The List of Things We Shouldn’t Have To Say… (And What To Do About It)

Every once in a while, I get in full-on rant mode. This is one of those days. On the anniversary of the mass shooting at the Marjorie Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, I thought I’d start off with simple one. Still, when one of my favorite teachers died recently, it became a research project for positivity.

No child should ever be shot at school. Schools shouldn’t have to have “active shooter” lockdown drills.

For what to do about it, check out : March for Our Lives: https://marchforourlives.com/anniversary-2020 Sandy Hook Promise https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

While I’m there, no person should ever be shot in church… or at the mall, or at the park, or anywhere else. As I understand it, guns are for hunting. People should not be hunted. For what to do about it, check out https://blacklivesmatter.com/ and Anti-Defamation League https://www.adl.org/

Most times —if not all — people should be able to believe their leaders. For what to do about it, check these out: Black Lives Matter Disinformation Page https://blacklivesmatter.com/black-lives-matter-global-network-defends-against-disinformation-going-into-2020/ The Toronto Star https://projects.thestar.com/donald-trump-fact-check/ and Factcheck.com https://www.factcheck.org/person

People involved with the law should not break the law. For what to do about it, check these out: The American Bar Association and their list of topics https://www.americanbar.org/topics/civilright/ and, in theory, the Department of Justice…https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice

Children should never be put in cages. Children should never be stripped of their families by a government for no reason. For what to do about it, check this out: Never Again movement http://neveragain.org/mission/ and The ABA immigration resources https://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/FJE/yourphilanthropy/migrant_justice/ and the Quakers https://www.afsc.org/key-issues/issue/defending-immigrant-rights

People have to eat. People need to drink (clean) water. These are basic needs. For what to do about it, check these out: WhyHunger https://whyhunger.org/ Heiffer International https://www.heifer.org/ Flint Water Challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9b-fWGZs80 Water.org https://water.org/

People need to have shelter from the weather. Again, this is a basic need. For what to do about it, check these out: Habitat for humanity http://www.habitat.org Mutual Housing California http://www.mutualhousing.com/ Mutual Housing Connecticut https://www.mutualhousing.org/

People should not mock, taunt, beat up, attack, or violate each other’s rights or bodies simply because they are different. For what to do about it, check these out: Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org/ NAACP https://www.naacp.org/ The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org

Men, women, and everyone in between have the right to and it’s good for their mental health — to control their own bodies.

For what to do about it: Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org Rainn https://www.rainn.org/ for women’s issues and general support https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-assault-men-and-boys for men and boys

Money is a means, not an end unto itself. If you have far more than you will ever need, give it to people who don’t have as much as they need for basic needs.

For what to do: Try The Giving Pledge https://givingpledge.org/ Alternatively, check out Poor People’s Campaign https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Financial abuse of others is wrong. Taking advantage of people because you can is wrong. For what to do: Elizabeth Warren’s original Consumer Protection Bureau, though sadly, it may have been gutted by the present administration. https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection This may look too radical now (Or not) , but they used to have really good information. http://occupywallst.org/ This is a new idea and mission within my denomination, and I am so proud of it: https://www.chhsm.org/news/chhsm-joins-ucc-effort-to-abolish-medical-debt-for-low-income-families/

Nuclear war is not a good idea, nor something to be trifled with.

For what to do, check out these: Union of Concerned Scientists: https://ucsusa.org/nuclear-weapons and the Quakers https://www.afsc.org/key-issues/issue/international-peacebuilding

People should not be punished for doing the right thing.

For what to do, check here: but — as all federal government agencies right now — I don’t really trust them to live up to their task. Still, it’s worth a try. The Federal Office of the Inspector General https://oig.hhs.gov/ For non-governmental agencies, try the ACLU https://www.aclu.org

None of these will matter if we don’t have a planet.

For what to do, check here: Union of Concerned Scientists on climate: https://www.ucsusa.org/climate and Climate Project https://www.climaterealityproject.org/

For MLB … And, of course, if there are suggestions for organizations to go on here, write them in the comments section…

and still Resisting In Peace,

John

A New Strategy: A Multi-Front Election

As the Department of Justice messes with Roger Stone’s sentencing, it becomes more and more apparent that people need to feel hope in the political arena, just as we have had our hope overwhelmed for the past 3 years.

Trump has been the Trojan Horse for all kinds of evil, but he is not the only problem. Each member of the cabinet has come out of the horse like a soldier and is destroying their part of our democracy. Most important to me is the danger to the rule of law — the raw material of a constitutional democracy — posed by William Barr.

