“the band played on”

 
Depending on context, to say that “the band played on” is either a salutation of courage or a cynical image of acting in a crisis as if nothing were happening.
 
As the Titanic was sinking, the band heroically played on, providing comfort to those waiting helplessly for rescue or death.
 
By contrast, as the HIV/AIDS crisis was spinning out of control in the 1980s, “the band played on” was used as a metaphor of denial by journalist Randy Shilts in his shattering book by the same name.
 
As my beloved friend and bandmate Peg Hall copes courageously with cancer, our band (the Bold Gray Mares pictured here) played on — Peg on the banjo –providing inspiration and sparking love.
 
By contrast, as the President of the United States and his GOP enablers continue to sweep bits of our democracy into a trash bin, the band plays on — as if this were just one more historical moment, with power being abused by Republicans just as it has been abused by Democrats in the past. From a liberal Democrat’s perspective, Trump is bad news, just as Obama was bad news in the minds of conservative Republicans. The pendulum swings, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth….
 
But it is worse that this. Just as our society was blanketed in denial in the midst of the AIDS crisis, we are currently acting as if nothing truly terrible, nothing dreadfully abnormal, is at work among us. My friends, what is happening among us today is evil at a depth which — I truly believe — is different from anything we as a nation have experienced before.
 
Of course, the United States of America has enacted and experienced great evil — the founding of this nation on the bodies and land of Native peoples; the unspeakable atrocity of the Middle Passage, slavery, Jim Crow and ongoing pervasiveness of white racism; the persistence of male supremacy and the abuse and trivialization of women and all manner of gender and sexual oppressions and violence; the exploitation of people of “other” colors, cultures, and creeds — think: immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, pagans, etc. — and increasingly over time, the lifting up of greed — the lust for ever-greater wealth — above the health and well-being of people and of all creation, animals, earth, air, and water.  Not to mention the waging of wars which,  in the last half century, have been almost entirely on the wrong side — against those struggling for liberation.
 
From a moral perspective, this is evil. It is not new; it is neither inherently Republican nor Democratic, so the historical origins of such evils, which have evolved over two millennia, cannot be laid at the feet of either of our major political parties.
 
So what am I talking about when I say that what’s happening today is evil at a depth that is different from anything we’ve experienced before?
 
Never before have we had a President who has raised up the historic evils done by our country and called them good, laughing and poking at all who stand, or kneel, for whatever is good and just and kind. Trump and his doting Christian evangelical followers make a point of blessing evil: the sanctification of white Christian men’s supremacy over everyone else as “making America great again”; the domination of the earth’s hearty, but limited, resources by human greed; the exploitation and abuse of women’s bodies as divine will; the up-swing in violence against black and brown people and communities of color as normal; the plundering of poor and minorities communities in order to line the pockets of the super rich. These, and other social ills, constitute grave sins of our nation over its 200 year history, sins which have fomented horrific evil, which previous Presidents of the United States have at least paid lip-service to trying to eradicate or lessen.
 
The truly great Presidents have laid their presidencies — in the case of Lincoln, his life — on the line to fight against such evils as slavery, racism, sexism, classism, economic exploitation, and environmental destruction. By contrast, in Donald Trump, we have a man who has built his presidency on the raising up of what is most evil in our midst — unbounded greed, white supremacy, male privilege –and not only calling it good and encouraging others to do the same, but scorning and humiliating anyone who challenges his cruel, despicable, and crude public behavior.
 
This is what makes the Trump Presidency an aberration, an abnormal growth on this republic, which has tried for 200+ years, unevenly and erratically but surely, to become more truly a democracy. Under Trump, our efforts to become increasingly a democracy are under serious attack. They are being set back and they are in danger of being undone as long as the band plays on as if this crazy man and his pathetic enablers are just one more swing of a partisan pendulum, because they are not.

“Why on earth would any justice-loving woman be a priest?”

Reflections on the ordination of Barbara Anne Fisher to the Priesthood

Trinity Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, Maryland

Dec. 16, 2017

First , thank you Bishop San, Greg and all the people of this beautiful cathedral, and others from the Diocese of Easton for your gracious hospitality, being poured out to those of us from “away.” This is a special day for all of us here!   I am delighted to the tips of my toes that we are here today to celebrate Barbara Anne Fisher’s ordination to the priesthood, to lift up in Spirit the tenacity and integrity of her call to serve God in this way. It’s been quite a journey to date for Barbara Anne and her spouse Sandy, herself a strong, feisty, gifted, loving woman! And here we are, dear sisters! Let the people say, Amen!

