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Thursday, December 22, 2016

What's the Point of Merry Christmas?

Christmas has been a little ... disheartening this year, for a number of reasons.

One of them is Target.

I went there today. I know, bad idea. I found myself wandering the final aisle, looking for my 4-year-old son's requested box of candy canes for Santa's reindeer - apparently they don't eat carrots anymore.

The aisle was strewn with broken candy canes and broken dreams. People crushed each other up against their carts, careening from side to side - wondering if I can fit between the aisle and the column without smashing the guy next to me ... Nope.

Red and green and gold wrapping paper covered the ground, ripped from end to end, smashed chocolate Santas and opened boxes of 100 Christmas cards with Jesus and snow and Santa on them all over the floor, melting in a stream of muddled brown Starbucks coffee dumped over by a rushing woman carrying a little baby -- no time to pick it up.

The workers were like zombies. This year seemed worse than before.
Destruction and devastation on this scale was more common on Dec. 26.

It's not even Christmas yet.

As I picked my way back to the overcrowded aisle of Frozen cheese balls and Santa Pez, I wondered briefly to myself:

What's the point?

Why are we subjecting ourselves to this misery?

The anger about the recently passed plastic bags ban. The lines. The screaming. The parking lot - no, not the parking lot!

I guess we get gifts for each other on Christmas because we love each other and we want to express that to each other. Because on Christmas God loved us so much that He came to earth in the form of a tiny baby, subjecting Godself to things like hunger and gas and sleeplessness and pain and even death. To defeat death forever on the Cross and promise us eternal life.

And he loved us that much, so I guess we want to respond in some way and somehow our response got mixed up and it became I love you so much that I clicked ORDER on Amazon and shipped you a gift. Easy. Done. No manger, no shepherds, no dramatic flight to Egypt.

$9.99 on Prime. Didn't even have to pick up the phone.

Instead of being the gift, Merry Christmas - the Merry Christmas that meant the revolution of the baby Jesus who came to save the world - that Merry Christmas seems to be an after-thought.

Instead Merry Christmas has become a defense mechanism.

I'm OK. I'm great. I'm busy though. Merry Christmas!

Whew. Didn't want to talk to that person.

As I wandered through the post-apocalyptic haze that was Target on Dec. 22, I contributed to the insanity. I had my phone on speaker with obnoxious hold music because I'd been on hold with a customer service line for a local furniture store for about 25 minutes. It had become one of those calls that wasn't that big of deal but now that I'd waited this long there was no way I was hanging up.

I just wanted to be removed from a mailing list that meant once a week a catalog would be put on my driveway, littering the neighborhood, and on rainy days like today, scattered in mushy torn pieces along the driveway like some haphazard TP job with photos of sectionals and dining room tables.

The garish electronic music finally paused and a woman - a real, live woman! - answered, harried. I told her I'd first been hung up on and now had been on hold 25 minutes.

She was silent a second.

Then said, "OK, what's the issue?"

She was decidedly not sorry about my wait time.

I explained to her the issue and she sent me to the 1-800 number, that she couldn't help me. I tried explaining more, pretty patiently.

She cut me off: "Alrighty then. Merry Christmas."

And abruptly, she hung up.

It didn't feel all that Merry.

Once she hung up I found myself wanting to call her back. To say wait: that's not what Christmas is about. Let's talk. We can work this out. Who are you? What's your name? Do you have kids? Do you live here? Do you pray? Do you believe? Does it matter?

Merry Christmas. 

I don't think it means what we sometimes think it means.

Merry Christmas isn't a way to get somebody to shut up.

If anything Christmas is about openness. About love. About starting a conversation, not ending one.

About listening, not silencing.

Christmas was the beginning of God's new conversation with humanity, not the end.

So I wondered about the woman on the other end of the line.

Maybe she was facing Christmas alone. Maybe she was grieving. Maybe someone had just given her a bunch of grief. Maybe the other worker hadn't come back from lunch for 3 hours and she was left alone dealing with all these annoying people without a break for hours.

I worked retail for three years and I remember the feeling. The endless line of people. The frustration. The 30-minute break in the windowless room with a microwave. The tiny paychecks. The unfairness. The working holidays.

I was just an anonymous person with an anonymous problem and it didn't really matter.

And we're all under such pressure.

The mortgage the bills the loans the family the health care it never stops the diet the exercise the heart monitor the anti-anxiety meds the addictions the cheating the depression the race the sleeplessness the fear the loss of faith.

