Two phrases that I don’t want to hear anymore this year are, “That’s Impossible,” and “That could never happen.” There are a few reasons that I say this. The first two are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Some of the others are friends in the United Methodist Church who are either clergy or clergy candidates that have declared themselves to be self-avowed practicing homosexuals. Note: For those who don’t speak Methodese, that’s how Methodists say they’re gay or lesbian. These folks have come out of the church’s supposedly iron-clad closet of silence, and, so far, there has been no sweeping wave of retribution from the church. Other United Methodist clergy friends have participated in same-sex wedding ceremonies or allowed them to take place within the churches to which they’ve been appointed and, again, thus far, the long arm of the church “courts” have not spun up into witch hunt mode.
I put “courts” in quotes for a couple reasons. First, I find it ironic that while the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” ensuring that no religious practice as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others, should be criminalized and, yet, there’s the church looking to make criminals of each other right there within their own boundaries. The other reason that I find it ironic is that whole, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” thing that Jesus guy was quoted as talking about in Matthew 7:1. That’s quoted from the NRSV. I realize that some reading this will judge me based on that; so, I thought I’d make it easier to determine which non-King James version of the Bible you needed to condemn me for reading.
Let’s put the whole Bible/Church/Self-Avowed Practicing thing aside for a moment and go back to Donald and Bernie. If you had told me 18, 12, or even 6 months ago that this presidential race really would come down to a moderate Hillary Clinton sandwiched between a reality TV personality and an independent candidate from the radical left, I would have told you that could never happen. In fact, multiple people continue to tell me that it’s still impossible for either of them to claim the White House, but folks, let me tell you. They have both already crossed too many lines that very smart people told me that they shouldn’t have been able to cross, and here we are.
I do, of course, have my opinions with regards to the Presidential race. For the record my money is still on and my support still goes to Hillary, but let me say a few things briefly about the other candidates and, at the same time, acknowledge something about myself. Donald Trump is terrifying. Giving a man who clear has a power fetish access to nuclear launch codes would be an act of insanity in my mind. As for Bernie, I’m not backing him, but I gotta say that I can’t watch him, read about him, or hear people talk about him without smiling. If there is a statesman in this race, it is Bernie Sanders, an independent who aligned himself as a Democrat just so that the coach (the establishment) would let him have some playing time on the field. There isn’t a thing that he’s fighting for in his platform that I don’t think we could or should do as a nation if we decided that it was our priority to do so. The problem is reality. I don’t think he has the negotiating skills or the willingness to compromise with an opposition political party or with foreign heads of state. Trump and Sanders both terrify me in the foreign policy arena for different reasons. Now, for the “me” part. While my status as an openly gay man may have, at one point, made me marginalized, as a gay white cis-gendered man, I have now become part of the establishment in society, if not in my church. Maybe this is why I can’t see the possibilities. Am I maybe, in fact, part of the problem?
I do see the hope in all of this. From Sanders to Trump, from clergy and clergy candidates to their bishops and the larger world, people have reached a point that they are done being silenced by the establishment. Sink or swim, win or lose, they are done holding their tongues. So, with both fear and excitement inside me, I say, “Bring on the rest of 2016.” Sadly, it may take something as brutal as a Trump presidency to make us appreciate the voices of those outside the establishment. I pray it doesn’t, but, in both the history of our nation and our churches, we’ve proven over and over that we insist on learning the lessons we need to learn the hard way.
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