Category Archives: progressive politics

Between Despair and Hope

 As we wander through the tangled landscape of the coming election, if you are anything like me, you totter between despair and hope.

I dare not let go of hope because the possibility of a Trump presidency, a clear turn to autocracy, demagoguery, and authoritarianism, terrify me. All I hold dear: freedom, an arc bending toward justice, kindness, diversity, inclusion, equality and so much more, stand threatened by others’ fears and hatred. 

One thing I know is that when people are afraid of me, for whatever reason, the feeling easily and readily, transmutes to anger and then to hate. And while I think I’m immune to internalizing self-hatred I fear for the many who will be vulnerable to that.

And then I remember Paul saying that ‘love casts out fear’ (1 John 4:18a 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear;)

How in the hell am I supposed to love?

I have come to believe that first, and perhaps most important, we must love ourselves and claim ourselves. to be beloved children of Godde. It is an immutable truth from which we must internalize our infinite value. Loving oneself and claiming Godde’s love secures our sense of self in the face of the hatred, vitriol, and self-righteous prejudice of others. 

Second, is that we love one another. As we join in resistance from disparate places by shared oppression, exclusion, rights denied,  and resistance to fascism, we must never collude with those in power referring to ‘good negroes’ or ‘good gays’ or ‘good women’ ad infinitum. Instead, we must challenge the threat of a dystopian future by embracing one another in the entirety of our spectrum. We all matter. We are all children of Godde. Not just those deemed acceptable or agreeable to those in power. 

We will know Sophia active in us as we live into a world where we embrace each one as a child of Godde. Regardless of age, race, culture, class, gender, religion, or expressed sexuality. Regardless.

And finally there’s the love your enemy bit. The one I resist most. But I know hate dehumanizes not only my ‘enemy’ but hatred dehumanizes me. We cannot, must not,  participate in dehumanizing either ourselves or others and still be able to bring a different reality into being.

So how in the hell do I love my enemy?

I’m certain love of my ‘enemy’ is NOT a warm, fuzzy feeling. Loving my enemy means that I must be willing to invite mutuality and refuse power differentials. We must be willing to acknowledge that both the oppressed and the oppressor need to be freed to a new reality. I am also certain that my hatred will only demean me and preclude any chance of systemic change.  

Let us march through the tangled landscape of the coming election and lean into hope. 

Let us lean into the difficult tasks of loving ourselves, loving others, loving our enemies.

Let me close sharing this song of hope – please take a moment to listen:

Where There is no Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18a

One of my favorite scripture quotes. It feels so visceral, so challenging, so immediate. For those of us it speaks to, it challenges to us is to dream. To hope.  To imagine a world worth working toward.

When decency seems to fail, when violence is commonplace, and when the ascendence of white masculinity is viewed as the norm, we must dream powerful dreams. We must dream to survive.

The question for us is: how do a terrified and sometimes broken people dream?
Let our visions be informed but not driven by our anger.
Let our visions be informed but not driven by our pain.
Let our visions, instead, be informed and driven by hope. 
Now is the time we need to dream big. We need to risk daring a largeness. The seemingly impossible.

We are heirs to visionaries throughout time, including the dreamers who founded this nation. We will be no more perfect than they were, but we stand on their shoulders and can move what we share of the vision forward. Our imperfections do not reflect on the vision, but on our ability to bring it fully to fruition. It is okay to be imperfect. It is not okay to let our imperfections keep us from doing the work. We are farther along because of the many who went before us.  Let the work continue.
Now is our time.  

Embrace Your Inner Moses

This nation is in the midst of a mythic battle between right and wrong, truth and lies, life and death, and… good and evil. Yep. I said it.

Sometimes it has felt like I was watching a fast-moving train careen around corners. I sucked in my breath, heart thumping, waiting to see if the cars would fall off the rails or down the side of a mountain or churn over a trackless canyon to disintegrate as it plowed into the earth.

Sometimes it has felt like I was watching a slow-moving train with no engineer, no known direction, and no one in control.

The visuals have changed. There are not trains in my present day imaging. Rather a battle where the weapons of truth and lies have equal value. Where the end result will either be life-giving or death-dealing. Where our nation, and even the world will choose for their organizing principle to be those of good (freedom, justice, community, mutuality, diversity, law) or evil (control, vigilantism, division, hierarchy, homogeneity, and power).

