February 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen nerves more frayed than what they are right now in America. President Trump’s aggressive agenda is creating anxiety across the country. Almost everyone I meet is feeling the stress. We’re in a perpetual state of pastoral crisis. As a clergy person, my job is not to wring my hands in despair; it’s to offer hope and a spiritual pathway forward. I’ve been thinking about what I need to survive the next four years . . . I share it with you . . .
Survival Rule Number One: I’m going to refuse to live with pessimism about my life for the next four years. There is still so much goodness in the world, and not only goodness, but beauty and truth and joy. I’m not going to allow anyone in the Oval Office (Democrat or Republican) to wreck that for me, and nor should you. Life is a gift, and one way we save the world is by enjoying the world.
Survival Rule Number Two: I’m going to keep standing up for human dignity, love and respect. I’m not going to be shrill about it. I’m not going to be the guy to shout the loudest. I’m simply going to keep reminding myself and others that the essence of my faith is love for God and love for neighbor, and love means respect, justice and fairness. We cannot stop standing up for one another. And we especially cannot stop standing up for those who cannot stand at all.
Survival Rule Number Three: I don’t have the capacity to save the world. I can, however, reach out to friends and family with goodness and compassion. I can make the world a better place in ways that are real and personal. Besides, we only save the world one person, one human gesture at a time. Jesus once defined faith as giving someone a cup of cold water. This is something I can do. It’s something you can do too In this challenging time, treating one another with a little extra gentleness is an essential thing.
Survival Rule Number Four: I’m going to move closer to my friends and my community of faith in the upcoming days, and we’re going to talk about what we need to talk about in order to get through these seismic changes happening in America. We need one another right now. We need to talk (and vent) and remind one another that we are not alone. We need to listen to one another. We need something more than another Breaking News report on television. News is fine; but we need community to help us absorb it and process it.
Survival Rule Number Five: As the country seems to become more and more shallow, I’m going to move more deeply into my humanity with greater attention and feeling. I’m going to start a love affair with poetry again. I’m going to read more books. I’m going to take more time with the arts. I’m going to pay attention to my feelings, dreams and intuitions. I’m going to spend more time in the temple of my soul, not as a way of escaping reality, but as a way of finding a deeper sense of it.
Survival Rule Number Six: I want to follow the path of wisdom that suggests — being here now / being present with what is / sitting with the true reality — is always a way of insight. Escapism doesn’t work. Activism is critically important, to be sure, but something must be added to it. We have to discover the philosopher’s stone. America is where it is, and historians will eventually sort out how we got here, but to be present with the reality of our times is not a defeatist concession, but a courageous embrace of life.
Survival Rule Number Seven: I’m going to pray / meditate / send good thoughts toward the President. This is not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. When we pray for someone who sees the world differently from us, or in the words of Jesus, when we “pray for our enemies,” the world is mysteriously changed. And the world changes because we change. Maybe some of us are not ready for that today. Fine. But I think it’s part of the spiritual survivalist package that we need. Besides, when we pray for the “other,” we’re acknowledging that we too need guidance, and that kind of humility is essential.
Friends, I invite you to Take a Breath. We’re in a strange time right now in America. A stressful time. A disconcerting time. But it’s a time perfect for the resources of the heart. Let’s survive it together one breath at at time.