Amy and I had a fight last week. Well, let’s call it a disagreement. Since we share all pastoral responsibilities at our church, we try to be careful to distinguish between professional and personal issues. I think this was both.
The issue was NFL protests and presidential tweets. And the issue was my writing!
The issue is that our church, like many across the country, is experiencing its share of internal tensions related to all the external tensions that have become our daily life. The daily barrage of headline news, the expectation of the 2 a.m. tweet, the ubiquity of social media are enough to wake us up every morning wondering what the controversy will be today.
The issue is that our family, like many families across the country, are not all on exactly the same page of all things religion and politics and culture. We manage well. We haven’t divided the dining room table for Thanksgiving, but the polite tensions are there.
And the issue is that I have been given several platforms to express opinions. I am grateful for that “pulpit.” I have tried not to stay away from hot button issues, but I have also tried to offer a measured voice. I know there are some people who read the word “Trump,” or see that a post is about his most recent tweet, and just turn the page, but I am not a basher. Regarding our president or any other issue, I do not just lob grenades.
While my opinions do not usually offer a visionary third way, the perfect solution for all the world’s problems (I wish I were so bright), I have tried to express opinions that recognize the complexity of nearly every issue. I have tried to offer that opinion with a little bit of humility, offering my word, but without the vitriol and name calling and dismissive patronizing that I hear in some opinions.
I have tried to speak my truth in love.
Amy just wants everybody to get along — and that’s just one more of the long list of things that I love about my wife. It’s why she is such a wonderful mother and friend and sibling and pastor. She cares about people’s feelings. She cares about keeping the peace. She works hard to sooth wounds, to smooth divisions. So, she says:
“Why don’t you just write about cute puppies this time!” (It’s become our running joke: “What are you writing this time?” “Puppies,” I say — though she knows that’s rarely my topic!)
I understand. I do. There are times the Church and the world and the family just needs a word of comfort — no issues, no controversy, just the consolation of a good word.
There are also times that “keeping the peace” is just a means of acquiescence to the status quo. Sometimes a word of “comfort” is really only a convenient cover for cowardice. I think of old Jeremiah, warning us of those who cry “‘Peace, peace’ — when there is no peace!”
We need a balance. Too much bad news can overwhelm the soul. Too much commentary might lead us to think of every moment of every day as comment worthy, and we are partisan by nature, parsing those moments as “us or them,” “good or bad,” “right or wrong.” Learning to discern, to critique every moment might come with the side effect of making us critical at every moment, of making more enemies than friends, of filling every day with conflicts that may not really exist. But we need to think carefully, critically. Failing that discernment got us in this predicament to begin with.
In their wisdom our Quakers friends talk of speaking “truth to power.” This prophetic word has been integral to religion — and necessary for the world — since there has been faith. And Jesus taught us the pastoral word, “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”
He also said, “Follow me” — and it wasn’t cute puppies that got Jesus killed.
Yes, speak the truth in love, but now is not the time to “keep the peace.” The world is too dangerous for anything but truth.