Sunday, November 20, 2016

an epidemic of animosity

It’s as bad or worse than we thought. I guess I still held out hope that actually getting the job would make Mr. Trump sensible and not need any longer to pander to the alt-right. As David Brooks said, hit “pause,” let the democratic mechanisms do their work, and see what happens. But I am just appalled at his first choices. I gleaned these reports from various news outlets…

Steve Bannon: Just appalling! It has become clear in the past few days that Democrats, and even some Republicans, aren’t happy with President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for chief strategist in the White House, campaign CEO Steve Bannon. Bannon, who runs the conservative news site Breitbart, has been called racist, anti-Semitic and white nationalist -- and he runs a site that has, in addition to having been unapologetically pro-Trump throughout the election, is known as a home for the so-called “alt-Right.” A quick look at the headlines on Breitbart shows that there is substantial fodder for critics of Bannon. Stories published on the site include items such as: “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy,” “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” and “Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet.”

Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn has already accepted the position of national security adviser, the office of President-elect Donald Trump announced Friday. Flynn, who advised Trump’s presidential campaign, had been considered a leading contender for the position, given his support of many of Trump’s most grave foreign policy proposals. Earlier this year, he defended Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. and said he was open to bringing back waterboarding as a torture method and to killing the families of accused terrorists, which constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Conventions! General Flynn served as the chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was forced out due to his controversial views on Islam and vocal opposition to the Obama administration’s policies to fight Islamic State. He claimed that “political correctness” was at fault in the U.S. efforts against terrorism. He also called Islam a “cancer” and argued that fearing Muslims is “rational.”

Jeff Sessions: Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was rejected as a federal judge in 1986 due to allegations of racist comments. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, 69, would serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official if confirmed by his fellow members of the Senate. Sessions, an early Trump backer, is an immigration hard-liner who has been in the Senate since 1997 and previously served as attorney general for the state of Alabama. Back in the mid-1980s, when Sessions was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to become a federal judge. But during the nomination process, allegations emerged that Sessions had called a black attorney “boy,” that he suggested a white civil rights lawyer was a race traitor, that he joked he liked the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they smoked marijuana and that he referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

John Bolton, top candidate to serve as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state, is publicly calling for the U.S. to help overthrow the existing government in Iran. “The only long-term solution is regime change in Tehran,” the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily on Thursday morning. “The ayatollahs are the principal threat to international peace and security in the Middle East.” The call for regime change is very much in line with past statements from Bolton, a hyper-hawkish Bush administration official who stands by the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. He has repeatedly urged the U.S. to help Israel bomb Iran or do it alone. Even as Iran was in the final stages of negotiating an international agreement that requires it to dramatically scale back its nuclear infrastructure, Bolton recommended a military attack.

It seems as if is as bad as it could possibly be and yet still slip through whatever teeth congress and American checks and balances has left. What happens when the bully gets voted in a homecoming king and principal of the school at the same time? Folks just do not feel safe.

Contrast that with the homily the Holy Father gave the other day at the consistory that created the new cardinals. Reported by Phillip Pullela on Huffington Post:

On Saturday Pope Francis said an “epidemic of animosity” against people of other races or religions was hurting the weakest in society, striking a note of caution against the rise of populist nationalism. Little more than a week after Donald Trump was elected the next US president, buoying anti-immigrant parties in Europe and elsewhere, the pope noted “how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee become a threat, take on the status of an enemy… An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith,” he said at a ceremony to induct new cardinals.
While not naming any country, Francis appeared to refer to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attitudes that surfaced during the U.S. campaign and since the election.

The US Justice Department said on Friday it was investigating reports of intimidation and harassment in schools, churches and elsewhere since the election. One of the new cardinals, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, told Reuters the pope was “very much aware of the fact that if that (animosity) is not checked, it is very contagious and it can spread quickly, it can be like a wildfire.”

So, how are we going to check this epidemic of animosity?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

windows, walls and doors

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, 
and executes justice for the poor. (Ps 140:12)

BALTIMORE (AP) — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Monday urged President-elect Donald Trump to adopt humane policies toward immigrants and refugees, as church leaders begin navigating what will likely be a complex relationship with the new administration.
Meeting just days after the election, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said serving people fleeing violence and conflict "is part of our identity as Catholics" and pledged to continue this ministry.

"We stand ready to work with a new administration to continue to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans. A duty to welcome and protect newcomers, particularly refugees, is an integral part of our mission to help our neighbors in need," the bishops said.

