Saturday, November 12, 2016


I have been doing a lot of “listening” over the last 72+ hours.

I am listening to female voices who had aspirations for a female president.

I am listening to voices of friends troubled and surprised our country elected a person who has said and done the things our president-elect has, and horrified and dismayed by the reports of hateful rhetoric and action in his name.

I am listening to people of color not surprised at the results of the election who continue to state that the overt racism/misogyny/xenophobia/homophobia/etc we are seeing is what they experience every day overtly or covertly.

I am listening to voices of parents whose children cannot comprehend the election result, and who, as parents, are not sure how to talk to their children about how we treat our neighbor when a person who clearly does not practice these ideals can be elected president.

I am listening to voices of people I know and care about who are hurt they are being labeled as racist/misogynist/xenophobe/homophobic by their vote.

I am listening to the voices of the church and leadership calling for all to trust in the power of God to overcome, to have hope, to pray for the success of our next president, and to act for justice.

And I am listening to the voices of those for whom the proclamation of the gospel while they are still deeply hurt seems like a call to skip lament and move straight into new life.

So, where does this leave me? I admit my perspective on how to verbalize this changed dramatically since I entered candidacy to take steps to become an ordained leader in the ELCA. All of a sudden, I realize I will not be just one of many voices and opinions. I am becoming one who is called to care for and shepherd all in a given congregation.

In that kind of role, my opinions are not just my own. No matter how I might feel, to cause division in relationship between me and a member of my congregation is to cause division in the body of Christ. And what happens when next week that person loses a loved one or is in need of pastoral care and no longer feels their pastor is a safe place?

And yet.

Throughout the Gospels we are called to participate in God’s reconciling work in the world. Yes, we are called to be peacemakers. However, the more I listen and the longer I think about all of this, I know being a peacemaker does not mean glossing over the brokenness of our world. Raising up and acknowledging the bad things happening doesn’t mean people are stirring the pot or dwelling in negativity. We have to know the brokenness that exists in our world so that we can enter in and be peacemakers.

And I have to admit, the brokenness I have become aware of in the last year is so much more than what is visible in my everyday life. And I think that is the case for many of us who live in the insulated and peaceful security of middle-class, suburban, midwestern America.

But we cannot just ignore the hateful words and actions given voice as we affirmed the right of a public figure to speak them by electing him to public office. We can all hope and pray our president-elect becomes “presidential” and refrains from the divisive and hateful tone used during the election.


We must act. We must stand up to and confront hateful rhetoric in all forms. We must stand up to name-calling, even of those with whom we disagree. We must continue to call out and lament acts of discrimination and hate and stand up for our neighbor.

And, we need to listen. I have learned much in the last year about how my well-intentioned words and actions sometimes cause more injury. That can be hard to receive. My first reaction is to say I am sorry, and I didn’t mean to do anything wrong; I was just doing my best. However, it is not the job of people who have been crying out at injustice to forgive my ignorance. It is much harder to say, “Thank you for pointing that out, I hadn’t seen it that way.” This simple act puts the agency in the hand of the person who experienced the injury.

For those surprised and saddened that these things are happening, this is a great opportunity. An unveiling, if you will.

And in this new awareness we have two opportunities.
  • We can become sad and overwhelmed until we “need a break” and have the privilege of escaping into our insulated communities, into our sports, and entertainment, and other activities (places where those who find themselves targets are not able to retreat, as they never know when someone will confront them with angry words).
  • We can commit ourselves to listening, learning, and acting.
If you want to start (or keep) listening, here are a few of the people who’s lived experiences (or those of the stories they lift up) and perspectives have opened my eyes over the last year (below). It is by no means complete or perfect. These are humans sorting out their human reactions. By reading, sitting with my initial reactions and then considering what truth is present, I have learned a lot. And there are things I have to set aside for a time to come back to. But, ultimately even the most difficult things have taught me something.

And here are some stories from people’s lives or reflections for consideration.

Adding more as I find them: 

No matter where we end up on this issue, or any issue, as Christians we are called to live together in loving community. The only way I know how to do that is deep listening. And deep listening means listening … not affirming or denying what the person is saying but simply listening. The only response necessary is, “thank you for sharing your experience with me.”

The more we listen to one another’s stories, the more we see the person sitting before us, a child of God. My experience is when we see the people around us as God’s children, we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and find our hearts torn in two by the brokenness in the world. And instead of running from that pain, we sit with it and ask it what it has to teach us and where our presence is needed to participate in reconciliation.