Social Justice

Juneteenth 2019

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C6E077A0-7C27-4CE1-B09E-0BC972192E37Today is Juneteenth, and I urge you to stop for a moment and celebrate the end of legal slavery in the United States, the emancipation of our neighbors, and the victory of our country over the rebellious forces which threatened to tear it apart. Through great leadership, at great price and with tenacious hearts we kept our nation together and began the end of a terrible historical atrocity.

This is also a chance to recognize and repent that we so often move too slowly, resist the changes we need to make as a people and a society, and that we still have so far to go in realizing the full humanity and dignity of all people. If Juneteenth is new to you, it’s a celebration of the emancipation of the slaves, and a remembrance that freedom was ignored and resisted for years by some civil and State authorities after the Emancipation Proclamation. More can be found here Juneteenth.com, and across the internet with a simple search.

This year’s marking of Juneteenth is more meaningful for me as I was able on Monday to attend a screening of Emmanuel, a documentary movie about the nine lives ended in the hateful and racially motivated shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church four years ago to the day, in Charleston, SC. That was a difficult movie to watch, as the legacy of white supremacy and racial hatred was so clearly illustrated in the senseless murders and the face of a young man of our time, not any ancient past or even recent history. Our time.

The hatred, ignorance and racism which fueled the Emmanuel shootings should be a reminder to us that all too often words become wounds. The racism and white supremacist rhetoric we hear today across our country, online and sometimes from the highest levels of government must be unequivocally, vehemently and with all our strength rejected and repudiated. Until our courts are equitable in applying the law to all people, policing is no longer far more lethal and brutal towards our brown and black neighbors, and all people of our nation are free to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, let Juneteenth be a reminder that our work is not done.

1058FF77-4FB2-4AED-A9C2-044667A1BEA7And we can vote. The image to the right is of a button I made earlier this year as an exercise of empathy and reflection on privilege. It’s time to vote with our neighbor’s best interest in mind. We need to vote with empathy and a realization that political wins achieved at the expense of another’s civil liberties or freedoms is no win at all, but a loss for all. Let Juneteenth become part of your annual remembrance that we have begun the difficult work of equality, but still have so far to go. We can do this. We’ve shown what we are capable of, both good and evil. May we forge a future of greater hope and liberty for all.

AMDG, Todd

An Obituary For America 

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IMG_2686An Obituary For America
November 26, 2018

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of America. This past weekend America, at the young old age of 242 years, passed away while launching tear gas at women, children and men seeking asylum on its southern border. For the past two years we have watched America slowly giving up its fight to sustain those long held values which founded a great nation, welcomed us from around the world and forged us into its hopeful dream. Yesterday, while most of us worked on finishing off our Thanksgiving leftovers, America slipped away from us.

America didn’t like to talk about its health problems, but for a few decades now and especially in recent years it had grown frail and thoroughly riddled by resurgent ailments like white supremacy, racism, isolationism and internal gun violence. Treatment was repeatedly refused, usually for economic reasons, and the dark spiral to tear gassing the innocent began. With many months to prepare for the arrival of the asylum seekers with aid, increased federal staff to process their applications, and a clear signal of a recognition of their basic human dignity, America chose instead to send in armed troops and escalate things to a violent confrontation. 

America is survived immediately by a meaner, nastier sibling who on the surface reminds us a little bit of the old America, but is too driven by fear and selfishness to understand the greatness it could achieve. This surviving America no longer allows our lady to stand with torch held high calling the masses to us to help us create and share the cherished American Dream, but she is silenced and mourns quietly, her historic call for the moment stolen and silenced.

But America is also survived by some extended family who haven’t given up hope, who mourn with those gassed at our border and remember when America was a beacon, a dream of what could be. There are some standing in the wake of America’s passing who would not have the deepest promise and founding values of America lost and forgotten. Gifts and honorariums in memory of our dear deceased America are requested in the form of letters, emails and phone calls to your congressional representatives. Ask them to stop the violence on the southern border. Ask them to demand that we recognize the human dignity of those coming to us, and give them a fair and honest chance to seek asylum and refuge with us. Ask them to stand against the fear and the racism that has crippled the American dream. Remind them of who we are. And for America’s sake, vote a better future into existence every chance you get. Thank you.

