Agent Orange versus my optimism/pessimism

The Trump adult male scions – THEM I need a name for; any ideas?

Arthur could hardly find any questions at all to ask me for Ask Roger Anything:

What the hell should we call the Orange Guy? I personally don’t want to use his surname, title, or anything else that would indicate respect for him that I don’t have. What’s the alternative(s) without being too childish?

I think this is a personal decision. I’ve seen Drumpf (based on the family name) which carries over to the proto-Nazi activities such as vilifying the press, and I briefly used that, but it’s a pain to spell. Others drop the T from the surname and refer to him as Rump because he’s such an ass.

I was quite taken by Hair Furor, but it works better in writing than in spoken word, because it sounds exactly as it’s SUPPOSED to sound.

Currently, I’ve settled on Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Vietnam war to destroy the enemy’s plant life but which managed to harm or kill innocent civilians and American troops, because I find him toxic. A guy named Michael who I knew for only a short time died from it in the early 1980s. I’m not married to that term, but it’ll do for now.

All things considered—interpret that as you want—are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? If pessimistic, what are a couple things that if they changed might make you more optimistic? And if you’re optimistic, what’s your secret?!

Yes. I mean I’m optimistic because my faith requires it. I don’t mean this in a doctrinaire way, but rather how I take being a Christian. I believe, honestly, that people can change, that we all have a shot at redemption. I’m pessimistic because, despite my faith, that’s what I tend to default to, from painful experience.

Melancholy gets in the way too, and it’s not just me: Americans who voted against AO are feeling unprecedented dread and despair.

I’d be more optimistic if I thought we were all dealing with the same facts. There was this story about the Trump adult male scions – THEM I need a name for; any ideas? – involved in some unsavory pay-for-play scheme, for the second time since the election.

Someone, who I know personally, chimed in and said it was “Fake news. Fake news. Fake news.” And she said, “Research it.” I said, I did. And she said, “Please, check with Trump sources,” by which time the boys were backpedaling, not knowing HOW their names showed up on the invitation.

I wrote, “They realize they’ve been caught doing something egregiously wrong and try to change the narrative, to be kind. You do not seem to understand the definition of ‘fake news,’ which [contains] articles that are false, written to deceive. These are mainstream news sources [TIME, the Wall Street Journal] playing the appropriate role as the fourth estate, ignoring a politician’s spin…”

I also cited Mark Evanier, who noted: “You get the feeling we’re facing four years where the response to every single criticism of the Trump presidency will be that it’s a lie, the evidence is phony and even it were true, we don’t care what anyone says.”

And it went on from there.

John Ziegler, conservative radio host: “Over the years, we’ve effectively brainwashed the core of our audience to distrust anything that they disagree with.” The quote was in a New York Times story about how conservatives are now using the term “fake news” for anything they disagree with. And even educated people are buying into it.

We can’t fight climate changeGLOBAL WARMING if we can’t agree it’s happening. Plus the nominees for Cabinet positions under Agent Orange are anti-environment, anti-labor, anti-education, et al. How optimistic do you want me to be? Still, we try.

Only slightly off topic: NO one should ever use the phrase “Do your research” on social media without a link to the research THEY are referring to. As a librarian, I need to know WHAT sources someone is quoting that I need to investigate. I’m sure I’ve written that before, but after the aforementioned incident, I feel the need to reiterate it.

Jaquandor asks a similar question:

Is it just wishful thinking that I increasingly see Trump as the somewhat accidental victory of a dying worldview?

I find in AO’s victory, and some right-wingers in Europe, including the Brexit vote, a return to tribalism. When the world is scary, with bombings and shootings and stabbings and trucks being used as weapons, I suspect that there will be a certain desire for a “good old days” that doesn’t exist, that closing the borders ultimately won’t fix.

I would like to think of it as a dying worldview, but I’m not convinced I’m right.

I think things are likely to get pretty cruddy short-term

Now THAT I agree with!

The family saw a production of Camelot at the Capitol Rep in downtown Albany on Christmas Eve afternoon. It was EXTRAORDINARILY good, with knights and ladies and even the leading lady doubling as instrumentalists. But in the end, I was incredibly sad.

