This summer, I officiated at many weddings. Knowing I would be doing so, I invested in a few more items of clergy-wear, a white collared blouse and a black collared tunic. I like them very much and wear them gladly. And, as an added bonus, the name of the company making these women-centered clerical garments is called Casual Priest.
This name has prompted all kinds of humor in my home and congregation. Personally, it has come to symbolize that strong, take-no-prisoners pastoral identity that I sometimes dream of having when the going gets especially tough. I call on it when I’m feeling tired or pressured, as in, “Casual Priest doesn’t care if you’ve never sung this hymn before. We’re singing it anyway!” Or, “Casual Priest has many talents, but plunging the toilet in the men’s bathroom isn’t one of them.” You get the picture. (Also, I did actually plunge the toilet in the men’s bathroom.)
So when recent news came of another “Casual Priest” in another city interrupting Donald Trump during a visit to her church, I was instantly curious. When I learned that she intervened because his comments became political in nature during a visit that was ostensibly about the hard work of the people of Flint, Michigan, I was cheering. Women clergy being defined. Women clergy taking responsibility in right ways. Women clergy demonstrating the full power granted them in their sacred calling. Yes!
Then the aftermath. An embarrassed (I’m guessing) Trump showed his true colors as he characterized his visit with a cascade of falsehoods on Fox News the next day. He called Pastor Green “nervous.” Huh, she seemed the embodiment of calm to me. He wondered if he was “ambushed.” Yeah, being invited to thank people is such a ruse! Casual Priest grew angry, seeing one of her own maligned.
What we are shown over and over again is this: Trump is the personification of advertising. Say what makes me look good. Say it strongly though it is total hogwash. Say it even though it tosses others under the bus. Say it with no regard for consequences. Say it like a circus ringmaster who, since he’s loudest and in the spotlight, looks like he’s in control when in truth those donkeys and elephants alike would see him trampled.
Yet we don’t seem to learn what Trump is showing us. We want the advertising. We choose it over sincere leadership with principle and faith. Pastor Green brought calm, principled leadership into her job when she interrupted the nominee, and I am happy that such a strong person showed America what women clergy do. But our nation is nearing an embrace of circus-y showmanship that thrives on theatrical lie-telling.
Casual Priest has had enough. Casual Priest would like leaders with character and dignity and the courage to apologize. Casual Priest seeks those qualities in herself, darn-it. And when a person seeking highest office can’t muster even a wink of self-effacing humor, humility, or kindness, Casual Priest thinks maybe we’ve gone off the deep end at last.
And, Casual Priest also trusts that down at the bottom of that deep end, waiting in the darkness with the forgotten and the cast-aside folks, is Jesus, the Risen Lord whom she serves, waiting to bless her and send her back to the trenches for the sake of love. Ministry, the wearing of the collar, will take new forms if the Walking Dorito* takes office, for the love of the Risen One will not diminish, and we who serve him will require courage, calm and kindness to meet him in the dark depths, where no doritos dare to tread.
* All right, some may say, “Gosh it’s offensive to use an insult referencing Trump’s color.” Yeah, maybe. Accept his color is gained by tanning, and a Dorito is a well-loved snack food. Compare this to the long list of offensive things women clergy are called just for being female and wearing the collar, not seeking any spotlight but going about their work. I think you’ll find that being likened to chips is quite gentle in comparison.
Fly in the ointment: many, if not most, of the organizers of the March for Science are politically left (scientists have long trended leftward of the general population, and are also less religious), and so politics, including issues of social justice and economic policy, are becoming entangled.