Kingdomworks

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I’ll have more to say about this soon, when I’m ready. In fact, I’ll probably just edit this post and add what I have to say, but for now I want simply to post these pictures. I talk often about the life changing summer of 1995 when I did Kingdomworks (now known as Mission Year) and lived with 8 other college students in an inner-city Philly church building where we ran a day camp, sunday school, and youth group for neighborhood kids, hoping to empower that congregation to do ministry that it couldn’t do otherwise. When I run through my “script” about Kingdomworks, I always say that it was “during that summer that I was able to build a bridge between my own personal suffering and the suffering that’s out there, in the world.” I usually add that it was only much later that I learned that “bridge” could be traveled in both directions, but I digress.

Anyway, for reasons I’ll hopefully explain when I add to this post, that summer- and those people I shared it with- have again been on my mind over the past 24 hours. I suppose I have a story to tell, but for right now, I’ll let the pictures say what words can’t.

Advent Hope for All the Poor and Powerless, Especially You and I

I want to start this post with one of the songs that started my morning, All the Poor and Powerless by All Sons and Daughters, which we sang as Mill City Church this morning, ending with Go Tell It On The Mountain as we marked the beginning of Advent. Below is All Sons and Daughters’ version of the song, along with the lyrics. Hit play and give it a listen as you read what I have to say below.

All the poor and powerless
And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
Hallelujah
And we will cry out
Hallelujah

And all the hearts that are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
Hallelujah
And we will cry out
Hallelujah
[x2]

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God
[x5]

We will sing out
Hallelujah
And we will cry out
Hallelujah
We will sing out
Hallelujah

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God

This song marked the culmination of worship this morning at Sheridan Elementary School in NE Minneapolis, as Mill City Church gathered to begin the season of Advent. We lit the first of our Advent candles, symbolizing hope, and Pastor Michael Binder spoke about just that- hope. There’s a lot to unpack in what he had to say, but he started by recounting what he had heard in his various conversations throughout the week, including during Thanksgiving, sometimes while talking with folks he fundamentally disagrees with politically. No doubt this happened for many of us over the past week. He said that as he spoke to his friends and loved ones he asked them to say what they hoped for in the wake of the election. Some hoped for a better economy and more and better jobs. Some hoped for better schools and more peace in the world and so on, and so on. He reminded us of the hopes of many of the people alive when Jesus was born. Some were hoping for a Messiah, and so they got one, but he did not come as they expected and certainly didn’t do and live as they thought he would. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries hoped for a political messiah that would overthrow Rome and “make Israel great again.” They wanted a warrior king that would cast off Roman oppression and once again make Israel a power among the nations. Some simply hoped for better lives for themselves and especially their children. Some wanted to be healed, and many, in fact, were.

Perhaps many of us can relate today. Michael spoke of the now accepted idea that many generations of USAmericans grew up believing that their children would have it just a little better than they did, but this is no longer the case. Some of you think Trump will change that. You’ll likely be disappointed, but I digress. Meanwhile, there are whole generations of would-be Jesus followers who think the whole point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to give us a ticket to a blissful life in heaven once we die. Remember that this sermon, the first in Advent, was about hope. Michael reminded us that what we hope for in the future shapes our actions today. If we hope for inexorable progress with just a little more justice perhaps, along with a slightly better standard of living for each successive generation, than events like the Great Recession and the apparent election of Trump can prove devastating because we’ve given them the power to rob us of our hope. If we think there will be less love and justice, not to mention less affluence for “the 99%” under a Trump administration, than we may have been devastated over the past couple of weeks. Similarly, if all we hope for from Jesus is an escape plan, some “fire insurance” for when we die, than we may not care much what happens in the here and now to our neighbors around the world, let alone what happens to the world itself in the meantime. Michael challenged us by reminding us that what Jesus had to say to his disciples then, and continues to say to us now, is that all those hopes are far too small.

 Michael said that some of Jesus’ followers hoped he would bless and restore Israel, failing to realize that Jesus came to bless and restore everyone. Jesus was not the political revolutionary some of his followers hoped for. He was something much bigger, and far more dangerous. By launching his ministry of reconciliation and inviting his followers to join him in it, Jesus set in motion the restoration of the entire world, even the very earth, which itself yearns for its own redemption and restoration. Michael referenced Romans 8:21-23, which tells us that:

“…creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son(-and daughter-)ship, the redemption of our bodies.”

Jesus didn’t come, live, die, and be resurrected to make Israel great again. He certainly didn’t do so to make USAmerica great again. Neither did he do so merely to give us some heavenly hope while the world goes to hell in a hand-basket in the meantime. Look again at the lyrics to the song above. It’s for “all the poor and powerless” and “all the lost and lonely,” for all the “thieves,” like the one who died next to Jesus, who confess that “he is God.” The “he,” of course, is Jesus.

Jesus is God.

This isn’t some Sunday school slogan, some bumper sticker platitude. It’s a declaration of an inimitable truth. The baby born in the manger as a first century Palestinian commoner, who would soon be forced to flee as a refugee to another land because of a genocide committed to get rid of him, this same Jesus would grow up and would one day read from Isaiah’s scroll the famous passage about “the Spirit of the Lord” being upon him because he was anointed “to proclaim good news to the poor,” “freedom for…prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Astoundingly, he would then proclaim that this scripture was fulfilled in the hearing of those he read it to. 

The story of Jesus, the good news both of and about him, that is, the good news he himself proclaimed and that which has been proclaimed about him for over 2,000 years since he walked the earth among us, is good precisely because it is the news that God himself is among us.

God-is-with-us.

The very one by whom we and all things were made, the one in whom all things still hold together, has chosen not to end us all, all over again, because we can’t seem to stop hurting one another and destroying the good world God made for us. He didn’t come as a conquering king to overthrow us. He doesn’t look at outward appearances, choosing the best and brightest and strongest among us to set up a meritocracy. Haven’t we had enough of meritocracy on our own? No, Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Recognizing that because of the many ways we fall short of the best of what we were made for, the many ways we sin and shame and hurt and oppress ourselves and one another, for all these reasons we could never bring ourselves to face our creator as our full and present and unashamed selves. For all these reasons we are seldom able to even face ourselves, to say nothing of God. For all these reasons, then, Jesus came to rescue us.

