Posted by: minnow | November 25, 2015

Crying Out Loud

My grief is real. The nation I love, the only place I have ever lived, a country I once thought was beyond a doubt the greatest country in the world, today is unrecognizable to me.  I have gotten on-line the last few weeks and my news feed has been full of ugliness.  Who are we?  What has happened to the country I once believed would stop at nothing to be better, do right, and be the hope for the rest of the world?

Our Congress, which should be filled with the most informed minds in our country, wants to shut our doors to those most in need.  Why?  How can they ignore the fact that a person is more likely to be shot by a toddler in the United States than a terrorist? How can they ignore the fact that getting into this country as a refugee is considerably more difficult than arriving as a tourist?  How can they ignore the fact that WE are at least partially responsible for the mess in the Middle East in the first place? In what way does turning our backs on the world, reflect the freedom, moral integrity, and common decency we claim to uphold?

Donald Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidency race, is the loudest voice in the madness played out daily in the media.  He thinks surveillance on “certain mosques” in the United States is perfectly reasonable.  He sided with the bullies who punched and kicked a Black Lives Matter protester during one of his rallies, suggesting, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”  He approves of torture, despite evidence that it is ineffective and creates more hostility. The man’s rhetoric gets more brazen by the day and what’s worse–average citizens–unwilling or unable to understand how such thinking undermines the integrity of our Constitution follow right behind him. Are we truly willing to elect a gangster as our president?

Dr. Carson, another top Republican candidate is not much better than Trump. Carson declared the mere fact a person is a Muslim should disqualify him or her from becoming the president. Furthermore, he equated the Syrian refugees with “rabid dogs” and brushes off the criticism about his analogy as quibbling over semantics.  Yet, he has had to back peddle on more than one occasion.  Most recently, Carson joined Trump in stirring up anxiety by claiming to have seen video of Muslim-Americans celebrating the tragedy of 9-11. Later he walked his statement back by saying he didn’t know the media had an agenda in asking the question and he wasn’t sure where the celebration took place–although the original Q&A was crystal clear.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Ted Cruz surged past Carson in the Iowa caucus poll.  Seen as more knowledgeable on foreign policy, Cruz minced no words when it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis.  All displaced Christians but no displaced Muslims would be welcomed in Cruz’s America.  Remember, this is a man who must swear to uphold the Constitution, the same Constitution that guarantees the government will not single out an individual or group based on race, or religion.

The following clip from the HBO series, “The Newsroom”, explains what seems to have happened to the country I love.

The America we have seen in recent months has grown afraid.  And, fear is a powerful force once it is let in.  It overwhelms its victims causing them to behave is ways that otherwise would be unthinkable.  In 1933, during his First Inaugural Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned America that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  The nation had been in a tailspin since the stock market crash of 1929.  The unemployment rate had hit 25%.  Americans had lost their savings, their homes, and their livelihoods.  Adolf Hitler had just become Chancellor of Germany.  Still, FDR assured America the only thing we had to fear was our own fear.

His words are just as true today. We must, if we are to preserve what is great and good about America, grab hold of our courage to stand and face fear head on.  We must resist the degenerating symptoms of fear–bigotry, greed, isolating self-interest, and unwarranted blaming.  We must trust that united we are better, united we are stronger, united we more innovative, more resilient, and more determined than any force which might be wrought against us, because united–rich and poor, male and female, black and white, Gentile and Jew–we better reflect the face of God than we do when we are divided.

In the clip Will McAvoy almost whispers the words, “We didn’t use to scare so easy.”  I hope it is not too late.  I hope, like the Americans who sat by their radios as their newly elected president spoke back in 1933 we, in 2015, choose to confront the only enemy with the power to defeat us.  I pray we pry our hearts and minds away from the grips of fear and choose to face our truer enemies together.

Personally, I refuse to give up on the country I love, despite the sickening headlines and the fear-filled verbiage of those who want me quaking in my boots.  But it will take more than the one vote I have to cast in the next election to cast out fear. It will take looking at the ways in which I treat others as less than and changing my behavior.  It will take teaching myself, and my children, and my students, and the people around me that difference isn’t the enemy.  It will take sifting the chaff of lies from the grains of truth and remaining steadfast in my desire to break bread together with those who also hunger for what is right and good about America.


Just in–a link worth reading:

Posted by: minnow | November 18, 2015

When Love is Tossed Around

I feel prickly.  This morning (11/15) I engaged in an on-line conversation which started when I commented on one of those postit notes on FB.  I found the postit offensive, especially from a Christian perspective.  Since I knew the poster claimed a Christian allegiance, I dove in.  Grrr…I got nowhere trying to reason, became too blunt, and finally walked away frustrated and irritable.  I don’t like these feelings.  I don’t like letting my irritation gee best of me.  And, I really don’t like coming to the conclusion that nothing I can say will provide the person I’m talking to with that ah-ha experience which convinces him or her that the thread is truly offensive.  On the other hand, I think the fact it is offensive is a no-brainer, especially to someone, anyone, who holds onto Christ as a role model.  Yet here I sit, having just posted my Bullies VS Visionaries thread feeling less than hopeful, again.

I tried to ask myself why this mattered to me.  The fact that most of the people who see this person’s posts already stand on the same side of the line didn’t help me feel better.  In fact when I saw this individual had over 400 friends it made me feel worse.  At one point I thought maybe I’ll just be defriended and thus put out of my misery.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, I got an assurance that the poster loves me and then–crickets. I tried to distract myself with other work BUT the pricklies lingered.  Even now, I want to break china or something just to express the ARRGGHHH!!! I’m feeling.

