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.

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“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,
John



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Really?! How Hard Is This?!

I walk down the street, I drive in my car, I go to work and I never, ever accuse a Black person of swimming in a pool, or of breaking into a house, or of raping a member of my family, or robbing a bank. It doesn’t seem that hard to me.

There are a bunch of reasons for this:

1) Swimming in a pool isn’t illegal.

2) There are no laws against being Black

3) No one (of any color) has raped a member of my family that I know of.  If they have or had, their color of their skin is not the important thing. The fact that they were assaulted is.

4) I’ve never seen a bank robbery in real life. Again, if I’m at a bank robbery, the color of the person with the gun is the least of my concerns.  Being dead, losing money — those things would be concerns.

The same goes for brown, yellow, or red skinned-people. The same goes for people of different sexual orientations, different genders, different states of mind, and physical abilities. I don’t get why this is hard for people!

This in no way is to suggest I’m a saint. I have stupid thoughts on occasion, but I keep them to myself! Just as there are guys who “can’t keep it in their pants”, it seems like there are more and more people who just can’t keep their idiocy in their own minds. In addition to thinking racist,sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist things, they now feel free to say them. Furthermore, they now seem to be lining up to act on those thoughts. Really?! Is it that hard?!

People are allowed by law to walk down the same streets, swim in the same pool, shop in the same stores, go to the same schools, cook the same food, lead the same lives as you do! If they’re not doing anything wrong, leave them the hell alone! If they’re minding their own business, mind yours!

I try to tell people all the time that the person with the problem needs to learn to cope or learn another way to cope. If it bothers you that Black people exist, go somewhere where they don’t! If you don’t like people using the public pool that they have a right to be in, go to another pool! If you don’t like people shopping in “your” store, shop somewhere else. You’ve got the problem. If you don’t like gay people, don’t go to gay bars to harass them. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one! (By the way, if you don’t like White people, don’t go where they go just to pick a fight. Go because you belong there. If you don’t like heterosexuals, for whatever reasons, don’t hang out with them. If you don’t like people of a certain religion, don’t do business with them, certainly don’t go to their Place of Worship and harass them.) Honestly, have some boundaries, people! Get lives of your own, instead of worrying about what other people are doing! Just stop.

That said, the whole generalizing thing is just a bad idea. If you worry about Muslim terrorists, but you’re on a bus with a friend of Timothy McVeigh, you’re worried about the wrong people! If you think Black folks with guns are scarier than White folks with one, you’re wasting your anxiety on frivolous things. If you’re worried about 200 members of MS-13, and you take it out on children, or asylum seekers, or even just Mexicans, you’re beating up the wrong people! And in your misdirected anger or fear, you’re wasting money, time, and, most of all, people’s lives (including your own!)

Solve actual problems, not made up ones! If you can’t do that, you are the one with the problem, as will as the one who is the problem. Figure it out people! Really, it’s not that hard!

(Did I get some of this wrong? Probably. It’s a rant. If it hurts you, tell me and I’ll apologize. Or correct me. I’m cool with that, at least for awhile. Then let me think about it.)

Resisting with Peace,

John

Peace,

What They’re Going To Find and What We’re Going To Find…

As the Mueller investigation gets deeper and deeper, from what I read, this is what they will find:

There is a whole bunch of people who have most of the world’s wealth and they got it through illicit means. Not everyone who has wealth is evil, but those who are evil continue to chase money. Some of these people believe that they are the best people and that they bring dignity to countries by living within them (Fascists) Others in this group are just thugs who want legitimacy (criminals — money launderers, sex traffickers, arms dealers and others who hide in the shade and prey upon society.

This bunch of criminals knew where the money was kept, where the bodies were buried, what the dirty secrets were in government officials’ lives. They solidified power by getting into seats of power and changing the rules, so that they would make even more money and divide it up among fewer and fewer people.

They know where the tax shelters are offshore in places like the Caymen Islands, the Seychelles, maybe Switzerland. They created tax shelters for themselves in Congress. There is no end to their greed.

The NRA, the supposedly “most American” organization ever, was infiltrated by the Russians years ago. It’s leaders are leading the charge to break up America by turning Americans against each other. This is not why the NRA was started, and what we are seeing is the “regular folks’ NRA which hunts for sport vs. the new NRA leadership, which wants violence.

