God’s Prism

One of the things that amazes me about God’s creation is that each human life is so wonderfully unique. Even if we are born in multiples, there is something special and different about every one of us. We each have a specific set of genes and personality traits. We have an array of physical, mental and spiritual capacities. We come from different times, cultures, environments and family situations, giving us a wide variety of perspectives on life. And, as we are all human, we each have our own unique set of imperfections.

In the conclusion of his classic book ‘The World’s Religions,’ Huston Smithth says that one way of thinking about the different faith traditions of the world is to compare them to “a stained glass window, whose sections divide the light of the sun into different colors.” He points out that “For God to be heard and understood, divine revelations would have to be couched in the idioms of its respective hearers.” Each religion reflects how it understands God in it’s own way. I think this beautiful analogy applies to individual believers as well.

For Christians, Jesus is our pure light. He shines through us when we follow his teachings and share his goodness in the world. Our unique imperfections limit our capacity to shine Jesus’ light perfectly, but we have been given the light to shine, anyway, through the grace of an almighty God who is light, and who has overcome the darkness. As the perfect light shines through our imperfections, we become like prisms, refracting God’s light into a beautiful rainbow of unique colors.

th-1We don’t have the right to tell other believers what color their lights should be. We don’t have the right to tell another color it should be our color. We just have the right to shine our own lights in the best way we can–whatever color that may be–and to come together with as many others as we can, so others may see the beauty of God’s light.

The Reverend Dr. James Forbes, Pastor Emeritus of Riverside Church in New York, preached at Shiloh Baptist in Washington, DC this past Sunday. He pointed out that Christmas comes in winter. No matter how cold, bleak or difficult our surroundings may seem at any given time, it’s all just th-3background–darkness–that will be shined away by the light of the world who came as a baby in a manger. That child is our Messiah, who overcame the world some 2,000 years ago.

Darkness will not overcome our world, our country, our cities or our communities as long as we let Jesus’ light shine through us. Our beautiful spectrum of bright colors will confuse the darkness! There is nothing more powerful than Jesus, who dwells in us. Nothing. That means we need not be afraid of a misogynistic, intolerant, power hungry and greedy tyrant–like King Herod– no matter how much power he may seem to hold, and no matter how many others may seem to follow him. Together, the spectrum of light that shines through us will simply blind him, and it will bind him.

Let’s celebrate Christmas with the great joy that our God has given us, in solid faith that this world can’t take it away. Let’s tell the world by our words and actions–all through the year– Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Call Me Bonhoeffer

Dear Friends,

I’m restarting my blog because it’s time and because I have a lot to say. This first one is about the disaster of a Trump presidency. Please know that I have other more hopeful thoughts to share with you, but this one needs to be shared right now.

CALL ME BONHOEFFER

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran priest in Germany during Hitler’s Nazi regime. A great theologian and scholar, he was best known for his staunch and open resistance to the Nazi dictatorship. He vocally opposed the genocidal persecution of Jewish people. He was arrested, placed in a concentration camp and executed by hanging on April 9, 1945, just a few weeks before the Germans surrendered. His writings are a continual source of deep Christian encouragement and faith. Please click on the above link (in green) to read his biography, which shows that he was likely influenced by spending time in Harlem in 1930. Call me Bonhoeffer. I may not agree with everything Bonhoeffer said or did, but I admire his willingness to stand against the major evil of his time, even to the point of death.

Hillary Clinton won the majority of our votes, but the Electoral College twisted that into a victory for Donald Trump. His power over our country will be solidified by Republican control of the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. Based on what Trump has said and who his allies are, here is a list, in no particular order of priority, of some things that we can expect to happen. These are things that we must challenge with Bonhoeffer-style courage and faith.

Racial Hatred and Inequality. Trump is enthusiastically supported by the Arian Nation, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups.His call to “Make America great again” was heard by many to return this country back what it was like in the 50‘s, when segregation was legal and racists could comfortably and openly display their hatred towards African Americans. Include now Hispanic Americans, Muslims and who knows who else.

Gun Proliferation. ‘nuff said. His support by the gun lobby is clear. Expect more gun violence in our country.

No Equal Pay for Women. Gone.

Limits on Immigration. Forget about the statute of liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Will he really try to build a wall on the Mexican border?

Repudiation of Black Lives Matter. Those who don’t understand how important this movement is will do everything they can to stop it and other grassroot efforts to make our country more fair for all people.

Cutting Back on Prison Reform. The facts that our country incarcerates more citizens than any other nation in the worldand that our penal system is biased against people of color, will no longer be seen as a sin and a shame.

Failing to Protect and Conserve Our Natural Resources. Trump doesn’t believe in global warming, and he has promised to “get rid of” government regulation of big businesses. This means that the Standing Rock protest of the pipeline through the Dakotas will be under attack. Just two days after the election, Mitch McConnell asked Trump to approve the Keystone pipeline through the Rockies. The global warming accord will no longer be strongly supported by the U.S.

Decreasing Consumer Safety and Protection. Again, Tump has promised to “get rid of” governmental control over big business. That includes businesses like food manufacturers, giant drug companies and banks. So scary in so many ways. Can you imagine?

Rescinding LGBTQ Rights. All people ought to have the right to choose who they will love, and that includes the benefits that come with marriage. The hard fight that led to marriage equality will likely give way to legalized discrimination and hate crimes.

Limiting Women’s Right to Choose. Abortions will become illegal again, like in the 60’s, when my 18-year-old friend died from an illegal effort that was fueled by her being kicked out by her parents and having no where to go. This doesn’t happen to rich folks who can just go somewhere else. It only hurts and criminalizes poor women–again, disproportionately people of color.

Wage Decreases. I say it a third time–Trump has promised to undo governmental regulation of big businesses. Yes, the big companies may come back to the U.S.  and create more jobs. But these companies will only come back if they can make the same margin of profit, or more, than they make in third world countries. The rich will get richer, which is what big business is all about, and will prove once again that trickle down just doesn’t work. Greed is a very effective tool of the evil one.

Religious Discrimination. This is one of the bedrock concepts of our great nation. Fear, th-1another great tool of the evil one, can turn people into paranoid fanatics, and the threat to Muslims in our country is now very clear.

Killing Affordable Health Care. Trump has vowed to end Obamacare (and replace it with what)?

I’m sure I’ve missed some things we must challenge as faithful followers of Christ.  If there are other issues you would like to add to this list, please let us know!

To put this all in a global perspective, please read this article by Anne Applebaum, published in the November 6 Washington Post. We ought to be aware that Trump and Putin are not the only ones in this collusion–also included are leaders of Brexit and other countries who threaten to bring back the white domination of the past “by force.”

This would be really scary if I were not a person of faith. From Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ….. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I will always believe in the hope that is at the heart of our Christian faith. This hope activates and strengthens us. I believe that we are now facing challenges that will help us identify what is most important for people who really want to follow Christ, and not just claim the name “Christian.”

I believe that we will listen to Jesus more closely than we listen to Donald Trump. We will stand up for the poor, the hungry, the children, the immigrants, the outsiders and all of God’s people. We will learn how important it is to love all of God’s creation, and all the people who God has created. We will learn how to stand against the works of the evil one, and we will learn not to worship Mammon.

Call me Bonhoeffer. I hope you’ll join me in this, we can use more Bonhoeffer type faith!