It helps to change the imagery. Trains are massive metal containers pulled by even more massive engines that take miles of track to come to a stop. There is no way to turn a train unless pre-prescribed tracks are involved. The way is laid out and diversion is precipitated by disaster.

So… how might this conflict be reimagined? What would it mean if we did not see ourselves as powerless? And what, in this world where we experience so much as being out of our control, can we do to make a difference?

Here is my proposal: let every one of us claim our inner Moses. Imagine the power shift!

Hear me out. The people were inured to an intolerable and seemingly hopeless situation. They might dream of freedom and justice but felt powerless to make change. They may not have realized, because of its universal nature, that slavery was evil. When every day is about survival, enough to eat, enough to pay rent, enough to put gas in the car, then fighting for an idea, even a holy one, can take the back seat.

Moses rose up from his privilege to challenge the status quo and lead the people on the dangerous journey to freedom. Let us take a lesson from that for the present. Those of us who see what is going on must use whatever privilege we have to challenge the power of the right as it seeks to control women, demote queers to second class citizens, eliminate trans folk, and disenfranchise people of color. Period. It means making mistakes, trusting Godde, and learning from one another and from the journey how to be free.

Free and just. Free and mutual. Free and diverse. Free and always learning more deeply what true freedom looks like.

We must recognize the evil before us and stand up to those who use their power to keep power. We must risk ourselves and talk back to lies.
We must raise up an idea that is better and greater than our immediate security.
The idea of a world where personal gain and personal power are not the highest values.
Where freedom is everyone’s birthright.
Where all voices are heard.
Where we cast our lots together for the greater good of the whole.

We must step out in faith that Godde calls us to cross over seas that overwhelm us, trusting that Godde makes a way out of no way.
We must challenge the idols of control and wealth.
We must do the difficult work of learning what it means to be truly free.
We must do the work even if we do not end up living to see the results of our work.

Godde doesn’t care if you ‘stutter’ or whatever hindrance you believe keeps you from the work. Use the gifts you have with whatever challenges you have. The time in NOW. Our nation and our world need us.

Embrace your flawed, wonderful inner Moses and step out in faith.

A Nation Stuck

 

One of the most helpful books to me, as a pastor and counselor, is James Fowler’s  Stages of Faith. In the same way psychologists use models of psycho-social developmental stages, Fowler examines the development of spiritual growth.

When I look around at our current political dilemma and try to understand how we got here and why, I find myself returning to his text. I have done no research so my hypothesis is based solely on observation. That being said, I believe a good part of this nation is stuck in Fowler’s stage 3.

Stage 3 is adolescence to early adulthood. Fowler calls it the Synthetic-Conventional stage in which peoples’ believe without critical examination. They believe that they have been taught and in what everyone around them believes in. There is a strong sense of identity with the group with whom they share belief systems. A particular feature of stage 3 is a lack of openness to question because questions are frightening. People at this stage of spiritual development tend to trust implicitly people in authority (external authority) and don’t recognize the box or circular thinking that is internalized when their beliefs go unexamined.

Sound familiar? I don’t mean this as a judgment on people but on the systems that  stunt spiritual and intellectual growth.  And not only stunt it, but condemn questions as faithless. A questioner myself, I find it terrifying. However,  it is important that my fears not  engage with the terror of  those mired in stage 3. It will accomplish nothing and most likely escalate fear on both sides.

What are the systems that stunt?  Fundamentalist religion and public education. Fundamentalism has a sharp stop at the door of questioning. The theological tenets of fundamentalism are circular arguments that defy challenges. Having worked with many folk healing from fundamentalist pasts yet thirsty for Godde, the fear of being wrong and ‘disobeying’ the authority figures of their pasts is inextricable tied to the fear of eternal damnation.  Fostering absolute trust in authority figures subsidized Trump’s ascension.

Then there’s our educational system. When we began ‘teaching to the test’ we encouraged children to think in absolutes.  Your answer is right or wrong. Facts are pandered to as knowledge rather than critical thinking.  When you spend twelve years of your life being ‘taught to the test’ the way you engage and interpret events in the larger world is stymied. It fosters  tribalism, manifesting in a shared identity with like-minded people, setting up a false ‘us and them’.

