the RAVEN FOUNDATION

How to Respond to President Trump’s Blasphemy: Raven Values for Times of Crisis

A special and timely message from Raven Foundation Co-Founder Suzanne Ross:

My fellow Christians, don’t fall for it. Even though we are right to be appalled by President Trump’s use of unprovoked violence against peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park. Even though we are dismayed to learn that it was to create a fearful soundtrack for his Rose Garden appearance. And even though we are justified in denouncing his symbolical photo op clutching a bible as if he is a messenger sent by God to save us, he has set a trap for us that we mustn’t fall into.

We get it. We know he’s sending a message to his followers: “The lawlessness and violence in the streets is frightening but you can trust me to protect you.” No doubt many Christians will never learn that he stage-managed the event. They trust his version of events and believe his message because their faith in the divine purpose of Trump’s presidency has been motivating their support of him all along.

But be assured that he also knew how Christians who have opposed his presidency from the beginning would hear that message. Because many of us watched him hold that bible aloft and heard a blasphemous, wordless sermon of God’s support of white supremacy, gender supremacy, hetero-supremacy, the supremacy of violence over mercy, and the unity of God’s will with his presidency.

Please be advised that he wants to provoke his opponents into responding reactively, to feel justified in our condemnation of his Christian supporters. He wants us to be so angry that the differences between us becomes obscured. If we become angry, self-righteous and refuse to listen with open hearts to one another, then we who oppose him have discredited ourselves by becoming his mirror image.

Look, there are plenty of good theological arguments to made against this man and his supporters, arguments we have made here, here and here at Raven about God’s mercy, love and compassion for the oppressed and marginalized.

And we will continue to make those arguments. But here’s what we must guard against now: we must not become so angry that we are unable to be peaceable with our fellow Christians. We must not let this president provoke us into failing to practice the love and mercy we say we want in ourselves, in Trump’s supporters and in our political leaders.

How do Christians who support Trump and who oppose him remain merciful toward one another in the midst of such cynical provocation? I’d like to offer the values that guide us here at Raven in humility and hope. Because we won’t breathe easily until we find a way to love one another through these difficult times.

…here’s what we must guard against now: we must not become so angry that we are unable to be peaceable with our fellow Christians.

Pause

In the midst of any provocation, we recognize that peace begins with a pause. When so many are being deprived of their right to breathe, we can take a first step away toward peace by breathing deeply in their memory.

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Own It

When we are provoked, outraged, or in grief, we instinctively look for someone to blame. But a good use of the Pause is to engage in a little self-examination. It’s too easy for me to blame Trump or his Christian supporters for the crisis facing our nation today. What effect do I have when I say that I’m not that kind of Christian? Am I contributing to a broken church that wounds rather than heals?

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Forgive and Restore

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That’s painful to think about and admit to. Can I forgive myself when I fall short of my best self? God does! God’s forgiveness is available to all of us even before we confess, an astounding demonstration of His mercy and love. When we can accept God’s forgiveness for ourselves, we become able to extend it to others.

The Olive
Branch

Take A Breath with Us

Our weekly newsletter creates a space to take a breath. Once we slow down, we can see the way desire, imitation, and conflict operate in our lives and in the world, and begin to create peace.

Practice Hospitality

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Our friends at the Metta Center for Nonviolence who train people in nonviolent action observed that in the midst of social unrest, police violence, looting and violent demonstrations, arguments for nonviolence can become a bit overheated! Their advice is to practice hospitality:

“Try not to get into ideological arguments about nonviolence right now… [And I’d add, try not to get into theological arguments, either.] This is a time to be sensitive and engaged. Empathize instead. Show people that you care about them and that your caring extends far and wide. Listen to people. You are a force for peace. Know that. Be that.”

Speak Into Real Life

The United States is in the midst of a crisis with multiple, intersecting causes: racism, Christian nationalism, hyper-partisanship, the Covid-19 pandemic, economic disruption and massive unemployment, police brutality against black and brown bodies. Maybe you can add to the list. But we must not allow ourselves to be limited by the boundaries of the crisis, by fear or hate.

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The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, said this recently about real life: “The first casualty of white supremacy is black imagination: the ability to be able to conceive of what is not and operate as if it is, though it hasn’t yet been achieved.” Maybe the second casualty of white supremacy is white imagination. Becoming discouraged is the enemy of change. If we can imagine it together, we can work to make it real.

Initiate Peace

When we put these values into practice in our personal and communal lives, we help make peace possible. We know that in these times of social distancing, community is hard to come by, but we can meet in virtual spaces to imagine the good that God has in store for us. I invite you to consider joining us for the Collaborators Conference for the Flourishing of Nonviolent Christianity in August when we will gather as a community devoted to healing, mercy and love.

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In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with this song from Audrey Assad, Your Peace Will Make Us One. Audrey is an inspiring singer-songwriter and one of our conference presenters. As we attempt to move toward a more healthy Christian life in which we can heal the divisions within our communities in order to bring healing and wholeness to our world, this song has been an inspiration to what we can become as a nation, if we dare to imagine together.

Your Peace Will Make Us One

Tune by Julia Ward Howe; Lyrics by Audrey Assad

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
You are speaking truth to power, you are laying down our swords
Replanting every vineyard til a brand new wine is poured
Your peace will make us one

I’ve seen you in our home fires burning with a quiet light
You are mothering and feeding in the wee hours of the night
Your gentle love is patient, you will never fade or tire
Your peace will make us one

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Your peace will make us one

In the beauty of the lilies you were born across the sea
With a glory in your bosom that is still transfiguring
Dismantling our empires til each one of us is free
Your peace will make us one

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Your peace will make us one

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Your peace will make us one