Although I’m not Episcopalian, I have a special feeling about the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This is because I was born and raised in DC and lived just a short distance from the Cathedral, so I often played on the beautiful grounds surrounding the edifice and my mother took me there frequently to attend the concerts which seemed to be happening all the time.
What I didn’t know about the Cathedral growing up was that it has also been a gathering-place Americans committed to essential American values like equality, freedom and alleviation from poverty and want. Dr. King delivered his last sermon there in 1968, the transition to democracy in South Africa was celebrated by Bishop Desmond Tutu in a special service in 1995. If the Cathedral is known for one thing, aside from the Darth Vader gargoyle, it’s the institution’s commitment to advocacy, in particular helping veterans, working for LGBT equality, racial reconciliation, dialogues between the various religious faiths and reducing the violence caused by guns. I particularly like the article published in 2013 by the Rev. Gary Hall, who at that time happened to be the Cathedral Dean, a position from which he retired in 2015.
The article frames gun violence as a religious issue because “one way to understand the Church’s call to end gun violence in America (or at least greatly reduce it) is to see this call as the natural consequence of our compassionate response to human suffering.” Now that’s an interesting thought, because according to the NRA, gun violence is only the result of what criminals do when they get their hands on guns. What Rev. Hall is asking us to do is look at gun violence in terms of its consequences, namely, the suffering which occurs every time someone is injured with a gun.
The problem with this call for persons of good conscience to be concerned about gun violence is that we currently have an Oval Office occupant who doesn’t think it’s a problem at all. Or better said, he uses allusions to gun violence as a way to promote his political and personal brand. Right now we have armed, right-wing jerks who call themselves ‘Proud Boys,’ allegedly protecting Houston residents from looters and thugs. I’ll take the short odds that Trump will invite them to the White House to back up his pledge to help Texas overcome the Harvey mess.
Given the Cathedral’s commitment to gun violence prevention along with other, meaningful causes, it’s understandable that there was a bit of a kerfuffle when its choir participated in the Inauguration followed by a hosting Trump at the now-traditional interfaith service following his swearing in. In fact, the public opposition to Trump’s appearance was led by Rev. Gary Hall, who felt that the “faith community should be a center of resistance against Donald Trump.”
The new Dean, The Rev. Randy Hollerith, decided to lead the National Prayer Service with Trump sitting front row center, but since then he appears to be seriously heeding his predecessor’s call for the Cathedral to take seriously its opposition to the Age of Trump. He has called out the President for just about everything that Trump has done, from immigration to politicizing religious institutions to transgender rights to promoting white supremacy – the public voice of the Cathedral is right back where it belongs.
Sadly, much of Trump’s obnoxious and offensive pandering seems to be aimed at white Evangelicals who supported him overwhelmingly in 2016. Not only is much (but not all) of the Evangelical leadership attuned to Trump’s world view, but they no doubt felt ignored by the 44th President whose social agenda did not align with their ideas to any degree.
I applaud Rev. Hollerith’s resistance to Trump but what needs to be done now is for Rev. Hollerith and like-minded religious leaders to come together, find common grounds on which to resist the former reality-television star and get the word out in an organized and ongoing campaign. Enough is really enough.