Monday, June 12, 2017

Pulse: A Year Later


The bells of St. John's Episcopal Church solemnly tolled 49 times at noon today, the one year anniversary of the deadly hate crime committed against the black and Latinx LGBTQ+ community in Orlando's Pulse nightclub. Each echoing ring a remembrance of one of the people killed that night by a twisted and angry individual armed with an assault rifle. The attack shocked all of us who identify as LGBTQ+ because clubs such as Pulse have traditionally been the places that have harbored us, especially when we are young and just beginning to understand our orientation and identity.

I lit a rainbow candle and then sat quietly on a bench in the church's columbarium, closing my eyes to pray as the bells sounded. I couldn't remember all the names of the dead, but I could remember their faces. Most were so young, not even yet 30 years old. And there was the one name and face I could remember: Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, a mother of eleven children and a two-time breast cancer survivor who had gone out to the Latin Night at Pulse with her gay son. They were there to celebrate Orlando's Pride Week. When the gunman began his shooting spree, Brenda reportedly told her son to get down, and put her body in the way of the bullets. I began to sob, my tears co-mingling with the misty rain.

How much more death?
How much more grief?
How little progress have we made since that horrible night?
How? How? How?

Even since Pulse, there still have been violent shooting incidents in this country. None with same body count, but every incident--in Illinois, Texas, California, New York, Alabama--all of those killed had a family that is left to bury their dead and grieve that loss.

There was no will power to address the issue during the Obama administration. And now, we have the NRA's poster child in the White House, and federal lawmakers are actually proposing legislation to relax some of the restrictions on guns. Even Florida Congressman Neal Dunn (R-D2) has signed on to a bill to make it easier to purchase silencers. In our state legislature, there were twice as many pro-gun laws proposed to the ones that were gun control measures. Thankfully, a couple of Republican lawmakers from South Florida complained of "gun fatigue" which resulted in many of the bills dying quietly in committee.

But for Florida to have done nothing to address gun violence after Pulse is...well...repulsive. If any state should be taking the lead on limiting people's access to these weapons of warfare such as the one used at Pulse it should be Florida. I'm losing patience with politicians who want to offer their remembrances of this tragic day.  I would rather they use the power given to them by the voters to do something constructive to stem the violence. No citizen needs to own an AR-15 or any other multiple-shooting device. There is also technology in the works that will make it harder for someone other than the actual owner of a weapon to fire it. These types of technological developments deserve funding and support.

As the bells finished tolling, and I wiped away my tears, I felt a sense of peace come over me. I prayed the Lord's Prayer with special emphasis...

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.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.




Monday, April 24, 2017

St. Thomas and The March for Science


I couldn't help myself this past Sunday.

Our deacon finished reading the assigned Gospel lesson from John, which is always the story of the apostle, Thomas, who insists that he must be able to see Jesus for himself and stick his fingers in his wounds in order to believe that Christ really had risen from the dead. I leaned over to one of my fellow choir members, a scientist, and whispered:

"Thomas just wanted peer review."

Joking aside, I think there's definitely an element of truth to that idea. All the other apostles had seen the resurrected Jesus, and were telling him all about it. But Thomas had his doubts about the veracity of their statements and wanted proof.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:24-29)

Whenever I hear people talk about this story, it's always presented as "doubting Thomas," as if there is something wrong with him. If Thomas had had more faith, then he wouldn't have needed this proof. And maybe it was just the juxtaposition of hearing this Gospel story after spending a few hours of my Saturday marching in Tallahassee along side scientists and science lovers that I gained a new insight into one of my favorite apostles. I've liked Thomas because of this moment of being so completely real to the way we are as humans and having our doubts about something we haven't seen for ourselves.

And, if we think about Thomas as if he really were a scientist requiring an extra study to prove this "fact" that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, then his doubt can be seen as a legitimate and necessary inquiry. Certainly, Jesus didn't seem to have a problem appearing again for Thomas' benefit, and even challenged him to follow through on the experiment he wanted to do of sticking his fingers and hand into his wounds. Thomas doesn't; the appearance alone was enough for him to say, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus gives him the nudge: "Oh, so now because you have seen me you believe. Blessed are the ones who haven't been so lucky and yet have come to believe."

