Sabbatical (eCrozier #302)

The eCrozier is going on sabbatical with me for the next 3 months. I may send the eCrozier on a world tour, but I’m not going along. This sabbatical is not a three-month long vacation (although Kelly and I have a week in Nova Scotia planned). I’m not “vacating.”  I’m taking a sabbath rest from my episcopate. This will be a 3-month holy day (holiday) for me so that I may rest from my duties and responsibilities.

A sabbatical is counter-cultural in a world where over-functioning is rewarded and keeping up a frenetic pace is seen as a sign of one’s importance and self-worth. It shouldn’t be counter-cultural in the church, but so often it’s seen that way. Some feel they need to justify a sabbatical by making statements like: “I’ll come back from my sabbatical rested and renewed, so then I’ll be able to over-function even more!” Or, “I’ll spend my time on sabbatical solving all the problems of the church, so when I come back, we’ll implement my master plan and it’ll be huge, I tell you, huge!”

I will be engaging in neither scenario when I return. As Parker Palmer wrote: “By surviving passages of doubt and depression on the vocational journey, I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” I’m neither doubting nor depressed, but I do need this time away for my self-stewardship and for the care of my aging parents. It will be a privilege for me to be with them in this season of their lives.

Part of what I hope my sabbatical will do is break me from some of my own expectations around productivity. Like some, I don’t feel I’m worth much if I don’t accomplish something. So, I’m going to read some books for fun. On some days, I won’t set my alarm clock. I’ll sleep in if the dogs let me. I’m going to write some things I’ve been wanting to write for some time. I may just wonder around the back yard. Who knows? I’m not going to answer emails regularly. The world in which I inhabit, particularly the world of the Diocese of Georgia, can survive if I step away for three months and aren’t around to run things. I don’t need to watch God’s flank (self-importance is such a horrible sin). God got along quite well before I arrived.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the vocation to which God has called me. I’m thankful for the privilege God and the people of this Diocese have given me for the last 6 ½ years. Spiritually, I can sing with the Reverend James Cleveland, that “I don’t feel no ways tired.” But, truthfully, I’m a bit worn down physically and emotionally by the demands of being a bishop. The sabbatical will give me the time and space to get back in shape, so when I return my body and emotions will be hopefully as enlivened as my spirit.

So, see you in late August. By the way, “Save the Date!” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be with us in 16 months on September 24, 2017. It’s early and we’re still working on the details, but right now just picture a large tent on a late Sunday afternoon and some good, old-fashioned revival preaching.



When I was a young curate in Indianapolis in the early 1980s, a parishioner of mine was also a leading pediatrician at the Indiana Children’s Hospital. As I got to know him and his work, I was confronted by some significant things I hadn’t known before; things that had never occurred to me; that were out of my own experience or even my own imagination. In other words, I was just plain ignorant about some things even though I assumed at the time that I was well educated and knew just about everything there was worth knowing (ah youth!).

This pediatrician headed a panel of other doctors and medical professionals who had the awesome responsibility for discerning which gender to assign to babies brought to the Children’s Hospital. More often than probably anyone thinks, children are born with mixed genitalia, or confused genitalia, or none at all. My parishioner and his team had to weigh all the data they had in front of them and do their best through medical procedures and other measures to assign a gender to these babies. They were greatly committed to their work because they knew they were making decisions that would affect these children for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes they didn’t. And they often wouldn’t know whether or not they got it right until long after the children grew up.

Science and medicine have come a long way in the last 30 years or so, but much about human sexuality and gender identity is still unknown to us. It seems odd to many of us that someone who has the apparent biology of one gender might experience life inside their soul as the other gender. What seems even odder to me is that some other people would think that people who have this gender dilemma are doing it just for fun, or to be different, or just to flagrantly express themselves. No one would wish to bring such a dilemma on themselves knowing the external pressure and possible social ridicule they could face. The pull of gender identity in each of us is strong. Most often it’s clear and unambiguous, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s messy and confusing, like life itself sometimes is for all of us.

