NOTE: I was asked to submit a piece to a powerful advent devotional called #F***ThisS*** and was assigned this title and passage from Matthew. The clergy who launched it feel a sense of urgency in this moment that I also feel, and they have incorporated strong language to convey that urgency much as the prophets in the Hebrew Bible did in the parlance of their own time. The situation in which we find ourselves, with Black and Brown and poor people’s lives and labor treated as disposable or exploitable or turned into commodities to be bought and sold, is far more dire than the language in this piece. That said, for a PG version of this online devotional, seek the hashtag #RendTheHeavens instead. With deep gratitude to the Rev. Tuhina Rasche for inviting me to be part of this.
“SHUT THE F*** UP.”
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. –Matthew 24:31, NRSV
At Thanksgiving, the Sherwood Forest ring tone kept sounding, as if the horns were calling us to a fox hunt.
It was one person’s text message ringtone, another’s voicemail ringtone, and a third person’s work phone ring tone.
I sat across from a man who voted for Trump because he was tired of corruption, and who wanted to be protected from people who look like my father.
I heard those quiet, awkward comments knowing that a good family friend, a well-educated Hindu woman, voted for Trump for the same reasons, seemingly not concerned that the people threatening the lives of Muslims can’t tell the difference between Sikh, Hindu, Muslim or Christian; they just see Brown.
It seemed like a good reason to sound the alarm.
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; (1 Kings 9:11-12a, NRSV)
There is so much noise right now.
There is noise about the theater and illegal votes and illegal people and terrorist skittles and protecting people through stop and frisk. Noise about Dick Cheney, Darth Vader and Satan as role models for power. Noise about “economic nationalism” as opposed to “white nationalism.”
Noise that drowns out the murder of William Sims by white supremacists. Noise that drowns out the death threats sent cowardly and anonymously to mosques across the country. Noise that drowns out the barricades being built by police to stop emergency vehicles from entering Sioux territory.
and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 9:12b-13a)
We need to shut the fuck up.
The trumpets are sounding and we don’t hear them.
God is calling us with trumpets, bugles, and fox hunting horns.
God is calling us with prayerful people standing on sacred ground.
God is calling us through a boycott of injustice.
God is calling us with faithful Muslims inviting into conversation the same people who threaten them and people committing to protect the mosque from attack.
God is calling us with White Supremacists waking up to the harm they are causing and repudiating that harm.
But we can’t hear it or respond to it unless we stop listening to the wind and the earthquake and the fire, the tale told by an idiot signifying nothing.
We can’t hear it as long as we generate more noise.
We may be the elect from the four winds, or we may not. But we have a role to play in these coming days as God ushers in the birth of a baby born under the eyes of a brutal ruler controlled by a foreign empire. And we need to shut out the din around us and shut down the din inside us to hear the trumpets call.
For the sake of God, we need to shut the fuck up.