Monday, March 12, 2018

Jesus of Nazareth Didn’t Come to Make Jerusalem Great Again.

Jesus of Nazareth didn’t come to make Jerusalem great again. 

He didn’t promise to build a wall to keep his people safe, in fact, he told them over and over again that they were NOT going to be safe, that they were going to be UNSAFE, and that he knew they were going to be unsafe and he wasn't going to stop it. 

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 5:44, he said “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you” and in the Book of Luke he spelled it out a little more:

Luke 6:27-36
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

Jesus of Nazareth didn't come to pass out hats. He didn't come to defend your right to kill someone who took what was yours.

He came to tell you that you even though the way was narrow, all souls could find a way, and it wasn't through the sword.

It wasn't through the power of your voice, or how clever you were in business.

It wasn't through the gold or the silver or the power you could command.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan wrote a book called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which explores the historical roots of Jesus as a revolutionary figure.

Aslan hates the concept of the modern idea of prosperity gospel-  the idea promoted by some televangelists who say that God wants you to be rich.

“If there’s one thing you can really zero in on when it comes to Jesus’ preachings — I mean the historical Jesus — was his absolute hatred of wealth,” Aslan said. “This wasn’t a man who was neutral about it. Jesus wasn’t about equality. His preaching wasn’t that the rich and the poor should meet in the middle. That’s not what he preached. What he preached was that those who have wealth, that wealth will be taken away. Those who are poor, they shall be the inheritors of the earth.”

Aslan described those ideas as being “as close to Marxism as it gets,” but added that Jesus took the message even further.

“Marxism says we should all be in the middle. Jesus is saying, ‘No, the ones in the top and the ones in the bottom should switch places,’” he said.

Jesus came to speak to the poor.

He came to speak to the tired and the cold and the sick, and the unwanted. He came to speak to those crawling on the ground or walking with two sticks. He wanted to talk to the guy who made beer, and the girl who thought she was ugly, and to the ones who were darker or lighter or of a different tribe from anyone else.

Because he came to be a revolutionary. He came to change the world.

Jesus came to fight for social justice before either of those words existed.

When he started his ministry he didn’t do it the easy way. He didn’t flatter the Romans, or make friends among the rich and wealthy Jews. He didn’t try to get a patron, or to gain enough political influence to smooth his way and let him make change from the inside.

You can’t dismantle the master’s house by borrowing the master’s tools.

No, instead he went to the poor. He gathered his followers from fishermen and laborers, IRS workers, and women from minority ethnic groups. 

This wasn’t a saintly group of wise men in sparkly clean white and blue robes. 

These were the guys from the corner or the street.

McDonalds workers, a garbage man, a girl from a check cashing place, a few guys from a fish market, a pawnbroker, a drag queen, a rap artist, a girl on food stamps. A mechanic, a cowboy, a stripper, a cook.

Honey Boo Boo’s Mom. Dontre Hamilton and the Black Lives Matter Activists.

And he came to tell them not how to live with the system, or how to succeed in the system, but how to destroy the system.

Do not accept things the way they are. Do not accept that getting rich is important. Do not accept that hurting people is acceptable.

Put down your weapons.

The system is broken, he said, and I am coming to bring a new way. What is important is taking care of one another.

Rome wasn’t afraid of Jesus because some said he was the son of a God. Messiahs and demigods were a dime a dozen during that particular period in history. 

Rome was afraid because this man came into a world where income inequality was obscene, where wealth meant power and safety and privilege, and he said to the poor in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let’s just not participate anymore.”

He said to them, “You’ve got it all wrong. Sit down here and let me feed you. Sit down and let me give you a drink and wash your feet.” And when they all could hear him, he said:

Blessed are those who need help, I came for you. Your struggle has taught you so much.
Blessed are those who are sad at the way the world is, blessed are those who have been hurt by the way it all is now, he said, because once you realize it can be different you are going to laugh again.

Blessed are the ones of you who are too gentle to survive the way this system works right now, because you are the people who are going to inherit it all.
Blessed are you who just want to do right, instead of somehow winning, blessed are you who know it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

Blessed are you who understand that taking an eye for an eye just means that we all go blind. Blessed are you who want the best for everyone, and you who want peace. Blessed are you who are willing to stand up and get picked on and still say I won’t perpetuate the system anymore. You get it, you really get it. This is what I came to say.

