Category Archives: progressive politics

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

Dear Friends… How are you today?

Dear Friends,

How are you today? I wonder how you are managing life in this time of Covid and Trump? Things are difficult and I wonder how you are making it through?

Were you able to get out of bed today? If not, take a deep breath, linger in the scent of your aliveness, and do not judge yourself. There will be days like this. Days when you clench your jaw as you listen to the news. Days when your heart tap dances in your chest trying to find the rhythm of reality. Days when you cry without being able to name just what outrage you grieve. It is okay to descend into that shadow land. Your responses make sense. You are not over the overreacting.

If this is where you are, know that others have hoisted the burden and rose to challenge injustice and cruelty today. Let your work come from under your covers as you pray for their courage and safety.  Let their work help carve out a space for hope to take hold so that tomorrow or the next day you are able join the battle for the soul of our nation again.

If this is a good day, I hope you are honoring it by moving the arc toward justice a little further along. What songs are you singing to put steel in your spine? What do you love enough to make this work imperative? Is it the sweet green earth crying out for care? Is it black lives that have not mattered for way way too long? Is it your trans neighbor struggling to survive?

The work that is being done, from marching in the streets to making a plan to vote to volunteering to phone bank, is work we  do together. Sometimes it is on a crowded zoom call and sometimes  it is a relay race where we hand off to the next person and ready ourselves for the next hand off to us. Together we will be enough to make the necessary change.

I close here with this invitation, whether you are energized or struggling: reach out and share with one other person today and every day. Share your fears and your hopes. Share your struggles and your triumphs. Not the calculable results of your actions, but the experience of acting. Nurture the connections that remind us why what we are doing matters.

Dear friends, today I got out of bed. Today I prayed for you. Tomorrow I may march. Today I wrestled with the demon of despair. Today I won.

Blessings,
Connie

Dear Friends… Do Not Let Despair Defeat Us

Dear Friends,
Another week of living, breathing, grieving, working, and loving amidst a pandemic has passed and weeks of the same loom before us. In the midst of trying to navigate life with closed parameters, we witness more and more accounts of our fellow citizens being murdered and maimed,  white supremacists wielding weapons with the intent to kill protestors, and a president who encourages hateful division as his best method of retaining power.

How are you managing? How is your heart? Mine is awash with grief and wrestling each day not to descend into despair.  It is from this place I am  urging  us not to succumb. Despair sucks the life out of our ability to hope  and paralyzes our ability to act. So I write  not to deny the despair you might be feeling but to beg you not to surrender to it.

Despair is manifesting in a couple of ways (at least). Some are striking out blindly like a cornered animal.  Let us, instead, calculate our acts of resistance  to achieve the better outcome and make the necessary change we seek. Still impassioned, but result oriented or, as Michelle Obama said, ” When they go low, we go high.”  The other way despair manifests is in giving up. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that nothing we do will make a difference. This is the kind of despair I am hearing from so many.

For those of us mired in despair: we cannot surrender to it. If we do,  we are lost.
So today I invite you to the difficult task of refusing to give into despair. Challenge it by believing that each of our small acts make a difference. Challenge it by doing necessary and important menial work: get it involved with voter registration, become a poll worker, participate in texting, phone banking,  or letter writing campaigns urging people to register and vote.

Whatever you do, do something. We cannot let despair be what defeats us.

Dear friends,  I promised to offer hope in the weeks leading up to this most important election.
Today, this is the hope I offer:
You choosing to fight feelings of despair.
You refusing to descend to the shadow side of resistance.
You finding the small acts that make a difference.
You committing to vote and making a plan.
You standing shoulder to shoulder with all who seek justice.

You.
You are the hope.

Blessings and peace,
Connie

p.s. the song on a loop in my head today:
I will hold the Christ light for you
in the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
speak the peace you long to hear:

 

 

Dear Friends… It’s the end of the world as we know it

Dear Friends,
As a pastor I know that  one of the most important aspects of ministry is to offer hope. I must confess that sometimes when I wake in the morning, see the light of dawn breaking through my window, hear the first birds greeting the sun, feel cold water slushing  my face as I complete my ablutions, run downstairs to take the dog out, and wait for the aroma of coffee brewing that I forget to hope. You’d think with all those sensory blessings hope would come naturally and eagerly, but it doesn’t.

I blog each week with an offering of hope that sometimes I have to dive deep to find. Because here’s the truth: it’s the end of the world as we know it. As I wrote that last sentence I realized that  this is the hope I can offer. It is terrifying and promising. We stand on a precipice: we will either descend into a scruffy form of nazism in which the state will institutionalize the elimination of marginalized people or we will harness our power to make change.

From now until the election I will write to you each week. Letters of encouragement. Letters filled with rage. Letters offering hope. But be sure of this, this election is the most important election of our lives. White people once saw racism ‘through a glass darkly’. Men once saw sexism, heterosexuals saw homosexism, citizens saw immigrants – all through a glass darkly. If our eyes are not opened now. If we cannot see the dehumanization of others. If we close our eyes to the violence perpetrated on black bodies through out our history. If we allow ourselves to be blind to those truths, then we will not be a part of bringing about necessary, long-overdue change. Even worse, we will be allowing evil to persist.

