10 Commitments of Resistance

Beloved community, our recent national election has significant spiritual, ethical, and theological implications for us as people of faith.  If you are like me, you are still reeling from the results of that election and all that it portends for all people and the earth.  We will have continued conversations about these issues in the weeks and months ahead—and how we, in faith, are called to respond.  And as a starting point, I want to share part of an article by Jim Wallis, published in Sojourners on 11-17-16, titled “10 Commitments of Resistance in the Trump Era”:

When Sojourners put out the call for you to tell us your post-election stories, we found ourselves tapping into a deep well of lament. Your stunning Reader Stories put on display the real feelings of people across the country—fears felt by ethnic minorities, Muslims, women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, those struggling with their faith and on and on.
This campaign made often implicit ugly racial and gender views explicit; it lifted up dangerous things that are often covert and made them overt.  Both fear and anger are deep in America now, especially among people who belong to groups who were targeted and maligned during the election campaign. They wonder if the America President-elect Trump wants to make “great again” includes them.
The election revealed the deep racial divide in America with a majority of white voters—of all economic levels, genders, and even religions—going for Trump. The media’s new focus on the genuine grievances of the forgotten white voters painfully reveals its own continuing racial bias in its lack of focus on whole communities of color who continue to be forgotten and left behind. White people who dismiss the real fears parents of color have for their children reveal how disconnected they are from those families.  America’s Original Sin clearly still lingers in America, and the repentance of that sin clearly calls upon us to replace white identity with faith identity—the reversal of what happened in this election among the majority of white voters who voted together as a tribe.
We know you are fearful. We know you are still feeling the loss—the loss of a hoped for America that valued diversity, or perhaps the loss of your faith community whose white majority voted for an embodiment of our worst natures.
But we also know that you are ready to resist. You are ready to join the millions who will repeat daily that this ugly rhetoric and dangerous policy proposals cannot become normalized.  Racism should not continue as normal, misogyny can’t remain normal, and threatening the well-being of those God calls us to welcome cannot become normal.
Here’s how we get started:
1. We will go deeper in faith.
Our times require a moral compass. We must replace certainty with reflection. Go from simply belief to actual practice. Seek both courage and humility.  Read, study, and live the words of Jesus. Replace white identity with faith identity.  Replace nativist religion with multiethnic and international faith. As the prophet Micah said, “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
2. We will lift up truth.
Sojourners will always replace fear with facts when it comes to public discussions about immigrants, refugees, Muslims, racial diversity, and national security. Multiracial truth-telling about race in America is urgently needed as we move to a new demographic future where America will no longer be a white majority nation. Sojourners will always lift up the voices of these communities so that they can share their own stories.  
3. We will reject White Nationalism.
We will name racism and xenophobia as sins against our neighbors and against the God who made us all in God’s image. We all must move the nation forward and not backward. Affirm diversity as a gift, blessing, and great opportunity for our nation — and reject the language of threats. Inclusion means full participation
4. We will love our neighbors by protecting them from hate speech and attacks.
We will act in support of people who belong to groups who are afraid because they have been targeted, especially standing with parents who are worried about the safety of their children of color. We all must watch, report, and confront hate speech and behavior—against all ethnic and religious groups, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all marginalized groups—and surround people being attacked with supportive community. White supremacist groups who are celebrating the results of this election need to be identified, isolated, and prosecuted.  
5. We will welcome the stranger, as our Scriptures instruct.
We will block, interfere, and obstruct the mass deportations of immigrants who are law-abiding and hard-working members of our communities. We all must accompany, advocate for, and invite immigrants and their families into our faith families and congregations when they become vulnerable. We will provide opportunities to call on local elected officials and law enforcement officers not to participate in rounding up immigrants — in the name of public safety and family protection — and, if necessary, force federal enforcement police to arrest immigrant families in our churches, instead of at their homes alone.
6. We will expose and oppose racial profiling in policing.
We will reach out to our local police departments to make that commitment clear from the faith community. If the Justice Department and the White House no longer hold police departments accountable to obey the law in relationship to people of color, we all must take on that role in our religious communities. Local ecumenical and interfaith clergy councils should meet with sheriffs and police chiefs in local communities for an open dialogue with them. We will offer resources to study together the important report of the Presidential Commission on 21st Century Policing, and help work with them to implement it. We must make it clear that local faith communities promise to watch and monitor the relationship of our police to our communities.
7. We will defend religious liberty.
We will defy the defamation and banning of Muslims. We all must embrace Muslims as fellow Americans and protect them from the fears of attack, protect mosques with congregational solidarity, and protect national security with our Muslim fellow citizens. We must also resist anti-Semitism as part of the White Nationalism on the rise. If the registration of Muslims is called for, as has been suggested, Christians and Jews will join the registration lines.
8. We will work to end the misogyny that enables rape culture.
We will make every effort to replace misogyny with mutual respect. The language against women that was used in this presidential campaign must be completely rejected. We will name sexual assault for what it is: a sin and a crime. It must be exposed and resisted on every level of our society. Gender fairness and equality must be a fundamental principle in our workplaces, schools, and political systems. 
9. We will protest with our best values.
We will defend constitutional values and workplace fairness, and fight for climate justice and environmental protection as we serve as stewards of our land. Whether in our streets, our schools or our workplaces — we will provide resources and opportunities to protest with dignity, discipline, and non-violence, not with hate for hate. We will respect the Constitution and our democratic processes and expect the same from this new administration. But if those procedures are violated, we must not be silent.  
10. We will listen.
The nation is more divided and polarized than most of us can remember at any time in our lifetimes. So we will listen to you and we can all listen to each other if we desire healing and we all should. Our congregations must become safe and sacred spaces for hearing each other’s stories, pains, fears, and hopes — as people who want many of the same things for our families and children. Our educational institutions should also be such safe spaces for dialogue, learning the meaning of the diversity and pluralism that is America’s best future.

