Category Archives: activism

Can We Not Be Enemies?

This election is the most important election in the history of the United States.
I don’t think I’m saying anything people don’t already know but, good Godde, please remember it! Or to put it another way: policies, schmalicies. We need to get the authoritarian kleptocracy and their supporters out of power. Not just the top of the ticket, but down ballot. Our enemy is the evil perpetrated by the current administration not one another.

Yes. Absolutely yes, policies are important and Warren’s and some of Bernie’s policies make better sense and are a more compassionate and realistic way to be in political relationship with one another. However, Bernie’s critique focuses on class and does not have a significant critique of racism or sexism that must be addressed if true equity is possible. Women and people of color often feel left out of his critique. Warren’s policies all make sense and we are waiting to see if her candidacy is still viable.
Joe’s approach is more methodical but headed in the same direction.  I like to think of Joe as a transitional figure, someone who will get us out of this horrific time and reintroduce decency as assumed rather than the exception.
Change is absolutely necessary and important. I don’t care how we do it.  I will vote for whoever gets the nomination.
But.
In the mean time. can we please not be enemies. On my own facebook page I made  non-confrontive reply to an article about Bernie. Rather than spark a conversation I was told that I had a problem.
Come on, folks. Is this how we are going to get through, survive, unite, and eventually thrive?
There is no way a party as large and diverse as the Democratic Party will not be in disagreement. It’s one of the things I love about it. We have a big tent. We are a passionate bunch who are motivated to make the change we so desperately need but we have to remember we are on the same team. So please, please, can we not be enemies?

A Lenten Invitation

Dear Friends,
Okay, it’s after Ash Wednesday when these plans should have been made.
But it’s not too late to add a practice and it’s never too late to begin.
Many of us who give something up for Lent don’t experience spiritual grounding
or awakening
or inspiration.
I, myself, have given myself a congratulatory pat on the back for giving up coffee or caffeine or dessert… and even back in the day, cigarettes.
I once belonged to a community that fasted ‘religiously’ during Lent and had a blow-out party on Easter whose excesses had me questioning the practice, if not my sanity.

In the interim I’ve learned that my Lenten journey is best practiced as an act of mindfulness. This is an invitation to a certain kind of mindfulness.
Please join me in giving up plastic for Lent. At least as much. as you can as often as you can.
–  keep your grocery bags in the. care
– buy produce without putting it in a plastic bag
– refrain from drinking from plastic bottles: try reusable containers or cans
– most of all don’t forget to recycle what plastic (and cans) you are unable to refrain from using.

Let every act, even those that feel like deprivation, be an occasion for  mindfulness of how we are all walking together on this planet. How will you embody Sacred  will in this time? What is it worth to you to lose convenience and gain connection?

This is my invitation to you. May we all be blessed by our choices this Holy Season,

Connie

 

 

An Aussie’s Take on the Fires

 

I wrote a dear friend in Australia in January.
What can I do? I asked.
Who needs my help most?
Australia is in my prayers, I said.

I wondered to myself, how can I lift up the anger and the grief of a people and offer hope and comfort?
The California fires threatened friends  and the fear was palpable. How can I respond in a way that will make a difference.
And I sit in Georgia wondering, when will it be our turn? If more droughts, when will our. fires begin.  If not drought, then unbearable heat.

The. truth is that the fires in Australia and California are our fires.
If  we refuse to acknowledge  that we are all connected, if we don’t get that what happens to one nation, one community,  even. one individual affects us all , then we are truly lost.

Back to  the question: what can (I) we do?  She told me to spread the word on the climate change. Write, she said. And preach, she said. And pray. Make this tragedy matter. Let it be a catalyst for change, for a commitment to our planet and to one another. So that is what I am doing today. Every action matters. Here is my invitation and challenge:

  • vote and work for candidates with a commitment to fight climate change and to work cooperatively with the nations of the world.
  • make personal choices that are better for the environment: drive less, use public transportation, reduce your carbon footprint any way you can. Use energy wisely: unplug computers, use non-florescent lightbulbs, wash in cold water, insulate your home.
  • eat less meat or, better yet, go vegetarian. Buy local and organic food

There are many more things we can do as individuals but start somewhere. Start today. And if you’ve already begun, add another action. Our choices affect not only our lives put the lives of our neighbors around the world.

