American politics today is about seeking power and vilifying those who get in their way. It is in stark contrast to the message of Jesus, a message I believe the Pope is calling us all back to.
American politics today is in stark contrast to the Gospel lesson from last week where Jesus, confronting the disciples who had been arguing who was the greatest, said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
American politics today is in stark contrast to the Gospel lesson for tomorrow:
John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
All of this comes to mind as I read the Washington Post article, What John Boehner told me the night before he said he was quitting
Speaker Boehner is quoted as saying, “The pope says to me, ‘Please pray for me.’ ”
Now I’m not a Roman Catholic, but I have great respect for the Pope and I believe we should all be praying for Pope Francis. I’m certainly not a Republican, but I believe we should be praying for Speaker Boehner, for the Republican Party and for our nation.
We need to move past the seeking for power and vilification of our political opponents and start working together to love those who are different from us, whether they be people of color, immigrants, people of different faith traditions, those with different genders or sexual orientations than our own, and even those with very different political beliefs than our own.
The other day, I was listening to the director of a local domestic abuse shelter talk about domestic violence and pregnancy coercion. Abusers often try to control the reproductive choices of the women they are abusing. If you have a child together, you are tied together for life.
An article in the National Library of Medicine, Pregnancy coercion, intimate partner violence, and unintended pregnancy, puts it this way:
Studies have highlighted the association between partner violence and unintended pregnancy. Recent evidence suggests these associations co-occur with reproductive control, i.e., male partners’ attempts to control a woman’s reproductive choices.
The article goes on to note:
Family planning clinics provide an important venue for examination of these phenomena, as family planning clients are known to experience a higher prevalence of partner violence than the general population
All of this comes to mind as I read about the Republicans in the House of Representatives “attempts to control a woman’s reproductive choices” especially when it comes to an effort to defund the family planning clinics of Planned Parenthood.
I am not suggesting that the Republicans in the House of Representatives are domestic abusers, although I sometimes wonder about several of them. However, they are acting in a manner that could enable domestic abuse and lead to more unwanted pregnancies.
Twelve years ago, my wife and I got very involved in Gov. Dean’s 2004 Presidential campaign. Our daughter was two years old when she first had her picture taken with a presidential candidate. It was exciting to be part of a large group of people working together to make this country a better place. As a blogger, I ended up at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and met a young State Senator who was to deliver the keynote address. Sen. Obama was a Dean Dozen candidate running for U.S. Senate. My wife was a fellow Dean Dozen candidate running for State Representative in Connecticut.
Four years later, I started the campaign season as a supporter of John Edwards. I liked his message about addressing poverty, something that seems to have even further fallen out of favor. Fiona was six by then and took a more active role, leading chants for Sen. Edwards and being pictured with him as well. Yet the excitement, the empowerment of Sen. Edwards’ campaign wasn’t the same as it was with Gov. Dean, not to mention character flaws that later came to light. When Sen. Edwards ended his campaign, we asked Fiona what she thought of Sen. Obama. She said, “I don’t know, I haven’t met him yet.”
To my friends in New Hampshire, that seems like a perfectly reasonable response, but to others around the country, it may seem strange, having a six year old expecting to meet presidential candidates. In most cases the only chance to meet presidential candidates is at a high dollar fundraiser, or maybe in passing in one of the early voting states.
This year, we are seeing Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chaffee. I met Hillary on the campaign trail years ago, and I’m ambivalent about her. I went up to New Hampshire a few months ago to meet Martin O’Malley, hoping he would be a candidate I could get behind. I like him better than Hillary, but I’m not all that excited about him either. Bernie Sanders is probably the candidate that best matches my political views and he’s getting large crowds, but his campaign, so far, feels similar to Obama’s and Edwards’ campaigns eight years ago, not as exciting or empowering.
As I listen to all of them, I remember the words of Howard Dean, “the biggest lie told by people like me to people like you at election time is that, ‘If you vote for me, I'm going to solve all your problems.’ The truth is, the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine.” Nope, I don’t believe that Hillary, Bernie, Martin, or any of the others will solve our problems. There is a bigger, underlying problem. Our democracy is broken, and it is going to take something really different to change it.
