Tag Archives: prayer

Speaking of Bullies

Are you scared?  The GOP Candidate is terrifying to me.  He sounds like Hitler before he became the killer.  He spews hate speech. He acts like a child who misbehaves to get attention. He recently said he would hit someone so hard their head would spin.  Bullying language!  He claims he wants to make “America great again”, but what he really means is he want to take us back to a time when only certain portions of the population had a say, reaped the benefits, and held all others down in the process.  He wants it to be a man’s world, a white world, a straight world, a wealthy man’s world, a world where only a few prosper on the backs of others and those “others”  have no say.  It was horribly wrong back then, even though they got away with it, but it is sinfully wrong today where women, people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, and  people of many religious convictions are finally getting recognized as what they are – citizens of the United States of America.  It is time to accept that we are all Americans and we all have rights according to our constitution (with amendments that spell it out). He will bully other nations too.  We don’t want or need that in a president.

Scarier still – the number of people who are rallying around this bully.  We knew there was systemic racism, though we hoped that it was changing for the better. Donald has revealed a deeply racist part of our society that has always been there but seemed to be decreasing.  He has revealed sexism, gender bias,  homophobia, and transphobia.  He espouses xenophobia.  He is a fear monger of highest degree.  He tells these people to be afraid, that all these factions are out to get them.  He goes to the core of their fears that they personally will not be able to thrive if any of THEM are allowed to thrive.

What is sad is that, contrary to that way of thinking, when we join together we can all thrive because we build each other up. Those at the top like the Billionaire GOP candidate benefit greatly from the rest of us fighting each other because if we are keeping each other down, the wealth flows to them. This is what Jesus fought for.  Recognition of the human being for everyone. Respect, care for basic needs, a voice, support for a decent life, where everyone could live healthy and productive lives. Do they really want a dictator?  I think they believe they will prosper with someone like this because they are like him but maybe that’s what Hitler’s followers believed.

This is so important for our country where we could be even greater if we cared for all our citizens.  If we stop blaming each other and trying to ban entire groups, we can come together to find those who mean to do us harm.  If we are fighting each other we play right into the hands of the real enemy.  Hatred spawns hatred.  Together we can fight terrorists, apart we are going to be victims of the same. Hatred will lead to more terrorist activity.  Love and care for one another make us stronger against all this negativity and able to help in the fight against terror.

I pray that we realize this.  What I heard at the RNC made me nervous and scared to my core.  What I heard at the DNC gave me hope.  It was good to hear that there are people who understand the real problems in the USA and are willing to move us in a direction that will help improve our lives.  Yes, OUR lives not just the few at the top but all of us.  I pray that those who are afraid of losing what they have if someone else gets what they need, will stop and think about it.  The biggest danger to middle class is the greedy 1%.  Believe me, they have no intention of sharing that with anyone.  Our greatest hope lies in our willingness to join together to build a stronger middle class, and make a way for poorest to enter into that.  Hold the richest among us to paying their fair share and participating in making the whole country better for everyone.  After all who needs a fourth jet or another villa when anyone in the country is hungry?  Seriously.  There is enough wealth in this country so that we don’t have to see anyone hungry or homeless, sick without care or suffering for lack of basic comforts.  When the Kochs (for example) can flitter away millions to buy elections, they can afford to pay more taxes to alleviate  the struggle for hard working people who just can’t make ends meet.  That’s just human decency.

 

