Simple Rules For Living? 

Every once in a while, I come across a person who is just too far gone in their life view.

By that, I mean they don’t care anymore. Years ago, I saw a family and the mother was screaming and the daughter was crying, while everyone else just kind of sat there, not knowing what to say. The mom kept bellowing until I stopped her. When I stopped her by saying, “Didn’t you see your daughter was hurting?”, the mother said, “How would I know that?”. I replied, “Um… because she’s crying?”. The mom was silent. 

It amazes me sometimes how simple this stuff is. It also amazes me how lost and off the mark people can get to be. Honestly, a lot of ethics are easy. Let’s try these things and see how much better the world is. Then, what’s left we can get to work on, but simple stuff first.

1) If a person is crying, and it’s because of something you are doing, stop doing that thing. Think “Does this really help?” .

2) If a person says, “You’re hurting me”, stop what you’re doing.

3) If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to someone else, no matter how much you think it makes sense. (You may have heard this one before…)

4) If it’s not yours, leave it alone.

5) Don’t talk about something you can’t possibly know about — most notably someone else’s experience. Instead, listen to their experience. Ask questions, check out your conjecture with the other person. 

6) Don’t make a “means” an end in itself. Money is a tool, not a goal. Once you have enough, you have enough. 

7) Don’t lie to people. It confuses everything. 

8) Don’t take advantage of someone, even if you can.

9) When appropriate, take “no” for an answer. 

10) When an idea keeps chasing you, chase it.

11) When you die, whatever you die of, can be a cause to fight against for those left behind.

If ICE agents lived by this, there’d be fewer deportations… “Hands up, don’t shoot” wouldn’t be a thing…. People could afford to live and get things they need. People wouldn’t make unjust laws that hurt others. People could trust each other. Domestic violence would stop. Rape would not happen. We wouldn’t have as many wars. The “isms” would decrease. People could make meaning and find purpose in their lives. Things could get better as we found cures for things.

If you can’t do things on this list, back off. Figure out what’s going on — away from people. When you’ve figured out why you can’t stop hurting others, change. Rest. Eat. See a therapist. Talk to a priest. When you can be with people, apologize to people you’ve hurt, continue to do things differently, then go on with your life in community, if they’ll have you.  

If we did this, most of the time, life would be manageable.  When it takes more than this, we’d have more energy to cope because we wouldn’t be so perplexed, so overwhelmed, so angry all the time. 

Oh, and sharing is a good idea when you can.

Just some random thoughts to consider. 
Resisting with peace, 

John

We Have Tried and Maybe Succeeded: The UCC and Sexually Abusive Clergy

Today, the Pope apologized publically and asked forgiveness from those who were sexually abused by priests. Previous Popes wouldn’t have done this, I think, and I wouldn’t have believed them if they did. This Pope I believe, a number of reasons. Overall, he has a good track record on issues, he has condemned the actions of those priests and higher-ups who abused their power in the past and — most of all — he’s made changes in the way things are done to prevent it from happening in the future. 

As my teacher from seminary, Carole Fontaine taught, the Hebrew word for forgiveness is “shoov” which means “turn around”, “go back” and it’s more than just asking God for forgiveness. It’s about doing different things. It’s grace,  but not “cheap grace”. So the Pope and the Catholic Church did the asking the right way

In the Protestant denominations, most churches have addressed THE  issue of the 1990s in much the same way. In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, we got rid of pastors who abused parishioners or had them complete a “process of growth” before they were allowed to get near a pulpit. Then, after that, we established “safe church” policies to make sure kids weren’t alone with one adult, that there were ways to report issues, and so forth. The overall denomination certainly has policies to deal with the issue, but each church is supposed to come up with their own, so that it fits that particular situation. The important thing to know here is that we know how to keep children and others safe.  If your church doesn’t have a written “safe church ” policy in place, either don’t go there or make sure they get one in place and follow it.  Adults and children should never, ever have to worry about their safety in a house of God. 

The church is supposed to be a sanctuary from evil, not a haven for it. Here’s what we know in the UCC: No pastor is ever to have sexual contact with a parishioner, staff member, or person they are in charge of.  If there are two consenting adults, there might be ways to deal with it professionally, but the general rule, the starting point for the conversation is no. If your pastor makes a pass at you, or does anything that makes you feel  uncomfortable, it is wrong. They know that. It is on them, then, if such contact happens. Ask them/tell them to stop. If it doesn’t, get out of the situation , then tell someone until something changes. Until something is being done  differently, you are not safe. If nothing changes, nothing changes. 

I tell you this because I know there are people out there who don’t go to church because of abuse of harassment in the past. You should know that we (or most of us, anyway) have done something differently. We have attempted to fix the situation. It’s safe to come home now, safe to be with God. 

