Wisdom: Day One

I told you that one day I would reflect on the wisdom I may have acquired in my sixty-five years. Today is as good as any. Not because I sat down in front of my laptop feeling greatly wise or tremendously enlightened but because I sat down in from of my laptop today and felt just plain old.

Here’s the thing: I have learned a lot, Mostly I learned that there is a lot I do not know. I wake up every day wondering what I will learn. Partly because learning of all kinds, including emotional and spiritual learning, is an ongoing quest. I am a naturally curious person.  I want to know. And I love the mystery of existence. As it is reported that Michelangelo said when he neared death, “I am still learning.”

I know that I will never know it all. I won’t know it all theologically, scientifically, psychologically, spiritually or any other way. I may never even know the best recipe for a homemade strawberry cake. It never keeps me from looking but it does caution me against landing.

So the first and perhaps best bit of aged wisdom I can share is: don’t ever think you know it all. Some of you might laugh because I do know a lot of stuff and am willing to share the information whether it is about cooking, car maintenance, sheet rocking, children’s literature, gardening, decorating, history… the list goes on. In my defense I would argue that I share information not knowledge or wisdom. And in my continuing defense I admit I am wrong if my information I have is disproved.

Wisdom, on the other hand and in my experience, cannot be shared. It is discovered through the triumphs and tribulations and even the monotony of daily life. Information and good intentions don’t insulate us from tragedy or success, failure or fulfillment. We find meaning and wisdom by living our lives. The more full out you live the more opportunity to increase in wisdom.

I, myself, get wiser when I make mistakes. That’s the kind of learner I am. I may push back, kicking and screaming, but eventually, in making sense of my mistakes, I learn. Maybe you will become wise in other ways. But if you are like me then here is some information I can pass along: try not to hate yourself when you screw up. It’s your best shot at getting wise.

More later…

The Scars of Evil

            As a woman and a lesbian I wear the first hand scars of the injury done to my soul by sexism, heterosexism, and the not so subtle message that I am “less than.” I also carry within me secondary scars of evil. As a white person, I the carry the secondary scars of racism, as a non-Jew, the secondary scars of Nazism. As a citizen, the secondary scars of violence. As a human being, the secondary scars of intolerance.

I guess I made that up, secondary scars, or maybe have heard in another context, but what I mean is that I and we carry in our persons the consequences of evil that is done to others. We are not separate from that which is perpetrated on others. We are injured either by our complicity or our compassion, whether conscious or not. It is those scars that make it impossible for me to remain silent.

Godde calls us all to confront evil with love and love seems like an awfully flimsy weapon given the depth of evil we are capable of perpetrating on one another. But the activity of love is justice and Godde enlists human souls to do justice and be justice as the antidote to evil.

– from A Gracious Heresy, by ConnieTuttle

Disprove me. Please.

I was going to reflect on what I have learned in sixty-five years of walking this earth because, well, I know stuff. Maybe I will share with you the few nuggets of wisdom I gathered over time one day. But not today.

Not today, because today our healthcare system is being dismantled. And human compassion is being subjected to bottom line business decisions.

I cannot say this enough, people: the government is NOT a business. It is not meant to be run like a business. The function of government is to assure the health, welfare, and safety of all its citizens. Who thought that a businessman would understand a different kind of bottom line than money? Who truly believed that a businessman would exchange the accumulation of power and money for the welfare of a nation?

#45 doesn’t have a grasp of or acquaintance with history – American or otherwise – the Constitution of the United States, or even of basic human decency. You have seen him on TV being disrespectful of people of color, women, the disabled, and Muslims. If you are surprised when he gets around to disrespecting your rights and your worth then you, my friends, have drunk the kool-aid. It won’t stop at your door. It won’t even stop at the doors of the most white and most wealthy among us.

Power and money are completely self-serving. It has been said, none too often, that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” And no one loves money as much as the Donald. He has and will continue to pander to those who he believes will keep him in power. He has and will continue to pander to people and nations with whom he has vested interests. Even though we have no idea where or how far his business interests lie. We, the people, are not any part of the equation.

Today I write as an elder. Sixty-five years of hard earned wisdom prompts me to stand and march and protest and defy this President with all the passion of a much younger me. The only real difference is that before I believed we would overcome. Now I am afraid we won’t.

Disprove me. Please.

Election Postmortem: You Missed the Point

 

Dear Democratic Party,

I write as a Democrat and a fervent progressive to let you know you have missed the point. Utterly.

