The Other Beautiful America

I have always loved what America has the ideals to be.  As my friend Jen apparently knows as a history teacher, those ideals can be found somewhere between the Magna Carta, The Plymouth Covenant, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Constitution — each laid claim to in Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech and his understanding of “the Beloved Community”. Since King, there have been moves toward equality of the sexes, and President Obama’s decision to support gay marriage, as a new generation stakes its claim to America. So much of this is under threat with the current administration, but the ideals of the country still hold in many places among people who care for each other, who still believe that human beings have dignity and worth, that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

“Seek first the community where God reigns” — my paraphrase of Matthew 6:33

As of this week, my blogs  “Like It Matters”  and “Because It Matters” have reached a combined 20,000 hits so I want to celebrate those people who make up the America I believe in . 

This should in no way diminish the incredible natural beauty of America — the one of song and story. Having toured America and  written about it in the blogs, I can tell you that the Grand Canyon is a miracle of nature and there is so much more which reminds you that no human being could keep up with God’s creativity. Yes, the natural beauty is also threatened by the current administration, but everybody talks about that. This blog began out of frustration that I wasn’t hearing opinions or stories I could relate to. I was astounded after writing the very first blog that other people shared my opinion. I had begun to believe that good religious people and liberals no longer existed. They do. This blog has become about them and their stories, their thoughts, for all 20,000 hits. 

So, enough about me. Let’s talk about the other beautiful America.

Every church in America — if it talks about Jesus — has the right intent. Nobody starts a church with the intention of hurting people. If it takes Jesus seriously, however, it is part of the beloved community that makes the world –via the people around it– better off. Most every church in the UCC and liberal Protestant denominations believes in kindness and taking care of each other — until recently the norm, now radical concepts.

When I want to listen instead of talk, the Society of Friends (Quakers) is where I go to be filled.

Certainly, without a doubt, all of the clergy or ministerial types mentioned in these pages do that. People with specific stories here (or mentioned) include:

Gordon Sherman and Cy Sherman, Rick Fowler, John Hudson, Jeff Brown, Pat Speer, Lynn Carman Bodden and her husband Peter, Char Corbett and her sister Sioux Wilusz, Greg Coles, David Ratz, George Harris, the late Prophetess Gerry Claytor and her late husband, Rev. Benny Claytor, their daughters, Kim and Bennyta (now called “Bee”), Caroll Cyr  and the staff of Silver Lake, Cat Chapin-Bishop and her husband Peter, Peter Wells, my wife Michelle Madsen-Bibeau, Todd Farnsworth, Linda Lea Snyder, Lisabeth Gustafsen, Ken Ferguson, the entire staff of CYC Senior High camp, and Camp Wightman, staff and campers from the now defunct Deering Camp and Conference Center, the late Newt Perrins and his still very  alive wife, Val and the staff of Skye Farm. The late Charlie Crook .

While I like them doing “charity” work, my friend Pat Speer (covered in a blog) and his organization Christian Activity Council believes the church is called to push for justice, so that churches don’t need to do charity. Until Jesus returns, I’m ok with both.


“People are people, so why should it be, that you and I should get along so awfully?” — Depeche Mode

(thoughts on beautifully American groups…)

There’s a group of people I grow to respect more and more in this country, precisely because they have no reason to be kind, but do it anyway: the LGBTQ community. A few weeks ago, a lesbian saved the life of a Senator in Washington. She’s married. He doesn’t believe in gay marriage. If it were up to him, she’d have a much harder life. When it was up to her, he got to keep his life. She could have forgotten how to use her gun, or lost her way to the Senator’s location, but she didn’t because it would be a dereliction of duty and apparently out of character for her. After this event, she could go home and look at herself in the mirror. Could he?  Of course, not all gay people are like her  and not all Senators are like him, of course. It’s just that there’s no reason for either of their behaviors and she did the Jesus-type thing.

I make the case also, because I know my friend Leigh McCaffrey — an ordained minister in the UCC and a lesbian herself. She lives near Orlando, Florida and when a hateful man from another religion killed a room full of gay folks, that community came together. They didn’t go Muslim-blaming. They didn’t flip out about terrorism, they didn’t attack back. They came together, became tighter, supported each other, celebrated life and grieved the loss. Given that there still many place where Leigh and her partner Sue can’t go, for fear of death, that seems incredible to me. Still, Leigh knows Jesus personally, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I just am.

In these pages, I have talked about Patty Bucchieri, whom I called “the nice lesbian” because she was, and is, good to our children. In our church, there are lots of nice gay folk. Patty is just so kind and a good Christian, I wanted to highlight her . In these pages, there are also in-the-closet gay folks covered — but of course, I can’t say who they are, just that they changed my life.

