18 January 2017

Cathedrals, choirs, and inaugurations

You can be forgiven if the controversies the upcoming inauguration are causing in the Episcopal Church have not been on your radar. While we think we are important: we are less than 1% of the population. But we do have some impressive real estate. Our cathedral in Washington, is widely known as, "the National Cathedral."

One of the traditions that surrounds the inauguration is a non-denominational service of prayers, readings and music attended by the new president, vice-president and a fairly good sized chunk of official Washington, cabinet nominees / members, Congresspersons, Senators, and a lot of supporters, especially contributors. Mr. Trump and his team are planning to attend such an event. Therein the controversy.

Officially of course, the church has no opinion on elections. So neither Mr. Trump nor Ms. Clinton were endorsed in any way. But(!) the Republican platform was in opposition to most if not all of the social justice positions of the church. I cannot cite data, but my hunch is that less than 5% of Episcopalians voted for Mr. Trump. I would guess that something over 90% of Episcopalians support the Affordable Care Act.

Saying that Mr. Trump is not in tune with our values is to massively understate the case. And if that were not enough, we promise at every baptism that we will "respect the dignity of every human being." We interpret that mean gay marriage, women's right to choose, and accepting, welcoming and protecting the alien, legal or not. In short Mr. Trump offends us on about every level.

So do we host the inaugural service? We do. Does our choir sing at the event, it does. Are a large number of Episcopalians deeply offended, absolutely. The offended have made a vocal presence on social media, decrying the decision. Those actually making the decision, the bishop of Washington, Dean of the Cathedral, choir director have also made their case.

I have been on both sides of this. That is sort of a classic Episcopal position, we call it via media, the middle way. Sometimes however one must actually decide. So here I am, blogging what I am with some hope, calling my final word.

This us no ordinary inauguration. This is a minority president, who is flagrantly dishonest, stunningly demagogic, misogynistic, homophobic, a bigot, and by his own description, a sexual predator. Yes we must honor our law and undertake a peaceful transfer of power. Yes we can celebrate our institutions. But assisting in the event, or providing entertainment for the supporters of bigotry and hatred, as a church is wrong. The dean is wrong, and the bishop is wrong.

I think via media is simply not available when it comes to opposing frank evil. This inauguration brings evil into power. That is not something to sing about.


RonF said...

"we will "respect the dignity of every human being." We interpret that mean gay marriage, women's right to choose, and accepting, welcoming and protecting the alien, legal or not."

What makes Christianity so hard is that "respect the dignity of every human being" has to not only include all those people - it has to include then-President Trump.

RonF said...

Oh, and we'll never know if he's a "minority President" (if I understand what you mean by that phrase) or not. Yes, he did not get a majority of the popular vote. Neither did Ms. Clinton. But because the effect of your vote stops at the State line (due to the Electoral College), millions or even tens of millions of people didn't vote at all because they lived in a overwhelming blue or red State and had no reason to.

Here's an example. Eliminating California's vote would give President-Elect Trump more popular votes than Ms. Clinton. But California voters knew that the State would go for Ms. Clinton, and there were no Republicans running for any significant state-wide offices (even the Senate race was between two Democrats) and in most cases not even at the local level. So how many millions of Republicans who might have voted for Trump in a true popular vote based election simply stayed home? We'll never know, so any attempt to attach a significance to Clinton's popular vote total is futile. It's moot.

Christal said...

Thanks for your notes. Permit me a unified response. Giving any person respect does not include ignoring biased conduct or rhetoric. Nor does it include giving a person outside the congregation control over the worship space.

If, as I doubt, I were to meet Mr. Trump, I would not be rude, nor dismissive. But as saints from Becket and Moore to Bonhoeffer have found, opposition to evil is a part of respecting all people. And yes, I do think he does, permits, and will foster evil.

You are certainly entitled to disagree with that judgement. But at this moment it is where I stand.

Beyond that, there is the issue of how we let Episcopal worship spaces to be used. In the decades since the Cathedral was begun, the country has changed. The idea of a cathedral that is a national spiritual resource while remaining a functional Episcopal Cathedral makes me think of a misquotation of Jeremiah: hubris, all is hubris cries the prophet. Not precisely what Jeremiah had in mind, but I think he would understand.

I think this inaugural teaches us it is time to stop assuming that we are or should be part of the, "establishment." We are too diverse, and to fragmented to have any sect serve that role, but especially less than 2 million Episcopalians asea amonge 310 million Americans are not equiped for the role.

Thanks Again


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