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All Saints 2017, Colin Kaepernick

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fullsizeoutput_3c4eI’m celebrating the Sunday after All Saints this year by talking about one of my favorite contemporary saints, Colin Kaepernick. I haven’t talked much about Colin’s protest last year and the ensuing drama surrounding him, but all things have a time and place, and celebrating saints is the perfect one for having a chat about our brother, Colin. I even made him an icon of sorts. 😁

Colin Kaepernick will be remembered for having initiated one of the most successful and powerful non-violent protests of our lifetime. Yes, he will be vindicated by history and the people name-calling and misrepresenting him will carry the shame. Colin hurt no one, broke no laws and defaced no property, but has been reviled and rejected for making his point. His point is that we don’t want to talk about the real problems, the racial sins of our nation in this very day, but we’d rather just roll along and pretend that America is all peaches and cream.

Does it strike anyone as interesting that we are so riled up over the protest of an athlete? He’s essentially an entertainer, and his entertaining skill is his athleticism. He earned his place on that team, in that uniform, in that game, and he chose to use what he had earned to quietly send a message: It’s not all OK in America. It seems we don’t like having our sins pointed out, even in quiet non-violent ways.

He’s accused of disrespecting the military and veterans. He has never spoken against them. He is accused of disrespecting the police. He has only spoken against the racism and injustice of police brutality. He’s accused of disrespecting our culture. He only has spoken against racism and unjust brutality, so is that an admission that some hold racism as part of a valuable cultural heritage? He has been called names, even by the highest elected politician of the land. He is no longer playing the sport he loves and is good at playing. He has paid the price of his protest and not backed down. Few of us have ever had the opportunity to make a fraction of the impact or display a shred of that courage. 

He lives out of his faith. He is marked by it. His life is animated by it. That faith binds him to us and to everyone who cannot command the stage of our nation’s conversation and say:

“This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice: people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and affect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that, and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”

“We have a lot of people that are oppressed. We have a lot of people that aren’t treated equally, aren’t given equal opportunities. Police brutality is a huge thing that needs to be addressed. There are a lot of issues that need to be talked about, need to be brought to life, and we need to fix those.”

“We have a lot of people that are oppressed. We have a lot of people that aren’t treated equally, aren’t given equal opportunities. Police brutality is a huge thing that needs to be addressed. There are a lot of issues that need to be talked about, need to be brought to life, and we need to fix those.”

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color… To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He’s done all this, has submitted to the ridicule and hatred, has possibly sacrificed his career and has been demonized and vilified by voices around the country, all to speak up for the voiceless. He kneels to stand for the defenseless. He is a saint. I hope that more of us have an opportunity to show his courage and to work as hard for the change that our society so desperately needs.

Colin’s faith:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/09/24/colin-kaepernick-vs-tim-tebow-a-tale-of-two-christianities-on-its-knees/?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.cf7edd0c4789

Colin speaking for himself:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem

Colin’s story:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/sports/colin-kaepernick-nfl-protests.html

Why Colin knelt:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2735093-have-we-lost-sight-of-what-colin-kaepernick-was-really-protesting-for

We need to talk about Colin and the nonviolent protests by other players because it is bringing out the worst of our nation. From faked images like the concocted flag burning by a Seahawks player, to the President cursing our citizens’ use of their First Amendment rights, to the Texans owner referring to the players as inmates, we have a real problem on our hands. There are prominent voices in our country who don’t want things changed, problems addressed and racial inequalities seen for what they are. This is why Colin is so important. This is why his faith and courage matter in this time and place.

AMDG, Todd

White Supremacy Is A Criminal Lie

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It’s too easy today for white people to ignore the growing strength of white supremacy in our contemporary culture and political scene in the United States of America. Yes, white supremacy has been in the news because it is resurgent here in the US, right now. Being a white male with no inclinations of supremacy I could easily ignore the whole thing and choose not to participate, but that’s not enough.

As a white male who in my inherent privilege is in no way personally threatened by the criminality of white supremacy I bear an inescapable responsibility to speak loudly and stridently against it. Every white person must accept this responsibility and speak loudly in defense of the truth of the dignity, worth and welcome of our non-white friends, family and neighbors.

Some links about the current swell of white supremacy from…
The New York Times
The Southern Poverty Law Center
CNN

White supremacy is evil. White Supremacy is a lie. It is not a mental illness, because it is chosen. It is a crime against humanity. White supremacy is a systematic devaluing of human beings and it must be denounced and disowned.