Is it perfectly safe? Probably not 100% perfect. There are still corrupt, sneaky individuals, and systems out there that let them get away with it, I suspect. You don’t have to be with them. If you’re clergy, you don’t have to be them. If you can’t control yourself, get out of the situation before it gets worse and fix yourself before you hurt somebody’s soul and faith. Therapists, same thing, by the way, only there it’s “psyche” and “mind” you’re damaging.

If this has happened to you, reader, in the past, know that you didn’t do anything wrong. You are not at fault. God isn’t mad at you, not even close!  I wouldn’t want to be the person who has abused parishioners and didn’t deal with it, didn’t change, didn’t care to do something, when judgement day happens. If it happened in the past, and that person is still out there, call the denomination. Tell your current clergy person, or another clergy person. We supposedly have done as much as we can.  If we haven’t go someplace where they will. As Jesus says, “Come, you who are weary and overburdened. I will give you rest”.

As The Clash used to say, “These are your rights! Know your rights! ” 

Resisting and hoping to bring you… peace,
Johm

There Is No Justice. We Must Be Justice.

As Elizabeth Warren read Corretta Scott King’s letter about Jeff Sessions outside the Senate Chambers, there’s a brief moment when her voice catches, and it becomes apparent that she is heartbroken that it’s come to this. 
This morning, my friend Ron posted an article by Hannah Arendt on the banality of evil in Nazi Germany. In it, people have become part of the machine, and simply follow along, administrators and such, grinding up the fabric of people’s rights and lives.

For the last two years or so, I have watched time and time again as it became apparent that African-Americans and Caucasian Americans have different laws, different rights, different abilities to be counted, different punishments, none of which empower Black folks and all of which empower Whites. I had wanted to write to Warren, whom I respect, to ask if she really believed there was “equal justice under the law”, because I can see many holes in that theory.

I get no joy out of saying ” I told you so”, but we saw this coming, America. I want to believe that our government will still seek justice, but I can not anymore, because I do not. I want there to be one America, but the political will of the people in the administration is not that. Their will, their methods, their lies are all designed to break down the unity that this country’s people seek. Witness the women’s march and the protests of the travel ban. Americans, by and large, want to be united having seen how bad things could get, and how quickly. The administration wants White Men to rule the land, and they want no opposition. While I don’t believe that all Republicans support the President, they are supporting him, thinking they will get benefits from his power grab. Legitimate power doesn’t need a power grab. It doesn’t need silence. It doesn’t need any thing more than fairness and kindness to win hearts and minds.

We haven’t, for years now, understood the concept of “winning hearts and minds”. Good arguments, based in real facts, and good actions, are the way that legitimate power is gained. If you force someone to believe you, it’s not real belief

In Luke 13:34-35, Jesus is distraught. He says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate” That’s how many of us feel about America today.
So, here’s the thing… Do not expect justice from this administration. Do not assume that good people aren’t labeled “criminals” and that people in charge are legitimate authority and therefore anything they do must be “all right”. Look for yourself. Does whatever you are doing hurt people? Would you want it done to you? Will it make life better for some and not for others? Forget what others say it means. What do you see? Every single day, about every single action, ask these questions. Do nothing without thought or emotions. Yes, it will slow you down, but don’t be in a rush to get anywhere haters want to go. Don’t be passive about anywhere haters want to go, either. 

There is no justice. We must  be justice. By “justice “, I don’t mean revenge, I don’t mean hatred. I don’t mean violence. “If you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell you brother or sister is you’ll have to wait”. We must be , think, and act like the merciful. We must look to repair, not divide. We need to give equal rights to all of humanity, simply because they are human beings. We must treat people with the  dignity that they have been endowed by their creator. 

And here’s the hard part, at least for me: we must interrupt injustice where we see it. When we see someone beaten, or silenced, or facing absurd consequences for doing nothing wrong, we have to get in the way of that. We must be the mother hen that Jesus spoke of being, for all people. For Christians, whom I can speak to, this means seeking first the Kingdom (realm) of God before anything else. For everyone else, it simply means doing what you know is right. I’ll leave it up to you what that is. I frequently tell clients, “If you’re going to be in trouble no matter what you do, do the thing that makes sense to you”. 

Where there is no justice, we’re all in trouble. Specifically because it feels like we have no choices, all bets are off. We have choices. Let us make just, fair, peaceful, joyous, loving ones.

Resisting with peace,
John

Civics Lessons…

Betsy Devos just got confirmed. For the first time in American history, the Vice President had to vote in order for that to happen. Other than the Devos family (I assume) and the President, I don’t know of anyone that’s happy about it. America has gotten what it voted for when it elected Donald Trump and a whole bunch of Republicans. 

