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Whose Rights?

                    Some days I’m not sure how much more sorrow we can navigate as a nation. After the brutal terrorist attack in Las Vegas, after Sandy Hook, after Pulse, after daily multiple murders that have become seemingly routine, have we been dulled to our outrage?

           And then there is the knee-jerk response from the right and the NRA: now is not the time to debate gun laws. Well if not now, when? When we have time compartmentalize our anger and grief? When we can make the people whose lives were taken and the ones who suffered loss unimportant? During election years when the NRA can buy the votes it needs? When?

What’s wrong with now?

If I hear one more 2nd amendment advocate tout that ‘this is the cost of freedom’ I believe I will hurl. We need to amend or void the second amendment. Amend it to include the six words when serving in the militia. Read Justice John Paul Steven’s well reasoned 2014 argument here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-five-extra-words-that-can-fix-the-second-amendment/2014/04/11/f8a19578-b8fa-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html?utm_term=.aabb5e76d28d

My question today is: whose rights?

Rights enshrined in the very body of the Constitution are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The 2nd Amendment, as currently interpreted, infringes on those rights. The lack of sane gun control costs thousands of people their lives each year. Not only in mass shootings but in domestic violence incidents, and because of negligence that gives access to weapons by toddlers and adolescents.

NOW we need to focus on our citizens’ right to life. Maybe even come to understand that the ‘right to life’ includes enough to eat, a place to live, and healthcare. And the right to liberty. Because people are afraid to go to concerts, shopping malls, and sporting events. Women are afraid of their partners. And those fears imprison us. Finally, though happiness may be difficult to qualify, it has been snatched from thousands of our citizens by gun violence.

Why are some rights privileged over others? Why does your right to own a weapon trump my right to live? Our priorities are skewed, friends, in so many ways. But let’s begin here. Let’s begin by advocating for our right to stay alive.

Let’s give new and urgent meaning to the phrase ‘right to life’.

Holding Hope

I want to write about lovely things. I want to write about birdsong and dappled light and soft breezes. I want to write about dreaming large. About deep connections. About justice persisting and that ‘slow arc’ bending.

So I will.

The book of Revelation was written in a time the Christian community felt hopeless. The were rounded up, persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered. Not unlike many religious communities in history. The kin-dom, the shalom they believed Godde would bring about was crushed under the political heal of the empire. Communication between churches was suspect so leaders wrote and spoke in metaphors when referring to their current situation. They referenced dragons and bears and destruction. They sent present news in future tense.

For the past however long I have been writing about bears and dragons, destruction and fear with scattered glimpses of hope. Today I will take another cue from the writer of the Book of Revelation and fling a little hope. No matter how bad things are, we cannot give up hope or we will lose our souls.

The writer (supposedly John) offers this brilliant hope expressed as sacred literature anywhere:

The Book of Revelation 7: 14b-17                                                                                                                                                  “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason they are before the throne of Godde,
and worship Godde day and night within the temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and Godde will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

So today I write what I need: reason to hope or, at the very least, reason not to lose hope.

The dream humanity has for a world where there is no hunger or disease, a world of justice and compassion is not a vision we can abdicate. No matter how bad things are, we must not give up hope. It is imperative that we continue to believe in our ability to overcome, to co-create, to bring that vision into existence. Imagine what might replace that dream should we lose it.  Without a passion for justice and a vision for compassion,  without hope, our spirits will be crushed by despair.

So today and every day do the work of hope. Do one thing that could make a difference when added together with all the other one things folks are doing around the world. And listen to birds sing. Gaze at light streaming through tree branches. Dream big. Reach out to one another. Demand justice. Offer hope to the hopeless. Accept hope from the hopeful.

 

 

 

 

Jesus Talks Seeds of Resistance

            You know those stories you’ve heard a thousand times? The ones you almost know by heart, that are so entrenched in your psyche you assume you know their meaning? The ones that are kind of boring you have heard them so often?

That’s what happened to me with this past Sunday’s lectionary gospel passage. Matthew relates Jesus telling several parables about what the kin-dom of heaven is like. At least that is what I thought it was about. Jesus says “The kin-dom of heaven is like… a mustard seed or yeast (in these stories).

