Aldon Hynes's blog

Hynes 2016 versus Donald Trump

In 2012, I ran for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut, which covers Woodbridge and parts of Orange and Derby. My opponent was the incumbent State Representative, Themis Klarides. I ran, not because I disliked Themis or thought her a bad person. I ran because I believed the voters deserved a respectful discussion about the issues our state faces. I believed that the voters deserved a choice in who they would vote for. I didn’t believe that Rep. Klarides was particularly effective as a state legislator or a leader and I disagreed with her on various important issues.

Themis easily won re-election against this relatively unknown candidate, but when asked the outcome of the election, I always told people I won. I won, not by being elected, but by having a respectful discussion, by getting voters thinking about the issues, and by giving them a choice.

Two years ago, I ran again. It was a last minute decision, because no one else was stepping up to run. I had become a fellow with the CT Health Foundation and I spoke often about racial health disparities. In a predominantly Caucasian district this wasn’t an issue that resonated with a lot of voters, but I got a lot of people thinking about an issue they hadn’t considered before. Like in 2012, I won by getting people thinking about the issues.

Here we are in 2016, and people are starting to ask me if I will run again. I am still trying to decide. People who regularly read my blog know that my primary focus right now is if I’m called to pursue a different office. I am seeking discernment on whether I’m called to become an ordained Episcopal priest. This has me leaning towards not running for State Representative this year.

Yet a few days ago, The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church issued A Word to the Church

In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.

They appear to have been careful about naming any specific candidate, as I have generally tried to be.

The United Church of Christ echoed this in their statement

The leadership of the United Church of Christ, concerned with the political rhetoric aimed at the marginalized people of society in this election cycle, spoke out in support for and solidarity with a Holy Week statement released by The Episcopal Church. The UCC national officers and Council of Conference Ministers, in testimony to the ecumenical relationship between the two churches, expressed gratitude to The Episcopal Church for "the courage to speak, and for granting us the kindness of joining them in this statement."

With all of these things on my heart, I read the Op-Ed by Colin McEnroe in The Hartford Courant today, CT Republicans Must Denounce Donald Trump

On Wednesday, the candidate broke new ground. He threatened his own party and the city of Cleveland with violence if he doesn't get his way.

Trump told CNN that, if he arrives at the Republican National Convention with a substantial delegate lead but something short of the requisite 1,237, "you'd get riots" if he were not automatically anointed as nominee.

McEnroe goes on to write

We have some good Republican leaders here in Connecticut. It's time for them to speak, with the primary five weeks away. "I'm staying neutral" doesn't wash anymore. Mark Boughton, J.R. Romano, Themis Klarides, Len Fasano, Joe Markley, Rob Kane, John Kissel, Toni Boucher, Kevin Witkos. You're good people. I know many of you. Maybe it's time to assemble in one place for a press conference to tell Trump what he can expect, in the form of delegates, from our state.

I hope someone will step up to the plate and run against Themis this year. I hope Themis will show the courage and leadership to take up Colin’s challenge. Meanwhile, I will continue to seek what God is calling me to, including exploring the best ways of bringing love of our neighbors back into our political discourse.

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Why am I going to Missional Voices?

A few weeks ago, I received an email asking, why I was planning on attending the 2016 Missional Voices gathering at Virginia Theological Seminary in April. At the time, I didn’t have a good response. Since then, I’ve been added to a Facebook group of people attending the gathering where some interesting posts have been shared. My thoughts are starting to take shape.

The starting point of my interest came from a few different places. Last year, I attended a poetry conference at Yale Divinity School. During a guided meditation, I had a strong sense of God calling me in to ministry. It has started a period of discernment, where I am seeking to get a better sense of exactly what sort of ministry God is calling me into. I believe it may be a calling to the ordained priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

As I’ve spoken with my priest, my bishop, members of the commission on ministry, and my discernment committee, I’ve talked a lot about the unexpected. My experience at the poetry conference, in fact, even my attendance, was unexpected. I suspect that the path ahead will present many additional unexpected twists and turns.

