Is It A Good Or A Bad Thing?

About a week ago I posted My Thank You Note to President Trump. It received a lot more attention than I ever expected. In response to that posting someone sent me the following:

Dear Father Mike,

I’m a little confused (pardon that). The past twelve months have been tumultuous, to put it mildly. Is it a good or a bad thing to stand publicly against our current president and those things we judge in our hearts to be harmful to our great nation and the world?

There is much vitriol on both sides of the fence. At what point should we simply remain silent; specifically here at this social media site.

Your counsel will be very much appreciated.

Social Justice, Nonviolence, Violence, Justice, Injustice, Politics, Martin Luther King Jr.

Photograph by Yoichi Okamoto – Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Image Serial Number: A2133-10, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons, Adaptation of original photograph.

I am not sure that I have a good or easy answer, or that there is one right answer to this question. Here are some of my thoughts about the question.

First, whatever we do must be done without violence or intention to harm another, whether through our thoughts, words, or actions. Civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance or protest have to be the standard. This, as I tried to explain in my letter, begins within ourselves. It’s the speck and the log thing Jesus talks about (Mt. 7:1-5; Lk. 6:41). It’s purity of heart that allows one to see God (Mt. 5:8).

Second, I think that nonviolent resistance or protest is an aspect of the checks and balances intended by and for our government. We have the right of assembly and free speech. Surely, those rights were given with the intention that they would be exercised.

Third, we must be willing to assume responsibility for our words and actions, but also for our silence and inaction. Words and action can be misguided and destructive even as silence and inaction can become apathy and indifference. We must be discerning. Sometimes the situation calls for words and actions, other times for silence and stillness. Sin can occur as an act of commission or omission.

Fourth, I think the church needs to further embrace its prophetic role in the world. That means we must look deeply into the world and the human heart (starting with our own). What do we see? Does what we see align, not with party values or personal opinions and agendas, but with the life, values, and teachings of the Christ (or whatever spiritual tradition guides our life)? If so, how do we continue and support that? If not, what needs to change and what is our role in naming and helping bring about that change?

Fifth, all of this must be grounded in a life of prayer, study, and community. We need the support and the accountability.

Sixth, social media has a role in helping with this but it also has limits and at times can be unhelpful. We need to relearn how to be with others, to move from tolerance to welcome and acceptance, to value and seek diversity, to have serious conversations of depth, to ask good questions, and to develop a curiosity and openness for what the other might teach us. We must not be afraid to learn, grow, and change.

Seventh, we must not take ourselves more seriously than we take God, and we need to remember that the peoples of the earth have been “made of one blood” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 100). We are brothers and sisters, and all are children of the one God.

I recognize I did not give a clear answer to the question, and to the extent this is an answer I don’t claim it is the only, most comprehensive, or best answer, or that I have consistently done all this correctly. As I have said in other places, I often say more than I really know.

8 thoughts on “Is It A Good Or A Bad Thing?

  1. I agree, there is no one answer. For one, the answer might be silence. For another, it may by to speak out. Ongoing discernment, to know one’s own heart, and to listen to the Heart of God, is crucial in these critical times we live in. I appreciate your prophetic voice, Father Mike, in both your letter and your response to the above question.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Qui tacet consentiret.” Silence gives consent. I’ve pondered much on what has happened since President Trump was sworn in. Peaceful demonstrations do not include blocking highways, bridges, shops, etc., impeding others from going about their lawful everyday business, ambulances from reaching those in need, etc.

    There may be many reasons for opposing the president, but those who break shop windows, burn cars, assail those who do not agree with them are lawless agitators. Preventing constitutionally protected free speech by such random violence is tantamount to a hate crime. It is bullying in the extreme.

    I did not vote in the last election, but I am saddened by the violent response of left-wing agitators. Their response is not thoughtful. It is childish pique. It is an ongoing tantrum. It is alarming that more thoughtful liberals – think CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, The New York Times – do not condemn this violence.

    Even liberals in Hollywood who dare to even mention the idea that the president deserves a chance, and that it is in the best interest of the entire country that President Trump succeed, are condemned.

    Personally, I have been called ‘a moron,’ and worse for refusing to condemn the president. It calls to mind the liberal who once said to me, “I thought you were too intelligent to believe in God.”

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    • “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing”. When I was a young man in the 60’s and early 70’s our country was very much at a cross roads much as it is today. Many protests were peaceful some were violent. One of the catch phrases used to give reason to the violence was “Outside Agitator”. In this day of smoke and mirrors I do not doubt that in order to discredit those who protest, those who are being protested against will infiltrate their ranks and commit violence hence my reference to “Wolves in sheep’s clothing”.

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      • Dear Bill, With all due respect, I think not. No evidence has emerged that pro-Trumpers are responsible for the violence. And, even without violence, walking on highways to stop traffic, etc. is not ‘peaceful.’ It is a threat to everyone going about their lawful business. Demonstrating at airports is dangerous to the innocent, many of whom may even have voted for Hilary or Bernie!

        I think it was Socrates who said, “It is (morally) better to suffer an injustice than to create it.”

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  3. As one who received much solace from Fr Mike’s letter, may I remind that Jesus took issue with the leaders of his government when they acted in ways that God had not deemed righteous, i.e., with justice and compassion.

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