Those Jesus words again

We Christians like the words so much we called them the golden rule. It is not one of ten rules, but one simple overarching rule espoused by that Jesus fellow. To me, if we do that one thing, we will better for it.

Paraphrasing it simply says treat others like you want to be treated. It is so simple and yet so profound. And, it is universal with variations findable in other religious texts. It is so universal, even atheists and agnostics can see its wisdom and adopt its governance.

Yet, the golden rule is not caveated. It does not say, treat all Christians like you want to be treated. It does not say treat fellow citizens like you want to be treated. It does not say treat people of the male gender like you want to be treated. Nor does it say treat only heterosexuals like you want to be treated.

And, just to state the obvious, it does not say treat people who look like you as you want to be treated. Let me say this plainly. As a 60-year-old white man, Jesus did not look like me. He did not look like Max von Sydow or Jeffrey Hunter who played him in the movies.

Jesus was of Middle Eastern Jewish descent and likely had a swarthy complexion. If Jesus walked into the wrong bar with white supremacists today, he would likely be harmed or showed the door. Jesus would not have ordained the US Constitution as some people believe, as he would be ashamed of our founders for tolerating slavery and that 3/5 a person wording in a document promoting freedom. Yet, he would see hope in the improvements made to the document over   the last 200 plus years.

Folks, I am an imperfect man. I guard against my biases, but like everyone, still have them. Yet, that golden rule has to be more than words. We must treat each other like we want to be treated. And, for Christ’s sake and our own morality, we cannot condone the killing of others because they are perceived to be different. It simply is not right nor is it justified, especially by some warped or myopic view of religion or patriotism.

 

Do you have standing?

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have multiple affairs, marry a lesbian lover, worship as a Muslim, Evangelical or Universalist, or walk around naked inside your house, that is your business. I do not have standing to take legal action about my complaint. It is only when you harm me, that makes it an issue.

I mention this as people who want their freedoms somehow forget this point when they look to deny yours. This is a human shortcoming we must guard against. My rights cannot be more important than another person’s. This is where religious freedom laws often go a bridge too far. They remind me of when African Americans could not eat in a whites only restaurant. They had to go around back and get a to-go order.

When I see the Supreme Court say it is OK to decline service because of religious freedoms, let’s change the equation around and see if it stands up. Could a Muslim bakery refuse to provide a wedding cake to a wedding between a Muslim and a Baptist or interracial couple as these run counter to their religious beliefs. What about a Catholic bakery that refuses to make a wedding cake for a second marriage? What about a gay baker refusing to serve an Evangelical couple who openly advocated against his rights?

Even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the baker could deny service to a gay couple’s wedding, it was a narrow ruling. Yet, did the baker have standing? He was not harmed by the gay couple. Go back to the previous examples to see the slippery slope.

I write this today as a result of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville riots. While groups have a right to peaceful assembly and protest, there is a subtle but important distinction on standing. A white supremacist who advocates against equal rights for non-whites does not have standing. A Black man’s rights do not impact the White man’s. Yet, someone who is protesting that you are advocating against my equal rights does have standing. A white supremacist is infringing on another’s rights.

We all have equal rights. Mine are no more important than yours. And, vice versa.

 

Strange Fruit is the Monument we need to guard against

The question on whether to remove monuments built to honor Confederate leaders is a distraction from the real issue that unfortunately lingers on. The real issue is those who feel that other citizens who look, act or worship differently do not have the same rights in our country. These white supremacists are perpetuating bigotry and hatred that ran amok during the Jim Crow era. Sadly, this Jim Crow-like   oppression has resurfaced in the eyes of too many.

The real monuments we need to remember and guard against are captured in the song “Strange Fruit*” powerfully and mournfully sung by Billie Holiday. The monuments that should scare us are young black bodies swaying in the wind hanging from trees. As Holiday sings, this “strange fruit” is a painful reminder of what bigotry and hatred can do.

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK must be condemned for their bigotry and hatred. It is that simple. We should not have tolerated it then and we must not tolerate it now. And, since the President won’t condemn such behavior and his past and current words have emboldened these white supremacists, we Americans must take up that mantle and say this is not right.

