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BY GUTHRIE GRAVES-FITZSIMMONS

November 8, 2019

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Donald Trump Jr.  exclaims: "I don't think they like me very much anymore" after clashes with Meghan McCain.
"Donald Trump Jr. and Meghan McCain face off on 'The View'" CNN reports. "Meghan McCain confronted Donald Trump Jr. about the pain his father has caused by attacking a Gold Star family during the 2016 election."
"If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap.

The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women—same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith."

-1 Timothy 3:1-13 
Our deacon body at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville meets once a year for a retreat. At our most recent retreat, we had a long discussion about this passage from 1 Timothy about the qualifications for church leadership. We discussed how a literal reading bars women from service and how that conflicts with our church which has female deacons and LGBTQ deacons. We also highlighted the intent behind the passage: the Jesus movement needed leaders with character. It's an obvious statement, perhaps, but so is the idea that our political leaders need to have character.

I'm no fan of Meghan McCain, but I did appreciate her line of questioning on The View yesterday. She pressed Donald Trump Jr to defend his father's character in office. Don Jr struggled to respond and instead pivoted to talking about policies of  the Trump administration that he likes. The president's character in and out of office is, of course, indefensible. 

Character matters. It mattered to the early church and it should matter today. The first Resistance Prays devotional I wrote back in July 2017 was about praying for Meghan's father who had just been diagnosed with cancer. I had deep disagreements with him then and continue to have disagreements with Meghan today. But those disagreements can never be twisted into justifying behavior from me that doesn't live up to my values. When we let our anger get the best of us, we need to confess and repent for our own sins. 

I want to be careful here. Character is not the same thing as civility either. Civility is often weaponized to tell activists to be quiet and perpetuate the status quo. Character is about being able to defend how each of us behaved at the end of the day. Character is about being uncivil when necessary, but never uncivil just for the sake of being uncivil or mean. 

One final note on the topic of character. The New York Times anonymous op-ed writer has published a book. This person is severely lacking in character. As the NYT's own book reviewer writes: “sorry, Anonymous, you don’t get to be the hero in this story because by working for this administration, de facto, you legitimize and enable Trump aplenty.”  Our own contributor Rev. Posey Krakowsky had similar thoughts when the writer first published the anonymous op-ed:

"I’m not ready to assign hero status to Anonymous, much as Anonymous seeks to claim it. In the op-ed, Anonymous works hard to draw a distinction between the broader policies of the GOP agenda and the impulsive behavior of this particular president. I’m not buying it.

Where was Anonymous when asylum-seeking children were separated from their parents at the border? (500 of them are still not reunited.) Where was Anonymous when the people of Puerto Rico went without help for months after Hurricane Maria? (Many of them are still waiting.) Where was Anonymous when the GOP almost succeeded in gutting the Affordable Care Act? (Which they will succeed in doing if they retain control of the House next term.) Where was Anonymous when Mitch McConnell used procedural changes to deny a SCOTUS seat appointment to President Obama? (If Kavanaugh is confirmed, we will experience the bitter fruits of that for years to come.)" 
What does character look like in your own life? Standing up to someone at work or in your family about a social justice issue? Not being silent when tough topics come up at Thanksgiving? Let's each take time to reflect on how we might do better than Don Jr and the anonymous writer. 
Holy One, we confess the many ways we fail to live up the vision you have for our lives. We neglect the common good and shield our eyes from seeing your image in all people. Renew our hearts, minds, and bodies through your grace so that we might have the strength to run the race you have set before us. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Amen. 
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