Kamala Harris is as fine a prosecutor as we have in the Senate. She would make a fine Attorney General — a strong supporter of the rule of law and a voice for equal justice under the law. Even the people who ran against her, bar none, say that they miss her presence in the debate. In short, she is widely respected and loved by most of the Democratic base.

So here’s my idea. Each of the candidates for the Democratic nomination should announce now during the campaign — that they will make Kamala Harris their Attorney General.

This will have three effects: 1) it will mark a public turning of the tide toward the rule of law and against the corruption that is William Barr. It will be a shot across the bow of the present administration, and it will draw Republican attention away from the Presidential candidate, changing the dynamic of the race.

2) It will say to the people of the country that we will have a more diverse administration regardless of what else happens. Women’s issues will stand a fighting chance, rights of minorities will be respected, corrupt people who have abused their power under this administration will quake at the thought of justice aimed at them.

3) Finally, the addition of Harris will add a piece of stability to the Democrat cause. If all of the current candidates agree on her, it means no matter what happens, justice will happen, and we will be back on track toward hope.

Note, of course, that I haven’t spoken to Sen. Harris about this, nor do I know how it will play out in wider politics. My point is that with creativity, we CAN save our democracy.

Resisting with Peace,

John

My Child, Your Child: Why Racism Matters

Mr. Trump, Mr. Miller, et. al.: I am a long-time liberal, so I have given up on ever convincing you because we share values. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am appealing to you purely on the grounds of your self-interest. There is something to be had in it for you: wealth beyond even your wildest dreams, if you can only access it.

My eldest daughter posted a story on Facebook about a brilliant third grader whose intellectual property rights are of incredible value: “Xochitl Guadalupe Cruz, is an 8-year-old coming from the Chiapas highlands, in southeastern Mexico. Earlier this week she became famous for being the proud recipient of the Nuclear Science Institute (ICN) Recognition for Women award, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Cruz is in 3rd third grade of a Mexican rural school and has shown big interest in Science from a young age. When she was 4 she took part in Mexico’s “Adopt a Talent” Program (PAUTA) for intellectually advanced children which paved the way for her recent achievements.”

Now, as you well know, she couldn’t get into our country because she is Mexican. If her country’s people could not protect her, and she sought asylum here with her parents, Border Patrol agents would separate them and she would end up in a room with I don’t know how many children. She would have to share a toilet with all those other children. She would be given a blanket and sleep on the floor after being put in a “cold room” and not allowed to get a flu shot. All of the wealth that she has in her head would be lost to you.

Now imagine she’s already there. Believe, as you already do, that she looks like every other Mexican girl, and you now understand your problem. I say your problem because I would welcome her into our country, welcome her into my house, and do everything I could to both listen to her and encourage her. She would, if I treated her well, share all of her ideas with me for free. I’d wish her well on them, and we’d be friends until I passed away at some point.

For all you or I know, every child in ICE custody has the same ideas or gifts that she does. All of that wealth will never be yours, simply because you chose not to see it. That is what racism does.

Remember all the wealth America accumulated because Einstein came here, instead of staying in Germany? Hitler and his White Nationalist buddies lost all of that in thinking he was “just a Jew”. He was just one person! If you think like Hitler, how do you explain that to the Israelis or your Jewish son-in-law? I don’t understand how Stephen Miller can be in the same room as Jared. Somebody’s not thinking this through, or one of them is lying.

And while I’m on the subject, your Muslim ban, and your new extensive travel ban? Same thing. I’m sure that one of those people has the cure for cancer or AIDS or heart disease. Remember, all it takes is one. But you will never know, because you see no benefit to having them here.

Finally, a child doesn’t have to be from a foreign country to possess incredible skills or incredible intellect or incredible anything. Any Black child, every Asian child, every Native American child, that your police kill because you said it was okay, is your loss. I say your police because there are plenty of police with my values. It’s the ones that see no blessing in those children’s lives who can kill without remorse. There are plenty of Americans who also share my values and treasure their kids. Their children’s deaths at the hands of bigots will prevent you from getting anything from them as well. Another loss for you.

Having a hard time filling your cabinet or getting good cops to serve in the FBI or CIA or good scientists in your administration? Why do think that is? Because you don’t respect their gifts if they are not White. Most White people I know have friends that are some minority you despise. Another loss for you.

To bring it full circle, every poor White child that dies because your policies starve them, because you think they are unworthy of getting assistance, you’ll get no assistance from them. Or, in their desperation, they will turn to opioids or crack as they do in West Virginia or Kentucky or any of those other coal-country states. In any case your decision to punish them by withholding aid, will cost you more money in treatment to get their gifts, or they will be lost altogether.

