Tag Archive | Election

After the Election – 11/13/16

This has been a very hard week for most of us.  It has been for me.  I have been going through all the stages of grief, trying to understand how the election turned out the way it did.  I have been through denial, thinking I would soon wake up from a nightmare.  My disappointment soon turned to anger and to rage. I started hoping that maybe it won’t be so bad, that perhaps our President Elect is really not as horrifying as he seems. I went through bargaining, maybe the electoral college will save us, maybe Trump will be impeached or even jailed before the inauguration.  I have been depressed, wanting to pull the metaphorical covers over my head so I did not have to face the reality of the country we now find ourselves living in.  I wrote 3 poems in the first 3 days as all of those emotions swirled inside of me.  I was trying to find some hope in the midst of my grief.

 

Let me read them.

 

The Morning After

Morning comes

Even if sleep has not

The dawning sun laughs

Look at me she says

I have seen far worse

On your poor planet.

Get up.

Get a grip.

We have a light

That needs to shine.

It might take years

But the nightmare will end

If we stay strong.

 

 

2 Days After

Grief comes

The tears flow

Denial is sweet

Then I remember

Anger comes

How could they?

Even some of my family

Grief comes

The bitter taste of fear

Pain in my stomach

But most of all in my heart

Where is Love?

Then I remember

It is everywhere

We can find it

If we look

Hope lives inside me

For a moment

Bargaining

Before the tears come again

The cycle of grief

Goes on

Then when it is over

We get busy

We are the lovers

And protectors

Of the planet

And of the vulnerable

Acceptance and then

Action

 

And on the Third Day

I felt it last night

Just before I fell asleep

Something stirred

That I thought had died.

It came awake

A force, a power.

Three days of pain

Fear anger grief

Buried deep

In a cold tomb of despair.

But then

On this third day

The Spirit rose again to say

Life lives and

Love will never be denied.

Go into the world

It said

Spread the message

Be fierce be bold

Be brave

Resurrection is not easy

But faith will be reborn

 

 

 

The last poem contains some Christian imagery, but I think the Easter story has some relevance for all of us on this November Day.  When Jesus was murdered by the Roman empire, his followers were in despair.  Their dreams had died with him.  The forces of the empire were too strong, the future would hold nothing but more death and destruction.

 

A lot of us feel exactly that way right now.  There will surely be more scapegoating and increase in violence against Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and gay lesbian bisexual and transgender people. That is already happening. Mass deportations will be implemented if we can’t stop them. The first amendment, including freedom of the press is in danger, and all of us may need to learn how to survive in a time of heavy surveillance and very possibly a police state.

 

Somehow, more than 2000 years ago, people found the courage, in the midst of their despair, to go out into the wolrd and preach the message of their faith, the core of which is “Love your neighbor.”

 

I pray that we can find a similarly strong faith in the saving message of Unitarian Universalism.  With this new reality we no longer have the luxury of resting on our laurels, of doing social justice only when it is convenient, of hiding away in a liberal enclave while we watch our planet and our very civilization be destroyed.  We are now called to act, to speak out, to put our very bodies on the line when necessary.  We need to reach out to others – to those who are afraid – to pledge that we will protect them – to other religious and non-religious communities who can be allies in this struggle.

We might start with the church that owns this building asking perhaps that if necessary, can we make this a physical sanctuary for those who may be deported.

Can we pledge to feed and clothe the families we may need to shelter?  Will we hide them in our own homes and help them escape in our own cars? Can we commit fully in support of Native American water protectors, with the Black Lives Matter movement, with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, with everyone who is committed to the inherent worth and dignity of all and to protecting our planet which sustains all of our lives?

 

Get ready people.  Get ready.  It is OK to continue to grieve.  Rest in denial when you need to, make your bargains, hide in your beds, let the drug of anger soothe your soul.

 

And while you are doing those things, prepare yourselves.  Get ready.  Pray if that helps you, and then decide what you will do.

