I Refuse To Stop Believing

There is an article on Yahoo News today about “Why Churches Are Declining in the U.S.” . I hate articles like that. They act like it’s a done deal, that it’s rational, that everyone knows it.

For myself, it can’t be a done deal. It’s not rational. At least one of us doesn’t know it. It may be denial. It may be tradition, or it may be stubbornness, but it’s not. God is real. I believe that Jesus was real, but I am sure that God is. There may be one God with many names. There may be many “gods” but One Godhead. I don’t know.

What I do know is that God , G-d if you prefer to highlight the Mystery, exists. In 1917, Professor Rudolf Otto went to Harvard University and gave a series of lectures in the midst of a world that believed in science as it understood it at the time — a world that would soon have its first ever World War.

The results of those lectures is a book called, “The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational “. In that book and the lectures it came from, Otto says there is something beyond us, something he called “the numinous” which is in every culture which in not “rational”, but not “irrational” either. It is Wholly Other. It is bigger than us, it’s unfathomable and we feel small in front of it.it’s we stand in awe of it when we meet it. For Otto, it is The Holy, mysterious tremendum (tremendous mystery). For most people, including myself, it is called God.

Yahweh, Allah, G-d, El Shadai, I Am Who I Am, Spirit — they are the same One Thing and many people experience it. When people feel a call to ministry or a sense of religious yearning or a sense of God in the world, this is what they feel/experience. It is the Source of all good things created in the universe. It is Truth and Love and Healing and Reality and Peace, and every other good thing you can imagine or feel.

Now, regarding Jesus. I will acknowledge that I have never met the historical person “Jesus” or “Yeshua” as they would have called him in Israel at the time. Also, “Christ” is not his last name, not the name on the mailbox out front of his house. “Christ” is a term for “Messiah” or “One who saves” people.

Finally, if you notice anything about the gospels, it seems that the four writers couldn’t keep their stories straight. Each writes from their own perspective much like an traffic report seen from different corners of an intersection. That doesn’t mean (though it could) they are liars. It just means that they remember different things and/ or were telling their stories to different people they wanted to connect with.

We still do that: To Woody Guthrie, “Jesus was a man who lived throughout the land, a hard working man and brave”. To others, he is the reason for Christmas, and our love of innocence. To others, he is “My savior God… How great thou art”.

I will not tell you that Jesus isn’t a myth, a made up story of a guy. I can’t prove that, though I believe he existed and he taught and he was born and died and somewhere in there he changed the world with his teachings and (yes, I believe) his resurrection after death. Could I prove that he existed in history just like I think of him? No, so I won’t pretend.

Having said that, if he was a lie, he was a heck of a lie. He said and did the strangest things. If he is a lie, then Gandhi was wrong, and Martin Luther King was wrong, and the Bishop who is running the Poor People’s Campaign is wrong. Each based their methods and tactics on Jesus’ words. Every pacifist who believes in humanity is a follower of Jesus’ words, as was St. Francis who did things that were just as strange and just as powerful and charismatic (thousands of followers in a very short time) as Jesus.

Does Jesus save people from their sins? Does he bring peace to unforgiving hearts and massively drunken failures, or slave traders? There are millions of people who will tell you their “experience of strength and hope” in meetings all around the world. The author of Amazing Grace was a slave trader who stopped his ways because he believed in Jesus.

Saving Jesus didn’t make sense to the early church or Saul by saving Saul’s life after Saul tried to kill Christians. Sacrificial Suffering still doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but if you choose to sacrifice for your beliefs, it seems to work fairly well, fairly often.

So, with all this, why does Christianity seem to be fading in the American landscape? Why are people not going to church? Why are young people, especially, not going to a church near them? That’s easy. If Jesus were alive today, he’d hate the most popular, biggest selling, most powerful churches in America — the ones everyone knows about because they see them on TV and in the news.

Evangelical churches, for whatever they believe about mercy and sacrifice, show up on TV hating dead gay people and disrupting their funerals. They showed up in the media as supporters of Trump’s Fascism and love for power. Even Jimi Hendrix who died of heroin overdose knew better than that. Hendrix said, “When the power of love is more important than the love of power, the world will know peace”.

Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Joel Osteen — hugely powerful people and very well known in the press missed that concept or certainly act like it. Their pastors fly around in private jets and refuse to house people flooded out of their homes (Joel Osteen). They scream about how gay folks are the end of the world, and then are caught having sex with their pool boys (Jerry Falwell, Jr.) They bilk their flocks out of millions. They cry about the end of the world, and then they support people who want to bring it about!

Anyone with a brain in their head would see that those famous and loud people wouldn’t know Jesus if he sat in their front pew. The idea that people aren’t coming to church because of the non-Christians they see on tv — all the time! — actually gives me hope. It means people are rejecting hate, they are rejecting brutality, they are rejecting money for money’s sake and power for power’s sake. Jesus did that too! Jesus wasn’t rich, and wasn’t particularly powerful during his own life, actively rejecting both of those things.

Do the statistics look bad for the churches in your neighborhood? Yes, of course they do! Are churches — especially little ones — dying? All the time. Liberal ones? Well, by comparison, they are not mega-churches, but they don’t often have greedy power-mad pastors in them either. I’ll take that trade any time.

Finally, there’s the COVID factor. Church attendance is down because of a pandemic. If those churches were full and people didn’t use reasonable precautions, there’d be a lot of dead people in those congregations. Regardless of your feelings about resurrection, most people don’t want those around them to die. So, yes, they’re not going to have great attendance. If people attended and died, attendance would be down. If people didn’t attend and didn’t die, attendance would be down (as it is).

What the church has, in this age of rudeness and not knowing each other, is ways to know and get along with other people. It has ways of caring for the hungry and the homeless and the angry and the uneducated and even the CEO’s of the world.

