I’m raising the white flag. I can’t write tonight. It’s late and my eyes are closing on me while I’m trying. My sentences aren’t making a whole lot of sense. I haven’t had downtime today to process a day marked by dramatic spiritual and emotional whiplash for me.
My quick thoughts before I sleep –
1. I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended the National Prayer Breakfast with my congresswoman, Rep. Lauren Underwood. It was an honor to be her guest, talk about our district, share pieces of our lives, and hear from each other what drives us, what inspires us, and even an understanding of our calls at this point in our lives.
2. I am also grateful for the opportunity to see this event with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears.
3. I am in awe of the representatives I had a chance to meet who are doing good, hard work in very difficult times.
4. I worry about them, too. This kind of work must weigh on their bodies and spirits even though it can hopefully also be very rewarding.
5. The keynote speaker Arthur Brooks laid down a theologically and biblically sound address reiterating Jesus’ call to love our enemies. I have always bristled at the word “enemies” in that passage. I don’t like to think that I have enemies. I don’t like hearing that I might be someone else’s enemy, but that’s what’s in the book! I’ve got to live with that and maybe recognize that that bristling is part of the power of the teaching. I appreciated one segment of the address that has been reported about at least on the New York Times website. Dr. Brooks asked for a show of hands of everyone who was in a relationship with someone they love, either friend or family, with whom they disagree politically. The report goes on to say that just about every hand in the room shot up, except the president’s. That was true. What came after that poll was the statement Dr. Brooks made that said (not a direct quote, but from my typed up notes and I’m too tired to go back and find it in a video online), “If this is not true for you, you live in an echo chamber.” His address went on to challenge us to get out of echo chambers, intentionally put ourselves in situations with people with whom we disagree, and get about responding in love as opposed to contempt which is tearing the country apart. I thought it was very well done.
6. There’s no other way to say it other than the president completely shifted the feel of the whole event. Shaking not one, but two different papers to an intentionally bipartisan audience who were present to unite in the spirit of prayer was taunting and disappointing. His address also took the content of the event in a dramatically different direction. It was no longer an encouragement about loving others, especially enemies, and instead became a justification for division, denial of other’s expressions of faith, and something that felt much more like a campaign rally than an address grounded in faith and the practice of prayer. There was a *lot* of support for the things he said in the room. That was another disappointing piece. I had had good conversation with people around my table, including one with a a tablemate who told me about how he, as an elder in a PC(USA) church, led a group of members out of his former church and re-affiliated them as a PCA church, a version of Presbyterianism that doesn’t allow women to follow a call to ordained ministry. And now, these same tablemates were standing and applauding the idea that loving our enemies is too much to ask.
7. Despite the president treating the room as if it were a monolithic audience in lock step with his feelings of contempt for other leaders involved in the impeachment process, there were people who were not marching to that drum. Not a lot, for sure, but there were some. I saw it around me; I saw it in me. And the mirror of Mr. Brooks address was being held up in front of us – both because we may have been feeling like we were looking at our enemy and because we had just been named the enemy of someone else. That is a strange feeling. The challenge of loving and praying for our enemies (I still don’t like that word) got real.
8. Lastly, for now, I got to watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kennedy Center after dinner and it. was. church. It was moving and beautiful and hopeful and inspiring. It was what I didn’t know I needed today, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to celebrate life and strength in extreme adversity and ancestors and prayer. I absolutely loved that I ended up seated next to the mother of one of the dancers. Her joy and pride in seeing her daughter dance took the performance to another level.
Well, that ended up longer than I thought it would and has kept me up well past midnight. I have got to sleep. I might address more later when I finally get to see some the news I know others have seen or when my thoughts are more organized and coherent. We will see.