Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Prayer 1409: for renewal

Just when you think you are lost, light breaks through, and a path is found.

Holy One, we lift our praise to you on the morning wind, remembering your goodness and lovingkindness in all things. Our souls wait for you, O Lord; like watchmen for the morning, we seek You and your wisdom to guide us.

Help us be humble and kind, remembering your compassion to all who turn to You in need. Let us seek to give what we ourselves receive, and walk in mercy and fellowship with each other as you teach us to do.

Let us remember that Christ comes among us as refugee and asylum-seeker as well as healer. Let us see your face, Lord Jesus, in the faces of the poor, the desperate, and the marginalized. Let us still our souls to hear your call to forgiveness and repentance as we walk our pilgrim path in service to You, O God.

Bless all people in their daily lives and work, Almighty One, and place the balm of your Spirit on those we now name.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Promises, Promises: Speaking to the Soul, November 29, 2016

Isaiah 11:1-10
Matthew 3:1-12

We begin to settle in to Advent this week with readings that remind us of the glorious promises which are our inheritance as people of faith. Advent is a rime of penitence as well as expectation, a time of remembering things past while also inhabiting the “not-yet” of the coming Messiah. In the darkness and cold of winter, we are reminded of promises made and promises kept. The first promise we encounter this week is the promise in Isaiah 11 regarding the Jesse tree. Jesse was the father of David, and in 2 Samuel 7, David had been promised that one of his descendants would be king throughout eternity. Jesse is thus Jesus’s many-times-great-grandfather. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, was of course known as the city of David because Jesse was from Bethlehem.

One of the main theses of the gospel of Matthew is that God fulfills the promises he makes, in this case to David, and this reading from Isaiah helps establish proof for that claim in Matthew. Jesus is referred to as the “son of David” ten times in the gospel of Matthew, more than in any other synoptic gospel (the term does not appear in John). Promises made by God are never forgotten.

As with last week’s reading from Isaiah, we have a hopeful vision of the future that the prophet paints for the people of Judah, one that directly again confronts the problem that has led the people astray—that their kings have been false rulers, leading them into apostasy and promoting values at odds with those of God. More specifically, this is one of the three messianic oracles in Isaiah (see also Isaiah 7 and 9). The Messiah was expected to sit on David’s throne and restore David’s line as true king. God had warned the people that choosing to have human kings would get them into trouble, and the situation by the 8th century BCE has proved that point.

The vision recounted here in our Isaiah passage this Sunday ends with a description of a restored creation: many of the animals paired together are domesticated animals and the wild animals who prey upon them, led by an innocent. The vision ends with a reference to the “root of Jesse”—to David and David’s descendants—and again expresses the wish that the entire world will turn its face toward Israel and look to it as the source of salvation. Even though, as Isaiah writes, it appears that the tree of Jesse has fallen, the hope is that a rod or branch will spring up from the fallen tree that will grow to be even mightier than its parent.

Above, you will see one of the most famous depictions of this Jesse tree, from the Chartres Cathedral. This is one of the original windows in the cathedral, from circa 1150 CE. Notice that at the top of the tree is Jesus, with his mother Mary right below him. David and Solomon are also included at the bottom of the tree above Jesse. The tree of Jesse runs through the biblical story, planted in the soil of both faithfulness and mercy.

As we begin year A in the three-year lectionary cycle, we will spend most of this year with the gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s gospel will build the case that Jesus is the Messiah all along up to this point— chapter 1 recounts Jesus’s genealogy and legitimacy as a son of David and as a son of Abraham. Chapter 2 tells the story of the Magi, Herod’s massacre of the innocents, and the flight of Jesus’s family to Egypt. Today’s gospel depicts a prophetic herald warning his listeners that the one who by rights may judge them is at hand. Our gospel this Sunday will also quote Isaiah (chapter 40) as a touchstone to solidify the claims that John will make about Jesus and about himself. John is the one crying out from the wilderness, proclaiming the coming of the Lord. The appearance of John himself in our gospel from the third chapter of Matthew is also a sign or promise fulfilled, since he comes out of the wilderness dressed just so for the role of an Old Testament prophet—his attire is remarkably similar to that of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8.

