“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?
It may seem strange for a politician so liberal that he’s been called a communist by his political adversaries to quote a talk radio show host’s article in the National Review, but these aren’t normal times and perhaps I’m not your typical politician.
Dennis Prager wrote Gratuitous Hatred Is Destroying Republicans — Just as It Did the Ancient Israelites. There is plenty I can find to disagree with in Prager’s article, but his concern about gratuitous hatred is an important point, and it’s not just destroying Republicans, it is destroying all of us.
One example of this is the tendency to come up with names to disrespect our previous and current president, as well as one of the current candidates. As you can see by the title of this post, Republicans and Democrats alike do this. It is part of a larger problem, the vilification of those that are different from ourselves, that are ‘other’.
This is happening, not only in national politics, but in church politics as well. Today, I read a post by a senior Anglican bishop, which included, “Western liberal activists are not the least bit gracious. Actually, forgive me. That was judgmental. I have never met a Western liberal activist who was gracious”
Apparently these days even senior Bishops think it is acceptable to speak disrespectfully of those they disagree with, if the post ‘forgive me’.
The bigger problem is that hate now appears to be socially acceptable. We talk about ‘haters’ and shrug them off saying, ‘haters gonna hate’.
This isn’t new, and if we go back to great literature and to scripture, we find two important quotes. The first is from the Prince in the final scene of Romeo and Juliet
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.
It illustrates the passage from 1 John 3:15
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
and again in 1 John 4:20
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
I know that it can be enjoyable to poke fun at people we disagree with. At times it can be humorous, but too often it is just plain hateful. To my God fearing friends, I call on you to not only say, “forgive me” but to actually repent, to turn around and seek to love those you disagree with, those that are different from yourselves. To my secular friends, I’ll just refer back to the Prince’s speech at the end of Romeo and Juliet. We will all be punished, one way or another, if we don’t end this gratuitous hatred.
On Thursday night, the discernment committee met and we discussed calling. What is our calling? What happened when we felt called by God? How is each one of us called by God? A large part of the discussion was around my calling, which to a certain extent makes sense since the discernment committee was convened to help me with this task, but part of helping me discern my calling is to hear the stories of others, and there were some other deeply moving stories told, and I would have loved to hear more about others callings.
We started off by reading the stories of the calling of Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah. Afterwards, I thought about writing the story of my calling in the style of the stories in the Old Testament. I’ve hesitated about posting it, lest it seem like boasting or blasphemy, but a dream I had last night caused me to rethink this. So, here is the story of the calling I experienced in May 2105 written in an Old Testament style.
During a guided meditation at a poetry conference at Yale Divinity School, the Lord came to me and said, "Aldon, I love you more than you can imagine or understand".
And I said to the Lord, "Lord, I am not worthy"
And the Lord said to me, "Aldon, I know all your faults, yet I have made you worthy through the blood of Christ"
And the Lord said to me, "Aldon, you have been made to show forth My Love to those around you. You have done this through your work, and your writing, and your politics. From now on this is to be your primary goal"
And I said to the Lord, "Here I am"
A month later, I was reading the Old Testament lesson about the calling of Isaiah in church on Trinity Sunday, and I said aloud, reading the lesson, and praying at the same time, "Here I am. Lord, send me."
And the Lord said to me, "The time has come for you to become an ordained priest." Over the following months, I struggled with these words. I thought about the process of becoming a priest, and the Lord said, "All will be accomplished according to my plan".
So, I began the process, seeking to better discern God’s will and learn God’s plan. As I spoke with the homeless man on the street, I asked the Lord, is this whom I should serve?", and the Lord answered, "yes". I spoke with the infirm man in the nursing home and I asked the Lord, "Is this whom I should serve?" and the Lord answered, "yes". I sat in church groups, praying for each member and I asked the Lord, "Are these whom I should serve?" and the Lord answered "yes."
I heard stories of politicians saying hateful things, things that I believed were contrary to God’s message, and I asked the Lord, “Should I love even these people?”
And the Lord said, “Yes.”
And I heard stories of religious leaders shunning other religious leaders and refusing aid from certain countries because of disagreements over doctrine, and I asked the Lord, “Should I love even these people?”
And the Lord said, “Yes.”
Last night, I dreamt that I was at some sort of religious camp or retreat. The organizer was saying various things that felt very narrow and would exclude people from hearing the message of God’s Love. I spoke the truth, in Love and he changed his ways.
I don’t expect to see such a change in the U.S. political discourse, or in the discourse of the Anglican Communion because of my words, but I pray that they might be at least a small ripple of hope, a ripple of love in a climate where dissension seems to have become pandemic.
Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to see old political ads recast. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, as I’ve read headlines about Ted Cruz’s comments about carpet bombing.
These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.
Vote for Senator Sanders on November 8th. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.
Today, Kim shared the recent Bernie Sanders ad It’s morning in America.
I don’t have the updated statistics, so I’d simply change “This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married” to, “This afternoon, American’s can get married no matter what their sexual orientation is.”
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Happy New Year! We perform our rituals, say our incantations in hopes that, somehow, this year will be better. For a day, we forget the quote attributed to Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and make the same resolutions.
This year, I’ve been seeing a quote attributed to Mark Twain making the rounds, “New Year's Day--Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Last night, we had a YouTube Riff Off. This is a game we play where one person plays a song on YouTube, and the next person riff’s off of that tune, selecting some other tune the first tune made them think of. We go around and around as one tune leads to another and one mood gives way to the next. It is interesting to observe what emerges.
We started off with Auld Lang Syne and went to songs about children growing up, Cat’s Cradle, Circle Game. We went to the sending off phase of Black Parade and Carry on my Wayward son, to remembrances, in “Will you remember me”, “Box of Rain” and “Ode to Billie Joe” The Riff off culminated in a nod to religious coexistence in The Kennedys’ song Stand.
Perhaps it reflected some of the themes for the coming year, as Fiona potentially heads off to school and I explore more deeply my religious calling.
Afterwards, we watched “Ex Machina”. I’ve been interested in AI’s for a long time and remember a saying that AIs would end up looking like their creators. Back then, the folks working on AI were nerdy engineers. In Ex Machina, the guy creating the AI is a reclusive genius. The software for the AI is the large search engine he has created and made his fortunes off of.
It is an idea that has fascinated me for a long time. What if our search engines and social networks are the new AIs, or at least the source of information for these AIs about social behavior? Seem unlikely? It’s already happening.
So, are we now just pawns, nodes in some giant AI? Are the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign already predetermined? Does it matter who gets elected anyway? Are we just amplifying echoes in the social media echo chamber when we like or share messages about Trump, Bernie, or Hillary?
Can we shape Ava? If so, how?
It seems easy to be discouraged when you look at all the issues our country and our world faces. Will what I write help shift the direction of climate change? Will what I write help bring an end to oppression; to racism or sexism?
I chose to remain optimistic. I think Robert Kennedy’s quote provides some insight.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Here, we could go off into a long discussion about whether sharing posts that reflect our political or religious views counts as standing up for an ideal. We could talk about slacktivism and whether we are just going back to paving the road to hell. Yet that, too, most likely leads to hopelessness and inaction.
Instead, I think David Foster Wallace presents a more useful way of looking at it in his commencement speech, This Is Water
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
Perhaps this is the real challenge, for the new year, for each day, in shaping Ava, to challenge the default settings, to pay attention, to be aware, not only to the trending topics on Facebook or Twitter, but to the simple things around us, the beauty of the squirrel running in the woods, probably the same squirrel that has been raiding your bird feeder, the common humanity of the homeless guy you see on the street.
Happy New Year.