I’ve just returned from Oberlin College outside of Cleveland, Ohio. It was there I watched election night coverage which left me nothing less than stunned.
Oberlin College: a place that served as a way-station along the Underground Railroad helping to move Southern slaves to new lives in Canada. Yes, a place where fugitive slaves were “liberated” from the custody of federal marshals charged with returning these slaves to their masters. Oberlin College, where today at the entrance the US flag is flown with a gay pride flag and students are actively engage in social justice.
My trip to Oberlin College was to meet with members of the United Church of Christ’s consortium for programs in theological education. In the midst of discussions on planning for the theological needs of the future church, we reflected together on the gospel story from Matthew’s text about the three magi who followed the star which led them to encounter Jesus.
In this gathering, I, an openly gay man, joined with theological educators who included Lakota Indians who have been part the protest at the Dakota Access Pipeline; African-American women, mothers and matriarchs in their communities; people who were born in Korea as well as those of Latino and Hispanic heritage; lesbian women; and of course white, heterosexual men and women. Much like the United Church of Christ, we were a very diverse and progressive group of people.
Wednesday morning, we turned from our regular agenda. Together we prayed. Then gathered in a circle, we shared for an hour about what the election results meant for us and our communities. Many of us cried. We knew that the wave of violence and hatred that was unleashed would be much like the slave owner’s whip lashing at our varied communities. More Black lives will be lost; more Native land will be desecrated; more LGBT youth will be victims of hate crimes; more women will be victimized; and many of our sisters and brothers, particularly of the Muslim and Jewish faiths, will find their lives marked by violence.
In this context, I considered options forward. While I value political organizing and believe we must act to protect civil rights, I also know that as a follower of Jesus, I am called to respond with faith and integrity. I returned to the Biblical story we shared: the journey of magi. On their journey to find the Christ-child, the magi were invited to the palace of Herod, the Roman governor. Herod was a cruel autocrat, known for pettiness and senseless violence. Herod instructed the magi to return to him after they found the child saying that that he could also visit the child. Part of the epiphany of the magi was a dream that inspired them to return home another way rather than returning to Herod. It’s as though they recognized that they could not prevent Herod from doing harm, but they could do what they could to find another way to limit the harm.
The votes have been counted. Leaders around the world are responding to this election with great caution. The transition is in motion. I cannot undo what has been done. But I can respond to this election by being like the magi and returning home a different way. For me that means to engage in being an active follower of Jesus by engaging in actively working to build a better world in my situation. There are refugees in needof support in transition to this country; young people afraid for their future; new immigrants wanting to learn proficient English; Muslim sisters and brothers who need to know that their presence is valued; people living with physical and mental handicaps in need of compassion; and so very much more. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that the task is not to judge and condemn those who voted differently from me, but to build the realm of God in our midst. That realm is a place where each person is valued and respected, where true freedom is shared by all. Part of building that realm of God will be to be active in Moral Mondays in Georgia when demonstrations resume at the start of the legislative session.
Come what may over the next four years, I am rededicating myself to engaging with others to make the world a better place. I pray that you will join me and reach out to others with compassion, respect, and goodness. Perhaps this election can be the opportunity to unite and organize in new ways to create an equitable society.
I am grateful to have spent this week at Oberlin College. Being in a place rooted in social justice inspires me to move forward with the faith that a better world can be created. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking — but the sacred story of my faith begins with those who followed nothing more than a star shining in deepest night.
© 2016, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.