Category Archives: Politics

The Attack of the Lying Suits!

I think I am finally beginning to understand.

You see, last week I preached for a friend so that he could take some time off. I’ve preached for him before and so his congregation is familiar with me.  Familiarity helps when you’re doing pulpit supply, and it makes the congregation feel better too, so there I was for Memorial Day weekend.

I got there early so that I could get settled and say hello to the folks as they came through the door. One parishioner, I’ll call him Dave, got there only a few moments after I did so that he could hand out the bulletins and greet folks at the door.

I talked with Dave about how he’d been since I’d last seen him and about the weather, which was hot and dry even up in the mountains. I knew there was a brush fire nearby and had seen the smoke as I drove into town. I’d also heard about the fire on the news and so I knew that locals were very concerned about what was being released into the air by the fire. The long and short of it was that this area of forest hadn’t burned in decades, not since the government had used Agent Orange to reduce the chaparral and increase water flow for the Salt River Project.**

Now that the area that had been deforested was burning, the locals were alarmed at the dioxins that might be released into the air by the fire. I asked Dave if he had heard anything from the fire service or the local government and he immediately started shaking his head. “Oh yeah, we heard from them all right. They told us we have nothing to worry about. They’re lying to us and we know it…lying right to our faces.”

I can’t blame Dave for feeling the way he does, even though I can’t be sure that the fire service or the government is actually lying. And the truth is that we won’t find out for a long time, and if we do find out, it will be because the local citizens start getting sick in record numbers…and the lies will have cost them their health and maybe even their lives.

We’ve all seen it happen: something goes terribly wrong, and the government or the giant corporation sends some official representative to assure the public that everything is going to be just fine.  They come to us dressed in finely tailored suits, armed with smiles and slick lies.

It’s the attack of the lying suits.

Erin Brockovich.  Michael Clayton. Silkwood. All The President’s Men. Syrianna…every last one of these movies tells the true story of corporate or governmental lies and coverups that cost the American people dearly.  We know the story of the lying suit so well, that stories about striking back at the lying suits have become a part of what we call entertainment.

And this…THIS is how we got Donald Trump as President.

I have been trying for months to find a way to understand Trump voters.  I have listened to them try to explain why they like Trump and it hasn’t helped at all…until Dave.

Huge numbers of Americans, many of them working poor, are sick to death of the lying suits. They have come to believe that any person who comes with a suit and a smile cannot be trusted.  They have been lied to and cheated. They’ve lost their homes to the financial crisis and the greed of multinational banks.  They’ve have had their property devalued and their health destroyed by corporate dumping and the subsequent pollution of the soil and ground water. They have been told that fracking doesn’t harm the environment even after they told the lying suits that they could turn their kitchen faucets into blowtorches simply by turning them on and then lighting a match next to the faucet.  They have been told that the city’s water infrastructure was fine even though the levels of lead in the water were off the charts.

It’s not as if lives were at stake. Okay, lives were at stake, but they weren’t important lives because no one whose life was at stake was wearing a well-tailored suit and a smile.

And then along came a rich man in a well-tailored suit, with a slick smile…

And he talked in the exact same way as the-people-who-are-sick-of the-lying-suits like to talk. And he railed against the government, just like the-people-who-are-sick-of the-lying-suits rail against the government.  He said unkind, politically incorrect things, just like the-people-who-are-sick-of the-lying-suits wish they could say to the lying suits.  He publicly ridiculed the lying suits and he refused to play nice with them no matter how hard the lying suits tried to get him to do what was expected of him if he was going to play politics.

He did everything that the-people-who-are-sick-of the-lying-suits want to do but can’t do because they don’t have the money or the power or the prestige to get anyone to listen or pay attention to them.

This is why we have Donald Trump as President.

And you can’t really blame the-people-who-are-sick-of the-lying-suits, can you? Because those of us who didn’t vote for Donald Trump deal with those same lying suits every day.

We work for them. They are usually our boss’s boss. And we don’t like the lying suits very much either.  They tend to screw us out of our pension, or deny us the benefits they promised us if we would only work for them for 20+ years, or lay us off along with 4,000 of our coworkers, all while taking their million dollar bonus for keeping the company profitable.

I think I finally beginning to understand.

I don’t like the man who the-people-who-are-sick-of the-lying-suits elected, but I am beginning to understand why they thought he would be a better choice than Hillary, who (let’s be honest) sometimes looks an awful lot like all the other lying suits.

I may not agree with their choice, but if I can understand why they made their choice, maybe I can find compassion for how they feel, and if I can find compassion for how they feel, maybe we can finally start a dialogue about how best to unite and move forward.

I think I am finally beginning to understand, and it’s the first ray of hope I’ve had in a while.

**  Read more about the use of Agent Orange in Arizona HERE

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The Morning After the Mourning After

This morning I went to a yoga class.  I was exhausted and anxious and needed to let go of some stress. My daughter is getting married this evening and all that anxiety has built to a peak of anticipation.  I figured a little stretching and sweating would do my soul some good.