People are going to pick on you because you believe in the way I’ve shown you- If they’re picking on you good- it means you have it right. It means you aren’t doing it the old way.

If you try to take away privilege from the people in power, and give it to other people, you just perpetuate the same cycle and it all becomes worthless. Instead stand up and shine- let people see that you have chosen another way and that they can too- let them see me through you.

The people who lead you are following the wrong goals, and unless you do better than them, this new movement will fail.”

On Sunday of the last week of his life, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey in peace. The crowds, those fast food workers and drug dealers and insurance salesmen, and pole dancers, and young families, and poor families- they laid palms in the dirt road so he wouldn’t get dusty and they scared Rome and the wealthy political establishment because they were listening to this young Rabbi who told them to do things differently.

By Wednesday, the Jewish High courts had accused him of blasphemy and had him arrested. Like Sandra Bland or Eric Gardner, he was stopped and arrested for something a wealthy politically connected person would have been fined and lectured for.

On Friday he was tortured, and crucified by Rome. He died because he represented a refusal to participate in a rigged system. He died because he told people there could be another way. He died because he refused to stop and politely ask permission to fight for change in a world where people were suffering day after day.

Maybe he was buried in a tomb, maybe not. Catholic scholar John Dominick Crossan finds it hard to believe that he alone was allowed burial, when most political criminals were burned or tossed aside after being left to hang for a time.

But he died.

And on the third day after his death, on the Sunday one week after his triumphant entry into the city, the movement he created was resurrected.

Jesus returned to life in another form, to lead his people once again, to lead them in a new way.

We rejoice on Easter today because of that resurrection. We rejoice because we are inheritors of that message.

The old systems of privilege and power serve only to destroy. Help to change the world, help to support this dream of help for those who need it the most. Christian or not, the resurrection brings hope that the dream is still alive.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

On Easter morning you can say that the light has come, the stone has been rolled away from the door of the tomb and a new way of being has been born into the world.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dear Gun Owner, I Don't Want You to Defend Me

Getty/Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles

It's time to be blunt.

I don't want you to defend me. Yes, you. You, the good guy with a gun.

I don't want you to defend me. I've tried not to say this, but you won't listen any other way, so let me spell it out in simple words.

You are just another thug.

You are just another angry man with a gun, getting ready to kill another human being.

Don't you understand?

I don't want to die. I don't want to be robbed or sexually assaulted or battered. But you are a large part of the reason that I have to be afraid of armed assault.

Without you, and your gun lobby, it wouldn't be so easy to get a gun that criminals can buy them on every street corner.

Without you, and your NRA, no one would be able to buy 10,000 rounds of ammunition with no fuss, no muss, and no waiting. Without you, no one would be able to buy an AR 15 which shoots 700 rounds per minute and can kill an entire classroom of children before the teacher has time to finish reading "One Fish, Two Fish."

Without you, my world would be a safer place.

You are not the strong silent hero. You are not my hero at all, even if you "save" my property, or my life.

You are just another murderous thug.

When the police arrive at my location, their responses will be slowed as they try to figure out who is the shooter and who is the "good guy with a gun."

If there are several of you "good guys," you all have to decide if any one of you is dangerous. Who knows, maybe you will shoot it out. Statistically, you will decide that it's the black guy who is dangerous anyway, even if he is yet another good guy with a gun and the actual shooter is the white guy climbing over the wall back there.

Maybe it's not a lurking criminal you are trying to save me from. Some of you have told me that you must be armed as a militia, to defend me against anything from my own government to imaginary hordes of ravening immigrants all wanting to invade Hartland, Wisconsin, or Blanchester, Ohio, or Middle of Nowhere, Texas.

Let me give you a tip.

You are not a soldier. This is not 1776 or even 1946.

The US military doesn't need you to help them. The US military doesn't want you to help them. You are the tactical advantage equivalent of having Paul Blart, mall cop, on your side.

And fighting the US military? Standing up against them in revolt?

With their GPS guidance and drones, you wouldn't even see the US Military coming. You have an AR 15 and you've shot it a time or even twenty. They have Apache helicopters, tanks, and missile launchers. You work as an accountant. They live this shit.

The only reason tiny militias win anything, right now, is that the US Government doesn't want to murder their own citizens, if they can help it, mainly because its bad for publicity. In an open rebellion situation, you, my confused friend, are going to be a vaguely humanoid grease spot, possibly accompanied by a flattened former AR 15.