I do not advocate violence against white supremacists, but I do advocate for us all to speak clearly with grace, compassion and equity for all peoples’ value. Christians must decry the use of our religious symbols, our scriptures, our Christ and our God in white supremacy. Americans must decry the idea that we are lessened by our diversity.

There is no room in Christianity for racial and ethnic discrimination, as there is no room for any other discriminations perpetrated in the name of Christ. There is no room for partiality and bias among the human family. There is no sacrosanct white culture or American culture. I do not interchange Christianity and American Nationalism here as equal or the same, but I use both because White Supremacy dresses itself in the trappings of each, falsely.

Let us never tire of saying it loudly and repeatedly: White supremacy is a criminal lie. Let no lack of courage, conviction or compassion stop our voices.

AMDG, Todd

 

A Reminder of Our Connection

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Mother Teresa Belong to Each Other QuoteI was driving into work today and listening to an NPR piece on climate change and climate responses (I think it was Climate Cast), mostly hearing from three Republicans and their views on climate issues and what we should do and how. I surprisingly agreed with many things being said, but I struck by the constant refrain of “This is not a Federal issue, but we should tackle it at the State and local levels.” Not a single question was answered without this being part of the answer over and over.

I had a growing unease while listening, not necessarily because of the treatment of climate science or climate change, but because of this anti-Federal government political ideology that kept surfacing to deconstruct our connectedness to one another. When we share rivers, share the plains and valleys, and share the very air we breathe, we cannot afford to move on important issues which directly affect those shared resources as a disconnected mob of individual States and communities. We must move as a nation, as a people, as good neighbors of all. If we fail in this then climate change for the time being will continue to primarily be a problem for the poor, those who cannot afford to insulate themselves from the worst of climate change effects.

Some Climate Change Effects on the World’s Poorest:
National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/151201-datapoints-climate-change-poverty-agriculture/
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-poor-suffer-most-un-report
Time: http://time.com/4209510/climate-change-poor-countries/

A loss of connectedness leads directly to suffering. We see this when mining destroys local habitats and ravages the earth for a quick profit and leaves behind suffering communities. We see this when pollution rides downstream to most affect those not doing the polluting. We see this when the developed world flexes its financial muscles to rebuild again and again after the mega storms, while poorer countries are never the same, never to fully recover and rebuild from our climate’s struggle to deal with change.

Listen, no one party or political affiliation has a monopoly on connectedness or lack thereof. I’m not writing to demonize or belittle any particular political party, but to express what a perfect reminder it was of our basic human connection, and even our shared national connection here in the States. Isolating ourselves in little State or local bunkers will not move us forward in constructive ways. That idea of local change is part of the solution, but not thew whole of it. We need to reconnect with our neighbors, on our streets and across the country and world.

I hope we can listen more and learn deeply from one another. I hope that sounding the bell of a pet political ideology will not drown out our shared interests or cover over the cries of those least able to cope with our climate effecting decisions. We are connected.

Peace, Todd

For Such A Time As This

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When our Presiding Bishop calls us to fast, I fast. I love the intent and meaning behind this call, and I pray that we might all be transformed in our spiritual practices, the world made a better and more humane place, and that mercy will reign. Click the image below for the video, or just peruse the transcript.

Amen, Todd

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Transcript…

There is a wonderful book that was published some years ago titled “Eat, Pray, Love.” I want to invite you to fast, pray, and love by advocating for those who have no one to advocate for them. 

On May 21, I am going to join with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and many of our ecumenical friends, in fasting for the day, and beginning a fast on the 21st of every month, continuing until the end of the year 2018, when the 115th Congressional session comes to an end. 

Here is the reason for that fast: That time of the month, around the 21st of every month, is a very difficult time for people who are on public assistance and have received their assistance earlier in the month. So we will fast and pray, to pray that our government and our leaders will find a way to do what is just and kind and compassionate in the best of the American spirit.

But we will not only fast and pray. We are asking you to join with us in advocating in a variety of ways for the poor, for those who need public assistance for children who are the primary beneficiaries of most of the forms of assistance that our government provides. We are asking you to join with other Christians and other people of goodwill to help our government reflect the best of the American spirit by feeding the hungry, caring for our children, and making sure that everyone has the opportunities for life and liberty not only in our country, but in our world. 

