Reverend Lori Walke
Editor’s note: As part of our commitment to fostering civil conversations in Viewpoints, we invite faith leaders to submit edited versions of their homilies that transcend religion, with messages that may appeal to people of all faith traditions.
The Church does not spend much time in the book of Daniel. People vaguely remember the story of Daniel and his childhood Sunday School lions’ den, but not much more than he got away with barely a bite. The unfamiliarity with the book is understandable given that after Chapter Six things are decidedly strange – wild visions of symbolic beasts, thrones of fire, and a strange universe of celestial beings.
But wild visions are just what we need these days, especially given the reality of life in Oklahoma. To say it’s hard to live here is an understatement, given that Christian nationalists threaten our public school teachers with mandatory “patriotic training”, sweeping abortion bans endanger pregnant patients, the fact that we are the fifth hungriest state in the country, and Oklahoma County Jail has a higher death rate than Riker’s Island. The list ends there because newspapers have word count limits.
Many of us remember this year’s State of the State Address when Gov. Kevin Stitt said Oklahoma was well positioned to be in the top 10 states, which should have been a sign of hope. Turns out he didn’t mean it. During a gubernatorial debate last month, he clarified that “Being in the Top 10 is an ambitious goal; it’s something we’re never going to touch. YIKES.
Apparently the governor doesn’t know what the word “aspirational” means.
But we do. Christians who study the scriptures know that we come from a long line of ambitious people – those who believed in a world beyond the limits of what now existed. Not “beyond” in the soft sense, but “beyond” as in the promise of what can be. The prophet Daniel was one of them. He lived through one of the most difficult times in Israel’s history, separated and separated from the most difficult time in his personal history in the lion’s den. The situation in Israel certainly called for ambitious visions of what life might be like and clarity around the level of fidelity required for that to happen.
This was also the case with Jesus, who formulated this aspiration in a prayer that many of us say at least once a week: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. “The movement of Jesus was – and is – to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth, to create a world in which every body and every spirit is known and loved, and understood as an indispensable thread in the fabric of humanity.
This is how we have a vision of an Oklahoma where restorative justice is the status quo, public school teachers are supported like professional athletes, and everyone knows exactly where their next meal is coming from.
This vision may sound as crazy as Daniel’s, or Jesus’ too, for that matter, but as Jewish tradition teaches, “You don’t have to finish the job, but neither are you freer to give it up.”
No matter who lives in the Governor’s Mansion, Oklahomans will continue to project a vision for a better future, knowing it will take loyalty to make it a reality. As the song goes, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
Reverend Lori Allen Walke is senior minister at the Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.