As the winter nights lengthen, we have the promise of light from light, true God from true God, coming among us, offering salvation and enlightenment for all. We have the promise of not retribution, but mercy coming to live among us, judging with righteousness and equity the cause of the oppressed.

(Photo of the Jesse Tree window at Chartres Cathedral, from

Prayer 1408

Morning light gilds the grasses.

Early in the morning
we lift our hearts to You,
O Wondrous Light:
come, let us add our song
to the wakening Earth's.
Before your radiant goodness
we bow, O Holy One:
may our voices ever sing your praise!
You have laid our your paths before us:
may we ever keep our feet within your way,
that we may worship You in all things.

Lord Jesus,
You lead us with gentleness and truth:
teach us to ever serve You
and one another
with joy.
Make us
a compassionate, faithful people,
living into your gospel of love and faithful action,
we humbly pray, O Lord.
Help us to renounce
the fears and failings that lead into darkness,
and claim our place
within the Beloved Community.

Gather our prayers into your keeping,
O God,
and and bless and keep those whose hope is in You.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Prayer 1407: Shine

Yesterday's #adventword was "shine," and I thought of this photo I took in 2012 of the rose window at the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris.

Let us rise to sing praises to the Holy One who inhabits eternity yet dwells within our hearts: Come, Lord Jesus, Come. You, Lord, are our shield and help: your love surrounds us and holds us fast within your boundless mercy. You sustain us and watch over us in tenderness: may we ever rejoice within the arms of our Creator and Savior.

Let your teachings to us be as bread to the hungry: enlighten us with your wisdom and truth. Lead us into repentance for all our wrongdoing, and for our cooperation or silence in the face of oppression. Give us gentle hearts, compassionate spirits, and enquiring minds, that we may grow in your peace and grace. 

Holy Spirit, rest upon us, filling us with your fire, and bestow your blessing upon those we now name.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Prayer 1406: The First Sunday in Advent

On the first Sunday of Advent, we light "the Prophecy Candle, or the "Candle of Hope,"
directly opposite from the Rose Candle.

O Light of Lights,
and encircle us with your wisdom and truth,
that we may be led into paths of faith and joy.

We bless You and thank You,
O Holy One,
for all that You are doing within us
and in creation.
Transform our hearts and minds
through your instruction,
that You may find us ever watchful
and alert to your call.
May your light
drive away the shadows within our hearts,
and its warmth be a balm for our souls.

Lord Christ, all that we are and have is yours:
heal us of all that separates us from your love.
Let us give all,
that we may receive the life
for which you made us:
a life of praise, thankfulness, and compassion.
United by your grace,
we ask for your blessing and healing, O God,
upon us and all whom we now remember.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Prayer 1405

We all know where our place of safety and welcome is.

Almighty God, we lift our hearts to You in thanks and praise, recalling your blessings without number.

You have set us high upon the rock when the waters of fear rise:
You have cared for us as a Mother for her children.
You have called us and cared for us with an ever-lasting love:
may we hear and seek to abide with You always.

May we be inspired by your Word to work for justice and peace among the oppressed and the powerless.
May we never seek our own advantage over the needs of others; may we advance the cause of love and compassion. 
May we never seek to inflict our own wounds upon others, but walk gently among those we meet as beloved companions. 

Guide us and gentle us, O Savior:
let us walk faithfully in the ways of wisdom and love.

Holy One, send forth your Spirit to shelter those in danger, sorrow, or fear; enlighten the hearts of those we now name.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Prayer, day 1404

The grasses die back as winter approaches, but remind us of the enduring hope of new life and growth.

O God, look with favor upon your servants today.
Let us turn our hearts toward those who,
in the midst of plenty,
are in want in body or soul.
Let us hunger for justice and redemption
as much as we hunger for food.
Let us remember
how love has blessed us in our lives,
and let go of discontent and rancor.
Help us to stop building a mountain of our resentments,
and dwell instead within the mansion of our blessings.

Give your protection
to those who are in danger from the cold this day,
and let us work to give them shelter as our own.
Comfort those whose needs we bring before You.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Prayer 1403- In Thanksgiving

Dawn on the Missouri River Bottoms.

O God,
Source of Continuous Blessings,
Creator of All,
we bow our heads
and lift our grateful hearts to You. 

