This time: a meditation for the season (Advent, Christmas 2017)

From birth pangs,

whimpers of pain and hope,

and from babies, gurgles of possibility.

 

Love is always born in new mangers,

and also in graves of little ones

in Sandy Hook and Bethlehem (note the address: Palestine)

and in corpses of elephants outside Nairobi

and drowned Syrian refugee children

and men dead in U.S. streets because they’re black.

 

As the loud mouths of lost liars

screech in public places,

confounding our better angels,

we scream back

shut the fuck up!

 

But for a moment, can we press “pause”

and with wise men and women take time

to seek a birth place or a grave

and stand quietly?

 

Can we hear Sophia (Wisdom)

tell us stories of the baby

born — and grown up —

in Bethlehem, yes, in Palestine?

 

Shh! She says, listen

to what this Jesus said, see

what he did, and

understand him well

this time.

 

Love comes down always

to this and only this:

Make justice.

Show kindness and compassion.

Practice “revolutionary patience.”*

Walk gently on the earth.

And stand together

as if your lives

depend on it

because they do.

 

Carter Heyward                         * term coined by poet-theologian Dorothee Soelle

 

 

“I declare!”

“I declare!” my mama used to exclaim when she found herself at a loss for words.  It was an exclamation often accompanied by the shaking of her head in  exasperation.  And here I am today, her eldest daughter and heir of her exasperation.

I am frustrated almost beyond words by the failure of even the most truthful and intelligent media to help the people of our nation — women and men alike — begin to get at the root of the sexual abuse scandal in our midst.  I felt much the same way — exasperated at my core — decades ago, when priests of the Roman Catholic Church, together with parishes, schools, and dioceses, were being brought down by revelations of rampant sexual misconduct.

The sexual problem that has been pulling us down all along  is not the aberrant behavior of individual men — from Donald J. Trump right on down the ladder of power and privilege. The problem is white racist, hetero/sexist patriarchy.

All of the abusers have been shaped by the psychospiritual dynamics of patriarchy, which have muddied these men’s moral moorings.   It is time for us to wake up to the fact that we have ALL been shaped by the pervasiveness of patriarchal power relations structured precisely for the purpose of perpetuating ruling-class and ruling-race men’s control over the lives, bodies, and sexuality of women, vulnerable men, children, animals, and earth.

There is a great deal of enthusiasm these days that we women are finally coming out as having been targets of sexual misconduct, and I honestly don’t know a single woman who hasn’t been.  This historical unfolding is likely to be a  boost to the self-esteem, integrity, and courage of many, many women and quite a few men who have been victimized by predatory sexual behavior.  This, we can hope, will be a healing process for many people — those who’ve been abused and, perhaps even, some of those who’ve been among the abusers.

But we make a grave mistake if we participate in rounding up men and sometimes women who’ve sexually exploited women, children, and sometimes men — and casting them out of our public life.  Why make them disappear — as if somehow they no longer exist?  If they are not repentant, if they continue to deny that they have hurt people, if they blame the women, then, like all violent people, yes, put them away somewhere they can’t keep causing pain and distress to so many.  These are the ones who need to be cast out.

But whenever abusers really do seem repentant and genuinely want to figure out how to live differently in this world, why not give them opportunities to do public penance?  Why not give them a chance to work for sexual healing and gender justice?  Why not require them to give  their time, talent, and treasure to organizations dedicated to social change —  movements and efforts to eliminate sexual violence in all its forms, for starters?  Why not insist that they spend the rest of their lives working to transform white racist hetero/sexist patriarchal dynamics into genuine mutuality between and among genders, races, and cultures?  Why not give these people another chance — this time, to change the world?

Let’s face it.  The basic moral problem with Donald Trump is not that he has taken advantage of so many women but rather that he doesn’t give a damn about those women or anyone but himself and whoever he needs and can control.  Not only is Trump not repentant.  He delights in being able to touch, titillate, and take whomever or whatever he pleases on his own terms: women, money, the presidency.  If he could just be God, he’d be satisfied, maybe?