It has finally dawned on me that the assurance of love from the poster set me off more than the rest of the post.  Those words don’t mean anything.  When my Christian friends ignore my concern that the words they spew and the postits they repeat might actually cause others distress, might hurt their cause, might wound their God, when they justify their bigotry by evoking God’s name or some regurgitated interpretation of scripture, when they warn me about some dangerous slippery slope I’m on because I refuse to embrace their brand of truth, and follow it all up with those two little words: “Love you” I want to gag.  I want to call them liars and false prophets, hypocrites and Pharisees.  I want to plead with God, like I’m pleading right now, that He send down some divine wisdom, some super spiritual, undeniable, bigger than life, ah-ha of truth!

Mostly I want my fellow Christians to know that loving me, or at least claiming to, doesn’t take them off the hook when they don’t love others.  And, assuring me that they really do love “others” while I watch them offend, damage, frighten, and repel them doesn’t actually count for anything.  Just like wishing a starving man good health isn’t actually the same as sharing your meal with him, quoting scripture isn’t the same as walking it out.  I want my fellow Christians to understand that words, even words as nice as “love you” ring hollow when accompanied by behavior, gestures, and additional words which exclude, slander, demean, and wage war.  I want my fellow Christians to realize that even though they may feel good about themselves for being able to say “love you” even after I’ve angered and rebuked them, I am beginning to doubt the meaning of such love.

I want a lot, both for and from my fellow Christians, but since wanting something doesn’t make it happen and I don’t know any magic formula to guarantee we will ever learn to love the way Christ has loved us, I only have the following to offer.  I promise anew every day to love God more and my neighbor better, knowing that God will not do what I can do, and what I cannot do, He has already accomplished.

Posted by: minnow | November 15, 2015

Bullies VS Visionaries

I am honestly concerned for America.  How has my religion–Christianity–been so thoroughly hijacked? Why can’t I recognize the Republican party I once supported? Truly, I am not suddenly an enthusiastic democrat or an anything goes religious progressive, but I cannot support the ugliness I see on the other side of the isle and that grieves my soul.

This explanation from Robert Reich sets the stage:

…Bullies prey on peoples’ vulnerabilities — using intimidation and humiliation to belittle others and thereby make themselves feel and look more powerful. Bullies scapegoat the weak. They spread fear. They use their power – physical strength, status, rank, or money, to browbeat those who don’t have these attributes.

American society today is filled with bullies. Some are economic bullies – CEOs and Wall Street moguls who use their power to pad their wallets and ride roughshod over shareholders, employees, and communities. Some are billionaires like the Koch brothers who use their money to undermine our democracy. Some are wealthy blowhards like Donald Trump who use their megaphones to belittle immigrants and women. Some are politicians who take bribes (campaign contributions) to favor the rich and hurt the poor. Some are police who use their authority and weapons to intimidate or even kill poor blacks. Some are bosses at the workplace who use their rank to spread fear among employees.

…bullies intensify their bullying if no one stands up to them. And the best way of standing up to them is to join with others who are also bullied…That’s what’s needed now. That’s what the movements we’re witnessing (‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬, ‪#‎feelthebern‬‪#‎fightfor15‬ and so on) are seeking to do.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, and general election if he wins.  I will vote less enthusiastically for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nod.  In this election core values are more important to me than specific policy.  Character, thoughtfulness, reason, compassion, humility, decorum, and intelligence matter.  A person’s core beliefs inform their behavior.  Faith informs how individuals sees the world, what they pursues in life, the ideas which are allowed to grow in their hearts and minds, and the words to which they give voice.  Bernie Sanders may have been a broken record in Saturday’s debate (11/14).  Still, what parted his lips was worth burning our ears. The economy is rigged and Americans, not politicians and certainly not Wall Street, need to do something about it.  Money in the hands of average citizens, who’ve been given a living wage, will grow the economy, not the unfettered greed of trickledown economics.  Healthcare ought to be a right.  If we respect and are thankful for the service of our veterans and soldiers we need to start paying for it by taking care of them! And finally, higher education should not mean 10 to 20 years of debt.

Sanders has backed up his words with a life time of effort.  The mantra he has on repeat is nothing new.  He’s spent his entire career fighting the good fight, championing the underdog, trying to assure his constituents we still have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Veracity matters and Bernie Sanders, though imperfect, wears the mantle of humility and authenticity well.

I started by saying I am concerned for the United States.  The contrast between those on the GOP debate stage and those on the Democratic stage is startling.  The thought that average Americans (who tuck their children in at night, kiss their spouses good-bye as they head off to work, sit and drink coffee together, or cheer enthusiastically at their favorite sporting events) might actually support and vote for one of the Republican candidates frightens me.  When I listen to the vile names some use to describe Mexicans, Muslims, the poor, or their opponents I am appalled.  When I examine their tax proposals that favor the wealthy (those making seriously more than $250,000 a year); and see their positions on foreign policy which include throwing our military might around and increasing a military budget already four times larger that the next country in line; when I hear their attitudes toward women that suggest women don’t deserve equal pay or time with their families through family leave; and when I realize the burden they are willing to place on the working class (those making under $60, 000 a year), I have trouble believing any thinking, caring, God-fearing, reasonable person will seriously buy into the idea that any one of them is good for America.  Not a single GOP front runner is looking out for the best interest of the masses.

The masses–that’s us–you and me.  1 in 50 Americans makes less than $250,000 a year, over half make less than $60,000.  The fight over raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour squabbling over increasing the minimum wage for just 2.95 percent of the total work force in the US.  If you believe America was founded on Christian principles then please, demand that your representatives  reflect Christ’s attitudes toward the poor, the marginalized, and the heavy burdened.  We are the voices the elite think they can ignore, the shouts their intimidation tactics and fear mongering believe they can subdue.

This week  my freshmen English classes will read Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, I Have a Dream, as we continue our unit on Identity.  I would like to borrow some thoughts from Dr. King’s speech, and apply them to the growing economic divide in our country , a divide that hammers the Black community but is not limited to a single ethnic group.