So familiar. As a child my Mom gave me a necklace with a mustard seed enshrined in a clear bead. That seed represented the seed Jesus referred to but the actual seeds he was talking about were more like dust than the seed I wore around my throat.

I have heard it preached a hundred times that a mustard plant would grow almost to the size of a tree. We are all amazed at the girth of a plant that comes from the seed that tiny. Here is where many of us make the leap to thinking the kin-dom of heaven is like this huge bush. But that is not what Jesus says. He says it’s like dust.

The problem is we don’t trust the value of small things. We tend to think that what is valuable is what is bigger, better, more powerful. The truth of the matter is that the kin-dom is millions of small acts of love, comfort, compassion, and justice scattered into the world trusting that enough will fall on fertile soil.

In these murky days, where power and might, money and privilege are worshipped it is important to remind ourselves that our small acts of resistance matter. They are the seeds of connection. The seeds of healing. The substance of hope. The revolutionary seeds we plant to honor all that is sacred in one another.

So do not be discouraged. Scatter seeds of love for immigrants. Seeds of comfort for those facing the hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, and trans-phobia exposed and encouraged by this president. Seeds of compassion for those who have been seduced by fear that someday dialogue may be restored. And scatter seeds of justice, even if you have to fight like hell to plant them.

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

I can imagine no pain greater than one’s child dying. It is out of the natural order of things. It is difficult enough to lose one’s parent’s but we know that death is the natural end to a long life. It isn’t the natural end to a young one.

I will not use names because I respect the family whose loss is so recent, so raw, so unexpected. But I will tell you about a young woman with a huge heart, kind and loving, who adored her fur-kids, and lived out loud. She loved her family and they adored her. Now you might not think that needs remarked upon, and it wouldn’t, except that she was a lesbian born and raised in the South.

Born and raised in the Baptist Church where her family still worships. Where the pastor refused to hold her memorial service.

Mister, you make me ashamed to be a Christian. Or more truthfully, you make me ashamed that you call yourself a Christian. Over the years I’ve been told I wasn’t really a Christian because: a. I am an activist. B. I’m a feminist. C. I am a lesbian. And D. my theology is heretical. My piety credentials don’t pass muster. And that’s alright by me. Lest we forget, Jesus’ piety credentials didn’t pass muster either. If yours do, then I want no part of what you call Christianity.

It breaks my imagination to conceive of a ‘pastor’ who would refuse comfort and grace to a grieving family. Show me where you can justify your actions by asking what Jesus would do. Or show me, even if you worship rules, how you can refuse to offer comfort. Is it because the skirts of your self-righteousness might touch the ground? Is it because rejecting a soul that has been in the care of your community from birth is what you think is the ‘faithful’ thing to do? Is it because you simply don’t want to challenge your own discomfort? The discomfort of others? Are you afraid that the offering plate might not be so full?  Whatever the reason, there is no justification for the ham-handed, soul-less way you treated a family, all of whom, living or dead, are children of God.

To my dear friend’s family: I hate that you had to deal with the grief of rejection in addition to the enormous grief of your loss. One of the sure times we rely on our faith community is at the death of a loved one. Please know that wherever you find comfort and love, acceptance and shared grief, God is with you. The community of Spirit may look unfamiliar but  whatever colors, beliefs, disbeliefs, genders, or sexualities, know  you encounter Jesus there. You were not left alone. Jesus sits with you, holds you, lends you comfort in every face that is turned toward you and not away, in everyone who shared in her life and shares in your sadness, in ever person who reaches out in small ways and large. God enfolds you with grace and care. And God embraces the one we have lost with a love we can hardly imagine.

                 John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

   

We have not lived up to the ideals of our democracy. Ever. But there is a beacon that leads us in the direction of justice. Principles that inform our path through history and by which we find our bearings when we get off course.

