How We Show Up

by | Oct 6, 2022

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:6-8

Autumn arrived in our region this week with the remnants of Hurricane Ian dousing us with rain and cooler weather. As a nation, we are united in our concern for those whose lives have been forever changed. Whatever source we turn to for news, we are drawn to respond to the suffering of others with generous compassion.

Yet those same sources, and the advertising that pays for them, remind us everyday that we are in the final stretch before the midterm elections on November 8. They could be, as many have argued, the most consequential election in years. They will also be the most expensive. Political advertising spending alone is estimated to top 9 billion dollars.

Most of that money will be spent to inflame the already dangerous polarization within our nation, exploiting our worst fears, dehumanizing those with whom we disagree, making false promises and simplifying the complex problems we face that require a unified nation to address.

The seeds of our societal polarization lie within every human community, and–let’s be honest–within each of us. When they are watered with fear and resentment, those seeds grow and threaten to choke everything around them.

As Christians blessed to live in a democracy, we have a civic and moral responsibility to participate in the arenas where decisions are made that affect us all. But it also matters how we show up. That’s why I was grateful to accept the invitation on behalf of the Diocese of Washington to join an effort organized by the largest United Methodist Church in the country–the BE Campaign.

The idea is for Christians to do whatever we can to narrow the gap between us by taking the prophet Micah’s words to heart. Imagine what would happen if all Christians, no matter our differences, decided to commit ourselves to be just, kind and humble in both our private and public lives.

For as the late former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright writes in her book Fascism: A Warning:

The wise response to intolerance is not more intolerance or self- righteousness. It is a coming together across the ideological spectrum of people who want to make their countries better. We should remember that the heroes we cherish–Lincoln, King, Gandhi, Mandela–spoke to the best within us. The crops we’ll harvest depend on the seeds we sow.1 (italics mine)

This is the BE Campaign’s pledge:

I pledge to strive to follow Micah 6:8 in all aspects of my life:

    • To act justly and pursue justice by standing with and speaking out for those who are vulnerable, mistreated, in need or exploited
    • To practice kindness and mercy in every interaction, even with those with whom I disagree;
    • To act with humility, surrendering my will to God’s will, acknowledging that I may not always be right and should listen more and speak less.

There is a temptation, and an understandable one, given how intense emotions can be, to speak in absolutes about the issues we care about. There is an equally strong temptation to remain silent, so as not to offend.

I, for one, believe that as Christians we dare to enter the public arena with the best of who we are. If we pay attention, Jesus will tell us where our voice is needed. Jesus will show us where we are needed.

Here we can take inspiration from Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. Bishop Curry is never hesitant to speak the truth as he sees it. Yet he is among the most universally beloved religious leaders in our society, because he treats those who don’t share his view with kindness and humility, and he never stops searching for common ground across differences.

Bishop Curry calls his approach to engaging the work of justice as standing and kneeling at the same time. He stands in his convictions, speaking as clearly as he can what he believes and why. And he kneels before those who disagree with him, honoring them as beloved children of God and respecting their point of view.

“If we all do that and engage each other,” he says, “kneeling in real humility before each other and before God, and yet being honest and up front and clear about what we stand for, the fact that we have knelt before each other creates the space where we can stand together with our differences.”1

I invite you to join me and others in this quiet yet powerful call to show up in all the challenging arenas of your life, and in our common life, with justice, kindness, and humility. To show up where Jesus calls you, standing firm in what you believe to be right and true and just, and yet stay in loving relationship with those who differ, refusing to meet intolerance with more intolerance, but with love.

Think of the people in Florida right now. No one is asking another person who they voted for or the political party they belong to before offering a helping hand in the communal crisis of Hurricane Ian. All across the country people are mobilizing to help. Red and Blue are irrelevant. President Biden and Governor DeSantis are speaking to one another across the political divide that separates them. Grief has the power to unite us when nothing else will.

May Jesus help us all to be just, kind and humble.

Episcopal Relief and Development is partnering with dioceses in Florida to determine what those communities need for a sustained recovery. As you are able, please consider making a gift to ERD’s Hurricane Relief Fund. Thank you.

1Madeleine Albirght, Facism: A Warning (HarperCollins, Kindle ed.), xx.
2Presiding Bishop Shares Stories from His Life and Ministry in New Book on Christian Love