I am not sure whether I have ever used the word precarious before, at least not until recently. And now it is exactly the uncomfortable word to describe our historical moment, and we all know and feel it. Precarious is described as “not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse; dependent on circumstances beyond one’s control.” Sound familiar?
Our lives are never fully secure, of course, but the present historical moment has a particular, almost unimaginable, vulnerability. It feels a little like the stacking game Jenga where you keep pulling out the blocks until the last one finally causes the unsteady tower to collapse. I find myself trying to resist my sense of a pending disaster, but I also find it important to be honest with myself and name the serious socio-political crisis that we are now facing. I intend to keep staring the situation down as best and as honestly as I can, to be better motivated to do what I can to mitigate if not prevent it. And I am then preparing myself for how I will respond if and when the worse does occur.
So how am I going to try to work through these uncertain coming months until the election, and then through the potentially disruptive interregnum between the election and inauguration day in January?
Like most of you, one way I am preparing myself is to engage in daily conversation with my friends as we share how we are feeling, what we know, and evaluating our fears and concerns against the various sources of information and wisdom we are able to muster. On the one hand the conversations may seem redundant, yet as new events and information are reported day by day we need to keep talking as we all try to help each other understand and make meaning out of the extraordinary drama unfolding before and among us in real time.
Another way I am coping is to turn to my faith for the reassurance I can find there. I have been especially inspired by the preaching of Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the current Poor People’s Campaign that is mobilizing poor people to demand attention to the travails of poverty across our nation. In a recent informal, live telephone conversation as part of a webinar report to our supportive faith leaders coalition, Rev. Barber surprisingly launched into his powerful, prophetic preaching style with a contemporary commentary in which he reluctantly concluded he could not offer an optimistic assurance but encouraged us to be steadfastly anchored in a hope based on truth and justice. Things may well need to get much worse, he said, before we can truly see the fullness of the sin that has consumed our nation in its poverty and militarism and is now being blatantly exposed during Covid and the election. He then cited his own church’s tradition of standing steadfast in the middle of Jim Crow when all seemed so hard, and often lost, against powerful opposition. This is an inadequate summary of his remarks, so I want to encourage you to listen to the most cogent 6 or 7 minutes of the heart of his preaching, that begins at minute 38 of the full context of the webinar recorded below.
And a final way I am preparing to confront the days ahead of us is to join thousands of people across the nation being trained in various forms of nonviolent civil disobedience in possible response to Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election if he is not the winner and our country falls into the chaos we all fear. If you are interested in knowing about the training program I will be taking with Choose Democracy, here is the contact information. https://choosedemocracy.us/
A precarious situation does not mean a disaster is inevitable. It means we need to pay attention to see if we can prevent it and to prepare to deal with the situation if a worse case does occur. I think that is a faithful and responsible way to take care of ourselves and also to be a caring, supportive, encouraging presence to others during this indeed precarious time. I hope my Saturday Evening Post this evening can remind us all to continue to be steadfast - joyful if possible - as we share whatever challenges these next weeks and months hold for us.