a dark comedy that's not funny at all.

I started to write a post this week about “hopeful realism”, what I’m trying to hold on to right now in the midst of the avalanche of cynicism that is trying to bury me and so many people I know. But as I started writing, things quickly turned another direction.

The United States of America is the laughingstock of the world right now, with the kind of laughter only a dark comedy brings.

The reality that Donald Trump is soon to be in the highest office in the world still just leaves me a bit speechless and stunned.

That a big (and hugely powerful) block of Christianity has aligned with him and his team has affirmed my faith shift in a way that I never thought it would be affirmed but also fills me with deep sense of anger at the hijacking and what the world perceives so many of us to be.

That Paula White and Franklin Graham are inauguration speakers?  Paula White. Franklin Graham. Of course, that makes perfect sense in all this, but that they are the voices of Christianity many will hear on January 20th does make my stomach turn.

That the first order of business is dismantling health coverage for millions of Americans; of course it needs work but the first order of business? The impact this will have on so many vulnerable people is huge.

That a wall between us and Mexico is even a thing.

That our president tweets bizarre things daily and millions of people read them and re-tweet them and cheer them on.

Yes, a dark comedy for sure.

In all kinds of ways, dark comedies magnify the realities of life and draw out patterns and speak truth to humanity and groups. They exaggerate experiences to illustrate their absurdity. They highlight humanity’s tendency toward violence and exclusion and self-protection. They magnify the story so that we can take a long, hard look at ourselves and see what we are capable of, too.

The darkness inside of us, individually, as groups.

Just how far we’re willing to go.

Just how crazy things can get.

Just how addicted to power and control and giving ourselves over to other people can be.

Yeah, we’re players in a dark comedy right now and a lot of people (and in my opinion, forces of evil) are laughing.

But it’s not funny.

And it’s not a movie.

It’s real life.

Real people at risk.

Real people being played.

Real people pawns in a wild and weird game.

Real people being used to help some people get really, really rich.

In so many ways, this is just the same old story, told over and over and over and over again in history. It’s nothing new, really. The Bible is filled with this story. It was like this before Jesus entered the world and it’s been like that ever since. Those on the underside of power, the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, have known what it’s like for all of history.

Now so many others are beginning to feel its sting, to stand in solidarity in a way we didn’t before, to wake up the craziness and refuse to stay silent and complacent anymore.

This is the shred of hope that I have.

That the cries of the vulnerable will be heard and those with privilege will do something about it.

I am watching people rise up in all kinds of ways, to boldly call out injustice, to give up their seat, to become “sanctuary people” (more on that soon), to care, to get involved for the first time, to put feet to their faith.

It really is pretty.

But oh, this hasn’t even started and look how tired everyone is.

This is why we need healing, sustaining communities right now, tables of friends, gatherings of hope, places where people can show up and share, spaces where we feel less alone and borrow hope from each other, circles of advocates and allies who nurture each other’s hearts in all kind of creative ways, fellow strugglers who are weary and tired and need God’s rest and peace, places to laugh together, eat together, cry together, conspire together, make art together, stand together.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s never in the dark comedies.

In the dark comedies, the Jesus-y people are always the mean, judgmental ones, removed from the rest of the world somehow, so out of touch that when we see them on the screen we want to cringe.

We have the potential to play a different part in this story.

To live out a different narrative that illuminates the weird, wild ways of the kingdom of God.

We will be called naive.

We will be called wishful thinkers.

We will be called heretics.

We will be called worldly-people-who-care-about-politics-when-we’re-only-supposed-to-care-about-God.

We will be called whiners.

We will be called all kinds of things far worse than this.

But that’s okay.

Our eyes will be open.

We will see the dark comedy for what it is.

We will refuse to be somebody else’s character in it.

We will stand with our friends, clear-headed, with our integrity in tact. 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

12 Comments

  • Thanks for adding your voice to what so many of us also see and believe. I do see some good things resulting from this stunning election, but still very concerned that we may have further down to go before things will be able to turn, at least outwardly. (BTW, I recommend the 8 or so min. piece Keith Olberman just released a day or so ago… him at his non-snarky, reasoned-but-passionate best… a useful piece to share with certain Trump-supporting people, I feel.)

