Choosing Light

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Contributed by the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch

It is during the month of December that we have the shortest days in the year. December also brings about the end of the calendar year, the hibernation of much of life, and the end of our holiday season. In many ways December can be thought of as an ending month. It is as if the light is going out, and in a literal way, it is. That can be sad.

But for Christians December also brings beginnings. It is the beginning of the new liturgical year, it brings the beginning of the calendar year, and the beginning of days getting longer, and literally the increase of light. It brings many fresh starts. That can be joyous.

There is no ending without a beginning and no beginning without an ending. Which decides for you who you will be: the endings or the beginnings? It is as simple as that. We get to choose.

The choice is not about choosing one set of facts over another. The light does decrease and the light does increase in the month of December. Both statements are true. Our choice is about with which one we will align ourselves. Will we be people of increasing light or decreasing light?

In many ways it is like the Native American story about the two wolves inside each person. One is a wolf of anger and the other is a wolf of peace. Which one will we feed? The one that we decide to feed is the one that we will become. As December unfolds I invite you to make a choice. Choose to be people of light instead of darkness.

Christ was born in the darkest month that the light might shine even more brightly. He asks us to choose. Which side will we be on? I choose light and new beginnings.

Advent Blessings!

Finding Hope in Dark Times

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Contributed by Executive Director, The Rev. Tara Soughers, PhD

This last week has been a difficult one for me.

It isn’t that the candidate that I backed did not win the election: I have had many times in my voting years where that has been the case.  That happens in a democracy.  In every other election, however, I felt that the person who won truly cared for the country, even if I thought that their policies were flawed.

This time, however, it seemed to me that hatred had won: racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and Islamophobia.  It seemed to me that the worst impulses of America and the human heart had triumphed.  It seemed to me that violence and threats of violence, slander and lies had triumphed over those qualities that I valued about America: respect for others, tolerance, generosity.  I wasn’t really surprised, but I was very, very depressed, and I felt enclosed by darkness.

It did not take long for my fears for what this might mean for our country to be manifest.  On election day, just as the polls were about to open, my husband was driving to work through an area where there were many, many Trump signs.  Someone tried to intentionally force him off the road and wreck his car.  He was the victim of road rage, apparently by someone offended by his bumper stick supporting Clinton and Kaine.  A day later, he was still suffering panic attacks.

Within hours of the election being called, there was a dramatic rise in hate crimes, as supporters of Trump asserted their rights to abuse women, people of color, and gays.  The picture above is one of two Episcopal Churches (my own denomination) who have been targeted by Trump supporters.  No place feels safe.

And yet, I am safer than most.  I only fit one of the categories that was targeted during Trump’s campaign, but with men asserting their right to grab women’s private parts because Trump normalized such behavior and the election of Trump condone it, I am at risk along with most people in this country.

But I am more afraid of for my loved ones who fall into even more hated categories than I am for myself, and so I have started wearing a safety pin, to show that I will stand with anyone who is being targeted for any reason.  The rise of the safety pin movement was the first sign of hope I saw in this dark week.

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By itself, this gesture is not enough, not nearly enough.  Yet for me it was a place to start.  I know that there is a story going around the internet of the KKK trying to co-opt this symbol, to make it meaningless or even dangerous.  There is no symbol that cannot be co-opted or turned from its original purpose.

Yet I will wear a safety pin, both to show my solidarity with those who are being oppressed, as well as to remind myself that even in the darkest times, there are reasons to hope.