Sin is separation, and separation from the one in whom all things hold together is death. So Jesus not only came in the most vulnerable way possible, but while we were yet sinners, while we were separated from God and one another, Jesus not only came but endured the death that our separation from him brings about, thereby robbing it of its power, thereby setting us free. Because Jesus not only came, and not only died, but was also resurrected, we are now free to live into the fullness of who God made us to be. We can be reconciled with God and so reconciled with one another and with God’s good world. Because of this, we can hope for a future in which our own groaning and that of creation itself will come to an end because all has been restored, redeemed, and reconciled.

Jesus didn’t come to save some people. He didn’t come just to save Jews, or Christians, or men, or straight people, or white people. “It is God’s will that none should perish,” scripture declares, and so I declare that he is God.  “Shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains. Go on and tell it to the masses, that he is God.”

 

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As you can see from the mess in the picture above, I’ve been working with Kirsten to get our Christmas decorations out and then to get all the boxes put back away. As I did so, I found some things in some memorabilia boxes I consolidated. I found this, for example:

 

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These are note cards I made years and years ago, as a teenager if not before, of verses I wanted to memorize so that God’s word was not only written implicitly on my heart but also explicitly on my mind. I wanted to remember that a good God, because of Jesus, remembers me not according to my rebellious ways, but according to his love. I wanted to know that trials bring perseverance, and perseverance matures my faith. I wanted to know that I could see hardship as God’s discipline of me, and that by disciplining me God was teaching me, treating me as a son. I wanted to know that I could run this race, this life of faith, with perseverance in no small part because I’m surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses both living and long ago gone to be with Jesus. I also found these:

 

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These were given to me by my Kingdomworks team, which if you read this blog much you’ve heard me talk about before. These are words of encouragement from fellow college students that I spent two months in the hot summer of 1995 living and serving with in an inner-city Philly congregation. It was a tumultuous, life changing summer, and I’ve long remembered and recorded my teammate Holly’s words, part of which you can see above in the second note up from the bottom on the right, but I thought I had lost the rest of them. It was life-giving to find them, to hear how others saw me, to know that maybe they saw a little of Jesus in me as we hung out with and desperately tried to love kids like Nate, Braheem, and Willie:

 

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Then I found this:

 

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This was a note that Rod White, Circle of Hope‘s first pastor, sent Kirsten and I after we showed up for one of their first public meetings in their old space in the upstairs of a storefront in Center City Philadelphia:

 

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Again, if you follow this blog, you know well “Why I Keep Talking About Circle of Hope.” It was with no small measure of wistful sentimentality that I discovered again Rod’s note, which mentioned that Bart Campolo is the one who had recommended Circle of Hope to Kirsten and I as we started our life together in Philly. Bart, of course, was the founder of Kingdomworks and someone I still consider a friend, and his little nudge in Circle of Hope’s direction changed the course of our lives, just as my life had been changed by doing Kingdomworks the summer before.

I mention all this because there is a through-line in all these experiences. From the earliest time that I learned to depend on God in the absence of dependable parents, in part through memorizing scripture, to that momentous summer in Philadelphia when my heart broke again and again and again over the suffering of some of God’s people there- usually people who looked a lot different than I do- to our joyful discovery that the church is a people, not a place, as we were immersed in real Christian community for the first time among Circle of Hope in Philly, through it all I met Jesus over and over again among the poor and powerless, the lost and lonely. My heart broke time and again and breaks still today, but I meet Jesus in that broken place inside of me too, and there too I know that he is God.

I pray this Advent that you will know it too. Jesus is coming. God-with-us will soon be here. Won’t you wait for him with me?

It’s Not So Shocking that Rome Would Do Roman Things. It’s Shocking that Christians Would.

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We’re two days out from Thanksgiving, and I’m filled with dread. It sits there, like a knot in the pit of my stomach. I can only avoid dealing with it for so long. The holidays can always be a stressful time, but they feel even more so this year, after this exceedingly contentious election season. I’ve long known that some of my in-laws, for example, do not share the political and sadly even the faith related views that Kirsten and I do, but this year it feels different. Of course it’s always work to really love anyone, especially those you have fundamental disagreements with, but again that’s more clear than ever now.
As I’ve told Kirsten of late, I feel truly “stuck.” I just can’t get over the fact that anyone who claims to be trying to follow Jesus could think they were doing so as they voted for Trump, and yet I know several such people. I get that someone could make the same assertion about voting for Hillary as I did. Yet I am ready with my many defenses, the arguments I’ve already made on this blog of late. I’m armed with facts about the declining abortion rate and the “smoke, but no fire” logic of the Clinton scandal(s) and false equivalence between them and Trump’s many scandals. I could talk about the bona fide good the Clinton Foundation has done despite the political influence its contributors gained by “paying” in order to “play,” versus the utter lack of good the alleged Trump “foundation” ever did for anyone anywhere and the many actual scandals attached to it. I could talk about how different this election would feel, how I would feel, if we were all sitting here in the wake of a McCain or Romney or, God help us, even a Bush win. I could talk about the peculiar evil that Trump represents, how he distinguishes himself in the worst possible way with his blatant racism and misogyny, with his unhinged rhetoric and unpredictability. I could talk about how he’s known by the company he seems to keep, by the coalition of supporters he’s gathered. I could point to his Cabinet appointments so far and say you need look no further than that to know how frightening his rise to power is.
I could talk too about how disturbing his “election” is with an ever-growing popular vote deficit via a system that was in fact “rigged,” but for Trump, not against him, due to widespread voter suppression by Republicans generally and especially in the wake of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by an “activist” Supreme Court. It’s disturbing not only for those reasons, but especially since it comes on the heels of the Obama presidency. I was an enthusiastic Obama supporter in ’08 and a reluctant one in ’12. His legacy, such as it is, is in grave peril now, but I echo the many voices now saying that however one voted even in this election, I suspect the day will soon come when we all miss him.
It’s disturbing to know that after the historic tenure of the nation’s first Black president, the nation follows it up not by electing its first female president, but by turning instead to a man who traffics in racial tropes and blatant misogyny. How ironic, too, that a substantial minority of voters (again, he lost the popular vote by a wide margin) would choose a leader, in spite of all the above, in the hope that he would resuscitate their waning economic fortunes while this very same leader made his own fortune by oppressing and denying payment to people just like them. Trump’s habit of denying payment to vendors of his businesses for suspect reasons is well-known, or should have been. Think too about the optics of a man elected to save “working class folk” giving his first post-election television interview with he and his children literally seated on a matching set of gold thrones.
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He’s not even pretending to be anything other than an avaricious, narcissistic strongman, and enough people are so desperate to be just like him that they don’t seem to care. And some of those people say they’re following Jesus. It makes me sick….and angry.
Thus, it is with much dread that I face Thanksgiving.
Speaking of them, let’s go ahead and talk about my feelings. I wrote in my last post of my gratitude for Mill City Church’s service of lament after the election. It was a welcome, needed exercise, and as I wrote I even experienced some (emotional) healing in the midst of it of wounds that had little to do with the election. Knowing that the next Sunday, this past one, we as Mill City Church would follow-up our work of lamenting with a service of thanksgiving, I wrote that I would indeed approach this past Sunday with a thankful heart. I can tell you that I tried, but as Sunday morning approached, I “just wasn’t feeling it,” for all the reasons I’ve just described. I find it difficult not to repeatedly cycle back in to shock and disbelief. And again, I’m not so angry that the U.S. “elected” Trump. As I said in my last post, it’s not so shocking that “Rome” would do “Roman” things. It’s shocking that “Christians” would do “Roman” things.
Nonetheless, I showed up on Sunday, and did my best to participate.
And I’m so very glad that I did.
I would have come just for the visuals. What I saw on Sunday in the auditorium of the elementary school that my church remains committed to loving and serving is that the laments we had written down last week had been nailed to the cross, there to die along with Jesus, begging the question then if also along with Jesus something is to be resurrected in their place.
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I’d like to think that indeed something was resurrected along with Jesus, as just as we had done last week with the lament psalms, this week we were invited to follow a simplified pattern of the thanksgiving psalms, which is:

