Tuesday, August 09, 2016

ENOUGH!

The question facing Republicans is no longer whether or not to support Donald Trump's candidacy.

Today in North Carolina, the ante was raised. Trump obliquely suggested that "Second Amendment people" might take matters into their own hands to end Hillary Clinton's presidency

His inflammatory comments pose a whole new question: Should the Republican Party and its leaders demand that Trump step down as the party's nominee?

Further, the Secret Service ought to be looking into whether Trump's remarks constitute incitement to commit a crime. Positing the notion of assassination before a crowd that includes rabid gun zealots may meet the test of dangerously yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater.

Is a restraining order called for?

Here's what Trump said with regard to gun possession, Clinton court appointees and the Second Amendment: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Oh yes he does know.

The remark can be paired with one he made during the primary campaign.
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay?" Those are the kind of voters Trump was speaking to today. That is the kind of behavior he condones. He's done so on numerous other occasions as well.

With Trump, referring to violence is simply another macho rhetorical device. It is time he face the potential consequences of his words.

So where are you on this, Republicans? Will you call for Trump's resignation as nominee of your party?

The answer should be clear. It's time to get the hook out to yank this dangerous fanatic off the political stage before someone gets killed.

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"White House" Slavery and homelessness

For many the most searing line in the speeches given at either political convention was delivered by First Lady Michelle Obama when she said, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”

In another way, she and all of us are enslaved in this “White House” called America. We are, in a sense, our own slaves to a history and culture of slavery.

We are slaves to debt, slaves to war, slaves to consumerist desires, slaves to ignorance, slaves of an economy destroying the planet, slaves to wealthy elites, slaves to false, unquestioned values.

That was my extended take-away from the Obama speech until, without giving it much thought, I shared my heady little exposition with John Brown.

John is the homeless Street Roots newspaper vendor who sells the advocacy tabloid in front of the Food Front grocery in Hillsdale.

John is homeless because of crippling disability.

He is also whippet smart. The man is encyclopedic in his knowledge of the arts and literature. He recites Shakespeare with ease and affection. It’s as though he is on first name terms with The Bard, whom he calls “Willie the Shake.”

So I am rambling on with my boundless thoughts about the First Lady’s speech with John when I get to the part  waking up in a house built by slaves.

Suddenly I am confronted with the fact that John doesn’t wake up in a house at all.

Nor do his fellow Street Roots vendors and the hundreds for whom the Street Roots publication speaks so powerfully.

They are slaves to extreme poverty on our streets, in our parks and under our bridges.

Their plight today is another “White House” disgrace. Each day, with our eyes wide open, we witness their plight…and do nothing.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Prayer...in Progress

I do not consider myself the sort of person I once imagined would be drawn to Bible Study.

I am about as far away from being a “fundamentalist” and a “Bible thumper” as one can be. For starters, I’m a non-theist…but that’s another story.

So I often surprise myself (and others) by my regular attendance at a Bible study in our Quaker Meetinghouse.

We meet at 7 a.m. on Mondays. Yes, you read that right, “a.m.” We are not all Quakers. We have a Lutheran, a Jew, a Zen Buddhist and a Methodist in our group.  We all seem to be members of the sect called "morning people."

I see our gatherings more as “Bible Scrutiny” than “Bible Study.” My reading, and that of others in attendance, is critical, in the best sense of the word.

The Bible, both the Hebrew and Christian texts, tells us so much about ourselves: The good, the bad and much in-between. It also tells us much about the past of 2000 or more years ago.

This last Monday about 10 of us were deep into the Gospel of Luke when the Lord’s prayer, the “Our Father,” came before us.

Someone asked who among us frequently recites The Lord’s Prayer. Several hands went up.

Mine didn’t.

The words before me reminded me of why.

In the course of discussion I gently offered that The Lord’s Prayer, beginning with its name, doesn’t speak to my condition. Two thousand years ago, it might have done the job in male-dominated society.


As a critical creature of contemporary Western society, I have problems with “Father” and “Heaven” and “Kingdom.”

I shared that when I find need for what might be called “prayer,” I sometimes repeat a stanza of “Amazing Grace.” The part about being lost and then found, being blind but then seeing, is often helpful.

Still, “Amazing Grace” 
often falls short of my needs. So early this morning I took a serious look at “The Lord’s Prayer” to compose a substitute.

Here is my “Prayer,” in progress, followed by “The Lord’s Prayer.”


A Prayer

O omnipresent, eternal spirit in all,
Beyond words are your name and being.
Beyond time and place and all mystery.

In unity, teach us  boundless, embracing spirit not to judge, punish or harm.

Teach us to be earthly vessels of compassion, forgiveness and love.

Reveal our oneness with cloud and rain and soil, with tree and river and ocean, with bird and beast and insect, with friend and stranger…with you.

When we are lost, limitless spirit, help us find you within.
Lead us to know we are not alone – ever.

Help us live in grace, joy and peace.

In your presence in the vast and deep stillness, lead us on the path of Truth and Love and Light.

Forever….


The Lord's Prayer


Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Matter of Identity

In the hours after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, I received e-mails from English friends who said they were in shock. My requests for them to share their feelings were rejected.

Their feelings were too raw to write about, they wrote. In essence I was being insensitive to their pain.

It was as though there had been a death in the family. I needed to allow a respectable amount of time pass before seeking a post mortem.

