January 17, 2024

From the Rector…

Recently I was asked how the church could influence government to do more in caring for its citizens. I certainly don’t claim to have an answer to the seemingly downward spiral of socio-political concern in this country, but I do have some thoughts. They are three-fold and reflect not only what I believe about government on a national or local level; I think they are relevant to how we approach much of life.

First, we seem to have become more concerned with politics than administration. As a friend of mine once noted, if you break the word politics down you get “poli” meaning many and “tics” meaning blood-sucking little beasts. All jokes aside, politics seems to be more about getting one’s way—be it reelection, power, or money—and less about servant leadership. The word “administration” is rooted in “ministry”, it is right there in the center of the word—“ministrations” the way we minister to others. I wonder what government would look like if we were more concerned with administration in ways that minister or serve others and less concerned with politics.

Politics takes the ideas around unity and repackages them as unanimity. It attempts to make us believe we all have to agree on and want the same things. It sets up false dichotomies that prefer dualistic ways of looking at the world—those on the inside and those who are not. It shuts down the voices of disagreement and, at times, even reason. It follows a tribalism that says we must all think, act, talk, look the same and anyone different is a threat. It doesn’t like difference. It might put protections in for those who differ, but it doesn’t celebrate those differences.

Second, government gets caught in a cycle of regression. Instead of holding up particular standards and working toward “bettering up” people to meet those standards, we get lost in the least common denominator. We are much more willing to regress to the least emotionally mature person in the room (or on the television, Facebook feed, shock jock, etc.) than to hold others to particular standards and do the hard work of understanding or offering different ways to meet those standards. In part it is because we are lazy. It is also because we have fallen prey to an idea that equality means sameness and designed our institutions around those principles instead of creating environments and circumstances that afford equal opportunities for all.

Third, government has become one of the leaders of anxiety and reactionary thinking in our country. Instead of being a non-anxious presence that self-differentiates because it knows and understands its identity, it has lost itself in the kangaroo court of public opinion jumping from one idea to another fueled by temperamental and, often, fickle desires. Too often, our leadership reminds us of the Queen of Hearts—quick to shout “off with their heads” then to do the work of gaining understanding and sharing in a high-altitude approach that includes more than one particular group. Ironically, the more government is driven by anxiety, the more anxious it becomes. And the more anxious government becomes, the more it will create and be driven by anxiety.

These three things—a focus on politics over administration, the cycle of regression, and the level of anxiety—contribute to government dysfunction. The church can offer a helpful path forward by modeling healthier ways of being. If ministry is the root of administration—the church has the responsibility to act in ways that hold up servant leadership especially in her decision-making capacity. Leaders of the church make decisions not based on what is best for the individual, but what is best for Jesus and the people that Jesus calls us to have concern for. Instead of regressing to the least emotionally mature person in the room, the church remains differentiated, holding up standards of life and behavior that build one another up instead of tearing each other down. The church must remain a non-anxious presence in the world responding with love and inclusion instead of resistance and fear to the changes and chances of this world. In these three ways we invite the world into a health and wholeness that is not really different from the functions of good government.

As the church, we are called to do that as a community of faith and as individual members of the body of Christ. This Sunday, we will do the most government-like thing we do all year long—an annual meeting and vestry elections. Those two things are governed by canons that guide how we are in relationship to one another. The meeting and the election are more than rules and regulations, they are responsibilities that we hold in living into the mission of the church. They are the opportunity we have to identify servant leaders who will hold us accountable to the standards of Jesus and be a non-anxious presence in our parish. In doing that work at CoA we model for a world lost in dysfunction, a way to find its purpose and hope and joy again.

Light and Life,