Trump had said during the campaign that he would build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and immediately deport all 11 million people in the country illegally, though he later distanced himself from that position. In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," he said he would focus on deporting people with criminal records beyond their immigrant status, "probably two million, it could even be three million." The Obama administration has deported more than 2.5 million people since taking office in 2009, according to the Homeland Security Department.

Trump also told "60 Minutes" that his promised solid border wall might look more like a fence in spots. House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected any "deportation force" targeting people in the country illegally.
"If they're going to build a wall, we're going to have to be sure they put some doors in that wall." (Archbishop Wenski) 
In a speech at the Baltimore assembly, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the bishops' conference, underscored that protecting refugees would remain a priority. He also highlighted an area where the bishops may find more common ground with Trump. Kurtz noted the importance of conscience rights for people who do not want to recognize same-sex marriage or comply with other laws they consider immoral. Trump has pledged to appoint anti-abortion justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and protect religious liberty. "Don't allow government to define what integrity of faith means," Kurtz said. Dozens of dioceses and Catholic charities sued President Barack Obama over the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers provide coverage for birth control.

On Tuesday, the bishops meeting will elect Kurtz' successor, who will become lead representative from the conference to the Trump administration. After being on the defensive with Obama over abortion, LGBT rights and other issues, some conservative Catholics are optimistic about the chances for a rollback on some policies, such as the birth control rule.

Still, they are deeply concerned about the plight of immigrants after a brutal election in which Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and urged a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. although he later watered down that proposal. American Catholics have a vast network of aid programs for immigrants and refugees, and Pope Francis has put the issue at the core of his pontificate. About 4 in 10 U.S. Catholics are Latino and Hispanics are already a majority in several dioceses.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis had opposed a request from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice-president elect, that the Catholic church stop settling Syrian refugees in the state. Tobin will be made a cardinal Sunday by the pope.

"We've just begun a conversation about how we're going to move forward," under Trump, said Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont. Coyne said the bishops have known how to deal with Democrats and Republicans previously in the White House, but "this election has thrown all that out the window."

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, whose archdiocese is about 70 percent Latino, held a prayer service a few days ago to calm parishioners fearful of potential deportation. "They don't know what to make of it, especially many of them who have been here for a long time and they have families," Gomez said.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami has tried to reassure local Catholics by pointing back to the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was first elected, and panic spread through the Haitian community. Reagan eventually signed immigration reform that enhanced border security, but also created an opening for some immigrants to stay in the U.S. who had entered the country illegally.

“It's time to take a deep breath and continue our advocacy," Wenski said. "If they're going to build a wall, we're going to have to be sure they put some doors in that wall.”

* * * 

"Shore up the walls, but keep the doors wide,
make sure that there's plenty good room inside"
                                                            Danny Black

Monday, November 14, 2016

For the oppressed let the Lord be a stronghold

I kept thinking all night about Rev. Alagna’s sermon, which I posted last night. He articulated what has been simmering in my mind.

It is an accepted truth of psychology that the best indicator of future performance is past behavior, and in this case the strength of this prediction has been amplified with [Mr. Trump’s] promises to remake this nation in his own disfigured image.  The demagoguery displayed in this race for the White House can only persist and intensify.  And given his party’s newfound majority in congress there will be few obstacles or checks to its advance.   

While Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”  And while He identified the archenemies of God and of God’s children, Jesus never instructed His disciples to, “Love the demons.”  Rather Jesus admonished His disciples to, “Resist what is evil.”   And He charged and empowered them to drive out demons, to expel and exorcise them. Demons have no rights in God’s reign and Jesus showed them no respect.  Jesus always commands them to depart.  At one point in the gospel story, a legion of demons were expelled into a herd of swine and driven over a cliff to their death in the sea below.    

The aftermath of this election may not be a case of “love your enemy” and trying to find common ground with the opposite ideology; this may be a full-on assault of evil. It was all the more poignant then to read Psalms 9 at Vigils this morning.

For the oppressed let the Lord be a stronghold,
a stronghold in times of distress.
Those who know your name will trust you;
you will never forsake those who seek you.

Sing psalms to the Lord who dwells in Zion.
Proclaim God’s mighty works among the peoples,
for the needy shall not always be forgotten
nor the hopes of the poor be in vain.

The nations have fallen in the pit which they made,
their feet caught in the snare they laid.
The Lord is revealed, has given judgment.
The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.

Arise, Lord, let mortals not prevail!
Let the nations be judged before you.
Lord, strike them with terror,
let the nations know they are but mortals.

