LGBTIQ

2017: What The (White Protestant) Church Must Do

By Rev. Mindi

I read this post shared by an Episcopalian friend this week, and along with some online conversations on “what is the future of the church?” with declining attendance and resources, I’m wondering what has happened to our ecumenical movement? What has happened to our movement for unity?

As an American Baptist pastor married to a Disciples of Christ pastor, I can tell you that not much really separates us. We all do baptism pretty much the same way. We do communion the same way, albeit Baptists tend to only do communion once a month. We aren’t opposed to doing it every Sunday, we just make it out to be more work than it really is. We have some common roots in history. We have faced some of the same struggles on inclusion and diversity in recent years, and as both denominations have taken steps to truly live into God’s ways of love and justice and the teachings of Jesus, some of our more conservative kindred have gone out the door, or have simply stopped talking with us.

And it’s not only American Baptists and Disciples, but Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists (and other UCC-ers), and the list goes on. While we vary in our ways of baptism and communion and vary in our liturgical rigidness, when we start talking about issues of justice, Black Lives Matter, inclusion of transgender and lesbian, gay, bisexual and other queer folks, and welcoming refugees and immigrants, we have so much in common. I regularly have conversations in ecumenical gatherings of clergy (especially fellow clergy in a similar age range to me, but not always) about the same issues facing our churches. The same issues facing our communities. The same longing to follow Jesus and being held up by resources.

So why oh why oh WHY ARE WE NOT WORKING TOGETHER? Why are we still separated on Sunday mornings? Why is (as the author of the blog post I shared stated) Sunday morning still the most segregated hour, decades after Martin Luther King Jr. called us out on it?

I know I am not the first to say it, but as a response to white privilege and white supremacy, perhaps those of us in the traditional white protestant churches, as we face closing down and shrinking numbers, need to go join a Black church. Perhaps we need to listen to someone else preach on Sunday morning and tell us how to be involved in the community. We can do this within our own denomination to start with.

Secondly, we can join with our kindred down the street. While many of us have “full communion” with other denominations or allow for those of other ordination standards (or none at all!) to preside at the table and at baptism, we do not move beyond those relationships (as again, the author of the blog post I shared stated).

As we enter 2017, the future of the church doesn’t lie in us keeping to ourselves on Sunday morning. If we do that, we will continue to shrink, decline, and close. Those of us who are white Christians need to especially consider giving up our power and ownership of space to join with our Christian kindred of color to truly follow the ways of Jesus (who wasn’t white, as we keep pointing out but fail somehow to truly comprehend). We might find that the church isn’t declining, but thriving, if we give up our own vision of what the church is supposed to look like, and join in God’s vision:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, and to the Lamb!”

~Revelation 7:9-10

Nothing Left to Say

By Rev. Mindi

I really don’t know what else to say, because I said it here in my post “Living By The Sword” and here in my post “How Long Must We Sing This Song?” and here in my post “Racism From Within” and here in my post “Don’t Give Up on the Work for Justice.”

But you know what, I’m tired.

When Sandy Hook happened, while I waited for news that my nephews and niece in Newtown were okay, though they had friends who were killed, I scrambled to find enough candles, twenty-eight of them in all. I remember when Virginia Tech happened buying a large bag of tea candles for the Sunday morning service, and invited everyone in the church to come up and light a candle for a victim of gun violence.

But I’ve run out of candles.

After most of the shootings, I have posted a prayer on my blog that can be used by churches when they don’t know what to say.

But I’ve run out of prayers, and run out of words.

Because it’s only a matter of time before someone comes in and shoots up the school my son goes to. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes in and shoots up the nightclub my gay friends or transgender family find refuge in. It’s only a matter of time before someone hates someone in my church and comes and shoots them.

Because in America we love guns more than God. We have made guns into God. We have broken the commandment and made an idol believing that a gun can save us and that only good guys with guns can help. When we look at the scarred, crucified Christ who said “those who live by the sword die by the sword,” how can we call ourselves faithful?

I’ve run out of patience. But what else can I say here that will make any damn bit of difference? The words of Jesus aren’t enough. The sacredness of life is not enough. The smiles of innocent children are not enough. The love between two people is not enough.

I’ve given up trying to make sense of it all.

America didn’t change when Sandy Hook happened, and we thought for sure we would. America will not change, until all of us look in the mirror and point the gun at ourselves. Only when we are able to do that, and see that we are killing ourselves, killing the very image of God, maybe we would change, when we realize that which we idolize is killing us.