I write this in the midst of our struggle with a government that is run by a self-aggrandizing,  climate change denier. I go to bed every night and wake up every morning battling to maintain hope. And then I remember that the struggle is for a life and a planet I love. And I will love it and celebrate both life and the planet as a way of moving forward. We must live the life we are saving,

https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/celebrate-the-storm-luka-lesson-x-nahko-bear-music-video/

 

Me and Lt. Col. Vindman

Most folks who are familiar with me have heard me claim, “I am an army brat.”
Now I know what I mean by that but I think there are maybe lots of people who don’t.
There are many assumptions about what it means to be connected to the military.
Some are right and some are wrong.

My father and I argued and fought our way through the Viet Nam War. I am a pacifist.And though we debated every aspect of that war and war in general. My dad, an infantryman spent nearly half my life (at that time)  in combat, ardently defended my right to disagree. I struggled with our differences for many years until the day came when I realized that my dad put his life on the line for an idea that was larger than himself. It is the greatest lesson I learned from him. I honor him for it. He modeled  in real life what it means to live service to something greater than oneself. It includes hardship and sacrifice and one’s personal safety (physical or economic) is not assured.

When he retired from the Army and we moved off base for the first time in my life, I made  friends with people whose dads sold tires, worked in banks, and were car mechanics. It felt so strange to me, at the time, that people lived their lives like that. I don’t know what I expected, I only know how different it was to be around people whose work was not the focus of their meaning.

Dad was not in service to ‘the military industrial complex’. He was in service to the ideas and values of freedom and justice. His sacrifices were enshrined in duty and honor. It was not enough to put oneself on the line, it was imperative that he live with honor. Those are the lessons he taught me that grounded my ability to challenge the church as I pursued my call to ministry as an open lesbian.

Today I stand with Lt. Col. Vindman. He acted according to his teaching and discipline. He believed in our system of laws and the mandates of honor required by the military.  He expected our government to live up to its stated principles. He was betrayed by his commander-in-chief. He lives in service to an ideal greater than himself and has put himself on the line not only  combat, but in standing up to a  system that has been  corrupted almost beyond repair.

Thank you for your service, Col. Vindman. Please know how full of meaning those words are. You are my family in that I know your service from the inside and am connected to you by history and intent. I see you and admire you for how you carry yourself with  dignity and honor.  I expected no less and you have done your duty.

 

Connecting the Dots

I keep worrying the question: how did we get here?
Lots of folks have told me, in different ways, that we’e always been here.
I respectfully disagree. We are now galloping toward a future that is on a trajectory few of us have envisioned before now. Before now our trajectory has been very different. I. grew. up in a community that believed we were plodding toward ‘a more perfect union’, toward (with plenty of struggle, anguish, destructiveness, and pain) bending the arc of history toward justice.

Now we seem to be embracing and moving quickly toward self-first, everyone else be damned trajectory. Neither of these directions embraces the entirely of our society, but our past indicated that we could withstand challenges to power and open doors (however slowly and at great cost). The present feeds the fears of the soon-to-be minority and locates economic and political power in the hands of a few.

So how the hell did we get here? Let me say at the outset that I am not either a conspiracy theorist or an alarmist. I am an amateur historian, a working theologian, and an active citizen. I am open to being challenged and interested in being heard. That said, here are the dots I am connecting:

It all started with Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” that laid the foundation for a more radical social conservatism (racism, anti-immigration, anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBT) cloaked, once again, in financial conservatism and a distrust of government.
It expanded with the advent of the Tea Party and the influx of Republicans who publicly stated their refusal to compromise with the Democratic Party. Maybe it needs to be stated that compromise or finding ‘a third way’  has been the basis for our two party system since its inception.
We no longer have ‘the loyal opposition’.
From the introduction of the Contract with American in 1994, our political discourse has deteriorated to such an extent that our politicians no longer engage in productive dialogue. The power grab engaged in by the right has left our way of governing in tatters.
And, Godde help us, there is no shame. No shame is eschewing their oath of office. No shame in supporting lies. No shame in supporting a president with no morals, no ethics, no intellectual capacity, and no qualifications for the job.

So how did we get 30+% of the population supporting the president and the party that is against their best interests?  Here’s a dot: No Child Left Behind. When we teach children to regurgitate facts rather than to think critically and be able to sift fact from fraud, then we. open ourselves  to an entire population that can be easily manipulated. And when higher. education  is looked on with distrust, our problem is compounded.

Here’s another dot: the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. Wealth is power.
That is a problem in a democracy when the few can purchase influence,  votes, representatives, senators, and even presidents. When money consolidates power in the hands of the few, we no longer live in a democracy.

