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Faithful Agitation



“The goal of the Christian life is not to save your soul but to transcend yourself, to vindicate the human struggle of which all of us are a part, to keep hope advancing," said the late William Sloane Coffin. In these pages we're all just trying to keep



Updated: 2017-09-14T05:36:34.289-05:00

 



Mondays with Martin: City Mouse, Country Mouse

2017-03-28T10:55:52.600-05:00

In last Sunday’s New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat proposed that we “break up the liberal city” in the United States. After a brief list of clichés about urban liberalism, Douthat gets to his point: We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies — not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and power and conspire against the public



Mondays with Martin: King Day Crowds and Prayers.

2017-01-16T16:26:54.411-05:00

The confluence of Inauguration Day and the King Day holiday should be instructive. In the days just before we witness the transfer of American power, we celebrate our finest critic of that power. Through most of his brief public life Martin Luther King, Jr. steadfastly stood apart from partisan politics, and with the exception of actively opposing Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential



Christmas 2016

2016-12-24T17:34:44.576-05:00

Friends, Christmas letters typically look back over the year with a nostalgic sepia-toned mix of sweetness and light, but 2016 was not typical. Many of us simply want to put it behind us and hope for something better next year. The deeply troubled state of the world challenges the Christmas proclamation that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it. I reckon



Tears and Fabric

2016-12-13T19:09:27.005-05:00

Of the MLK quotes that have found their way into my writing over the years, these lines, from the Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, have resonated most often with my own thinking: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  I’ve been



Remembering Terry

2016-12-04T13:13:06.294-05:00

When Beth asked me to say a few words this morning, I rested in the silence for a while remembering. When I went to jot some notes I headed the document “Remembering Terry.” But that seems to me to miss the mark. To remember is to put back together. It’s just wrong to think that I am remembering Terry. He was among the most put together human beings I’ve ever known. He does not need me to



Prayers and Lamentations

2016-11-09T08:54:51.755-05:00

It's morning in America. Literally. Not in any rosy metaphorical way, but just in the "lord, I hate mornings and there's just not enough coffee for this" kind of way. It’s raining where I am, and the dull grey seems appropriate to this morning after. Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States of America. Sometimes I have to write things down and read them before I



The Day After

2016-11-03T20:02:20.939-05:00

Rumor has it there’s an election coming up! If you haven’t already voted, I hope you’ve made plans to do so. Elections matter, and, as Calvin understood clearly, followers of Jesus have a deep responsibility to participate in civic affairs, including serving in office and casting our votes for candidates willing to serve. The low regard in which we hold public servants these days is one of the



I'm with Her. Here's why.

2016-09-30T15:10:55.986-05:00

(This post is offered in my capacity as a citizen, not in my role as pastor to a particular congregation. It reflects my personal opinions and not those of the church that I serve.) This post began its life as a comment on Facebook responding to an invitation to view Dinesh D’Souza’s film, Hillary’s America, before casting my vote in this fall’s presidential election. That invitation came in



Coffee and Resistance

2016-09-09T21:10:56.694-05:00

One of the perks of serving a church in metro DC is the need, time to time, to meet a colleague for coffee on Capitol Hill. Today I got to the coffee shop way earlier than scheduled. I could have spent the unexpected free 45 minutes strolling the historic grounds, but it is just too damn hot here to be outside more than absolutely necessary so I hung out in the air-conditioned space. I found a



Mondays with Martin: Standing on Holy Ground

2016-07-19T13:42:03.521-05:00

I’ve been volunteering with the National Park Service at the MLK Memorial for more than a year now. I’m there for several hours most Mondays. I’ve met people from every continent that has more people than penguins. People come to the space, I’m sure, with every imaginable expectation or none at all. Some are checking off another National Park site. Others are part of whirlwind DC tours. Some



Mondays with Martin: Stay Woke

2016-07-12T22:00:42.320-05:00

Monday afternoon at MLK I noticed more than the usual number of folks with their faces buried in screens. I didn’t investigate, but I’m assuming lots of them were searching for Pokemon critters. For all I know, the memorial is a Pokemon gym. I’ll confess that I don’t know what any of that means, though my two young-adult sons could surely explain it. I do know that this is, in the popular



Tin Soldiers and Nixon's Coming

2016-05-04T10:24:50.841-05:00

Forty years ago today Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of unarmed college students at Kent State, killing four and wounding 13. In the aftermath of the shootings President Nixon remarked, "when dissent turns violent it invites tragedy." Of course, it was not the dissenters who turned violent that Monday morning. It was the empire's police, armed with weapons of war trained on



A Modest Proposal

2016-04-25T16:05:46.485-05:00

A Modest Proposal When Bill Maher calls for a tax on religion he could be right, just not how he believes he’s right. The host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher closed a recent show declaring, “If we levy taxes – sin taxes, they call them – on things that are bad to get people to stop doing them, why in heaven’s name don’t we tax religion?” Maher, who is almost as well known for his



Mondays with ... Orville and Wilbur?

