What Washington Doesn’t Get… 

I’ve been listening to Morning  Joe lately because the seem to offer balanced left/right, conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican positions. The other day, in talking about President Trump and Healthcare, they started a sentence with “putting aside the moral issues, of which there are many….”. That’s when it hit me: That is what’s wrong here — in Washington and for those playing our home game: We think we can put aside morals and talk about politics. Politics is supposed to be about morals — our morals as a country, represented by moral people who want to do right by the country. I don’t mean piety, by the way. I don’t care who wears a flag on their lapel, or who can recite the 10 Commandments. What I care about is whether or not they live the 10 commandments in dealing with their constituents. I don’t care if you look like a patriot. I care if you are a patriot.

This most recent healthcare attempt is the closest thing I can remember to an anti-moral bill any Congressional wanted to act on in my lifetime. “Feed the rich, starve the poor” is anti-morality. .Take away people’s healthcare, while keeping your own is no way to build compassion. Put back into place laws that we know punished African-Americans so you can prove you’re “tough on crime”? Moses freed slaves. He didn’t make more of them. Cutting back on food for kids or adults while giving more to those who have plenty

Of the three “inalienable rights”, those who fight for “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have forgotten those who fight for “life”. While chasing what life “looks like to others”, they have forgotten that what life IS is reality. While they live in illusion, it’s reality that will get them. Scoring points against “The Other Side”, whichever side you’re on, is NOT the goal.  Serving others is.  When our public servants understand  that, things will change. Until then, nothing will. 

Misunderstood Love — Leaders in the Church

Since I was a kid, I have seen God as a picture in a comic book. What we now call “pixels”, I just called “dots”, but it is still my understanding of God. Ok, not God exactly, but our picture of God. The church, the earth’s people, gathered in community together each know a bit of God. Each of those people is one dot in our picture of God. The more people, the more dots, the clearer the picture that we can get of who God is, and maybe where God is taking us. Each of those dots are different. There are green ones, there are red ones, there are strong black ones that form an outline somehow. There are white ones that open up space, and so on, in our picture of God.

This afternoon, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the Authorized Ministers Lunch and Gathering for the states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Most of the people there were clergy, but there some former parishioners in the audience as well. There were colleagues and friends that I had known for years, and a few surprises. Two people that I know were celebrating their 25th anniversary of ordination. More about them later, but for now, here was my conflict: the people in parishes and people outside of parishes I know think the people in that meeting are somehow mean to them — making them do this or that. The people in the Luncheon, combined, don’t have a mean bone in their bodies . Not a one of them wants to hurt the world in any way. They are all different, but honestly, the one thing they have in common is kindness to the world and the people in it. 

Let me give you examples:

In a room full of 300 people or so, I knew a bunch of them.

At my table: 

Susie Townsley ,  gracious, organized, lived in Japan for years.

John Hudson, worker, loves to work with camps and campers to transform the world.

Scott Morrow, a businessman of a pastor, composed, determined and kind.

MIchelle Madsen-Bibeau, perhaps the most administrative person I know, lots of stamina, loves visiting with people.

Around the room: 

Jane Rowe, my local pastor, warm and kind as a mother figure, an educator

Matt McCaffrey, humorous, musical, pastoral, and sneakily administrative.

Tamara Moreland, pastoral, kind, working grit, and a church mother.

Michael Ciba, quiet, a bit nerdy, a family man.

Evelyn Eddy, compassionate, kind, wise in her bones through experience no one would want. Also literate and magical.

Paul Bryant-Smith, quiet, musical, a chaplain

Lucille Fritz, funny, kind, loveable, joyous.

Janet Stoddard, kind, warm, a chaplain who simply cares for a living.

Barbara Libby, a smiling, grace-filled gardener.

George Harris, gregarious and kind, a nicer guy you’re not likely to meet.

Kent Siladi, a teddy bear in a business suit.

Sioux Wilusz, intense, but soft spoken

Wendy VanderHart, intense, styling, and serious, fun in her own way.

AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM BELIEVES IN A JUST WORLD
But congregants and outsiders think… 

They’re radical!

They’re judgemental!

They’re pushing the gay agenda! 

They’re not patriotic! 

They may not even be Christian!

