(RNS) At a church workshop last week, I set aside my carefully planned teaching and just let people talk.
It became clear that everyone had an old story they needed to tell. Until it was heard, no one in the room could or would move on to thinking about the future. And even when it was heard, half of them would keep cycling back to the old story.
When I was growing up in D.C. in the 1980s, many of my neighbors were Salvadorans who had fled the violence of civil war. My parents and many of their colleagues were active in opposing U.S.-funded suppression of leftists in that war and others in Central America. All of them held up Archbishop Oscar Romero as an example of highest virtue (never mind the Vatican delaying his cause for sainthood until recently). And since the March 24 anniversary of Romero's assassination usually falls during Lent—next Tuesday will be 35 years—the church in which I was raised remembered his martyrdom as we pondered the sacrifices that come with discipleship.
America’s conversation about race has, like all of our public conversations, come to consist largely of a running commentary on viral spectacles. Recent weeks have been rife with them—the Oklahoma University SAE video chant and the dreadful scene of the double shooting of police in Ferguson; the awesome images of a sitting and a former president crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, heading a massive multiracial and multigenerational crowd; the face of University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, bloodied by Alcohol Board of Control officers.
Last fall, our congregation presented Bibles to some of our elementary school kids. This is a longstanding tradition here, to provide each child of reading age with their very own grown-up Bible.
When we hand out the Bibles, I always call the kids forward and tell them that it is a special gift from their church family, because we think it's important that everyone have a Bible to read for themselves.
Among the hearty New Englanders with whom I serve and pastor, there are a few souls who refuse to close church on account of bad weather, ever. The Lord God created shovels and road salt and boots and wool socks as sure signs of the Almighty’s intention that we go to church. Some of these pastors hold deep theological convictions that the people of God should gather for worship every Sunday in rain, snow, sleet, or hail. Others are just defiant Yankee curmudgeons who would rather be assigned to eternal damnation than admit defeat by a winter storm.
Whatever the motivation, I love this stubborn streak within the church.
WASHINGTON (RNS) American presidents need wisdom, integrity, good judgment and humility. They should, if they are inclined, be free to draw strength from belief in and devotion to God. What’s more, Americans prefer their presidents to have religious faith.