Why the Season of the Trinity would Benefit Evangelicalism

The Anglican church follows a church calendar that consists of five seasons (as do, I believe, the Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran traditions). The first four are Advent (first Sunday in December until Christmas), Epiphany (Christmas to Ash Wednesday), Lent (Ash Wednesday to Easter), and Easter (Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday). And, I am not taking away from the importance of these. It’s important for us as the Church to set aside time to recognize the particularly important events in our faith (the birth of Christ, his crucifixion, resurrection, and the sending of His Spirit to the Church. These times have proven very spiritually meaningful to many people, myself included. 

However, there is a fifth liturgical season that is not as well known. We are in it now; it lasts from Pentecost Sunday until early December; a solid six months. It is known as the Season of the Trinity. Rather than spending that season honoring a an exhilarating theological event, it is spent focused on the Trinity, a most basic fact of the unchanging God.

At the start of each liturgical season, my church hands out a booklet with prayers and Scripture readings for that season. I would like to quote the introduction page for the Season of the Trinity booklet:

“The church calendar orients our spirituality and schedules around the events of Christ’s life. In a yearly journey through these events, we gradually come to know what it means to be united to him in the experiences of longing and fulfillment, sadness, and joy. It can be tempting, however, to think that our Christian life is solely characterized by these spiritual extremes. This is where the Trinity season is vital to our Christian walk.

Much of our life is lived in the ordinary and mundane. If we’re honest, it is an infrequent occurrence when something quite remarkable takes place in our lives. Periodically, we may become discouraged and long for excitement and emotional exhilaration, and this is especially the case in our spiritual walk.  We often think that we need a spiritual high to feel close to God. But on the contrary, it is in the slow, regular rhythms of our lives-the scheduled activities of Sunday worship and daily devotion, the slow cultivation of relationships, and our vocations-that God most frequently meets us.

Trinity season is the longest season in the church calendar. It spans from Trinity Sunday to Advent. In some ways, this ‘ordinary time’ most closely mirrors our lives, lives marked by regular events and seemingly monotonous rhythms. A truly countercultural Christianity grasps this time with a willing and content spirit that meets God in the orginary and the mundane.”

 

Now THAT was refreshing, if anything ever was. Here you have an acknowledgement that much of life lacks spiritual highs, and is in fact quite mundane at times. You will likewise find that in the Bible, while we see a lot of God speaking directly to people, most of those people’s live are not recorded, which likely means that the norm for the those people was living otherwise mundane lives. 

But American evangelicalism, as a general rule, has almost no place for this. Its roots in revivalism require constant and continuous life-altering emotional experiences with God. In many evangelical small group settings, the high point of the event is to go around the circle (as I experienced) and be able to describe “what God has been doing in your life” most often through really cool experiences, their emotional connection with their daily Bible reading, or their emotional inklings during their prayer times. Generally, the more emotional and/or extroverted you were, the more likely you were to have something relevant to that criteria to be able to share, and thus be viewed favorably. If you didn’t, as was almost invariably the case for me, it was obviously because of a poor prayer life, inadequate reading of Scripture, or ongoing sin in your life, and you were either lectured or at the very least given very stern, grave looks. 

In our Anglican liturgical tradition, in contrast, such experiences are viewed as the exception, and the way to best experience God is to practice the Eucharist, the liturgy, prayer, and Scripture reading, which is how God is met, whether we FEEL like it or not. The Season of the Trinity is indeed constructed around this assumption. 

It is my sincere hope that this may one day be embraced by our evangelical brothers and sisters, and that “spiritually boring” people everywhere will be able to stand up and say, “I don’t feel that close to God right now, but that’s OK. Because of His promises, I can continue to have assurance of one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

The Zimmerman Verdict: A Proposed Truce

This post will be substantially shorter than usual. The reason is that I think concise is needed at this time of widespread anger and division over George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin’s supporters need to face the fact that from a legal perspective, the acquittal was correct. The prosecution quite simply did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Zimmerman who instigated the entire fight. All they managed to establish was that Zimmerman exited his car when told not to, which is suspicious, to be sure. But they could not prove that the physical altercation was his doing, or even how closely he followed Martin. The burden of proof was on them, and they did not meet it. Hence the acquittal was correct.

It’s also time that those on the other side of the issue realize that racism remains a real issue. There is a reason that the issue of Zimmerman possibly profiling Martin seems to resonate so much with blacks: because so many of them know what this is like. Being followed by police officers, security guards, neighborhood watches, and jumpy citizens is a regular occurrence for many black males. The black community continues to face discrimination in the legal, social, and economic realms, and for them this issue strikes an emotional chord. While this case, objectively speaking, does not necessarily serve as a superb illustration, it CAN be used as an opportunity to bring light to the issue.

Only when people learn to see why the other side might see things the way they do, can real progress be made on these issues. I can only hope that this case may be instrumental in guiding along the healing process in our country’s ugly legacy of racism. God have mercy on us.

The Sad Case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

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The defense has rested its case in the ongoing trial of George Zimmerman, a man on trial for the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, whom he claims he killed in self-defense. The next few days will have closing arguments, and then Zimmerman’s fate will be in the hands of the jury. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.

