What Historically White Denominations Can Learn From the Republican Party

www.flickr.com – prakharevich

The day after election night is like Christmas morning for bloggers and political pundits. Like eager children we come bounding down the stairs ready to rip open and reflect on wins, losses, gaffes and funnies left on the hearth of election night.

Oh but where to start?

I think I’ll start with race.

For as much as some would like to think that we are “over” race or that the whole reason we still have racism is because we keep talking about it, occurrences like John Sununu’s comments about Colin Powell and last night’s demographic breakdown have once again pushed race to the forefront of American political and cultural conversations. Other demographics: class, age, gender, etc. also play a huge part in the discussion, but over and over again, the pundits from both parties kept coming back to race.

The topic that has been particularly compelling to me has been about the future of the Republican party. In light of what one commentator described when talking about the impact of demographic racial diversity on the election saying, “The future as arrived” I am intrigued by how this mostly older, White Republican party will respond and adapt in order to regain influence?

Hey wait a gosh darn minute . . . White and older?

And this is where historically White and aging denominations like my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA) might want to tune into future discussions and developments in the Republican Party. Many of the Republican commentators described what is to come as anything from a pending civil war to a time for regrouping and deep soul-searching, but regardless of the intensity levels, there is obviously going to be some serious talk about how Republicans will reach the increasingly diverse United States population.

Yeah, kinda like what we Presbyterians and others need to do as well.

While I doubt that I will be invited into the strategy meetings of the Grand Old Party, I do know that I may have the ear of some of our Grand Old Denominations. With this in mind let me not-so-humbly offer a few words of unsolicited advice.

First, we must stop seeing these demographic changes as problems that must be leveraged in order to avoid death and instead see these changes as transformational realities that must be embraced in order to experience new life.

And second . . . well, let’s see if we can get a handle on the first one ;-)

On more than one occasion, it was said that the Republican party has a “Latino Problem” that must be addressed. While I understand what was intended by the statement, this framing of an ethnic group as a resource to be leveraged only goes to commoditize a people and does not invite new voices into the conversations as equal partners in shaping and forming the future of the body. This perspective only encourages resentment and disdain, because it forces those who hold power to give it up out of necessity and survival and not out of genuine openness to a new way of being . . . of being Presbyterian, of being Lutheran, of being Republican.

Some might say that this election and the current state of most historically White denominations makes it clear that it is simply a matter of time before our need to hold onto power, privilege and status creates an institutional reality so narrow that, as Brian Williams said about Donald Trump, we may drive “well past the last exit to relevance and veer[ed] into something closer to irresponsible.” And while I am don’t believe that we Presbyterians will be as outrageous as Mr. Trump in the ways we express ourselves during this time, to allow our deep theological and ecclesiastic traditions to be retrained and confined by our unwillingness to express those things in new ways and through difference voices, we will not only move closer to irresponsibility, but we will move closer to being unfaithful.

So as discussions about race continue in politics, and I hope in our churches, let us do so with pastoral hearts for the struggles that change invites, gracious voices that are committed to the conversation and liberating eyes toward who God may be intending for us to become.

This is an exciting and opportune time for us all and I look forward to the ongoing adventure that it is to be the body politic and the body of Christ.

May the peace of Christ be with you and may we see God’s blessings in us all.

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An Open Letter to Three Open Letter Writers

Dear Marcia, John and Victor,

I will cut to the chase and say thank you! Along with thousands of other people, your recent open letters have touch my spirit and moved my soul. Most open letters, including my own, probably have little impact on anyone, but I am confident that your words will impact the lives of people far beyond the circle of writer and recipient. Not to put too much pressure on you all, but through your words people’s souls will be healed, minds will be liberated and lives will be saved.

Marcia – thank you for your Open Letter to Politicians about Rape,

I am writing you all today because I have kept silent so far about the way rape has been called upon by various political combatants lately.  I have not commented or written about the multiple politicians who are using rape to make claims about health care, abortion, and any thing else that you all find politically expedient in this election cycle.  I am writing to you because I’ve learned that silence can be deadly for rape survivors when it goes on too long.

Entire letter from Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop

John – Thank you for your Open Letter to Ann Coulter,

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

Entire letter from John Franklin Stephens

Victor – Thank you for your Open Letter to My Adopted Mom,

My vision has been clouded by forty foster homes, three groups homes, adopted parents who passed away and a biological family that hated me from infancy. I never knew the meaning of “me and you against the world” until you brought me into your life. This is not an excuse, it is an explanation. You know me better than I know myself.

Entire Letter from Victor Lopez

Again, for your words of heartbreak, courage and inspiration thank you. In your sharing you have made a difference in the world, which I suppose was your hope and intention all along. Well done.

Peace,
Bruce

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