Jesus is offering what the world needs more of — love, peace, a way to work out your differences, a place to practice pro-social skills or social skills at all. The church can be a way to meet people you would never meet otherwise — people not like you, but people you would like.

The church offers, with it’s teachings, a way to raise children and keep them safe, and believe in themselves. Where did they get these teachings? Jesus in some way or another.

The church has what the world needs and the world has a lot of needs. By “church” I mean the ones I know of. And, while I believe in Jesus, I’m sure that good synagogues and good mosques offer the same quality of community that we offer. I Am Who I Am knows all of them and visits quite frequently, I’m sure.

The church of Fascism or hate or anger or strict adherence for parishioners but not for clergy shouldn’t be famous or growing. The non-welcoming church, the drastic church, the screaming in anger church, aren’t churches of Jesus, regardless of what it says on their sign. They’re just not.

So, yes, church attendance is down, but it’s not for any reason like people imply. Christianity is not fading because it has nothing to offer or is hocus-locus wishful thinking. Bad churches are fading as they should. Good churches meet people’s needs and offer a way to make life better. Sadly, both say “Christ” or “Jesus” on their front door right now. But if you’re looking for kindness, caring, community, a place to think about what might be right or wrong, I swear, the church is the place for that. If you walk in the door and that’s not what they are selling, you’re in the wrong place. Trust yourself, as most church trust you.

The church can’t die. It still has things to do here on earth. I somewhere between “encourage” you and “beg” you to find out for yourself. May the Lord bless you and keep you. Amen.

Resisting with Peace,

John

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Won’t Stop. Won’t Go Back.

I started to type this as my pastor preaches about the Rev. Martin Luther King and the Spirit encourages me to say, “Amen!” to what she says. Scripture has been read from Isaiah in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and is followed by the re-proclamation of that text in the words of John the Baptizer.

As she preaches, I am reminded that Dr. King also re-proclaimed words of wisdom. There are so many dimensions of life that King spoke about that he was right about, but I am going to limit my words to this. What King talked about is the Constitution and Bill of Rights that said “All men are created equal. Endowed by their Creator with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As we look at those words, we can see — even within them — that they were meant as aspirational — a goal, a fantasy that spoke more than it even knew, a dream bigger than could be imagined by humans of the time.

I say this because not only are all men created equal and endowed by their Creator, but women are created equal in value to men — all of humanity is created by that Creator and thus equal and endowed with dreams and visions. As the church proclaimed at Pentecost, in Acts 2: 17 and 18 (emphasis added)

17 Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Of course, it “only” took us 150 years or so to understand that women were equal in value among humans, and there is more work to be done so that America knows that in its heart.

King pointed out that he was only asking for rights that the Constitution said he already had: the right to vote, the right to assemble any where people wanted, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He was asking for the prophecy of the Bill of Rights to become reality.

It’s hard to vote when the vote is prevented by the state you live in. It’s hard to assemble when you can’t sit at a lunch counter. It’s hard to believe in the right to live when you can be hung and people celebrate it. It’s hard to believe in liberty when your people were once slaves or later share croppers or now incarcerated at a higher rate than others. With all those things being true, the pursuit of happiness is nearly impossible.

And that was in 1954, and later in 1964. Since then, the list of people wanting freedom has grown.

Women wanted actual rights like Blacks had achieved then. Yes, they could vote, but they wanted to work and get paid the same amount for doing so. They wanted economic freedom. They wanted representation in Congress and ultimately in the White House. They wanted choice about their own bodies and what happened to them.

Next the Gay Rights movement came along. The gay community wanted to be seen as full human beings, and not be beaten up for existing and loving each other. Later, the AIDS crisis meant the movement could focus on basic survival which could be denied them by politicians. If the movement hadn’t begun prior to this, millions more would have died.

Most recently, the Trans Rights movement has come along. Like previous movements, they want the right to exist, to not be beaten up for simply existing, and all the other rights that Americans have. Like the women’s movement, there are medical rights involved which are unique to their cause.

In each case, the new movement built on the previous movements. In each case, the group wanted to claim the rights they believed the Constitution said they had, or they believed their Creator had endowed them with. Each fought off hate in order to achieve basic rights.

But something strange also happened, which King could not have foreseen: the sentiment that “It’s a [fill in the group] thing. You wouldn’t understand”. This idea may have started with the Black Power movement, which was against King’s philosophy of non-violence. The idea of pride and a form of cultural nationalism that led to violence and isolated movements became a problem, and remains a problem. Among other things, it seems to think that movements can be fads, “the latest liberal thing to think about”. Of course, fads go out of style. When Peace and Love became fashion, they ceased to be causes.

The other problem post-King movements had was either/or thinking. Identity politics meant that if you were “for” one group, you couldn’t be for others. Was a women who liked women to be seen as a lesbian /gay rights movement or as a part of the women’s movement?

King wasn’t about that. He was about progressing all of humanity. He set out to change people at their core — their hearts and minds. Yes, certainly, it was about Black rights, but he wanted Whites to see the humanity in non-Whites. This is not to say that he himself wasn’t affected by the other “isms”, but the movement for non-violent change reached beyond them.

So what does this mean? For me, if we have to choose, it means that issues of racial inequality should be fixed first, and those will always be my first priority.

As a follower of King’s nonviolent movement, though, I have been welcomed to accept the full humanity and equality of Black people — to treasure them and learn from them, just as King said, even if there are experiences I haven’t had that are specific to their lives. In other words, I don’t have to choose between men, women, trans, gay, straight, white, Black, Hispanic, or Asian liberation. It is my job, as a human being, to accept the full humanity of every person, even as I acknowledge the individual faults they may have. They are all endowed by their Creator with the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Anything that stands in the way of that is, quite simply, wrong. I will always be an “ally” to Black people, but that is not what King invited me and you to. King invited me and you, I believe, to be a part of The Beloved Community. Blacks are not “other”, gays are not “other”, trans folks are not “other”. We are all part of each other, and part of the same Community of Humanity, loved by our creator.

