Whatever the outcome of today’s historic election, the crucial question to consider is how we move forward as people of faith. After all, we call ourselves Christians after our early ancestors—who by choosing to follow Jesus, the risen Christ— suffered persecution along the way. We who are the descendants of those called to live by the example of Jesus who was resurrected as the Risen Christ through whom we are baptized and to whom we are called to confess.
I’ve heard two sermons in the past 36 hours and viewed a Facebook video that has greatly influenced my perspective about how we move forward. On Sunday, Reverend Dr. Otis Moss III Preaching from Nehemiah 9 – where Israel recognized a call to confess because there was likewise a need to confess to God – Dr. Moss’ call for our nation to confess sounded much like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said this from his pulpit this past Sunday:
“There is a need for our nation standing on the precipice of an election to confess.”
Then at Monday’s Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Commitment in Observance of Kristallnacht at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen reflected on the story of Noah found in Genesis. Noting that since the ark only had one window, Noah could not see the devastation of the earth. Similarly, for us today, the promise of the Jewish faith, particularly on the Observance of Kristallnacht, is to consider what Noah needs to see and give witness to especially after the return of the dove with a little sprig of grass—showing that the ark could now proceed with a landing. She asked a question that might follow our own confession—What do we need to see? To what do we need to bear witness?
Likewise, a video clip is circulating around Facebook with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalia Lama, with great joy, bearing witness to the idea that “people are fundamentally good.” Is this wondrous statement of nearly two years of challenging discourse a joyful one to have two spiritual leaders share with the world? It seemed to me that they were talking directly to the American people. After all, is said and done, no matter the outcome of today’s election, the Creator fashioned humanity who, through flawed, is none-the-less made in the image of God.
Whatever the outcome of today’s election, Christians are called to remember our baptism and to confess. Following our confession perhaps we will discern what we need to see, what we need to bear witness to. Perhaps our individual and collective confession can help us more effectively lean into tomorrow and henceforth. As Martin Luther King, Jr. asked “Which Way Forward?” I believe we are called to rebuild civility in our public discourse. Since we are imperfect earthen vessels, let today be a day of confession, even as it is Election Day in the United States. Let’s position ourselves to know that like our ancestors, we ultimately are only accountable to the Triune God, no matter the outcome.
In that spirit, let us consider these excerpts from Dr. Moss’ sermon:
Nehemiah 9 that lifts up four elements of confession.
First, confession must be communal. It is a collective act where we are interconnected in recognizing our culpability.
Second, confession must also be truthful. It is where we speak the truth of where injury has been caused.
Third, confession must be spiritual. We recognize the imago dei. All humans are made in God’s image and as such we are all interconnected as creations of the Divine and people have the imprint of the Divine upon themselves.
Fourth, confession should be continual. It should happen daily. We do not confess weekly, but rather daily knowing that when we wake up from last night’s slumber we must confess and pray unto God, “Forgive us for our dreams last night.”
Having these four-part understanding of confession on this Election Day, let this nation collectively confess on behalf of the following:
Our country must confess the creation of the Trail of Tears; for running a pipeline through and poisoning the water on the sacred land of the Stand Rock Sioux and, once again, breaking a treaty with a sovereign nation.
Our country must confess and take responsibility for the genocide, rape, lynching, and deaths of over sixty million people of African descent. We must confess for writing into the founding documents of the United States of America the lie that people of African descent are only three/fifths of a human being and treating them as inhuman.
Our Church must confess that upon Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in 324, the nature, doctrine and theology of the church changed its focus on Jesus toward the focus and support of political edicts perspective of the emperor.
As a Church we must confess to holding misogynistic views. We have made claims that women are not fit to preach, teach, serve or be called by God to do God’s work. We must confess for creating unsafe spaces for women and making it possible for men to claim that the way women dress, look, or wear make-up provide provocation for assault.
As a Church we must confess to hurting the LGBTQAI community. We confess that we have refused to accept their humanity and gifts. We want them to tithe and share their gifts in service, but we simultaneously condemn them to hell.
We must confess loving to preach Jesus but, we not preaching what Jesus preached. This is the reason many millennials are running from the church. They love Jesus but cannot stand the church.
We must confess as a city to tolerating Chicago’s checkered past of race and racism and the intentional creation of economic apartheid. We confess that these acts are not accidental, but rather intentional.
We must confess that the political system of our city is broken and we have not demonstrated the political will to stop the violence. We must confess that we can spend money, time, resources, and strategy organizing a Cub’s parade, but we cannot spend the same amount of time nor energy to figure out how to save our children in the City of Chicago.
Finally, we confess stumbling as children of God. We have fallen and tripped up as parents, spouses, and children. We confess that we hold grudges and have not forgiven. We must confess that although called by God to confess, we do not always do so and that we must learn how to forgive ourselves because God has already forgiven us. Amen!
The Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas has engaged students, academics and communities as a scholar for almost twenty years. She studies, researches, writes, speaks and teaches about the intersection and mutual influence of culture and religion. Her work is rooted intransitively in a Womanist perspective. An ordained Methodist pastor for 35 years with a Ph.D. in Anthropology from The American University in Washington D.C. and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Dr. Thomas’s work has taken her to South Africa, Peru, Cuba and Russia. She has been recognized as an Association of Theological Schools Faculty Fellow as well as a Pew Charitable Trust Scholar.