Democrats lost this election. I don’t even pretend to know why, though I have some ideas:

1) White men didn’t forget that they still have some power in America’s system. 

2) The Dems put up a candidate no one was really thrilled with. 

3) The American people “done had enough” and wanted something different. Republicans picked their “something different”. Democrats didn’t. 

4) It was a full moon on Election Day and the hellmouth opened under Sunnyvale.

The point is this: Though nobody could have imagined this cabinet, we got what we voted for. This is the way it works. 

What does it mean?  It means we have to stay awake, use our power when it does the most good,  get in there and play the game. For those of you who think or thought we had to wait for 4 years to fix this–No. Midterm elections happen in less than two years. We have to organize, we have to put aside our divisions, we have to win states, we have to fight for democracy at every turn. 

Teachers Unions, you have to fight for our kids. We have to support you. We have to take over school boards. We have to defy when our kids will suffer. Instead of telling Trump to read the Constitution, we need to read the Constitution and turn over every rock in it to find an advantage. Then we need to use it. Furthermore, we need to make them use it, at every turn. We have to use anything and everything at our disposal.

Insisting on Truth — aka Facts — is already starting to work. Using as many branches of government as we can is starting to work. Our government, with all of its complexities reminds me of the safeguards at 3 Mile Island — five or six deep. Make no mistake, some of the damage will be done. It just will, with this many problems to protect against. That doesn’t mean the safeguards aren’t there, and shouldn’t be used. We have to use everything at our disposal, but we can and we will, because we have to.

Resisting with peace,

John

The War On The Press

For years, FOX News has had an escalating feud with the “liberal establishment” that begins “The War On (fill in the blank)…”  Most notably, “The War On Christmas” where everybody is “forced” to say “happy holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!”. Hyperbole being what it is, nobody put a gun to my head and made me say anything, the Constitution doesn’t deal with “big” issues like Christmas, and Santa  (a particularly Christian/Capitalist icon) is still king at that time of year. Freedom of Christmas-calling is saved once again.

Now, though, we have the real deal — a war on a Constitutional right at the heart of democracy — a war on Freedom of the Press.   To tone down my own hyperbole, no one’s fired a literal shot at a reporter to my knowledge, but freedom of the press is a bigger issue than political correctness ever was.

Our current President, two of his biggest surrogates– Kelly Ann Conway and Sean Spicer, and a member of his staff Steve Bannon — have all made statements to the effect that the Press should shut up, the Press lies, “the Press is the opposition party” and so on. This must stop.

First off, let’s be clear. “The Press” is not the administration’s issue. Opposition is. FOX News is the Press, Breitbart is the Press, just as much as NBC, ABC, and CBS are. A good Press tells stories. Yes, there is a bias because human beings bring bias to all creative endeavors like storytelling. Good Reporters back those stories up with facts. 

We may not like those facts, or those stories, but there they are. The truth is the truth. It’s our job to feel what we feel about it, think what we think about it, cope with it, and make decisions based on it. When facts — reality– are in opposition to a person’s views, the person has the problem, not the facts. I don’t always want to hear the truth. Nobody does. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said. For something more important than me — empowered leaders — to not want to hear the facts is an exceptionally bad idea. It nearly guarantees bad decisions. 

When the President says “fake news” and it sounds like “la la la, I can’t hear you!” That’s a problem. For actual fake news (the story of MLK’s statue being removed, for instance) , he of course can — and should– hold the reporter responsible.in fact, the reporter shouldn’t have posted it in the first place, and maybe no retraction is good enough for printed lies. But holding the press to higher standards is very different than allowing no Press at all. We all should do that. 

For democracy and debate to happen, we need a functioning Press. Take that away and we lose the very heart of democracy.  A good Press is not “the opposition party”. It is the party. Let’s never forget that.

Resisting with peace,
John

Truth

1) Being shot is the problem. Complaining about it is not.
2) Racism is the problem. Complaining about it is not.
3) Poor people aren’t taking our money. Rich people are.
4) Climate change is a problem. Proving there is, is not the problem. 
5) Facts are not the problem. Denying them is.
6) Women wanting health care is not a problem. Women not getting health care is.
7) People having rights due them is not the problem. People trying to take them away is.
Resisting With Peace,

John

Hidden Figures and Bathroom Breaks: The Co-Operation Imperative (for MLK Day)

Tomorrow is the official celebration of Martin Luther King Day and my wife, daughter, and I went to see “Hidden Figures”, the movie that details the story of 3 women — a mathematician, an engineer, and a supervisor for NASA who suffered the double indignities of being Black and female in 1961.