And then Psalm 9b (10)

Lord, why do you stand afar off
and hide yourself in times of distress?
The poor are devoured by the pride of the wicked;
they are caught in the schemes that others have made.

For the wicked boast of their heart’s desires;
the covetous blaspheme and spurn the Lord.
In their pride the wicked say: “God will not punish.
There is no God.” Such are their thoughts.

Their path is ever untroubled;
your judgment is far from their minds.
Their enemies they regard with contempt.
They think: “Never shall we falter:
misfortune shall never be our lot.”

Their mouths are full of cursing, guile, oppression;
mischief and deceit are their food.
They lie in wait among the reeds;
they murder the innocent in secret.

Their eyes are on the watch for the helpless.
They lurk in hiding like lions in their dens;
they lurk in hiding to seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them away.

They crouch, preparing to spring,
and the helpless fall beneath such strength.
They think in their hearts, God forgets,
God does not look, God does not see.”

Arise then, Lord, lift up your hand!
O God, do not forget the poor!
Why should the wicked spurn the Lord
and think in their hearts: “God will not punish.”

But you have seen the trouble and sorrow,
you note it, you take it in hand.
The helpless entrust themselves to you,
for you are the helper of the orphan.

Lord, you hear the prayer of the poor;
you strengthen their hearts; you turn your ear
to protect the rights of the orphan and oppressed
so that those from the earth may strike terror no more.

We can certainly and should certainly pray for the conversion of those we think are on the path of destruction of their own souls and leading others over the same cliff, but that is not the same as inviting them to an equal voice of authority in the conversation.  

Our psalms always end with a doxology that is also a Christological prayer, a brilliant innovation of our Fr. Thomas. Here is my prayer today:

To you be the glory, O Christ,
for you are the refuge of the oppressed.
When you opened your hands on the cross,

you redeemed all human sorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

perseverance & hope

I read something interesting about the virtue of faith recently, and I wonder if it couldn’t apply to all the virtues. The author was distinguishing between faith and belief, and he wrote that faith doesn’t really have an object; that would be belief. When we’re speaking of the virtue of faith, he says you don’t really have faith in something; you just have faith. You can have belief in something, a belief that can either be rational or religious, but faith is more or less an energy, and in our tradition we think of it as infused, it is given to us by God, a sort of power. I was wondering if we couldn’t say that about love too: at first the virtue of love or charity is just a blind force for the good, for creativity. It’s only later that we can choose to what and to whom we can attach our love so that it has an object. This makes sense of Augustine’s notion of sin being disordered love, as in loving popularity more than integrity, or loving possessions more than relationships.

But what I was really thinking about in regards to today’s gospel was the virtue of hope. I’ve spoken about this before, how it’s instructive to remember that the virtue of hope is not wishing for something––“I hope the Cubs win the World Series!” Hope too at its inception is kind of this objectless energy. As Vaclev Havel wrote, Hope is “a dimension of the soul... an orientation of the spirit.” Hope is what propels us forward not just for survival, but for growth and the evolution of our consciousness.

One of the reasons that I am thinking of that is because I heard one commentator say that our current president-elect “gave a certain group of people hope.” But I think that’s wrong; only God can give us hope. It may have looked as if that candidate could fulfill their wishes for what they wanted the country to be like, but only God gives us hope. Our current president wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope, but neither can he give hope. Only God can give hope. It is up to us however to decide for what and to whom we turn that hope into a wish––and we also have to be careful for what we wish for, who we attach that hope to. Our aim might not be high enough.

And the other aspect of hope I am recalling is that phrase also from Vaclev Havel, that “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless how it turns out.” Hope is “an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” So Paul’s admonition actually ends with this line: Do not grow weary of doing what is right (2 Thes 3:13).  We should never get tired of doing the right thing, whether it looks like it’s gonna work out or not. That’s the energy of hope.

We can safely guess that when Jesus is saying these things in the gospel today (Lk 21:5-19) he is starting to expect his own death. So it’s all the more powerful then to hear him say, to hear him have this hope, this conviction, this belief based on his faith that ‘By your perseverance you will secure your lives.’ ‘They may seize and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, lead you before governors and kings… You will be handed over by your own family and friends… ‘By your perseverance you will secure your lives.’ That doesn’t all sound very hopeful in the way that we think of hope, like things are going to work out, but it does sound like the virtue of hope, the energy and a strength to persevere, in spite of all and that by that perseverance we will save our lives.

