24 November 2016

Regarding, part two

On the weekend after the recent U.S. elections, the Friends Center of Ohio Yearly Meeting hosted a gathering on the theme, "Who do you say that I am?" The Facebook page for the Friends Center includes David Finke's extended set of reflections on the gathering. (See the posts that follow the November 11 event, under the photo of the tree in its autumn dress.)

David has also circulated what he wrote in his journal during the gathering. I found these words very valuable. In part, he said,
At this retreat in Barnesville, I have just found a scissors and made an alternation in a blue and white campaign poster I found in the car, which I'd kept from Hillary's people in the recent election. It still has its original main words, in white against blue: "Ohio Together."

But I've removed from it the political auspices and contact information as to how and why we should vote for Secretary Clinton to become the next President Clinton. I am among those still stunned and wondering "What happened?!!!" but am blessedly given this opportunity to turn to Our Source and Sustainer in the company of committed Christian Friends.

We have just arisen from reading 6 pages of excerpts from both the writings of Paul and also the Gospel according to John (earliest and latest of the New Testament witnesses.) These will be our refreshment and reminder all through the weekend and beyond, as to not only the nature of our call in Discipleship, but also the nature of Fundamental Reality.

In the unstructured Bible reading with which we began the morning, we heard what was new to me, the 8th chapter of Proverbs, about the Wisdom of God (which Paul equates with the Living Christ, the resurrected Jesus whom he had not known in the flesh). This Wisdom is Cosmological, Ontological, in the very of Being preceding the created world of our immediate knowledge and scientific understanding. This is, in Tillich's words, "Ground of Being," antecedent to tangible/empirical verifiable/experiential human-perceived being.

This, by faith, points us to a Structure of Reality which undergirds us and never fails us, through all the changing turmoil of an emerging world with its uncertainty, its chaos, its existential crises. I want to delve into the Wisdom that is contained both in the Proverbs chapter and also what we heard soon after, the Word of The Lord to Job — in effect, "What do YOU know? Were you there at Creation? Do you understand anything at all? Be quiet and learn! Fall back in Awe! Be teachable..."

I knew that in this immediate post-election period, we would be called to and thus empowered in a Ministry of Reconciliation, the dimensions of which have been unclear to me, and which I expect will be revealed In God's Time. I hadn't expected, prior to the election's results, who would most need our contribution to Peacemaking, our Quakerly experience in building bridges and facilitating communication and being called to the work of healing. The call has been clear; the direction has yet to be revealed.

But as a first step, I know that I must leave behind my own contribution to the partisan struggle (of which I am not ashamed: I believe there has been a time for advocacy, for organization and mobilization. I have participated in my best understanding of what was required of me as a Citizen in a Democratic Society.)

I must find again the call to Jeremiah: to uproot and tear down, and then to build and to heal. This is the work of God, and will unfold as we open ourselves to be ready.

Am I like Jonah and so many others who, hearing the mandate from the Divine, want to argue about it and avoid and escape? Will I be Rightly Guided to extend the hand of friendship and offer the gift of listening, to those whose yard signs and whose votes have put in office one who is the least qualified of potential public servants that I could imagine?
One sentence immediately struck me concerning post-election discipleship: The call has been clear; the direction has yet to be revealed. My task is not to join in the swirling currents of glee and resentment, still less to the harsh recriminations, one-upmanship, blame and deflection, that have been filling much of the airspace following Trump's triumph. Instead, we (specifically I) have been called to a ministry of reconciliation, peacemaking, and healing. Now I begin a very specific vigil: waiting for the direction to be revealed.

This is not escapism. Yes, Jonah avoided God's call at first, but eventually went to Nineveh, and faithfully carried God's warning to the great city despite his belief that Nineveh didn't deserve God's mercy! Our ministry of reconciliation and healing does not mean we are reconciled to the features of candidate Trump's campaign that repelled us, nor do we abandon values that we may have thought a different candidate would support more effectively than Trump would. We await God's Jonah call, listening in prayer and consulting with others to share and sharpen our discernment.

For example:

During the recent U.S. presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump asserted several times that "I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either." These specific words were addressed to Megyn Kelly of Fox News when she challenged the way he insulted women, but he made similar points in advocating various forms of tighter border control. We know that, in reality, to practice political correctness in its original positive sense (treating all people as made in the image of God and resisting all social and verbal patterns that subvert that value) does not take more time and more energy! It simply requires a transformation of how we regard others:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16; context.)

This is not just a private insight. It has political consequences, requiring vigilance concerning how the democracy for which we bear collective responsibility treats vulnerable people. Surely this vigilance is part of the discernment for our prophetic direction. It's for this reason that we're now carefully examining the credentials of those being proposed for high office under Trump.

But the same discipline applies to the way we look at Donald Trump and his team. I was listening to a podcast at the gym a couple of days ago, during which there was a mocking commentary about Trump's suggestion that Nigel Farage would make a great British ambassador to the USA. On its own merits ... well, the idea has zero merit. But the smirking comments about Trump's ignorance of the ways of diplomacy just reinforce the smarty-pants image of the elites that is such an irritating factor in class divisions, and probably add to Trump's hero status in some circles. It's not that ridicule is always wrong -- but its one-sided overuse isn't consistent with regarding "no one from a worldly point of view."

I've been following the speculation that Kris Kobach, who helped put together the the U.S. National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program for the Bush administration after the September 11 attacks, may be appointed to a position in the Trump administration. I have yet to hear a security expert explain how questioning people about their beliefs and ideology would increase our safety. Would any competent terrorist tell the truth about their beliefs? The whole thing reminds me of a story I read last summer concerning refugees applying for asylum status in the UK. In some cases, devout Muslims concerned with the fate of their dear children were ready to claim they were Christians in order (as they saw it) to increase their chances of resettlement. Let's continue to resist religious tests for political purposes, whether direct or hidden.

My earlier blog post on political correctness. And a related post on political correctness in the English-language classroom, on my blog for students.

How many of Timothy Snyder's 20 lessons from the 20th-century on how to survive in Trump's America seem consistent with a prayerful and non-paranoid vigil? How many are you already adopting?

The Private Heisenberg and the Absent Bomb -- a review of My Dear Li: Correspondence, 1937–1946 by Werner and Elisabeth Heisenberg.

Reading Dostoyevsky for Thanksgiving.

Ray Charles!


Anonymous said...

The call is clear; the direction has not yet been revealed. These words from David Finke are speaking deeply to my conviction. How can I join with you and David in this spiritual-political quest? Especially since one nearest and dearest to me have had diametrically opposing viewpoints through the recent events,and have not known how to even communicate with each other on these political matters?

Johan Maurer said...

Hello, Vail! Well, you have a head start in the task of not objectifying those we disagree with. The search for a common language (if it's possible) would be on the level of values rather than personalities or even policies -- which admittedly is a difficult distinction for me, so I can't be glib about it. Let's stay in touch. You may gain some insights in this struggle that we badly need to hear.

kfsaylor said...

Living in the directly experienced immanent Presence of the inshining Light itself in itself in the conscious and conscience in each moment of relationship with all people is in itself reconciliation with and between different personalities and outward political and religious formalities. Immanent Presence is itself the laying down of identification with outward political and religious forms and ideologies and the people who profess them. Shared Immanent Presence is the source of Unity in the midst of Variance. It is the strength and power, and ability to see beyond the reflections of personality and outward formalities.