Thursday, July 07, 2016

We're All Created in the Image of God!!!

What follows is a manuscript of the message I delivered earlier today at the State Capitol while standing in solidarity with local clergy in a nonpartisan way condemning all attacks on one's religious convictions, including the recent attacks on State Senate Candidate Sara Niccoli. You can read more about the issue here. I was happy to see a spokesperson for the Amedore campaign disavowed the attacks this afternoon.

Activists, members of the press and all people of goodwill, thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Rev. Dustin G. Wright, an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, called to serve at Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam, and I give thanks to God for the opportunity to join with clergy from across the Capitol Region as we rally in support of religious freedom.

So just this past Sunday morning, as members of my Spirit filled congregation gathered for worship thinking about patriotism, freedom and quite frankly yearning for the delicious barbeques that awaited us throughout the rest of the long weekend, we joyfully celebrated and gave thanks for America’s great tradition of religious freedom. We also however spoke about how in a time when especially our Muslim sisters and brothers are increasingly being vilified, that most sacred tradition is under assault. So, when I heard about the hateful rhetoric being anonymously leveled at Sara Niccoli, a candidate for the State Senate, because of her religious observances, and furthermore that this irresponsible rhetoric was leading to Sara receiving death threats, I was deeply saddened and disappointed.

Let me be abundantly clear here, we as clergy are not standing together in support of one candidate or another today, that’s not our role. We are however standing in solidarity, urging, pleading all members of our community to not only tolerate religious differences, but indeed, to celebrate them. Not only is celebrating our religious differences what true freedom and true patriotism looks like, but it’s also something we hold in common as one of the best teachings of all our faiths. I’ll close by citing a Talmudic teaching I recently learned from a local rabbi as we stood in support of the LGBTQ community after a Pride Flag was burned on the premises of First Lutheran Church here in Albany:

Right at the beginning of Genesis, the Bible talks about how God has created each and every one of us, indeed all of humanity, in the Divine Image. Now when we humans create something in our image, every image looks exactly the same… every penny with Abraham Lincoln’s image on it looks exactly the same right? But in such wonderful mystery and diversity, when God creates humanity in the Divine Image, we all look different! Gay, straight, black, white, Quaker, Lutheran, Muslim, Catholic and Jewish, liberal and conservative folks who identify across the rich spectrum that is human gender and sexuality, God has created each and every single one of us in the Divine Image! So when we attack folks because of their religious beliefs, or because of their God given-identity, it not only goes against the best ideals of American patriotism. It not only represents an attack on all our freedom. When we attack folks because of their religious beliefs, we deny the Image of God is reflected in those persons and thereby deny the Image of God is reflected in ourselves. Indeed, when we attack someone because of their religious beliefs, we deny a critical, essential part of ourselves as human beings. And that is why I stand here today, in solidarity with clergy from across the Capital Region, everyone in our community no matter their political affiliation, including George Amedore, to disavow in the strongest possible terms all attacks on one’s religious observances and convictions. Thank you.

Dustin serves as pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church, a Spirit filled church following Jesus Christ in Schenectady, New York. An evangelist, urban gardener, mountain climber, community organizer, saint and sinner, he spends most of his professional time wrestling with God and proclaiming liberation in Christ. Otherwise, Dustin likes hiking, playing frisbee, hanging out with his amazing pup Willy Bear and pretending to know how to sing.