America is built on the idea of inclusion in a just society. We thrive as new people and cultures add their colors, design, warp and weft, to our tapestry. The Americans with Disabilities act aided citizens with disabilities to more fully participate in families, in the workplace, and in the political arena. The expansion of women’s rights and LGBT rights have all grown our understanding of human worth and dignity

Now our elected officials want to build walls, to isolate us – not only from the world but also from one another. The rights of the most vulnerable are being eroded one law, one amendment, on step at a time. Those who gained protections are losing them. When I was little I was taught that the United States was a melting pot. Later I loved an essay by Norah Roberts who imagined us as a tossed salad. Republicans play into our fears and construct the myth of ‘the other’. They persuade us to distrust immigrants, to disrespect a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions, to openly and sometimes viciously discriminate against the LGBT community, and encourage racism as usual and acceptable, disregarding  the sanctity of black lives and brown lives and native American lives. They fan the flames of distrust and fear. So much so that I cringe when I hear a crowd chanting “USA! USA!” What I hear is: “Us not them! Us not them!”

It’s time  to change the conversation. We don’t need to be in dialogue with those who would destroy our values and vision of a nation whose arc is ‘bent toward justice’.

 It’s time to stop compromising about the lives and deaths of our fellow citizens.

It’s time to get up, gird up, and put on our big girl panties.

We cannot afford to wait and see how things ‘play out’.

We are the majority and we need to assert our power. Even if it is for the first time.

Vote now. Get involved now. Be the change now.

This is not the time to make nice.  It’s time to make policy.

Wisdom: Day Two

Some of you may have noticed a lag between this and my last Wisdom blog (Day One 5/22/17). I’ve had a lot to say  about  our recent elections and their fallout . We are at political DefCon Alpha. Current events get in the way of more general thoughts about life.  As a student of history, a world traveler, a user of the Oxford comma, and a person of faith I  have a whole lot to say about our Orwellian present.

    But today let’s veer off the political track for a moment and let me tell you about a practice I am new at and love: laughing at myself.

One of my character flaws is that I take myself seriously. Those who love me say  I take myself too seriously. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I do. Okay,  lots of times. That being said, when I laugh at myself something happens. My perspective shifts and I experience a sharp drop of stress. It’s a two for one special:  freedom from self-judgment and openness to self-acceptance.

So the entirety of my wisdom for today is this: learn to laugh at yourself – your foibles, your missteps, your idiocy – and don’t wait until you are my age to do it. Life will be so much easier to navigate.

On the bright side…

As angry as I am/have been/probably will be again I can’t leave my last blog hanging out there for a week without making a point of the good stuff. There is much to encourage us about the race for the 6th in Georgia. I see things every day since that give me hope to power on.

Women are on fire! It was amazing to work with and see so many energetic, committed women putting themselves out there every day and every evening for months. We have realized that politics cannot be a spectator sport. Voting is great, putting up a sign is important, giving matters – but it is not enough. And we worked our ‘osses’ off!

We got woke. We became aware of voting issues and committed to work on the issues of racist voter suppression, gerrymandering, and election hacking. We got informed about the efficacy of paper ballots, ballot trails, and the need for election overhaul. Now we’re going to do something about it. We: long time activists like myself, and those who now join us, worked together, made connections, and saw it through.

We took Michelle Obama’s words to heart: when they go low, we go high. We encouraged one another every day in face-to-face confrontation with the opposition ‘going very low’ to ‘go high’. We defined and continue to define ourselves by what we value  .

To paraphrase Hamilton: We are not a Moment, We are a Movement.

 

We Are the Resistance

 

          After the Women’s March I came back to Georgia and became a part of the Huddle network. A Huddle is a group of people who participated in the march – either in D.C. or locally – and who want to continue to stand, act, move, make a difference. We are the resistance.

Our most recent effort is to elect Jon Ossoff to the 6th District. Hundreds and hundreds of women have shown up and worked their “osses” off. We have canvassed, phone banked, written personal letters and postcards to voters, and rallied on street corners trying to get out the vote. We showed up at Board of Election meetings and got early voting times and locations expanded. We showed up in courtrooms and for hearings before the Georgia Legislature.

We showed up.

The race is very close. I teeter between the real hope that Jon will be elected as a harbinger of change from our current ‘leadership’ and political direction. And in the deepest night I am afraid he will be defeated and the direction of our nation will continue to careen in the direction it is headed.

But even in those moments I realize that what cannot be stopped is a million women who refuse to give in or give up. A million women who continue to engage the system with intention and energy. Making change doesn’t depend on this one election. It depends on every action of each one of us in all times and all places. No matter what happens tomorrow we have made our connections, found our strength, and will resist with every breath we take.

 

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

 

 

 

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.