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,

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.

Sermon at Episcopal Divinity School Alumni/ae Festival Eucharist

  1. Episcopal Divinity School and Feminist/Womanist Liberation Theologies

Funny what the least remarkable passages from scripture may reveal. “They stood still, looking sad.”

It’s been awhile, about 35 years, since I was living over at 101 Brattle and hosting the “liberation group” that came for coffee and snacks every Tuesday morning at 7:30. The liberation group was a bunch of EDS and HDS students and a few faculty colleagues like Sue Hiatt who met regularly for a couple of years to consider what actions to take next in response to the Reagan Administration, which we believed– from a Christian liberation perspective – was up to no good.

We undertook letter-writing, phone calls, public prayer and demonstrations … the most dramatic being in 1983, when about a dozen of us were arrested in Groton CT for protesting the launching of the Trident nuclear sub.   For us, the liberation group was as high a priority as any course we were teaching or taking. As a matter of historical fact, the liberation group was a significant impetus, and resource, in the formation of EDS’s Feminist Liberation Theologies program.

The critical need for feminist and womanist liberations theologies, including feminist and womanist liturgies, is as real today as ever before. The demand for theologies and liturgies that reflect the lives and values of women across race and class was generated in the closing decades of the last century by the critical scholarship and enthusiastic faith commitments of women scholars, teachers, and religious leaders and our male allies, as well as by students of all genders, cultures, races, and religious traditions. Together, we insisted that feminist and womanist liberation theologies become foundational to our educational curriculum here at EDS.

In this context, as the decade of the 1980s wore on, Sue Hiatt and I and our feminist male colleagues were joined on the faculty by feminist historian Fredrica Harris Thompsett, womanist ethicist Katie Geneva Cannon, and feminist biblical scholar Elisabeth Schusler Fiorenza. Over the next three decades, others would join us, women and men, strengthening EDS as a first-rate educational center, among the best in the world, for studies in Christian feminist liberation theologies, sharpened over the years by strong a anti-racism commitment as well as the post-colonial theologies taking shape as the 20th Century receded into history.

Moving forward now, those leading the movement of the Episcopal Divinity School at the Union Theological Seminary can honor the values and ongoing legacy of this seminary only if they, and we, continue to strengthen the anti-racist, feminist, womanist, post-colonial, and other liberative dimensions of all theology worth doing; and moreover only if we sustain a passion for women’s well-being –justice for women of all colors, cultures, creeds, and continents — as foundational to our movement.

Women – near and far, at home and abroad, in D.C., New York City, and Watertown. Women –throughout these United States, Mexico, Korea, Myanmar, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine. Women, too often trivialized and abused throughout the world in the names of god!

2. Sad times

Now, from our perspective today, it’s hard to overstate what bad times the 1980s were for our nation and our global home, for women and for many men as well, especially people of color and people who were poor. This was the moment in which trickle-down economics was born as a policy that didn’t work then and won’t work now. My beloved friend and life-companion, Christian feminist social ethicist Beverly Harrison, condemned trickle-down economics as a wicked ploy of “capitalist spirituality. “ Assessing the situation, Dorothee Soelle, German political theologian and professor of theology at Union Seminary, warned of an impending “christo-fascism” in the United States. Almost four decades later, in our own time, Pope Francis has blasted the same global capitalist system, noting that “greed does not generate generosity.”

Greed, however, does generate presidents, we have learned of late, and greed generates policies being put in place decades later – here and now – that promise to enhance the richest among us and further decimate the poor as well as the rest of creation. It’s important that we realize thatwhat seems so terribly bad and bleak right now is indeed grim – but that it didn’t begin with the most recent electoral fiasco and inauguration.

So Jesus comes along on the road to Emmaus, picks up alongside two of his woebegone friends and isn’t recognized by them. He sort of nonchalantly asks what they’re talking about — and , we are told, “they stood still, looking sad.”

