Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Task Teenagers Can Do Better Than Anyone

Christian Youthworker friends,
As reports of post-election hate speech, harassment, intimidation and violence against racial, religious and sexual minorities continue to roll in — and given that more than a few of those reports involve school children and teenagers — there's much that youth workers can do to guide their groups to a fresh understanding that there is nothing Christian (nothing authentically American for that matter) about hate speech, intimidation, vandalism, or personal violence.
Going a step farther, if the biblical text is to be believed, there's something profoundly Christian about defending the weak, the poor, the sick, the broken, the captive, foreigners, widows, orphans, strangers....
You know that the teenagers you serve are better positioned to see and respond quickly to hate speech, harassment, intimidation, and student-on-student violence than anyone else.
If you don't have a better idea, do something with safety pins.
Put a largish safety pin on your shirt, dress, or jacket, and offer one to anybody willing to identify himself or herself as a safe person at school and in the neighborhood for friends and neighbors who feel unsafe because of the present turmoil ... in particular: Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, immigrants, pretty much anyone with dark skin, women and girls, sexual minorities - whoever in your community feels at risk ... in some communities it may be Trump supporters who feel at greater risk this week than before the election.
Safety Pin people will protect anyone who needs protecting by 
  • standing with them
  • eating with them
  • walking with them
  • sharing a ride with them
  • dialing 911 for them
  • recording video of anyone who threatens them
  • taking screen shots of anything that expresses violent intentions towards them online
  • standing up to online bullies and trolls
  • not allowing them to be physically isolated or cornered by anyone who means to harm them 
At the end of the day - whoever they are - if people who need help can't get it from folks who say they know a little something about God, then where exactly are they supposed to turn in your community?
There may never be a more teachable time to help your group understand and embrace this sort of proactive peacemaking than the space between now and the weekend of Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.
Consider doing something to engage your group in caring about and speaking up for our dispossessed neighbors:

  • this week, to strike while the iron is hot
  • during Advent as we anticipate the coming of God with us
  • at Christmastide as we explore the meaning of God's intervention on our behalf
  • as we celebrate Martin Luther King, jr. Day, just before the Presidential Inauguration
  • the week, or weekend of the Inauguration
IMHO, sooner is better than later. And from now on, would be best of all.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stop It | meanness + violence are not free speech

Michael Vadon cc
Two weeks ago, the President of the United State took pains# to correct Hillary Clinton supporters who were jeering at a Donald Trump supporter at a Clinton campaign rally. President Obama told the crowd to  respect the man as an apparent veteran, as an elder, and because we live live in a society that respects free speech.

Last night, President-Elect Donald J. Trump looked directly into a 60 Minutes camera and addressed supporters who have treated the outcome of the election as a license to harass, threaten, and even assault brown-skinned Americans, religious and sexual  minorities. He said, "Stop it!"

 That should take care of it, right? We're in this together.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Speaking Up | a burden we bear for each other

I'm deep in conversation the last couple of days with white friends who are deeply aggrieved that anyone would suggest they should, could, would, disavow the racism embodied in the one they voted for, and the acts of otherizing, intimidation, and violence committed by people who openly invoke his name and the violent, racist, sexist, chauvinist, classist signs and symbols he employed in gaining the election. They are hurt and seem angry that anyone asks them to account for any of that.

Now, I'm about to tell a true story. If you twist this story to say I am calling Donald Trump a terrorist, you will be consciously and deliberately misrepresenting what I'm saying and what I mean by what I'm saying. (For the record, the president-elect has threatened terrorist acts - e.g. killing the families of terrorists <http://www.nationalreview.com/article/428719/kill-terrorists-families-gangsta-trump> and torturing prisoners, "even if it doesn't work" <http://theweek.com/speedreads/590700/trump-bet-ass-approve-waterboarding--even-doesnt-work> - so that makes him someone to keep an eye on, but he is not alleged to have carried out acts of terrorism.) Anyway, reading further constitutes agreement that you will not represent me to have called Donald Trump a terrorist.

