Pastor Hal mentioned in his pastoral letter that this recent decision of the Supreme Court could be felt as a gut-punch. Indeed, I felt it that way along with several more in recent years; a deadly riot against a secure election, the functional end of the Voting Rights Act, a President telling a sexist and racist group to stand-by, and more.
There is a thread in all of these happenings.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson in her book Caste noted the power of something called “dominant group status threat”: the sense that the out group is doing too well and represents a threat to the dominant caste. For example, the single strongest demographic predictor of those who broke into the Capitol during the January 6th insurrection was if they lived in a county not where Trump won big, but where Biden won and where there was a significant decline in the percentage of the non-Hispanic white population.
Make America Great Again appeals, of course, to a past idealized vision of America which inevitably is an America which was more racist, sexist, heterosexist, and generally less inclusive than the one we have and the one that is emerging. The appeal and the sinful temptation is to support one’s self esteem and to manage the anxiety of change, whether social, religious, economic, racial or environmental, with an appeal to an old status quo of white, male, Christian parental authority (aka patriarchy).
Enter the recent Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade. New York times reporter Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court, describes the five Republican-appointed justices besides Chief Justice John Roberts as “an impatient, ambitious majority,” a majority created by those driven by “dominant group status threat” energy using whatever means necessary to take us back to some version of that past.
In such times, let us be clear that this is not the Way of Jesus.
In such times, let us be faithful to the God of Liberation and Justice.
In such times, let us keep on keeping on, toward the Beloved Community.
In the midst of all the gut-punches I have been drawn to a poem by the late American essayist and poet Adrienne Rich and I offer it as an inspiration to faith:
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those who age after age,
perversely, with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
The Rev. J.T. Smiedendorf has been a UCC minister since 2001, serving churches in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington. He has a particular passion for reclaiming the earthy, embodied, and experiential aspect of Christian spiritual practice. He and his wife Allison are co-founders of The Sanctuary for Sacred Union, an inter-spiritual initiative, focused on spiritual growth, wholeness, and transformation. He will be our Bridge Associate Minister until a new settled Associate Minister is called.