The instructor, Jeff Martens, is a great teacher. He speaks softly during class, reminding us of proper posture and breathing techniques.  He also speaks words of wisdom, meant to guide us into greater relaxation and greater submission to the spiritual process of yoga.

Today he reminded us that every posture is a prayer that we pray with our body and our soul. He reminded us that prayers are not requests; prayer is more than asking for things. The prayers we make with our body are affirmations of all that is already ours: health, peace, communion, joy…or conversely, they can be affirmations that we believe we exist in a state of struggle, discontent, and FEAR.

There has been a lot of fear this week.

I told you in my last post that the days after the election were particularly difficult for LGBTQ persons, minorities, and women.  Many were consumed with fear that they would lose their civil rights, their safety, their nation and their home.  This week wasn’t much different, and I had plenty of people who cried their way through their session, worried about the future and wondering what they should do next.

One of my clients yesterday was particularly upset, and nothing seemed to comfort her. We talked about the allies that are all around her; people who love her, people who are not willing let her be re-victimized or denied safety.  I reminded her that I will always be an ally.  And then I told her that my greatest hope is that there are many good people in powerful places, people who are not willing to silently stand by as millions are denied their civil rights and human dignity. I said that I believe those people will slowly reveal themselves as Trump’s plan unfolds; I believe that one by one they will stand up and say “Not in my America!” and they will be our allies as we fight against a rising tide of bigotry, sexism, and homophobia.

It won’t be as simple as the split between Democrats and Republicans. I told her that we will probably all be disgusted to discover bigots, misogynists, and homophobes among people we thought were our allies.  I’m betting we will also be stunned at the number of staunch Republicans who stand up for civil rights, equality, and justice.  Neither side has a monopoly on righteousness; in the long run, I believe that this will be a great blessing that will work to our advantage.

She smiled at me and said it was a lovely idea, but she wasn’t sure it was realistic.

I told her that I am counting on it.

I never thought it would happen so soon!

Today Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton made an announcement in response to President Elect Trump’s decision to begin deporting undocumented immigrants.  The mayor stated:

“Phoenix is an incredibly diverse and welcoming city where we endeavor every day to protect our community while treating residents with dignity and respect, no matter who you are, who you love or where you come from.

Our diversity is our greatest strength as a community, and our strongest selling point as an economy. It says much about who we are as a people that Phoenix is considered one of the safest and most welcoming cities in the United States for those seeking refuge from the violence of war-torn countries.

That will not change, regardless of who is president.

Residents and visitors can be assured we will professionally and steadfastly uphold the laws of our city. But that does not mean that Phoenix will fall victim to discourse that is openly antagonistic and hostile to members of our community.

The Phoenix Police Department will never turn into a mass deportation force, even if the new government in Washington, D.C., threatens to revoke federal dollars. This is something worth fighting for, and we will not be bullied into taking backward steps on civil rights.

I cried when I heard it on the news, and I cried when I read the article online, and I am still crying as I write this right now.  There are things worth fighting for: our deepest values and dearest morals, but most important is human lives.  These things are worth standing up for, no matter what the cost.

Today the Phoenix mayor (along with mayors in Boston, New York, and Chicago, as well as the police chief of Los Angeles) took a stand against bigotry, hatred, and fear.

This morning I heard that every posture is a prayer, an affirmation of what we have.

Today powerful people in a number of major cities struck a posture of resistance to injustice. They still have some stretching to do before their posture can be firm and true, and we need to join them. We are only beginning to understand just how deeply our privilege (white, straight, male, educated, etc.) has stepped on the necks of our brothers and sisters. As a nation, we need to change our posture to a prayer that affirms freedom for all, justice for all, and welcome to all who would live in peace.

Today I stand in a posture that breathes a prayer of willingness to stand for others, and gratitude for allies in the struggle.

And I am going to stay in posture for as long as I possibly can.

For more information, use the following links:

ktar.com/story/1362041/phoenix-mayor-greg-stanton-vows-city-police-will-stay-deportation-process/

www.azfamily.com/story/33729670/mayor-stanton-phx-pd-will-never-be-a-mass-deportation-force

For more information on yoga or on Jeff Martens http://www.innervisionyoga.com/

Finally, congratulations to Katie and Phil!  I could not be happier for the two of you, and wish you a long life of joy together.  Phil, Michelle, Dan, Jason, and Arianna…welcome to my family!!

The Mourning After

This has been a rough week.  My candidate lost, not that it really matters.  My life will go on, largely unchanged.  I still have a job. I still have a house. The fluctuations in the stock market affect the net worth of my retirement portfolio, but I’m only 52 and retirement is a long way away and so right now, those fluctuations exist only on paper.  In the end, November 8th came and went and absolutely nothing changed for me or my husband except the name of our president.

I got on Facebook the morning after the election and noticed that a lot of people have been posting about unity, and how both Republicans and Democrats need to set aside our differences and work towards unity.  Many of my Christian friends have posted on Facebook encouraging their friends to pray for unity and to pray that God grants wisdom and guidance to our nation’s leaders.