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note…Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us, upon demand, the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

America, these are dangerous days in which to slumber.  Dr. King’s dream is one all Americans must walk out, together.  We must march now, in the harsh light of day, before our lethargy and fears make us  casualties of other people’s greed.




Posted by: minnow | November 1, 2015

The Republicans

GOP Debate number three is in the books.  I’ve tried since Wednesday to watch it.  But, NBC–interested in $$ more than informing the public–decided the only available access on the evening of the debate would be via cable (I would if I could but where I live I can’t, so…) or by paying them for online access. Even after the fact I had trouble.  I started to watch it Saturday, got interrupted, and Sunday when I went back to the site my access was blocked on copyright grounds.  Same story when I tried to access clips.

The little I heard Saturday didn’t impress me much but that really isn’t the point, is it?  HONESTLY, SINCE WHEN IS THE POLITICAL PROCESS ONLY AVAILABLE TO THOSE WHO CAN PAY FOR IT?  And, aren’t the debates generally understood as part of the political process?  And, since when are news outlets more interested in money than informing the public?  When CBS is able to rake in $250,000 per 30 second ad during the debate, is charging their viewers really necessary? Enough said.

With opposing personality types but similar “run against the establishment” campaign strategies, Ben Carson and Donald Trump continue to be one and two in the polls. Carson actually inched ahead in the latest CBS poll, according to RealClearPolitics.  The RNC however, wouldn’t pick either as its first choice candidate.  Unfortunately, Rubio and Cruz who rank third and fourth in most polls, aren’t the old guard’s favorites either.  The only other Republican with a chance of the presidential nomination, and undoubtedly the RNC’s first choice, is Jeb Bush.  But, with his poll numbers declining, the RNC is stymied.

During the debates, Bush’s biggest problem has been he’s too nice, too polite.  Then, when he tries to get tough, he gets tough about the wrong thing.  Like Kasich (my personal first choice), Bush is not  debater material.  Although he told the audience his greatest weakness is impatience, my assessment of Bush is, he’s too methodical.  He is not quick witted or flippant and thus seems slow compared to his opponents.  In the age of instant gratification and sarcastic come backs, Bush’s poise and polish doesn’t fair well.

I predict (barring an unforeseen disaster) Marco Rubio will ultimately receive the Republican nod next summer. He’s overcome his missed votes by seeming feisty.  A relatively fresh face, he’s  more palatable to the anti-Washington crowd.  Additionally, many of Rubio’s policies ought to appeal to the pocketbooks within the GOP. For example, he plans to solve our budget problems by freezing spending on everything except defense.  And, his tax plan gives the wealthy almost twice the cuts he gives to the middle.  His personal narrative plays well to the working class, in spite of personal financial problems which might otherwise make him less attractive.  Finally of the religious candidates, Rubio is the least offensive and therefore less likely to stir up vehement opposition from progressives.

Should a possible Rubio presidency scare anyone?  Probably, but a Trump or Carson presidency should scare us more!  In Trump’s own words he doesn’t forgive those who slight him.  And, to disagree with him is to slight him.  Taking that attitude into foreign affairs would spell disaster.  As for Carson, his flat tax might sound good in theory but it cannot cover the budget costs unless it’s at least 28%.  In order to cover current spending, Carson’s flat tax would raise taxes on couples making $150,000 or less a year while lowering taxes on couples making $230,000 or more.

In other news: The RNC has decided to reevaluate all future 2015-16 GOP debates. They’ve called the moderators in Wednesday (10/28) night’s debate biased and several of their questions rude.  I read through most of a transcript of the event to find out what the candidates were asked that so offended them?  Honestly, I’m a little baffled.  In the first question Quintanilla asked each candidate to reveal his or her greatest weakness and explain what he or she was doing about it.  I don’t know how many job interviews these candidates have experienced, but in every interview I’ve had that question is on the list.  Every person on the stage dodged the sincere nature of the question.

John Harwood then made the harshest jab of the evening when he said,

Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it, send 11 million people out of the country, cut taxes by $11 trillion dollars without raising the deficit, and make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others.

Trump heartily agreed. Then Harwood asked, “Let’s be honest.  Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”  Trump immediately objected to the way the question was asked but failed miserably to explain how the implicated was inaccurate.  The facts of the matter are Trump cannot accomplish what he claims he will do.  Trump knows it.  The other candidates on the stage know it.  And, the moderators know it.  Yet some how the moderators are at fault for trying to shine a light on the facts and expose the fantasy nature of Mr. Trump’s assertions.

Becky Quick asked Carson to explain the math with regard to his flat tax.  Because he couldn’t, the query made the rude questions list.  Also on the list was one to Rubio.   Quintanilla asked him why he doesn’t finish what he started in the senate instead of missing so many votes to run for president.  The question caused Rubio to go on a tirade about what the Washington he-is-a-part-of hasn’t accomplished, while deflecting the point of the questions: that he isn’t doing his job. When Quintanilla attempted to refocus the conversation, Rubio took the opportunity to cry bias and bash the media. A question from Quick to Ms. Fiorina also made the top 10.  It came with a stock market analogy which suggested a CEO whose stock values had been cut in half might not deserve to be “hired” for an even more important job.  When Cruz was asked about his problem solving abilities he joined Rubio’s deflection method and picked up the media bashing mantra.

All in all, what I would label hard hitting and pertinent, the RNC evidently calls rude.  And though the candidates’ answers held little substance it was not for lack of effort on the part of the moderators.  Our politicians need to be asked tough questions, not just about what they want to do but also about how they plan to do it!  If they can’t take the heat them maybe they need to step away from the fire!