These same people make money off of privatized prisons and control the stock market (s). If they can ratchet up the stress on people by making them work more and more and paying them less and less under the guise of capitalism, which we’re told is the ultimate good, then people will start shooting each other. When people shoot each other, they go to a private prison, and the group in power makes even more money, which is spread out among fewer and fewer people.

Manafort lived in this world. So do the Koch brothers. So does the Saudi Royal Family. And, yes, so does Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner. Also, Rudolph Guilianni, parts of the FBI, Putin, and Netanyahu. Erik Prince and Betsy DeVos and their family for generations. Michael Cohen is sort of a bagman for the American contingent.

All of these people made a major push recently to achieve their dreams when Donald Trump got elected.

When all of this comes out, what we’re going to find is that:

1) We don’t like families being torn apart.

2) People do better when they eat, and sleep and rest and spend time with their families

3) People do better when they’re medical needs are met.

4) Better decisions are made when we use facts. Science works.

5) The ice caps are melting, and we’d better do something about it soon.

Once the money is found and put to good use on the things above, there will be less stress in the world, and we will find we like each other, that we’re so very much the same and there is more of “us” than there are of “them” around the globe.

After that, we have a lot of work to do, and we will, hopefully, do it.

Resisting in Peace,

John

Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave O’er The Land of the Free? Or the Home of the Brave?

Fourth of July has always been strange, but good. Unlike Memorial Day or Veterans Day, which celebrate war and the need to make veterans, the Fourth celebrates an idea. It represents freedom or the attempt at freedom, and a new outlook on the way things should be.

No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was a first try at overthrowing Empire. No slaves weren’t freed, but a few people thought suddenly that they should be, and ultimately they would be. Yes, all men were considered equal. But the idea of freedom, once seen and experienced, cannot be undone. The idea lays dormant until there’s a chance for it — and us — to sprout again.

As surely as Princess Leia had an “only hope”, people who have experienced freedom and independence will continue to survive with only that much, and yearn for the time when it comes.

We’re there again. We hope Robert Mueller will save us. We hope Susan Collins will save us. Time and time again, in the past 18 months, we have hoped that someone sane or decent would save us from the inhumanity of Trump’s crew of fearful loyalists. As the Roberts court ends, I am not so sure that we will be saved by anyone. I’m not convinced some part of our country doesn’t want Freedom to die… except for their freedom, their right to make money, and their right to own guns.

Independence must be matched with caring for others or it becomes self-indulgence. We, as a nation, have become better and more complex when caring for others is a rule. We become worse and simpler when we stop doing so. “Purity” calls for inbreeding — genetically and regarding ideas. It yields a drop in overall intelligence, and a decreasing of coping mechanisms which require creativity. Authoritarianism yields, then, more anger and less ability to cope with it. It makes us dumb, but we’re comfortable with a world that looks and thinks just like we do.

Independence, then, is uncomfortable. When Anglo men, and only Anglo men, are the only people that matter, we move backwards in history. I don’t agree with those who that they were only oppressors, but we were not at our best ever in 1776. I think that we were on top of the world under the Marshall Plan, got better when we listened to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and on the edge of open frontier in the days of the women’s movement. At that point, people who refuse to accept that they lost the Civil War want to bring us back to the last time they were comfortable: with pre-Civil War slavery.

They want things to be simple and ‘pure”. Simple is fine, except when it’s not. Thoreau chose to live simply. We are not all Thoreau.Solar panels are a form of living simply — but they required an Einstein to see that they were possible. Complexity is fine, except when it’s not. Eating food grown without preservatives is a form of living simply that ultimately makes more sense, I think. There is a time and a place for simple and a time and a place for complicated things. Having the option to figure out which is which is a part of American freedom, or it has been, in the past. In short, when people have choices, they are free — free to make mistakes, and free to be years ahead of anyone else. Freedom and choices, require diversity — a diversity of thoughts from a diversity of people with a variety of experiences. That is not the goal of this Congress, and it certainly not the goal of a President who demands loyalty above all else, and is willing to fire people who have a different opinion.