Gosh that sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Pray for unity! Pray that God guides our nation’s leaders!

I kind of expect Christians to be praying for unity and guidance on a regular basis. I’m kind of confused why anyone has to encourage Christians to do something that they should pretty much be doing every day.  Moments like this make me wonder if I need to go on Facebook and encourage Christians to brush their teeth and shower daily.

Apparently, Christians are struggling with the basics these days and need some encouragement.

The thing is that I’m not convinced that unity is what we need to be praying for.  Let me explain.

Do you remember when you were still a teenager and you used to wonder when you would meet the one?  I used to dream about the boy I would marry and how handsome he would be; I would dream about the house I would live in and the children that I would have with my handsome husband. I never wondered if the police would stop my wedding, or if the government would refuse to grant me the right to marry the one I loved the most.

Such is the thing we call straight privilege.  I never wondered if I’d be allowed to marry because I thought that everybody had the right to get married…and I forgot that everybody included a bunch of LGBTQ persons who did not actually gain that right until 2015.

Yeah…that’s right…LGBTQ persons did not gain the right to legal marriage in the United States until 2015.  I think I was almost 35 years old before it occurred to me that there were whole groups of people in the US who weren’t legally allowed to marry at all.

So…you can imagine how the election of a right-wing President and even more conservative Vice President impacted the LGBTQ community.

Shortly after I arrived at work on Wednesday morning, I got to listen to the despair of a young lesbian women who is engaged but hasn’t yet reached her wedding day.  I cannot imagine the pain she must have felt wondering if such a basic civil right—the right to marry—would be stripped from her come January 2017.  I cannot imagine how frightening it must be for my gay colleague in Nevada who got married last month just after adopting his son.  I can’t imagine the terror his newly adopted 11 year-old son must feel, considering that the poor boy was rejected by his biological family when he came out of the closet.  Now he gets to wonder if his new family will be destroyed by politicos who don’t even know his name simply because his fathers are gay.

If you didn’t wake up on Wednesday and feel any fear, you are probably white, straight, and male. Congratulations!  That’s quite the trifecta of birthrights!  You might not feel very privileged and God knows how hard you have worked to achieve the success that you currently know.  In fact, I’m pretty certain that you deserve all the money, success, and respect that is currently yours, and perhaps you might deserve more money, success, and respect than you are actually getting.  On the other hand, you have never had to fight for your right to marry your beloved. You have never been arrested for driving while white because it is always assumed that white people don’t have to steal to be driving a car that nice.  And you’ve never been afraid to have one drink too many for fear that the people around you will strip you naked and sexually violate you while calling you the whore.

Please, if you woke up on Wednesday and weren’t afraid, do more than pray for unity.

Go out and create some unity.

Do me a favor.  Look in the Gospels!  You will discover that Jesus did not sit in his prayer closet asking His Father for unity and governmental guidance for 33 years before crawling onto the cross and dying for your sins.  While Jesus’ ministry only lasted three years prior to His death, that man was busy!  He prayed plenty, but He spent much more time doing the right thing than He did praying about the right things.

Look, you and I both know that a Trump presidency is NOT the end of the world, no matter what you or I think of him.  A Trump presidency will not be the end of America as we know it, either.  On the other hand, the people who are terrified of what this election has done have good reasons to be fearful.

Maybe you should find out what those reasons are.

Speak to a Muslim, and find out what it is like to be blamed for the behaviors of other people whose choices you never supported.  Talk to a member of the LGBTQ community and find out what it is like to be denied basic human rights, and to fear that your recently granted human rights will be taken away again.  Speak to a woman who fears that women’s equal rights are about to disappear along with women’s safety from sexual harassment and assault.  Speak to a Hispanic person who fears widespread racism against citizens of the US who just happen to be of Hispanic descent. Speak to someone who benefited from the Dream Act, and find out what it’s like to be raised in the US but considered an illegal alien.  Find out what it is like to fear being sent “home” to a country that you’ve never even visited.

Go and find someone who is truly terrified; sit and listen to them without arguing with them about why they are wrong.  Just listen.  Try to understand that the campaign speeches that you may have found liberating felt like threats to the person you’re listening to. Imagine yourself in their shoes, having to fear your country’s government and what they might do to you only two months from now.

Listen closely to them no matter how you feel about what they say.

Having done all that, if you are still serious about the unity you are praying for, look them in the eyes and speak these words:

I promise to use whatever privilege is mine to protect your human rights and your human dignity.  I may not agree with how your live your life, or how you came to live in my country, or who you worship. None of that matters, because I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He gave His life to save the lives of every human being, and that includes you and me. If you mean that much to Jesus, then you mean that much to me.  I will not stand idly by while other people try to take away your rights and your safety.  Everyone deserves their human and civil rights. Everyone.

Letting other people have their rights will not take away your rights.

Giving other people respect will not deny you respect.

Working to achieve justice for everyone will create a just world for…EVERYONE and that includes you.

And praying…praying is nice, but when it comes to where the rubber hits the road, action is what it takes to create unity.