I will always be appalled by racial hatred, and racial injustice. It’s my job, as a human, and a Christian, to strive for racial love and racial justice… and every other kind of love and justice out there.

That means I want to help restore the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, I want to support the NAACP, I want to advocate for housing rights and against red-lining. I want Black people to have food, and clothing, and freedom to be themselves, to go where they want, to be who they want, and all of that until I die.

But I cannot turn away anyone else’s rights to the same,

Resisting with Peace,

John

How Democracy Is Supposed To Work

1) You vote.

2) Somebody wins. It could be the person you voted for. Might not be.

3) Regardless of who wins, that person is supposed to represent you.

4) If you have a problem that the government can solve, you can talk to your elected representative and ask them to consider it. They are representing you. They should try to help you.

5) Your representative has a weird role. They represent your will, unless they think your opinion or desire isn’t moral. They are supposed to be more moral, more high-minded than the populous.

That is democracy as it should be.

Why am I saying this? Because, it’s not about leaders’ power or ego, or celebrities, or corporations. It’s not about your favorite TV station. It’s not about parties. It’s about you and other people around you and the best way to be as a country.

If a candidate doesn’t believe what it says above, they shouldn’t be running. More to the point is that you shouldn’t vote for them. On this Election Day, choose wisely.

Peace,

John

No Duh! Women, Lawmakers, Abortion and More..

Remember a few years ago, when White America learned about something that Black Americans have always know — “The Talk” that Black parents have to give their children about what to do if the police pull you over? We couldn’t imagine that anyone would have to do that in our country. They would be in shock over our disbelief. “How could you not have known it was part of our culture’s life?”, they would ask. And we would say, “How would we know it was part of your lives?!”.

I’ve been having one of those moments lately regarding another not-my-culture: women, especially regarding abortion

You may have heard this before, but men and women are different, biologically, (I’m not even going to deal with trans issues here, because — at age 62 — I’m just starting to understand the biology/psychology/sociology of women. That’s a whole other thing on the learning curve) . Again, for those in the back, Women and men are biologically different in the same way that, for instance, giraffes and lions are different. It is not that one or the other is better than the other. They are just different.

Most adults and a great portion of children and teenagers can tell you that men have penises and women have vaginas. But wait, there’s more! — and the “more” matters, a lot.

Historically, though, there was less (well, less known about the subject) — and that’s the beginning of the problem. Like the George Floyd thing, we got here because one group’s voice mattered and the other one — the one with experience — didn’t.

We men didn’t know anything, but patriarchy said we were supposed to know everything, so we made stuff up. The stuff we made up about “That Thing We Know Nothing About” could be fanciful: “It’s just a place to put men’s ‘seed’ — there’s nothing up there”. It could also be yucky: “It bleeds, get that thing away from us!” Notice that, by this it’s all one thing. Today, we know — if we’re interested — that there’s a vagina, and place nearby where pee comes out, and a place that we have yet to acknowledge…. but we think of it as one mysterious thing. As that changes, we might make some real changes in our society.

For a frame of reference, in the “science” and “philosphy” (aka religion) of it’s day, first it was “the place where babies are made” for men. Men put seed into that place and the seed was held safe until the baby was born. On occasion, baby girls were born, but — well, that couldn’t be helped, and they didn’t really matter. What men wanted was boys to carry on the family name. If a king had a boy, that was to be celebrated. Men did all the work, and men received what was due them — a male heir. If a girl appeared at birth, there was something wrong with the mother. If no baby appeared, there was something horrible about the mother. Women were hanged, beheaded, sent away, divorced, or any number of things for that.

Then came the Black Plague and everybody went into hiding … away from each other. Monks went into monasteries and contemplated on all the Holy things that God had created. They wrote down the Bible, they considered mysteries, good and evil — again, from their vantage point.

So “The Mysterious Thing” could be — among other things — scary/good/exciting/evil all at once. Monks in monasteries (where there were clearly no women around) came up with a book called the “Malleus Maleficarum” which explained what “that thing down there” did: It enticed men to break their vows of chastity and become devil worshipers. People (men) had lust, and women were the ones they lusted after, and women had “that thing down there”. Lust is a fun feeling (good/exciting) but if you’re a monk and you act on it, it leads to bad things and that’s scary. That mix of feelings is a great way to create an obsession. And so it was.

In the Renaissance, there was just a “down there” — when doctors looked, (at the dead, because no one would look at “that” when the woman was alive, The Baby Making Place was attached to The Vagina. The Vagina was a tube. Above that tube was “something” like maps of the new world that said “there be dragons here”. Depending on who you asked, there could be cosmic galaxies, or angel-wing-factories or who-knows-what at the top of that tube.

Modern reader: I’m not saying any of this is politically correct or the way it should be. I’m trying to describe both the reality and absurdity of the system where men are supposed to run everything: Patriarchy. This is what I sort-of grew up with, and — even it seems silly now — it’s what everybody believed. Also, modern reader: This is not necessarily a piece for children. I’m about to use terms. You can decide about whether your children should see them. I’ll leave that up to you.

Then came the Victorian Era. In that period, women had a “down there” and men and women didn’t talk about it in polite company.

In those days, according to “experts” (see note above on “experts”) women had a hole between their legs where the penis went.

Freud notably noticed that women didn’t have a penis, but then suddenly we knew more. Women didn’t have a “down there” to be ashamed of, they had a hole that didn’t have a penis. That, according to experts (like Freud) was what made them inferior. And so it was. It was clear to the psychologists of the day that women wanted to have a penis, so they took men’s for a bit, and there was sex.