I’m certainly no expert on biology or medical science, but I’ve spent a life time reflecting theologically on the world around me using the teachings of Jesus and his Cross as my foundation. Often my reflection has led me to the completely obvious spiritual insight that life’s messy and not always as clear as we’d like. As St Paul says: “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And Jesus, no matter with whom he interacted: the rich young man, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jairus, Simon Peter, or even Judas Iscariot – Jesus always showed mercy. And he called his followers to show mercy as well, because, well, life’s messy.

I don’t know the answers to the questions that human sexuality and gender identity pose. I do know that “Restroom Laws” try to solve a problem that does not really exist. And I do know this as well: when Jesus was faced with the messiness of this world, he responded to it with such grace that not even the grave could contain him.



No one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. – James 3:8

The Latin term ad hominem is used to describe a person who attacks another person when he/she is making a claim rather than address the actual point the other person is making. This is usually done when a person has no substantive way of responding to the other’s point. “You’re stupid for saying that” is a common ad hominem refrain where we attack the person’s intelligence rather than what they’re actually saying. We do this to put the other person on the defensive and deflect attention away from the point he/she is making. This is akin to a magician who doesn’t want us to see how he’s doing a particular trick. He waves a hand high above his head ostentatiously so we’ll look at that hand and not see the other hand that’s doing the trick. It’s deception, but in the magician’s case, it’s done only for our entertainment.  

Blessed James has a very low view of human nature and our ability to keep our words from spewing forth “deadly poison.” He concludes that “no one can tame the tongue.” If we’re at all self-reflective and honest, we must admit we’ve all failed to tame our tongues at one time or another. It’s not pretty when it happens. When I look back at the times my tongue was “a restless evil,” it was usually when I was feeling inadequate compared to the other people around me or in some way excluded by them. In a childish, mean-spirited way, I thought I could build myself up by tearing others down. If I could humiliate them with words, then maybe no one would notice my own failings.

Unlike some who argue we’ve entered a coarser, meaner public square in recent times, it seems to me that such coarseness and meanness has always been a part of our currency of communication in the human family. We just hear and see it more often than we used to because we’re so connected through all manner of media. I do agree with those who make such claims that these attacks have gradually become less and less shameful in our culture. And maybe that’s because of how often we now experience them. The “deadly poison” of ad hominem attacks we now regularly witness just drips, drips, drips into our waiting souls and we eventually become inured to them. We may even come to believe that those on the receiving end of such attacks probably have it coming to them.

Enter Donald Trump, who like me when I’ve behaved childishly, thinks he can build himself up by tearing others down. He tries to humiliate other people with the “restless evil” of his tongue so maybe no one will notice his own inadequacy. He called former Texas Governor Rick Perry a “dimwit.” He made fun of Carly Fiorina’s face. He said Senator and former POW John McCain was no war hero. He implied a reporter, Megyn Kelly, was menstruating because she had asked him a difficult question he didn’t want to answer. This is the deceptive behavior of a mean-spirited magician. Like I said, we’ve all engaged in such shameful conduct in our lives, but most of us recognized it for what it was, sought repentance, and then a more gracious path forward. Not Donald Trump. He just continues. I pray we see this magician’s act for what it is and that the “better angels of our nature” not find it the least bit entertaining.



Our sins are stronger than we are – Psalm 65:3 (Book of Common Prayer)

For much of Church history, the Psalmist’s conclusion wasn’t questioned. It was simply true: “Our sins are stronger than we are.” We used to believe that left to our own devices, and sin being what sin is, we’d often drag ourselves, and those around us, “down to the pit,” as the Psalmist elsewhere puts it. But we’ve nearly lost the capacity to speak in these terms and thus we’ve no way of conceptualizing the ways that our sins drive our neighbors “down to the pit.” I believe there’s a connecting thread between our lost capacity for the vocabulary of sin and the growing poverty rate in our country.