They don’t believe in Right-And-Wrong, they believe in feelings!

They are taking us places we don’t want to go!

They hate America! 

But mostly, “They’re making us change and do stuff we don’t want to do”, and some version of “They like weirdos better than us traditional “normal” people”. 

If there was one thing I want people to know, it’s this: Nothing they do comes from hate. It comes from love. It comes from a unique call to follow a God as best they can. Yes, some of them like (or prefer, or work with) “weirdos”, but that’s because “normal” folks don’t, and they are convinced that God wants us to include their dots to our picture of God. 

If you’re afraid of liberals, or angry at liberals, or feel judged by ministers, remember this: Kind and loving people can’t take you anywhere bad. People who love the world and want to make it better are not trying to hurt you. God, at least as drawn by these “dots”, wants you to see how wonderful the world can be for everybody. They want to take you places you want to go.

Further, if you think they’re different than you, or you’re different from them, they are all different from each other!  The one thing they have in common is love that comes from God.  How can that be bad thing? It can’t. 
Resisting with Peace ,

John

In Case You Haven’t Seen It Yet… Yes, “Wonder Woman” Is Great…

It was a sign of dire need when girls saw Linda Carter as a superhero when I was a teenage boy.  Clearly, from my perspective at 15 or so, she was a set of big boobs who wore a cool costume and fought evil. 

Turns out it was more than that… a lot more than that. Apparently girls saw her as, well, somebody… and somebody to be. As a teen nerd, I only knew of one girl who liked comics, so I didn’t think anybody was paying attention. Turns out they were. 

In a world where men could be heroes and women could be heroines, or the spouse of a superhero, there weren’t a lot of images to aspire to if a girl wanted to try out her heroic side — if she wanted to be brave, courageous, good, and able to save the world. Yes, a woman could keep a mean house, but that’s all there was. (And, btw, that’s cool if that’s who you want to be, but if something is your thing, it’s kind of limiting, to say the least).

What I was also learning at the time, when I wasn’t thinking with my genitalia, via Deering, was that I like strong women. They weren’t as needy, so I could just be a guy — without chest hair, polyester pants, and later, cocaine to impress them, By opening up their possibilities, I got to open up mine — like staying home with the kids, (fun and meaningful for me, unimaginable for my father, inconceivable for my grandfather). 

Because I liked the idea of strong women, I didn’t give girls a hard time about Wonder Woman. It’s a darn good thing I didn’t. Now, in 2017, I’d have been seen as an idiot, my girls wouldn’t have gone to see a great movie with me, and I would have missed what will become a classic, alongside of Raiders of the Lost Ark and others. Yes, it’s that good.  Wonder Woman is a great movie for the same reason that Raiders was: there is not a wasted minute in the entire film. (As a sidelight, both movies feature the heroes using whips for all kinds of new things.) The movie goes from good scene with good direction and good dialogue and great action to more of the same. Two and a half hours later, you wonder where the time went. 

Oh, and she’s a very different kind of superhero. She is brave, courageous, action-oriented warrior who hates war. Throughout the entire movie, she never throws the first punch, kicks the first kick or beats someone bloody with her shield on her own. She is courageous defense throughout. When I was a kid, men — and boys that wanted to be men — never started a fight, but were always willing to finish one. That is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, the queen of the Amazons. She stands up to bullies, defends the weak, values all human life, but never picks a fight.  In doing so, Steve Trevor, her love interest and a hero himself, gets to take care of things the best way he knows how, without “worrying about the little lady”. He, too, stands up to bullies, defends the weak, values all human life, but never picks a fight. That makes two heroes in one movie… and allows for it in real life.

When I was a little kid, there was a show on TV featuring Diahann Carroll as “Julia” — a Black nurse and single mother. My mother was a single mother who wanted to be a nurse, so I Could picture it. The show opened up the possibility that Black families were like mine, and that Black women could be nice. I didn’t know any of them yet, but when I did, I expected them to be like Julia. Most were. 

As reviews have come in for this movie, they have pointed out that — like Julia — different people saw different things when they saw Linda Carter all those years ago. There are women who tried out that side of their personalities, once it wasn’t seen as only “manly”. Those women are the leaders of today, regardless of their occupation– preachers , teachers, senators, and — maybe one day–  Presidents. They are colleagues and friends who fight for democracy against ruthless men today. I for one, am damn glad they do. The work of saving the world, or our little corner of it at least, frequently takes more than I have.