The days and weeks and years ahead will require much of us.  I pray that our faith community will be able to provide each of us sustenance for the journey, resources for study, and opportunities for prayerful resistance and action. Everything isn’t going to be all right, but we will stick together, sustain each other, and mobilize our energy, time, and resources, to protect the people, values, and commitments we care most about.  I pray that we will find increasing ways to expand our circle and to move forward together.
See you in church,


Caring for All in Our Charge

Caring for All in Our Charge
Luke 20:9-19
Rev. Dr. Christy Newton
13 November 2016

Luke 20:9-19
      He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed.  12And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out.
      “13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
      “14But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
      When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!”
      17But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean:  ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’?*  18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
      19When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

     It took me a while to name it.  The feelings I was having for several days last week felt strangely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them.  Intense grief.  A tightening of my chest.  Shortness of breath.  Just short of a panic attack.  A mixture of rage and fear. 
     I read all the post-election “kum-by-yah” things that more conservative people were sharing, encouraging me to put these hard feelings aside:  “We must come together, without the anger.”  “It’s all over now, and it’s time to unify.”  “Ah, come on, it’s not that bad.” “He never really meant the things he said. . . .” “Just move on.” “Try to understand the other side.” “Be a good loser.”  “Get up, shake it off; time to put our differences aside, reconcile, and work together.” 
     And I will say this, I hope the time will come when those things might be possible.  But right now, that familiar feeling I’ve been wrestling with, I realize, is way too similar to my feelings following the Pulse Nightclub shooting.  The mass murder in the church in Charleston, South Carolina.  The senseless brutality of Sandy Hook. . . .
The feelings I’ve been wrestling with are the feelings of grief and rage that accompany experiences of utter devastation and the incomprehensible destruction and violence against vulnerable, at-risk people in our communities—including many in our community right here.  And right now, it is too soon to let that go.  I need to feel the grief fully in order to know how and which way to move from here. . . .  Griefàspiritual teacher
     But I also want to share with you that a couple of weeks ago my family spent a week in Sequoia National Park with many of the largest and oldest trees in the world.  And there is nothing like spending time with the biggest trees in the world to put things in perspective…  Trees that are thousands of years old. . . .  And as frustrated, fearful, enraged, and grief-stricken as I feel right now, I know that this particular election result is in no way the final word.  We live in a democratic nation, and while sometimes a person I like doesn't win or someone I actually fear does win, the reality is that there will always be another election.  And there are plenty of opportunities—and plenty of ways—for me and for us to intervene in the world in the name of love, justice, and the common good.  We talked about this a couple of weeks ago.  In the words of MLK, Jr.: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Right now the arc might be straying in another direction.  So, regardless of who holds political power, it is up to us to pull that arc back down. . . .
     Because as I let my grief and anger work deeply on me, I know that I am strong.  That our community is strong.  That we are not alone.  That our God stands with us—always and forever—on the side of compassion and generosity and justice.  This is what I wrote to you before the election.  And I believe it.
     The election was never about 1 person or 2 people, or their parties of affiliation.  The election, like the work of the church, was about—continues to be about—how we engage the work of building up, mending, restoring, and reconciling a world that is hopeful, inclusive, gracious, kind.  And God’s steadfast and unfailing love—we all know—is bigger than any election.  And it demands that we extend that Love to any and all we meet. 

