Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It Took Trump to Make Me Appreciate Other GOP Presidents

When the U.S. invaded Lebannon I called the 40th POTUS a maniacal bastard in a sociology class. After presiding over 100 or so AIDS funerals, I called the same POTUS a murderer (blaming his silence and his reluctance to address the AIDS crisis or provide funding for research and care on helping the epidemic take more lives than it needed to). Today, I look back and while still disagreeing with his philosophies, policies, and inaction regarding a health crisis, I now see a decent if flawed human who was sincere in his beliefs even if I did not share them and who conducted himself with diginty and decorum. You shouldn't get bonus points for not being a total A-hole, but these days that seems like a really big PLUS.

Poppy Bush never really embarrassed me (except when he puked on the Japanese PM, but hey, people get sick...what can you do?). He built a world coalition to save Kuwait from Iraqi agreesion (or, James Baker did, but he was smart enough to have JB). Of course, he also chose an idiot for his VP and that was a little scary. Still, over all, he was a pretty good president (although we now know he may have gotten a little handsy now and then...SMH).

When Bill Clinton (who I very much admired) signed DOMA and allowed DADT turn into a witch hunt, i was disappointed. I know he believed in government and to govern is to make sacrifices and compromises, but nevertheless, I felt a little betrayed. And then when he had an affair with an intern (I didn't care about his sex life nor did I presume to know the covenant that he had made with his wife, but I was very much disappointed in the abuse of power - the most powerful man in the world seducing or allowing himself to be seduced by a virtually powerless intern - the breech of ethics was astounding), my only defense of him was that being a bad husband didn't make him a bad leader. In hind sight, taking advantage of an intern is almost unforgivable and I should have been more outraged. Still, his charm, his oratory skills, his intellect...those I miss to this day.

When W. invaded the wrong country for the wrong reason and lied about WMD, and when he "won" his first term ever so barely (damn Nader), I was certain he was the worst president in history. But, I think he really cared about most people, never intended to be cruel, thought of himself as a public servant, and while I bemoaned every minute of his presidency (he was certainly no advocate of LBGTQ rights), I'd trade the one we have now for him in a minute (but not his satanic vice president...what is it with the Bush boys and their veeps?).

President Obama was pretty close to perfect. Historic private sector job growth, marriage equality, protections for Trans people, elogquent speeches, optimistic rhetoric, a brilliant mind, a kind and generous demeanor, a way of connecting with people that was almost magical, a constitutional scholar, someone who took more abuse than anyone should with more grace than almost anyone could, recovery from the Great Recession...but even he, though close to perfect was not perfect. I was very disappointed with his use of drones and with his not fighting harder to get his legimitate SCOTUS choice to have a Senate hearing.

I'm a left of center kind of guy on most issues and my candidate doesn't always win, but I was never humiliated by any of the presidents. I was a kid for Johnson/Nixon/Ford/Carter and my views of them are shaped by what the grown folk were saying and by historical accounts (though I really like me some Jimmy Carter...he may be the best "person" to occupy the WH in my lifetime with BHO tying or coming in a razor thin second...I'm talking character, not skill, though both had plenty of that as well), but I have lived through Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama as an adult and in the end, they were all decent people...not always right in my view, but never evil, never insane, never cruel or infantile or a danger to the planet.

I don't think I will look back on 45 with the grace I have discovered for his predecessors. I hope we survive 45. But even the worst circumstances reveal a blessing. It took 45 to make me appreciate 40 and 43. The GOP platform is just to radically different from my values for me to vote for their candidates, but hopefully I will not in the future demonize candidates simply for having different views. Good people can disagree. Now, I will remain vehement and adamant when it comes to human rights - whether its LGBTQ people or immigrants or refugees or Muslims or whoever...justice and equality shouldn't be negotiable...but I believe that there are Republicans who share that view.

45 IS the worst ever (the data is pretty conclusive), and he is the most mendacious ever (a neat trick in the world of politics which lends itsself to spin, exaggeration, and lies of omission), and he may be the most dangerous ever. He is the least decent and least moral. I find nothing good or commendable about him, except that his ineptitude and viciousness forced me to rethink some of his predecessors and see their good qualities. So, thanks for the lesson 45...Now, if only a house would fall on you and some chick with a dog from the midwestwould throw a bucket of water or Pence...

