I just got off the phone. Two phone calls in a row; that’s unusual for me. The first was Rachael, my lover, from Nicaragua, where there isn’t enough water to go around and the kids she’s teaching don’t have shoes, and the shoes they have are too tight so they can’t run around.
And then Emily, my best friend called. And her friend is in deep despair over broken relationship, and her day job is working with women who are being pushed around by their employers, because they’re not rich, or white, or male. And we talked about my other friend, who left last week for Iraq, where she will be a medic, and try to put her life back together as she tries to puts bodies back together, in the midst of a zone of chaos and violence caused largely by my own government.
What is God calling the church to do and be?
Well, maybe there’s another way. Maybe those kids in Nicaragua don’t need to be pushed around my corporations. Maybe those women in Conneticut don’t need to work long hours for very little money, just to keep their familes at (at!) the poverty line.
If this is true, if there’s another way, a way that breaks out of poverty and shatters the forces of empire- if this is true, it’s pretty much going to take the church.
This is the church to which I am called. Yes, the church as it exists in America: complicit in all of the worst violences of the world, at least allowing if not encouraging racism and oppresion and sexism all over. Yes, the church in its local particularity and foolishness- arguments about budgets and out-of-key choirs and grumpy coffee hour participants included.
There’s something about this church of God’s. It’s lumpy and risky, but the church is a place of transformation. I’ve seen people change, from knowing God, from knowing community, both in the walls of so-called churches, and in the spaces created by other churches, the kind of churches that most people call “classes” and “non-profit’s” and “friends.”
As to what I bring: I bring skills and stories. I bring a fervent cleverness, a willingness to try new ideas, to stick with what works and to change what doesn’t, and to learn from all kinds of folks. I bring two dozen mentors, each of whom with a wealth of experience and a heart full of compassion.
I bring stories of success and failure from many denominations and many faiths. I bring the story about how Desmond Tutu became Anglican, and how Hanuman carried the mountain. I bring the story about the Baptists in Ohio said to us when they threw out my church for accepting GLBT folks, and the story about the Baptists in New York who welcomed us in afterwards. I bring an abiding faith: a faith that gives me strength to listen to someone tell about how their life fell apart.More than that, I bring this: I can look at the church, as it is- a little hollow, a lot tired, and certainly unsure of itself. I can look at the forces of Empire- huge and powerful, feeling free to oppress the weak, ruling the nations through greed and ignorance. And, looking at both of these, I have hope enough to believe that the Church can destroy the Empire. I believe that in the coming decades, the church will once again face the bare forces of facism. It might stand idly by, as it has so many times before. Or, it might take the side of Jesus, as it also has so many times before. It’s a mystery. But you can’t stop the Spirit. I’m so in.