And just in case you’re still not sure if God is on board with this idea, remember Micah 6:8.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

You heard the Man.  Now do it.

I’m Gonna Build Me A Wall

I am one of those people who loves metaphors.

God knows, I am plenty verbal.  (Ask anyone who knows me: I will talk your ear off!) Nonetheless, when I need to learn something or teach something to someone else, I look for images or metaphors that will help explain the concept.  Visual images that represent a concept are great because they can gather meaning as time goes along, representing multiple things as you learn more about the concept/subject.  Images that can do this are “multivalient.”   It’s a bizarre made-up word that I learned in seminary that means “more than one meaning” and it only reinforced my desire to use images to represent concepts.

On to our subject for today: WALLS.

I’m a counselor, and when counselors talk about walls, we are usually talking about emotional blockades that people use to keep others at a distance emotionally.  We talk about refusal to be vulnerable and to “let people in” so that they can know the “real you”.

That’s not what I’m talking about today.

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about walls, mostly with the focus of keeping undesirable people OUT; walls as a means of keeping the ‘good people’ safe from the ‘bad people’ who want into our country and our economic system.

That’s not what I’m talking about either.

I like to talk about walls when I talk about relationships, especially romantic relationships, and most specifically marital relationships.  The reason that I do that is that so many people have misconceptions about what it takes to make a marriage last, to truly succeed as a couple.  I tell the couples that I am working with that a good love connection is going to be a lot like a really good brick wall.

Here in Arizona, most of our fences are concrete block walls or brick walls, so you see freestanding brick walls in almost every neighborhood.  Every now and then you find a block wall that has collapsed, scattering bricks or concrete blocks as well as chunks of mortar all over the sidewalk and the yard.  On a rare occasion you will find bent rebar (the metal bars used to reinforce block walls) still sticking up out of the ground with a few blocks still intact at the bottom, held in place only because of the rebar.  That’s a rare occurrence, mostly because walls reinforced with rebar don’t ‘collapse’ per-se…usually something happens to bring them down, like an uprooted tree falling on the wall.

What does that have to do with relationships?

Well…block walls are usually built of bricks and mortar, and occasionally rebar. Each of those things represents something crucial to a successful marriage. Let’s start with the bricks.

When it comes to relationships, the bricks represent the common morals, values, and priorities of the couple.

It is very important to have shared morals because it means that behavior that is forbidden for one of you is forbidden for the other, and behavior that is considered laudable for one of you is considered laudable by and for the other.  For instance, the animal rights activist is never going to want a fur coat as a gift from their spouse, no matter how cold the climate they live in, or how much of an expression of love their partner might think that would be.  You might think that shared morals is a given, especially when your partner seems like such a good person, but it takes exploration to suss out the finer points of morals.  Do you cheat on your taxes? Do you take office supplies from work?  Do you lie…to anyone? When is that acceptable and why? Do you support abortion rights? Would you ever opt for an abortion in your own life? What do you do if your child is profoundly intellectually disabled? Would you ever put a child in an institution?  What if you become really rich?  Do you give a bunch of money to charitable organizations? Do you ever give money to family members?  What do you think about helping out adult children with financial issues?

See what I mean? Morals aren’t as easily determined by daily behaviors as we think they are.  Of course, your partner’s daily behaviors say an awful lot about who they are and what their morals are, but you have to ask the hard questions…and answer them yourself as well.  I am consistently shocked by the things my clients reveal that they didn’t discuss before they married…and that topic always comes up because of the problems they are having in their marriage now.

Commonly held values and priorities are also important and act as the bricks in your marital wall.  Let’s use work as an example. Work should hold the same value and your careers the same level of priority for both members of the couple.  This doesn’t mean that one of you can’t stay home to take care of the children, because that is another thing entirely and has to do with your beliefs and values (and priorities) around raising children.  However, a lack of common values and priorities around work can lead to one partner frustrating the other by working long hours for an extended period of time, or by repeatedly changing jobs or careers.  The first illustrates a difference in the how work is valued as a priority, and the second a difference in the value of stability and commitment to career.  Money is another area where common values and priorities are really important, because money is frequently a subject of conflict for couples. One partner usually wants to save and invest and the other partner is more prone to spend and the truth is that there needs to be a balance of both saving and spending as well as financial responsibility focused on a saving for retirement and aged years. This kind of stuff can create major rifts for couples and long term resentment, and these are two things you never want developing in your marriage. In the end, having similar values and priorities allows you to act in concert and support each other as decisions are made and changes occur.   Both of you will feel equally respected and equally committed to each others goals, since after all, those goals will be driven by common values and priorities.

