Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Writer Gets It Right

I'm reading a book by Dennis McKiernan, continuing a series I started a while back. In this book, an elven leader addresses the issues of vows and pledges from that race's point of view. The elves, in this book, are immortal but can be killed. Because they live forever, and each day is the first step along their lifelong mission of gaining knowledge and wisdom in the pursuit of serving others. Because of this they view pledges as things to be considered and treated very carefully. The elven leader tells two of the wee folk that unless they both tend to the common ground upon which they wish to build their pledges, the common ground will wilt and become sterile. This is true not only of the two's personal vows of love, but also to the common ground of community.

That seems particularly true in our lives at this point. Personally, we are working through a difficult situation, and by commonly working to strengthen our personal bond, we are finding the love and strength to support each other through this time.

Our national community is in desperate need of that same understanding of common ground where ALL CITIZENS need to work together to strengthen our country. The extreme divisiveness of this current climate will do more to hurt our country than any claimed good. Democrats, Republicans and Independents need to work together to solve the issues currently facing our citizens rather than pledging to spend all their efforts to destroy the others.

With that apparently beyond politicians, I call upon all my fellow citizens to turn out and vote in the 2010 midterm elections. And when you vote, vote for the good of the country, not for a political party line, or for the most emotional speakers. Take a good look at what is being proposed, think not just of yourself, but of the country as a whole, remembering that famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty, for it truly expresses what has made us great as a nation in this wide world. Take seriously your responsibility as well as your right, cast your vote intelligently and responsibility!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Unthinking, unfeeling "Christians"

Once again, I'm reminded that there are those who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, by flaming the fires of hate, bigotry and war! Yes, I just read about a fundamentalist church planning to burn the Quran on their church property, no doubt claiming it is an act of free speech, totally oblivious to the harm they put US troops in, and probably without a thought to how outraged they would be if militant Muslim in another part of the world burned a Bible.

Seriously, how can one claim to be a disciple of Jesus and blatantly disregard the teachings of the Master? How can so called educated Westerners continue to act like backwater bumpkins whose only concern is how to make themselves look more foolish and stupid, no matter who will pay the price? Perhaps the members of said "church," and I use the word loosely, should be conscripted en mass and sent to the Taliban infested areas of Afghanistan to serve right along side the very troops they are willing to jeopardize to inflame anti-US and anti-Christian sentiment.

It is truly time for Christians to practice the teachings of the Master, not the genocidal rantings of a people bent on conquest and annihilation. I realize the Jewish people of any day are as varied as any other group, but their history through the biblical account is one of war, to conquer the Promised land by wiping out those who were there before them, or as other groups sought to conquer them. I've had very good and close friends who were Jewish that are as baffled as most of the rest of us about the continued settling of Palestinian lands even while the rhetoric of peace is bandied about in political circles.

God is God for all, where called Great Spirit, the Almighty, Allah, or some other name. God is bigger than our human tendencies to try to cramp the Creator into a box and label it ours and ours alone. No human camp of thought or belief holds a monopoly on God. It is time we grew up, recognized our similarities and use them to improve this planet we were given as a home, to be stewards of, caretakers, co-creators with God Almighty, sisters and brothers with the Prince of Peace.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Personal Responsibility

I have written on this topic before, but the recent news around the suicide of a bullied teen in MA brings renewed need to comment. I just noted a story on MSNBC about parents at an emotionally charged meeting demanding that staff at the school be held accountable - and I imagine it entirely possible that parents of some of the nine fellow students might have been at that meeting, screaming for someone else's blood in this situation - though I personally couldn't have shown my face in that gathering, had one of my two children been involved. Once again, I think this is a sign of the lack of personal accountability in this country at this point in time. We will bring ourselves down if we don't start understanding that our teen-aged children are old enough to understand right and wrong, and when they choose wrong, if often means we as parents failed miserably in our teaching of those concepts to them, though not always, I will admit. They also are old enough to bear the consequences of their actions. In this case, these teens need to face stiff legal penalties for their parts in causing one bullied young woman to take her own life -- this is also true of the teen who bullied another by way of the internet until that young woman took her life.

We have a growing problem with aggressive behavior running unchecked in our society - fueled, I believe, by the number of "hero" figures - rock stars, movie stars, athletes - who act out, and, seemingly, are not punished if not rewarded for that behavior. I can't help but think of Big Ben in Pittsburg, PA, though I'll admit that I'm also worldly enough to know there are women who will pick a wealthy, well-known figure in order to claim something happened that didn't, because they figure they're going to get something out of it. I think of NBA stars pulling guns on each other in a locker room, and according to the stories in the news, the one with the loaded gun went free, while the one with the unloaded gun is facing the consequences "because he's a bad boy." Guess what, if he's a bad boy, that's because the system has encouraged that attitude and behavior.

