Monday, September 28, 2020

Important Article to read: "Giving the full history: Who owned Absalom Jones?"

 

Giving the full history: Who owned Absalom Jones?

February 11, 2008

Absalom Jones is one of the Episcopal Church's and our nation's most heroic founding fathers, and on February 13, we commemorate blessed Absalom, the first black priest and founder of the first black congregation in the Episcopal Church. Absalom Jones had been born into slavery in 1746 and achieved his own freedom in 1784. But, from whom?

I know it's awkward at this time of celebration to acknowledge the man who enslaved Absalom. But the 2006 General Convention mandated that the Episcopal Church give a "full, faithful and informed account of our history" with slavery. So, the time is right to remember that the man he called "master" for 38 years was Benjamin Wynkoop vestrymen, warden and benefactor of Christ Church and St. Peter's in Philadelphia, our Church's two historic congregations that helped give birth both to the nation and the Episcopal Church. May a fair accounting of Jones' and Wynkoop's history as slave and master provide Episcopalians today with the insight to overcome the legacies of a racist past infecting our society, and beloved Church, still.

Absalom was not given the last name of Jones when born on the plantation of Wynkoop's parents in Sussex, Delaware. At an early age, he was taken from the fields and came to work in the house. When Wynkoop chose to farm no longer, but to make his way as a merchant, he sold Absalom's mother and six siblings, and brought the 16-year-old Absalom as his slave to Philadelphia in 1762.

Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Wynkoop began attending the newly constructed St. Peter's, built when Christ Church had become fully subscribed; Christ Church and St. Peter's were one parish church in two congregations.

Wynkoop's business was successful, and how not? Absalom labored from dawn to dusk, he reported, often till midnight. Not only staffed by slave labor, the store sold the fruits of slave labor: "rum, molasses, coffee, chocolate, pepper, and other groceries." According to a biographer, Wynkoop was a "prompt contributor to worthy causes" through his gains reaped by the labor of others. A major donor in the parish, Wynkoop was elected to the common Vestry of Christ Church and St. Peter's in 1769.

According to Absalom's own autobiographical sketch, Wynkoop permitted him to attend a school for blacks, possibly one in Christ Church conducted by the Bray Associates (another history that needs a full accounting). Absalom married a slave, Mary, whose master was Wynkoop's neighbor and fellow parishioner at St. Peter's. Absalom took on the cause of Mary's freedom. With the skills learned in school, he wrote the case and raised the necessary money to purchase her freedom, which her master accepted. Absalom remained a slave.

When General Howe marched his British troops into Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777, Wynkoop temporarily fled. Absalom could have easily taken refuge with and received freedom from the British. But he stayed in the Wynkoop's store. Mary was now free, he had a family that he would not abandon, and a house he had built that he rented to free blacks, saving the money. "I made application to my master in 1778 to purchase my own freedom," he wrote, "but this was not granted."

"My desire for freedom increased," he wrote, because he feared that, while a slave, his house might be taken by Wynkoop. He made "many applications to [Wynkoop] for liberty to purchase my freedom," but Wynkoop wouldn't budge. Why couldn't Wynkoop breath the air of freedom rich and redolent in Philadelphia? Why did his Church, that had many abolitionists as members, remain silent? Those are the questions we are obligated to ask now.

On October 1, 1784, Absalom recounts with a charity surprising that Wynkoop, "generously gave me a manumission." Then, Absalom freely took the surname Jones, uniquely American and sounding nothing like the Dutch Wynkoop.

Within three years, Absalom Jones co-founded the Free African Society. In 1792, he led his congregation from St. George's Methodist Church and founded St. Thomas, which then in 1794 affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese, and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas was born. But what of Benjamin Wynkoop? He becomes warden of Christ Church and St. Peter's during these formative years of the Episcopal Church, but little detail of his life remains. The most interesting detail is from Absalom Jones.

After his manumission, he writes, "I have ever since continued in [Wynkoop's] service at good wages, and I still find it my duty, both late and early, to be industrious to improve the little estate that a kind Providence has put in my hands."