That would be us, right?

And not only on the morning of Nov 9, 2016, but also on the day last July when we got the terrible news –it seemed, from out of nowhere –that EDS would not be granting degrees beyond this spring.

Wherever we were, whoever we are, we stood still, looking sad, mostly transfixed in disbelief.

Then think too of all the very personal experiences of profound loss in our lives. I remember Bev Harrison’s passing in December 2012 and, more recently, the death last month of her precious little dog Pom, who had been beside Bev when she died and who, over the past five years, had become a beloved friend to Sue and me.

Think for a moment of the many sad losses you have known – of dear friends, family, and loved ones of many species.

In times like these, in grief and shock and disbelief, regardless of who or what may meet us on the road, if someone asks what’s happening, we’re most likely to stand there still, looking sad. For truth to tell, we want our interrogator, especially if a stranger, to be quiet, leave us alone, give us our space.

The Emmaus story is about many things – but first and foremost, it’s about grief and sadness . We have lost something precious: The nation we thought we knew. The school we cherished. A beloved partner. A little dog.

3. Toppling the idol

Then along comes Paul, ever the philosopher, himself no stranger to shock and confusion. The same narrator who tells the Emmaus story recounts Paul’s trip to Athens, where he is distressed to find himself surrounded by people who believe in many gods. Trying to navigate a challenging situation, Paul tells them that he’s found an inscription on one of their altars — “to an unknown god” – whom he proceeds to describe as “the one God who made the world and everything in it…. a God ‘in whom we live and move and have our being.’” Here Paul, perhaps to bolster his influence among the Greeks, is quoting Aratus, not a Jew but a Greek poet who lived some 300 years earlier.

So now, in a season of grief and change, we have two stories that may shed a little light on our lives. Both stories are about a Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being, a God whom we often don’t recognize. Could our failure to recognize who is with us possibly be because when we do notice who is with us, when we do realize who it is, we hear Her calling us to live radical lives?

Since I left the Northeast 12 years ago – as a professional teacher and student here at EDS and earlier at Union in New York City – to return to the Southern Appalachian mountains of my roots –I’ve had every bit as much reason as ever, it would seem even greater cause, to join in the Resistance to the principalities and powers of our time. Because right now, it seems that just about everywhere we turn – in whatever city or county, to whatever channel, town-hall meeting, or congressional hearing – we come face to face with the twisted power of the Great Idol of our time: advanced global capitalism and its savaging of human life and all creation.

Our capacities for empathy, conscience, and solidarity with the most vulnerable creatures of all species, sharpen our moral imperative. Indeed, if we live and breathe and have our being in the “unknown god” of whom Paul speaks, we hear ourselves beckoned by this Spirit to the hefty moral task of toppling the Great Idol.

We are likely to stand still, looking sad, when met with this challenge, are we not?

And really it’s okay to be a little frozen and a bit sad when faced with any spiritual challenge that seems beyond us, especially when so much of the public brouhaha these days mocks us as “the elites,” folks out of touch with real suffering of the common folks. And of course we can always do better. We can, and should, try to be more aware and more empathic with those siblings whose humanity we may too often forget or even fail to see. Perhaps all we can do, sometimes, when we realize how our lives seem to hurt our siblings , is stand still for a while, looking sad.

But I don’t think we should spend much time or energy fretting about being branded as elite or self-righteous. Our worry too easily can become self-indulgence. Instead we need to get on with it, to act, to do whatever we can together to resist the ruthless economic, social, and spiritual policies being advanced by global capitalism with its racist, sexist, nativist, christofascist agendas through which both wealth and poverty are on the rise, and in which women and children are almost invariably the most dreadfully violated and the first to be rendered invisible and irrelevant.

Let us not forget Beverly Harrison’s empowering essay in social ethics, in which she reminds us of “the power of anger in the work of love.” If you don’t know it, you should. Go read it, and keep in mind that is was Dr. Harrison’s inaugural address at Union Seminary in New York when she became the Caroline Williams Baierd Professor of Christian Ethics.