A few words about the stole I’m wearing this morning. It belonged to Bishop Edward Welles, of the Diocese of W. Missouri, who was one of the bishops who ordained the 11 of us to the priesthood in 1974. Before he died, Bp. Welles passed this lovely stole on to the Rev. Sue Hiatt, one of the women he himself had ordained in 1974; and before her death in 2002, Sue Hiatt gave me this stole. I have cherished it – and I will pass it on to Barbara Anne Fisher before I head home this weekend. The passing on of this stole represents to me that we all stand, pray, work, and love on the shoulders of those countless brothers and sisters who have gone before us…. now and forever more. We are on this journey together, and that is our strength.

A matter of necessity

Back in 1976, a couple of years after my own ordination, I had resumed graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. One of my professors had invited me to her apartment to meet the great German liberation theologian Dorothee Soelle, who had just arrived to take up a post at the Seminary. As it happened, Dorothee had just read A Priest Forever, my book on the Philadelphia Ordination. As soon as we said hello, before we had even sat down, Dorothee Soelle put a question to me: Why on earth would any woman who is committed to helping make justice in the world want to be an Episcopal priest?

This question startled me but I wasn’t put off. I’ve been thinking about it ever since! At the time, my response was something about blooming where you’re planted, about working for justice anywhere, inside/outside the church or any institution, and — most importantly –about the heart of our Christian life together being the ongoing struggle for justice.

Today, four decades later, and having come to know Barbara Anne, I would add another response to Dorothee Soelle’s provocative question: It was not simply that I “wanted” to a priest, though I did at the time “want” to be ordained, it was that – like my sister ordinands in 1974 , and like Barbara Anne today — I was being compelled by the Spirit to respond to God’s call. In order to be faithful to God, I had to be ordained, whether or not I “wanted” to be, This matter was beyond personal “desire” – it was a matter of necessity.

The passage from Isaiah which we heard is, I am sure, the passage most often read at ordinations, the famous call of the prophet Isaiah. The Lord is looking for someone to go forth. So the Lord God asks, “whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And Isaiah says, “Here am I. Send me.” That’s the part we hear at ordinations. That’s the easy part and it’s where the story ends at an ordination. But that is NOT where the story of Isaiah’s call to ministry ends. It’s where it begins. And we don’t usually hear the rest of the passage, which continues – and here I paraphrase for clarity:

The Lord says : “Isaiah, go and say this to the people: ‘ Look and see what is happening all around you! Don’t you get it? You listen, but you do not seem to comprehend; you look, but you evidently do not understand.’”

And the Lord God continues, “Isaiah, your words will challenge the people with love and truth, but unfortunately, because the people are confused and afraid, their minds will be dull, their ears will not hear, their eyes will not see…. “

And Isaiah , no doubt worried, asks, “how long, O Lord?” And God says, “until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate…”

That’s the hard part of being called by God to serve the people of God. It’s the part we don’t hear at ordinations and it’s the heart of our life together in the Spirit, and certainly the heart of ordained ministry. Who would “want” to be called by God to this task? No one in her right mind. Yet here am I, and here are you, and here is Barbara Anne Fisher, called by God, a woman saying, “Here am I, send me.”

To call forth our better angels – pass it on!

So then, what on earth is a priest like Barbara Anne to do?

Listen to how Matthew describes the crowds surrounding Jesus and his friends two millennia ago in rural Palestine: The crowds were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Pretty much like the folks Isaiah had been surrounded by hundreds of years earlier, people unable to comprehend what was happening to them, people feeling powerless, frightened, and angry.   Not unlike the people of Ephesus about whom Paul would warn his followers a generation after Jesus – people being “blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine, trickery, craftiness, deceitful scheming…”  Then and now, people harassed and helpless, frightened and confused, like sheep without a shepherd. Sound familiar?

This is the world into which we are asking Barbara Anne Fisher to go for us today — bearing the same Spirit that moved the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul and the disciples of Jesus, the same Spirit that infused and empowered Jesus himself, our brother from Nazareth, the one whose Christic power Barbara Anne bears and shares and calls forth among us, to empower us to be disciples and friends of Jesus and, indeed, together to live as the Body of Christ.

Because if a priest is doing the work of the Spirit, she is sparking the Spirit in others – and helping us see that we are all called to be priests of God. It’s a “pass it on” game – how the Spirit of God works, how Jesus lived, how all of us are called to live in relation to one another and the whole creation. Passing it on, sharing the Jesus power, struggling for justice-love, incarnating God–with-us. Every day becomes a “manger day,” in which God is born again among us. A good priest, like a good teacher (which Barbara Anne has been for much of her adult life), brings out the best in those with whom she ministers, sparking God among others, empowering us “to god” (verb). Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama would say that she calls forth our better angels. That’s the ministry to which Barbara Anne is called – to call forth our better angels even as we the people are often too tired, too confused, or too angry to even believe in angels, spirits who empower us to make justice, show mercy, exercise compassion, and embody courage.