NAACP, Bridgeport’s IMA, Black Lives Matter, Jeff Brown’s ministry of peacemaking in Boston, Bridgeport Food Pantry, The Geraldine Claytor Magnet School in Bridgeport, CT, Boys and Girls Clubs of Rochester, NY, Beyond The Moment

I’m old. I like old causes, obvious causes, things that make sense to me. Race relations makes sense to me. Promoting harmony and rights for some of the coolest people I know makes sense to me. It seems like many of my friends have moved on to new causes, but this one still remains  unfinished. We ended the war. We’ve had the sexual revolution. We have had the equal rights movement, but pretty much racism has gone unchanged in this country. Yes, the women’s movement has lost ground for years. Yes, it seems that every single good thing is being threatened by this administration. But somehow, after the Civil Rights movement and MLK’s death, everybody else realized they could get their rights, and the fight against racism went untouched by the White community. Like the last case of smallpox, it came roaring back stronger than ever over the last few years , as some pockets of America want to go back to straight-out oppressing Black folks. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to finish one project before I move on to the next one so I have tried to write blogs about racism and racist violence whenever it happens. I now write prayers at night because it took too much out of me to write and grieve that much — sometimes 3 times in a day. There is so much to treasure about Black culture (No, I still don’t like most rap, or dance songs that are only about sex, but my kids do) that I hate to lose it. The groups above or individuals, like the rest of beautiful America, cares when it’s hard and still talks to White culture even though the abuses of that culture should have had us written off years ago.

That said, there are other organizations that make the world better and deal with some of the issues: The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, N.O.W., People For The American Way and National Coalition Builders Institute in Washington, D.C.

Some organizations making the world better every day aren’t run by anybody, or anybody you’d know: Alcoholics Anonymous and every other 12-Step group in the world is an incredible gift to humanity.  You can change your life, find meaning, and be a part of change for free at these places.

In the same vein, there is Celebrate Recovery that my friend Dave Ratz (mentioned in blog years ago) ran a local chapter of in New Britain, CT. Also a fine group, the religion piece of it might be off-putting to some and life-saving to others. In New Britain, at 500 Main St., there is an offshoot  of CR called Recapture Healing and run by Marie Bachand.

Jean Milo is now a big mucky-muck with Save The Children.

Organizations don’t have to be big to do good things. Cunningham Tire in N. Reading, Massachusetts, will balance and install tires for free. Bob and Derek are brothers who want to help motorists for free. They consider it a ministry, and it is. They are great guys.

I know I have already discussed churches, but under groups, I want to acknowledge the no-longer kids of Center Church Lynnfield, MA, Union Congregational in Hall, NY, and Mountain Rise UCC who have grown up to make the world better in so many ways. I remain in awe of them for the kindness and intelligence they share in the world.

Also covered in a blog: Ability+ Sports who get people with any number of disabilities to the slopes in Vermont and do incredible work creating spiritually/emotionally whole people who are better skiers than I am.

Finally, I have decided recently to get involved with “food justice” issues. Who could be against people eating? Let’s not go there…. Who is for people eating? WhyHunger, started by the late musician Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres, its mission is to end hunger, by connecting up with grassroots folks all over America. They do incredible work and their monthly newsletter is full of agencies and organization that connect to the cause. Literate and intelligent and caring all in one organization.

***** healers and helpers *****

“There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” — hymn

America is full of teachers,therapists, social workers, nurses, doctors who help people every single day. This became apparent especially after a Deering Reunion where people talked about what they had done with their lives since camp. Shout outs to:

Dawn Cunningham in Massachusetts is a great school teacher. Liz Solomon Wright is a college professor in Texas. My friend Cat Chapin-Bishop won the non-existent  “Mary Lou Brewer Award” for teaching in these pages, honoring both Cat and Mary Lou, ML is my favorite teacher of all time.  Barbara “Bobbie” Fox at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT is a teacher of healers. All of the staff at Charter Oak Elementary, Sedgwick Middle School, and Conard High School have taught my daughters to be fine citizens. Pam Shuman is a psychiatrist and teacher at Brown University (or was).

My former sister-in-law Marlene Sanford has worked with the developmental delayed for 20+ years.

My mother, Donna Rae Zoller Bibeau, was –and wanted to be — a nurse for most of her life. Deb Bercovici is a nurse. Maryanne Maccullagh is a chaplain to nurses … and patients. Karen Ross Gardener Gatchell has been a nurse for years.

The staffs of River Valley Counseling in Chicopee, MA, Petaluma People’s Service Center in Petaluma, CA, South Bay Mental Health in Attleboro MA, BHN in Springfield, MA and the staff of the Institute for Living in Hartford, CT ( at this age, I’m old enough to have worked at most of them) help clean up the messes life inflicts.

The Virginia Satir Global Network is, for me, the mother lode of all good things in family therapy and systems theory.

****** Arts and Artists**********

“Paint a pretty smile each day./loving is a blessing/never let it fade away/it’s all about love” — from “All About Love” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

“If I had a hammer/I’d hammer in the morning” — Pete Seeger

In the blog, I have featured/reviewed many an artist’s work.

