January 08, 2021
Dear Central Atlantic Conference,
Growing up in Washington D.C. and geographically close to several Presidential transitions over my lifetime, I never imagined the events of January 6, 2021. A Confederate flag paraded in the Rotunda. Nooses erected. Five people dead. It was shocking (but not surprising). It was shameful. It was appalling. It was heartbreaking. All on a day, in a stroke of bitter and perhaps revealing irony, when we traditionally celebrate the manifestation of God’s glory among us on the feast day of the Epiphany.
The brazen assault on the Capitol by supporters of the current President broke into far more than just a building. It broke into the underpinnings of our democracy. It broke into our psyches and our spirits. It broke into the ideals of justice and freedom that are at the heart of this country. And what is both baffling and truly tragic is the ethical and moral failure of leadership that neither disabled nor condemned the violence -- but enabled and commended it.
It does not matter whether anyone reading this is a Republican or Democrat or lives in a Red or Blue State. What matters is that a peaceful transition of power is important not only because it a best practice of our political system since the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1801, but because simply put, it is the right thing to do.
I firmly believe that as Christians there are at least three other things that are right to do ‘for such a time as this (Est. 4:14).” They are the following:
- Love. Love universally. Love unconditionally. Love courageously. Once he grew to adulthood, Jesus commanded us, paraphrasing the Torah of his childhood to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Mt 22-37:40 NRSV)” Enough said.
- Seek truth. Work for truth. Speak truth to power. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:12 KJV).” After seeing the Christ child, the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but they returned to their country via another road. Like the Magi we are called to follow alternative ways from those that lead to violence, injustice, white supremacy and hatred stemming from lies, false, inflammatory rhetoric, and untruths spread broadly.
- Pray. Pray without ceasing. Prayer is needed in any season but in my opinion, the reason why could not be more crystal clear in this one: “ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)”
We, not only as the Central Atlantic Conference, but as part of the United Church of Christ, have the opportunity, the challenge, and the call of God as people of faith, to model to this country and the world what it means to live in beloved community. We can model what it looks like to love one another even when we disagree politically or otherwise. We can speak and work for truth and justice, and model, in the words of Cornel West, ‘what love looks like in public’ even if that bucks the popular trend or view. We can pray and seek God for the direction that leads to the Shalom of the world even, following the example of the Magi, that leads us to take another road less traveled, making, paraphrasing Robert Frost, all the difference. My dear siblings in the Central Atlantic Conference, may we commit to doing so, for the sake of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the world.
May God bless us, help us, and keep us all in these days and the days to come.
In Christ’s love,
The Rev. Freeman L. Palmer