A Pastoral Letter on Current Events

 January 6, 2021
Posted by Michael Woolf

Dear Lake Streeters,

As I write this email, Congress is convening to eventually accept the electoral college results that will usher out the current president at the end of his term. A transfer of power, surely, but not a peaceful one. As domestic terrorists earlier interrupted that transfer of power singing hymns, bowing down before crosses, and appropriating shofarot from our Jewish neighbors and friends, I am reminded of what Dorothee Sölle said when she coined the term Christofascism decades ago:

“At a mass meeting a thousand voices shouted: ‘I love Jesus’ and ‘I love America’ — it was impossible to distinguish the two. This kind of religion knows the cross only as a magical symbol of what he has done for us, not as the sign of the poor man who was tortured to death as a political criminal… What remains is a metaphysical Easter Bunny in front of the beautiful blue light of the television screen, a betrayal of the disappointed, a miracle weapon in service of the mighty.”

At Lake Street Church, we do our best to make sure that our religion never becomes a “miracle weapon in service of the mighty,” and we denounce the mixing of those symbols with insurrection, confederate flags, and white-nationalist rage currently on display. Our faith should move us to be braver, more just, more honorable, and more courageous in our fight for justice, and we will need plenty of that faith in the coming days. I will of course be in prayer for our country, as I have been often as your senior minister. I’m sure you will be as well. However, prayer will not be enough. We will need to articulate and live out our values more assiduously than ever.

We can take courage that the worship plan for this Sunday already included the Dorothee Sölle quote above, because our readings for Epiphany concern Herod. There have always been authoritarians in our world, and in the Bible we see that the Divine is on the side of justice. We see that God is wilier, more crafty, more beautiful than the crude excesses of power that authoritarians offer. We know in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. that “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” May you stay safe, but be ever bending that arc towards justice and accountability in our public life. I don’t believe it bends on its own, but only through the constant application of our values. As a famous 16th century English Reformation preacher Hugh Latimer put it: “The drop hollows the stone, not with force but by oft falling.”

My heart breaks with you to see those who would carelessly toss aside the crown jewel of this republic – peaceful transfers of power. My hope is that if you are feeling despair in these times, we might build resilience together in the only way that I know how – in community.

Blessings and Peace,
Rev. Michael Woolf