Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson and beyond

The events around Ferguson should cause us to pause and ponder deeply the cultures within our nation that work to wound others. As those not in the courtroom, we do not know all of the information that the Grand Jury pondered, and thus ‘why’ around their decision remains illusive. But there are things we do know. We live in a violent, racist society that takes a deadly toll on all of us. The decision in Ferguson stirs us on many levels and the decision’s tentacles reach far beyond the decision they reached. For those who deeply and personally feel the grief of Michael Brown’s death and his absence in their life, for them those deep wounds are reopened in a painful way. For those who see Michael Brown’s death as a larger social crisis that lives within every city and town in our nation, a death perpetuated by our ongoing racist culture, their anger is refueled, and justly so. With no indictment I imagine, their hopes for a reprieve go unfulfilled once again, and that the reality is, that within our nation there is a disproportionate number of deaths among young African American men, and thus, justice continues to seem denied. This decision reinforces the pain of the many, who are wounded each day by this reality, and their cries of lamentations rise, fueled by anger at a social system that is undeniably stacked toward the privileged. Another tentacle that adds to the tragic circumstances is the inability of our culture to seriously address our capacity to consume and manufacture weapons. We are an armed society and just as sadly, we are a fearful society. At every turn we are instructed to fear the other. Fear is particularly pronounced among the privileged, for they are fearful of the changing world in which they live, and thus, try to enact policies of protectionism. Fear armed with weapons is a deadly combination. It is my deepest prayer that the events, disappointment, anger, and grief can push us toward a plan of reconciliation, addressing the deep challenges of our national life.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tuesday's ponderings

I heard a troubling program on NPR this morning about Alaskans and their attitude toward global warming. Since they are on the front edge of the receiving end of global warming they cannot ignore its immediate impact with the permafrost melting and ice getting thinner. But the program’s conclusion was that Alaskans are more focused on how they can cope with the day- to-day reality of global warming rather than addressing the causes. The image that comes to mind for me in that strategy is when someone is bailing water out of a sinking boat, but does not fix the hole in the bottom of the boat. On Tuesday, while I understand these are non-binding referendum, the voters of Illinois demonstrated that they wanted legislators to address some root causes of poverty, and some of the ongoing root causes of our social fraying. Votes overwhelmingly said yes to: raising the minimum wage, women’s health and birth control, funding mental health services, universal background checks, passing laws that protect voters’ rights. Of course the challenge of these votes is their legislative implementation. But, with these votes legislators were urged to move forward on bills to address these issues. These votes are encouraging and help direct the focus away from our just coping, toward addressing root causes of disenfranchisement for so many people in our state.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

While away on vacation I have been deeply troubled by the events around Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, MO. I have thought of the Three Crosses’ community often and have been holding you in my heart as we watch what has unfolded on the news. There have been many, often dueling narratives put forth around this tragic event. Underlying all of the news stores is the excessive violence in our culture and the acceptable premise that it is justifiable to use weapons against other human beings, even unarmed young men. The use of guns escalates the cycle of violence. There are models in the world where police offices do not carry guns. This country should take note and look at those models. Another worrisome aspect is the headline which said: “Peace and quiet return to the streets of Ferguson.” Peace within a theological setting has always upheld justice. Peace is never seen as a lack of conflict, but rather a state of being where all people experience the justice of God in all aspects of life. True peace is far from Ferguson. This week’s events underscore the real work that our country must do to confront racism and its deep impact upon our culture. The words written on the signs carried by many of the demonstrators ring true: “No Justice, No Peace.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reflection on the War in Israel/Gaza While I would not call myself a world traveler by any standard, I have traveled to a few war torn areas of the world including, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. While in those areas, I saw evidence of the violence; experienced the terror of death squads; and heard stories of how the violence of war ripped through families and how poverty was deeply linked to the violence of the conflicts. While in Gaza, I visited a family of 14 living in a two-room house, with a dirt floor and little to no furniture. The father talked about his inability often to access his worksite because it was in the West Bank, outside of Gaza’s city limits, and many days he could not cross the border. I heard of the lack of medical care for the children and I physically saw the garbage that littered the streets because public services were almost non-existent in Gaza. It was a humanitarian nightmare that still wakes me at night. Then, as well as now, the magnitude of the nightmare leaves little room for one side of the conflict to blame the other to justify the horror that children are enduring. The conflict that is happening right now in Gaza is again reawakening my memory of my visit some 22 years ago and is re-traumatizing me. While I know the reasons behind the offensive in Gaza has a long, complicated, violent and political history, it is my deepest yearnings that the violence will stop; that no more civilians or military personnel will be lost; that a way to peace might emerge.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pride 2014

Celebrating Pride It seems impossible, but last night as Barry was putting up his collections of Pride buttons, getting ready for the 2014 Pride March, I counted off 19 buttons since I saw my first Pride Parade here in Chicago in 1996. What a transition the LGBT movement has made over those years. Who would have thought in 1996 as I was coming out and leaving parish ministry as a result, that in 2014 there would be 19 states and the District of Columbia where gay couples could be married. And every day the courts strike down another attempt by a state’s vote to exclude queer folk from marriage equality. And who would have thought that Barry and I would be married, and our marriage be celebrated in the church! But even as the legal marriage sea quickly changes, there is a need for continued strong advocacy work. Just as we know that changing of laws some 50 years ago did not eliminate racism, neither will the courts’ recognizing marriage equality eliminate heterosexism. That is why we still march, to give voice to our commitment to our LGTBQ brothers and sisters. I have noticed over the years a different crowd standing on the sidelines of the parade cheering the churches on as we march and hold our welcome banners. It is those who still need to see a supportive religious presence for examples (LGBTQ youth and Transgender youth), who still face social pressures to conform to culturally normative lives (whatever that means). We still march to stand in solidarity with those who are hoping for a cold cup of water, a supportive nod from a pastor, a smile, or a “high-five” from someone over 50. One never knows how life-giving our presence might be.