 

During WWII, Unitarians Martha and Waitsill Sharp risked their own their lives to save people from the Nazi Regime.  Courage in the face of injustice is in our DNA.  We can and will rise to the challenge.  There is no other choice.

Will you be ready to join with us?

(Explain safety pins and what they mean)

 

And on the Third Day

I felt it last night

Just before I fell asleep

Something stirred

That I thought had died.

It came awake

A force, a power.

Three days of pain

Fear anger grief

Buried deep

In a cold tomb of despair.

But then

On this third day

The Spirit rose again to say

Life lives and

Love will never be denied.

Go into the world

It said

Spread the message

Be fierce be bold

Be brave

Resurrection is not easy

But faith will be reborn

This is the 3rd in a series of poems in the aftermath of the US election of 2016.

Links to the first two are below.

2 days after

The Morning After

2 Days After

Grief comes

The tears flow

Denial is sweet

Then I remember

Anger comes

How could they?

Even some of my family

Grief comes

The bitter taste of fear

Pain in my stomach

But most of all in my heart

Where is Love?

Then I remember

It is everywhere

We can find it

If we look

Hope lives inside me

For a moment

Bargaining

Before the tears come again

The cycle of grief

Goes on

Then when it is over

We get busy

We are the lovers

And protectors

Of the planet

And of the vulnerable

Acceptance and then

Action

 

The Morning After

 

 

 

 

Voting our values UUP 11/6/16

Is anyone else stressed out about the election?  I know I am.  The changing poll numbers and the “October Surprises” have made it hard for me to stay centered and hopeful.

As a minister, I am pretty much a professional optimist. Sometimes that is one of the hardest parts of the job.

Democracy is just stressful at its core.  I have been nervous before every election I can remember. Who knows how the votes will turn out in the end?  And the issues are much more significant than flavors of ice cream.  What if our country elects a president that would be as life threatening to some people as peanuts are those who are allergic? Peanut butter looks kind of orange, so don’t laugh, it could happen.

As scary as elections can be, part of my religious practice is to carefully study candidates and issues and then to vote my values in every single election.

I have opinions about methods and policies, about what might work better than something else, but bottom-line, it is values I care about.  Does a policy or a candidate promote the inherent worth and dignity of all?  What about liberty and justice for all or world community? Is there an element of compassion contained in the plan? Is there some respect for diversity as well as the realization that we are all connected? How do our religious values relate to the death penalty? To the plastic bag ban?  To support for schools and libraries?

Those are the questions I asked myself before I voted.

You might consider asking yourself some similar questions.

Please note that I am not telling any of you how to vote because I really do believe in our fifth principle, “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” People should have a voice, a say, in what affects them.  You all need to make up your own minds about how to vote.

Mark Twain said that, “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from others.”

Mark Twain was not a member of a Unitarian Church, but he did have a lot of Unitarian friends.  He clearly thought that people should examine their beliefs and convictions for themselves, and not take them on second hand authority.  It is what our faith asks us to do.  Our principles call us to examine our beliefs, to test them against our reason, our experience and our hearts.  This is true in matters of politics as well as religion.

We are a liberal religion, by definition, because we promote that first hand authority of the individual conscience, because we don’t expect everyone to agree about everything, particularly when it comes to theology.  There should be room in this congregation for atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, and followers of just about any other religious tradition.

To be comfortable here, however, most folks find that it is important to at least be open to the idea that spiritual traditions and practices other than their own just might be very valid for other people.

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion, but that doesn’t mean we are all liberal Democrats.  There are many thoughtful and faithful Republicans in our churches.

A little history: Unitarian Universalism is deeply rooted in American cultural values. There is a reason most people agree with our seven principles the first time they hear them. Liberty and justice are words contained in the pledge of allegiance after all.

