A series of essays and reflections. I try to write at least once and sometimes more each week. Opposing views are most welcome. This is a marketplace of ideas blog.
13 February 2017
Speaking Justice to Power
It has been less than three weeks. America, and your tardy scribe has been seized by the Trump reality show.
Today is the day the Episcopal Church commemorates two amazing men: Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. In 1786,in part because these two men were effective lay people who brought other free black people into their Methodist congregation: St. George's. In a stunningly stupid and unChristian moment, the white members voted to restrict the blacks to the balcony. They did not even have the courage to publish the vote. Blacks including Allen and Jones discovered the infamy when ushers told them to move during the opening Sunday prayer. They and a number of other black members did not walk up to the balcony, they walked out.
The two men went two different and significant ways. Allen wanted to remain Methodist, and eventually founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church. That body exists to this day, and continues to preach and celebrate the Gospel. Jones met with Bishop White (my personal hero among those founding the Episcopal Church.) White granted permission for the founding of a new parish, led by Jones who moved from lay leader to priest over time. That congregation exists.
After we read the story of Allen and Jones, the intervention of Bp. White, and the lessons for the commemoration at Morning Prayer, we were both amazed at the racism, and stupidity of the White congregation, and the courage and will of the affronted Black Christians. There is no memorial for the racists of St. George's. They are in well deserved anonymity while we recall and celebrate Allen, Jones, and White.
We were fortunate to have Mission St. Clare's resources for Morning Prayer with an appropriate prayer and readings. is the source page, which I have used as a source for much of the history above. Forward Movement has another excellent resource. I recommend both.
Posts, like sermons about readings and commemorations face the question, what does the lessons and / or history tell us about how we should live today? That requires us to put the story in context of the times. And that leads us to the Trump Administration. They came to power on a wave of relatively low education, white, male voters. Conflating them with the voters at St. George's is disturbingly easy. What to do about them is another matter.
On the one hand, the idea of amending the Constitution to require an exam in critical thinking skills or a BA/BS for registration is tempting. Applying the rule exclusively to white men based on performance is also attractive. But neither is going to happen, so we need to consider other avenues.
We need to organize and win the 2018 election.
We need to use the authority of a new Congress to limit the damage the Trump Administration can inflict.
We need effective legal challenges to each and every executive order filed, whenever counsel can identify opportunities.
Perhaps most importantly we need credible challenges to every Republican State legislator and governor.
We also need to shout the message of Christian diversity, that Jesus is not the captive icon of White right wing politicians but rather the loving messiah and son of the loving God. So is this view political? Of course. So was the anti-slavery movement, begun and nurtured in white and black churches, the civil rights movement begun and nurtured by black and then white churches and synagogues in the 1960's. Using the phrase "that is political" as an excuse to avoid being engaged is not Christian it is craven.