I keep thinking back to the opening chapter in C. S.Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In it the professor, after helping the children discern the truth of a troubling situation, sends them forth saying to himself (something like), “Aren’t schools teaching children how to think these days?” If we are afraid of children learning to think in a spiritual or theological context then, of course, we would be fearful of children learning to think in an intellectual context. Surely that fear is the origin of the seared phrase ‘intellectual elitists’. Those who have learned to question are deemed questionable.

My friend, Erin, says I put an ‘altar call’ at the end of my blog posts. Today I don’t have one. But join me in the effort to hear the echoes of faith that repeatedly reassure us to ‘be not afraid’,  Be not afraid to think. Be not afraid to question, Be not afraid of being wrong. Be not afraid of not knowing the answer. Be not afraid of many answers all being ‘right’. Be not afraid of the One whose identity is Love.

 

Fear and Hope

In these times I wrestle with abject fear.

Fear of people who no longer share the vision of the idea and ideals on which this nation was founded.
Fear of those in power being invested in power rather than service.
Fear of the ‘religious’ right.
Fear of armed violence.

And then there all the people I am afraid for, including myself:
Fear for women.
Fear for people of color.
Fear for immigrants.
Fear for Asia-Americans and African-Americans and Latinx-Americans.
Fear for the LGBTQAI community.

We have spent decades bending the arc of history toward justice, as Dr. King proclaimed.
And now.
And now the backlash.
And now the hysteria.
And now the fear.
And now the hatred unleashed in thousands of different ways
in our churches
in our legal system
In our laws

And I am very afraid.

Add to that that I am a pastor and called to speak hope.
How do we hope in the face of terror?
How do we sing in a land that has become strange to us?
How do we stand against a mighty storm?

Parts of Psalm 137 float in my head:

                 4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
               5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
              6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you…

Part of hope is remembering who we are called to be,
to not forget who we are, no matter how short we have fallen.

And sometimes hope is the beacon toward which we strive in apocalyptic times.

The writers of biblical apocalyptic literature faced the threat of death, annihilation and, what seemed to be, overwhelming odds. Many were tortured. Many were killed. Many hid away in underground caves. Demonized and dismissed. Who could speak hope in those times? And what was hope? It seems to me that in some ways hope was holding on to the vision, believing that something greater than the current evil not only exists but will triumph.

I think of the hope of  the apocalyptic writers of a holy city, of a place where every tear is dried, where the table is open to all, and groaning under the lovely burden of more than enough.  Jessie Jackson taught me something about preaching hope in dark times.

I think of his chant “Keep hope alive!” and his call to us:
“You must never stop dreaming. Face reality, yes, but don’t stop with the way things             are. Dream of things as they ought to be. Dream. Face pain, but love, hope, faith and   dreams will help you rise above the pain. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress, but you keep on dreaming, young America.”

He offered hope as a pastor and has taught me the value and the courage it takes to speak hope in the midst of terror. I leave you with the close to his speech given in Atlanta in 1988 during the Democratic National Convention:
” Wherever you are tonight, you can make it. Hold your head high; stick your chest out. You can make it. It gets dark sometimes, but the morning comes. Don’t you surrender!
Suffering breeds character, character breeds faith. In the end faith will not    disappoint. You must not surrender! You may or may not get there but just know that you’re qualified! And you hold on, and hold out! We must never surrender!! America will get better and better.  Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!”

 

Hello There… I’ve Been Thinking

It’s been months since I last blogged and you may wonder why. It started (or stopped) when I took a break after the election in November. It was the first time I had taken a deep breath in years and I wanted to breathe for a while. And then breathe some more. So I chose to breathe and pray in silence. To let the anxiety of the past several years begin to slide off my skin, to breathe it out of my pores, and to rest a moment. So I did.

And then January 6th happened.
Just when I began to hope again.
Just when I thought my heart had broken all it was going to break.
Just when I was beginning the work of putting my heart back together again…
the ‘feels’ overwhelmed me.