I leave to historians the interpretation of the meaning or importance of Absalom Jones continuing to work for Benjamin Wynkoop, building a relationship of some warmth and forbearance such that Wynkoop's respect for Jones was quoted in Jones' obituary in 1818. But I challenge myself, and the tour guides at Christ Church who will tell Wynkoop's history of slaveholding this year to some 100,000 school children, not to jump to the conclusion of a happy ending to a slavery story in our beloved Episcopal Church. I hope that Jones and Wynkoop truly enjoyed the embrace of reconciliation, but take that possibility as a challenge today to reconcile our present Church with its own history with slavery. Might we be guided by the wisdom of theologian Miroslav Volf: "Remembering well is one key to redeeming the past; and the redemption of the past is itself nestled in the broader story of God's restoring of our broken world to wholeness -- a restoration that includes the past, present, and future."

Absalom Jones wrote that the motivation for founding the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas was "to encourage us to arise out of the dust and shake ourselves, and throw off that servile fear, that the habit of oppression and bondage trained us up in." That same habit of oppression and bondage will continue to infect the Episcopal Church until we tell our complete history with slavery. I pray we, as a Church, arise out of the dust and shake ourselves, and give an informed account of the slaveholders in our past, and not just the slaves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

MLK Jr's Last Sunday Sermon

 


The Song of Mary Luke 1:46-55

 


Canticle: The Song of Mary
Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God my Savior, *
for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you *
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm, *
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones, *
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things, *
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, *
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Presiding Bishop Curry’s Word to the Church: What Did Jesus Do?

  

Presiding Bishop Curry’s Word to the Church: What Did Jesus Do?

Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs
Posted Sep 16, 2020

The following is a Word to the Church from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and is also the text of his sermon at The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, which met virtually September 16, 2020.

A WORD TO THE CHURCH
September 16, 2020
The Right Reverend Michael B. Curry
What Did Jesus Do?

And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This November, the people of the United States will elect a president and many others to public office. This election occurs in a time of global pandemic, a time when there is hardship, sickness, suffering and death. But this election also occurs in a time of great divisions. Divisions that are deep, dangerous, and potentially injurious to democracy. So what is the role of the church in the context of an election being held in a time such as this? What is our role as individual followers of Jesus Christ committed to his way of love in such a time as this?

Allow me to offer a text from the Acts of the Apostles. The introduction to the Acts from the first chapter. Luke writes, “In the first book,” referring to the Gospel of Luke:

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up into heaven.

“In the first book . . . I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught.” All that he did, all that he taught.

In a powerful sermon preached at the July meeting of the House of Bishops, Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah said something that might be helpful to us. He made mention of the little acronym, what would Jesus . . . WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? And he said that can be a helpful way of discerning what we might be being called to do at any given time. But he offered another alternative. He said, “What would happen if we began to ask the question, not what would Jesus do, but what did Jesus do? What did he do? What did he teach? What do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us that Jesus did and taught?” I want to suggest that addressing that question, “What did Jesus do?” and summoning the Spirit to help us apply it to our lives and to our times may mean the difference between the church simply being another religious institution that exists for its own sake and the church being a Jesus movement that courageously follows the way of Jesus and his love, not for its sake, but for the sake of the world that Christ gave his life for and rose from the dead in.

As you know, The Episcopal Church does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates for elective office. And there is good reason for that. First, in the United States, tax exempt, religious, and charitable organizations are by law prohibited from such endorsement, support, or opposition to candidates. This does not prohibit churches from engaging in voter education, voter registration, helping people get to the polls to vote, or even advocating for issues of public policy reflective of the tenants of our faith. And every citizen, including those of us who are members of the church have our rights and responsibilities as well.

Secondly, there are good and faithful followers of Jesus Christ who are Episcopalian. Some are Republican, some are Democrat, some are independents, some liberal, some centrist, some conservative. And just as we must respect the right of every citizen to cast his or her own vote according to the dictates of their conscience, so we must do so in the church, the body of Jesus Christ. And that is how it should be. The Bible says we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, not one political party. But it’s important to remember that partisan neutrality does not mean moral neutrality. Partisan neutrality, bidden to us by human civil law does not mean moral neutrality, because we are bidden to obey the royal law of almighty God. And this may be where our text helps us.

