Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Migrant Caravan

It is quite evident that we, the American public (voters) are being distracted by Mr. Trump’s rather berserk assertions about the so-called migrant caravan.  The caravan is now being called an “invasion” and an “assault” requiring a deployment of a 5,200 member military force along the southern border.   Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have both made the claim that there are “unknown Middle Easterners,” terrorists and MS-13 gang members in the midst of this so-called caravan.  These claims are not currently supported by intelligence on the ground. In spite of the lack of evidence about the “invasion,” the “unknown Middle Easterners,” terrorists and MS-13 gang members, the president continues to proclaim these caravan lies.  Even Shepherd Smith of Fox News has debunked the caravan conspiracy theories.

Did you know that the private immigration detention industry is booming under the current administration’s detention and immigration policies?  It is a multibillion dollar business.  I understand that Canadian pension funds are increasing their investments in the two largest US private detention corporations , CoreCivic, Inc. and GEO Group, Inc., because under the current government’s immigration policy they expect a big pay-out.  The more migrants who cross the border and are arrested the better the annual profits for these companies.  Under the Trump administration so far, the arrests (therefore the detention) of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have tripled.  The “zero tolerance policy” separated children from their parents, but Mr. Trump has issued an executive order that families will now be detained together.  When the executive order was issued, the shares for CoreCivic and GEO Group increased significantly (because that means “more money”).  As far as I can tell, this is not a conspiracy theory.  It is, according to my research, a fact (rare as facts are these days) and we taxpayers are paying for it.

It was reported that liberal billionaire George Soros, a Jewish immigrant, paid the migrants to form the caravan.  This is not true.  Members of Congress and the president’s son, however, repeated this falsehood.  Social media platforms have amplified this lie.  This is a conspiracy theory and it has turned out to be a horrific one.  

Be aware of conspiracy theories.  Be aware of facts, too.  And seek to know the difference.  The fact that huge profits are being made by the private detention industry off of immigrants is just as revolting to me as the various caravan conspiracies.  

It is a turbulent time.  We must navigate the rough waters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Serpent AND Dove

Jesus encourages his followers to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.  We have construed that to mean that a follower of Jesus must cultivate a tough-mindedness (as opposed to soft-mindedness) and a tender-heartedness (as opposed to hard-heartedness). 

Jesus says we must cultivate both the tough-mind and the tender-heart, for one without the other does not make us whole (fully human).   A tough-mind without a tender heart makes us cold, distant, and detached from “feelings.”  A tough-mind without a tender heart lacks passion and makes us “hard-hearted.”

The hard-hearted person does not love and cannot love.  The hard-hearted person utilizes and values other people only because of their usefulness to him or a cause.  The hard-hearted never experience a real relationship, because he or she does not feel affection for any other person.  The hard-hearted are self-centered and cannot share another person’s sorrows or joys.  The hard-hearted live in isolation and do not consider themselves as part of the whole of humanity.  

The hard-hearted person has no capacity for compassion.  He or she is not affected by the plight of his or her brothers or sisters.  The hard-hearted cannot see a brother or sister’s burden, pain, or affliction.  The hard-hearted never sees people as people.  People are simply objects.  Hard-hearted persons dehumanize life.

We must cultivate both the tough-mind and the tender-heart.  One, without the other, is disastrous.  To have only “serpent qualities” without “dove qualities” is to be mean, bitter, selfish, and passionless.  To have only the dove qualities without the serpent qualities is to be sentimental, dewy-eyed, syrupy, sappy, and pathetic.

We are called to be tough-minded not soft-minded.  We are called to be tender-hearted not hard-hearted.  We are called to be BOTH tough-minded AND tender-hearted as a people, as a nation, and as a world.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Synthesis: Something Greater Is Here!

It has been said, “Opposites attract.”  Is that so?  She’s quiet, he’s loud.  She drives a Honda Civic, he drives an F-150 Ford Pickup.  She is a Roman Catholic, he claims no religious affiliation.  She reads, he never reads.  She has a graduate degree, he never made it through high school. He’s a Republican, she’s a Democrat.  Can they get along?  Can they synthesize their differences into a harmonious and meaningful relationship?

The philosopher Hegel suggested that truth is found not in one thing or in its opposite, not in one side or on another, not in one idea or another, but by the combining of the two (with a new idea).  This process is called “synthesis,”  which occurs when two opposing (opposites) ideas are reconciled or brought together.  Synthesis is not “either/or”—it is  “both/and."