And the immigrants? Actually, I like most of them better than I like you.

They aren't waving guns in my vicinity, and most of them just want a job.

Americans are dying in classrooms and in movie theaters. At festivals, and at malls, in restaurants, and churches, and in the streets.

They are dying because of you.

They are dying because of your guns and your irresponsible ownership.

And I don't want you in my country anymore.

Fight for responsible gun ownership, today. Fight for licensing and registration. Fight to get assault rifles back off the streets. Fight for waiting periods and mental health checks.

Change the world, before there are too many more little faces on little crosses propped up outside of big and little schools.

As Jason Shelton writes, "We want our children back, there are too many gone too soon."

-Rev. Amy

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Feelin' Blue and #metoo

When a 5 year old ignores both reality and all vestiges of sanity, it's kind of cute.

"There's no school today. I think the school burnt down."

"The school didn't burn down, let's go. Besides, you have After School movie day tomorrow, and you like movie day."

"It will be fixed by tomorrow."

"Get in the car."

Total shock on 5 year olds face at how you knew the building wasn't gone.

If the tale is harmless, the adult may even play along. But the adult knows the school hasn't burnt down.

Adults know that you can't do whatever you want and make up stories about why it's ok...

At least, some adults know you can't make up stories.

Which brings us to #metoo, because there is a made up story out there and it goes something like this: men have a say in what women do with their bodies.

Storytellers justify that story with a series of sickening spoken and unspoken excuses, most based on one of a selection of simple and non-relevant "becauses":

Because she's my wife, my daughter, my mother. Because I'm not one of those men. Because I am one of those men. Because I know what's best. Because I'm bigger. Because I'm stronger. Because we're religious. Because I say so. Because I'm too weak to stand up to other men. Because I value men more than women. Because I'm too cowardly to take a stand.

Lemme' just school you a little here. Male people, what you have to say or think about women's bodies doesn't matter at all.

No matter who you are. No matter what "because" has oozed out of your mouth or slithered through your mind. No matter what story you are telling yourself and the people in your life.

Listen to this, male people, really listen.

Shut the holy fuck up and open your ears because you need to be woke. Female and femme and even other male people are sick to death of being touched by men without permission. We're sick of behaving as if your ideas about our bodies were meaningful. We're sick of being spoken to as if we were objects. We're sick of being threatened. And we have a real reason to worry about those comments, and looks, and touches, and threats.

1 out of every 5 women is the victim of rape or attempted rape by a male person in her lifetime.

46.4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3% of hetrosexual women report sexual assault other than rape, by a male person, in their lifetime.

We're sick of being told that the world is just like that and because you are not worried about being assaulted then we shouldn't be.

You know what, if you think like that, then FUCK YOU.

No, really.

Rape culture, #metoo culture, hasn't come into being through some random act of God. It isn't a mysterious natural event.

And women are waking up to that fact.

Women are waking up and realizing that we are stronger together. Women are waking up and finally beginning to understand that if men look, if men touch, if men speak to women and femmes and yes, other men, in a way that takes what is not theirs, in a way that sexualizes the space between us without our permission, then we are called to resist.

We are called to resist and to refuse and to do all of the damage that we can do in defense of our own bodies.

In defense of our own lives.

We are allowed to say not just no but hell no.

There are no grey areas here. If you support the men who abuse and assault women, if you deny women the right to claim their own bodies and their own fears because you are not afraid, because you are not threatened, because you do not see the problem, you are every bit as guilty as those who rape and assault.

No more of the old boy network. No more explaining to us why we shouldn't be worried because it doesn't impact you. No more defending your buddy, your brother, your father, your son. No more "men are like that".

Are you really sure that you want to tell women that men cannot behave like human beings?

We know that story isn't true. We already have evidence that plenty of men are kind and decent people who treat everyone like, well, people.

If you are really telling us that some men just can't behave any better, then the solution isn't to tolerate them- it's to cage and control them because they are too dangerous to be allowed to mix with human beings. And if you think all men are like that, then you are part of the problem too.

If some men are perpetrators of sexual violence, and some men support them, and some men are really only uncontrolled animals fixated on breeding, then we can take those men out and get that fixed for them. Veterinarians have been doing it for years and geldings are much more gentle after all. Let's face it, if there is a rabid dog in the street, we don't all wear armor and study up on how to stay safe from dog bites; we go out and shoot the dog.

I'm tired of being told to buy armor instead.