“In the first book Theophilus, I wrote all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until he was taken up into heaven.” When Luke says, “The first book,” he’s referring to the Gospel, but notice what he does so skillfully. Ancient tradition says that Luke was a physician. And we know that this Luke was the author of both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles and tradition says he was a physician. You can see elements of that throughout both books. But in this text, Luke the physician sounds more like Luke the lawyer. In this text, Luke is suggesting that the Jesus we see in the Gospel, what he did and what he taught, is precedent. It is the precedent for how those who would follow him will act and live in their days and in their times. Just as precedents are critical to the law, the precedent of Jesus is critical to the life of those who would follow him in the first century or in the 21st century.

When Jesus says that the entire law and will of God is summed up in the words, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,” that’s precedent. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan about somebody, who as that old song says, “If I can help somebody along the way, then my living will not be in vain.” When he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, of somebody who helps somebody else even though they were a different religious tradition, even though they were of a different ethnic group, even though they may have differed in their politics, differed in their worldview, differed in virtually everything except the fact that they inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Even with all of those differences he helped him because that person, that man was a human child of God created in the image of God. Jesus says, “Now, who was neighbor to the man?” This is what loving your neighbor looks like. And then Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” That’s precedent.

When, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit”; “blessed are those who are compassionate and merciful”; “blessed are the peacemakers”; “blessed are those who hunger and thirst and labor for God’s righteous justice to be done on the earth for all”; “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”; “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you”; my sisters, my brothers, my siblings, that is the precedent for what it means to follow in the way of Jesus in the first century or the 21st century.

Saint Paul heard and knew these teachings of Jesus. And he summarized their meaning. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, all spoke of this as the nonviolent way of love.

The task of the church in the first century or 21st century is to live by the precedent, to bear witness to the precedent and lift up the values of the precedent of Jesus in our time. Because as the book of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” What would Jesus do?

So what can we do? Well, we can vote as individuals. We can vote, and we can help others to register and to get to the polls and cast their vote. We can encourage others to vote as their conscience leads them. And I know someone is probably thinking, that’s true but what does that have to do with Jesus Christ?

What does voting have to do with the Gospel? What does voting have to do with being a Christian? An election for public office is not a popularity contest between two or more people. It’s a contest of ideas about how to shape the future of a community, nation and maybe even a world. It’s a contest, a debate, a discernment of moral values and their relationship to public policy. Voting is an act of moral agency. It is an act of moral discernment and decision. It is how a community or a nation decides how the moral values that it holds and shares shape public policy and the lives of people. The children of God. It is salutary to remember that partisan neutrality does not mean moral neutrality.

The vote is so sacred and important for all people, regardless of your religious tradition or your politics or your nationality. The vote, as an act of moral humanity, is so important that people have given their lives for it.  If you don’t believe Michael Curry, ask the people of Belarus right now. Ask the American martyrs who sacrificed, gave their lives, gave that last full measure of devotion so that people might have the right to vote. Ask Michael Schwerner, ask James Chaney, ask Andrew Goodman in Mississippi, ask the martyrs of Selma, of Viola Liuzzo, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels.

America’s soldiers have fought to defend freedom. Many of them have given their lives. And many of them live with wounds and the scars of war. And one of the freedoms they defended was the freedom, the right, and the responsibility of the vote.

John Lewis in his last published writing before his death said, and I quote, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent that you have in a democratic society,” end quote. There actually is in the New Testament an example of this model of living for followers of Jesus. You’ll find it in the writings of St. Paul in the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters of Romans. I don’t mean to suggest that Paul voted, he didn’t. He was a Roman citizen, but he lived not in the time of the Roman Republic, but in the time of the Roman Empire. But Paul in Romans 13 specifically identified the teachings of Jesus with how he would live his life in both civil society and in Christian community.

In the 13th chapter of Romans, he speaks about the role of government. And then he quickly shifts from speaking about the role of government to the role of the citizen. And then the role of the Christian, who is a disciple in the empire. He says, “You have to pay taxes to whom taxes are due, and an honor to whom honor is due.” And then he says, “But owe no one anything except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” The commandments, you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not covet; and in any other commandment, are summed up in this word, love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Partisan neutrality is not the same as moral neutrality. It was not in the first century and it is not today. The royal law of love is the fulfillment of the law and the will of God. It is the ultimate standard, norm and guide for following the way of Jesus in any society, in any time. With grace to aid and conscience to guide, each of us must discern and decide what love of neighbor looks like in our lives, in our actions, in our personal relationships and in our social and public witness. What did Jesus do?

