I See Dead People — Why Don’t They?

I’ve been watching the news for a while now, and it doesn’t look good. For whatever reasons, we have elected people that want to kill us. The President wants to “overthrow Obamacare”. A majority of the House of Representatives want to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Apparently, some group of Senators (who are also in the majority party) want to do the same and they will be showing us their handiwork on Thursday, then attempting to push it through quickly and get  the President to sign it.

All of this, as duly elected officials, is their right. The majority party can do that when they hold Congress and the Executive Branch. In theory, the Senate could blow us all away with the best-crafted healthcare-for-all bill the world has ever seen. If they do that, the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief and the celebrations will commence. The problem with that, of course, is that we can only predict based on past actions and stated intents. The House version of this bill was horrible enough, with 24 million people predicted to lose their healthcare. They went back and made it more draconian, more punishing, more deadly — so that it would pass.

Now, the Senate version takes up the cause, and they are doing it behind closed doors, with no one but 12 people having worked on it. Given the party-in-charge’s previous plans and celebrations, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this mysterious piece of legislation.

But this not a political decision, between “liberal snowflakes” and “conservative realists” as it is being painted by the press (especially Fox News) or between competing ideologies (as the rest of the press seems to think). It is a moral decision. If whatever comes out of the Senate Republicans takes away health coverage from anybody, it means earlier loss of life than with healthcare coverage for that person. Contrary to what that Congressman said, people do “die because of lack of healthcare coverage”. 

Do you know what they call people without healthcare? Dead or poor. The reason Obama made it a priority is because so many of the bankruptcy cases involved medical bills.  Returning to the pre-Obamacare era is dumb economically, but it is lethal as well. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe we need to accept that death happens. But as a society, don’t we have the collective will to limit that? That’s what Obamacare taught us: that we can save people, if we want to. This Senate doesn’t seem to want to. Isn’t preventing suffering a good thing? Isn’t that our call as human beings — to take care of each other?

I’m not a big one for hyperbole, but isn’t the early death of 23 million people a form of genocide? While it’s a lot harder to prove neglect, we recognize that it is wrong, and that it is a form of violence. Writing a law that says some of us require neglect of others is inhuman. I have given up on figuring out who is at fault — doctors and the medical establishment or insurance companies and their rules or Big Pharma for soaking us for meds. At this point none of that matters. Those who have made things worse have already done so. For any other body — especially one of elected representatives — to plan the illness and destruction of millions of lives is something super-villains do in the comics. It has no place in real life. 

If this bill does anything like it appears it will, anyone who votes for it should never be re-elected. Not ever! Still, that makes it about politics again. Anyone who votes for this — again, if it is what it seems — should not he allowed to represent humanity. 

I keep seeing dead people as the direct result of this bill. If you’re ok with that, you’re dead already. I don’t know what to say after that.

I’ll be…

Resisting with peace,
John

Jesus Was A Radical, and Other “Liberal” Thoughts.

My friend Jen is not particularly aware of the Christian Left, and she is not alone. For United Church of Christ clergy like myself who have screaming “we exist!” into the cone of silence that is our media, that’s a real problem. As someone like William Barber ihas a featured place in a NY Times article, and his hard, moral work has given us the light of day to talk and be heard about the Jesus we serve. 

One would think that fundamentalists were the only kind of “Christian” around. I would run screaming from Jesus if that were true. A bit of history is important here. “Fundamentalism” is not, I repeat, not as old as Jesus. It came about in the late 1800s and said one was a “Christian” only if they believed in 5 “fundamentals” of faith: 1) The Bible is perfect in every word (innerant) 2) The Virgin Birth of Jesus, 3) that all the good people who are alive when Jesus comes back will float into heaven (the “rapture”) at the end of time, while 4) the bad people will go to a literal Hell, with flames and all that. 5) is that only the people who claim “Jesus as their Lord and Saviour” will avoid Hell. Everybody else is on their own unless we can get to them and save them.

Left leaning Christians believe what Bernie Sanders said, “Jesus was a Socialist Jew”. We believe that the early church in Acts 2 is socialism 2,000 years before Marx. We believe that love of neighbor and love of God are central to the faith (because Jesus said that), rather than whether a Virgin can give birth. We may actually believe some of the 5 fundamentals (I can do 2 of them myself), we don’t think they are what Jesus cared about most — not at all.