MIchelle Beebs is one of the kindest people I know. She has an incredible ear for music. Both solo and with her band, the Money Makers, they are enlightened indiduals who kick butt as a tight-knit group with a groove.

Joan Osborne has a musical dexterity and a love of the world of roots music I admire. I have yet to pick up her new CD tribute to Bob Dylan, but I will.

Chapin, Chapin, Chapin…. The late Harry Chapin is one of my heroes. I have had the absolute pleasure to interview Jen Chapin, whom I admire in so many ways. The Chapin Family, The Chapin Sisters, Tom and Steve Chapin, the Jen Chapin Trio, Howie Fields, and Big John Wallace have all been positively reviewed here.

The Blues Brothers changed my life.

Larry Baker is a great author.

Ron Bottitta is involved with 99-seat theaters in L.A. And does good, provocative work with Rant and Rave out there.

Comic book and comic book movies show us the best in ourselves. The most recent one, Wonder Woman, is incredible.

TV show “Chuck” is a great show about kind people thrown into a very unkind world of danger.

This is the America I know, the beautiful human America. There isn’t a militarist or a corporation or Russian spies among them. They are just people with a belief in a just and kind world. And these are just the people I know or know of. No doubt, reader, you know people just like these. On this 4th of July, 2017 acknowledge and celebrate this beautiful America. Feel free to add organizations or people who also in the comments section. If any of it has typos or you’d rather not have it included, let me know that as well. 

Resisting with Peace,


The Will To Live: A Political Platform

I was listening to a podcast of “Morning Joe” this morning. It was from a few days ago and they were complaining about how the Democrats didn’t have a message but “You’re oppressed. These people did it” and they related it to “identity politics”. While I have my own misgivings/questions about “identity politics” , the idea that there’s no clear message that could unify the country is simply false, on a gut level. Gay rights, Black Lives Matter, the kids in Florida and gun rights, unions and their right to exist, the women’s march, income inequality and the tax cut, medicine, college, and so on…

What’s the common theme that binds all of these together? The will to live. Of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, it’s not Liberty (gun laws and the right to have guns) anymore. People think about the “pursuit of happiness “, regarding social issues, but something is wrong there: people in this day and age take it to mean “The pursuit of pleasure”. and one side of culture wars wants pleasure and convenience and the other side complains they do. So what’s left? Life — the will to have it, and maybe, just maybe, to have a good one. In the meantime, the great movements of the last few years boil down to the same thing: the ability to stay alive. This was brought home to me by one of my clients who has $90,000 in student debt — and I thought, “how does anybody live like this?”. My client has a full-time job.

In the same vein, my wife said to me the other day, “well, we have had health insurance for two years. That’s about the best we can say for now”. My wife and I both work, and work hard, and make good money, I think. Still, I wonder, “How does anybody live like this and send their kids to college, besides?” When I pay for my meds every month, I think, “If we can’t pay for this, I’ll die”…and I immediately think of my clients who are poor, or senior citizens, or children with illnesses. How can they afford their medicines? If they don’t get them, they, too, will die. None of us wants to die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Let me go down a list of movements and their causes:

Black Lives Matter — they don’t want to die if it’s preventable … and it clearly seems to be.

Parkland: Student Lives Matter — they don’t want to die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

The Women’s March and the MeToo movement: Women’s Lives Matter –they don’t want to die. Women’s Bodies Matter — they don’t want to die, either mentally or physically, if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Trump voters and poverty — The White Poor Matter — they don’t want to die of starvation if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

The Poor People’s Campaign — The Diverse Poor Matter. They don’t want to die, if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Occupy Wall Street– the majority of us matter — we shouldn’t have to die when 5 or 10 people have more resources than all all of the rest of us together do. We don’t want to die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Teachers in West Virginia are on strike, (Teachers Lives Matter) because they and their students can’t afford to live. Hey shouldn’t have to be poor while they’re making the world better… If it’s preventable … and it seems to be. While they are on strike, they feed the kids lunches to replace the ones they would be getting if they were in school. Hungry Students Lives Matter and they shouldn’t starve or die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

LGBTQ students and anti- bullying campaigns (Gay Kids Matter, Nerdy Kids Matter, Unpopular Kids Matter) None of them want to die (and, yes, it’s a genuine fear that they might) if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Our present government doesn’t seem to think anyone’s life matters, and frankly, we’re fed up. So there it is, the theme for any politician who wants to get elected: The Unifying Theme for any leader that wants to get elected– Democrat or Republican, I don’t care though I don’t hold out much hope from Republicans really. Look at the people you represent and say, “Your life matters. You don’t deserve to die if it’s preventableand it seems to be. Here’s how we’re going to fix it…”

If you can’t say that and mean it, get off the stage, get off the ballot. You’re wasting my time and you don’t deserve to be elected.

