Words and Actions Matter- Neighbor Love in Light of Recent Events

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I was fully intending for my next post to be about leadership, primarily about learning leaders. But then news had to break out over the past two days across the country, in this week before Christmas which I feel called to reflect on and perhaps even respond to.  My response is my own personal reflection, and is not representative of anything or anyone but myself.

Phil Robertson
Phil Robertson

First came news about Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, who shared some views (which were probably not surprising) that were not expressed in much of a way that was appreciated by his show’s network A&E.  Because of those statements he has been suspended.  Just about everyone within every sphere has blogged or tweeted about this today, so I don’t intend to write any more here.

Pastor Frank Schaefer
Pastor Frank Schaefer

Then came news yesterday morning that Pastor Frank Schaefer had been indeed defrocked by the United Methodist Church because of his presiding over a gay wedding, and primarily for his unwillingness to relent to church law out of his conscience.  (A good and thought provoking blog post about this in combination with the Ducky Dynasty news comes from Shane Raynor.)  Given that there have been other United Methodist gay weddings, with this one coming to mind recently, this doesn’t seem like its going to be going away. The United Methodist Church has a hard year or two ahead of itself I think in having to wrestle with and examine deeply who it is as a church and why it believes and practices what it believes.  (Wrestling and deep questioning is important and a healthy part of any church though, so this could be a good thing for the Methodists.)

I saw news shortly after this that the Supreme Court in New Mexico has determined that Gay Marriage will be legal in that state. This leads New Mexico to be the seventeenth state that allows gay marriage.

Finally, I saw this story about Rep. Jack Kingston from Georgia.  This is a real story about a real politician.  It amounts to, as far as I can discern, “let’s let the poor be humiliated more and be made an example of.”  It would perpetuate a culture of bullying in public schools.  I try not to get on my soap box on my blog, but this story more than the other three stories I refer to above, is really tugging at my heart strings today.  Yes, there might be some validity to the teaching about not having a free lunch, but there are better ways to do this then to humiliate children, young adults, and students.  All this would do would be to create more visibly “class distinction” if not all out “class warfare” in public schools. I’m sorry.  There is no room for this. There is a reason that we have public education- so that all people can have an education. Not “some people.” But “all people.”  This is not just a moral or social justice issue. This is a civic issue, because education is the backbone and foundation of any civilized society.

Taking a step back, these four stories, are just that, four separate stories. However, when taking them together I think they say something about neighbor love and our conception (or lack thereof) of it.  How do you love your neighbor as yourself?  Yes, Duck Dynasty is a hilarious show, which I believe has positive family portrayals, but in watching it, are we inadvertently supporting statements that are homophobic and ignorant by its patriarch?  How do you love your neighbor as yourself by attending church, or having some kind of faith practice (or not)? Does the right for another person to marry whom they love affect your right to marry the person you love? How do we provide the essentials for education for our young leaders and next generations?  And how do we enable them to be the best, brightest, and collaborative and hopeful? All of which I believe are necessary and essential in our increasingly interconnected world.

I am not sure I have any answers to these questions. But they certainly leave room for wondering.  As we are in the last full week of Advent now before Christmas, what does it mean to believe what the shepherds are told by the angel:

“Do not be afraid; for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David:  a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11, NRSV)?

Mary and Elizabeth
Mary and Elizabeth

What do Mary’s words within the Magnificat mean when she says:

“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:50-55, NRSV)?

Here’s what I know.  God is for you.  I believe for “all the people” like the Angel proclaims.  To try and create barriers within community because of difference of opinion and perspective I think is counter to this gospel message of hope and community building.

The people and institutions in these news stories certainly have the rights to hold the views they have.  But their words and actions matter in how they treat and affect others.  To think otherwise is to be naive or disingenuous. I just wonder, how can the grace and peace that we proclaim because of Christmas and its meaning which is given because of the life, death, and resurrection, inform our response to stories such as this.  What do you think?

Image Credits:  1) Phil Robertson; 2) Frank Schaefer; 3) Mary and Elizabeth

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