Today, Fiona and I went up to hear Larry Lessig officially declare his candidacy for president. It is a very different sort of campaign, a single issue campaign. “Fix Democracy First”. If I were to take Howard Dean’s words, and remix them with what Larry Lessig was saying, I would come up with something like:
“The biggest lie told by people like me to people like you at election time is that, ‘If you vote for me, I'm going to solve all your problems.’ The truth is, if we don’t fix democracy first, no one, not Hillary, not Bernie, not any of the others will be able to solve your problems. No one, except 400 of the wealthiest families in America will have any power.”
As Cory Doctorow put it on Twitter, “If you #FeelTheBern & want to make sure Pres Sanders can pass his agenda, donate to help @lessig #FixDemocracyFirst https://lessigforpresident.com/donate/”
Finally, after 12 years, an empowering campaign worth getting excited about.
Well, it looks like this is going to be a very interesting week. Today, Kim, Fiona, and I went hiking in Granby, CT and swam in some swimming holes near waterfalls. It was great. I came home to find a video of The Rev. Brian Baker talk about his experiences at Burning Man. It is a half hour long video, but I started watching it and was hooked. I had to watch the whole thing. I hope you will too.
Then, I learned that Larry Lessig will be running as a Democratic candidate for President. The Lessig for President Official Announcement will take place Wednesday at about noon in Claremont, NH. I am planning to drive up.
All of this is a precursor to a meeting Thursday afternoon with the Episcopalian Bishop of Connecticut, The Right Rev. Ian Douglas, and members of the Commission on Ministry to discuss how I could “help the Episcopal Church in CT be more faithful to God’s Mission”.
Where is all of this leading? Well, let’s check back next week see what transpires.
Today was “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” in the Episcopal Church. It brought the typical reactions online. For example, one person posted,
Are Episcopalians racist enough they require a letter to be read to them to not be racist? I find this strange.
Yet I think this reflects part of the problem. We don’t use racial epithets or display symbols of racism. We all go to church. We confess that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We get forgiven and that’s good enough, right?
Maybe some of us even admit having privileges as white people that people of color do not have. We acknowledge that. It is good enough, right?
We nod appreciatively as a letter from the Bishop is read about racism, and we say a special little prayer during the service, and it’s all better, right?
Maybe we’re even church leaders and we are going to attend a training about racism, and we’ll go, reluctantly, because we feel like we’ve already dealt with our own racism. We’ll go without too much grumbling. That’s good enough, right?
I don’t think so. I think God is calling us to much, much more. Our parish is going to have conversations after church for a couple of Sundays starting at the end of the month. I’m not sure what the goals will be, what the format will be, or what the outcome will be, but I am praying for this. It is really important.
I’ve spent a bit of time working on racial health disparities. Did you know that as of 2012, the most recent data I could find, the infant mortality rate for black infants in Connecticut is nearly twice that of white infants in Connecticut? In Hartford County, it is almost 2 and a half times, and this is after significant progress in recent years. I mention infant mortality, because it is something that many of us understand how horrible it is. There are plenty more examples.
Why is this? Perhaps some of this is because of racism. Not the racial epithet shouting confederate flag waving racism, but a subtler racism that is built into our system, that we participate in, perhaps unknowingly.
What do you see when a young black man runs across the street in front of you? A thug who’ll probably end up in jail? Another potential headline of a black man killed by police? A future President or future Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church? If we are honest with ourselves, it isn’t always pretty.
A longtime friend of mine wrote a blog post about this the other day, Enforcing the Pattern. What do you see?
Then, think about this in terms of what it must be like to be seen this way, all the time. Here, I think about the blog post I shared yesterday. “Picture yourself as a stereotypical male” explores how people do on tests as a result of their self-perceptions. How does our view of the young black man crossing the road change the community and culture we are part of? What happens when we see ourselves and those around us, like the young black man crossing the road, as beloved of God?
We’ve got a lot of work to do, or at least I know I do.