There’s isn’t a graduate of an Episcopal Seminary, the popular adult education offering Education for Ministry, or hopefully any graduate of a Confirmation or Inquirer’s class in the Episcopal Church that doesn’t have an image of the legendary Anglican thinker Richard Hooker’s three-legged stool firmly planted in their brains. Our faith as Anglicans sits on three points – on a tripod of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Hooker’s image of a three-legged stool tells us what we value: We value Holy Scripture, we value Tradition and we strive for the intellectual inquiry necessary to avoid the cognitive dissonance that a rose-colored reading of Scripture so readily affords. Three points always define a plane and as such our faith can stand on uneven ground. But I suppose we could also say that the stool on which many of us rest our faith values scripture, values tradition, and values, above all, a faith that is rational – a faith that falls “within reason.”
But being faithful defies reason. On June 27, ten days after the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, 30 year-old Bree Newsome climbed a a thirty-foot flagpole outside the South Carolina statehouse to take down a confederate flag. Her decision to climb that flagpole was born out of a “crisis of faith” (a cognitive dissonance) following the shootings at Emanuel. “I see people just going about their daily lives,” Newsome said, “and I just can’t do that.” Newsome has said that when making the decision to climb that pole she was afraid for her life and as she descended its height kept repeating Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Before climbing the pole Newsome says that she read the bible – the story of David and Goliath.
At St. Alban’s recently, we’ve heard Ruby Sales ask us if we are prepared to leave the Emperor’s table in order to go to “our Alabama.” Ruby’s was an unreasonable request. President Obama, in his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, said “Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have more conversations about race… but we don’t need more talk.” A friend of mine today said, “We don’t need bandaids, we need bricks.”
Bree Newsome climbed that flagpole, fearing her life. On her way down, while reciting scripture, a police officer talked to her, telling her, “You’re doing the wrong thing…” and then she was arrested and charged with defacing a monument. But Bree made a brick. And on July 10 state legislators signed a bill authorizing the removal of the confederate flag, for good, from the SC statehouse.
At St. Alban’s this fall we’ll be talking, as always, about faith. We’ll be relying on Scripture, on Tradition, and on Reason. And we’ll be talking about God’s Justice. Because we live on uneven ground. Along with those talks, maybe we’ll make some bricks.