By Josh Hughes
Over the past week, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what it means to be in Washington DC for the 58th Presidential Inauguration. It hasn’t always been easy to find the time—our days begin early and usually run late, with no shortage of activities in between. I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Inauguration, and I’ve tried to spend a little time every day in personal reflection, doing some self-care as this trip has progressed. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what it means that Donald Trump will be installed as president in just a few short days. I’ve had the opportunity to share some of my musings on this topic on this blog, and over the past week my outlook has not noticeably improved. The pessimism, terror, and honest cynicism at the American political system remains simmering only just barely beneath the surface.
Today, for the first time in a few weeks, I felt some of those feelings lighten, if only for a moment. I had the incredible opportunity to attend a service in the Washington National Cathedral. While I’m not Episcopalian, I was profoundly impressed with the program, and as a small-town church goer, I was stunned at the scale of services provided. To say that worshipping in the National Cathedral was an awesome, faith restoring experience is an understatement. Listening and singing along to commanding hymns through the 10,647 pipes of the organ and hearing a powerful message of love and inclusion not only sent chills up my spine, it restored a lot of my faith, if only just temporarily.
The extent to which I am religious invariably is different based on where I am. My experience has been that when I’m at home, in rural, southern Iowa, I am not perceived to be incredibly religious. In contrast, when I’m at school, in academic settings, I sometimes feel as though I’m on the ‘more religious’ end of the spectrum. I have a hard time placing myself anywhere on a scale because with something as complex and intensely personal as spirituality and religiosity, I do not think that a simple dichotomy is adequate in realizing the very unique positions of different individuals. With that said, I consider myself religious, proudly a member (baptized and confirmed) in the social-justice active United Church of Christ, and believe in the fundamental tenets of modern Christianity.
The message I heard today was given by The Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith.
Hollerith shared with the congregation of mostly regulars with a few visitors, a message of inclusion. He reminded us that it’s a duty of the Christian faith to welcome all—no matter who they are. The layers here struck me. On the surface, it’s a pointed criticism of anyone who would wish to exclude someone in the United States. That’s Donald Trump, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country. However, I thought about this further and the message that Christians bring good news and welcome all—no matter what—also means that people like me have to be able to welcome, include, and even love people like Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and their supporters. In my own church community, we’ve dealt with issues about who is welcome. I tend to subscribe to the “radical love” view that is preached in many Mainline Protestant churches. The message caught me off guard and made me check myself, but it also brought me some peace.
In the next few days I’m going to try and remember ‘radical love’ in my everyday life. I’m not going to pretend that I’ll be able to wake up tomorrow, loving Trump & Pence, and the thousands of people who are hurting so badly in this country they allow their hearts to be filled with hate. But even still, that’s surely not going to stop me from trying.