In his sermon at our church (which happens to be St. Thomas Episcopal Church), Bishop Scott Benhase drew the distinction between having "belief" and having "faith." "Belief" is about having certainty and proof of a truth beyond a shadow of a doubt. "Faith" requires a trust in the movement of God's grace in our lives. Thinking of this moment again with Thomas...his need to experience the risen Jesus first-hand, and not just hear the stories from his fellow apostles...speaks to Thomas wanting a verifiable truth that would fit with his belief system. And you can imagine, he must have believed what made the most sense to him and to any rational person: there is no way Jesus defeated death because nobody does that. Thomas must have thought the rest of the apostles were high.

But the other part of faith, and definitely the way of Jesus, is to not fit into our rational idea of what constitutes "the way things are" because faith, and most definitely Jesus, doesn't adhere to those kinds of rules. As the prophet Isaiah said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord." The whole mission of Jesus is to turn our belief, that commitment to concrete answers and certitude, on its head and get us to give up on the mission to find "the truth" in favor of trusting in God's unending revelation of truth through faith. That's the work of grace.


This is where the sciences, and the scientists, come in. There's been such bad blood between those who make it their life's work to search out truth, in the universe or the earth or the seas or the mind, and those who are content to live into a hope that trusts God will unveil all things in God's time. I'm sorry there's been such a binary split between science and religion that people tend to pick sides and set up straw men that they can knock down to prove that they're right and the other side is wrong. Personally, I think God loves scientists as much as any other group and delights in their Thomas-like inquiry and demand for proof, and seeking out signs that point to a "truth." Scientists are the ones cracking the codes of the mysterious for us. They are helping us to find out more about our world, our ecosystems, and how to be the good stewards of this planet we were commanded to be. And, for me, rather than their discoveries proving there is no need for a belief in God, I think they're just taking us deeper into the mystery. It's like one of those Russian dolls where you open one, there's another one. And another one. And another one. It's endless! Once a hypothesis is tested, and tested again, and the "truth" remains elusive, the best scientists are the ones who eventually say, "We just don't know."

Here enters faith and the hope and trust that it's OK not to have all the answers. And this is the place where I believe God meets us to say, "You don't know it all. But keep going. Keep probing. Keep seeking. I'm here. And I delight in your curiosity!" Science is cool. So is God.




Friday, April 14, 2017

Intersections: A Good Friday Sermon

We are at a crossroads. Today we commemorate Jesus’ execution at Calvary. Fortunately, for those of us who are believers in Jesus as the Son of God, we know that this is not the summation of the events of this week. If our story ended with the crucifixion, I’m not sure that we’d still be here some two thousand plus years later remembering this man’s sacrifice for humanity.  I have yet to run across Christians who gather in a building called “The Church of the Crucifixion” because the saving power of God doesn’t remain nailed to a cross but comes through the rising and resurrection and the victory of love and life over sin and death.
But we aren’t there yet…and I don’t want to skip passed this chapter in the story to get to the triumphant conclusion too soon. And there’s a lot we can unpack out of this moment.

I mentioned crossroads but perhaps a better term is “intersection.” We have several players here: the Roman authority with Pilate and the guards. The “Jews”…which in this case were really the subset of the power elite in the Jewish community…Jesus’ mother Mary, and the beloved disciple… John…along with Mary Magdalene and another Mary…two criminals, who we assume are in fact criminals, being executed with Jesus on either side, Joseph of Arimathea….and Nicodemus…who we remember from early on in John’s Gospel as the man who visited Jesus at night to have an intellectual conversation…only to find his mind blown up by this new rabbi on the block.
For the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus represents a threat. This Jesus challenges their earthly authority. The Romans barely tolerated having Jews in the empire to begin with and the Jewish leaders had worked out a tenuous balance that kept them in power amongst their followers and kept things comfortably safe. Jesus disrupts that…constantly challenging people to look beyond the letter of the law to see what is the spirit behind it: that they are to release the captives, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and above all, that they are to love God and one another as he has loved them. Jesus challenges the status quo and the two groups most invested in keeping their power structure in place intersect to bring him down.