The movie is profoundly satisfying in trying to explain the days when all life was in black-and-white and computers were the size of a building to my children. These were the days when things were hard, but we had hope for new things to break through, rather than days when things are easy and we don’t. My children can’t conceive of those days and I don’t want them to at first glance. I don’t want to even give them the idea that women are only supposed to get coffee for the men or that Blacks and Whites should be separated.  At the same time, I want them to have some perspective and feel grateful for what they have, so they can guard against losing it in 2017.

Of course, though, my children can and do teach me things as well  — mostly about groups I didn’t even know existed. Thoughts about these people came up in 2017 as I watched the movie about 1961. The main heroine (if it’s possible to say that) is the mathematician, Katherine Johnson, who spends great portions of the movie running from building to building (1/2 a mile!) to use the “colored women’s” bathroom. She does this throughout the movie and manages to keep her job by keeping up with her white colleagues.

According to the movie, she’s out of the office 40 minutes per day just going to the bathroom. She not only has to travel that far to use the restroom, she and the other “colored calculators” have to have lunch in a different room, and work in a different room away from work. Here’s the thing that seems so simple (and stupid) now: we could have gotten into space faster, and possibly safer, if women like Kathrine didn’t have to go that distance and lose their concentration, data, or minds. As she ran through the rain in scene after scene carrying her data in big blue folders, I can easily imagine someone stopping her because she “shouldn’t have classified information”. “Clearly”, she had no use for it, according to the logic of the times.

There is a woman engineer who could have been in place months earlier, but there was no place for her to go to school. There is a woman supervisor who could have gotten the IBM computers moving faster if they had simply given her access. When Katherine’s supervisor (played by Kevin Costner) says that he can’t figure out why the Russians got to space sooner than we did,  I wanted to scream at the screen, “it’s because you don’t want all your potential resources! And they’re right in front of you!”.

With simple kindnesses like access to a bathroom, access to a desk, access to machines, we can progress the American dream at incredible speeds. The other option — the one we have chosen — is that we can say “no” to complex solutions by saying “no” to simple kindness and co-operation. Then, when we can’t figure out why things don’t work ala Costner’s character, we’ll be stumped and helpless.

Now here’s the generational piece: I could give a rat’s behind about bathrooms. They are the least of my worries, as are the rights of transgender people. I would have thought that a group who is probably 1/10th of 1% of the population had nothing to do with me — and I would be wrong. Worrying about bathroom privileges for anybody wasn’t anywhere near the bottom of my list of concerns. So here was a cause I didn’t care about in the slightest and a group of people who never entered my mind. Last year, when the issue of which bathrooms transgender people could use became an issue in North Carolina, I thought I didn’t have time to deal with it. There were bigger fish to fry.

Just last month, a man I knew from Deering (a Christian camp that was used by my denomination) died. His name was Dave and he had a great sense of humor. At some point, “Dave” became “Davina Del Mar” and, though I don’t know any of the details, he was clearly transgender. The idea that that man — or anyone — might have to run around trying to find a bathroom he could use is absurd to me. The idea that he could have been beaten up over this issue is stupid and nuts in ways that I can’t even comprehend. To my knowledge, it didn’t happen to Dave/Davina, but that someone went out of their way to make it possible is just evil.

Simple kindness in life — especially regarding diversity issues  –is the only thing required to make a difference in the world. Aren’t we wiser, and better, in so many ways, to exercise such kindness? Keeping people out of anything just because we can’t conceive of them being there is ridiculous if we want our society to solve its challenges.

There are women who can’t be priests or ministers simply because they’re women, so the church struggles. There are retailers in America who can’t find employees just because they won’t allow transgender people a place to go to the bathroom. Every time a Black child is shot simply because they’re Black means that all that potential goes to waste. Who knows which of those children could have cured cancer or AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis? Every time we don’t give poor children access to schoolbooks that are up to date, or computers that function, we lose their talents — or stall them longer than we need to. How hard is to understand that investing in others is investing in ourselves?

How hard is it to let someone go to the bathroom, or let them in a building, or try them out at a job? Honestly, these are simple things. I swear they are. At the very least, don’t make it harder for people to be of use to society. Further, don’t make it harder for good people to help. John Glenn — a White man — went out of his way to treat the Black women in this movie as equals. There were people then, and now, who can’t conceive of that possibility. They deprive us of creative solutions to complex problems as well.

We have choices. We can be kind and open to people’s gifts or we can sabotage and penalize their gifts just because of who they are. As the woman engineer in the movie says “I can’t change the color of my skin”. Neither can people change their gender, genitalia, who they love, place they were born, eye color, height, or any other category.

Love wins when kindness does. Hate always loses in the long run, because it is self-defeating. Martin Luther King understood this, and he convinced others of it. On MLK Day in 2017, let us all hear his wisdom. Let us make kindness our goal.

Resisting with Peace,

John