Thursday, November 10, 2016

In the Face of Fear: An Opportunity To Serve

This morning I was party to what I hope will prove to be the first of several important meetings. I helped to arrange the meeting for two primary reasons. First, we met in response to the great anxiety being expressed by a number of friends over the threats inherent in Tuesday night’s election results. Second, though, we met to discuss the encouragement I am seeing among others. Some within my circle of colleagues are already recognizing the need to address not only the anxieties but the very real dangers and damages those friends are experiencing. More importantly, they had some concrete ideas about how to do so.
Why I Am Concerned
Let me take care not to prophesy. Others’ visions of the future are more bleak than my own pessimism can manage, though not unrealistically so. I do believe it is highly likely that the successful portion of our American electorate will not receive what they have been promised. Worse, I also believe it to be entirely probable that several segments of our population are at risk of receiving exactly what has been threatened. But even in the age of instant information, I believe we are a long way from our own Kristallnacht and the Muslim equivalent of a Wannsee Conference.
In fact, the policy, legislative, and judicial changes of these next few years may or may not occur, and may or may not exacerbate the plight of those who are already oppressed, marginalized, and depersonalized. But they are already oppressed, marginalized, and depersonalized. And the dangers and damages they already face have not required even one executive order.
Consider the many who clearly imagine they will benefit when some portion of our society “takes America back” to whatever era it is they nostalgically prefer to our own. When this retrograde culture fails to materialize as fully as they would like, primarily in that it fails to benefit them as fully as they would like, they are likely to be even more angry than they have shown themselves to be. And they are already angry. The rise in hate crimes that has correlated with this past election season is alarming enough. Even if none of the actions that have been threatened are actually implemented on the federal level, at the personal level there is a perceived license for more direct aggression by misogynists, racists, homophobes, xenophobes, and whatever we call those who feel empowered to mock and bully persons with disabilities.
So, even if the difficulties faced by parts of our community do not precipitously deepen, it is impossible to imagine that they will appreciably improve over the next few months and years. Unless, that is, we choose to improve those circumstances ourselves.
What I Hope To Do
At the end of this morning’s meeting, I read from the notes I took, categorizing my observations. I felt the need to divide the messages I was hearing by considering what would best benefit two specific audiences.
The first audience comprises the victorious electorate celebrating their soon-to-be-crowned champion. As with many pastors this Sunday, and for scores of Sundays following, I have opportunity to preach to and teach some who number themselves among those triumphant supporters. I would seek to remind them that any benefits they imagine will shortly begin to arrive at their doorsteps come with a commensurate cost—not only paid from within the lives of others, but in the consequences of their own disregard for The Great Commandment (demonstrate your love for God by loving your neighbor—Matthew 22:34-40), inseparable as it is from The Great Commission (make disciples of all the nations—Matthew 28:18-20). This morning, I even used the Latin phrase, “status confessionis.” What this means is that we find ourselves at one of those unenviable points at which the Church must again remind herself of our responsibility to the integrity of the gospel—which must be proclaimed as much in our concrete behavior as in our claimed beliefs.
The second audience comprises those who recognize the credible threat to their safety embodied in the priorities and promises of this new and very different administration. They already perceive the scarcity of resources. They already endure the suspicions and accusations of their neighbors. They already recognize how vulnerable their basic necessities are to even minor socio-economic changes. And, whether or not the threats expressed ever materialize, they know that some will act out, in perceived impunity, the attitudes behind the speeches and sound-bites from which it has been impossible to escape over these past months.
For the benefit of this second audience, those who met this morning are engaging initially in some rapid-response research. In other words, we need some answers, but we need them yesterday.
What I Need To Know
Through our contacts (and their contacts as well) among the various segments of our Inter-Mountain Area’s communities, especially among those already involved in Community Service Organizations, Public-Assistance Agencies, and parish-oriented ministries, we are seeking two sets of information.
First, we want to develop a clear and comprehensive understanding of both the breadth and depth of the specific needs we are facing. These include the simplest necessities. For example, I was trained in crisis and trauma intervention to initially evaluate four basic needs: air, warmth, water, and food. Here in the Inter-Mountain Area, of course, we are blessed with the first and third of those resources in natural abundance. But many of our families can afford roughly three weeks of food per month. And warmth quickly becomes a relative term during several months each year. Beyond those necessities, access to healthcare, physical and mental, continues to be a problem. We must address the interpersonal issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and the phobic tendency to bully anyone we find uncomfortably different from us. And remember that substance abuse, education and employment inequities, and the too-common experiences of prejudice and discrimination are only less visible because our society so successfully marginalizes those who endure them.
The second set of information involves the reason why many who read this will object that many of these needs are already being met. In fact, they are…for some, sometimes. But often, the needs of a few are being met by a few who have more than a few resources, and are yet unknown outside a relatively few in a small network of a few relationships. I do not want to overwhelm any one resource, of course. But I also recognize that there are many more resources available than are being utilized in the Inter-Mountain Area. Yet still, there are needs for which I am certain there are no resources currently available. Therefore, the second question, then, is this: What are the current resources available, and what are the gaps that need to be filled? It is that simple.
How You Can Help
If you know the answers to some of these questions, please answer them by emailing me: If you know of someone else who knows the answers to some of these questions, please forward them a link to this blog post.
For clarity’s sake, here are the questions:
1-What are the potentially unmet needs faced by the communities (and especially the oppressed, marginalized, and depersonalized) in the Inter-Mountain Area?
2-What are the potentially unknown resources available to the communities (and especially the oppressed, marginalized, and depersonalized) in the Inter-Mountain Area?
Thank you in advance for your assistance in determining both the needs and the resources of our communities.

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