There have been 5 US presidents who either attended Unitarian churches or professed Unitarian beliefs: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and William Taft. While he did not specifically identify with any organized religion, Abraham Lincoln had Universalist leanings.  Some of you may also know that our current president, Barack Obama, attended a Unitarian Universalist church as a child.

But let’s talk about William Taft for a minute.  He was president between 1909 and 1913, and he was a Republican.

His great-grandson, John Taft wrote an article a few years ago where he said he was a genetic Republican, claiming that 5 generations of Tafts have served our nation as unwaveringly stalwart Republicans.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/opinion/the-cry-of-the-true-republican.html?_r=0)

In his article he also says this:

“Throughout my family’s more than 170-year legacy of public service, Republicans have represented the voice of fiscal conservatism. Republicans have been the adults in the room.”

He went on to say:

“The Republican Party is (or should be) the Stewardship Party. The Republican brand is (or should be) about responsible behavior. The Republican Party is (or should be) at long last, about decency.”

The Republican values he speaks of are quite consistent with Unitarian Universalism.

But here is where it gets a bit more complicated.  Clearly, there have been, and are, a lot of politically liberal Unitarian Universalists.  If we did a survey, I suspect most of our members vote for Democrats most of the time.  I also suspect that the number of Democrats among us is increasing over time and the number of Republicans is declining.

I don’t think it is anything that we are doing, however.  Instead, I think the right wing of Republican Party has been systematically driving religiously liberal people away.

Marriage Equality should not be a partisan issue, but it has become so.  A plan for compassionate immigration reform should have nothing to do with whether someone is a Republican or a Democrat. How to deal with global climate change is a scientific problem.  Science is not a left wing conspiracy.  The right of a woman to control her own body should have nothing to do with whether or not you are a fiscal conservative.

It started years ago, when economic conservatives began wooing religious conservatives.  They became the “family values party,” but they were very restrictive in how they defined a family.

When you have agreed to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people, it becomes difficult to demonize others, no matter who they are.  Immigrants, gays, poor people, Muslims, women, people with disabilities, have all been demonized or mocked. This is in clear conflict with our values.

But listen to me now, many on the left have cast all Trump supporters as racist sexist bigots, – it isn’t a moral equivalent as angry white men aren’t an oppressed group, but it still isn’t OK.

It is hard not to hate your political opponents.  It is hard not to hate those you are afraid of.  I do think fear is at the root of much of the political discord these days.

“America as we know it will end if the other party gains control of the presidency and gets to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.”   Both sides are saying that.  Some people really hate Clinton; others hate Trump. Very few people are really completely evil; they just have very different views of the world and sometimes serve different interests.

This is where liberal religion can help begin a dialogue.  Open hearted, open minded, curious as to what the other thinks and feels.  It doesn’t always work, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

Listen for the middle ground, listen for where you might agree, or at least have something to learn. Speak with bravest fire, but hold love at the center of it all.

It is how we try to do theology here.  We listen to each other.  Christians, pagans, and atheists really can get along, and form an awesome religious community together.  So why can’t Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Libertarians get along in the political sphere?

In this congregation we need radical visionaries willing to take some risks, but we also need fiscally conservative financial stewards.  Our country needs more people willing to listen to others, whatever their party affiliation.

I believe there is an important role for religion in politics. Gandhi said that “those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.”

Gandhi was a Hindu, but the Judeo-Christian tradition is also full of calls for the faithful to be engaged in social and political issues.  To love all of creation, but in particular to be concerned for those who have the least power in the wider culture.

Virtually all of the Biblical prophets spoke out for justice for the weak, for the poor, and for the oppressed.

From the prophet Amos who said let justice roll down like waters, to Isaiah who said that the spirit of God sent him to bring good news to the oppressed, to the prophet Jesus who told us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and to, in modern times, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who led a faith based movement against racial discrimination, the religious voice has been a powerful and important one.

