the ten foot rule...

As the Trump cabinet is slowly announced - and "the Donald"once again executes his evil genius for distraction on the American people (e.g. Hamilton) - people of faith, hope and love should be clear:  this is going to get much worse before it gets better. Already real people we care about are being hurt and harassed. The Internet is on fire with hate and threats. And anxiety about immigration and civil rights for people of color and the LGBTQ community have reached a fever pitch. We know the track record of people like Jeff Sessions et al and it does not bode well for our future.

What my gut tells me is that this is the hour for many of us to embrace the "10 feet" rule once articulated by Jean Vanier.  Essentially, it calls for loving action - even fierce resistance to evil - in ways that are immediate and close to home.   Act on what you can touch and know 10 feet around you. It is too easy to become immobilized with fear, worrying about events and people we can never touch and missing those we can. To paraphrase the late Pete Seeger, "This is a time to think globally and act locally."  Some of the implications of this for me include:

+ Waking up to the under belly of a cruel and vicious culture. For many of us, myself included, this moment in time exposes the reality of our land to anyone with eyes to see:  there is virulent racism, sexism, xenophobia and economic exploitation all around us. It has always been this way for people of color and women. The current regime has now brought it out into the open. And while some of us could look the other way and get by because of our race, class and economic privilege, that is NOT what the spirit of Jesus requires. We are to be in solidarity - taking risks - practicing a conscious form of race, class and gender suicide. We will make dreadful mistakes. We will encounter staggering blindspots. And our fear of getting it wrong cannot bind us to inaction or indecision. 

+ Committing to the nonviolent love of Christ. Some people have started to play the blame/shame game. But whether that is trumpeting what Bernie might have done (debatable) or demonizing potential allies (an exercise that soils some with guilt without changing the status quo) the result is still fear and loathing. Now is the time for constructive and disciplined small acts of love that help real people within our communities. This is not to excuse violence and hatred - injustice, stupidity and cruelty must be called out clearly - even as we work in opposition.  But it is too easy to become the evil we hate and be blinded by self-righteous fury, unguarded words and an inflated sense of self-importance. The path of Jesus is to be a servant to one another, not a bully.

+ Learning to listen carefully.  Some have told me - and I've experienced it myself - how shocked they were when Mrs. Clinton lost. As I've posted before, for many middle class, white liberals it feels like a death has occurred. And, truth be told, that is true - but it is the death of our privileged illusions that have died so that the harder truths might be seen and healed.  SNL did a biting satire on the shock many felt watching the November election returns - a surprise that was not part of the community of color - as Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle make so clear. 

+ Saying out loud what is hurting. One of the truths I have experienced in ministry is that some people in pain think others should be able to read their mind.  We can't - and we ought not take on blame for not knowing what another needs.  In the "Servant Song" is this verse:  "I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I'll laugh with you; I will share your joys and sorrows til we've seen this journey through."  The key for me is the word share - I can't share what hasn't been offered - nor can I know things kept in secret. When a need is expressed, however, people of good will can respond. Most of the time, however, most of us are so jammed just trying to get through our own day - already filled with our own pain and activities - that we simply don't have eyes to see or ears to hear. Ignorance can certainly be born of privilege, but also of silence. So now more than ever our communities of faith are being called on to find ways of helping one another share our wounds.


Americans of all spiritualities and political backgrounds are not very good at confession - and that is causing trouble now, too. Justin Trudeau, for example, has been clear about the hurt and sin his dominant class has inflicted upon the vulnerable and oppressed. Confession does not change the past, but it does awaken us to how we have injured others overtly and covertly. It also helps us reorder our priorities for the present as we consciously choose to act with greater kindness and compassion.  When we own our own complicity in sin, we cultivate a greater humility and a larger heart. And humble people of compassion are clearly needed in this hour of uncertainty and increased fear. 

One thing more: in these times of crises, there are always people who rise to the occasion and live as servants of solidarity.  That is part of the balance of God's creation:  cruelty is not the only story of this hour, there is also courage and compassion. I see that every day and suspect that it will increase over the next few years. This is a grand opportunity for people of the heart to reach out beyond our comfort zone and dismantle privilege in pursuit of love and truth.

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