I was thinking of a couple of examples of this hope and perseverance in spite of the fact that it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna work out. In the spiritual life itself, sometimes it seems as it I keep going over the same stuff over and over again, running up against the same internal roadblocks and landmines; sometimes it seems like I’m getting nowhere. It is difficult sometimes to hold to the promise that we don’t have to be successful, that we only need to be faithful. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the mercy of God is drawing me to its womb. But I know that it’s by perseverance I will save my life. As we sing when we make our monastic vows, Do not disappoint me of my hope! I was remembering our late Fr. Romuald yesterday, when he was out at beautiful Epiphany Monastery in New Hampshire, how even when he was the only one there, which happened a few times, he would still get up each morning and go down each evening and sing the entire Lauds and Vespers. It didn’t matter if there was someone there to support him or if anyone was going to see him or if anyone would ever come and live with him: he knew that that was what he was supposed to do. It’s a worry sometimes for us; what if no young guys come and join us? What if we age out? I try to remind myself that I didn’t become a monk because I thought it was going to be successful and popular. I became a monk because I wanted to be a monk! And by perseverance we will save our lives.

I was thinking of some other current examples that are facing Christians in this day and age, more social. For example, we are not really supported in our defense of life on either side of the political aisle. It’s the same argument over and over again: we’re always having to choose between abortion and all the other pro-life issues. Three states upheld capital punishment, while another state ratified doctor-assisted suicide. And yet, as hard as it is, we have to hold that tension, the seemingly un-reconcilable sides, and be the prophetic voice for the seamless garment, all of life from the womb to the tomb. I don’t have a lot of optimism but, as Cornell West says, I’m a prisoner of hope. We can never weary of doing the right thing.

Believe me, I am sick of hearing myself talk about this, but global warming climate change was never mentioned during the presidential debates this year by either candidate, and our current ruling party is loudly touting the fact that they are going to undo the small steps we’ve made toward better stewardship of the planet. And yet we have the lead of the Holy Father and so, as insignificant as it seems, I’m going keep recycling my plastic milk bottles and other single use disposable items, and printing on used paper, and watching how and what I consume––and that’s only entry level environmental stewardship!––because my hope, my energy tells me that by perseverance in doing what I think is right that I will save my live. I still have to do it; it’s the right thing to do.

This is a big one: It’s easy to say you are a pacifist when there is no one in your face shouting at you. It’s easy to say you want to be a peacemaker when you don’t see any injustice going on around you. On the other hand I actually often find it very difficult, whether it’s the fiery Sicilian blood or the hot Irish temper. (On the Sicilian side perseverance means whoever can shout the loudest and longest wins; on the Irish side perseverance is more like a passive-aggressive game of chicken, whoever can hold out the longest in a steely silence.) At a micro/local level I find it very hard to act consistently in the way that St. Paul is always urging us––to be kind, let your gentleness be known to all––let alone Jesus telling us that the meek shall inherit the earth! But then on a grander level, there was a pastor in Raleigh, Virginia who recounted these incidents in the first days after the election: a home in Noe Valley flying a Nazi flag where kids walk by to get to school; a white middle school student who told a black classmate it was time now for him to get “back in place”; a gay New York City man getting on a bus being told that he should “Enjoy the concentration camps, you [expletive deleted]!”; the NYU Muslim Students Association finding the name of our president-elect scrawled on the door of their prayer room; parents of minority children this week picking up their kids early from schools across the country because they were afraid. The first headline I read this morning: “New York college dorms where three Jewish women live vandalized with swastikas as hate crimes sweep the country.” That stuff makes my blood boil! On the other side I know a lot of people who are fiercely angry right now, burning political figures in effigy, one guy who said he wishes he could punch a certain senator right in the face, and others already threatening a rebellion. It feels very wimpy to be a reconciler right now––and I am certainly not at this point going to tell any of the above people that they should play nice and work for unity for the good of the country. But there is still no way around that beatitude: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God, at a micro and macro level. ‘By our perseverance in that we will secure our lives.’