I'm friends with an American imam who patiently and graciously bears the burden of being lumped in with terrorists - who faces, and has faced for 15 years, constant demands that he disavow terrorists and terrorism. He has repeatedly, consistently, and passionately disavowed terrorism and terrorists with his spoken and written words, and by his actions as a Muslim and as an American. He never cast a vote for a terrorist, and he never would. But people outside his community still demand that he account for the demonstrable truth that people whose skin is brown like his, and who use religious language that, on the surface, sounds like the religious language he uses, have done, and say they intend to continue committing, acts that are commonly referred to as crimes against humanity. So the imam keeps disavowing the philosophy and practices of these people he never voted for and never would, because he sees how frightened the people outside his community are, and because he values the truth, and I suppose because he knows not everyone is going to read the Qur'an carefully enough and engage practicing Muslim neighbors deeply enough to find out what faithful Muslims value and what sort of people observant Muslims truly are. So he puts himself on the hook to speak out against wrongdoers for whom he did not vote, who he does not support, and, in fact has opposed since before 9/11. It's a burden he bears for others.

In that spirit - a burden lifted and carried for the sake of others - I'm asking my friends in the white majority who voted for Donald Trump to do just once what people demand of my Muslim friends all the time: Reassure us that, though your skin is the same color and you use religious language that sounds on the surface like the language of wrongdoers who presently feel empowered to harm people of color and religious and sexual minorities, that you disavow, clearly and unambiguously, the misogyny, racism, religious hate speech, classism, cultural chauvinism, and violence that seem to have come with the package - and in some cases seem to BE the package - your candidate and some of his supporters sold in this election ... because, while I'm not afraid of you personally, I am afraid that, if push comes to shove, you might not defend some people I love as much as I love you.

Friday, November 11, 2016

working for the common good | or not

ANARCHY IS NOT PROGRESSIVE.

Sorry, I didn't mean to shout but, 
if you practice 
hate speech, 
intimidation, 
vandalism, or 
personal violence, 
you are not my protester.

Youth Workers may never see a more teachable moment than this weekend to talk about Christian behavior toward classmates, friends + neighbors

Youthworker friends - this weekend is your clearest shot at guiding your group to a fresh understanding that there is nothing Christian (nothing authentically American for that matter) about hate speech, intimidation, vandalism, or personal violence. Going a step farther, if the biblical text is to be believed, there's something profoundly Christian about defending the weak, the poor, the sick, the broken, the captive, foreigners, widows, orphans, strangers.... If you don't have a better idea, call it Safety Pin Sunday. Put a largish safety pin on your shirt, dress, or jacket, and offer one to anybody willing to identify himself or herself as a safe person at school and in the neighborhood for friends and neighbors who feel unsafe because of the present turmoil ... in particular: Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, immigrants, pretty much anyone with dark skin, women and girls, sexual minorities - whoever in your community feels at risk ... in some communities it may be Trump supporters who feel at greater risk this week than before the election.

Safety Pin people will protect anyone who needs protecting by 
  • standing with them
  • eating with them
  • walking with them
  • sharing a ride with them
  • dialing 911 for them
  • recording video of anyone who threatens them
  • taking screen shots of anything that expresses violent intentions towards them online
  • standing up to online bullies and trolls
  • not allowing them to be physically isolated or cornered by anyone who means to harm them
At the end of the day - whoever they are - if people who need help can't get it from folks who say they know a little something about God, then where exactly are they supposed to turn in your community? There may never be a more teachable moment than this weekend to help your group understand and embrace this sort of proactive peacemaking right where they live.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Keep It To Yourself | Blind White Theologizing



My FaceBook feed is awash in, I presume well-meaning, platitudes from White people about just how all right everything is going to turn out in the wake of the 2016 elections. This strikes me as a particularly unfortunate form of whitesplaining.

Daniel Lee at Fuller Seminary posted overnight:
If your basic humanity is not threatened by Trump, does it make sense to invoke Christ's Lordship at this moment? Theological truth misused becomes a lie.
Wisdom for those with ears to hear.

It seems to me that any authentically Christian theology is necessarily incarnational - it's baked right into the word, "Christian," isn't it.... 

I don't see how any White - especially male - Christian who will not do everything possible to enter into the anguish of everyone who perceives the President Elect as an existential threat has any standing to speak theologically in this moment. And I think such people may forfeit that standing perpetually until the lessons of incarnation are internalized and subsequently expressed as compassion, and solidarity with those who suffer today.

To extend Daniel Lee's construct, "If you can't say something genuinely true, please don't say anything at all until you can." And I'll add that I'm pretty sure the promise of pie in the sky in the sweet by-and-by is cold comfort to people who hunger to see the self-described followers of Jesus embody the values and practices of God's kingdom right here and right now for the common good. Pie in the sky is junk food.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Friends + Neighbors in the Age of Trump | Vote

Jim Henderson | Imam Kamil Mufti | Rabbi Daniel Bogard | Pastor Jim Powell in Peoria IL October 30, 2016
Just back from Peoria, Illinois, where we premiered selected clips from the forthcoming No Joke documentary, in which a rabbi, an imam, and a preacher find out what it means to live together in peace as neighbors and Honest-to-God friends for life.