Another dot: voter suppression and gerrymandering. It seems clear to me that Republicans don’t think they can win if they don’t cheat. Period. Which brings me to my final dot (for this conversation).

The rise of white nationalism and of white people who believe they are threatened by POC and women and the LGBT community. As a nation we have allowed with impunity the infiltration of the military, police departments, and politics (both local and national) if white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. Racism, sexism, and homophobia is being normalized overtly rather than covertly by people with physical power.

And now we have Donald Trump in power.

Here are my modest proposals:
– include critical thinking and empathy into school curriculum nationally
– take money out of politics: dark money, PAC money, lobbying money
– make national laws about gerrymandering
– make voter registration automatic at the age of 18
-make Election Day a national holiday
-root out white nationalists from the military and police forces

Let’s start here.

Remember the Holy ‘Yeses’

Let us celebrate those who are our ‘firsts’.

I posted about the sculpture of Shirley Chisholm
to be  placed in Brooklyn by the state of New York.
The first African-American woman in congress.
The first African-American woman to run for President.
I remember those days and the times.
I remember the joy and the power that surged through me
singing a holy “Yes!”

So I posted today about the sculpture
and a facebook friend said, “Finally.”
That ‘finally’ tasted like bitterness
and judgment
and dismissal.
Those things I understand. I truly do.

But perhaps ‘Yes’ serves us better.
How much more important is it for us to remember
the Yes of her life
the Yes of her witness
the Yes of a first to break barriers and
move the arc closer to justice
than it had ever been.

Even Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt,
never made it to the promised land.
He only glimpsed it.
His ‘Yes’ was passing through the waters
HIs “Yes” was making a way out of no way
HIs ‘Yes” was trusting Godde’s dream of the future.
His view from the mountain top
does not diminish his ‘Yes’
It invites us to our ‘Yeses’

Today I am grateful for Shirley Chisholm and all her ‘Yeses’
How amazing that the State of New York
recognizes her life and witness.
Today I am going to be glad for all her ‘Yeses’
and grateful that the state celebrates the holy Yes of her life.

Should we focus on Moses’ inability to reach the promised land?
Or Shirley not becoming president?
Let us never diminish the ‘Yes’ of any life.
The Yes of persisting
the Yes that challenges the injustice of every no
the Yes of dreaming justice into existence
the Yes that invites all the ‘Yeses’
of  those who are to come.

 

Comfort in Uncomfortable Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you awoke to a clench in your gut
a shiver in your chest
an ache in your heart
trust me, those feelings belong there.
Every day the assault on our ideals continues.
We question who we are
grieve who we have been
and anguish over
who we are becoming.

The day of Trump is upon us
because we, as a  people,
have been willfully ignorant
unconsciously arrogant
and unable to concede our complicity.
The consequences are upon us.

But let me speak tenderly to you this day:
This wilderness
this political wasteland
will come to an end.

We will not be purified
but we will be released
to try again
to begin again
to make the circuitous
ongoing
journey toward freedom.

Let today be the day of our dreaming
and let our dreams
be our guideposts
Make way for hope,
make way for justice
make way for Godde
to come again

 

 

Isaiah 40:1, 3-5
Comfort, O comfort my people,

    says your Godde.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
 and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
 and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of Godde shall be revealed,
   and all people shall see it together,

Are There No Facts?

You know those dreams you have or movies you’ve watched where the protagonist is running through the forest, whipped by low-hanging branches, and stumbling through the underbrush? That’s how I feel right now as we try to engage from differing perspectives in our political discourse.

My sister told me a story the other day: she asked some ladies  with whom she was playing bridge how, as Christians, they could support a president who (here she listed any number of his immoral behaviors including adultery, lying, racism, caging children…) and the response was, “I don’t believe it.”

How on earth do we converse with one another when facts are considered malleable?
I’m willing to discuss policy with anyone on any part of the political spectrum from right to left, but if we do not share the same reality, how can we talk about anything?

This is the slope we have careened down when science is disputed and reality is dismissed.
Sometime near the beginning of Trump’s presidency Kelly Ann Conway uttered the phrase “alternative facts”? I assumed that was the beginning of the end. In reality, that was the beginning of the beginning.

I remember when Richard Nixon’s actions came to light. Once the facts were established, both sides of the aisle insisted he step down. This time, this scandal, is horrifically different because our Republican leaders are treating the facts as optional interpretations of reality.