I enjoy seeking out the unexpected and am excited about discovering whatever is in store for me in the current leg of my journey. I don’t want to jump the gun and start exploring down a path I’m not meant to go, but I do want to explore what I can.

One of the subject areas for study for those seeking ordination in the Episcopal priesthood is “Christian Theology, including Missionary Theology and Missiology.” I’ve encountered plenty of Christian Theology over the years and I look forward to further studies in the topic. However, “Missionary Theology and Missiology” was a new idea to me and one that I’m looking forward to exploring.

Another part of my journey is social media. I’m currently the social media manager for a community health center. It is a language I am very comfortable with, and I wonder how it fits into my calling. Seeing a post about “Missional Voices” in a social media group caught my attention, so I have signed up to go to the event, similar to how I signed up to go to the poetry conference last year.

I’m not sure what I am expecting out of the gathering. I am hoping it will not be yet another church conference or academic gathering. I don’t think it will be. The conference website has a lot of phrases that make me excited.

“Imagine a church that breaks free of its walls…”
-The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle

Missional Voices will be a weekend of thinking, planning, and dreaming about the future of missional communities and innovative ministries in The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. This will be a place where dynamic incubation of new ideas is the norm – not the exception – and where people doing uncommon ministry find support and encouragement.

We want to inspire and propel the Church to engage in God’s mission in life-changing ways. That is why a significant feature of Missional Voices will focus on practical engagement in incubator sessions where we can begin to dream about where God is calling us to participate in God’s mission.

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Religion and Politics

In a Facebook group of Episcopalians, the discussion of politics has come up, and I started to write a comment, which is probably better as a blog post.

I struggle to find the right words for this time and space, perhaps because of my particularly perspective in this discussion. Two years ago, I was seeking political office, as a candidate for State Representative. I had run for the same office two years earlier, and my wife ran for State Rep back in 2004.

Now, I am seeking a different office as a discernment committee explores whether I am called to become an Episcopal priest.

I struggle to find the right balance between separation of church and state, and a "both and" approach to living out our Baptismal vows.

I remember realizing during the 2014 campaign that I needed to say, at least to myself quietly, Psalm 19:14 before each political speech. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."

How well are the various candidates making their words acceptable in God’s sight? Two articles have come up that caught my attention.

Ian Markam, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary wrote this opinion piece: Denying the Imago Dei: The triumph of Donald Trump

"Trump is wrong because intemperate language against women, immigrants, the disabled, and Muslims is an act of sin. Our civic discourse should always be elevated. "

The Christian Post wrote Donald Trump Is a Scam. Evangelical Voters Should Back Away

"Trump claims to be a Christian, yet says he has never asked for forgiveness.

While God, in His wondrous creativity, has drawn people to Himself through the saving grace of Jesus Christ in many different ways, there are certain non-negotiable actions needed to become a Christian: One must repent of their sins and follow Christ as Lord and Savior. Trump doesn't talk this way, even when urged to.

Further, his words and actions do not demonstrate the "fruit of the spirit.""

I think these are important things to think about in terms of every candidate. What are the fruits of their spirits? Are they honoring the Imago Dei?

People are comparing 2016 to 1968. Others are hoping it will be more like 1964 or that the Republican convention will be like 1920.

People are talking about the good old days when broadcast journalism had anchors like Walter Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, and John Chancellor. They are questioning rhetoric of taking America back or making America great again, as code words for racism.

I believe we need better journalism, and it starts with each one of us. We need to reject political coverage that reduces discourse to a reality television show. We need to seek detailed news, and well reasoned political commentators. We need to realize that we are the government, and we need to be involved to bring respect back to our political discourse.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to pray for our country, that it not be driven by hubris, but by humility, and love for everyone created in the image of God.