The Church is Changing

We are in the process of rethinking who we are as church in our congregation. The transition period is a little unnerving for a woman who likes structure. I have been praying a lot in these many months. I’m trying to discern where God wants me in this. As is always the case, when I pray there is hope and a sense of well being in me. It is still uncomfortable but I know God is present and active and I trust that I will be called where I will grow.
So, that was not enough, the region has decided to undergo a complete transformation as well. Here is one way I am being called to act. I have taken on some leadership at this level. It is a bit uncertain as well but I am trusting that I was led this direction for a reason.
I just returned from General Assembly and guess what? The entire denomination is beginning a transition. The writing is on the wall and we are at a place where we either change or die. WOW!
In every case the movement is away from a corporate model to a model much more like the beginning of our Christian movement. I mean WAYYY back when people were gathering who still knew the person Jesus or his disciples.
I am all for that kind of thinking. It pains me to see what some people do in the name of Jesus. They act like they have never read the Bible or heard the stories of Jesus’ ministry on earth. The man was passionate about justice, about caring, about equality and about living a life filled with love. If we can get ourselves out of the confines of the church building we might find that living a life that is truly Christ-like is actually easier than we thought. He said love one another. If we take that to heart we can change the world.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I have been trying to process the events around the country involving the police and people of color. I’ve written a bit about the immediate situation but overall it has been very difficult coming to grips with what has happened and continues to happen.
There is racism in the United States and if you don’t believe that you are living in some sort of insulated world. These events of the past several in Ferguson and New York etc. have brought a well known (in minority communities) injustice to the common knowledge. People are outraged, people find it incredible that this is happening in our country. It has been happening but in places most of us never go. As a result, it seems it doesn’t exist. I have to give the social media some credit here. The sad part is that once it is no longer “newsworthy” it will fall back into the “out of sight out of mind” category.
These events have sparked some dialogue in the communities involved and I can only hope that some good will come of it. If there is a move toward conversation and relationship building in the communities, there will be improvement. Fear is decreased when people get to know each other.
There is an effort to press for reform of the criminal justice system. It is broken ad much needs to be done about it. I am hopeful that the energy will propel this forward. There is a strong clergy involvement. People are still talking about it.
I have to come to terms with my own frustration about the glacial pace of Reconciliation work in my own church. We have been working on this for some 70 years and still we struggle. I work on the area team but find little interest in the regular church going crowd. I was drawn into the work by my son who as a teen and young adult was very interested and active in the work. As leadership ignored him and showed little interest in his participation he fell away from the work and from the church itself. I have remained but have seen the work become less and less shared. We have had to change our approach because attendance at programs has dropped. People just don’t want to talk about it. We have moved out of the churches and into the community. Still it is hard and frustrating work. The events of this summer and fall have made a opening for our work. I remain frustrated but hopeful. It hurts to think about these things.  I know God has a different plan for us, one of equality where basic needs are met and all are given respect and care.  It is too easy to let this very important need for change in our society slip back on the shelf when something big like the terrorist killings come to light.  We must be diligent. We must keep praying and we need to keep it in the societal conscious.

Ferguson and More

It has been a while since my last post and there has been an outpouring of support for the African American community in Ferguson.  Many clergy have been participating in peaceful protests.  Today several members of the Eden Theological Seminary community took part in a protest in the pouring rain.  It resulted in several (I believe it was reported as 49) persons including activist and author Cornell West and my pastor being arrested for civil disobedience.  There was a concurrent Vigil held at the chapel on the seminary campus where we prayed in support of those at the protest and in the neighborhoods affected by shooting tragedies.  A second death of a young black man by multiple gun shots occurred this week.  Some colleagues who live in the area were involved in a prayer service and protest where there was violence.  We have been trying to process these events in our own back yard.

It is difficult to wrap your head around these kinds of events happening in the 21st century but the sad fact is that racism is alive and well. We have seen some definite progress but it isn’t enough.  There are too many persons for whom these events are common occurrences.  They don’t get the press that we’ve seen here but maybe it is time for another civil rights movement.  Maybe people are waking up to the fact that there are people in our country (the great United States of America) that are treated as expendable.  No, we are not talking about a 3rd world country we are talking about the USA. Institutionalized racism. systemic racism,  is so much a part of the fabric of our society that we often fail to even be aware of it.  It is a power inequality that leaves some having control of and benefiting from the wealth of our nation while others struggle to get by and are actively blocked from moving ahead.  While often unconscious, privilege is given to those with white or lighter skin while those with darker or black skin are treated as threats and made to suffer humiliation, disproportionate  scrutiny and simply poor disrespectful treatment, often for no other reason than the color of their skin.

There are many who just don’t get it and it is because they truly have no idea what it is like to live as a person of color in the society.  They don’t take the time to get to know anyone and simply choose to be afraid either because of media portrayal or because they have been told or taught to think this way, or perhaps because of one encounter with an unsavory character.  It isn’t about prejudice.  It is about the power that one group has over another because the society allows it.  That is systemic racism and it is ingrained, unseen unless carefully inspected.  My denomination has taken on the task of becoming a pro-reconciling, anti-racist church.  It is a slow moving process but we have training about white privilege that really helps people understand the real problem.  The problem is power.  In the past when a group of whites felt like it they might go out an lynch a black person or two.  The authorities did nothing about it and very sad scenes of people hanging from trees made other people of color terrified.  (Yes, acts of terrorism).  Now the lynching takes the form of our police officers accosting, harassing or shooting young black men at will, and getting away with it because the system allows it.  It is abuse of power. As a friend of mine said,  “It is a lynching of the spirit.”