So here I am, months later, and I’m thinking again. This is how I know after extended periods of depression, of hopelessness, of grief, and of loss that I am healing. Thinking is like the psychic itch of a wound on the mend. After the feels comes the consideration, the questions, the forward movement.  My strength is returning and so is my hope.

Welcome back to my blog postings. I hope we will breathe and scratch our itches together.

I’m trying to remember from the ethics classes I took what the first premises are. If I’m not mistaken, the first is that to debate ethics with one another we have to agree on what our shared ‘authority’ is. Is it the Bible? The Constitution? ‘Natural law’? And then, again, if I’m not mistaken, we have to agree on our primary values. Is it freedom? Peace? Justice? None without the other? Is it survival? If survival is our primary value we need to dispose of the Bible or the Constitution as our authorities.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, it’s not to give you a lesson in how to do ethics, thank you very much. I’m trying to figure out why we don’t seem to be able to talk to people who are very different from us. Even about what might seem to be a shared value. Take freedom. When I talk to anti-maskers and they argue that masks infringe on their freedom, I wonder why their freedom supersedes my freedom to be healthy. And then I wonder whether we are talking about freedom at all. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all heard arguments for limitations of freedom. Like not yelling, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. There are times when our personal freedom is outweighed by the well-being of the whole. It’s a tenuous path, so let’s walk it carefully.  

Freedom doesn’t mean that ‘I can do anything I want’. It never has. That’s being a spoiled brat, not being free. Freedom does not relieve us of our social contract to participate in the community in healthy and respectful ways. Not only will I not syphon your gas or key your car, I will not introduce the possibility of disease into your life if there is a chance that I can.

It is clear that we do not all subscribe to the  authority of science. Were that so, I wouldn’t be posting this. So let’s figure out what our shared authority is. And our shared values, should we have any. If we can agree that the Bible or the Constitution, let me suggest that both documents share at least one purpose: how we are to live together in community.

Let’s start here. Not to argue, but to find common ground. It has to begin with agreeing that we want each other to survive and thrive. I cannot do this alone. I am vaccinated and will wear a mask to protect not only myself but those around me. Please realize that when you go about unmasked and unvaccinated you are telling me you do not share the value of community and, even more important,  that you are not interested in us finding our way back to reasoned public discourse.

Dear Friends… stand up

Dear Friends,

Well, there’s 19 days to go before the election
and we are holding our collective breath.
It looks good but we must persist.
Vote early if you can.
I worry about disrupters at the polls on Election Day.
Make sure your friends are voting.
Offer rides.
Take water to those waiting in line.
Phone bank.
Pray.
Now is the time to stand up
to do all we can however we can wherever we can.

It cannot be said too often:
this is the most important election of our lifetimes.
Be a hero for our time.
Do the best you can with what you have and who you are.

Together, let us stand
to make a country that insists on justice
and relies on science
a country that celebrates differences
protects the weak
frees children
fights systemic racism and sexism
feeds the hungry
a country where we tell ourselves difficult truths

Now is the time
if ever there was one.
Stand up.

Connie

Dear Friends… thank you

Dear Friends,

Thank you. Sometimes, in the midst of it all (pandemic, destruction of our democracy, hatred, the rise of militant racism- all of that and more) it is easy to forget the things for which we have to be grateful. So today I invite you to join me in the practice of gratitude. Here are some things that make my gratitude sing:
the autumn weather
friendships nourished over time
trees
peaceful protestors taking to the streets
flies
the passion of the electorate
music
pink pussy hats
believing in something greater than myself
political humor
women of color
people who do things to protect the planet
you

If you are reading this it is because, in some sense, we have been in relationship or conversation with one another through this blog.
I am grateful for the time and energy you take to engage.
I am grateful when you disagree and grateful when we hold one another up.
I am grateful that we are not alone in the miasma of our current political and spiritual situation.
I am grateful I am not expected to have all the answers.
I am grateful for the questions.
I am grateful that we travel together and that our journeys – no matter how different – have crossed paths.

You may have battle fatigue. You may be overwhelmed. Or depressed.  It’s okay. I am still grateful for you.  You do not have to be perfect or sustain past your ability for me to be grateful for you. I am so glad you are in the world and that we are walking together.