So, Linda Carter is an actress, and a role model, and the opener of possibilities… and yes, she still looks good, but apparently there’s more to her than that, if only we look beyond age 15. Gal Godot is wise to follow in her footsteps.

Wonder Woman and I are… Resisting with Peace,
John

Sometimes words can serve me well, sometimes…

I want to weigh in on the Bill Maher  controversy. Last week, he said, in response to “working in the fields” for a Republican (Senator? I think so), Maher laughed and said, “In the fields? I’m a house n…..r!”. What I would take from that  (now that I’m calm) is that Bill doesn’t like hard work. What the rest of the world heard, of course, was “He said the N word!!!!”

There are people who are delighted to hear people say it. There are people (most, I think) that think it’s horrible to say it. I am in the latter category, and have never in my life used that word because of the racism and hatred behind it.

There are three interesting challenges regarding this issue in my experience, and I want to speak about them, and open the floor for discussion. 

Some ground rules first: 

I am White. People who are on the receiving end of this word are not. On some levels, that means I have nothing to say about it’s effect it has on Black people. If you are not on the receiving end of the word, I would ask that you keep that in mind. Further, I am reluctant to step into a discussion, but firmly believe that people who know me can make up their own minds and need to discuss it openly, but without hostility. Both as a White man and as a lover of Black culture,  I offer my experiences as MY experiences, it is my hope that anyone who wants to discuss it will speak only for themselves, and based in their experiences. 

I may edit your comments if I find them offensive, but will leave your argument as best I can. 

Ok. With that said, here’s my issues and experience:

1) In the 1980’s, there was a trend in America, where people of a variety of identifications, “reclaimed” the epithet as a “source of pride”. In this category, gay people used the “F” word, lesbians used the “D” word, feminists “reclaimed” the “B” word, and Black folks did the same with the “N” word. I was saddened by this in every account. I thought it was “internalized” homophobia, misogyny, and racism, but it wasn’t up to me to criticize the people who did/and were in the group. I was told that plenty, by members of the groups I have talked about. I already had in my mind that it was rude, so that wasn’t an issue for me. Still I should acknowledge my sexism here, but it’s only when I’m in a lousy mood or raging that I use the word.

2) That said, in order to be honest, I know that the “letter words” above can be seen by some people, myself included, as meaning a “bad” member of their group.  I have said, “She’s being a “B” though never the “C” word, though I love women as a whole. I have used the “D” word with lesbian friends in talking about certain lesbians — the more “masculine” ones and have never meant it a bad thing, just a descriptor. There are many White people, men and women, who will say, “Bill’s Black, but he’s not a “n”…. or “Mary’s a feminist, but she’s not a “B” about it”. In short, some people see it as rude, but intentionally so, as a way of differentiating one type of person vs another of a certain class. I’ve never heard that discussed as a real thing in discussions, but I raise it here. 

3) Regarding Black culture, I have heard two differing things about the “N” word. First, Richard Pryor, in one of his filmed concerts, talks about going to Africa and never hearing the word. How amazing it was to him, how calming it was to be in such a culture. He came back from that trip, vowing to never say the word again. Second, and this is the most uncomfortable one for me, two of my very best friends, both “of color” have said, “John, you (are) my n….a”. I worked very hard to be trustworthy, kind, and a member of community, so I understood that they meant it as a term of endearment, but I told both friends “I’ll take that as a compliment, but I’ll never use it myself”. I was uncomfortable with it, but was also secretly thrilled that the person felt they could say that to me with such intent. 

I don’t know what to do with any of this, except to say it’s there. I guess my questions are this: 1) in the “politically correct” world, what are the rules regarding liking or loving a culture not my own? Is it “allowed”? 

2) If you are accepted by a certain culture, and do like the culture, is it ok to use the “letter word” for that group?

3) How do we build bridges without stepping on each other’s feelings. What is the proper way to engage in such a situation?  

I look forward to your comments.

Resisting with Peace, 
John 
(Btw, the title comes from Harry Chapin– “sometimes words can serve me well, sometimes words can go to hell, for all that they do”.