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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.

The History We Need to Repeat

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 Having a group in power that no longer represents interests of the citizenry?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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s repeat that history.

For Those Who Love Dystopian Novels…

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

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

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

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

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

– religion takes an unprecedented role in political discourse and policy

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

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

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

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

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

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