Thursday, February 21, 2019

We ignore the present political situation at our peril

The U.S. is in the middle of a cyber warfare which seeks to deepen the polarization of political ideologies. The tools are social media, frameworks of disinformation which embolden a wilful ignorance meant to enable and empower bad actors such as Donald Trump and domestic terrorist groups. You might say that a type of civil war is being prosecuted on the United States by groups such as the white nationalist, white supremacist, kkk, the arian nation, neo-nazi's, neo-fascist, and other domestic terrorist groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center and certain constituencies of the NRA.  We ignore these matters at our peril.  There are monied interests which support these domestic terrorist groups.  Monied Interests, including their allie Russia, which may not like a multicultural, multi-racial multi-ethnic dynamic country. We can only ignore this reality for so long.  The sooner we acknowledge this reality the sooner we can stand against it.  I write this post not as a means to trigger or scare, but to acknowledge what is happening right now.

Of course as a person of faith I live each day knowing that God is still in control.  This belief may really be tested in the coming days.

Much prayer is needed

Friday, October 26, 2018

Living the Gospel, Bringing A Hope which Sustains



I

The Dilemma, the Appeal, A Faustian Import

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.
                                                                                                                        Ecclesiastes 1:9

The author of Ecclesiastes, the great book of wisdom, reminds us today that joy, struggles and sorrow, the laughter, and the sorrow, even the tragic of the human experience, the good, bad and ugly and their implications toward the heart and soul of humanity demand some notion which will  liberate humanity from its tragic dilemma.
Amidst the tragic there are those who shoulder an unsustainable burden of profound injustice compelling concerns and issues regarding healthcare, drug addiction, including opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, and a politics unhinged and in service to the aristocracy, their wealth, cares and concerns
at the expense of the proletariat or working class. The consequences of a politics in service to the aristocracy is one which advocates for wealth and not the worker, increases homelessness, increases poverty, increases the rolls of the unemployed, and a higher education too expensive to afford without student loans. When I look at the various programs at risk in the present administration I see programs which provide hope to tens of millions of people across the nation.  A popular notion in media circles is “post truth”, that America is in a post truth, post fact era. What I suggest here is that the present regime is prosecuting a political deconstruction of hope.

The deconstruction of hope, as an ethical and political principle, is the intentional political action, inaction or concern to put at risk programs and policies meant to make the life’s of millions of American life’s better. It is about budgets which cater exclusively to the donor class, the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex and parties which coopt many in the Church who call themselves Christian, and other institutions as means towards injustice at the expense of the American citizen-worker. According to an article written by David Tagbu, entitled “How Christianity got co-opted and we got Trump, 80% percent of evangelicals pulled the lever for Mr. Trump endorsing his policies and programs, such as an immigration policy which separates children from their parents, seemingly antithetical to the teachings and meditations of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. Of course while the tools may be new, i.e. the internet, computers, the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, which works to shape laws in favor of business interests at the expense of workers and labor unions, etc., i.e. the means to inflict injustice, corruption, unethical practices, sin and evil are not.  The Bible is clear regarding the ongoing actions and policies endorsed and advocated for by many in the Church, the administration, its supporters and enablers.
Isaiah 1:17 reminds us to “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Zechariah 7:9-10 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” and Jeremiah 22:3 “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
Isaiah, Zechariah, and Jeremiah present not just words on a page written as the spirit gave utterance but more so we encounter the desires and concerns of God in covenant with Israel and Judah. Throughout the scriptures we see God concerned with the needy, the poor, the enslaved, those on the margins of empire. Woe to the people or nation, even a Church which disregards the clear unmistakable desires of God.  If we consider God to be consistent we should not mistake God’s love and patience as some type of permission allowing or giving a pass for a disregard of holy and sacred concerns and desires.  There is a day of reckoning coming.
Jeremiah 22:5-9 reads, But if you will not heed these words, I swear by myself, says the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. For thus says the Lord concerning the house of the king of Judah:
You are like Gilead to me,
    like the summit of Lebanon;
but I swear that I will make you a desert,
    an uninhabited city.[a]
I will prepare destroyers against you,
    all with their weapons;
they shall cut down your choicest cedars
    and cast them into the fire.
And many nations will pass by this city, and all of them will say one to another, “Why has the Lord dealt in this way with that great city?” And they will answer, “Because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshiped other gods and served them.”
The covenant of God with Israel, Judah and I would suggest other nations, like the U.S., who have received God’s grace, rests in how they treat the other, those on the margins, the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the different abled, even the children. The covenant, as exemplified by Jesus is not about the powerful, the rich, or the mighty. The covenant is not about the aristocracy of empire but the working class, the proletariat, yet by grace the aristocracy too may enter into this covenant regardless of the difficulty, reflecting here on the rich young ruler in the Gospels. A great people and nation who disregard God’s word, i.e. the covenant, will fall, this is God’s promise. Proverbs 3:34 reminds us that God has no use for a conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble and James 4:6 which reminds us “But the grace that God gives is even stronger. As the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet in 29:11 and Isaiah, the prophet in 40:31, presents God’s appeal to the people of Israel and Judah in their political crisis and Babylonian captivity to once again trust in God and thus to be hopeful once again. Amidst the sorrows of Israel and Judah, God honors a covenant rooted in the cares and concerns of the other and the less fortunate, never giving up on being the hope of Israel,  Judah, and I would suggest humanity as a whole.
Similar to Reinhold Niebuhr, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Josiah Royce, which Gideon and I are reading for class, Maya Angelou, and even James Baldwin, The question for us today is, “how to respond or appeal to a society, culture and Church in crisis? The seriousness of this present human condition warrants a provocative response to our foundational text Ecclesiastes 1:9 and its implications. Surely this particular text and its implications should not be the fate of human existence. There must be some means of escape, some route to liberation from the tragic opera of Faustian import.

