I have a confession to make. I let Donald Trump silence me. I had started my blog back up during Lent last year. It began much as it had in years past. And I was writing about faith and life. Mostly, I was writing about Grace. And then Donald Trump made his comments about Mexicans and about building a wall. And about women. And about Muslim people and the need to ban them from the country. And people were responding to him and his candidacy in a way that made me want to scream.
It felt like grace was slipping away from our grasp and the anger and blame and hatred that were replacing the grace were simply unfathomable to me. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…simply not important anymore.
And so this loud noise, like a scream, started in my mind and it drowned out any coherent thoughts. I think my whole system went into a form of shock. And I couldn’t write. I was in a mental and spiritual panic about Donald Trump’s candidacy and what his popularity meant about who we are as Americans. And, for those supporting him within the church, who we are as Christians. I was in a panic about what this meant that even people in my own life whom I love with all my heart would be willing to vote for a man who, to me, stood for everything that is abhorrent, the ugliest parts of who we are as humans and as Americans.
And so here we are. I lost my voice and Donald Trump is now our president. And that whirling vortex in my brain has coalesced into a laser sharp point of clarity and words just seem to be tumbling out faster than I can capture them.
In the confession that we recite in worship each Sunday, we confess to the sins of both commission and omission, to the things we have both done and left undone. I confess today that I left a lot undone. I left a lot unsaid.
As I have searched for my voice this last year, I have continued to read and study. I keep coming back to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my heroes. Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Nazi Germany. He was eventually jailed and executed by the Nazi regime. In his sermon from July 8, 1934, he says, “Perhaps you are startled by this text and think it is just too relevant today and thus dangerous for a worship service.” This sermon was preached after the bloody events of the so-called Röhm-Putsch, or the “Night of the Long Knives,” where the Nazi regime ordered the murder of several government officials in order to consolidate Hitler’s absolute power. The gospel, preached in the face of oppression, is most certainly relevant and dangerous!
Bonhoeffer’s sermon goes on to say, “We really want to get rid of the world of newspapers and sensational news” when we walk into the church.
The more things change the more they stay the same. People in 1930s German were wanting to retreat into the church, hoping to spend a couple of hours away from their everyday reality, to experience solace. They didn’t know quite what to make of the newspapers. I wonder what they would say about the myriad voices of truths, half-truths, and lies that constantly compete for our attention?!?
In his sermon, Bonhoeffer denies them this retreat. He says that closing our eyes to the suffering right in front of us is not the Christian way. He also says that finding someone else to blame or fault is not the Christian way, either. The long and short of it is that the Christian way is to say, “these events took place in my world, the world I live in, the world in which I commit sin, in which I sow hatred and unkindness day by day. These events are the fruit of what I and my family have sown…Therefore let us repent and recognize our guilt and not judge.” He says that recognizing and acting on this way of renewal and repentance is quiet, slow, and even strange. It is not natural. But, it is the only way to “overcome the world of the newspaper, the world of terrors, and the world of judging.”
I am making my confession to you all here today. There are things I have done and things I have left undone. I have worried and I have dithered. I have lost sleep. I have paced the floor. I have yelled and I have wept.
Singer/songwriter Jewel Kilcher captures the words in my heart when she sings, “Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery and you shall live the life uncommon.” I have, for nearly a year, given my strength over to “that which I wish to be free from.” No more. On these pages, I will continue to wander in wonder. I will also share with you on the days I am stumbling around in utter confusion or despair. It helps me feel less alone. Maybe it will help you as you wander or stumble or stride along on your journey, too.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived his life with love and bravery. I pray that my life and my words may stand as a witness to the gospel of love and of peace that is such a mystery in this world. I will lend my strength to the cause of justice, to the fight against oppression. I will not let terror, fear, anger, hatred or indifference have the last word. I will use my voice to speak and to help give voice to others who have been silenced. I will not stand in judgement. But by and in God’s grace, I will stand. In the words of Martin Luther, “Here I stand; I can do no other.”