Within the liturgical year, we are deep into what is known as ordinary time, but it is proving to be extraordinary time.
I wish I meant that in a good way.
This long stretch draws out between Pentecost and Advent for those of us who mark such seasons. School years ease down and then gear up. Gardens flourish, leaves fall. We brush against spring, glide through summer and forge ahead into autumn.
And so here we are, closer now to marking the birth of Christ than the birth of the church, but it feels like we are moving backward even as time marches on.
It is as if we have fallen into a hypocrisy-fueled multiverse where concepts like the truth and disciplines like science have no meaning. Where strangers would argue their right to know the status of a woman’s uterus while simultaneously declaring unconstitutional the requirement that they wear a simple face covering to slow a catastrophe.
Violent insurrectionists who invaded the U.S. Capitol are recast as rowdy tourists, but protestors against racism and other injustices are deemed a threat to democracy.
Incurious allegiance to a country that continues to fall short of its ideals somehow makes us stronger while teaching the fullness of our history endangers us.
Capitalism is the beating heart of our nation, but choosing only to patronize businesses that align with our values is cancel culture and refusing work that doesn’t pay enough to survive is laziness.
The gap between desperate efforts to preserve systems that serve few and the lived reality of most is staggering. We are killing the vision of functional democracy, we are killing our planet, we are killing each other.
How deep is our brokenness and can we recover?
In her book “The Church Cracked Open,” the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers writes, “So much of our American story consists of groups of people protecting themselves and what’s theirs, with a gun or a flag or the cloak of racial, class, or gender privilege.”
She paints a grim picture that, somehow, holds promise if we are willing to turn away from what she calls self-centrism and toward beloved community, seeing opportunity to become more than individual fragments of a duct-taped whole.
One crucial step is what Spellers terms attending to reality — moving beyond fear of the truth and what that means for how we have lived, what we thought we knew, what we desperately want to believe because it feels safe.
“The process of truth telling takes time,” she writes, “but the lies and partial truths that prop up systems of oppression and self-centrism cannot last forever.”
The possibility that the Monument Avenue statue of Robert E. Lee would be removed in my lifetime did not exist in my consciousness. And yet down it has come.
Two statues of Black men now stand as perhaps the most significant in the former capital of the Confederacy. One is Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The other is Paul DiPasquale’s statue of humanitarian and tennis great Arthur Ashe, the only monument still standing on Richmond’s famous avenue.
The base of the Ashe statue is inscribed with words from Hebrews: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
That is extraordinary. In a good way.
Aleta Payne of Cary writes about the intersection of faith, justice, and equity. She can be reached at email@example.com .