The world revolved around sex, for years, and it still does in many places. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, of course, we had The Sexual Revolution. The understanding was that Everyone Wants Sex — even women. When women began to take that seriously, they raised their own consciousness — by raising their skirts and looking at The Hole and checking out The Vagina with mirrors and other devices of exploration. Suddenly, the Vagina had a clitoris, and labia (two sets!) and a Grafenberg spot, maybe, if you believed in that sort of thing. Suddenly women understood how The Mysterious Thing worked. And, amazingly, it worked fine without men — it wasn’t the same, really, as having company and making love, but — yep, it worked fine for the Sex That Everyone Wanted — including women.

Then something weird happened. Well, lots of weird things happened. Women (feminists, anyway) didn’t want to be taken care, didn’t believe that men knew everything about them, and shouldn’t determine their destiny, even if the women did liked sex. Also, it turns out, not all of them like sex with men at all. Suddenly there was the Equal Rights Amendment, and the sexual revolution, and the feminist movement and Roe vs. Wade which said women could control their own bodies, and didn’t have to have babies if they didn’t want them.

Suddenly, there was a screeching noise in the American consciousness. All that was two much for Phyllis Schlafly (a woman) who liked Patriarchy. She liked being a wife, and being taken care of, and raising children — or so she said. So did her rich donor friends. and the anti-abortion movement was born. Also, the anti-feminist movement, and the Let’s-Go-Back-To-The Fifties-When-Everything-Made-Sense movement.

The 80’s and 90’s were about the fight between feminist women and the men who liked them and their values and anti-feminist men and women who didn’t like it at all. Somewhere in here, we figured out that women could have it all and like sex, so they were convinced that they should work harder by taking on at least two jobs — their profession and child-raising, and supporting their husbands. (They were, after all, still women). So, conservative women (and feminists among them?) decided they didn’t have to give up one for the other. It was still possible to raise a family and be a housewife because that was an example of women’s right to make choices. This was their choice.

OK, let’s stop here for a second…

Notice that to this point — women had vaginas and “down there”s and even sexual parts — mostly to please men, but they had expanded their universe and their place in the world by understanding themselves. They didn’t need to have anyone explain their experience to them. In discovering for themselves what was theirs, they changed how they thought about the rest of themselves.

To this day, men (and women don’t understand menstruation, or periods, how they happen, and where they happen. They almost understand ovulation because they have to , if they want to understand pregnancy and their wife. If you ask a man where a woman’s liver is, they can probably tell you, because men have one. But a uterus? Point to that, and it’s up there somewhere. Fallopian tubes? One on the left one on the right, sort of in the front “down there”. Eggs? We understand them at the grocery store. But wt size is a human egg? I (we?) don’t have a clue. A Uterine lining? If we don’t know where the uterus is, we don’t know where the lining is, or what it’s made of. What’s it made of? “That stuff” that women and girls have “up there”!

In short, because we don’t have those things, we don’t understand a thing about women when it comes to abortion. It’s not the vagina or the clitoris — we actually understand those things. It’s the interior body parts that we don’t have, don’t understand, don’t know or care to know about.

When a Senator or elected official says that women can’t abort an ectopic pregnancy, they have absolutely no idea what an ectopic pregnancy is, or where you can find one. The female leaders just roll their eyes, and try to explain, but the law against abortion becomes law anyway. And to prove they will not be mocked, the male Senators get extra-strict and say no abortions under any circumstance. Or “life starts when our swimmers get the job done”. Is that true? I don’t know. It depends on what you mean by “life”. I suppose it starts to begin at that point. Is that the same thing? I don’t know. Is a miscarriage a person? It it life? is it sacred in the same way we think of babies being that? I don’t think so, but I don’t know. I’ve never had one in my body. I’ve also never had fallopian tubes, a cervix, or any of that other stuff.

The D and C , they procedure they do in abortions? That’s the same procedure they use for miscarriages, apparently. It’s also, I think, the procedure they use to get a pap smear. Don’t women need those to stay healthy? Because I don’t know about those things,I wouldn’t be making laws about it. I won’t make laws about Vulcan biology because I don’t have two spinal cords. I won’t make laws about the fifth rung of Saturn because I don’t know if there even is a fifth ring of Saturn. I’d have to ask someone who actually knew. The number of things I don’t know is incredible, but no more incredible than most people’s ignorance.

So here’s what I think: We need to think of women as biological beings, whole in themselves and separate from men. who have the choice to connect to men sexually or not, who can choose to have babies out of those connections or not. As biological beings, they understand the general subject of their bodies — to a greater or lesser extent — but much better than people who don’t. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but I’m guessing women have known this for a long time.

Abortion is not about lust or power or sex — things we are familiar with. Abortion is involved in the stuff we don’t know. This is why men on the Supreme Court shouldn’t make a decision about it — any decision. The four women on the Court — including Amy Coney Barret — can make decisions, by this logic. I think that means that 3 of 4 women want abortion rights for women.

I any case, people making rules about things they don’t understand is never going to yield good results. We need to take all the information and experience out there, to the best of our abilities, to make decisions. But I bet that women knew that, too.

Resisting With Peace,

John

Eric Anderson: The Hardest Working Minister In Show Business

I have known Eric Anderson since about 1986, when we met in seminary. That’s thirty-six years, so I feel like I know him well enough to write this on his 59th birthday. That means I have been in Eric’s life more than I have not. The fact that that’s true says a lot about Eric. It means he can see the diamond in the rough that is my ministry.

While Eric is straight laced and cognizant of his profession, I can be a heretic at times. In fact, one of the first memories I have of Eric is us bowling and me—after picking up a split — making hand gestures and saying, “The laws of physics, broken for you”. I’m sure he still doesn’t know what to make of that, but it seemed natural to me. The fact that I am who I am gives me great pleasure in knowing that he is who he is. .

