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May the Light of Jesus Overcome American “Christianity.” Amen.

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MAY THE LIGHT OF JESUS OVERCOME AMERICAN “CHRISTIANITY.” AMEN.

Reading the news is disheartening to say the least. I think that’s why I’m not blogging much lately. By the time I’ve read about what’s going on in America and the world, the air is taken out of me for the day.

I generally try to write about finding hope and light in dark times. I try to reflect the heart of Jesus, who came to reconcile all things and all people, to unite everyone in love, to set us free from what keeps us from being our most joyful true selves.

It’s hard to occupy that space these days, so it’s hard to write. I’m not seeing much joy or light in America, much less from my fellow Christians. Americans are becoming a mean-spirited people, if our “leaders” are any indication, and many in my religious tradition are held captive by the dark mire of power and money.

Rotten Fruit

Christianity is meant to connect our spirits with Divine Love and thus transform our hearts to care for the poor & marginalized. The fruit of the spirit, the Bible says, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Our scriptures tell us we are meant to bring light and hope to a hurting world, to help people “live life to the full.”

Instead, right-wing Christians seem to be just like the majority of Americans who don’t give a fig about the poor and marginalized. No transformation whatsoever. It’s beyond indifference, it’s disdain. These Christians argue for larger military budgets and cuts to health care for the poor, for tax breaks for billionaires, and for the violent agenda of the NRA and the earth-killing coal barons. And Jesus weeps.

In today’s news, we see Christians rejoicing because the Supreme Court says they don’t have to bake cakes for their marginalized neighbors. Meanwhile, hardly a peep about thousands of Puerto Rican Americans literally dying of neglect because of the actions of the guy those very Christians put into office.

We Should Be Ashamed

We should all be mortified and ashamed by today’s news that U.N. human rights investigators are slamming America for neglecting our poorest people. Forty-one million Americans already live in poverty, and the U.N. says that trump policies will result in “windfall profits” for the rich and large corporations and “severe deprivation” for the economically marginalized.

“If food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed, and housing subsidies cut, then the effect on people living on the margins will be drastic,” says investigator Philip Alston. “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned, rather than a right of citizenship.”

“Deliberately designed” to spit in the face of Jesus.

But God forbid gay people should be able to order a wedding cake.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

And yet. And yet … as I write, hundreds of Christians are gathered at the U.S. Capitol in solidarity with the poor. Many are being arrested to draw attention to the abusive policies of this administration. I’d be with them if my aching hip permitted it (though probably not getting arrested; I’m not that brave yet).

Instead, I’m showing my solidarity with the Poor People’s Campaign in D.C. by fanning the tiny flame of hope within my own heart and sharing the light with you. Jesus’s light will not be put out, even by his misguided followers.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 

 

 

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Guns & Schools

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GUNS & SCHOOLS

This week has been sadly sweet for me. The sweet part has been spending every day teaching kindergartners. Their innocence and vulnerability turns my heart to mush. The sad part is, I can’t get Sandy Hook out of my head. The nausea clutches at my stomach at unexpected times, like when one child slips his hand in mine or another one asks me to tie her shoe.

Pictures of the children killed at Sandy Hook and their parents have been all over the news since the latest school massacre.

I am anxious at times, angry more often, but mostly sad. It is beyond imagining that our “leaders” have literally been bought by the NRA to the extent that children are being slaughtered in their classrooms and nobody does anything. Nada.

Today, two first-grade girls ran up to me excitedly and said, “Is it true that trump wants teachers to have guns?” One said, “I saw it on TV,” and the other said, “I heard my Mommy and Daddy talking about it.”

I presume that their regular teacher deflected the question, because the girls made a beeline for me when I came into their classroom to supervise lunch. They have questions, and they want answers.

I told them that yes, it is an idea of his, but it is a silly idea and everyone knows it so we don’t have to worry about it.

They asked why he would want to do such a silly thing, and I said because he doesn’t really understand what it means to be safe.

”Well, WE’RE not going to do that,” harumphed one of the girls (a pretty safe bet, since we are a Quaker school).

Like the kids from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Florida, these children know a dumb idea when they hear it. And they know a charlatan. In their own way, they are echoing MSD student Emma Gonzalez’s cry: “We call B.S.!!”