I want to end the need for a hashtag like #metoo, in one generation.

For everyone, not just for women and femmes.

I want to hear a unified message, "If you rape or sexually assault, or if you support the actions of  someone who does, you are not okay. Your beliefs are not welcome, not in our homes, or our schools, or our job sites."

I'm tired of playing Let's Pretend it's all okay, because it isn't and it hasn't been.

I'm sick of rape culture. I'm sick of the need for #metoo.

I want to fix it, now, with your help.

Teach our kids that other people are not there for their gratification.

Teach boys and men that women and femmes do not answer to them, are not owned by them, and do not owe them sex or sexuality.

Believe women when they tell you they are afraid.

Believe that there is no good way to side with a perpetrator.

Stop supporting the perpetrators rather than the victims.

Dare to change the world, because this story isn't a good one, and we all deserve to live, if not happily ever after, at least happily without assault.

Please, help to end the need for #metoo now. Make the world a safer place for all of us.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Facts, and Other Ugly Things

I posted on social media the other day about the devastation in Puerto Rico. I added a picture of the damage, just to illustrate my point.

One of the first responses I got, from a nice, educated, middle-class white woman, was, "I don't believe it."

I looked at the response in confusion. I read it again.

"I don't believe it."

I took a few moments and flipped silently through the hundreds of pictures of the destruction. I read through the CNN and New York Times and even the Huffington Post articles about the loss of the power grid.

I went back and double checked the multiple articles about the hospitals without power, the loss of every patient in an ICU, the deaths due to dehydration.

"I don't believe it."

In four words, the madness which has swallowed our country. Not a mental illness, but an uncaring, willful and wild disconnect from actuality for which we have no other word.

Over the past ten years a growing segment of our population has decided that they have not only the right to their own opinions, but their own facts.That they have a right to look at reality, unfolding before them, in living color and often accompanied by screams, and to say, "I don't believe it."

And the rest of us have allowed it to happen, in the name of peace, and tolerance, and conflict avoidance, and family harmony.

I am not a Democrat, and I am not a Republican, but in the words of Little Steven Van Zandt, "I am a patriot, and I love my country."

So, let me give you some facts. Facts that are verified as far as it is possible to verify them under our given system of scientific law, and our current understanding of the nature of reality.

  • The earth is a globe. It is not flat. It is about 4.54 billion years old.
  • Climate change and global warming are real. Surveys of the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the opinions of experts consistently show a 97–98% consensus among scientists (across the global community) that humans are causing global warming.
  • 57% of Americans do not have a gun in the home, and the US is less than 5% of the world's population, but the US makes up a THIRD of the WORLD'S mass shooting incidents
  • The United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, has about 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns
  • In 2016 in the US there were: 58,782 gun incidents. 15,080 people died of gunshot wounds. 30,616 people were injured. 671 children under 12 were killed or hurt. 3,125 teens were killed or hurt. There were 383 mass shootings. Police officers shot or killed 1,908 people. People shot or killed 325 police officers. There were 2,200 accidental shootings- the rest were deliberate firings, even if not at the actual victim
  • White people have been considered the default "normal" since our country was founded and receive privilege because of this
  • Black people are more likely than white people to be shot by a police officer
  • The US ranks #1 in the world in prisoners held.
  • The US ranks 38th out of 71 nations for math and science
  • The US ranks 44th out of 51 countries for health care efficiency
  • The US ranks 2nd (out of 14 developed countries) for general ignorance about social statistics
  • We rank 101st out of 162 countries for peace
  • We rank 23rd in gender equality
  • 46th in freedom of the press
  • 26th out of 29 developed countries for child well being
  • 24th out of 65 for literacy
  • 27th out of 36 for leisure and personal care time
  • The richest 0.1% in America now control wealth than the bottom 90%
  • Read that again- 160,000 families with net assets over $20 million each, control more wealth than 90% of our country together
  • Our military budget is larger than every other military budget on earth, combined
  • The US was intentionally and specifically NOT founded as a Christian nation
  • Every version and translation of the Christian Bible spells out the following commands: Love your neighbor. Feed the hungry. Comfort and care for the sick and the dying. Care for the children, widows, and orphans. Free the prisoners. Give generously
  • Freedom to PRACTICE your religion is guaranteed in the US. Freedom to impose your religion on others is not.
  • Freedom to protest peaceably is guaranteed in the US
  • Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the US 
  • Working for 40 hours at minimum wage does not allow a person to obtain food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare
  • Undocumented people are providing essential labor that no one else wants to do

What does all of this mean?