While I tend to be emotional and a bit sloppy with it, Eric is more cerebral and far less sloppy in matters of ministry. Eric is focused and driven with his mind, as many men do, to follow a code of conduct. His faithfulness and loyalty to friends get him into places by shear force of will — and he doesn’t turn back.

Eric has been a loyal friend since seminary and that means some fairly extraordinary things. When I lost my eyesight in my my right eye, and having all kinds of challenges in life, health, and ministry, Eric took me in as a guest (and friend) at his place in Hawaii. That is the kind of thing that cannot be forgotten in a friendship.

How did it happen? My wife knew enough to call him and talk to him about. She and he made it happen, because Eric is one of my family’s most beloved people among my seminary friends. When he comes into town, we go see him almost no matter what, and he does the same for us. We like to have him around, and we miss him when he leaves. In addition, My kids love his kids, and seem to gel pretty well with them when we get together. They are both exceptional kids, and he is rightfully proud of them.

Eric and my family have things in common — different things, but all in common, Michelle and I have ministry in common with him, but Eric is more than that. Eric is an artist who loves theater and literature (like everyone else in my family, though I can put up with it) and he is an artist who plays music, which is probably my favorite thing in the world (and they can put up with it).

Eric also writes blog pieces, as I do.

Eric Anderson: The Hardest Working Minister In Show Business

I have known Eric Anderson since about 1986, when we met in seminary. That’s thirty-six years, so I feel like I know him well enough to write this on his 59th birthday. That means I have been in Eric’s life more than I have not. The fact that that’s true says a lot about Eric. It means he can see the diamond in the rough that is my ministry., and I can see the beauty and holiness in his.

While Eric is straight laced and cognizant of his profession, I can be a heretic at times. In fact, one of the first memories I have of Eric is us bowling and me—after picking up a split — making hand gestures and saying, “The laws of physics, broken for you”. I’m sure he still doesn’t know what to make of that, but it seemed natural to me. The fact that I am who I am gives me great pleasure in knowing that he is who he is. .

While I tend to be emotional and a bit sloppy with it, Eric is more cerebral and far less sloppy in matters of ministry. Eric is focused and driven with his mind, as many men do, to follow a code of conduct. His faithfulness and loyalty to friends get him into places by shear force of will — and he doesn’t turn back.

Eric has been a loyal friend since seminary and that means some fairly extraordinary things. When I lost my eyesight in my my right eye, and having all kinds of challenges in life, health, and ministry, Eric took me in as a guest (and friend) at his place in Hawaii. That is the kind of thing that cannot be forgotten in a friendship.

How did it happen? My wife knew enough to call him and talk to him about. She and he made it happen, because Eric is one of my family’s most beloved people among my seminary friends. When he comes into town, we go see him almost no matter what, and he does the same for us. We like to have him around, and we miss him when he leaves. In addition, My kids love his kids, and seem to gel pretty well with them when we get together. They are both exceptional kids, and he is rightfully proud of them. (Of course, he can’t take all the credit. His ex-wife, Evelyn, a minister in her own right gets at least some of the credit).

Eric and my family have things in common — different things, but all in common, Michelle and I have ministry in common with him, but Eric is more than that. Eric is an artist who loves theater and literature (like everyone else in my family, though I can put up with it) and he is an artist who plays music, which is probably my favorite thing in the world (and they can put up with it).

Eric also writes blog pieces, as I do. He writes a lot of pieces. He writes a sermon every week, of course. He summarizes that in 3 tweets, in “3 Tweet Sermon” on Twitter. Then he writes a piece with art that relates to a text (almost?) weekly. Then he writes “What I’m Thinking” occasionally — an opinion piece. Did I mention he’s busy?

His writing is reverent, with pieces of art that are awe-inspiring, This shows his breadth of knowledge regarding art, or maybe his learning about art over the years. Either way, Eric is getting smarter.

Finally, there’s music: as a member of Boys With Hats, he is part of a duo that has lasted years, and miles — and occasionally does gigs with family members. Plus he seems to write new music constantly, and — I think — performs it weekly for his church in Hawaii. In 36 years, he’s no doubt written two or three hundred songs. He plays at least 3 or 4 instruments and continues to create and produce material at an incredible clip.

Like everyone else, his tenure has included the pandemic. Like others, his ministry has also included volcanic eruptions, and all of the natural disasters Hawaii has to offer. On the other hand, Eric was more prepared for COVID’s challenges more than almost anyone I know. He has developed A/V skills during his tenure as Connecticut Conference’s media director, which included camera work, videocamera and broadcast work, soundboard and mixing work, recording work. He has done this on the national level as well, doing work on a few synods, I think. Remember that thing I earlier about the love of, and knowledge of, theater that he shares with my family ? It all started there, before I knew him.

As I’ve said, Eric is (with apologies to James Brown), the hardest working minister in show business.

His church is lucky to have him during such times. On balance, though, he is lucky to have them as well. Hawaii has been really good for Eric. He loves the culture there. He loves the language and the mythology. He loves the geography and the geology there. Also, no fool, he likes the coffee there. With all of that, he loves the people in his congregation. I’ve seen him lead Bible Study with them, and there is a genuine warmth there.

As I write this, it occurs to me that he probably needs to rest some after all of the creativity and producing he does. Yes, I still think of him as about 35 years old, but his birthday suggests he’s older than that. I bet his bones think he’s older, too.

And so, brothers and sisters and all of the other possibilities out there that he is able to keep track of, from the National UCC, to Connecticut and Maine, and Hawaii, I present to you “the act you’ve known for all these years…” Eric Anderson, the hardest working, most prodigious minister I know, my friend, Eric Anderson.