II


Living into the Gospel, A Longing for Christ and liberation,
a Hope which Sustains
Maya Angelou said, “I’m always amazed . . .when [people] walk up to me and say, ”I’m a Christian.”  I always think, Already? You’ve already got, my goodness you’re fast. 
She also said, “I’m working at being a Christian and that’s some serious business.”
The words of Maya Angelou give me pause as her wisdom unsettles long standing assumptions of empire, colonization and indoctrination. I encounter Maya Angelou’s wisdom as I read Philippians 3:7-16, the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1.      Paul Never Identified as a Christian
2.      Paul sought Christ, discarded everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith.
3.      Wanted to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
4.      Did not consider himself to have taken hold of Christ but one, forgetting what was behind and straining forward to what’s up ahead, the Christ
5.      Apprehension keeps one humble
6.      Because Paul sought to apprehend Christ he brought hope and life to many
7.      A Mature Faith
Paul’s longing for Christ, his intense, even erotic journey for Christ became his hope lived out and in the process birth of the Church. Because of this hope he nurtured the fledgling and complicated early church.
The question of the Christian faith is, “Have you apprehended Christ Jesus and thus a hope eternal?” Not in the colonizing or capitalist sense, God forbid, but of the soul? Grace, mercy, salvation, the crucifixion, and even the resurrection are means to the apprehension of Christ Jesus and not an end to themselves. In the apprehension of Christ Jesus we find a hope rooted in God’s love, not politics, wealth or religious affiliation. It is a hope deep in the human soul which becomes the sustenance and the ground of struggle for liberation from the interlocking oppressions and systems which daily seek to devalue a sacred Inviolable humanity.  Hope works for the day the apprehension of Christ Jesus becomes manifest and thus our liberation sure and undeniable.

