Muslim = Bad? Jewish = Bad? Nope, Not Here…

I’m seeing a video posted by that “horrible”, “evil”, “fake news” standard of journalism The New York Times. The article appeared in print on Feb. 27th of this year and it talks about two maligned groups — Muslims, whom our government apparently doesn’t want here, and Jews — the scourge of Nazis and neo-Nazis everywhere, and the perennial victims of a special kind of racism — anti-Semitism.

To read all the propaganda out there, these people are bad people — horrible, horrible people…sad. Beside that, if you look at Israel and Palestine, they’re mortal enemies! So violent, very, very violent people, the two of them.

But for those of us with eyes, and facts, and brains, there’s science. Let’s do a little social science experiment. Hypothesis: Muslims and Jews are, by-and-large, dangerous war-mangers. Data: Pew Census Data 2010: “As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth,” the Pew report says. “Islam was second, with 1.6 billion adherents…“, (per virtual Jewish Library) Number of Jews, 13.9 million. 

According to a Berkeley researcher: “Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide”

And Jews? According to the National Criminal Justice Research Service: LOW CRIME RATE. IT IS LOWER THAN THAT OF NON-JEWS TAKEN AS A WHOLE, LOWER THAN THAT OF OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS, AND LOWER THAN A RATE BASED SIMPLY ON THE JEWISH PROPORTION OF THE POPULATION (THE EXPECTED RATE (sorry about the caps, the quote is from an abstract written in all caps)

Ok. So they’re not, by-and-large, bad people. In fact, they are better than others. Huh. I wonder how that happened. Why would we want to keep out good people based on their religion? That doesn’t make sense. 

Maybe statics lie or are being manipulated: let’s use experience: from the Times: Two attacks on Jewish cemeteries in the last week have resulted in an outpouring of more than $136,000 in donations from thousands of Muslims and others, who have also pledged to financially support Jewish institutions if there are further attacks.

Jewish organizations have reported a sharp increase in harassment. The JCC Association of North America, which represents Jewish community centers, said 21 Jewish institutions, including eight day schools, had received bomb threats on Monday. … Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, asked Muslims to donate $20,000 in a crowdfunding effort to repair hundreds of Jewish headstones that were toppled near St. Louis last week. That goal was reached in three hours. 

Also, recently, in Victoria, Texas, (per CNN, another one of those fact-based press organizations) “Jewish people in a small Texas city handed Muslim worshippers the keys to their synagogue after the town’s only mosque was destroyed in a fire.  The Victoria Islamic Centre burned down on Saturday and had previously been burgled—the cause is being investigated by federal officials. But the town’s Muslim population will not be without a place to worship while their building is reconstructed, thanks to their Jewish neighbours. … Robert Loeb, the president of Temple Bnai Israel, told Forward: “Everyone knows everybody, I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them. When a calamity like this happens, we have to stand together. “We have probably 25 to 30 Jewish people in Victoria, and they probably have 100 Muslims. We got a lot of building for a small amount of Jews.” One of the mosque’s founders, Shahid Hashmi, said: “Jewish community members walked into my home and gave me a key to the synagogue…. Donations and an online fundraising campaign have raised more than $900,000 (£717,000) for reconstruction”. 

Clearly, at least here in America, they’re not mortal enemies. Heck, they’re not even bad for the economy! Look at the money these people spend caring for each other!

So, if they’re not violent in general, and not violent to each here, they are good to each other and they spend money here in our economy, can someone please explain to me why we would want to keep Muslims out? Or if Jews aren’t bad people, why are their cemeteries being destroyed and their community centers threatened? 

I know it’s confusing for some people to have facts instead of opinions, but facts are those things that live in reality. I don’t know that many Muslims or Jews. I don’t really “have a dog in this fight”. But, as near as I can figure,  we should be welcoming these people, who seem to be good citizens, here rather than a) keeping them out or b) making them want to leave. 

Still, I’m one of those liberals who believe in things like science and facts. You know what I say: “Reality… love it or leave it!”

Resisting in peace, 
John

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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