Children —all children — have the potential to change the world. Their parents, with the right resources, would do anything to give their children those opportunities. Your hatred —the one that often gets you laughs at rallies or in rooms with your buddies — is costing you a lot. Screw me. Go ahead. “Own a lib”. It’s not me keeping you from all that money, all that glory for the America that you clam to love. It’s you and your racism.

Resisting In Peace,

John

Citizenship In The Reign Of God

Christ came to church this morning. He looked different than previous pictures I’d seen, but I recognized him. At South Church’s annual Martin Luther King Day service — one of their quarterly series of ecumenical worships between four churches — an old Black man in what amounts to a wheelchair came out and spoke about immigrant children and “dreamers”. He spoke about sharecroppers and Martin Luther King, Jr’s family history. The preacher talked about the police pulling him over in his own life, and he talked about children in his own neighborhood. It was then that I recognized him.

There is a part of Christian theology called “incarnational” theology, and it talks about the outrageous idea that God became incarnate — was put into a human body. Christians believed it was true in Jesus because he had certain characteristics, including a sense of eternity and justice which is different than the world around them, where God’s chosen people were oppressed by the militarized Roman Empire, he told the truth, and his stories connected him with a wide variety of people, among other things.

When Bishop Dr. Allen Wilkins preached yesterday, each of those things were true. His sermon was, as he said, “raw” — off the cuff, with some preparation, but no notes or written text. He also said that he doesn’t like to preach on Martin Luther King Day “because it brings up too many emotions”. His sermon went to a whole bunch of topics, but all of them were in accord with the Spirit of Christ.

His themes: 1) “Bullying is bad”. Sounds sweet enough, doesn’t it? But this was no “after school special” version of an anti-bullying message. Bishop Wilkins connected bullying to economic justice when he said, “There’s the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The haves bully the have nots”. He connected it to immigrant and children’s rights. Bullying is bad when some people have rights and others don’t. He connected it to racial justice when he spoke about the police pulling him over because he was Black. When the Law treats some people like they are citizens with rights and others as citizens without rights, this, too is bullying. The Bishop believes that bullying , in all its forms, is wrong because God sees us all as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Furthermore, he said, when we see someone being bullied and we have to choose between the the bullies and the bullied, we must always choose to care for the bullied.

2) Truth affects our children. When we speak up in truth about bullying /injustice we see, we teach them that they have the right to be heard, and that the truth is powerful. When we speak the truth in church, we say that God knows the truth, and listens to it when people speak it. The truth is that Martin Luther King’s grandfather was a slave/sharecropper. The truth is that King’s father was a preacher who had it a bit better, and that King himself turned that pulpit into a way to change the world. God shined on all of them, even when society’s bullies didn’t. The truth is that our children are worth protecting.

3) Progress towards all people’s citizenship is possible and we know it because we have experienced it. The Bishop spoke of a White woman who died because her family didn’t want to hear the truth that Blacks have value and rights around the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She was an ally. He continued on with a reminder of the history of our own South Church and its leaders in the struggle for civil rights in New Britain. He said we were allies, and that everyone in church that morning — any of the four churches there — was blessed because of it.

On a more personal note, I am an old preacher whose body has taken some hits and whose body is sore often enough. When the Bishop preached, he reminded me that I, too, still had purpose — that I, too, could speak the truth and stand up to bullies and remind people of Christianity through my own preaching when the Spirit hits. His story could be my story because we both could tell God’s story .

I have to say, though, as I heard that, that it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Ooooh, we let them use our church! We said they were human beings! We thought they should have rights! Of course we did. The church was sitting around empty otherwise. They are human. They should have rights. This is basic humanity and basic Christianity. The amazing thing is that — in this day and time — I guess these basics are radical things. Kindness has power. Truth has power. Doing the right thing has power, and our world is messed up enough that that kind of power is a stark contrast to our world.

Is yesterday’s preacher, Bishop Watkins, Jesus the Christ? No. He himself would tell you that. But as sure as we are that God’s spirit could miraculously fit in Jesus’ body, we can be sure that Jesus’ spirit could miraculously fit into the bishop’s body. The incarnation of Jesus is recognizable all of the time in the human beings around us, if we open our eyes to see it. They don’t need to be preachers, but in this case, it was.

