Friday, October 5, 2018

Gospel as Table-Turning Empathy in a Wearied World

I am tired. I am worn out. 

But I am not numb. 

The proverbial road these past few weeks has been rough, too put it mildly.

Some have asked why I am subjecting myself to so much of the news these days? Why not just turn it off, listen to some Ed Sheerhan (guilty pleasure), and try not to allow the airwaves zap my life energy? 

Why give those in power more control than they already have? 

My response, because I owe it to family and friends and neighbors and strangers for whom the narrative of assault and abuse is not something that can be turned off, shut down, and ignored. They carry it everyday. I want to hear the rhetoric that is being tossed around so to foster a theology and posture of empathy towards those most triggered by this game being played with their real, raw, and unheard and often minimized (at best) stories. 

This is not some aim at heroism or claim to being "woke." It is a genuine desire to be informed so to be able to be present with love, care, and humble awareness.

I want to know, the best I can in my white male privileged place, more as to what generates such rage and disdain from those crying out for justice, for things to be different than what they are and what may be after this weekend and for generations to come. I want to know what is actually shaping the landscape of this nation that we are handing off to our children, so I can subvert it as pastor and parent. 

I want to know why I am so exhausted and anxious, too. 

While I am pained by so much of what is being communicated in the Supreme Court nomination process, let alone the results (aware I write this before the vote takes place), up there among the most horrifying is the way some are celebrating "renewed energy" in partisan platforms. Sure, there is the presidential mockery of those who courageously testified as to their pain, which no doubt sends a message to our youngest citizens that their nightmares are just that- unbelievable and without warrant. In other words, wake up and move on. There is even the aggressive Senate quest to move forward and “ram” this decision in a way sure to evoke parallel imagery of abuse that is being called out and asked to be rebuked. 

But to be elated by the way the past few weeks and pending results has become a pep rally for a base that is mostly concerned about November 6, this grieves me more than anything else. Maybe because it is the foundation of everything else. A concern more for the usurping of power than for our most vulnerable neighbors.  

And no, I am not surprised. 

But as I hear these lines over and again by those elected to lead and serve the whole of the nation, this rhetoric only reinforces that when it comes down to it, survivors of abuse and any other vulnerable populous are mere collateral, social capital, and expendable swag in campaign pushes. 

And so it is no wonder there is such rage. 

We would do well to make space for it, listen to it, and certainly not dismiss it or ask for more civility from those who have been hushed too long. 

So while I recognize the variance of affiliation within our pulpits and pews, to discount or minimize pain was never the posture of Christ. Jesus always leaned forward and remained open to having even his most set assumptions challenged, pivoted, and tilted more in favor of those longing for even a crumb of justice, healing, and hope of being heard. Their renewed energy and courage is what he was most attune to in his work and witness. Hell, it even fueled Jesus' own table-turning rage rooted in divine empathy. 

Dare we offer at least that in these days, for the sake of those so wearied and worn, fearful and angry, and others who have been reliving their worst of days over the past few weeks. 

And may we as Christ's church do more than listen to the news, may we find ways to change it for the better. After all, this is what we call gospel, God's good news in a despairing world.