Thursday, November 10, 2016

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and this Election

I am angry, upset and disappointed.  But wait until you read what has upset me.  Trump?  Of course.  People everywhere of conscience are upset.  But what really galls me is the feeling of powerlessness.  I voted.  I got a sticker that says, “I voted today.”  I wrote on it these words.  “And look what it got me.”  But this is what has got me so upset.  My faith community.  By which I mean the Episcopal Church.

In a clergy meeting many months ago, I expressed myself in the presence of the clergy and Bishop of Maine.  My position was that this election had more at stake than elections of the recent past.  My position was that the church needed to name the issues, the characters, and call the spade a spade.  My position was that the church should openly oppose Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.  I was fully aware of the church’s official position.  “Talk about issues but not about candidates.”  To fail this test is to jeopardize our tax exempt status as a church.

You know what?  I would have gladly sacrificed our precious and mostly unjustifiable tax exempt status if it meant having more power over what happened on Tuesday.  Imagine Dietrich Bonhoeffer being told to hush about Hitler because his church might lose its tax exempt status.  His martyrdom makes us look like toothless wonders.  The church should be willing to endure the fiscal martyrdom of the loss of our tax exempt status if the trade off is the deal with the devil that silences us in a critical time.

Let us honor all those brave leaders who have spoken out on the election from within the agreed parameters.  Let us appreciate that most clergy are under too many ecclesiastical restraints to take a controversial stand.  Congregations generally cannot tolerate clergy who are partisan, outspoken, passionate and who name evil as evil.  My former parishioners in Baltimore know what a mess I might have caused if I had still been their rector during this season of crisis.  In the Episcopal Church, we are far too reluctant to address human sin directly, to name it and to oppose it with word and deed, especially when it costs us.

So our little cozy relationship with federal tax law has led to us muting our voices as a critical time.  And as my cute little sticker says, “look what it got us.”

I no longer have a pulpit so here is where I blow off on this one.  Our Episcopal church has let us down.  We need members, and ordained leaders to put their stuff on the line for the cause when it is this important.  To fail to name Trump as a bigot, a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe, and an islamophobe, is a sin for which we have to repent.  And it is a sin that has consequences.  Could we have swung the election?  Probably not.  But the effort would have been noble and righteous.  We have a lot to answer for.  And that is why I am angry, upset and disappointed.

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