The Rector’s Study: Harvey and Nashville

I actively tried to avoid news on my vacation. Not because I didn’t want to know what was going on—that seems nearly impossible these days. Rather, I didn’t purposefully seek it out. Even so, I could not miss the coverage of Hurricane Harvey as it barreled down on Texas last weekend. The catastrophic levels of rain and wind reminded me of watching coverage of Katrina 12 years earlier, as did the commentary that came along with the storm. Why, people asked, hadn’t they evacuated? Others snarked that Mother Nature was sending Texas a memo on climate change that would be difficult for them to ignore. Twelve years ago I got into a spirited discussion about whether New Orleans was “worth rebuilding.”

Many of the criticisms and armchair quarterbacking that accompanies the natural disasters is about fear. We rise to say, “They must have dome something wrong,” to assuage ourselves that we will be OK. When disaster strikes near us and effects people who look like us, we want reassurance that we are safe, because we feel very unsafe. 

Hurricane Harvey submerged home

Then, in the midst of the images of devastation this week, another phrase started popping up in my news feeds, the Nashville Statement. It is a series of 14 points written by an evangelical Christian think tank and endorsed by some high profile religious leaders. These points reject the full rights of LGBTQ people to be part of God’s Kingdom. They claim that the only Biblical precedent is for heterosexual marriage between cis-gendered men and women, concluding that all others must be celibate. 

There have been rebuttals to the Nashville statement much more articulate than mine. Two I would highlight are Fr. James Martin, SJ, and The House of All Sinners and Saints, and their head Pastor, Nadia Bowles Weber. What I noticed is that the Nashville Statement is, in many ways, the same as the reaction to Harvey: a reaction born of fear, fear that God’s love is too big, too expansive, too fulsome to be safe or comfortable or understandable.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, someone asks if the Messianic Lion, Aslan, is safe. One of Aslan’s followers says “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” Again and again and again in the Bible the greeting of heavenly creatures, indeed the greeting of Jesus, often is “Do not be afraid.” Fear steals from us. It fools us into thinking that we have to be safe, to amend the risk of following Jesus somehow—to make sure that we are in a safe place. But, if we follow the advice of the angels, if we set aside fear, even in the midst of uncertainty, what dreams might come to pass? 

Fr. Jed Fox

Church of the Redeemer

Community life at Redeemer centers on worship in the Episcopal tradition. Art and music vitally deepen this worship. Our faith expresses itself with service to people, locally to internationally.

Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. We are a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside.

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