I promise.

Here’s what I have. I ask you, my sisters and brothers, to hold me accountable, to add to this list, or to expand it in your own life where it applies.

Or ignore it completely. That always remains an option.

I want to go on record.

I promise to do my dead-level best to:

  • Love mercy
  • Do justly
  • Walk humbly with my God
  • Expand the Garden of peace beyond the borders of my own spiritual community whenever possible
  • Pray more
  • Love better
  • Do whatever I need to do to build stronger connections, maintain the bridges between us, and to repair the places that have eroded due to neglect and error.

I promise I will step in when I see injustice. I promise I will try to always stand on the side of the oppressed, the minority, the wounded, the suffering, and the wandering.

I promise I will help you find your words, perform your duty, carry your burden, and find rest.

I promise there is no such thing as alternate facts.

I promise you Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and the people who voted for them, are icons, made in the image of God.

I promise I will always try my best to tell the truth, to call out falsehood when I see it, and to encourage others to do the same.

I promise to continue to mean what I say every liturgy “we pray for this country, its ruler, its people, civil authorities and armed forces.”

I promise to speak out against greed and injustice.

I promise to listen to your stories.

I promise to have “Lord, have mercy” on my lips as much as possible.cropped-mg_6828.jpg

 

The American problem

I posted the following at a great little blog run by a great priest whose easy-to-understand contrasts between Orthodoxy and every other form of Christianity has had great impacts on my family members.

He wrote a blog post about the need to go local, to learn to take care of one’s self, to be sufficient and able to go it alone because the need may arise someday, particularly for those who try to actively live out their faith in a way that is meaningful.

He took some of his arguments from this guy, who is a friend of some friends and who I disagree with a good 95% of the time. When I do agree with him, it’s usually the core of his argument but rarely with the way he makes it or his conclusion. I’ve wrestled a bit with him at his own blog, and my priest tells me to stay off of it, so I try.

But it comes down to this one thing (and I have to be very careful because some of these issues about religious freedom and whatnot are very prescient and completely relevant to my paying gig): what do we think we mean when we talk about practicing our faith? I think, and this is just me talking here, that because so few American Christians practice anything that remotely resembles historic Christianity, we really have little room to argue.

And, because most of what passes for American Christianity bears a very keen likeness to the culture around it, we have no legs to stand on when it comes to how to order the national house.

We, as a culture, applauded and cheered the Facebook IPO last week. We cheered for money. Did anyone’s pastor say that was probably not the best thing we could be doing? We, as a voting block, tend to be more skeptical of climate change and resent any attempts to be told that we shouldn’t be able to run willy-nilly with environmental scissors in our hands. Yes, I’m talking about one particular political party. This one particular political party which has promised religious conservatives in this country the moon on abortion and unauthorized use of sexy-time, as long as we look the other way on a whole host of other issues that have damaged our communities and families much more than “the gay agenda” or Planned Parenthood.

I don’t think God is a Republican. I don’t think He’s a Democrat either. I don’t know if He worries too much about “Obamacare” and its mandates, because He has seen the Church undergo a lot more in the way of oppression.

But I think He was in the room the other day when my mom took out her own wallet and paid to keep a cancer patient’s lights on b/c the woman can’t afford her electric bill AND her chemo. (Reason #2341 why I LOVE my mom.) And I think He worries a lot about my particular salvation, why I get so mad so easily and whether I’m making the choices in my life based on the Truth I claim to possess.

Anyway, here’s a chunk of the comment I posted. I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts about it. I think this has been on my mind lately (usually). I do worry about  American Christianity, but that’s more due to its internal health than any external pressure it may be facing now and in the future.

American Christianity sold its soul to that political devil a long time ago, and now is complaining because the fire is hot.

And at the same time, our particular cultural brand of Christianity (I say this as a former mega-church Evanglical/fundamentalist Baptist before that and now Orthodox) has been unwilling to address any of the real issues facing our communities and the people in them. And the powers that be — Big Pharma, BigAg, BigMilitary, BigBusiness, BigOil — spend a lot of money helping good Christian-types get elected who promised to give them everything they’ve wanted as long as they promised not to be pro-abortion. We’re not really pro-life and the culture around us knows it. We’re pro-comfort, pro-money, pro-IcanberichifIjusttryhardenough, and now we’re reaping what we’ve sown. We sign the Manhattan Declaration, but we don’t stand up against the corporations eating our families alive and breaking up our communities. We holler against “Obamacare” but don’t really do anything to help the poor cancer patient who has to choose between keeping her lights on and paying for chemo (my mom had one of those this week).

Part of me thinks we can’t really complain or allow ourselves the luxury of fretting. We have the government and the culture we have chosen, by being on the wrong sides (as American cultural Christians) of most of the arguments and issues. For the rest of us, who truly want to live out the Gospel of Christ, this doesn’t feel like anything new.

