Complicit

Complicit

Anne Applebaum’s essay, “The Collaborators,” was a good read for me. The subtitle frames the topic: “What causes people to abandon their principles in support of a corrupt regime? And How do they find their way back?” It’s well worth your time to read, and can I even go so far as suggest, contemplate.

I’ve thought about complicity quite a bit over the past several years. My career employment in a religious system that categorized humans other than males as unworthy of leading or even participating was the precipitating environment leading to my confrontation with complicity. For many years my tribe of Baptists didn’t allow women to teach or hold any leadership positions over men. I cleared this hurdle by finding a new tribe in which to work. This new group at least taught that women could serve where ever they were called. While the teachings and practice never really lived up to these aspirations, it was refreshing.

However, my new tribe didn’t accept LGBTQ people as entirely acceptable to participate fully in the life of the community of faith. I grew to understand that this was opposed to everything I knew and valued in my experience with human beings, relationships, and my years of teaching the Christian scriptures. I avoided these inner conflicts, teaching and preaching around them to keep the peace and remain employed. Complicit.

In recent days, it seems that our society is beginning to reckon with race and racism that feels different to me. We all come to these moments at different times and with various precipitating events. I know that this particular moment for people of color is simultaneously welcome, hilarious, and rage-inducing. The punch line being, “WHERE THE ACTUAL F&$K HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING?!?” Where we have been living is very comfortably in our complicity. We can face it or not. But when faced with our collaboration in this unequal and unjust system, one must decide what their actual values are.

Our ACTUAL values are the ones by which we make our everyday decisions. They are the ones that happen automatically, by habit. When the automatic comes in conflict with our espoused or aspirational values, we can count that as uncomfortable or as an opportunity for growth and change. Mere discomfort produces rationalizations and then status-quo. However, our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to dive into the growth and change. It’s hard. But it’s not impossible. We will mess up. And we won’t know what to do. We will stammer and use the wrong words and stumble. But like learning a new language or negotiating a dark room, we’ll adjust. We’ll get more proficient. We’ll find a light switch. These values will become more automatic.

This new place in which I find myself living is simply beautiful. I feel more connected with other human beings every day. That experience expands my world continually, and that is always rewarding. Always. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a LONG way from arriving. For years, I preached that the minute we think we’ve arrived somewhere is the minute we stop learning and growing. It’s at those moments that the seeds of complicity sprout. My goodness, this world I’m beginning to see, is so much more rich and fulfilling. I’m so thankful to be in this new, scary, uncomfortable place.

On Assholes, Donald Trump and Following Jesus

I’ve tried to find some reason for the rise of the Trump regime on the backs of the very same people who love to claim all moral high ground simply because they say with their mouths they “follow Jesus of Nazareth.” The irony of that fact has bothered me since I turned off my light and attempted to sleep on November 8, 2016.

I went to my bookshelf this morning looking for Harry Frankfurt’s book “On Bullshit” (because I thought that would help me label more appropriately that kind of religion) but instead walked away with this prescient volume. It was published in 2012 and on page 2 recognizes the embodiment of of its subject in “the self-important developer-entertainer Donald Trump” along with Simon Crowell and Mel Gibson. The previous sentence had named Silvio Berlusconi, Hugo Chavez, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If there is ever a 2nd edition published, it’s rather disturbing to know that the good ole US of A can now add it’s Asshole In Chief to that infamous list.

It’s been a good contemplative read for me this morning as I try to come to grips with being a member and citizen in the type of society that produces, reveres, and elects such. I’ve been attempting to extricate myself from whatever kind of “Christianity” that would do that since leaving the Southern Baptist Convention back in the early 2000s. I’ve finally removed the economic excuse of that religion being where my paycheck came from. But I can’t seem to shake my calling to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

No answers to that dilemma this morning. But the coffee, cool weather and good book has given me much to think about.

I Post to Know I’m Not Alone

I Post to Know I’m Not Alone

My first ever Facebook post: “in Pasadena, CA…this constant fantastic weather must get boring…” My research into my social media origins brought back fantastic memories of two great weeks spent at Fuller Seminary in their DMin program. Facebook was originally only open to people with college or university email accounts. It opened up to the public in September of 2006. I jumped on 9 months later, not knowing fully what to do with it. Browsing my first few posts was pretty hilarious. “Going to a soccer game”; “zzzzzzzzzz,” “flying back to Nashville,” etc. There were, more often than not, zero “likes” or responses. It was an empty space at first. From what I can tell, many of my first FB friends are still here and haven’t unfriended me because of my posts. It’s remarkable how FB has changed how we all interact with the world. There are parts of it that are disturbing: the proliferation of misinformation, hateful contextless interactions with strangers; the acceptance of non-stop marketing as norm…I could go on.

But, I still land on the side of the optimist. I’ve been able to renew relationships from all my past lives (family, hometown, high school, college, seminary, previous jobs, past towns). I’ve watched former students start families, I ‘ve seen their children go off to college, marry, and start their families. Rich, deep conversations often develop with people I know well as well as with people I’ve only just met. I couldn’t begin to put a value on these things. I’ve considered dropping off for all the reasons many of you have considered leaving. But I would miss the community. For every crazy story or troll, I’ve found I have multiple dearly loved friends with whom I discover so many shared beautiful things in common.

William Nicholson’s play, Shadowlands, has a beautiful line delivered by the C. S. Lewis character: “We read to know we’re not alone.” I think that’s why I continue to post on social media. I post to know I’m not alone. I recognize that there are times I have contributed my own sour notes to the din of dissonant social media noise populating my feed and yours. However, I also hope to add some melody…some harmony. I hope that the sum of my social media life would fall on that side of the ledger. And I hope that you will remain online. This community is extraordinary. My life would be poorer without it. And I don’t want to be alone. (I wonder if my MySpace page is still out there in the ether?)