Tuesday Meditation: Doing the Work of Justice When You are Enraged

Note: I don’t normally share my Tuesday meditations on this blog but the emotion and pain that the president’s insensitive statement comparing what is happening to him to a lynching prompted me to share this meditation today.

Abraham Heschel wrote that “prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet’s words.”) (italics mine)

Our reading of the prophets suggests that God rages a lot. The lack of the capacity of the children created by Her to align themselves with Her and with Her will takes holy breath out of God. God doesn’t agonize over academic ideals; God agonizes over the depravity of the human spirit, a depravity that causes those whom God created to treat each other poorly. Though men and women are rebellious, Heschel notes, God’s love and compassion for them never wavers. But neither does the divine rage at what God is seeing.

Those who work for justice are prophets; they carry the word and the will of God into their daily attempts to get God’s people to align themselves with what they believe is right, but there are times when their own rage is so powerful, rising within them like water which has bubbled and boiled so much that it is about to spill over. What is it that should be done at times like that?

There have been moments within the past week and including today that have caused that type of rage. A person from the religious right said that God caused Rep. Elijah Cummings to die because Cummings had dared take on the president, and today, the president compared the quest to reveal his abuses of power – and more – to a lynching.

The rage bubbles.

The late James Cone concluded, in The Cross and the Lynching Tree that the lynching tree was America’s cross. Black people survived the lynching terror because of faith in God and a determination to keep pushing against the system which saw no issue, no problem, in lynching them at will, with no fear of retribution or accountability. Lynching reminded black people to stay in their place, to shut up and go along to get along. There was no angst about what the lynching did to families or to the very spirits of black people who lived under constant cognizance that they or someone they loved could be “next.”

To be honest, lynching is still something that black people, brown and Native American people, and Muslims fight against to this day. The very humanity and dignity of these groups of people, and more, are spat upon every day, and still, we move, we work, we pray, we push for justice. We work in spite of the deep pain we carry, as well as the realization that the lynching tree takes different forms, like mass incarceration, economic injustice, climate change, sexism and racism, gender and sexuality issues, and so much more.

This man who claims that what he is going through is like a lynching, then, is stepping – again – on the very souls of people who live with the threat of lynching every day. Contrary to what he is going through, people who are lynched rarely have the money to seek justice; they are accused and imprisoned or killed without much of a stir. This president is crying because there is an active attempt to expose his crimes and abuses of power. There is justice in that process that people who are lynched have rarely received.

What, though, does one do? The rage bubbles; the audacity of one to use a term that has so much history and pain is beyond the capacity of many to understand. Being put on a lynching tree and yet not being totally exterminated as a people supports Cone’s belief that the cross/lynching tree is for black people a symbol of power; we resurrect, though this system has sought to bury us. That same lynching tree for people like the president continues Cone, is and has been an instrument of terror. Those who have used lynching as a tool of domestic terror do not now get to claim it as now being accessory to their suffering.

One then must exhale and inhale the spirits of the ancestors who endured the lynching tree and yet stayed on earth long enough to pass on the need for us to pray and not faint. One must inhale the power that yet sprinkles down from our ancestors, a power that reminds us to “be still and know” that God is here. Attacking ignorance with raw anger will not help us; like those before us who learned to incline their ears toward heaven so as to stay alive and continue the work, we must do the same – in spite of the bubbling rage.

Amen and amen.

Why Evangelicals Love Mr. Trump

In spite of all of the bad news – morally, economically, and politically – which has come out about Donald Trump from the moment he announced his intention to run for the presidency, nothing has been bad enough for his “base,” – which includes a wide swath of white evangelicals- to desert him. Continue reading “Why Evangelicals Love Mr. Trump”

The Scariest​ Thing

The scariest thing about all that is going on in our country politically is not the antics and behavior of the president – although he is a troubling reality – but it is the people who are lining up behind this man, willing to throw away everything they worked for in order to prove themselves to be “loyal” to the president. Continue reading “The Scariest​ Thing”

Listening for a Silent God

 For a while, I have been listening with interest to the claims by some that God made Donald Trump president of the United States. (https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2019/02/01/sarah-sanders-god-wanted-trump-to-be-president-peter-guthrie)

This week, Mark Lindell, the  “My Pillow” guy, repeated the claim at the CPAC event. (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/mar/1/mike-lindell-my-pillow-founder-says-donald-trump-w/)

The claims make me shudder.

The God that I was taught was not a God who approved of hatred and bigotry; my Sunday School God was one who demanded that we love God with all our hearts, all our minds and all our souls – and our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34) My Sunday School God said I had to love the white people who were hosing little kids in Birmingham and church deacons who were lynching black people just because they could – lynching them for things like registering people to vote, for example.

My Sunday School God said I had to forgive any and everyone who offended me. No doubt it was that Sunday School God who empowered the survivors of the mass shooting by Dylann Roof of people attending Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Church to say they forgave him.

My Sunday School God wanted all people to be free; my Sunday School God supported liberation and dignity and justice for all humans – and my Sunday School God had no favorites. It would have seemed preposterous for the God who created everything and everyone to hate everything He/She created.

So, I have long been puzzled by the God of white people who seems to support racism and sexism and all of the other “isms.” I have long been troubled that my Sunday School God seemed cut out of the story by some white people, who saw nothing wrong with lynching someone on a Saturday night and going to church on Sunday morning.

I have been puzzled by the silence of my Sunday School God who has allowed so many people to suffer from the oppression – economic, social, cultural, emotional and psychological – levied on some people by another group of people who have decided that they are better than everyone else.

If God put Donald Trump in office, what does that say about who God is, ultimately?