We cannot  give in or give up. When we are able to immerse ourselves  in gratitude we are energized for the work before us. So join me here.  Look for the places and things that you are grateful for. Name them. List them. And let them  be  places of solace and strength as we get up each and every day to bring in a new reality.

peace and love,
Connie

Dear Friends… I’m so sorry for your loss

Dear Friends,

In times like these words seem hollow.  I am sorry for your loss. Our loss.
Sorry beyond words. We stand before the mystery of death and try to comfort one another – not with the certainty of belief  but by holding one other in the pain of our grief.

We grieve  for this majestic woman who championed and embodied ideals that so many of us live and breathe. Let us enfold one another in care. In any other time her death would be a great loss, these times make who and what we mourn even more difficult.
We grieve the loss of a bright light who fought for justice.
We grieve for a woman who changed our world in so many ways for the better.
We grieve not only our loss of advocate and judge but of one who was a protector of the marginalized.

We need to grieve. We need to grieve and to give thanks for her life well-lived, for her voice lifted, for the witness and tenacity of her stands for justice.

For me, the loss of Justice Ginsberg mirrors the apparent loss of so much else in the nation:
civility
human decency
shared values
and who we can aspire to be as a democratic nation.

I wish that we could gather and lift our candles to the sky along with our fists, defying the darkness. I wish I could tell you everything will be alright and that we are passing through a storm. That joy comes in the morning.
Actually, I will tell you that.
Ruth Bator Ginsberg did not give up, not to her dying breath.
How can we honor her and do any less?

What we cannot grieve is the loss of hope.
To do so would disrespect not only her memory but the memories of all who fought for the principles of justice, equality, and shared power.
We can grieve but we must not despair.

I am sorry for our loss. So deeply sorry that it brought me to my knees.
But we are her legacy. Our task is to continue the work she has done.
As it says in the Talmud:
“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.”

I am so sorry for our loss. May our tears cleanse our vision and create a tsunami that will clear a way to a new day.

peace, my friends,
Connie

Dear Friends… turn your socks inside out

Dear Friends,

I want to tell you a story about my Dad. He was career military and in active combat  both in  World War II and the Korean War. He was also a story teller. As a child, I sat on his knee and listened to him weave what I now recognize as self-deprecating stories of survival and courage. I loved his stories. They were stories of deep friendships told in an offhand way and moments of belly laugh humor.

In these times I recognize the need to tell our stories with the absurdity of dark humor.
We are living through our own horrors, fighting for our lives and for justice against an enemy within the fabric of our nation.
We are fighting for a vigorous, committed response to climate change.
We are fighting for justice for people of color and for a real, committed response to systemic racism.
We are fighting for science.
We are fighting for women’s reproductive rights.
We are fighting for truth over lies, love over hate, community over tribalism.
… and we are fighting desperation and fear.

In the Korean War men were told to change socks every day to prevent trench foot. It was a ludicrous command to men sleeping in tents, marching miles a day in rain and snow, with no possible way of doing laundry, much less of the laundry drying. To follow the order in letter, though clearly not spirit, the men had a ritual after they set up camp to ‘change socks’ by turning them inside out and putting them on again. Okay, I can’t tell it like my dad. He had a way of recounting  the story with a twinkle and a chuckle so you saw how ridiculous both the order and the action were .

The thing is, those guys would have loved to have clean, dry socks. They rebuked their misery by laughing at the circumstances and poking fun at the stupidity of the order. We can learn something from them. It’s awful right now. Tribalism is so  virulent that it’s hard to imagine how or if we can ever bridge our differences. The possibility of another term for 45 looms. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything I can do to make a difference. But I get up every day and do the tedious work of making change. It is easy to be overwhelmed. It is reasonable to get depressed.

But let us end our days by adopting the ritual of ‘changing our socks’.
Find the absurdity of the day, the news, the man and laugh.
Remember that we are in this together, clustered around the same campfire, impelled by the same passion for justice. Laugh at the absurdity of where we find ourselves and at what we must do to survive.
My dad’s stories taught me that connection and laughter are absolutely necessary for survival when in the thick of a battle.

So laugh with me over some smarmy lie, some absurd policy, some ridiculous assertion then sit down and turn your socks inside out, get some rest, we fight again tomorrow.

love and blessings,
Connie