The whispering voice of God”… making us spiritually larger

At the Wild Goose festival in 2016, in a presentation which she called, “Cherry Tree Theology,” Barbara Anne spoke about being a seven year old girl, climbing a tree, and hearing “the whispering voice of God” which assured her she had quite a life ahead – too many places to go and people to meet and things to do to be boxed into any kind of role or script that would shrink her. She was a girl-child seeking to grow spiritually larger and larger, which is what the Spirit of God, Jesus’ Christic power, does in our lives it makes us spiritually larger.   

 This is why saints and prophets are always people who see the larger picture – compassionate people who notice those who are being left out, justice-seeking people who notice those who are “different” from the majority, courageous people with inclusive, bold visions of community-building and human rights, people with the audacity to speak the truth in love, people who realize that not only people but all creatures, and all creation, are woven together in and by the Sacred Spirit.

The seven year old girl in the cherry tree didn’t realize that she would grow up to be an Episcopal priest, but she did realize that something, the whispering voice she experienced, was opening her into a life in which, like all real saints and true prophets and good priests, she would be a teacher and preacher of Justice-Love, in which space is always being made for those left-out and in which advocacy is always being voiced for those battered, bullied, and violated – sometimes by the very people who are supposed to protect them; sometimes harassed, hurt, and humiliated by men in the highest places of power.  Priests of God are called not to be cowered, or silenced, by blowhards and false prophets who use the Bible or Christian tradition as a weapon to marginalize, violate, and oppress others.

Sacramental life: both pastoral and prophetic

Before I close, I must say something about the false distinction commonly made in organized religion between “pastoral” and ‘prophetic” ministry. Over the years, teaching theology at the Episcopal Divinity School and working with hundreds of prospective deacons, priests, and bishops, I came to see that, in many, perhaps most white and largely middle to upper class parishes in the United States, there is a prevailing assumption that people are ordained not only not to be prophetic but moreover to be anti-prophetic – trying so often to make peace, peace, where there is no peace, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah.

The essence of the ordained priest in particular has been conditioned over the years by bad theology to be a soft-hearted sacramentalist who must avoid controversy if he or she is to serve the whole people of God.

But this is based in wrong-headed assumptions about both what constitutes the whole people of God and what sacrament actually means.

We are not just individuals, nor even primarily individuals.   Not only are we all social beings, born and grown into particular social situations, but also our spiritualities are ever being shaped by the social fabric of our life together . Our “we-ness” shapes my “I-ness” – the community forms the individual. This means that every wise minister – lay and ordained – must pay serious attention to how the the society forms – and deforms and reforms – the shape of church; and how the the church, conversely, forms, de-forms, and re-forms, the shape of the larger society. Moreover, every caring pastor must be attentive to how the larger community – society, family, church, school – is forming and impacting the individuals who come to church, or who need our care in homes, hospitals, schools, prisons, workplaces….

Yes, Barbara Anne will offer God’s blessings. Blessings of people, bread and wine, and water, blessings of many creatures great and small. Indeed, we are ordaining her in the Spirit to be a sacramentalist, but we should remember that a sacramental ministry is a way of life in which the shapes of God’s love, God’s justice, and God’s life are clarified, lifted up, and celebrated. The more deeply sacramental our lives and ministries, the more God reaches through us to touch the world around us.

Through sacramental eyes, we see that nearly all human pain and suffering has social and political roots, contexts, consequences, or implications — and that virtually all political and social movements are peopled by humans with deep and real yearnings, fears, and needs, people who need our attention, our kindness, our presence and our care.

So dear people of God, I charge us all to live sacramental lives – to gather around the table as we will today, to share food for the journey, to tend one another’s hurts and needs, to be present with one another in grief and fear and need and celebrations of many kinds, to pray and meditate, to dance and sing praises to God, and to walk the walk together — advocates for the oppressed and marginalized, welcoming strangers and victims of war and violence; befriending immigrants and religious, ethnic, sexual and gender minorities; in solidarity with targets of white supremacy; standing with victims of misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, poverty and economic injustice, and the systemic plundering of earth, air, water, and earth-creatures of all kinds. My friends, we are being called by the One who sent forth both the prophet Isaiah and our brother Jesus to resist the evil that is rising up in our midst, ripping apart our society and breaking our world into pieces of pain.

God is calling us out — to be pastorally alert and prophetically bold, to listen and hear, to look and see God in each human and creaturely face! She is calling us out — to show compassion, practice kindness, and walk humbly and tenderly together on the earth, and She is calling us out to speak truth to power, morning by morning and day by day.  And, in this particular moment, Alleluia! She is calling us out – to say YES to Barbara Anne Fisher, to go forth for us as a Priest!

Amen.

The Rev. Carter Heyward, PhD

 

 

 

 

 

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?