There are only a few hard and fast rules in the life of faith. One of them is that you cannot be a person of faith and a racist. The two are mutually exclusive. You can be a person of faith who is working earnestly to eliminate the vestiges of racism in your life. The standard here is not perfection, the standard is progress. If you are in a church on Sunday while believing that some races are inferior to others, you are a hypocrite. Period. No exceptions. Your best course of action would be to skip church and spend your time getting education and attending workshops around racism and issues of diversity.
Some would argue that this kind of absolute statement is inappropriate because it will cause people to stop engaging in discussion. I beg to differ. There are some issues in which there is no middle ground. The majority of issues do have a number of valid viewpoints inherent in them, but some are so important that a middle ground simply doesn’t exist. We have allowed for a middle ground in issues of race in the hopes that people would come around, but in truth the middle ground has been used as a place to hide for far too long. Church leaders may be afraid that if they speak out on issues like racism they will lose members. The truth is that they never had those people to begin with.
Until we are willing to take a strong stand on issues that frankly cost people their lives every day, we aren’t people of faith. If we aren’t willing to make a meaningful commitment to our spiritual lives, then our spiritual lives have no meaning. If we aren’t willing to say to friends, family members, acquaintances, coworkers, even strangers we encounter on the street or in the grocery store that racist attitude and action are not acceptable, then our faith is gossamer thin and more illusion than substance. If these statements bother you, it’s a pretty strong indication you have some work to do.
Did you ever wonder why some religious folks just can’t seem to take a step away from some of the most repugnant beliefs of their otherwise quite lovely and compassionate faith? Mind you, I don’t have an answer to my own question, I was hoping you might.
Recently I was listening to an audio book by a lovely man of great charity and compassion who has done incredible good for disadvantaged people. Everything about the program to which I was listening was beautiful and moving – and then he said it. My personal deal breaker is when someone writes or says some version of “thank goodness God tortured God’s only son because God was surprised and pissed off that the very people God created aren’t perfect, and because God isn’t very creative or very bright couldn’t see any way out of this massive angry outburst (like, maybe, forgiveness) and so tortured that same son to death to slake his rage-filled fit and to show us what love is.” Sure enough, in the audio program I had been enjoying the deal breaker eventually arose and I had to shut it off.
Ideas like this one don’t even make any sense, and the fact that I could explain to you how such ideas arise, why they become popular, and why people are afraid to let them go doesn’t change the fact that I am mystified how any reasonably intelligent person would insist on hanging on to them. Much like hitting your own knee with a hammer and then deciding to stop, letting these beliefs go brings tremendous relief. It would seem that people get more pleasure out of hanging on to a misguided notion of “how things have always been” than they do from having their beliefs make sense – which makes no sense at all!
Are there similar things that leave you mystified?
I have resumed the practice of spiritual reading each morning and mixed things up a bit by resisting my nature and waking up early to do it. Over the past several weeks, I have noticed the sunrise moving later in my practice. I now wake in complete darkness rather than with the first glow struggling to break over the horizon, the beak of a chick struggling to break through its shell and greet its first day. By the time I finish, the sun is risen, but before long I will begin and finish before dawn even ponders peeking out at me.
You might think I would find that thought depressing, but quite the opposite. Having spent my life in colder climates, the onset of autumn and the winter that follows is a reassuring reminder that rest follows exertion and renewal follow rest. Everything in nature works that way, yet humans want to believe we are special, not subject to the laws of life.
How foolish we can be! How much worry, hand wringing, and poor behavior at deaths and funerals that brings about! How can we imagine that we are any different than leaves preparing to let go, their tree resting confidently in faith that new buds wait around the corner?
The time has come – in fact, it probably came long ago – when no person of any faith whatsoever can support the current President of the United States. I say that because this President has repeatedly said and done things that are contrary to the teachings of every legitimate faith tradition. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but rather a sufficient list, of his speech and action that forces every person of faith to make a choice between their faith and the President:
- Repeated misogynistic actions and speech, including confession on tape of (at least) fourth degree sexual assault.
- Repeated racist speech and actions against virtually every ethnic group and including members of Congress and his predecessor, President Obama.
- Holding rallies at which he has incited violence against political opponents including (but not limited to) Hillary Clinton, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
- Violating long-standing ethical standards by refusing to divest of his business holdings in such a way that he derives no profit from being President of the United States. Most flagrant are his repeated trips at taxpayer expense to a golf resort he owns.
- Separating children from their families in detainment centers, and also holding those children for longer than 72 hours in direct violation of United States Law.
- Denying those detained at the border due process and their right to legal representation – again, including children.
There are many more problems I could list, but the above are more than sufficient. What’s more, the President has transformed the Office of his Press Secretary and others into Propaganda Offices that no longer serve their intended function. Much like those offices, supporters of the President do not engage in discussions but rather parrot the same lies his propaganda officials spout. The time for talking is past, because the President and his supporters have repeatedly shown that talking is ineffective. We must now move to concentrated, non-violent resistance to this man and his actions. Failing that, we must confess that we really aren’t people of faith at all, but rather political hacks interested primarily in getting ahead at the expense of others. Where will you stand?