It means we are undereducated, and over-worked. It means our children are not cared for. It means that when these same children turn to crime they are drawn into the gaping mouth of a for-profit prison industrial system and sold as commodities. It means that undereducated young people who cannot find jobs are fodder for the military-industrial complex.

It means that our country is owned by the rich, and controlled by corporate conglomerates in their names. It means that our people are dying from lack of affordable healthcare. It means that our people are dying for lack of food.

It means our planet is warming up; our polar ice is melting. It means if we don't do something, very soon, we will reach a point of no return.

It means that you cannot be a Christian if you are working and voting to keep food and medical care from people. It means you cannot be a Christian if you are working or voting to harm your neighbor.

It means that not only are we not #1 we are not in the top 5 and we are falling.

It means that if we, we the people, don't do something, now, we risk losing our ability to do anything ever again.

What should we do? We should fight.

We should fight now.

For opt-out rather than opt-in voter registration
For universal healthcare
For a livable minimum wage
For CEO salary caps and wage ratios
For House and Congressional term limitations
For educational funding
For gun control laws and the disbanding of the gun lobby
For pharmaceutical reform, and the disbanding of the for profit drug industry
For the lives of people of color
For the lives of people with disabilities
For the right to be free of the imposition of religious practices or laws

For all of us.

Believe it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Healing the Cracks- Yom Kippur, Forgiveness, and UU

Take a china plate, and smash it on the ground. Gather up all of the pieces, even the tiny ones, almost too small to see.

Tell it that you’re sorry, and really mean it.

Did it make a difference?

Today I want to talk about breaking and healing. We’re also going to talk about burritos, wolves, and the Japanese art of kintsugi, but it wouldn’t be one of my messages if we didn’t.

There’s been a lot of conversation over the last ten years about where Unitarian Universalism falls on the religious spectrum.

We’re Protestant. We’re Post-protestant. We’re post-Christian. We’re post-modern. We’re a religion, we're a denomination, we’re a movement.

What we’re not, is good at talking about what to do when we have screwed up and offended against our own personal values.

Some versions of Christianity have dogma that says that humans are inherently sinful, that because the first man and first woman screwed up we are all born needing to be cleaned. For some Christians the answer is Jesus- the messiah who washes away all of the sin we’re born with and those we add on later. This is substitutionary atonement, a loving God providing humanity with the only sacrifice large enough to equal all of the sin that ever will be. 

For some of us, this makes sense. For others, Jesus’s crucifixion, suffering, and death are the expected end result of the life of a radical young Rabbi, and the time and political system in which he lived. For some of us, his life and death may have great meaning, but are not ways to erase any wrongs we have done.

Even in mainstream Christianity, however, there are rituals around this forgiveness. 

This atonement.

 Most basic is some group's belief that saying aloud or in your heart that you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is enough, at least to begin. For them it is enough to claim the forgiveness you have already received.

Another simple set of Christian words to request forgiveness is The Lord’s Prayer from the book of Matthew: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The forgiveness is there, but you have to ask for it, and like our broken plate just saying words doesn’t make it all better. You have to believe.

Judaism, too, recognizes atonement. I've spoken a lot about Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. The time when the year is done and you are ready to go forward. Yom Kippur comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah and it is the day when you forgive and make it possible for others to forgive you. The day when you atone for your wrongs, and when you accept the atonement of others.

And they’ve got something there, the people who participate in Yom Kippur, something that we need. Not to appropriate in an act of theft, but to understand, and to use as a starting point in approaching forgiveness, and atonement. Something that we can use no matter if we believe in God Almighty, or Divine Humanity, a mother Goddess, or nothing much at all.

Yom Kippur gives us a way to deal with sins, those offenses we make against our beliefs, our Divine, and ourselves, a way to deal with our sin without violating our belief in individual worth and dignity.

It’s funny- as I was writing these words and thinking about sin and forgiveness, I remembered when Chipotle Mexican Grill first opened near me, about 17 years ago. (Here come the burritos.)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the chain, Chipotle specializes in huge burritos, and when I say huge I mean wrap it in a blanket and people will think it’s a newborn huge. These were the first burritos this size anyone in my neighborhood had ever seen, and it quickly became a thing for some of the very athletic people I worked with to eat a whole one with double meat plus chips and salsa at one sitting.