Resisting with Peace,

John

New Year’s Resolution 2020: Let’s Not Worship Ignorance

For years now, we’ve been on a kick that we’ve seen before. The kick was dangerous before and gotten more dangerous as time has gone by. In the 1960s, one of Martin Luther King’s teachers at Boston University School of Theology wrote a book called The Religious Revolt Against Reason”. In 2019, we pushed the idea to its limits, and we will pay for it for years to come.

So, for 2020, here’s the resolution I hope we’ll all follow: In 2020, let’s not be stupid. Let’s try to not be stupid. Let’s not say “stupid is smart”.

In 2020, let’s believe our own eyes and ears. Let’s see what is , whether we like what we see or not, and whether our leaders like it or not.

In 2020, let’s not hate anyone we don’t know. Let’s not avoid the gifts people bring to our lives because they look differently than we do. Let’s not attack anyone because they are different than us. Let’s not jail anyone because they are different than us. Let’s not hurt anyone if possible. Let’s not kill anyone because they are different than us.

In 2020, let’s believe in facts. Let’s believe in science. Let’s believe in climate science. Let’s believe in science in general. Let’s even teach science. Let’s expect our children to learn science. Let’s never have a government official who says, “I’m not a scientist” and is fine with that. Let’s never have a leader who doesn’t listen to scientists.

Let’s not blame “the elites” in 2020, if — by elites, we mean intellectuals. Let’s use our emotions, but with our brains attached. Blaming smart people is usually because we’re ashamed of our own lack of smarts. The answer is not for “them” to be less smart. It’s for “us” to try and be smarter.

Let’s try to be logical in 2020. Let’s try to be kind. Fairly simple rule here: if you don’t think you would like it done to you, don’t do it to someone else. If something is immoral, consider it to be illegal.

We’ve been plenty stupid in 2019. For 2020, let’s do something different. Let’s have a future.

Resisting with Peace,

John

The Truth Before The Impeachment.

I was just on Twitter and it’s getting thick over there. Both to keep my head clear and remind others what it used to be like, I thought I’d write this down.

There are 3 co-equal branches of government: 1) The Executive 2) The Legislative and 3) The Judicial. By “co-equal”, it means each keeps the other from overshooting their rightful power. The Court and The congress can check the President. Congress and the President pick judges. The President can over-ride a veto. Congress can impeach the President. It’s all there in the Constitution. It’s not a glitch. It’s not a way to have a coup. It’s the way it was designed. If a President gets unethical, or breaks the law, the only consequence Congress has for the President is impeachment and possible removal from office.

Though apparently the Attorney General is a part of the Executive Branch of government, they are supposed to be independent from the President’s office, so that the President can’t punish people they don’t like with the law enforcement community. In short, the President doesn’t get an enforcer.

Donald Trump has been lying since the day of his inaugural. Remember Sean Spicer and “the biggest inauguration EVER? That was day one. People have been mad at Trump since the day he was in office? Yes, they have. He’s been lying to people (being unethical. Did you raise your kids to lie? No? Why? Because it’s immoral/unethical. If it’s immoral or unethical for you, it’s immoral or unethical for the President.

Donald Trump admitted on live television, shortly thereafter, that he fired James Comey because Comey was investigating him in “the Russia thing”. Remember Lester Holt’s interview? I’m sure it’s online somewhere. After being told that taking information from foreigners about his political opponents was wrong, he told George Stephanopolis that he would do it again. When caught doing it again in Ukraine, he said publicly that China should do the same. In the first case, he obstructed justice. Do you and I get to fire the police for a crime we’ve committed ? No. Neither does the President. The second is intending to willfully break the law. If you or I have been told that robbing banks is against the law, and we say we’re going to do it anyway, especially if the bank later gets robbed, can we expect to not at least be investigated? No? Neither can the President. The third is asking another country to look for dirt on his opponent, which he has been castigated twice before for. If you or I are accused of doing something, say we’d do it again, and then do it in public yet again, would we go to jail, or lose our jobs? Yes, we would. So should the President.

If you or I do something wrong, it’s bad, if a leader of a country does that thing, it’s even more wrong. I can mess up five or ten people’s lives if I do something wrong. The President can mess up five or ten million lives if he does something wrong.

Oh, and children are in cages, separated from their parents in various places across the country. This is a crime to anyone with a conscience. International courts think this a crime. Would a Trump like having Ivanka put in jail for wanting to live freely? If he wouldn’t, then he shouldn’t do it to others, and he knows it’s wrong.