Resisting with Peace,


Play Review: “Raisin In The Sun”, Cabaret Theatre, Bridgeport, CT

My wife, who studied anthropology, told me that starving people reach this point where they no longer want to eat gruel, and now want a meal with spices or just flavored. This is a sign of health, because the person now believes that they will survive and they want more out of life.

“Raisin In The Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, as performed by the Bridgeport Cabaret Theatre, is the story of people who are starting to refuse to eat gruel. It is the story of a family, a culture, and individuals who will no longer settle for mere existence, who are experiencing the economic or civil version of “sick and tired of being sick and tired”.

The story features a mother/grandmother who grew up as a sharecropper (LaMarr Taylor as “Miss Lena”) , her two children (Walter and Beneatha, played by Jahi Kasssa Taharqa and MayTae Harge, respectively), Walter’s wife Ruth (played by Noelle Ginyard), and Walter and Ruth’s son, Travis (played that night by Abijola “Keeme” Tajudeen). They all live in a cramped Chicago slum together, and there is so little room in the apartment that Travis sleeps on the couch at night. Strolling through as a form of character development are George (Avery Owens) and Mr. Asagi, (played by Garth West) .

All of the family members are shaped by two other unseen characters: Lena’s late husband, who creates dreams at the beginning of the play, and a con man named Willie who could potentially take them away in the end (no spoiler here. You have to go to see the play).

For good or bad, as I watched, I tried to connect with each of these Black characters set in the late 50’s, early ’60’s characters as “familiar” or “not familiar” to me today about 50 years later. Whether that is pompous of me or not remains to be seen, but that’s where I went. Sadly, amazingly, I recognized all of these people, and their downsides, their struggles, and ultimately their faithful determination to see themselves as worthy human beings. Some I understood from the past, and some from the present. It is the contrast of the two which gives the play its meaning in this millennia. Still, all of it is about survival and the meaning of gruel.

I understood the hurt and anger that is Walter, with the world changing, and women’s growth passing him by, who believes he is supposed to be in charge, make the decisions, and have the respect of the family. I understand, but don’t respect, his anger, his drinking, his hanging out, all while dreaming of being more in the world of men, fighting the nearly unbeatable tide of racism out there, only to come home to women who are going somewhere. He wants to be given just a chance to get ahead, and have some worth. For him, not eating gruel anymore means having an easy life and being seen as respectable, just like the White men he sees. The White version of Walter is the formerly middle-class Trump voter .

I recognized the young boy who is born into the world, with no other expectations than the ones he sees, while his peers haven’t learned “the rules” yet, who hasn’t been scarred enough to be disillusioned yet. Young Travis is still innocent and playful, dreaming … yet wondering about a few things around him, protected by his parents to the best of their abilities. Travis has never eaten gruel and can’t yet imagine its existence at this point in his life. He will be the activist of the late 1960’s, the believer that tells his children “Black is beautiful”, and “[says] it loud, he’s Black and Proud!”. Middle aged at Obama’s inauguration, disappointed at the backlash, he is the one now blamed by society for dreaming too much, and thinking he deserved more than gruel, in the current climate.

I recognized women like Ruth, faced with changing culture that now offers a range of decisions, all of them requiring hard work and hard choices, which she is willing to do if men will let her. She is perhaps the strongest of anyone there, the one with little or no cheerleading to call her on, driven only by her internal drive, but gaining daily strength from it. As she overcomes the challenges, she gains experience of her wisdom which can’t be taken away with the “logic” of men and will prove unfathomably strong over time. She has heard stories of gruel, and knows it is not for her, yet has to prove this to others.

I recognized the soon-to-be Angela Davis that is Beneatha, who says “Hell, no, I won’t eat gruel!”, who believes her time has come, who has the intellect to prove it, but at this stage believes it will be easy to live the life she can picture in her mind. She can picture a life of equality under the law, less than no other person, White, Black, male, female, rich or poor, nappy-headed or straight-haired. Life will not be easy for her, if she survives at all. Despite what she believes in her college years, playing “We Shall Overcome” on the guitar won’t be enough. Still, if she makes it, she will become an icon in the feminist/Womanist movement and lay the groundwork for gender studies and the upcoming understanding of “more than binary” sexuality. White liberal women will idolize her, White men will respect her and fear her in equal measure.

Finally, I recognize Lena, the Matriarch of faith, who has eaten gruel, because her awakening was that she simply deserved to live. God told her that — when White society wouldn’t. She reminds me, financially, of my grandfather, who grew up in the Depression and always ate the last pea on his plate out of remembrance of times past. He ate liver or chipped-beef-on -toast or bread and milk for a meal because it was food. Lena and my grandfather shared that sense of having nothing, but my grandfather was told that of course he deserved to exist. He was White, Male, German, and Protestant. While God loved him, he didn’t need to be told because society told him that every day. Lena, on the other hand, would have needed to hear about her worth from something beyond this sphere. When she did, she never gave up. She, like my grandfather, never believed that money and self-worth were the same thing.