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Holiday Thoughts & Prayers

MLK Holiday Thoughts & Prayers
Jan. 15, 2018
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prophet of justice, a minister of grace, an orator, a scholar, and a defender of human dignity. He stood up to the evils of segregation. He resisted an unjust war. He advocated for those who worked hard and were paid too little. He stirred the conscience of a nation. He challenged a government as boldly as the Prophet Amos. He comforted the hurting as compassionately as the Prophet Isaiah. He offered healthy ways of expressing righteous indignation in the manner of Jesus. And he envisioned a new, loving, fair world where evil was forever defeated as vividly as John did on Patmos. And, like the prophets and disciples before him, King gave his life for the divinely inspired vision he offered the world. 
Inspired by such a noble example of human charisma, courage, and conviction, let us speak truth today and seek healing where it is needed in our society and in our souls.
On this Martin Luther King Memorial Holiday it would be wrong to ignore or deny the rise of fear, hatred, and unrepentant bigotry that often dominate our public discourse.
We who seek to follow Jesus must surely be heartbroken when we hear of proposed "Muslim bans" or hear entire nations (whose populations are largely non-white) disparaged by people in our national leadership. We must be all the more disturbed when we hear such reprehensible speech defended by pugnacious preachers of pernicious piety.
We who have been instructed to love our neighbors as ourselves must surely feel sickened when our Transgender neighbors (and friends and family members) are demonized and dehumanized.
We who rejoice in the words of Jesus, "Come unto me all who labor and are heavy burdened and I will refresh you" must be overwhelmed with regret when we hear women time after time tell about their experiences of being threatened, mistreated, and assaulted. We must feel something close to outrage when their credible stories are dismissed and their assailants are rewarded with power and privilege.

We who pray weekly (if not daily), "Thy will be done" must surely wish for more to be done to help the inhabitants of St. Thomas and Puerto Rico who still struggle following the seasonal hurricanes.
And we who venerate the Prince of Peace must gasp in horror when threats of nuclear disaster become part of daily conversation.
So much healing is needed, and today is a good day to ask for God's grace and guidance. In the name of Martin, and in the name of Jesus whose way and witness inspired him, let us acknowledge the forces of oppression, pray for healing, and vow to resist injustice as Jesus the Christ did, as Martin the Apostle of Civil Rights did.
Let us pray:
Dear God,
     We acknowledge the sin of racism today. Lord have mercy.
     We admit that we have done too little to heal the wounds of xenophobia. Lord have mercy.
     We confess that we have not done enough to end poverty and to care for those who are poor. Lord have mercy.
     We acknowledge that we have not insisted strongly enough that women's sovereignty over their own bodies be respected. Lord have mercy.
     We admit that we have not done all that needs to be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ people. Lord have mercy.
     We confess that we must do more to defend the dignity of the aging. Lord have mercy.
     We acknowledge that we have not always been good stewards of the earth. Lord have mercy.
     We admit that we have rushed too often to war and have done too little to promote peaceful coexistence. Lord have mercy.
     We confess that love of money, power, privilege, or the comfort of the status quo has lulled us into acceptance of possible tyranny, especially when we thought we might not be the victims of it. Lord have mercy.
     God heal our brokenness.
     May love and hope unite us.
     May peace attend us.
     May we remember our divine inheritance and our sacred mission, and may we live more faithfully into our calling to live as if we were ONE (as in Truth, we are).

Yours in shared mission and ministry,
Durrell SIg 
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister 

 "Let justice roll on like a river, 
righteousness like a never-failing stream!" 
Amos 5.25 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Biblical Traditional Marriage? As if...

I grow weary of preachers defending discrimination against LGBTQ people. One right wing evangelist who enjoys some notoriety (mostly because of a famous relative) posted on social media today that businesses have a right to refuse service to LGBTQ people if they claim their discrimination is based on their belief in “biblical traditional marriage.” That of course spurred literally thousands to chime in to call same-gender love and attraction sinful and to cheer those who refuse to serve gay customers. I, as you will below, disagreed.

“Biblical traditional marriage? Would that include Abraham selling Sarah to a king’s harem, or him taking Hagar as a lover? Would that include David’s 8 or so wives (and love affair with Jonathan)? Would that include Solomon’s thousand spouses?  Would that include Adam and Eve who never had a wedding ceremony (who would have conducted it?). Would it include Cain and Abel and their wives (where did they come from?). Would it include Lot’s daughters who were engaged when he offered them to a rape gang? Does biblical marriage include Lot who not only offered his daughters to a rape gang but then had incest with them in a cave? And does traditional biblical marriage mean not serving single parents? Does it mean not serving remarried divorcees? Using “biblical” marriage as an excuse to discriminate against gays is mendacious and disingenuous. You’re entitled to your prejudices, but stop blaming them on God.” (dw)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Californians Facing the Fires Are in My Thoughts

I’m thinking of that old hymn, “Showers of Blessings.” I’m wishing for showers of blessings to fall upon the people who are frightened or injured or dislocated by the fires in California. May the people find the comfort they need. And God bless the first responders!