We ask your blessing, O God,
on those who stand resolute,
protecting your good Earth,
its forests, plains, mountains, and waters.
Help us remember that
the bounty we enjoy
comes from your creation,
for you called us to serve the land,
not dominate it.

Help us to embrace our loved ones,
of birth and of choice,
and joyfully express our love for them.
Remember those who travel
or work to keep us safe this day,
and place your right hand of power over them.

Help us be decisive
in ensuring the blessings of our abundance
are shared with all.  Let us remember that gratitude
is the life You call us to live into,
and that it is rooted in peace
and justice for all.
Give us hearts
to care for our neighbor
and bid welcome to the stranger,
reflecting your grace, mercy,
and lavish love.

In all things,
You fill our hearts with your blessing:
envelop those we name
in your shalom,
we pray.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Prayer 1402

Reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer this semester, andgiving thanks to God for his witness.

We praise you and bless You,
Lord God of Power and Mercy,
and give You thanks for this moment of worship.
You are creating the heavens and the earth:
let the song of the earth overflow
to fill our hearts with peace. 

Open our eyes
to perceive your grace and mercy
moving within our lives,
for we know that our times are in your hand.
Animate us by your Holy Spirit
to be warriors for justice
and humble servants for the cause of real peace and compassion.

Drive far from us
our arrogance and self-service,
which lead us away from You
to worship at false altars of pride and contempt.

Let us act in justice,
and love mercy,
and walk humbly with You, O Holy One,
all the days of our lives.

Lord Jesus, we place our hearts and souls
within your healing hands:
lead us to new life in kinship
with You and each other.

Resting within your embrace, O Christ,
accept our whispered prayers and petitions
that we bear in our hearts, as we pray.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Prayer, day 1401

Although shepherds were also considered to be lowly, kings were also referred to as shepherd of their people.

Lord Jesus Christ, reign in our hearts today and always as our King and our Teacher. Teach us to live as true children of God, walking in ways of peace, gentleness, and compassion for all living things. 

Exercise your healing power over a world in which too many suffer, O Savior, by working through us as your servants. Inspire us by the Holy Spirit, O God, to live with each other in love and faithfulness, strengthened around your altar. 

Holy One, bless and keep us in your embrace, and stretch out your hand of blessing over all who call upon You.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Prayer, day 1400

The beauty of forests in a Missouri autumn.

Each day is a precious gift, O God: Let our praise rise to You, as hope lifts the hearts of your people. 

Here in Your embrace we have rested, O Loving One. 
Now we go out to the harvest fields we are blessed to tend, knit together in holy love. 
Let the roots of hope grow deep. 
Let compassion overflow into the spaces where hearts are hollow. 
Let us be drawn into the embrace of the One who knows all our needs. 
Let those who are troubled be restored and renewed, filled with the strength of God's grace. 

Here we offer our prayers to You, O Holy and Merciful One.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Prayer 1399: Last Sunday After Pentecost (Christ the King)

Christus Rex, Church of the Good Shepherd, Town and Country, MO.

Holy, Holy, Holy God, let us rise and lift our hearts to You in worship, praise, and thankfulness. Merciful One, remember us not for our failures and faults, but for our bending the knee of our hearts before You. Restore our hearts to charity and compassion for all things, and guide us again into paths of grace. To You we owe all worship and allegiance, Lord Christ, for You are our Shepherd who teaches us how to live in Love. Accept the prayers of your people, O God, and reconcile us to You and one another, as we humbly pray.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Prayer, day 1398- For Diocesan Convention

An excerpt from the Barmen Declaration of 1934 used by Bishop of Missouri George Wayne Smith at the beginning of his address to the 177th Diocesan Convention.

O God, You are our refuge and our rock: we put our trust in You. 

Help us to work together in harmony in the work You have given us, and let our deeds bring honor to Your name. 

Let us make your Word and commandments our sure foundation, and seek always to forgive rather than condemn. 

Let us remember the generous love You have given us, and uphold each other in our trials and needs. 

Break the chains of fear and enmity that threaten us, and help us lift up the banner of love and compassion. 

Extend the shelter of your mercy over those for whom we pray this day.

304, adapted

Friday, November 18, 2016

Prayer, day 1397: For the opening of diocesan convention

Dawn this morning was particulaly spectacular. 