todah

So we corporately worked through each part of the traditional psalm of Thanksgiving, punctuating each part with worship through song, as we had done with the Lament psalms the week before. As we did so, we considered the turn we were making, what the move from lament to todah represented:
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Thus, we were led to consider that moving from lament to todah is a move from complaints to thanksgiving, from disorientation to reorientation, and from longing to hope. It’s notable that moving from lament to todah is first a move from disorientation to reorientation. As I’ve said, I’ve felt quite “stuck” of late. Part of that feeling is an acknowledgment that I’ve been feeling disoriented. The world I woke up in on the morning after the election did not appear to be the same world I fell asleep in the night before. Maybe this should not have been the case. Certainly, there was evidence of just how ungodly the world can be leading up to election night, and of course by “world” I don’t mean God’s good created order but rather the “world” inasmuch as the term can refer to the systems of oppression and domination that are set up in opposition to God’s kingdom.
Trump’s rallies were marked not only by divisive, hateful speech, but by the actions that usually follow from such speech. Moreover, even under the last 7+ years of the Obama presidency many civilians were killed by U.S. drones around the world and many in the world remained mired in abject poverty. So it is debatable whether or not I should have felt so newly disoriented after the election. Nonetheless, I did, and this is why I am so grateful that we were led to make the move, together, from lament to todah. Giving thanks, together, for the goodness of God’s kingdom in all the places where it is evident in the world despite the darkness constantly pushing against it forces us to remember that such goodness, such light, exists! In doing so, we are reoriented. We are reminded of who and whose we are. I felt “stuck” in part because I had lost my way. I literally could not see a path forward. Moving from lament to todah and so moving from disorientation to reorientation literally helps me find my way again. It helps me see how to get un-stuck and get moving along the path again, along the path of discipleship. Giving thanks reminds me of who Jesus is, and that it is Jesus that I am following, not any U.S. leader.
Moving then from lament to todah and so from disorientation to reorientation is also a move from longing to hope. Pastor Steph, leading us this past Sunday as she had the Sunday before, said something like “longing is what hope looks like on a bad day,” though I might not be remembering this exactly right. If, however, longing is what hope looks like on a bad day, I would argue then that hope is longing spurred to prophetic action. It seems to me that even the most sincere longing, the most sincere yearning for that which might seem so far away, does not require any movement on one’s part. You can wallow in your longing. You can’t wallow in hope, however. You can be immersed in hope; you can be sustained by it, but at some point hope requires you to move. Reorientation helps you see the path. Hope helps you put one foot in front of the other and get moving down it. This was especially important for me this week, given as I’ve said above how “stuck” I’ve felt. My longing for the love and justice of God’s kingdom had been stifled by how it seems so far away. It seems so clearly to be “not yet” fully realized.
When, as the church, we are nonetheless led to move from lament to todah, from disorientation to reorientation and so from longing to hope, I find that suddenly I have hope, when before there had been none. I’m reminded that my feelings are a great clue to what’s going on inside me; they are not a reliable guide, however, to external reality, and are certainly not a necessarily reliable guide to any sort of transcendent or eternal reality. I “wasn’t feelin’ it” when I walked in to the worship service on Sunday. In many ways I’m still not. But the truth is I don’t need to “feel” it in order for it to be true. The old adage that you can act yourself into a new way of feeling much more quickly than you can feel yourself into a new way of acting remains as apt as ever.
I’m reminded of the Pierce Pettis song, “You Move Me.” I’m a big fan of his; so it pains me that some may know this song because Susan Ashton and, I think later, Garth Brooks (God help me) sang it. Nonetheless, it comes to mind. Give it a listen.