Returning to this President’s impeachment, those who will be jurors in a Senate trial, if there is one, are supposed to swear to apply the law impartially. Anyone, from either side, who says in advance how they will vote cannot take that oath in any meaningful way. They would be lying. If Mitch McConnell or Lindsay Graham or any other Senator says in advance what their vote will be should not be able to take part in the trial in any way.

To sum up:

1) This President has lied since he got into office.

2) He has obstructed justice.

3) He has asked our enemies to help him get elected, publicly and after being told not to publicly.

All Republicans so far want you to believe that the President isn’t corrupt, that he can be trusted, and — in fact — is a crusader against corruption. He can not have done any or all three of the things listed above and be innocent. Those things are mutually exclusive. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Hunter Biden is not being impeached. Joe Biden is not being impeached. Their guilt or innocence is not the issue here. If they did something wrong, then they did something wrong and there ought to be penalties for that. That’s another matter. For anyone in the impeachment hearings or trial to talk about them at all isn’t right and should have no bearing on the case.

Last and final point: If you or I commit a crime, can we defend ourselves by saying “the guy down the street did it, too!” Does that matter? If someone else commits a crime that you committed, does it suddenly become less wrong? No, it does not.

I’m writing this down on December 15, 2019 in case anyone needs a reminder post-impeachment, whatever happens. And I’m also …

Resisting in Peace,

John Madsen-Bibeau

Do You Want My Help Or Not?

I’ve had this “button” for years. It’s always driven me nuts, and it continues to this day. I hated it when I used to hear, “It’s a ________ thing. You wouldn’t understand”. I still hate it, but now I mostly hear it from liberals and members of “the oppressed” (non-White, non-male, not Cis-gendered. In other words, people aren’t like me and who don’t know me. The implication is that I can’t understand and I don’t want to. I believe with all my heart and soul that both of those things are false. This has many levels to it, both personal and professional.

I consider myself a “Christian” — a follower of Jesus— first and foremost. I may be other things as well, but all of them, as I understand it, are supposed to be subsumed by that particular characteristic. I’m one of those people who hears “I don’t see color” and translates it in my head to “I’m not supposed to see color”, trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. Even as I say that, I can picture the eye rolls in response. Oh, well.

And why is it that if I say “I don’t see gender” no one gets offended? Because no one does say it? Well, I think everyone should. If a woman wants to be a pastor, I think “Should that person be a pastor?” There are more than enough people saying “No”, like they are God, and it’s their place to judge. And what if I’m working with a poor person? Should I say to them, “I’m not poor, therefore I can’t understand or help you? Of course not! In fact, I think that’s at least partially what’s wrong with society — the rich don’t know the poor and say things “they need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps they don’t have”. Is not helping them helping them? If so, only indirectly. They can develop a sense of identity, but they’re more likely to do so if they don’t have to worry about dying of starvation or the elements first.

One of the further challenges faced by those who work with categories/demographics in determining identity is that people are more complex than that. One of the challenges in the town I live in is that many children have mixed race parents. When the town is counting diversity, we don’t have a box for that. Why? What does it mean. What’s an identity? It’s what ever people say they identify with.

If someone needs support and I don’t give it, that leaves the person who needs help either a) not getting any help or b) getting help from someone else who claims my religion but is a jerk or c) someone who claims to not believe. If I’m supposed to be speaking up for/aligning with the narrative of “help = follower of Christ”, then that’s my job. If I don’t do it, I’m not doing what God wants. It is as simple as that.

Furthermore, I’m supposed to be kind to people that are not like me and/or people I don’t even like. That means anyone. LGBTQ+? Yup. Trans? Yup. Black, White, Red, Yellow, Brown? Yup. Crazy? yup. Sane? Yup. Poor? Yup. So, if you tell me I can’t be your ally, I disagree. If you tell me that I don’t want to be, again, I respectfully disagree, because I know me. If you tell me that you don’t want my help, then I must respectfully agree. You know what you need. I don’t.

In no place in the Bible do I remember Jesus telling the parable of the Polite Liberal Who Refused To Help. Instead , we see the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Two religious people refuse to help their “neighbor” and one of questionable ethics for the time does. Who are we supposed to be like? The one who helps. The one who acts out their faith, rather than simply proclaiming that they have it.

In fact, I don’t know of any parable where Jesus refused to help others — any others. There’s an odd argument with a woman but, even there, Jesus capitulates, and helps her. As I understand it, the apex and core of my religion is this: If you ask for help, I’m supposed to give it. It’s very simple. If I see a problem, I’m supposed to ask if that person needs help. If they say “no”, that’s fine. I did my job. If they say “yes”, I’m supposed to help them.