4. Humility

Make no mistake, dear friends, in this world of ours, in which we are called to radical lives, which involves being angry at injustice, oppression, violence, and lies, it’s hard is to live in God’s Spirit with empathy and humility. We simply cannot do it without each other’s active solidarity, and without the spiritual practice of revolutionary patience with ourselves and one another, and without a shared, collective wisdom.

These days, I have regular occasions to walk in the woods and along country roads with my dogs and horses as well as human friends and consciously try to see and hear what and who is walking with me – Which ancestors are making themselves known to me today? Who among my old EDS colleagues, friends, and students are walking with me in this moment? What are my companions – including the horses and dogs and trees — trying to communicate to me? What is the Spirit telling me through the voices and memories that greet me? And how do I know what is Good News and what is Fake?

Among the reliably good and true lessons we learn along the way, whoever and wherever we are, none is more important than humility. It’s enormously important that we not mistake humility for self-effacement or self-deprecation. Humility is a perception that we are walking together on common ground. Humility gives us perspective – making us aware that we never have the whole story; we never see it all; we seldom know as much as we need to know about a situation; and, despite our best efforts, we are often unaware of the Spirit beside us, or of whom we may have left behind, because we just didn’t know.

If the story of the unknown God suggests that our vocation is to love fiercely the One in whom we live and breathe and have our being, which means casting down and smashing the idols of our time, surely the Emmaus story suggests that we need to be aware that we don’t know it all, and never will. For that reason, we must never be personally dismissive of, or violent toward, our human adversaries, neighbors, siblings, those whom we perceive as hostages to the death-dealing idols of our time.

5. Good news

Before I close, I have a message from our sister priest and former EDS colleague, the magnificent and ever-so-kind feminist liberation theologian and counselor, Alison Cheek. In her later years, Alison has graced us down South with her presence, her good humor, and her abundance of Sophia-inspired wisdom. Alison urged me to bring you her love and regret that she couldn’t be with us here today. As a matter of fact, she’s having surgery a week from today and asks for your prayers. It’s a fairly minor procedure to correct a wound left over from a major surgery a year ago. But, as some of you know, Alison has just celebrated her 90th birthday, so any surgical procedure is a pretty big deal.

Alison joins me in wishing you well, her alum siblings, as you and we move along on the road– citizens or residents in a nation in great trouble in the midst of a world in even greater trouble; alums and friends of a seminary in transition to something we don’t quite know how to welcome, but moving into an affiliation with another seminary renowned for its justice legacy, including strong feminist, womanist , liberation, and interfaith commitments that seem to stand the tests of time. We shall see.

Finally, Alison would join me in pointing out what should be clear to Christians and to many others as well:

The Emmaus story is about our grief at the death of a loved one being met by the startling possibility of that ones ongoing presence with us.

It’s a story about our sadness at what’s happening in this nation being confronted by the Good News that Life and Love and Justice will carry the day.

Emmaus is a story about the still small voices of courage and compassion that greet us everywhere we roam, however lost or sad we may feel.

It’s is about the Spirit present in the breaking of bread, giving life and hope to people and creatures who need to be fed with justice and joy – in the words of the old labor song, folks who need “bread and roses.”.

Emmaus tells us that, indeed, when confronted by injustice and oppression, ”nevertheless, She persists.”

This is what Easter’s all about — it’s Christianity at its core. May we go well, my friends, in the Spirit of a Power and a Movement that is rising among us – Good News indeed!

