It’s about having a voice…
Would you vote for Jesus?
Jesus for President of the United States…
But first this:
“Evangelicals for Trump! (From the website by the same name.) “Evangelicals for Trump Are Ready To Help Re-Elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Join The Movement Today and Ensure Religious Freedoms Are Kept As A Top Priority. Protect Religious Freedom. Vote Trump 2020. Keep America Great. Stand With Trump. Paid for by DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT, INC. Evangelicals.DonaldJTrump.com
This reelection coalition that was recently introduced by the President at El Rey Jesus Church in Miami – got me thinking.
First, a disclaimer. I struggle with the idea of Evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants or any broadly identified institutions of faith being for (or against) any political candidate. First, I don’t think there is such a thing as everyone in a denomination or faith tradition of any size being for one candidate. So, the private and public position of institutions of faith being for or against a particular candidate inherently divides that community – or mutes those who might disagree with the position. And, this type of campaigning also divides us on religious/faith grounds from one another, diminishing (I think) the role of faith in our lives together. This co-opting of faith for institutional political gain does not appeal to me; it feels as though it cheapens something very sacred.
I do believe that my voice/our voice, rooted in faith, has an authority to speak about policy and candidates who might move those policies forward. As a person of faith, my authority for speaking out against or for certain legislation is incumbent upon me. Likewise for congregations that take a position on gun control, human trafficking, abhorrent immigration practices, poverty, exclusion of people who are Queer as full participants in church and society and more. We are supposed to speak out, take positions…I believe.
For me, the motives get more blurry when support for a candidate turns to proselytization, saying things like: “God called this person; God often calls imperfect people to implement God’s will. This candidate is divinely chosen by God.” That last part is probably true, but only as true as it is that God has chosen me for the highest secular office in this USA. (Jk)
God always uses us to move God’s will forward. And, by nature, humans are imperfect, if only because we are incomplete until reunited again in God’s Eternal Love. It’s just that it gets icky for me when unacceptable behavior that might be considered uncharitable, illegal or worse – gets lumped in to a benign categorization of the theological imperfection of human nature as an excuse. (Spoiler Alert: And if it get us what we want – it’s ok.)
So, it brings me back to my question. If God nominated Jesus to be President do you think folks would vote for Jesus? Do you think all these folks seeing a particular candidate as appointed by their Savior would vote for Jesus and all his teachings? Would they really work to turn Matthew 25 into a way of life for a nation and the world? Do you think folks who had them – would give up the second tunic, the second house, the second car? Would they lend money without interest? Would they allow everyone to sit at their table – as a equally loved by God? Would gated communities be “ungated”? Would they really vote for someone who would call them to practice and live into The Great Commandment, by someone who had with the ultimate authority to do so?
Would they really vote for Jesus as a way of moving beyond our own inherent imperfection, or is it all just a campaign line of an organized few that really doesn’t reflect their true faith authority at all, rather just a parsing of faith to the degree it produces a particular outcome? If so, that is truly very sad.
Would we really vote for Jesus. I don’t know… but it would be something, wouldn’t it?!
Can we really live with that?
Watching the Methodist Church go through recent plans to divide over welcoming queer people in the full work and worship of the church reminds a lot of us of our own struggle in the PCUSA. That is bad enough to remember but to remember the root cause of it all is worse. Much worse. According to enough people to split a church, queer people are an aberration and do not belong in their places of worship, unless willing to change to be, well, like them. In other words, “We reject you, because God rejects you.”
It doesn’t matter that a split is proposed to address “the issue” – it matters that we haven’t figured out how to accept others in ways that keep us together, modeling for one another and the world the inclusive love of God. Trust me, I know every argument used to rationalize actions of division; every way that scriptures are twisted to give credibility to those who reject others because they are LGBTQ+. And they are wrong. Whether they agree with that or not, I know it is true. And what they are doing is terribly harmful and dangerous: rejecting others in God’s name has a profound impact on people in enormous ways. The impact of such actions, themselves, should be enough to change hearts and minds.
This is about more than one denomination’s polity or structure, this is about our failure in bringing God’s love to all.
We try, but something stops us from going “too far” in welcoming. The PCUSA offered a minimal apology for those in the gay community “who might have been harmed by the church; that it was never the church’s intention to do so.” That’s hard to write and hard to read.
As institutions do, we and others prove again that without a dislocation of comfort – there is no courage. The PCUSA missed our chance for courage as a denomination to acknowledge the harms we have done to the LGBTQ+ Community; clearly state that we were wrong; and that we are determined to change, even in the face of opposition. We failed to lead.
It this was just a game of institutional chess, who care? However, the impact of religious institutions’ failures in the way our queer community is welcomed; how we accept our prophetic role in bringing that message to the world — that failure means queer kids die, believing they are rejected and worse, unloved by God.
Can we really live with that.?
It seems so… again.