That ideal of working things out under the rules of law, and brainpower, lost! War won out. And this was a day or two after Agent Orange called for a nuclear arms race.

…but I remain optimistic long-term. Am I dumb to think that?

Well, no, you’re not dumb. Without hope, what is there?

At our most recent Christmas Eve service, I read aloud Isaiah 11: 4a, 5-9, which contains the familiar, albeit misremembered, passage about the wolf and the lamb. Either it is a prophecy, or it is an entreating that we help make it happen. Either way, I am not without hope.

 

Christianity and me, Part 1: Losing My Religion

By the time I got to 10th grade, I had started carrying around my Bible.

losing-my-religionArnoldo Romero is one of the regular ABC Wednesday participants. On his E is for Ecclesiastical post, he talked about his faith journey. Hey, he’s a PK, or preacher’s kid; I know a few of those.

He wrote, “I have even considered going into the ministry at a couple of points throughout my lifetime.” I responded, “When I was 12, most people thought I would become a minister, and I tended to agree,” to which Arnoldo responded, “I’d love to learn more about your spiritual journey and what led you to have a change of heart about going into the ministry sometime.” My answer: “That’s going to take a blog post. Or two.”

Or more, because, somewhere tied in there, I need to respond to an earlier question from Arthur – no, I haven’t forgotten – about the author Ta-Nehisi Coates, and specifically his atheism.

Let’s start at the very beginning. I was raised in the church, specifically Trinity AME Zion Church in Binghamton, NY. AME stands for African Methodist Episcopal. Like the AME Church, founded a decade before in Philadelphia, the AMEZ church was founded as a result of racial prejudice on the part of the M. E. (white) church, this time in New York City, “licensed a number of colored men to preach, but prohibited them from preaching even to their own brethren, except occasionally, and never among the whites.”

I was baptized when I was five months old. My paternal grandmother, Agatha Green (nee Walker) was one of my Sunday school teachers. The junior choir, under the direction of Fred Goodall, who was there for decades, included both my sister Leslie and me.

When I was nine, I was “saved.” I was at someone’s house on Oak Street, about a half a block from my church, but I wasn’t with folks affiliated with my church, and in fact, I’m not remembering whose house it was at all.

What I do recall was watching a Billy Graham crusade one afternoon or early evening on television. The evangelist Graham had a regular column in one of the Binghamton newspapers at the time. On the TV, he did his usual altar call, where he asks if we in the audience, as well as those gathered wherever he was, wanted to accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It sounded good to me. So I said yes.

The secretary to the principal of my school, Daniel S. Dickinson, was named Patricia J. Gritman. Though I don’t remember the process, at some point, Pat asked if I wanted to go to a Bible study at her house on Front Street, a half dozen blocks from where I lived. I attended Friday Night Bible Club for at least five years, as did Leslie. We memorized Bible verses, some of which I STILL know; sang songs; and, according to Leslie, ate a lot.

I was still attending Sunday school at my church, As I got a bit older, my father, Les Green, led a group of kids, including Leslie, our cousin Debbie and me, in a group called the MAZET singers, MAZET being an anagram of our church’s acronym.

At school, I tried not to lord my religion over others, but issues came up. For instance, the vast majority of my classmates found a way to cheat on some written tests in biology, but I was unwilling to do so, to the detriment of my grade.

By the time I got to 10th grade, I had started carrying around my Bible. I didn’t discuss the Book unless asked, but it was my statement of faith.

If someone were to ask me what I was going to be in this period, I probably would have said “a minister.” I got the feeling that others in my church thought so. I was becoming familiar with Scripture, and I was an active church participant, reasonably intelligent, and very well-behaved.

Around that period, I started attending another church on Sunday evenings, Primitive Methodist Church in Johnson City, a primarily white church. Usually, I’d walk about 0.6 mile to my friend Bob’s house, then we’d walk over 2.5 miles to the service; sometimes, we’d walk back, too. This was a more, for lack of a better word, fundamentalist POV.

A funny thing happened, though. As I got even more knowledgeable about the Bible, I found it more confusing, at least if one were supposed to take it all literally, as opposed to reading parts of it as allegory. Part of the problem was sheer mechanics. Genesis 1’s and Genesis 2’s creation stories deviate from each other. If Adam and Eve were literally the first people, who did Cain and Seth have children with?