I have been thinking about how there was that stop and frisk policy in New York, which has since been outlawed.  The officers claimed it was needed to keep crime down.  But the problem was that they only targeted minorities, It occurred to me that the simple solution to the problem, if it was truly a crime deterrent, was to randomize it  and  stop and frisk everyone.  Statistically more drug abuse and thus criminal possession occurs in white populations.  I’d bet the same is true of gun possession. But we all know how long that would last.  (Privilege)

I must stop now,  This is weighing heavy on my heart and I just wanted to write a bit of it down.  Perhaps I will write more later.  I will end with one of  the prayers I prayed today in the chapel:

O God of all, please enter the hearts of those involved in this terrible tragedy and all those who think like them. Break open the hardened hearts  to allow fear and dislike to flow out and  your love to fill them up.  Anyone who knows your love cannot help but love.  That is what is needed.  Love which leads to respect which leads to relationship and mutual care for one another.  Your love is powerful – help those haters to love.  Help those who feel disrespected and treated as if they have little value to turn there anger to energy to continue the fight and protest the injustice.  Bless those who walk alongside the Ferguson and Shaw communities and give them courage and strength to continue to work toward justice even when things seem impossible.  With you there is always hope.  Amen

Ferguson and Michael Brown

I wanted to write about this before but I had no words.  Even as I sit to write this now there are tears in my eyes.  A young man dead.  A community aching angry and wanting justice but not trusting that it will be forthcoming.  There are two sides (at least) to every story and part of the problem in this case is lack of information.  Racism is alive and well in the US and we cannot deny it.  It is so much a part of who we are we don’t even know when it raises its ugly head.  Why did that officer feel compelled to engage that youth about getting off the street?  According to his police chief he didn’t even know about the store robbery incident.  In an ideal situation, the young man would feel that the police officer only wanted him to be safe but according to the eyewitness, he said wasn’t kind in his speech.  Even I, who live in a very safe community, am distrustful of police.  I would think twice before calling on police for help.  I hate to admit it.  I tried to introduce my children to the local police officers when they were young so that they would know that there were people who would help them if they needed it.  We are law abiding citizens. Yet, our encounters with officers over the years have been mixed. Some kind, many testy, others outright rude.

What stands out in the Ferguson case is that a teenager who  just graduated from high school will not be able to finish his education, will not participate in the community, won’t have a family of his own because his life was taken.  People say he had committed a crime, trying to give a reason for the situation.  Eye witnesses give differing accounts.  But it remains, simple theft, walking in the middle of the street or even trying to show he was not weak by speech or body language are no reason for the use of such deadly force.  The fact that he was shot so many times and that his body was left in the street for hours shows a disregard that is unacceptable in civilized society.  I just feel sadness and some despair that these events happen at all.  This has made the national news and people are reacting to it but events like this happen all the time in our cities, it just doesn’t get much press because the life of an African American is not that important.  Many people in that community, and I agree with them, feel certain that had the young man been white none of this would have happened.

Now, it is well known that the brains of young people are not fully developed until their 20s.  Teenagers are moody, make crazy choices, act out, and are trying to establish themselves as adults without the benefit of thinking beyond the moment.  You would think that police officers would be trained to know that and interact with youth accordingly.  If indeed this young man had robbed a store on a dare it would be cause for punishment but in no possible scenario should this have ended in death.  He was unarmed.  Another shooting made the news,  The case of a mentally disturbed person.  Again, deadly force is not an acceptable way to handle the situation. The training of police officers has to prepare them for encounters such as these.  Are they going to kill anyone who acts out of the ordinary?  I just don’t understand it.  There has to be an alternative to the use of deadly force.  (Getting rid of guns altogether would help but that’s another discussion)

I pray for everyone who is involved.  I pray for justice.  I pray for forgiveness, I pray for courage, patience and strength.  I pray that something positive comes from this and that young Michael Brown didn’t just lose his life for nothing.  I pray for his family in their grief.  I pray for the community of Ferguson, that life can return to normal. So many people have been touched by this tragedy, it is weighing heavy on so many hearts.  I pray for those people whose comments are so clearly racist and unhelpful.  I pray for the police department that they might learn from this and put in place better policies and training for the future.  O God of justice and peace watch over us all in the days to come. AMEN.