I am spending this week at Chautauqua Institute. I am the Chaplain at the Baptist House for the week. The theme for this week is Exploring Race And Culture In America.
Among the performers here this week are Gina Chavez (if you don't know about her, she's worth looking up) and Wynton Marsalis.
Most intriguing to me is the Chaplain of the Week for the Institute. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre is an ethicist and a prolific writer in Latinx thought and Liberation Theology. I am finding him challenging and painful to listen to as he preaches each morning. Prophetic preaching is always challenging and painful for those who listen for the Word of the Lord in it. I will be exploring more of my responses in later posts; but in this one I just want to put forward a single thought that I have had this morning.
I am grateful for Donald Trump. I am grateful for him in the same way that I am grateful that when I go hiking in the mountains, in places where rattlesnakes are plentiful, that rattlesnakes have rattles.
Donald Trump is the rattle on the snake of racism and white nationalism. The snake has always been there, but the rattle has woken us up to it's presence in a way our generation has not had to address before. For this I am grateful.
The difference is, that while I can step around the rattlesnake when I hear it, and avoid the danger of being bitten...we cannot step around the serpent that is the ongoing presence of racism in our country. Our nation has already been bitten. Trump, however, signals us to the danger of a bite that we, all too often, ignore. We need to suck the poison from the lifeblood of our nation or we will die. The dream of what we can be will die.
In small, and larger, groups this week we are struggling with what it means to address the rattle that we have heard. Does it force us to be more aware of what is actually happening? What has been happening, literally for centuries? Or in our anger at the knowledge that we are being given, sometimes unwillingly, will we deny that we have been bitten? Will we make our way down the path of history and collapse in agony as the poison continues to course through our veins.
This is not an overly dramatic image. We are at a point in history that will shape us for years to come. The shape of this nation will live or die based on our response to this moment, just as nations have been shaped by their response to similar questions throughout history.
The challenge to me, as a Christian, is to read scripture through the lens of this moment, to hear what the Gospel of Jesus is calling me to. Because the Christian Church in America is also at a crossroads. We have heard the echoing rattles of other snakes...Falwell, Graham, Jeffress. They have joined the den of the vipers of hatred and exclusion. They have poisoned the Gospel of Jesus with their false teaching and their political time serving.
We are here at this moment. The snakes are rattling all around us. Will we address the issues or die in our denial?