Here are the lyrics:
Here’s how life seems to me
Life is like therapy
Real expensive with
No guarantees
And as I lay on the couch
With my heart hangin’ out
I was frozen in fear
Like a rock in the groundFirst Chorus
Oh, you move me
You give me courage I didn’t know I had
You move me
I can’t go with you and stay where I am
So you move meHere’s how love was to me
I could look and not see
Going through the emotions
Not knowing what they mean
And it scared me so much
That I just wouldn’t budge
I might have stayed there forever
If not for your touchSecond Chorus
Oh, you moved me
Out of myself and into the fire
You move me
Burning with love and hope and desire
And you move me

See how you move me

You go whistling in the dark
Making light of it, making light of it
I follow with my heart
Laughing all the way

Third Chorus
You move we
You got me dancin’ and you make me sing
You move we
Now I’m taking delight in every little thing
‘Cause you moved me

Oh-oh-oh you move me…

Of course I like especially the line “I can’t go with you and stay where I’m at.” In other words, I can’t follow Jesus and stay stuck. I can’t remain mired in my longing. If I am to follow Jesus, I must make the turn from longing to hope. I must act, prophetically living as if God’s kingdom is “already” upon us, though it seems so obviously to be “not yet” fully realized. Though I wasn’t “feeling it” Sunday morning, I’m part of the church that gathered in that auditorium, and as the church, we gave thanks for God’s goodness. I was buoyed by my brothers and sisters as together we did what I alone could not. This is among the many reasons why it is so important that we continue working to be the church. The specter of a Trump presidency is rightly frightening, but when the Church acts hopefully out of the goodness of God’s kingdom already come, we make light of the darkness in all the ways that phrase connotes. This is, after all, not “Trump’s America” any more than it was “Obama’s America.” All nations are subject to God’s sovereignty. There may be many days ahead in which we are called to act prophetically, to do together what none of us could do alone. Inasmuch as we do so, I will be thankful indeed.
Anticipating that faithful, prophetic action of the church of which I am a part, it was indeed with a thankful heart that I responded to the invitation on Sunday to join my brothers and sisters in recording what we were thankful for on canvas. I think that gratitude deserves the last word:
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Let’s Not Be Afraid of Refugees Because There Might Be Terrorists Among Them. Let’s Welcome Strangers Because There Might Be Angels Among Them.

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I’m so very grateful for Mill City Church today, for a variety of reasons. When the pastors charted out the current sermon series we’ve been working through, Going Public, they decided to end it this week and next with a service of Lament today, the first Sunday after the election, and a service of Thanksgiving next week (which just happens to the Sunday before Thanksgiving). As Pastor Stephanie described it on Instagram when she posted the photo above:

This has been a heavy week to be a human in America. It’s also a heavy week to be a leader and to figure out how we move forward and make changes. Many of the problems many face in our country I know I’ve contributed to. Every story I hear this week has been breaking my heart. For thousands of years, the followers of Yahweh have followed an ancient tradition in times like these… it’s called Lament-Todah. Lament is best translated as complaint and todah can be best translated as thanksgiving. So for the next two weeks at @millcitychurchmpls I am going to lead our church through Lament this weekend and Todah next weekend as we respond to the division, confusion and pain erupting in our country over the last few months. The Kingdom of God is our aim, but we must not neglect the need to stop and engage the pain and suffering and bring it to a God who loves us and who knows the deepest depths of human suffering. Jesus chose to know this first hand. Join us for worship at Sheridan School at 10am. #kingdomcome

Obviously, this was planned long before the election results were known, but long after the rhetoric in this election season had devolved in a way that few of us had ever seen. I was so very grateful when I found out that this was the plan, as my heart has been so very heavy of late, but especially since Tuesday. It should come as no surprise that I did not vote for Trump. His hateful rhetoric and actions made this a bit of a no-brainer, for me at least. Look, I know well-meaning Christians disagree about the proper role and size of government. Well-meaning Christians disagree about economic policy and even economic systems. Well-meaning Christians even disagree about political systems, as some of us suspect that something like democratic socialism might work a little better, and better serve the needs of all, than what we in the U.S. have now. Well-meaning Christians disagree about many things in the sphere of secular politics.

What we should not disagree about, though, is that the primary, fundamental responsibility in our public lives is to love and serve our neighbor, whether we find them on our street or in Syria, in our neighborhood mosque or desperately trying to cross the U.S.’ southern border. We ought not disagree that there are two kinds of people in the world, according to Jesus, and they’re not conservatives and liberals, not Republicans and Democrats, not globalists and nationalists. Rather, the two types of people in the world, according to Jesus, are our neighbors, whom we are to love, and our enemies, whom we are to love. These are Jesus’ actual words in Mark 12:31 and Mark 5:43-48. Sure, we can disagree about how to do this, but never that we should. We are not called to protect ourselves. We are not called to store up treasures for ourselves here on earth whether within our home or within our “country,” and then shut out, exclude, and marginalize anyone we think might possibly be a thief who could break in and steal our stuff. In fact, quite the opposite is true. So what has been most painful about this election season is the overwhelming number of self-identified “Christians” who seem to have forgotten this. It’s jarring to hear large crowds of mostly European descendants chant “build a wall” around land they have no right to control because their ancestors stole it from one people group and committed genocide against them while kidnapping another whole people group from another continent and enslaving them in their ill-gotten country. For those in such crowds who claim to be “Christian,” though, it’s especially jarring, for this runs so very counter to the clear thrust of the gospel. There are many, many verses in Scripture that tell us to love our neighbor and specifically to welcome strangers. Here’s one such passage from Hebrews 13:

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.[a]

It’s almost as if someone in the Trump campaign leaked his platform to the writer of Hebrews!

Trump says we should either stop all Muslim immigration or engage in (even more) “extreme vetting” out of fear that there might be terrorists among the strangers. Scripture tells us to welcome strangers, because there might be angels among them.

For profit prison company stocks soared after Trump’s election because he “has called for increased deportation of undocumented immigrants. Implementing that plan would heighten prison demand by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).” But that’s not all, his call for a national “stop and frisk” policy would likely increase the disproportionate arrest and mass incarceration of people of color (if they survived increased interaction with law enforcement at all). Meanwhile, Scripture tells us to “remember those who are in prison” as if we were there with them.

Trump has said he wants to “bring back water-boarding,” and even worse! Scripture tells us to remember those who are being tortured as if we were.

