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.
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.