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Filtering by Category: Politics

From a Place of Anger

Aaron Guest

ennegra I write this from a place of anger. And I think it’s a good place for me to write from.

Over the past two years I’ve been able to invest more time into understanding myself. It began when a friend introduced me to the Enneagram. It’s a personality test that assigns one of nine “types” to people based solely on their motivations. From “The Perfectionist” to the “The Peacemaker”, it definitively accounts for the way I, and others, behave.

The Road Back to You is a sublime primer on the Enneagram. Written by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, it’s witty and informational and I highly recommend it. The book explains the way the Enneagram demonstrates the spontaneous and unpredictable beauty of being human, and how it can flourish and flounder in a predictable away.  

Discovering my type has changed the way I understand myself. For example, as a 9 (“The Peacemaker”), when it comes to anger I have an innate ability to dissolve it. To bury it and effectively pretend that it wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes it’s not. But sometimes it is. Like today. The day after the election. This is a big deal and it can’t ever not be.

I also have this incredible ability to put everyone’s desires ahead of my own. I rarely ask myself what I want to do. None of these are de facto negative qualities, but they can be. And my tendency is to let them cripple me. To let them prevent me from doing something, from speaking up.

The Enneagram has also shown me how the people closest to me are very different from me. None of us are the same types. And the Enneagram is at it’s absolute best when it’s showing how the types respond to each other in relationships, in decision making, in conversation. It has become the single most useful tool to help me listen and understand the people around me. We are different. We are each our own type, with our own motivations for action and inaction, for decision and indecision, for happiness and sorrow. The Enneagram advocates for empathy. It lights a path to loving our neighbors in a very real and bright way.

One day soon I will see that the evangelical church I am angry with is made up of different people, with all types of wants and fears. But today, in the days after election day, the Enneagram is teaching me about being honest with my anger. To kick over a few tables—to borrow from a famous scene in the Gospels. American evangelicalism has made a mockery of my faith.

So much of my life as a Nine is to seek peace. To deny my anger because it brings disharmony to my life. But, what looks like my desire for peace is really just a desire to shy away from conflict. Should I pray that this anger translates into action? As a nine, when I move toward action because of anger, I enter into a state of becoming. I awake, soul intact and strong and true, into a better person. And I realize that behind all true peace there must be pain and conflict. As Fr. Richard Rohr says, “The only way to overcome the bad is to be the better.”

May I need to want to be better. May I need to want to not be scared. May I need to want to speak up and fight and change this.

Lord, let me stay angry.

A Voice for the Impossible

Rebecca Spears

luisespinalTrain us Lord to fling ourselves upon the impossible, for behind the impossible is your grace and your presence; we cannot fall into emptiness.          —Father Luis Espinal Camps, 1932 – 1980

In March 1980, the Jesuit Father Luis Espinal was tortured and murdered, his bound and gagged body found abandoned on a road outside of La Paz, Bolivia. Originally from Spain, Espinal had moved to Bolivia in 1968 to chair the journalism department at the Universidad Católica Bolivian. Two years later, after falling in love with his new home, he became a Bolivian citizen.

In Spain, Espinal had made a name for himself as an activist-journalist, writing articles on societal injustices, and this work continued in Bolivia. In fact, the priest became a more outspoken activist, living among miners and their families, and advocating for their rights. In 1979, he helped found the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.

These things he did while the political climate was hardening towards dictatorship and control by ultra-conservative militarists and neo-fascists. During the short-lived dictatorship of Luis Garcia Meza (1980 – 81), political parties were outlawed, the press was silenced; assassinations and torture replaced any notion of due process. Espinal’s continued activism and denunciations of government actions labeled him an ardent left-winger, and marked him for assassination.

Some people in the world speak with the courage of their conviction on a daily basis and will not be silenced. They do this despite threats to their person and property, and despite reprisals to those close to them. Father Luis Espinal is one of those people. Common sense tells many of us to tone down our opinions when we are threatened.

I often think of myself as commensensical, and that handicaps me at times, when I don’t speak up. So I am grateful for the people who speak and act as Luis Espinal, not just for themselves but for the rights of others, for a free and more just society.  This quality embodies greatness. The odds facing Father Espinal were stacked against him, his task was nearly impossible. Yet he continued to advocate for the miners’ rights and against government oppression, putting himself in grave danger.

Today in Bolivia, under the leadership of Evo Morales, the citizens enjoy a more free and equitable society with a higher rate of literacy, less poverty, and a commitment to environmental stewardship. Many believe that the influence of Father Luis Espinal several decades earlier helped set in motion this movement toward a more equitable and free Bolivia.  

In July 2015, during Pope Francis’s visit to Bolivia, he stopped along the highway from the El Alto airport to La Paz to bless the spot where Espinal’s body was found. The pope told those who had gathered, “I stop here to greet you and, above all, to remember. To remember a brother of ours, the victim of those who did not want him to fight for freedom in Bolivia. Father Espinal preached the Gospel, and this Gospel troubled them, so they eliminated him. Let us spend a moment in silent prayer, and then let us pray together.”

How could I ever forget Father Luis Espinal’s work: his story inspires me. Though my work is on a much smaller scale, educating special needs students, I remember his words when my own work seem impossible to accomplish.  In fact, his prayer of the impossible has become a living thing to me. I’ve memorized the first lines, so that at times, I can repeat it to myself and keep working.