This is the essence of patriarchal privilege, power, and control.  This — not a bunch of sexually confused, sometimes violent, & often hurtful men —  is the root cause of the sexual misconduct crisis we are facing.  Until we get at this root, nothing will change.

And until this kind of call to action, this radical insistence, begins to be voiced in the public square, I’ll continue to echo my mama whenever I hear some well-meaning journalist sound shocked when she announces that yet another guy has been accused. To this news, I’ll just keep shaking my head and muttering, “I declare!”

 

 

Roy Moore, Christian teaching, and sexual abuse: a few admissions

First, let’s admit that having a president accused by at least 15 women of sexual harassment makes this a particularly challenging moment for legislators and other public figures to honestly and openly discuss sexual abuse, harassment, or misconduct (I’m using these terms interchangeably here) — especially as perpetrated by elected public officials or those running for office, like Roy Moore.  As long as Donald J. Trump is president of the United States, every public voice raised against sexual abuse among political figures will be distorted by the sexual lies, secrets, and silence oozing from the White House.

Second, while Donald J. Trump’s nasty sexual lies (and, yes, I believe his accusers) constitute a Big Moral Problem for this nation, let’s admit that the problem of sexual abuse moves us beyond partisanship.  In the present moment, we do indeed have Donald Trump, Roy Moore, and as of today Al Franken as men accused by women of sexual misconduct.   In the recent past, we have had Anthony Wiener, Mark Sanford, et al.  Reaching further back, we have had  Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, Dennis Hastert, and we have heard recently some accusations against George H.W. Bush.  Receding even further into the mid-20th Century, we have FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, and of course JFK, one of the most glamorous sexual predators ever to occupy the White House .   No political party has any lack of men who seem to enjoy wagging their penises and wielding their power over sexually vulnerable women and sometimes men.

Third, let’s admit that, while all sexual abuse is morally problematic, the sexual abuse of children lowers us to another moral level — of sickness and depravity.  To quote or paraphrase Ivanka Trump, there is a special place in hell for those who abuse children.  As obnoxious as the behavior of such men as her own father and Bill Clinton, neither of these men was, or has been, accused of abusing children.

Fourth, we who are Christians need to admit the role that traditional Christian teachings have played historically in setting the stage for men’s sexual abuse of women and children.  (Judaism, Islam, and other major patriarchal religions of the world share this problem, but we Christians have enough in our own tradition to keep us busy). All patriarchal religious traditions have given “the fathers” tacit permission to work their will over women and children — physically, economically, psychologically, spiritually, and sexually.  We cannot begin to understand the rampant sexual misconduct among clergy — Roman Catholic priests and others — unless we realize how psychologically damaging and spiritually distorted are the Christian teachings and practices that have shaped these men’s psyches, spiritualities, and sexualities.  I suggest we might include Christian political figures, like Roy Moore, here,  one whose anti-sexual piety has distorted his life as a Christian man.

We  Christian pastors and priests and other leaders also need to publicly and emphatically distance ourselves, our morals, our theologies, and our faith from those morally mistaken Christian pastors like Mark Burns who continue to support Roy Moore as a God-loving man and who, at the very least, continue to cast doubts on the voices of his female accusers even in the face of strong and mounting evidence.

Fifth, let’s admit the stunning hypocrisy of all the God-loving legislators, governors, judges, and even presidents — almost always Republicans in the modern era — who seem to get off on condemning gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people as well as women who seek control of our own bodies via reproductive freedom.  These men — Roy Moore is a pathetic example — have made their reputations as men of God who hate sin and love to legislate against the rights and well-being of sinners.  No wonder Roy Moore so adamantly refuses to admit to any sexual misconduct!  To do so would be to pull the spiritual and moral rug not only out from under his campaign but also out from under his sorry life as the sort of hypocrite Jesus had in mind when he warned us against trying to remove the speck out of our neighbor’s eye when we have a log in our own.