Purity, on the other hand, will never work. All the blonde-haired, blue-eyed people in the world can’t understand the problems facing people who aren’t them. That’s most of the world. In addition to that, most of the people wanting White People to rule, don’t want women ruling. Those guys can understand and fix even less. The more a system strives for purity, the less it can function. Mr. Trump’s statements like, “I alone can fix it” will only lead to more chaos. Other countries who give absolute power to one person’s ideas will ultimately fail as well, simply out of necessity. In fact, any group of two which gives absolute power to one will yield misery. It’s just bigger on the nationwide scale.

So, as we face Independence Day in 2018, we need to ask if we are more free than we have been in the past. Children in cages is pretty much the definition of not free. A majority of any one group in prison, or in power is not free. People who support these things do not encourage freedom. America will be free in an ultimate sense when those people are free to be themselves.

All of this brings us to the issue of “bravery”. Bravery is necessary when freedom is undermined or lost. Bravery is required any time we need to stand up to bullies. By bravery, I don’t mean bombs, bullets, or bayonets. Bravery is the ability to say “no” when people want us to be less diverse. Bravery is the ability to tolerate a diversity of opinions and hear them out. Bravery is not the ability to let people hurt others or yourself.

So, here’s the deal: people in power right now either want to make this country function well, or they want to own it. Each and every time they attempt to own it, we must be brave enough to say “no”. If those in power want America to function again, they must be brave enough to say “no” to those who want one man or one party rule. Right now, that’s the Republicans. Brave Republicans need to step up and say no to the hatred of others, no to single party rule, no to letting people die, no to putting people in cages for no reason.

Is that happening? In the Senate, perhaps. In the House, no. When all it takes is one Republican to block a judicial appointment — and we have no guarantees from any of them, we’re hoping for bravery from people who aren’t inclined to give it. That’s not going to work. If we want America to be the home of the brave, we must be brave. We must say no to those people who won’t be brave and stand up for the functioning and free America. We cannot give an inch.

And if we make it through this, those in power — whichever party they are from — must make us the land of the free and encourage us to be brave.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Radical Jesus Is Not Happy With The U.S.

Jesus’ ministry begins with John:

 “ Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to [John], and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 4: 3-10

 

If we put this in the modern context and apply it to us (See Robert MacAfee Brown’s The Bible Speaks To You)

The country is at war (never a good thing) — Spiritual war, but war nonetheless. This, in fact, may be worse for those in power.

Our current government has shown its stripes.  The Muslim Ban (“Let’s call it what it is… a Muslim Ban”, said Donald Trump) was the first step to the Mexican Ban, the asylum ban, the brown-on-the-border ban, the immigrant ban.   This policy is simply an extension of that policy.  We didn’t like all- of- them then and we don’t like all -of-them now.  Any “them” will do.  “Them” is whoever people define as “not real Americans”.  Now, after 17 months, those politicians who supported The Man all along are  have realized that they are in deep trouble with the voters because the vast majority of people know it is immoral and wrong to rip children away from their parents as punishment for wanting a better life.  The voters are the least of their concerns in this spiritual war…

So let’s try this again:

“Then the people of Texas and all of America were going out to  and all the region along the Rio Grande,  and they were washing themselves before the TV cameras, confessing their sins.  But when the people of God saw many the Haters and Those who Supported Hate For Their Own Power coming to say it was wrong,  they said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.  Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have the Pilgrims as our ancestor’; for I tell you, these are the Pilgrims Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

 

Then Jesus himself speaks:

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Does anyone in this current administration think that they are poor in Spirit? The people who did this, did this because they think they are right and righteous. Donald Trump has said about God, “I’ve never had to apologize”, and Jeff Sessions quoted scripture. There people do not believe they are poor in Spirit. The people on the other side of their assaults think they are poor in spirit. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Guess which side Jesus is on.

Does anyone in this administration mourn? They seem to delight in their power to hurt others. The administration says, “Blessed are those who make others mourn”. The people they hurt mourn. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn”. Guess which side Jesus is on?

Is there a meek one in this government? I haven’t seen one. These people own the earth right now. Jesus says, “the meek shall inherit the earth”. Guess who wins in the end?

Are our policymakers “hungering and thirsting for righteousness”?  Donald Trump and his supporters thirst for power.  Jesus said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”. Guess who is on Jesus’ good side?