This Time it Feels Different

Many of my friends are saying, “This time it feels different.” And it does. For one thing, the outrage has lasted more than a week. We aren’t just moving on to the next media frenzy. The students won’t let us. The NRA boycott is gathering steam and major airlines and insurance companies have stopped giving discounts to NRA members. Dicks Sporting Goods and Walmart are both tightening their gun purchasing rules.

Even trump has made encouraging noises this week about maybe doing something useful, although his ignorance of the issue is appalling. And he seems dead set on arming teachers (pun intended). Fortunately, many governors are pushing back on behalf of teachers and law enforcement.

Yes, something feels different this time.

Could it be that the pernicious evil that powers the NRA has finally met its match in the bold persistence of America’s high school and middle school and now apparently elementary school kids?

We Call B.S.

The NRA seems desperate and is losing its already tenuous grip on reality. Their spokespeople sound like raving lunatics, hinting at armed rebellion and accusing the media of loving mass shootings because “crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.”

The NRA public relations department is working overtime to remind us that school shootings are “extremely rare events” and that more kids die in pool drownings and bicycle accidents than mass shootings. And comfortingly, although there are 55 million school children in the U.S. only an average of 10 per year are killed by gunfire at school. That’s pretty good odds, right?

God in heaven, who thinks like that??

#WeCallBS

America is in a Clutch Situation

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AMERICA IS IN A CLUTCH SITUATION

I don’t care for the word, “clutch.” It’s full of hard, abrupt sounds. I prefer words made up of gentle sounds that flow off your tongue, like Sisyphus.

Remember Sisyphus from Greek mythology? He was the guy who was forced to push a boulder up a steep hill over and over, only to have it roll back down and smash him. This was his eternal punishment for being a greedy and arrogant king who thought he was the greatest — greater than the god Zeus.

Sisyphus was punished for his avarice and hubris, and also for his deceitfulness and general ugliness — he abused visitors to his country and he seduced women! Imagine having a king like that!

Anyway, clutch is today’s word prompt from WordPress.

Clutch is an anxious word, an emergency kind of word. Like you clutch your heart because you think the stress of worrying about nuclear war or climate change might give you a heart attack. Or you clutch your stomach, as you might when someone’s behavior mortifies you to the point of nausea. Or you clutch your head in anguish when you see a headline like “States Prepare to Shut Down Low-Income Children’s Health Programs.”

This reminds you of scary children’s stories from your youth, when the poor children are “in someone’s clutches” — a cruel and heartless tyrant, say, or a megalomaniac.

Then there’s the tidy little “clutch” handbag that you take to cocktail parties where you are so uncomfortable that you have to cling to your purse for security. The kind of place you might meet Russian diplomats who are really spies or yacht-owning Saudi Arabian oligarchs looking for lucrative hotel deals.

Check out this little lovely which you can get from Ivanka Trump’s company for a mere $85:

There’s the clutch in a standard transmission car, of course. This is the pedal on your left which you depress to disconnect the wheels from the spinning engine so that you can slow down. It’s especially useful when you are in big trouble and you manage to jam down the clutch and the brake just in time to stop the car from going over a cliff.

In sports when your team is at the edge of a cliff, it’s known as a “clutch situation.” The situation is critical. The stakes could not be higher. We are talking about the whole game here.

Insanity in Sutherland Springs

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INSANITY IN SUTHERLAND SPRINGS

Insanity. I’m not talking about the mentally ill mass shooter who has just murdered some twenty-seven people inside a church in Texas. (I assume he was mentally unwell.)

I’m talking about the Attorney General of Texas who warns that the shootings will continue and that all businesses, schools, and churches should have plans for when the shooting starts.

 

“I wish some law would fix all of this,” he says.

 

Gee, you mean like one banning assault weapons or one requiring stricter background checks or one banning high-capacity magazines meant to ensure more bloodshed, quicker? Or maybe just the simple one introduced in the Senate after the Las Vegas slaughter which bans devices that turn a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic one?

 

No, I guess he’s not talking about any of those. Here’s his take:

 

“All I can say is in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have conceal carry … there’s always the opportunity that a gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”

So much opportunity for the people of Texas!

 

If that isn’t insane, I don’t know what is.

 

Am I “politicizing” a tragedy? You bet your sweet behind I am. The GOP told us bleeding heart liberals not to politicize the Las Vegas shooting and now it’s too late for the people in Sutherland Springs, Texas. And it’s too late for all three hundred and seven people who have died in mass shootings so far in 2017.