We have to pick and choose and some people get to count in our lives and others become these lifeless mirages somewhere off in the distance who don't matter, can't matter - because we just don't want to feel that much anymore. We can't.

I've felt that urge this Christmas. To wall myself off. To sink into the comfort of my little family of four. The two healthy little boys. The loving husband. The Christmas tree. The cookies.

I read the articles from Aleppo and I kind of half look at the pictures. Don't feel can't feel. Look away.

Merry Christmas

We've been surrounded by death at the church where I work. Good women, good men - we watch them die before our eyes, some suddenly, some much too soon, some bitterly, all leaving behind a hole that cannot be filled.

There's only so many tears a person can cry. I find myself looking through people, like holograms. It's too hard to feel. Too scary. Back to my Nordstrom Wish List.

I heard her voice again saying Alrighty. Merry Christmas.

As though God sent her to wake me up out of my slumber and remind me that
Merry Christmas can't be just words.

I don't really say Happy Holidays. It's Christmas, after all. And if for you it's something else, you can say that to me. We can coexist without denying who we are.

But my saying Merry Christmas doesn't make it merry, especially if I say it to drown out the voices I don't want to listen to, or the feelings I don't want to feel.

Merry Christmas, the world-changing Christmas God created, washes over me as the music plays:

Go tell it on the mountain! Jesus Christ is born!
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born.
And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

I felt my heart cracking open. For the overworked retail workers taken advantage of by our consumerist economy. For the UPS deliverymen and women in the rain. For the slow driver in front of me whose brake lights don't work. The mom who spilled the coffee at Target.

The little boy in Aleppo.

The little girl in Mosul.

The terrified marketgoers of Berlin.

My heart cracked open, and empathy rushed in.

This is Christmas. Not the perfect reindeer leggings. Not the brand new iPhone. Not the tree or the custom mugs or living an unperturbed life.

This is Christmas. God perturbs us, and the baby Jesus is born.

If Christmas does anything, Christmas makes you feel.

God became human so that God could feel.
God became human so that we could feel for one another.
We see God in a human baby.
In the human faces before us in our lives, we see a glimpse of God.
In each other, we see the image of a God who was born, lived and died for love.

That's Christmas. That's the point of Christmas.

Let's not be so busy saying it we miss feeling it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

From Yes We Can to I Think We Should: A Millennial Female Pastor Reacts the morning after Election Day

I'm not a pantsuit person, but I wore my own version of one yesterday - white ripped jeans and white blazer - in support of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first-ever female major party presidential candidate in America.

I wore my "pantsuit" to a polling place in Orange County, which until this year hadn't voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1936.

I took a selfie with my "I voted" sticker and told the world: "I'm with her."

Risky stuff, especially for the pastor of a fairly conservative Lutheran congregation in Orange County. Risky stuff, for someone who tries to be moderate and votes split ticket. Risky stuff, for anyone who's anything of a public person.

I did it primarily because, as a female leader myself, I felt a real urge to solidarity. This was an historic moment. The posts of women with their daughters, black and white and Latino and Asian and Native American and young and old and differently-abled - they moved me to tears. For the first time, it seemed OK to be proud that there was a woman running for president. I'd never really been an apocalypse-NeverTrump person. But the hope for women I saw in Hillary's supporters this past week, that's what encouraged me to go public.

Hillary never brought me to tears.

I know that's a dubious mark for president: can you inspire me? Can you make me cry?

I have to be honest, she left me feeling flat. At the DNC, fired up by Rev. William Barber II and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) - moved to stand by Michelle Obama - Hillary, and Chelsea, left me cold. I didn't disagree with the words they said. I wanted Hillary to win.

But that ineffable something: it was gone. Yes We Can! became ... I think we should.

Still, those who complained about both candidates didn't move me either. We had a woman for God's sake. She was inarguably smart. I didn't doubt her sincere Christian faith. She was the right vote. I was proud to be #WithHer as an Evangelical Lutheran Christian.

I trusted The Washington Post. As a former journalist, I put my faith in the free press. The Post dedicated its editorial board and opinion writers to the defeat of Donald Trump. His supporters were whack jobs. It was all a joke, right? Prominent Republicans kept saying they were voting for Clinton.

And this is where it all turns upside down.

On Election Night we had our church small group over and we turned off the TV. Our small group was pretty divided, so we prayed for America. I was reminded of the faithful friends and family who'd supported Trump. Reminded of that first debate when he seemed the only feasible Republican choice. The Washington Post predicted landslides. Georgia, Arizona, Texas(?!) all in play.