Posted by: minnow | October 14, 2015

American Politics

Austria 1

Austria 1

This post from my news feed about anti-Muslim protests in the US caught my attention last week. Honestly it frightened me.  It reminded of pictures, like the one to the left titled, “Nazi Laws Against Jews”, from the Holocaust Research Project.  Honestly, the concerns coming out of the Republican camp lately frighten me.  Seriously, when Republican candidates vying for the office of the President can publicly question the fitness for that same office of an entire group of people because of their religion or ethnicity–and the rest of us barely blink–WE HAVE A PROBLEM!

I loved  history as a child.  I liked people and for me history consists of stories about people.  Of course, part of my attraction to history was due to the revisionist versions I was taught in my public education.  These simplified renditions helped me feel good about myself and my nation. They encouraged me to feel superior–smarter, stronger, more moral and that made me feel safe. I saw dozens of movies and televisions shows add visual support to the Americans-are-always-the-guys-in-the-white-hats philosophy.   Personally,  WWII history was the most attractive.  We were the military force that swept through Europe and set the world right again! And, everyone back home gladly sacrificed for the greater good, remember?  Ignoring our own failings (which included a racist military policy), we were the heroes that stuck it to the Nazis.  My childhood was a great time to be an American–even if on occasion the folks on the Waltons inadvertently burned a Bible because it was written in German.

The trouble is, Americans have never been any different than people in any other nation.  We have made a habit of ignoring our own  bigotry, greed, and brutality while highlighting that of others.  We justify our actions or deflect our guilt by pointing out someone who is worse or by proclaiming our nation’s best interest.  Perhaps it is human nature–an innate capacity to be both good and evil–which cause us to see the specks in someone else’s eye before we see the plank in our own.  Still, the good in all of us should be alarmed by the growing volume of voices who use ethnicity and difference to divide and who create an atmosphere of suspicion and fear by way of religious and nationalistic rhetoric.  Systematically vilifying a minority people group is how the Nazis were allowed to rise to power and ultimately murder more than 6 million people.

America has reached a crossroads.  Our long-term direction could easily be decided in the up coming election. Signs indicate that the integrity of our nation, the legitimacy of our Constitution and the voice of the people, is at stake.  Candidates running for President in both the Republican and Democrat parties represent distinct philosophical, if not moral, differences.  And, Americans need to wake up and take note.  Every individual who cares about his or her future  needs to weigh-in.  Our children and grandchildren may not be able to fix our mistakes if we don’t.  By our action, or our inaction, we will determine our country’s destiny.

Will we elect a leader who will determine the course of our nation from his own self-interest, who “can’t be bought” but who also can’t be counseled? Mr. Trump is such a man.  Not only is he self consumed but, his careless verbiage with regard to women and people of color, his volatile temperament, and his ignorance of the rest of the world are dangerous, as well as offensive.  Can we really afford to put America in the hands of a gambler who let four multimillion-dollar business deals go bankrupt because he found a loophole that let him personally off the hook?  Obviously, some think so, since he leads the GOP presidential polls.  According to PEW research Trump still holds a 9% lead in the polls over Carson, who incidentally made the comment about Muslims mentioned above, and Jeb Bush, who represents the party hard liners AKA the billionaire class,  isn’t even in double digits.

Tonight (10/13) I listened to the first Democratic Debate.  Wow! The contrast was startling.  Reasonable people, substantive issues, no name calling, and no histrionics.  Lincoln Chaffee and Jim Webb are not well enough known and were not unique enough in their positions on the issues to gather much momentum.  I suspect neither will be in the race much longer. However, all five of these candidates–Lincoln Chaffee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb–deserve our thanks.  Collectively these five democrats gave the American people a glimmer of hope.  They let us know, at least some politicians in the coming election want to be problem solvers and difference makers, team builders and visionaries.  Even Hilary Clinton, who for me has often seemed more like a weather vane than a lighthouse, chose to point toward the future.

That said, I still support Bernie Sanders, without hesitation.  I do so with my vote and with my money.  But more importantly, I do so with my time.  Sanders himself declares for him to win AND have it mean anything, the rest of us have to climb on board.  We have to find and elect senators and congressmen who are willing to say NO to the wealthy ruling class. Who, instead, turn a listening ear to the masses.  We have to quit letting the fear mongers and doomsdayers divide and bully us.  We have to put our muscle and our money to work so the many can deliver our message as powerfully and the few.

American was built on the backs of the hard working middle class.  They deserve to have their hard work be enough.   They deserve a guarantee–a roof over their heads, food on the table, quality schools to attend, medicine when they fall sick, and security when they retire.  We have the ability.  We need the will.  I’m voting for Bernie Sanders because Bernie Sanders has been voting for me.

Posted by: minnow | October 4, 2015

Ordained by God

10430903_10152571879697499_7380691362918847583_nNot long ago a friend posted the picture to the left on her FB page. Initially I wanted to rant.  Surely she should know better.  This sign offers, at best, a shallow description of marriage and a barely recognizable definition of perfect.  Yet, my friend is not alone in her appreciation of such a perspective.  I know many, many people who drink the cool-aid fed to them, especially through religion, that divorce is not an option.  Most of these people also buy into a complementarian model of marriage.  And, all of them would be shocked by my objections and would themselves, quite literally, like her post.

