I am old enough to remember the summer of ’68. How scary it was for this 10-year old boy.! The summer began with the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy just a few months after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The summer continued with riots, and as we moved from Bangor, Maine to southern Maine in August 1968, I became paralyzed with a fear of death. Now, at 62-years of age, contemplating the eventuality of death is nothing more than an unpleasant consideration. What about for today’s young people, though? What about for BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) where there is precious little institutional guarantee of protection? What about for people in cities threatened with military actions against peaceful protesters? I cannot imagine what the trifecta of pandemic, unemployment, and institutional violence is doing to our young people.
At least there is push-back from this younger generation that will not be silenced, and there are warnings from the establishment against the politics and actions of division. It might not be "the end of the American experiment" as one general feared.
I cannot think that there is any comfort offered in the photo-op of the President holding up an unread Bible in front of a St. John’s Episcopal Church, near the White House. That particularly was true when federal law enforcement were ordered to brutalize a pre-curfew peaceful vigil in Lafayette Park to clear the way for Mr. Trump's entourage. Bishop for the Washington Episcopal Diocese, The Rev. Mariann Budde, observed that the whole scene was “as if it were a prop or an extension of his military and authoritarian position . . . and was an abuse of the spiritual tools and symbols of our traditions and of our sacred space."
Comfort and assurance, teaching and preaching is what we do. Advocacy and courageously speaking truth to the powers is the ministry we do as churches for the sake of the Gospel. It may seem safer than usual to question our national policies, as Wall Street CEOs, some police chiefs, and bipartisan politicians also question institutional practices, policing tactics, and the white identity politics that perpetuate racism in this country. Yet, I believe we are called to more than supporting safe economies, mediating peace and identifying (for most of us in Montana and Wyoming) our white privilege. As surely as the Church is called to be a good civic participant in society, the Gospel says there is more for which we are responsible. In fact, it is only because we are the Church, gathered and sent out by Spirit, that what is needed for the sake of the Gospel can be accomplished. The transformations, indeed resurrections, needed in this world may only happen because of our faithful response. It is not our buildings, not even Bible waved above our heads, that make for the Church that exists for the sake of the Gospel. The Church is the faithful gathering of those listening and acting in the one Spirit of God to accomplish far more than what human hands and minds can do on their own.
I eventually found some relief from my childhood paralysis, my fear of death. However, it did take a couple more years before the gift of comfort gave way to a gift of understanding. Summer Vacation Church School in 1970 used a curriculum called “Drum Majors for Justice.” I learned that people were not powerless in effecting change, that the Church was at work in the world, that there was life in not giving in to the despair of violence. What will we do to preach, teach, accompany and live out this faith life in today’s hurting world?
I have been asking during CoVid "How is it with your soul?" As we more fully realize a pandemic of racism that has existed on this continent since 1492, I ask "How is it with holy Spirit?"