Running in parallel with the good-natured, often joyous, exchanges between the Rabbi Daniel Bogard,  Imam Kamil Mufti, and Pastor Jim Powell, I found a distressing thread of apprehension among American Muslims and Jews I talked with at the end of the evening: They are afraid for their safety from followers of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and they are afraid for their wellbeing should Mr. Trump be elected.

And why wouldn't they be afraid?

On January 6, 1941, in his State of the Union Address to the 77th Congress, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. 
The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world. 
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world. 
The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world. 
The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world. 
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
Donald Trump has pledged to selectively dismantle each of these freedoms at the expense of all who are not White Christian Americans.

And so, it is White Christian Americans who must stand against Mr. Trump on Election Day to protect our fellow citizens of every race, every religion, and every economic condition from the assaults we would never, in a thousand millennia, wish on ourselves or our children.

If Rabbi Bogard and Imam Mufti are not, explicitly, my neighbors, then I have misunderstood, or distorted, what it means to be a Christian.

I can — and perhaps should — express this commitment to every Black American, every Native American, every Asian American, every Latin American, every Pacific Islander; and to people of every religion and no religion ... to every one among us ... but this is not a list-making exercise. I think the idea is reasonably clear.

If I do not stand up for the rights and protections of my neighbors as vigorously as I stand up for my own rights and protections, then I'm afraid I am a sorry excuse for an American.

Standing for the four freedoms — applied equally to every one of us — begins with the ballot I cast. My vote is not everything, but it is the first thing that makes protecting and advancing the four freedoms easier, or harder, in 21st-century America.

Friday, September 16, 2016

voting is one crap I do not care to give | umm....

A few years back — long past the time anything could be done about that year's elections — someone I prize a great deal wisecracked, "I'm not registered to vote, so I don't give a crap."

Without much thought, but I hope not too ungenerously, I cracked back: "Should that be, 'I don't give a crap, so I'm not registered to vote?'"

I get it that some people don't believe their vote can make a difference in the kind of world (or neighborhood) where we conduct our lives, raise children and hope for the best. But I'm still surprised when the young, and parents, and would-be parents, and youth workers and anyone else who cares about the young, don't force their way to the front of the voting line — just in case it should turn out they're wrong ... just in case it should turn out their vote is the one that tips an important race one way or the other.

And for what it's worth ... as it turns out, "I thought I was registered ... oops," isn't a convincing anything. Here's a secure website sponsored by Rock the Vote where you can check your status while there's still time to fix a problem if there is one.

And here's a secure site where you can register.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Congressional Republicans' Christmas Tiff

The Obamas

Obama Message: "We Celebrate the Birth of Jesus this Christmas"

Republicans vow to celebrate Kwanzaa

(Washington, DC)

In a sharp rebuke to President Barack Obama, Republicans from both Houses of Congress pledged in a statement to: "uphold the quiet dignity and communal values of Kwanzaa.

"We will redouble our efforts to avoid the implicit endorsement of religion for which this administration has become famous in eight long years of war against the Constitution," the statement read.

Asked for his reaction, Vice President Joe Biden, a self-described Catholic who may have become radicalized during his Scranton, Pennsylvania childhood, said, "Republicans in Congress couldn't tell you how many A's there are in Kwanzaa — go ahead, ask Paul Ryan to spell it for you — buncha knuckleheads...."

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Not so fast," say Republicans | there are rules

McConnell

OBAMA MOVES TO WITHDRAW MERRICK GARLAND SUPREME COURT NOMINATION

"NOT SO FAST" SAY REPUBLICAN SENATE LEADERS

(Washington, D.C)

In an unexpected move, President Barack Obama moved to withdraw his nomination to the Supreme Court of Judge Merrick Garland. The move apparently took Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, by surprise. McConnell issued a tersely worded statement, promising to get to the bottom of whether a president in the last year of his term has the authority to withdraw the nomination of a, "highly qualified jurist who is universally applauded for the evenness of his rulings and the steadiness of his judicial temperament." Reached for comment, a White House spokesman said, "While Senator McConnell is entitled to his opinion, the President does not believe he is entitled interrupt the orderly proceedings of two of our three branches of government." Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as President of the Senate by virtue of his office, said, "I think Mitch should push, or pull, or go back to his day job in Kentucky."