But even then, I do not know.

This passage from Luke 14 has stuck with me:

“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

What if our cross that we carry are dead children, dead lovers, dead church members? What if we were never, ever, able to get their faces out of our heads and we had to live with their memory, day after day after day? What if that became our cross to bear?

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Have we weighed the cost of our silence, of our candles, of our tears, of our graves? Have we weighed the cost when we look in the mirror? America has not weighed the cost. America has not been willing to sit down and consider, or send the delegation. America is not willing to give up its idolship of guns.

But we must. We must look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we are okay with pointing a gun to ourselves, because the longer we do nothing, and we keep just writing blog posts like this one, we are killing ourselves.

Things we can do:

--Become Open/Welcoming and Affirming of LGBTQ persons. Talk about our openness, welcome and affirmation.

--Work towards legislation that would eliminate the kinds of weapons being used in these violent acts.

--Stop spending money at any store that sells these kinds of weapons.

--Talk about this at church. From the pulpit. And in Bible Study and Sunday School. Talk about what Jesus says and that his words actually mean something to us.

--Value our children more than we value guns.

GA-1327 Becoming a People of Welcome and Grace to All (Video)

The General Assembly calls upon the Church to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God's children though differing in sexual orientation or gender identity, affirming that neither are grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, and calling upon all expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a people of grace and welcome, to acknowledge their support for the welcome of and hospitality to all.

 

Dear Church . . . Letters from Young People about Welcoming Everyone (6)

Some time back, I received from a youth worker a packet of letters written by young people at a retreat.  These letters were written to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), urging its people to open their arms to everyone, in particular LGBTIQ people.  I asked permission to publish the letters, without the identities of the authors being revealed.  I was given permission to use them in this way.

One of the emerging realities of the culture in which we live is the dawning awareness that young people—across the theological and political spectrum—overwhelmingly believe full acceptance of LGBTIQ people is self-evidently a good thing.  At the same time, young people are leaving the church in droves—a significant number of them over the issue of the exclusion of LGBTIQ folks. 

As it prepares to make big decisions at General Assembly about how it will include people at the table, it is important for the Disciples of Christ to hear the voice of its young people on this issue.  Consequently, [D]mergent will be publishing one of these letters every Sunday morning from now through the month of May.

This letter is from the youth worker.

~Derek Penwell

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Letter from Sponsor (2).jpg

Dear Church . . . Letters from Young People about Welcoming Everyone (5)

Some time back, I received from a youth worker a packet of letters written by young people at a retreat.  These letters were written to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), urging its people to open their arms to everyone, in particular LGBTIQ people.  I asked permission to publish the letters, without the identities of the authors being revealed.  I was given permission to use them in this way.

One of the emerging realities of the culture in which we live is the dawning awareness that young people—across the theological and political spectrum—overwhelmingly believe full acceptance of LGBTIQ people is self-evidently a good thing.  At the same time, young people are leaving the church in droves—a significant number of them over the issue of the exclusion of LGBTIQ folks. 

As it prepares to make big decisions at General Assembly about how it will include people at the table, it is important for the Disciples of Christ to hear the voice of its young people on this issue.  Consequently, [D]mergent will be publishing one of these letters every Sunday morning from now through the month of May.

Please take some time to listen to what our children are saying.

~Derek Penwell

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Youth Letter 6 (2).jpg

Dear Church . . . Letters from Young People about Welcoming Everyone (4)

Some time back, I received from a youth worker a packet of letters written by young people at a retreat.  These letters were written to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), urging its people to open their arms to everyone, in particular LGBTIQ people.  I asked permission to publish the letters, without the identities of the authors being revealed.  I was given permission to use them in this way.

One of the emerging realities of the culture in which we live is the dawning awareness that young people—across the theological and political spectrum—overwhelmingly believe full acceptance of LGBTIQ people is self-evidently a good thing.  At the same time, young people are leaving the church in droves—a significant number of them over the issue of the exclusion of LGBTIQ folks. 

As it prepares to make big decisions at General Assembly about how it will include people at the table, it is important for the Disciples of Christ to hear the voice of its young people on this issue.  Consequently, [D]mergent will be publishing one of these letters every Sunday morning from now through the month of May.

Please take some time to listen to what our children are saying.

~Derek Penwell

Youth Letter 4.jpg

Dear Church . . . Letters from Young People about Welcoming Everyone (3)

Some time back, I received from a youth worker a packet of letters written by young people at a retreat.  These letters were written to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), urging its people to open their arms to everyone, in particular LGBTIQ people.  I asked permission to publish the letters, without the identities of the authors being revealed.  I was given permission to use them in this way.