What hope can I offer you today? If we dare to open our eyes and open our hearts, then we have the hope of a new dawn, a new reality that we must do everything in our power to usher in. The hope of hearing the other, even if the reality they speak is different from our own. The hope when we offer our hearts and our bodies to that cry for justice that is truly sacred. The hope the comes when we both trust and live into knowing that love is greater than hate.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Thanks be to Godde.
Connie

I Am Curious

For some reason, I know not what, I spent some moments not reacting to the onslaught of daily and new atrocities to find a nook in my mind to entertain questions. I wish these were deep, theological pondering but they are not.

I am curious as to why a disease, experienced in nations around the world, is considered to be a hoax by some. If hoax means to trick people into believing something that is false, why on earth would someone (who?) want to trick us into believing Covid19 is real? If that is true then it must be some great international conspiracy. Have all these deaths been manufactured by the media? The refrigerator car morgues? The overcrowded hospitals and overworked medical personnel? I am deeply perplexed by the lack of anything that resembles reason. Even when I plumb the depths of my imagination I can’t answer those questions. I mean – do people really believe that this pandemic  could be manufactured and perpetrated by scientists, medical personal, and regular citizens? And  that it would be done to thwart one man? I am curious.

Which in turn makes me curious about the educated people who are perpetrating the idea that this is a hoax. Senators and governors and representatives who refuse to wear masks and insist on opening both the economy and schools in the face of dire consequences. Is power so intoxicating that they are willing and able to sacrifice the people on the altar of their hunger for it? so, why? I am curious.

I am curious about how once shared values have been scuttled. In our history, in times of crisis, we have worked together, sacrificed together, struggled against common enemies together. What happened?  I am curious.

I wonder how or if we can bridge the gap between those who are not extremists but still follow Trump and those of us who fear authoritarianism, seemingly unsolvable cultural divides.  How do we reach across to one another when the rise of racism, heterosexism, and misogyny is personally threatening?  These questions trouble me most of all and I am curious.

Is anyone truly sure that they are absolutely right? In my life I question everything, even my most deeply held beliefs. I know that it is taxing and uncomfortable so I also understand why one would be reluctant to question one’s beliefs.  I have experienced the anxiety and  urgency to hold onto a belief that is being challenged. Certainty can give us the illusion of safety. It can also stand in the way of growth and connection. Would our conversations be more productive if we respected one another’s fears?  I am curious.

But my final question and the one about which I am most curious
is not how did we get here
but rather
how do we get out of here?

 

Liberated by History

I have been taught history (a subject I love) in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, not as a series of dates to be memorized but as political movements and change influenced by  disease, technological, medical advances, religion, nationalism, power, and personality.

In seminary I had the great good fortune of reading Justo Gonzalez’ two volume history of the Christian Church. Imagine telling the story of the early Christian church through the challenges that ignited differing theologies and their struggle for primacy and the intersection of politics and nation building with growth of Christianity. HIs history telling is a well researched and clear-eyed exploration of how the political and theological world as we know it came into being.

I wish we taught history this way so that people could see the development and  movement of ideas. Could engage with ideas about how we are connected and  how today is built on what has gone before.I wish we were able to accept historical figures as bound by their time and examine how they were a part of moving us and our ideals, understandings, and values into our present.

As a working theologian, I am always aware that I am in dialogue with ideas that have come before and that my new perspective can offer correction or challenge. But the Ideas of those who lived and struggled before us are important because they open the dialogue.  Liberation, Black, Womanist, Feminist, Process,  or any other theology does not exist in a vacuum. We are all a part of global, historical conversations about faith and our understanding of the universe.  We are informed by science, history, and the constant influx of new information, new generations and populations. For me, Christianity is not about what people believed or how they lived over two thousand years ago. It is about what remains relevant at its core. How the truths of the faith engage with present reality.

Is it not important to know that the world view of first century Christians was very different from our world view today? How can it not be. The same with our politics. It is important to ask the questions of the framers of the Constitution. How were they bound by history and culture? How did they contribute to the conversation that has moved us into where we are today in the struggle for freedom? Do we need to reject what we now see as absolutely unacceptable? of course. But I truly believe we must also see ourselves in a historical relationship that, by its very nature, encourages the tough conversations we are having as a nation today around race, gender, personhood, and human rights.

As a nation, our history is built on what is often called ‘the Great Experiment.’  Rather than reject what and who have come before us, let us do what all experimenters do: build on what works and reject that which does not. This nation is built on glorious ideas tried for the first time in thousands of years (if you think of Athens as a democracy, and then it makes my point that American democracy took much of what worked in Athenian democracy, discarded the rest, and built on it for the then modern age.) We must move forward informed by new voices, differing experiences, new ways of perceiving both the mistakes and the triumphs of our historical past.

May our new understandings of history liberate us to the work of making real the promises of our shared dream.

 

Hope is Not Pretty

Hope is not pretty.
It is not the shine on patent leather shoes
or the flowers on Easter bonnets.
It is not an airy sense of pleasure
in your chest that says
everything will be okay.

Hope is the guttural cry of a people
struggling to rise from despair.
It is the fierce refusal to accept
hatred as the grounding of life.
It is looking into the eyes of  that hatred
with the grace of transparency.
It is the deep, deep longing
to bring about justice.
It  is trembling with fear and
not giving into terror.

Hope makes beautiful
our broken and ugly places,
confers power
challenges despair.
So let us hope
Let us hope passionately.
Let us speak and act
and stand and march
and live into the hope
that calls us to create a just future
out of the rubble of despair.

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?

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/

 

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.