Come, let us walk humbly with our God today, that our lives testify and worship the Lord with all we do. 

Our help comes from You, O Holy One: give us the strength and the wisdom to persevere in all our struggles today. 
O God, we pray for peace in our homes, peace in our communities, peace in our nation, and for peace in the world. 

May we remember that the foundation of peace is justice and equity, compassion and mercy, repentance and forgiveness, strength and love.
May God's love be our mantle against the chill of fear, and our shade against the heat of turmoil. 

Lord Jesus, reign in our hearts and teach us your ways: draw us all within your healing embrace as we pray.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Prayer 1396

Even still, the light gets in.

In hope and thanksgiving we pray to You, Lord Christ, who reveals to us the holy path and calls us to mercy and peace.

Lord, we remember our sins, and bemoan our carelessness: have mercy, that mercy may take root in our hearts.

In all our striving let us turn to wisdom and love, gifts of your Spirit, O God, for guidance, and let our striving be to your glory.
In joy and exultation, let us remember that we move in You, and You envelop us, for all blessings come from God.
In our sorrow or anxiety, let us turn toward healing within your steadfast embrace, Lord Jesus.

Reconcile us to each other, Lord; may we never be reconciled to evil done to friend or stranger.
Knit us together in love, mercy, and compassion, O Redeemer, that our lives may testify to your truth. 
Uphold us through thy grace, and anoint us in your way of peace, that we may be a blessing to the world. 

Merciful One, Giver of Life, extend your sheltering love over those for whom we pray this day.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Prayer, day 1395

A dry field in autumn as the sun rises.

Creator God, we come before You in awe for the works of Your Hands which sustain us in each moment and breath. You set the stars in their courses- help us follow the paths of peace and justice this day. You clothe the lilies of the field in beauty-- help us to put on the raiment of righteousness and walk humbly with our companions. Your eye is on the sparrow- watch over those who are in need, sorrow, or pain, especially these we now name.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Prayer, day 1394

A window from Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis.

O God, You are our refuge and our rock: we put our trust in You. Help us to work together in harmony in the work You have given us, and let our deeds bring honor to Your name.

Let us make your Word and commandments our sure foundation, and seek always to forgive rather than condemn. Let us remember the generous love You have given us, and uphold each other in our trials. 

Break the chains of fear and enmity we carry, and help us lift up the banner of love and compassion. 

Extend the shelter of your mercy over those for whom we pray this day.


Confronting the Not-so-Great Divide

Can we remember that this is a motto of our country?

I have been trying very hard to reflect on the events of the last week. One of the worst things that has happened in this country is that we do not listen to each other, even when-- especially when-- we do not agree. I just had a friend unfriend me on Facebook because she thought I wasn't listening to her regarding our political differences, and I am very sad about that right now.

We MUST listen to each other. There is too much "talking past each other," and we have been encouraged to do just that as we isolate ourselves more and more in the echo chambers we live in, where all we hear is a constant drumbeat from information sources whose only purpose is to reinforce our disdain and hatred of "the other side." One of the things I think that too few of us realize is that there is more pain and uncertainty about where our lives are going on both the left and the right (meaningless terms, really) than we realize. And we are MEANT to not be able to see that in each other. That's what really dismays me.

One thing I think many of us on both ends of the spectrum can agree upon is that the whole damn system IS guilty as hell. We can never rebuild this country, though-- and it seriously needs rebuilding; that's another thing most of us agree upon, I think--if we play into turning on each other, which is exactly how the system has been allowed to be set up so that the needs of the many, the common good upon which our country has been founded, can be ignored so that a few people can remain in power.

Look at the Constitution. The genius of the Constitution is that it has remained flexible enough to survive and even grow during the 227 years it has been in existence. It has been able to remain functional because it is subject to interpretation based upon the changing needs of the times (same thing with scripture, by the way). But its basic vision is laid out in six guiding principles laid out in the Preamble, which starts out with these very important words: WE, THE PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES. We. People. United.

These principles are: 
1- to form a more perfect union (and look at what we had before the Constitution- it was chaos!) 
2- establish justice 
3- ensure domestic tranquility 
4- provide for the common defense 
5- promote the general welfare 
6- secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity 

 (Who's singing the School House Rock song now? C'mon- admit it.) 