So…you’ve got the bricks to build your wall because you share morals, values, and priorities.  Now you need mortar, and sex and intimacy are the mortar in a relationship.  What separates a partnership/ marriage from a regular friendship is the level of intimacy.  Friendships might have a great deal of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy and the more there is of those three things, the closer and longer lasting the friendship will be.  I frequently tell couples that the best thing they can do is become really good friends as well as lovers, because their friendship will get the relationship through difficult times when they don’t feel as ‘in love’ as they used to be.  The ‘in love’ thing is what brings the flush of sexual intimacy to the fore.  Sexual intimacy takes the other three levels of intimacy and deepens them significantly, and then it ices the cake, so to speak.  Sexual intimacy creates an incredibly strong bond because it’s hard to hide from your partner when you are naked and being sexually expressive. It is the deepest and most private form of intimacy, and I truly believe that it is sacred. Maybe I’ll blog more about that another day, but for now I just want to say that sexual intimacy becomes the mortar that holds all the bricks in place, that brings the wall to a level of cohesion and stability that other relationships cannot reach.

We’ve all had friends who were really good at the sex thing but who lacked commitment to the other person in the relationship. You can call this commitment issues; you can call it “friends with benefits.”  I call this an example of someone trying to build a wall out of mortar alone.  You can do it…you can mound up your mortar and try to build a wall, but it won’t last through any serious storm.  The difficulties that life brings will inevitably cause the wall to slowly disintegrate and crumble.  This is why marriages based in chemistry alone don’t work for very long.  The sex is great and for a while the couple can use the sex to cover up the growing divide between them, but eventually no amount of sex is enough to cover for what isn’t there: real friendship, along with common morals, values, and priorities.

So what’s the rebar for? Well…rebar is there so that the wall can’t be toppled easily.  Like I said, my neighborhood is full of block wall fences, and occasionally they collapse…usually due to harsh weather.  Walls with rebar in them, however, tend to remain standing until something specific happens—something like a car crashing through the wall, or a tree falling in a monsoon, or someone purposely trying to tear the wall down. This is because the rebar is driven into the ground below the wall to anchor the wall and the rebar acts as an internal support for the bricks and mortar.  In a relationship, rebar is made from a common spirituality that often establishes many of the common morals and values.  In my marriage, the rebar is our Christian faith.  When life gets rough, my husband and I turn to God for support and we openly discuss the evidence we see of God’s action in our lives.  We encourage each other in our faith, and when we are struggling, we pray together.  I’m not saying that a couple without a common faith will fail; that simply isn’t true, since those couples have shared values, morals, and priorities and hopefully deep levels of emotional and intellectual intimacy, as well as a robust sex life that builds their wall tall and strong.  However, having gone through quite a few “storms” that tried to tear down the wall of my marriage (a child addicted to cocaine and opiates, the death of both of my husband’s parents, a severely ill child, etc.) I can tell you that a common faith will strengthen the union in ways the common morals, values, and priorities as well as sexual intimacy simply cannot achieve.

Having said all that, my mind wanders to a certain politician that thinks that building a wall will solve some of our problems with Mexico and its citizens. Perhaps he’s right, but only in the sense that focusing on our commonly held values, morals, and priorities might bring us to a much closer relationship that could change everything.  It would be a wall built of bricks alone, as many friendships are…and honestly, it could change everything.   Maybe he’s right. Maybe we should build a wall, one that no one would have to ‘pay for’…but wouldn’t it be worth everything?

I Refuse To Play

This week I listened to my girlfriend as she unburdened her heart about her boyfriend.

She likes him, but his behavior…not so much.

You see, her boyfriend is an ultra-conservative Christian and an ultra-conservative Republican.  He keeps getting temporarily suspended from Facebook for making “offensive” comments about politics and religion.

The recent flooding in Baton Rouge sparked another round of angry posts.  He posted about Obama’s failure to show up in Baton Rouge and what he interpreted as Obama’s lack of concern about the flooding and damage, the loss of lives and homes.  Fair enough.  He complained that instead of visiting Baton Rouge, Obama was busy golfing and vacationing. Fair enough.

And then he finished his post by stating that after golfing Obama went home to (have gay sex with a “wife” that is actually a man in drag.)  I refrained from quoting this man directly because the words are inflammatory and incredibly inappropriate.  Not surprisingly, Facebook suspended his account again.

Lately, Facebook has been rife with comments like what this man posted. My uncle has posted similar things in the past because he is also ultra-conservative on multiple fronts. Posts like these bother me on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.  I despair of ever attaining real, meaningful dialogue about our presidential election with people who don’t already agree with my viewpoint. I despair of getting the American populace to focus on what is truly important and not on petty opinions that mean nothing to the problem at hand.

As much as the world doesn’t need me to monitor its Facebook posts, it’s time to speak up about what I see as truly reprehensible behaviors that don’t reflect true Christian faith and don’t reflect the better nature of the American people.

First, if you are going to make a political statement or complaint, could you stick to the point?  If you don’t like Obama’s choices, then complain about his choices—not his marriage, or what his wife looks like, or whether he chose to have some leisure time instead of working 24/7 (because that’s an unrealistic expectation that you couldn’t attain either).  Stick to the point…because your point could potentially be valid and be an opening for real political dialogue.  I am tired of complaints that make it evident that the person is not actually seeking to express valid criticism of the President or of our political process, but is instead just throwing negative categories out there that supposedly make Obama bad…gay…black…married to a man…Muslim…socialist…BAD! Those kinds of comments don’t change anything and they don’t highlight what might need to change (unless you count the bad behavior of the commentator.)  As I understand the United States, we have a couple of freedoms—speech, voting—that make it possible to change things for the better. You are free to exercise those freedoms any way that you want, but it would be a real shame if you wasted your freedom of speech on your right to say outrageous and hateful things that change nothing but whether or not I am going to unfriend you on Facebook.