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AI, Health Care, Genomics, Fitness Apps, Mobile Apps, Social Media and Beyond

It was probably in the 1970s that I first read Richard Brautigan’s poem, All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. I grew up working with computers; I like to speak of myself as a digital aborigine, yet it seems like now, we may be moving closer to Brautigan’s poem.

This isn’t without its concerns. One recent article had the headline, Our tech future: the rich own the robots while the poor have 'job mortgages'.

This reminded some of my friends online of Fritz Lang’s Metroplois

In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

Yet I’m not so sure the future is quite as bleak.

I work at a health center that focuses on underserved populations. It probably isn’t a typical health center of this time because we are very interested in how we can use technology to improve health outcomes for everyone. This has led me to keep an eye on a bunch of developments, and here, I’ll do a little bit of my own sci-fi futurist writing.

Recently there has been a lot of interest in Google Deepmind’s Go match against Lee Se-dol. Yet it is important to remember there are other AI’s. IBM’s Watson comes to mind. Of course, so does Wintermute and Neuromancer, but that’s a whole different blog post.

Watson is interesting to me for a couple reasons. Watson has been doing a lot of interesting stuff in health care. (See some of the episodes of Conversations on Health Care for more on this.) Watson is now branching out into Social Media.

Some interesting work in the nexus of health care and social media includes Linking social media and medical record data: a study of adults presenting to an academic, urban emergency department

So, what might Watson, looking at health care and social media be like? Artefact has its ideas, described in What iPhone-Based Health Care Could Look Like In 10 Years. They talk a little bit about fitness monitoring apps connected with sites like PatientsLikeMe or 23andMe, but the article doesn’t talk about artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, North Face is adding IBM Watson to its shopping app. So, imagine an AI connected to social networks, genomic data, fitness data, marketing information, and anything else it can get to, all with a proactive, Siri like interface…

“Good morning, Aldon. It looks like it should be a nice day today, and you didn’t get much exercise yesterday. You should really try to take a walk down Main St at lunch time today. You don’t have anything in your calendar conflicting with that, and there are several Ingress portals you can capture…Before you get to work, I want to make sure you’re aware of these articles about the health center, opioid addiction, and telemedicine… Later in the day, if it doesn’t get too crazy, you should get in touch with your old friend Bill. He seems to be having a rough time right now… You should read his Facebook posts and reply or give him a call.”

“Thanks, Watson. Can you post something uplifting on his Facebook posts for me? “

“No problem, Aldon. By the way, I don’t want to nag, but it is really time to have your vision checked again. Do you want me to check your calendar and set up an appointment for you?”

“Yes please.”

With that, I get up and make my oatmeal.

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Marching in the Light of God

“We are marching in the light of God” sounds in my mind as I read the latest headlines. “Second African province announces Anglican boycott over LGBT controversies.” The road to Lusaka is bumpy. Are we on the verge of an Anglican schism? Make straight the way of the Lord.

“We are marching in the light of God” sounds in my mind as I read the latest headlines. “Trump has lit a fire. Can it be contained?” The road to Cleveland is bumpy. Make straight the way of the Lord.

“Violence at Trump’s rallies has escalated sharply, and the reality-show quality of his campaign has taken a more ominous turn in the past few days” the article states. It quotes President Obama who said that those who “feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people, and people who aren’t like ‘us,’ and say that the reason that America is in decline is because of ‘those’ people. That didn’t just happen last week. That narrative has been promoted now for years.”

The article goes on to say, “This year’s presidential campaign, however, seems to have fallen into a bottomless spiral.”

Are we destined to a long hot summer of ever increasing violence? Will our nation’s bottomless spiral descend into chaos? Anarchy? Is there no hope?

“We are marching in the light of God” sounds in my mind as I say my prayers. It is Lent, we marching to Jerusalem. It seems like there is a lot of Good Friday in the news right now, and I’m praying for Easter.

How can we be a resurrection people in the midst of all this hatred and strife?

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