If Donald Trump becomes this nation’s next president (as may well happen), I’m sure I will ask for the same respect from my friends abroad.

The reaction to the vote to leave the European Union reminds me of a brief encounter I had with a young man while I was in Italy a few years ago. It turns out he was Dutchman living in Venice, working for a multinational sports apparel company, but when I asked him his nationality he answered without hesitation and with considerable pride, “I’m a European.”

The European Union had literally changed his identity.

Reflecting on this and those e-mails from England, I’ve pondered the phenomenon of identity.

What would a Trump victory do to my sense of identity as an American? The answer for many is found in a vow to move to Canada. America under Trump would be a country many could no longer identify with.

For many Americans, it already is. Trump is Exhibit A.

Trump’s personality, behavior and values are simply antithetical what we believe. “My nation right or wrong” no longer cuts it. We have a loyalty to and responsibility for so much more, including the fate of the planet.

A nation that would elect a Trump is a pariah state.

Now the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland are feeling the same way about being tethered to or even identified with a Europe-exiting Britain.

I think many of us have struggled with our identities for years. I have found myself uncomfortably lumped together with others who happen to share the same label, but with whom I have deep disagreements. My response has been to shed the label rather than to be forced to explain.

Perhaps the most striking example is the label “Christian.”  The more I learn about the history of Christians and Christendom, the more I witness the behavior of avowed "Christians," the less I want to be known as a Christian. (An aside: today’s news tells us that James Dobson, one of numerous “professional Christians” who have made millions off their alleged religious belief, is asserting that Trump is now a “born again” Christian.

Give us a break.

Of course Dobson and Trump are just the most recent in a long series of “Christians” using belief and fear of damnation as levers to power and profit.

Fortunately, they haven’t yet besmirch the historical Jesus (forget the “Christ” part, and no, that wasn’t his last name, nor did he take it upon himself). By claiming to be Christians, the "professionally self-righteous" drive millions away from the religion. Moreover, they have obviously ignored Jesus’ message. Dobson and Trump might start with “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The Beatitudes are worth a review as well. “Blessed are the meek etc.”

Now I’m even grappling with my own “Quaker” affiliation. I have profound disagreements with most Quakers world-wide. The majority in the denomination are fundamentalists and they oppose gay marriage. They are, as we say, “unwelcoming.”  Surprising to many, the majority of Quakers are East Africans who are deeply homophobic, not unlike "The Christian" James Dobson himself.

Is it time to lose my “Quaker” identity, which I’ve had for more than 50 years? Or can I, should I, distinguish myself from other Quakers by qualifying my membership as that of a “liberal Quaker.” Does that somehow clear me of association by name?


Obviously many Jews and Muslims have similar "identity" problems.

Or how can I live in Portland, Oregon and be a “Portlander” without being pigeon-holed into some weird media stereotype from the TV series “Portlandia”?

Then there are the racial, ethnic, class, age, regional and gender identities. As a friend pointed out recently, many identities we can do nothing about . We can’t just drop them through voting this way or that. Or emigrating somewhere else.

And so we have racial profiling; white male privilege, class “bubbles,” and a host of unavoidable prejudices we both harbor and are afflicted with.

It strikes me that the only time we can truly be free of identities we’ve assumed, been assigned, or are born with, is in death. Of course our identities will still survive among the living, but they will be post-humous. Our identities become posterity’s problems; not ours.

As I think of my friends in England, I’m inclined to tell them that once their period of mourning is over, the legalities of their relationship to Europe may have changed, but they haven’t changed their own identities regarding the continent or the world. If anything, they should more loudly and visibly proclaim their oneness with their neighbors. (Is that not is what Jesus, among others, taught?)

Don’t let your identity be defined by politicians, nations, global capitalists, the media and advertising, or anyone else.

Be yourself. Your true identity may just push aside all the others.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Wanted: An answer to Clara's question


Recently I was reading to Clara, my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter. The book was a colorful little title from our Quaker meetinghouse’s nursery room. Clara was sitting on my lap engrossed.

I was unfamiliar with book about a mean and greedy king, and the more I got into its story the more I realized I was stepping into a theological thicket.

As the story came to its happy conclusion, the once selfish king became “kind and good.” The book has him becoming a “Christian.”

Where upon Clara turned to me and posed the obvious question: “What’s a Christian?"

I was literally struck dumb. I turned to a friend who was with me and suggested that she answer the question.

She too passed on answering.

And so the question was left hanging for us, for Clara and I hope, dear reader, for you.

A few days later, I shared this experience with my Bible Study class, an eclectic, unpredictable and collegial group. Most, but not all, consider themselves Christians.

One member, who happens to be a retired pastor, said I should have advised Clara, “You’ll know a Christian when you see one.”

I responded that with Clara that would simply invite more questions such as “What do I look for?”

Again, I would feel unqualified to answer.

What if she sees “Christian evidence” but the person turns out to be Jew or a Buddhist or a Muslim or, (heaven forbid!) an atheist or a secular humanist…

What if the person is deeply, profoundly NOT a Christian? Or perhaps only a “part-Christian.”

Oh, and by the way, what’s a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist and secular humanist?

And so forth….

Believe me, these questions are not beyond Clara’s asking.

There’s another question: Can you identify Christians by simply asking them if they are Christians?

If they say “Yes” can you be sure? Are they? If so, why? What if they do “un-Christian things”?

Which takes us back to square one: What is a Christian?

Your turn….

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