Notice that ALL of those things talk about the fact that we live together IN COMMUNITY. All of those things are about living TOGETHER. That's the only way good government can work-- to start with the undertsanding that government is generated from community. Anything else is not freedom but anarchy, which serves no one and leads to everyone's doom (think about South Sudan, and Iraq, and Somalia, and the Philippines right now. We Americans better never forget that we REALLY don't have anarchy in the streets, and that most of our protests are actually signs of that). 

We formed and continue to form this government SPECIFICALLY so that ALL may live in peace and security. Now, over the years, the "we" part has expanded. To be honest, at first it just included white men of property. For a LONG time. And we have to be careful that we do not fall back into that default, because when that has happened in other countries, anarchy and warfare has ensued (at the time the Constitution and Bill of Rights were being written, a terrifying example was happening in France, for instance). But over the decades, the hopefulness of those six promises have been seized upon and rightfully demanded by more groups as they have gotten the right (and I would say the responsibility, former US history teacher that I am) to vote. Universal white male suffrage (regardless of property qualifications) didn't really get introduced until the 1820s. African Americans in 1865. Women in 1919. Native Americans in 1923. Asian Americans, Hispanics, and other people of color in 1965. So, not that long ago, actually, and certainly the rights of these groups are still not in any way universally secure, to put it mildly.

BUT. Here's where I am perhaps to be criticised as an optimist. And I will plead guilty to that. As one of my favorite hymns goes, "Through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come, 'tis grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home." Yes, US. Not just "me." 

So, yes, BUT. There is more that unites the majority of us in this country than any political party wants us to know, since political parties are themselves a sign of the tendency we all must fight against to division. So we are urged into a frenzy against each other that not only harms the political and social unity which is required for our political life, but our spiritual life as well. At the heart of the gospel is a message of community and caring for each other that I too often do NOT see reflected in the actions of those who use religion in this country as a political tool to instead turn on others, to exclude, rather than include. That is bad enough when we are talking about hurting others. It is worse when it used to deny people basic dignity and justice, not to mention compassion and mercy. 

Real peace and justice cannot be built on a foundation that deliberately deprives others of their basic dignity and worth. Not in the name of politics. Not in the name of religion. 

And that, I fear, is exactly how some people use religion in this country: to draw boundaries that fly in the face of the plain teaching of Jesus. If we were to take very seriously the very real pain that many of us endure and protest on both the LEFT and the RIGHT, we could begin to work for REAL peace and justice in this country. Whenever the idea of "freedom of religion" has been perverted to mean the freedom to divide us and to impose our own will upon others, then it is wrong. True religion is not tyrrany. True religion is founded on hope and faith, not fear. For Christians, that means hope and faith in God, AND hope and faith in EACH OTHER (the Great Commandment, Matthew 22:36-40). I believe that if someone tries to tell you that you, as a Christian, can have faith and love for God without having faith and love for each other, they are merely using the guise of religion. They are one of those false prophets many of us were warned about in the gospel (Luke 21:5-19) this past Sunday. And that includes having faith and hope in those with whom we disagree. ESPECIALLY then. 

We HAVE to understand that there are a lot of hurting people on both sides of this political divide. It's the DIVIDE that is the problem. It is the DIVIDE that is the threat to democracy. 

A political divide that keeps the vast majority of us in chains. 
A political divide that keeps us from considering each other's perspective and pain, by creating an artifical "us" versus "them" that serves to prevent us from working together for real change, especially at the economic level. 

For regular folks like us, for workaday America, economic questions are not about having "more"-- it's about having enough, about having peace of mind. About feeling at home-- that's the Greek root of the word "economy." And when we have that peace of mind, we are a greater country, because we are not prone to respond to the exaggerated fears from theoretical directions. Our economy right now does not serve the most important needs of a vast majority of the peope of this country, but we are distracted from that by arguments about other things like guns or abortion that have nothing to do with making sure we REALLY feel secure and at peace. Because democracy, like religion, only works if we have faith in each other. 

I hope and pray that we can come to see that the real threat to our well-being is mistrust and hatred because we were created by nature itself (whether you believe that is through God or not), to live in community with each other. Mistrust and hatred of liberals, of conservatives, of immigrants, of refugees, of blacks, of whites, of gay people, of atheists, of Christians, of Muslims, of poor people, and so on and so on. It all serves to wound us, not help us. "US' is better when "US" includes everybody, and we get RID of the idea that we should be comfortable with calling some "THEM."

