This week, I am setting out on a new journey. I am taking the online class English Spirituality and Mysticism at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It is part of a larger journey of trying to make sense out of my experience of God at the ISM Poetry Conference: “Love bade me welcome”, which in turn is part of the larger journey of trying to find God’s will and meaning for my life.
One of the texts for this course is The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination by Esther de Waal. I’ve only read the introduction and the first chapter so far, but I’m greatly enjoying it, and thinking about how it, and the course will help shape my journeys. One quote from chapter 1, which is entitled Journeying puts it nicely into context, “The whole of life itself is for them a journey from birth to death”. The chapter spends a bit of time talking about journey prayers and journey blessings, spending a fair amount of time on St. Patrick’s Breastplate which I have always loved.
I write this all in the context of many journeys going on. Donald Trump’s journey to the Presidency. The journey of many friends to protests against things that President Elect Trump has said, the long foot journeys of two friends, one hiking the Appalachian Trail and another setting out to walk the Carmino de Santiago.
I pray for blessings on each journey that we all may act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Recently, a Facebook friend posted, "Michelle Obama....your husband is the most racist American there is! Elated you are all leaving the White House!". It seemed a particularly odd post. Why is it directed at the First Lady? What does it mean to call President Obama racist? What are your hopes for the coming administration?
Those who understand that racism is "Power + Prejudice" may wonder how a member of a disempowered group is considered to have power. If you are going to talk about racism, please understand what you are talking about. A good starting point is Race and Racism.
13.2% of Americans are African American, but only 8% of members of Congress are African American, and this is a historic high. Yet President Obama is the leader of the most powerful country in the world. He does have considerably more power than the average black person. So, can we consider President Obama racist?
Perhaps we need to look at the source of President Obama's power. As head of the judical branch, he cannot make laws, only enforce them. Essentially, President Obama's power comes his role in making sure that the laws of the land are enforced. Yet those who are often most vocal, calling President Obama racist are white law enforcement officials.
In fact, the person posting this is related to several white law enforcement officials and in the comments goes on to rant about "black lives matter" saying that we should be talking about "all lives matter".
Recently, I went to the funeral of this person's aunt. When I spoke with family members, I didn't say, "I'm so sorry that all people die." I said I was sorry for their loss. Likewise, when a black person dies, I will say, "black lives matter". When a police officer dies, I will say, "Blue Lives Matter". I won't tell my friends grieving the death of a police officer to say "All lives matter" instead of "Blue lives matter."
Yes, all lives do matter. The lives of Mexicans, Muslims, transgendered people, women, black people, and police officers. When I say the pledge of allegiance, I am focusing more and more on the final words, based on a sermon by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, "with liberty and justice FOR ALL".
Instead of calling one another names, let's work together to make sure that we really do have liberty and justice FOR ALL.
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Happy New Year. Recently, I asked my friends what they thought I should resolve for the New Year. I am facing great uncertainty this coming year, especially around my spiritual journey and our political climate. Will 2017 be a breakout year, in some unexpected way?
Kim, Fiona, and I have gotten tickets to go see Amelie when it opens on Broadway. So last night, we watched the movie. Will this be the year that I find an old tin box full of childhood keepsakes? Will it be the year that I set off to help others in my own quirky way? Will it be the year that I build up enough courage to let something truly wonderful happen to me?
I already have a wonderful marriage, a wonderful family, and a wonderful life (to bring in a different movie title), but is this the year that something gets added to that, in terms of life ambitions, the spiritual journey and the work (much more than my job), that I am to do?
I didn’t get a lot of responses to my blog post asking for suggestions, but one that did stick with me was a reference to #OneLittleWord. The starting point for me in thinking about #OneLittleWord is a blog post by Deanna Mascle whom I met through a community of connected learners. Last July, she wrote Write Your Future in #OneLittleWord.
What is my one little word? Perhaps, it stays with the blog post I wrote at the beginning of last year. Unexpected. 2016 certainly had some unexpected twists. It looks like more of the same may be in store for 2017.
Let’s hope for some unexpected joy this year as we, like Amelie, find the courage to let something truly wonderful unexpectedly happen to us this year.