More problematic was the notion that we American Christians had to send missionaries all over the world to save souls, lest they all go to hell. The narrative was that some person, even a child, in India who wasn’t even aware of Jesus Christ was sentenced to eternal damnation? I had a great big problem with a loving Jesus being part of that, but I received no satisfactory answer. There were other issues, too, but that was the big one, presumably tied to John 14:6.

Then, I started poking at even the most prosaic issues that Christians I had associated with had been telling me. Some thought going to the movies was sinful, or maybe that Disney movies were OK. Playing cards were wrong, even though my Sunday school-teaching grandmother taught me how to play canasta. I never much bought into these minor issues, but they made me much more cynical about the whole faith thing.

Little by little, doubt crept into my previous impenetrable fortress of faith. In retrospect, I find it interesting that I never made any active attempt to find a church when I went away to college in New Paltz, even though there were at least three within walking distance.

(To be continued, at some point.)
***
Some R.E.M. song.

Why the Hobby Lobby decision is bad for people of faith

Hobby Lobby is not a church, or any other form of religious institution, yet, many will argue, is being treated as though it were one.

FaithFlagsI’ve actually written my responses to all of you folks who participated in Ask Roger Anything this past round. And the rest of you people can STILL ASK.

But I’ve bumped my responses back a couple of days to answer Arthur; I even postponed my answer to Arthur’s earlier question, so it’s his own fault. He wrote, in response to this post about the US Supreme Court case regarding a store chain, Hobby Lobby, providing contraceptive care:

I’d really like to see you expand on how YOU see this ruling as bad for people of faith. Do you see this case alone as being bad for religion and/or religious people, or is it the ideology behind it? In either case, what bad effects do you personally expect to see or fear may happen?

The answer is all of the above. Next! OK, I guess I’ll expand on this.

Here’s my preamble: I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state. (And the graphic on this page REALLY creeps me out, if you were wondering.) The Jehovah’s Witnesses are extraordinarily good at this separation, not saluting the flag, e.g., because they believe their allegiance should only be to God.

But the Witnesses (and I’m not faulting here) are also largely uninvolved in society in a way that is not for me. I think that the job of religion is to try to prod the state to do the right thing – see Martin Luther King, Jr., who never ran for office – but NOT to BE the state. There ought not to be a national religion, and there should not be the establishment of a preferred religion by any individual state.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that latter scenario; Clarence Thomas is flat out wrong. The due process clause of the 14th Amendment applies here. The separation arrangement, I believe, serves the state well, but it is for the betterment of religious institutions also.

I also bristle at the notion of the United States being founded as a Christian nation, because it sounds like theocracy, where the state and the church are one. This has seldom worked well, as one entity inevitably compromises the role of the other. I’m thinking monarchs as heads of the church, or ayatollahs controlling the government, e.g. And I won’t even get into the US slavery thing.

Check out this article in the Uncommon God, Common Good blog. Speaking about the recent public prayer case, the writers note: “While many Evangelicals and other Christians hailed the SCOTUS ruling as an example of the protections of religious freedoms, those in minority religions, as well as atheists, strongly disagreed. For them, this was yet another instance of Christian privilege and a denial of equal access to others.”

To the specific question: It’s a lot of issues, most of which others have said.

One point is not dissimilar to my argument against that I made about the proposed Arizona law to discriminate against gays, which was broad enough to justify all sorts of religious exceptions to discriminate if one had Deeply Held Beliefs, including Sharia law.

Of course, Sharia law is the #1 fear of a certain segment of the population that thinks the Muslim US President is manipulating to bring to America. That potential law would have put the state in the business of determining what a person’s, or for goodness sake, a business’s(!) Deeply Held Beliefs are, which, I will contend, weakens the impact of religion.

There is an odd dualism about religious bodies. Because religions that have policies that define what their belief systems are, they are allowed to discriminate; a Catholic priest doesn’t have to marry his male parishioner to a female of a different faith, e.g. On the other hand, churches and synagogues and temples, because they have certain tax status bestowed upon them by the state, have at least a suggestion of responsibly to provide services to the community, a function which is not expected of a private firm.

