“I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh.
I ain’t afraid of your Allah
I ain’t afraid of your Jesus
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God.”
I’m part of a newly minted street choir in Portland, Maine that meets each month to sing out our frustration and make plans to lend our voices to social justice events. In this confusing time, it’s good to connect with others, young and old, who will not be silenced by the malignant force that’s overtaking our world. It’s good to be a small part of the resistance and making plans to participate in the Woman’s March in Augusta on January 21.
But as we get into the catchy rhythm of Holly Near’s song, I grow increasingly sick at heart. For one thing, despite all my misgivings about religion, I am a church person- a former UCC minister turned Episcopalian. All the good that I try to do in the world is offered in the name of my God. And I’m not alone. Since the founding of our nation, faith communities have been at the base of our nation’s most powerful protest movements for abolition, temperance, peace and civil rights. Progressive church leaders march each year in the Portland Gay Pride parade, they advocate for the homeless, they urge all of us to look to our faith in our efforts to shape the world. Many of us will be marching on January 21 in the name of what we choose to call God.
I keep on singing.
“I ain’t afraid of your Bible.
I ain’t afraid of your Torah.
I ain’t afraid of your Qur’an….”
And I have a realization. My deep malaise is not so much about losing an election. It’s not even about the prospect of watching almost a century of progressive policy unravel and seeing such hard-won programs as Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA, minimum wages, and Union protections evaporate into thin air. It’s deeper than that.
I think I’d be OK- well, better anyway- if an obnoxious tea party conservative had won the election. At least he or she would be standing on some kind of deeply felt principles: Biblical, libertarian, pro-life. I’d disagree with the politics and policies, but at least my faith in the American political system would not be shaken to its core. For twenty-seven years I taught high school history and helped a generation of young people grapple with six core (and at times conflicting) American ideals: freedom, equality, individualism, concern for the common good, pragmatism, and optimism. We’ve disagreed mightily over how to balance and achieve these ideals, but we’ve had a basic platform from which to argue. I recognize now how much I’ve taken for granted a political system in which we have a common ideology. I WANT the sense that I’m working together with those I may disagree with to act in the name of our respective gods.
But that’s not what is emerging. The conservative right has jettisoned its moral high ground to embrace Donald Trump, a man whose life and rhetoric have been entirely devoid of principle. And the Republican Party, drunk with its own power, seems hell-bent on leading us into some twenty-first century version of The Lord of the Flies. They have embraced Trump’s blatant intermeshing of business and political power is the new normal. They’re not going to get bent out of shape by allegations from seventeen security agencies that our election process was hacked by Russia for the purpose of controlling its outcome. They seem OK with Nazis in the White House. They’re noncommittal about a president who refuses security briefings and taunts the public with a game of “I know something I won’t tell.” Their first move as a new Congress was to dismantle the House Ethics Committee. . . .
Right now I am afraid.
I’m afraid to turn on the news and see what’s happening next.
I’m afraid of a government that no longer has even a pretext of idealism to it.
When in comes right down to it, I’m less afraid right now of what you do in the name of your god than in what we as a nation are going to do in the name of NO god.