That is the prophetic tradition, and one that I think Unitarian Universalism identifies with very strongly.  We have always spoken out against unjust laws and argued for just ones.  From opposing the fugitive slave act to working with Black Lives Matter, we have been a tradition that championed the rights of the oppressed.  Respect for the inherent dignity of all is our first principle.  The key here is that this prophetic tradition is about religion and religious people working to protect the weak, to enhance life, to care for all of creation.  This type of religious activism serves democracy well because it is fundamentally about caring, respect, and love.  It is not about restriction and punishment.

There is another Biblical tradition, however, one that most of the prophets I listed above were in direct opposition to.  There is also a priestly tradition that focused on religious laws. The scribes and Pharisees that took Jesus to task for violating the law were a part of that tradition.  Leviticus, with its long list of rules, many of which are a little weird to our modern sensibilities, is another example.

This priestly tradition is very dangerous to democracy, I think, especially when it argues that religious laws should be enforced by the state.

Some Muslim countries follow Sharia law, and most Americans find that appalling, but Leviticus is the primary reason that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people still do not have full civil rights in this country.

It is one thing to follow your religious values by asking for help for the vulnerable, and it is quite another to ask the state to promote your religious values over those of others and to create legislation to ensure that it is your rules that are followed.

So what do we do?  How to we hold on to hope?

I love the following poem by ee cummings.

It is called “dive for dreams,”

Dive for dreams
Or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)

trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)

honour the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)

Dive deep for your dreams, trust your heart.  Live by love though the stars walk backward. No matter what happens on Tuesday, there will be work for us to do. Love can guide us on our way. Amen and Blessed Be.

Fear

wall-flowers

Shall we tremble and shake

Hide in our homes

Afraid of the streets

No neighbors around

Just a posse of hate

As a madman demands we

Cast our ballots in fear

 

I want to be brave

As the flowers that bloom

I want to be strong

As the mountains that rise

I want to be tender

As the small chickadee

 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

FDR said that

It reminded me

What I fear most is fear

Shake it off, friends,

Shake it off

There is room here for all

Of our neighbors

Gay, straight, black, white

Christian, Muslim, atheist

Immigrant, and citizen

Everyone, no exceptions.

We need to build a wall

To keep fear out.

 

 

Just Wondering

20151112_Clinton_Sanders

 

I am wondering why there is so much outrage about the long lines to vote in Arizona from Sanders supporters while there is virtual silence about the long lines for the Democratic caucuses in Utah.  Voter suppression is a terrible thing and we have seen it for a long time in many parts of the country and it almost always targeted at people of color.  Working class people of any race can’t usually give up a half a day to stand in line to cast a ballot, so when lines are long only the more privileged among us can afford to vote.  People with disabilities and the elderly also are more likely to just give up and go home than are the young, especially if they are both enthusiastic and  able-bodied.

Sanders won Utah and lost Arizona.

I think he would have lost Arizona had there been no lines, and I also suspect he would not have won Utah with as high a margin if the process there was less arduous.

Clinton has routinely tended to do much better with both older and minority voters whereas Sanders strength is primarily with young white voters , quite arguably a population relatively able to wait out a long line to vote.

If we look at the demographics of the two states, the election results make a lot of sense.  Utah has a very young population, because of their much higher than average birthrate, and it is a very white state.  Arizona is much more diverse and is a well know retirement destination.   These facts are reflected in their census data. *

Only 10% of Utah’s population is age 65+, while 16% of Arizona’s population is in that age group.  The median age in 2010 was 34.2 for Arizona and 29.2 for Utah.

Utah is also one of the whitest states, with 80% of its population listed as non-Hispanic white.  In Arizona that percentage is only 60%.

Given all of this, I am wondering why anyone thinks the results were somehow rigged.  They are exactly what was expected.  Please chill out.  Vote for the candidate you like the best, but it is time to lose the conspiracy theories.  They are frankly just silly. And, friends, please remember that they are both pretty red states anyway.

 

*census data

 

 

A Pastor for Hillary

Sometimes you get to say just what you think….