Jesus suggested that truth comes by blending opposites.  “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves,” and then told his disciples,  “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”  (Matthew 10:16). Can you picture a person being like a serpent and like a dove at the same time?  That kind of synthesis just doesn’t seem possible, but Jesus recommended it.  Somehow, over the years the “wise serpent” has been classified as “tough-mindedness” and the “harmless dove” has been labeled “tender-heartedness.” “One of the greatest of all Christian terms,” wrote Elton Trueblood, “is the word ‘and’.”  Jesus called his followers to be BOTH tough-minded AND tender-hearted.  He called them to be like the scribe, who like a householder, “brings out of his treasure [BOTH] what is new AND what is old” (Matthew 13:52).  The first and most important commandment Jesus gave was to [BOTH] love God (with heart, soul, and mind) AND to love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:36ff). God and my neighbor are opposites and Jesus called for synthesis. 

Now I wonder if it is possible to combine (synthesize) the opposites: tough-mindedness and soft-mindedness, or must it be “either/or?”  The tough-minded sifts the true from the false, discerns fact from fiction, and is always engaged in hard, solid thinking.  The soft-minded are gullible, embrace superstition, fear change, strangers,  and are opposed to new ideas.  Hitler saw the prevalence of soft-mindedness among his followers.  He said, “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”  He also wrote in Mein Kampf:  “By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell, heaven…The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.”  The division between tough-mindedness  and soft-mindedness is immense just now.  Is synthesis possible?  Is it “both/and” or will it be forever “either/or?” The Gospel calls for synthesis and provides the new and overriding idea to bring it about.  “Something greater is here!”

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Beloved Community

The term “The Beloved Community” was introduced in the early days of the last century by Josiah Royce (philosopher and theologian) who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Founded in 1915, the  Fellowship of Reconciliation is the largest, oldest interfaith peace organization in the U.S. and has affiliates in 40 countries around the world.  Martin Luther King, Jr was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. While Royce coined the phrase “The Beloved Community,” Martin Luther King popularized it and invested it with deeper meaning.

In King’s mind, this “beloved community” was not some lofty utopian goal, or some religious Peaceable Kingdom, where lions and lambs coexist in harmony.   King saw the beloved community as a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained, here and now.  It was global—a community in which all people could share in the wealth of the earth.  Poverty, hunger, and homelessness would not be tolerated in that community because human decency would not permit it.  Racism and all other forms of discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, hate and violence would be replaced by the spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.  Love and trust would triumph over fear and hatred.  Peace with justice would prevail over war and military conflict.  It was about love—a love for brothers and sisters—all of them—everywhere.

Congressman John Lewis, an instrumental part of the non-violent campaign for civil rights in the 1960’s, believed in King’s vision of The Beloved Community.  He not only believed in the vision, but he has lived his life as if the ‘beloved community’ were already our reality.  “I discovered,” he wrote, “that you have to have this sense of faith that what you’re moving toward is already done.  It’s already happened.”  “You live,” he said in an interview, “as if you’re already there, that you’re already in that community, part of that sense of one family, one house.  If you can visualize it, if you can even have faith that it’s there, for you it is already there.”

Lewis says, “It’s just not something that is natural.  You have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence.  In the religious sense, in the moral sense, you can say that in the bosom of every human being, there is a spark of the divine.  So you don’t have a right as a human to abuse that spark of the divine in your fellow human being…If you have someone attacking you, beating on you, spitting on you, you have to think of that person—years ago that person was an innocent child, an innocent little baby.  What happened?  Did something go wrong?  Did someone teach that person to hate, to abuse others?  So you try to appeal to the goodness of every human being and you don’t give up.  You never give up on anyone.”  You live with faith that the beloved community is already present, as if it were already reality.  

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Fratricides

Nikos Kazantzakis authored a novel called The Fratricides in which he recounted the tragic and terrible violence that swallowed up Greece during the civil war from 1946-1949.  “Fratricides” means brother killers.  The biblical story of Cain and Abel is a story of fratricide,  That story has been repeated year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium, and war after war.  It was repeated last week just down the road from where I live—and where my daughter, Rachel, is a teacher.  A young brother (15) and his older brother (18) got in an argument.  The younger brother stabbed his brother and killed him.  Another fratricide happened!  Such fratricides happen every day.

