Welcome to the blog of Rachel G. Hackenberg, a United Church of Christ pastor serving in Lancaster, PA (gracechurchlancaster.org). Check out Rachel's books, Writing to God and Writing to God: Kids' Edition, at paracletepress.com. For workshop and other info, visit rachelhackenberg.com.
Today I pray for the grace of a violet to simply be; for the grace of a sparrow to faithfully glean; for the grace of an infant to wholly love.
Another prayer for grace, this one from my favorite artist/band Michael Franti & Spearhead: "I'm afraid sometimes to face the things that may block the sun from shining rays and fill my life with shades of gray; but still I long to find a way, so today I pray for grace." ("Pray for Grace" from the 2003 album, Everyone Deserves Music.)
I am frustrated and fed up with groups like Westboro Baptist Church that continue to call themselves "Church" or people like those in the Hutaree Militia who call themselves "Christians." For too long, theological conservativism has gone unquestioningly hand-in-hand with social & political conservativism in American Christianity, resulting in the disastrous usurping of church language (words like "Christian" and "salvation" and "conversion") by an extreme and increasingly malevolent political agenda.
I am embarrassed and appalled as a Christian to carry the same name as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Diane Gramley (of "Out in the Silence" fame, or is it infamy?), and the like. Hatred and violence and the politics of fear were never never part of the ministry of Jesus, yet often in the public arena when someone mentions "Christian," people think of these persons first and foremost -- before Mother Theresa, before Martin Luther King, Jr., before their local churches that contribute to food banks and organize clothing drives and serve great spaghetti dinners.
It causes me to wonder, sometimes, if there's another word besides "Christian" by which I might identify my faith and my religious tradition, because you all have corrupted the word and the identity so thoroughly. However, I refuse to give up the language of my faith, and I refuse to give up the language of my vocation. From now on, I will not call you "Church" and I will not identify you as "Christian" if you promote hatred. If you protest an anti-hate or diversity event, you are not the Body of Christ.
We may disagree on theology, on the meaning of incarnation, on political issues of abortion and gay marriage and health care -- these disagreements are to be expected within the Church, even though I grow tired of the arguments -- but if you issue death threats to politicians who support health care reform and if you condone (overtly or covertly) the murder of Dr. George Tiller, then you have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Period.
You have already taken words of faith like "Savior" and "salvation" -- important words that should be used to indicate Jesus' actions of healing and border-crossing and reconciliation -- and twisted them up into such contortions that no one (outside or inside of the church) thinks that "salvation" relates to anything but heaven & hell & damnation. Words like these have become codes that, when used in public, say nothing about your Jesus and everything about your politics. If I say "Jesus is my Savior" in the public sphere, people assume that I am pro-life and pro-traditional marriage (not to mention pro-NRA and pro-war and pro-death penalty); in fact, I am none of these....consequently, I do not say "Jesus is my Savior" in public anymore.
But I refuse to concede any further church language to you. I will continue to call myself Christian. I will continue to preach Jesus. And every time the opportunity arises, I will redefine in the public sphere what it means to be "Church" because Westboro Baptist is not a church and Dr. Dobson does not promote the Body of Christ. At every opportunity, I will draw very direct lines between those "Christians" who preach and/or condone hatred...and those "Christians" who enact that same hatred through violence (domestic terrorism). I'm not interested in the details, like whether or not you are personally stockpiling an arsenal of weapons or marching in the streets with a "God hates gays" sign; if you speak violently in the name of faith, I will always connect you to those who behave violently in the name of faith.
But I will not surrender my language of faith to your politics of fear.
It would have been enough, yes Lord!, it would have been enough for us to have the good news of God With Us in your lessons, in your life, in your death. But you determined that it was not enough...
...that although it was good for you to walk with us through fear and death, you knew that we could be freed of the fear of fear and even the fear of death, so that we could stop walking and start running the race set before us;
...that although it was good for you to touch us and heal us, you knew that if we were truly steeped in the foundation of something as impossible as resurrection, then we would be empowered to touch and heal others in our daily lives;
...that although it was good for you to feed us and welcome us all to the same table, you knew that if we would just lay down our skepticism and doubt then we could multiply bread and fish and juice to feed crowds by the thousands.
So you gave us the good news of resurrection, the assurance that nothing whatsoever can separate us from the love and life and light of God! You gave us this foundation -- a complete, holy, miraculous, mysterious, unbelievable gift that gives us the freedom
to live boldly, to live without fear, to live fully and joyfully in a responsive "Amen!" to your "Yes!" in Jesus Christ. So let all of God's people say, AMEN!
**from today's Easter sermon at Grace UCC, entitled "Amen!"
Jesus. Jesus! JESUS! How could you leave us? How could you let this happen? Being with you was the most natural thing in the world but now, now... Now I would rather curl up into a cocoon than face this day of uncertainty. Jesus. Jesus! I miss you. The bluebells ring silently in mourning. They miss you too. Don't you see: in the breath of a moment since your death the wars have escalated the poor have abandoned hope the women have lost courage to knock on the judge's door. No one stops anymore to care for a stranger beaten and tattered by the side of the road. No one knows how. We rejected and ridiculed you, but you chose to leave us. You left.