(Originally posted here, on the website for the Cummins Institute, a part of St. Mary's College of California.)
“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it” (Pope Francis, Laudato si,229)
The United States of America holds national, state, and local elections on November 8 after a campaign season marked by excessive vituperation. Though market-driven media has promoted the more negative aspects of the election cycle, the campaigns, especially for president, have unmasked to a greater degree than ever before the growing divisions in the American populace. Historically such a climate has been the breeding ground for recourse to simplistic national solutions that have had horrible consequences for human rights. It is incumbent on all Americans, starting on November 9, whatever the outcome of the election, to strive for common ground and understanding of those on the other side of social and political divisions.
Our common striving will come only from the practice of charity, that is, unfeigned and zealous love for all. This is the hard lesson learned time and again by all good-hearted people tempted to discord in troubling times. There was a cry from the heart during the Reformation wars of religion in Europe, expressed by a Lutheran minister in Augsburg, which was subsequently simplified to the following: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Saint John XXIII quoted it favorably in his encyclical On Truth, Unity and Peace in a Spirit of Charity (Ad petri cathedram, June 29, 1959, section 72) and it has circulated in Catholic circles ever since. I once heard Cardinal Bernardin relate it in response to a request that he condemn the activity of a local parish. While the original context of this expression was religious division, its insight holds true for any community bound together by shared beliefs and experience. There is no gainsaying its logic. In our present circumstances, while we Americans work toward agreed essentials in political and social arenas, let charity win the day, every day.
May Americans craft a prayer like that of Pope Francis at the Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation, celebrated by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church on 31 October 2016, in Lund, Sweden. The Pope ended his homily with an invitation to shared prayer and a commitment to peace.
Moving from conflict to communion: While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion, by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation. While the past cannot be changed, what is remembered and how it is remembered can be transformed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and of the memories that cloud our view of one another. We emphatically reject all hatred and violence, past and present, especially that expressed in the name of religion. Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us” (“Joint Statement on the Occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation,” Lund, October 2016,http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20161031_omelia-svezia-lund.html, Nov. 5, 2016)
Pope Francis was recalling the armed conflict following the spread of the Protestant Reformation and ending a century later in the Thirty Years War. In the wake of the American election, citizens are playing with fire if they think that they have the luxury of sinking into armed camps, figuratively or literally as some groups have already expressed. Time and again history has shown the results of such folly.
The expression is traceable to Peter Meiderlin (d. 1651). See Martin Schmidt, “Ecumenical Activity on the Continent of Europe in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1517-1948, 2nd ed., Eds. Ruth Rouse and Stephen Charles Neill (Philadelphia: 1968), p. 82. See further, Steve Perisho, Theology Librarian at Seattle Pacific University, http://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/augustine/quote.html, Nov. 5, 2016
The Chapel is a polling place today, bustling with students, poll workers, and Berkeley residents. Make sure you vote!
Here is the California Proposition Guide from the Lutheran Office of Public Policy.
Check on your registration here.
Keep up on your voting rights here.
If anyone tries to stop you from voting, someone without an official poll worker ID persists in talking with you, or you otherwise feel weird about anything happening at your polling place, call 1-866-OurVote.
Finally, how to vote as an act of prayer.
Our very own Pastor Jeff gave the Founders Day address during the Convocation. Jeff is a 1984 graduate of Cal Lutheran, a 1988 graduate of PLTS, and a member of the PLTS Pastoral Care Team.
You can listen to his address here.
November 7, 2016
The Rev. Mark Holmerud, Bishop
Ms. Elaine Whitney, Vice President
Sierra Pacific Synod (ELCA)
9985 Folsom Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95827
Dear Bishop Holmerud and Vice President Whitney,
We are writing as members of the Racial Justice team at University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley.
We welcome the attention of the 2016 Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans to our shared goals of a diverse faith community and the urgent need for anti-racism work in our society.
We note in particular, that Assembly Action CA16.05.18 updates the ELCA's commitment to ethnic and racial diversity, and indicates that [e]ach synod shall submit its goal and strategies to the appropriate churchwide unit or office and shall annually submit a report on progress toward its goals to the Church Council.
We recognize our congregation's responsibility to join in this work of our synod.
Reflecting our synodical goals, the Chapel's 2016-2017 annual ministry plan has us to better reflect the communities we have been called to serve and to partner more boldly with our neighbors to help heal the world. Anti-racism, immigration, and environmental justice are key areas of activity for our parish.
Last year, we distributed 75 books for an all parish big read with the Rev. Sandhya Rani Jha's Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories From the Front Lines. In the spring, we organized an all day anti-racism symposium attended by a majority of members of our parish. As well, we funded and co-sponsored a photo exhibition, Humans of Syria, which just this month was exhibited at the Rayburn Office Rotunda in Washington DC. This summer, we renewed our commitment to sanctuary and renovated an apartment downstairs in our parish hall to be used by undocumented migrants under final deportation orders from ICE. This fall, we are reading together Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me and discussing it in small groups, in the liturgy, and at our all parish retreat. Finally, we are seeking to strengthen our partnerships with local organizations -- the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition (EBIIC), the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME), and are investigating a relationship with our local PICO affiliate -- BOCA (Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action).
Through our activities, we seek even greater involvement with the synod's commitment to becoming anti-racist and culturally competent. We would welcome an opportunity to gather with you (and others in our conference and synod) to participate in the concrete work of specifying goals, identifying strategies, and moving to implementation.
We are committed to bringing all of the Chapel's members into active engagement with this work as we transform our church and the neighborhoods in which we engaged.
Members of the Chapel Racial Justice Team
cc: The Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, pastor
The Rev. Ned O'Donnell, dean of the Bridges conference
Mr. Sam Tia, president of the congregation
by Padre Ángel D. Marerro
“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15 (RSV)
On Sunday, we woke up to the unspeakable horror of the most devastating mass shooting in the history of our country. For the past day, I have sat silently with my husband at home, crying in the face of the impotence of a world that, despite our social progress, still hates us.
In the midst of all this, I believe that Christian clergy in particular need to face an important reality: the church has blood on its hands. From our pulpits, and in our traditions, we have been complicit in fostering the sins of misogyny, sexism, racism, and homophobia. We are responsible for tolerating in our midst a poor, ignorant and murderous scriptural interpretation that leads to death and untold suffering. As a religious leader in the Boston-Metro Latino community, I cannot remain silent about this.
The words my husband Zach spoke to me have also been heavy on my heart all night. As a thoughtful interfaith leader that works primarily with Jews, Christians and Muslims, he eloquently reflected that “this isn’t simply ‘extremist Islam’, as some would like to paint it. This comes out of centuries of many religious traditions systematically demonizing and dehumanizing LGBTQ individuals. This hatred isn’t out of nowhere. It is in parts of Islam, yes, but it is within parts of Christianity and Judaism, as well.”
Facing such a reality, I feel I must apologize for the complicity and silence of the Church. I am sorry for the pain our sinful indifference and self-righteousness has caused, and continues to cause, throughout the world.
And in the midst of all this senseless suffering, I dare to do the only thing that comforts me in times like these. Here is my prayer for our communities today:
I dream of a day when being different is a reason to celebrate and not to fear.
I hope for a day when all God’s children can come together without condemnation.
I pray for a season where justice is not a matter of politics but of humanity.
I believe, like the modern psalmist proclaimed:
We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome Someday
Deep In My Heart, I Do Believe, We Shall Overcome Someday
Padre Ángel D. Marerro is pastor of Santuario Luterano in Waltham, MA. Originally posted in the Huffington Post. Orlando: A Pastoral Response from a Gay Latino Priest.