Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent One: Post-Truth?

On November 8 the Oxford Dictionary announced the word of the year: 
post-truth - an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
The announcement quoted Independent columnist Matthew Norman: 
The truth has become so devalued that what was once the gold standard of political debate is a worthless currency. 
What happens to a culture that has lost interest in truth?

This election season highlighted our disordered values and the underlying cracks in our ways of knowing.

We elected a president whose candidacy was built on contradictory promises and easily discredited lies. 

Is something true because we prefer it?

Is evidence dismissed because it doesn’t fit our cognitive framework?

If a story is repeated enough times in enough places does that automatically make it so?

We are living in a tangled space, unsure who to believe, no longer certain about what’s right, or true, or good.

Not even sure those words have meaning.

My goal in this blog has been to dig around in what I believe, to examine premises as well as consequences, to try to hear the half-heard words that form and inform who I am, what I do.

Advent leads me back to the foundation of that inquiry, as the narrative of a baby born two thousand years ago collides with the narratives of power and profit playing out in the stress and strain of an American December.

So I’ll start here: why would anyone listen to the story of a provincial baby, nobody child of nobody, born in a stinking animal stall in a dusty village in an occupied Middle Eastern country?

What halfway intelligent modern person would believe, for even a millisecond, that that distant brown baby was the product of a deity’s word spoken to an unmarried teenage girl, or that mythical creatures no one can document showed up in force to sing to a group of migrant shepherds?

Approach this as a scientist and the narrative crumbles quickly.  Two thousand years later, who could “prove” the facts of an immaculate conception? What evidence would it take to support the stories of angel visitations?

The birth of Jesus, like many stories of scripture, sits outside the realm of science, which is not to say that scientists can’t be Christians; many are. 

But for those who insist on scientific naturalism, on a reality that conforms, is explained, can be proven, by the laws of science, the Christmas narrative is a fairy tale, a silly myth, of no more weight and maybe less interest than Seuss’s Grinch or Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft speaks of “the radical insufficiency of what is finite and limited”, the “cramped and constricted horizon” encountered when we “see the material universe as self-sufficient and uncaused.”

I like that phrasing: radical insufficiency.

If this material universe is self-sufficient and uncaused, then perhaps Donald J. Trump is right, as were predecessors to whom he’s been compared. If this cramped, constricted horizon is really all there is, then objections to exploitation and manipulation have limited moral standing.

Yet most of us want something more: some basis for kindness. Some rationale for recognition of our shared humanity.

Advent is a reminder that we all, whatever we profess to believe, find ourselves constrained by the limited horizon of "what is."

At first, (as young adults, or willful dreamers) we rebel at the “radical insufficiency” of the current regime: we try to be generous, even though generosity looks foolish. We try to be honest, even when honesty is rarely rewarded. But slowly we cave. We blend. We realize that those ideals we held have no place in a material world.

Yet sometimes God grabs our world and shakes it – like a child shaking a snow globe – and the scenery changes.

I’ve been reading again the gospel of Luke. Luke, the only Gentile writer represented in the Bible, was also one of the most educated: an upper-class Greek doctor, Paul’s “beloved
physician” and a careful historian.

He starts his account of Christ’s life with a promise to share only what he's researched himself and is convinced is true: 
since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account . . .  so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
After his quick introduction, Luke plunges headlong into the story of Zechariah, John the Baptist's father: names, dates, simple history. In verse eleven, the narrative takes a turn: "Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear."

I love the detail. Not just an angel, but “standing on the right side of the altar.”

The angel explains what is about to happen:  Zechariah’s aging wife will become pregnant with a longed for baby. The child, a son, will be part of God’s plan of intervention for his people, and the world.

Reading the text this time I’m struck by the length of the angel’s speech: detail about what to call the baby, how to parent him.

In the past I’ve identified deeply with Zechariah’s response: “How do I know this is true?”

Religious leader though he is, he's asking for proof: Will you give me some kind of unassailable documentation? Will you come tell my neighbors, so they know I’m not crazy? Could you make this announcement in church next Sunday? So everyone else hears you too?

I love the angel’s response. Polite, but sharp. Let me paraphrase: 
“Seriously? You’re a priest, here we are in the inner sanctum of the temple, I’m standing here in front of you, straight from God’s throne, me, Gabriel, still God's messenger, the same one who spoke to Daniel, centuries ago. I'm here telling you what God has planned, and you’re wondering if you can believe me, even while you're shaking with fear. You still need proof? Really?”
I’ve never had an encounter with Gabriel but I’ve seen God intervene in my life and in the lives of others. I’ve seen the intervention that brings forgiveness, freedom, joy, healing, laughter in the place of pain, a deep sense of belonging for those who felt abandoned.