Those who embrace the complementarian model would have us believe that it “protects” women.  Yet, two posts from chief complementarian advocate, John Piper showed up on my FB page a month or so ago and sent shivers down my spine.  Both are sobering examples of how dangerous the patriarchal, complementarian voice within the Church can be.  In a podcast found here, Piper outlines his criteria for how women should choose their jobs.  This criteria has nothing to do with a woman’s capabilities or her interests.  The perspective comes entirely from a male supremacist interpretation of scripture. I saw the reference to the podcast on Benjamin L. Corey’s Formerly Fundie blog  in which Corey offers a spot on analysis of Piper’s message to women.  The second post was even more disturbing than the first.  In it T. P. Charlton reviews a Piper video in which Piper answers the question, “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he is an abuser?”  In short, Piper response gives the wife in question no way out.  Instead, he insists she should continue to submit to her husband’s authority, verbally affirm his headship over her, and even endure physical beatings in order to honor him.  In what possible way can this philosophy be said to protect womenPiper’s position exposes just how toxic the complementarian view is to women.  It also reveals how unwilling he and other complementarians  are to holding men accountable for their self-serving and at time sadistic behavior.  Yet, even if the relationship between a husband and wife does not drift all the way into sadism or physical abuse, complementarian relationships are almost never healthy.

Most advocates of complementarian theology explain away the inequalities between men and women in the complementarian model by suggesting that those who object have confused role differences with value differences.   They argue that the God-ordained roles women hold (and therefore the women who hold them) are equally valued by God and just as important to the success of the family/community as those held by men, they simply are not the same as the God-ordained roles men hold. The troubling reality of this argument is that we can say God “values” whomever we want to say He values yet continue to accept no responsibility for our treatment of the individual people we claim are so valued by God.  In truth, the lop-sided view and treatment of male and female roles, which is foundational to complementarian theology, works against the ability to value and respect men and women equally.

Ultimately, when one group of people is given unchecked authority and control over another group of people the ingrained hierarchy rarely values or benefits the submissive or oppressed group. When it does, the benefit is inherently limited by what the authority figure deems beneficial.  Since in a marriage and family the husband/father is the head, his needs and wants must always be factored in as most important.  Thus, a benefit to the wife or family must not be too great an inconvenience, for him.  In reverse, an inconvenience is an impossibility, since the wife’s primary role and purpose is to benefit her husband.

Complementarians are quick to point out one aspect of the role men take on as a husband is that of caretaker.  Yet all too often this part of a husband’s role is so narrowly defined by his ability to provide financially for his family that it completely ignores the family emotional well being.  Husbands do not “take care” of their wives simply by bringing home a pay check that they then decide how to spend.  Husbands do not “take care” of their wives by insisting their wives stay home, raise the children, clean the house, prepare the meals, and run the errands.   Nor do they “take care” of their wives by allowing their wives to supplement the family income, that they then continue to decide how to spend.  Care, provision, and protection sound nice.  But, unless the women in these arrangements are able to make adjustments on their own, raise questions and objects and be heard without repercussions, and freely change their situations when they want to do so, they are NOT being cared for; they are being kept.

As  final note, please do not hear what I am not saying.  I am NOT out to get husbands and wives who have organized their lives along traditional gender roles because those roles fit who they are as individuals.  I do NOT think all women should be out in the work force along side all men in order to build the capitalist’s dream of gluttonous consumerism.  My fight is with the patriarchal role model found in Institutional Religion which subjugates women for the benefit of men and claims God has ordained their self serving bias.

The complementarian role model is not of God.  God made us male and female, in His own image.  In Galatians, when Paul recognized there was no longer a distinction between male and female in Christ, he was writing about our value and our roles.  The first disciples watched as Jesus spoke to both men and women, taught both men and women, and ministered to both men and women.  In the early Church both men and women received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, served as teachers, and functioned as prophets.  Equality is God ordained.


Posted by: minnow | September 20, 2015

About the Debate

WPTV-CNN-GOP-Debate-9-16-15_1441963868746_23822409_ver1.0_640_480[1]What is so attractive about Donald Trump? Vaudeville compared to Broadway?  The saddest part is, the uninformed public (and let’s face it that’s a pretty big group) is drinking his cool-aid.  If people don’t become informed, we will discover we’re watching a tragedy, not a comedy. The reveal in Act V will be: the only person Trump is interested in helping is Trump. But, by then we will have past the tipping point and the American public will be taken to the cleaners in a whole new way.  Please take warning.  This man is dangerous. Combined with a media drunk on spectacle, we have the makings of the perfect storm.
I wrote the above paragraph over a month ago.  So, imagine my surprise when a couple days ago while the GOP contenders held their second presidential debate a young person I know posed this question: How is Trump still in this race?  This op-ed by Michael Girson of the Washington Post The Wreckage of the Summer of Trump, raises the warning flag.  Several of the candidates who shared the stage with Trump made attempts to counter Trump’s bluster, but the most successful, Carly Fiorina, doesn’t have a prayer as the Republican party’s nominee, not because she was fired from Hewlett Packard, but honestly because she’s a she.  Sad story in the 21st Century.
My analysis of the second 2015/16 GOP debate:

Fact check Cruz regarding Iran. He has it wrong.

Rubio praised by some for trying to excuse his absenteeism from the Senate by saying he learned early on both side of the isle don’t accomplish anything admitted he no longer wants his job.  I suggest the Senator he do a better job in the position he has if he plans to use it as a stepping stone to the job he wants.  You need to show up for the presidency.

Rand Paul simply did not speak enough.  Of all the Republicans on the stage, he is the most level headed with regard to foreign policy.  His answers were well reasoned.  For example, he would look at whether or not Iran has complied before tearing up an agreement America has already signed. Other than not being hawkish enough for a Republican, his biggest problem remains, he is unknown and likely to remain so.

Carly Fiorina was impeccable both in what she talked about and how she spoke (as long as you’re a conservative Republican). Personally, I don’t agree with her hawkishness and her facts about the infamous Planned Parenthood video are a bit shaky.  Still, she clearly articulated what she would do. She, too, did not get enough time. Ultimately, I doubt Republicans will vote for a woman to be president anytime soon.

I appreciated Gov. Kasich’s attempt to play playground monitor, however unsuccessful.  His most best decision was to separate himself from the herd who would strike down the Iran deal on day one .  Kasich argued that we should wait until the Iranians failed to comply and then take action–sounds reasonable and presidential.

