June 18, 2020

A National Turning Point

        Two weeks ago, I wrote to you about a despicable event. I asked all of us to remember it forever. I asked that because I knew our post- modern news cycle would allow the nation to quickly forget an attack on peaceful protesters, a direct assault on the First Amendment, all so the President could have a photo opp. in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, across from the White House.

       Well, I was wrong. The nation has not forgotten. The moment is emblazoned in people’s minds. In fact, it has become a symbol, a symbol of this country’s violation of its own ethical roots, of the dozens of human rights violations that have escalated over the last four years, and of the hundreds of times we have taken away people’s freedom and dignity in so many ways. 

       As a result, something is happening in our country right now. For the first time I can recall in the last 30 years, people are beginning to see beyond the political divide. The polarization that has plagued our country now has a tiny crack in it. People are beginning to realize that the issue of human dignity ought not to be equated with political positions.

       That moment, occurring as it did in the middle of this worldwide plague, also opened something else inside of us. We are seeing social injustice with eyes made sharp by a pandemic. White people, who suddenly have to spend every day and night protecting themselves from a virus, are beginning to realize what it has been like for their black sisters and brothers, who have had to watch their backs every day since they technically gained their freedom 155 years ago tomorrow, Juneteenth.    

       All of this has come together in a great convergence to create a major turning point for this country. Events of the last two weeks have energized an intensifying outcry for change unlike anything I have felt since the Civil Rights movement and the first environmental steps of the 1960’s. The energy around the protests of the treatment of blacks in our country is building a coalition of support that feels very different than it has in the last few decades. Real change is in the air. It is in our grasp right now.

       The same thing is happening in our understanding of humanity’s relationship with the rest of the planet. There is a new energy around seeing our relationship with Creation not as a resource for our use, but as our kin. The bipartisan passage of the Great American Outdoors Act by the Senate yesterday represents this sea change in thought that goes beyond political position. It is not a panacea, but it is a start.

       It is the action of the Supreme Court in the last few days though, that has convinced me that we are at a National turning point. When a decidedly conservative court votes 6-3 that the federal law that bars sex discrimination applies to LGBTQ employees, something dramatic has happened to us as a people. When this same Court lets stand the California Values Act that prohibits police from aiding federal immigration enforcement agents, the rights of human beings has taken precedence over political beliefs. Now, today, the Court decision to continue legal protections for all of our DACA friends and neighbors, has further advanced the country’s shift away from political rhetoric, back to our idealistic roots as an egalitarian nation.

       As the beloved community of GSP, we have spent a considerable amount of our time and energy over the last ten years working to make our Baptismal Covenant a reality for all. Through our Sanctuary program, our Season of Creation, our immigration actions, our gay and lesbian weddings and celebrations, our food pantry and Social Services programs, and so many more, we have continually striven to bring justice and peace to all people, respecting the dignity of all.

       Is that work finished? Good heavens no. Today though, let us all take a moment to reflect on the cracks that let in the light of Christ. This nation is different than it was two weeks ago when someone tried to co-opt what our church is all about. Today, let us celebrate a nation that has begun the process of seeing beyond politics toward earth justice, migrant justice, and social justice. Celebrate!      

Steve +