I really like that old Alison Kraus song, “When You Say Nothing At All,” although I don’t really think it’s the best relationship advice in the world. I confess that sometimes I wonder if institutional Church officials of all stripes have to listen to that song for hours on end as part of their training, because they sure seem rather adept at saying nothing. Consider, for example, this little ditty from my alma mater, the Episcopal Church.
Holy Week 2016
“We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others.”
On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.
In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.
In this moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege. We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.
We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.
The Episcopal Church House of Bishops met in retreat March 11 – 15 at Camp Allen Conference Center in Navasota, TX.
Of course, on the one hand we can discern what they are trying to say but never really get around to saying. What’s rather astonishing is that they sat around in Texas for four days and managed only to mildly imply that fascism is probably not a good thing, as far as they can tell, but we probably should pray about it. If you check out the comments on the Episcopal Church’s website, you can see just how ambiguous the statement is because just about everybody read it as supporting whatever position they held before reading “the word.” Of course, the career clergy are praising this as a powerful statement, which lifts them up in the eyes of their superiors and makes them look like supreme brown noses in the eyes of their followers.
The problem is that leaders need to lead. Suppose your pants were on fire, but for some reason you were unaware. Would you want the House of Bishops to go on retreat for four days and then issue a “word” recalling the story of Moses and the burning bush, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that led the Israelites through the desert, the tongues of fire that descended on the heads of the people present at Pentecost, then mention that from time to time fire may become dangerous, suggest that we may choose to occasionally pray for deliverance from the fire while not passing judgment upon it or those who cook with it, move on to talk about kindling the new fire on the Great Vigil of Easter – or would you prefer they just throw a bucket of water on your butt? I would like the bucket of water, please!
I want Church leaders (and other kinds of leaders, too), who are direct when they need to be direct. who aren’t afraid to call discrimination for what it is, who aren’t afraid to speak out against violence and totalitarianism, but who also aren’t afraid to speak when moderation is in order, when people are trying to make mountains out of mole hills. I want leaders who recognize they may ruffle the occasional feather but who also recognize that we don’t need to agree about every last thing to get along. In fact, we need to know that we absolutely will not agree about everything, but that there are certain basics to being a religious or spiritual person – and some of the biggest are that we work to end violence, hatred, discrimination, coercion, totalitarianism, and any systems or structures which are life denying. On this there can be no equivocating. Sadly, over the last several decades, equivocating has become what the institutional Church does best. The results are clear in its attendance.