Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting

The shooting todayat the Holocaust Memorial Museum by a “known” white supremacist is disturbing on many fronts.    As I read this news,  my mind flashed back to Dr. Tiller’s assassination a few weeks ago at his church.  Dr. Tiller was a doctor who specialized in late-term abortions.   My mind flashed back to the Knoxville UU shooting last July.  

What do all three events have in common?   They were all committed by people who were on the ultra-extreme right of the political spectrum.   Many people in the public reported feeling that Dr. Tiller’s death was justified.  There is a sense of the vigilante in the response. 

MSNBC Commentator Keith Olberman holds Fox news culpable.  Certainly Fox news commentators Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly do have a histrionic style of presenting the news.  It borders in my mind of yellow journalism. Rational people see through the histrionics as entertainment–albeit twisted and perverse. Histrionics makes the news no longer news but a side show.   But these three individuals, if Olberman is correct and Fox News is to be held culpable, might not see it as histrionics but rather as sincerely felt emotions of a moral character crying out for justice. 

Ultra-extremists, regardless whether of the right or left, are narrow focused individuals.  They have become blind to other possibilities;  other points of views.  They see only in high contrast of black and white.  So the question becomes, not how do we get rid of them, for that answer results in the same sort of blind ultra-extreme response.  Rather the question is how do we create an environment that allows for greater acceptance of the pluralism.  How do we ease the trauma that people feel when they see their world moving away from the contrast of black and white to the colors of the rainbow?

Many people turn to religion to find answers but the answer is not clinging to the dogmatism of one’s faith.  That answer is to slide towards one of the poles of the extremes.  It is to grow rigid when life demands the fluidity of a river to remain clean and life giving.  Instead religion should aid people in being able to be flexible, to seek out the gifts of forgiveness and compassion.  Religion should aid people in expanding their experience of life not in narrowing it. 

The beloved community is not about everyone being exactly like me and thinking exactly like me but rather being their own unique flower in the bouquet of humanity. I don’t have the answers to how to expand the conversation so that those opposed to liberal notions are heard and understood and those opposed to conservative notions are heard and understood.  To honor and respect each other is a life long task. 

That cry seems to be coming into sharper focus these days.  May we find our way soon before the pain that is being felt is more acute in our society.  BLessings,

Published in: on June 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm  Comments Off on Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting  
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Bishop Robinson’s Inaugural Prayer

Many people watched the opening inaugural concert on HBO and may not have realized that the openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson gave the invocation.  There are lots of rumors about why it was not also aired with the concert.  So for those of you who have HBO and did not hear this moving prayer, and for those of you who may not have access to this channel, here is text of the prayer given. 

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Delivered by the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson:

“Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


You may also watch it here: 

Published in: on January 19, 2009 at 4:47 pm  Comments Off on Bishop Robinson’s Inaugural Prayer  
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Thriving during the Economy Crisis

I tend to be the type of person who when faced with a fear will try to read up on the subject so I have  better understanding of what is happening and thereby reducing my fear levels.  I figure knowledge equals personal power and therefore can and will help me navigate whatever fearful thing I am experiencing. 

This current economic crisis has suddenly propelled me to try to understand a subject that held very little interest for me.  And, as a minister who will be pastoring people who are deeply affected by this crisis, it is important that I understand what is going on. [The fall out will affect all of us in some manner as this crisis unfolds.]  As I read about such strange banking products as credit default swaps and commercial papers I am a bit awe struck by the level of greed our capitalism has brought us. 

When I read that even the buyers and sellers of credit default swaps did not even understand how that product worked, I begin to think people are a bit crazed in their quest to make money.   Our society has given up quite a bit in our desire for more money.  The people who work in these industries work incredibly long hours sacrificing family and community relationships to enable the possibility of early retirement or retirement at a comfortable level. 

So the question how to thrive in these uncertain times is an important question.  I think we need to first come up with a broader societal definition of what determines thriving.   It is too narrow a definition to have financial worth to be the only criteria for thriving.  That is like a plant that has received too much fertilizer but not enough other supports like sun, water, and soil so it grows tall and straggly, and eventually unable to bear the weight of itself. 

There needs to be a balance.   It is this balance that I think America is in need of finding.  There is a need to find what is essential to living a fulfilling life and to seek that first. [While typing this I am reminded of a song I used to sing, “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” and while this might work as an interpretation of what I wrote, I would mean it only in the sense of the Beloved Community or the Realm of God that Jesus states is already within us and waiting to be lived out in our daily lives.]  While it was a TV show full of glorified nostalgia, The Waltons highlighted the means in which one family, albeit fictional, thrived during the depression era.   The show focused on family values.  A phrase that needs unpacking since it too has been glorified and idealized beyond human reckoning.  Family values, as I refer to the term, means placing emphasis on the relationships we hold dear.  It means making a commitment / a covenant to the relationships we deem valuable. 

It means developing a means in which we will be together and support one another in ways that will honor our inherent worth and integrity.  It means developing a means in which we strive to be in right relationship with one another.  It means finding ways to be with one another that does not place the family or individuals into financial harm. 

For example, while it is a wonderful family experience to go as a family to Disney World or Busch Gardens or some other amusement park, if doing so means placing that on a credit card that you will pay off over the next several years, then it is placing the family into financial harm.  Find another activity that will also be a wonderful family experience that will not negatively impact your family’s over all health. 

It also means developing community values.  Become involved in your church community  or town community by volunteering and working with other people to help improve the world in which we live.  It might mean spending a day with others cleaning the environment or serving food at the local soup kitchen or becoming a big brother or big sister to a child in need of an adult mentor.  And despite what Sarah Palin has said about Community Organizers; organizing the community around a local concern, whether it is affordable housing or developing neighborhood parks is a powerful and responsible means of displaying community values. 

More importantly these activities build on relationships.  They break down the walls that people have erected against one another because of our fear of not having enough money, enough oil, enough products, enough what have you.   This is not the time to be pointing the fingers at this political party or that political party because frankly we all created this mess.  Yes, even you and I, because we bought into the lie that having more money is what mattered most.  We bought into the lie that money solves all problems. 

So while I hope and pray that our leaders are able to find solutions in order to reduce the impact of suffering within a crisis that seems to be unraveling at the seams at an incredible pace.  We can pull together and begin to place into balance what is essential to thriving which is not money but rather fostering love and compassion in our relationships with one another.  We will need to do this if we are to thrive during what ever comes our way.