God Save Us

God deliver us from an imperial president. God bless the dreamers. God comfort and heal Jerusalem and all who call Her holy. God save us from the ravages and rage of fundamentalism no matter which religion it may infect. God restore us to sanity. God keep our hope alive. Amen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Stop Using “Sodom” Like It’s a Thing

So, SCOTUS is hearing the Colorado Wedding Cake case, where a baker claims to have the right to not bake for gay couples wanting a wedding cake. As long as a baker views someone as naughty or a couple’s love as illegitimate and claims that homophobia is Jesus mandated (which is false, btw), he/she/they should be able to refuse gay people’s cake orders. Obviously, such blatant discrimination is wrong, and hopefully, SCOTUS will make that clear. 

Still, the No Cakes For Homos position has its defenders. Someone on Social Media today in defense of the “Let them eat anything else” view posted, “An entire city was burned to the ground for sexual sin.” I don’t know how cake or religious or civil ceremonies equates to sexual sin, or how not baking a cake will somehow body block to people wanting to do the horizontal mambo. Also, the doomed city wasn’t named in the “sexual sin” post (nor was the date of the supposed occurrence nor the source of the info), but I’m in the religion biz and recognized the Sodom (& Gomorrah) reference from Genesis 19 (a storyin the Jewish and Christian bibles) instantly. When ignorance is employed to defend and promote hate, I often have to offer a counter narrative. It probably does little good, but silence will surely reduce me to drooling in a fetal position somewhere, so for my own sanity, I say something. 

Here was my response:

“Surely you aren’t throwing up the Sodom myth (poor Gomorrah, they never get much mention) as your argument for allowing businesses to discriminate? Sodom’s ‘sin’ wasn’t non-discriminatory bakeries. It was cruelty, inhospitality, and indifference to the marginalized...the Religious Right is more guilty of those sins than most! The attempted gang rape of ‘angels’ (which was foiled by the way, and PS...rape is always bad and is not the same as mutually shared attraction, affection, or even consensual bump and grind) didn’t occur until after Sodom was judged to be unworthy, and it would have been spared if any decent people could be found...it wasn’t destroyed because wedding cakes could be purchased by anyone, but because NO ONE was kind or generous or welcoming (again, starting to get close the Fundies). And, mutual attraction, love, or committed relationships are never mentioned in the story, so ‘gay’ isn’t the issue. Furthermore, the hero of the story is Lot, who at the end of the story sleeps with not one but BOTH of his daughters (after offering them to the rape gang that tried to attack the angels...even Abraham who was willing to kill his own child was a better father!). So, really, no sane person would ever use that terrible story to condemn love or mutual attraction. No, there has never been a city destroyed because of sexual ‘sin’...and even if one had been, that would have NOTHING do with a legal case about commercial discrimination.”

So, you know, stop it. Stop using Sodom likes its a thing. It’s certainly not a moral argument that justifies dehumanizing same-gender loving people. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Standing in the Need of Prayer

I love the old hymn lyrics: “It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” I happen to be someone who needs (and relies on) the power of prayer.

Skeptics (who can usually count me one of their own, but to their annoyance I also embrace mysticism, optimism, and recurring bouts of faith) will ask me if I really believe that prayer works. My experience is, as they say in 12 step programs, “It works if you work it.” That doesn’t mean that every wish is magically granted or that every difficulty instantly goes away. But lots of overlapping realities make getting support problematic (for me) sometimes. Maybe I don’t know how to ask or maybe I don’t know who to ask, but many times seeking encouragement from a friend (or acquaintance, colleague, or even professional listener of some sort) has left me feeling as lonely or anxious or defeated as if I had never sought it at all. BUT...whenever I have prayed, “Help!” to the seeming nothingness around me, I have almost always found relief. Maybe I am able to rest. Maybe a fresh idea comes to mind. Maybe I see things from a broader and brighter perspective. Maybe I find new resolve. Maybe I just accept that I can’t do much about the problem in that moment and that kind of surrender can lead to peace or at least temporary relief. Once in a while, a miracle (a dramatic change of perception) shows up!

I’ve asked people for  support...sometimes I got it in abundance, other times I got a little and what I got came begrudgingly, still other times I got squat, but when I have asked the god of my ever evolving understanding and experience for support, I have received it. Did the support come from God, my higher Self, my subconscious mind, or are they all the same Thing (or all parts of the same Thing)? I don’t much care. What I know is that prayer has offered relief that didn’t seem to come from anywhere else. 

I think if I were an atheist I would be a praying atheist. My experience of prayer is that encouraging. So, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep praying. I may not do it the way you do, I may understand the mechanics of prayer differently than you do, but I have come to depend on and be profoundly grateful for moments of prayer. And, as a side note, I find some of the most cathartic prayer experiences happen in the middle of the night, but really, I think any time is a good time for prayer.