Thursday, November 06, 2008

What are we afraid of ???

"Yes we can !"

"Change we can believe in!"

It's a historic time ... one of those moments when we will look back and say - "I remember when ..."

And yet, over and over the whole experience of watching Barack Obama elected president comes down to three main issues ... the first is - "the FIRST African American elected president" ... the second is simple bold faced fear - fear of the unknown - fear of the "socialist" Obama - just simple fear born of ignorance ... and the third is "Obama was simply the best man for the job" with no reference to his ethnicity, skin colour or any other factor other than an intelligent, well spoken candidate ...

Today having listened to, and re-read his election night speech, I fall in the category of seeing Obama not as the "black" candidate, but as the BEST candidate who just happened to be black.

Looking at the polls though, and the break down of who voted what way, I am struck over and over by the simple undeniable fact that the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America is a clear signal that our world is changing and the young people are beginning to claim their place in the world. The stats I've read tell us that overwhelmingly the Black vote went to Obama, not that that should surprise us. But also the majority of young voters, that is people under 45, voted for him too.

This sends us one clear message:

The world is changing, and we can not, nor should we try to deny nor ignore that change.

Yet, in our world today too many organizations, agencies and institutions are dedicated not to the dynamism that allows them to ride this tide of change, but rather they are dedicated to the STATUS QUO and preserving the way things are into infinity ...

So terrified of what might be, they chose instead to cling tightly to what is, and in the process become not just out of step with the reality around them, they lose touch with the very world in which they live ...

If you doubt this for even a moment, step over to the Blog "The Laughing Pastor" and read the comments Blake has posted that were uttered in response to Obama's win ... he has chronicled the utterances of well intentioned and no doubt faithful people who have spoken words dripping with hate and ignorance ... words thankfully enlightened and faith-filled leadership like Blake can lovingly rebuff ... but words that betray a deep fear lying in the hearts of people who fill and ever shrinking church population census.

Closer to home in Western Manitoba, I have watched over the last 8 and half years as a wave of fear has washed over the rural United Church congregations and turned them into closed communities that are interested ONLY in surviving as social club cliques that purport to be warm and welcoming places that open their doors to the strangers and the outsiders, when in truth nothing could be further from the truth. They have become small minded institutions teetering on the brink of oblivion, lead by leadership that is terrified of taking a stand lest someone might get offended and leave.

It is easier to maintain the status quo and live wallowing in their fear than it is to courageously and boldly stand up in the midst of change and unfurl our collective sails and let the winds carry us where we might go ...

What is needed is a courageous act of leadership that says firstly - "ENOUGH!!! We will not be lackeys for the status quo. But we will bravely, courageously and boldly embrace the winds of change and discern the call of the Spirit in this time of upheaval and uncertainty." Rather than blithely appeasing the conservative, close minded agenda that wants nothing more than to preserve what has been, the leadership in community and in the Church MUST take a stand for CHANGE.

As a wise man once said - we have nothing to fear but fear its self.

Unfortunately in the Church today, to say nothing of rural communities across this land and this continent - and rural can include large metropolitan centres if the thinking and actions remain stuck in the gumbo mud of the past - in these rural centres the leadership too often remains firmly entrenched with 1950's values in a world that has left that mindset behind decades ago ... Rather than pandering to the fear and apprehension The Church - The United Church - must reclaim its mantle of leadership and stand up for Change.

Mere words are no longer enough. The veneer of inclusivity, liberalism and a warm welcome for all has been worn away in the rural centres of North America, and the shallow, closed and unwelcoming reality of these centres has been revealed. Unfortunately too many of my esteemed colleagues - and I use the term "esteemed" quite facetiously - are MORE concerned about their next pay cheque, their economic security and NOT offending ANYONE, then they are about being faithful.

The analogy of the Titanic comes strongly to mind today ... the band is boldly playing to comfort the passengers, the leadership is calmly wandering amongst us offering quiet meaningless platitudes of comfort and humour, and people are playing with chunks of the very ice berg that rendered a mortal wound in the vessel ... meanwhile below decks the ship is shuddering and sinking, and NO ONE wants to deal with THAT reality.

No one wants to acknowledge the steerage passengers who are perishing by the score ...

No one wants to acknowledge that the ship is in peril ...