Jesus didn’t own anything. Jesus wanted us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the sick. He didn’t care if you had a membership card to his club. He talked to women when no man was supposed to. He touched unclean people all the time, he talked to “half-breeds”, like Samaritans, when he wasn’t supposed to.  He just broke the rules all the time and it didn’t go over well with The Powers-That-Be. Just to confuse matters, he did it out of love, not out of anger. He didn’t much care who the political leaders of his day were, but he did care about what they did. He believed in the equal value of all people and he wanted to know why, if everybody was equal in God’s eyes, why weren’t we treating them like it?  He was.

There are , and have always been, people who liked the status-quo because it worked for them. Jesus was not one of them and it got him killed. Left-leaning Christians accept that as a possible cost of our faith. We’re not happy about it, but we know it’s possible — likely even — if we do this life right. Bet you never heard Jerry Falwell or Loel Osteen say that, but St. Francis did. And MLK did. 

That whole “God loves everybody, so why don’t we?” thing is primary for us, and anybody who has ever been oppressed in any way gets that. Anyone who has ever said, “Hey, don’t I matter?” gets it, or should. That’s our connection to Black folk’s faith. When plantation owners wanted them to understand God loved them more, they saw the Old Testament slaves and said, ” Hey, wait, what’s this stuff?” God frees slaves! Jesus says you’re supposed to love us as equals!  What’s with that? We thought you said the whole Bible was true! Once again, God and Jesus messed with everything the powerful believed. That’s our Jesus! 

That belief in taking the Bible “seriously, but not literally” connects us to millennials and evangelicals. I don’t think even the New York Times gets how that works, but it makes sense to people like Bono and Jim Wallis, both of whom believe budgets are moral documents

So, we “Left-leaning” Christians are finally getting heard. We hope to keep it up, and we hope you’ll notice our Jesus, found in the actual scriptures, not the works of Adam Smith, Ayn Rand or the “prosperity gospel”. You can seen why we’re not thrilled about healthcare cuts or budgets designed to kill people. When you “lefties” are organizing, count us in. Let us introduce you to the guy we work for.

Resisting with Peace, 
John

AUTHOR’S CORRECTION: if you read the comments, you’ll note that “my friend Jen” is Jen Chapin and (through her work at WhyHunger, as a musician, an activist, and as history teacher) she knows and likes a whole lot of us Left-leaning Christians. I continue to be impressed by her knowledge. I commend to you her song ” Gospel” which features samples of a supporter and strategist for MLK. For those interested in such things, check out Vincent Harding’s organization “Veterans of Hope”, Mennonite theology, “On Being” on NPR, liberation theology, … and, of course, support WhyHunger.

Trump Must Go. Now!

A recent article in The Nation  discussed from a variety of points of view whether we should let the process play out or whether we should impeach him sooner rather than later. What it boiled down to is this: Is Pence more dangerous? Keep him. Is Trump’s getting nothing done helping people? Keep him. Is he too dangerous to leave in much longer? If yes, he has to go. 

Today, when Donald Trump decided to back out of the Paris Climate Accords, he put himself in the last category. Forget politics. Forget ethics. Forget classism. Forget racism. Forget whatever you have for or against him. A man who chooses to deny climate change, or declines to do anything about it, is not — and cannot be — concerned for the welfare of America’s citizens. It’s not just the act, though that is enough. The problem here is intent. Why would anyone choose to do this? Trump apparently said he was elected by Pittsburgh, not Paris. There are two problems: 1) Pittsburgh doesn’t support the decision and 2) America is more than just Pittsburgh. Trump was elected to be President of the entire country, with its miles and miles of coastline. I have nothing against the Rust Belt, and in fact, I want them to have jobs and education and food and all the things they need. Still, America is more than the Rust Belt, Bible Belt or any other piece of the country. 

 Deny all you want, Mr. President, but if there’s even a chance in your mind that climate change will make things worse for the entire planet, at least attempt to stop it. You’ll attack N. Korea because it threatens lives. You’ll attack Syria because they kill and maim people. You’ll attack the Press because they bother you, but you don’t feel threatened enough by global climate change and its effects on all Americans to at least attempt to stop it?! 

With every other issue that follows this campaign, with the isolation of our allies, and now with this, it is clear that the President is actively working against America’s interest. He needs to step down. If he won’t do that, we need to remove him. We must start now.
Resisting with Peace,
John

An Open Letter To ISIS/ISIL

Last night, some person or persons, acting in your name, drove a truck into a concert full of kids in Manchester, England. 

Really. Kids. These were people not doing anything to you, not thinking about religion, certainly not thinking about your religion. In fact, they were probably thinking of nothing much but music, joy, and dancing. On what basis, other than hate, can you justify this? Are you against joy, dancing, or children? 