Finally, we need to admit that, whether or not we have ever been guilty of sexual misconduct, we all participate in the brokenness of our common humanity.  We all hurt our neighbors in one way or another, often through our fear of one another and our personal greed.  So as we go about trying to understand, unravel, and condemn sexual abuse in all its forms, may we have the courage to admit to our own brokenness, ignorance, and sin, if this is a term we find meaningful, as I do. I understand sin as personal and social alienation from God, the source of all justice-love and our power to generate mutuality in all our relations.

In this moment, I believe that this Sacred Spirit is pushing and pulling us to be emphatic in our condemnation of sexual abuse, humble in understanding our own capacities to hurt one another, strong in our compassion and encouragement for those who have suffered abuse, and open to forgiving those abusers who are genuinely seeking to turn their lives around — and to go and sin no more in this way.

 

Trump an illegitimate — fake — president

I posted the statement below on Facebook last night, and I re-post it here for one reason: to make public one citizen’s voice about Trump’s illegitimate — illegal — take-over of the US Presidency.  His tenure in the White House, for however long it may last, is a sham, a stunt, not only bad news for our nation and world, but — to use Trump’s favorite word — FAKE news, concocted by a sick man totally absorbed with himself, drowning in the consequences of his narcissism  and incompetence, and taking the nation down with him.

We cannot turn back the clock and make Hillary Clinton President — although she would be had the election not been manufactured by the collusion of malicious powers.  But we must speak out and insist that Trump be stopped — so that, when Mueller’s report is released and condemns Trump for both collusion and obstruction of justice, Congress will know beyond a doubt that many — most — Americans have already concluded that Trump must go — and never should never have been put in an office he did not win fairly and actually did not win at all.

Hence, I will be sending this to my Senators and Representatives, all three conservative Republicans who will toss it in the trash.  But I encourage readers and FB friends to copy the following statement — you have my permission — or better yet, use your own words and make them as public as possible.

I am bound by my conscience as well as my love of my country — the United States of America — to put in writing here and now my ever-stronger belief that Donald J. Trump did NOT win the Presidency but rather was illegitimately put there by forces of his own sordid campaign colluding with Russian trolls, Wikileaks, social media like FB and Twitter, and the deplorably poor judgment of James Comey.

Together, these forces lied about and distorted images of Hillary Clinton — effectively, through fake and fabricated news, persuading a large segment of voters in swing states to hate Hillary more and more and, finally, vote against her.

Of course sexism and misogyny played a major role as well, underscoring and strengthening the effectiveness of the Trump-Russian collusion. To my distress, and I’m sure theirs, Obama and his administration didn’t know how to stop this cynical and malicious stealing of the 2016 election — and the installation of a deeply disturbed and dangerous ego-maniac as POTUS.

Watching the Vietnam film

This is a commentary on War — specifically, on what I learned watching the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick film on the Vietnam War.
 
I watched the whole film, from episode one on the French occupation and looting of the small southeast Asian country in the mid-19th century through episode ten on the final moments of America’s war in Vietnam, when we abandoned the very people we claimed to have been trying to save.
 
Every night, I sat glued in front of the TV, stunned, often weeping, as each episode concluded. I was watching because I realized that this war made me who I am, for better and worse, and I felt morally obligated to sit there and learn everything I could.
 
As much as any other historical phenomena, interwoven with racism and misogyny, the Vietnam War shaped my identity as an American ashamed of my country’s war-making obsession. That war shaped my Christian spirituality becoming increasingly universalist; my political economic views becoming increasingly socialist; and my sense of myself as a white professional lesbian/bisexual woman determined to live and work, preach and teach, values that our nation made a mockery of by waging the war in Vietnam.
 
This is not to blame the individual soldiers — most of whom did their best. Is this not always the case in war? Most men and women on all sides are doing what they think they should, or must, in order to do what’s right. The Ken Burns-Lynn Novick film makes this clear through the many interviews with soldiers — American, North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Viet Cong– as well as with war protesters, war advocates, families on all sides in Vietnam and here in the United States.
 