At the foot of the cross we have some of those who were among Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus, while hanging there dying a slow and painful death, looks down to see his mother and his beloved disciple.  To her he says, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple he said, “Here is your mother.” Through him…these two lives have intersected and now must cleave to one another in love as they prepare to grieve this loss.
While it’s not in this account, we know from Luke’s telling of the crucifixion that the two criminals on either side of Jesus were having their own moment with the Messiah. One is jeering him and taunting him, but the other scolds his fellow inmate and pleads with Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. And the dying Jesus promises that this man will be remembered in paradise. Another intersection…here it’s a man who, in his darkest hour, recognizes and expresses a belief in Christ and the one who goes to his death mocking Jesus in his unbelief.

Jesus dies and from the shadows we have the emergence of Joseph of Arimathea to ask that he be allowed to take possession of Jesus’ body so that he might give him a proper burial. And then Nicodemus also overcomes his fear to assist Joseph and prepare Jesus’ body for the grave. Two men…who had previously been lingering in the distance…draw near…intersect and do this honor for a respected teacher.

Jesus is at the center of all these intersections: enemies, friends, believers and non-believers, the curious, the ones who are afraid. In his death…as he did with his life and ministry…he is leading them through a life-altering transformation that becomes complete with his resurrection.  Even some of the ones who are actively participating in putting him to death will not escape being changed.  The temple curtain in the holy of holies will tear in two…bringing heaven and earth in closer contact…the ground will shake. And some who had been content to mock Christ in his life will be left to wonder if they hadn’t just made a terrible mistake.

Probably the biggest intersection in this story comes not so much from the Gospel directly, but the interpretation of the story throughout the millennia. (You’ll be happy to know that the Education for Ministry group over at St. Thomas has been reading a book examining atonement theories, so the timing of our study couldn’t be better with this being Holy Week!) I’ve often heard it said that we killed Christ. We are the ones who gave him up and allowed our fear of change to put him on the cross. I’m not saying that’s not a valid interpretation of us and our role here, but I think if we separate ourselves from Christ in this intersectional moment we’re missing out on the “good” of this Good Friday.

I believe that St. Paul was on to something in his letter to the Romans: if we profess a faith in Jesus’ life and love, and have been striving to do his will, then we are becoming ‘at one’ with Jesus because we are in relationship with him. And if we are one with Jesus through our baptism then we are also one with him in his death and resurrection. We are in that relationship constantly…it’s not just a one-off and we’re done.  Jesus takes us with him through his own bondage of sin and death so that we, too, may rise with him from the grave…and live into the liberating love of God. And once we’ve experienced that sense of freedom we are prepared to carry it forward to everyone we encounter. That is Good News!

This intersection, the one where Jesus is meeting us in our present lives and working through us…crucified/resurrected…crucified/resurrected…crucified/resurrected…is often the one where we stall.  We sit at the traffic light too long wondering if that green light means it’s safe to go. Or maybe we’re not paying attention and we’ll just look at the phone in our laps and ignore the light altogether. Because to step on the gas means we have to leave the spot we’re in and travel in a different direction than what we’re used to. We may encounter something or someone new. We will be changed.

If we are deeply committed to being Christian, and remaining in relationship with Christ, then we will, by necessity, undergo this transformation that comes from dying to our old selves and habits and fears and prejudices and resurrecting to a new way of living, and of seeing ourselves and other people, not as strangers, but as fellow travelers loved unconditionally by God. The more we are willing to let Christ carry us through our various types of crucifixion to resurrection, the more we become refined and primed to offer back to our world, our friends and neighbors, the same love that was in Christ. This is what empowers us to speak up at times of injustice, reach out to the people in need and on the margins, meet and embrace the person who we think of as “the other”: politically, racially, ethnically, sexually, mentally…you name it.