Our government pursues a “Zero Tolerance Policy”, even when it runs out of resources to do it. Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful”. Those who follow this policy refuse to be merciful. Guess what side Jesus is on?

Are those who implement or support these policies “pure in heart”? They think so.  Sarah Sanders says that being rejected from a restaurant says more about “them” than her. Piety is not the same as being “pure in heart”. Will they see God? Possibly they will. Will they be happy about seeing God? No, I think they will not.

Does the policy of a Muslim Ban or a Brown ban make for peace? I’m not seeing it. Does the country feel peaceful? Not from what I read. Do people who consciously antagonize others make for peace? Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”.  Guess who Jesus stands with?

Who are the persecuted here? Is it those who are denied the chance to live with their families or is it those who get their feelings hurt while eating? When we understand who the persecuted are, we  can figure out which group Jesus sides with. Do you want to guess who sees the kingdom of heaven?

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account”? Trump lies all the time about people. He says Mexicans are  rapists. Muslims are terrorists. Canada is our enemy. Guess who Jesus says is blessed?

 

These two stories are from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There’s a lot more to come. Guess whose side Jesus is on?

 

Resisting with Peace,

 

John

 

On LGBTQi? Rights and The World Right Now

For as many years as I can remember, I have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Why do I care about who is sleeping with who? Why do I care about who is in love with who? Why is it any of my business? Why is it any of my concern? Who died and left me to be judge and jury?

When I thought it was all about sex, I was in my 20’s and I thought, “People who are having sex or orgasms are happier people to be with”. Who could be against that?

When I understood that people had long-lasting relationships, I could no more imagine excluding the love of someone’s life from a get-together than I could imagine cutting off my right arm. What do people talk about? Sports, hobbies, fun things, and their family and loved ones. How can someone fully enjoy themselves with half of them missing? I knew someone years ago. After they came out to me, it was years later before I got to meet their long-term love. When I did, I felt horrible for them because of my thoughts above. I swore I would never exclude someone because of their orientation, unless someone was getting hurt or hurting others (in those “philosophical” arguments with the right wing that heterosexuals have, we used to worry about gay pedophiles as though they were the same thing. Now I know better. There are a lot more heterosexual pedophiles than anyone wants to know) In any case, it’s simpler now. I still hate pedophiles. I still welcome nice people to my house, regardless of orientation.

I have never been particularly pro-gay or anti-gay. I have been pro “people are who they are”. I generally have enough to worry about keeping track of my own family. I don’t have time to be worried about someone else’s. I always thought that the “Defense of Marriage Act” was the stupidest name for a piece of legislation. Why would someone else’s love or marriage offend mine? I only had to defend my marriage from me or my wife botching it up.

As I type this, I may very well offend some of my gay friends or my liberal friends for taking a non-positive. apologize for offending your sensibilities. Of course, I expect that my more conservative friends are offended by my not taking a more anti-gay stand. I’m sorry you don’t agree. To both of you, too bad. I don’t invite intolerant people to my house.

But now something is different. Laissez-faire is no longer going to work. In all the stupidity around immigrants that the Trump administration has managed, the latest thing is that we’re denying asylum to people fleeing gangs or LGBTQi people terrorized at home, as though gangs are somehow less deadly to asylum seekers or that LGBTQi are somehow more of a threat to America.

Leave it to a bunch of people who don’t believe in science to think that bullets only kill bad people or that gay people are a threat to national security. If DOMA was stupid, this is stupider… and way more deadly. This idea is therefore, stupid and evil. There is no logic here. There is no compassion, mercy, grace, or love — all things I treasure — in it.

So, here’s the thing: Remember that quote that said, “when they came for the Catholics, I wasn’t a Catholic so I didn’t care … until there was no one left to care about me?” Not happening here. Not now, not ever. I can see the writing on the wall. So, now if anyone asks me, I’m pro-gay. I’m also anti-gang and pro-victim.

If you’re gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, or intersex, you are always welcome at my house. If you’re seeking asylum, you are always welcome at my house. You always were, but it didn’t matter before. Now it does. I’m somewhere between the kids of Parkland at the Tonys the other night and Robert Deniro the other night in my opinion of this administration.