When you do a post mortem of Hillary’s campaign you miss the mark often and with impudence. You fail to unpack  the inherent and rampant sexism that contributed toward fear and mistrust of her as a leader. I haven’t heard much said about her nearly 3 million vote majority. You curry Bernie’s favor and ignore the million women who organized and marched. (and continue to organize and march, I would add.)

You miss our passion and our concerns. The system is closed. As Democrats, we need a complete overhaul. We need to listen to women. Empower women. Follow women. You are missing it and missing it badly. I don’t want to split off from the party and I don’t want Bernie. Bernie misses the point, too. He addresses important economic issues but it is done at the expense and without the input of women. He does not speak to or for me.

As you think about our diversity in terms of color and class, as you ponder us as a party with a big table filled with disabled people, people of color, poor people, oppressed people, LGBTQ people, middle class people, immigrants, , and others you have forgotten that 51% of all those categories are women.

I am angry that you use my passion and energy for the political ends of the Democratic party and yet my wisdom, concerns, leadership, and rights are ignored. Court Bernie if you like. Your new constituency will be primarily young white men. And if he is true to form you will be left holding some incongruent bag of entitled members who may or may not support our agenda. The entitlement of young white men is much like the entitlement of old white men. And in the end, women are relegated to the gray vastness of ‘how we can be useful’.

The party needs to get serious about its internalized misogyny. The future of this nation and the entire planet depends on the leadership of women. Find a way to get there with us or move over and we will get it done without you.

Sincerely,

The Reverend Connie L. Tuttle

 

 

 

An Open Letter to My Senators

24 April 2017

Dear Senators Perdue and Isakson,

As I begin this letter several things occur to me. One is, I wonder what comment will be lifted from my many concerns by a staff person or intern so that I receive an automated reply to that particular ‘issue’ rather than to the content of the whole. Secondly, I fear my opinion doesn’t matter if I am not a member of your base. Part of me wants to tell you that I am a mother and grandmother, a senior, a pastor, and white, as if that makes my concerns more legitimate. I wonder if I add that I am also a feminist, a lesbian (NOT the same thing) and a progressive that somehow you could justify ignoring my concerns. However, for the moment, this is still a democracy and I am your constituent.

Perhaps my deepest concern is that we are moving away from being a democracy at a rapid pace. As I list the things that concern me I know I will still miss the scope and magnitude of the perils to our democracy. So here is my first question to you: are you so concerned with the political power of both your party and your elected position that you are willing to sacrifice the core tenants of our constitution? Your actions and lack of action make it hard for me to believe that you are not gleefully sacrificing our sacred principles. I say this because of your lack of concern over Russia’s interference with our election process. I say this because you are willing to kowtow to a dangerous and incompetent president. I say this because of your willingness to govern for the entitled on the backs of the disenfranchised.

Why is it that women, children, people of color, the elderly, the poor, the LGBT community, and others too varied to name suffer so that the richest among us and get richer? Why has industry been given permission to pollute our streams and rivers? All the agencies designed to protect us are being gutted. Shall I name a few? The EPA and the State Department come to mind, and our education system has been hijacked by the Incompetent. You know as sure as your heart beats that a vibrant democracy depends on a well-educated public. Is that what you are going for now? An easily led people? We are no longer the world leader in science and technology – or if we are it won’t be for long. Objective facts no longer factor in to determining policy. Science is dismissed in favor of faith statements. And why is it that you assume science exists in opposition to faith? Or are you pandering to the lowest common denominator? It is beyond my ability to comprehend.

I really want to know why it feels okay to reduce our access to healthcare. I want to know why a living wage is an anathema to you. I want to know if you are okay with this nation becoming an authoritarian kleptocracy. If you aren’t okay with it, what are you going to do about it? And if you are, how do you live with yourself?

Our democracy is one of the greatest social experiments ever conceived but I don’t recognize it any more. Do you?

Sincerely,

The Reverend Connie L. Tuttle

The Mystery of Hope

Words can make things that are truly unknowable seem like concrete certainties. Words get in our way of experience when we feel a need to compress and distort our experience to fit  into some preconceived, doctrinal box.

But what if we took away the words or the definitions? What if we spoke to one another about experience? Is our need for absolute certainty so great that we are willing to quash the uncertain truth that resides in us and replace it with doctrine?

We talk about resurrection as if it is something that happened once and will happen again instead of something that is always happening. We talk about it in future terms rather than very present reality. We talk about it as if it definable and measurable and dependent on our actions.

