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

Can We Take Back The Word “Evangelical” Now?

I was listening in my car to a podcast from The Nation magazine as they interviewed a woman who had done a history of White Evangelicals (she studied Black Evangelicals as well, but said that was another book altogether). She talked about how 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, because they believe he was most supportive of their agenda. Issues of piety — whether he had 2 divorces and 3 wives or went to church regularly – did not matter to them, though that was the standard that every President since Reagan has been held to. What mattered to them at this moment in time were “fighting terrorism” (The Wall and Muslim Ban) and “economics” (jobs in poor White communities), and “abortion” (they’re against it, really against it, so the Supreme Court choice was vital to their ideology). If I heard it right, 20% of Americans consider themselves this kind of evangelical. I want to be an evangelical and I want to be known as an evangelical, but I never want to be that kind of Evangelical.

                         “Christ for the world we sing/the world to Christ we bring”

For years, those kinds of evangelicals have been claiming that they are “real Christians”, just as conservatives in politics have been claiming that they were “real Americans”. This was so true that many liberal Christians like me gave up using the word. My friend Leigh McCaffrey was the only person I knew in seminary who was both proudly liberal and called herself an Evangelical. She still does. Though we’re different people with different ways, she is closer to the kind of Evangelical I want the world to be full of than all the other “Evangelicals” I know.

I have been told that “Christ for the world we sing” is about colonialism and triumphalism (the “we’re better than anybody else” version of Christianity), and I might not want to sing it in church. Besides just liking the hymn itself, I believe both that we should sing and bring Christ to the world because the world needs what Jesus is selling – not political Jesus or “might makes right, I’m the only way” Jesus, but actual Jesus. By that I mean “love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” Jesus. I believe that what Jesus had to say, and the things that he did while on earth, are, in fact, the best way to live for me. I’m not going to kill you, or even threaten you if you don’t believe the same thing, but it’s my job to put my kind of Jesus on the table of choices. You can’t choose what you don’t know, but if there’s only one way , then you can hardly be seen as having/making a choice.

The first thing to do, it seems to me, is to break the term Evangelical from its political moorings. People who focus on God and Jesus don’t even necessarily believe in having allegiance to countries, so a certain type of allegiance to a country makes less than no sense. One can be a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Social Democrat, and be a Christian. Swearing allegiance to a party or its platform has nothing to do with Christian living. At best, one party might be closer to Jesus’ call than another, but party is not church, and it shouldn’t be. Following Jesus is different – and more important to me – than following Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or frankly anybody. I want to measure my President by Jesus’ standards, not the other way around.

                                                                     “We sing”?

Wanting to be called an “evangelical” is important because of what “evangel” means. “Evangel” in Greek means “good news” or “gospel”. Wanting the world for your self isn’t good news to anybody. Wanting to take away a woman’s right to choose – to make decisions with good or bad outcomes and thinking she can cope with the decision – is apparently not good news to all those women who marched the day after Trump’s inauguration. “I’m richer than anybody on the face of the earth” isn’t good news to anybody but you. “I’m more important that anyone else” isn’t good news to the rest of humanity. So what is good news? Anything that tells another person they are worthy of love, peace, and happiness is good news. Anything that tells another person that I want them to be the best “them” they can be is good news. Anything that tells of the mercy, grace, justice, peace, of God or Jesus is good news. In short, people know good news when they hear it. Furthermore, people believe good news when you act on it.  

I’m more of a practical guy. I like to see results. I can tell my kids I love them, or I can give them a hug. I can say I believe in equality, or I can have people over for dinner or protect, advocate for or march in support of them. That is what it truly means to be an evangelical – you tell the good news of Jesus through your actions to God and your actions towards others. Jen Chapin has written a song called “gospel” after attending the environmental march and caring about others. That makes her, in my mind, an evangelical, because she understands the very heart of the gospel. Whether she knows it to be Christian or not, she and everyone else understand that what she is saying is good news.

How do you know if you’re bringing the good news to others – other than asking them? The Bible says “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. Quite simply if you’re doing the things God wants, and you’re modeling the faith of Jesus, you should be feeling those things and acting like you feel them.

