Good afternoon, Beloved,
I want to tell you about some personal secrets of mine.
First, when I completed my last two Rector's Remarks emails, it was always my private intention to reach out to the Trump supporters in the parish who reached out to me in the past and to privately engage with them again in conversation around the president's policies, actions, etc. I wanted to let them know what was coming in this email first before I sent it to our whole email list. I owed them that.
You see, after my Trump sermon three years ago, four people in particular contacted me and -- let's just say -- gave me an earful.
I actually found that encouraging and an opportunity.
It was a true chance to engage deeply with four others in the parish about our values, perspectives, critical thinking, moral reasoning, and Christian understandings regarding the social and political issues that were most pressing to us. We have continued to do that on and off for the last three years in private.
Thus, out of respect for our past conversations and our current relationship, I had to let them know first and individually about what was coming in this email and that I sought their responses. I'm very grateful for these past conversations and I know these conversations have deepened our friendships and mutual respect for one another despite our profound disagreements.
Since my last Rector's Remarks a few days ago, I've had over 6 hours of face-to-face and phone conversations with these four parishioners. We haven't made any converts of each other yet, but that's not the bottom line. The purpose has been to listen to each other deeply, to speak honestly, to respond truthfully, to engage carefully, and to try and understand why and how the other thinks the way they do. I tell you the God's honest truth -- I have learned far more about the concerns, critical thinking, and moral reasonings of Trump supporters from these conversations over the last three years than literally anything I have seen or heard on any media over the last four years. Nothing beats going directly to the source.
I'll share with you another secret: I love our Trump supporters. I love their human decency, their commitment to Christ, their commitment to Good Shepherd, and their concerns for our country. I connect the dots very differently than they do, and -- as they know -- I think I'm more right about my critical thinking and moral reasoning than they are, just as they think they're more right about their critical reasoning and moral evaluations than I am. At least, that's what we believe is right for each of us in our respective situations. Isn't that to be expected?
What I absolutely know we would all say, though, is this -- the conversations have broadened our understandings and perspectives on the issues; widened our appreciations for the multiple critical reasonings and moral evaluations possible and necessary; deepened our friendships; and helped us to better appreciate the true complexity of these issues. I know this for a fact: my life is so much better because of the Trump supporters who are in it and I love them and thank God for them and for the blessing that they are to me and my family. I say and feel the same about everyone in this parish, in fact. For Lori and me, it's a great blessing in our life to be here and we thank God for everyone in the parish.
So here's a big, new secret you need to know -- I've come to realize in my recent conversations with these four individuals that if I declare in this Rector's Remarks what I had originally intended, I commit a greater sin against them (and any other Trump supporters in the parish, and against the mission of my beloved Episcopal Church) than the sin of omission.
So here are my concluding words on these matters:
My core job is to promote the Gospel as understood by The Episcopal Church, gathering people together, and helping them understand why and how we believe what we believe. Your job as a Protestant is to wrestle with that, to decide for yourself where the flaps of your own faith begin and end, and to live out that belief faithfully in the world.
So discern that carefully and prayerfully, in engagement with our sacred tradition and its representatives, as well as those in the parish in whom you trust.
Regardless of where we each locate the outer flaps of our faith, at the center of our tent is Jesus, our mutual commitment to Jesus, and the affirmation that we are all, despite our differences, part of the Body of Christ.
Thus, one thing we must commit to do as a parish is to engage each other in our diversity as the Body of Christ.
After all, if we can't reach across our minds and hearts to have civil conversations with another in the parish who thinks very differently than we do, then how is this ever going to happen in the wider culture? Hope begins with us!
Reconciliation starts with us!
We are the Body of Christ! We are all faithful followers of Jesus. And we all have a primary responsibility to promote God's reconciliation in the world:
From page 855 of The Book of Common Prayer:
Q: What is the mission of the Church?
A: The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Q: How does the Church pursue its mission?
A: The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
Q: Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A: The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all of its members.
Thus, I am asking you, as your rector, wherever you find yourself on the political spectrum, to do this one thing regardless of Tuesday's outcomes:
- Call one of your closest friends here in the parish, who makes different political choices than you, and talk with him/her privately and confidentially.
- Use I statements: "I think; I feel; I believe because...". Avoid "You" statements, which tend to distance others and put them on the defensive. Speak from your point of view: I!
- Use active listening: "I hear you saying X and Y because of Z. Am I hearing you right?"
- Take turns. Go back and forth.
- Consider opening and closing with a prayer. The Lord's Prayer is perfect: "Our Father..."
- I have NO DOUBT that you shall have the same positive experiences that I have had speaking with others over the last three years:
- You will finally hear, in detail, how the other side (whether you are a democrat, independent, or republican) "connects the dots" among their Christian commitments, critical and moral reasoning, and current events. Aren't you dying to know that? Do it!
- You will be able to ask, and to get answers, to some of the questions that you've been dying to ask. So ask -- of those whom you know you can trust.
- You will find, paradoxically, that these conversations will also deepen your relationship with the other parishioner, despite your differences. Thanks be to God!
This is the reconciling work we are called to do, regardless of the election results Tuesday.
So let's get to it!
In the end, Beloved, there is no Red State Jesus or Blue State Jesus. There is just Jesus.
In the end, there is no Democrat or Republican, black or white, native born or immigrant; there's just us, together, the Body of Christ.
In the end, there isn't even an us versus them. There is just us, we, We the People of the United States of America.
So let's get to the business of being We the People, We the Body of Christ, regardless of our differences.
I love you all, always.
"For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."