Having said what I think are relatively rational things, I’d like to criticize some of the useless dialogue that passes for political posts on Facebook. In case you were wondering, I am about to rant just a little and yes, I will be opinionated. You have been warned.

Michelle Obama is not an extension of the President…stop treating her like she is a reflection on him. For God’s sake, the woman is his wife, not his kneecap or his left arm or the frontal lobe of his brain. She is the First Lady and therefore a representative of the United States, and her actions and words are subject to commentary just like the President’s actions and words are subject to scrutiny and commentary.  Sadly, what I hear from conservatives is that she looks like a man and is not pretty; some have gone so far to suggest she is a man in drag.  Really?  What you think about Michelle Obama’s looks is meaningless.  What you think about her body is meaningless. What you think about how she dresses is meaningless. God did not make women for you to pick them apart and rate them like you would an automobile.  God did not make women for YOU to tell them how to dress or how to walk or how to express themselves as if you alone determine if a woman is acceptable. The only people who are legitimately able to judge a women are God and the woman herself…because that’s who she belongs to: God and herself and that’s it.  No one actually needs to publicly comment on the body of another person unless you are a sports commentator talking about an athlete losing weight or bulking up to improve their performance in their sport…and then you are actually discussing their performance.  Human bodies are not for commentary.  It doesn’t matter whether the body belongs to the President’s wife, or Donald Trump’s wife, or your neighbor’s daughter, or neighbor’s son either.  Human beings are NOT objects to be rated for attractiveness or whether or not they meet your approval.

Being successful does NOT entitle you to have a beautiful partner and failing to have a beautiful partner does NOT indicate that you are not actually successful.   Essentially folks—women are not a reward for accomplishment. Neither are beautiful men. According to our culture, raises and riches are rewards for accomplishment. Medals are a reward for accomplishment. Acclaim and fame are rewards for accomplishment.  Human beings are not rewards for accomplishment.  Just because some rich people choose to trade in their current partner (usually a wife) for a younger and more beautiful partner does not make that behavior acceptable or laudable. The idea that being successful entitles someone to a younger and more beautiful version of their current partner reduces human beings to possessions that can be attained.  There’s a reason why we use the phrase “Trophy Wife” and it is disgusting.  Human beings are not a reward for accomplishment.

Neither sexuality or religion (or any other non-related topic) renders the person incapable and invalid as a human being. Making disparaging comments about someone’s sexuality or religion or disability (add in your own categories here) is not justification for your dissatisfaction with their performance on their job or their performance as a politician.  I’m betting that the folks who find themselves trapped in a burning building don’t bother to ask the firefighter who is coming to save them if the firefighter is gay or what their religious preference happens to be…probably because at that moment, most people just want to be rescued.  Likewise, most folks don’t ask the doctor who treats them in the ER if the doctor is Christian or if the doctor agrees with their political views or if the doctor also rejects the same categories of people and behavior that they reject.  The truth is that we interact with hundreds of people every day without knowing what their sexual preference or religious preferences are. We don’t know if they are liberal or conservative.  We don’t know if they believe in home schooling.  We don’t know if they support gun control.  In the end…we don’t bother to know because it doesn’t impact that person’s ability to do whatever it is that we need them to do.  I’m betting that all of us have encountered more gay people, Muslims, and transgendered persons than we have ever realized…and sometimes those gay, Muslim, and transgendered folks have been our coworkers, neighbors, and friends.  Statements about Obama being gay or Muslim have absolutely nothing to do with his effectiveness as president, any more than Hillary being short or Trump having a comb-over is going to have any impact on their ability to lead the country.  Stop calling people who disagree with you libtards, wingnuts, freaks, or fascists.  Stop using inflammatory statements as a way of shoring up your negative opinion of someone.  It’s okay to say “I really don’t like that political leader…they don’t do what I think they should.”   While others may want you to justify your opinions, don’t bother.  Opinions aren’t science.  Really…you can simply have an opinion and not justify it at all.

I guess what I want more than anything is the chance to have real, meaningful dialogue where no one yells and no one starts throwing around hate-language.  I have a number of good friends who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum and it’s amazing how many things we actually agree on—especially when it comes to identifying the problems.  We spend time talking about what we think might work as a solution to the problem and why we think it might work…and we often don’t agree.  The funny thing is that we still get along; we still work side by side…and we respect each other more than I can explain.

The bad behavior has got to stop!!  It isn’t getting our nation anywhere, and it makes us look like a bunch of uneducated bullies who are fighting for the right to be the biggest bully on the playground. I refuse to play.  I suggest you refuse to play as well.