Our highest common denominator as Catholics after the gospels themselves is the teaching of the Church, plus the words and examples of our leaders. Fortunately we have a great model in Pope Francis right now. With so much xenophobia and discussion about refugees and immigrants, and so much fear of the other (perhaps justifiable fear!) going around in many developed countries around the globe, including our own, it was heartening to read that Pope Francis spoke on Saturday about how Christians should welcome others “without classifying them on the basis of social condition, language, race, culture, religion.” “Mercy is that way of acting, that style,” he said, “with which we try to include others in our life, avoiding closing up into ourselves and into our selfish securities.” And Thursday evening Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, the former Opus Dei bishop who is no liberal firebrand, led an interfaith prayer service at the cathedral there. In his comments he stressed the importance of unity between religions and even went so far as to reassure immigrants, even those who were in the country illegally, that the church would continue supporting them no matter what. This is not going to be a popular viewpoint in this day and age, even among our co-religionists, but ‘By our perseverance we will secure our lives.’

There is a good chance that each and every one of us is going to be called to stand up and give our testimony in the days ahead. We might even get pilloried by our families, friends and benefactors, and hated in the name of our faith. We have to “avoiding closing up into ourselves and into our selfish securities.” We have to decide what the object of our faith is going to be, the object of our love, the object of our hope––and make sure that it’s the gospel of Jesus. Even more importantly, we have to build a world of justice and peace in our own little village, in our own families, whether we say anything or not. And it will only be by perseverance that we will secure our lives. Let’s pray that, strengthened by the Word and the Sacrament, we never grow weary of doing what is right.

not one stone

Re-posintg a sermon passed on to me, from Rev. Frank J. Alagna, Holy Cross, Santa Cruz Episcopal Church. He concludes where I have been thinking: Our most urgent task is to ready our selves for non-violent resistance. My own homily for today, same readings, will follow (already posted on the hermitage blog too).

* * * 

Not One Stone Will Be Left Upon Another – All Will Be Torn Down

Last Sunday I preached a sermon about our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to affirm the priorities of the Kingdom of God and to advance what is right, good and holy in the public square.  This past Tuesday the nation, at least in the majority vote of the electoral college, made a choice for what is wrong, bad and clearly unholy.  

Let us be clear that there is no ambiguity in the gospel about those things that are counter Kingdom.
- assaults upon women, their dignity and their rights;
- racism and all forms of discrimination against any minority group;
- the scapegoating of any of God’s children;
- violence and any and all encouragements to violence,
- nativism and isolationism that would disengage us from the global relational mutuality which defines our shared humanity;
- a failure to care for the poor, the sick, and not to welcome the stranger among us or at the gate;
- a disregard for the care of our environmental home;
- and putting government at the service of self-interest and corporate greed rather than at the service of the common good. 

There is no ambiguity in the gospel that all these are wrong, bad and unholy and an election does not change any of this.   

Obviously there are some good people who in good faith actually believe that this man will affect changes that will improve their tomorrow.  But on Tuesday did we not also see a staggering number of people in this nation project their dark side and invest leadership in a man with no  demonstrated character and most certainly a false prophet?  

False prophets are those demagogues who appeal to popular passions and prejudices and stoke fear, identify scapegoats, inspire hatred and incite to violence.  This was clearly the strategy of the president-elect.   His words were chosen to orchestrate what was a cacophony of sheer ugliness.  It should come as no surprise that on Thursday the KKK announced plans to hold a parade and victory rally in North Carolina.

Can we be so naïve as to believe that the winner will dance to a tune other than the raucous song that he has been singing on the trail for the last two years?  Personal change that we desire does not come easy.  I assure you that a character that has been fashioned over a lifetime will not be changed by an election to public office. We just don’t work that way. History knows elected popes who have been despicable reprobates.

Recently a good Pope named Francis, warned against false prophets.  He identified false prophets as those, “Who exploit fear and hopelessness, who sell magic formulas of hatred, cruelty, selfish welfare and an illusory security that seeks safety in physical or social walls - walls that enclose some and banish others.” 

The Pope went on to say that there come to be two imprisoned groups,  “Walled citizens, terrified on one side,” and  “the excluded, exiled, and even more terrified on the other.”  Francis concluded by asking the question,  “Is that the life that our Father God wants for His children?”  He ended his address with the admonition, “Dear brothers and sisters, do not be fooled."

The man who was just elected to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world has never served anyone’s interests but his own during the first 71 years of his life.  And he makes no apologies for this. 

It is an accepted truth of psychology that the best indicator of future performance is past behavior, and in this case the strength of this prediction has been amplified with promises to remake this nation in his own disfigured image.  The demagoguery displayed in this race for the White House can only persist and intensify.  And given his party’s newfound majority in congress there will be few obstacles or checks to its advance.   

While Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”  And while He identified the archenemies of God and of God’s children, Jesus never instructed His disciples to, “Love the demons.”  Rather Jesus admonished His disciples to, “Resist what is evil.”   And He charged and empowered them to drive out demons, to expel and exorcise them.

Demons have no rights in God’s reign and Jesus showed them no respect.  Jesus always commands them to depart.  At one point in the gospel story, a legion of demons were expelled into a herd of swine and driven over a cliff to their death in the sea below.    

So what do we do in the face of what is and what will continue to be a renewed assault on the Kingdom of God and its priorities. 

We first of all must realize that this is not something new and that we have been here before.

In this morning’s gospel Jesus speaks prophetically about the destruction of the temple.  For His audience, the temple was not just one of many places of worship.  It was the only place of worship, for it was the only place on earth where God deigned to dwell. And so for the believing Jew, the destruction of the temple represented utter and complete destruction and terminal desolation.  No temple, no God, no hope.

The human family has known and undoubtedly will continue to know experiences of unimaginable destruction that reverberate to a place of desolation and that would vanquish and gut the human spirit.  Such is the experience being registered by too many these days. 

In our lifetime, too many of these spirit desolating episodes have commanded our attention - From the Holocaust, to the Stalinist purge of the Ukraine, to the Cambodian killing fields, to Bosnia and to present Syrian disaster.

Jesus did not promise us a demon free world, but He certainly did entrust us with the ministry of exorcism and the power to affect the expulsion of evil forces.

So how do we exercise this ministry in the present hour?  

Well, our only response cannot be fear, certainly not capitulation to the fear that engenders paralysis and despair unto death.  Disciples of Jesus do not choose nor live by fear but rather by faith.

Nor can we merely quite our troubled souls with calls to prayer.  Not that we should not pray, but let our prayer be grounded in reality.  Let us not pray that by some miracle, wisdom will enter the mind of a fool, nor that by some miracle right judgment and good behavior will come forth from an adult addicted to his adolescence.  What we should pray for is the grace of repentance and conversion, for without these this one who presents himself as a public reprobate will never evidence wisdom or be capable of right action. So pray that this man will be moved by God to face and own his sinfulness which has been so visible in the distasteful, disrespectful and disgusting words and actions he has directed against so many, and will seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the many he has hurt and the many more he intends to harm.   

Moving forward he will be the commander and chief of an army of allied haters who will happily participate in victimizing innocent men, women and children because of their race, religion, nationality, citizenship status and sexual and gender identity.  When this brand expresses itself let us remember that we have no obligation to listen to hateful speech, nor to make room for hateful posturing, nor to tolerate hateful actions.  Hate must always be stopped dead in its tracks.  Hate has no rights.  Hate deserves no space.  

Gracefully neither fear nor pious platitudes about prayer are our only options.

I do agree with our bishops that we have an urgent task as a church to listen, to hear, and to understand the pain of those who caste their vote because of the perceived and experienced unresponsiveness of the  establishment to their economic plight, and to seek reconciliation and unity with them.  However, I do not believe that this is our most urgent task in the present moment.  Our most urgent task is to ready our selves for non-violent resistance to the point of civil disobedience before bad things begin to happen to good people and victims begin to pile up.

We have in our span of years have known this witness and seen its effectiveness in the likes of Blessed Martin Luther King and Father Daniel Berrigan and those who walked, marched and bore stripes with them.

If there were ever a time for action, now is that time.  Do we really want to wait for the mass arrests and deportations of our Latino sisters and brothers?  Would that be wise or loving on our part?  Do we want to wait for the introduction of stop and frisk policing on our city streets?  Would that be wise or loving on our part?  Do we want to wait for an escalation of sexual violence against women on our campuses nurtured by the locker room banter and the example of predatory sexual behavior set by the next commander and chief of date rape?  Would that be wise or loving on our part?  Do we want to wait for the start of the third world war and the bodies of our grandchildren becoming carnage or do we put our own bodies on the line now for disarmament on our streets, in our schools and in our world?  

This is not a normal transition in government and we must refrain from the inclination to treat it as such.  We cannot consign those who have been clearly targeted for bad treatment: Latinos, Blacks, gay people, Muslims and young women to the shadows.   We have precious little time to seriously attend to their legitimate fears.  And we cannot normalize a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. 

And if you think you are too old to engage in active, non-violent protest and civil disobedience - Think again.  Can you think of a better way to spend whatever is left of our fading breath and failing bodies than as a living sacrifice for the Kingdom of God?  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who suffer for justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Rev. Frank J. Alagna
Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church
November 13, 2016