One of the worst things that the current political leaders have done is to attempt to divide us in order for them to keep a grasp on power and take of themselves rather than the common good. And we must resist their use religion as one of the best tools to help them do that.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Prayer 1393- for foundations of justice, peace, and faithfulness

Reredos at Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, in the afternoon light.

Most Holy God,
whose house is founded on justice,
and abiding faithfulness,
we raise our hearts to You this day.

We humbly confess our sins:
our lack of kindness and humility,
and the injuries we have inflicted on others and against You. 
Open our hearts to receive your Spirit, Almighty One,
to remake us as joyful disciples of your Law of Love.
Help us dedicate ourselves
to building rather than destroying,
loving rather than fearing.
Let us remember that
we ARE Christ's body in the world,
and work for reconciliation,
and justice for all.

All creation rests within your loving hand,
O Creator and Redeemer:
increase our faith
a mustard seed at a time.
Bless us with loving, hopeful hearts
and compassionate spirits, we pray.
Gather within your mercy
all those whom we now name in our prayers.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Prayer 1392: The Twenty-sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Most merciful God, who has made us for love, we worship You and praise You. We place all our cares before You, Holy One, and lay our burdens at your feet as we rest in silence before your Spirit. 

We confess to You all the places where we have lost faith in You, and denied your image in ourselves, and in each other. 
We have worshipped ourselves and our own needs, and ignored the cry of the earth and the tears of our neighbors.

Tear down the edifices of our arrogance, heedlessness, and greed: let not one stone rest on another. 
Convert us again to the path of justice and peace, that we may joyfully come into the fields of your grace.
Pour a healing balm over our heads and hearts, Lord Jesus, and bring us to new life. 

Hear the prayers of those whose hope is not in our own worthiness but in You alone, and your Love.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Prayer 1391- In times of anxiety

Calla lily, San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission, Carmel, California.

Holy One, we feel the weight of your hand upon us,
and know You are near.
When we run from You,
and seek our own way,
still You are with us;
your Love is the air we breathe.
When fear rises
like a rogue wave over our heads,
the mighty hand of Our Savior is there,
and You hold us fast.
When a love passes away,
Your love, O Lord, is never shaken,
and abides with us through grief into new light.
When joy comes in the morning,
and truth and peace have embraced,
You are within us in that joy.
Revive our spirits and refresh our souls,
O Lover of All,
and create in us the will to love and serve You
and each other
without fail.
Open our minds to receive your wisdom, O Christ,
that we be Your Body within the world,
all for your Love,
which never ceases.
Bless us and keep us
under the shadow of your wing, Holy One,
and bless all those for whom we pray.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Prayer 1390- For Veterans Day/Armistice Day

St. Martin of Tours was a soldier who was converted to following Christ. Here he uses his sword to slice his cloak in two to aid a man who had none. He laid down his sword to found a monastery, and later became bishop.

Veterans' Day
Blessed are You, O God of Unchanging Beauty, who calls us from our beds to rise and lay our hearts before You in prayer. Accept our repentance for our sins, done by us and done on our behalf, and for our silencce in acknowledging them. Lead us, Lord, into new paths of service to You and each other. 

On this day, with warfare raging throughout the world and in our own hearts, make us instruments of peace. Bless and keep especially those who have fought against tyranny and oppression in the armed forces of our land. May we never forget the sacrifice of those who fought for freedom; may we too fight for justice, and be warriors for peace. May we taste the sweet fruits of peace and justice in our time and live with each other in amity, with loving hearts. 

