“Roots People”

It’s Rick Fowler’s birthday, and the Anniversary of the late Rev. Benny Claytor and his late wife, Prophetess Gerry Claytor. My friend Pete Allen said of Rick and Me , “Long lost twins, separated at birth?” and it got me to thinking. Yes, Rick and I are kin, just as Charlie Crook was my “brother from another mother”.  What is it that these people all have in common in my eyes?  The are “roots music people”. Let me explain.

 Rick and I talked about another classmate/friend who — because she was honest enough to say she believed in gay rights and women’s ordination — never got ordained. After a few tries, she gave up. Rick said, through his carmudgeon face, “isn’t that sad?”. And look who did get ordained… he spoke of a pastor who was ordained and powerful who maintained his standing despite professional misconduct. I know of a few myself, and I know people who didn’t/couldn’t because they weren’t powerful or pretty enough or who didn’t hang with the right crowd. 

The people I mentioned: Rick, Benny and Gerry,  Charlie, our unordained colleague , and others have one thing in common: they know right and wrong and  try to live by it, all they while knowing via their experience that it doesn’t always matter to the world.  They don’t care. It matters to them. It’s their true soul and they couldn’t be anything else.

My types of music are just like that: simple, honest, passionate, and not particularly polished.  By that, I mean blues, country, reggae, folk and — oddly, punk. For instance, blues –with the musical notes E A GE — were an entire career for Muddy Waters. Country is stories about real life people. Reggae? Get in the groove and stay there for hours. Folk? Listen to early Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, playing one guitar chord while singing with Joan Baez. Punk? Early punk isn’t music. It’s angry guys playing the same power chords as fast as they can.. 

Each of these people, had, in the words of John Lee Hooker, something “in ’em, and it’s got to get out”. They didn’t have the money yet to play “correctly” , but it was in ’em and had to come out. Benny’s preaching and Gerry’s healing were like that. The contrast between what they knew should be and their life experience was created passion/expression. Benny was an engineer who originally couldn’t find a church building that treated him with dignity. Gerry was an educator who saw kids growing up with toxins in their schools, and later hungry people who needed to be fed and — without complaint, because the work had to be done, did the work. Charlie grew up in a town made briefly famous by a woman gang raped on a pinball machine in a bar. Charlie played guitar in church and I never once heard him complain about his life. Rick fixes cars because they make sense to him and well… people need to get their cars fixed. Our colleague gives her time to a church in a tough part of Boston. Her mother lost her house because of Bernie Madoff’s scam.

Each of the people I listed are brilliant (or above average, at least) in their own ways. Rick has an incredible theological vocabulary. Benny was smart — being an engineer is not a job for slouches. Gerry knew politics and politicians, and the value of love. Charlie could read an entire Stephen King novel in two days, while keeping up his theological studies. Our friend made it through 3 years of grad school, took care of her mother for years, and knows etiquette very well. Me? I pray nightly.  None of us has a particularly high tolerance for hate or the BS that passes for decorum. They do the things that have to get done for people nobody else cares about. The things they do for others are simple and monotonous, but they are recognized by people of all stripes as being good. 

All of the people I had lunch with last time I was in Boston are roots people like that.  Though they didn’t all know each other, I knew they would get along … and they did because they have good, simple and kind hearts, blended with a brain that won’t quit in a world that wants a fabulous show.

Lately, I have been following politics, and I guess I see “roots” in one particular woman: Maxine Waters. It was she that came out of an important meeting and said “the attorney general (or maybe FBI director) has no credibility”. It was she who stood up for Meghan Riley when the future-and-President was sexist.  She reminds me of a “church mother” and seminary friend. 
While I’m here, let me say that none of them are against decorum or law or a really good Classical music piece. We just call them kindness, justice, and good music. Meanwhile, we drone on, doing what has to be done in our own little way. We love beauty. We love intellect, we appreciate it in others, but “clever spin” does us no good. Over the years, we’ve picked up a few notes now and then. We can appreciate them and the dexterity it takes to do the things that society would like. When society gives us time enough, we’ll get there, too. Until then, we’ll try to do what is good. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ”