Beneatha’s two suitors are also recognizable as pathways to coping: George, as a “buppie” from the 1980’s who believed White culture and capitalism were right, as long he could “pass” for White. He is rich and educated, and does what he should. The Nigerian-born Asagi is the fantasy that gives pride to a nation in exile. He is dignified and gracious, wise and humble. He is regal in ways that George — An American — doesn’t even contemplate.

Which person does our society focus on? The one who never appears on stage — Willie, the con man — is our present culture’s icon for the Black man as represented by the White one. He is the image of opportunity being fed to America’s secular Blacks — the one for whom the lottery, the hustle, or selling drugs are the only opportunities for pride, and “making it”. He is the criminal we can arrest because “he’s only causing harm”. He is the symbol of “Black on Black crime” that Jeff Sessions wants to lock up, while claiming it’s about “safety” or “law and order”.

Which person really runs the American world right now? It’s the minor, and unsuspecting character, Karl Lindner, who offers the family a “legitimate” way to save the family (not like Willie offers) if they simply accept the rules. Of course, the rules are that Blacks are “those people” — yes, they are people, but they don’t belong with “us”. Lindner is at once the most hateful man in the play, and the most pleasant. If you ask him, he’s only doing his job, and making “everyone” happy. He doesn’t swear, he isn’t a criminal, he just “fills out the forms”. Lindner is the Faustian bargain offered to people with no hope — people of all colors, both Walter and the Trump voter (and the Latino gardener in California, or snow-plow driver in the Northeast).

But back to gruel: Gruel is simple sustenance, a step up for people withnothing, who have been told they are nothing. No one who has something, or believes they are something eats it willingly. Each of the characters in “Raisin in the Sun”, have begun to expect more from life, as they should — emotionally, financially, spiritually. They believe, on some level, what God believes — that they can be their best, fullest selves. Our current ruling class is determined to eat all of the “real food”. They believe that the only way they can “have it all” is to make sure others agree to have nothing, and accept gruel as a step up. They are willing to give the scraps from their lives so that we can exist on those. In doing so, they don’t have tofeel bad.

We who are not the ruling class must fight this with every fiber of our being, because our simply being is at stake. We must not believe that they are the only ones who deserve food, education, health, self-esteem, that they are the only ones who exist.

We must believe in ourselves and each other. We must treat each other as though we believe that we are somebody. We must see ourselves as God sees us, and trust in the vision of who we can be. Accepting gruel makes it impossible to become our best selves. The Youngers, in this play, show us ways to be beyond that, and the risks inherent in the choices we think we have. It is a great, yes, classic, play because of that.

The production in Bridgeport featured first class actors . As I waited to see Noel Ginyard after the show, each of the actors walked by and were recognizable vaguely as the people they portrayed, but I had to strain myself to actually see them as their characters — the sign of good acting being that the person, in their role, is as believable as the person off stage. They all were.

I would recommend it to all.




Sort of Not My Business — About Abortion

I am aware at this stage of my life that I will never have an abortion. At her age, I’m pretty certain my wife won’t either. As Congress considers limiting abortion to 20 weeks from conception, I thought I’d write about the topic,

Both my and my wife’s lack of experience are good starting points for discussion, but they are not the same starting point that others have, and I think that’s part of the problem. This is one of those things where I don’t get conservatives, who are all about fewer laws, except when it comes to sex. (Yes, sex, but also gender. I’m sure we don’t want women to have sex. I’m not so sure we don’t want women to be women.)

Anyway, I’m all for having fewer laws, I’m all for assuming people are “big people” and can make up their own minds about things. They can take responsibility for their own lives. The difference is that I think of women as people. When men — or women — make laws about what others are allowed to do with their own bodies, we have problems. I have never assumed that a woman’s body was mine to police, or mine to hurt.

So, there it is: what I believe. I’m pro-choice and I’m anti-hurt. Anytime a women gets hurt and a baby is the result of that hurt. The man who did the hurting has lost all right to say anything about the baby or its existence. Time’s up. Thanks for playing, now go directly to jail.

After that, whether a man and a woman want to terminate or keep a pregnancy is up to them. If there’s a question about the decision, the decision should go to the one doing the work: The woman. If the man wants to raise a child by a woman he loves (whether she does or not) that should be taken into consideration,but ultimately, since the baby is located in her, she should make the final call.

Ok. That’s what I believe, from my lack of experience. Take it for what it’s worth.

Here’s the tricky part. I know a whole lot of women who have had abortions, and have grieved it their whole lives. I have also known a few women who have had them and didn’t regret it, but those seem to be the minority, by far.

Having seen my wife be pregnant, and listening to her experience, I have absolutely no clue what it’s like to be pregnant, Women and their embryos — later children– are literally connected, or attached, in some way that I just don’t get. They feel things that I don’t (and vice-versa. They don’t understand having a teenage — or adult –erection).