The vote is vitally important, but it’s not enough. The wounds and the divisions in American society are so deep that even an election by itself cannot heal them. The murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others has exposed the death-dealing depth of racism and white supremacy deeply embedded in the soil and in the soul of America. We can’t go on like this.

Just this past weekend, two deputy sheriffs in Compton, California were deliberately shot as they sat on duty in their car. And then a group of people tried to block the entrance to the hospital where they were being taken, shouting, “Let them die.” Those two sheriffs are children of God. George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor are children of God. We cannot go on this way.

In 1858, as divisions in this nation over slavery, born of racism, would lead to a civil war, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech warning the nation quoting the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” I am not suggesting that we are on the verge of a civil war, but we must not underestimate the danger of the divisions that we are in. These divisions are dangerous, injurious to democracy itself. We must, and I believe we can, find a better way.

I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, because I believe he has shown us that better way. I believe that the way of unselfish sacrificial love can show us the way of repentance, the way to repair the breach. The way of reconciliation that ultimately can lead us to the beloved community, but it’s not easy. And this is long distance work. There are no quick fixes because the wounds are so deep, but we need not feel enslaved by fate. We are not people of fate. We are people of faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing can defeat God or stop God’s cause of love. The way will not be easy, but we can do this.

I’ve included some links to resources that may be helpful to you:

On March 10th, 2016, then presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The rally was disrupted by protestors, which happened around the country to both Trump and Clinton campaigns. Eventually law enforcement officials led the protesters out. As they did a 79-year-old Trump supporter named John McGraw, who is white, jumped out from the crowd and punched Rakeem Jones, one of the protesters who is black. Punched him in the face. Afterward McGraw said, and I quote, “He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization” end quote.

McGraw was arrested and charged with assault. Months later, the two men met again, this time in court. McGraw pleaded no contest, apologized and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation. Afterward, the two men faced each other and shook hands. McGraw said, and I quote, “If I met you in the street and the same thing occurred, I would have said, ‘Go home. One of us will get hurt. That’s what I would have said. But we are caught up in a political mess today, you and me, we’ve got to heal our country.’” Sometime after that, at the request of Rakeem Jones, John McGraw and Rakeem Jones went out and ate lunch together. There is the sign of hope. They went to lunch together.

There’s an old spiritual created and sung by slaves of antebellum America that said,

I’m going to come to the welcoming table one of these days.
I’m going to eat at the welcoming table one of these days.
I’m going to drink milk and honey at the welcoming table one of these days.
I’m going to cross the River Jordan one of these days.
I’m going to eat.
We’re going to eat at the welcoming table one of these days.

We can, we will, we must learn to eat at that welcoming table. Jesus has shown us the way, it is the way of unselfish, sacrificial love. And that way can make room for us all.

So walk together, children. Don’t you get weary because there’s a great camp meeting in the promised land. Amen.

Resources:


[17 de septiembre de 2020] Lo que sigue es un mensaje a la Iglesia del obispo primado Michael Curry, y es también el texto de su sermón en la Cámara de Obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal que se reunió virtualmente el 16 de septiembre de 2020.
MENSAJE A LA IGLESIA
16 de septiembre de 2020
Rvdmo. Michael B. Curry

¿Qué hizo Jesús?

El video del mensaje del Obispo Presidente está aquí.

Y ahora en el nombre de nuestro Dios amoroso, liberador y vivificador, Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo. Amén.

En noviembre, el pueblo de Estados Unidos elegirá a un presidente y a muchas otras personas para cargos públicos. Esta elección tiene lugar en un momento de pandemia global, en un momento en el que hay dificultades, enfermedades, sufrimiento y muerte. Pero estas elecciones también tienen lugar en un momento de grandes divisiones. Divisiones profundas, peligrosas y potencialmente lesivas a la democracia. Entonces, ¿cuál es el papel de la Iglesia en el contexto de unas elecciones que se celebran en un momento como este? ¿Cuál es nuestro papel como individuos seguidores de Jesucristo, comprometidos con su manera de amar, en un momento como este?