This man and his administration are waging war against the concepts of “liberty and justice for all.” They are practicing selective immigration, calling people of color by horrific names and being willing to spend literally billions of dollars for a border wall on the US southern border, while leaving the northern border virtually alone. It is not a new thing; white people in this country have sought to control the number of people of color coming into this country for hundreds of years, but by virtue of being alive, I am experiencing this latest assault.

This God is allowing policies to be passed which will adversely affect “the least of these” for generations; this God continues to allow unarmed black and brown people to be shot by law enforcement officers and get away with it.

This same God allowed “good, God-fearing Christians” to participate in mass murders of black people without having to answer for it. (https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/tulsa-race-riot) (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/death-hundreds-elaine-massacre-led-supreme-court-take-major-step-toward-equal-justice-african-americans-180969863/) . This God said and did nothing when black people and white allies tried to integrate churches during the 60s.

And just this week, this God allowed the United Methodist Church to pass a discriminatory judgment against the LGBTQA community. (https://www.npr.org/2019/03/02/699506797/united-methodists-face-fractured-future)

Why is God silent when people hurt and are discriminated against? Why does God apparently support racism and sexism and all of the other “isms” that cause so many people to suffer?

We don’t have answers, or at least I don’t. Black theologians have struggled with this question for the longest time. The late Rev. Dr. James Cone wrote extensively about it in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

The challenge for pastors and preachers is to keep people believing in this silent God, elevating God above the stench of oppression wielded by white supremacy which is practiced all over the world.

Benito Mussolini, an adherent to and believer in white supremacy, said, “God does not exist. Religion in science is an absurdity.” I can’t go to that place; belief in a just God is the only thing that keeps oppressed people sane.

But if God wanted Donald Trump to be president, what does that say to the masses who are being oppressed and denied equality, justice, and fairness?

It would be nice if God would step up and put oppression in its place and exact from all who say they are believers …a command to stop throwing their whiteness around and treat all people with the dignity and respect all of God’s people deserve.

A candid observation …

On Having a Mother in the House

             I have smiled, chuckled and laughed out loud as I have watched House Speaker Nancy Pelosi handle the president of the United States.

She has reminded me of my own mother, and of the mothers I have known and watched. Mothers have a way of making known to children – spoiled or not – as to how far they can go. In the case of my own mother, it was a look, accompanied by a particular timbre of her voice, that let me know that I was standing on shaky ground. It was not wise to continue what she obviously considered to be unacceptable behavior when I got “the look” or heard “the voice.”

Speaker Pelosi, the mother of six children and a grandmother, knows how to be a mother as well as how to work the system called politics. As I think back on the day of her swearing-in as speaker, I am moved again at how she called the children to come forward. I was moved to tears that day because it was such a warm moment in what has been a  bitterly cold political season, but I was also moved because she was bringing a different spirit into the House of Representatives. It was going to be different. She would handle her political duties, but she would also handle the children in her midst.

As I have watched her handle the president – and that is the correct word for what she has been doing – I go back to seeing those children surrounding her.  They were invited into the cradle of political power; they laid their eyes on the woman who would keep things in order and listened to her voice. They watched her use the gavel, the symbol of her power, and they left feeling a kind of assurance we have all felt when we have known our mothers (or mother figures) have shown us that they had things under control.

Without raising her voice or quaking under the pressure and criticism, Speaker Pelosi has told the president what will and will not happen. She has let him know that she will not be bullied. She does not scare easily, and she has not let him objectify her. She seemingly has let him know how far is “far enough,” and he, like a child, has gotten the message. She has acted courageously, firmly letting him know that he will not be allowed to present the State of the Union address in the House chambers, and when he pushed back, like an arrogant jock, she pushed back yet again. Her message: it is not going to happen.

The more petulant he gets, the stronger her resolve becomes. It is as though she is saying that as long as he is in her house that he will follow her rules – or, more accurately, the rules of the American government. It is as though she is saying that if he wants to be an autocrat, he will have to get out of “her house.” As mothers are charged to take care of their children, Speaker Pelosi takes seriously her charge to take care of the American people and the American government.

I find myself comforted by her presence. I find that I give little sighs of relief that there is finally someone in the House who loves this country more than his or her political proclivities. It feels like that as long as Speaker Pelosi is in charge, the train wreck that the president is causing will be less severe. It feels like we may survive this terrifying chapter in American history.

I have been deeply disappointed in the GOP men – and women, certainly, but mostly the men – who have quaked under the president’s bullying. I have been disappointed that they have stood idly by and let him do whatever he has wanted to do, just because they are afraid of being attacked. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a total disgrace. None of these GOP lawmakers have honored their promise to protect the Constitution of the United States. It has been disgusting to watch.

But Speaker Pelosi has let it be known that she is not “fooling” with them. She is a savvy politician, yes, and a woman who knows how to use her power. She remembers the lessons of politics that her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., who represented New Jersey’s 3rdcongressional district and later became the mayor of Baltimore, taught her and she is using them. He taught her how to play political hardball, and she learned well.

And I feel a measure of comfort.

Speaker Pelosi is no saint and is not perfect; that is not my argument. What I am arguing, however, that it has taken a woman to reel in a power-hungry and power-grabbing man who has stopped at nothing to get his way, a man who knows little about politics and who cares little about the American people – including his “base” to which he always directs his rhetoric. He is a stirrer of hatred and bigotry, a man who has no regard for the “rule of law” which he claims to respect.

But in Speaker Pelosi, there is a “mother in the house” who is determined to keep her house in order. She is giving “the look” and sharing “the voice” to remind her adult male children that she is “not fooling with them.”

A candid observation …