This post is a compilation of Facebook posts I wrote today inspired by a Pantsuit Politics episode about Political Comedy. This episode brought up points and questions I feel also need to be asked of religious leaders in their theological realms where the truth can be told in a way facts never can never deliver as deeply, just like comedy.
I am breaking this post into parts because it is too long as one post, and I hope it is more digestible this way.
I am listening to Pantsuit Politics about Political Comedy. The guest is Chelsea Devantez talking about the state of political comedy and its future.
They were discussing how doing political comedy as we have always done it is not working anymore. We are already living that political satire in our lived reality now. How do you get more satirical than Trump himself?!
They used Jon Stewart as an example of someone who revolutionized political comedy because he was/is a political thinker with a point of view. And he can speak more truth than most because comedy is truth. And also notice, he is not staying the same. Now he is going to our political leaders, interviewing them and revealing they do not know squat about why they are passing the policies they are passing. They are doing it based on their ideology, not facts. They cannot back up their claims with any verifiable data, and they believe that is okay because they have put God behind their agenda.
That is not a new tactic, y’all—this is literally when the universe steps in to blow that idea out of the water—Every. Single. Time. Notice water is usually involved when destruction and creation are both happening simultaneously.
Devantez said this: These lighthearted jokes and tiny takeaways aren’t working anymore. There is no point to them anymore. We need a comedian who has something really deep to say and someone who has solutions. This where we have not gotten to yet. Where are comedic solutions? Pointing out the problem right now is depressing and not revelatory.
Now I am going to talk about why I am a theologian and how this speaks so much into what I have been saying about religious leaders who I believe need to rethink how they are doing things. They need to give us some doable solutions for change. Not more pointing out the problems. Most of us are well-aware now.
Okay, now I want to talk about why I am a theologian. I am on the outside of the system currently for various reasons, and now I can see how necessary this time off has been for me to see what is and isn’t working.
One thing I have been told a lot is I am different. Some like it; a lot do not. But even those who do not like it know I am important to the change that is needed. And the reason I am the way I am is because I have gone through hell trying the things that no longer work. My family in various ways throughout the years have given and given, only to find ourselves at the end of it being treated like we are nothing when the moment came we needed help (to receive). It has been shocking every time, and it makes me want to scream at Acts 20:35 reminding us it is better to give than to receive. Oh, really? Just to end up abused?!
Now I am finally bringing in April Emick Fiet’s work on giving and receiving. I have been talking about writing this reflection for a while, but the time for it to be received hasn’t felt optimal until now.
In Chapter 7 of her book “The Sacred Pulse” chapter titled: Movement of Community: The Holy Rhythm of Interdependence. April addresses how giving can put us in a position of power, because giving is on our terms. “Peace through strength” (125). When we give, a sense of euphoria or happiness is triggered by chemicals in our bodies like oxytocin. I love what she said here: The act of giving rewards us physically and psychologically. However, receiving requires risk. It requires vulnerability to be open to receive something whether it is large like a large monetary gift, or something as small as a compliment (124). Receiving makes us vulnerable. If we do not open ourselves up to be vulnerable, then we miss out on the reciprocity that comes from living in community. Only giving keeps us in a position of power.
Y’all, we have been burned hard when people expected my family to remain in the position as the helpers at all times. No matter what we are going through. Two major events have happened in our lives—and it is wild how both showed us two sides of the same coin—and the minute we said we needed help, we were abandoned emotionally. We are/were not supposed to need that.
One thing a “friend” told me is this: I should have expected this treatment when taking on a leadership role. This just comes with the territory. (Oh, if you only knew what I was upset about). I had considered her my closest friend on the team. She saw me as someone to use.
And the system! This gets worse. The latest trauma required us needing help from various systems, and the more we reached out to ask for help or to share our grievance, the worse our treatment became. Every single time. It was the most horrifying and traumatic experience I have ever known. We were expected to just make it through and let it go when it was over.