Peace,

John

At What Point Is The Supreme Court Illegitimate?

I couldn’t imagine even asking this question at any point in my life prior to a week ago, but I think we now have to consider it. Much as The Former Guy challenges the Justice Department’s core belief in non-political justice on prior Presidents, we may have to consider our core beliefs in the Supreme Court regarding its place in Democracy soon.

Here’s how I understand the Supreme Court is supposed to work: because of their singular legal knowledge, and their singular wisdom, based in morality, they are the final arbiters of the law. When an issue is so divisive or controversial, other courts give it their best shot. If one party still is confused, or disagrees with the opinion of a lower court, it goes on up the ladder “all the way up to the Supreme Court!”.

In short, only the most important cases get to the Supreme Court and whatever decision they come up with is the law. There is nothing after that. Congress and The President can create laws to cope with Court’s decision and make work-arounds, but 1) that will probably will take some time and 2) those laws can be challenged … yes, all the way back to The Supreme Court.

Because they are supposed to take the long view of history, they are supposed to make decisions not based in public will of the time, so, in theory it’s ok if the majority of people don’t agree with their ruling. We’ll grow into it as we grasp its wisdom.

But this all assumes that 1) the Justices themselves are moral (as law is supposed to be) ;2) the Justices themselves can be trusted (as the law has to ultimately be); 3) the Justice are rational, as their wisdom and law are supposed to make sense, in accord with the laws they are talking about. In short, their decisions are supposed to make sense to lawyers in legalese and the general population who knows what’s right and wrong.

That’s a lot to expect from any group of people and yet it is a requirement to simply do the job of Supreme Court Justice. But what if the justices selected aren’t those things? We understand that they are human. No one is perfect and, as much as we need “perfectly wise” from them, that’s not possible. With 9 imperfect people, we can get the closest to wisdom from all of them combined, as one’s lack is covered by another’s knowledge or skill. It’s the best we can do, and that has to be good enough.

Still, they must have at least the average person’s knowledge, morality, and skill to come up with good to great decisions at the top of our legal system. Less than that taints their decision-making and our belief in their rulings — in short, their legitimacy.

So, let’s look at who we have got this session:

From last to first: Katanji Brown Jackson hasn’t ruled on anything yet, so we can’t say anything about her application of her gifts yet, but there was nothing suspicious about her process to being installed. Yes, she might have a “bias” because she’s a Black woman, but we want the “bias” (aka experience) on the Court. She seems very qualified. We’ll have to see.

Prior to her is Amy Coney Barrett, called “Well Qualified” by the American Bar Association, There are those who say “she lied about her belief in Roe v. Wade”, but she was the closest of the three Trump Justices to telling the full truth — “precedents may be overturned, but they don’t have to be”. I believe that she has not actually tried a case, so I doubt her experience, but okay. Most problematic to me is that she was rushed through her hearings by a politically motivated Mitch McConnell who blocked Obama’s pick for more than a year, under Donald Trump, who we are seeing to be a fascist, criminal, man who wanted to overthrow the system. She is, to use TV lawyer legal language out of context, “fruit of the poisonous tree”. I won’t give her a full weight of legitimacy star. 3/4 of a star.

Brett Kavanaugh was before that, and some of the same logic applies. Serious allegations of sexual violence — without resolution— make him less trustworthy with a great portion of the population: women. I do actually believe he might be an alcoholic and abusive at home, but that’s conjecture on my part. If I’m correct, though, his judgement is clouded by his drinking, as anyone’s would be. 60% of a legitimacy star, if that much. Also, he straight out lied to Susan Collins about his position about Roe. Maybe under a .5 star of legitimacy.

Neil Gorsuch is the first of the Trump Justices and his confirmation was in the early days of the administration before Trump was totally in control of the Senate. He also lied about precedent in his confirmation, immediately that disqualifies him from full legitimacy status. .75 of a legitimacy star?

John Roberts is perhaps the last of the generally-assumed- to-be – legitimate justices. Nonetheless he wrote the decision for Citizens United and was scolded by Barack Obama for it. Roberts just shook his head and smiled. Citizens United is generally credited with creating most of the corruption by financial interests of our political system, so I’m less than impressed with the wisdom of his decisions. On the other hand, he agreed with same-sex marriage rules, so that’s to his credit. On the other hand, I believe Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act, so 2 out of three opinions I disagree with. He’s legitimate, I just don’t like him.

Steven Breyer is apparently thought of well by everybody. Full legitimacy.

Elena Kagan isn’t controversial, so I don’t have any reason to doubt her legitimacy for the Court, which is as it should be.

Sonia Sotomayor seems to be the kind of person who is the essence of legitimacy. She seems to be the most empathic for average people and the underserved. She seems most passionate about the legitimacy of the court as a non-partisan decision maker. I would like to see her become the Chief Justice.

Samuel Alito, according to lawyers I know, is off the rails regarding precedent. They have said they don’t know how to teach or understand law using Alito’s rule on precedence. The dissent of the overturn of Roe actually says that power is now the currency of the Court because of Alito’s statements. “Power, not reason, is the new currency of this court’s decision-making.”

They say, “The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding” — that is they are “trying to pull a fast one” on the country they serve. “And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work”, they say later — this is just the beginning of such hiding the truth.

Remember that the final member of this dissent writers is now retiring.

Finally, Clarence Thomas, is even further off the rails, if such a thing is possible . First, his voice is tainted by the recent news of his wife’s plan to overthrow the government, and his possible knowledge/support of it. The apostle Paul says that leaders are supposed to be above reproach. Thomas is certainly not that.

Besides that, in his support for the overturn of Roe , he states publicly that he believes in Alito’s sentiments on steroids. Yes, he says, we’ve overturned Roe and everything else that goes along with it should also be looked at! So much for precedent, logic, reason, or belief in the country’s progress in belief. He also gets a zero rating on legitimacy.