THE SUPREMACY ARGUMENT

In more modern culture, in the place where I have most felt my faith, Bill Withers sang, or we campers sang, ” Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show. You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on”

If I help you, I’m not saying I’m better than you. I’m saying that you need help now. At some point, I’m going to need help, too. My aim is mutuality. And if you can’t do that now or in my way, so what? Everybody has something they can do, something they know, that I can’t or don’t. I will benefit from you in some way, at some time. I’m still supposed to help you when I can. In the communes friends used to live in during college, there was one pickup truck. It was important that someone have one, but it didn’t make them more important than anyone else. There might also be one cook, or one dog to play with or one person who could play guitar, or one with knowledge about farming. 

I don’t assume that my culture is better than others I know. In fact, there are parts of many cultures other than mine that I like better than my own. I’m more familiar with mine. In that sense, it might be more “normative” but that doesn’t mean I like it. If you think I’m claiming that I’m better than you, — that I have or want supremacy — then that’s on you. I don’t think that, so I don’t want you to think that. We’re all not God and we’re all talented in something unique.

THE PERFECTION ARGUMENT
One of the implied things in identity politics is that people should only work with their own kind. More nicely stated, people who understand a culture do the best work with that culture.  I agree, in theory. In fact, I agree in reality, most of the time. But what if there’s no one “of their kind” to work with them? Am I not supposed to help them? Even assuming I’ll do a less than good job, aren’t they somewhat better off than they were if I help? If I waited until I was exactly what they needed, I’d work a lot less, maybe not at all.

Then there’s the idea that people of any demographic can be jerks. Just because someone fits one demographic for understanding, doesn’t mean that they have the one that counts.

Will I know everything I need to know  about a particular person? No. One of the prime beliefs I bring to therapy, for instance, is that I only know the part of you that you choose to reveal. Another is that it’s my job to figure out as much as I can and check in with you to see if I’ve got it right.

OTHER SPECTRUMS OF CARE

Engage, watch/ listen, disengage or vice-versa

If there’s a group that I want to help or be a part of, I have come to understand that they may not trust me at first. Oppression is all around us, and many people are more abused more frequently than others. If you don’t trust me, but you think you might want to, I can wait. I can watch and listen to see how it all works. Under no circumstances, though, am I to take advantage of your trust. I try to ascertain where you’re at, and then I approach and wait for more input.

Good at it, bad at it

There are some populations that I just cannot work with. People with OCD, for instance, drive me up a wall. People who like hurting others? I don’t know what to do with them. Actions, I don’t have to like. Identity, I’m supposed to, because your identity is “human” and/or “created by God”. That said, even I have my triggers: a person might look like someone who hurt me once. As I understand it, the goal there is to get over myself. If I can’t do it right now, it’s my job to let you know that and work towards getting over my issue. If that’s the best I can do, then it’s the best I can do.

 

 

So, here are my choices as a Christian: 1) help and be helpful or 2) don’t help and be a jerk. I also have the choice to 1) be an ally, 2) be an enemy, or 3) not be in relation to you. As a Christian, I’m really only allowed numbers 1 and 3. If I feel myself becoming your enemy, it’s my job to disengage before it gets violent: “First, do no harm”.

So, that’s my “button”: If you want my help, don’t tell me I don’t want to, or that I can’t. If you don’t want my help, I’m ok with that. There’s plenty of other stuff to do and other people who need my help. Just don’t tell me I’m bad for wanting to.

Resisting With Peace,

John

R.I.P. Elijah Cummings

For the last few years, it has become clear that there are different types of political leaders. There are those who relish power. There are those who enjoy the money that comes along with the job. There are those who are good at politics, using words and deals and polls to get what they want. There are those who have the job as leader but no one knows how or why. Lately, we have seen the absurdist leader — the one who says “up is down” and the sky is below our feet. There are idealists and skeptics and those who simply want to burn the place down. Then, there are the great ones. Elijah Cummings was a great one.

I’ve been listening to the news this morning and — to a person — those who remembered Cummings said his death is not just a loss to his party and Baltimore which he represented and our Congress, it is a loss for the whole country. Mr. Cummings transcended politics while, oddly, living politics. How did he do this? By serving a higher goal, a higher purpose than politics. Beyond politics, there were two things that guided his career: Service and Representation of others.

I am sure that he could have chosen other fields where he represented groups of people — unions or corporations or not-for-profits. I know for a fact that there are millions of ways to serve or help others. Politics was the field which Cummings played on, and he played it well. But it was only rules and a structure on which to do the work he wanted. In others words, Elijah Cummings became good at politics so that he could use politics for good.

