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.


To whom or what to pray?

Waiting with Pom

Sitting, waiting, lots of waiting, at the NC State Veterinary Hospital, for my next visit with “Pom,” my 11 year old Pomeranian. Pom is here for cardiological care and also surgery to remove a huge, cantaloupe-size – and we hope benign– tumor, which is attached to the outside wall of her chest, an ugly mass of red and purple “stuff” that is literally dragging her down.

Figuring I’d be here for several days, waiting in this room for visits with Pom and consultations with staff, I brought several books and this computer along for company. In keeping with the site and occasion, my first read has been Franz de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (NY: Norton), 2016. From it this quote:

“Yes, we are smart enough to appreciate other species, but it has required the steady hammering of our thick skulls with hundreds of facts that were initially poo-pooed by science. How and why we became less anthropocentric and prejudiced is worth reflecting on while considering all that we have learned in the meantime. In going over these developments, I will inevitably inject my own view, which emphasizes evolutionary continuity at the expense of traditional dualisms. Dualisms between body and mind, human and animal, or reason and emotion, may sound useful, but they seriously distract from the larger picture. (Emphasis mine) Trained as a biologist and ethologist, I have little patience with the paralyzing skepticisms of the past.” (5-6)

And a few pages later:

“Every species deals flexibly with the environment and develops solutions to the problems it poses. Each one does it differently. We had better use the plural to refer to their capacities, therefore, and speak of intelligences and cognitions. This will help us avoid comparing cognition on a single scale modeled after Aristotle’s scala naturae , which runs from God, the angels, and humans at the top, downward to other mammals, birds, fish, insects, and mollusks at the bottom. Comparisons up and down this vast ladder have been a popular pastime of cognitive science [and I would add, of Christian theology] but I cannot think of a single profound insight it has yielded.” (Emphasis mine) (12)

So here I sit — theologian, not ethologist or biologist; Christian theologian, not Jew or Buddhist or Pagan; Christian feminist theologian, unwilling to accept the patriarchal logic that has produced both the Platonic dualisms and the Aristotilian “scala naturae” (natural scale of value) secured as precious foundations of Christian thought.

This profoundly ignorant, ethically damaging, theology has been shaped by ruling class men on this planet and, both in and beyond religion, it continues to provide the philosophical and moral justification for the devaluation and subjugation of women and of all animals other than white privileged ruling class males of the dominant religious tradition and culture..

Indeed, this patriarchal logic – to be honest, this carefully, cunningly cultivated stupidity – undergirds the human insistence that other animals, all other animals, are inferior beasts when compared to human beings.

Waiting during surgery

Sitting here now, during Pom’s surgery, praying for her to come through, praying that the monster mass attached to her chest will be removed once and for all, praying for her recovery and her healing, praying for intuitive wisdom as well as medical know-how to help her heal, praying for some personal strength to come through this little moment of my own small life with my own small dog, yes, I pray with as much sincerity and fervor as I can muster or imagine!

But now really, to whom or what am I praying if not to the Great Deity of Patriarchal Logic, the Almighty Father of all those wretchen Dualisms, He who sits himself at the Top of the scala naturae? If not to Him, to whom or what am I praying today, in this moment?

I pray to the Source of Life, who is also the Spirit weaving her way into and through our dying,.

She is the Energy generating all faith and hope in the extraordinary Power of Love.

She is not really a “she” any more than a “he” — but here and now, in solidarity with women who are routinely overlooked entirely by serious male theologians and philosophers, She steps forward to greet me as a Sister, in this moment a dear little dog and a God/dess in her image!

But how is it that I write to Her, and talk with Her, and walk with Her?

Is she a “person”? No, not really, but yes.

She is not an individual, not a larger than life woman or female in some spiritual form. But at the same time She is terribly personal – an energy infusing my personal space, my personal body-self, my personal psyche, my personal sense of spirituality.

So when I pray, I am “inviting” Her energy into my life – and, in this moment, into the life of my dog – in special healing ways and, insofar as possible, I am opening myself to receive Her energy – and praying that Pom will also be opened to receive Her healing energy in this moment.

For me, “prayer” is a little more “active” – verbally and personally expressive – than “meditation,” which I experience more as a “letting go” of personal expression, words, images, and to some degree consciousness itself. This may be a grossly inaccurate understanding of meditation! I want to discuss this with Jan when we see each other in May.

I experience prayer and meditation as kindred spiritual practices – but I’m more confident in my ability to pray than to meditate.

Not as a scholar of spiritual practices, but rather simply as a human being who prays regularly and irregularly and meditates from time to time, I am certain that the best — most creative, effective, empowering — traditions of prayer and meditation assume non-dualistic and non-hierarchical experiences of whatever is most fully Sacred.  As a Christian, this places me alongside the mystics who, more often than not, have been dismissed as crazy, heretical, or evil by the standard bearers of Christian orthodoxy — charges to which the younger folk would respond with a shrug – and an indifferent, “whatever.”

Indeed, whatever.  I completely agree with Franz de Waal’s cryptic indictment of Aristotle’s logic of hierarchal value, when he says: “I cannot think of a single profound insight it has yielded.”