A fratricide occurred again today at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Yes, it was a fratricide, because in spite of all the hate, ignorance, and misunderstanding of the assassin (Robert Bowers), those worshippers and the law enforcement officers who came to their aid, were his brothers and his sisters—and he was and is their brother.  Yes, Robert Bowers is my brother and your brother, too.  Cesar Sayoc, Jr. is my brother and he is your brother, too. In our anger and frustration we must never forget that fact.  We do not choose our brothers and sisters.  They are given to us.  Where is your brother?  Where is your sister?  Who is your neighbor?  No human being is an animal and no human being is “a piece of garbage.”  Every person, whether enemy or friend, whether black or white, whether Jew or Muslim, whether assassin or victim is my brother and my sister.  

“The road is long with many a’winding turn that leads us to who knows where, who knows when.  But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him.  He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. So on we go.  His welfare is my concern, no burden is he to bear.  We’ll get there. For I know he would not encumber me.  He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. If I’m laden at all, I’m ladened with sadness that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with gladness of love for one another.”  

Sometimes a brother or a sister does become a burden—a heavy load—a severe embarrassment, a pawn of the demonic powers, but still we must carry our brother, our sister.  We are heavy ladened with sadness, sorrow, and grief because of fratricide, but we must be careful not to commit it ourselves.

“Bomb Stuff” Explodes

The president calls for harmony:  “Political violence must never ever be allowed in America and I will do everything in my power to stop it….We must unify as a nation in peace, love, and in harmony.”  Then, he attacks:  “We all say this in all sincerity but the media’s constant unfair coverage, deep hostility, and negative attacks—you know that—only to serve to drive people apart and to undermine healthy debate…It is time for us to replace the politics of anger and destruction with real debate about the real issues…”

The president demands honesty:  “The media has tried to attack the incredible supporters of our movement.…We want honest coverage from the media.  That’s all we want.”  Then he lies, claiming he will cut taxes 10 percent before election day.  He goes on to say the Democrats want to eliminate Medicare and eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions. He says, “The Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan of illegal immigrants…they want to sign them up for health care, welfare, and they want to sign them up for the right to vote.” None of this is true.  

The president wants an end to personal attacks: “Everyone will benefit if we can end the politics of personal destruction.” Then, in the next  breath he mocks Nancy Pelosi, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer,’ ‘Crooked Hillary,’ and begins to lambast Representative Maxine Waters and then says, “But I’m going to be nice tonight, so I won’t say it.  I won’t say it.”

The “politics of personal destruction” is contagious.  All parties and persons become infected with it.  Last night at the North Carolina Trump Rally, his supporters chanted “Lock her up” referring to Hillary Clinton (a target of the mail bomber this week) and when the media was mentioned they cried out, “CNN sucks.”  And Mr. Trump said with a sly grin,  “They’ll (referencing the media) be reporting you tonight.”  

When asked if he feels any blame for the bombs mailed to those he has named, lambasted, and denigrated, Mr. Trump said, “No not at all, I mean, not at all.  No.  There’s no blame there’s no anything.”  He went on to say, “If you look at what happened to Steve Scalise, that was from a supporter of a different party.  If you look at what happened on numerous of these incidents they were supporters of others, no….”  When asked if perhaps he should tone down his rhetoric, Mr. Trump replied that he probably ought to tone up his rhetoric.

One GOP strategist (Alex Castellanos) said, “They sent him (Trump) to Washington to break all of the china.  Occasionally a piece or two is grandma’s prized piece on the shelf.”  I guess that’s why I’m not one of those who sent him to Washington.  I don’t want the china broken—and I certainly don’t want grandma’s prized pieces, or Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, Maxine Waters or any other person knocked off the shelf and demolished.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Psychological Projection

Psychological projection occurs when persons defend themselves against their own unpleasant impulses by denying their existence and attribute them to others.  A person who is consistently rude, or dishonest, or angry, or petulant, for example, will accuse other people of being rude, dishonest, angry, or petulant.  Projection can be a form of blame-shifting.  “It wasn’t me,” is a ploy we’ve all used at one time or another.

Mr. Trump at a rally on Wednesday night called upon the crowd to notice “how nice I’m behaving today…Have you ever seen this?  We’re all behaving very well. And hopefully we can keep it that way.  We’re gonna keep it that way.” He said this after it was revealed that at least ten explosive devices had been sent to Democrats and his critics, whom he has lambasted over and over again. He urged “those engaged in the political arena” to “stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.”   Trump made a plea for “civility” earlier in the day, but rally attendants apparently had not heard as they chanted “Lock her up!”  Trump refrained from his usual personal attacks on certain Democrats (almost all of whom were sent an explosive device) but suggested, “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories…” once again suggesting that journalists are the “enemy of the people.”  It is always somebody else’s fault or doing!

