Prepare For Impact: The Only Way Out Is Through

I have been listening to a morning news podcast as I usually do, and today it was really scary. Every possible thing you could imagine was being threatened by the coronavirus. There was, of course, people’s health — not enough test kits, no vaccine, no coordinated response to it, hoarding of masks, and so on.

Then the people on the podcast started getting into the economic impact: The stock market is temporarily closed because oil futures plummeted 1500 points. People are being told to stay home from work. People can’t stay home from work if they want to get paid. They have to get paid if they want to eat. When or if the market continues its crash, what will the world economy look like. Nobody knows, but no one seems to think it’s good, except people related to the White House (and I assume they don’t either, really).

Putting those two things together, there are all the un-insured and under-insured in this country, who won’t be able to pay for treatment and who will do what they have always done: not get treatment. Plus, there’s what happens to society of we can’t get together in public. Politically, the reporters reminded us that all three Presidential candidates may have health affected by the virus. Congress is considering not meeting for awhile. Ted Cruz and another person who attended a conservative convention (CPAC) are now self-quarantining.

As a therapist, I see this type of problem all the time, by way of a metaphor. I have a client who has been mandated by his company to get treatment. He’s an alcoholic. I suggest to him three options: 1) Go to detox and deal with it fully. Start recovery with a clear mind. 2) Get antibuse, a medication that will prevent you from drinking by making you ultra-sick if you drink. This offers a steep learning curve for alcohol treatment. 3) Go to AA meetings and get support from other people. He has these three options. His company has given him an ultimatum. Stop drinking or be fired. I have offered him two ultimatums: 1) stop drinking or lose your job and the ultimate one: 2) stop drinking or die.

My client has had weeks to decide, and it looks like he has made attempts at all three. Has he stopped drinking? No. Why not? There’s always some technical reason. Besides, he’s … “trying” and it looks like he might get treatment. Has he gotten treatment? No. He has not. When pushed, he likes drinking and he can’t imagine the “boring” life without it. He’s depressed as well, so — to cope — he drinks, which makes his depression worse.

It is at this point that he has to make a decision, and it’s going to hurt. He has to decide for reality — a reality he doesn’t like. The problem is that it doesn’t matter if he likes it, though. It is still reality. This is the point that people in AA would say, “The only way out is through”. What they mean by that is that you have to face the problem, that your one coping mechanism doesn’t work, and the denial behind that one coping mechanism doesn’t work either.

We are a country that, in large part, is using coping mechanisms that don’t work.

  1. Many of us believe that having money solves all problems. As long as you’re rich, nature can’t get to you. This virus doesn’t know or care about your wallet.
  2. Many of us believe that power, in and of itself, can keep bad things from happening to us. Ted Cruz is a prime example that it is not true.
  3. Some of us believe that health insurance is not important. The sick among us know differently.
  4. Many of us believe that belief matters more than facts, that philosophy is more important than science. The problem is that the virus doesn’t care what you believe. It simply doesn’t. The virus doesn’t care what you post on Twitter or Facebook, what political party you belong to, or how much pretending you can manage. Wishing it were so, doesn’t, in fact, make it so. Facts are reality, whether we like them or not. We’ll have to get over ourselves.
  5. Many people believe that we are not connected to each other, and what affects someone else doesn’t affect us. When Bill or Mary can’t show up to their work, it will become clearer that that isn’t true. Even people in China, whom you’ll never know or meet, impact your life when they can’t go to work, or to the farm, or out of the house.

So, here’s the reality of our coronavirus: Some people are going to die — not everyone but some people are going to die. Quite possibly, a lot of people are going to die. It will hurt. The economy will hurt, possibly a lot. We will be different at the end of this than we were at the beginning of this, but we will survive. Even in the very worst case scenarios, 97% of us will survive.

Can you do anything about it? Like everything, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t.

You can control your own hygiene, and how contagious you are, with the knowledge we have. See the “Nurses Talk About Coronavirus” post from last week. https://revlmftblog2.com/2020/03/07/guest-column-nurses-give-actual-coronavirus-news/ Do what the nurses say. They live with it. I can, and do, trust them. If new knowledge comes up, we’ll update the page. Talk to your primary care doctor. Talk to someone at a walk-in clinic, but talk to someone you actually know and trust in real life.