Permítanme ofrecerles un texto de los Hechos de los Apóstoles. En la introducción a los Hechos, en el primer capítulo, Lucas dice «En mi primer escrito», refiriéndose al Evangelio que lleva su nombre:

En mi primer escrito, Teófilo, me referí a todas las cosas que Jesús hizo y enseñó desde el comienzo hasta el día en que fue recibido arriba.

“En mi primer escrito . . . me referí a todas las cosas que Jesús hizo y enseñó”. Todo lo que él hizo, y todo lo que enseñó.

En un impactante sermón predicado en la reunión de julio de la Cámara de Obispos, el obispo Scott Hayashi, de Utah, dijo algo que podría sernos útil. Mencionó el acrónimo de ¿qué haría Jesús? [en inglés WWJD], ¿Qué haría Jesús? Y dijo que puede ser una forma útil de discernir lo que podríamos estar llamados a hacer en un momento dado. Pero ofreció una alternativa. Él dijo: «¿Qué pasaría si comenzáramos a hacernos la pregunta, no qué haría Jesús, sino qué hizo Jesús? ¿Qué hizo? ¿Qué enseñó? ¿Qué nos dicen Mateo, Marcos, Lucas y Juan que Jesús hizo y enseñó?» Quiero sugerir que el abordar esa pregunta, «¿Qué hizo Jesús?» y convocar al Espíritu para que nos ayude a aplicarlo a nuestras vidas y a nuestro tiempo puede significar la diferencia entre la Iglesia que es simplemente una institución religiosa más y que existe para sí misma y la Iglesia que es un movimiento de Jesús que sigue con valentía el camino de Jesús y su amor, no en aras de sí misma, sino del mundo por el que Cristo dio su vida y resucitó de entre los muertos.

Como saben, la Iglesia Episcopal no respalda, apoya ni se opone a candidatos políticos para cargos electivos. Y hay una buena razón para ello. Primero, en Estados Unidos, a las organizaciones religiosas, benéficas y exentas de impuestos les está prohibido por ley respaldar, apoyar u oponerse a los candidatos. Esto no prohíbe a las iglesias participar en la educación de los votantes, la inscripción de electores, ayudar a las personas a ir a las urnas a votar, o incluso abogar por cuestiones de política pública que reflejen los principios de nuestra fe. Y cada ciudadano, incluidos aquellos de nosotros que somos miembros de la Iglesia, también tenemos nuestros derechos y responsabilidades.

En segundo lugar, hay buenos y fieles seguidores de Jesucristo que son episcopales. Algunos son republicanos, algunos son demócratas, algunos son independientes, algunos liberales, algunos centristas, algunos conservadores. Y así como debemos respetar el derecho de cada ciudadano a emitir su propio voto según los dictados de su conciencia, también debemos hacerlo en la Iglesia, el cuerpo de Jesucristo. Y así es como debe ser. La Biblia dice que tenemos un Señor, una fe, un bautismo, no un partido político. Pero es importante recordar que la neutralidad partidista no significa neutralidad moral. La neutralidad partidista, que nos impone el humano derecho civil, no significa neutralidad moral, porque estamos obligados a obedecer la ordenanza real del Dios todopoderoso. Y aquí puede ser donde nuestro texto nos ayude.

« En mi primer escrito, Teófilo, me referí a todas las cosas que Jesús hizo y enseñó desde el comienzo hasta el día en que fue recibido arriba». Cuando Lucas dice: «El primer escrito» se está refiriendo al Evangelio, pero fíjense en lo que hace habilidosamente. La tradición antigua dice que Lucas era médico. Y sabemos que este Lucas fue el autor tanto del Evangelio como de los Hechos de los Apóstoles y la tradición dicen que era médico. Puedes ver elementos de eso en ambos libros. Pero en este texto, Lucas el médico suena más como Lucas el abogado. En este texto, Lucas sugiere que el Jesús que vemos en el Evangelio, lo que hizo y lo que enseñó, es un precedente. Es el precedente de cómo actuarán y vivirán los que lo seguirán en sus días y en su tiempo. Así como los precedentes son fundamentales para la ley, el precedente de Jesús es fundamental a la vida de quienes lo seguirían en el siglo I o en el siglo XXI.