Writer Barbara Ehrenreich calls herself a ‘hardcore atheist’ but she also talks about a mystical experience she had as a teenager when she:                                                                     “saw the world—the mountains, the sky, the low scattered  buildings— suddenly flame into life.” There was no fire, but she saw “blazing everywhere.” She describes it as “a furious encounter with a living   substance that was coming through all things at once, too vast and violent   to hold on to, too heart-breakingly beautiful to let go of.”

She goes on to say she felt both shattered and completed. I love that. She describes my deepest experiences of Godde when I feel shattered and all that implies: frightened, unmoored, outside my ego as well as grounded, connected, and full.

That is how I experience resurrection. It is not a lack of certainty but a fullness of experience. I no longer have a deep need to explain or define resurrection. I only want to stand before the Mystery that gives hope and speaks the final word of love. I want to enter the Mystery that both shatters and completes me.  Join me there. We need the experience of resurrection for the facing of these times.


The Power of our Stories

Yesterday we said these words in our Seder meal:  “Laughter and tears life and death, good and evil – these are bound  irrevocably together. We bless them together for we know that with without death we would not fully value life. Without tears we would not fully value laughter. As we learn to maximize the good and valuable, let us  remember the evil we would reject, lest it creep, unrecognized, back into our presence.”

Has Pharaoh crept back into power? In our day ‘pharaohs’ are the ones who live in luxury while families struggle to make ends meet. ‘Pharaohs’ are those who get tax cuts while the most vulnerable lose benefits like meals-on-wheels, childcare assistance, reproductive healthcare, social security, and disability benefits. ‘Pharaohs’ are the ones who wrangle power from the people and centralize it among friends and family.

Today I wonder how we can celebrate the journey to freedom when Pharaoh skulks around every corner working hard to corrode our freedoms. Pharaoh lives in the White House, in the Senate and House. Pharaoh now resides on the Supreme Court.

So how do we become free? We remember our history and tell those stores along with new stories as we begin again our journey to freedom. For those of us in the United States our stories are of our constitution and bill of rights, and stories of our march toward the liberation of all: the abolition movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the movement for LGBTQ rights, for immigrant rights. These are the stories we need to remember

How do we become free? We wake up for the hundredth morning and grope for words to describe what is wrong. We engage in small heroic acts of disobedience until our disparate voices come together into the cry of the people. We continue to move forward even though the way looks impossible and pharaoh nips at our heels.

We open our doors and make ourselves see the crimes of rape, violence, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, and the dehumanization of those called ‘other’ who are really our sisters and brothers and friends. And we care enough to act.

We have begun. We are marching and speaking and writing and calling and voting. We are wading into a sea and we are in it up to our necks. But our stories give up hope and tell us we will make a way through to the other side. So let’s keep telling our stories and singing our stories as we travel on the road to liberation. Let the children of today represented by the Children’s Choir of Boston sing a story for us and inspire us not to let anyone turn us ’round on this journey.

 

 

 

Am I Spiritual Enough?

This week I had the honor of having my blog  shared in an online group of fellow women clergy. I was excited until I reread what I had posted. Argh! Another political post where I talked about our nation’s need to repeat the part of our history that expresses the ideals upon which we are founded. It wasn’t bad. But was it spiritual? Did I share anything worthy of my clergy-sisters’ time and attention?

I wrestled with this a while. Some of my concerns were clearly ego. My online connection with other clergywomen is vitally important to me. What would they think? Even more important, am I spiritual enough for my cohorts in ministry?

I wondered if I am spiritual enough for myself. Here is what I rediscovered:

– spirituality has a million expressions

– whether I mention Godde or not, Godde is my ground of being (thanks, Tillich) When I act consciously I reflect my understanding of and relationship with the Divine.

– if I am not fighting injustice, concerned about ‘the least of these’ then I am not expressing my understanding, relationship, and experience of Godde.

– I would not be so passionately engaged in current politics if I didn’t name the evils of oppression, racism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, ageism, and the rape of the earth and sea and sky.

Because I am a Christian I will continue to speak and act out against the policies and actions of the current administration. I may not name Godde or Christ in each post, but I have reminded myself that I am following in a Way of peace and justice for humankind.

So I may not mention Godde. I may not thump on a Bible, defend a theological precept or church doctrine (actually I don’t do those things, anyway) but I will continue to live in such a way works for a world in which the hungry are fed, the homeless housed, the naked clothed, the oppressed set free, the prisoner liberated, and the earth protected.