One of the emerging realities of the culture in which we live is the dawning awareness that young people—across the theological and political spectrum—overwhelmingly believe full acceptance of LGBTIQ people is self-evidently a good thing.  At the same time, young people are leaving the church in droves—a significant number of them over the issue of the exclusion of LGBTIQ folks. 

As it prepares to make big decisions at General Assembly about how it will include people at the table, it is important for the Disciples of Christ to hear the voice of its young people on this issue.  Consequently, [D]mergent will be publishing one of these letters every Sunday morning from now through the month of May.

Please take some time to listen to what our children are saying.

~Derek Penwell

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We Need Each Other: Acting for Justice in a Fragmented World

By Erin Miller Cash

If you search the NIV for the word “justice,” you’ll find 134 references.

Some of them are helpful, and some are not.  Some say things like “the tribe of Dan will provide justice.”

I read each one of those 134 verses.  A few resonate with me more than others.

Micah 6:8

[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Deuteronomy 16:20

Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Psalm 103:6 

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Psalm 106:3 

Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.

Amos 5:24 

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Matthew 12:18 

"Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

From the earliest texts of our tradition to Jesus himself, we find God at work pursuing justice for the oppressed.  Often justice and love or justice and righteousness go hand-in-hand in the Biblical texts.

We are called to be a people of justice.

We are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, who ate with the outcast, touched the unclean, stood up to the Religious Leadership.  Jesus was killed because he wanted radical inclusion of everyone in the kingdom of God.  Everyone.

The filthy.

The sinner.

The broken.

The abused.

The powerless.

The betrayer.

Our Denomination strives to be “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.”  We believe valiantly in our causes: for some that is an issue of homosexuality (sin or nature), for some it is an issue of immigration reform (needed or not), for some it is pastoral education (required or optional), for others it is worship style (contemporary or traditional).  We are a people who are passionate about many things.

One of the things I love about being a Disciple is the fact that we hope to live into the words “in essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.”  The quote can be traced back as early as Augustine; the church has been trying to do this for centuries.

As Disciples, we tend to let one another speak about our particular passions, but we rarely come together to work.  Someone may believe that LGBT persons need to have full inclusion in the ministries of the church, but she doesn’t see that this matter of justice is similar to the matter of justice surrounding immigration.  In both cases a minority population is being subjected to the will of the ruling majority population (even if that population’s opinion on the matter is divided).  Justice is justice.  And justice is righteousness.

Can we be the model?

Can we be the generation that begins to show our unity to the world?

Can we be a movement for wholeness?

If we would stop bickering with one another over which issue is most important and start acting in love, we might be able to accomplish some incredible things for the neglected in our midst.  What if we agreed that justice is justice and we worked together to enact change on several fronts?  What if we embraced one another in charity where we disagree on a non-essential?  What if we were able to come together around the table instead of storming out of the room?

A pastor I respect very much once said to me, “I fear for who is next.”  As a government and as a religion (I’m speaking here generally about the church as a whole, not as individual denominations or local congregations.), we have notoriously excluded someone from power.

African-Americans.

Native Americans.

Asians.

Women.

Criminals.

Irish.

Hispanics.

Catholics.

Protestants.

LGBT persons.

Immigrants.

The Handicapped.

Children.

The list can go on if we want to dig deeper into our history.  The more we look, the more we find the truth: someone has always been an outsider in our nation and in our religion.  We don’t like to admit that, but it’s the truth.  We largely define ourselves by who we are not.

The Scriptures I cited above don’t say to enact justice for those who deserve it.  The scriptures say to act in kindness, love, righteousness, and justice.  It doesn’t say to condone every behavior, despite your personal convictions.  It says to work for justice.  It says to love kindness.

Someday I may find out that I was wrong.  I may come to find that the justice we chose to pursue was a tragic mistake.  I may put people in situations where the tradition we’ve known is compromised.  I don’t think that will happen, but I could be wrong.

I’m ok with being wrong.

I’m not ok with being unfair.

I would rather work to make sure every person who wants to work alongside me is able to live into their calling than to exclude someone for my personal beliefs.  I would rather embrace “the sinner” in love than insulate myself from her.  I will always choose kindness.  I will always choose love.

I cannot control the actions of another person.

Keeping someone out of the fellowship will not change their behaviors.

It will only change me.

It will harden me and my community of faith to the outsider.

It will allow prejudices to form.

It will make space for judgment in our midst.

I don’t want to be that kind of minister.

I don’t want my denomination to be that kind of place.

I want us to come together.

I want us to work together.

I want us to love together.

I believe we have the power to make transformative change in our churches, our government, and our lives.  I believe that as we champion our respective causes we can support one another.  I believe that if you are passionate about welcoming immigrants and I am passionate about LGBT rights, we need one another.  I believe justice is justice and love is love.

I will choose to love those who believe I am wrong.

I will choose to love those who refuse to engage me in conversation.

I will choose to love those who others will not.

I will choose love.

Always love.

Will you?

Will you join me in working for justice for all people?

Will you come alongside me to proclaim that all anyone really wants is to feel accepted and valued for who they are?

Will you allow yourself to make space for everyone?

Will you find your voice in the midst of a group?

Will you help someone else find theirs?

The kingdom is a place where God leaves no one out.

I need your perspective, and you need mine.

We need one another if we’re going to make changes.

We need to put aside our judgments and welcome one another.

How will we ever welcome the outsider if we can’t embrace each other?

Let’s talk.

Rob Portman and the Lack of Moral Imagination

By Derek Penwell

Rob and Will Portman.jpg

Why is there never a headline that reads “Formerly Pro-LGBT Parents Reverse Position on Marriage Equality when Child Comes Out?”

I’ve been thinking about this lately since all the hubbub over Republican Senator Rob Portman’s change of heart on the issue of same gender marriage. Portman’s new position emerged after his son, Will Portman, came out as a gay man.

That it took Rob Portman as long as it did to change his mind publicly is the source of consternation among some who believe that he should have acted sooner. His son announces he’s gay, right? How can the guy not immediately come out and publicly support a member of his family?

Look, I’m willing to cut Sen. Portman a little slack for trying to wrap his mind around a reality he’d taken public stands against over the years. One’s relationship to one’s convictions, like any good relationship, require an appropriate amount of space to develop and mature. Ocean liners and turning on a dime, and all that stuff.

My problem is the lack of moral imagination.

Let me confess, I’m ambivalent about the reason for his positional flip in particular, and the prevalence of that kind of epiphany among conservative Christians in general. On the one hand, Mr. Portman discovered something that a lot of people have known for a long time: Love makes a difference. Now, by that I don’t mean that loving someone automatically prompts acceptance of everything about that person. On the other hand, it’s hard to blame Mr. Portman for seeing the light because the abstraction of “marriage equality” finally showed up with a face he recognized.

I’ve argued elsewhere that the paradigm shift taking place in our culture with respect to LGBT rights has as much to do with personal relationships as anything else. All the hermeneutical and scientific arguments laid end to end don’t pack the same persuasive force as waking up one day to find that there are LGBT people whom you already love and continue to desire to see flourish. So, I don’t fault Rob Portman for changing his position because of his son. In fact, I’d have a bigger problem if he knew about his son, and because of that knowledge tried to change his son rather than himself.

What I find troubling isn’t that people have convictions that are subject to change because of personal relationships, or even that those convictions take some time to change. My problem is the lack of creative moral imagination evinced by an inability to feel empathy for those people you don’t know personally, the inability to imagine the pain others must feel unless those “others” happen to be planetoids within the solar system of your personal relationships.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matt. 5:46-47).

Here’s my problem: As I read the Gospels, Jesus seems intent on expanding his followers’ capacity to love others by strengthening their moral imaginations, not by providing them new algorithms so they can automatically know who’s not invited to the dance. Turns out, Jesus is more interested in broadening the guest list than in making sure nobody gets in wearing Chuck Taylors or a purple tuxedo (see, for instance, Matt. 22:9-10).

Jesus is keen to teach his followers to envision the world through the eyes of those most unlike us, those with whom we wouldn’t even be caught dead at the same dance. His question about loving only “those who love you” emerges in the context of his exhortation to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (5:44a-45b). Notice it doesn’t say to love those who are different from you so that they will be children of God, but so that you will.

So here’s the thing, as far as I can tell, Jesus places on us the responsibility of learning to love those for whom we have no personal attachment—not so that they’ll eventually become like us, but so that we’ll eventually become like God.

Having your heart changed because someone you know is LGBT is great. True moral achievement according to Jesus, however, is having your heart changed because you desire enough to be like God to try to see the world the way an LGBT person does … most especially an LGBT person you don’t even know.