The state, though, ought not to discriminate. (It does, to moneyed interests and the like, but that’s another argument altogether.) The state ought to be providing equal protection under the law, which means not allowing a creation of the state, such as a corporation, to dictate discriminatory policy to the state, and to the public it is supposed to serve.

This is why we rightly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law said, “I don’t care that you don’t want to have black people on your buses; seat them. Treat people fairly.” It even dictated to private businesses, in terms of hotel accommodations, because those businesses were a creation of the state.

Hobby Lobby is not a church or any other form of religious institution, yet, many will argue, is being treated as though it were one. That cheapens the value of the houses of faith.

Or as the story I originally cited notes:

“One way to look at it is this: The whole point of establishing a corporation is to create an entity separate from oneself to limit legal liability… Therefore, Hobby Lobby is asking for special protections/liability limits that only a corporation can get on the one hand, and special protections that only individuals, churches and religious organizations get, on the other. It seems awfully dangerous to allow corporations to have it both ways.“

Historically, churches have provided sanctuary; Hobby Lobby cannot. There is understood confidentiality between a person and clergy; talking with the sales clerk at Hobby Lobby, even about deeply personal issues, does not afford the same protection.

Then there’s the false notion that most people of faith actually support the Hobby Lobby ruling, when a “Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey conducted in early June found that a substantial majority of almost every major U.S. Christian group support the idea that publicly-held corporations and privately-owned corporations should be required to provide employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” So while the ruling may mean “freedom” for a narrow band of religious folks, it runs contrary to the wishes of most people of faith.

On this and many other issues, many Christians, in particular, are tired of being perceived in the mind of the general public as associated with a theological framework that does not represent our beliefs. Some people, probably including you, Arthur, have called on, for lack of a better word, “liberal” Christians to be more vocal.

I dare say some of us feel like we’ve been screaming but not being heard, because much of the mainstream press still use the shortcut of defining the more “conservative” elements of the church as the totality of the church. They use language such as “faith-based Christians” or “Bible-believing Christians”, as though only a certain segment of us have “real” faith or are informed by The Word. Ticks me off.

So I LOVED this story: Clergy Protest Supreme Court By Handing Out Condoms At Hobby Lobby. And given that SCOTUS has erased buffer zones at Planned Parenthood sites in the past month, this seems an inspired act.

What I fear will happen is already happening. This business wants to exclude drug X for religious reasons, that business wants to exclude drug Y, almost always involving prescriptions taken by women. Often these products, in addition to providing birth control, tend to women’s other medical conditions. So I think this is also an anti-woman decision, which those of us of a certain faith tradition find unacceptable.

Sidebar: read Amy’s poem, Hysterical Women Running Amok.

A person of means in this country inevitably gets better health care than a person without; that has long been true. The IDEA of Obamacare, for all its flaws, is that there would be, if not a level playing field, a more level one. These religious exceptions are negating the equal protection that the state ought to be providing. “Faith” perceived as a force for injustice weakens the church.

(There was a whole WWJD paragraph here I tossed, not because I don’t have an opinion, but because it would lead to the silly season. Would Jesus want Obamacare to cover Plan B contraceptive?)

I do believe that the Jesus I know stood for justice for the poor and the oppressed and the “other” and that the Christian thing to do is to not let churches, or – I can’t believe I’m writing this – closely-held corporations with Deeply Held Beliefs (as though there could be such things) to dictate a discriminatory policy on the government. It’s bad governance, and it’s bad for religion.

Did this answer the question, at all?
***
Unrelated to Hobby Lobby, but very related to Christians and justice: Tar Sands: When it’s Hard to Pray in Jesus’ Name: “How do you proclaim your faith when that faith is culturally aligned with injustice?” In fact, read other pieces from this blog, and from Uncommon God, Common Good, which is mentioned above.