Paulo Freire in a Pedagogy of Hope, Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (Pause – and I note that Pedagogy of Oppressed is a band book) writes
“Without a minimum of hope, we cannot so much as start the struggle.  But without the struggle, hope, as an ontological need, dissipates, loses it bearings, and turns into hopelessness.”  Hope is always connected to an issue, concern or struggle.  To see the Cross in this light, the light of the hope Jesus had for Humanity the Cross becomes a somewhat queer center of hope with implications we live today.
Chris Hedges says
“Hope has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. It is not about the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and more potent hope becomes.”
Hope compels Black Lives Matter, the MeToo Movement, the Poor Peoples Campaign, taking on voter suppression, an emerging Homeless movement, and those who risk deportation, to stand, protest, to run for office, to fight for a living wage, and Palestinian liberation, all, at least for me, reminiscent of those who faced the White Citizen’s Council, the KKK, and Bull Conner’s dogs of the Jim Crow South.
Hope can be, more often than not, putting one’s body on the lin

III


"Keep fresh before me the moments of my high resolve."
-          Howard Thurman
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

The wisdom of Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the light of Christ, call us to be mindful of the hope within, that hope deep within borne of God’s love.  We should not fall prey to disappointment, mistakes or setbacks, these things, mindful of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s words are finite. More so we should live into our highest most profound resolve in God’s grace. 
To close I will read the words of Howard Thurman -
“Despite the dullness and barrenness of the days that pass, if I search with due diligence, I can always find a deposit left by some former radiance. But I had forgotten. At the time it was full-orbed, glorious, and resplendent. I was sure that I would never forget. In the moment of its fullness, I was sure that it would illumine my path for all the rest of my journey. I had forgotten how easy it is to forget.
There was no intent to betray what seemed so sure at the time. My response was whole, clean, authentic. But little by little, there crept into my life the dust and grit of the journey. Details, lower-level demands, all kinds of cross currents — nothing momentous, nothing overwhelming, nothing flagrant — just wear and tear. If there had been some direct challenge –a clear-cut issue — I would have fought it to the end, and beyond.
In the quietness of this place, surrounded by the all-pervading Presence of God, my heart whispers: Keep fresh before me the moments of my High Resolve, that in fair weather or in foul, in good times or in tempests, in the days when the darkness and the foe are nameless or familiar, I may not forget that to which my life is committed.”
Keep fresh before me the moments of my high resolve.
For The Inward Journey by Howard Thurman, Let Us Pray

Hate, bigotry, loathing, those things diabolical we can cope but Love who knows!