Proclaiming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a People of Grace and Welcome to All

What follows is a copy of the resolution that has been submitted for consideration at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Orlando, July 13-17.  It is a resolution Proclaiming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ a People of Grace and Welcome to all . . . regardless  of "race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical ability."

Since there has been much speculation about what such a resolution might look like, we thought it might be helpful to release the resolution that has already been submitted, with the understanding that because of the process such a resolution must go through, it is fairly certain that some revisions will be made to the content.   However, this is the text of the document submitted by the congregations listed below.

Additionally, here is a link to a Description of the Need for a Resolution, along with some FAQs.  

~ (Derek Penwell)

Proclaiming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a People of Welcome and Grace to All

WHEREAS, we, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) understand ourselves to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, called to welcome others even as we have been welcomed by God [1] and to practice hospitality to one another,[2]  as well as to strangers;[3]

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture affirms that all people have worth and are created in the image of God and share with all others in the worth that comes from being unique individuals,[4]  which has been reiterated at past General Assemblies (2001, 2005, 2011);

WHEREAS, we affirm that as Christians we are many members, but are one body in Christ–members of one another, and that we all have different gifts.[5]  With Jesus we affirm that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves,[6] and that we are called to the ministry of reconciliation and wholeness within the world and within the church itself; 

WHEREAS, Disciples affirm baptism as the primary call to ministry, and offer baptism to all who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior;

WHEREAS, Disciples profess that the nature of Christian discipleship is profoundly informed by a common table, which is central to the act of worship. This emphasis on communion calls attention to the radical nature of the hospitality extended by Jesus–an act that welcomes all to be received at the Lord’s table of grace. In centering our worship on the Lord’s table, Disciples cannot but remember that our very birth as a movement came at Cane Ridge in reaction to limitations being placed on this welcome, and later in Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address;

WHEREAS, Disciples emerged as a movement centered on a call to Christian unity as our “polar star,” who must recognize that cutting off anyone who seeks the hospitality of the Lord’s table is an act of disunity;

WHEREAS, Disciples have been engaged in a process of discernment on the question of the participation of all Christians regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the life and ministry of the church since 1997 with mixed results;

WHEREAS, we know there are people who are devalued and discriminated against within society, and more sadly within the church because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity;

WHEREAS it is also recognized that the people of God find our identity around the table, holding each other dear even when we disagree; and that the church from its beginning has understood that God’s Spirit leads congregations to differing interpretations of scripture, but that each are called to claim one another in unity, transcending our differences;

AND WHEREAS, it is understood that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) operates with a congregational polity whereby local congregations have final say in matters of conscience;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) declares itself to be a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children–inclusive of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical ability;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affirms the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither are grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but are a part of God's good creation;

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that all expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a people of grace and welcome, are encouraged similarly to declare their support for the welcome of and hospitality to all Christians, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical ability.

[1] Mark 12:31 [Statement of Identity of the CC (DOC), Disciples.org]

[2] 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Peter 4:9

[3] Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2

[4] Genesis 1:26–7

[5] 2 Corinthians 5:18–20

[6] Matthew 7:12

Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Louisville, KY)

Midway Hills Christian Church (Dallas, TX)

Chalice Christian Church (Gilbert, AZ)

Fireside Christian Church (Denver, CO)

Little White Chapel (Burbank, CA)

First Christian Church (Eugene, OR)

Tapestry Ministries (Berkeley, CA)

St. Andrew Christian Church (Olathe, KS)

Lafayette Christian Church (Lafayette, CA)

First Christian Church (Concord, CA)

University Christian Church (San Diego, CA)

First Christian Church (Vallejo, CA)

New Covenant Community Church (Normal, IL)

First Christian Church (Lynchburg, VA)

Central Christian Church (Indianapolis, IN)

First Christian Church (Orange, CA)

Open Hearts Gathering (Gastonia, NC)

Bethany Christian Church (Tulsa, OK)

Pine Valley Christian Church (Wichita, KS)

Foothills Christian Church (Phoenix, AZ)

GLAD-Pacific Southwest Region (Irvine, CA)

GLAD Alliance

Election 2012: So, What's the Takeaway?