Maybe you don’t like girls/women who sing. Everybody’s a critic. I know the internet is full of trolls who feel like they have the right to complain about the arts, but I don’t like them, either. I like you less. The singer at the concert you bombed said she was “so sorry”, but — as one who works with victims all the time — I can assure her that she did nothing wrong. She didn’t drive a bomb into her concert. You did. 

Maybe you don’t like women in general. I don’t know about where you’re from, but here women are pretty much a necessity for life. Further, if teenage girls are who you’re targeting, does that mean that you perceive them as some kind of threat to your cause? I know that they’re loud, but I don’t find them scary in any way. If they scare you, you’ve got problems already that bombs aren’t going to solve.

In short, this target serves no political objective. It does make us like you even less and it promotes revenge fantasies. For instance, what if we found out where the bomber was from and we drove a truck into his village and blew it up? And what if we did it every single time this happened? Yes, I’m capable of revenge fantasies, but I don’t engage them because I like kids. Once your children figure out that I won’t hurt them, but you will, guess who wins? Oh, well.

About your goals: From what I hear, you want to establish an Islamic religious state somewhere.  I don’t think it’s going to work — not because of anything I say or do — but because you can’t build anything. You can only destroy, as far as I can see. We have people in our country that think you can build with hate and by saying “no” to every positive idea expressed. I’m not sure if you read our newspapers, but if you do, you will see that they are going to fall soon as well.  Killing creative people, while building killers will ultimately lead to your destruction.

I don’t know much about Islam, nor do I care to, if this is what it looks like. What I do know something about is the One you call Allah. That One is all about love. That One is all about Strength, yes, but not about killing, or murder of innocents. The One who created the Universe isn’t much interested in destroying it. If the One you believe in is against evil, then ultimately I wouldn’t want to be you, because what you have done is evil, and you and I both know it. In our scriptures, ” ‘Vengence is  mine’, says the Lord”. I don’t even have to do anything to fix the situation. The One Who Establishes Justice will. 

To sum up, this attack was a really bad idea. By targeting people who did nothing to you, you have called attention to yourself, and it’s not the good kind of attention. You haven’t hit a military target, you haven’t won anyone to your cause, and your God isn’t very happy with you. You might try another series of techniques if you want to build a state that gives glory to Allah. This one’s not working.  In the end, only kindness matters. 
Resisting with Peace,

John 

For Those Still Playing The Liberal/Conservative Game: Cut It Out!

Reading my Facebook feed today, I see Right Wing folks rolling their eyes or mocking “those liberals” and I have to say we — yes, WE — have bigger fish to fry. I don’t care about whether you’re liberal or conservative. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat. I don’t care if you like me or if I like you. We can’t focus on those kinds of things. Democracy is at stake. The soul of America is at stake.  

The boat we are on is sinking and arguing about the color of our buckets isn’t going to keep us afloat. We may disagree — and we do — about many things. But let’s be honest, the Trump presidency is NOT one of them. In 4 months or so, we have seen what actual hatred of America can do.  In 4 months, Mr. Trump has given away secrets to the Russians, fired the man chasing him for possibly working with the Russians, fired a woman who noticed his friends worked with Russia, talked to, and spoke for, the FBI director about this investigation, is happy people will lose health insurance and rich people will have more of our wealth. 

How many of you voted to cozy up to the Russians? How many of you voted to lose Medicare or Medicaid? How many of you wanted to lose health care? How many of you wanted to work for “the man”, get poorer while he gets richer? I’m pretty sure he didn’t win by promising that. 

In things Trump’s gotten done, how big was the Crazy People Need Guns lobby? How big was the Feed Our Children Less Healthy Food Coalition? How many Americans were yelling for dropping our biggest bomb on Afghanistan? Trump got that done. I bet he didn’t represent you. 

Did any of us really vote for the extra Secret Service to be part of the nation’s debt? Whose agenda does it serve to use Congress’ time for investigations rather than budgets, jobs, social programs, and such? Was it me or you that decided to escalate with North Korea? How many of us voted for the “Golf Every Weekend” President? 

What about money laundering as a policy, overt racism from our Top Cop, who now has to recuse himself from some of the biggest cases the administration faces, because he might be a suspect? How many anti environmental hunters and fishers are out there. How many of us wanted ExxonMobil to run our State Department and make more money? How many Americans voted for Wall Street to rip us off even more? How many of us planned for there to be an Alt ForestService  or remove information from  websites? How many of us 

 My guess is  that none of us voted for the policies the Man in Office has made happen. He has made these decisions. He is gutting our system. He has been disrespecting the very Constitution he swore to uphold — and I’m still not convinced he’s read it! 