I still trusted The Washington Post.

Small group ended and I turned on CNN. Dana Bash was white as a ghost. Clinton was trailing in Virginia. Georgia wasn't even close. Trump was winning across Florida. The electoral map they'd predicted was completely wrong.

The ones I didn't trust had called it.

Trump was in Minnesota the day before the vote. Clinton eked out a win in the state that hasn't voted Republican since 1972, by a mere 43,000 votes.

Nobody in the mainstream media predicted that. At all.

Clinton was so confident that she hadn't been to campaign in Wisconsin since the primary.

Trump won Wisconsin. Trump won Pennsylvania.

The only ones claiming these victories before Tuesday night were his pollsters and the far right media.

I had spent months reading journalism that was being proven completely wrong - or at least drastically out of touch with a big portion of the electorate.

As the returns streamed in, I wasn't crying or even primarily afraid. I was gut-checked.

How had traditional journalism been so wrong?

I felt betrayed by the sources I'd defended and trusted to a fault.

I didn't go to bed. Couldn't go to bed until it was over. Like a good Vikings fan - or Cubs fan - I had to see things through until the end.

Clinton headquarters in New York City was deserted. Clinton supporters: brave women in their white pantsuits who put it on the line for Hillary, they were there and they were crying. But the inner circle was long gone.

Campaign Manager John Podesta came to the stage and gave an exceedingly bizarre and patronizing announcement at 2:20 a.m.

He told Clinton supporters to go home. He said it wasn't over. They were still counting votes.

He wasn't being honest with them, because maybe at the same time, Hillary called her old friend Donald. She conceded. She told Donald she was conceding. She made time to call him. She didn't extend the same courtesy to the millions of women who put her candidacy on our backs and went to war for Hillary Clinton, sometimes at great personal risk and with real-life consequences.

The race changed for me in that moment. Donald Trump wasn't my champion but clearly Hillary Clinton wasn't either. She didn't care about me. I was sitting there up all night waiting for a way to process the results no one except Trump's team predicted, and the only one I got to hear was an exceedingly conciliatory Donald Trump.

The criticisms rolled around in my brain. She was phony. Elitist. Didn't have the stamina.

She didn't provide a counter-narrative. She was tired? Only supports the claims I'd dismissed out of hand. The only one to speak to Hillary's supporters on Election Night 2016 was Donald Trump, and that spoke to me loud and clear.

It felt like a betrayal. And maybe I betrayed myself in that moment, when I allowed myself to criticize Hillary in the same way she'd been criticized by so many others, so many times unfairly, so many times in the past.

My friends and fellow Clinton supporters were posting and texting early in the morning. They were devastated. Promised to resist.

My own numbness, that betrayed feeling, still sat on top of any other emotions for me.

Jeffrey Lord suddenly made sense. Corey Lewandowski was still a jerk, but maybe he wasn't all wrong. The firm truth held by traditional media was cracking. You could feel it. They'd missed something huge (Freudian slip?)

You had to at least consider the fact that there's something major out of touch in traditional media.

I heard Hillary was speaking in the morning and I still wanted to hear it. My 4-year-old waited to go to preschool and Tim Kaine came out and I saw the supporters stand and unexpectedly, my hardened heart burst open and my eyes filled with tears.

You could see he meant it. The coalition he wanted to build. The Christian faith that didn't mean hatred or racism or sexism. The hope for America's future.

I was surprised I was crying. I thought I'd moved into investigation mode. What happened? What did I miss? I was ready to listen to facts and move on and then I was crying.

I went to the bathroom to grab a Kleenex and Hillary was coming up. Improbably, she was smiling.

Women have to smile. Smile tho' your heart is aching.

People tell me they love my smile. It's their favorite part of my sermons. Just kidding.

So I get why she was smiling. But it just seemed incredibly disingenuous. Out of place.

We wore pantsuits when (my) generation pretty much universally hates them. We did it for you. We put stickers all over Susan B. Anthony's grave. We lined up behind you. We forgave the instances of elitism or classism - the inability to admit wrongdoing - the closed tent - the nonexistent media access for much of the campaign - the dishonesty.

We told people we supported you - we made it public in places like Oklahoma and Mississippi. We defended you to a fault. We went along with the dismissal of anyone who supported your opponent.

It was a real gut-check moment in America. What had I been defending?

Hillary Clinton smiled. It was the smile of a woman who'd sacrificed everything to be first. It was a smile of the difference between her generation and my own. It was the smile of a woman born at a time when women weren't expected to work outside the home or participate in athletics, much less run for president. It was the smile of a woman who played the political game inside a box that had been smashed open.

