“We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God.”
So say the clergy of Washington National Cathedral in yesterday’s official statement in response to behavior of the President that has once again utilized racism as a political tool.
I’ve shared that statement on my Facebook because I want others to see it. But as a priest in The Episcopal Church, I feel a deeper sense of purpose in trying to make sense of our call to walk the way of love. This past Sunday I baptized a child and led our parish in renewing our Baptismal Covenant, which specifically charges us with the call to respect the dignity of every human being.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do beyond recognizing injustices and feeling moral outrage or empathy. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of sharing an article on social media, but never giving meaningful expression to the feelings it stirred up.
So, I have some practical thoughts…
(1) I have minuscule influence in the theatre of U.S. and global politics. I can still nurture and cultivate the goodness that I believe God desires for us in the way that I live. And I recognize that others are similarly called and are trying to fulfill that call. So whether we agree or disagree, if we are both working toward love, dignity, and respect for all people, we are joined together.
(2) I’m striving to be part of the solution by speaking up when I hear some of these creep into conversation. I don’t want to be silent or complicit with speech that denigrates people on the basis of race, sex, or ability.
(3) If you believe that people ought to change problem behaviors, then it’s clear we need to model and practice being teachable. We have to give each other permission to correct us when they notice our blind spots. Can I give respectful feedback? Can I accept respectful feedback?
(4) There are reasonable and healthy boundaries. The purpose of my ministry in my parish setting is not to effect national political change. The mission of my congregation is not to effect national political change. So while I may address certain themes, I won’t overtly preach the headlines. And while events in our national life may affect the nature of my pastoral care duties, I am here to nurture and guide, no matter where someone is on their walk of faith or on the spectrum of political identity.
(5) Talk about it. We need to learn how to have respectful dialogue. Our nation has a sorry history of censorship and suppression, and my faith teaches me that these things are barriers to the manifestation of God’s love. So rather than shy away from disagreement, I need to speak my truth in love and learn to accept interpersonal differences not as threats to relationship, but as the geography of human connection.
We are called. May God be gracious and gentle with us as we follow our calling into the uncomfortable challenge of upholding the dignity of every human being and loving our neighbors as ourselves. And may God help me to do what I have made covenant to do.