I can’t help but think that somehow all of this was lost on all those “Christians” who voted for Trump. As Brian Zahnd said in the wake of the election:

It will, indeed. Don’t get me wrong, please. I can imagine a scenario in which I’m sitting here writing a post calling President-Elect Clinton to task for her lack of openness and accountability and for her lack of being consistently pro-life (to her credit, she wants to increase the social safety net and provide healthcare for all, factors which are known to reduce abortion; on the downside, she’s for war, and, to the best of my knowledge, has not called for a repeal of the death penalty). That said, for too long Christians have been more interested in their Christianity than in actually following Jesus. For too long white “Christians” in the U.S. have been more interested in a very comfortable civil religion that has much more to do with ‘Merica, Mom, and apple pie than with the good news of the gospel. As Rod White of Circle of Hope recently said, “we (would be Jesus-followers) need (to be) evangelized!

I see this tendency to settle for a “Christian” (civil) religion that is all too accommodating to/conflated with USAmerican (white) culture in ways too numerous to count, and I’ve written about this many times. Take, for example, this worship song by Rend Collective that I’ve previously written about. Here are the lyrics:

Come, set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come, set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your power in us

We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captive hearts released
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause

We are Your church
We pray: revive this earth

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Unleash Your kingdoms power
Reaching the near and far
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

As I said when I wrote about this song before:

Talking about winning the nation back sounds a lot like winning “our” country “back,” for starters. And when you say you’re winning it back, even if you mean for Jesus, you imply that somehow he once had it, and now doesn’t. Is this what we really mean?

Readers of this blog may recall that my family and I were part of a church plant in OH that I’ve alluded to before, the one that we were so very hopeful about at first, that seemed to really get that the church is a people, not a place, and that even was trying out some fledgling missional communities. I think in their first public worship service, they sang this song, and I couldn’t help but ask questions about it after the fact. I just knew in my heart, in my spirit, that while the overall gist of the song was good there was something amiss in “building God’s kingdom here” by “winning this nation back.” Perhaps if that church had launched in the midst of this election season with all the talk of “making America great again” and “taking our country back” the mixed message of winning “our nation” back would have been more obvious. I don’t know. At the time, in that OH church, my concern was shrugged off and the song stayed in the worship rotation as is. I don’t know what exactly I expected them to do; I just know I didn’t feel very heard or understood. As I’ve also said, our experience with that faith community ended badly, with much, much pain, and sadly quite similarly to another traumatic ending there not long before then as I left my long-time job under similarly painful circumstances. There’s no small degree to which I’ve been trying to figure out “what God is up to” in those circumstances ever since, even as they played no small part in our move back to MN.

You see my confusion about those lyrics, right? Not only do they imply that ‘Merica used to be “Christian” in a way that it isn’t now and that we need to get it back to being that way, but they also imply, I think, that the U.S. even can be “Christian” in the first place. Again, this is well-trod ground for me, but I do not believe this to be so. If we really pray, as the song suggests, that God’s kingdom is unleashed to the point that there is healing in the streets and in “the land,” there would be little room for the “American dream” in the hearts of our fellow citizens any longer. If folks were gettin’ healed in the street there’d be no need for Obamacare or for the profit hungry capitalist medical industry. If we started living like the Church is supposed to, and were known for our love in the transformative ways that we might be, many of the institutions of U.S. society would collapse not because of unrest and rioting in the streets but because there’d be no need for them. There’d be no need for our criminal justice system if we loved our enemies and turned the other cheek when confronted with violence (of course, there wouldn’t be much violence in the first place). Capitalism, so dependent on self-interest, whether “enlightened” or not, would collapse if we starting sharing all the possessions we had, knowing they were God’s, not ours. I could go on. The point is that to the extent that we really start living as if God’s kingdom has already come among us we represent a grave threat to the powers and principalities that be, including the U.S. and all other secular governments. That’s why I struggle with that line in that song.

So you might imagine my consternation when Mill City Church sang the same song not all that long into our experience with them. Gratefully, there was enough grace and goodness in what we were discovering in this faith community that I felt I had the capacity to overlook it. It grieved me, just a little, and as I already mentioned I couldn’t sing those words when they come up in the song, but I considered it adiaphora. I was able to do so hopefully because I’ve grown a little but mostly because of all the other clear evidence of God’s work in these people and this community. It was just so clear to me that they were working extra hard to discern what God might be already doing in the community they felt called to serve and then respond faithfully as best they could to join him in that work. And the ways that they were responding, the things that they were doing, deeply resonated with me. My spirit could wholeheartedly say “yes” to what I saw God up to in them.

So, in the wake of this terrible election season and the election itself, my spirit again said yes! when I learned that today’s worship service would be one of lament. We gathered for it today and Pastor Steph led us in a powerful exercise, following the pattern in most of the psalms of lament:

-The Address – usually directly to God

-The Lament Proper – a description of the occurrences for which the people are requesting assistance or rescue

-Confession of Trust – a statement showing belief that God will hear their prayers

-The Petition Proper and Motivation – a usually very specific statement of what the people want God to do

-Vow of Praise – portion of the lament where the people promise to offer thanksgiving once seeing God’s intervention

After each part, we sang. The liturgy was heartfelt and captured our collective yearning that God draw near, that he hear the cry of those suffering from oppression- that he see all the ways they are being oppressed and may be even more so in the days to come- that he hear our cry on their behalf, and that he act. The liturgy should be posted on her blog soon. I encourage you to check it out when that happens. During the “petition” part, I believe, we had a chance to come forward and place our own handwritten petitions in a glass jar:

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This was mine:

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I lament not just over the hateful rhetoric in this election season and the danger that a President Trump poses not just for the “least of these” here and around the world but in a host of many other ways. That is lamentable, to be sure. It shouldn’t be all that surprising, though. ‘Merica is not the Church, after all. It does not represent God’s kingdom come. ‘Merica, especially these days and in the days to come, is basically Rome in Jesus’ day. It is the empire that God’s actual kingdom of love and peace and justice stands in stark relief against. Why should I be surprised when Rome does “Roman” things? Why should I be surprised when a worldly empire pursues its own gain and good to the detriment of its people and those around the world? No, what is most lamentable is that we would-be Jesus followers who live in that empire look no different than its most selfish, power-hungry denizens. What is most lamentable is that our lives look so little like that of our leader, Jesus, who was executed as an enemy of the state for showing the state to be the sham that it is, for showing that God’s kingdom was worthy of our sole and true allegiance.