And still, five minutes later, or five weeks later, five years later, we ask: “How do I know that was true?” “Why should I believe in miracles?” "Where's the proof?"

There are some great discussions of miracles available, including CS Lewis’ book titled “Miracles” and chapter seven of Tim Keller’s Reasons for God. Two interesting websites, Christians in Science in the UK, and American Scientific Affiliation in the US, offer extensive resources on the compatibility of  science and faith. Biologos, founded by Human Genome Project geneticist and physician Francis Collins, offers a helpful mix of articles about miracles and science.

But in many ways the questions this advent aren't about faith and science, but about the place of truth - any truth - in a cynically post-truth world. 

I'm part of that world. 

I’ve been noting how easy it is - for me -  to dismiss those who start from different assumptions than my own, who embrace different ideas, who trust authorities I believe are flawed.

I’ve been noting how easy it is for those around me to assume they are wiser, smarter, more informed than those who disagree with them.

We are all, in a way, like Zechariah, going about our business, unwilling to have our daily routine broken, determined to ignore any reality that threatens our tightly held beliefs.

What warning, what message of hope, what offers of love do we miss?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Therefore Give Thanks

Last night I found a present on my pillow: the December edition of Vogue magazine.

That’s definitely a first. I’ve never had my own copy of Vogue.

The only newsstand magazines we buy are the ones we put in each others’ Christmas stockings.

And Vogue? If you know me at all, you know I’m not a Vogue sort of person.

But my husband had seen press about the cover story,  Michelle Obama: the first lady the world fell in love with.  He’d gone out once before to buy it, tried several stores, but no one had it.

So yesterday he went on a secret mission to try again.

He and I have had some great conversations this election cycle.

About what it’s like to be a woman in a world eager to shut women down, happy to see them fail.

About the double standards of behavior, performance, appearance, voice that too often hem women in.

About that feeling of smashing one’s head, once again, on the impervious, invisible glass ceiling.

He’s heard my grief that the best prepared candidate – a woman – lost to the least prepared ever – a man.

And he’s come to share my admiration for Michelle Obama and her mature, measured contributions to the discourse of the day.

I voted for Barack Obama in part because of his relationship with his wife.

I respect men who dare to show they love and respect their wives. And I admire men who aren’t threatened by their wives' accomplishments, who aren’t afflicted by our culture’s narrow view of beauty or femininity.

Michelle Obama is her own person: smart, wise, determined, lovely in a way all her own.

Despite horrible insults hurled toward her and her daughters, despite dehumanizing comments, ugly malicious memes, vile and vicious critiques of every female feature, she has danced her way through eight difficult years and made it look almost easy.
The Vogue cover story is a tribute to her courage, grace and beauty.

I’ll be savoring it, sharing it, keeping it – a reminder of her witness.

We lost another important witness this week: Gwen Ifill.

She came of age, as I did, during the passage of legislation opening doors to both women and people of color.

She learned, as I did, that laws and reality don’t always coincide.

She spent her life sliding her toe into invisible cracks in the structures of privilege, prying the door wider for those who came behind her.

Her advice is instructive to many of us now:
You can't spend a lot of time assuming the worst about why people do things. It almost always has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with them. It has to do with their biases, with their constraints, with their inability to imagine anything more and so rather than — and I tell this to young people all the time — rather than going around saying, 'Aha, they didn't give this to me because I was black or I was a woman,' you stop and think — they didn't give it to me because they couldn't imagine me in this role and it's my job then — it's a tougher job than my white counterparts have, but it's just what it is — my job is to force them to see me in a different role and then you act on that
I been considering that challenge: to help others see something they haven’t yet seen. To help them imagine things they can’t quite imagine.

In a narrative of scarcity, to imagine and live abundance.

In a binary world of us vs. them, to imagine and live a broader “we.”

In a culture divided by anger and fear, to imagine and live compassion.

I’ve been spending time this week in the book of Hebrews.

Written to Jewish Christian facing opposition and growing persecution, the book urges its audience to pay attention, to listen more closely for God’s voice.