My friends heard a heartfelt speech from a heartbroken woman. They're not wrong, and yet neither am I when I say that again I felt nothing when I heard her speak. Tim Kaine broke my heart and Hillary Clinton froze it. Maybe she had to. To become impervious to survive as she has.

I remembered the way I felt in the debate after Donald Trump's Billy Bush video went public.

Trump physically intimidated Clinton. He spoke derisively.

And she handled it. She took him down on knowledge and policy.

I felt the same way then though. I wanted to hear her say : AS A WOMAN HEARING THIS VIDEO MADE ME FEEL ________. I wanted to hear her claim the moment - as President Obama did in Charleston and after the killing of Trayvon Martin.

But maybe she couldn't claim it. Not in that way. And maybe it was unfair to expect her to. Just like the traditional media, Clinton's time had passed her by. She won at a game whose rules had been rewritten. She straddled two worlds.

Our first female candidate had to come from her world: an established, elite, wealthy, impervious world - a battled hardened realist.

Our first female president would not come from that world.

In a wry way, to this millennial feminist, I get it. It makes an odd kind of sense.

So here I sit today with President-Elect Trump, in the odd position of hoping my gut feeling that he didn't mean anything he said was an accurate one. Normally we are hoping the President will keep his promises. With Trump, you're hoping the status quo prevails and he keeps none of them.  I'm hopeful a lot of it was insincere posturing for votes.

I'm hopeful an obstructionist Republican party will begin to govern and get things done.

I'm hopeful that a new resistance movement will arise from the 2016 autopsy of the Democratic Party, whose machine and operation was proven wrong today in a multitude of ways.

I'm hopeful that resistance will privilege non-white leaders as well as female leaders, as well as inviting non-college-educated whites, rural whites, and Evangelical Christians.

I'm hopeful that with the removing of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - America's two favorite scapegoats - we'll be forced to talk and to listen to one another. I'll miss Obama, but I'm not shortsighted enough to think that this election means his presidency didn't matter. It did. A LOT.

I'm hopeful again that in 2016 it is Morning in America and the sun is shining on places that have been left in the dark for far too long. It's a light that exposes as well as brightens.

I'm thankful that I got up this morning and I got to go to my office, as a Pastor in a large church in Orange County. Hillary's loss doesn't mean I'm not a Pastor anymore. My support of her doesn't mean I'm not going to use this moment to listen to those who voted differently.

I have two Post-Its on my desk that remind me of the bridge between my former role as journalist and my current role as Pastor:

Comfort the Comfortable - Afflict the Afflicted: reads one, with a huge X through both

Comfort the Afflicted - Afflict the Comfortable: reads the other. I'll keep trying to do that, even as Jesus alternately afflicts and comforts me.

I worship a God who transformed death into life. America is still transforming. I will never stop seeking God's will for our country. I will never be afraid to speak God's voice into politics.

I will support America's President.

If it turns out Trump's rhetoric was for real, I'll be the first to sign up for the Resistance.
If it turns out his conciliatory tone was more truthful than the raging Twitter-holic, I'm hopeful he'll bring real change to a system that has certainly been divided and broken.

Good Morning, America. I'm grateful to wake up here, still.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Zika, Love, Motherhood and Injustice: A Letter to Kalissandra de Olivera

The World Health Organization predicts that more than 2,500 babies will be born in Brazil with microcephaly if current trends continue in the Zika virus outbreak. Zika is spread by mosquito bites and sexual contact. It is not preventable by medications or vaccines. Women who contract Zika in their first trimester of pregnancy are up to 13 percent likely to pass on microcephaly to their growing babies. Microcephaly usually means incomplete brain development and can lead to intellectual disability as well as hearing or vision loss. Therapy is needed from birth to help affected babies develop. Photos and name information for this blog taken from the Los Angeles Times special report: Living with Zika, by Alexandra Zavis and Katie Falkenberg. Read the story here.

Dear Kalissandra,

I woke up last night at 4:30 a.m. because my son was crying. His name is Joshua. He's about the same age as Nicolas, and just as loved.

I was tired, though, at 4:30. I walked from my king-sized memory foam mattress in my bedroom into his bedroom and lifted him out of his wooden crib. He was lying on a mattress in a muslin sleepsack. He was a little hungry. He wasn't sweaty because we had our air conditioning running. I went back to sleep a half hour later.

