Fighting Words

Posted by Rev. Dr. Patrick Duggan on Saturday Dec 17, 2016 Under Pastor's Corner

Before I opened my eyes this morning I began my new daily ritual of obsessing over the lost election and the reality of a Trump presidency.  It occurred to me that the election was a masterful success for those forces in society that have worked relentlessly for the continued consolidation of wealth and power into the hands of the few.  They succeeded in electing a morally bereft figurehead ready to lead the charge of dismantling any government policy that brings relief to the poor and help to the working class.  They moved us closer to the elimination of any obligation of the wealthiest to share in the democratic ideal of civil society.

My mind shifted quickly to panic mode, racing to that part of me that knows I am a teaspoon trying to empty the ocean.  I paused to wallow awhile in silent whining mode, thinking of all that we did wrong, and all the ways we could have won.  I found that space where many of my colleagues are hanging out these days, sitting around opining about ‘what really happened’,  cringing at  the parade of cartoon villains appointed to cabinet positions,  planning a protest to attend,  surfing Canadian websites,  reposting witty anti-Trump zingers on social media, and praying for a miracle on December 19th.

All the way woke now; the fight in me aroused.  On this day in 1925, my late mother, Mertice Jones Duggan, was born.   Mertice was a 1952 Howard Law School graduate (yes, an African American woman), who with her fellow students served as volunteer legal staff that did the research, crafted the language and prepared the legal briefs for Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP attorneys that argued and won  Brown v. Board of Education  in 1954.  This at a time when segregation was legal,  black people were systemically denied the right to vote, and candidates  won elections by proudly proclaiming “I believe in segregation forever”.  Compared to the sneeze of post-election 2016, this era for progressivism was a fatal case of pneumonia.  And yet my mother and her contemporaries embraced hope.  They trod the path of most resistance.  They fought impossibly huge battles.  They endured losses, violence, and death _both physically and politically.  But they fought on.  They lost often, but they continued to fight.  And when they won, they won big.

I got out of bed and put on my battle gear.   I unsheathed my laptop and made ready my provisions for the journey ahead.  My words will not be wasted on whining and despair.  My sentences will not analyze every moral slight committed by history’s most depraved leader-elect of the free world.  I will waste no paragraphs marveling on the racism, reactionary thinking, or the perceived evil intent of a cabinet pick or a Supreme Court candidate.  Plenty of others will do that.

I will focus on the role of progressive faith in bringing the fight to the death-dealing, planet –poisoning, poverty-making, divide-and-conquer politicking, coded speechifying forces of the dark side.  I will share the good news of the peace and justice-making capacity of faith-controlled assets deployed to advance mission.  I will shout out every effort to expand the economy of God, reduce the growth of global poverty and foil the accelerated consolidation of wealth.

The Christian Right’s abandonment of the moral high ground has created an opportunity for an authentic Christian witness; one that embraces Jesus’ personal mission statement in Luke 4:18-19.  This renewed public Christianity will work in joyful coalition with Muslims, Jews, people from all religions, and people of good will that follow no religions but share our desire to create a just world for all.

The giant is no longer asleep.

It’s on.

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What is “Church”?

Posted by Rev. Dr. Patrick Duggan on Wednesday May 18, 2016 Under Pastor's Corner

One Easter, I looked up “church” on Google and found over 239 million results.  Because computers and smartphones are more sophisticated now than ever, the results from a Google search are both location- and device-specific.  From my home office desktop, the first page of my search resulted in a list of nearby churches (or at least those churches that know how to optimize their websites. Nine pages in, my church was nowhere to be found).  On my phone, our church was the third “hit” on the list of results.  It really bothered me to see the big Baptist church in the neighborhood at the top of the list (even though that Baptist pastor is a friend of mine).   Forty six feet from where I’m standing, why isn’t our church at the top?

What was more interesting about my search for “church” was that regardless of the device, every search yielded the following result somewhere in the top ten:  “a church building, often simply called a church, is a building used for religious activities, particularly worship…”  Those words were accompanied by a picture of an all-white, New England-style chapel.

You would think that result would make me happy. As much as I love church buildings however, my little unscientific research project underscored how far we have strayed from what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “…upon this rock I will build my ekklēsia.”  Certainly, Jesus was not talking about a building. And I doubt that he had in mind the twisted meanings of “church” today.

People have been abused by “church”, welcomed by “church”, oppressed by “church”, affirmed by “church”, frustrated by “church”, embraced, rejected, loved, neglected, saved or maligned by “church”.   The “church” at once blesses marriage between any two people, and also says that there can only be marriage between man and woman. The church condones violence, condemns violence, commits violence and advocates for peace. No wonder so many people claim to be ‘spiritual but not religious’, or ‘Christians who don’t believe in organized religion’. Why would anyone want to associate with folks who can’t figure out who the hell they are?

To meet the needs of this generation, spaces and places that facilitate ministry must be created from  a renewed understanding of “church” that is not building-centered.  In the spirit of sankofa, the church must go back so that we may go forward.  No, not back to ‘old-time religion’ and antiquated ways, but back to the vision of the beloved community that Jesus called forth in his first century conversation with Peter.  “Church” is NOT a building.  “Church” is God’s people, sharing the Good News of Jesus with all of humanity, until all creation is overcome with God’s love.  That is the “church” that the spiritually hungry are searching for.

Worship can no longer be what we do.  Worship must be who we are.  Let the church say, “Amen”.

 

Greetings friends!  This is the first post on our church blog.  Thank you for your interest in CCSH.  We welcome your thoughts and comments.

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