As a Christian, I cannot condone this blatant division of people in the human family. As an American, I hate what Trump and Jeff Sessions have done to the place.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Let’s Talk About Law, Justice, and Ethics

I have been fascinated by, and far more aware of, our legal system over the last four or five years. It amazes me how many different ways there are to see the same event legally, how many processes there are –or can be — in the administration of justice, and how different rules/laws are applied in different circumstances, by whom and to whom.  In all of this, I have fallen back on two basic ideas:

  1. Fair is fair.
  2. No one is above the law.

This week, as Donald Trump stated that he has the “absolute ability to pardon himself”, the law broke. I don’t know if legally the case can be made that he has that power, but if my assumptions are correct and he can pardon himself, there is no law, and there is no justice. In a democracy anyway, if all citizens are equal (fair is fair), then the law should apply to everyone  (no one is above the law) and it should be applied to all in the same way. If a man or woman steals a pair of shoes, and they are sentenced to X amount, as prescribed by law, then any man or woman — including someone in office, including someone with the highest office in the land.

I am well aware that this is a fantasy, and not the way justice is meted out, but it is an ideal that we should struggle toward. It is the goal, and the closer we get to it, the more fair and the more democratic we will be. The further away we get from it, the more we descend into chaos.

This means that, if fair is fair, and Donald Trump can say, “the law doesn’t apply to me and there are no consequences because I don’t want there to be”,  then the drug dealer on the corner should be able to say the same thing because he or she doesn’t want there to be. This is the same idea that says that if the policeman can beat someone without consequence, where do they get the right to blame citizens for doing the same?

Years ago, I came up the term “the Mike Brown standard”. I look forward to the day when we use it on a daily basis. The idea, regardless of whether you think Mike Brown was innocent or guilty, is that if he couldn’t get away with it, then you shouldn’t be able to either. If he was “suspicious”, then the corporate lawyer on Wall Street is, as well.

When we start viewing things through that lens, we will have criminal justice reform in a hurry. Every citizen in this country should have the same presumption of innocence that the Wall Street lawyer has. Until the Mike Browns of this world get that, we’re not a full democracy.  The fact that one man can have no consequences for criminal acts he may have committed which effected millions of people Mr. Trump, while another is dead for ripping off a store owner, (Mr. Brown may have stolen a cigar from a store — or committed other acts involving that store or the neighborhood).

In order for there to be “equal justice under the law”, we ought to consider the Mike Brown standard when we consider the President’s pardon power. Until then, it’s just not fair.

Resisting in Peace,

 

John

 

 

 

 

No. No. No. And No: Broken Immigrant Families

A few years ago, my wife, children, and I went to see an “internment camp”, a concentration camp, in Wyoming  used to hold Japanese -Americans after Pearl Harbor.  I take out the “Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Confinement Site” mug to write when I need to be reminded why I write. An idea has to make my blood boil in order for me to write about political things. Heart Mountain’s existence makes my blood boil.

The idea of an American concentration camp is so anathema to my vision of America that I originally refused to believe it. The first time I heard it mentioned was on the old Linda Carter Wonder Woman TV show, and only in passing.  I had a great history teacher in High School and I don’t believe  she even mentioned it in class. This says to me that Japanese internment camps were something we knew were wrong, and thus hid in shame for years.  Until a play recently by George Takei, it wasn’t really discussed much and it still isn’t. I swore, from the day I saw the place, that it would never happen again.

The point of blogging originally for me was because I wanted to hear my own voice in the world, as the news and opinions got weirder and weirder.  At Heart Mountain, you could feel the sadness in the air — the loneliness, the confusion, the anger, and the sense of defeat by forces people had no power to stop.That situation describes more people I know than most can imagine.  At Heart Mountain, I realized… ENOUGH OF THAT!

Every once in a while, I’ll let the blog feature someone else’s thoughts because … well, I have this thing, and they should get to use it. They have to be unique voices like Todd Farnsworth or Rob Horne, because I am convinced that good, compassionate thoughts should be heard. If I can help, I should. When I write a birthday blog or a concert review or movie review, it is simply an extension of that same idea. Stories of good people doing good things that  you never would hear of if I didn’t write it . More often than not, these people don’t even think of themselves as worthy but they are and I want them to know it.