I thought about you because at 4:30 you were already awake for at least an hour. Did you even go to sleep at all? The van came at 3:45 a.m. It was dark and sometimes Nicolas slept and sometimes he cried. When he sleeps he looks like an angel. I saw you holding him as you both slept, exhausted, at Pedro I Municipal Hospital in Campina Grande, Brazil. You were so tired. I don't know if you have other children at home. I don't know if you are married or if Nicolas' dad takes him sometimes on the van to the hospital.

Nicolas' story is your story. The story of our children is always written on mamas' foreheads. When I saw you in this photo, your forehead was peaceful. Nicolas looks like you.

You're so tired and scared. You've barely healed from your pregnancy. Sometimes you are hopeful and sometimes you are afraid you're not doing good enough. Just like me.

Nicolas has microcephaly.

I don't know when you had Zika, if you knew it was Zika. The mosquitoes are everywhere. It was only a bite, maybe a rash. There was nothing you could have done.

Diseases don't read but they understand social contracts. They kill and maim the poorest among us, the weakest among us - first: pregnant women, people without air conditioning, people who have to store water outside in case of shortages: places where mosquitoes breed and grow and bite and viruses swarm the placenta and maim a growing baby's brain.

Where I live moms worry a lot. I guess moms worry a lot everywhere. But I didn't have to worry about Zika. It wasn't allowed into my neighborhood. Affluence and privilege blocked it, like they did with cholera and starvation and polio and measles, though we're willfully testing our immunity because we are so privileged we think we're smarter than we are.

We have other diseases here. Anxiety and depression and meanness and isolation. Not that you don't have those too, but maybe ours grow because we're so isolated from you and from each other. From our sister moms across the world who remind us the sacred trust between a mother and her baby; who remind us to trust ourselves and trust our love more than the Internet.

We call each other lazy or overprotective. We judge silently. We try our best. We keep track of silly things, like preschool tests or Pinterest snacks or percentiles.

You watch your percentiles, too. Each time they wrap the measuring tape around Nicolas' head he screams. Somewhere he knows. His numbers aren't about 30th or 70th percentile, about "red-shirting" kindergarten or jumping ahead. His numbers aren't on the doctors' chart. His numbers are the answer to an equation stacked against him before he was conceived.

Still he is a fighter. Like you.



You hold your head up with your hand on one exercise ball. You heard once these were good for sit-ups. Sometimes we use them to help Josh fall asleep.

Nicolas is rolling on his exercise ball with his therapist. His eyes are wiser than they're supposed to be for his age, for his Zika-ravaged brain. He's wearing a polo shirt with two buttons. Did you pack it in his bag? Did you dress him in it at 3 in the morning before the van came to pick you up and take you to the hospital?

I didn't see your diaper bag. How did you have time to pack it? How do you do it?

He looks perfect. He reminds me of Josh.

Maybe you're like me and you hate when moms use the word perfect because no one is perfect. Nicolas has microcephaly.



Seconds later Nicolas is screaming. He's tired. He's hungry. He's all the things babies are and he's not even 6 months old and he's doing physical therapy. It's not fair. Maybe he wants you. They always do.

The appointment is over and then it's the long wait and the long van ride back. Sometimes for my doctor appointments with Josh we have to wait 45 minutes. You wait hours. A day. I'm embarrassed of my complaining, my entitlement.

And still we are all, especially Nicolas, more complicated than we first appear.

There is no certainty with Zika, with microcephaly, with motherhood, with life. Maybe Nicolas will go to college. Maybe he'll need help his whole life to walk or feed himself.

Maybe well-off American moms think we should pity you. Your waiting, your lack of air-conditioning, the social circumstances of your environment that predisposed you to Zika, Nicolas to microcephaly.

The motherhood we experience is so different.

In this waiting room at Pedro I municipal hospital in Campina Grande, Brazil, this small room filled with fake flowers, coffee, cake and broken scanners - mamas are laughing.


In a few weeks, or a month or two, maybe Nicolas will laugh, too. You'll hear it and forget everything else. You are a mom. Perversely, perhaps, the waiting room is a sanctuary - a place where motherhood is what it was meant to be. Women supporting each other. Babies crying and laughing and living. Imperfectly.

Your laughter, your support for each other, your refusal to quit in the face of fear, of Zika, of microcephaly, of despair: it is a revolutionary act. Mighty warriors have fallen down before in the face of much less.

Your laughter won't cure microcephaly.
It won't cure hatred or injustice or the various geopolitical alignments, the cheating, the offshore accounts, the excesses, that left you vulnerable to Zika.