So that’s a definition of Evangelical I can get behind, and it so far from the voting pattern in America that I want it back. I want to evangelize with my heart and my actions. I want to draw people to Christ because I have something they think they want. I want to be someone they want to be. I want to act in ways that they know good people do. Right now, I accept that my doing so will confuse them, because of all those other people who have used the term as a term of separateness and power over others. That’s ok. If I do this right, I’ll be the same most of the time, and they’ll have time to get used to it.

A FINAL NOTE: The things I have said above aren’t just true of me, but of almost any colleague of mine that I know. They live their lives the very best they know how, the care, and they hope you’ll see Jesus or God or the Spirit in their life and living. They, too, have been living in a world where somebody stole their word. They want it back, too.

Resisting in peace,

 

John

 

 

 

 

                 

The Weakness of Force: Bullies and Such

It’s back to my mother’s wisdom for me.  She had a way to cut through the BS in life and uncomplicate things that I hope to have learned from her. (That said, of course, there’s the quote about answers being “simple, easy, and wrong”. It’s a balance).  I have really struggled this past week with the whole Syrian Chemical Weapons attack on civilians and Trump’s resultant attack on Syria, seemingly without a clue about what to do next or what it all means.  Mom’s thought is also one to deal with a general malaise that hovers over our society and shows how far off the world is right now, except in certain odd, experienced places. 

Here’s the thought: “If you need to beat somebody up to prove your point, you probably have a weak argument”. The bigger the monster, the more the violence, the worse their cause. 

I don’t know much about Assad or his regime, but if he has to kill 500,000 of the people he rules, it’s a safe bet he hasn’t won their hearts and minds. Their is no intellectual argument that can be made for his being in power. He’s not better than those he’s killed. He’s not smarter, he’s not faster, he’s not more faithful or in control of himself and, if he hadn’t done the killing in the past, he wouldn’t have to continue doing it now. Whatever Assad is selling, if that many people aren’t buying it, he has to be one messed up guy. 

The same applies to Trump and his allies, the fascists, the “alt right”, and neo-cons everywhere. Also, leftist dictators, White supremacists, bullies of any sort, and people that beat up their partners or their children. It’s all the same thing. Here’s the thing: if, for example, White people are superior, people should want to be them. People should admire them because their cause and their behavior are obviously the best thing since sliced bread. But people don’t think that, and in their quest to make people believe them, they have to be violent.  There’s a quote by, I think, HG Wells that says, “violence is for people who have run out of ideas”. 

The only reason to hit someone is if you think they’re a danger to you.  If you believe that someone else is stronger than you, and wants to hurt you, there’s already a problem. It’s their problem. They are already showing themselves to have less moral high ground/self-control than you.  If they are stronger than you, but not threatening you, and you still fear them, you have got a problem. If you go beat them up first, as pre-violent “self-defense”, you know you’ve got a problem. You’re weak, wrong, or both. 

People co-exist all the time without hurting each other. Generally, there is no reason to fight, and most people know this. People who are given respect ought to have earned it. If you’re in power, it ought to be because people want you there and believe in you. 

So, bring out the tanks, warships, weapons, fists, nunchucks, guns, and what have you. I still don’t respect you, and you know it. 

How do I know this? As we approach Easter, and Good Friday, I remember the man who changed the world the most and did it forever. Across time and continents, this man is still spoken of today and he never hit anyone, ever. That’s strength. Assad, Trump, Kim Jong Due, Hitler, and every punk, thug, spouse beater, and terrorist will fade in time, will not be remembered, and certainly not worshipped — and they know it.  Gandhi broke up the British empire without an army. King broke up Jim Crow — at least for a while– without firing a shot. They won hearts and minds. Recently, generals in the Trump administration have said things like, “If you don’t fund diplomacy, you’ll have to spend a lot more on bullets” and “PBS and the arts make us safer than weapons”. These are men who know what they’re talking about. They have been there. People who haven’t have no ground to stand on when they say “violence wins”.  They are idiots. They know not of what they speak. Eisenhower was the same way. 

Anyone who thinks war is the answer hasn’t seen history. Real power comes from having a good idea and having people willingly follow you. That’s respect. That’s power. That’s winning hearts and minds.  That’s what we need to be about if we want to be the greatest … anything.

Oh, and by the way, you could replace the word “violence” with the word “cheating” and it applies as well. Just saying.  If that shoe fits,  wear it.

Resisting with peace,
John