Jesus gave voice to the voiceless, an announcement of the oppressed’s existence, and a radical vision of people’s equal worth to God. America normally knows this is the right thing to do. Heart Mountain is proof that we don’t always do what we know is right. In a country that promotes the ideas of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, concentration camps promote none of those. When the government can take away everything you own, lock you up and cause loneliness and despair like this, it is not American. I don’t care what flag you put over the place, I will not salute it.

All of this leads me to a subject in today’s America which does the same thing, and which I have never thought much about until recently: immigration. Immigration, quotas, separating the good guys from the bad, protecting ourselves from criminals, are — as a package — very complicated. I can understand saying there are limited resources, or wanting a head count simply to plan budgets and such. I don’t want MS-13 or the Russian, Italian, or Irish mafia here. I don’t know how you prevent it and still believe “give me your tired, your poor”, etc…. Better minds than mine have been flummoxed by the topic, so I stayed away from it… until now.

Let me talk about something I do know about: kids and families, and development of a healthy psyche.  Among other things, there’s a theorist named John Bowlby who believes that attachment of a child to it’s parents is one of the primary needs if a child is going to have compassion when they grow up.  If we want good, compassionate kids, we have to let them attach to their parents and we have to help parents attach to them. You can wreck a kid’s mental health by pretending they don’t exist or ignoring them. In short, if you want to make a child a criminal don’t let them get attached to their parents.

So, with that in mind, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have instituted a policy which separates supposedly undocumented immigrants (chosen at random sometimes by skin color or Spanish accent) as well as illegal immigrants and children. Some have sought asylum here, and are trying to get away from the very gangs and governments Trump/Sessions have a problem with. And yes, some are thugs — but I don’t see a crackdown on the Russian mafia, or Irish undocumented workers in America. You see, we’re not really cracking down on thugs, we’re cracking down on Hispanics and saying they’re thugs.  That’s horrible and evil in its own right.

Depriving adults of their liberty if they are criminals makes some sense. Depriving children of their liberty is unconscionable. We don’t do that in America — or at least we’re not supposed to. Furthermore. if we deprive them of their parents, we are thretening their lives. They are dependent on their parents. That’s how children are. By detaching them from their parents, we deprive them of any pursuit of happiness as well. 

In addition to that, there are reports that 1500 of these children are missing.  That rabbit hole is so sickening to think about that I can’t bring myself to go down it.

As Christians, we’re supposed to be kind to the stranger in our midst. We’re supposed to care about the oppressed, justice, and so on. Jesus himself says that if you cause a child to stumble, “it would be better for you if you had a millstone around your neck”. There is a special place in hell for people who hurt children, and those who engage in separating children from their parents had better anticipate a long time there. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, you can expect hell on earth from this policy.

There is no rational support for this. There is no logic which makes this make sense.  Sanctuary cities must do the right thing, despite the government’s plans. Sanctuary churches — which all churches should be on simple principle — need to say “no” to this abuse of children who have done nothing but exist with brown skin. Any defense of this is irrational. We know this down in the core of our beings.

This is the kind of thing Boko Haram does! No civilized group of people can abide by this and call themselves moral.

At that point, the only moral thing to do is resist. The only argument permissible if we are to claim any morality at all is “No, No, No, and No”.

Resisting angrily but peacefully,

 

John

 

 

Mania is Not Funny

I was listening to my morning podcast and Morning Joe as they discussed an interview on Fox and Friends with President Trump.

The interview was replayed a few times when a man on the Morning Joe said, “I heard a man in a manic state”. Mika agreed that he’s crazy, and said that she disliked him, but the panel was astounded by all of Mr. Trump’s behavior – how he kept talking, how his voice was high pitched, how the volume of his voice never went down, how he was saying things that hurt himself in court proceedings, and how the FOX crew couldn’t shut him down, no matter what.

