Blatantly Christian, Honestly Human

On Friday, the authorities found the body of a friend’s little brother who had been missing for three weeks. His death was caused by Xanax, methadone and fentanyl patches, all acquired by prescription, but for abusive purposes. He was 47 years old, a nice guy, they say.

I just got off the phone with a young mother looking for an NA meeting for her 18-year-old son, who just completed treatment. She’s looking harder for meetings than he is. We could shrug and say, “Well, when he’s ready to quit, he’ll go to meetings on his own.” Meanwhile, his risk of death by fentanyl or carfentanyl overdose is very, very high.

We already host AA and Al Anon meetings, and we address all addictions and compusive behaviors at our Tuesday Recovery service. I’m thinking we need to host more NA meetings.

I’ve recently started wearing a clergy collar. I wear it to court, and I wear it at essentially every service, including our recovery service. I confess to people with messy lives that mine has been messy, too. If I can recover and become a servant of God, so can they. I also want them to know that they are forgiven and accepted by me, by my church and by the church at large. Hopefully, they will see that God accepts them, too. Everyone needs a pastor.

Malcolm Boyd was an Episcopal priest, peace activist and social radical for more than 60 years. In the late 60’s, as I tried to reconcile my rebellious views with my Christian faith, I was held to the church and the faith by two of Boyd’s books, “Malcolm Boyd’s Book of Days” and “Are You Running With Me, Jesus? The Prayers of Malcolm Boyd.” I was shocked that anyone could be so blatantly Christian and honestly human. He did this, in my eyes, by dressing for the pulpit, speaking for the streets, and writing from the heart.

Boyd could talk poverty and addiction in one breath, as if the latter required the former. That isn’t true today. People with potentially ordinary lives of middle class success are tripping over death in their addictions and compulsive behaviors. Addiction has seeped into our ivory towers. No generation, race, class or religion is immune from the opioid epidemic.

It is time for us to become blatantly Christian and honestly human. It is time for us to open church doors and Christian hearts to the life-or-death struggle going on all around us. Peter said of Christians, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Christ has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light, but he also calls us to reach INTO the darkness and bring OTHERS into the light.

Has addiction touched your family? Your very life? First, save yourself and your loved ones. Get help, and a support group. Then, use the darkness of your own life to light a path for others.

If your church is looking for a ministry, you’ll find it on the front page and in the obituary section of the morning newspaper. Do you have what it takes to address the issue? That depends. If you have a circle of chairs, a quiet room, a few parking spaces and anyone who has stepped from darkness into that wonderful light, then yes, you do. Get busy. Lives are at stake.