Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November Article for PNC News: Love and Struggle



Hi All:

This column was written the week before last week's elections and can also be found among several good article in this month's Pacific Northwest Conference News. I hope you find it helpful.

The audio and transcript of my first sermon after the elections will be coming out later today or early tomorrow.

Peace.
Mike

A few years ago, I was sitting with some friends having dinner and we were talking about a group we were part of that seemed to be in perpetual conflict. As sometimes happens, the group was one that ironically had as its focus on peace-making and conflict resolution. The three of us were just tired of the debates and the posturing and the fact that some people we really respected were acting in ways that were disappointing.

I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of “I’m so tired of all the fighting.” I do remember what was said back to me, though. My friend shook his head and said, “You fight when you want to win. You
with people you love.”

It's been one of those ideas that’s stuck with me and has become even more acutely clear in this political season. The stress and rancor between those running for office is both a reflection of our fractured country and, at the same time, amplifies the fractures that exist. Knute Berger, in a recent article for Crosscut, lifted up the suggestion that we’re in a Cold Civil War. Its an idea that I’ve found particularly haunting.

If we’re honest about it, the roots of these fractures are not new ones, at all. They are a reflection of injustices that were too long ignored; dissent that was quashed; discomfort that was avoided; and pain that was diminished. As the Church, we also have to confess that we’ve added fuel to this fire. We slip into Crusade Culture and instead of trying to welcome a change in people’s hearts and minds we try and win through the force of influence and an insistence on asserting our power in ways that don’t line up with Jesus. Sure, he critiqued some of those who were the leaders of his time pretty harshly. But he also shared meals with those same folks and other folks the religious systems of that time and place had determined were “unworthy.” The reason Jesus has so much power in our own hearts and minds more than 2000 years after his crucifixion is because his power was love.

Last month at the United Church of Christ Board (UCCB) meeting in Cleveland, we adopted new purpose, vision and mission statements:
  • Purpose statement from the Gospel of Matthew: To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
  • Vision statement: United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.
  • Mission statement: United in Spirit and inspired by God's grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.
Love is at the core of each of these statements in a way that I think it clearer than many statements we have made as a church. Although love needs to be at the core of all justice work, we don’t always say it as explicitly as we need to in order to remind us that this is at the heart of our calling and what called so many of us the loving, liberating heart of Jesus. Those of you who have been around me in almost any church setting over the weeks since the UCCB board meeting know I’m pretty excited about the clarity and direction of these statements.


“You fight when you want to win. You struggle with people you love.” We’re all pretty tired of fighting. This Cold Civil War in our country has gone on too long and many of us who have been warriors in it have lost our lives, souls and minds trying to fight it. We all too often accepted as collateral damage the lives, souls and minds of those just trying to live through it. Violence, no matter its form, begets more violence which begets more violence which begets more violence… It is time for us all to live in to the call of love.