By my count, we have two totally illegitimate Supreme Court Justices, three with a taint of politics, three legitimate judges, one of whom I disagree with (as it should be). One retiring, one untested.

Out of 9, 3 meet the standards required by the job! Yet, here we are.

What to do?

  • Impeach Thomas if there is any reason to. Replace him with a wise justice with an affinity for precedent.
  • Never install any other Justice nominee who believes in “Originalism” or political purity. Ask all nominees if they believe in precedent and/or Originalism and – under what circumstances they would overturn precedent.
  • Establish a “no confidence” rule for the court’s members, When The Court gets this rotten, there must be some way to remove it.
  • Write a law that says if a Justice lies during their Confirmation hearings, they can be removed by Congress or the Executive Branch.
  • Take no one from the Federalist Society’s roster, or any far left society which is the equivalent of it. Make the President and Congress do the hard work of finding these candidates, instead of giving them pre-packaged justices.
  • Until any of these things happen, add new Justices to the Court, to achieve a balance again.

Personally, I’d like to see at least half of the court be women, as a matter of equality, but that’s just me.

Resisting with Peace,

John

A Political Fix : Rules For Real Elections

The other day, the Republican Party in Texas put forth a platform that said that Joe Biden is not the legitimate President of the United States. I texted this to a friend on Twitter and she asked “How do we combat this delusion?”. For days, I have been cogitating on this, and here’s a possible fix, I think.

Years ago, as I sought licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I knew another therapist who used this line: “You don’t have to play the game (of getting licensed), but if you do, these are the rules”. She said, in essence, I could not get licensed and get the legitimacy that went with it, or I could earn the respect of my peers, and go through all the hoops that licensure required, and gain respect for myself.

Translating that into the political sphere, people who don’t think the government is legitimately elected, and thus choose not to be in the system, should not get the benefits and legitimacy of the government they are trying to participate in.

The federal government should refuse to seat any official who states that they don’t think the electoral process is legitimate. If the process is illegitimate, how can anyone claim that they were elected by it? Furthermore, how can anyone claim that they will defend and honor the Constitution if they don’t believe the Constitution got them there in the first place?

So let’s say that candidate X subscribes to a platform in a party that says, “the voting process isn’t legitimate”. That state gets one less Senator or one less Representative, period. Remember “no taxation without representation”? This is “no representation without representation”.

To take it even further, that state should lose the proportional amount of Federal income that that person would represent. Immediately, I hear in my head, “But that would disenfranchise voters”. Yes, it would, but those voters voted for illegitimacy, so they don’t count. You either believe in the system you’re taking part in, or you don’t.

Until that state finds some someone who does believe in the system of government they are joining, that state is penalized. Voters need to vote for real candidates who will take part in real negotiations for their state’s benefit.

Those who cause the pain of someone else should feel the pain of that decision themselves. Joining the Federal government means, “in for a penny, in for a pound”. You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re there legitimately or you’re not.

If a candidate has the courage of their convictions, they need to stand by those convictions, unpaid if they want to have any kind of integrity. It’s Citizens of this country deserve leaders with integrity, and they deserve to have other citizens take that integrity seriously as well . We owe that to each other.

We say to people who don’t vote that their voice won’t be heard. We should be able to say that those who lie with their vote in a system they don’t believe in should not be heard either. Negative votes are worse than no votes in their impact. Let it be so for people seeking office that way.

Resisting with Peace, and the rule of law, maybe….

John

Everything Makes Sense Once You Understand the Premise.

The title here is a quote from Virginia Satir, and it attempts to explain insanity, so things make sense. I think Satir believed everything was explainable according to the laws of nature and psychological dynamics of the individual, their family, and the society around them. Given that, I’d like to explain today’s insanity: the murder of at least 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY.

Here’s the premise: America is free because we have guns. Following that logically: More guns means more freedom. Bigger guns mean bigger freedom. To hear people talk about it, guns — owning them, shooting them, shooting them at people — are central to the identity of the United States. It’s in the bill of rights, for goodness sake!

For those who think guns aren’t for shooting people, the second amendment says, “a well regulated militia”…. Militias aren’t out shooting squirrels, or tin cans, or paper targets in the backyard. The protected part of gun ownership is for revolutions — most notably that big one in 1776. We could not have defeated the British if we didn’t have guns. Yes, that part is true. It worked then and so it should work now,

That’s the premise and it’s why we are in this insane predicament. Here’s where it wrong: Just because guns were needed for a war then doesn’t mean that we needed them after that. Yes, wars pretty much require guns. But what if we’re not having a war? Do we need them then? No, we don’t. We can have them. We have the right to “keep and bear arms” according to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Guns, though, are for war.

If we’re not at war, we don’t need guns. Furthermore, we have the right to keep and bear arms. We don’t have to have them, but we can exercise that right. In legal ethics, there’s a huge difference between a law that says “must” and a law that says, “may”. The right to guns is a “may”.

So, as Virginia would point out, we now have choices. Assuming we’re not at war, there’s no need for guns. And even we are at war, we don’t have to keep guns and use them. We can do something else. We can make rational decisions, assuming of course that we are rational in our use of them in those appropriate circumstances. Implied here is that irrational people aren’t rational enough to make choices.

And yet, Congress, a few years ago, passed a law that said specifically that insane people can own guns. So Congress is making irrational laws that don’t fit the situation. Perhaps we should get rid of that law, because it doesn’t make any sense. Or perhaps Congress is making irrational laws because they are irrational, at least around guns, anyway. I’m not saying it’s true, but it would explain a lot.