Some of the things they feel are joy, sadness guilt, relief, loss, gain, helplessness, power, and all the other things they are capable of feeling. When they choose to have an abortion, they need to be aware of all of the possibilities of that, and live with their choices. I assume that they can because, well, they have to.

You will note that I haven’t said anything about the life of the baby. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know when it’s a baby, when it’s viable, a fetus, or a mass of cells. Again, it’s a woman’s experience of it that matters, because I don’t have any experience to draw from.

What I do know is that once a baby leaves the birth canal, no matter what, we as a society are responsible for it. It has always bothered me that the same people who say a woman should have the baby because it’s sacred refuse to give it the necessary food, clothing, and shelter it needs — as though it’s not sacred anymore. You can’t have it both ways, it seems to me.

Yes, I believe that all life is sacred. I just don’t know when it becomes a life. I also believe that because such a decision has so many effects on a woman’s life that the decision shouldn’t be made lightly… ever. Women are capable of making those decisions. They are capable of living with the consequences of those decisions, as well.

Resisting with Peace,



Questions For The Next Presidential Candidate

Skipping ahead to 2019, assuming we make it that far, and taking into account the lessons of the present administration, here’s what I think we should be asking:

1) Who do work for?

2) Have you read the Constitution?

3) Tell us why Democracy is a good idea…

4) How do you feel about the press?

5) Is there ever a good use of nuclear weapons?

6) Have you ever been called a liar?

7) Have you ever groped, harassed, or sexually assaulted another person?

8) Define the word “Americans”

9) Who will cabinet members work for?

10) Define “racism”. Are those behaviors you have engaged in?

11) Do women deserve equal pay for the same work?

12) How will you fix wealth disparity?

13) Do you agree with”Citizens United”? What can be done to fix it?

14) How will your Presidency reflect the diversity of modern America?

15) Is any citizen above the law?

16) Is the Department of Justice an independent agency?

17) Define the difference between “voter” and “citizen”. Will you work for both?

18) Explain for us the “separation of Church and State “.

19) What is your view of Global Climate Change? If you believe it exists, will you fix it?

20) Do you believe in public schools? How will you address any issues with them?

21) How will you pick your Cabinet?

22) Do you believe we can prevent mass shootings? If yes, How will you do that?

23) Why should we trust you?

24) Do you believe healthcare is a human right?

24) What do our children need? How will you help them get it?

25) How will you address hunger?

26) How will you address homelessness?

27) How will you address addiction?

28) Do you believe in mental health parity?

29) What do you think America’s role in the world should be?

Many of these used to be easy questions.…We can’t take their answers for granted anymore.


Puerto Rico and The U.S. : Us At Our Worst?

Puerto Ricans are human. That ought to be enough for us to help them after a natural disaster. People who live in the U.S. Virgin Islands, who I never hear about, are also human beings. They, too, deserve help if they need it. In addition to that, of course, they are our human beings. Is it better to neglect a child who doesn’t cry or one who does? Both are unconscionable if they are your family.

I say “child” not because the Puerto Rican people are “babies”, but because they are –for better or worse — dependents. We have a moral imperative to help them if they are equals, we have more than that if they are our dependents. We have still more ethical crisis if we made them dependent.

Before all of this, I knew nothing of Puerto Rican history, but a fair amount Puerto Rico today from clients over the last 10 years. As I understood it, Puerto Rico is loved by people who live there. I gather it was busy, teeming with life, but often hard to make a living in. People come to Massachusetts because there is work and education on the mainland, but they frequently travelled back home to see relatives. They are proud of both lives. There are long, white beaches there.and houses with tin roofs and crime and gangs.

Among White people here, there is a legend that there is a sign at the San Juan airport that says, “Fly to Holyoke, Mass. They give out the most in Welfare payments” (“I seen it!” Or “My cousin’s uncle saw it once!” is always added, just to make sure you believe it). I have heard that story hundreds of times in my life, but, amazingly, never from my Puerto Rican clients. I tend to trust experience over “knowledge”, so I’m going to guess that there isn’t really a sign there… I say this, because I bet Donald Trump has heard this story all of his life as well, probably replacing “Holyoke” with the words “New York City”.

Prior to the hurricane last year, the above was all I knew about the island off our shores. That, and I knew there was a controversy over statehood vs. independence, but I didn’t know much about why.

Since the hurricane, I have learned that many people don’t think of Puerto Rico as American because of that messy status of “not really a colony but not really a state”. I have also learned that there is an arcane shipping rule that makes it difficult to get aid or other things shipped there. Regarding tax policy, we once made it almost tax free for corporations to move there, and that Big Pharma did. When that tax break was removed, many of the businesses immediately left at the prospect of having to pay any taxes to be there. They used the resources of the labor but gave little or nothing to the country/state (though, to be fair, I bet Puerto Ricans pay income taxes to the island, so it wasn’t totally unfair to the island). To make matters worse, when the money dried up, big banks restructured their loans to make it nearly impossible for the government there to get out of debt. This is colonialism at its worst.