One of Jeb Bush’s problem seemed to be his last name.  Defending his brother with regard to 9-11 he declared, “There’s one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.”  In fact, 9-11, the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since WWII, happened on George W’s watch. We weren’t more safe.  President Bush lead our nation into Iraq on a hunt for weapons of mass destruction he knew weren’t there.  We weren’t more safe. His decision resulted in two costly wars in terms of human life, economic security, and the DE-stabling of the entire region.  We weren’t more safe.  Those words from Jeb Bush will haunt him much longer than the comment Trump tried to hammer him with concerning women’s health.

Like Kasich, Chris Christie played playground monitor. His approach was less successful when he reprimanded Fiorina and Trump for spouting off about their resumes. It was more successful when he urged the whole group to quit quibbling over Planned Parenthood.  He also skewered Hillary Clinton for her stance.  Christie’s worst statement of the evening came after Dr. Carson spoke about 9-11.  Christie said,

While that might have been a fine idea that Dr. Carson had [using diplomacy to find the culprits of 9-11], those people were out to kill us.  I stood in that region … and every time a plane went over head…people’s heads jerked to the sky because they thought it was happening again.  You do not need to go through subtle diplomacy at that point.  That can be handled later on.  What you need is a strong American leader who will take the steps that are necessary to protect our nation.

Unfortunately, while Gov. Christie attempts to play the patriot card  history bares witness to the truth.  Storming in with our guns blazing and no plan for what to do after the shock and awe have worn off, fails us every time.  We are still paying for our lack of level headed diplomacy and are likely to continue to pay if one of the true contenders is elected.

As for the remaining candidates, I cannot recall a single thing Scott Walker said.  Huckabee, on the other hand, was quite  passionate.  He used much of his time defending a woman who took an oath of office but then refused to fulfill her duties.  His willingness to apply his version of Christianity to the rest of the country should give us pause; it is strictly prohibited in the First Amendment.  Finally, Ben Carson spent the debate as a silent observer despite coming into it in second place.  Even in his area of expertise, he failed to shine.  While Carson didn’t technically concede to Trump when talking about vaccines and autism, his demeanor did. And, although his points were often spot-on, he came across as weaker and less confident than the other contenders.

Over all, the debate lacked substance.  In part, blame the list of questions.  Far too much time was spent on war, immigration, and infighting. While a couple candidate mentioned jobs and the economy the only question that came close to addressing either issue was about the minimum wage.  Scratch education off the list of topics, equal pay, campaign finance reform, poverty, renewable energy, racism, or the national debt.  If these candidates and this media represent the best we have to offer, thoughtful Americans ought to be worried.

Posted by: minnow | August 21, 2015

Can Socialism Co-exist with a Democracy?

Election 2016 is a year away yet with the first GOP presidential debate behind us we can safely say the race to the white house has begun.  16 Republicans and a handful of Democrats are vying for position.  Personally, I have already marked a few candidates off my list of contenders and certainly have my favorite. Still, I look forward to future debates and hearing what these would-be presidents think are the most important issues facing Americans.  That said, the airwaves and blog-o-sphere have already been a buzz with “news” of what the candidates are saying and doing.  The closer we get to the primary and general elections and the more heated the races become we can expect to be overloaded with negative rhetoric and inflammatory  fear mongering.  Listening to a few of the talking-heads one might begin to wonder if our whole way of life is in peril.  The subtext of the title question is just one of many attempts to stir up anxiety among voters.  So instead of jumping off political cliff into the pool of fear let’s just take the question at face value.

The short answer to the title question is, yes.  These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.  On the other hand, the question: can capitalism and socialism co-exist puts us on the correct page.  Both Capitalism and Socialism are economic theories.  Capitalism advocates for private ownership and free (as in unencumbered by oversight, regulation, and taxation) markets.  Socialism prefers public ownership and strong government oversight of the market in order to compensate for economic inequality.  Some see socialism as kissing cousins to communism in which the government owns everything and wealth in the form of goods, services and property is distributed equally among the people.  Others would point out that the United States already has both socialist and capitalist principles at work within our economy so continuing with these principles in their checks and balances relationship gives us nothing to fear.

For further clarification of the question: a Democracy is a political theory concerned with the method of governance.  In this theory the populous votes in order to determine their representatives. Those individuals who are elected then act on their behalf to  make policy and establish law. Elections in a democracy happen on a regular schedule and the representation changes by the will of the people. An oligarchy, a term we are likely to hear during this election cycle, is another political theory concerned with the method of governance.  Oligarchies are a concentration of power within a small group of people.  Often these people are influential due to their wealth, family ties, corporate influences, education, and or religious affiliations. Extreme oligarchies maintain their power with military force and monetary control rather than by elections.  The extreme form might better be understood by studying fascism or totalitarianism.  Under fascist or totalitarian power the people are absolutely subject to the centralized authority of the State which maintains its power by force. These extreme forms differ from oligarchies in that oligarchies tend to want freedom from government control or accountability  for their privately owned businesses and corporations but aren’t quite as concerned about the individual freedoms of its citizens.

In the United States, our form of government is a democracy. Our economic system is primarily capitalist.  However, low voter turnout–57.5% according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute for the 2012 presidential election and the massive amounts of money spent on the campaigns have some people worried enough to suggest we may be heading toward an oligarchy, if indeed we aren’t already there.  The growing chasm between the extremely wealthy and the middle class also has some people waving caution flags. Just as an FYI , also according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute voter turn out for those making over $100.000 was 79.6%.