But God is watching you. The God who created Nicolas is the God who loves Nicolas is the God who transformed death on the cross into everlasting life.

The evil in the world, the Zika the microcephaly the injustice the violence the fear they are all still there.

But God is transforming them. See I thought your story was about Zika but it wasn't about Zika at all.
It was about love, and the courage and faith that turns death into life.

Rest well, Kalissandra. Rest well, Nicolas. Rise and bear witness.

Where, O Zika, is thy sting?


Photos and name information taken from the Los Angeles Times special report: Living with Zika, by Alexandra Zavis and Katie Falkenberg. Read the story here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our Better Angels: An Appeal to American Christians in a Time of Trump

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." 
- Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 1861

Today I spoke at a gathering all too rare in America today: a non-compulsory meeting of Republicans and Democrats who are not related.

It was all the more rare because this multi-partisan gathering happened in a church, among the most stratified of American institutions.

It was a fragile peace: the progressives and the conservatives coexisting uneasily, guiltily wondering if their political leaders would be angry at them for fraternizing with "the enemy," even in a church.

We've forgotten how to be both partisans and friends; to be Christians first and Republicans or Democrats second.

One-hundred-fifty-five years ago, President Abraham Lincoln uttered these words at his First Inaugural Address, while seven Southern states had already seceded from the union.

We are not enemies, but friends.

His appeal, while beautiful, went unheard for four long years of Civil War: brother fought brother and blood split the nation, destroying a generation and crippling the South for generations to come.

Lincoln was not a religious man, and yet even he appealed to our "better angels." It is an appeal American Christians would do well to hear again this week, as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position in the 2016 Presidential Race.

"Our better angels" in America have always believed in the impossible: hope instead of fear, unity instead of division, justice instead of favor, life instead of death. We have clung to "our better angels" when faced with Ellis Island, segregation, women's voting rights, gay marriage. There have always been fearful and angry voices: jealous, bitter men and women who cannot imagine what it is to be free, but "our better angels" have always prevailed.

We want to be a people of hope and not of anger, don't we?

We have always been a country of hope. Where the rest of the world toiled and scraped, America was a shining beacon of Hollywood and hot dogs. You could make it here. You could be free here. We always had room for one more.

Until we didn't. 

The first time I saw Donald Trump debate I liked him in spite of myself. He was confident, bold; he said the things I sometimes thought: when I was afraid, when I was mean, when I was cornered.

Trump kept talking. He pushed further. I didn't like him anymore but the polls kept going up. The more protesters he shoved and scorned; the more minority groups he destined for deportation; the more hatred he spewed ... our better angels' wings were clipped. We could no longer fly. The Dream and the Dreamers woke up in a nightmare.

He said he'd make us great again but what he'd made us was ashamed at night when we admitted what we liked about him after all. He brought us back, not forward. We saw his money and his bravado and wanted it for ourselves; he promised us the world if we'd only sell America's soul.

He said Muslims and Mexicans and women - though some of them were his dear friends - these are not America's friends. He spoke of everyone else as "the other" and in the darkness of our homes on cold January nights, our better angels' white light went out and the blue glow of the TV screen lit sterile living rooms. We didn't know our neighbors. They weren't our friends. We became afraid and we got up and locked the door to our house and the door to our heart.

Into the void, which was left unfilled by Bernie's turn to Scandinavia, or Hillary's pledge to make rational plans, or a chorus of Republican wannabes too self-centered to come together for good - a still small voice whispered Lincoln's words as a blizzard shut down D.C.:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Will it take four years this time - for our better angels to remind us that we are not enemies but friends?

Or will American assert itself once more as a Christian nation?

We may not have been founded as such. We may be populated by people of all religions, and it may be our pride that religious freedom is assured in the Constitution.

No, it has always been our hope and not our policies that has made America Christian: a belief that we are not enemies but friends. That Republicans and Democrats play for the same team: an American team with black and white faces, that speaks Spanish and English where it once spoke German and English, a team that invites in the Muslim refugee to stand on the same shores that welcomed the Mayflower.

We were a Christian nation because we had faith that good would beat evil with good; that to win did not mean losing our goodness.

A nation who trusts in a Savior who died and rose again cannot be fooled by a would-be savior whose only prayer is a people without resurrection hope.

Christians who seek a Christ-centered government would do well to look elsewhere. 

A preening parody of faux-strength does not impress a Risen Lord who told us the meek will inherit the earth.

Our better angels remind us that we are not enemies but friends. The enemy is the one who tells us otherwise.