We need what our Presiding Bishop calls “The Jesus Movement” where we meet our neighbors wherever they are on their spiritual journey…from those who share our belief in Christ, or worship God by another name, and even those of no-faith at all…and build relationships with them deeply rooted and grounded in the love and grace we have been shown through Christ. This is how we continue that good work of God to change our world for the better. If we can die to fear and resurrect in faith, we will be doing our part to make earth as it is in heaven. So let us pray for our human family:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Power of Transfiguration

We are fast approaching Lent, and that means we are at the moment in the Sunday lectionary where we hear the story of Jesus on the mountain transfigured before Peter, James, and John who hear from on high the booming voice telling them, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." Jesus is appearing ablaze with the two most revered prophets of the Jews, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, in conversation with him. It is an incredible sight. And, because this is many thousands of years ago, there was no way to go live on Facebook to prove that it happened. No Twitter. No Instagram. No Snapchat. So we have to rely on the Evangelist's account, and for those who are believers in Jesus and followers of Christ...that account is enough. Smiley emoticon. Like button thumbs up.

I have heard this story countless Last Sundays in Epiphany. It is a reminder that God so ordained Jesus as God's Beloved at his baptism in the Jordan River. But now, this moment of transfiguring, a type of transformation, is something more. I guess one way to see this is a bit like Jesus having his confirmation service, or, since he was a Jew, this is his Bar Mitzvah and this moment with Moses and Elijah may have been the blessing to embark on what must have seemed like a daunting mission. I can only imagine this conversation: 

"You, Jesus, Beloved Son of God, will teach this stubborn people to love one another in ways that you will love: healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, going into spaces and conversing with people whom the religious utter purists have rebuked. You will do this in a hostile environment of Roman authoritarianism. You will be doing the unexpected. And in doing all of this, you will be both loved by some, and feared and hated by others. And you will die for it. But trust, Jesus. Trust in God the Father. Because you know that God is within you and will be the power to raise you up. Trust. Teach. Live. Love."

This is the type of transfiguring power Christ has passed along to us in the Church. We, too, are the new beloved sons and daughters of God, and as the ones who are marked and sealed both into the death of Christ, so are we also brought into his abundant life. We are given life so that we may also love one another as Christ has loved. That means we respond to people when they are in need. When they are sick and suffering, we heal and comfort. When they are feeling alone and abandoned and afraid, we go to them and remind them that we are with them. And we do this whether the person worships in the pew with us, or doesn't dare get near any house of worship. And beautiful things can happen when we allow ourselves to be transfigured and fall in love with Love. We can change, and in that changing, we can become more ourselves.

Today, I spent time listening to the stories of transgender people. For those who might have missed the latest horrible news from our president who said "the gays love me," during the campaign: the Republican administration is ending a federal order that protected transgender kids by allowing them to use the bathroom and locker room at school that corresponded with their gender, not necessarily their anatomy. The administration says this is a "state's rights issue." But really it's a return to the days where transgender kids feel unsafe at school, a place most kids spend seven to nine hours a day. It's returning to a time when we define the bathroom as that public space so dangerous that we must separate the sexes and the races. Remember when blacks couldn't use a restroom because it was for whites only? (Truthfully, I don't remember those days because I was thankfully born after that time and in a place where that type of segregation didn't exist). 

As I listened to their stories, how much they suffered just to become the people that they are today, I could identify with that pain. Like them, I have been through those days in the desert attempting to deal with all the many voices and messages that would make me doubt the transfiguring nature of knowing that I was "different" and having no one affirm that. And like those who spoke today, I emerged from those pits of hell to become who I am: an out, proud, queer, Christian. And I am still on a journey with God to discover more of the ways that I can live into being who God has intended me to be.