Cuando Jesús dice que toda la ley y la voluntad de Dios se resume en las palabras: «Amarás al Señor, tu Dios, con todo tu corazón, con toda tu alma, con toda tu mente y con todas tus fuerzas, y amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo», ese es un precedente. Cuando Jesús contó la parábola del Buen Samaritano sobre alguien que, como dice esa vieja canción, «Si puedo ayudar a alguien en el camino, entonces mi vida no será en vano». Cuando él cuenta la parábola del Buen Samaritano, de alguien que ayuda a otro pese a ser de una tradición religiosa diferente, pese a ser de un grupo étnico diferente, pese a que pueden discrepar en sus políticas, discrepar en su cosmovisión, discrepar prácticamente en todo, excepto en el hecho de que inhalan oxígeno y exhalan dióxido de carbono. Incluso con todas esas diferencias, lo ayudó porque esa persona, ese hombre, era un hijo de Dios, creado a imagen de Dios. Jesús dice: «Quién, pues, era el prójimo de ese hombre?» En eso consiste amar a tu prójimo. Y luego Jesús dice: «Ve y haz lo mismo». Eso es un precedente.

Cuando, en el Sermón del Monte, Jesús dice: «Bienaventurados los pobres y los pobres de espíritu», «bienaventurados los compasivos y misericordiosos», «bienaventurados los pacificadores», «bienaventurados los que tienen hambre y sed y laboran para que la equitativa justicia de Dios se haga en la tierra para todos»; «haz a los demás como te gustaría que te hicieran a ti»; «ama a tus enemigos, bendice a los que te maldicen, ora por los que te maltratan»; mis hermanas y hermanos, ese es el precedente de lo que significa seguir el camino de Jesús en el siglo I o en el siglo XXI.

San Pablo escuchó y conoció estas enseñanzas de Jesús. Y resumió su significado. No seas vencido de lo malo, sino vence con el bien el mal. Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, todos hablaron de esto como la forma no violenta del amor.

La tarea de la Iglesia en el siglo I o en el siglo XXI es vivir conforme al precedente, dar testimonio del precedente y elevar los valores del precedente de Jesús en nuestro tiempo. Porque como dice el libro de Hebreos, «Jesucristo es el mismo ayer, hoy y por los siglos». ¿Qué haría Jesús?

Entonces, ¿qué podemos hacer? Bueno, podemos votar como individuos. Podemos votar y podemos ayudar a otros a inscribirse y llegar a las urnas y emitir su voto. Podemos animar a los demás a votar según los dictados de su conciencia. Y sé que alguien probablemente esté pensando, eso es cierto, pero ¿qué tiene eso que ver con Jesucristo?

¿Qué tiene que ver la votación con el Evangelio? ¿Qué tiene que ver votar con ser cristiano? Una elección para un cargo público no es un concurso de popularidad entre dos o más personas. Es un concurso de ideas sobre cómo dar forma al futuro de una comunidad, una nación y tal vez incluso de un mundo. Es un concurso, un debate, un discernimiento de los valores morales y su relación con la política pública. Votar es un acto de delegación moral. Es un acto de discernimiento y decisión morales. Es la forma en que una comunidad o una nación decide cómo los valores morales que sostiene y comparte dan forma a las políticas públicas y a la vida de las personas: los hijos de Dios. Es saludable recordar que la neutralidad partidista no significa neutralidad moral.

El voto es sacrosanto e importante para todas las personas, independientemente de su tradición religiosa, su filiación política o su nacionalidad. El voto, como acto de humanidad moral, es tan importante que la gente ha dado la vida por él. Si no le cree a Michael Curry, pregúntenle ahora mismo a los ciudadanos de Bielorrusia. Pregúntenle a los mártires estadounidenses que se sacrificaron, que dieron sus vidas, que dieron esa última y definitiva prueba de amor para que las personas pudieran tener derecho al voto. Pregúntenle a Michael Schwerner, pregúntenle a James Chaney, pregúntenle a Andrew Goodman en Mississippi, pregúntenle a los mártires de Selma, a Viola Liuzzo, a Jimmie Lee Jackson, a Jonathan Daniels.