It calls its listeners to perseverance:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (10:23)
Chapters 11 and 12 are familiar anchors when times feel troubled or my heart starts to sink.
I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak,Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Here are the words I keep resting in, when I hear of another act of racism or hate, when thoughtful observers describe disaster gathering:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
The book of Hebrews reminds me: We are not the first to encounter a time of political disruption.

We are not the first asked to live as agents of light in a world wrapping itself in darkness.

We are not the first called to listen more closely, speak more clearly, stand more firmly, love more courageously.

Remember the cloud of witnesses and don’t grow weary and lose heart.

I’m thankful for the witness and example of women like Gwen Ifill and Michelle Obama.

Thankful for my own grandmother, Elda Capra, who insisted on reading Scripture for herself, insisted on living her own gifts and calling when every authority told her she was wrong.

Thankful for voices from the past, for witnesses like Sojourner Truth, Corrie ten Boom, Watchman Nee, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King.

I’m thankful for a church family committed to making a place at the table for any who come through the doors.

Thankful for an online community gently probing conflicts and contradiction, sharing posts about standing up to bullies, creating spaces of welcome, envisioning ways forward.

I’m thankful to know this season of unrest is not the end of the story.

Thankful to remember every chapter is an invitation to grow in faith and wisdom and greater compassion.

We are called to engage – fully – in the world around us. 

Called to weep with those who weep, to care for those in need.

But we are also called to live in light of a reality greater, deeper, higher, more lasting.

As the writer of Hebrews say, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful.”

Therefore, dear friends, give thanks.

As I give thanks for you.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

We the People

On Election Day I woke early, drove through the dark to the Senior Center in a town not far from mine and arrived at 6:05 to help prepare a polling place.

I taped signs and poster on walls and doors, moved tables and chairs, sat down for a brief review of how to use the printed poll book.

My book for the day was A to L. Somehow A to D had been printed facing one way, with E to L facing the other.

My primary task was to look up names as people gave them, ask for ID if this was their first time voting in that precinct, show people where to sign, then write a ballot number in the poll book while someone next to me recorded the same information in a little paper ledger.  

The doors opened at seven with a line spilling out to the street and for several hours, each time I looked up the line seemed exactly the same. 

Sometime mid-morning it slowed enough for distribution of coffee and pastries delivered by a local coffee shop.

Later, someone from the gourmet chocolate shop around the corner came in to vote,, then came back minutes later with a bag of chocolates to share.

Mid-afternoon, the line dissolved long enough for me to step out into the brilliant  afternoon and exchange greetings with the two party reps sitting opposite each other, talking amiably.

At some point a poll watcher arrived, pulled up a chair not far from me and sat down to watch. In a brief break between voters he offered an explanation for his appearance: “someone called to say they were asked for ID.”

“Half the people who come through the door are new to this precinct,” I told him. “So they need to show some kind of ID.”

“Photo ID?”

“No – just something with their address.”

He sat and watched a while longer, then shrugged. “Nothing here to report,” he said as he headed toward the door.

A woman my age or a little older came in during another lull, hurrying to the table.

“My mother’s in the car,” she said, “and we’ve been driving around trying to find her polling place. She can’t remember where she’s supposed to vote and she’s adamant she has to vote in this election.”’

I looked up the name in my book and there it was.

“You’ve come to the right place.”


Eventually they came in together, the mother moving slowly with a walker, insistent on standing in line. She stared at me with a glint in her eye while I found the right page, then signed her name with a wavering script and moved off slowly to cast her vote.

There were other mothers and daughters who came in together. One threesome, almost jubilant, pointed to the youngest in the group and announced, “This is her first election.”

They all signed their names, gleeful and proud, and moved off to collect their ballots.

At 4:30 two pizzas were delivered. They were stone cold by the time anyone had time to eat them.

At eight, the last voters finished casting their ballots, the Judge of Elections locked the front door and our little team began the complicated task of closing out the process.

We sorted out write-ins on the paper ballots, recording names (six for Bernie, three for Romney, one for John Kasich, one for Mickey Moose.)

We put tables and chairs back in their proper places so the seniors arriving in the morning would find their center undisturbed.

We pulled signs and posters off the walls, inside and out.

We posted the tally of votes in a prominent place outside the polling place and placed duplicate tallies in different envelopes to be stored in their proper places.

Sometime after ten we all signed our names attesting that we had witnessed the election carried out in a lawful manner, watched the Judge of Elections and Minority Official drive off together with the sealed bags of ballots to deliver to the county offices, then called goodnight across the darkened parking lot.

