I’m not sure why the pastorate produces so much anxiety. I suppose you have the performative aspects of it. After so many years, I still toss and turn until my sheets twist into a jumbled mess the night before a sermon or lecture. My mind preaches all night, figuring out how to say it better. I never seem to get to that point of deep sleep.
“Do we lean in, or blame society?” We don’t need a solution that addresses either/or. With many structural inequities, injustices, and cruelty, the answer is both/and. Do we feed the homeless, or advocate for a society that no longer produces so many homeless people? Do we protest the death of one young black man, or do we work to change the brutal policing system? Do we send the people in Flint bottled water, or do we fix the pipes? The answer to all of these is yes and yes.
Like many others, I have lived the last few weeks from one devastating news event to the next, aching for the people lost and left hurting from mass shootings, trying to imagine myself into the shoes of refugees and those caught in the Syrian War, letting the pain of Paris, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, and the U.S. presidential campaign compound my sense of the world’s terrors, wondering if I can do something to stop the madness.
But while these thoughts have been in my head, I encountered, or re-encountered, a powerful song.
Religious people have been their own worst enemies in recent weeks.
First came a study from the journal Current Biology showing that children from religious families are less generous and more punitive than their peers, and that the more exposure to religion they received, the worse they behaved.
Until now I never appreciated the beautiful message of this week’s Old Testament passage. God’s promises to Israel—to not be drowned by water or burned by fire—make this text almost as comforting to its readers as the 23rd psalm.