The following morning he tweeted, “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News…It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description.  Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

At a Trump Rally in Houston on Monday, Trump said “The great Maxine Waters—that’s a beauty…Max-eeeeeeene Waters…You get that one?  You get that—Max?  She’s going to be in charge of your finances!  Maxine—good old Maxine.  Low-I.Q. individual! Low I.Q.”  He said George Soros was paying people to join the so-called “caravan.”  (This comment is totally unsubstantiated, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Trump).  The denigration of people is constant at his rallies and news conferences. Nothing is ever Mr. Trump’s  fault—it is all attributed to the media, Obama, or somebody else—but never Mr. Trump.  It is classical “psychological projection!”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

There Is Another World

William Butler Yeats rote, “There is another world, but it is in this one.”  It is not “out there” somewhere.  It is right here. It is another dimension.  The world we know now can be different, can be renewed, can be loving and caring, by moving into this other dimension.  “There is another world, but it is in this one!”

N. Gordon Cosby made an attempt to describe this other world within this world in a sermon, called “Deepening Connections.” “This room,” he said, “is full of beams and sounds—beams which are carrying images too numerous to count.  We could bring in twenty TV sets and place them around the room.  There would be different channels, all of which would be broadcasting simultaneously.  All of the various sounds and images are in this room this very moment.  It is the television that receives and sends them out.  

In like manner, the mystical consciousness is the instrument whereby we receive into our deepest being the love that surrounds us, is seeking to penetrate us and subsequently to radiate from us.

This love energy, this presence, this hope is inexhaustible.  With God there is no scarcity.  The flow is infinite, never ending.  ‘Take no anxious thought for tomorrow.’  Why?  Because what you need for tomorrow will come in the inevitable flow.

‘Consider the lilies of the field.’  Relax into God’s infinite bounty.  You will be taken care of .  You are safe. God is friendly.  The manna will flow. Deepen your connectedness with this unseen, real realm [that other world in this one].”  

We do not have to live under the power of the present darkness, we do not have to denigrate one another or hate one another.  We can choose to let that other world be revealed in us.  We can connect with all people, our kind and not our kind, in that other realm.  Connecting with this other world (already in this one) we can bridge the divisions that are present now.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Meandering Mind

I’m finding it difficult to focus on just one thing this morning.  My mind seems to be going everywhere—from one subject and then another—in one direction and then another—from one thought to another.  I’ve tried to focus, to center-down, but to no avail.  A myriad of thoughts flood my mind, but concentration on any one of these thoughts escapes me.  Have you ever had this experience?  

This frustrating situation of a meandering mind reminds me of Nikos Kazantzakis’  Odyssey (A Modern Sequel) in which he describes the mind of his main character, Odysseus.  Here are a few of his creative words:  “Odysseus’ mind grew wings…in the twisting seashores of his mind…his mind brimmed with thought…his mind smiled…life winked in his mind like a small lightning flash…his mind juggled…his unguarded mind in sleep, [hunted] for dreams…compassion blurred his mind…he reined in his heart and brain and soothed his mind…he made his weak mind firm.”  The one passage I like most this morning and the one thing I wish I could do is,  “He shook his mind till his thoughts fell in place once more.”

Nothing is falling into place or coming into focus for me no matter how many times I have “shook my mind.” My mind “brims with thought,” but there are too many for me to settle on just one .  My mind “is juggled” and is filled with a myriad of “blurred” thoughts.  Like a meandering brook my thoughts flow, forming rapids and currents, eddying here and there, but not settling anywhere.  Woe is me! 

