This last week I spent in seemingly alternating universes, attending daily Mass at our Anglican Seminary Summer Session at St. Joseph’s Chapel in Berkeley at mid-day, and then watching the GOP convention in the evening. The former was quiet, focused, purposeful, and passionate. The latter was lively, energetic, excited, and passionate. The convention was the body politic that exercises freedom of speech and assembly, a gathering of devoted delegates to nominate the next President. The Seminary Summer Session was the body ecclesia that exercises its freedom of religion and worship, a gathering of devoted clergy, postulants, and men discerning their vocation.
The week was crowned with an ordination in our parish church, St. Peter’s Anglican in Oakland. It was a glorious crowning, with soaring and thunderous organ and enthusiastic hymn-singing, with a majestic and humble bishop leading our flock, with a sermon that gathered past, present, and future and made sense of them. It was glorious as the sun streamed through skylights, illuminating the medieval crucifix and the red-draped tabernacle, red to signify the Holy Spirit weaving among us. In this sacrament of ordination, God the Holy Spirit enters the heart and soul of the ordinand when the bishop, in an apostolic line dating to the original apostles, lays his palms upon the ordinand’s head, continuing the line into the future.
I brought the Sunday School children in, to witness parts of the service, and they were sometimes bored, sometimes wondering, sometimes enthralled. They will one day bring their children in to witness sacramental ordinations and those children will bring theirs in to give witness to God’s working among us.
Now, looking back, all of the hours that made up the days and formed this third week in July of the year 2016 reflected this movement of history. The convention brought the past and present together and ordered the future. The seminary did the same. And today, all was distilled into an hour of music, light, and God with us, Emanuel.
It is good to recall, as the second convention begins this week, and as we enter the second week of the Seminary classes, that the vision of America is a religious vision. It is the dream of pilgrims escaping religious tyranny. It is the dream of equal opportunity, human dignity, free speech, and freedom of religion. It is the dream of every American and rooted in Judeo-Christian ideals. To thrive, America must encourage church and temple to inform state and society. To thrive, America must engage Christian and Jewish voices in our national conversation.
And to thrive, we must recall simple good manners, simple civility, proper and improper conduct. These mores, going back to Moses and the Ten Commandments, and probably to Abraham, are the foundation of our culture. So I was gravely disappointed in Mr. Cruz’s speech at the convention. He had been graciously invited, in the hopes of unifying the party. But by not endorsing Mr. Trump, he tried to divide. At the celebratory moment of Mr. Trump’s triumphant acceptance speech Mr. Cruz chose to oppose him in the public spotlight. For three days the convention boisterously enjoyed the give and take of the nominating process, the roll calls, the yays and the boos, the pumping of signs into the air. But Mr. Cruz wanted to grab what wasn’t his and hurt the winner, a poor sport at best. He was dishonorable, mean spirited, and ill mannered. As Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal today:
“If you can’t endorse, good for you and stay home. That isn’t politics, it’s basic human comportment. If someone you’re certain is awful invites you to a party, you politely decline. You don’t go, walk in to the room, and punch your host in the head.”
Basic human comportment. Mr. Cruz crossed the line that civility has drawn to protect civilization from barbarians. Mr. Cruz isn’t loud or grandiose. He is polished and articulate. But he doesn’t seem to have a sense of right and wrong. He scares me.
But Mr. Trump gives me hope. His family and fellow workers love him and testify to his character and his huge heart. Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech was grandiose and loud (he needs to modulate), not so polished, but pointed and powerful. He fleshed out plans for our country, giving us a vision that was both caring and bold. He speaks for those who feel they have no voice, are not represented, are not allowed to have an opinion without facing ridicule and riot.
It’s nice finally to have someone stand up for us, even if that person is sometimes awkward, bullish, and straightforward. I could get used to that kind of president, that kind of leader, someone who cares about the rest of us, someone who will allow us to worship as we choose, who will allow us to pass our great American culture of freedom on to the next generation.
And so, as I witnessed our devoted ordinand kneel before our wise bishop, the children intently watching, time stood still. The chapel Masses mingled in my memory with the cheers on the convention floor. Priests had spoken; politicians had orated. We continued the dream of America, on our lips and in our hearts, a dream for our children one day to dream too.
To see and hear video clips of the Seminary singing and the ordination processions, visit our Facebook pages for St. Joseph’s Chapel and St. Peter’s Anglican Church. Seminary noon Masses at St. Joseph’s this next week are open to the public; limited seating.