Friday, December 14, 2018

Why I Resist Trump

Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin...If more people had resisted them before they became super powerful, brutal, autocratic dictators, history might have unfolded a bit differently. My opposition to Trump is not partisan. I don’t reject him because he’s on “the other team”...I reject him because he is a danger to decency, justice, fairness, equality, and peace. I am not a member of his party (and neither was he for most of his life), but I didn’t wake up in a deep, despondent depression on Nov. 9, 2016 because I’m a tax and spend liberal who doesn’t believe Science is Satan’s tool and who believes compassion is not a sign of weakness and my lady lost (with 3 million more votes than the so-called winner...though that fact is galling)...I woke up in deep despair because an incompetent, soulless, psycho rode a wave of racism, xenophobia and corruption to immense power and I was honestly scared.  We will have R and D presidents and they will do things I agree with and things I don’ 100% rejection of Trump has nothing to do with that. My rejection of Trump is my chance to say I did what I could when I could to prevent an Idi Amin (who was in power for 8 years...may that not even be an option for us!) from ruling with unchecked brutality in my own country.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

My Not Very Lefty Attitude Toward Bush 41

My possibly controversial attitude toward the passing of President Bush. 

Full disclosure (and unless we met 10 minutes ago, you know this already): I am not a member of the Republican Party. I have never voted for a GOP candidate who was running opposed by a Democrat. I have only voted for Democratic presidential candidates (so far). I believe we need and deserve and can afford a strong social safety net. I believe war should be avoided whenever possible. I believe the government should try to protect the environment. I believe health care is a right, and higher education should be affordable. No person who works full time should ever be living below the poverty line. I am pro-choice (realizing that even “choice” implies privilege that not everyone has).  I am a person of faith and cherish the freedom of religion, AND, I am furious that “religious freedom” is misapplied and intentionally misunderstood to protect and promote a variety of prejudices and injustices. Reasonable gun safety legislation is desperately needed. I hold the radical view that LGBTQ citizens are entitled to equal protection and equal opportunity and are, in fact, fully human. And, the Reagan-era silence and apparent apathy in the face of AIDS was almost unforgivable, and certainly cost many lives. Had the sufferers not been largely gay folk, I honestly believe the response would have been swifter and more compassionate. know, a hard right winger I ain’t. 

That being said, my own health and sanity depend on a level of grace, a measure of forgiveness, a need to see more than misdeeds when evaluating a human life, especially a life that was dedicated (in whatever flawed way) to public service. 

I do NOT share the ever so popular view that Reagan was a great leader. He was charming and patriotic and eloquent, and often, wrong. 

At this point in my life, I can say absolutely nothing positive about Donald Trump. I hope I grow to a point where I can one day say something good about him, but I find him to be the least qualified, least moral, and most dangerous person to occupy the WH in my lifetime. But I tire of hating him, and I do pray that I am or will evolve to the point of being able to pity him, forgive him (and those who enable him), and look to a future filled with hope.

I am more gracious when it comes to Bush 41. I did NOT vote for him. I AM aware of a series of things that I think he could have done better. I am also aware of things he did well. I believe his intention was to serve honorably. I am not excusing his mistakes or misjudgments, I’m simply not reducing his life to them. I know many of my friends and fellow liberals are outraged by him, but I’m so tired of hatred and rage and despair and regret...I am NOT chastising anyone who feels entitled to such feelings or who feels that such feelings are the only feelings available to them, but I am saying that for me, for my peace of mind, I have to be able to honor his service and let him depart this world with dignity and peace. No one has to share my view, but I hope those who don’t will understand that it is also a legitimate path. Our complex world offers very few all right vs. all wrong answers...we’re all just to trying our best to make meaning in the midst of chaos. 

I have personally been hurt, betrayed, insulted, deceived by people, and anger is natural. Trust is sometimes destroyed forever. But eventually, I find myself being willing to be willing to forgive...if only because the anger is too exhausting and I’m getting too old to haul it around all the time. If I can forgive, or try to forgive, or be willing to allow forgiveness to overtake me when it comes to people in my life who proved untrustworthy, then I can probably forgive well meaning, flawed, sometimes myopic political leaders who deal with pressures, challenges, and choices I will never face. That’s not a pass to all A-holes, but it is a declaration that at some point, I have to let the A-holes go so that they don’t continue to hurt me because I am keeping them active in my own head. 

I voted for Dukakis. I voted for Clinton. Bush 41 wasn’t my candidate, but he was my president.  And so to President Bush I can say, “Rest in peace.”  And that actually gives me some peace.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Prayers Make a Difference

So here’s a delightful observation I made yesterday (my birthday). 

Of course there were the copious wishes for a happy birthday (and it was happy, and the wishers of happiness certainly contributed to that fact!). There were also lots of prayers, affirmations, and blessings.  It reminded me of how tangible the energy of kindness is, how savory goodwill is, how delicious love is, and how intentions travel on currents of thought and feeling to actually touch and uplift those for whom they are offered. 

