Friday, November 22, 2013

Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory

What a week. On Saturday 11/16/2013 I was ordained into Christian ministry under the aegis of the Progressive Christian Alliance. That would've been enough, but on the morning of Sunday 11/17/2013 I finally got to see Howard Thurman's church -- as my dear friend, brother in Christ, and fellow new minister the Reverend Lee Whittaker preached about TDoR. What a statement... literally the next day after being ordained, Lee preached from the pulpit once occupied by Howard Thurman himself. And then there was TDoR. The 4M Ministries service TDoR: an experience in lessons & carols was simply staggering. We knew it was coming together well, but during our walk-through of the service on Wednesday afternoon, it was becoming clear that we had tapped a vein of sacred energy and that something was about to happen. It happened, alright. More successfully than I had even thought possible. I went into the service hoping that people would "get it" but not sure whether it would make sense to them. But it did. And to then find out that none other than Marcia McFee and her partner were in the audience and that they loved the service... that really brought it home: I am a professional minister now. 

But today, amidst all the afterglow of this incredible step forward in my ministerial formation, it is time to pause. To remember. And to reflect on what was never meant to be, what could have been, and the deep loss that this nation will never be able to fill. For me, it is a curious day -- I was born almost 8 years after JFK's assassination. But as I have learned more about the America he represented, seen with my own eyes the memorial to him in the same field where the Magna Carta was signed in modern-day England, and learned more about two of his brothers -- Ted and Robert (-aka- RFK) -- and what they stood for collectively... the more convinced I am that Satan himself went after that generation of the Kennedy clan. Nothing else makes sense to me anymore. I firmly believe that had JFK not been assassinated, this country likely would have seen President RFK... perhaps not in 1968, but possibly in 1972. Watergate never would have happened. Vietnam would have ended differently; maybe not in "victory" whatever that means, but differently somehow. And this nation would be a better place to this very day.

All of that began to end in Dallas TX on this very date exactly 50 years ago. Over the years, there have been lots of shocking twists... was JFK addicted to painkillers? Certainly. Did he ride the baloney-pony with Marilyn Monroe? Probably. Would his presidency -- even if only one term -- have set the stage for a completely different America than the one we have inherited since his and RFK's deaths? ABSOLUTELY YES.

At this point, all I am left with is the prayer that the kind of vision, the persistence of moral strength, and the straight-up courage that JFK, RFK, and Ted inspired in so many liberal leaders, will continue to live on in the up-and-coming generation of liberal leaders.

I think of some of my dear friends... people like Christine Haider-Winnett, who is directly challenging the gender-hegemony of the Roman priesthood... Chris Hockley, who is an unapologetic queer ally who has chosen to remain with his denomination despite its painfully outdated approach to queer Christians... my new friend Karla Pérez-Cordero, who recently encouraged me to never apologize for my belief in liberation theology under any circumstances... and of course friends like Lee, who is himself a mustard-seed revolution in queer and trans-focused Christian ministry... and Sarah Thompson, the most awesome rocket-scientist I have ever been blessed to know personally and count among my friends... and I realize that the flame is still lit.

May it never be extinguished. May it burn eternally, reminding us of one of the most powerful speeches ever given in the history of this nation. I reproduce the text of JFK's inaugural address, in its entirety, below. Its words speak more powerfully now than they did when first uttered in early 1961. That the man was a prophet is never more clear than when you read the words which follow.

I have added bold-emphasis in several specific places that speak directly to my feelings today as we mark exactly 50 years since the death of Camelot. I encourage all who read this post to take the text of JFK's inauguration to heart. Copy the text below, take my bold-emphasis out, then re-bold the parts which speak to you directly; then post it on your own blog. Let the eternal flame at Arlington, marking the grave sites of JFK, RFK, Teddy, and JFK's beloved Jackie, burn anew here on the Internet... world with out end, amen.

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens:

We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning -- signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge -- and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom -- and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge: to convert our good words into good deeds, in a new alliance for progress, to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support -- to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective, to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak, and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course -- both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.

So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free." [Isaiah  58:6 KJV]

And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor -- not a new balance of power, but a new world of law -- where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation," [Romans 12:12 KJV] a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.