It was a long, tiring day, but it struck me as I drove through the quiet town toward home, everyone involved had been working toward the same goal: a fair election where everyone who showed up was able to vote.

I don’t know who my fellow workers voted for. 

It wouldn’t matter. 

There are inefficiencies in our election administration.

And in a polling place where many voters were new to the precinct, it was easy to see why lines are long in some places and not so long in others.

But at its core, the day reminded me of the strength of we the people, the soundness of the vision that all voices should be heard.

That vision is hard to hold.

I stayed up too late on Tuesday night, watching returns with my husband as the tide seemed to shift.

At a little after one, as the outcome became clear, we called it a night and headed off to bed.

The next morning, we carved out time to watch Hillary Clinton’s concession.

We’ve all heard of the stages of grief: denial and disbelief; anger, even rage; bargaining; sadness and depression; acceptance.

Fear is somewhere on the list.

Fear that all protection is gone.

Fear that the future will be more painful than the past.

Much has been written in the past few days.

Jubilant explanations about how Trump’s miraculous success is clearly God’s will.

Fearful narratives about mistreatment of targeted individuals.

Yvonne Heath, My Experience
Exhortations to get over it and respect the will of the people. 

Anguished introspection about who we’ve become and where we go from here.

And more than once I've seen the "my experience" grief graphic as many try to work their way through a complicated swirl of emotions 

For anyone paying attention, this election has made clear that our institutions are broken and “we the people” are in danger.

Our electoral system is in need of real reform. Gerrymandered districts, laws deliberately obstructing or suppressing the vote for certain populations, closed primaries where candidates are determined by just a  handful of our most partisan voters: all need to change.

While our media was busy treating the election like a reality TV show, they missed a deeper story: this was the first election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. Did that affect the outcome?

Voting rights advocate Ari Berman asks:  
How many people were turned away from the polls? How many others didn’t bother to show up in the first place? These are questions we need to take far more seriously. 
The party now in control is the party most responsible for undermining the principles that safeguard democracy. Should we rejoice? Or weep?

Historically, the media has served as an alternate check and balance when government has swung out of control.

That requires a media willing to look at underlying issues and causes and a public able to discern truth from propaganda.

The checks and balances that once protected our great country from a totalitarian government are no longer methods of citizen control over Washington, D.C.
Our first line of civilized defense from tyranny was a “Free Press” along with an informed citizenry. Both have disappeared, one into political favoritism, the other into low-information dummy-downed “victimized” voters.
In America, our churches have been essential, even primary guardians of democracy. The idea of “we the people” was born from the Biblical insistence that all are of value in God’s eyes, that all deserve equal treatment under the law, that all are called to work together for the common good.

Churches played a part in the forming of the nation and historically spoke out as agents of justice. Abolitionists, advocates for women’s rights, leaders in the civil rights movement: all were nurtured, encouraged, protected and resourced by local churches and networks of churches.

For me, that’s the deepest grief in this election cycle.

Instead of providing space for real dialogue about how to care for unwanted children, how to nurture families in poverty, how to wisely embrace suffering refugees, how to use resources wisely while caring for creation, too many churches and Christian institutions have become echo chambers for misinformation and breeding grounds for bigotry.

References to "religious freedom" are really rallying calls for pastors to promote Republican candidates without jeopardizing tax free status

Some evangelicals offered “biblical” justification for voting Trump and minimized his character flaws. Others endorsed and vigorously campaigned for him. With last night’s election result, the GOP stranglehold on evangelical conscience and voting may have tightened to unbreakable strength.
A good number of people outside the faith look at the exit polls aghast and angry. Aghast because they themselves cannot imagine supporting a candidate with the personal moral flaws of Mr. Trump. Angry because they’ve watched evangelicals moralize in public for a long time, often shaming people for their sins and moral weaknesses. . . . For many, Christ and the gospel are now bound up—rightly or wrongly—with evangelicals choosing a man with little resemblance to either. 
We all have work to do.

If you believe I’m wrong and you're celebrating your candidate's win, your work is this: seek to understand. 

You’ve had your chance to make your point. Now give others space to grieve while you do what you can to care for those who feel defeated and unsafe. Here are two places to start: "I want to help you understand my lament"  and "Postelection Reflection: Ears to hear and the courage to respond." 

If you believe I’m right, join me in prayer about how to heal these broken institutions. Change will not come from existing leadership – not in government, media, churches.

