Liberal Clergy: It’s Good We Are Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

John

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Al Franken Takes One For The Human Team…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John