No one wants to deal with reality ...

Instead the band plays on and we wrap ourselves in the comfort of the familiar ... the band ... the dining salon ... the opulence ... the comfort of the KNOWN ...

The cold water is washing around our ankles, but we will not acknowledge that the ship we are on is sinking ... so strong and great is our fear ... we will continue to deny the reality of what is around us ... and the most unforgivable thing in ALL of THIS is the simple fact that well intentioned, enlightened and well educated leadership such as the Clergy in the United Church of Canada do absolutely nothing to address that fear, but instead continue to pander to it ...

As a specific example, I will cite the community of Minnedosa as a place enveloped in great fear and a strong denial of reality ... There is a reason that the community is dying and a reason why the congregations that are Minnedosa United Church remains homeless after TWO AND HALF YEARS ... they could have their new building up in six months. Yes I did say congregations in the plural when referring to Minnedosa United Church - there are clearly no less than TWO congregations operating in that community - one that truly is warm and welcoming and inclusive and that embodies ALL of the things that the United Church is supposed to be about, and the other smaller, cluster is about fear, power, politics and prestige. The interest amongst this congregation is NOT welcoming in the stranger and being open to change - their interest in is preserving the status quo and preserving the perverted status and prestige they glean from associating with the social club they seek to be ... The greater church continues to deny the split in Minnedosa, and continues to allow the toxic co-dependency of a small faction of fear-filled individuals operating out of ignorance to dominate and bully the rest of the congregation ...

What is needed is in Minnedosa and in most rural communities today is a leadership with COURAGE, HONESTY, OPENNESS, AND MOST OF ALL, a leadership that has the where-with-all to live in reality and name the fact that fear will NOT prevail. It is not happening - at least not in the small rural towns ... and I weep for that ...

One day not only will the truth prevail ... but so will the values of justice, inclusion and FAITH ... my one prayer is that it happens before it is too late for places like Minnedosa ... there are good people in that town who are being abandoned by the Church they have grown up loving and being involved in, and the Leadership doesn't care ... they are more concerned with appearances, prestige and POWER, then they are FAITH ... and until that changes the Church will not only continue to die ... the communities around it will continue to die too ...

You can blame any number of factors for the downward spiral of rural communities, but at the end of the day the ONLY one to blame is the person who did NOTHING when action was required ... and right now, in the United Church of Canada fear has meant that just about EVERYONE is to blame, because few are willing to take a chance ...

Thank GOD that we NOW have the election of President Barack Obama to show us what CAN and WILL happen when people do something rather than complacently accept the way things are ... like the man said - "YES, we can !!"

Failing to embrace change means only one thing: DEATH ... change is what life is ... and for some reason the United Church of Canada in Western Manitoba, and indeed the very communities it serves have collectively forgotten that simple truth and until it is remembered it is destined to die ... and it promises to be a long and painful journey ...

And at the end of the day, I will NOT bite my tongue and refrain from saying - "I told you so!" I will take no joy in saying it - but IT WILL BE SAID, unless the leadership of Assiniboine Presbytery starts to act with courage and boldness and most of all FAITH ...

What are YOU afraid of ???

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, what set you off this time. The election of Obama is not about you. Your continuing unkind comments about Minnedosa, the members of that congregation and the presbytery are all contrary to the demeanor of Obama, a man whom you profess to admire.

shawn said...

My comments are "unkind"??? If you think so ...

I never said the election of Obama is about me - not sure where you get this idea ... oh wait - anonymity is a good thing isn't it? You can take pot shots without owning up to YOUR opinions ... I admire Obama and those who continue to stand up for JUSTICE, FAIRNESS, INCLUSION and most of all TRUTH.

If pointing out that Minnedosa and the United Church at ALL Levels involved in the fiasco that IS Minnedosa United Church need to own up to those things and OWN their short-comings in regards to them, is being unkind well then so be it ...

What set me off this time??

Well, my "friend" - nothing set me off - I'm merely statin' the facts ... Justice, truth, fairness, inclusion and PRINCIPLES are lacking in the leadership of the United Church in Minnedosa and ACROSS Westman ... no unkindness intended - just pointing out the blindingly OBVIOUS.

Why don't you try dealing with THE TRUTH for a change yourself - you might be surprised what you learn.