May Rambling #1: Depression; and ABCW’s Leslie gets married

The thing I remember most about the 1964-65 World’s Fair in NYC , as was true of many people, was the Belgian waffle.

music.clockMy April was much better than my March, but between blog connectivity problems (more anon), and back pain that kept me out of work for a couple of days, followed by four days out of town for work training, which compressed other tasks, I didn’t a chance to update the April Rambling since April 17. Moreover, I discovered some links from as much as two years ago I was GOING to use but they fell through the cracks. Meaning that I’ll do another one at the end of the month. Always said that if blogging got too hard, I would not do it. And this, comparatively, is the easy post I need right now.

An article about depression I was going to include in a different blog post. Some of the earlier posts from this blog I liked too. The blogger also linked to the TEDx talk Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share. “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me at that moment.” When I imagine many people’s understanding of depression, I think of that famous scene in the movie Moonstuck where the Nicolas Cage character says “I’m in love with you,” and the Cher character slaps him and says, “Snap out of it,” as though that were the answer.

Developed in conjunction with the World Health Association (WHO), this link provides a quick adult ADHD screening test. (I scored in the “likely” range.) But I believe that daydreaming is NOT a disorder; so does Amy. Amy also notes: my faith can’t be pegged on whether This Actually Happened or That Actually Didn’t; I concur.

Why Anthony is a bit uncomfortable with fundamentalist Christians, even though they share many of his theological convictions, in a musical motif.

Was Jesus gay? An Anglican priest says, “Probably.” And The Top 8 Ways To Be ‘Traditionally Married,’ According To The Bible.

55,000 Christians: We’re ‘Appalled By Sarah Palin’s Twisted Misrepresentation Of Our Faith’

Helping Kids Deal with Overcoming Loss. Also, LIKE…Ummm Let’s Learn to Communicate…Dude!!

Sometimes, I just like a blog post because I totally agree with it. SamuraiFrog hates second-hand smoke, and goodness knows, my tolerance is extremely low. Dustbury is put off by visiting folks who constantly have the TV on, even when they’re not watching it; also, the assumption of privilege.

Arthur wrote:

Sometimes I offer…information unsolicited, but most of the time I don’t say anything unless asked rather than appear to be a “know-it-all”. How do YOU decide when to share a fact and when to remain silent?

I say less and less, barring someone potentially coming to bodily harm. That is unless we’re having an interactive conversation about a mutually interesting topic, like the chat I recently had with our departing intern about music, which involved Woody Guthrie, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and Sly & the Family Stone.

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer. As though I didn’t know.

Leslie, my most helpful majordomo on ABC Wednesday, got married on May 1 to her Lorne. She wrote about JOYOUS JUMBLE of JITTERS and Lists and Magical Music and being a little nervous about the nuptials and their Odyssey, which began in 1969; let’s PARTY! A shoutout from Reader Wil.

SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia’s Blunder Is Unprecedented.

GayProf is back with University Admini-o-crats.

Man Buys 10,000 Undeveloped Negatives At a Local Auction and Discovers One of The Most Important Street Photographers of the Mid 20th Century. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but great pictures.

The extraordinarily 80s Crossgates promo film, touting the local mall I eventually learned to hate.

Taking Rube Goldberg Seriously: What fictional inventions say about American ingenuity.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

5 Clearly Fake News Stories The Media Told You Were True.

List of the 101 Best Written TV Series from the WGA, West.

The insanity of political correctness continues.

This Man Somehow Solved The Hardest ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Puzzle Ever! Hey, I got the first word…

The Comics that Corrupted Our Kids!

Rebecca Jade, niece #1, singing I’d Rather Go Blind, the Etta James song.

Tosy: U2 – ranked 90-81.

50 Years Ago last month: the 1964-65 World’s Fair Opens in Queens, New York. Our family did not go until 1965, and the thing I remember most, as was true of many people, was the Belgian waffle. Frog has a sidebar about the Fair.

What 1939 Thought Fashion in 2000 Would Look Like.

Pavlova and friend.

More on the five-second rule.

Knowing my penchant for Chucks, someone sent me this: Chuck Taylors vs. Jordans: Sneaker love goes head to head.

Viola Smith plays drums on “Snake Charmer” (1939). She was one of the first professional female drummers.

Harry Belafonte’s journey to the top.

Neko Case and the case for/against religion.