The panel has gone through this before re: Trump. Early in his career as President, they had been tempted to call him sociopathic, narcissistic, and so on. Someone at the office told them to watch their language, because they were making “medical claims” that they had no basis to say this. There was, I believe, an APA group of psychiatrists who agreed with the Narcissist diagnosis. Still, the panel had backed off until today. This time, they said “I’m not a psychiatrist, but…”

This reminded me of the Charlie Sheen tapes a few years ago, when it turns out that, for three days, Sheen was in the middle of a manic episode. No one in the media had ever heard anyone talk or act like that. Comedians wrote jokes for days. The press waited for him to break down, or calm down or something. Was he doing cocaine? No one knew. He had in the past. He was with porn stars most of the time during this days-long-event. It turns out later that he now has HIV.

There has been recent talk in the New York Daily News (not the supposedly “Fake News” Times) that said Trump used to use cocaine in the New York Disco scene years ago. Mania and cocaine mirror each other in many ways, so in either case, the diagnosis doesn’t matter. The person with mania talks a-mile-a-minute, can’t or won’t stop, believes they are (literally) THE MOST INCREDIBLE PERSON ON THE PLANET and their ideas flow from one thing to another. They believe they are indestructible (literally) and so, maybe to prove that to themselves or others, they exhibit risky behaviors… gambling, risky sex, compulsive spending and so on.

I have no idea about Mr. Trump and a diagnosis of Mania (now called Bi-Polar Disorder). Nor do I know about any past or present cocaine use. In the present, it’s highly unlikely, due to medical tests he receives. In the past, in New York City’s up-and-coming disco world, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

What I can say is this: If someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, they need help because when they stop being this way, they will have really unpleasant situations to deal with. They may get suicidal. They may “just” be depressed or they may just need a lot of sleep.  If you are responsible for their decisions legally, when this is all over you will have really unpleasant situations to deal with. In any case, having mentally ill people in your family is often really stressful. Professional help in coping may be necessary for you, and that’s OK. Professional help is definitely needed for them.

It’s not cute, or funny, or fun, or any of those things. If you know someone who is acting strangely, believe yourself that they are. Ask for help determining what specifically accounts for the behavior. Then get help for them or for you.

 

Resisting in Peace,

 

John

An American To Do List…

During the Trump Presidency, the Ryan-led House and McConnell-led Senate, we’ve taken a lot of losses. I just want to keep track of all the things we will need to fix.

  • Acknowledge the truth of climate change and, now, work harder than the Paris Accords to fix it.
  • Fix any damage caused by the Dakota oil pipeline leaks.
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act.
  • Have, and use, paper ballots for all 50 states.
  • Fix healthcare, and if we’re into restorative justice, call it “Obamacare”
  • Pay off a larger national debt.
  • Make sure that anyone who wants to can serve in the military, while simultaneously making war less likely.
  • Fix our relationships with NATO
  • Return National Parks to their proper size.
  • Restore the Clean Water Act.
  • Give teachers a living wage in all 50 states.
  • Rebuild Puerto Rico and fix their financial structure
  • Fix and then use the department that does security clearances.
  • Stop school shootings
  • Reinstate the ban of severely mentally ill gun owners.
  • Start actually fixing our infrastructure.
  • Get coal miners jobs that will last.
  • Move the Israel embassy back to Tel Aviv
  • Build prisons big enough to hold all the people caught in the Russia scandal, and give Black men jobs guarding them.
  • Fix corrupt police departments
  • Allow women to make their own health care decisions, while making Viagra not covered by insurance.
  • Fix DACA. Give people who have suffered uncertainty full citizenship.
  • Hire as many ambassadors as we need, and teach diplomacy.
  • Require every generation after this to take civics.
  • Return to a clean energy policy.
  • Require police to shoot only as a last resort.
  • Remove the ill-gotten Neil Gorsuch.
  • Replace him with someone the full Senate can agree on.
  • Restore the Equal Pay act.
  • Restore the consumer protection bureau to full power.
  • Restore school lunch programs.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • House the homeless.
  • Give people a living wage for their work.
  • Make voter registration required.
  • Enforce sanctions against Russia.
  • Teach televangelists the gospel.
  • Stop telling lies on cable news.
  • Break up Sinclair broadcasting.
  • Get a Press Secretary who doesn’t lie.
  • Demand honesty from our entire government.
  • Restore HUD’s mission statement.
  • Take back any money Carl Icahn stole.
  • Shore up our support for the Iran deal.

