In January 2016, the Rev. Cynthia Meyer told her United Methodist Church congregation she felt “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is: “a woman who loves, and shares her life with, another woman.”
On Jan. 21, I’ll join thousands in D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. My first stop will be at a local congregation, one of several hosting a prayer service and warming station for marchers. I’m an anti-racist, feminist, Christian, and for me, faith will be part of the day.
I’ve been disappointed with Christian silence, and even active resistance, to social justice imperatives, but my commitments to justice stem from my faith, and that’s why I march.
If irony wasn’t dead, I’d say how ironic it was that in the midst of this season of Advent, in which we look to the nebulous future, a time-not-yet shaped by our ability to be patient and hopeful and tense and a bit sorrowful about what we cannot see but hope we shall soon see, our societal life is filled with those for whom there is no future.
This sight of poor refugee parents and a humbly born baby surrounded by dirty shepherds and visitors from other religions and races and cultures should jolt us. It’s meant to. The manger shows us a world far different than our own, one that we’re being summoned to create with unconditional love and inclusion.
1. A White Supremacist By Any Other Name
“… it quite literally took [Richard] Spencer and other members of the alt-right ending a meeting with Nazi salutes and cries of ‘Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!’ for supporters and outlets to understand that the alt-right is just the new face of white supremacy.”
2. The Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar
This gorgeous Advent calendar has us all .
3. How to Stay Safe Online: A Cybersecurity Guide for Political Activists
An essential 8-step guide.
If I’ve learned anything since my time in Rome, it’s that people — not just Catholics — are hungering to connect peace with justice. This is why those of us who traveled to Rome just before the election, accompanied by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Houma-Thibodaux, La., Bishop Shelton Fabre, are preparing for a regional WMPM meeting in Modesto, Calif., in February.
Dec. 4 was a beautiful reminder, in the long struggle for justice, that, no matter how long we wait, God hears our cry. And love and justice will win.
A few weeks ago, Chief Arvol Looking Horse issued an invitation to clergy and faith leaders to stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock. He said he was hoping maybe 100 would respond. But I joined thousands, in a procession of faith leaders, to gather around the sacred fire at the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.
I knew something special was happening here.
For many Christians who observe the liturgical season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, an Advent devotional is a beloved companion.
Such devotionals typically include a short Scripture reading and reflection on the birth of Jesus.
But most are “crap,” according to the Rev. Jason Chesnut of Baltimore.
For the last two thousand years, our salvation has come via that peaceful, sleeping baby, weary from being a tiny human. A revolution for a better world begins from the most ordinary of miracles, from small, gasping breaths after a good cry. This is where we will rise, those of us hopeless from the election results, from the margins, from the outside, from the ordinary, miraculous moments of our lives.
The intersection between present and future is a tense and frustrating space to live in. Yet, that space makes a demand on us. Faithful moral identity that is not wedded to moral social action misses the Gospel’s kingdom vision.
Perhaps the most important role of the prophet is rousing us from our stupor. When we get tired, when we are weary of resisting, when we are told over and over again that this is how things are going to be, the prophet’s call is clear. God has something better for us. Something liberating. Something just. Something transformative.
The documentary film The Uncondemned tells how a group of international lawyers and activists, all under 35 when they began, fought to get the first conviction of rape as a war crime—and how Rwandan women defied death threats to testify and win justice. theuncondemned.com
Welcoming the Light
In The Light of the World: Daily Meditations for Advent and Christmas, Phyllis Zagano, writer and scholar of Catholic spirituality and women’s leadership in the church, offers incisive reflections and prayers to help readers “become quieter, slower even, pointing to the Christ who is to come.” Twenty-Third Publications
The Shondes, a queer, feminist pop-punk band from Brooklyn, weave activist fervor with progressive Jewish prophetic imagination and spirituality: “Hope can anchor any strategy,” is a telling lyric. The melodious songs on their new album, Brighton, soar with violin and Louisa Rachel Solomon’s clear, strong voice. Exotic Fever Records
Home in a Strange Land
Words in Transit: Stories of Immigrants is a book of oral histories from nearly 30 immigrants and refugees who have settled in western New England. Edited by Ilan Stavans, with photographs by Beth Reynolds, it presents snapshots of the courage and gifts that flow to our country. New England Public Radio
Lighting these candles—porous and buoyant—
Flames draw our eyes to heavens dotted white
With celestial thought
To look back in time through the stars
Hundreds of light-years away
To glimpse God standing
On the shore of God’s self
With outrageous visions and promises
Of hope that strain our belief
What can we do with such promises?