 Waiting after surgery

Let it be so – that little Pom can be on her way home, to romp with Bailey, snuggle with Sue and me, prance through the woods, observe farm life among horses and kitties and spiders and snakes, eat chicken and yummy snacks, and touch everybody who knows her with a unique and special quality of a  gentleness that heals.

And dear sister Sophia, may I offer the gentleness our Pom deserves in return. Touch me with wisdom to know how to be present in ways that matter most to Pom, Bailey, Feather, the other horses, the kitties – and, lest I forget, the people as well.

Thank you, o God, for the blessing of Shelly Pom Pom!  And thank you, Pom, for the blessing of God!

May it be so.

Have a peaceful first night in recovery, my sweet Pom.





Connecting the dots…


Rachel Maddow does it exquisitely — makes connections between facts. While this photo has nothing to do with Rachel, it’s an image of folks gathered to make connections just like she does.  It’s a picture from an NAACP gathering last year  in Brevard, NC.  But now, on to Rachel Maddow and the dots she is connecting.

If you think that Rachel strains to make links where none exist, be clear that you’ll find me right beside her, doing my damndest to grasp the likely significance of what she’s doing, and how she’s doing it.  Rachel fascinates and confounds me because I believe, with her, that Russia  snatched the election out of Hillary’s hands and landed it in the lap of a man who is no more fit to be President than my little dog Pom Pom, and is considerably more dangerous.

In her MSNBC nightly show and her blog, Rachel has discussed the likely quid pro quo deal made with Russia by the GOP — a deal reflected in the party’s 2016 platform, in which the GOP agreed to be silent about Russia’s aggressive  interests in Ukraine.  But in exchange for what?

Rachel has discussed the fact that Wikileaks ( a Russian-approved source of “rumors” popular with Putin) jumped right in with its dirt on the DNC immediately following the lackluster GOP convention last summer.  If the Republicans looked bad at this point, the Democrats had to look worse.

Rachel has called attention to the fact that, immediately after the release of the pussy-grabbing tapes, Wikileaks produced another batch of anti-Hillary materials in October, this time by attacking John Podesta.  Here again, if Trump looks sleazy, voters need to be reminded again of that bitch Hillary.

Rachel suggested that the latest Wikileaks a couple of weeks ago regarding the CIA’s spying on Americans through our Samsung smart TV’s, seems a likely response to the CIA’s persistence in raising questions about Russia’s meddling in the elections.  Important, isn’t it, to discredit the CIA before the beginning of the Congressional investigations into the Russia-Trump connections?

In the last few days, Rachel has raised the possibility of connections between Trump’s firing of Southern New York’s Attorney General Preek Bharara and the fact that this man had been investigating Russia’s Deutsche Bank, to which Donald Trump happens to be the largest debtor, and in which, until recently, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce,Wilbur Ross, was Vice-President.  Say what?

Rachel has pointed out that former Exxon chief, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State, is a favorite of Vladimir Putin, who gave him a distinguished award of some sort in the recent past. Strangely, since joining Trump’s cabinet, Tillerson has become quiet as a church mouse, almost as if he’s been muffled, and the State Department seems to be disappearing, an outcome Putin would love. What is Tillerson doing, and why?

And the list goes on — connecting the dots between Trump’s puzzling bromance with Putin throughout his campaign and into his presidency, talking on and on about his admiration for Putin, even publicly calling on Wikileaks to leak more damaging material about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, whom Putin hated.

And now, we’re invited to notice Trump’s initial choice of the “alternate fact” loving Gen. Michael Flynn — a man with a serious attachment to Russia — as National Security chief, Trump’s lingering loyalty to Jeff Sessions who lied to the Senate about meeting with the Russian ambassador, the mysterious comings and goings last summer of Russia-loving Paul Manafort, Brexit leader Nigel Farage’s attachment to Trump and to Wikileaks’ Julius Assange, the trip to Russia by a Trump campaign leader and businessman Carter Paige, the real estate dealings of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his whole family, and Trump’s ties to several Russian billionaires, including a man who bought a home from him in Florida for the sum of $100,000,000 several years after Trump had purchased the home for $40,000,000.  The figures themselves confound normal people!

Dots… connecting puzzling characters, silence and secrets, political ends and political means, money and more money and lots and lots of money, and for what?  All the while this nation and other nations are being constructed bit by bit along parallel tracks of lies and more lies, in which — to quote George Orwell’s 1984,  “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

But why bother with the elusive Russian connection when, every day, some ridiculous Trump tweet, damaging edict, or Congressional bill is launched which we must resist together  in strong, savvy ways?  And no doubt we must.  Creative, angry, loving Resistance must be our priority, as we do what we can one day at a time.

BUT — and this is key — if Russia essentially stole, bought, or somehow snatched this election, we have at least three major problems:

(1) We are putting up with a pretender, a fake president, who must be stopped.  Likewise, Pence, Bannon, Miller, Conway, Priebus, Sessions, Tillerson, et al  must go with him.