Many people today are drowning in poverty. There are 46.2 million of us living below the poverty line, the highest number in the 52 years. Poverty has also engulfed 16.4 million children. That’s 22 percent of all children in the U.S., the highest numbers since 1962, and the highest percentage since 1993. The number of us in deep poverty (defined as less than half of the poverty line, or about $11,000) now stands at 20.5 million, or about 6.7 percent of the population, up from 4.5 percent in 2000.

Our Christian faith gives us the language to talk truthfully about this, but, as I wrote above, we’ve nearly lost the capacity to do so. That doesn’t mean that sin has totally left the Church’s vocabulary. It merely means that part of our sin is that we have blind spots about our sin. Those who still use the language of sin and believe it’s a powerful force in human life (a “high” doctrine of sin) tend to view sin as limited to one’s personal violations of God’s will. And those who are uncomfortable both with the notion of sin and its vocabulary (a “low” doctrine of sin), they’re left with feeble language when it comes to addressing the devastating reality of poverty. So, they use terms like “unfairness,” “inequality,” or “injustice” Those terms imply that with a tweak here and a vote there we can fix poverty, but those concepts lack a motivational robustness because they don’t necessarily point us toward being out of right relationship with God.

The number of us suffering poverty is increasing because we haven’t been able to call poverty what it truly is: a profound sin against God and our neighbor. If we recapture a “high” doctrine of sin (which I believe the Bible bears out), then we’d recognize our guilt in what we’ve done and be motivated to amend our lives collectively. We’d demand far more governmental intervention into the economic marketplace in terms of job creation, affordable housing, and food support. Sinners that we are, something needs to slow down our greed and avarice, which leads to a disregard for our neighbor’s plight. We’d also demand more from our religious and civic organizations; that they’d also be engines of affordable housing and hunger alleviation. But if we don’t believe that our sin is real and a prime cause of poverty, if we continue to confine sin to a narrow slice of human behavior or disregard its profound reality altogether, then nothing will change. It’s time to admit “our sins are stronger than we are” and then put in place serious structures that will mitigate how our sin devastates poor people. We’re allowing poverty because we have a poverty of language about sin.



Francis & Justin (eCrozier #297)

In an eCrozier in November of 2013, I wrote that Francis had become the first “Anglican Pope.” Today, I’m even more convinced that’s the case. I wrote then: “this Pope is a man who has a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. His strong faith gives him the freedom to be gracious and compassionate and to approach life with humility, openness, and curiosity. Maybe that’s why he’s so confounding to so many people, both in the Roman Church and outside it.”

In his recently published document called Amoris Laetitia, or “The Joy of Love,” he didn’t issue any new doctrine. He, however, insisted that his clergy focus on the pastoral care of their flock, rather than on the judging of them. Each Roman Catholic, he contends, should listen to their individual consciences while also keeping in mind the Church’s dogma. This doesn’t mean Francis is throwing out Roman Catholic dogma. Rather, he seems to be saying that an individual’s conscience matters and if a person deep in her/his heart discerns something to be God’s will for her/his life, then that may well be the truth she/he must follow. He’s creating some “wiggle room” between the experience of the individual and the official teaching of the Church.  

We Anglicans live in that “wiggle room,” not because we’re “soft on sin” or because we don’t believe Jesus or the Mosaic Law taught us moral behavior, but because we know that life is usually messy, that we don’t always make the right choices (not a news flash), and that such “wiggle room” is where we often experience the powerful thrust of God’s grace in our lives. Pope Francis calls upon his flock, and particularly his clergy, to “examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality.” Whenever we put rules above people’s lives, then we tend to get hard-hearted, caring more about the rules than the people who are called to keep them. Yes, Francis acknowledges that Jesus set forth a demanding ideal for his disciples, but in doing so Jesus “never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals.”

And then we have Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently received news that the man he thought was his biological father, Gavin Welby, actually wasn’t. Instead the Archbishop learned that it was Sir Anthony Montague Browne who for many years was the private secretary to Winston Churchill. In explaining what happened, the Archbishop’s mother wrote that right before her wedding to Gavin Welby, she was “fuelled by a large amount of alcohol” and “went to bed with Anthony Montague Browne.” Such news could’ve become the brunt of tabloid snickering, but the Archbishop addressed this news with grace and compassion toward his mother recognizing that she was an alcoholic at the time and suffered from its addiction. He wrote that he and his wife have faced much harder news in their lives (they had baby daughter who was killed years ago in a car accident). He ended by saying: “I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.”