The service this morning was thus a very emotional experience for many of us, and many tears were shed throughout. Near the end of the service in the auditorium of that elementary school that Mill City Church has had such an amazing relationship with for all these years now, we stood to sing a few last songs:

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Can you guess what song we sang next? It was “Build Your Kingdom Here,” of course. I had been very moved throughout the service as I alluded to above. I felt like I had connected with God as I, as we, cried out to him on behalf of the least of these, on behalf of his children, and asked him to intervene, to move to save them. We had declared our trust that somehow, in spite of it all, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, he would act. Rightly, then, we were moved to praise him, to declare that he is our King, he is our President; it is to his kingdom that we pledge allegiance. Some of that sentiment is present in “Build Your Kingdom Here;” so we sang, but I braced myself for those words I knew I could not sing (“win this nation back”).

You know what?

They never came.

Here are the lyrics as we sang them this morning:

Come, set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come, set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your power in us

We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captive hearts released
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause

We are Your church
We pray: revive this earth

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Bring revival back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Unleash Your kingdoms power
Reaching the near and far
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Bring revival back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Bring revival back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

We sang “Bring revival back,” not “win this nation back,” and in that moment I was broken yet again this morning. That’s a sentiment I can get behind. The spirit of God within me yearns for revival, not merely the Billy Sunday altar call variety, but the kind in which “Christians” give up their religion and start living like Jesus followers. If that happens, I have no doubt that we’ll see healing of many varieties in the streets. Lives will be changed. Swords will be beaten into plowshares. Racial reconciliation will occur. Lord, let it be so.

In that moment this morning when I realized the lyrics had been changed, not only did I feel broken, I felt healed. I don’t know why they changed the words. Maybe someone read my post that touched on those words and they heard me and agreed that the lyrics sent a mixed message. Maybe not. Maybe they changed them because they’re always working so hard to listen to God’s spirit anyway and as a result they discerned that the words could be better. I’d like to think at least in some small way it is God’s spirit in me that leads to my discomfort with those lyrics. Either way, I felt heard, and more importantly, I felt healed. I felt as if all that baggage I’ve been carrying around since leaving that OH church was suddenly gone. I was and am grateful.

Therefore it will be with a glad heart that I gather with my Mill City Church family next week for a worship service of Thanksgiving. Prior to that we’ll gather for Mill City Church’s annual “Thanks. Give. Serve” event. Then once the (vegan/faux) turkey is eaten on Thanksgiving, it will be with joyful expectation that I move into the season of Advent. I am hopeful that Christ will come. Again. I am hopeful that God-with-us will be born, that God’s “secret rescue plan” for his children will be started anew. I am hopeful that Jesus will be born, again, that we, his hands and feet, his body, will be made new as we redouble our efforts and rededicate ourselves to being the church in the most profound ways. I pray that we will gain notoriety not for our political power but for our willingness to give it up so that we can better serve those who don’t have it. I pray that our zealous pursuit of love, of God’s peace-with-justice, of God’s shalom, will quite simply make us dangerous. Jesus promised us persecution, and most white “Christians” in this country have never seen it, not really. We aren’t persecuted, after all, when we are criticized for refusing to serve a gay person in our place of business or government office. We might be, though, if we do serve them, if we refuse to see them in terms of their sexual identity but simply as fellow children of God. We aren’t persecuted when we get called out for harassing women entering abortion clinics. We might be, though, if we relentlessly pursued living wage ordinances and robust healthcare for all and more importantly if we so thoroughly and scandalously loved and mentored and supported all the vulnerable and at-risk young women in our lives (and if we actually had them in our lives!) that there was seldom any need for abortion.

Lord, let your kingdom come, in us. Bring revival back. As advent approaches, let us watch and wait expectantly for you to come. Be born into the world anew, through us. Amen.

We Should Be A Little More Treasonous. But That’s Nothing New.

 

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Post election subway therapy, New York

As with so many things in my life, I’ve long known what is good for me, what would be best for me, but have long failed to muster the will to act on this knowledge. This is true when it comes to eating right and running every day just as it is for how I entertain myself.  This can go on no more. For example, whether I believe that the “mainstream media” has a “liberal” bias or not, I know that it is biased, by the dollar. It’s a capitalist endeavor. It responds to market forces. Especially in the age of media consolidation, it’s literally owned by large corporate interests. This is no less true for media that caters to those who lean “left” in the sphere of secular politics (MSNBC viewers) than it is for those who consume Fox News. In both cases, they (the corporate interests that own the media) crave eyeballs. They’ll gin up whatever controversy they can to get viewers. Once their audience is captivated by the spectacle they’re broadcasting, they can sell it something, which is their most important agenda. I don’t doubt that there are some heartfelt pundits out there and even some legitimate journalists who serve in the field of broadcast media, but if they work for any of the big media companies- in other words, if you can find them on TV- they have corporate masters they must serve, and those masters value the dollar over anything else. These capitalists made Trump a household name as a TV personality and endlessly covered him “for free” once he ran. Trump is a product to be sold as much as he is anything else. Once he ran, the corporate overlords he serves repackaged him to gin up support for his candidacy on Fox News, and on the other side they repackaged him to gin up opposition on MSNBC, and most of us tuned in, whichever story about him we preferred to hear. We’re still tuning in.

Pick a metaphor. If Trump is a bully, he craves our attention, good or bad. While we must vigilantly inform ourselves of his actions that harm or oppress others, again he wants our attention, and we do ourselves and those he would harm or oppress, not to mention the world, a great service when, as much as we can, we ignore him. Here’s another metaphor that paints the same picture. If Trump is a fire, he needs oxygen. When we again pay attention to his bombast- his ignorant, racist, sexist, and hurtful comments, we give it to him.

Let’s stop doing that.