We say we own them, we mess with their laws, and our own, to bankrupt their economy, and once that’s in place, we claim no responsibility for them until they can pay their debt. We told them they are dependent on us, we made them dependent on us, and now when they want us to be dependable, we refuse. This is a chapter in U.S. history to be ashamed of. The country of Puerto Rico would have been better off if we had never claimed them in the first place.

So, months after a natural disaster hit the island, 1/3 of the Place still has no power, and our government blames it on them. Then there was a scandal about who we gave a contract to fix things. (Yes, we tried to screw them once again — when they were down). Their debt is more important to our government than the lives of their people. This is unconscionable. This is not how we are supposed to treat human beings!

Let us live up to our responsibilities. Let us live up to the morals that allow us to believe we’re a Christian Nation. At least two churches, the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches,USA have made long-term commitments to be their with them, and bring aid. That’s the difference between a moral view rather than an economic view. We need, as a country, to fix this whole mess, and I hope we will. In the meantime, though, people die and get illnesses that will read havoc there. If ever there was a way to make gangs powerful, this is the way to do it. We raise crime, while ending lives, through our actions. This must change!

Resisting with Peace,


A special shout-out to Bruce MacCullagh for reminding me of this moral crisis.


Liberal Clergy: It’s Good We Are Here

I’m sitting here on Christmas Eve trying to get all jazzed for Service tonight, and Christmas tomorrow and I keep thinking about President Trump and the current set of Republicans in Congress and all the damage to God’s world and God’s people that they have done. I’m thinking, “If it’s hard for me to get past, and I’m clergy, it’s got to be a killer for those who aren’t”. Those with no faith, a faith that hates them, or discourages them from becoming their best self, it’s got to be worse.

We have let a fox into the henhouse and he/they are making a real mess of things, destroying the hope symbolized by the eggs that are lying around. The administration seems bent on hiring people who either hate the organization they run or are incompetent to run it. Every day brings a new choice between neglect and abuse of our people and the people around the world — all of whom God created.

Into this we walk, as we always have– seeing the people that Trump would rather we forget — the immigrant, the poor, the female, the intelligent, Black people, Puerto Rican people, South and North Korean people, the mentally ill, the physically ill, Palestinians, Muslims, the elderly and children. Did I miss anyone? They’ll be “up” tomorrow.

I’m pretty sure the male, the super-rich, and the fascists have a government that takes care of them. Everybody else will look to us. OK, they will look to God for relief, as they always have. But the gates to God will seem to be blocked by the Religious Right. That’s where we come in. After years of caring more about who people sleep with than they get to sleep at all, the Religious Right has shown its stripes. When they sign up with the Nazis and the swindlers, the corporate masquerading as the Just, they point the way to very different Jesus than the times call for… the same Jesus the times have always called for. That Jesus — the One with compassion, the One who redeems instead of remaining angry, the One who seeks mercy, not sacrifice — that Jesus is ours. As a therapist, I feel the same way that I do as clergy: I will never run out of work. Even if I like my job, I’d rather be out of business. If I ever doubted my job security, Mr. Trump and his cohort have certainly given me that.

It’s not that we’re better people at our core than the Right, but I’m more likely to trust a Right-Wing congregant than a massive-church-with-a-TV-ministry that always needs money. For all of our lack of Pronounced Piety, we never lack for pronounced (or, better yet, unseen) compassion.

The little baby from out-of-town, his unwed mother, and their father who “lets” them live in a barn don’t stand a chance in Trump’s world. Neither will the homeless preacher who dares heal anyone without asking to be paid for it. Since God has the final word on the itinerant preacher, it’s up to us to protect the baby and it’s family. It helps that we would be looking amongst the dregs Caesar wouldn’t even contemplate living with.

So, once again, we have have what the world needs. There are those who will argue about Jesus’ call to charity vs. Jesus’ call to justice. The Jesus that the Left knows is — and should be — both. Martin Luther King is our kind of radical. St. Francis and Audre Lorde are too, just like the little old lady that shows kindness in a soup kitchen.

There will — and in some places, there already are — a lot of people who will need help simply to exist under this government. It’s good that we are here. But because of that we need to take care of ourselves, empower others, and develop long-term strategies for coping– including prayer, exercise and spending time in nature — after we take care of the immediate needs of people our government doesn’t think should exist, or — if they do — should have no rights.

Lots of people will come to our God if things don’t change soon. We need to be ready to let them into the waiting room until the Cosmic Physician can get to them. It’s a good thing we’re here.




