Centuries ago the ancient prophet Habbakuk said something that any one of us might have said this past week: “How long, O Lord, shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?How long shall I cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise…. the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.The wicked surround the righteous … judgment comes forth perverted.”
Does that describe our situation? Do you hear it? Do you feel it? How long, O Lord?
God’s people have prayed that prayer through the centuries: they prayed it through slavery in Egypt…
They prayed it through ages of corrupt kings and wicked judges
They prayed it through exile in a foreign land…
God’s people prayed it through trial and tribulation, through persecution and distress, through peril, famine and sword.
They prayed: How long O Lord, and God delivered them … and yet … here we are again.
The words of Habakkuk and the prophets, the words of the psalmists and the apostles, all come back to challenge a 21st century empire whose president stirs up the meanest tendencies of the human spirit (How long, O Lord!); a president who seems to take delight stoking the basest of passions in his base (How long, O Lord!); a president whose politics and policies brought a resurgence of racism that raised its vicious head in Charlottesville.
Many of us hoped and prayed that racism was dying on the vine, but others know racism been lurking beneath the surface all these years, lurking beneath the surface all these centuries. (How long, O Lord!)
How long will those who confuse and confound, those who contort and distort the purpose of God be allowed to rule over those who simply want to live in peace and security? (How long, O Lord!)
When I saw what was happening in Charlottesville and I prayed, How long, O Lord, God answered me: “I don’t know. How long, Bob?”
How long, says the Lord, will you ask ME how long… when it is your founding fathers who melded patriarchy with patriotism, when it is your founding fathers who stitched slavery into the fabric of your financial systems, and when it is your own 21st century privileged white complacency that’s enabling the most hateful white supremacy to return today.
And it HAS returned, returned like an infection that the first round of antibiotics didn’t eliminate… and so it has come back even stronger.
How long, says the Lord to me, how long will you and your white colleagues stand by, tsk tsk tsking at the ravages of racism in this country? How long will YOU allow such behavior to go unchecked, unchallenged and unchanged?
So I said, how, Lord?
And then it came to me: 1 Corinthians 13 – one of the best known and best-loved Bible passages, called the love chapter by Christians. It describes the kind of love this “United in Love” rally would be about. Here’s a key passage: “love is patient and kind, it is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.”
This isn’t some schmaltzy kumbaya kinda love … because what we are up against is the exact opposite of that love.
Let me run through that love-list again, but this time consider how it applies to Donald Trump. Of course I don’t know the man personally; I know him by his words and actions, and they seem to me to be the opposite of the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13.
I leave it to you to fill in specific examples. Does this accurately describe the way the President has behaved: he is NOT patient, he is NOT kind, he IS jealous and he IS boastful, he is arrogant and he is rude; he insists on his own way, he is irritable and he is resentful; and he even seems to rejoice at what is wrong.
This is what we are up against, not simply in Donald Trump but also in the white supremacist movement he has empowered. White supremacy is the polar opposite of love and the only way to fight that is if we, all of us: whites and people of color, LGBTQ, cisgender and all, Protestant and Catholic, Muslim and Jew, Buddhist and atheist, if we all unite in love to work for justice.
How long, O Lord? I say NO LONGER!
How long, people! (NO LONGER!)
How long, people! (NO LONGER!)