I also suspect that he was considered “great” because he tried to be simply good. In a world where “show” and popularity is what’s important, Cummings was quietly good to other people because they were people. He lived out Jesus’ injunction to not put on a public show while doing good works. This is how, as a Black Democrat, he is beloved and noted by White Republicans as well. He saw them all as Americans, and worthy of his time.

Because he had done this with them, he could make a case that he should also be able to bring his constituents to the table as they were also Americans. If he could see the humanity in them, they should be able to see the humanity in those in Baltimore. This understanding is why so many people were so offended by Trump’s attacks on Cummings this last year. He had been fair to them, he saw their ethics and their humanity. An attack on him was an attack on them and the belief in goodness in general.

I don’t know much about his religious life, but I assume that his church was important to him, because he acted in ways consistent with the words of Jesus, as did so many other leaders of his time. One of the best experiences I have had at a speech was listening to Dick Gregory, a comedian who was part of Martin Luther King’s close associates. Gregory also wrote an incredible commentary on the Bible I would later learn. But that day, at a protest of nuclear power, it became clear that Gregory had soul and was formidable all on his own. I remember thinking that King’s power must have been powerfully scary when marching with Dick Gregory, Andrew Young, and Jesse Jackson with him. The holiness felt with each of them individually multiplied exponentially when they were together. I would add Elijah Cummings to that group of men. Their vision of an honest love for humanity came from some place deep within them all.

I grieve personally because of the loss of such a soulful man of a certain generation to which I belong. There is no doubt where he is tonight: spending the rest of his life with the saints who have gone on before. Their gain is our loss. May we pick up the mantle with what’s left of our own lives.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Willing Sacrifices vs. Willing TO Sacrifice…

Tonight, as the Kurds are left to twist in the wind and Turkey attacks, and as a friend of mine wrote a lovely poem about ministry, I struggle with my pacifism, sort of. I find myself thinking, “What kind of person willingly lets someone get butchered, especially when that person or group has been a good friend and a strong supporter?”. It’s almost a trick question as it is one of those “prove you’re a conscientious objector/real pacifist” questions the military asks to make you go into the service.

And yet, I remain a justice-oriented pacifist, following in the ways of Jesus and St. Francis, Gandhi and Dr. King. There are those who are cowards, and passive evildoers, and then there are pacifists. As I work with more and more traumatized clients, I realize that one can be both a Christian and an apparent coward. The disciples, when Jesus died on the cross, willingly let the Christ get butchered, not out of any good motives, but simply out of fear and a sense of powerlessness before the Romans and the crowd. Jesus, at the same time, willingly died for them despite a knowledge of his power, while being his best self.

This is the difference between what’s happening now in Syria and what should be happening, between Donald Trump’s actions and Jesus’. We should be willing to protect others. In doing that, if we lose our own lives for what we believe in, well, that’s okay — not great, mind you, but ok. For Christians, it doesn’t end there, and our love for humanity and God’s love for us remain for eternity.

For soldiers, I don’t know anymore. I know that I cannot kill, and that the judgement was never mine to make, but I am more aware of parallels between active pacifism and active soldiering. I suppose it depends on what you think soldiers do. Do they protect or do they attack? Do the defend or do they kill? There are some of both out there, but most people that I know who end up being soldiers plan to protect and defend, and are mentally destroyed when they think (or find) that their government wants them to attack and kill.

In therapy, I try to teach people to live in reality and make the best choices under the circumstances that they can. The reality tonight is that soldiers have to watch as their compatriots of another nationality die, because that’s what they have been ordered to do. Nothing about the decision to stop defending the Kurds seems in any way courageous or moral. It seems like cowardice or active evil. It is a horrendous situation for all involved, with everyone suffering but the person who made the decision.

Trump will not be traumatized by this situation, because it doesn’t affect his life and he doesn’t feel powerless. That puts the disciples who actually followed Jesus far above this man who is falsely believed to be God by his followers. Trump is abusive. They were not. The Christian’s life is joyous but acknowledges pain and sometimes agony on the way. It doesn’t deny reality, It tries to rise above the evil and choose for the good despite it.

Sometimes, death simply can’t be avoided. For us, it’s just not permanent.

The powerful are supposed to understand that, and not inflict it on others. In short, the powerful should be willing to sacrifice– themselves, not others. That is where this particular President has missed the moral of the story. But then, I hear he doesn’t read, either.