Al Franken Takes One For The Human Team…

I listen to two podcasts most days as I drive to and from work: last night’s Rachel Maddow for about an hour and that morning’s Morning Joe. This amounts to an hour and a half to two hours of news. Yes, Maddow is biased, but she’s intelligent, thorough, non-sensationalist, and everything I would hope for in a journalist. Morning Joe is a relatively balanced hour with a round-robin of guests and is also in-depth. I also watch CBS This Morning if I have to get up. On all of these programs, it’s been hard to watch as apparently good people lose their careers because, well, they were bad people in some part of their lives regarding sexual abuse, assault, or harassment.

Today, Morning Joe was heartbreaking, as Mika Breshinzki with two or three other women, talked about the resignation of Al Franken from the Senate after 7 or 8 women made complaints about him. The women on the panel, especially Breshinzki, were trying to cope with the loss of a senator who had crafted pro-women’s rights bill, while they were also choosing to believe the women involved. There were the questions and talk about due process, the need for The Moment in our history, and the larger question: is Franken a good man or bad person? How do you hold both of those pictures in your heart with any sense of integrity? It seems impossible, especially when you realize that the word “integrity” has the same root as “integer” — a whole number 1. In other words, to have integrity is to be of one whole mind about something. How can you have 1 mind about opposites? Bill Clinton compartmentalized, but Franken couldn’t as part of his personality/style.

The Morning Joe team played a lengthy segment of Franken’s resignation speech, which I had not been able to find anywhere. Franken’s voice shook throughout the speech as he laid out his contentions: 1) As a Senator, he had done work that supported women; 2) that he had a different understanding of events than his accusers and yes, someone was lying, though he didn’t say who, because it wasn’t relevant; 3) That he was willing to sit through an investigation to see what his colleagues thought of his actions; 4) He didn’t want to step down but …5) he worked for the people of Minnesota, and it was impossible under these conditions to do that well. Furthermore, and this is key to his testimony : “no woman should be afraid to speak out again”. The time has come to represent their interests, even if it wasn’t in his interest.

Also, of course, he noted the irony of his being asked to leave, while a President recorded bragging about sexual assault and an accused pedophile were either in power or being supported by the RNC.

Ok. What’s the take away from this? Did he do these things or not? Is he a good man or not? Should he still be in his job or should he be fired by an ethics committee? How does this work? What do we do now? What is the difference between Franken, Moore, and the President? Are they individuals with a gradient or is this proof of their sameness as men in power? Put another way, is Al Franken just as bad as Roy Moire and Donald Trump if they all did basically the same thing, or at least variations on a common theme?

Let me suggest that we already know the answer, and the answer is no… because it could be yes. Al Franken is a better person than the other two not based on his actions, good or bad. We will never know if Franken is a predator or not. Only his accusers, he, and God know what the truth really is. That part is indisputable. .We know that Moore doesn’t really deny his actions, and that Trump bragged about it.

What proves that Al Franken is a good (or better) man is that he did less wrong, took more responsibility and more loss for it. Franken sees that there are causes that are bigger than his life or his career, or just plain him. Franken was — regardless of the reality of the situation, — which, again , we will never know — willing to sacrifice a large part of his life to say that his accusers deserve respect, and that women in general do, as well.

Roy Moore can claim his Christianity all he wants. Franken acted like a Christian in his response to all of this. In fact, this is the essential irony of Christianity — that good people are willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause bigger than them. They refuse to do further harm in the world.

I don’t want to stretch the metaphor any further, but the way some women felt at the loss of Franken — respected by everyone for his work — multiplied by 100 is the way the disciples felt watching Jesus die on the cross. The difference, of course, is that we believe Jesus was sin free, and hadn’t hurt anyone, but to the extent that it fits, Franken’s resignation allows for healing in ways that Trump and Moore’s denials will never do.

A few spare thoughts: 1) Why has no one asked Roy Moore’s wife why she is standing by her man, like they did Hillary Clinton about Bill? 2) I don’t believe this is a Democrat/Republican issue. John Conyers has his own issues. His resignation, however, is shows more of a conscience than Moore or Trump have proven to yet have.

None of this should be construed to say I disbelieve the woman accusers of Franken, though — truth be told — I believe the first one (the Republican Trump supporter) more than I believe the last one (a Democrat, I believe). That’s just a vibe though,

FINAL THOUGHTS: At some point, we’re going to have sort all of this out. Maybe Congress have what we in the UCC — often a Committee on Ministry will ask a person to complete a “program of growth” : therapy, etc, before they can be at full standing after misconduct. The first step in determining what justice looks like is being able to differentiate between actions, and to determine if a person is sorry for what they have done, and want to change (actual repentance, not cheap grace). Even as I type this, I can hear the question ” but what if a person didn’t do it. There’s nothing to repent for“. Without proof, we have witch hunts. In the cases of all the men here, I believe that they all did something. Others will not have.

In any case, my point here is the humble, the contrite, and the people who grow from their bad actions are better than those who don’t. The irony is, of course, that only those with enough conscience to admit mistakes will be prosecuted. The good ones are the bad ones with enough conscience to know it. Al Franken is a good one.

Resisting with Peace,