For any Trans person out there who might stumble upon this entry, please know that God is glorified in your transfiguring moments of discovering who you are...who you really are. Do not let false messages and mean-spirited people tell you that you are not loved by God or that "God doesn't make mistakes" as if you are somehow some kind of human experiment gone awry. You are the clay being refined and made into a beautiful vase. You are God's beloved, and God is pleased to join in your transfiguration, so that you can share your love with the hurting world that needs it. Stay strong!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly With God

Father, forgive! 
Tonight, I lit a candle for my country. For all of us. I sat with my phone tuned into Facebook and participated in prayers offered by my friend Robert. As our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said, what Christians do is that we pray. We send up petitions to God in the hope and trust that our collective cry will be heard. And once we've prayed, we must act. 

Prayer is not a monologue; it is a dialogue and is meant to give us the calm and the strength to go out into the world in peace and bring light to the darkened streets. And on this night, like last Saturday when millions of us marched for women world-wide, I saw hundreds, if not thousands, being the light crowding Terminal 4 at JFK airport in New York to protest the executive order of our new president to crack down on refugees coming from seven predominantly Muslim countries, leaving even dual citizens and green cardholders stranded at customs. There are crowds gathered at other international airports in Dallas, Boston, Washington, and San Francisco chanting to let the people come in. Foreign nationals are posting that they are among those currently trapped in limbo, unable to get back to their families, their homes, their jobs. The president even went so far as to order that universities release the immigration status of their college students. The University of Michigan has said it will not give up that information.

The president? Of the United States? Asked for immigration status of college students? This is surreal, and, sadly, it is true. More candles. More lights. More tears for what is happening to my country.

Tomorrow morning, I will be reading the assigned lesson from the prophet Micah. It contains one of the most famous and repeated statements from the Hebrew Scriptures to us Christians, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with God?" (Micah 6:8) If I were to take each of those parts and apply them to today's news, it's enough to set my hair on fire. How is it justice to deny people who are not criminals re-entry into the country that, for some of them, is the only home they've ever known because it was their parents who came over here first? To love kindness, to me, would require us to dip back even further into our Judeo-Christian tradition to remember that we were once the strangers in Egypt. And even in the First Century, the followers of The Way were a persecuted and tormented minority group within the Roman Empire. In fact, as I have noted, Jesus was an early proto-type of what it is to be part of a Resistance Movement. And his movement was entirely based on loving God to the fullest extent. In doing that, one could (and should) feel love toward others...all "others" in the society. And that's when one can walk humbly with God as we step beyond our own egos, our own comfort zones, and enter into the experience of the other to be a friend, a mediator, an advocate. In other words, we finally live into our call to be Christ in the world. If we commit ourselves to follow this directive, how can we not see how the actions taken against foreigners and refugees flies in the face of our Judeo-Christian ethic?

Tomorrow's Gospel lesson is the Beatitudes from Matthew. I challenge us to read these words aloud as we think about the chaos caused by our president:

"Blesssed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 

 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 

 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 

 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 


These words of Jesus are for me the song of my heart and that of so many of us who believe in his mission of Love, inclusion, and mercy to those being pushed out into the margins. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." Take heart, all those who are finding themselves in the crosshairs of our president's peculiar xenophobia: you are not forgotten as those thousands crowding airport terminals were showing the world. You will not be abandoned as the ACLU and the federal courts have told you tonight coming to your aid. You do have Christian sisters and brothers who are linking arms with people of all faiths and no faith at all to be the resistance to these anti-Christ policies. If I am to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God, I can do no better than to start with standing up for you in saying, "This is not my America." 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Farewell to a Family of Hope and Change

 

By noon today, we will no longer have the Obama family living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And that, for me, is a crying shame. It would have been sad to see them go any way. President Obama has served well and faithfully for eight years, so I knew his time in office was over. But his successor? I will not forget: almost three million more people in this country voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton. More of us were happy with the direction we were headed and were prepared to take it further. Instead, we are being blessed with a man who treats women as objects for his pleasure, regularly stiffs contract workers, and campaigned on a message of hatred and division all with the aid of our longtime enemy, Russia.

