Bernie Sanders, since we’re now making up our own facts, clearly won this election. Or at least the inauguration. An inescapable meme of Sanders, bundled up with his notable mittens, has made major media as well as pedantic punters on the web. Thanks in part to an app created to allow users to place Bernie anywhere, I’ve seen him at all kinds of places from Oxford University Press to Dirty Dancing to the exhibit halls at the AAR/SBL annual meeting. As someone who suffers from the cold I was initially concerned that he must feel laughed at by it all, but Bernie seems to be taking it in good humor. The only reason I bring it up here is a meme (I think) that my wife pointed out to me of Bernie among the Fond du Lac Circus. I can’t find any credit for the creator, but it appeared on the Episcopalians on Facebook group. (I don’t know how Facebook works, checking above the fold once a day only.)
I’ve actually posted on the Fond du Lac Circus before. The photo was extremely popular at Nashotah House when I taught there. The diocese of Fond du Lac (in which I once preached) is just north a bit in Wisconsin. The photo was a celebration of the installation of a bishop with ecclesiastical haberdashery at its finest on display. In my mind, Nashotah House stands for all that’s conservative. I’m certain a great deal of the population supported Trump. A former dean had a shrine to George W. Bush in the deanery. I kid you not. So seeing the most progressive senator amid that crowd of backward-looking clergy, apart from being unspeakably funny, made me reflective.
Many years of my life were spent among the Episcopalians. Too many of those years consisted of feeling oppressed by the interpretation of “orthodoxy” held at Nashotah House. The hubris of “the only right teaching” has haunted me ever since. Faith can be a good thing, but it can also be extremely dangerous. The greatest danger is when it ceases to be reflective. Faith must involve constant thought and assessment to be honest. Unthinking compliance was something Jesus, for one, simply didn’t accept. Challenging the way it’s always been done is a venerable part of the agenda for those who start new religions, Jesus included. When that religion becomes ossified (or too obsessed with appearances) isn’t it time to start looking toward the future? Bernie Sanders is popular with the young. They have little patience for the selfishness that’s been on display in American culture for far too many decades. Would that he really attended the Fond du Lac Circus! Perhaps a grassroots movement to improve conditions for all might’ve actually emerged long ago.