Resisting with Peace, 
John

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What Progressives Are For

I was listening to a Nation Podcast featuring an interview with Naomi Klein, who’s written a book called “No Is Not Enough” where she says that the current Democratic Party is its own worst enemy, and the reason we have been on the slippery slope to Donald Trump  for such a long time. In essence, she seems to say Democrats are asking the wrong questions or not asking the right questions. It’s not enough to be against President Trump’s agenda. We spend enough time being against their rules. As someone who is definitely not a jock, but am still proudly using a man’s brain, I’m going to use a sports metaphor: we must control the tempo of the game. We must make them play our game. Of course, we need to figure out what our game is. 

So here’s what at least this progressive is for.

I’m for equal rights. Forget being against racism, sexism, homophobia/heterosexist. I am for all people having equal rights and equal access to things.

I believe that men can be trusted, that women can be trusted, that everyone between those two poles can be trusted, to make decisions affecting their lives. I believe we should let them do so. 

I believe that there are competent Blacks, Whites, and every color (or mix) of people, and that they are are worthy of our time as a society.  I believe that all people can be more intelligent, more competent, and bigger dreamers with an education that serves their needs. I believe that they should have access to that, so that they can be their best selves.

I believe that science is true, if not totally complete, knowledge. I believe that science needs to be paired with morality or ethics in order to be of use to us as humans. 

I believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I believe that this is compatible with belief in science, reality, and what our senses can tell us. I believe that without them, all of the knowledge in the world is of less use, and with them, we can be our best self. In fact, I believe that the Trinity calls us to be our best self.

I believe that all people should be able to meet their basic needs. If they can’t –and the reality is that some people can’t, not won’t —  I believe that society should see that they do. 

I believe that if we do all of this, we will have the peace and security we long for. 

I believe that there are limits to what people need, and that there should be limits to what they want, as well. I believe that if we share what we have, we can take care of all people. If that is not true, then — using logic and our best sense — we can figure something else out. I believe we have to try first, though.

I believe that climate change is real. I believe that we need to fix it, and we need to use our best guesses to do that. I believe we need to use the information we already have as a start.  

I like the Constitution. I especially like the preamble to it. I believe in the freedom of the press to tell us the truth about the world we live in. I also believe that the press, like all institutions, should act ethically. I believe that the bigger an institution is, the more it needs to act ethically. 

I believe that individuals sometimes act unethically. When they do, they should be stopped, and I believe they should be given a means to redeem themselves. If they don’t want to, they should be kept away from society. 

I believe that human beings are worth more than money. 

I believe that we are dependent on the environment. It is incumbent on us, therefore, to take care of it, not the least because of that dependence.

I believe that it’s none of my business whom you love, unless someone’s getting hurt in the relationship.

That’s what this progressive believes, and — if I have learned nothing else in my time blogging — I believe that I’m not alone in believing in these things.

Resisting with Peace,

John

People Who Don’t Like Humanity Shouldn’t Be President.

Today, my friend Val shared an article on Facebook about our President planning to/wanting to cut back on heating assistance to the old and poor. After apparently disliking half the population (see Meghan Kelly, Mika Breszinski, Hillary Clinton) adding in another 5% for Black men (see Barack Obama and Jeff Sessions)  another who-knows-how many-handicapped or sick people, (the healthcare bill) children who want to be educated in the public schools,( see also Betsy Devos) and everyone who lives on the planet (see the Paris accords on climate change), I am not surprised at all that he wants to defund heating for those who might freeze to death.

The Press tries to psychoanalize him, but it seems clear to me that — actual diagnosis aside — Donald Trump simply hates humanity. One could make the case that he likes rich, White guys, but the Paris accord decision takes them off the board as well. That leaves no one the President cares about. It’s probably not in the Constitution, but shouldn’t “crimes against humanity” be an impeachable offense? 

