Dear St. Thomas Family and Friends,

Many have written and discussed the unfortunate reality that many people today are addicted to outrage. In our culture and even in the church, too many live on the edge of being angered by the behavior and communication of others. It’s almost like we live on the edge of a cliff and are daring someone to give us a push. When we fall into outrage, many of our internal filters get disengaged. Almost any response is deemed justified. Outrage becomes viral and it is very contagious.

The past few days, I have been thinking about this from what might be the other side. The outrage could be a symptom of creeping hopelessness. Recently I learned a new phrase. It is called, “Doom scrolling”. I’m not sure if it is one word or two. This is when we see a post on social media and then read the comments, knowing full well that we will be discouraged or offended by what we read. It is difficult to resist reading how outraged people are responding to whatever offends them. We have come to expect doomsday. We believe and say things like, “The new president is going to bring about the end of everything we hold dear.” “The old president has ruined everything and we’ll never be unified again.” Each group we disagree with is capable of bringing about a situation with no hope. Our fear becomes outrage and we are then tempted to say and do things that cause pain for others. Now they fear that there is little hope and join in being outraged. 

The church is a source of hope, no matter the situation, no matter which political group is in power, and no matter what. Our presiding bishop has encouraged us to be people of love. That is important. When people are loved by God and by us, hope grows inside us all. When folks hear and experience the Good News of God hope grows inside of them. When people of hope, the church, responds differently than our society in general, hope increases. When the people of Jesus do not return evil for evil, hope increases. 

The church is made up of people who have heard the truth. The kingdom of God is near to us. Because of this, we are people of hope. In one of Paul’s letters, after he has warned against sexual sins and sins of greed, he continues his teaching toward hope,

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful.”

There is no doom scrolling in this. Paul leaves no room for despair. He reminds us of how we have been loved by God in Christ Jesus. He describes how we can love each other, by describing our wardrobe. These are the clothing we are to wear, “Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Let us commit to praying for each other. Pray that I wear these clothes. Pray for your friends to wear this apparel. I’ll be praying for you. I will also work at avoiding reading comments. Pray for me!

May the peace that passes our understanding be with us all,

Fr. Ralph
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