Facts are not something we can choose to believe or not. And if our policies are not based on facts then they will not truly address our problems. Then there is the unspoken truth  that conservatives  fail to critique how their policies underpin racism, sexism, and homophobia. They are unable or unwilling to confront and condemn the prejudice that powers their current movement because that would require admitting and responding to facts.

Where do we go from here? I am uncertain. But I must believe that there are more people who are willing to acknowledge and deal with the facts of climate change, racism, sexism, homophobia and how our lives are diminished – even endangered – than there are who aren’t.  More of us who are willing to be challenged than there are people who insist on believing only what is comfortable or that confirms their prejudices.

Today, let us embrace facts. Let us be challenged and informed by them. Let us offer them to our conservative friends. Over and over again. Open handed, like palming a cube of sugar for a horse. At some point, like the horse, they may come to realize that facts are palatable, even sweet.  They can be tentative as they like, but we must not withdraw our hand.

 

 

 

Will You Do One Right Thing Each Day?


If you are overwhelmed by the events of the day
or the tweet of the hour
or the horror of the tragedies crossing your TV screen
or the past three years…

Do not let it freeze your heart into inaction
because when despair wins
humanity loses,
when despair wins
the people suffer
when despair wins
our beautiful, necessary voices
are silenced.

The Talmud teaches us :
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it” (PIvot).

Today and each day remember
that you are not alone
you are not required do it all.
that others are doing the work
in times and places you may not see.
Remember that every one right thing you do each day
joins with the one right thing that thousands
and hundreds of thousands are doing each day
to create a tsunami of change.

So what one right thing will you do?
Will you register voters?
work for a campaign?
write letters?
march in the streets?
Will you pray and will you give your prayers feet?

Will you do one right thing each day
so that together
we turn the ship of history
and point its bow
away
from the evil that threatens to consume us
and toward
the promise of justice?

Will you do one right thing each day
so that I do not feel alone
and your neighbor does not feel alone
and YOU do not feel alone
so that none of us feel powerless
and all of us can lean into the hope
we are growing together
for our shared future ?

Will you do one right thing each day?

 

Should We Be Afraid?

 

This week I boosted an ad on Facebook for my book. In the past I sent it out to the 25-45 age group. This time, I thought , “I’ll send it out to my age peers, 45-65.”  That choice unleashed a fury of responses that took my breath away. I was called names, quoted scriptures at, and somehow invited a level of hate that astonished me. It scared me. I have been aware of the growing anger and hatred in public discourse. I’ve experienced it as a woman. But I’ve never experienced a virtual mob of verbal pitchforks and torches.

Are some of them bots? Most of them? Are there really people out there who feel entitled and justified in threatening people who believe or live differently? It’s scary folks, made more real by nearly daily mass killings. The relatively small way I experienced the vitriol of the religious right shook me. I started worrying about public appearances – readings, speaking engagements, things I would naturally post to facebook and invite my friends to join me. So far I haven’t shared ‘upcoming events’. I am allowing my fear to silence me.

Women,  African-Americans, people of color, queer folk of every sort, know what it’s like to be afraid. To cower behind silence. It is how the oppressed are controlled.

Howard Thurman who, in Jesus and the Disinherited, taught  how fear silences and disenfranchises the oppressed:

“A man’s conviction that he is God’s child automatically tends to shift the basis of  his  relationship with all his fellows. He recognizes at once that to fear a man, whatever may be that man’s power over him, is a basic denial of the integrity of his very life.”  Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, pg 51

There are hundreds of times that scripture urges us to “be not afraid”. Most likely for the same reason. Here’s my point: in this time when domestic terrorists are empowered by the current president, we must choose not to be afraid. We cannot allow fear to strip us of our basic identity  as children of Godde.  We must choose to live as if we are free, as if our lives matter, We must not allow fear to silence us. Otherwise we are enslaved by hate and lies.

Look, I’m still afraid. But I don’t want let  fear control me. Are there very real things going on in our world today of which to be afraid? Absolutely. But I want to be brave enough to not let fear control me.  If the best I can do is to choose to act like I’m  not afraid then I want to make that choice.

We do not live in comfortable times. The danger of the hate  unleashed by current leadership is real. It’s reasonable to be afraid. But hate wins when we allow it to silence us.  Maybe the question isn’t, “Should we be afraid” but “Can we have the courage to live our truth out loud?”

I’m trying. I hope you will join me.