Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is my ministry? A personal note

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle in the Episcopal Church. As such, St. Andrew’s in Amarillo celebrated with the liturgy and music for the occasion. It’s not unusual that I learn something every time I attend a service at this, my home parish. This time I learned that Andrew was the first Apostle, joining Jesus’ ministry to become, as Matthew’s Gospel version in today’s lectionary quotes Jesus, “Follow me, l make you fish for people.”

Andrew and 11 others decided that it was their ministry to join with this itinerant rabbi in spreading the word of God’s love for all people, including perhaps most importantly, the least of us but certainly, all of us. While a visitor or new parishioner might think that this was the only day we address ministry at St. Andrew’s, it isn’t; it was just the day we looked at the Gospel reading about it. The theme exists every day at St. Andrews, based on what Jo Roberts Craig, our retired rector (priest in charge), said when asking people to help out, “If it is your ministry ….”

For many years, my ministry at St. Andrews was to be a chorister. But we all have ministries outside of our churches. It might be hard to believe that I see my last twenty years as a journalist and blogger as a ministry but it is. I was on the cusp of starting my first class in seminary in Denver in 1995 when the seminary suddenly closed. I was at loose ends and as I looked through a pile of materials in my apartment, I found information for journalism programs at the University of Colorado and Metropolitan State College of Denver. The die was cast.

I make no profession as a Biblical scholar. To the degree I understand the Bible, I know I am not a “literalist,” meaning I don’t take the fundamentalist view that it is the exact words of God written through men. I believe the Bible is allegory, stories, drama and message — with the main one that, as Christians, must surpass all others: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

One of the hardest things for those 12 men’s ministry must have been to drop everything in their lives to follow this unknown thirty-something. Maybe ministry isn’t supposed to always be easy. It’s clear that at this point my ministry at St. Andrews is to be present. I am open to other engagement. What became more evident to me today than ever before it that I have an equally important and wider ministry. It’s to speak out against the unspeakable hate and divisiveness engendered over the past half-century or so and manifested most vividly with the election of Donald Trump.

Our elegant First Lady Michelle Obama recently exhorted the formula, “When they go low, we go high.” As a paradigm for changing political minds, it’s an ideal. In practical terms, I am not yet convinced it will work. We are in an age of post-fact America. We must somehow convince our body politic that the scandals, corruption, corporatism, pro-business, anti-consumer, anti-human and anti-humane, misogyny, homophobia, racism and hatred are real and the modus operandi of the right-wing are real. Thus, my huge challenge with this ministry is not just trumping Trump’s and his followers’ hate with love. The task extends to furthering justice, peace, equality and compassion. I can, and often do, use a sharp tongue and pen, even veering into vulgarity. So the almost insurmountable challenge is to do all this without sowing more hate.

I don’t see satire as hateful, of course. Asserting I won’t dirty my hands with his name by referring to him as movie villain Biff Tannen seems perfectly acceptable to me. But calling him “Cheeto?” I love it, but does it dilute my message? I really don’t know. And what about that behavioral model in my era of grammar school: You finally hit the bully back in the nose? Do I do that verbally and lose my impact? Do I tweet back one of his favorite epithets, “loser?” Is there any way to make it clear to Biff that mocking a disabled person as he did is unacceptable under any circumstances?

I am not asking people for input on these questions. I am grappling with these questions in my own way and in my own time.

This will end up on Facebook and I know some people will want to take me on about this. Some of those people are my real friends and they know how to reach me back channel. Others are “frenemies,” either on Facebook or in real life. I am going to block any comments that purport to “take me on” in this. Otherwise, please join me on my journey.