Ray Bagnuolo, 01.07.20
I hope we know what we are doing…
There are some pretty ruthless, cruel and murderous people in the world. I don’t know why that is so, but it is. When they have power, the extent of their cruelty multiplies, exponentially. Yesterday, one of those people by all accounts was assassinated by the U.S. with drone missiles on the orders of our President and the military he leads. “Just war” and “just actions of war” have always left me morally conflicted. I don’t know the answers. I want the end of state-sponsored terrorism and all its unspeakable results; I want our troops and citizens and security to be protected with swift and carefully considered proactive and reactive responses. I want harm to innocent people never to be acceptable. And, I hope and pray that these actions by our President and the military are the right responses…even though, even though I feel the nauseous unease I’ve known before at the prospects of escalation and unintended consequences of similar actions. I hope we know what we are doing…and I don’t know what else to say.
Ray Bagnuolo, 01.03.20
There’s Always Trouble…
He knew, I think, that there was trouble ahead. He had to. He set his face, “steeled it” as one of the translations says, and headed into Jerusalem – whatever else he knew, he knew what he was called to do – and he did it.
It’s easy to look for easier softer ways of getting somewhere. Safer ways. More comfortable, less disruptive, predictable even popular ways.
Approval, acclaim applause. Did only he understand the cost of what he was trying to do? It turned out the accolades meant nothing, at least to him. If they did – he would have chosen a different way — or no way, just stayed home quiet, even if the stones cried out.
I write like no one is listening and I hope they aren’t sometimes. I really don’t want to piss anyone off; I don’t want to create controversy or be confrontational. I don’t want to judge other’s motives or actions — as much as I sometimes do want to say, “What the…”
I still think that tables need to be overturned, not literally (?) but in a way that makes it clear that what is being served up is not acceptable.
This is the way I am, and at this moment I am the sum of everything that has gone before in my life, hopefully moving in the spirit with enough awareness to tone down the frustration — but not to zero.
There is no zero. There’s always trouble. Always frustration. It’s why we are here, I think.
“Things are different. The world is more complex. This is not First Century Palestine,” they say
Still, we read the ancient texts, say the prayers, repeat the traditions, embrace the sacraments (from 2 to 7, depending) — and we keep it far enough in the past for our institutions not to miss opportunities for setting the tables nicely, if exclusively.
That’s why we are here. You, me, us. The non-institutional components that see some of the tables differently.
Good we’re here. Happy New Year.
Thanks for not listening, or at least not getting too ticked off at me.
But, if you must…may it be so.
Ray Bagnuolo, 01.01.20
A world apart, I guess…
As if no one is reading…How many folks spoke about the shooting in the Texas church this weekend or the stabbing and spate of anti-Semitic attacks headlining the news? How many of us prayed for those caught up in the violence…
I hope many of us, for our denomination’s voice continues to be quiet, compartmentalized, silent.
I went to the pcusa.org website again this morning, hoping that maybe this church had the awareness and courage to step into the call for healing, especially since other communities of faith were impacted.
On our website, i did find a new heading (12/30/19) for a Texas Church – “Texas church takes a different approach to worship” promoting the Co-Moderators Book Study: “Neighborhood Church: Transforming Your Congregation into a Powerhouse for Mission.”
Less than 200 miles away from the Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas (the church in the focus of the video/book discussion )– the congregation reeling from a shooting that killed people inside worship on Sunday was in shock and mourning. Austin, Tx to White Settlement: 197 miles apart; might as well be a world apart.
It’s not that our voice is “silent” in the somber nature of these moments – which is not good in itself; but our voice chooses to not even recognize in a public way the tragedies and sufferings of our extended family in worship, praising God in different ways, perhaps, but still praising the same God.
Or maybe that’s where I have it wrong….maybe we don’t see others, some others, as family enough to speak out. I don’t know… I’m hoping someone is listening; still I often write as though no one is.
As if no one is reading…
Keeping TAMFS alive has always been about making sure its voice was always there and real. A funny thing about the voices in our world, they often don’t sound real. I think that’s mostly because we work hard to keep our audience in mind, so we craft things in ways that often make limited sense.
- If you are Donald J. Trump, your craft things to piss people off, that is the people who your base have come to believe they are at odds with.
- If you are a mainline denomination, like the one I left as a gay man or even the one which ordained me, you craft things nationally to keep “the middle” in mind. That way, you don’t piss anyone off enough that they might want to leave.
- (Sorry if this is sounding a little pissy.)
And the voice in many of these types of scenarios has no relevant meaning and whatever compassion might trickle in – is more of a literary device than an example of fortitude.
All that to say, my idea here is to write and vblog as though no one is reading. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this will be totally unfiltered going into 2020 (I mean, I think my mom might read this once on a while). Nor do I want to make this another tribal gathering place for partisan barbs that challenge the specific art form “45” has made so effective. I just want to share my voice without too much thought and hopefully hear yours. And since no one is reading… it may just be me for a while, listening to myself. That’s fine.
So I will end and start from here. I truly believe that faith communities have a God-given critical place in the unfolding of it all, in this eschatological continuum we share. That conviction revolves around the center of my heart and will be at the core of all I say, without being concerned about the audience that is not listening.
Should be real.
Ray Bagnuolo 12.28.19