     But this work—and this expectation—does not please the Pharisees in our scripture story this morning.  This work—and this expectation—does not please the bullies of the world.  The Pharisees are mad about Jesus’ teaching this morning because Jesus is laying this failed expectation at their feet.  They have not engaged in the work of building up, mending, restoring, and reconciling a world that is hopeful, inclusive, gracious, kind; they have not extended God’s steadfast and unfailing Love to all they meet.  Instead, as God’s appointed caretakers, and public servants, the Pharisees—like the tenants in the story—have abused the vulnerable people in their charge—all the people that come asking for a share of God’s abundance.  And no matter who comes, these “caretakers” look out only for themselves.  They refuse to see the needs and well-being of others.  They would rather kill and destroy and throw people out than offer a portion of their blessings.
     And we see this.  Not just in this story.  But today.  This is where some of the election grief comes from.  Immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers are being thrown out.  People of color, people with disabilities, and people who have experienced sexual assault are being thrown out.  Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and anyone who worships differently than them are being thrown out.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people are being thrown out.  Indigenous communities and their fight for their land and their well-being are being thrown out.  
Where will it stop?  And more specifically, where will we draw the line?
     We are entering into a frightening new era for vulnerable people in America.  And as the church, we must stand openly and boldly in the face of bigotry and continue the work for justice—and continue to care for all of God’s beloved ones.  We don’t get to pick and choose who is worthy of our love and support.  God has appointed us as caretakers, and we must care for all those in our charge.

          To make this as plain as I can:  The church—the moral stronghold of our community—has work to do.  And that work that hasn’t changed.  We have to fight for the spiritual, physical, emotional, economic, and social well-being of every member of our community—no matter who they voted for, no matter what their political motivations are.  We do this by working for justice and caring for one another.
Remember, Luke keeps telling us:  Jesus brings no peaceful complicity with the status quo.  He boldly names the injustices that deny some people their humanity in order to privilege others.  And he is willing to cause division and discomfort in order to advocate for the common good—especially for those who no one else is willing to stand up for!  He is willing to push us hard toward the justice the world needs in order to help us grow in faith and love and grace. 
He challenges us to cross well-established boundaries.  Boundaries that may feel really difficult to cross.  He invites us to travel with him into new confrontations.  To expect resistance.  And to respond with loving defiance and uncompromising welcome.  How many of you remember what German pastor Martin Niemoller said in 1930s Germany?
First they came for the Communists.  And I did not speak out.
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists.  And I did not speak out. 
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists.  And I did not speak out. 
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews.  And I did not speak out. 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me.  And there was no one left.  To speak out for me.

All of us, my friends, are all of them.  Because all of them are actually us.  We must use our privilege to make places for others.  To provide safe space.  To speak up and act in the face of injustice.  To stick up for the vulnerable.  To challenge bigots and bullies.  To refuse to let hate speech become normalized.  To live into our calling to be people of faith not fear. 
We are called to welcome the foreigner into our vineyard and to share our blessings with her.  For she is one of God’s beloved children.  Let it be so.  Amen.  

“Our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts that I might make, saying full comfortably: I may make all thing well, I can make all thing well, I will make all thing well, and I shall make all thing well. . . .  All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”           ―Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love 

“The Low Road” by Marge Piercy

What can they do / to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can / bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can / burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you / can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up / your lover. They can do anything
you can’t blame them / from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight, / you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can / but they roll over you.

But two people fighting / back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file / can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other / sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex. / Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four / you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six / you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no / seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration. / A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper; / a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time, / it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do / it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We / and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.