Your local or state authorities can give you any information they have. As far as I know, you can trust them. That said, if you have reason to not trust your elected officials, don’t. Trust the World Health Organization for the large picture. They don’t care about American politics any more than any other country’s politics. The federal government, at least regarding this issue, and for the foreseeable future, is of no use. They will not be save us, because they can’t. They can’t decide about facts, they cant decide how to get the information, or how much they’ll share with us. Because they can’t do that, they can’t formulate a plan to deal with it. Because they can’t formulate a plan, they can’t deal with it.

For all of the reasons I have listed above about denial, our government — a reflection of much of our culture — isn’t willing to face issues around us. Until it actually does face up to those issues, there will be trouble. If it can’t choose between good options now, it (and we) will have to face bad options later.

So, in the end, what’s important? Money? Power? A certain political belief? individualism without apathy? A good fantasy life? No. What’s important in life, the illness can’t touch: facts, logic, people you can trust, and caring for each other, so that everyone has what they need. The only way out is through the crisis, armed with those things. Will it always work? Probably not. We don’t know what we don’t know. On the other hand, we definitely won’t survive without them.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Guest Column : Nurses Give Actual Coronavirus News

Author’s note: Every once in a while, I share my blog space to give information that I don’t have on my own. This is a prime example of things I don’t know, but these people do. The primary information was written by Julie LaBarr, a public health nurse, near Rochester, NY. Additional comments were from Paula Richards, a nurse from Boston, and Karen Ross Gardner Gatchell in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. They are each to be commended for their expertise and knowledge. I have simply edited the notes. I trust each of them implicitly. There is no politics here. As I heard on the radio today, there are no Red viruses and no Blue viruses. The topic is too important to make this opinion piece.

The critical thing is that we do not panic over this- panic causes more harm than the virus.

A couple of the most reliable resources are your local state health department and the cdc. Coronavirus is something that hangs around all the time- this version is novel- meaning new and unknown. That is to be respected but no cause for panic.

80% of people that are positive for the COVID19 virus will just get better and maybe even not know they have it. It may just look like a cold. Don’t go to the ER unless you are severely ill. Call your primary care or a health department if you dont have a pcp. Immunosuppressed individuals are at the most risk- especially the elderly. Children don’t seem to be affected.

The illness is probably passed by direct contact with droplets, which are spread by contact, sneezing, or coughing. Hand washing is best practice. And don’t lick stuff, like doorbells or handrails!

Wash your hands! Stay home if you are sick. Same precautions as flu. Use regular soap for washing your hands. 20 seconds. Wash in between your fingers, back of your hands, thumb, wrists, etc. Use you own pen, try to avoid door handles and railings if you can. Again, wash your hands….

The basics of respiratory illness hygiene is imperative! Hand hygiene, cover your cough and stay in when you are sick. Healthcare workers are also at risk- to carry it not necessarily get sick. What’s most important is that healthcare workers have the appropriate protective equipment- meaning the general public need not use up all the 😷 masks! Wearing a mask when you aren’t sick will not help.

NY cases have been doubling each day. Is that because we are testing more? Probably.

You can get it by touching your hands to your face, being sneezed or coughed on, etc. what else?? The frontline (healthcare) is being updated and educated daily on how to keep themselves and all of you safe and healthy. Trust your professionals and keep yourselves well. Self-care: eating right, a little exercise, fresh air are all still important!

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html has the official information.

Testing positive does not mean you are severely ill. Once they determine that it is widespread, testing will slow and data like this will not be pertinent any longer. The WHO (World Health Organization) has a map on their site- it is affecting almost every continent at this point.

We will see some economic impact from what I understand. Governments are preparing to support with emergency management like funding. Insurance companies are preparing to offer coverage of testing etc.

I Get It Now: The Silence of the -Isms

Wow. I just got slammed with an epiphany. It happens when you go into other people’s cultures experience their experience, see what you see or don’t see, hear or don’t hear. For the past few months, I have been a visitor to women’s (political) land and the weirdest thing happened. I got to experience… nothing, crickets, and then apathy about the crickets, and then worse — anger for people speaking up, blaming the victim.

That is the Elizabeth Warren campaign. Even reporters and pundits were saying that they had never seen anything like it. Warren is, among all of the candidates, the smartest, most practical, and, in my mind, therefore, the best candidate out there. She has plans for all kinds of things. Further, it has been incredible being part of the phone call set for Warren. The community of supporters is wide. In Star Power, she had John Legend. In the debates, she had great moments and took down Bloomberg’s billionaire campaign. In coverage? Crickets. In votes… very little. In delegates, not enough to count. Joe Scarborough, who I generally agree with, was furious that she was still in the race at all, and furious for being called sexist. Mika Breszinski, his wife, was less so, but agreeing in the background. Dang!