Los soldados estadounidenses han luchado por defender la libertad. Muchos de ellos han dado la vida. Y muchos de ellos sobreviven con heridas y cicatrices de guerra. Y una de las libertades que defendieron fue la libertad, el derecho y la responsabilidad del voto.

John Lewis, en su último escrito publicado antes de su muerte, dijo, y cito: «El voto es el agente de cambio no violento más poderoso que hay en una sociedad democrática», fin de cita. De hecho, hay en el Nuevo Testamento un ejemplo de este modelo de vida para los seguidores de Jesús. Lo encontrarán en los escritos de San Pablo en los capítulos 12, 13 y 14 de Romanos. No quiero sugerir que Pablo ejerció el voto, no lo hizo. Era un ciudadano romano, pero no vivió en la época de la República Romana, sino en la época del Imperio Romano. Pero Pablo en Romanos 13 identificó específicamente las enseñanzas de Jesús con la manera en que viviría su vida tanto en la sociedad civil como en la comunidad cristiana.

En el capítulo 13 de Romanos, él habla sobre el papel del gobierno. Y luego pasa enseguida de hablar sobre el papel del gobierno al papel del ciudadano. Y luego al papel del cristiano, que es un discípulo en el imperio. Él dice: «Paguen impuestos a quien les deban impuestos, y honra a quien le deban honra». Y luego dice: «Pero no deban a nadie nada más que el amarse unos a otros. Porque el que ama al prójimo ha cumplido la ley». [Porque] los mandamientos: no matarás, no cometerás adulterio, no hurtarás, no codiciarás y cualquier otro mandamiento, en esta sentencia se resumen: ama a tu prójimo como a ti mismo. El amor no perjudica al prójimo, por lo tanto, el amor es el cumplimiento de la ley.

La neutralidad partidista no es lo mismo que la neutralidad moral. No fue en el siglo I y no lo es hoy. La magna ley del amor es el cumplimiento de la ley y la voluntad de Dios. Es el último estándar, la norma y la guía para seguir el camino de Jesús en cualquier sociedad, en cualquier momento. Con gracia para ayudar y conciencia para guiar, cada uno de nosotros debe discernir y decidir cómo es el amor al prójimo en nuestra vida, en nuestras acciones, en nuestras relaciones personales y en nuestro testimonio social y público. ¿Qué hizo Jesús?

El voto es de vital importancia, pero no es suficiente. Las heridas y las divisiones en la sociedad estadounidense son tan profundas que ni siquiera una elección por sí sola puede curarlas. El asesinato de George Floyd, de Breonna Taylor y de tantos otros ha expuesto la profundidad mortífera del racismo y la supremacía blanca hondamente arraigada en el suelo y en el alma de Estados Unidos. No podemos seguir así.

El fin de semana pasado, dos subalguaciles de Compton, California, fueron baleados deliberadamente mientras estaban de servicio en su auto patrullero. Y luego un grupo de personas trató de bloquear la entrada al hospital donde los llevaban, gritando: «Déjenlos morir». Esos dos alguaciles son hijos de Dios. George Floyd y Breonna Taylor son hijos de Dios. No podemos seguir así.

En 1858, mientras las divisiones en esta nación sobre la esclavitud, nacidas del racismo, conducirían a una guerra civil, Abraham Lincoln pronunció un discurso advirtiendo a la nación en el que citaba las palabras del Señor Jesucristo, quien dijo: «Una casa dividida contra sí misma no se puede sostener». No estoy sugiriendo que estemos al borde de una guerra civil, pero no debemos subestimar el peligro de las divisiones en las que nos encontramos. Estas divisiones son peligrosas, perjudiciales para la democracia misma. Debemos, y creo que podemos, encontrar una forma [de convivencia] mejor.