Antidote to Political Hell

Jean Hoefling

The Trinity (Russian: Троица, tr. Troitsa, also called The Hospitality of Abraham) is an icon created by a Russian painter Andrei Rublev in the 15th century. Though I am as dismayed as anyone by the current election year antics, I take comfort in remembering that bald-faced lunacy exercised in high places is nothing new. But I still have the sense that this election cycle is in a league of its own. Hopefully the bilious clouds of insanity swirling around us this fall will one day coagulate to something Americans can still recognize, once the whole thing is relegated to the history heap.

But the fact remains that we’ve got this crazy-making situation with us for a few weeks longer and I shudder to think of the mean-spirited political tirades on social media yet to come before voting day. The cringe-worthy blurring of vice and virtue we’re daily fed by the media won’t abate either, and the differences between our lead presidential candidates will continue to be measured only in degrees of goofiness on a sordid, subjective moral continuum.

It’s this rigid, linear continuum that bothers me, this seemingly endless road that, God help us, doesn’t seem to be heading anywhere very cool. If politics were geography, I picture a bleached-out, sunken old highway that meanders through topography yet unknown to planet Earth. You can’t tell what season of the year it is, either, and overall there’s just nothing to warrant getting out the camera. Worse, there’s no reward after miles in the car, like a cozy roadside diner where waitresses call you Hon and serve up great patty melts. Beyond the diner that isn’t there, there isn’t a single fun and crazy roadside attraction where they sell fur ashtrays or charge $10 to see the world’s biggest cement prairie dog—something, anything to make you believe the drive is worth it. As to your destination, the road signs on Route Twilight Zone have been tampered with. If you thought you were en route to some pristine Florida beach, you’d be wrong. You’ll end up in a deserted gas station in Nome, Alaska and be told to be happy about it because wind-scarred Nome is the future of America.

It’s in this world-weary frame of soul that I’m drawn in a new way to that most famous icon painted by Russian monk and iconographer Andrei Rublev, his Trinity. A mounted copy of this icon hung in our house for years until one of our daughters spirited it away in a cross-country move. Art critics extoll the 15th century icon for its exquisite aesthetics: the rare translucence of the colors, the ethereal mood and composition of circular unity that comprise a powerful visual representation of the Triune God. For those who seek the spiritual lesson, the attraction goes deeper. These days I gaze hungrily at an online Trinity, feeling an irresistible draw toward the peacefulness even a cyber copy manages to embody. Where else will I find an unbroken circle of fellowship amidst the absurdity around me? Have I forgotten that God is the source of humility and perfect deference, of loving intent that transcends every earthly point of view? This God is at peace with himself. He does not aggressively parade his views on Facebook. Sit before this icon with its nuances of body language between the three Persons who mutely speak of God’s seductive unpretentiousness, as each leans toward or bows in the Others’ direction that they might be affirmed. We forget God is always inclined toward the other, no matter how they’ll be voting in November.

May each of us rise above the fray in these worrisome weeks ahead and choose to incline ourselves humbly toward all we meet. Dostoevsky claimed that beauty will save the world. Perhaps peace of heart may do the same.

Let Me Be Maladjusted

Rebecca Spears

By Colin Mutchler from Brooklyn, United States (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. —Amos 5:24

Like most people, I’ve heard Martin Luther King, Jr. invoking the prophet Amos in old film footage.  In the 1960s, this particular verse inspired many people to advocate for civil rights, and later to advocate against US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Even now, Amos’s words are almost synonymous with Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work for justice. Yet King’s reason for calling up Amos was to petition his own followers to become “maladjusted.” That’s an astonishing call, not what I’d expected.

So often the verse from Amos is quoted exclusively, and out of context. What King said as preamble is this: “I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generations.” What does King mean, maladjusted? I don’t think I’d ever heard that word used on a positive note, until my minister brought it into a proclamation a few weeks ago.

King turned the word into a call to righteousness, when he asked his followers to refuse to “adjust” to segregation and discrimination, to mob rule, violence, and militarism. He went on to name others who in their own era were “maladjusted” or “extremist,” who refused to adjust to a society’s injustices:

Lincoln, “who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist half slave and half free."

Jefferson, who declared that “all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Jesus, “who dreamed a dream of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man."

In the last year, it’s been troubling to hear the name-calling and degrading language used to describe recent immigrants and people of color and women, the veiled and outright calls to violence against those who are different from us. In my heart, I fear that people will become accustomed to the anger and vitriol that so marks the US political process now. This kind of language has been on the fringe for many years, not in the mainstream. This year, hatred in its various expressions has invaded the larger conversations of our society. I believe that language underlies, and underscores, people’s beliefs and intentions. We use language to make ourselves clear about what lives in our hearts. And this is where I think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the prophet Amos.

While I’m not a great leader or a great thinker, I do have the power to let others know what is on my mind and in my heart. I hope that we never become accustomed to the vitriol, and more importantly, to the anger and hatred that underlie such speech. I don’t want to “adjust” to a mainstream call to cut down the stranger, the immigrant, the person who doesn’t look like me.  So let me be maladjusted, and let me ask you to be maladjusted, too.