Since I was a teen myself, I've heard the talk on sports teams of the "enforcer," whose job is to make the other team pay for "nasty" plays. In basketball or hockey, it's someone willing to physical damage to another deliberately in order to send a message. Fortunately, baseball seems to have learned it's lesson, though brawls do still happen. Injuries such as Joe Thiesmann experienced will happen, simply because someone is paid to stop someone else from scoring, but we have witnessed countless occasions when a play is over, everyone is letting up, losing focus on the way back to the huddle, and BOOM, someone's down and injured. WE pay to watch that, my friends! WE want to see the blood, the pain. How many times have we heard someone way, it's not a hockey game without a brawl or three?

When our children grow up in that environment, watching movies increasingly graphic, and NO ONE TELLS THEM IT'S ALL PRETEND, they will grow to think that behavior is acceptable. My children watched those movies, too, sitting right next to me, while I pointed out that when the director called, "Cut!" the actors got up and walked away, but in real life, they laid there and died!

Wake up, people! Parents need to take responsibility for training their children, or stop yammering about it when someone else does! Everyone person is responsible for their actions, and the consequences there attached! If parents won't teach right and wrong, and won't allow churches and schools to do it - with parental support -- this nation will kill itself by way of angry young people who have no real concept of right and wrong. Perhaps instead of asking for staffers at the school to be fired over this, the parents of the children involved should stand trial right alongside their children. Perhaps that would get people thinking!

Angry? You bet I am, because I've been on the side that tries to help, and gets blasted for doing it, because "it's the parents' right to train their children." Well, then train, and stop playing couch potato parent, full of pills or booze, while your children learn only the ugly underside of what it means to be a human being! You enjoyed the act of procreation, so now act like persons who are indeed responsible and TEACH YOUR CHILDREN!!

I won't sign off, "Peace" on this post, because I think people need to start thinking seriously about how badly our country looks right now with all of this going on - and think about their attitudes toward their young! I really do!!

Monday, March 29, 2010


I'm realizing that I'm proudly part of this nation's political system called at different times progressive, liberal, "socialist." I believe that our country was founded on the principle that a person was free to determine their own faith stance, and not have to worry about a group in power dictating whether or not they could practice that faith - and yes, I also believe there are limits that are rightfully placed on that freedom. I believe that extremism in ANY of it's varied forms is wrong - be it Islamic, Jewish, Christian, or related to the birth gifts of an individual someone doesn't like (if they even know nothing about that person).

This morning I noted a news story about one of our nation's law enforcement organizations raiding the facilities of Christian militia - with the notation that one of those raided sites had called another to seek a hiding site. Now, why are you calling for a hiding place, IF you aren't doing something wrong? If the police showed up at my apartment and demanded to search, I would step back, because I know I'm doing nothing that would get me in trouble.

I keep listening to the political pundits from the right, yelling about the Islamic extremists, and defending home-grown terrorists who have decided murder is justifiable to support their particular politico-religious point of view. I don't care if it is someone who fires a rocket blindly into Israel, who uses tanks to destroy the homes of innocents because they SUSPECT the homes are being used for attacks, who put pipe bombs in a plaza filled with people celebrating the human spirit and enjoying the athletic endeavors of the best of the best, or someone who uses a high powered rifle or hand gun to shoot that "damned" abortion doctor - extremism is extremism, and it is wrong.

I've worked hand in hand with Jews, Christians and Muslims to address social issues in more than one of the churches I've served over my 30+ years of pastoral ministry, and found them all to be people of faith, concern and a desire for a better life. I've worked with so-called straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals - again finding them just as appalled by those of any of those persuasions who abuse they positions of power to abuse persons under their care.

Face it, people, there are good and bad in every group, every nation, every persuasion. So, let's stop acting like only "my" point of view is valid, only "my" faith perspective is right. If we learn to work together, we will find a lot of this nation's problems being answered as they were meant to be answered.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Once again, I'm surprised by the appearance that image is everything - particularly in the current political climate. A big example is the GOP position that Democrats are for big government - the fact? Current levels of federal government involvement in our lives is a direct result of 8 years of GOP control of the whole legislative system, and building a continuing influence through appointments to the judicial side of government.

Watching Hardball with Chris Matthews tonight, I was struck by the clips he played of Presidents and Senators from both parties going all the way back to Tricky Dick. Health care reform is an old and continuing need for this nation. It is an embarrassment that while we call our nation the best in the world, we are one of a very few, if not the only, industrialized nation without a national health care system that provides health care to all citizens.