His politics, his words, his actions all point to hatred for the very human race that he is a part of. I don’t worry that it means he’s suicidal, because, though tragic, that would only mean one life gone. Homicidality to all human life is my first concern. After them, we can get back to him.

If this seems over-dramatic, consider his provocation of a certain Korean psychopath who is testing missiles. This does not mean, by the way, that Kim Jong Il isn’t dangerous and provocative all on his own. He is. Teasing a crazy man who is waving around a knife, however, doesn’t seem too bright to me. When the “knife” in question is a nuke… well, wow. Just wow.

So, from a scientific, experimental viewpoint, we can sit around and see if I’m right, or we can impeach him/jail him.  All the evidence says I’m right so far. If it is a sociological experiment, remember that Trump and his ilk don’t believe in science or facts, so he won’t believe whatever we say. This is a problem. Like all people who are like this, I don’t vote for the death penalty in whatever form, but I do believe in restraint until he can be safe with others. Right now, President is not showing any signs in that direction. I would settle for impeachment, but would prefer time in a psychological treatment facility until that changes.

Yes, it is that bad.
Resisting with Peace,
John


Links To The Other Beautiful America

On this 4th of July, my two blogs, “Like It Matters” and “Because It Matters” have reached a total of 20,000 hits!. It is my pleasure to talk about people I have written about in the 6 years of blogging. I do that in depth in the simultaneously posted “Because It Matters” Post “The Other Beautiful America ”  In this article, I’m posting the links to  the organizations, artists, etc. None of this is paid advertising. They are just good people I thought you should know about.

DENOMINATIONS I CAN VOUCH FOR

The UCC and Connecticut Conference, UCC

The American Baptist Churches USA

American Baptists CT

Presbyterian Church USA

Society of Friends/Quakers

Friends Service Committee

United Methodists

SPECIFIC CHURCHES I CAN VOUCH FOR

Todd’s Church in Hampden, MA

Beneficent UCC, Providence, RI

John Hudson’s Church , Sherborn, MA

Lisa’s church, Winsted, CT

Ken Ferguson’s church, Central Village, CT

Eric Anderson’s UCC Church, Hilo, Hawaii

 

CAMPS I CAN PERSONALLY VOUCH FOR

Silver Lake , CT

Camp Wightman, CT

Skye Farm, NY

CYC (Christian Youth Conference), Maine

GROUPS THAT CARE

Pat Speer’s Group — Christian Activities Council

Lesbian who saved a congressman’s life

Pulse Nightclub Community

South Church and Recapture Healing

True Colors, Hartford

NAACP

Bee’s church

Patricia Ginyard’s Group

Kevin Ginyard’s Church

Church of God In Christ

Black Lives Matter

Jeff Brown’s organization

Jeff’s church

Jeff’s TED Talk

Feed The People Food Pantry

Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy

Boys and Girls Club, Rochester, NY

Beyond The Moment

NATIONAL GROUPS

American Civil Liberties Union

National Organization For Women

National Coalition Builder’s Institute

Alcoholics Anonymous

Save The Children

WhyHunger

OTHER GROUPS

Cunningham Tire of Reading

 

EDUCATORS

Liz’s College

Bobbie Fox at Manchester Community College

Charter Oak Global Academy

West Hartford Schools: Sedgewick and Conard

 

HELPERS AND HEALERS

Where Mar (used to?) work(s)

Baystate Hospital

Shriner’s Hospital

River Valley Counseling

Petaluma People’s Services, Petaluma, CA

Formerly South Bay Mental Health…

Child Guidance Clinic, Springfield, MA

Hartford Hospital’s Institute For Living

Virginia Satir Global Network

 

ARTISTS WHO DO GOOD THINGS

Beebs and Her Money Makers

Joan Osborne

The Harry Chapin Foundation

Jen Chapin

Tom Chapin

Steve Chapin, Big John Wallace and Howie Fields

The Chapin Family

The Chapin Sisters

An old article on Larry Baker (more to come)

99 seat theaters in LA

Rant and Rave/Rogue Machine

 

 

 

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