We are in a time when it is not enough to show up every four years to vote, not enough to tune into one channel and believe whatever is said, not enough to show up to church and sit in a pew for an hour.

We need to reengage, rethink, re-envision, rebuild.

But beyond institutions, we need to ask again, more deeply, more courageously: what does it mean to love our neighbors as ourselves?

How will we declare God’s compassion and justice in a world where even the term “Christian” has become linked to endorsement by the KKK? How will we ensure that all have room to thrive when religious patriarchy is now so explicitly bound to assault and defamation of women?

I have no answers, but I know the starting place.

Now, more than ever,  we need to memorize and pray and live words like these from Zechariah: 
This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other. 

Lord let that be so.

This is the conclusion of a series about faith and politics: What's Your Platform? 
I invite your comment, but even more, if there are things you've been reading that suggest a way forward or offer analysis of the brokenness I describe, please share them. This conversation is not over.  
Beyond the Party Platform July 24, 2016
A Different Way July 31, 2016 
Election Fraud and Rigged Elections, August 10, 2016 
How Long Will the Land Lie Parched? August 21, 2016 
Walls, Welcome, Mercy, Law August 28, 2016
Workers and Their Wages, Sep 3, 2016 
Educating Ourselves On Education, Sep 10, 2016 
Let's Talk, Sep 17, 2016
The Language of the Unheard, Sep 24, 2016
Maintain Justice, October 9, 2016
Defending the Indefensible, October 16, 2016 
Plan Your Vote: Platforms, Parties, People, October 23, 2016
The Politics of Hate - or Love, October 30, 2016 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election Examen

We are not the first to live in a time of upheaval.

We will not likely be the last.

Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, lived in the Basque region of Spain during a time of great conflict and disagreement.

Meet Muslims in Jerusalem with swords and spears or with resolute prayer and kindness?

Reform the church from within or reclaim true faith by division?

In times of great change and structural unraveling, the way forward is often hidden. Holding too firmly to the past can be a form of rebellion. Surging too quickly toward the new can jeopardize all we hold most dear.

The Ignatian “prayer of examen” invites reflection and humility: an awareness of how easily we mistake our own thoughts for God’s direction, how easily trapped we are by our own unexamined habits or unacknowledged agendas.

The prayer of examen offers a chance to step back, review, rethink. In examen we ask God to illuminate our willful blindness, to speak his truth to our hearts, even as our ears and minds are full of other voices. 

We’ve been living through the most destructive campaign season in at least the last half-century, with swirling rumors, echo-chamber accusations, wild statements about God’s plan or preference, a growing inability to listen to any view or fact that doesn’t line up neatly with our own.

Votes do matter. 

Decisions have consequences.

It’s important we do our research, check sample ballots, consider motives, experience, character, positions.

I've mapped out in an earlier post some ideas for how to do that. 

Short version: check your sample ballot in Vote411, take a look at candidate websites (with links from Vote411) then look up candidates on Ballotpedia to see what else you can learn.

But before and after there’s an essential step: the prayer of examen.  It's an invitation to God to open our eyes, change our hearts, redirect our thinking,

Step one: Slow down, be still, and take time to acknowledge God’s presence.

“Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist says. The Hebrew word for “be still” – rapha - means “be weak,” “let go,” “release.”  It’s easy to be anxious, angry, doubtful, to hold on to resentments, outrage, frustration. God invites us to let that go, to draw close to him as a troubled child draws near a loving parent, trusting our anxieties and fears into kind, strong, caring hands.
We bring before You, O God:
The troubles and perils of people and nations,
The sighings of the sick,
The sorrows of the bereaved,
The necessities of strangers,
The helplessness of the weak,
The despondency of the weary,
The failing powers of any age.
May each of us draw as near to You
As You are near to each of us.
            (Anselm of Canterbury, ca 1100)
Step two: Give thanks. Take rest in gratitude.

It’s easy to spiral into a swirl of anxiety, anger, agitation. Gratitude reminds of the greater truth: we living in blessing. God’s grace surrounds us.

