Monthly Archives: July 2014

Today’s Conundrum

The old Chinese proverb has come to pass – we live in challenging times! I find myself pondering the plight of children arriving to this country from dangerous homelands. It is strangely like Joseph taking Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod. Among all those screaming NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), a few other voices are beginning to be heard. I thought of the Orphans Train that took children from New York to the Mid-West in the late 19th and early 20th century. A few people are viewing this as an opportunity to do a charitable, loving, and honorable work. There are people spending time and energy of finding a solution rather than trying to prevent the problem. Trying to stop the tide of migration is similar to trying to stop the tide of the oceans. “Time and Tide Wait for No One” said Geoffrey Chaucer. (The rest of his poem speaks volumes.)

I remember a political cartoon by Herb Block of the Washington Post. It was during the turbulent 1960’s and school desegregation in Little Rock and many other cities. He depicted an angry crowd surrounding a child on the way to school. His caption read “And a little child shall lead them.” I wonder where the current children will lead us. Biblical texts abound: “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of heaven;” “In as much as you have done this unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me;”and “If anyone causes these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a mill stone be hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.” That is just for starters.

Then there is the tragedy of a Russian missile fired by rebel Ukrainians at the civilian Malaysian 777 plane. Among the nearly 300 people killed were the top AIDS scientists in the world. Senator McCann offered his usual response – that we should have sent sophisticated weapons to the people of the Ukraine. Can he get through his head that not everything has a military solution? I seem to remember that McCann also wants us to come to the aid of Syria, although that aid could easily fall into the hands of the tyrannous president. Should we also get actively involved with Hamas and Israel? (The Palestinians are collateral damage and not so innocent bystanders.) How many wars does he want notched on his belt? His credibility is approaching that of Sarah Palin.

I am slowly making my way through Brother Emmanuel of Taize’s “A Love Imperfectly Known.” Early in his book he tackles the ancient question of an all powerful and all loving God that appear to be at odds with him/her self. His position is that a truly loving God does not require lock step obedience but instead wants the creation free. If we truly love someone, we want their freedom, not their servitude. That freedom allows people to do hideous things. However, to be truly grounded in love might well lead us to oppose the enslavement of others. Brother Emmanuel also says that people who do not believe or who have rejected the love of God do so as a result of incorrect messages about God, well-meaning or not.

There is a story from Appalachia that pops into my mind. A lad was swimming on Sunday and dove into water he did not know. He struck his head on stone, breaking his neck and killing him. At the funeral the well-meaning preacher proclaimed that God killed the boy and that the boy was in Hell for swimming on Sunday. (That is a message that could leave many people with an anti-God message!) His father, a prominent man in the community, left the church and started his own – “The No Hell Baptist Church.” (God does not seem to want the death of a sinner!)

As we try to live faithfully in our “interesting times,” we do well not to react to the tragedy of evil by limiting the freedom of ourselves or of others. Personally, I think the “Freedom Act” is an example of this type of reaction. It should be re-named “The Un-Freedom Act.”

We slowly make our way through our tangled time and the question remains – where will these children lead us? Can we learn to wage love rather than war? Can we see the futility of stopping the problem rather than discovering the new reality? I truly believe these are faith issues and not merely political ones.

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Preparing for the 4th of July 2014

As I start this musing we are approaching the Two Hundred Thirty-eighth year of our independence from Great Britain. A new bit of alphabet soup has crept into our everyday existence – SCOTUS. This is not to be confused with the fourteenth century Scottish theologian Duns Scotus. Instead it stands for “Supreme Court of the United States.” Duns Scotus is considered by many to be the most important theologian of the High Middle Ages. The importance of SCOTUS is going through a considerable change in our time.
Consider their ruling on interim appointments. The Senate (they make their own rules) decides to have a session without any work being done every three day. SCOTUS rules that the ten day period used in colonial times still stands, though travel to see their constituents involves a matter of hours by air plane as opposed to days or weeks by horse and buggy or stagecoach. This effectively stalls the government, the intention of the Senate. I find it ironic that the appointments were to the National Labor Relations Board, something the GOP would rather see disappear.
This goes along with the decision that family owned corporations are exempt from providing the Affordable Care Acts contraception supplies to women on the basis of the family’s moral judgment. Ladies, you can kiss your religious freedom goodbye. Family corporations now rank right up there with the Pope – though don’t be surprised if Pope Francis suddenly discovers that sexual activity is more inclusive than reproduction. Justice Ginsberg’s dissent is well worth the read and borders on the prophetic. The corporate “person” trumps the individual “person” making individual religious freed (or the rights of citizens) a quaint thing of the past. Congressman Boehner need not have tried 140+ times to repeal the Affordable Care Act – SCOTUS has allowed corporations to cherry pick their observance or their denial.
It still bothers me that the Civil Rights Act can be set aside in states where SCOTUS deems that racial bias no longer exists. It has allowed for additional barriers to make universal suffrage not so universal.
One must admit that in colonial times voting was only the right of land owning males. Of course those “land owning males” pledged their fortunes and their sacred honor for the wellbeing of the fledgling state. Do we seriously think we can live 18th century rules with the people of the 21st century when fortunes are to be amassed and honor is up for grabs? At present we seem to be hurdling back to the 1930’s and undoing anything that happened since the Great Depression, ignoring the Great Recession. SCOTUS decided the 2000 presidential election, though the US Constitution provided another way to resolve the issue.
Government by dollars does not seem headed toward “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The Texas Monthly gave a summary of the rule of the state by Rick Perry. They stated that things went well for you if you were a business or wealthy. The average citizen fared far less favorably. Financial studies show that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. I wonder if anyone has stopped to consider what this does to the largest sector of the GNP – consumer spending. That involves people having money to spend and buying goods and services. It does not include off shore accounts. Does SCOTUS have some sense of the US Government serving someone other than big business and deep pockets?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
“We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Doesn’t that sound familiar? Of course it took to a long time to discover “all men” included ALL – and women – and poor – and sick – the laborer as well land owners and managers. This was no document of the Tea Party.