Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

I know that many of you were terribly upset at the last election when your candidate didn't win.  That's just the way it works sometimes.  We surrender the past and plan for the future, like sane people do.  Many of you have overreacted, though, and continue to have moments of questionable emotional equilibrium in the pulpit, at coffee hour, and during Bible study.

Last week, I had to listen to a sermon that the preacher, both a priest and an academic, laced with sneering references to contemporary American politics, apparently to signal to those of us gathered that we have the correct view of the issues.  It was done in a way that assumed that no other legitimate world view could exist.

I appreciate that's what the insecure must do, even from a cathedral's pulpit, and I have become used to it over the past 3+ decades but, even when I agree with the ideology, I still find it a snotty use of preaching.

At any rate, may I make a strong suggestion based on what I've overheard many of you say in less guarded moments?

Tone down the rhetoric, will you?

We live in a time when many people think clergy are useless remnants of the past, and there is something to that regard, but we still have those who think our words carry a deeper resonance because of our supposed "closeness" to God and the nature of our service to others.  Among that group, there are some who are not stable.  There is no other way to put it and there isn't one of you who doesn't know of what I speak.

These folks can become easily aroused to violence if they think it has some sort of ratification from a cable news host, a crackpot political candidate, various social media bomb-throwers, and clergy.

Please do not think that either a conservative or a liberal is above political hostility.  I've spent too much of my life between the parties not to notice that, along with a sense of ideological entitlement, there comes a tendency to view those who disagree as a contemptible "other".  That perspective is not reflective of Gospel teaching and, I think, merely makes the speaker feel warm within their self-identified righteousness.

If encouraged, the mad will hurt people.  They will hurt those whom they love and those whom they hate.  They will hurt family, and they will hurt strangers.  They will hurt themselves.  They will create violence that disrupts the Body of Christ in ways too horrid and long-lasting to easily contemplate.

As those who practice a manner of life that transcends cultural boundaries and is far older than any contemporary ideological definition, perhaps we should examine our behavior in this regard.  I appreciate that we all think that we're on the side of the angels, but one should wonder if the voice we hear that always agrees with us is God's, or belongs to another, and very deceptive, source.