But I did then, and do now, blame the leaders of the nations, for the lies and distorted perceptions and cowardly political decisions upon which War is made. As an American citizen, I blame our leaders in particular for making the wretched war in Vietnam, in which more than 2,000,000 Vietnamese and almost 60,000 Americans died: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford are the presidents that share the blame for this travesty — especially Johnson, a tragic figure, and Nixon, a scoundrel of the worst kind.
 
This film made clear that Fake News is nothing new here in America. The Vietnam War was woven out of lies, lies, and more lies out of the mouths of presidents, politicians and generals. A President’s lying is not a new thing in the White House, but Trump’s inability not to lie — his compulsive, ugly, pathological lying and manufacturing of “truth” to suit his interests — strips him of all moral authority and also is moving us close to the brink of war, right now.
 
Sisters and brothers and all siblings, work and pray, protest and struggle, lobby and vote against any and all efforts to increase our use of military force anywhere in the world.

White Supremacy, Trump, and Jesus

While we needn’t waste our best energies fretting about Donald Trump’s character defects, his efforts to avoid denouncing racism — white supremacy — as a morally repugnant foundation of our nation demands a response, especially from white people.

As a white Christian Southerner, I am appalled by the legacy of white supremacy that has shaped our nation. Racism has not only shaped our laws, our politics, and the shape of our economic system. It has also colored our religious beliefs and symbols and has infused our psyches with distorted, damaging feelings and assumptions about who matters most in the world around us.

The “alt right” white nationalists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville over the weekend were, by their own enthusiastic admission, “emboldened” by Trump, whom they lifted up as “their” President. They are right about this: Trump is their President.

By his own lack of any moral compass or commitment to a just, compassionate, and unified society, their President emboldens white supremacists to do their own hateful thing whenever they please. If they get too violent, as in Charlottesville, their President will just blame extremists “from all sides” — Civil Rights and Human Rights activists as well as white supremacists. Say Black Lives Matter? What about White Lives, to whom this nation actually belongs? These folks love their white President.

The voices of white supremacists are indeed emboldened by a President who doesn’t give a damn about anybody but himself: a rich white man with nothing to lose by encouraging other white guys to do their own thing too, applauding him and voting for him along the way.

As a white person, I condemn the ugly, vicious behavior of these white people, including the President of the United States. As a Christian, I am appalled that much of their shameful behavior is being done in the name of Jesus. This is a major political scam, a huge and damning spiritual lie.

As a matter of fact, Jesus of Nazareth embodied an ethic of Love. His entire life bore witness to the meaning of love: to do unto others what we would have them do unto us, to share whatever riches we have with those who have less, and to practice compassion and non-violence in every possible context.

Jesus taught the antithesis of white supremacy. Practicing the opposite of hate, Jesus showed that, when we love one another, we are loving God. His life revealed that, whenever we love, God loves through us. This deep love is the exact opposite of white supremacy, alt right arrogance, and Nazi ideology.

Finally, as a Southerner, I am ashamed of my fellow southerners who insist that our savagely racist history, our legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, lynchings and a racialized penal system, are behind us. Yes, we have made strides toward racial justice, including the election and reelection of an African American President, which evidently churned the racist waters in which our nation finds itself afloat.

Alas, white supremacy lives on not just through the Nazis and white nationalists, but through all of us. It’s in the air we breathe. All Americans are infected by racism in our minds and hearts and bodies.

