Saturday, November 19, 2016

Actions vs. Words

I posted this to FaceBook today, and I am sharing it here, as well.
This is a long, long post. So take your time, and if you want to read it, make time for the whole thing. This post touches on a few sensitive issues, and I will not tolerate hateful, spiteful comments - they will simply be deleted. I am posting this to my blog as well. 
Many of you know me, so I hope you will read this and understand. I have seen a number of FB posts calling for an apology from the Hamilton cast. (Echoing Trump’s demand). I write this not to approve of or disapprove of the actions of the Hamilton cast (I have no place or power to do that). I write this to bring out the fact that we need to consider the reasons for their action. Reasons which include feeling that this was perhaps the only way they would actually be heard. 
Some people have assumed that the cast took the action they did in order to embarrass VP-elect Pence. I seriously doubt that.
Assumptions are dangerous. 
Some people say that the cast was being “sanctimonious” and that “actions speak louder than words”. 
Well - I await Pence and Trump's actions. So far (and by that, I mean in looking at each of their pre-election records in office and in business). I am sad to say: I am less than impressed. I am making no assumption that they will do things differently than they have thus far, but I do await their actions. 
I came across a post questioning why it is that “liberals think they are the only ones who care about people”. Well, I am a liberal, and I don't think that liberals are the only ones who care about people. I know many conservatives who do care, and who show that in their actions, and I thank them. As far as that “sanctimonious” characterization goes, most of the liberals I work with are hard-working, humble people. As has been said - actions, or the lack thereof, do speak louder than words. So far, in my opinion, Trump's and Pence's actions have not shown any compassion, but rather have served to marginalize many, many already disenfranchised people.
As far as more “actions” speak - In my own work as a pastor, I had many, many counseling appointments in these days immediately following the election, dealing with peoples’ “actions”. Although specifics about this are confidential, I will share that  I have been busy helping people deal with justified fear, anger, terror, and anxiety; and helping them deal with how to respond to being physically attacked, verbally attacked or having had cars and property vandalized simply for being people of color, disabled, female, or part of the LGBTQ community. The attacks have come from people claiming to support Trump/Pence. Then vandalism included "Trump/Pence" names spray painted or carved/scratched into cars, buildings (yes I saw photos).
At the same time, I have spoken with and, I hope helped, people who are angry about the angry response to the election. They are troubled by the protests, and feel that the President and Vice-President elect are not being given a chance.
Yes. Actions do speak louder than words. I do not claim to have all the answers, and I am deeply troubled by this election, the outcome and the response. I sincerely hope that America can survive and overcome the deep hurt and hatred that have surfaced. I will do my best to help us heal and get on with the work.
Protest is our right here in America. But to be effective, and to keep people as safe as possible, there are some steps which should be taken. Here are sage words of advice from Robert Reich about that (I am sharing the content of his post here):
Here's the First 100 Day resistance plan [with thanks to Alan Webber]:
1. Get Democrats in the Congress and across the country to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Prolong the process of approving choices, draw out hearings, stand up as sanctuary cities and states. Take a stand. Call your senator and your representative (phone calls are always better than writing).
2. March and demonstrate—in a coordinated, well-managed way. The "1 Million Women March" is already scheduled for the Inauguration —and will be executed with real skill. There will be “sister” marches around the country—in LA and elsewhere. They need to be coordinated and orchestrated. And then? 1 Million Muslims? 1 Million Latinos? What would keep the momentum alive and keep the message going?
3. Boycott all Trump products, real estate, hotels, resorts, everything. And then boycott all stores (like Nordstrom) that carry merchandise from Trump family brands. See:…/136239…/grabyourwallet-trump-boycott
4. Letters to Editors: A national letter-writing campaign, from people all over the country, every walk of life and every level of society, from celebrities to sports heroes to grassroots Americans. In most papers, the Letters to the Editor section is the most-read part of the paper.
5. Op-Eds: A steady flow of arguments about the fallacies and dangers of Trump’s First 100 Day policies and initiatives, from name-brand thinkers and doers to ordinary folk writing for their city’s or community’s newspaper.
6. Social media: What about a new YouTube channel devoted to video testimonials about resisting Trump’s First 100 Day Agenda? Crowd-sourced ideas, themes and memes. Who wants to start it?
7. Website containing up-to-date daily bulletins on what actions people are planning around the country, and where, so others can join in. Techies, get organized.
8. Investigative journalism: We need investigative journalists to dig into the backgrounds of all of Trump’s appointees, in the White House, the Cabinet, Ambassadors and judges.
9. Lawsuits: Our version of “Drill, baby, drill” is “Sue, baby, sue.” Throw sand in the gears. Lawyers, get organized.
10. Coordinated fund-raising: Rather than having every public-interest group appeal on their own, have a coordinated fundraising program to fill the coffers of the most endangered and effective opposition groups. Is there a way to do a televised fundraiser with celebrities raising money for the Resistance?
11. Symbolic opposition: Safety pins are already appearing. What else? What more? Make the resistance visible with bumper stickers, a label pin, a branding campaign that has great language, great logo, great wrist band (remember the Lance Armstrong “Livestrong” yellow wrist band—it sold millions!).
12. Intellectual opposition: Take Trump on where he’s weakest—with serious ideas. I'll try to do my part. You do yours, too.
13. Serious accountability: Establish performance metrics to evaluate his delivery on his campaign promises. An updated web site of promises made and not kept. This is one especially suited to public policy students.
14. Your idea goes here. Call a meeting of family and friends this weekend. Come up with to-dos.
The First 100 Days Resistance Agenda. We’re not going away.
What do you think?
NPR reporters and editors add context to the legislation and other proposals that the president-elect said he wants to introduce in his first 100 days in office.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sorrow. Grief. 

