Communities of faith give us, and our children, a moral and spiritual foundation. They give us people to look up to, those who love us in hard times, and people who spend time and energy taking care of people who need help.
MY wife and I were in Atlanta shortly after the election. Friends took us to the Atlanta Music Festival where we heard, among others, the Morehouse College Glee Club, one of the nation’s pre-eminent historically black colleges.
The 75 young men belted out “My Soul Has Been Anchored in the Lord,” stirring my soul. I have long been an admirer of the deep faith tradition and culture of the black church. Earlier in the day we had sat in the sanctuary of the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached.
But I was troubled as I listened to the choir. Are our souls, sufficiently anchored in the great civic and faith traditions for the days ahead, the days of a Trump presidency?
Three parts of that inheritance are held pretty loosely these days. One is citizenship. Do we know our American history and our own form of government? Are they taught to our children?
Fifty-eight percent of voters turned out in this last election. I’m told that’s pretty good. It still means that 42 percent of those who could have voted didn’t. And it means that roughly half of the voters put a guy in office who dodged military service and brags of not paying federal taxes.
It’s time to dust off our understanding of doctrines like “the separation of powers,” “the rule of law,” and “the writ of habeas corpus.” Most 4th of Julys I sit around a campfire with friends as we take turns reading aloud the Declaration of Independence. It’s not only edifying, it’s moving.
Citizenship and patriotism, when taken for granted, tend to wither away, leaving us with little to pass on to our children, and with insufficient resources to resist a demagogue like Trump.
Another element of soul-anchoring is a time-tested moral and spiritual tradition and a community that supports it, meaning a church, temple or synagogue. I know that many in a place like Seattle will object. I have heard: “Churches hate gays, they tell women to obey their husbands, and never allow people to ask questions.”
Here’s the thing, I’ve been part of churches my whole life and none of them have ever been anything like that.
Such communities of faith give us, and our children, a moral and spiritual foundation. They give us people to look up to, those who love us in hard times and people who spend a fair amount of their time and energy taking care of people who need help.
If you are open to being part of faith tradition and community, I encourage you to be wary of big-box, cult-of-personality “churches.” But most churches and synagogues aren’t like that.
A third soul-anchor for hard times is supporting good journalism and a free press. Fake news and internet sites that run on click-bait are a big problem. But they too aren’t the whole story. For God’s sake, subscribe to a decent newspaper. Trust me, we are going to need good journalists now more than ever.
Don’t look for the newspaper or television news that just tells you what you want to hear. Look for the ones that go deeper, that challenge the way you see the world.
The Atlanta Music Festival concert began with all the choirs, joined by the 2,000-member audience of all races, singing James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The final verse includes these words,
“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray … ”
Johnson’s great hymn is part of our shared spiritual and moral inheritance. When that inheritance is neglected, we lose our anchors — anchors we will need in the times of testing.