It’s the middle of 2022, pandemics linger, wars are underway, economic equity is distant, human and individual rights teeter on a pinpoint, even the planet itself is reeling with extreme disasters heading towards collapse. Moreover, people are becoming overwhelmed. Even those who try to ignore the greater world’s problems and focus on themselves are losing it.
Whether Islamic or Christian, Jewish or Hindi, Buddhist, Shinto, Norse/Pagan or of Indigenous belief, each in our own way and language are, screaming “oh God, where art thou.” As a faith/spiritual leader, I am expected to have all the answers – “you studied the texts, you pray really good, God anointed you to guide/lead, tell us that it will be all right and where God is in the midst of MY struggle and all of these world crises?”
The quick answers I can give are true but seem trite in such trying times – the God of my understanding loves you, hears your cries, and feels your pain. God is here with us/you in the middle of this all. God is making a way through the struggle; hold on, keep pushing forward and listen for God’s direction on the way to get out. While these words can calm a soul for the moment and shine a light of hope in dark times, they are far from a playbook to success.
If we want real solutions, lasting success, true peace and joy – a paradise here on earth, WE actually have to do the work. Where is God? God is in each of us. How is the transformation of our circumstances made manifest? We individually and collectively do the work as God’s hands and feet in the world. Where do we start? By transforming ourselves and showing up for each other. This is the teaching of the Talmud and Torah, Jesus and Prophet Muhammed, Gandhi, Sadhguru Vasudev, Gulen, the Dalai Lama, and Rumi.
It means we stop looking through our own eyes of struggle and despair and see the world, and ourselves, through God’s eyes where every person – even the ones doing bad things – are God’s beloved, deeply loved, richly gifted, highly favored, and abundantly blessed. And then WE engage the world as God is living inside; as the Yin and Yang of God and humanity; as Jesus with skin on.
In more practical terms, we turn catchphrases into action – no one is free until everyone is free; injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere; united we stand, divided we fall; I am my sibling’s keeper, I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me. We show up, we march, we protest, we discuss, and we teach. Not just on issues that affect us personally but for all civil and human rights.
We don’t have to be trans, a woman, or have a disability to stand up for bodily autonomy. We don’t have to be a person of color to insist on fair, humane, and equitable treatment for everyone. We don’t have to be poor to demand a living wage or affordable food, clothing, housing, transportation, and healthcare. We don’t have to be invaded or have our land/homes taken away to stand against aggression. We don’t have to be dying to demand clean air and water, or chemical/pollutant-free land and food. We don’t have to be gay to fight for the ability of everyone to love who and how they love. But we do have to choose to make change over making dollars. We do have to choose rights over privilege. We do have to choose a better tomorrow over an easy and carefree today.
And we vote, we run for office, we take responsibility and control of our workplaces, our communities, and our neighborhoods. We do this at the ballot box. We do this with our money – how we make it and spend it. We do this with our time, talents, and labor.
Instead of looking up and shouting, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me/us?). Instead, look inside and say, “My God, my God, what am I/ we going to do about it?” For there is hope in this dark and desolate world. There is light. There is a future. God is standing there at the door of our hearts knocking. Are we ready to put in the effort to unlock and open the door so goodness and Godliness can pour out of us into the world?
About the Author: Rev. Vance E. Haywood, Jr. was installed as pastor at St. John’s MCC in February 2018. He and Him are Vance’s preferred pronouns, and Vance (no titles) is his preferred introduction. Vance was ordained reverend at age 21. He stepped away from Christian life in 2001, unable to reconcile whom he knew himself to be with the teaching about God being presented by others. Vance joined the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) movement in 2008. If you ask Vance if he is religious, his answer will be an adamant “God No! Religion has been, and is still, a source of great pain and suffering. Jesus came to overturn harmful religious practices and simply offer life and love to hurting people in a hurting world. I see it as my call to do the same, as best I can with God’s help.”