We all pray in different ways, but the methods are secondary to the intent. Good wishes, affirmations, invocations of hope, expressions of love, and requests made of a Universal Presence all contribute to something wonderful being shared in the world. So, I am grateful for the good wishes and blessings yesterday (and some have continued today...every day is a good day to offer a blessing) and for the reminder that prayers of every sort make a difference. Keep praying, y’all. Not just for me, but for whoever may cross you mind today. It’s good business!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Midterm Election Prayer

Midterm Election Prayer
By Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Spirit of shared life,
In the United States it is election time again.
It is time to choose our House of Representatives, a third of our Senate, and many of our governors and local officials.
We can’t ask you to do what we will not, but we can invite you into our thinking, into our actions, into our attitudes, and into our service.
It is both a right and a responsibility of all citizens to vote.
May we have the courage to resist voter suppression.
May we have the desire to participate in shaping the direction of our nation.
May we know that our votes matter, and are needed.
And may we vote according to conscience and character.
May our votes be influenced by both head and heart.
May our votes protect equality, promote justice, preserve peace, and proclaim a respect for the dignity of all people.
Inspire us to vote in this election, and in every election that follows.
May we do our best to be our best, in the name of all that is good and holy. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Y’all, We Just Have to Do Better

I don’t say this to be unkind, to be condescending, or to be disrespectful of cherished values...I say this because our survival may depend on our waking up. If someone tells you the earth is 6k years old, that person is either a moron, a crazy person, a jokester, or a very sheltered and naive person who has been woefully misinformed. In any case, s/he is WRONG. Who cares? We all should, because if we ignore reliable science on matters like the earth’s age, then we’ll ignore science about climate change, gender identity, sexual orientation, childhood/adolescent/adult development, dementia, immune suppressing diseases...stuff that really matters. You get to have your god, your religion, your rituals, your myths, your values, and your dreams (I am very thankful for my own), but you must also be open to learning, to reason, to peer reviewed information, and to ideas that offer solutions other than “hate/fear those brown people or those queers or those non-Americans over there.”

Children are in cages. Families are torn apart. Refugees fleeing for their lives are being turned away (or turned back to the hells they escaped). The environment is under attack. Same gender loving people and gender non-conforming/non-binary/transgender/two spirit people are having their families, their lives, their very identities threatened. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to be smarter than we’ve been. And it is certainly time to participate fully in our democracy. Apathy is hurting us even more than the dedication of the unenlightened.

The earth isn’t flat and it isn’t young. Living, breathing, named, thinking, socially interactive children matter at least as much as fetuses. The earth isn’t invulnerable. And ignoring these facts has put our collective butts in a sling. Please, let’s do better.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Lots of Feels as EDS’ St. John’s Chapel is Deconsecrated Today

The Philadelphia Divinity School and the Episcopal Theological School merged in the 1970s to become the Episcopal Divinity School. EDS had diverse faculty (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Jewish, Asian, African American, Caucasian, men, women, gays, lesbians, lay, ordained) and a diverse student body (Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran, UCC, Unitarian Universalist, MCC, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Anglicans from Kenya, Uganda, Jamaica, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, etc), and it was part of a world class consortium (The Boston Theological Institute) which included Boston College, Boston University, and Harvard.

EDS was a special place dedicated to anti-oppression work, to an inclusive gospel, to sharing the all-inclusive and unconditional love of God.

And, more than a school, it was a community. One never really was graduated from EDS. One was degreed, but never felt the need to “leave.” One to three times a year, every year since I earned my DMin there, I would go “home” to EDS.

EDS lives on in the ministry of the church I pastor and in parishes, Cathedrals, Chaplaincies, service organizations, the diaconate, classrooms, and hearts all over the world.

Last year, EDS was closed down (unnecessarily, in my view, and in ways that many of us resisted). EDS’ name and money still exist as EDS@Union (basically the Anglican house of studies at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, my other beloved theological alma mater). If the merger had been done more transparently and honestly (by EDS trustees), and if EDS could have retained a degree program (MATS or DMin maybe), I think it would have been something I could have celebrated (two great schools joining forces), and/or if they had kept one or two EDS faculty (they sacked them all) that would have been at least kind (and bridge building). Instead, the merger feels more like loss and has caused grief for many.

These thoughts are with me as St John’s Chapel on the campus of what was EDS in Cambridge, MA is deconsecrated today. God bless the EDS diaspora and the EDS energy that still flows through so many ministries.

Pardon My Overshares

Pardon My Overshares
When I came out to myself, I came out to the world (and btw world, in case you forgot, I’m still gay!). And it was such a liberating and life-giving experience that it taught me to live my life openly, gladly, and as much as possible without shame or fear (or at least in spite of fears).

And so, I may “overshare” on occasion. I share my doubts, my challenges, my victories, my hopes, my joys. I share about my battles with (and various victories over) depression. I shared about my detached retina, long healing process, and the joy of finally having better vision than before the incident. I shared when loved ones passed from this life experience to whatever is next. I share about my long, complicated, and often dysfunctional relationship with the scaleI share about coming of age in the world of AIDS and living well as a long term survivor. Recently I’ve shared about a fairly brief experience of Bell’s Palsy (and the exciting and rapid improvement that followed).

I am not looking for sympathy (well, not from the masses...I have my personal sympathy providers and I’ll call them when I need them). I’m not looking for anything, actually. What I want to do is share that living a life of faith is not necessarily a life of constant ease, but it can be a life of constant hope and joy that is frequently renewed. I want to show that faith can help us find and employ tools that will enable us to conquer, survive, learn from, or reinterpret the challenges in life. Faith can even give us the power to laugh and laughter, as it turns out, is healing.

I simply want to be a credible witness to the truth that while experiences come and go, we always have the power to hope, to love, to laugh, to keep moving forward. We can demonstrate blessings in the middle of uncertainty, and we can experience love, peace, gratitude, and optimism regardless of the circumstances at hand.

I don’t always do it as well as I’d like. I can feel defeated or overwhelmed or afraid like everyone else, but I do try to remind myself that I don’t have to stay stuck in those feelings forever. And when I change my attitude about something, I almost always, to some degree, also change my experience of it. And I hope that is encouraging to others who may be facing difficulties.

So, forgive me for the overshares, but I offer them as gifts, and like all gifts, if they don’t appeal to you, “accidentally” leave them in the car and forget about them (possibly regift them later). But if they do encourage you, I am so glad and that alone makes it a blessing for me.

—Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral
Ft. Lauderdale