2016-04-19T13:55:34.902-05:00

The Wright Memorial on the OBX On the way home from the Outer Banks yesterday we stopped for gas in Ashland, Va. I wound up standing in line to use the restroom. The station had two facilities, each of them a “one-holer” of identical design, furnishing, and, most importantly, function. Each door had a standard-issue restroom placard, one of which read “Men,” and the other “Women.” The women’s



Mondays With Martin: Lines and Justice

2016-04-12T14:11:43.552-05:00

When our youngest was a little girl she was a master at “the Charlie Brown walk.” When she got her feelings hurt – which happens frequently when you’re the youngest child – she would pout off to her bedroom doing the walk. When she felt that something was unfair, she’d do the walk. Sometimes for reasons undetectable to anyone else, she’d do it. Her childhood gave me a great appreciation and



Mondays with Martin: Existential VIP

2016-04-06T14:40:53.276-05:00

The National Park Service treats its volunteers well, right down to the title they've designed to make volunteers feel special: Volunteers in the Parks, or VIP. When the ranger who coordinates volunteers sends out a mass e-mail communication, it is always addressed to VIPs, and, speaking only for myself, we do feel like very important people. I was reminded of that during my four hours at MLK



Mondays With Martin: Heroes and Fame

2016-03-14T15:21:13.625-05:00

I met a hero at the memorial today, and I was reminded a bit about the costs of fame. Actually, this is two stories about separate encounters, but they both have something to do with legacies and the weight of histories. First I met a family of four -- parents and two young-adult children -- having a spring-in-DC vacation. When I welcomed them the mom told me that she had gone to school with



Mondays With Martin: Runners are Clueless

2016-03-01T11:58:40.304-05:00

I am a runner. My brothers are runners. My daughter is a runner. Many of my closest friends are runners. Runners are clueless. This is not a particularly insightful observation, nor a recent one, but it was driven home to me this morning as I exercised a small part of my responsibilities at the MLK Memorial in asking several runners to "please walk through the Memorial." I'll confess to having



Mondays With Martin: It's Cold Out There

2016-01-04T14:27:37.258-05:00

I was struck again, this morning, by the same block of text that grabbed me last month: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." It was breezy and about 30 degrees out this morning. Not bitter cold, by any stretch, but, as the blooming forsythia mutely testify, a darn sight colder than



Christmas 2015

2015-12-24T14:53:38.215-05:00

Dear friends, It’s about 70 degrees and raining out this morning, but the lights on the Christmas tree and the presents around its base insist that it is late December, so “merry Christmas!” We still live in metro DC, but it feels more the way I imagine Miami does just now, so perhaps we’ll go in search of some Caribbean Christmas music, and let In the Bleak Midwinter rest for another season.



Mondays with Martin: Kairos Time

2015-12-14T18:10:51.350-05:00

One day last week on Facebook a friend tagged me in a post recalling something I said about kairos time in a sermon more than a decade ago. It wasn't so much the content (which he certainly didn't recall) but, rather, the concept of moments in the roiling stream of chronos when the future hangs in the balance. In the New Testament, kairos is the Greek behind "the fullness of time," and it is



Mondays with Martin: The Stones Themselves Will Shout

2015-12-07T17:59:53.934-05:00

Visitors to the MLK Memorial frequently ask why the relief was sculpted by a Chinese artist. The artist, Lie Yixin, is a master sculptor whose work is featured in more than 100 monuments in his native land, but his selection for the King memorial remains controversial. His signature block is, to me, one of the small treasurers within the MLK Memorial. I find it particularly beautiful, and point



Mondays with Martin

2015-11-30T13:25:58.418-05:00

After a string of beautiful Mondays, this one dawned cold, grey, and damp. That seems about right for the end of November in these parts, and it is a good way to begin Advent: waiting for the light to come. I pay more attention to Mondays now that I am volunteering at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial most every Monday. Since the humidity broke in early September, we've had one remarkably



Well, Bless His Heart

2015-06-10T15:31:44.494-05:00

I’m happy for Tony Campolo. Really. I am. I just don’t get the fuss over his finally coming around, coming out, coming over, or whatever other phrase you choose to describe his declaration of support for the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. In a statement released this week, Campolo wrote, “It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional



May 4, 1970. Of Sacred Memories and Histories.

2015-05-03T21:56:45.755-05:00

As many years have passed since I stood vigil at 3:00 a.m. May 4, 1980, on the spot where Jeffrey Miller was murdered by National Guardsmen 10 years previous, as had passed in 1980 since the end of World War II. For my 20-year-old self, Hiroshima, Auschwitz, D-Day were ancient history, but for my 55-year-old self the days at Kent State were just before yesterday. It makes sense, of course. We