So what am I actually trying to say?  First, Americans need to vote.  If our democracy is going to function the way it was intended increasing voter turnout is a must. Next, don’t be put off by name calling and labeling.  For example, since Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialism it’s probably a good idea to find out what HE means when HE used the term socialist instead of allowing those who want to see him fail define the term.  I can pretty much guarantee you will hear a very different explanation depending on who is doing the talking!  Finally, insist those running for office have something of substance to say.  Snarky retorts and bashing the other candidates might work for 30 second sound bites but we don’t need school yard bullies, elitist who don’t think they should have to answer to anyone, or ego maniacs who think the world revolves around them.  We need policy makers and problem solvers.  We need leaders with vision and a record of taking on the difficult challenges.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world full of diverse cultures and belief systems.  And I’m not just talking about within our borders.  We need to figure out how to co-exist, work together, and encourage everyone’s success!

Posted by: minnow | August 5, 2015

When Your Children Aren’t Who You Wanted Them to Be

dna_istock_rustycloudThis is a post mostly for Moms.  Dads and others feel free to read it but I’m primarily addressing a particular group of Moms–those Moms who wrestle with on-going disappointment.   I belong to a private FB group of women who do quite a bit of wrestling as one or more of their children make the announcement that he or she isn’t straight.  Some feel like their whole lives have been knocked off balance.  They didn’t see it coming and were completely shock.  Others sensed the announcement’s arrival and prayed fervently for God to make it not be true–afraid of what IT will mean for them or for their children.  A few, took the news in stride but until last month’s SCOTUS decision, felt they needed to let go of the hopes and dreams for themselves as mother-in-laws and grandmothers.  All these ladies faced the difficult work of adjusting to their new realities while clinging to their children and reaching out to God.

All of these ladies are my heroes.

Many have felt the need to leave fellowships they grew up in because these fellowships no longer showed them the unconditional love of Christ.  Once their children shared their secrets (usually as teens or young adults) most of these Mamas felt pressure from others to condemn their own children, to shame them, and even to reject them if that’s what it took to “get rid of the gay”.  Instead, these Mama Bears, as they often refer to themselves, chose to let go of life long friendships and faith connections.  While their hearts were breaking from their own loses (but even more excruciatingly due to the pain their children experienced at the hands of those they has assumed would have their backs) these moms found themselves following God’s call to love their children–alone.  It takes a special brand of courage to make those kinds of choices.  And these Mama Bears are a special brand of courageous!

I realize children don’t have to identify as a LGBT to face difficulties in life.  Lots of issues bombard our children–like mental illness, learning disabilities, and physical illnesses–just to name a few.  The list can actually feel endless.  Most Moms, especially when our children are young, would like to spare them every broken heart, scraped knee, second of embarrassment, or momentary set back.  Yet, what sometimes happens when we hang on so tightly to our children, taking on their pain and disappointment, is that we forget that they are not us.  We being to enmesh more of ourselves into their lives than what we should and we try to control more of their experiences and responses to life than we actually can.  Our desire to spare them rises up from deep within and we don’t even realize we are reacting, or rather interfering.  In other words, we are blind to their autonomy.  Their pain feels like it’s our pain.  Yet our interference can actually stunt their emotional growth.

One of the most difficult requirements of a good parent is to watch our children experience discomfort and do nothing to disrupt the experience.  From the moment they are infants we begin to interpret their cries in order to meet their needs–hunger, a dirty diaper, a cold, the need to burp, the need to cuddle.  Our natural tendency is to put ourselves between their experiences and their emotions–to rescue them from pain.  Yet, even infants need to figure out how to self sooth, and how to put themselves back to sleep, as well as how to better and better express the needs they can’t meet for themselves.   If we want our toddlers, youngsters, adolescents, teens, and young adult children to grow successfully into their next stage of development we must allow them to experience the pains and frustrations that motivate them to become problem solvers, self-sufficient individuals, and ultimately confident members of society.  Rescuing them from themselves impedes their learning and development.

I often hear mom’s say, “I just want my children to be happy.”  Believe me, I get it.  The problem is sometimes our assumptions about what will make our children happy and our dreams for their future look a whole lot less like them then they look like us.  If we are grieving over something as trivial as the color, length, or style of our adult child’s hair or if we allow our teenage children to throw tantrums, use hateful language, or blame us for the pain in their lives that we haven’t caused–we are too ensnared.  We have not made healthy boundaries for ourselves and we have not successfully taught our children (or given them the opportunity) to be autonomous and own their choices/behavior.

It is never too late to learn to set boundaries.  While those have gotten use to playing the victim might not like the change very much, our biggest resistance to the boundaries we need to set won’t come from outside ourselves; our biggest resistance will come from within.  Most of us have thoroughly absorbed the messages delivered by our culture, our religion, and our own upbringing that our value is directly connected to how we walk out the role: Mom.  Even if we have prosperous careers or impactful ministries outside our families, our children are often the barometers by which we are measured.  These messages provide a powerful motivation to make certain success (however it has been defined) is achieved.  Trusting our children to choose is tough enough when their happiness is on the line. but when our worth is tangled up with the choices they might make trusting them can feel impossible.  Yet, if they are going to have a true chance at happiness we must let them determine what happiness means for themselves.

SO Moms–(and dads, if this applies to you) while you brought your children into the world without their permission, the umbilical cord has been cut.  Your job from that moment on-ward, is to let them cry.  Their lungs need a full breath so they can ultimately learn to breathe on their own.

Posted by: minnow | July 6, 2015

To the Leaders of My Beloved Church

Let me begin by saying, I have a deep and abiding faith in and love for God. I cannot remember a time in my life when that has not been true although today it is a faith that has been tested and so is stronger and certainly more grounded than it was when I was first married or even the mother of teenagers. It is definitely less idealistic today than the untested childlike faith I had in a Jesus who loves me and a God who would never let me go. I wish I could claim my love for the Church has never wavered but sadly, my love for and confidence in the Church  has taken a beating over the past decade. Yet, I am finally beginning to understand how impossible it is to effectively love others if we (the Church) do not first, sincerely, love ourselves. Having said that, I am grieved by how far away from love parts of the Body have wandered.  With this in mind I write my letter.