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In New Hampshire

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Partisan politics was something I stayed far away from when I was serving a parish.  Aside from the need to retain the congregation’s tax exempt status, it also just felt wrong to be telling people that looked up to me as their pastor how to vote.  Ministers’s voices and opinions can carry a lot of weight with their congregants.  I may be on the heavy side, but I don’t like throwing my weight around that way.

I am not serving a congregation currently, however.

If I serve as a parish minister again, I will again stay away from obviously partisan positions while still advocating for compassion and justice.  Being anti-racist, for instance,  should be something we all are working on; it is something our faith demands of us.  Caring for the poor, the homeless, providing a healthy environment for our children and ourselves (which includes clean water and air) , welcoming the refugee, providing jobs that pay a living wage, should not be considered controversial among people of faith.  Individuals and groups can disagree about methods and strategies, but the goal of all political parties should be to insure a decent, peaceful, free, and prosperous life for all of our citizens and ultimately, for all the people in the world.

I have said most of the above from the pulpit and will do so again when I get opportunities to preach.

Now, however, not having parish ties, I can say publicly that I think Hilary Clinton is the candidate that is most likely to move us forward at this particular time in history. 

I like Clinton for some of the same reasons that other people heap criticisms on her head.

  • She has changed her mind over time about a lot of things.  All politicians do this.  All people do this, at least they do if they aren’t fossilized. Changing opinions and positions doesn’t mean Clinton is dishonest, quite the opposite is true in fact.  It means she is capable of listening and learning.
  • She has strong convictions, but doesn’t seem to particularly self-righteous about them.  Contrast this with Bernie Sanders or (shudder) Ted Cruz.  Cruz is clearly a zealot, a true believer,  and he is even scarier than Trump for that reason.  I am not as sure that Sanders is a true zealot, but he sounds like one when he talks. Clinton doesn’t. There is some humility in evidence.  Obama has some humility too, which has been refreshing and real.  Only Clinton of the current candidates exhibits any humility at all.  No one knows everything.  It would be best to have a leader that understands that.
  • She’s practical and willing to make some compromises.  I think that is a good thing.  Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.  Obama compromised on health care and we have something much better than we would have had otherwise – which was nothing.  It is not perfect, single payer, medicare for all,  would have been better, but it just wasn’t possible.  Sanders now wants to throw it out and just start over.  That is exactly what the Republicans want too. We could easily end up with nothing.
  • She has the experience.  She is in fact more qualified to be president than any other candidate in my memory.  She has been part of the system and knows it well.  I think that is a huge advantage and not an indictment as some seem to believe.
  • She supports Obama and pledges to continue his policies.  I love having Obama as our president.  I love all that he has been able to accomplish despite the huge and racist opposition he has faced. I also love what Clinton has been able to accomplish despite the huge and sexist opposition she has faced. I think she will do even more as president.
  • Obama, as our first African American president, just by being who he is, has done so much to enlarge the vision of what is possible for our young people, especially our young people of color.  I’d like to see what a female president, just by being who she is, can do to enlarge the vision of what is possible for our young women, including our young women of color.

 

One last comment:  the recent debates between Sanders and Clinton were what helped push me more firmly toward Clinton.  Sanders repeatedly used his white male privilege during those debates, reacting grumpily every time Clinton interrupted him while arrogantly speaking over her many times.  I do not remember any of that going on when Clinton debated Obama, perhaps because both were aware of and sensitive to the racial and gender dynamics of the situation.  Sanders seems simply clueless of any such dynamic at all.  We don’t need any more clueless leaders.  We have plenty of Republicans to provide that perspective.  The two photos above and below demonstrate what I am talking about.  Clinton mainly uses open-handed gestures directed to the audience.  Sanders mainly points and he directs many of his gestures toward Clinton.  Body language speaks volumes.  Someone should tell Sanders to clean up his act.  Maybe he can learn and grow.

Dem 2016 Debate

(AP Photo/Mic Smith)