My meandering mind wanders to Leonard Cohen’s lyrics:  “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”  Then I think,   “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”   My “mind smiled” and will smile the whole day long, after reading these words of Pope John Paul II,  “Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter people, and hallelujah is our song.”  But on and on my mind still goes meandering along its “twisting seashores,” but I am content for at least I know this morning that my mind is still working.  Whether it is sane or insane, sound or unsound, firm or weak, is yet to be seen.  I simply rejoice that I still have it—a mind, that is—a mind that smiles at itself.  Which brings to my mind Shakepeare’s words:  “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Witness for Truth, Decency and Justice

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) was an abolitionist, a journalist, and a social reformer. He was editor of The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper.  He has alway been one of my heroes from the past. As a newspaper columnist he wrote what was called “The Black List,” in which he wrote a series of short “blogs” about “the barbarities of slavery.”  These stories reported on the  kidnappings, murders, and whippings of slaves.  He wrote a scathing report on Francis Todd who was shipping slaves from Baltimore, Maryland to New Orleans.  Although the United States had prohibited slave trade from Africa in 1807, Todd’s shipment of slaves within the bounds of the U.S. was perfectly legal. 

The State of Maryland brought criminal charges against Garrison for libel (fake news, I suppose) and found him guilty.  He was ordered to pay a fine of  $50 plus court costs.  Garrison refused to pay the fine and was sentenced to six months jail-time.  He was in jail for about seven weeks before a wealthy abolitionist donated money for the fine.  I’ve always admired Garrison for his unapologetic commitment to the anti-slavery movement and for his courage to face the costs of that commitment.  He was an authentic journalist.

Miss Beatrice Smith, my 8th grade Sunday school teacher, first introduced me to William Garrison.  She told her class that his “witness” (not only for the emancipation of slaves, but also for the rights of women) was the kind of courageous witness that we, as Christians, were to make in the world.  

Here is sample of Garrison’s witness to truth.  “I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity?  I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice.  On this subject (slavery), I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation.  No! no!  Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; —but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.  I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.”  

Do we, as the American people, or we who claim to be disciples of Christ, have the guts to make such a witness for truth, decency and justice in our time?


Monday, October 22, 2018

The Educated and the Learned Person

What does it mean to be an “educated person?”  Education is a process of facilitating learning—the gaining of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.  Storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and research are ways in which education takes place.  Education can happen in formal and informal settings.  Any experience that affects the way one thinks, feels, or acts is educational.  But when we think of “education” we typically think of schooling:  formal (school, college), vocational (preparing to people to work in a trade, a craft, or as a technician), and alternative education (homeschooling, charter schools).  But education takes place in every life situation and circumstance whenever and wherever learning is facilitated. The ancient Aztecs thought of education as “the art of raising a person” or “the art of strengthening or bringing up men.” 

What does it mean to be a “learned person?” To be a “learned person” means to be admitted to membership in some scholarly field; or to be someone who by long study or practice has gained mastery in one or more subjects.  A learned person may gain mastery over a particular subject (have knowledge of a certain field of knowledge) but may be devoid of values and practical skills. The licensed mechanic who can repair my vehicle is a learned person, but may know little about quantum physics.  A surgeon is a learned person, but may know little about automotive mechanics.  The certified electrician is a learned person, but may have little understanding of history.  Each has gained mastery in their particular work and have been admitted (certified) to membership in their particular area of expertise (scholarly or otherwise).  They have been educated in a specific field or skill, but may not have been educated in terms of beliefs and values, etc.  

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.  Article 2 of the Declaration states: “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms…These fundamental and inalienable rights are the entitlement of all human beings regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status.”  The Aztecs knew what they were talking about.  Education is “the art of raising a person.”  We are not yet “learned persons” or “educated persons” no matter our degrees, skills, knowledge, values, beliefs, and habits, until we have learned the art of raising persons (all persons) to their fulfillment as human beings.  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

My Worst Nightmare

A friend commented on yesterday’s blog,  The Growing Tinge of the Sinister: “What really bothers me—something I cannot understand—is why some of the Trump supporters I know, learned, respectable citizens of our community, do not speak out against this.”  I am as “bothered” as my friend and feel the same frustration and bewilderment.  How can respectable citizens, religious (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) and educated members of our communities be silent, or not care, or not be disturbed by the President of the United States saying the things the current holder of that office says?  Where is the outrage?  Where are those “family values” religious folk of a few years ago?  What about the moral majority?  Where are the churches and the temples and the synagogues?  Where are the “Bible-pounding” preachers of righteousness?  What happened to the so-called “Jesus People” who supposedly loved everyone? Where are the prophets of justice?  Peter, Paul and Mary sang some years ago, “Where have all the flowers gone?” and today I’m wondering the same thing.  

My mentor, D. Elton Trueblood, wrote:  “The worst nightmare is not the disappearance of Christianity (the teachings of Jesus), but its continued existence on a low level.”   Are we now living “the worst nightmare” of a democracy?  Is the American Dream, like the the Christian faith, existing at its lowest level?  Both were meant to be so much more! 