So this slender marathon runner from my office would run his noon-time laps around the parking lot, and then run up to Chipotle and get his food and he would dash back to eat with us. It was like watching wolves in a National Geographic special, as pounds of meat just disappeared before our eyes, and by the time he stood up this healthy athletic man had a tight belly pushing against his waistband. He was literally bulging with food, weighed down by what he had taken in.

He couldn’t run after lunch on those days. For two or three or even four hours he was pregnant with that food, slow moving with that weight sitting in his gut.

And then it would digest, and he would be himself again.

Food digests quickly, and when I get too full it is a simple thing to wait a few hours and feel right again.

But when my life gets too full, too weighted down, digestion takes a little more effort.

Our burritos are stuffed full of jobs and families, friends, and co-workers. They are sauced with social media, spiced up with news blasts of Syria and the middle east, of crime and punishment and politics and sex and relationships. Day after day we do our best but the world is hectic and sometimes we take bite after bite after bite of life until we are the ones who feel like wolves at a kill, staggering away with bellies dragging the ground, almost too weighted down to move any more.

There is an old children’s story that some of you may know. A monkey sees a jar filled with nuts, and thrusts his hand into the jar to grab a fist full. He grabs as many as he can hold, but now his overloaded hand won’t fit back through the mouth of the jar. Unwilling to let go, the poor monkey sits and cries, and cannot enjoy even one nut.

Relaxing our fists and letting go of some of our treasures isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to enjoy any of them.

Recognizing the ideas behind Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur isn’t about dates. It doesn’t matter when, as long as it’s about the same time every year.

Pick a date that works for you. January 1st is fine, Rosh Hashanah is fine. It is the end of the old, the time when you stop eating the burrito, the time when you recognize that you cannot withdraw your hand, that your belly is dragging the ground.

And you reclaim the power to let it go.

You take a week or ten days and you examine the previous year. You pick up the shreds and shards of all the plates you have smashed, you digest the burrito.

You walk away from the wolves’ kill.

And when you are ready, there is Yom Kippur.

The day of atonement.

The day when you empty yourself of the weights you have been carrying. All the slights and screw ups of our overflowing lives.

The day when you say “I’m sorry,” and “Forgive me,” and “I forgive you.”

There is a Jewish prayer called the Kol Nidre, which means “all vows”. It is a prayer asking the Divine to release us from all sacred vows we made this past year, and to allow us to start fresh. These are not promises to people, but are promises we made for how we would act in the world based on our view of what is Divine. This is a rough translation:
"In the court of heaven and the court of earth, by the permission of God—blessed be He—and by the permission of this holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with those who have erred."

"All vows, obligations, oaths, and things we swore were forbidden, by any name, which we may vow, or swear, or pledge, or whereby we may be bound, from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await), we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths."

"And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that travels among them, seeing all the people were in ignorance."

This means that we recognize that people screw up. That we are imperfect, with no capacity for absolute perfection. It means that we are saying aloud “I promised stuff this year- I said that I had specific values and beliefs, and I didn’t always live up to them.”

And I recognize this.
And I should be forgiven.
And I’m going to start over.

It doesn’t matter what belief system you are working within. For a Christian who believes that Jesus’s suffering and death atone, then maybe this is the time of year to contemplate where you have fallen short of your personal beliefs this year, to recognize that you are granted forgiveness through grace, and to resolve to begin again.

For a Buddhist this is a time for mindful contemplation of the past year’s unskillful or unwholesome acts, and a place to begin seeking greater wisdom.

For a Wiccan you might choose to recognize the turning of the wheel on one of the Greater Sabbats, and for a humanist this might be a time for thoughtful assessment of how you are living up to your stated values.

The specifics don’t matter.

One of the things that does matter is willingness, to both forgive and be forgiven for those moments when things didn’t happen the way they should have.

But this is often where the problems start, where I clench my fists tight and hold on to those nuts.

Because I don’t deserve forgiveness or I don’t think I get to say if I should be forgiven.
Because they don’t deserve forgiveness and I don’t want to let go.

You know what? It doesn’t work that way.

I can keep punishing myself, but I can’t control how the people I’ve wounded feel. If I am sorry for what I’ve done, and I recognize where I broke my vows to myself and my world, and I resolve to do better to the best of my ability, then it is enough.

And I can try to punish others for what they have done to me, I can hold hatred and anger in my heart, and then what?