 

The Once and Future King of America

Psalm 47
Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves.  God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm. God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

I was stunned this week when both John Kasich and Ted Cruz pulled out of the race for the Republican candidate for president; suddenly I felt my choices had been removed from me and I was faced with a very limited and unsatisfactory set of choices.  I was, in a word, incredibly disappointed.

I get really caught up in this political stuff. It is easy to think of the presidential elections as some sort of barometer for the nation.  I recently saw a post on Facebook targeted at my age group (sort of).  It had to do with my generation’s opinion of the presidential candidates.  I suppose I should explain the generational thing first. I was born in 1964, and technically my birth year falls in the sociological cohort of the Baby Boomers.  You might notice that I refer to science when I describe the ‘group’ that I belong in, because while sociology might identify my birth year as placing me in the generation of the Baby Boomers, I don’t quite relate to the Baby Boomers.

Part of the problem for me is that my mother was born in the very first year of the baby boom: 1947.  She married young and immediately became pregnant, so my birth year falls inside the set of years defined by Sociologists as the Baby Boomer Generation.  However, I don’t really identify with the Baby Boomers, mostly because I needed something to rebel against as a teenager, and that something is my mother and father.  My father was born in 1941, the generation preceding the baby boom, and my mother was born in 1947…as I said, the first year of the Baby Boomer children.  If I am going to successfully rebel, I can’t be a Baby Boomer!  So I fall into that nebulous group loosely termed the Baby Busters—kids born from 1962 to 1981, a generation too young to be Baby Boomers and too old to be Slackers.  We’re kind of boring, but at least we aren’t Baby Boomers. (It’s a joke…lighten up!)

Back to the Facebook post. I recently saw a post of Facebook targeted at my age group (sort of) and it was titled ‘Stop Scaring The Children!!’  The post was a video of Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church, preaching to his congregation. Andy Stanley was reminding the older adults of his congregation (mainly Baby Boomers and Busters like myself) to lighten up when it came to the election; he wanted us to stop making dire predictions about the end of American culture as we know it, to stop predicting the rise of American facism.  Andy wanted us to stop declaring candidates like Trump, Clinton, or Sanders as ‘the destruction of everything America stands for!’

I have to admit that Andy Stanley a point.

I am terrified of what a Trump presidency could do to our nation. I fear that a Clinton presidency would be another eight years of lots of promises and not enough change, and I fear that a Sanders presidency would be fiscally unfeasible.  I am faced with choices that I don’t want to make, and no option seems like the right one.  My children’s futures depend on my choice, on my husband’s choice…and we don’t appear to have any good choices when it comes to our presidential candidate.  This is not a comfortable position to be in, and I fear what will happen in the next four to eight years—crucial years for my children who are young adults.

And yet…

When I read the scriptures for today I am reminded to lighten up.  I need to seriously lighten up!

Our nation has faced a civil war, two world wars, two wars overseas that had to do with the rise of Communism, the threat of nuclear war, three more wars overseas that had to do with the rise of extremism and terrorism, the threat of terrorist attacks and insurgence, and the ugly specter of racism, sexism, and fascism… and most of the wars I listed happened after 1940!  As a nation, we have been beset by threats on every side.

And yet we stand, strong and proud, free and brave, American to the very core.

Just one look at today’s scriptures makes it clear.

“For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth…He chose our heritage for us…Sing praises to God, sing praises…For God is the king of all the earth…God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne…for the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.”   Psalm 47

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.    Ephesians 1:17-21

What am I so afraid of?

I keep forgetting that although my nation might go astray and do stupid things, I still have the power to follow Christ!  I still have the power to do those things that bring glory to God and grace and mercy to the people I serve.  Nothing can stop God’s power!  Nothing can stop God from extending His mercy and provision to those who are in need if I am willing to serve Him as He calls me.  In the end, all my fears of what will happen in this presidential cycle boil down to me forgetting that nothing can stop the people of God from serving God. There is no one that we can elect who can stop us from feeding and clothing the poor, from building houses and clinics, from reaching out to the homeless and the prisoner, from doing the work of God in the name of Jesus Christ.

No matter what person…or idiot…the American people might elect to the highest office in our land, God alone is King.  God alone leads this nation to do what is right, and if (or when) our elected officials stop listening to God’s guidance, nothing stops the people of God from soldiering onward, even if it is in the face of political opposition.

The people of God have nothing to fear. Nothing at all! Andy Stanley is right—we need to stop scaring the children. We need to stop telling them to fear who is elected, and start telling them to serve the one and only King of all that exists: God Almighty.  If God is our King and we follow His will, nothing can derail us, destroy us, or bring us down.

Our God is King.  Follow the King.

I Want To Be a White Rose

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”  So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”  They said, “The Lord needs it.”  Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”     Luke 19:28-40

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him.  Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death.  I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!”  (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)  Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted.  He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.   Luke 23:13-25

Today I watched my very first “Anonymous” video.

Anonymous is a “hacktivist” group that protests against entities by hacking their websites, distributing their private information, or preventing access to their website/social media accounts.  I know that I am simplifying this a great deal, and I encourage you to Google the group.  You will find Wikipedia entries and YouTube videos and a number of articles in the press about them, especially in relation to Anonymous’ declaration of war against ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

If you watch the videos, prepare to be stunned and disturbed.