Apropos of nothing, almost every time I read something about swimming, the Peter Gabriel song I Go Swimming, from the live album, pops into my head, especially that opening bass line.

Book Review: Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust by Ken Scott.

Evanier on coincidence, again. This involves Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, and a phone call from Sid Jacobson.

Al Feldstein, R.I.P. He was the MAD magazine editor for nearly 30 years, starting in 1956, so I grew up with his iteration of the publication.

What else did I see the late Bob Hoskins in, besides Nixon and of course, Who Framed ROGER Rabbit? (Here’s a bit of music from the latter.) An episode of Frasier, the movie Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), and most recently, 2010’s Made in Dagenham, which I didn’t see until the following year.

Muppet related: Tick-Tock Sick and The Bug Band play The Beatles and Born to Add and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Pöpcørn and Hey, Food.

50 Shades, Chapter 24 and Chapter 25, and Chapter 26. The end, Hallelujah!

The blog is dead, long live the blog.

GOOGLE ALERT (about me)

Be careful what you ask for, Roger! This becomes the music choice when Jaquandor is too busy to pick a “traditional” Something for Thursday. Buying a house WILL do that to one.

Arthur name checks me a tittynope.

Dustbury sympathizes with my new computer purchase. Then the Sooner explains why Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee.

Knocking at Midnight: Martin Luther King, Jr.

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

I like to look for less familiar text for Martin Luther King’s birthday. Unfortunately, soundbites from his I Have a Dream speech, for instance, have been so torn from its context as to make it unrecognizable.

A Knock at Midnight (found here [PDF]) was delivered on 14 September 1958. It has some Cold War references that I removed, not because there aren’t modern-day equivalents, but for clarity, and an attempt at brevity. The text was based on Luke 11:5-6, RSV: “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”? It’s all MLK until the end.

Although this parable is concerned with the power of persistent prayer, it may also serve as a basis for our thought concerning many contemporary problems and the role of the church in grappling with them. It is midnight in the parable; it is also midnight in our world, and the darkness is so deep that we can hardly see which way to turn…

Midnight is the hour when men desperately seek to obey the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught.” According to the ethic of midnight, the cardinal sin is to be caught and the cardinal virtue is to get by. It is all right to lie, but one must lie with real finesse. It is all right to steal if one is so dignified that, if caught, the charge becomes embezzlement, not robbery. It is permissible even to hate if one so dresses his hating in the garments of love that hating appears to be loving. The Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest has been substituted by a philosophy of the survival of the slickest. This mentality has brought a tragic breakdown of moral standards, and the midnight of moral degeneration deepens…

When the man in the parable knocked on his friend’s door and asked for the three loaves of bread, he received the impatient retort, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” How often have men experienced a similar disappointment when at midnight they knock on the door of the church…

In the terrible midnight of war, men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. During the last two world wars, national churches even functioned as the ready lackeys of the state, sprinkling holy water upon the battleships and joining the mighty armies in singing, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war.

And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic privation. In many instances, the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight. The Greek Church in Russia allied itself with the status quo and became so inextricably bound to the despotic czarist regime that it became impossible to be rid of the corrupt political and social system without being rid of the church. Such is the fate of every ecclesiastical organization that allies itself with things-as-they-are.

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.

Midnight is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring word that the church must speak is that no midnight long remains. The weary traveler by midnight who asks for bread is really seeking the dawn. Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come…
***
Obviously, this sermon is about faith – there’s a great story about the Montgomery bus boycott near the end – but it’s also about what the role of the church should, and should NOT be in the greater society. Just as the Greek Orthodox church in czarist Russia became too tied in the mind with the government as to be ineffectual as a change agent, so too it is with the modern western church.

 

The church ought not to be in a role to be a cheerleader for the government when it wages war, ignores and oppresses the poor, accepts injustice, and looks the other way when inequality takes place. I can’t help but wonder that the increasing amount of agnosticism and atheism in this world is a DIRECT result of the church’s failure to follow its own mission statement, which, I will suggest, is the paragraph italicized above, even while the church wrings its hands over the increasing secularism of the society. Perhaps the church is merely reaping what has inadvertently sown. Perhaps, in the United States, a greater separation of church and state would be good for the soul of the church.