Once again - the people most hurt, most targeted by so-called Islamic State (IS) / jihadists / are people of the Muslim faith. These were people, families, shopping for the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.


Here is a link to one the most recent updated stories from the BBC about this horrible event:

A horrible reminder that claiming to be of a faith (Muslim or Christian or..?) while carrying out unspeakable acts of violent hatred, does NOT mean that the perpetrators of truly of that faith. In fact - it shows that they are imposters.

It is one of the most insidious tools of evil - to pretend to be good. To pretend to be virtuous. To pretend to uphold "family values", "religious values". It is a lie.

My congregation, my friends, my colleagues sometimes ask in utter frustration and grief - "What can we do? What can I do?"

I have no "cure-all". But I do have the most powerful tool there is. Love. And remember - Love is a verb, an "action word". And that action is not always easy to undertake.

No matter how difficult - we must continue to love and care for and minister to and provide for and listen to and provide for - each other. Whether a friend, a family member or a stranger. We are all neighbors.

While it may seem a small thing - we at Bethel Congregaional Church in Ontario, California will be lighting candles this Sunday, in awareness and remembrance of this and so many other tragedies, and in dedication to following the two greatest commandments.

Come join us. Bring a votive candle, or a tea candle, or a small candle of some kind in a candle holder...Take a stand for love. Come and voice your decision to act in love.

Matthew 22:36-40New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Friday, July 1, 2016

No Compromise - God is for EVERYONE!

As many of you know, I am the Pastor of Bethel Congregational Church, UCC, which is an Open and Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ. Bethel welcomes everyone, and hopes that we can make a difference in our community. We invite you to be a part of things…
There is a post of ours which features a pic of the church (with the prominent Rainbow Flag “God is Still Speaking,” banner) and for which the caption is: “We are a progressive church open to new ideas. If you have been looking for a church and have not found the perfect one, come make a difference at Bethel.”

In response to that post, we recently received the following comment (copied here verbatim – possible typo and all): “So are the compromising the word of God to bring in everybody?”

I am sharing with you my response, which actually received a “thank-you”. I really hope it helped – I have reprinted my reply at the bottom of this post. Looks like my sermon plans for Sunday may include a bit of adjusting…

And - In the meantime, I am personally inviting every single one of you to come to church, be part of the community, be part of the welcoming love of God, and to make a difference. We need all kinds of people – tall, short, young, old, middle-aged, musicians, parents, grandparents, thin, fat, strong, not so strong, vegetarian, vegan, non-vegan, non-vegetarian, questioning, people who can teach Sunday school, people who just want to be part of a community, millennials, senior citizens, everyone in-between…members who are always there, members who sometimes miss, members who only come “every once in a while”… ALL of you – every one of you, is invited, and welcome. Come find out what’s going on, be a part of it, help plan things and carry them out, or just participate in something now and then. There is a place for everyone in God’s love.

Bethel Congregational UCC The word and love of God are for everybody. Those who hate and exclude people are not following the word of God. We believe that God welcomes all, and that it is our task to fulfill that welcome. Yes, we want to "bring in everybody" - and no - that does not compromise the word of God. It fulfills it.