Reminders from “Selma”

It has been a long time since I was at seminary and a long time since I had a congregation to lead, which required spiritual time and Bible study, so sometimes these things fade into the distant haze of my brain and heart, and every once in awhile something reminds me of the things I believe — a movie, a song, a friend, a hug, a picture — and I feel more like the person I want to be.  The family and I saw “Selma” tonight and it brought back some basics for me — as well as some new lessons.

The new, first: 1) People put their lives on the line when they want their rights non-violently. They must be scared out of their mind doing it.

The fact that they do it anyway ,means they are a) brave, b) honorable and c) full of dignity. They should be recognized as such. I have been to protests, but have never faced clubs. I have seen friends hit with a club by police, but — ironically — not at a protest, but at bar in L.A. Because I have seen Andrew Young, Dick Gregory, Jesse Jackson, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary, I have seen people I am in awe of as an adult, Yes, I have seen Dr. King on TV as a child, and have been in awe. That awe was always from the outside, seeing them do their thing or talk about it. The movie “Selma” shows it from their perspective and so the fear they must have experienced became evident.

2) The Voting Rights Act’s recent gutting needs to be fixed. I knew vaguely about poll taxes and increased requirements for registering. The ripple effects they talked about in the movie were new to me. Then again, I don’t spend my days thinking up ways to oppress people.

Now, the old:

1) It is important that human beings are brave and stand up for themselves and others. — it brings out the best in them. It is the job of parents and clergy and helping professionals to teach children to believe in themselves and be brave living everyday life. The quote by Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” is both true and horrible.

2) Religion is not meant to oppress. Religion is meant to worship God. God is good. Religion that worships God does good for the world. Any religion that doesn’t make the world a better place, as is God’s intention, is not a religion worth having or practicing, and is certainly not a true religion.

3) God likes justice. Faith and love and justice are not mutually exclusive. God calls us to be our best selves — and even better. God knows what our best selves are and we don’t. We just guess at it and aim in that direction.

4) Black lives matter because all life matters. Black lives are a part of humanity — a humanity that the Spirit endows with life. They are not better or worse. They are simply lives. But “simple” in this case is also “holy”. They ought not to be taken lightly.

5) Good is good. We know it when we see it. Bad is bad. We know it when we see it, Being a faithful Christian is often like standing in the middle of the road — you get hit by cars going both ways. Still, it is the best way to be.

6) Contrary to what many of my liberal friends and my conservative enemies believe, violence never solved anything. Conservatives are not enemies because they are conservative, but people who are way off the conservative deep end  tend to believe in violence — and ignorance. Off-the-deep-end liberals tend to be educated and violent. They are still wrong, but they are smart and I like that better. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

Peace,

John

What I Learned in 2014

Overall, 2014 was the best year of my life so far. I love my work life, my home life, my friends, my religious life. Besides that, I’m bowling again.

Work — I was right. I can have a maintainable private practice, though it will be scary sometimes.
Blogging — Racism is worse than I could have imagined — specifically in California. As far back as 1989, reporter Gary Webb found that the California Highway Patrol used racial profiling as a method, and some officers went so far as to teach seminars on how to do it, but to make the paperwork seem like you weren’t. Also, Ferguson, MO will not be getting any of my tourism money. (From the book, “Kill the Messenger”, a biography of reporter Gary Webb)

I continue to like writing. As usual, I’d like to thank Cathi Chapin-Bishop and Liz Solomon Wright for helping me get started. Thanks to Larry Baker for all the books! Now that’s a good writer. Topics I’ve been considering: “Beware the Quiet Ones” — ministry and faith of three friends and “In Praise of Old Ladies” — about past-generation church women. I’d like to do an actual interview this year, just to see if I can.
Regular Life — As the father of two teenage daughters, I can assure you that there’s a LOT of lousy music out there When we listen to my oldest daughter’s favorite radio station (usually on the way to church), I am repulsed by the music and lyrical content of popular music. My daughters need to know even more about sex like they need holes in their heads. Lately, though, there’s been some really good music out there . Taylor Swift’s new album is great. I also like “Safe and Sound”, “The Best Day of My Life”, and “Pompeii” by Bastille. I have some hope that we haven’t ruined music forever.

Depression is not reality. It only seems that way.

Marriage is a good thing, once you get used to it. My marriage brings so much to my life. It’s as comfortable and normal as breathing now. I have amazing children. Thanks to the many adults who have helped them become that. Most notably, thank you to the Chancel Choir at South Church, in New Britain and their director, Richard Coffey, for helping my older daughter find her potential as a confident singer. Her self-esteem is growing because of your support. Patti, Laura, Anthony, and everyone who has said good things about her to me or my wife: it has made a difference. My younger daughter is enthralled by Camp Wightman and the people there, including Lisa . She finds great fulfillment through it. The staff of the West Hartford Library also bring out the best in her. I must have chosen wisely. All my Boston peeps: My daughters can identify Aretha Franklin’s voice on a CD. “Of course that’s Aretha”, they say. Again, I must be doing something right.
As much as Facebook makes me feel connected to my friends, I am reminded how much I miss seeing them in person, no matter where they are: California, New York State, Boston, Bridgeport. Cathi: ditto.
I was thrilled to be invited and, and to attend, Bennyta’s wedding to Mr. Thompson. It was everything she deserved in a service. I know Gerri was proud.

I’m getting to be middle aged, My former Youth Group friends have children graduating from High School. I don’t feel old, though (except in my bones). Therefore, I must be middle aged. I like being middle aged. Shout out to Julie Barr for her good thoughts. Amy and Becky: nurses are great. Derek, you’re a good father.

The Train Trip — The Grand Canyon is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Glacier National Park is about out of glaciers. This is not good, for so many reasons. The Northwest of our country is incredible — not just on the coast. Colorado, the Dakotas, Washington State and Oregon are also majestic.

My friends see the best in my daughters and my daughters see the best in my friends. Craig and Frances Hames, Ron Bottitta, Liz Solomon Wright, (people they have never met before) and my father, David Bibeau have all had my children in hysterics or awe or both this year — and they did so immediately.

Ministry —
I am not multi-faith, at least in practice. I can stretch a lot, but there’s a lot I don’t know.

I actually did a LOT of ministry this year. Thanks to Tamara Moreland and CT UCC staff.
Todd, Martha, and Karen: Your hugs feel good. Thanks. Peter: It was one of the thrills of my life to have lunch as adults and equals.

To the entire staff of CYC: it was an incredible blessing to be there. It reminded me just how active God is in my life. I still haven’t figured out the “start a new camp thing” yet. Maybe someday.
Though a copy is never as good as the original, I like being the “Gordon” person for others. Deering friends continue to bless me. Bob, Derek, Rob and Val — Thanks for coming to the Ordination party!
Char, Carol, and Emily — I continue to be proud. George — nice book group! Michelle continues to do impressive ministry in Haddam Neck.

Happy Returns —

People I didn’t expect to have in my (at least Facebook) life have returned — Joyce Morin and Jeff Brown from seminary, Margo Walker from L.A., and a whole truckload of family from all over the place — Paul, Jessica, Anna, various Rheaumes, and Bibeaus. Thanks to all of them.
Face-to-face, all of my friends in L.A. In Texas, Liz. Especially excellent: Alan Bercovici and St. Cecilia’s bowling league.

What does 2015 hold? As usual, I don’t have a clue. I somehow missed the “omniscience” classes at seminary. At this point, I look forward to it, and give thanks for 2014.

Peace,

John