It is early Christmas morning, and I should be sleeping, but I’ve been woken up by our canine alarm system. Most of the time, I am not pleased about being woken up this way. It is often false alarms caused by deer or other wildlife crossing our property. However, there have been a couple occasions were our large dog has alerted us of something wrong, of something that needed attention.
This evening, there was a strange vehicle in our driveway. No, it was not a sleigh. It was dark outside, so I couldn’t get the make and model but it appeared to be a large pickup truck. When I turned on the lights, the truck pulled out of our driveway and into a neighbor’s driveway. There have been a bunch of burglaries in our town so I called the local police department which sent out a patrol.
Things have settled down now. The canine alarm system has returned to its normal detect mode, laying quietly on the couch next to me. The holiday lights are on. Everyone else seems to be snoring, but I cannot get back to sleep.
Instead, I will write about Christmas Eve. I go to Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, CT. It is a wonderful church and the Christmas Eve service was as special as always. The homily particularly struck home for me. It started off exploring the idea of God saving the word through sending an infant. If this had been suggested to a committee, the priest said, it would probably have been rejected, but God works in wonderful, unexpected ways.
As I thought about the sermon, a different verse from the Christian scriptures came to me. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. This is the behavior that Jesus modelled for us.
Another verse also came to mind. In 1 John 3:2 we find, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Usually, when I think of this verse, I think of the adult Jesus, speaking in parables, performing miracles, crucified and resurrected. I don’t think about the infant Jesus, vulnerable, needing to be fed, held, and changed.
2016 was a rough year for many of my friends. Many are very concerned about the incoming administration and how it will affect the poor, minorities, women, and other people that are supposed to be included in “Liberty and Justice FOR ALL”. They are talking about resisting, marching, and doing whatever they can. I hear that as a strong calling, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t sound like it will break the cycle of partisan hatred.
God came into this world vulnerable. Jesus conquered death by submitting to it. What if we were to become more vulnerable, instead of less vulnerable in this coming year? What if we were to admit our need to be fed, held, and changed? What if we allowed others to feed, hold, and help change us, the way we want to feed, hold, and help change others? What if, by seeking to imitate Christ, we sought to imitate the whole Christ, not only the risen Christ, but also the infant Christ? What if we found the light of Christ in our hopes and dreams, even as a small flickering light, and sought to grow that light within us into something new and unexpected?
Such an idea sounds like something that most of us would reject, especially many of my political activist friends, but it could also be one of those wonderful, unexpected ways that God could work through us in this broken world around us.
Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook about a review of a church his wife works at that starts off, “These people are Zigeuner trash. These Gypsies should be all be rounded up and exterminated”. He said he had reported the post to Facebook, but they were not taking down the post.
I’ve shared my friend’s post a few different places suggesting others request the review be taken down or that the review gets drowned out by positive reviews. I am not a big fan of removing content, or of trying to silence other people’s speech, even if it is hateful or promotes violence. I’ve had to do it for work, and I often wonder if it is the best approach.
Who is Milton? What has happened in his life that fills him with such hate and hurt? What has gone on in his life that makes him think it is okay to post stuff like this. I set these thoughts aside, and got on with my day.
Throughout the day, as I read articles about the anniversary of Sandy Hook, the conviction of Dylan Roof, and the latest news about President-Elect Donald Trump, my mind went back to Milton.
I believe it is a sin to refer to any person as ‘trash’ and I wondered about the word “Zigeuner”. Wikipedia says this is a racist term most likely from a Greek word meaning “untouchable” used to describe Romanians and Gypsies, especially by those, like the Nazi’s, intent on genocide. My sense of Milton as a broken person, a sinner in desperate need of God’s love became clearer.
I did a little searching online. Milton’s Facebook page talked about going to various elite schools, but the times didn’t make a lot of sense. He posted a very positive review of a church in New York.
He posted on the page of a Bar “I hope you die.” about a week ago.
All of this made me think of Evan. What are we supposed to do when we see someone posting about death, hatred, and genocide? My first reaction is to pray for Milton. To this, I’ve posted a comment on many of his posts that I am praying for him.
I am sharing this post as a question to all of us about how we respond online.