Archive for October, 2018

Narrow or imaginative politics

October 28, 2018

For an interfaith gathering

©Vernon K. Rempel, 2018

I love everybody

More and more, we need Ruby Sales’

song “I love everybody,”

the song the civil rights marchers

sang to prepare for facing

the dogs and water cannons

and hate on the Edmund Pettus bridge,

on March 7, 1965.

More than ever we need to march

love into places of hate,

both in our own hearts

and in our community,

nation, and world.

We may feel like the dog

in the New Yorker cartoon

(see worship outline)

who feels like he just

barks and barks without

effecting real change.

But we need real change.

We need real love.

May we find a way.

Litany of hate

Here is the litany of hate from

one tough week in the United States:

Partisan pipe bombs:

May we commit ourselves to act and pray for loving kindness.

Targeting and killing black people in a Kentucky grocery store

May we commit ourselves to act and pray for racial justice and healing.

Anti-semitic shootings

May we commit ourselves to act and pray in solidarity with our Jewish friends, neighbors, fellow human beings.

More urgently than ever,

we need to project kind words, not hateful words

we need to project soulful presence, not public crudity

we need to project the capacity to take and own responsibility,

not casting blame on the media or minorities or the “other”

whether socially or politically defined.

More urgently than ever

we need to be about the work

of making community,

community as the act of baking daily bread,

as constant as brushing our teeth,

as welcome as the drinking the morning coffee,

community as the very music of our hours:

everywhere I go, on the radio and TV,

I hear the song of community.

That is my prayer, longing, and commitment.

We had a moment of working toward community

yesterday, as people gathered in the beer garden

at Black Shirt Brewery to thank them

for being a good neighbor

to the Tiny Home Village

and to celebrate and prepare

for the move to a new location.

Everyone was there:

Village residents, political activists,

even one candidate, church people,

and others were there to be in community.

How different than the public power-feud

of party politics.

The narrow place of party politics:

the impulse to fuse, to congeal

into a battle of words and blame,

disgust and distrust.

To fall into teams, tribes,


enemy-focused systems.

Company of strangers

Parker Palmer writes in Company of Strangers:

“We have all but lost the vision of the public. More than ever we need the process of public life to renew our sense of belonging to one another. But in our time, along with loss of vision, opportunities for public interaction have also dwindled. We lack the facilities, the occasions, the hospitable spaces in which the public might come together to find and celebrate itself. And even more basic, we have lost the conviction that a public life is worth living.

“As our public experience dwindles, we come to regard “the public” either as an empty abstraction or as a sinister, anonymous crowd whose potential for violence fills us with fear. That potential is there… but we have blown it all out of proportion. As our privacy deepens and our distance from the public increases, we pay a terrible price. We lose our sense of relatedness to those strangers with whom we must share the earth; we lose our sense of comfort and at-homeness in the world.”

And he adds:

“The God who cares about our private lives is concerned with our public lives as well. This is a God who calls us into relationship not only with family and friends, but with strangers scattered across the face of the earth, a God who says again and again, ‘We are all in this together.'”

“I once asked a politically active black minister in Washington, D.C. to name the primary task in his ministry. I suppose I expected him to say something about political organizing, protest, and the like. Instead, he said, ‘To provide my people with a rich social life.’ I asked, ‘Do you mean parties and pot-lucks and socials and things like that?’ thinking his answer sounded a bit frivolous. ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘things like that give my people the strength to struggle in public.'”

That’s the work of community.

That’s a taste of what we have here

in our weekly gathering and meal.

That’s a taste of the beer garden

that Cole organized for yesterday afternoon.

That’s the work of Taylor McKinney’s

Family Leadership Training Institute,

where people eat and learn together each week.

May the imaginations and actions of our love

widen our political horizons from narrow fighting

to bread for all.

Let us generously pour ourselves

into trauma work, reconciliation,

doing justice, taking responsibility,

even as love is poured out among us.

Our national poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith

has a beautiful reflection on connection

and community to help fire our political imagination.

(in My God, it’s full of stars)

This daughter of one of the first

African-American NASA engineers

imagines a populated outer-space:

Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone,

That the others have come and gone—a momentary blip—

When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,

Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel

Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,

Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,

Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones

At whatever are their moons. They live wondering

If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,

And the great black distance they—we—flicker in.

May the great distances we experience

be spanned by a great love,

like walking across the bridge singing,

like gathering in synagogues, mosques,

churches, and town halls

so that we may be encouraged

in the practice of being human together.

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Saulo is Mennonite Central Committee’s coordinator of immigration work. Here he offers some good thoughts on what the Bible has to do with immigration. Thanks, Saulo!


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