Soy un seguidor del Señor Jesucristo, porque creo que él nos ha mostrado esa forma mejor. Creo que el camino del amor desinteresado y sacrificado puede mostrarnos la vía del arrepentimiento, la manera de reparar la brecha. El camino de la reconciliación que finalmente puede llevarnos a la amada comunidad, pero no es fácil. Y esta es una labor a largo plazo. No hay soluciones rápidas porque las heridas son muy profundas, pero no debemos sentirnos esclavizados por el destino. No somos personas del destino. Somos personas de fe en el Dios que resucitó a Jesús de entre los muertos. Nada puede derrotar a Dios o detener la causa del amor de Dios. El camino no será fácil, pero podemos hacerlo.

He incluido algunos enlaces a recursos que pueden resultarles útiles.

  • Uno es un plan de estudios en línea titulado Hazme un instrumento de paz: una guía para el discurso civil, preparado por nuestra Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales.
  • Otro se titula, Aprende, ora, actúa: recursos para responder a la violencia racista, orientado por nuestro personal para la reconciliación y justicia raciales y la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales.
  • Otro contiene materiales del Centro para la Recuperación Racial y la Diócesis de Atlanta
  • Y otro contiene recursos titulados, «Sin malicia hacia nadie», un programa ecuménico no partidista diseñado para iglesias y comunidades religiosas y grupos de todo tipo a fin de proporcionar un medio de entendimiento y recuperación para los que se encuentran en cualquier lado del espectro político, tanto antes como después de las elecciones de noviembre.

El 10 de marzo de 2016, el entonces candidato presidencial Donald Trump habló en un mitin de campaña en Fayetteville, Carolina del Norte. El mitin se vio interrumpido por manifestantes, lo que sucedió en todo el país tanto en las campañas de Trump como de Clinton. Finalmente, los agentes del orden sacaron a los manifestantes. Mientras lo hacían, un partidario de Trump de 79 años llamado John McGraw, que es blanco, saltó de la multitud y golpeó a Rakeem Jones, uno de los manifestantes, que es negro. Le dio un puñetazo en la cara. Después McGraw dijo, y cito: «Se lo merecía. La próxima vez que lo veamos, podríamos tener que matarlo. No sabemos quién es. Podría estar con una organización terrorista». Fin de la cita.

McGraw fue arrestado y acusado de agresión. Meses después, los dos hombres se volvieron a encontrar, esta vez en el tribunal. McGraw no disputó la acusación, se disculpó y fue sentenciado a 12 meses de libertad condicional. Después, los dos hombres se enfrentaron y se dieron la mano. McGraw dijo, y lo cito: «Si te hubiera encontrado en la calle y hubiera ocurrido lo mismo, habría dicho: “Vete a casa. Uno de nosotros saldrá lastimado. Eso es lo que habría dicho. Pero hoy estamos atrapados en un caos político, tú y yo, y tenemos que reparar a nuestro país”». Algún tiempo después de eso, a pedido de Rakeem Jones, John McGraw y Rakeem Jones salieron a almorzar juntos. Hay un signo de esperanza. Fueron a almorzar juntos.

Hay un viejo cántico espiritual, compuesto y cantado por esclavos en Estados Unidos antes de la Guerra de Secesión, que decía:

Voy a ir a la mesa de bienvenida uno de estos días.
Voy a comer en la mesa de bienvenida uno de estos días.
Voy a tomar leche y miel en la mesa de bienvenida uno de estos días.
Voy a cruzar el río Jordán uno de estos días.
Estoy yendo a comer.
Vamos a comer en la mesa de bienvenida uno de estos días.

Podemos, queremos, debemos aprender a comer en esa mesa de bienvenida. Jesús nos ha mostrado el camino, es el camino del amor desinteresado y sacrificado. Y de esa manera puede hacer lugar para todos nosotros.

Así, pues, andemos juntos, hijos. No se cansen, porque hay una gran reunión de acampada en la tierra prometida. Amén.

Recursos:

Jenna Fischer + Rainn Wilson Swap Mental Health Tips

I realize I am late to this "party," but I am a pretty big fan of The Office, after my kids introduced me to it.  So much fun, so much wisdom hidden between some crazy crazy funny characters and situations.  Two of the stars of the show, Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer, recently did a little conversation on YouTube in which they swap mental health advice in the time of a pandemic. 

This is well-worth your time. 

Enjoy!

Peter+

Jenna Fischer + Rainn Wilson Swap Mental Health Tips | Hey There, Human