Monday, November 21, 2016

The Safety Pin

So there have been a lot of responses to Trump’s election.  Unfortunately, a small chunk of the population has chosen to respond with an increase in hate crimes and hate speech targeting racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, other non-Christians, the LGBTQ community, women, and more generally, people perceived to be supporters or members of those communities, whether they are or not. 

A similar thing happened following the Brexit vote earlier this year.  In response to the Brexit hate crimes, other people in Great Britain started wearing safety pins as an expression of solidarity and support to the people being most affected by hate crimes and hate speech.  The safety pins were a pledge to not commit those crimes themselves, and to act to support and defend those who might be targeted.  In the days following Trump’s election, many Americans are also taking on the safety pin as a symbol. 

Symbols have the power we give them as a society.  If the safety pin as a symbol is not followed up by concrete actions when something happens, it’s an empty symbol, and it will fade out.  If, however, you take the safety pin as a promise and follow through with it, it can be a powerful symbol of love, support, and acceptance. 

I’m baptized in the Episcopal tradition.  Part of our Baptismal covenant, or sacred promise, is the promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  We also promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.  We promise to persevere in resisting evil, and to proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ.  I was baptized as an infant, and my parents made those promises on my behalf.  As I grew into adulthood, I repeated those promises every time I repeated the Baptismal Covenant.  And when I was confirmed, I took those promises on myself as an adult in the church. 

For me the safety pin is a reminder.  A reminder that I have already pledged to act with love towards my neighbor, to strive to create justice, to respect every person’s dignity.  It is a reminder that to act in line with the safety pin promise is to live out my faith, day by day.  To strive each day to be better at being true to those promises.  So yes, I am wearing the symbol.  I hope to give it great meaning and power. 

But even if you don’t find the safety pin a useful symbol, I hope that you can follow through with its meaning.  Because the meaning is more important than the symbol. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


How do we respond?  When we hear of terrible things in our world, how do we respond?  When we hear of the attacks on Brussels, Ankara, Paris, how do we respond?  When we realize how differently the announcements of death and violence are treated when they come from Western Europe instead of the Middle East and Africa, how do we respond to our world's brokenness? 

How do we respond to the pain and violence in Colorado and in California?  How do we separate the vileness and the harm caused by certain members of all religions from the fundamental blessings of those same religions? 

How do we preach the Good News: the time of Jubilee when all wrongs are set right, when prisoners are released, the sick are healed, the hungry fed and the homeless sheltered when we can walk down the street and meet people without a home and going hungry living in our own community? 

How do we not give in to the pain and anger and hopelessness we face?  How do we learn not to lash out at the closest target, and instead work to confront the underlying causes? 

Job calls out of his fear and his pain and his anger, calls out to God and demands an answer for all his pain.  God tells him that the answers are beyond what he can comprehend.

Jesus calls out on the cross, begging to know why God has abandoned him, and there is no answer at the time. 

If that were all the answer we had, if Good Friday was the end of the story, Christianity would be the story of Nihilism. 

Instead, we have a promise.  Easter is 6 days away now.  The cross is not the end of the story, but the turning point, the crisis hour resolved only by the promise of the empty tomb. 

The empty tomb tells us that pain has its end, that despair does not win.  That something else: love, and faith, and hope and something still more powerful behind all three, lies ahead of us and calls us to keep going.

I don't know what to say, in the face of so much pain.  I don't know, except that love is pulling me further, and that I will not give in to despair and hatred.