The best we can do — especially we who are white — is live passionately anti-racist lives, understanding that while our racist legacy is part of the problem, our anti-racist lives can play marvelous, if often only small, parts in forging the solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A letter to the men I love

A letter to the men I love —

So dear guys in my life, we have a violent misogynist as our president. What do we do? I’m addressing this to you as the men in my life whom I love most dearly, because men must speak up — about Trump’s violence against women. It’s also up to women to speak up — so here goes this one woman:

We’re faced with a self-obsessed, greedy man who doesn’t give a damn or know much if anything about our health care crisis, the mounting opioid crisis throughout the nation, why black lives matter so much in the U.S., the actual threats being posed by Russia and North Korea, the real-life plights of refugees and immigrants, or the desperate life-situations of miners, industrial workers, farmers and others who have increasingly no place in our global economy and evidently turned to him last fall — but for what, really? Big fat lies, that’s what Trump sold as a bill of goods to his “Make America Great Again” followers.

In the midst of these real-world crises and Trump’s immature bumbling and bullshitting responses, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to his violence against women. Those who laugh at, trivialize, or egg on this pathetic man’s attacks against women are, in fact, enabling his violent behavior — and become part of the problem themselves.

Woman-hating is a major moral, social, spiritual, and political problem not primarily for individual celebrity targets like Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough but, as Eugene Robinson stated this morning, a HUGE problem for our country — at home and abroad, where historically women are too often the target of men’s rage and frustration. If you don’t know who to blame, lash out at a woman. If you can’t figure out who to hit, smack a woman or a child.

What do we do when this profoundly disturbed President of the U.S. hates women with special and unrelenting viciousness?

For starters, we do not ignore it, roll our eyes, or come to accept it as simply part of this lunatic’s narcissistic personality disorder. We have to name it, call it for what it is: Donald Trump is a woman-hater, a misogynist, an obsessive compulsive verbal abuser who demeans women , a vicious man whose behavior toward women alone makes him unfit to be POTUS. Profoundly unfit. He should not be president, and we need to do whatever we can to bring this man’s pretentious — I’d say, fake — presidency to an end. It’s really more like we’re watching a global reality show — “‘The Apprentice’ Goes to Washington” — not any serious efforts by Donald Trump to be President of the United States. This sham must end, for everybody’s sake.

To that end, the resistance to Trump continues to build, being aided and abetted right now by the GOP Health Care debacle as well as these recent woman-hating tweets.

Kudos, by the way, to Jim Lewis, who was arrested last week for refusing to leave W Va Senator Shelly Moore Caputo’s office until she came out against the GOP health care plan — which she did a couple of days later. Coincidence?

With love and determination, resistance and hope,
Carter

Racism at the heart of our democracy

Do you realize the horror and pity and evil embedded in the countless shootings of black Americans by law enforcement officers throughout our nation? Folks, this isn’t about “bad people,” for the most part, either those who are shot or the shooters.
 
This is about deep systemic white racism woven into the fabric of our nation and our collective consciousness. Racism is in the air we ALL breathe, red and yellow, black and white.
 
The fundamental problem with the acquittals of all these police is NOT the exoneration of the shooters but rather the implicit exoneration of the RACISM — WHITE SUPREMACY — that lingers at the heart of our democracy.
None of us, no one of any race or ethnicity, stands above or outside of racism.  We really are all in this together, folks.  As Peter Seeger sang, “We may have come here in different boats, but we’re in the same boat now.”
A question for us all:  What is each of our roles, what can each of us do in our context, in helping transform our communities into more fundamentally liberated anti-racist spaces of justicelove, mutuality, healing, and compassion?

Hang on!

For anyone with a passion for social justice, the returns coming in from GA, where Karen Handel holds a significant lead over Jon Ossoff, coupled with the sneak attack on health-care being orchestrated by about a dozen Senators (mostly, if not entirely, white males) are not good news for the short run.

By “short run,” I mean right now and the next few months, maybe even years.

But hang on! my beloved sister-friend, Angela Solling of Australia would say, urging us not to give up or let our hope drain away.  There’s more to this journey than a “short run.”  It’s a long and winding road, as the Beatles sang.

For now, the GOP, led by their odd-fellow POTUS, is trying to rip apart Barack Obama’s legacy, I submit, partly because he was a progressive Democrat but also because he was a Black male who dared to win the Presidency of the United States, which is supposed to be a White country in which rich males (and a handful of “exceptional” women) rule.