By  Derek Penwell

The election is over. But what election would be complete without the valedictory, the “take-away,” the things we learned (or should learn)? I have some thoughts about the election in no particular order:

  • Healthcare—The Presidential election made a statement about, among other things, what we think of people’s access to healthcare. Whatever else Obamacare does (or fails to do), it makes the case that people’s access to healthcare is a moral issue—and not simply an economic issue, or a personal freedom issue, or an assertion about the dangers of “creeping socialism.” Allowing corporations motivated by profit to deny coverage to people in their darkest hour, preventing coverage of people who need it most because they have pre-existing conditions, dropping people’s coverage when it becomes too costly—these are moral issues. I know people who believed that their lives (literally) depended on the election yesterday, because of the implications for the Affordable Care Act. The election results speak to our country’s belief that people should fear getting sick because of sickness, not because they lack the financial resources. Nobody should have to say, “I’m too poor to be sick.”

  • Class—Another thing this Presidential election brought into stark relief is the extent of our division over wealth. Comments like the ones Mitt Romney made concerning 47% of Americans, and Paul Ryan’s remarks about the country being made up of “makers and takers,” make our political discourse meaner. I realize both sides speak ill of one another. But that misses the point. In this case, the issue turns not on snarkiness, but on a partisan narrative that paints a significant portion of the population as unworthy of our concern. Why? Because they’re moochers, parasites, free-loaders who only suck the system dry without giving anything back to it. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a way to get Jesus to occupy the assumptions that position entails—that is, that people are lazy, dishonest, and disposable. By repudiating that framing of our common life, this election allows us the room we need to find opportunities to address the real (often systemic) problems people face in ways that don’t continue to enable those problems. Whether we’ll always get it right is another question; but we certainly ought to be a people capable of resisting the sinful impulse to throw people away just because they can’t figure out anywhere else to find the help they need.

  • LGBTIQ Rights —Ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland, and Washington give the citizens of those states the right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, putting an end to 32 straight defeats of same-gender marriage at the ballot box. In Minnesota voters defeated a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage. In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin, became the first openly lesbian Senate candidate in the country. Yesterday’s election results indicate a sea change in our culture’s attitudes toward LGBTIQ people. The inexorability of this eventual shift seems stronger today than it did the day before yesterday.[1] I don’t want to over think it, but it seems to me that mainline denominations were put on notice yesterday that the world is going to continue to move forward—with or without progressive Protestant denominational approval.
  • Who owns the Government?Citizens United … the Supreme Court decision that extended the individual right of free speech to corporations, allowing them to give almost unlimited sums of money to influence elections … was tested on a national stage during this election. Since that decision was handed down in January of 2010, the fear of many has been that Citizens United would allow those with the most money to buy elections. Over 1.5 billion dollars was spent on this election by outside groups on campaign advertising—the bulk of which was negative. One of the conclusions we may draw from this election, it seems to me, is that the immunity of the body politic appears much more robust than many of us feared. I suspect that Karl Rove will have an uncomfortable meeting, trying to explain to his nameless investors why it is that, even with the enormous amounts of money he expended, he couldn’t deliver some key victories—not least the Presidency. Our democracy is healthier than we imagined, and certainly better off than those who grouse that the country needs “taking back.”

  • Truth Matters—One of the important principles revealed by this Presidential campaign season is that, contrary to the dire predictions of many, we are not yet a “post-truth” society. That is to say, given the stunningly bold nature of the dissembling Mitt Romney’s campaign embraced (almost always with impunity), conventional wisdom suggested that we had turned a corner on the nature of truth-telling in our culture. Romney’s chief pollster, Neil Newhouse, admitted as much when he said at the Republican National Convention, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Romney lied about his own past positions on everything from abortion and gay marriage to immigration and the auto bailout. He misrepresented the positions of the President on a host of issues—from charges that the President removed the work requirement from welfare to the President’s “apology tour.” And before you get all defensive, I know that politicians have always tended to “mold and shape” the truth to fit the current narrative—President Obama included. However, there’s never been a candidacy predicated on such a brazen disregard, not only for the truth, but for the consequences of not telling the truth. This election rejected the idea that politicians can knowingly lie and not be held accountable for prevaricating.

  • Everybody Counts (The Triumph of Demographics)—One of the things that shines brightest from this election involves the emerging reality that previously ignorable demographic constituencies are ignorable no longer. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age—all these categories of people that have historically hovered at the edge of social relevance just crashed the cultural party in a politically significant way. No longer is it possible to win elections based on the calculation that “if we can just get enough white guys to back us, we can pull this out.” Moving forward, politics will increasingly be forced to reckon with groups of people who used to be political non-factors. As the percentage of white voters decreases, the concerns of previously marginal groups will become more and more central to the public debate. As somebody who claims to follow Jesus, I take this new concern for others to be a good thing. 
  1. See Jennifer Rubin’s advice to Republicans to just “move on”.  ↩