(2) There’s no reason to believe that Russia is going away.  To the contrary, there’s every reason to believe that Russia is currently infusing our nation and this globe with its own particular poison, manipulating us and other nations toward its own ends of empire-building and, most horrifically, in  Bannon’s post-modern lingo, the “deconstruction” of liberal democratic societies. It’s an open secret that Russia is doing the same thing in several European nations right now — the Netherlands, France, Germany; and has its eye on Asian nations like Japan.

(3) This sort of social mayhem will  grow only more damaging and insidious until it is stopped.

To stop it, we need the press and media to be courageous and relentless in speaking the truth.

We need our Congresspeople and Senators to develop some spine and begin speaking truth to power rather than buckling before the boss –and we need to insist that they do this.  If they don’t, we need to get rid of them asap.

With each other’s encouragement, we need to build the Resistance, which we are doing.  Good things are happening!  In it all, we need to be strong, resilient, non-violent, compassionate, good humored.  We need to take care of ourselves and nourish our most angry, loving spirits. We need to be patient with ourselves and one another, because we have no way of knowing how far ahead this road stretches.

And, of course, those of us with faith need to keep it!

“Otherwise, fine.”

Today I met over coffee with an immigrant family and a non-immigrant friend, Judy, in which we organized a visit of local families to our farm, where the kids can pat, groom and maybe ride a horse, play ball and other games, and we all can picnic — immigrants and non-immigrants together, adults and kids, neighbors, getting better acquainted  during this stressful historical moment.

Our conversation, in Spanish, English, and (in my case) a bit of ‘Spanglish,’ was delightful. We laughed a lot and had a lovely time making our plans — 3 adults and 4 kids, ranging from 7 to 16.  But beneath our words and smiles ran an unmistakable undercurrent of worry and anxiety.  What will happen in coming weeks and months to families like this — loving, hardworking neighbors from Mexico and other places beyond our borders — borders which have been drawn arbitrarily over time  as national boundaries always are designed — borders separating neighbors, dividing families, arbitrarily… What will happen?

We didn’t mention Trump.  We didn’t have to.  His mean-spirited, contemptuous presence invades our space, whoever we are, wherever we go, with whomever — if we are Mexicans or other Latinos, Muslims or Jews, feminists or womanists, African-Americans or Native-Americans, LGBTQ men or women, sick people or old people, people with disabilities or special needs, labor organizers, educators, health care providers, journalists, poor people, socialists, progressives… or allies to these various groups. We are individually and communally battered and bruised by this brute of a man who was elected president or — as increasingly seems to be the case —  who grabbed the presidency with a little help from his Russian allies, within and beyond the boundaries of the United States.

After our Mexican neighbors left our gathering, Judy and I shook our heads and, checking in, agreed — we’re both “fine.”

More truthfully, Judy said, hugging me, “I’m otherwise, fine.”

We sighed, because this pretty much sums it up these days — We’re “otherwise, fine.”

The greatest danger we face

It becomes clearer to me by the day that the most dangerous enemy we face daily is the purposeful assault on truth, fact, and honest presentation of what is real and what is not.
There will always be various interpretations of fact and history. However, the inevitable differences we bring to our understandings of what is true is in a different moral and political universe from the intentional LYING — some paranoid, some simply self-serving poppycock — that pops out of Trump’s mouth.
The rest of the Exec branch, Congress, and the Judiciary defend, ignore, or trivialize Trump’s pathological lying, to our great peril.
This is not something that can be tolerated much longer, without some national or international catastrophe or, even worse, our loss as a people of an ability to communicate with each other or to know ourselves, and one another, as people who seek truth.

Hoping to connect… can it happen?

Over the past five weeks, people have gathered every week, a couple of hundred at a time, to talk — about whether “strong women” are a threat or a blessing to us; about immigrants and refugees and how we go about living gratefully and graciously alongside them — and, these days, protecting them — as our neighbors; about racism as a community curse and what we can do about it; about our LGBTQ community and why queer folks generate such fear; and about religious bigotry — especially against Jews and Muslims in our midst and what we can do about it.  (We ought also talk about why Pagans are often subjected to harassment here in western NC and throughout rural America — and in time we will.)


These topics are  the first five in an 8-session series being sponsored in Brevard NC by our local NAACP in cooperation with several Christian congregations (protestant and catholic, white, black, Latino).


What’s been remarkable has been the outpouring of interest and energy by folks of different ages, men and women, eager to listen, willing to speak up, and committed to doing whatever needs to be done not only to resist  Trump but to re-make our communities and, by extension, our country in a strong spirit of mutuality.


Genuine mutuality involves listening to others, speaking up ourselves, and reaching out to connect with those who may be quite unlike us in any number of ways — including politically — and an openness on each person’s part to being touched and changed in ways that may surprise us.


Be clear that building such relationships doesn’t mean giving up on our values or basic commitments to justice and fairness for all.  But it probably does mean  coming to new understandings of who we are, what we believe and value, and why; and of coming to new understandings of the “others,” whoever they are.


We NAACP folks are hoping to help build a second series next fall, one to be shaped with those “others.”  How this can happen, or if it can, remains to be seen.  But it’s a real hope that many of us progressives share here in the NC mountains.