Lord, we place ourselves and our loved one in your keeping, especially those we now name.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Of Pantsuits and Other "P" words: Thoughts on leadership, elections, and misogyny

I listened with horror, and yes, righteous anger as activist Van Jones talked about the election of Donald Trump being a "white-lash" again the resurgent movement for full civil rights for people of color. Tears welled up in my eyes as he spoke. He was so right. The coded calls for the "good old days" by Donald Trump as black protestors at this rallies were assaulted and ejected are just the tip of the iceberg, as they say-- an iceberg that also is composed of Trump's endorsement, never denounced, by the Ku Klux Klan.
But there's more, here, I fear.
It is white-lash, and more. It is also continuing proof of the fear of female leadership in our country, and that "leadership" is defined by appearance and gender norms, consciously or subconsciously, even among women.
The fact that "college educated" men overwhelmingly voted for Trump is part of this, and not surprising if you have worked in a white-collar workplace, including businesses, engineering firms, and schools/universities, and paid any sort of attention. College educated women are seen as competition and as threats by many college-educated men, not equal co-workers, even as women begin to make up a majority of college students. Maybe even especially so.
Many men in college tend to study in areas that are still male-dominated (engineering, business). Business and engineering colleges' curricula also do not expose them to different ideas or cultures (humanities) the way that other colleges in the arts and sciences do. These fields tend to be more vocational-education in intent than providing a broad-based education in the classical sense. Even among men in education (assumed to be a female-dominated field) or academia (NOT considered to be a female-dominated field by a long shot), you see a marked difference in the number of male principals and female principals, deans, provosts, and superintendents, since administrative leadership models are still strongly tilted toward hierarchical, masculine models of authority.
Business and engineering (and even education) are still fields in which women have made little headway in leadership positions (witness the recent controversies, semi-humorously addressed by women on twitter, about mansplaining in the workplace, the women-in-science-being-more-emotional-or-looking-for-love storm a few months back, the deliberate adoption of a strategy used within the Obama WH of women amplifying what women said in meetings so that their ideas would not be claimed by men, etc. How many of President Obama's most trusted official advisors were women?
Add in the strong evangelical Christian turn-out, and the adherence of most evangelical Christians (male and female) to the proof-texted prohibitions in 1 Timothy (written after Paul's death) against women exercizing authority over men, and the fact that this spills over into civic life, and the problem is right there, staring us in the face. The Catholic Church also prohibits women from positions of ordained leadership, and its male leadership insists that will never change, continuing with the current (supposedly more progressive) pontiff. Even within Christian denominations that do ordain women, women tend to not be selected for leadership of powerful congregations or even have automatic default consideration toward full-time positions.
Yes, there are outliers, but when women DO rise to positions of leadership (and that's pronounced "power"), we more often hear about their failures than their successes, and one woman's "failure" is often used against all women in the way we never apply such reasoning against men. Often, the "failures" of women in leadership, even in the church, result from them adopting a masculine, hierarchical, authoritarian model that is not only aggressive in a way that neither men nor women employees really appreciate, but also guarantees resistance, especially because it is being exercised by a woman. So, women are "damned if you do, and damned if you don't." Women who DO adopt hierarchical, "rationalist" models of leadership are ar best "unlike-able" (as we heard repeatedly the last 18 months), "cold," "over-cautious," or other, more derogatory terms which for some reason are almost always associated with both male and female anatomy (yes, I am being a little sarcastic here). And then there's the issue of how female appearance (clothes, make-up or no make-up, hairstyle, age, body type) ends up figuring into women's identities in that same "DIYD, DIYD" calculus.
The very rhetoric employed in our society as a matter of course and amplified during this political season betrays an acceptance of anti-woman prejudice by both men and and some women, consciously or unconsciously. Never forget how almost-gleefully Trump's remarks about being able to grab women by a deeply insulting slang term were repeated over and over, thereby normalizing the use of that word, and reducing a woman's entire physical presence to that word. That same word is used by men toward other men to denote weakness. That same word was thrown around on network television tens of thousands of times, while scatalogical terms related to human waste are ruthlessly bleeped out as being too shocking. Think about that. Words that equate women to female dogs or body parts are fine, but for God's sake, let's ruthlessly censor words about poop. And women use these words against each other as much as men do against women.
The consequences of these various kinds of backlash, both racial and gender-based, are going to affect us for years to come, and have bracketed my entire life-time.

Prayer, day 1389

Almighty God, we worship You and love You with all our heart, strength, and mind. Let us show our love for our neighbors who are rich and poor, friends and enemies, next door and across the world. Let us show our love for our neighbors, whatever their race or religion, as much as we love ourselves. Let us show our love for our neighbors, those in trouble who need us to care for them, for in loving them we love You. Bend to help these, our brothers and sisters, O Loving One, for whom we pray this day.