I don't want to dwell on the man coming into office, but rather think about the man leaving and sing his praises one last time. I am thankful that I was alive and of age and able to vote--twice--for Barack Obama. I will never forget hearing a soundbite from his first news conference after he started on the job in 2009, and being in awe that he knew how to use a subject-verb-and-predicate sentence. That just tells you how desperate I was to have decent leadership in the White House! After eight years of gobbledygook and goofy grins of George W. Bush, I was ready for an adult.

I told people that when he took over, that he had a tall order in front of him. He was going to have to carry a bucket of soapy water and scrub all the magic marker off the walls and furniture in the Oval Office. In fact, I knew it didn't matter if it was him or John McCain in the presidency, whoever got elected would be entering under less than ideal conditions. We'd been engaged in a pointless war that had further destabilized the world. Our economy was in a recession. People were losing their homes and their jobs after corporate scandals and subprime lending dropped people into a metaphorical debtor's prison. And then there was health insurance. Completely unaffordable to a self-employed massage therapist, I had to hope that nothing catastrophic happened to me less I would have to declare bankruptcy, and I had to be select about when I would go to the doctor. 

When President Obama proposed the Affordable Care Act, I knew it was not the ideal solution. I am one of those "liberals" who believes that we should be ensuring a minimum level of care to all our citizens; hence I believe in the same type of single-payer like systems that exist in European countries. People shouldn't have to choose between eating and whether to see a doctor. Sadly, the health insurance industry has amassed lots of money and power in Washington, and so getting my dream health care isn't likely. ACA, or "Obamacare" as it was called, took important steps toward giving the likes of me a chance to buy health insurance that was affordable and gave us protection in case of an emergency. I remember tearing up in the office of the Florida Blue representative as we selected the best plan for me. The president had done something that indeed helped me.

But what made me whole was when President Obama, in his second term, finally said that he had no problem with marriage equality. People don't believe me when I say this but his interview with Robin Roberts on ABC was a massive sea change. I could see and sense the valleys being lifted up and the mountains being made low for LGBTQ+ people. The noxious Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy had already been laid aside, but to have the President of the United States say that I should be allowed to marry did so much to open up the dialogue, especially among friends of color on their Facebook pages. I saw so many otherwise silent bystanders of color come out swinging and standing for the gay community that it made me think, "This might really happen!" And it did. It took brave people putting their lives before the court, but we did finally win the right to be married. And the White House would be lit up in rainbow colors. Once married, I could leave my insurance through Obamacare and be on even better insurance through my spouse's job. Again, the president had done something that indeed helped me.

President Obama wept after Newtown. So did I. His facial muscles were tense with anger and disappointment every time he had to talk about another senseless death of a black person--Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Tamir, Freddie, Sandra, Philando....and on and on. My face grimaced and my eyes teared-up along with him. The murders at Newtown should have been enough. The mowing down of people in Colorado high schools and movie theaters should have been enough. Every murder involving a gun on the south side of Chicago should have been enough. And the horrific killing field of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando should have been enough. But the National Rifle Association is another powerful lobby. I'm sorry the President was not able to accomplish some form of reasonable gun control. My own is to take away the guns, melt them down, and make them into art. But I am a super minority in this country.

I will remember and appreciate a President who took steps, albeit not with the same boldness I had hoped for, toward addressing the real and pressing danger of climate change. Our fragile earth is being fracked, drilled, and drained to death. Really. The refusal to put in safeguards for release of chemicals into our water and ozone-eating emissions into the air is going to destroy us. Really. And there they were, members of Congress, throwing snowballs on the floor of the House of Representatives to say, "See? No global warming here!" It amazes me that people who profess a belief in God who they cannot see deny the emperical evidence brought to them by the scientific community who they can see. It's as if they don't think God might not be working through these scientists to bring us the prophetic news of "Repent and get serious about regulation of industry or we will die of famine and rising waters!" 

We are going to need a whole lot more prophets speaking out in the next four years. I keep hoping the Episcopal Church will rise to the occasion. Meanwhile, I hope that President and Michelle Obama rest well, and join our chorus when they are recharged and ready.