People can reasonably argue that America is ready for a woman President. For instance, Hillary was popular. Klobuchar was in the race for a good long time. People respect Kamala Harris. But, after Hillary lost, everyone thought — to some degree — that the moment for a woman President was gone. That put Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, Williamson and Gabbard at a disadvantage all to start, simply because one person with their gender lost once. That’s the sign of an -ism at play!

When it looked like one of the women might win, the establishment and Capitalists like Bloomberg worried, and threw their money in, forcing out Harris. One could say that Warren’s anti-establishment ways pushed her down. But that didn’t happen to Bernie Sanders, so I would say I don’t think it’s that. Pundits like Scarborough and “establishment” democrats really seem to hate progressives. Bernie got publicity with his hatred. Elizabeth got crickets.

She got un-listed because she wasn’t a threat any more. She simply didn’t exist.

It is that that clicked it for me. Here’s a story to illustrate the point. Years ago, in one of the most consequential experiences of my life, my friend Greg Coles and I went to an upscale restaurant outside of Rochester, NY. Greg drove a beautiful Saab and I drove a beat-up Ford. Greg knew about this restaurant. I didn’t. In short, the place matched Greg’s personality a lot more than it did mine. We sat down at a table and waited to be served…. and waited… and waited. 15 or 20 minutes went by. I asked Greg what was happening as waiters walked on by us. I attempted to get one to serve us and Greg just rolled his eyes. Greg is Black. He shook his head and I said, “No, that can’t be”. Greg said it was — racism. We just left, and never were served, never even acknowledged.

Later, when I moved to Bridgeport, I decided that I wanted to work with Black pastors because they were there. 50% of Bridgeport is Black. At first, there was some sort of nod to the work by my White colleagues, especially the men, who would volunteer their opinion. But after awhile, as it became clear that this wasn’t a flirtation with political correctness, but an actual part of my ministry, those same pastors asked me, “Why would you work with them?

Again, it’s more complex than that, because African-American pastors in Bridgeport are, by and large, charismatic in their faith. Still, as time went by, I felt more isolated from my White, denominational, male colleagues. When I left Bridgeport, my Black colleagues came, en masse, and my closest White clergy friends came. My Black friends never said to me, “Why do you hang out with them?”, so I came to see, in balance, that there is more of a problem with Whites ==> Blacks than Blacks==> Whites, but to read the paper, it’s exactly the opposite.

So, here’s the thing: it’s not the anger or the overt action that makes an -ism so powerful. Those things are horrible. Don’t get me wrong, they are worse than being left alone. The difference between abuse and neglect is obvious. Abuse kills the body, but neglect kills the soul.

It’s the silence, the blank stare that doesn’t even get noticed by most people, the unopened doors, the not-considered applicants, the unacknowledged talents, that make the difference. And because, like neglect, it’s hard to prove, it’s hard to see privilege, unless you go into a community not your own. That is why doing so (seeing others) is so important to develop compassion. For those people who aren’t nasty to others, the silence looks the same as their actions. This is why privilege is hard to fathom.

Back to the election and Warren, there is a final piece that made a difference: fear. Because people fear another four years of the destructive Donald Trump, they wanted to make their vote count. They worried that if they didn’t get the right answer in their vote, there would be consequences. In that case, “electability” became an issue, so voters went back to “traditional” (I.e., safe) voting. Why women are considered a less safe bet is because of, well, sexism.

This is all complex, but it’s also a problem for half the population. Throw in Black folk, and more than half of the population isn’t served by it. It’s not working for more people than it is working for.

We have to do something. We have to …

Resist with peace,

John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People should not be punished for doing the right thing.

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

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

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

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

and still Resisting In Peace,

John

A New Strategy: A Multi-Front Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

My Child, Your Child: Why Racism Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting In Peace,

John

Citizenship In The Reign Of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

The Truth Before The Impeachment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sum up:

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

2) He has obstructed justice.

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting in Peace,

John Madsen-Bibeau

Do You Want My Help Or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SUPREMACY ARGUMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER SPECTRUMS OF CARE

Engage, watch/ listen, disengage or vice-versa

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

Good at it, bad at it

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

 

 

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

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

Resisting With Peace,

John