Ugly things are happening in the short run: name-calling, bullying, and violence are on the rise, racism and sexism have been given winks and nods by Donald Trump and his wimpy followers. Many, many Black men and some Black women are being shot by law enforcement officers who continue to be acquitted because they say they feared for their lives — and, after all, in a racist society, Black people are scary.

In relation to women, Republicans are taking special aim at Planned Parenthood, historically the mother lode of organizations to support women through reproductive health challenges of many kinds. The Trump Administration hasn’t gotten around to stomping on LGBTQ people yet, but we can count on it, unless princess Ivanka shakes a little human compassion into the king.

In the meantime, immigrants and refugees, and climate and environmental protections have all been broadsided.  Surely there is more bad news to come — possibly the loss of health care for the poor alongside great reductions in taxes on the rich —  and more suffering for more people, our sister and brother humans and other creatures of all kinds.

This takes us into the larger world in which the only apparent connection Trump has made that gives him any pleasure is with the Saudi royal family who must remind him of his own.  The Saudis and over in Israel, Netanyahu, stand out as world leaders who seem to actually like Donald Trump.  But liking is not respecting.  We’ll see in months to come how leaders of the world actually regard a President who seldom means what he tweets, perhaps because he can’t remember what he meant by his latest tweet.

But there’s also the long run:

Assuming as I do that Robert Mueller and his team will unravel the Russian connection, we’ll learn eventually that the problem was, and is, not only about political collusion but also sleazy, profitable financial entanglements, the obvious obstruction of justice, and lie upon lie upon lie.  If the various Congressional committees reach similar or overlapping conclusions, as they well may, especially in the Senate, I expect Trump will be a one-term president, if not an impeached one.

And yet regardless of what may happen over the next few years to Trump, Pence, Ryan, Tillerson, et al, our country and the rest of the world are changing big time, for better or worse, depending on our perspectives and also on how seriously we take our interdependence with all people and creatures and our shared responsibility for helping weave these relational patterns in our work and faith and throughout our lives.

Here at home, the demographics are shifting and will mean that, regardless of recent events, within another generation or two, White people will no longer be in charge of the United States of America. America will not be “great again” in any sense that either Trump or his followers assume.  Thank God! This is good news for all of us, White people and all others too.  We can learn to celebrate this!

The ongoing bad news is that global capitalism will continue to increase the world’s poor, and  climate change will continue to wreak havoc for the earth, and especially for the poor. We cannot be silent in the presence of this Evil.

The world’s historically largest and most economically and doctrinally powerful religions — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, among others — will be changing in numbers of adherents, teachings, and how they relate to the world near and far.  Modes of communication and transportation will be changing even faster than they have in the past several generations.  We can insist that religious teachings promote justice and peace; and that our ways of communicating and transport promote the most humane, compassionate, and cleanest energies.

No doubt  there will have been, and will continue to be, wars, god-forsaken wars in which everyone loses too much, always — wars and weaponry beyond our capacities to imagine in this moment, thank God.  We cannot be silent in response to such Evil.

So then, how is the long run not even worse than where we are now? Because where there is a long run, a tomorrow, we can hope, remembering with Sr. Renny Golden’s that “struggle is a name for hope.”

Our hope for the future, our ONLY hope, is in building  community, relationships with one another across difference and divisions; making connections with people and ideas we may never have imagined.  For it is literally true that the ONLY way our beloved planet earth and our human race and other species of creatures can survive and thrive is to learn how to live together in mutually interdependent ways.

The task before us — learning how to live together in radically mutual relation — is a spiritual as well as an economic, psychological, political, etc, task of many dimensions.  For those of us who ARE spiritual leaders — those with platforms like blogs and book writing; film-making, music-making, art-making; pastoral counseling opportunities; liturgical and educational talent — the time is NOW to be prophetic in our ministries and our lives.  The more of us, the better for all of us and for the whole created earth.