It's also embarrassing to hear health care providers admit they defraud the insurance companies by overcharging for supplies! And we wonder why health care is so expensive? Why is it that our representatives cannot come up with enforceable regulations to stop fraud in our health care system? Lobbyists!

That old evil that has always been around, and that we are warned about even in the Hebrew Bible - the love of money -- increase the bottom line over all other concerns - short cuts in production of medicines, in treatment programs, over-charging insurance companies or the government, turn away the people who most need the coverage to help with the cost of conditions that just soak up money because of our system. That is just wrong!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blind Bigotry

One of the on-going sources of pain in my faith life is the manner in which Israel seems unable to see or feel the pain they cause the rest of the world by their blind, unthinking, unfeeling, arrogant hatred of the Palestinian community - nor can they seem to see how they perpetuate the things done to the Jews by the way they treat these people they displaced much as the Germans displaced people when they were in their wars of conquest. Nations like the US try to reach out and find a peaceful way to allow Israel and the Palestinians to live, each in their own lands, and Israel plays a teasing game of "Of course we'll enter peace talks," and "Hurry, build another invasive settlement in direct violation of previous agreements!"

And tonight I saw another story that just confirms this. The Vice-President tries to restart the peace talks that Israel said they wanted to restart, and they announce the start of construction on another settlement. To quote a show my son used to loved to watch on TV, "Doh!"

I recall an incident from some years ago, when a colleague of the Episcopal persuasion went to Israel, returned to the states and spoke of his experiences, describing the treatment of Palestinians that at the time were still allowed into Israel for work and shopping - and comparing some of the tactics he saw as similar to the Gestapo treatment of Jews under Hitler - dragging people off buses because they were Palestinian, stopping them on the streets for no other reason than that, brutality, insensitivity to persons acting normally. A Jewish colleague came to me later and demanded to know if that other had called the Jews Nazis. I spent a good bit of time calming my Jewish colleague and finally was able to get the concept of "treatment similar to" across.

Many of the Jews I've known in this country are as perplexed by Israel's policies and action as are non-Jews. And I find myself simply unable to comprehend that inability to see how badly they are damaging their image in the eyes of the world - and another analogy of current affairs lifts its ugly head, that of the Republican party that cannot seem to see how out of touch their views are with the majority of this nation's citizens, while they continue to plow the same furrow over and over again, offending more and more people by lies, hate, bigotry and so on.

God gave us brains to think with, hearts to feel with, and hands to help our brothers and sisters in this life. When we won't think, can't feel, and hurt instead of helping - what message to we send to our God? What message do we send about our so-called faith?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Civility in Public Life

What is it with people in our society that have lost power? I'm thinking of a story I just read on Yahoo News about a "Tea Party" speaker from eastern Washington state who said a Democratic senator from her state should be hanged, then claimed her remarks were taken out of context. Out of context? Lady, if you said it, you should be so ashamed of yourself that you withdraw from public life completely!

We claim to be the best country in the world, but we have lost the sense of civility and the understanding that we only accomplish our full potential as a nation when we work together respectfully! When the so-called leaders of our government feel free to use such language, when one party or the other decides they will become obstructionist rather than loyal opposition, then we fall from our perceived lofty heights. If we, as a nation, want the world to look up to us, we need to rediscover what it means to be a nation that can reach out to all our many parts, we need political commentators that are able to see the good in persons of leadership rather than tearing at them and their positions like mad beasts, we need to stop seeing surface things like skin color, party affiliation, gender, mental or physical ability, or even sexual orientation or religion - WE NEED TO SEE THE PERSON - and accept them as another member of our great big extended family - because we all know we don't get along perfectly with our family members, but we still love them and seek to keep good relationships with them. That also needs to be part of our civil discourse!

I have been a member of both the Republican and Democratic party, and I've complained about the actions of both. But I have never been more ashamed of a political party than I am right now with the Republican Party that has become, truthfully, the party of NO! And how they can continue to let hate-mongers like Limbaugh and Beck and O'Reilly to speak for them, fill their public image with insane, unthinking and unceasing lies about what is currently happening in our country - I'll never understand. There are bad people in both parties, and no politician is every above the law - though some obviously think they are - so we truly need, as citizens and voters, to show that we will no longer stand for those who deal in hate, lies and deceit. When a politician lies, cheats, or is shown to be in the pocket of special interest, we need to vote them out of office!

My father became so disenchanted with politicians years ago that he stated would no longer vote for and incumbent, because incumbents seemed to always be in the pocket of someone. I'm not ready to go there, but I do believe we need to send a strong message to Washington and our state capitals that we will no longer tolerate the current climate of hate and distrust. I do not believe Evan Byah was doing his best for the country this last little while, but I do believe his comments about voters needed to send a stronger message to Washington, specifically the Senate.