 

As the gun-totin’ Texas Attorney General says, better get your plans ready. Because your government sure as hell isn’t going to do anything about the carnage.

Blogging Amidst the Trumpian Chaos

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BLOGGING AMIDST THE TRUMPIAN CHAOS

August marks five years since I started blogging here at Writing With Spirit, and I want to recognize the anniversary and thank my readers and followers. I truly appreciate the company.

When I first began blogging, each post was greeted with an empty echo. Now I receive encouragement and feedback (even if I am occasionally damned to hell), and I have virtual “friends” I’ve never met. I love reading comments from the people in my neighborhood, and I love imagining who my readers might be in Turkey and Japan and Australia.

I want to continue blogging — I do — yet I seem to be losing inspiration lately. Here I am in the midst of a two-week stay at my little writing retreat in New Hampshire, the place where my blog was born, and I haven’t blogged once!

Just sittin’ and pondering

I Blame trump

I blame Donald Trump, as I do for most things. Donald and Twitter. I am so overwhelmed by the chaos and danger and tragedy in the nation and the world that I can’t find a handle to get inside a story. It’s all just swirling around in my head and overwhelming me, like the toxic brown waters swirling around the people of Houston and India and Pakistan and Nepal and Yemen and Niger.

See? I try to use a simple metaphor and all of a sudden I’m drowning in the despair of lethal climate disruption and the current administration’s denial and vengeful dismantling of all of our climate protection programs. Not just the programs to research and curb the disruption and death, but the ones to address the consequences, like money for flood programs and healthcare.

And the EPA Administrator shaming the “opportunistic media” for insisting on talking about climate change “without basis or support.” And the Attorney General declaring that “Hurricane Harvey Is proof we need to militarize our police forces.” What???

And Twitter

I just can’t hold on. When I try to focus on one travesty, such as the president being unwilling to disavow white supremacists, the president encouraging police to hurt people, the president toying with nuclear annihilation, the president mocking efforts to prevent Russia from undermining our democracy, the president dooming our planet, well, I just, I just . . .

I just resort to wasting time on Twitter, is what I do. Which overwhelms me even more and exacerbates my ADD. You think you’re getting a handle on the hateful #Nazi violence in #Charlottesville when all of a sudden the hate-full #Evangelicals release their gay-bashing #NashvilleStatement.  (Mean, embittered religious men must always make a resounding STATEMENT or a PROCLAMATION.)

And who can keep up with the White House firings and resignations? I am both spooked and comforted by the apparent military take-over of the White House. Near as I can tell, General John Kelly is the only reason we still have a country at this moment.

So I want to say three things:

  • Happy anniversary to my beloved blog, which has kept me sane during some very trying times these past five years. I will persist and continue Writing With Spirit, despite the madness.
  • A hearty thank you to all of my followers and readers and fellow bloggers for the encouragement and inspiration and food for thought.
  • Climate change is real. It is happening. People are dying because of it, in hurricanes, floods, heat waves, tornadoes, typhoons, and tsunamis. After the flooding, the typhoid and cholera. So the Tweeter in Chief and his reality-deniers are criminals. Period. They should all be in jail for mass murder.

And that’s where I am, five years in to this blogging endeavor.

 

Mr. Trump’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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I have to say, I like it when President Tweet has a very bad day. I love my country, I care deeply about justice, and I treasure this beleaguered planet; so when the man-child is pouting, I’m feeling upbeat. I know that probably doesn’t make any sense, because when he’s grumpy, he’s likely to lash out and do something stupid like fire one of our last remaining respectable public servants or drop a bomb or something.

Still, I’m as petty as the next pastor.

You know, it’s a damn good thing I’m serving on the pastoral team at my church right now because I’m forced to maintain some kind of online decorum, such as it is. Otherwise, I might stoop to the level of the new White House Director of Communications. Well, OK, I couldn’t be that despicable if I tried.

Actually, this fine fellow, Don Vito Corleone, likely provided President Tweet with his only smiles yesterday when he called up and spewed physical threats and utterly crass sexual obscenities about several of his colleagues at the White House. Oh, you missed that? It’s a must read for any American (adults only).

This guy — actual name Anthony Scaramucci, and not technically a mafia Don that we know of — is our president’s new best friend. He makes the president’s pu#$&y grabbing look like a game of Tiddlywinks.

