On the UMC and another vote against us…


Pastor Notes, Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ
February 26, 2019

Dear Friends,

It’s called the “Thucydides Trap.” Thucydides was an Athenian historian, who wrote the “History of the Peloponnesian War” in the 5th Century B.C.E., recording events of the war between Sparta and Athens. The term “Thucydides Trap” was coined by Graham T. Allison, an American political scientist and Harvard professor. Basically, the term for this non-historian (me) refers to the the dangerous tensions caused by a rising power in the face of an established power.  It is what is believed to have made the war between Athens and Sparta inevitable. Athens was getting too strong and greedy; Sparta needed to attack.

In modern day foreign affairs circles this “trap” can also be sprung when increased bellicose rhetoric, international bullying or threat of the use of enormous power – reaches such a pitch that others respond, even if it is “all just talk.” The threat of great threats can be as dangerous as the real thing. The “trap”, so to speak, is that one never knows when the threat or “managed aggression” will backfire into an international conflict.

The times of the 4th Century B.C.E. through today continue to tell the story of humanity seeking a better life; a more just world. Against the backdrop of the earlier times, we see the emergence of Jesus, the event of Jesus Christ into the midst of it all, as if parachuting from sanity into chaos, with the hope of turning it around. And, the secret power that would make the difference wasn’t bellicose threats — but the language of the heart; the language of love and justice.

If we accept the premise that the increased perception of a threat can produce a violent response just to eliminate the threat – is the converse true? Does an increase in the language and practice of love produce an even greater response of compassion, forbearance, love?

Yes, but centuries of greed and power grabs can make it difficult to get a foothold. That doesn’t mean we don’t continue to climb the mountain – in fact, it means we do continue. Today, the United Methodist Church voted away from love, in my opinion. They voted against the threat of love that includes our LGBTQIA+ (Queer) family. When a mainline Protestant denomination can discriminate against others, we see why the world has such a hard time with our faith communities being taken seriously as leaders in the call to justice and love. We see the problem for what it is…fear. And pride. In this case pride that makes it impossible for an institution to acknowledge the error of its ways and begin the process of reconciliation.

All the more reason we continue in the pursuit of love and justice.

To all our friends in the UMC… our arms and prayers around you.

Remember those who look forward to hearing from you…