With tradition that grounds us in hope
In stars in candles in souls set alight?
DID MARY KNOW, on that puzzling and fateful afternoon when the angel Gabriel visited her, that she was about to join a line of mothers in Israel who would be remembered and honored within a tradition dominated by men?
Did she think of her forebear and namesake, Miriam, co-deliverer of her people from Egyptian slavery? Did Deborah, prophet and judge, come to mind—or Jael, the housewife who drove a tent peg into the brain of an enemy general? Had anyone told this nonliterate young woman about Huldah, the prophet and scholar who identified Deuteronomy as sacred scripture? Surely Queen Esther, who saved her people from a Persian pogrom, was known to Mary from the annual festival of Purim.
More likely Mary would have remembered women in Israel who gave birth to important men, such as Samson and Samuel. The late pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth brought Isaac’s mother, Sarah, into view.
But her own premarital pregnancy may have reminded her more of Bathsheba, mother of Solomon. In this patriarchal culture, wives who could not conceive were disgraced and considered of little worth, but pregnancy before marriage could result in an honor killing. No wonder Mary fled to Elizabeth as the only person who might understand her unusual plight (Luke 1:39-45). Guided by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth enabled Mary to turn her fear into a song of praise adapted from Hannah’s prayer after her son Samuel was born (Luke 1:46-56; 1 Samuel 2:1-10). God lifts up the lowly and brings down the proud.
If she pondered her place in Israelite history, did Mary also think of more-recent heroes? If Hanukkah was celebrated in Nazareth each year, she would have known how the second temple in Jerusalem had been rededicated to Yahweh after its desecration by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV, 160 years earlier. Hanukkah acclaimed the successful Maccabean revolt and subsequent Judean independence; it also exalted Judith, whose name means “Jewish woman”; she saved Israel from destruction by beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes.
Why and how did Greg’s post resonate with so many people on the meme’s second time around the Internet? Why did it take so much darkness before something profoundly positive happened? I think I come back to two powerful resources available to us as a church, if we have the courage to embrace it.
But perhaps the reason why the darkness cannot understand or overcome the Light is because it will not and cannot imagine reducing itself or condescend to be like its enemy in order to overcome it. Scripture describes an adversary who wanted to be like God, but doesn’t seem to understand that God’s very nature is “gentle and humble and heart.” The nature of darkness is not a generous one. It doesn’t offer light or heat or allow other things to grow. It isolates.
For the longest time, I was convinced that Paul the evangelist totally whiffed on one of his most beautiful passages: the one where he emphasizes that love is what really matters, and then lists some of its defining traits. He starts out by saying that love is … patient.
He goes on to list other traits, such as kindness. He also says what it’s not: rude, selfish, snobbish, brooding, quick to give up on someone. And it’s all really good stuff, written with such grace. But I’ve always had a difficult time with that first word.
Patient. Love is patient.
If Donald Trump had been Pharaoh of Egypt, the Holy Family never would have escaped from Herod’s persecution. Jews would have been prohibited from entering the country. Christmas features the story of a family from the Middle East leaving a homeland in fear and seeking refuge is a foreign land, just as millions do today.
If you visit Egypt and its ancient Coptic Church, you’ll see images of the Holy Family everywhere: Joseph, Mary — always on a donkey — and the infant Jesus. They are moving, wandering. You’ll find pictures of them passing by the pyramids. Egyptian Christians treasure this story for theirs is the land that offered welcome and hospitality to the Son of God when he was a refugee.
For the first week of Advent, my wife Amy preached about hope. She pointed out that having hope doesn’t mean necessarily that we see a way out of suffering. It does, however, give us a reason to try to keep working through it. We have to believe there’s another side to it. Another possibility. The potential for a new reality.
And that reality will never, ever be realized by responding to violence with more violence. It may make us feel better in the moment. It may seem to offer short-term relief. But ultimately, it makes everyone that participates become a little bit of what they hate. And the cycle continues.
Which story will we choose to try to live into?