When the Second Amendment becomes more important than the First Amendment our democracy is already existing at one of its lowest levels ever.  When the media, the press, is called “the enemy of the people,” or “fake news,” and the president says he has “a running war with the media” and calls reporters “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and praises a Republican Representative to Congress for body slamming a reporter, he is undermining the First Amendment he vowed to protect.

The writers of the Constitution announced that all men (people) were created equal, but it took the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments to make that dream reality.  But when the president refers to an African-American as having a “low-IQ,” and to a woman as “crude, obnoxious, and dumb,” and to those who kneel in protest during the national anthem as “S.O.B’s,” it is clear to me that our democracy is now existing at its lowest level.  Why others can’t see this, I do not know.  Perhaps it is because we have entered into the “worst nightmare” when the respectable, learned, religious citizens cease to care, remain silent, and in some cases actually subscribe to this “lower level” in spite of their respectability, religiosity, and education.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Growing Tinge of the Sinister

I believe everybody has told a lie at some point (I admit that’s a generalization) and some of us have told more than our share.  Some of our lies have been big whoppers and some have been what we like to call little white lies or fibs.  But let’s be clear and honest—there are few of us, if any, who have not lied on occasion. Nearly everybody will tell you that lying is wrong, but nearly everybody has lied. Deception is rampant among us in every area of life.  A polygraph expert says, “Lying has long been a part of everyday life.  We couldn’t get through a day without being deceptive.”  Friedrich Nietzche wrote that “the lie” is a condition of life.

If the above is true, then we can just naturally expect all presidents to lie.  And they do and they have!  Richard Nixon lied about being a crook.  Ronald Reagan lied about not being aware of the Iran-Contra deal (evidence indicates that he was).  Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with a White House intern.  Lying in politics transcends political affiliation.  Republicans and Democrats lie (both those who are in political leadership positions and those who are not)! Seventy percent of Trump’s statements (checked by PolitiFact) during his 2016 campaign were false (lies) and only 4% were completely true.  Twenty-six percent of Trump’s “Crooked” Hillary’s statements during the same campaign were deemed false.  

Tony Swartz was the ghostwriter for Trump’s  memoir, The Art of the Deal.  But Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, apparently convinced himself that he had written the book.  Schwartz said, “If he could lie about that on Day One (of his campaign)—when it was so easily refuted—he is likely to lie about anything.”  And Trump does lie about anything and almost everything!  I know there are those who just can’t believe this is so—but it is so and it is a fact!

Lying has consequences—serious consequences.  When Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter and continues to slam the media as “the enemy of the people” (this is a lie) he elicited cheers and applause from the crowd.  The U.S. editor of The Guardian’s response says it all:  “To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.….In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats.”  Lying has far-reaching consequences—and we all know it!  The president’s lying can no longer be classed as simply “mischievious” or “un-politically correct.”  It is a bullying spirit.

"A lie can travel half way around the world while
the truth is putting on its shoes" (Mark Twain)

Friday, October 19, 2018

The God of Prison, Foxhole, and Crisis

Our human motivations are never completely pure.  We are called to love God.  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38).  Many of us say we do love God, but do we?  We may want to love God with heart, soul and mind,  but our attempt  gets all tangled up in our situations and problems.  The truth is that our theology, our religious understanding about God, gets in the way of our loving God as God with all our heart, soul and mind.

Jailhouse religion happens.  It is the term used for the sudden and desperate turning to God of those who are “caught” and  sent to jail or prison.  They suddenly “find God” and claim that their lives have been “turned around.” Such an experience is scriptural.  The parable of the Prodigal Son is the story of a form of jailhouse religion.  The son, lost in the far country, suddenly comes to his senses and returns “home” to his Father.  We should never use the term “jailhouse religion” in a pejorative way, for those who are “uncaught” often experience the same phenomena as those who are “caught.”

It is said, for example, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  This aphorism has been used to suggest that in times of extreme stress or fear, especially in combat (“in foxholes’), all people will believe in, or hope for, God.  How many of us (who are not in prison), the “uncaught, ” have, in our moments of crisis—with a critical illness, or in an earthquake—had our “come to Jesus” moment?  In my years of ministry in parish, military and prisons, I have witnessed this religious phenomenon, among the “caught” and the “uncaught,”  among the military and the civilian.   

