January 3, 2020

A New Decade ...

As 2020 begins, I find myself reflecting on the last decade. So much has happened in and around our household. At the beginning of the decade, our youngest was just a baby and is now ten years old! In the first half of the decade I finished my MA at Fuller Theological Seminarysomething I never thought would happen in 2010. During the latter half of this decade, two of our children became teenagers, one voted for the first time and got accepted into college (5 acceptance letters to date). We moved from San Diego, CA to Washington DC to Houston, TX. We've traveled across most of the continental United States and have gained friends across the country.

I could stop there. Simply describing what happened in the microcosm of our family. It's much more comfortable and happy to do so. Yet, together, we have watched the world change throughout this decade.

We observed the economic recovery from the 2008 recession. Our family lived in Washington during the presidency of this country's first African American president. I was at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church when the first African American presiding bishop was elected and all of us were in Washington during his installation. We stood in front of the White House the evening after which the marriage equality act was announced. We've sweated, shivered, laughed, cried and so much more. I cannot state strongly enough how deeply I love the people I have been on an adventure with throughout this decade. But it might be irresponsible to not name realities such as the fact that we have seen an increase of natural disasters throughout these ten years. And throughout the lifespan of all three of my children, this country has been at war.

What will the next decade hold?

Our household has talked about the things we anticipate that come with the new stages of life each will come to in this decadeteenagers getting driver's licenses, graduating from college, starting college, etc. I'm also struck by the fact that there is so much happening in the world around us and there is so much that will likely change in the coming years. Whether thinking about climate change, geopolitics or economies, it's easy for people like me to feel that these things are out of our control and are no more than the background noise of our lives. In fact, it would be easy to go on living out our lives without considering these things at allwhich, I recognize, is a privilege.

Yesterday, a military strike approved by the recently impeached U.S. president killed the ranking military leader in Iran. Congress did not authorize this strike. The highest ranking leadership of national defense and security has been frayed over recent months. Current U.S. practices with nation states have fractured relationships ... it's difficult to read the headlines at the beginning of a new year, a new decade and not raise concern.

So, this is me raising my concern.

What is lacking in our current political climate is healthy discourse. The commander in chiefalong with other elected officialshas so normalized the demonizing of the other that we have come to a point where most discoursefrom congress to houses of worship to living roomsis unable to engender empathy, listening, compromise and honest discussion and debate. "Compromise," in particular, has become a bad word in politics. And, yet, if we hope to de-escalate anything from the conflicts at hand to global warming, we must make an effort to listen, empathize and be open to the goodwill of all.

This goes a step further for Christians. We're called to love our enemies. Jesus was clearer about this than most partisan political issues our theological acrobatics will cram him into. Whether this be an opposing political party or Iran. Christians have to consider that loving our enemy requires us to empathize, listen to and come to compromise for the goodwill of enemies and ourselves.

Considering this, what does this mean about what lies ahead?

Do we want to go to war again? Will this be yet another decade of ceaseless conflicts overseas?

Will we allow leaders to make decisions without discussion and debate?

I have said it countless times yet I will say it again: Leaders that require you to hate another in order to prove your allegiance are not worth your loyalty. History has demonstrated this to be true. Christian virtue demands that I cannot.

When I look towards the next decade, I think it's time we engender a different kind of discourse. A discourse in which we state our conviction without demonizing the other. This does not mean that we fain false flattery but that we extend a listening ear, try hard to put ourselves "in the shoes of another," while extending honest accountability that carries within it the concern for the well being of all.

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