Nope. Nope. Nope. We did not become helpers to become punching bags to accept any and all kinds of abuse. And to be treated like the user and the abuser when we asked for help from individuals and the various systems, is one of the most atrocious things I have ever experienced in my life—more than once.
This is why I am a deep thinker and I have a solution in mind.
You might be asking yourself: If giving can put us in a position of power, then why didn’t these individuals and systems want to help you if that would elevate them?
Well, in these situations, helping us would have made them have to receive our pain and admit wrongdoing was happening. To see people as human and not resistant to abuse and needing help, because a lot of people usually just take it, disrupts the power balance and our ability to believe whatever we want to be true. Remember, everything is now an opinion with equal importance.
Here is the rub: Part of receiving involves receiving when you are wrong. This includes systems. That what you want to be true isn’t, or the hero you think you are is actually making you the abuser. And this person is standing in front of you is hurt by your actions. Well, defensiveness and harsh treatment comes out instead of gentleness, compassion, and help.
People will go to cruelty before they will go to vulnerability. And we have been trained this way in almost every area of our lives.
Solution – Friendship
At the end of my seminary career, right before the next beast of a storm came, I was already tired and trying to figure out how to finish school knowing rest was within sight. I was ready to relax, enjoy my pool and focus on one job for a while before deciding what it is I am called to do. All of this is happening now, but I had to get through the toughest battle I have ever known first.
Right before finishing seminary, a verse finally came to me giving breath to what I had been trying to say to everyone all three years about what is missing and needed in our theological work. This solution has come from my lived experience giving me this point of view: We need to be friends.
I could not figure out how to articulate this life-or-death need theologically, though. My explanations were ordinary and did not require my theological background to make the arguments I was making. Then the verse, and the STORM, came giving me the clarifying theological background I needed. Ha! Look at the both/and I can now say without reliving the trauma. I am not thanking the trauma, because I already knew the truth without it, but I will use it to further MY CASE! You gave me a story, STORM!
My idea about friendship was met with resistance, and I understand why. But that is mainly because we do not have a working definition of what friendship means—especially in a system. Overall as a society, we see it in an anemic and unimportant way. Like it is something extra if we have time, or some kind of luxury. We quote things all the time about people coming and going in our lives for various reasons, like there is no felt loss when people leave our lives—for whatever reason, even if good. Losing friends is a traumatic experience. We need language for this. Also, we need this language so we do not lose friends as often as well.
John 15:15 is the verse that came to me and spoke to this deep groaning inside me providing clarity. It gave me the theological perspective everyone was asking me for to show our faith demands it too. And this verse is Jesus’ words! I love Jesus. He gets me. 😉 (This is a Super Bowl reference) Here is the verse—this is from the NRSV translation:
“15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
Y‘All, when I read that verse, I could see the gates of heaven open up to me. Jesus agrees with me. If we are going to do any meaningful work together, we have to be friends. This means we need deep trust in ourselves and with each other. Our servant-style leadership that likes to keep secrets and disconnect is literally killing us spiritually, and sometimes physically too. It keeps a power structure in place that is more authoritative than it is harmonious and responsible. The authoritative approach actually only demands responsibility from those without power. This is why we keep getting abused.
I am so grateful Haley Feuerbacher found me a couple of years ago. Power of social media and our connection to Perkins School of Theology. She knew I was going to burn out, but saw the potential in me for the good work ahead and started inviting me to join her in the work she started at The Center for Courageous Compassion. She told me helpers get burned out and need courageous compassion to sustain them for the intense work required to actually become a survivor-centered society.
I was too busy to get involved in a meaningful way in the beginning due to school and a thousand jobs, but I have time now. And this nonprofit is currently being rebranded, and I get to be a part of it. Haley wants me to use my expertise on friendship so we can co-create a better world together. This is the project we are working on this week, and the Table OKC is partnering with us too! Glory!