We haven’t had a home here for a long time now. And we’re just trying to work out our own salvation… and show the world the Light of Christ.

And the Orthodox will do what we have always done: We’ll pack up our icons and go to the woods, to the caves and the caverns. We’ll love our neighbors and we’ll fight the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

Collections

Well, at least it wasn’t my name on the file folder.

Part of my job is to read all the civil lawsuits filed in Allen County (excepting small claims). So each day, alongside the felonious actions we take against each other, I pour through the mortgage foreclosures, the divorces and the wrongful death claims.

There’s a lot of medical stuff in there, too, particularly attempts by hospitals and medical groups to collect on the debts owed by the horrendously ill or injured. Those make me particularly sad.

This week I found one that was this poor guy being sued by the local neuro-spine and pain clinic for about $30,000. The bill was attached to the complaint, so I read the itemized charges. It was horrible. Skull infections, burr holes, hydrocephaly, pain meds. And after each treatment, it showed they ran his Blue Cross insurance card and it was denied. Here ya’ go, Mr. Unidentified Sick Guy, sorry about your brain injury and your horrific months of painful treatment but you owe us this much money. Did you know that down the street is federal court, where you can file for bankruptcy so nobody wins?

Why, Rebecca? Why are you telling us this on this happy day of balloons floating past Central Park, cranberry sauce, football games and family time?

Because I am thankful. I am thankful that nothing like that has befallen me or my family. Yet. I am thankful that I am have a job, that my mortgage has been reset at a lower interest rate so I can better afford the annual jacking-up of my insurance premiums.

I hope, though, that we as a nation, particularly those of us who claim to follow Christ, recognize that what happened to Unnamed Sick Guy is unacceptable in a developed country and that greater attention is needed as to who profits from others’ misfortune. I hope that we recover that inherent socialism that drives Limbaugh so crazy this time of year when we remember the shared table of the first (probably mostly mythical) Thanksgiving.  We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.

So be thankful, my friends. Have a glass of wine and grab another slice of pie and be grateful that this year you probably weren’t the “least of these.” But remember those that are and remember that there, but for the grace and intervention of God, you could very easily go in the next 12 months.

Gobble, gobble.

 

Submission(s)

So at the request of a dear friend, who points out my laziness with his enthusiasm, I am blogging. But it’s the Theophany anyway, and I always seem to blog at Theophany (if you don’t believe me, check it out…it’s true)

We (my family, now a gang of nine not counting dogs–if you count dogs, well, let’s not count dogs) celebrated Christmas on New Year’s, which is not a bad way to welcome in the next round of 12 months. And is our way, we can’t get together around the 150-year-old dining room table without a theological debate (sorry, Grandma). I do think it was Bob that started it this year.

Tagging up on so many big issues–Calvinism, the Apocrypha, free will–my brain got stuck on two things: Salvation and Submission. I’ll get to Salvation later (maybe next time I blog, next Theophany. Just kidding.)

For now: Submission.

It’s not an easy word, not to hear, not to say in relationship to your responsibility and most certainly not to act on.

And anyone that knows me even the teensiest bit knows that it is not a trait I possess. I am stiff-necked, willful and will usually go too far if left unattended even though I know better. But in this, in leaving Protestantism for Orthodoxy, that’s what it is for me. That’s what it came down to. Submission.

People have said to me, about their own behavior, their own choices and their own will, that they don’t submit to the Church, they can’t. They submit to God and what He wants for them. They don’t want to, or can’t, allow anything in between to dictate their actions, maybe out of a misunderstanding that the Church is actually between like a roof, instead of between like a stem connecting a flower to a root. But whatever, I understand that hesitancy, that reluctance.

But God, whom I submit to (albeit awkwardly), told me to submit myself to His Church. So that means that I cannot submit myself to Him and not accept that which He has for me, anymore than a infantryman can say to his captain “yes, sir” and then completely ignore the directives of his sergeant whom the captain has placed over him.

My Chrismation vows, which I take seriously (because words matter, symbol matters–they connect us to reality), I confessed my belief in the teachings of that Church. I said “yes, sir.” I chose to submit.

I hadn’t realized how foreign that concept was to me, and to those who are outside the Orthodox Church, until I thought about it later. I believe these things I didn’t used to believe in–a Sacramental view of Holy Communion, baptism as a saving action, the role of Tradition in making me more like Christ. And I know this for sure: I didn’t believe them as much when I read that Creed at the back of the Church during my Chrismation as I do know. But I trusted that if I jumped into it, I’d learn to swim or at least not drown in it. Or going back to my original analogy, I trusted that my Captain had put someone in charge of me who could handle me and get me from point A to point B safely and victoriously. Thanks be to God, so much more of that belief has come. The more I surrender to the Truth of His Church, the more it protects me and guides me. The more I willingly take what it offers me, the closer I get to Him.

It’s nice how that works out.