1st Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
A Problem Stated

The recent confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s choice to be an associate Justice on the Supreme Court, presents one more example of the immoral and uncivil as white male patriarchy, i.e., white men with power, seek to do all they can to regain white male dominance after eight years of Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States.  More than just a reaction to the Obama Administrations policies, the Trump presidency is a rejection of those policies as a means to push back and reclaim an ideology of whiteness as a dominant policy position. All administrations pursue their own policies doctrines, and agendas, yet the Trump administration has gone so far to the extreme right that its policies present a moral deficit, as it rapes the heart and soul of the republic.  The Trump administration is purely an uncivil reaction to an administration which, for the most part, had a profoundly ethical and civil discourse on politics.  This was and is different from an administration full of scandals, unethical practices and an indecent discourse on politics.  I would venture to say that the Trump administration is the most nasty, corrupt administration I’ve seen in my lifetime, even compared with Nixon and Watergate.
Of course, his supporters, the 30% or so of the electorate will be with him even if, as he says, he shoots somebody on fifth avenue, preferably in New York City. They believe and follow him as their messiah noting that a few books such as Trump Prophesies by Mark Taylor are big sellers on Amazon.  For them, he can do no wrong. I suppose his supporters feel some type of vindication after eight years of a Black Man as President in the White House. Indeed, this is racism although only a fool, the KKK, white nationalist or neo Nazi’s would admit it.  This has been bad for the Democratic Party as it lost over 1000 seats in legislatures across the country.  Additionally, to make matters worse, the 30% feel they were betrayed once again by the neo liberal politics of the Democrats as they ran a White Woman after having a Black Man as President. I suppose if Hillary Clinton had won the plantation, at some level would have been in tatters.
Donald Trump is a product of betrayal and messiness by the Democrats and other neo-liberal and progressive groups.  I don’t think the Democrats had a way out, particularly after their emails were hacked by the Russians at the behest of the Trump campaign.  Of course, unlike the criminal operatives, in this era of the internet and Facebook, covered their tracks well. What I mean by betrayal is that the Democrats political sin was to run a Black man for president.  After 231 years of white male presidents any imagination or thought of a Black Man being president beyond the shadows of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, segregation, discrimination, a Civil Rights Movement and an assassination of a King were just too much to bare for a white population indoctrinated as such. White male presidents represented the power structure and the majority as ordained, in the minds of the 30% by their god, bringing about a reflection on James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”[1]  Barack Obama, for all the good he did, was perceived as a betrayal of those racial values Trump’s 30% believes in.  This was, for the 30%, ultimately a perceived betrayal by the Democratic party to complicated, complex, and truncated American values.  
Because of a perceived betrayal Trump is allowed, even encouraged by Fox, the first, at least in my recollection, propaganda media machine and other media to be uncivil and undignified lacking any moral compass.  Yet we must not forget that all of the networks, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox gave Mr. Trump $2 Billion Worth of Free Media.[2]  This comes after Les Moonves, Chairman of CBS said, “It may not be good for America but it’s damn good for CBS.”  For those old enough to remember Norman Lear’s, “All in the Family”, he is Archie Bunker.  He is the real Archie Bunker the world has past by.  This may be the reason so many folks like him.  He is their favorite sitcom character.  This would be funny, but it’s for real, he is the U.S. President.
Of course, the Democratic party, with all its shortcomings, typical of any human institutions, did have the courage and wherewithal to run a Black Man and win two terms, this cannot be dismissed or discounted, as many have ignored for commentaries on white fragility and power. On the other hand, the Republican party would seem to have been weak on these matters and was ripe for revenge politics as well as a politics of fragility, betrayal and extremism. For a party which considered itself the standard bearer of conservative religion, values voters and family values, i.e., Focus on the Family, many wonder what happened to the morality and ethics of the Republican party.  White supremacy, white entitlement and privilege has hallowed out the Republican party to a point where even William F. Buckley would have left the Grand Old Party.  To an extent, and this refers to the constitution, the democracy and the republic, the Republican Party has also been an actor of betrayal, but to a higher cause and promise which is the North Star of nations and movements. To betray or resist unrighteousness becomes a love of righteousness and the ground of hope.
While race and racism are an obvious challenge the deeper more systemic issues which become the catalyst is the migration of wealth beginning in the 1970’s[3] to the 1% of the American population.  It now owns 99% of American wealth. This small group of families shape and contour the politics and economy as fits their hopes, dreams and aspirations as capitalism promotes.  Particularly in regard to the computer chip as the new means of production and the necessity of fewer and fewer human beings to participate in the means of production.  It is interesting that a correlation exists between the struggle for black freedom and changes in means of production beyond Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.  Simply put, there are economic, political, social and cultural implications stemming from black freedom which becomes a cause of tensions bringing about a demise of hope in many as the worse of humanity comes out.
Amidst a demise of hope, many people have given their last for love of righteousness and in so doing betrayed unrighteousness. They have a hope deep within their soul, motivating heart, mind and flesh, undergirded by grace, holding steady a nation seemingly divided. Each of us must lean into this hope as never before.  This hope, the hope of the ancestors, is the hope which resists the betrayal of righteousness and love. It is a hope which hears those who have experienced injustice. This hope becomes an invitation to address the concerns of the disinherited, the dispossessed, the cries of children separated from their mothers and fathers, those in housing crisis and those who are homeless, and those in the Muslim Community who long for rest and peace, to name a few. It is the Trump administration, the present iteration of the Republican party, not to let the Democratic party of the hook, which represents a diminution of sorts as it seemingly denies or rejects a higher calling which will overcome a fractured politics. It is this higher calling that overcomes our present political tribalism.
The history of the United States, at some point, was bound to engage this present situation of tribalism. This seems to be recurring theme of the American narrative, i.e., the American civil war, April 1861 to April 1865. It was, in my humble opinion, unavoidable. After generations of enslavement, discrimination and oppression heaped upon a great, teaming and sacred, even holy humanity, under the guise of a democracy and capitalism used as a means to ensure primarily white male domination, the people, primarily the indigenous community, women, black people, people of color, progressive whites, and those of the LGBTQ community, anyone not oriented to the patriarchy of Mr. Trump, VP Mike Pence, Sen. Orin Hatch, and just anointed associate Justice Kavanaugh, have risen against this generational injustice. The narrative that has victimized countless numbers of people now feels victimized.
According to a New York Times article of October 10, 2018, written by Charles Blow, a New York Times Opinion Columnist entitled, White Male Victimization Anxiety, Trump represents all the white men who feel they’re losing ground, the ability to abuse, dominate, and oppress. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/opinion/trump-white-male-victimization.html, Trump, and I would add Kavanaugh’s angry testimony in defense of his reputation regarding accusations of sexual abuse by Christine Blasey Ford, represent “white male victimization syndrome”[4] that has consumed modern American conservatism. White men who have for years been the ones who have victimized women and minorities, now say they are victimized when those who have been victimized by white men, and I would add their systems, like the women who cornered Sen. Jeff Flake speak out. The abuser now says that he is the abused when the one he abused speaks out saying, no more.  Yes, this is as strange as it sounds
A Remedy to the Problem

