Tag Archives: Mark Robinson

The U.S. mess: What is prayer going to do?

On the 4th of July we got together with a few people from our church to pray for the country. Independence Day is one of the “Other Major Feasts” in the Episcopal Church.

I was happy to do it. All week my clients, family and friends were stressed out by Biden’s stupor and Trump’s lies at the debate. Then the Supreme Court changed more fundamental principles with their wild logic. Everyone, from all sides of the political spectrum, is upset, thrashing about in a great wave of distress washing over the country. Once people are tossed about and “white with foam,” they are mad because they are jostled and dripping.

So it was good to read this portion of Psalm 33 from the day’s liturgy on Independence Day:

There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;
a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.
The horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
for all its strength it cannot save.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him,
on those who wait upon his love
to pluck their lives from death,
and to feed them in time of famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield. — Psalm 33:16-20

This is basic wisdom handed down from the Jews and vivified in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Way the Truth and the Life. Wait for the Lord.

We are so tempted

I have been thinking about Psalm 33 ever since that morning prayer, and about all those beloved people I have seen  who are wondering what happened to their peace and worse, wondering what horrible thing might happen next. Many of them were anxious long before a wave of anxiety hit them. Many of them were mistrusting before before lies descended on them from all angles.

So what should we all do? It would be tempting to rely on some “mighty army” to save us. Violence is in the air we breath, right now.

For instance, here is something Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, offered last Monday:

“That Supreme Court ruling yesterday on immunity is vital, and it’s vital for a lot of reasons…” [He added the nation needs a strong leader because] “the radical left…has taken over our institutions…[W]e are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” (July 1)

It would be tempting to take matters into our own hands, since it appears God will not be doing what we want, and to be the arbiter of life and death ourselves.  After all, there are these kinds of candidates:

“The New Republic published a June 30 video of North Carolina lieutenant governor Mark Robinson [start at 53:00], currently the Republican nominee for governor of North Carolina, saying to a church audience about their opponents—whom he identified in a scattershot speech as anything from communists to “wicked people” to those standing against “conservatives”—”Kill them! Some liberal somewhere is gonna say that sounds awful. Too bad!… Some folks need killing! It’s time for somebody to say it.” (from Heather Richardson)

As if the pandemic were not enough to set us on our heads, there has been so much more. U.S. citizens seem awash in fear and it is clouding their judgment. Every radical that promises victory and vengeance seems plausible — even to Jesus followers!

We’ve got to do something, of course. But what is it? Infiltrate the police? Blow things up? Write books and make speeches? Build a bomb shelter? It seems like almost anything seems plausible and everything seems impossible.

In the face of all that, here are my suggestions, hatched after prayer featuring Psalm 33.

 Don’t put your trust in chariots, obey God, not men.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. — Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” — Acts 5:29 NASB

In the U.S. people are likely to say, “The other side of the political divide is trusting in guns not God! We are obeying God/the truth/the Constitution!” So maybe we should amplify Psalm 33 to mean, “Don’t trust in the big principle of the moment, in the media’s narrative of reality, in your own prejudices or trauma reactions. Trust in the Lord Jesus, present with you in troubled times, just like he weathered the storm with his disciples.”

It is a year for putting those verses (above) on a post-its and sticking them to our computers or dashboards.

Maybe you could add a few other notes:

  • “Don’t think of 2024 like you are fighting to rule the empire.” Be a Jesus follower.
  • Or “Making the best deal for yourself is not the essence of life.” Jesus already gave you  the best possible deal, anyway.
  • Or Nothing works, so anything might work.” We all feel so guilty for having the wrong political candidates and leaving our children a mess and causing global warming. We’re overwhelmed with our failure to make things work right. Let Go. Let God. And that will free you to be your best self.

Return to the basics

I really wanted to go to that prayer time on the 4th! It felt good and right to pray. It felt necessary to pray in the face of national hysteria or despair.

We are tempted to do everything but what is the secret goodness we bring to the world: Prayer. Community. Worship. But practicing our reality with sincerity makes the world a place where that goodness can and does happen, where our Savior is among us all. If no one sees you or comes to your meeting, don’t worry about it. We are doing a spiritual work, not gaining a market share. Think eternally and act minute by minute.

Assert the truth

I know we are truth challenged, but Jesus isn’t. I know we have variations on what the priority truths are. Don’t worry about it. Jesus fed 5000 with a few loave sand fish, he can use the meager truth he has to work with.

Quite often, during spiritual direction, a person will be up in the air. They don’t know what to think or do. And I often will say, “I think you may know more than you can grasp right now. Let’s be quiet and listen.” It is often surprising just how quickly the right thought or feeling becomes clear.

As for me, I think it has already been revealed that Jesus is my fundamental truth. I mention him a lot and just see what happens. Grace, justice, hope seem to be truths I can follow through every situation. I think my proverb is: Be present with your best, don’t just reactively argue with what is worst. Whatever I have to bring to the world is what it is in who I am and what I do because Jesus is with me.

Embrace unknowing, curiosity, trust, love.

I am meeting with several bewildered couples and experiencing our fractious HOA. So I know people are very tempted to apply whatever power they have to “take someone out.” Like the candidate said, “Some people just need to be killed!” You think that is absurd until you witness people wrecking their marriage or taking down their own community because they are sure some other person is wrong and will ruin them.

Fear feeds the what ifs. Anxiety becomes its own logic. I often suggest to married people, “Really, you do not know what is going to happen. You do not know what can change and grow.” Jesus followers are not fools waiting to get devoured by lions prowling around, of course, but they are also not afraid, because they are already taken care of. They don’t have to know what will happen. They have a destiny. So they can enter toxic times with hope. They can brazenly love their enemies. They can pick out what they can trust and let the chaff blow away.

The seed planting we do always seems small in the face of frightening threats. But each seed has the possibility to grow into the life-changing tree under which some overwhelmed American needs to rest.