    As to the Christian aspect of the election and Trump support, yes sad and hurtful, but we HAVE had numerous warnings that it might come out this way. All I can think (as an educator with the background I have) is that it should drive us to better understand the ways belief systems mix with culture, hopes, attitudes, etc. and THEN how to devise better ways of communicating and educating. I know it’s just one aspect and easy to oversimplify, but I do think a much stronger practice of active listening can play a role, if done by a LOT of well educated/open/clear-minded Christians (and others).

    This practice, which I’ve employed online perhaps more than in-person lately, given my limited interactions in that setting, goes like this (and it HAS had some small successes): I ask for definitions, clarification or elaboration, as appropriate. I try to “join” the person where I can/empathize/recognize feelings. But I also, sometimes right off or sometimes a bit later, also challenge some, respectfully… ask for support of points, point out inconsistency or lack of clear meaning that may mislead others, etc. Though I rarely see it show up when people “war” online, I have had people soften stands and back away some, and end up amiably on a few threads. Just for encouragement that online interaction is not ALWAYS worthless. But it DOES take self-editing time to be sure you use working that is non-accusatory, non-insulting and not easily misconstrued. Takes thinking (which we don’t usually like doing).

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    • thanks so much, howard. those are some great suggestions. sometimes i struggle with just not wanting to spend the time online at all engaging because it’s so exhausting and there are so many other fish to fry. want to try to figure out how to create more real-life spaces for some of these conversations but always tricky to pull off. meanwhile, glad for your heart and wisdom. it’s a gift.

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  • I echo your lament about how completely different from anything Jesus certain forms of Christianity have come to be. I also am experiencing a battle fatigue that is concerning, given (as you said) we are just at the start. I keep hoping for some sort of intervention that will make all that unnecessary. That’s more wishful thinking than genuine hope. My desire for a quiet, serene life has gotten completely upended, and my level of discomfort is off the scale.

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  • Thanks so much for adding your voice to so many of our voices, Kathy. I thought you and your readers might appreciate this talk by Walter Brueggemann which, although 4 years old, addresses so much of what you have. Interestingly, he says our proper response is grief and lament. (It’s almost as if he saw into our nation’s future).

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    • thank so much for sharing this with me! i have a crazy day but am looking forward to listening. i love all things walter brueggemann.

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  • Kathy I love everything you said. I am scared and part of me wants to say screw it, I didn’t vote for him. Let whatever happens, happen. Because I live in a nice house, with heat and air conditioning, I have a good job and there is always plenty of food on the table. But I know in my heart that I can not do that. I have a voice and I have support from loved ones, who tell me that I am doing well, speaking my mind. I feel very disgusted with our government. How so many people Dem and Repub can just sit there and not say or do anything to stop this insanity is truly disheartening. But then I say to myself, put your big girl panties on and keep moving forward. I am also heartened by how many movements have been started for people who want to share their voice and not just sit by and wait to see what happens.

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  • Yes, all of this is very disturbing. To think that an administration filled with billionaires and multi-millionaires will have anything but pretended concern for those on the margins, for the poor, the disenfranchised, those on the fringes, the homeless, the sick and even just the plain average citizen is very, very naive. As a wise man I once knew said “These rich fellows didn’t get rich being concerned about anyone except themselves.” I think we will find that truism still holds.

    Regardless of our political affiliations or who we did or did not vote for, we should all be gravely concerned about the outright lies tossed around in the recent election, presented as “truth.” Of special concern is Russia’s involvement in disseminating misinformation and it’s (successful) attempt to affect the outcome of the election, and our president-elect’s affiliation with and defense of that country and their leaders. I found it astounding that our president-elect outright lied about what the ICA report on “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” says. The declassified version of that report is available online at https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3254229/ICA-2017-01.pdf Read it carefully, especially the main body of the report and compare what it says to you-know-who’s tweets. Did he even bother to read the report?

    Indeed, how do we respond with the love of Jesus to all this and to all those who think they have elected some sort of Messiah. Time will tell the full story. Will we like that story? Wouldn’t it be interesting if we had the ability to look back on all of this from some distant future date and provide an honest assessment. Of course, who would believe such a story?

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    • thanks, sam. oh my goodness, every day it’s something new. watching obama’s farewell address last night was really painful. i loved it, but that sober reality of what we will now have in his place is really hard to swallow. and yes, “time will tell the full story.” hugs from colorado.

      Reply

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