Thanks, Obama. Thank you to your family. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Am Jim Acosta

CNN's Sr. White House Correspondent John Acosta 

Behold the man who dared to ask a question of our incoming President while working for a network that mentioned there was an embarrassing dossier of information out there about the President-elect. His name is Jim Acosta. He is a Cuban-American and the Senior White House Correspondent for CNN. I don't know him. I don't particularly like CNN very much. But when I heard the news availability (I hardly call what I listened to a 'press conference'), I was shocked and shaken by the way Acosta was shouted down and shut out by the next supposed leader of the free world.

The President-elect, or PEEOTUS as I have been calling him, wasn't going to let Acosta say anything because the PEEOTUS didn't appreciate the coverage of a leaked document detailing the depth of his ties to Russia, and his strange sexual proclivities involving Russian prostitutes and urine. PEEOTUS singled out CNN from all the other networks that had mentioned the existence of these documents because, it seems, he didn't think they did enough to discredit the information by saying "unverified" hundred times. Acosta attempted to ask a question, but PEEOTUS wagged his finger at him.

"Not you. Your organization is terrible.  You are fake news!"  

"You are attacking us, can we have a question?" Acosta kept shouting back.

No. No, they could not. And as the two men kept yelling, the PEEOTUS peanut gallery applauded, egging on their bully to show this reporter who was gonna be boss here from now on.

I listened to all of this while I was driving and I felt the hairs going up on the back of my neck. As a former journalist, it was maddening. As an American citizen, it was frightening.

Verbal beat downs of reporters by politicians and other people with inflated ideas of their power is nothing new. And it isn't limited to those on the extreme right-wing of the political spectrum. This past year, Move On or some other group was cheering how Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders schooled "the lamestream media" at a news availability in Iowa. A female reporter had asked about Sanders "outsider" label when he'd, in fact, been involved in politics and a member of Congress for years. In a classic moment of misogyny, Sanders smiled and ignored her...but accepted the same question from a male reporter so he could blast away; thus making Bern-feelers very happy that their hero had told off the media. Back in 2000, when Sen. Kendrick Meek and Rep. Tony Hill held a sit-in at the Capitol over Gov. Jeb! Bush's proposals to end affirmative action in state government, the Governor was caught on tape angrily declaring to his staff member: "Throw their asses out!" Later, after that tape went international, Bush explained he wasn't talking about the two state legislators; he was referring to the members of the media who were ensconced with Meek and Hill in the Lieutenant Governor's office. That was supposed to make it all better, I suppose.

Everyone loves to hate the media because they are the messengers who tell us what our leaders are doing. And that is precisely why we need journalists to keep on the job and remaining vigilant in their pursuit of answers to tough questions. A free press is the threat to a tyrant and a dictator because they want to control every aspect of life...especially what the public is allowed to know. The best journalists are the ones who bring to our attention the uncomfortable and unsettling truths about what's happening in our communities, our country and the world; otherwise, we run the risk of being na├»ve and blind to problems that need addressing. The fact that an Mi6 report exists, unverified or whatever, that suggests the incoming President of the United States is a little too cozy with a long-time enemy of American democracy is news worthy. It is not fake. "Fake news" is the supermarket tabloids that spent the past eight years publishing unflattering photos of the First Family who was our first-ever African-American First Family. "Fake news" is ultra-white supremacist Breitbart, whose leader, Steve Bannon, is now going to be only footsteps away from the Oval Office.   

Last week, the goat was Jim Acosta. But it won't stop there. What I heard in that exchange was a warning shot across the bow of every news organization that if you dare question the PEEOTUS, or bring to light that he is a liar, an incompetent, and a mentally sick individual, you will be shouted down and shut out. You may not even get credentials to cover the PEEOTUS. This isn't the time for the media to reign it in. We need our free press to step on the gas and wear it as a badge of honor if they get yelled at or kicked out of the room. We need our media to close ranks against this bullying and defend their colleagues when this abusive behavior happens again because it will. We need this because these are the people's people who are the eyes and ears bearing witness, up-close and personal, so that we can know what's happening. They are our surrogates. God help us if we lose that freedom of the press.