We need to impeach our President for being a walking, talking lie to all of us. If you still want to roll your eyes or mock somebody, get a mirror. I’ll be here looking for a life preserver.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Back To Life, Back to Theology…

This blog and its predecessor, “Like It Matters” were designed, among other things to discuss theology. As I hear certain people in the present administration make choices regarding basic needs and claim theological reasons, apparently it’s time to go back to theology — because, among other reasons — I want to protect the reputation of my faith.  To my mind, the things some people think while claiming Christianity are actually anathema to Christian teaching. 

For example: yesterday a man in Congress suggested that insurance was for good people, because good people take care of themselves and, if they get an illness, or have need of using insurance, it’s “through no fault of their own”. Apparently these people have never read the book of Job, where the good suffer, and their “friends” blame them. Apparently they don’t remember Jesus saying ” the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”. Nor do they remember the psalmist saying, “how long must the wicked prosper?…”  We have done away with the theology that says “good happens to good people, while bad happens to bad people” and we did it centuries ago! 

Years ago, when Hitler was in power in Germany, the churches in Germany began supporting his regime, and there were few, if any, safe places to say what you saw going on around you. Theologians who seemed radical, I’m sure, created a document (the Barman Declaration) that said, in short: “There is no God but God. We know how God acts, and Hitler’s not God. To say he is (which Hitler said himself) is to at the least, miss the point, and at worse, proclaim evil as good”. Here’s my update: Donald Trump and Donald Trump-ism is not God. Capitalism is not God. Wealth is not God. To dance around and smile because you succeeded in hurting people and saying you’re Christian American is to, at the least, miss the point of Christianity and Being an American. 

Time after time, throughout history, people have made Something which isn’t God to be their God. The 10 Commandments — the Law and Order rules that some people want put in courthouses, strictly forbid such idol worship! It always fails because the thing people replace God with is only a shadow, only a sliver, only an atom, of who God is. We shouldn’t settle for half a loaf of God. To do so is to set ourselves up for failure. Failure is the opposite of success. If you want to succeed in the long run, stop having a narrow view, a short-term view, mean hearted view of God.

I know that some families who used to be “on top” of human hierarchies are now hurting or ignored because their industry has changed and so have the rules. Christians suffer so that others may have their needs met. Jesus never said, “if a man slaps you, you should shoot him in revenge”.  The Bible says, “Vengence is mine, says the Lord”.  Revenge is never a good motive in the Christian life. White Supremacy is based on the perceived slight of the “right people” by giving “the wrong people” the the things they need. White Supremacists want revenge (never a good thing)  for a perceived slight called “sharing”. Sharing is a Christian ideal. Revenge is not.

Regarding the environment, some people think “we have dominion over nature” means we can do whatever-the-hell-we want. It doesn’t. It means we’re responsible for nature. You’re not much of a ruler if you have no subjects. If you destroy them, you guarantee that you have no subjects to rule over. Try not to destroy anything or anyone under your care.  If you do, you only end up killing yourself. 

Things cannot go on being the way they are. Love and people are God’s interest. Hating each other is not. Destroying the human spirit is not. 

That’s it for now.

Resisting with Peace,
John

What A Woman Should Be…

I have 3 women in my life and -as one of them turns 18 — I am proud of all of them. They are all what a woman should be. If I think about my family, there are more women, including my sister, an ex-sister-in-law and 4 nieces. As the 18 year old sang in a choir this morning, bought a Unicorn something from Starbucks, and just played basketball, I thought “that’s what a girl or woman should be.

Here’s an actual list of things the women I know are:

A pastor

A social worker

A student

A professor

A great blues/soul/rock singer

A basketball player

A tennis player 

On tech crew for drama and music

A mother

A daughter

College bound

In college

In addition to jobs, they are all:

Capable of making choices

Responsible for their own bodies and what happens with them

At times, in a dangerous world, but safe at home (I think, for all of them.

Smart

Funny

Sarcastic

Kind

Not kind at all sometimes

Overworked

Maybe underpaid 

Sexual

Not sexual

Wants children

Doesn’t want children 

Happy

Sad

A hippie

Christian

Atheist

Deeply faithful
Not as deeply faithful

Of no faith at all

All of them: 

like diversity in their friends

Care for the outsider and oppressed

Have their own opinions

Have their own interests

Are right often

Make mistakes as well

Are who they are
And for the most part, all I have to do is let them be that. Sometimes I have to remind them of who they are and what they can be — how many options they have. i don’t know if that makes me a feminist or not, laissez-faire or concerned enough, but I do believe that any woman on earth ought to be anything on this list. Am I imposing my opinion on the world? I suppose I am. I plan to continue with that.

Resisting with Peace,
John