I am hate filled and angry, and they are still themselves.

Forgiveness of others isn’t about whether or not they deserve it- it is about releasing their hold on my life.

The burrito weighed me down, I digest it, and it is gone.

So I pick up the plate I have broken, collecting every shard and shred, and I say I’m sorry. That is Rosh Hashanah.

But then I go a step further.

In Japan there is an art form called kintsugi, the art of repairing with gold.

So I take that plate, the one we broke way back at the beginning of this page, and I use pure gold to form seams everywhere it is broken. I do not try to hide the damage but I heal the cracks using something more precious than the original materials. When I am done, it is a priceless work of art.

That is Yom Kippur.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Playing Life on the Hard Setting

I just finished reading a lovely article on UU Worship Web. It's here: and I highly recommend it. It gets it mostly right, and that is rare.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. I have a disability or two.

That sentence, of course, is normally the point where I find out exactly how ableist the people around me are.

"You're not really; I mean, it's not like you're in a wheelchair."
"No one would ever know if you didn't tell them."
"Don't say anything and no one will find out."

Why would I care if someone knew that my body operated under a different owner's manual? I admit I am playing life on the hard setting, but my body is no less important and good than anyone else's (and no more important or good either).

I don't care if anyone knows the handicap I am playing under. I just want to play the game.

Of course, my life game is more challenging than others at times, because I live in a world optimized for an able-bodied experience.

I am hearing impaired. My husband is deaf. I have 40% of my hearing; he has about 15%.
I have Lupus Anticoagulant Syndrome. This means that sometimes I get tired. I have Hashimoto's encephalopathy, and no thyroid or parathyroids. This means that sometimes my legs don't work so well and sometimes neither does my heart. Sometimes I overheat, and sometimes I cannot get warm. My vocal chords have been damaged by the surgeries, so sometimes breathing can be tough, and sometimes sounds don't come out just right. Sometimes my medications make me very ill. Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom over and over again. Sometimes I can't go.

My husband has had a hip replacement, and he has scoliosis and asthma.

My medications fill a wheeled suitcase. The mobility scooter fills the back of the SUV. The nebulizer fits in there somewhere.


What does it mean to be disabled in an ableist world? What does it mean to be starting the game with fewer lives and a lot more things ready to attack you?

It means people get it wrong, even when you are surrounded by people desperately trying to get it right.

It means eating at the same place for lunch every single day, while attending an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, multicultural seminary, because my disability does not allow me to reach anywhere else in the time allotted, and there is no reasonable way to order food delivered to the ultra-secure building.

It means not being able to hear opening worship at a conference, despite requesting adaptive equipment a month in advance, because it wasn't a priority and the organizers forgot it.

It means registering for Ministry Days at the General Assembly of my faith, and finding out that the hearing adaptive equipment we'd reserved was a quarter of a mile away, on another floor. Another year it meant getting to the Opening Reception and finding out that the registration we needed to do first was a quarter of a mile away. When we got there, it was up a staircase where the mobility scooter could not go. There were elevators, of course, but they were all the way back by the reception. You see, no one thought enough about people with hearing and mobility disabilities being included to make sure that this didn't happen.

Disability means having seminary welcoming rituals on a sandy beach, in "easy walking distance" from the parking lot and standing for over an hour and not feeling very welcome at all as you fight to keep from falling down or sitting down on wet cold ground with legs that don't stand so well. It means listening as new classmates offer soft sentences about their hopes, which you cannot hear because using a microphone would spoil the naturalness of the event.

Disability means fighting to hear the retreat speaker who refuses to use a microphone because the room isn't that big, and knowing that you have paid $375 to watch his mouth silently move.

It means having my expensive hearing aids become ear plugs in a huge echoing room with a booming sound system, because no one thought that not having a T-Coil loop was a dealbreaker.

Disability is trying to open a bathroom door from your mobility scooter, only to find out that the impressive potted plant beside the door blocks the only possible angle that would allow you easy maneuvering and so you have to wait and ask someone else to hold it for you please. It's finally getting inside and realizing that there is one handicapped stall and while you can fit inside, you can also either transfer to the toilet safely or choose to close the door. Disability is wetting your pants because the one handicapped stall is filled by three teenage girls trying on their new t shirts and giggling.

Disability is realizing that the only door in a huge Convention Center which allows a mobility scooter to exit without assistance is at one end of a mile long building. Disability is thinking about fire over and over again.