Two remarkable disciples of Jesus modeling for us how to follow our Lord with grace and compassion for others (and also for themselves).



Losing (our bad) Religion (eCrozier #296)

David Dark’s new book, Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, is brilliant. Dark’s other books are equally so (The Gospel According to America, Everyday Apocalypse, and The Sacredness of Questioning Everything). In this book, Dark delves into our religiosity, particularly those who claim they have no religion or who call themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” He doesn’t quote the 20th Century theologian, Paul Tillich, who wrote that our God is whatever our “ultimate concern” is, Dark actually goes deeper and wider than Tillich. Rather than “ultimate concern,” Dark writes of religion as our “controlling story.” What are the narrative strains that have been woven together by our experience to bring us to certain conclusions about life’s meaning and purpose? So, religion for Dark is more than a fixed point of “ultimate concern,” it’s the sum of our life-long experience, our “controlling stories,” that shape how we then make sense of life’s meaning and purpose.

Dark is quite gentle with people’s “controlling stories” who claim that their religion is Jedi from Star Wars or St John Coltrane, the Jazz genius who composed “A Love Supreme” (there’s actually a church who worships around that famous piece of music). It’s easy for us who have more traditional religious convictions and practices to snicker at such devotions dismissing them as bad religion. Dark doesn’t go there. While his own faith is solidly Christian, he recognizes clearly how we form convictions based on our “controlling stories.” Instead of taking cheap shots at other people’s religion, he’s more interested in helping us see more clearly about our own, whether we acknowledge we’re religious or not. He holds up a mirror where we can judge for ourselves whether or not our particular emperor is wearing any clothes. As I read Dark’s book, I recalled sociologist, Peter Berger, and his concept of plausibility structures. Religion serves as a plausibility structure for us. It helps us make the world intelligible.

So how’s your religion doing these days? Is it working for you? Or, are certain parts of its foundation cracking or crumbling? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may be that our our particular understanding or practice of our religion no longer is sense-making for us. It may be we’re dealing with the problem of suffering for the first time (at least it’s hitting us now) and our “controlling story” no longer works. Or, maybe our religion has been Manichaean, full of judgment for the “other” and our “controlling story” now has cracks in the foundation where mercy and forgiveness have seeped in. These shake the foundation of our “controlling story” in a good way, if we’re willing to pay attention.

Now, there is bad religion out there (and Dark I think would agree). Religion that denies reality rather than embraces it, that scapegoats others rather than holds us responsible for our lives, that promises only the good in life while not accounting for the bad. These are all elements of bad religion yet people have woven them into their lives and they’ve become part of their “controlling story.” I know I’m biased, but only Christianity calls us to embrace reality, not scapegoat others, sees us clearly for the mix of good and bad we all are, and accounts for all of that. Other religions do some of those, but not all of them. For me, Jesus and his cross is the only intelligible story that’s sense-making.



This week on NPR’s Fresh Air there was an insightful commentary by music critic Sarah Hepola. In the piece (“When You Become the Person You Hate On the Internet”), she addressed social media, which gives us all a chance to expose the worst of ourselves to the rest of the world. One day, she heard the hit 90s song, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which she then described in a Facebook post “as the worst song of all time.” The song is about an estranged couple who reconcile after watching the Audrey Hepburn film by that same name. Her post incited some of her friends to pile on, asserting that they also hated the song. She wrote that she got great satisfaction for having created such “a delightful little bonfire of disdain.” She, however, forgot that among her Facebook “friends” was one who just happened to be in the band that had recorded the hit song.  