We have lots of work to do. The sooner we can stop things from getting worse, the faster we can get to the list.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Resurrection People

Sermon given on Easter Sunday, 2018 “Resurrection”…

Years ago, in Bridgeport, I had an organist named Arthur. Arthur was a kind man, but a forgetful, and — as an organist — he was kind of slow.  I don’t mean intellectually. He was actually quite smart, but his fingers couldn’t play a song at less than a dirge. Arthur was old and this was probably going to be his last church, so I found it kind of ironic that Arthur, ever year at Easter would yell, “We are a resurrection people!”. He grew up working with Episcopalians, so he learned that from his priest and he never let go of it.

Arthur popped into my head when I prepared for this sermon on resurrection. That’s the way that resurrection people work. He said this thing. I liked him. Now, 25 years later, I’m saying it to you. Say it back to me now…”We are a resurrection people”. May it stick in your head now, like it did mine.

 

As I thought this week about resurrection and what it means, Mark’s original text doesn’t tell us much.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”.  So, by this, we know that believing in the resurrection means being scared out of your wits, and worrying that people will think you’re crazy.  I’m not sure that THAT is what makes us “resurrection people”, being scared,and feeling crazy. You can see why someone want to add in verse 8b or 9, whichever you call it: “[And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. ]]. Now, that’s better.

 

We are resurrection people because we believe in “the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”. Yes, it IS true, but it’s like something a lawyer would say, so it’s hard to figure out WHAT it means. Let’s be honest. In English, it’s “the holy and never ending saying out loud that people are saved forever”.

 

For some people that translates to “God loves you and you are saved from sin”. For me, it’s more like “you can’t keep a good man down”… at least the Best of humanity, as far as life on earth is concerned. I know lots and lots of people who have been run down over and over by life. I want them to know that they will, with God’s help, get up again.

In other words, because Jesus came out of that tomb 2,000 years ago, we win. All of us. Love wins. Peace wins. Forgiveness wins. Good wins. Ultimately, life wins. No matter how difficult it is to believe, no matter how twisted in knots our souls get, what’s left at the end of it all is we find peace, and love, and forgiveness and holiness and life forever.

Personally, I associate the resurrection with heaven. When you think of “heaven”, what do you think of? Seeing your loved ones again and being thrilled to see them? Seeing them put back in original shape, healed from whatever killed them? Do they have to worry? No. Do they have to eat? No. Do they have to sleep? No, but they could if they wanted to. (That’s my fantasy) Seeing every dog or cat you ever had? Seeing them happy and playful? If you believe in old metaphors, is there music? Heavenly choirs and lots and lots of harps?

 

Whatever you dream is in heaven because of the resurrection of Jesus… being “resurrection people” means that is what you believe earth should be like. That’s what being a Christian in this life means. Those ideas were planted in your heart and mind by God, as a model, as something to look for and expect — forever.

Do you dream of seeing your loved ones in the afterlife and being thrilled to do so? See the loved ones you have now and be thrilled to see them. Believe your loved ones’ll be healed? Heal others or help them heal. Support people who do that kind of thing. Believe they’ll be safe? Make the world safe. Believe they won’t have to worry? Bring peace to other people’s hearts. Believe they don’t have to eat in heaven? Make it so that people never worry about eating down here. If you believe in rest in heaven, then give people rest or take rest right here on earth. Believe you’ll be spending eternity with God? Spend time with God now.

 

Do you believe that dogs and cats will be happy and playful in heaven? Help them be happy and playful here. Take care of them here. If you think there’s music in heaven, play or sing music here. Now.

That’s what resurrection people do. They bring their dreams of heaven to earth — as Jesus said, “on earth as it is in heaven”.  What would it be like if all of the resurrection people in the world got together? The world would be full of people of people thrilled to see each other, treasuring others, Being healed and healing others, fighting whatever kills people. The world be full of calm people who experience and give forgiveness to others, people who don’t worry about what they’re going to eat or drink, a world where people rested in God’s loving embrace at night, where animals and humans were treated like they were loved. We’d live in a world full of music makers, of happy and playful people.

 

Will we get it right? Probably not. We’re still human, after all. But we’ll at least be going in the right direction… and when the resurrection comes, we’ll at least know what to do. Amen.