When Spiritual Relationships Go Bad


Y'all, I hope this post isn't a complete ramble, but I've had so much rattling around in my head lately that it's hard as hell to focus. Do I write about the spiritual elements within the protests against police violence? Do I rant about the huge-ass Confederate flag I saw last week while driving through a nearby small town, or the hand-wringing over protecting a Confederate monument in Asheboro, NC? (FYI, I have family from the Asheboro area and 3 of my great-grandfathers enlisted there for the Confederacy. However, I want that statue removed, destroyed, put in a rocket and sent to Mars--whichever!)


I suppose what's really eating at me is that I decided to end a nearly 12-year relationship with one of my spiritual mentors. I just discovered that he's a Trumper, and I am absolutely shocked because everything Trump does stands in opposition to the teachings of my mentor. Now, I know many people of faith support President Trump, and I know I'm mixing religion and politics here. But honestly, I don't think there's any way not to mix them these days. Let it be known that I absolutely oppose Trump and his policies because of my spiritual values. Of course, everyone is free to believe what they want, including my mentor. However, he then began making political posts on the Facebook page of his church. And basically, he said that anyone who opposes Trump isn't really spiritually enlightened. For me, that crossed the line.


Then it occurs to me, am I doing the same thing as him? No, I don't have a church or followers (except you, wonderful readers!), and I'm not teaching anything other than a few occasional workshops. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I also don't want to be found guilty of standing to the side or being silent while Trump destroys everything I care about and behaves in ways that I consider damaging or wrong.


So, I emailed my mentor and told him my thoughts and concerns. To be fair, it's been a few years since I've seen him in person, however, we've remained connected through social media. Not only did he ordain me more than 10 years ago, giving me the chance to do so many wonderful weddings, but he's also supported me in other ways. He gave me a recommendation for my chaplaincy internship and on my application to become an American Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer. Without that support, I wouldn't be where I am today, with a Master of Divinity degree and preparing for a full-time chaplain residency at a nearby hospital. Even well before I decided to pursue chaplaincy, my mentor's teachings completely revolutionized how I live and think. It changed my life for the better, bringing me so much joy, freedom and peace.


Sure, no one's perfect. I'm not the first person to admire someone only to discover they're not as wonderful as I thought. But I'm not sure how he reconciles his politics with his spiritual values. I suppose I could have asked ... but I didn't. Honestly, I didn't feel he wanted a discussion. Instead, there was just a dismissal of my thoughts and concerns. He could have replied and said, "let's talk." Instead, all I got was a "laugh" emoji and an email that essentially said, "Best of luck." Gee, thanks. I wish things could have gone differently, but all the wishing in the world won't make something happen. I will say, however, that if someone I had taught came to me with similar concerns, I'd listen. We may not agree, but I'd at least listen and give respect.


My partner was listening to all of this, and he reminded me of a Maya Angelou quote: "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."

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