She thought of removing the post, but figured that would draw more attention. She just hoped this guy never checked Facebook. But he did. She didn’t quote his response to her post. She only described it as implying that she wasn’t “a very nice person.” This sent her into existential anguish. As a writer, she’d been on the receiving end of people cruelly critiquing her work. Now she knew what that was like. She’d become the type of person she herself hated. But she insisted: “I am a nice person, although I sometimes do not-nice things.” We all engage in such self-assessments that attempt to pronounce cheap self-absolution. How do we differentiate between being a nice person who sometimes does not-nice things and being a not-nice person who sometimes does nice things? Does a nice person do nice things 51% of the time? 75% of the time? 99% of the time? Where’s the cut off line for appraising yourself as a nice person? You see the problem here.

Ms. Hepola isn’t the first person to struggle with such things. St. Paul wrestled with the same internal opponent. In Romans 7, he declares: “I don’t understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Ms. Hepola, I think, would agree with Blessed Paul. Later, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, wrote in his Confessions about a time in his youth when he nihilistically destroyed fruit from a pear tree. That made him ask himself why he also did the very thing he hated. St. Paul wrote that the Jewish Law, while being good, served to expose our sinfulness before God. In our post-Christian culture such an insight into God’s Law may not be possible for many people anymore. They’re simply unaware of it just as they’re unaware of how Jesus dealt mercifully and graciously with our sin on the cross.

Social Media now serves a similar purpose for us as the Jewish Law did for St. Paul: it exposes the less than flattering truth about ourselves. Many people, however, are left to a lonely, internal struggle all the while hoping others we’ll see them as “nice people who sometimes do not-nice things.” For what else can they hope in a culture that was once based on honor and is now based on shame? They’re trapped in the endless loop of self-shaming and then cheap, attempted self-absolution (“Well, I’m not as bad as others”). This is where our personal, relational evangelism matters. We all know someone stuck in this endless loop. We’ve been in it ourselves. But we must be truthful: The Gospel isn’t about us becoming nice people. It’s about Jesus loving and redeeming us anyway.


I’ve always been fascinated by numbers. With today’s technology we can look back almost 14 billion years into the universe’s history and see the cosmic explosion of God’s creative Big Bang. It’s mind-boggling to think that anyone can even conceive of a number like 14 billion. Cosmic numbers are on my mind this Holy Week. But more mundane numbers are also crowding my brain. 68 teams started in the NCAA basketball tournament. After today there will only be 8.

When I was a teenager we sang along with Three Dog Night: One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do; two can be as bad as one: It’s the loneliest number since the number one. When my father caught me in some transgression as a child, which was quite often (I was not the most obedient of children), he used to say to me: I got your number, buddy! It was his way of saying I wasn’t fooling anybody but myself.

I have another number for you: umpteen. I didn’t know this, but it’s a real word according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It’s a blend of umpty (such and such) and -teen (as in thirteen). It’s first known use was in 1918, but I first heard it used when my father would say to me: “I told you umpteen times to _______.” Since I didn’t know how much umpteen was, it became a word of grace indicating my father wasn’t really keeping a precise score of what I had “left undone.” If he’d said: “I told you 237 times to _______” then that would’ve meant he was meticulously keeping an exact score of all my sins. As it was, umpteen left room for grace to take root. My father still “had my number,” but it was an inexact, graceful number: umpteen.

The events of Holy Week starkly remind us that God has “our number.” From Judas’s despicable betrayal of Jesus to Peter’s broken-hearted denial that he even knew Jesus; from Pilate’s effort to wash his hands of the whole affair to the religious leader’s blood-thirsty tenacity to see Jesus dead; from the disciples running away like rats from a sinking ship, to the faithful women who steadfastly refused to abandon Jesus as he was taken from the cross and buried: God indeed has our number.

If we numbered every human virtue and vice, my hunch is we’d find each one of them on display in the biblical characters of Holy Week. You see, the Bible not only reveals to us the truth about God, it also reveals to us the truth about ourselves. And that truth about humanity is completely unmasked and laid bare in the story of Holy Week. God has our number, all 7,411,382,569 of us.