At this point coming from a perspective of the Beloved Community, I would like to offer a possible remedy to the problem of tribalism and the competing narratives which represent flesh and blood people, the sacredness, even the holiness of God. I would like to offer hope, as a self-interest of strategic hospitality and to attain allegiance, more so loyalty, to that higher calling which persists in the soul of humanity, even as humanity, the sacredness and holiness of God is disabled in the face of profound injustice. And what is that higher calling but love, yes love.  Love must have it say amidst a necessary hospitality, the welcoming of righteousness, humbleness and grace into the heart of the people of a nation deluded by its own image.
I feel at times that love is thought of as shallow, not firm or strong in its approach, that it suffers at the hand of the abuser without recourse. This is an interpretation of love, yet this interpretation has taken on a type of truth not bathed in divine grace and mercy.  Truth is, love is so, oh so much more. It is, quite simply, the most intimate affair of divine cosmic intent. The love I write of here is that love which maintains the movement of planets, instilling the gravity which becomes the ground traversed. Yes, it is at times sacrificial and it does suffer yet it is profoundly joyful and charismatic amidst relational and interrelatedness yielding transformation as a byproduct of cosmic mystical proportions of the soul. One cannot experience this love and not be changed, transformed, made new. This love overcomes the hatred, stigma, disdain and vile which inhabits the land. This love is not naivete about matters of spirit and flesh, more so this love is engaged in persistence as love will have the final say in all things.
Considering this love, the question is, “How do we love?”  How do we live this love?
I would never presume to have the answers, in fact answers tend to be fleeting on the matter of love. I will say that this love begins as we first care for ourselves and others. As we begin to look at difference as an enabler of those things precious, sacred, and divinely human. Our allegiance no longer being to money, profit, intentional blindness and absence or risk management to domination, that which is the root of evil, more so our first allegiance is to love, and for this love we give our all. We must be consumed by God’s love as opposed to the affairs of economy and thus become a new creation, one which gives life to the human community and thus in the final analysis to the earth and cosmos itself.  If we desire healing for the earth and ourselves as inhabitants and offspring of the earth, a conclusion of wars, tribalism, global warming, poverty, homelessness and the homeless crisis, love must be our highest allegiance.
Love then should compel a reflection on actions past, present and future to sincerely address the trajectory of human affairs. Coming from a perspective of love those reflections, as a means toward justice will, at points, impinge on the credibility of men such as Trump, Kavanaugh and white males in general, yet grace, should bring about a new creation, an enlightened soul which no longer views wealth from a materialistic aspect which defines success as domination but a view which receives the highest success as love. I think what I am calling for here is a politics of love, yes, real love. What I advocate for is a politics which teaches people how to love, how to care and how to build up the human community. It is a politics intent on caring for the least of these regardless of status.
A politics of care for the least of these is rooted in love for the other as in Jesus Christ and seeks to ascertain the highest nobility of human aspirations. This politics is not about power and influence as such, more so it is about grace and mercy moving as constituents of the highest nobility.


[1] James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, (Maryknoll Publishing, New York)
[4] Charles Blow, White Male Victimization Anxiety, Trump represents all the white men who feel they’re losing ground  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/opinion/trump-white-male-victimization.html accessed October 11, 2018.