We can start by turning off our TV. We can inform ourselves in other ways. Subscribe to your local paper. Take the time to read it. Many of them are owned by big corporations too, but that consolidation is driven by market forces like everything else; so let’s create a market for local, independent media. Of course in the internet age, at least so long as freedom of speech and of the press persist in the U.S., we can find many, many sources online that can help to keep us informed about what truly matters while limiting the chances that we’ll be reduced to mere consumers in the process.

As I write this my phone alerted me that the Dow Jones closed at a record high today. Markets plunged as Trump’s election became ever more a possibility and then a reality, but now that the reality has begun to set in, they seem to be doing just fine, at least for now. Why? Because the market isn’t interested in the betterment of humanity. Capitalism doesn’t care if people of color suffer and refugees die while trying to get to a country where the rigged economic system is rigged for (some of) its inhabitants rather than against them. The love of money is indeed the root of all evil, and now that the uncertainty about the election is over, capitalism will churn on just like it always has, serving those who know how to “game the system” like Trump literally at the expense of many, many others.

Let’s act to change that. The old axiom is true. We vote every day, in no small part with our dollars. Do you know where yours go? Do you know what kind of future you’re buying with them? If you don’t, find out! Learn something about the corporations that make the products you most consume every day. Whether or not you believe “corporations are people too,” our government and economic system seems to. So find out what kind of (global, usually) citizen they are. If their supply chain involves child labor on the other side of the globe, or the woman who sowed your sweatshirt worked long hours for minimal pay in unsafe conditions with no healthcare, this makes not calling such workers “slaves” a distinction without a difference. So stop buying that brand from that store. Act! Demand better. Support your local MCC Thrift store, for example.

I mentioned turning off your TV above in the context of not letting big corporations be the primary way we get our information, and thereby letting them be the primary shaper of our opinions. There’s another reason to turn it off, though. It’s just too easy after a stressful day at work and a long commute for some of us to plop in front of the TV to let ourselves be entertained, even if “thoughtfully” or “artfully.” Look, there’s some good entertainment out there. I know. There’s even some that makes me think and challenges my worldview. There may be some good to this. But let’s not be deceived. Even the thought-provoking entertainment is a product we’re being sold, and to the extent that we go along with this we again reduce ourselves to mere consumers. Whether we’re consuming the next heartwarming drama or cable news, it’s our self-interest that is being catered to and commodified, whether “enlightened” or not. So I’m challenging myself as much as I may be challenging you to cut the cord, whether Comcast delivers your Netflix via your cable box or cable modem. Let’s turn our TV’s off for a while. Let’s read a book or go for a run. Let’s meet a neighbor and get to know them, especially if they had a yard sign for the candidate you didn’t vote for. If enough of us did this, we’d be much better able to resist the stories Trump’s corporate masters want to tell us about ourselves and our neighbor and the world we live in, for if the election taught us anything, it’s that we can’t counter Fox News with MSNBC. We just can’t. It won’t work, and it never has. And even a (second) Clinton presidency, however much more enlightened it may have been, would not have enabled us to overcome the partisanship that divides us so that we could actually create the kind of world we hope our kids grow up in.

Let’s look at a few issues:

I don’t doubt that a Trump presidency will likely be devastating for the environment, for the good world that God made. A Trump presidency that favors fracking and reducing the reach of the EPA will likely accelerate the processes that are destroying our air and water. But let’s be honest. A Clinton presidency would likely have only slowed that destruction. So we can kill the planet quickly or slowly. We’re right to be upset that a quick death seems to be what the country voted for, but it’s hypocritical if we wouldn’t have been just as upset at a Clinton presidency that might have slowed the process but likely would have done little to change its root causes.

A Trump presidency will likely be devastating for disadvantaged communities in the U.S. Even/especially if Trump winds up acting on the economic principles that Paul Ryan might want him to, I don’t believe that ever more unfettered consumer capitalism in the form of an efficient market with little regulation and few or no taxes will create the conditions in which the poor through their hard work and thrift can rise above their circumstances to achieve the “American dream.” This won’t happen because a more efficient market will do nothing to root out systemic racism and misogyny, while it will more efficiently grow the school to prison pipeline, for example, because there’s a market for it. The prospect of Attorney General Giuliani instituting stop-and-frisk nationwide is truly horrific. It’s been shown not only that this program doesn’t work but that people of color are disproportionately targeted by it, no doubt worsening the mass incarceration of people of color. That said, is it likely that Clinton, even with a cooperative Congress,  would have not only shut down the for-profit private prison industry but also created a system that equitably funds every school across the country while simultaneously providing a living wage for every single USAmerican while eliminating racial bias in our law enforcement and justice systems and fully funding childcare and early education systems so that every child, especially children of color, live in an environment that enables them to achieve academic success commensurate with their potential? Sadly, I don’t think there’s a market for this. It just wouldn’t have happened. So are we really so upset that poor folks will stay poor because of “conservative” policies and principles instead of staying (maybe a little less) poor because of “liberal” ones?

Let’s take just one more issue(s). If Trump follows through on his promises, the U.S. will become even less welcoming to refugees fleeing war and immigrants seeking a better life than it already is. Compare our response to the refugee crisis to that of rest of the world, for example. There is no comparison. In mid 2015 the U.S. had 0.84 refugees per 1,000 of our own inhabitants. Germany had 3.10. Chad had 30.97. We have more (stolen from Indigenous peoples) land and resources than any single European country by far, but have accepted far, far fewer refugees than most European countries, which is to say nothing of countries in other parts of the world. Speaking of Indigenous peoples, it’s the most sinful hypocrisy that we European descendants took a continent from its native inhabitants while committing genocide against them and partitioning off their descendants on virtual concentration camps could then say this land is “our” country and further have the gall to say that others can only come here under conditions that suit and don’t inconvenience us. While a Clinton presidency may not have resulted in a giant wall along the border with Mexico or cut off all Syrian or Muslim refugees, a hawkish President Clinton may have only exacerbated the Syrian conflict that is making its citizens flee, and even if not, the conflict that perpetually roils that region is often fueled by an interventionist U.S. foreign policy motivated in no small part by economic interests. Trump says he’ll just “take the oil.” Clinton likely would not have done so but would have perpetuated the systems by which global corporations with strong ties to the U.S. do, all so that we rich Westerners can keep enjoying our “freedom” to drive wherever we want to, whenever we want to. Is there really much of a difference?