I found myself watching a video from Anonymous because they recently hacked Donald Trump, revealing his cell phone number as well as some of his other personal data, posting on several websites.  While they encouraged people to peruse the data and use it to fight Trump’s potential rise to power, the speaker for Anonymous did remind the viewers that each individual is responsible for their own actions.  The video is a scathing indictment of Trump, based in Trump’s own behaviors and statements.  Anonymous #OpWhiteRose  I quote the early portion of the video:

The time has come for a movement morally strong enough to do battle against the forces of evil, bigotry, and fascism that have come to the forefront of this election cycle in the United States.  Morality dictates a movement of those who can neither be bought nor sold; who will not compromise in defense of the innocent, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or place of birth…one candidate in particular, Donald Trump, has set his ambitions on the white house in order to promote an agenda of fascism and xenophobia as well as the religious persecution of Muslims through totalitarian policies. He has proposed targeting family members of suspected terrorists for assassination even while acknowledging that they are innocent.  He said that this will serve as a deterrent for terrorism when in fact it is terrorism itself and would only lead to more violence from those whose families were killed by the Trump regime.”

In itself, this was not disturbing because I have been watching the news.  It’s not as if Anonymous is telling me anything new.  And then:

“…to find an accurate comparison, we must look to the Gestapo of the Third Reich.”

Anonymous systematically compared Trump’s statements and behaviors to that of Hitler and the policies of his Third Reich…and then they encouraged the American people to join or form local chapters of the White Rose Society.

The White Rose Society was the student resistance movement formed in 1942 to fight Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist government that was called the Third Reich.  White Rose Society

Apparently, chapters of the White Rose Society have been forming across the nation, with chapters showing up to protest at Trump rallies. Again, I quote:

“Imagine if the people of Germany…had risen up against Hitler during his failed campaign for office in 1932. Many of you have said to yourself that if you were alive in Nazi Germany that you would have done “something”, you would have resisted like the White Rose Society resisted.  Now is the time to prove that.  The White Rose Society has risen again in the US, they are at anti-Trump protests and rallies in support of their Muslim and Latino neighbors.  You will recognize them by their wearing of a single white rose and their use of the #WhiteRoseRevolt on protest signs…we call on all of you…to stand with them and take action against Donald Trump and his new era of “Brown Shirt” terrorists assaulting protestors and trying to intimidate millions of peace loving people who happen to be a different color or religion. Seek out a White Rose Society chapter in your city or form one yourself.…now is the time to unite to fight fascism.”

I want to remind all of you that this Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day when Christians everywhere celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into the city of Jerusalem.  Palm Sunday marks the first day in Holy Week, a spiritual rollercoaster that includes the emotional highs of Palm Sunday and Easter combined with the sorrow and lament of Maundy Thursday (the Last Supper) and Good Friday.  I call Holy Week a spiritual rollercoaster because this week always reminds me how easy it is to be singing praises on Sunday and screaming “Crucify him!” with the mob on Friday morning.  I am no different than anyone else, and I am just as gullible and easily manipulated as everyone else, although I would prefer to think otherwise.

And of course, this brings me back to politics and the potential rise of fascism in the United States.

As Christians we need to remember that it was not that many years ago that a Lutheran pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed for trying to kill Hitler.  Bonhoeffer and his co-conspirators hatched a plot to try and kill Hitler (and they were almost successful) because they feared that nothing would stop Hitler from exterminating the Jews, Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, Polish people, Soviet war prisoners, homosexuals, anyone who was considered to be anti-social, Afro-Germans (blacks)…essentially, Bonhoeffer and his co-conspirators realized that the list of people who Hitler wanted exterminated just kept growing longer and longer.  There comes a point when you must act or admit you are willing to go silently to your own slaughter.  Sadly, none of these people chose to act until after Hitler had risen to power and fascism and fear had taken their places in the hearts of an entire nation.

Bonhoeffer chose to act and was unsuccessful.  He was executed by the Germans for his crimes as were nine of his co-conspirators.  The six most recognizable members of the original White Rose Society were all executed for their resistance to the Nazi regime.  Resisting fascism after it rises appears to exact a very high cost.

Perhaps, as we head into that week where we all remember just how easily we can become a part of the angry, screaming mob that condemns an innocent man to death, we should consider being brave enough to resist fascism before we will have to lay our lives on the line to do so.  Be brave enough to admit to yourself that you would have found yourself standing next to me screaming ‘Crucify him!’ with the rest of the crowd that horrible Friday in Jerusalem.  We hate to admit it, but we are not as moral or spiritually strong as we think we are individually, and our nation is not as moral and strong as we like to think it is, either.  Facism can happen here, just like it did in Germany…though the rise of a brilliant, morally corrupt orator who convinces the people that he can make the country great again.  As if.  We weren’t that great in the first place, or we wouldn’t need a Savior, you know?

#WhiteRoseRevolt