Let me just jump in with both feet. I am concerned about the relationship between the Church and LGBT people. In the name of full disclosure, I should tell you, my son is gay. He has been gay his whole life but he revealed this truth to me, to our family, a little over four years ago.  Obviously the timing of this letter has less to do with my son’s “coming out” than the SCOTUS decision to affirm the rights of same-sex couples to marry, yet my son’s experience of organized religion is ultimately my motivating factor.

While Friday June 26 was a good day for US civil rights and I am personally happy for my son, it was not such a great day for the Church. Prior to and in the wake of the SCOTUS announcement various Church leaders shook their fists, spewed dire warnings about the end of the world, and called down hell fire and damnation on LGBT people and their allies.  Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and today other than a few die hard fist shakers, most Church leaders have begun to urge their followers to take the higher ground and love “them” while holding firm to their “faith”, an attitude that at least on the surface seems more decorous.  Others, like Christopher Page, are my true heroes in this conversation.  Page gently promotes a perspective that might actually cause people to look rationally at how the SCOTUS decision impacts them. And while I obviously hope more people read his post, I have a more urgent plea, not as much for the general populous, as for leadership.

When my son finally said those words to me, “Mom, I’m gay.” I was grieved—NOT by what he was confessing but by what I understood in that moment about how difficult it was for him to admit it. I had watched him struggle in the months prior. I had suspected what he struggled to say. But honestly I had no idea. I did not realize, at first, that my son had already spent countless hours begging God to change him, to take the gay away. I did not yet know that he had gone through years of shame and self-loathing. I was ignorant of the fact that he tried to force himself to be attracted to girls, like his friends, and his brothers, and his father, and his role models, and his pastors; and felt like a failure. I didn’t understand because he was afraid to tell us, worried he might be rejected by his family and his fellowship, afraid that if he was found out he might end up homeless, hated, and alone.

His struggle literally made him sick, so sick we had to pull him from school the end of his sophomore year. My son, that beautiful brown-eyed boy who loved to dance before the Lord in worship, even contemplated ending his life. He actually wondered if it would be better to be dead than admit to his friends and family he is gay. Mind you, all of this was BEFORE he ever acted on his same-sex attraction. I am exceedingly glad he decided to risk sharing his secret with us—face to face—rather than in a suicide note.

I can handle the fact my son is gay but I need help to direct the anger I feel toward organized religion. The Church—most of the Church—is and has been abusing children—my child—and I have to continually remind myself it isn’t the whole Church. Not all Christians take on the roles of judge and jury instead of family and friend. Not all of us spew condemnation or threaten civil war. Not all blame natural disasters and all of society’s ills on LGBT people. Not everyone kicks their own children out of their homes, removes them from leadership roles or bans them from youth groups and Christian fellowships. Motivated by a sincere desire to follow Christ, to honor God, and to love children the way we have been loved, some of us have chosen instead to reexamine what we have been taught and to find hope in the Good News of the gospels, the walk and words of our Lord, and the counsel of the Spirit.

I love the Church and I do not want to bring her strife. But, I am also aware that the relationship between LGBT people and most of the Church is tenuous at best. Although some in the Church have begun to open their hearts, minds, and doors to LGBT people most continue to label, bully, shun, shame, and exclude. By shutting the doors of fellowship to LGBT people we are the antithesis of Christ found in the gospel. Still, inclusion of LGBT people in the Body has divided fellowships, broken families, and tarnished, yet again, the Bride’s image. With regard to this issue the media does not “know us by our love” but instead seems to take pleasure in showing us at our worst. It certainly doesn’t hurt their rating when they do. Both sides have flung mud and behaved badly and neither side’s bad behavior speaks for God.  We must find a better way.

Please, do not hear what I am not saying. As much as I personally believe I am correct and those of you who adhere to the view that homosexuality is a choice, same-sex attractions are the devil’s temptation, and acting on same-sex attractions is sin are incorrect, my pleas is not to simply take my word for it.  Instead, I ask you to agree to be guided by the Spirit, to ask the Spirit to teach you what it looks like to love your neighbor, especially the LGBT neighbor in your midst. For I guarantee you, there are LGBT people in your midst—MY SON GREW UP IN YOUR MIDST.  Please, decide to do the homework you need to do FULLY, in order to understand how our words and actions have impacted LGBT people.  Do not simply reread the words the teachers of the law have taught you, but rather with the guidance of the Spirit, intentionally wrestle with the other point of view. Learn what scripture says AND DOES NOT SAY about same-sex relationships, and salvation, and our role as the body, from the other point of view. Look at Biblical culture and Church history and our culture from the other point of view. Find out the science with regard to human sexuality.  And, seek to understand the personal stories of LGBT individuals.

While some on the far right have increased their shouting about end times struggles I do not share their doomsday prophesies. I do, however, believe the Church is on the precipice of a significant shift.  By more fully understand these issues and the people behind these issues we have the ability to cast out fear and discover the truth about what love looks like. On multiple occasions throughout scripture the Church is given a mandate to love others as well as an admonition to avoid judging them. The Jesus I found in the Bible befriended the marginalized, embraced the downtrodden, cautioned the self-righteous, and encouraged a fresh reading of scripture.  As leaders, mentors, and role models refusing to wrestle with one of the major moral, spiritual issues of our day is a disturbing option. Please, prepare your hearts and minds to receive counsel from the Spirit on this issue. Spend time reexamining the example of Christ in the Gospels. Know that God is speaking to the Church concerning our LGBT brothers and sisters. And,He has not called us to a ministry of condemnation but rather to the gospel of reconciliation.

You are all in my prayers.



Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 246 other followers