Disability is spending months and hundreds of hours helping to organize a conference as a volunteer and finding out at the last minute that they will not pay for a private room, even though you have to bring thousands of dollars worth of drugs, some with needles and some difficult to obtain, and some with catastrophic side effects and all of them essential which means that if a roommate is careless, if a roommate spills or steals or leaves a door open accidentally, you could die in the space between the insurance company and the time it takes to replace what you had. Disability is being told that it isn't fair that you need such a thing and that you will have to pay for the other half of the room you need because the group isn't going to treat you specially. Disability is being told that everyone gets half a room and why should you be any different. Disability is being asked to pay $372 for the privilege of volunteering.

Disability is an ongoing part of my life.

Years ago, Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story called Harrison Bergeron. Find it and read it if you haven't already.

It's about a dystopian world where everyone is equal, and no one can do something better than the person who does that thing the worst.

Graceful people are weighted down. Brilliant people have their thinking disrupted. Clear sighted people are fitted with distorting lenses.

You get the idea.

The world of Harrison Bergeron is a nightmare.

It's not any world I would want to live in.

Fighting ableism isn't about stopping people from doing everything their bodies can do. It isn't about holding people back so that they aren't doing more than me.

You can say deaf. You can ask me if I heard something.

You can't use the phrase "fell on deaf ears" without sounding like you think not hearing is a choice, or that deaf people just aren't paying attention.

You can walk and run and kickbox, and you can talk about these things.

You can't can't use the inability to do them as a metaphor for not WANTING to move, or not choosing to see, or any other thing which implies that the conditions some bodies have can stand in as short hand for "like us normal people only worse"

I am playing life on the hard setting because life is optimized for the able-bodied. I'm not asking for the able-bodied to be given a handicap. I'm demanding to be given a game controller that allows me to play with everyone else.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Micah 6:7-9 (21st Century King James Version )(KJ21)
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
9 The Lord’S voice crieth unto the city (and the man of wisdom shall see Thy name): “Hear ye the rod and who hath appointed it!

Micah 6:8 gets tossed around a lot. What a reading- everything neatly packaged like a big Christmas gift. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

Whammo. Got it.

Neat. No loose ends.

Now let's talk about the rest of it. Let's talk about the not so neat parts.
The parts that talk about trying to buy off God.

Let's talk about Micah 6:7.

The question is simple. If I make a lot of money, or manage to scrape together a large amount of property, and I give it all to the church, or I use it all for charity work, is that enough for God? I mean, I don't really have to think about why I'm doing this, right?

If I give away or give up precious metals, and fancy cars, expensive perfume, and designer clothes, won't God be happy then?

What if I make my kids go to church? You know- make them live by the Word and read all the important stuff and generally let everyone know that they are right up tight with the whole idea of doing the right thing and living the right way?

Isn't that enough? I mean, it sure as hell seems like a lot and anyway people would see me doing it and know...



It isn't enough. It isn't even relevant.

You have been told what you need to do, and God ain't about that life. God doesn't care if you give away a million, if you do it to feed your ego and buy a place in some angel-winged after world.

Do justly. Do justice. Do what is right. Maybe what is right is giving away that million, but only if you are expressly, specifically, giving it away because and only because it IS right.

Not for the Board seat.
Not for the adulation or the attention.

Not to impress the wife or the friends.

Not begrudgingly or angrily or with a sense of "what's in it for me?"

Do justice. Period full stop. God doesn't want a sacrifice. God doesn't have a price tag you can pick up and fulfill. God isn't for sale.
And what about "love mercy"?

No be merciful, or try not to hurt people unless they really deserve it, but "LOVE MERCY."

Hunger and thirst for a chance to be kind. In Hebrew, "Love mercy" is hesed, which translates literally as "loyal love" or "loving kindness". It isn't about what is fair or deserved; this conversation was a reminder to Israel that what mattered most was a change of heart. What mattered was allowing other people to matter.

Be kind because it nourishes you. Be kind not for a return, but because you can be no other way.

And the last piece. The hard one.

Walk humbly with your God.

Open up your heart and realize that no amount of things you can give could ever be enough to buy off God. God is there with you, walking with you, because you are enough. Don't get big headed about it. You are what you were created to be.

You want to get it right?

Look in three places.

Do justice in the world. Love mercy in your heart. Look upward to God in humility.

You'll be ok. You got this.