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One of these mornings, you’re going to rise up singing

 I’ve been following with interest the various church-based reactions to the #OWS movement around the world.
      St. Paul’s Cathedral, London has been a weird, ongoing train wreck of a reaction.  From the outside, it looks like they thought the protest would go away soon, so they didn’t try to engage systematically.  They just sort of tolerated the protesters’  presence, until they didn’t anymore.
        It’s difficult to tell what caused the problem–tourists were getting upset?  (and see, that just makes everyone look bad–the cathedral charges tourists, and that’s a source of income.  So let’s hope it’s not that, shall we?)
     So then St. Paul’s decried the protest as a ‘health and safety hazard.’ And closed.  And asked them to leave.
     At which point, one of the canons of St. Paul’s said he would quit if the protesters were made to leave.  At which point, in jump the media.  And then the dean of St. Paul’s said he would resign, and the church would reopen, and no one had to leave, and didn’t everyone just feel dumb now, what with the quitting and stuff?  And also, the Bishop of London was getting involved, and now they were announcing a special task force!  For ethics and financial systems!  Because we should talk about these things, yes, but in y’know, organized ways, in rooms with proper tea, and biscuits and whatnot.  This task force was to be spearheaded by the Church of England and wouldn’t that please make the protesters happy, and couldn’t they please, maybe, go home now?
Unsurprisingly, they were less than impressed.
Today, news broke that after the dean resigned, the Chapter (vestry of a cathedral) met, and decided to immediately drop legal action against the protesters, and essentially slink quietly away, looking foolish.
This whole thing has been playing out in the media on both sides of the ocean for the past week or so,  and Episcopal Cafe has done a bang-up job of covering it here.
I’d also direct you to what has been going on in NYC and our homegrown Episcopal communities.  Trinity, Wall Street (aka: The Church that Owns Wall Street, in a Fairly Literal Manner) released a statement at the beginning of the Occupy movement.  It is here.  Since then….no drama.  No standoffs.  Members of their staff have participated in the protests, have held Eucharists for the marchers. Other NYC area Episcopal churches have done likewise.  Similar scenes have played out in Boston, Philadelphia,  other cities.
It strikes me that this difference of reaction mirrors, in large part, the divide in the church.
     On the one hand, we have the old traditions, and the institutional memory of being In Charge.  We represented the bastions of our civilization, that Is Not to Be Questioned.  We were content in the knowledge that we were in charge, we had the power, and we got to call the shots.  We got to decide who shared power with us, how decisions were made, and how discussions were held (in comfortable rooms, with tea, sherry and cookies, thank you very much.)  We got to decide who was in those rooms, and even what was allowed to be on the table for discussion.  The buck stopped with us.  And who was anyone else coming in from the outside to question our benevolence and our wisdom?  Seriously, how dare they?  (These people shall get no sherry.)
     On the other hand, we have been slowly coming to the realization that the power we had has left us, in many ways. We aren’t the numerical majority any more, we don’t  attempt to select the leaders of countries (unless you’re Pat Robertson, in which case, I have a LOT more to say to you).
So what we preach rings hollow unless it is backed up with action.  No one will listen to us unless we live out what we preach, individually and corporately.  And we can’t get away with preaching a Christ who ‘came to set the captives free, to preach good news to the poor’ while we try to hold on to our own power and wealth, and protect it at the expense of others.  People, generally, don’t buy that.
The good news is, however, that this frees us up to do amazing things.  Trinity gets to open their doors in an authentic way to be a meeting space for conversations about what an ethical economy.  They get to be a prophetic voice without worrying so much about what part of their entrenched support they will be losing.  If you let someone else uphold the status quo for a while, you get to do a lot more heavy lifting in ministry.
The status quo upholding gets really boring after a while.

I had to start a blog now…

So, I wanted to start this blog with something happy, upbeat. Then not so much. Thus follows the obligatory “what do you think about bin Ladin?” post.

The answer?
I don’t quite know. I don’t.
I found out what had happened last night via Facebook, when around 9:20pm Arizona Maverick Time, I finally noticed the Internet exploding, and I switched over to MSNBC’s live stream. (and let’s all take a moment to reflect on the fact that ten years ago, nothing I just wrote existed.)

I watched Brian Williams say things. I watched military guys talk about weapons, and equipment, and try to sound tougher than each other (retired military guys are awesome at that). I watched the President say smart and true things, and look really tired, and determined. And I texted my brother, and we marveled that bin Ladin was evidently living in a McMansion for the past ten years, and pizza delivery guys were the key to the whole deal, and did ‘Arrested Development’ turn out to be prophetic? (He was watching Fox News online, waiting for them to figure out a way to say Obama had done this wrong, somehow.)

And I tried to figure out what this meant– people were gathering outside in the streets, according to the news. Shouldn’t I be feeling jubilant, or patriotic, or relieved, or something?

I had two weeks in college before the towers fell. Two weeks of being independent from the ‘safe’ world of childhood before that got shot to hell for everyone. I can dimly remember a time before security checks and liquid restrictions and color terror alerts and the Patriot Act. But the reality is that my entire independent life, short two weeks, has been lived in the shadow of the falling towers. My friends from high school signed up for ROTC to pay for college and got shipped to Afghanistan and Iraq. My seminary professors told stories of ‘working on the Pile’ after the attacks, praying for the dead, caring for the recovery workers. My parishioners served in the wars, they read the names of the dead and wounded in the prayers every week, they kept things running at home, they tended the wounded when they returned. They sent their kids off to the wars, again and again and again. For nearly ten years.
And watching those impromptu parties last night, watching the college kids climb on the lampposts outside the White House, it nearly felt like the past ten years had been a nightmare that we could wake up from now. Like it would be that easy. That you can have one cinematic, 40 minute battle and wham! The story ends, the good guys win, and peace and justice reign forever more. It was like a flicker of light– for one brief moment I could believe that somehow life could go back to ‘normal’ — whatever normal life I thought I would have as a child.

Which it won’t. Those ten years aren’t coming back. Neither are the soldiers and the civilians killed, neither is the respect we lost with the brilliant muck-up that was/is the Iraqi War. Neither is the blind faith I had in my government at one point, (and I have news for you, if you think I’m jaded about the system, have a long talk with a current college student. Many of them will show a well-earned cynicism which is twice as well-polished as mine. They don’t remember the Peace Dividend, and all fun debates over that surplus-thing).

None of it is coming back. The wars won’t end today. I’ll still wonder what’s showing up when my passport gets scanned, and make John Ashcroft-is-listening jokes when I talk on the telephone. Killing Osama takes out a terror kingpin. It helps dismantle al-Qaeda. But it’s not magic. The things in our society that led to our wars, to our living in fear these past ten years are still here. Killing one guy won’t fix it.

This is probably why, on a purely cold, hard, practical level, Jesus recommended praying for our enemies, rather than beating the crap out of them. After you kill them, you just are going to find some new ones, and the line between good and evil is still going to run smack dab through the center of your own heart.*

*St. Augustine, gleefully paraphrased.