But thanks be to God, God isn’t keeping score. In raising Jesus from the dead, God ended score keeping forever. That, however, doesn’t stop some from the seemingly pathological need to keep score, a way for us to be “one up” and pass judgment on others. But when God raised Jesus from the dead, God eliminated the need for scorekeeping or for even settling scores. God reduced the number down to one question for us: God either raised Jesus from the dead or God didn’t. Either God is in the business of bringing new life to humanity or God isn’t. Only one of those can be true.



A Word for the Church (eCrozier #293)

Below is a statement from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. We passed it unanimously, which, from my experience in the House, is a rare occurrence. That should indicate to the entire Church how strongly the bishops of our Church feel about this.

A Word to the Church

On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.

In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by the season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.

In the moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshipped a golden calf constructed of their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege. We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hope of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and seek the common good above all else.

We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and that we will not betray our true selves.

Now for my personal thoughts on the above statement. While I agree 100% with what we bishops wrote, I think in some ways it’s not a strong enough warning. Our country is at a pivotal moment in its history. During times of great cultural change or of profound dislocation and uncertainty, nations historically have made poor choices in protecting the common good, but particularly for the less powerful, which usually meant religious or ethnic minorities. Those times of uncertainty have led nations to scapegoat those on the bottom rung of the ladder. Our nation has had signs posted in its history that read: “Irish need not apply” or “No Colored Folk” or “No Jews.” We imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II for no legitimate reason. We shouldn’t see ourselves today as being so morally pure or advanced that such things couldn’t happen again. They well could. When people are desperate they can act violently and irrationally. And when their desperation is fueled by scapegoating, it leads to a national moral failure.

Future generations of Christians in America will look back and offer their judgment on how we behave in the days ahead. Let’s pray that their judgment will find us faithful.



Reinhold Niebuhr wrote: Original Sin is “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.” It’s obvious everywhere. It’s not just that we commit sinful acts but that we’re sinful by nature. If you doubt that, have children. I have a robust view of my own sin as we all should. As my momma always said, we’re “messes.” Some call this having a “low anthropology” (expecting that none of us will always behave well). That’s why God’s grace is so obviously and completely necessary. As the Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Lent reminds us: “we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.” God’s grace showered upon us is the only power that can make us right and whole before God.

That being said, we all should have reasonable expectations that in our relationships and in society we’ll at least try to act in ways that exhibit honesty, decency, and respect for others. Laws help. They create boundaries for what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not. Whether it’s hurting another person or running a red light in our cars, laws dissuade us from behaving poorly or endangering others. Laws have their place. Even hardened thieves don’t want other people to steal their stuff.

But laws have their limits. They can’t engender mercy, forbearance, or compassion. Laws can’t mandate love for others or require us to think first, not of our own needs, but those of others. Laws can’t oblige us to be kind to others, treat them with dignity, or show them basic decency. Such a stance in life comes from a different place other than the law. And we get to that place by being molded and shaped by something outside ourselves. Our parents, teachers, and mentors hopefully showed us a kind of life worth living that’s grounded in God’s love incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ.

All of which causes me to ask: who were the parents, teachers, and mentors of those angry men who assaulted a young woman earlier this week at Valdosta State University at Donald Trump’s rally? Did they raise and teach their boys to treat another human being that way? As adults, do those men actually believe that such behavior is in any way decent? And if those men are Christians, and I assume some of them self-identify as such, can they be anything other than ashamed? Do they have no shame?

I don’t blame Donald Trump for those men’s behavior just as I would never blame him for my own sin. I have to own my own sin as we all do. Trump is merely unleashing a coarseness and ugliness that’s hiding in all of us, if we’re honest enough to admit it. Trump is tapping into our collective id and giving that id license to go unchecked. That’s why it’s so important that we surround ourselves with people who will help us be better than we’d be otherwise left to our own sinful devices, people that’ll help us love our enemies, be merciful, and live compassionately with others.

We can never, this side of heaven, lose our sinfulness. We can, however, surround ourselves with people who will show us the virtues of God’s Kingdom and then lovingly hold us accountable to those virtues. At the very least, that’s one of the things the church ought to be about. With whom are we keeping company this Lent?