Anyway, the man-child’s giggles after Scaramucci’s bit of fun didn’t last long.

Sorry Boy Scouts

Imagine his chagrin when the Boy Scouts of America found it necessary to apologize for the presidential (not) speech given at their annual jamboree. And he’d thought it was such a good speech — he even got the kids to boo our last president! While President Tweet’s mental illness clearly prevents him from experiencing shame, at least the Boy Scout’s official apology shamed everyone else involved, so that’s good.

But Boy Scouts, soy sprouts, right? What difference do they make to a big, important boy who grew up to be President of the United States? Not much. However, the next Big Boys to fire a salvo yesterday carry more than toy guns, and their weapons are loaded with real bullets.

Big Boys with Real Guns

The Joint Chiefs of Staff — the freaking military Joint Chiefs  — publicly blew off their Commander in Chief’s tweeted order to discriminate against transgender troops. They basically said, we aren’t going to do anything until he gets his act together. Period. Oh, and they also included a pretty direct hit on their Commander: “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

Ouch.

Senate Charade

But the biggest ouch came very late in the day, actually in the wee hours of this morning when the courageous GOP was trying to cram through a “healthcare” bill that they crafted over lunch and released at 10 p.m., just hours before the vote. You know, the one that Senator Lindsey Graham called a “fraud” and “a disgrace” and then voted for anyway? That one.

Mind you, I used to work in politics. I’ve seen it all when it comes to dirty politics. I saw a senator trade his vote to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a tennis game bet. No lie.

Worth a tennis bet, right?

Nevertheless, I have never seen anything as shameful as what I witnessed last night, watching Republican senators refuse to allow the Democrats to make comments or even ask questions on the bill they had just received, a life and death measure affecting every American. No hearings, no markups of legislation, no public input, no expert witnesses, no rule of law.

Late Night Miracle

I stayed up watching the vote on CNN, cheering on the Democrats who kept trying to interrupt the GOP monologue, and praying very hard that in some Republican office, some Senator was going to be smitten by an attack of conscience, common sense, and/or patriotism and decide to vote against the sham.

Two brave GOP women senators –Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — had put up with haranguing from their male colleagues all week, yet continued in their principled stand against the bill. But with the Vice President pacing the Senate floor waiting to break a tie vote, the women would not be enough.

That wasn’t the only thing Pence was there to break. In a back room, he twisted Senator John McCain’s bad arm (OK, OK, hyperbole) for twenty minutes before the vote, but the old POW had seen far worse in Vietnam.

McCain can recall when the Senate used to be “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” and with nothing to lose as he heads into brain cancer treatment, McCain just said no.

No.

And with that, millions of Americans (myself included) breathed easier, knowing that they will have healthcare a while longer. And the man-child’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day got markedly worse.

A bad day for President Tweet is a good day for most of us

Trump’s Discrimination Against Transgender Americans

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I wanted to write about tea — it’s the word prompt of the day, and a subject about which I am very passionate. Then the latest presidential tweet was vomited forth, and I must instead write about a different type of T.

The T in LGBTQ.

I have 4 transgender friends that I know of: one I’ve known since he was a child, one I worked with for more than a decade, one’s a neighbor, and one’s a new friend from Wild Goose Festival.

My heart is just breaking for them today. The president of the United States is harnessing the ignorant hatred that many Americans hold for them and using it for political gain. There are no words to describe my feelings. I am just so, so sorry. I feel sick for you, my friends.

Today the man in the White House tweeted – TWEETED – his decision that trans people can no longer serve in the military. I don’t know what that means for the 15,000-plus who are already in the military. I guess they’re fired.

So the coward who avoided the draft because his feet hurt (but not enough to slow down his tennis game) is now firing service men and women because of who they are. And why? Here’s why:

In case you can’t read that, it’s a reporter who was told by a White House official that this is a good wedge issue for the 2018 election. Democrats will be forced to defend LGBTQ people in states where a lot of blue collar workers hate them.

There you have it, folks. That’s your president.

And just for the irony of it, I will tell you that on this very day in 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order that banned discrimination in the military.

It’s probably best that I not spew my raw outrage and despair. There’s enough ugliness out there, and as a Christ-follower, I hope not to contribute to it. I’d like to write about tea, but I can’t.

I’ll just share this old poem from Martin Niemöller, which grows more relevant each day:

Muslims, Hispanics, Pre-existing conditions, Transgender . . .

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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