There is nothing wrong with seeing God as savior.  In fact, there is much in Christian theology which proclaims this as being the very basis of our relationship with God!  This  is the God of prison, foxhole and crisis—the God of despair, the God whose only purpose is to rescue us.  But I sense God is and wants to be so much more than this kind of God.  Can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, if we only see our God as a savior and rescuer?  

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Disastrous Myth

Myths abound in our world and there seem to me to be a growing number of myths being promulgated in our society and government these days.  One kind of myth is a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or a tale explaining some natural or social phenomenon, which typically involves supernatural beings or events.  The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is a myth of this type.  The dividing of the Red Sea allowing the escaping Hebrew slaves to walk across on dry land is such a myth.  Such myths are not necessarily untruths (as often categorized) but are real stories, historical stories, factual stories, to which greater (often supernatural) meaning has been attached. 

Another form of myth is a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence.  Examples abound in our American history and culture.  Superman is such a myth.  Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox and  Bigfoot  fit this category of myth.

There is also,  a third form of myth, defined as “a widely held but false belief or idea, an unfounded or false notion.”  An example of this kind of myth would be the American myth of individualism or the myth of racial superiority.  

There is a cultural myth that fits into this third definition that we have swallowed hook, line and sinker.  That cultural myth is the one that says, “If you are well adjusted, and if you are living your life properly, you will feel fulfilled, satisfied, content, and serene (happy).”  Conversely this myth says, “If you are not satisfied and fulfilled, there is something wrong with you (unhappy).”  Most of us accept this myth without question and it pervades every aspect of our society.  Popular religion promotes it by promising peace of mind if only we believe rightly.  If  we are not happy, this false religion says, it is because we are somehow not right with God.   Popular psychology promotes this myth, too.  This myth of fulfillment or myth of happiness is “a widely held but false belief…a false notion.”  At least I think so, especially since I have never felt total fulfillment and seldom if ever can I say I am “happy.”  So many settle for an anesthetized serenity or happiness which makes for dullness.  So many prefer a false fulfillment rather than dealing with the dis-ease of truth.  So many prefer a religion of comfort rather than the discomforting and radical message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This myth of fulfillment and happiness, promulgated by every aspect of our culture, is the “opium of the people,” and dehumanizes us.

Our belief in this myth of fulfillment and/or happiness  and our attempts to make it real or true, causes us to miss the most beautiful and awesome aspect of our humanness—our yearning for a more authentic and meaningful love, our own incompleteness, our radical inner desire to be more than what we are.  We were never meant to be fulfilled, we are not made to be “happy!”  As Gerald May put it, “we were meant to taste it, to long for it, and to grow toward it.”  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The first known use of the word “addlepated” was in 1641.  It meant stupid or confused.  Other definitions came along:  mixed up, disjointed, mentally uncertain, garbled, illogical, scattered, opaque, flustered, befuddled, unable to think with clarity or act intelligently, confounded and perplexed. Addlepated goes along with words like addlebrained, muddleheaded, and puddingheaded. 

In old English an adel eye was a putrid or rotten egg. The stench of a rotten egg caused some witty minds to hatch up a comparison between “the diminished, unsound quality of adel (rotten) egg and an empty, confused head or pate.” Thus, a new word was born: addlepated.  “Your owne imagination, which was no lesse Idle, then your head was addle all that day,” wrote a 17th century wit playing with the words idle and addle.  Addled has come to mean unable to think clearly, but once simply meant a rotten egg.

My mind becomes more and more addled the more I listen to Mr. Trump.  When he says one thing and it is recorded on video for all to see and hear and then says he never said such a thing, my mind is addled.  Or could it be that he is addlepated? I’m not sure what is what or which is which. 

Sometimes I wonder if making citizens addlepated is the modus operandi of the present administration.  For example, it was just reported that the federal deficit jumped 17%  as the new tax cuts eat into government revenue—and this under a Republican majority whose goal has always been (so it was said) to reduce the deficit.  Mulvaney blames Congress for irresponsible and unnecessary spending.  Mitch McConnell called the “growing deficit” under his watch “very disturbing.”  He claims the problem isn’t tax cuts nor the increase in military spending, but rather the big three entitlement programs:  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  I think I smell addled (rotten) eggs.  Maybe not?  Maybe I’m addlepated?  Maybe the politicians want us to be addlepated?  Or maybe, they, themselves are addlepated?  Your guess is as good as mine.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Maligned and Persecuted?

