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"Full of Joy and Nearly Always in Trouble" -- are The Book of Common Prayer's baptismal covenant promises political?

I was in an interesting conversation the other day about whether or not our baptismal covenant promises are "political."

I don't think they are. But I do know that keeping any one of them will likely have political ramifications.

Take for example our promise to "continue in the apostle's teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers." That's not political activity in the United States or other nations where there is freedom of religion -- but try keeping that promise in parts of the world where practicing Christianity is illegal or persecuted, and you'll quickly find out how political those actions are.

Promising to "persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord" may not seem to be "political" as long as you're thinking of "resisting evil" and "sin" in terms of your own petty vices and therefore "repenting" as a personal matter between you and God.

But what if you broaden the concepts, ala Abraham Lincoln, to think of "falling into sin" as the ways you fall into cultural or societal sins (racial prejudice, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism, to name three) and then promise to persevere in resisting the evil of White Nationalism? I suspect that might have some political ramifications.

Promising to "proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ" may not seem to be political, until you realize that we live in a political culture that proclaims, by word and example, the Bad News of Fear and Cynicism. So - fair warning/promise - if you talk the talk AND walk the walk of the Gospel, you'll end up in the good company of Christians around the world and throughout history who are "full of joy and nearly always in trouble."

Promising to "seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbor as yourself" may not seem like an inherently political action. Until you seek and serve Christ in those who voted differently than you, and love them as yourself.

Which brings us to the final promise: "to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being." Unless we insist on somehow spiritualizing those concepts, it's impossible to keep that promise without it having political implications.

For example: one way I'm keeping that promise - an action of worship and prayer that has explicit political implications, and one which I invite you to join me in - is that this Sunday evening (December 4 at 5:00 pm), I'm going to join our three bishops and other people from around the Diocese of Virginia who are making a point of standing in solidarity with our Latino/Hispanic brothers and sisters in Christ by attending a "Service of Light and Hope" at the local, predominately Latino/Hispanic Episcopal church of Santa Maria (7000 Arlington Blvd., Arlington).

As our bishops remind us, "many members of our Latino congregations are experiencing fear and uncertainty in light of words our president-elect has spoken about immigrants in America, and as the Church, we are committed to uplifting our Latino/Hispanic brothers and sisters during these times."

There are few things in Scripture that are as explicit as the command to care for the alien among us - not because it's the "nice" or "Christian" thing to do, but because it is part of our own identity: the Bible reminds us that we were once strangers and aliens ourselves. If you read the Biblical story of Christmas, you'll find that shortly after the serene manger scene, Joseph and Mary scurry the infant Jesus out of Israel and become a refugee family themselves, fleeing persecution and seeking safety in a foreign country far away from home.

Part of the Advent/Christmas message is that in becoming a human baby, God became vulnerable. And part of what it means to follow that God is to keep our baptismal promises...and part of that that means is to stand with, by, and for the vulnerable among us.


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