We can, and we must, resist injustice and oppression in the short run.  It’s what the Resistance to Trump is all about, a Resistance involving our working together to build community and movements, but not only in explicitly political efforts like the Ossuff campaign.  In everything we do, we need to be creating new images and languages and ways of communication than enhance our common good and our shared humanity,  new opportunities for work and play and sharing, new possibilities for food production and health care provision.

In these and so many ways, we shape the long run, and we become the hope of the world.

 

 

Do we really believe in our power to generate mutuality?

Heading off soon for a week’s vacation with family, I look forward to kayaking and birding, playing music and reading, lots of walking and biking, much sharing with loved ones, and pondering a lot in my heart — especially mulling over how on earth we can help each other bridge these damning divides that are devastating our society (and world) and diminishing all of us.

The following thoughts began to form this morning when I was hanging out with my horse Feather.  As I’ve written earlier, “the horse is the priest,” she who mediates the Sacred, the one who sparks our imagination and en-courages us.  So thank you, Feather, for encouraging me.

So much is going on around us in the world, and it’s not new, not really — wars  rage on, and global capitalism takes its death-dealing toll on humans and the rest of creation. Donald Trump is emblematic of the worst that global capitalism has to offer anyone, including his own supporters.  But there is more going on than Trump’s idiocy and greed.

In the context of capitalist greed, with Trump’s erratic behavior ever in the news, something new is emerging among Americans.  I’m thinking of a debilitating connection between (1) our deeply human proclivity to FEAR what we don’t understand; (2) our equally human tendency to GRASP onto whatever we imagine will protect us; and (3) our postmodern skepticism that anything is TRUE or anyone is trustworthy.  The new part of this link is the postmodern skepticism which is breeding cynicism toward every one, and every institution, that makes any truth claim, and contempt toward people who don’t think like us about the social and political conundrum in which we find ourselves.

Years ago, President Obama was criticized by his opponents for suggesting that fear was driving folks to cling to “God and guns.”  Politically savvy or not, Obama was right, and today we witness this same flight of many Americans into a self-serving, judgmental, fundamentalist Christianity and an equally fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment.

However, we progressives who tend to scorn our neighbors’ flights toward God and guns are taking flights of our own, are we not?  I mean, aren’t we dashing as fast as we can into communities of Resistance in which we can feel relatively safe and protected from the dangers unleashed upon us and others, historically and still today, by right-wing Christians and other fundamentalists, including white racists, anti-Semites, and male supremacists?

Of course we believe that “we” are right and “they” are wrong!  Many of us and our loved ones have scars to show for the damages done to our bodies and spirits by bad religion and gun violence.  In good faith, we progressives must not, and honestly cannot, back away from, or dilute, our values and strong beliefs — these are our spiritual core, the well springs of our lives.  From our values and core beliefs, there is no turning back.

And isn’t one of our most fundamental, core,  beliefs in the healing, liberating power of mutual relation? Making connections with others that call forth the best in who each of us is?

Here’s what I do believe:  In the Sacred Spirit that generates mutuality, we need to reach out to our siblings, our sisters and brothers whose views we oppose, and ask them to tell us who they are.  Not preach to us, Not lecture to us. Not try to convert us. We don’t need to be condescended to. We need to listen to, and hear, the personal stories of people with different values and beliefs, people who are willing to share with us.  And we need to share our own stories — not to convert, lecture, preach, or condescend.  Each of us — they and we — need to be given space and time to present ourselves, to show who we are.

We are all afraid. We are and they are.  Somehow we need to en-courage ourselves and others to speak honestly and respectfully of ourselves and others:  “To hear each other to speech,” in the words of feminist theologian Nelle Morton.

I think we can do it. We can start with just two or three gathered together, or ten or fifteen folks in a room talking around a table with food in our midst.  Or twenty or thirty of us sitting around a “fishbowl” of people of diverse beliefs, people willing to share their own stories as a springboard into a relational movement.

God help us.