I just finished a communications meeting at the church, where we discussed how to promote our online presence. It was nice to be looked upon as the subject matter expert, because even though I am, adding SME to my title is not something you do yourself. Other people have to do it for you. Otherwise, it is just shameless self-promotion… which is fine for things like my own web site, but not when it comes to someone else’s. I’ll get a chance to actually be the writer in residence, a title that Matt bestowed on me almost two years ago, but is actually coming to fruition now. I’ve been given an office at the church, which is worth way more than payment. I have a place to go where Matt is just down the hall as opposed to having to do everything by e-mail. It is my chance to give back to my own faith community, and I am not immune to the fact that they gave me something first.
It’s just another thing that will help me on my own journey, because I need experience in this area in terms of actually having to deal with feedback from parishioners on what went right and wrong. No social communications SME has ever gotten it all perfect, all the time… and thinking this won’t be an issue with my own congregation is just foolish.
We are finding incredible opportunities for witness and social justice. Did you know that the first faith community to respond when our Black Lives Matter banner was ripped apart was the area mosque? That is a “film at 11:00-” worthy story, because so much of the press regarding Muslims has been when terrorist attacks occur, and the fact that there are modern/liberal Muslims out there doing the work of Allah in the world is lost. What would our media landscape look like if that were the story rather than the extremists? Why does the media focus on Christians as right and Muslims as wrong? There are just as many extremists in Christianity as there are in Islam, but that story doesn’t sell. What does is anything that feeds into the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality so prevalent in local news, if not national. I am hoping that through my social media experience, I can change hearts and minds through soft power that leans toward getting people involved.
Speaking of which, even if you don’t live in the DC area, join our Facebook feed. What will help is the medium being the message (thanks, Marshall….) globally and not just locally. Facebook likes and shares are every bit as important as the ability to donate money or actually attend. My vision is for people to know what’s going on to change the perception of Christianity as a whole… because I know from my own experience that the word comes with a lot of baggage that does not apply in our case. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat down with atheists who, when they explain what God they don’t believe in, I don’t believe in that God, either. It’s not that others are wrong- all emotions are valid. It’s that often the story about Christianity isn’t rolling up our sleeves and doing everything we can to practice radical inclusion.
The Christian Left is alive and well, but you have to look for it. I’m just trying to make it easier to find. Please join with me in praying on those huge and ever-present spaces… because especially with social media, the spaces in between matter just as much as the words themselves. Having our Black Lives Matter sign ripped apart is just one example of many in terms of those being opposed to churches practicing social justice. There are others, but you’ll have to wait for those stories to come out. I can’t lay down the river all at once…..
But I can wade in the water, and promise me when I say that God is troubling it just fine. As I have said before, my Jesus does not so much comfort me in my distress but distress me out of my comfort. It is a travesty that my white skin makes me so much further ahead of the game despite being a targeted minority because people can’t see it at face value. It doesn’t arise until I mention that I am a gay Christian and people see it as an oxymoron equal to Microsoft Works.
I cannot tell you how fast that gets ugly with fundamentalists, despite the idea that God comes closer to us when we welcome the stranger (thanks, Nadia). I feel solid about my faith especially in laying out all my flaws and fallibility, because I am one of the Accidental Saints to which Nadia Bolz-Weber is speaking. As she says in the text, those qualified to speak the Gospel are those who know how truly unqualified they are to speak the Gospel.
That feeling of inadequacy has to pass, because I have work to do.
In residence. In the community. In the cloud as well as on the ground. The possibilities are endless, as is the responsibility I’ve taken. The message will never be how perfect your life will become if you accept Jesus’ invitation, but how many more tools you’ll have to deal with what life throws at you if you do. In my own experience, perspective is a beautiful thing. My life opens up when I accept that there are people that need me way more than I need them because their voices aren’t heard as loud as mine just based on institutionalized racism, income inequality, prison sentencing inequality, and the host of other things in which I can use my hands to further Christ’s work in the world.
After all this time in the desert, it is important to me that I have arrived at the waterfront…. and it is time to step in. Do not assume that this work is safe or easy. I ask your blessings upon me, because anyone who speaks out about social justice has recently become a bigger target by the exact same people that come to your mind when I say it. There is a tremendous opportunity in front of me to change perceptions and promote the equality and humanity of all people, but that does not mean it might not come at a personal cost.
God, in your infinite possibilities, I ask that you let me pay it.