Yesterday I made mention of Mr. Trump and his penchant about being maligned and persecuted, particularly by the press and the Democrats, when in fact, he is the one who seems to malign and persecute others.  The claim that he is the most criticized or victimized of any other president in history is a false one, but it might be argued that he, as President of the United States, has maligned, denigrated and persecuted more leaders, nations and persons than any other president in history!

It was Donald Trump who long challenged the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency by questioning whether Obama, the first African American president, was, in fact, born in America.  Trump, along with others, carried on a campaign of spurious rumors and bogus claims throughout the eight years of the Obama presidency. The “birther” movement was just one of these.

One bogus claim was that Obama was an anti-Christian Muslim.  Eighty percent of Americans, in spite of Trump’s persistent innuendos,  correctly believed that the 44th President of the United States was born in the U.S.  Only 39 percent, however, believed he was a Christian; 30 percent believed he was a Muslim.  Even though Obama talked about his Christian faith over and over again—none of that seemed to sway those who believed that with a middle name like “Hussein” he had to be a Muslim.  

Another bogus claim was made that Obama was sworn in as a U.S. senator using a Koran.  Not true! He used his own personal Bible for his swearing in.   For all of the eight years of Obama’s presidency the claim was made that he canceled the National Day of Prayer.  Not true!  It was claimed that he allowed a Muslim prayer event on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.  Not true! It was claimed that Obama issued a policy in 2009 preventing an Army veteran from speaking a t a faith-based event.  Wrong!  It was a fund-raiser and had nothing to do with religion.  A policy already existed which prevented the veteran from participating in the fundraiser in an official capacity.  He was accused of funding Mosques overseas.  Not true.  Some claimed that he exempted Muslims from having to purchase health insurance required by the Affordable Care Act.  Not true!  He was accused of banning the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and that he refused to recite the pledge.  Not true!  This is just a small sampling of the rumors and the victimization of another U.S. president. And I could go on an on and on with hundreds of other bogus claims and spurious rumors.  But, just one last thing needs to be mentioned.  The Obama White House always referred to the “White House Christmas Tree” as just that.  The claim that it was called the White House “holiday tree” was disproved in 2009, but it continues to circulate annually during the holiday season and Mr. Trump fed the rumor then and continues to feed it now.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

We Will Not Be Trumped

I watched the “60 Minutes” interview of Donald Trump by Lesley Stahl last night in between the football games.  Did you?   It was interesting.  The interview ranged from climate change to the healing of the nation.  The president responded to climate change by saying it wasn’t a hoax…but we don’t know the cause.  Stahl suggested that scientists’ know the change is man-made—but the president said, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley.”  As for the healing of the nation, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t think they (Democrats) want to heal yet, I’ll be honest.”  But I don’t believe he was being honest here.  It is Mr. Trump who has failed to reach out since his inaugural to bring the country together and who continues to divide it further apart with every political rally he holds!

The one thing that the president always brings up in any interview and at every opportunity is his penchant about the media treating him unfairly.  This is a mantra his supporters use constantly.  I’ve read and heard their claim over and over again.  They claim that the 45th president is the most maligned of any president ever.  The claim is a falsehood. The hypocrisy of this claim is absolutely ludicrous!  Both Mr. Trump and his followers have expressed an open hostility toward anyone who is at all critical of him and to those who are opposed to him.  They pay little attention to their own denigration of everyone and everything that does not fit into their political bent.  They cannot abide criticism of themselves, but they sure can and do dish it out.  

With me,” Trump said during his campaign, “they’re [the Press] not protected.”  He was referring specifically to the First Amendment freedoms given to the press and the people (whom he and his supporters now call the “mobs.”)  He also meant anyone else who is critical of him as he has openly demonstrated over and over again.  “With me, they’re not protected,” he said, because I’m not like other people…”   Well, Mr. President, this is precisely the problem.  The United States Constitution says you are exactly like other people, because under that Constitution, we are all equal before the law.  As one writer put it, “There is no Donald Trump Exception clause anywhere to be found.”  Every president from our earliest days  has received harsh criticism, but none have assumed that as president they have the power to simply negate parts of the Constitution (like the First Amendment) because they don’t want to be criticized.  

No, Mr. Trump,  the people, the press, not even America is under your thumb, nor is our Constitution.  You do not trump all just because you think you’re “not like other people.”