boiled over.  This too is an eclipse of our culture.  Taking us back to the dark ages of segregation, unbridled violence, misogyny and White Supremacist delusions, those gathered in Charlottesville and elsewhere are like the proverbial barbarians at the gate.  The time to stand up to this is now, not after the gates have been breached.

Every Sunday, our congregation in SW stands up for peace, love and justice. We worship together not only as a testament of our love for God but of our belief in the enduring dignity of all human beings.  We let our “little light” shine.  We break the darkness, not with a curse, but with light and love.  Join us.  Let’s be the Beloved Community.  ~See you Sunday