As I look back on the election season, I give thanks that we're free to speak, write, gather. I give thanks for the chance to vote, the rights I enjoy through no accomplishment of my own. I give thanks for the many at every level of government, the many in advocacy groups, the many citizen volunteers who offer time, energy, creative engagement to make our democracy work. 
Almighty God, giver of all good things: We thank you for the natural majesty and beauty of this land. They restore us, though we often destroy them.
We thank you for the great resources of this nation. They make us rich, though we often exploit them.
We thank you for the men and women who have made this country strong. They are models for us, though we often fall short of them.
We thank you for the torch of liberty which has been lit in this land. It has drawn people from every nation, though we have often hidden from its light.
We thank you for the faith we have inherited in all its rich variety. It sustains our life, though we have been faithless again and again.
(Thanksgivings for National Life: For the Nation, Book of Common Prayer)
Step 3: Ask for wisdom, insight, and truth.

I realized at sixteen that I could convince myself of anything I wanted. I could rationalize any decision, argue hotly for any opinion. As I’ve posted elsewhere, we are easily held captive by our own assumptions, our own "confirmation bias."
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul acknowledged: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13).

In moments of quiet reflection I'm reminded how deep my self-deception can go, how easily I can overlook my own failings while leaping to identify the shortcomings of others.

It takes time, courage, humility and grace, to see where we’ve been in the wrong, to be willing to change where change is needed.  We can miss the truth when it’s standing right in front of us. The more spiritually wise we think we are, the harder it can be to hear voices that don’t agree with our own.

Jesus promised "When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth," (John 16:13) but that truth is only available as we acknowledge our inadequacy, our willfulness, our pride, our self-delusion.

King David himself asked God to dig deep and show him what he couldn’t see himself: 
Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139
Step 4: Review.

Looking back through actions, attitudes, motives and emotions is hard, painful work, demanding honesty, patience, and humility.

It's a great practice for every day, but even more helpful in this political season: 
 Where did I speak without listening?
 Where did I judge without compassion?
 Where was I motivated by anger, anxiety, pride, impatience?
 Where did I disengage out of fear, discouragement, laziness, lack of love?
 What did I repeat, not sure that it was true?
 What did I believe, not bothering to think it through?
 When did I side with mockers?
 What habits held me captive?
 Who did I harm?
 Who did I help?
 Where did I sense God inviting me to something different, but ignored the invitation?
 Where did I see a way I could serve another, but chose to serve myself instead?
 Where did I participate in disrespect of leaders, disrespect of others?
 Where was compassion visible?
 Where was wisdom lacking?
 Is there something I’ve been refusing to hear? Some change I’ve been willfully  resisting?
The goal isn't to pile on guilt, or to drown in self-accusation.

The goal is to see more clearly and to grow in understanding of ourselves, the world and the way of love.

Step Five: Reconcile and resolve.

For me, confession is a freeing move toward change, an acknowledgement of failure and a willingness to leave my blindness behind and start in a new direction. I like the Episcopal practice of kneeling in confession. It's an outward expression of humility, reflecting an inward desire to move away from pride.

In my faith tradition we say confession every Sunday, but sometimes it helps to move through it more slowly, letting the words sink in, acknowledging their truth, considering what correction would look like.  
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness:
the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways,
and our exploitation of other people,
Our anger at our own frustration,
and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,
and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
Our negligence in prayer and worship,
and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering,
and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
For all false judgments,
for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,
and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
For our waste and pollution of your creation,
and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord. (Book of Common Prayer)
True repentance, and real reconciliation, lead to resolve: a determination to go forward in a new way. We need wisdom to see what that way might look like. The old way is easy, modeled for us by loud and angry voices, lived out in familiar reactions to old wounds, ancient wrongs.

The new way is much harder. I find myself turning again to Isaiah 58, and the call to a deeper, more genuine form of faithfulness.  
Old Man Praying, Edvard Munch, 1902 Norway
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
My resolve is to live deep into the kind of fast God calls for, and to join with others of God’s people in loosening the chains of injustice, sharing food with the hungry, providing shelter for the wanderer.

I pray even my vote will be part of that work.

This is the last in a continuing series about faith and politics: What's Your Platform? 
Beyond the Party Platform July 24, 2016
A Different Way July 31, 2016 
Election Fraud and Rigged Elections, August 10, 2016 
How Long Will the Land Lie Parched? August 21, 2016 
Walls, Welcome, Mercy, Law August 28, 2016
Workers and Their Wages, Sep 3, 2016 
Educating Ourselves On Education, Sep 10, 2016 
Let's Talk, Sep 17, 2016
The Language of the Unheard, Sep 24, 2016
Maintain Justice, October 9, 2016
Defending the Indefensible, October 16, 2016 
Plan Your Vote: Platforms, Parties, People, October 23, 2016
The Politics of Hate - or Love, October 30, 2016