It is always deeply saddening to see anyone lose their life. What makes it even sadder is that race played at least a partial role in Zimmerman’s choice to initially follow Martin.

This is an important point I want to touch on. Trayvon Martin was unarmed, and had only Skittles and green tea. He was on his way to his father’s house. He also appears to have been genuinely frightened when he saw Zimmerman following him, not knowing why. It is almost a certainty that what triggered Zimmerman’s suspicion was his being black, and wearing a hoodie. There is a reason that it is so believable that he was being profiled. And that reason is that it happens to blacks in the United States. Constant stories exist, both in the news, and personal accounts from black acquaintances, about security guards and police officers stopping them for no good reason, accusing them of preposterous things, sometimes even handing down extremely unjust punishments.

I’m about to relate an example from my own life. Although it has nowhere near the severity that the above scenarios do, it nonetheless left me with a feeling conviction I will never forget. On a spring evening when I was 17, my dad was off at a meeting, and my mom was out back working on the flowers. I was on the computer, when the doorbell rang. I looked through the blinds and saw that it was a black male. He had on basketball shorts, a sleeveless shirt with the name of a basketball team, and his hair was in corn rows. I remember shuddering. I was about to go back to the computer, when a feeling of guilt came over me. Perhaps it was what they call “white guilt”. My guilt caused me to open the door. I don’t remember much about him, but I remember his name was Marcus, he was very polite and kind, and his reason for being there was to get donation pledges for an environmental advocacy group. There’s a “suspicious activity” if there ever was one, eh? After he left, I remember my mom commenting what a hard job he had, and that a lot of the neighborhood probably didn’t even open their doors to him, due to fear. We were very glad we had a chance to talk to him. But my fear was reflective of reality in the dominant white culture of America: fear of the “other”, particularly of black skin. We have allowed the media to saturate us with images of black men as mindless brutes with physical prowess. The result has been that we fear them, and a few of us have taken our reactions to extremes, as in the case of Zimmerman’s hyper-vigilance.

Which brings me to my second point: Zimmerman almost certainly had a hyper-vigilance problem. An affidavit indicates that “Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated ‘these [expletive], they always get away’ and also said ‘these f—— punks’.” This appears to be a sign of, dare I say, paranoia. It also appears that he followed Martin even when the dispatcher told him not to. This is a man with a vendetta, and an unacceptable level of fear. And while some question the role of race, given that Zimmerman is a Hispanic and thus a minority himself, I found this to be a brilliant assessment of race relations in Florida (it’s a rarity for me to applaud the Huffington Post).

However, there appear to be issues with Trayvon Martin as well. His character has been called into question, as he appears to have been a drug user, with small traces even found in his autopsy, although it appears the amounts were negligible. He seems to have had a belligerent streak, and also was a sporadic truant. Although the judge has ruled many of these things inadmissible by the defense, they are things to consider. Legitimate questions have also been raised regarding whether the arrest was due to an honest reexamination of the facts, or whether it was to appease an increasingly irate public.

Here is, in a nutshell, what I think happened: Zimmerman, out of his hyper-vigilance, decided to follow Martin, wanting very badly to “put that punk in his place,” so to speak. Martin caught on, and began verbally confronting him, with Zimmerman verbally firing back. It’s at that point that it becomes fuzzy for me. It’s not clear whether Zimmerman then backed off, only to be then pursued and physically confronted by Martin (Zimmerman did have a broken nose and numerous lacerations), resulting in him shooting Martin, or whether Zimmerman escalated the confrontation and tried to restrain and/or incapacitate Martin.

Having looked at these facts, I am now going to go on the record and say that I believe Zimmerman will be acquitted. I believe that the defense has managed to sow a reasonable doubt into the minds of the jury for two primary reasons:

1. They’ve managed to make the initial picture of Martin as a “fine young man” seem highly questionable, and made him increasingly seem like the type to initiate aggression.

2. Witness accounts differ strongly on which of them appeared to be the aggressor. They cannot even agree which one was on top in the scuffle, or which one’s voice is screaming for help. All they have to do is establish the prosecution’s lack of conclusive proof that Zimmerman was the primary aggressor.

Regardless of outcome, it is time for white America to wake up to the reality of racism, alive and well in 2013. Regardless of Zimmerman’s precise motivations, it is far too often that blacks are viewed suspiciously, and often downright mistreated, for what ultimately boils down to their skin color. Going back to my story about Marcus, many white people often say, “Well, they shouldn’t dress like that if they don’t want to be viewed suspiciously!” (the same can be said about Martin’s hoodie). However, we forget how easy it is for us to say that, since it is OUR clothing that has the status of normativity, and ultimately up to US, as the majority, to decide who looks suspicious. The Hispanic perspective also, in my opinion, has not been heard at all throughout this controversy. The time has come that we must listen to one another’s story’s, and do our best to work together to overcome these prejudices. As the old spiritual goes, we must continue “climbing Jacob’s ladder, to the sky.”

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. -Proverbs 21:15