On the topic of irrational, let me share a parallel between my work as a therapist and our country’s love for guns. Years ago, I worked with a man who used all kinds of drugs, including marijuana when it was illegal. On the day that it was decriminalized, I drove to his house, and he was smoking a joint. He yelled, “Hey! It’s legal now! I corrected him. “You know that’s still illegal. They just decriminalized it and with your criminal record, you might want to watch that”. He replied, “That’s the same thing”.

It’s well known among alcoholics that St. Patrick’s Day is a day in which “you’re (almost?) required, by law, to drink.” Of course, New Year’s Eve, drinking is also required by law, but then it’s champagne. I suspect that, because the dynamics are the same, the quest to own an AK-47 because they’re legal might indicate that the United States has an addiction to guns. In any case, there’s a tendency toward a love for weapons of war that’s far beyond necessary.

Then, of course, there’s the logical fallacy that killing someone else makes you more free. If you’re defending yourself from being kidnapped, killed, assaulted or raped, it keeps you free. But, if those things aren’t happening, you’re already free. The gun doesn’t make it more so.

So, I could argue all day about gun manufacture, weapons of mass destruction, knives, mental illness, and any other distraction that people attach to guns, but the problem might be that the premise is wrong, I don’t know of any other country that wrote into its Constitution that you get to have guns. Maybe we need to reconsider the need for that part of the second amendment. Maybe we need to think of arms as being for warriors, not civilians. Maybe we need to think about just how addicted we are, or how guns in a time of peace make no sense. Or maybe we just need to realize that we have choices.

Resisting With Peace,

John

Lament For My Twitter Feed

Lord, my enemies surround me on my Twitter feed.

There is talk of a need for a “Domestic supply of infants” by a Supreme Court Justice”

Breaking News: Republicans in Michigan have replaced election officials who certified Joe Biden’s win.

A white supremacist podcaster spewed QAnon conspiracy theories during a campaign event for right-wing Idaho Lt. Governor.

Aside from the voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering & new laws seemingly giving states the ability to overturn elections whose results they don’t like, how are most Americans supposed to learn about the accomplishments of this administration if the media won’t cover them?

Then someone writes: “This is what I find so worrisome. If the FIX is already in, what hope is there?? Please tell me there is hope”? I agree.

But there’s more :

A Senator slammed senators who “expected Brett Kavanaugh not to lie about overturning abortion”.

A judge sees a” far more ambitious objective to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed in executing in 2020 and to overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again in the next quadrennial contest.”

Someone writes: “I’m so effing livid this morning I went on a rant on his thread. He is making excuses for selling out to Russian luxury enabling the GOP led Trump cult and Putin enabling Ukraine tragedy. People are dying & our institutions are in disarray bc of their greed.”

About 100 protesters took the battle over abortion rights to the homes of two conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices Saturday night

New Report Raises Possibility Putin Sought to Infiltrate 2008 GOP Presidential Ticket Through Sarah Palin

I am scared to read this. Is it true? I don’t know. Is it a lie? I don’t know.

And it goes on, God. They are legion.

The same people who tell you gun laws don’t work, keep making new laws to control women’s bodies.

Republicans are exploring “new laws that prevent people from crossing state lines to terminate a pregnancy.” They are also building out a legal framework where red states can legally persecute abortion providers in blue states.

Arizona GOP Senate candidate wants to allow states to ban contraception use

Absolute power corrupts absolutely and if one man can purchase Twitter for 44 billion

Stories like this come out: “In 1979 I had an ectopic pregnancy. It ruptured in the hospital and yet I almost died from rapid loss of blood. These new laws could charge me with murder.

Britain’s new laws doubly criminalize Black, Asian and Gypsy people

We must “stop Blackstone’s takeover of our housing market?!?”

A Miscarriage Led To A Manslaughter Conviction.

There has been a dramatic shift by some lawmakers in one aspect of the fight over abortion: new laws have done away with rape and incest exceptions.

I don’t know who “they” are, but… “They are a bunch of criminals, whom believe they can continue to make new laws, to suit their needs, while leaving the tax payer, The Americans, the Rulers of this country out in the Cold!”

New laws for women in Afghanistan not even allowed to expose their eyes and must have a reason to go out.

Someone says, “I knew all of these new laws placed on women would happen. They pushed way too hard to reduce women to “birthing persons”.

I think they may be hypersensitive, but I don’t know what that is anymore, because next…

Someone on Twitter says: “If/When We get power back existing LAWS must automatically be enforced in spite of Biden/Obama. Plus new LAWS that immediately start collecting EVERY Illegal Person in America and DEPORTED. ALL including the over 26 million already here. DEPORT ALL OF THEM”.

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS says: Immigration moratorium NOW, for 10 years – bare minimum. Build the Wall. Mass deportations

Just Another WTF>>>>>>>>>>> In order to prevent women from leaving the state for an abortion, Republican states will soon pass laws that women cannot leave their state unless they submit a negative pregnancy test.

This is very important. The GQP are pushing State legislation calling for a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. If they succeed Congress can re-write the US CONSTITUTION without we the people consent.

This Handmaid’s Tale bullshit is getting scary.

All the comments about how unconstitutional that would be. As if that mattered anymore …

How does this reflect on You, O Yahweh?

People say, “The pro-life movement was never about states’ rights—it was about crushing the civil liberties of women in the United States who don’t share the religious views of Christian evangelicals. The far right will now use new laws to compel its dogma nationwide.”

The backlash towards Christians we are seeing right now is why Christians should never have made politics their mission. They have completely obliterated, with these new laws & their unloving & uncaring actions, Christ’s reputation & our witness to a world in need of a Savior.

It is all too much for me, dear God. There is too much trauma and there are too many people doing the traumatizing. I have to leave this media. I praise You for Bono and the Edge singing in Ukraine, but “How are we to sing, in a foreign land like our own?