It is good to trust that my clergy sisters know this. I am grateful my post was shared and I am even more grateful for the opportunity  to remind myself that I am spiritual enough.

The History We Need to Repeat

Echoing  in my brain is the warning that “if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it”. Is that what we are doing here? Repeating the doom of authoritarianism? Fascism? The ascendance of a keptocrasy? Stripping away the rights and dignity of the individual? Having a group in power that no longer represents interests of the citizenry? Maybe.

But  the history I want to repeat? The American Revolution. We’ve been here before. We have challenged an elite ruling class before. We championed the rights and well-being of the individual before. We  created a structure meant to protect us from authoritarianism before. We have a history of understanding ourselves as holding the torch of freedom as a light to the whole world.

We’ve screwed the pooch on some of that. Ever so slowly we became inured to the disconnect between congress and the people. We know something needs fixed and, God-help-us, enough people thought electing DJT was a good way to change things. The frightening truth is that his election merely intensifies the gulf between the haves and have-nots, maintains the status quo, pits citizen against citizen, and diminishes universal protections for the most vulnerable within our borders.

People, we know better. We know better than to let fear own us. We know the risks and the costs of freedom. And we need to stop being afraid of them. Freedom is risky.  We know that. We know what happens when power is centralized, co-opted, and abused. If not from our own history, then from the history of the world.

It is time  for us to own who we are and what we know.

If we are going to repeat history then let’s repeat our Revolution. We need to own it and carry it forward. We need to ride to raise the alarm. Every shareholder needs to make a stand and contribute to the cause. Just like our first revolution, there will be some who support the powers that be and a day will come when we have to make room for them to come back into the fold. But now let us focus on the work of freedom and muster both the will and commitment to be that straggly band of refusers who never give up. It is time value the idea of who we are enough to be it.

If we are doomed to repeat history then I don’t want to regret my part in it, do you? I will speak out and stand up to what is hateful, racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, vengeful, greedy, and self-aggrandizing. I am willing to stand, confront, work, get dirt under my fingernails, go to bed exhausted, wrestle with hopelessness, and get up and do it all over again. Like my ancestors before me. Are you willing to do the same?  Take a stand like your ancestors before you. We are an idea whose light will not be extinguished.

Let’s repeat that history.

For Those Who Love Dystopian Novels…

            ‘What ifs’ are fun jumping off points for novels and movies. Like what if the sea level rises and New York City is no longer habitable? What if an asteroid hits earth? What if the Nazis had won WWII? What if the worst happens? How would we act? Who would act? Who would survive? And ideas worth fighting for?

Please don’t call me extremist when I say we are on the verge of a dystopian present. What I mean by verge is that if something doesn’t change SOON we will be thrown into a future from which it will be nearly impossible to return. Not that I want to return to the past. I want for us to move forward on the ‘slow arc toward justice.’  We have jumped the tracks. The train is off the rails and hanging over a cliff. We are hovering over the precipice of world hunger, pandemic disease, war and totalitarianism.

Listen, I am not an alarmist. I know this because I have been friends with alarmists and understand from observation what an alarmist looks and feels like. If anything, I am an optimist and believe in humanity’s ability and will to overcome adversity and build a better world. That being said, I have also seen evil. As a youngster I visited Dachau and confronted the existence of evil. There is no other word for it.  I have seen the evil of which ordinary people are capable. In college and graduate school I studied the history of Nazi Germany because I needed to understand how a whole people can become complicit with evil.

I’m certainly not the first, nor will I be the last, to ring out the alarm but I am ringing it out now. Here is the big dystopia we are living in today:

– equal education for all citizens(or the pursuit of that) is in jeopardy

– religion takes an unprecedented role in political discourse and policy

– refusal to address climate changes makes us vulnerable to famine, war, and disease

– hatred of the different- race, gender, sexualities, religions, is encouraged  by the lack of will in the administration to address it as a serious problem and, indeed they profit from it in their political base.

– our democracy is being intentionally dismantled in service of a kleptocracy

-the current administration lines up our population in terms of ‘us vs. them’

I could go on but this is enough to predict a dystopian not-to-distant future being upon us. So here are my questions: In a conflict between good and evil, which side are you taking? Does your personal self-interest eclipse your interest of the greater good? Do you think because you are safe now – because you have the privilege of race, gender, class, etc – that you will not be touched?

We are entering a dystopian reality. It can happen here. Will you enable those in power or are you going to work your ass off to turn it around?