Likewise, whether NAFTA gets rescinded or renegotiated or not, the economic conditions and crime that drive Mexicans to risk their lives to cross the border illegally are unlikely to have been dramatically improved under a Clinton presidency. We USAmericans like our way of life but won’t admit that it’s unsustainable and that it’s literally impossible for everyone to live this way. We consume far too much of the world’s resources and create far too much of its waste. “All boats” cannot rise to the level of comfort some of us here in the U.S. enjoy. If devastating poverty around the world is to be really improved, we rich USAmericans must move down the economic ladder a bit. Our standard of living must decrease so that the standard of living of the world’s poorest citizens can increase. Put simply, we must be better at sharing. I don’t think a Clinton presidency would have seriously addressed this. Do you?

I will confess that I was and am devastated by the results of this election. This surreal, dystopian moment we find ourselves in, in which the nation’s first Black President has to give up the “White” House to the KKK endorsed candidate is the stuff of nightmares. There’s already talk- and evidence– of press access to Trump being restricted, thereby limiting our ability to watch this dangerous man with the scrutiny he deserves. Meanwhile, the “Trump effect” has taken hold in the nation’s discourse as civility has gone out the window and racist, misogynistic rhetoric is normalized, perpetuated, and encouraged. There are ever more reports of minorities being harassed and women being harangued. I have a conservative Evangelical co-worker whom I trust loves Jesus very much and believed he was following him as best he can as he voted for Trump. Yesterday as an incident of school bullying attributed to the Trump effect was described to this co-worker, he asked incredulously “…and this is Trump’s fault?!” The answer is unequivocally yes. Trump’s “locker room talk,” his racist “dog whistle” rhetoric, his deplorable descriptions of whole people groups as criminals and rapists and calls to ban whole religions from entering the country has emboldened and encouraged those who think this way. Worse, it’s influenced those who may not have previously thought this way, at least consciously, to perhaps consider this an acceptable way of speaking, let alone acting. This is deplorable, even if the people who would let themselves be influenced in this way are not. I could go on and on about all the reasons to be sad, angry, and terrified at the election of Trump, and I’ve described some of them above.

I need to be honest, though, and clear in my own thinking, as I’ve also described above how a Clinton presidency would have been obviously better about some of these issues, but only to a point, and not nearly to the point where the deepest and most entrenched problems might have been solved. I long ago disabused myself of the notion that USAmerica was a “city on a hill,” a “new Israel” by which the nations of the world might be saved or healed (there are people who think this, unfortunately, and I grew up under their influence). The world does have a rescuer, however, and even now he beckons us to join together and love his world by living like he did and doing the things that he did. Jesus got violently angry when capitalists tried to institute a market economy in a place of worship. In the midst of a political and economic system that demanded total allegiance he said to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” because Caesar’s face was on the coins Jesus’ followers would have paid their taxes with, but simultaneously he said to “give to God what is God’s,” thereby implying that Caesar could not own everything and therefore Caesar’s authority and power was limited and marginal. In this same culture it was common to say that “Caesar is Lord” again because he demanded such total allegiance and subservience from his subjects. Therefore, when Jesus followers proclaimed instead that “Jesus is Lord,” they were saying that Caesar is not, and they were likely guilty of treason. This was a profound political statement and should carry the same currency (ha!) today.

Today whether Trump is Caesar, or Hillary is, neither of them are Lord. So let’s live like Jesus is Lord, like he is our Commander-in-Chief. Let’s make government-run social safety nets superfluous because we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and serve the poor so well that they have no need for government assistance. Let’s visit, befriend, and advocate for the prison population so overwhelmingly that for profit prison corporations abandon the industry just because they’re sick of dealing with us. Let’s stand with Standing Rock in such force, with such relentless peaceful protest and nonviolent civil disobedience (if need be), that there simply aren’t enough officers from neighboring states to arrest us all. Let’s flood the mailboxes and email inboxes of Congress, the President, and the oil companies with so many petitions and requests that they abandon their work and respect the rights and treaties of Indigenous people, again simply because it’s easier than dealing with us. Let’s care for the sick among us so well that Obamacare becomes irrelevant and there’s no profit in healthcare for the big corporations.

I could go on, but these are just a few of the things we would do if we really believed that Jesus is Lord rather than Caesar, the market, or our own (enlightened or not) self-interest. To do this, of course, we’ll need each other. We’ll need to be organized, motivated, and informed. We’ll need to stop “going to church” (as if that were possible) and start being the Church. We’ll need to share our resources and ideas, our homes and our income and our lives. We’ll need to resist the evil that will occur under President Trump, just as we ought to have been resisting the evil committed under (the much more likable, respectable, intelligent, and civil) President Obama (drones, record deportations, and DAPL come to mind, for starters), and just as we ought to have resisted the evil that would have occurred under a would be President Clinton. As one dad apparently wrote to his son after the election and which has been making the rounds on social media:

“Trump won. Don’t panic. The world won’t end. The country won’t fall apart. We’re just underdogs now, caring about women, minorities, decency, and truth. You’re going to have a job now: Be Extra Moral. Rebel against meanness. Be kind. Heal things. Inspire people with optimism. Most of all, LOVE.”

The truth is we’ve always been underdogs whether we’re resisting overt individual racist acts under President Trump or more subtle systemic racism under President Obama and all the presidents who came before him. We’ve always been underdogs whether we’re resisting the DAPL or the 85% unemployment rate that exists on some reservations. If we who would follow Jesus ever find ourselves in the position where we’re not underdogs, we need to open our eyes and look around. Chances are Jesus is nowhere in sight.

He’s not hard to find though. He’s always on the margins, with the “least of these,” eating and drinking with prostitutes and sinners, working to heal the sick, not the well, and sometimes breaking the (religious) law to do so. It’s more important than it ever has been to pay attention to what God is up to, what he’s doing in this moment in history, so that we can join him in his mission to love, heal, serve, and save the world; so that we can join him in his ministry of reconciliation. He beckons us to follow him, even now. Let’s go.