Carter Heyward

Episcopal Divinity School

May 19, 2017



“Mildly nauseous”

FBI Director James Comey says he feels “mildly nauseous to think that we may have had some influence on the election.” This man is a fool, a self-serving buffoon, who managed to run the election off track, and probably did prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected.  It’s astonishing to hear Comey try to justify why he had to speak out about the  Clinton investigation and, in stark contrast, had to conceal the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia.  In speaking out, Comey broke the FBI’s own rules, quite likely threw the election to Trump, and now he feels “mildly nauseous,”  while the rest of us and our society are sick, sick, sick in our souls about this whole rotten, ethically putrid, state of affairs and the madman who has taken over the White House.

Now, however, I don’t intend to go on with this diatribe.  I just had to get it out of my system so that I can crawl into bed and watch an episode of “Murdoch Mysteries,”an enjoyable Canadian series on NETFLIX and, happily, a sweet, gentle distraction from the truly evil schemes being devised among Trump’s thugs in the U.S. and elsewhere.

With you, I dare say, I’m trying to do my part in resisting this presidency, which includes denouncing and resisting its normalization. I’m with Charles Blow, Rachel Maddow, and other courageous journalists and public spokespeople. This disturbed man should not be our president and, God help us, will not be for long.  In the meantime, we do well to “think globally and act locally,” as wise ones counsel — doing whatever we can in solidarity with the most vulnerable people, creatures, water, and earth that are close to us.

So, friends, keep your courage, and have some fun.  Check out Murdoch!

Grief, madness, and Easter

Holy Saturday, they call it, and here I sit, grieving.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar, Pom left us, the little dog about whom I’d been writing, the gentle spirit over whom I’d been praying, the world’s sweetest creature whom I’d accompanied to Raleigh so that she could have the surgery that would save her. And that fine team of medical professionals had worked their best and saved her, and we’d been so excited and grateful and we’d come home to the mountains to celebrate, and two days later a fast-acting infection set in, and her soft flesh, recovering, her weakened little bodyself couldn’t withstand any more trauma, and so she is gone from us, with the countless many who have left this place we call home, this earth we share, we humans and other animals and bits of creation, the countless many creatures dead and gone, leaving us here to grieve, to take that last step in all true love.

And sometime during this period, on or close to Good Friday, somewhere beyond the small personal space of my grieving Pom, Trump and his generals dropped the super-giant MOAB — the great Mother of All Bombs — obscene name for an obscene invention — on some caves in Afghanistan.  This, we are told, was to kill some ISIS fighters and destroy their stockpiles of weapons.  But also, we know, this show of violence was for the benefit of the crazed leader of North Korea and anybody else who doubts the madness of our man who loves war toys and will not hesitate to lob some your way if he decides you’re one of the bad guys.  “Sad.” “Terrible.” “The Worst,”  he declares, pumping his fist in the air to show what a  big boy bully god he is  over the whole world. “Believe me.”

There is nothing new about the madness playing out on the world stage — crazed, greedy,  men who love themselves most and who hurl obscenities at each other, including bombs — just as there is nothing new about losing our loved ones.  Nothing at all new about human depravity or about the dying of those whom we love.  But still, there are a couple of old lessons that we have a hard time learning:

Madness and evil are human productions which invite — no, which demand — human responses.  We can respond with bombs and obscenities of our own to throw back at the madmen or we can work for their undoing in whatever creative nonviolent resistance movements we can build together.  The effort to dump Trump is, for example, neither violent nor obscene.  It is a moral imperative.

Grief is not a human production.  Grief  is shared by many species.  Many of us believe grief is also  woven into the fabric of the Spirit from whom it emanates, the Sacred Power whose strongest impulse is to beat those bombs into plowshares as surely as she is sad, but ready, to receive into the fullness of her ongoing presence the life and death of one small Pomeranian.

It’s the presence and power of this Sacred Spirit, this irrepressible and reliable Source of Love, that we can count on.  Tomorrow, Easter Day, Christians will celebrate our shared belief that She is unable to be undone by bullies and bombs.  Our grief and our everlasting love for all creatures, including those whom we lose, has the last word.

Pom, not Trump, wins the day.