There is a story in the Bible, in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the story of the people of God who found themselves in some tough times, and there was a woman named Esther who rose up and accepted the challenge at some risk to herself. A challenge to save her people when they were in jeopardy. At a moment of decision when she was trying to decide whether or not she should enter into the work to save her people, someone named Mordecai sent her a word, and said, “Perhaps Esther, you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” 

Maybe we are Esther. Perhaps we in the Episcopal Church, perhaps we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, perhaps we who are Christians and people of faith and goodwill have come to the kingdom for such a time as this, to help our country make sure that no child goes to bed hungry. 

“Eat, Pray, Love” is a wonderful book, but I want to invite you beginning on May 21 to fast, to pray, and to love by advocating for our children.

God love you, God bless you, and you keep the faith. 

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry, The Episcopal Church

Blind Piety

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equals human first runPresident Trump’s America is looking less and less American, and totally un-Christian. With the flurry of controversial executive orders our new President has shown the effects of something with which many Christians in the West seem to suffer: blind piety. All in the name of morals and American values, with a strong dash of dishonesty and fear-mongering, our new President shreds the image of America around the world and moves us farther from the Christian values of justice, mercy and love for our neighbors. President Trump road a wave of this blind self-centered piety and unreasoning fear all the way to the White House. Now some of the most vulnerable people on the planet are beginning to pay the price.

What is blind piety? Piety is defined as a quality of being religious or reverent. Blind piety is a religiosity that ignores its negative and hurtful impact on the people around it. Jesus actually condemned it in his own day, and an apt name would also be shallow piety or even mean piety. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day who acted piously in vowing their income to the support of the Temple, but in doing so actually neglected their own aging parents who were in need. (Matthew 15) Now, I always wondered at that passage thinking, “How will something like that ever find a dynamic equivalent, today?” Well, ask and receive. It’s been played out on our national stage just this week. With an executive order that piously calls on abortion as a reason to cut our nation’s international help to some of the most needful and most defenseless women and families around the world our President has endangered lives, and many religious people are applauding and smiling. Blind piety. Mean religion. Just as in the day of Jesus, religion used to deny people our assistance is an affront to God.

sighing jesusAt another time (Luke 14) Jesus chastises the hypocrisy of the religious thinkers who would refuse to help a fellow human being because of the religious obligations of not working on the Sabbath, but of course they would rescue a child or an animal in sudden distress. The hypocrisy is staggering, and it’s playing out before our eyes in this day and age. Our leaders are turning away from the most needful and endangered children on the planet, and mantling themselves in faith and patriotism while doing it! The President continues to narrate his actions with the familiar and completely dishonest alternative facts about a lack of vetting and the danger represented by refugees. He targets Muslim nations and vilifies and criminalizes the most vulnerable people on the planet. He speaks of walling us off from others, as though we are not all connected human beings with a shared and mutual life on this planet. These actions are not Christian, American or moral.

Why did Jesus condemn those religious leaders of his day? It was for what they had neglected: people. People are at the core of religious law, as he named that core: justice and mercy and faith. (Matthew 23) Jesus will later sum up the Law in two expressions of love: love for God and love for neighbor. (Matthew 25) The problem is not that religion is against people, but these people were misunderstanding their religion. We are guilty in the same way today when we turn from justice, mercy and faith to hide behind fear, exclusion and dishonesty. Some have chosen a blind piety that neglects people.

imageThe sad truth is that these Christians in the West are turning from one of our oldest and deepest religious values: the heart of a stranger. Far back in our oldest Jewish religious roots as Christians is this amazing idea of identifying with the endangered. God gave Israel strict rules for protecting the alien and stranger among them, for blessing them and for serving them. The people of Israel were reminded of their own time as strangers in a strange land, and therefore they should hold to the heart of a stranger. (Exodus 22 & 23, Deuteronomy 24) That is an amazing statement and command of empathy and service. Until the incarnation of Christ into human flesh I cannot think of a more identificational statement in scripture.

These current events call for our silence to be broken and our voices raised. This political landscape suddenly shifts to assault our deepest religious values and we cannot withhold our condemnation of these executive actions. Let us be courageous and true. Let us be vocal and honest. Let us speak against these executive actions and their false religiouslity, blind piety and alternative facts. Let us be as courageous as Jesus to speak for justice, mercy and faith. That courage got him ridiculed, cast out and killed, but most of us face far less danger in our privileged status here in our own country. Privilege is never a license to ignore injustice, forget mercy or live faithlessly in our own time.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Todd
(to the greater glory of God)