Resisting with Peace,

John

A White Guy Looks At Racism, Again…

I have spent the day hearing news report after news report saying that Donald Trump is a racist. Even the people at FOX News seem to agree, Mick Mulvaney notwithstanding. At this point, no one believes that Trump isn’t racist, that his tweets aren’t racist, that his policies aren’t racist. Even those people who go on the Sunday shows to defend him really can’t. So, there it is: no more doubting. No more defending, no more believing B.S. No more trying to figure out what he meant. Trump is a racist. Period. Let’s waste no more time with the craziness, or the intent questions, or whatever other guesses we might have. He is a racist. He means to be a racist. He will be a racist unless something changes. He would have to change because he present state is… racist.  Now the question comes: What are we going to do about it?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot and this is what I have come up with. Donald Trump is a hateful man. He hates cities, he hates children, he hates immigrants, he hates people in the military who are trans, he hates Muslims. He hates all kinds of people that decent people love. Who does he care about? Himself. We can all spend time defending the people that we love and their issues. He has a shorter list, and that makes it easier for him, so I see no solution. I used to believe in impeachment and the rule of law, and those are fine choices, if we choose to, and can, use them.  Again, he hates the law. we have to defend it.  His task is easier.  Short of his death, I don’t see him leaving office. Hating him seems to be an option… except it’s not. Becoming hateful ourselves just means more hate in the world. Losing our own souls isn’t worth the effort.

Now, defending good people, that’s a different story. That we can all do. By “good”, I’m going to cheat here a little bit.  By good, I’m going to mean, “anyone who hasn’t given me reason to dislike them”. That means anybody I don’t know, and a whole bunch of people I do.  You can’t pick on people I love, or care about, or don’t even know simply because you don’t like the color of their skin. Doing that is racist, judgemental, and dumb — all things not to be.

Now, here’s where it gets weird… There’s a Twitter hashtag going around, #AnotherWhitePersonAgainstRacism. Blowing my own horn is seen, in my culture (Yankee New England White culture), as bragging. I haven’t used the Hashtag yet because 1) I don’t think hashtags do much and 2) I don’t like to brag.

I want to be another White person against racism. I don’t want to say it. I don’t really care if my White, liberal friends think I am or I’m not. What I do care about is that my Black friends know and believe that I am a White person against racism. If I’m not doing what it takes to be considered a White person against racism, then it doesn’t  matter what I say. If it’s not apparent already, then I’m not who I want to be. In the same way, if you can’t tell by my actions that I’m a Christian, there’s no point in saying it. With each person from each group, I want to genuinely care and act like you matter, no matter what category you represent (unless its intolerance or bigotry).

But there’s a problem with the way I like to do things. Given the way the world is right now, especially in America, if I don’t say it, people could confuse that with my agreeing with racism. I want the entire world to know that am against racism. So, I’ll say it to anyone who I see: I hate racism. I think it’s demeaning to human beings that I care about. I think it doesn’t allow them to be their best selves, or us to see their best selves. Because of that, it just seems dumb, as well as unethical and wrong and not what God wants from us.

NOW, HERE’S THE PART WHERE I ADDRESS WHITE FOLKS… (not snarky, I promise)

Lately, the words have changed. Instead of talking about “racism”, there’s a lot of talk about “White Privilege“. Before anybody gets their knickers in a twit, let me explain that it’s not meant to hurt or deny anyone’s pain. White folk have pain. Lots of folks suffer injustice and problems of all sorts. Talking about privilege means this:

If you go to buy a house, and you’re not steered away from the one you want because of your skin color, you have privilege. If they’ll only sell you a home in a certain zip code, you don’t.

If people don’t fear you because of your skin color, you have privilege. If people do fear you, you don’t.

If people let you dine in any restaurant you want and the waiter doesn’t look at you funny when you come in, you have privilege. If they won’t, just as a general rule, you don’t.

If police can’t kill you and say they were afraid of you, even without a gun, you have privilege. If police can kill you and suffer no consequences, you don’t.

If companies won’t even consider putting toxins in your neighborhood, you have privilege. If companies will put the most heinous and toxic crap in your neighborhood without even thinking about it and then say your IQ suffers naturally, you don’t.

I have privilege in all of those same ways. Our Black brothers and sisters don’t. If you didn’t know, it’s not your fault. Now that you do, try not to be offended when they say you do. I have always said the problem isn’t that we have privilege (that’s the way life is supposed to be). The problem is that they don’t.

I hope everybody’s clearer now.

 

Resisting with Peace,

 

John