What another memorable week we’ve witnessed! It began in the midst of wrestling with the continued cost of COVID-19, even while we celebrated the hopeful news that vaccines are beginning to be distributed. It continued with witnessing the sheer beauty of frost-covered trees glistening in the sunlight, while resuming a return to “school” in whatever form that may take for your children.
Wednesday brought another disturbing and “unprecedented” incident in our public life. The assault on the Capitol has since drawn the response of a host of pundits; I suspect that you are not eager to hear yet another. This seems to be the kind of event that calls for a faith response, for quietism is a very distinct response in itself. I have been guilty of that as often as anything else.
Both Jesus and Luther are explicit in voicing a need to respect the place of and need for good government. Likewise, our Church’s ethical stances have repeatedly echoed the Scriptures in the need to speak out against injustice, even as we live out a different standard – one which honors the dignity and role not only of those called to public service, but of every neighbor of every kind, and dares speak truth to power when it is abused.
I share the fatigue of colleagues who know that voicing a sharp rebuke from a perspective of faith risks it being said wrongly, heard wrongly, or used wrongly and inviting an avalanche of angry response. That is a risk I must take, for the sake of all that sustains and enables the health of our public life. There is no vaccine against apathy, vitriol, or scapegoating, let alone blatant falsehood.
I don’t know all the answers and I have plenty to still learn. As we put forth a collective effort to “restore” community life in the wake of COVID-19, I pray for a focused restoration of civic order in our public life, respectful debate, humble truth, and open dialog. It is not just a call for acceptance or tolerance of those with whom we may vehemently disagree, but real humility and a renewal of commitment to listen openly to the honest concerns and experience of all our neighbors (especially those who are most easily overlooked, as Jesus so clearly witnessed) as well as the courage to address injustice when it arises.
I conclude with a prayer shared with us by Synod Bishop Amy Current on Thursday:
Gracious God, the news of yesterday, acts of violence, racism, loss of life, idolatry of power, along with the continued and palpable divisiveness in our country, rising COVID -19 cases and deaths, and all that leaves aching, we bring to you in prayer.
We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In the depths of pain and anger, we gather before you, O God, our rock and our refuge. You are our only comfort. You are our only hope. Faithful God, surround us with your everlasting arms. Hear our cries of despair, heed our calls for justice, and do not let us lose hope, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen.