Just Words: December 2016
In the wake of the Presidential Election our dear friend the Rev. Jim Gertmenian, Minister Emeritus of Plymouth Church in Minneapolis, posted the following on Facebook. I share it with his permission. These words provided the framework for a powerful congregational gathering on the Wednesday evening after Election Day. They also provide a road map for us to make our way from solace to renewed solidarity. Jim’s post struck me as a gift I wanted to offer to you.
FROM DESPAIR TO NEW RESOLVE: Despair is a perfectly understandable and reasonable response . . . for a short time. It’s honest, and the pain is real. But at the end of that short time, we have to lay despair aside because before long it becomes a wasteful self-indulgence. Once, when everything was going wrong in my life and I was feeling embattled and sorry for myself, a friend said, “Get down off the cross, Jim. We need the wood.” I was letting my self-absorption get in the way of more pressing work. What I love about the responses of so many of my friends to yesterday’s election is that, even in their grief, and even though they are not yet ready to move on, they know that moving on is what we eventually have to do. The time will come. And soon.
A TRIAGE OF EFFORT: Our first priority has to be this: to identify those most at risk from the ill effects of a Trump presidency and to stand resolutely with them. Churches may need to revisit the idea of declaring their buildings as “sanctuary,” and protect undocumented immigrants who are at risk of deportation. Christians and Jews will need, through intentional personal and institutional relationships, to proclaim and live into our solidarity with Muslims. (And, if the whispers of anti-Semitism begin to be more widely heard, Christians and Muslims will need to stand similarly with Jews.) LGBTQ+ people need to know that their straight allies will never abandon them. Women need to know that the men in their lives see the empty core of the kind of manhood Donald Trump has embodied and that we won't stand for it being fed to our male children. The list goes on . . . In short: those of us who aren’t directly in the firing line of Trumpism need to de-prioritize our particular and personal complaints and stand in the gap with those who are.
WHAT IT MEANS TO “HEAL” THE NATION: Yes, we have to come together with those who disagree with us and who now wield the power. But this cannot be some kind of fake amity that overlooks our differences. “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, crying ‘Peace, peace’ where there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14) True healing begins with a fearless analysis of where and how deeply we are divided. Healing demands that when it comes to our opponents we adopt an attitude of humility and an openness to respectful dialogue without abandoning our core values and primary alliances. For progressives, our primary alliance is with those who are most at risk from current economic and social systems. It is only from that unmovable base that we can truly enter into healing with those who have opposed us.
LOVE. Look . . . of all the personal messages I received this morning, three that really got to me — that really helped me — basically said only this: “I love you.” No more needed be written. Love for our compatriots in loss is how we get through this. That love is so tough, so resilient, so redemptive, that we can face anything together. And it is the seed of the even more demanding love, love of enemies. We need to talk further about enemy-love, because we’re going to be tested on that one.
Friends as we quiet our hearts for the holidays, as we enter into the season of waiting, I am more than ever grateful for the gift of the church in my life. I’m grateful for you and for your children. And I’m grateful for the teachings, that call us to live into the obligations implied by our claim to believe in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” even and especially the child just now waiting to be born.