* Written by Lewis Allan, Maurice Pearl, Dwayne P Wiggins

Perhaps too much is being asked of too few

The title of this post came from a lyric to a song called “Patriot’s Dream” by Arlo Guthrie. Let me repeat it for emphasis – perhaps too much is asked of too few. What does this mean in today’s world?

This weekend we saw a 32 year old woman killed who was doing what she always did – protesting injustice. There she stood with mind, body and soul standing up to hate. She said with her presence it is not right that you violate what Jesus and others told us and unfairly demonize others who do not look like you do. And, in our country it is not right to deny rights to other citizens.

We have allowed too few to stand up and do what is right. This woman had more courage in her tiny body than many of those whose hearts are filled with hate. We all need to join with her efforts to fight injustice. Hate cannot carry the day.

What can we do? We must shine spotlights on hate. Just like roaches, when the light is turned on they will scatter. It takes a lot of energy to hate and it will wear you down. The easier path is to treat others with dignity and compassion.

We must ask of our religious and political leaders to speak more of tolerance and doing what is right. If they choose not to, then we must seek new leaders. We cannot condone bigotry from our leaders and especially from the pulpit.

Seeing the wave of support against these hate mongers is encouraging. But, we must continue the fight against bigotry. We must avoid using the violence in so doing, but we must stand strong against those who do. And, remember the words of another song about bigotry by Oscar Hammerstein in “South Pacific.”

“You must be carefully taught by the time you are seven are eight, to hate the people your parents hate. You have to be carefully taught.”

Or, we could teach love instead.

 

 

Vernacular needs to change

If we want to address real problems in our country, we may want to change our vernacular. When we hear something routinely called or framed a certain way by a politician or news network, we may accept that as the only truth. Yet, it may gloss over the greater problem.

For example, the far greater terrorist threat in the US is not from so-called Islamic extremists. It is from domestic terrorism that more often comes from white supremacist groups. There are over 1,100 hate groups being tracked by law enforcement groups and their hate crimes prevalence dwarfs that of Islamic extremists. Yet, funding to police the domestic terrorists has declined much to the chagrin of law enforcement.

Another example is freedom of the press is under siege and its attackers tend to shout fake news, when criticism comes their way. The best way to address the fake news is to get the story right. I see a greater amount of earnestness in legitimate media to do just that. I would also ask why the shouters of accusations of fake news tend to be the ones who routinely change their story. The White House has announced yet again a change in communication strategy with a new resignation. One thing they have not tried is something so very simple. It is called the truth. I think the reason it has not been tried is the truth may bare some unflattering and illegal activities.

So, when you hear someone shout fake news, consider the source. There is enough fake news out there, we all need to be on our guard and the purpose of the shouter may be use that prevalence  to his advantage. When I hear the President speak or read his tweets, I tend to not believe a word he says. The odds are in my favor.

So, to sum up, accusations of “fake news” are now being used to cover up lying, so pay attention to the source and let’s call lying for what it is. And, when a white supremacist kills multiple people, that is domestic terrorism and is just as evil as any other terrorism. Maybe if we call things what they are, we can better address the issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday – a few random thoughts

With due credit to the Rolling Stones, we approach the end of a gem of a Tuesday. We are celebrating our daughter’s 20th birthday at her favorite restaurant. It is a joy to see the woman she has become, with her sense of purpose, humor and morality.

With the latter in mind, let me speak to those who are our moral compasses during these much needed times. The first shout out goes to Angela Merkel who has now become the leader of the free world. She has taken the mantle that the current US President has ceded with his retrenchment mindset and fondness for authoritarian leaders. She has a better grasp of right and wrong than our leader and sees the advantages of mutual trade and trust.

Another shout out goes to the three men in Portland who interceded to protect two Muslim American women from the verbal abuse of a white supremacist. Two of them (Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche) paid with their lives, while the third (Micah Fletcher) was injured. It should not be lost on anyone that one of the deceased (Best) was a veteran who fought for the rights of the Muslim women to practice their faith with our freedom of religion. I have purposefully avoided the use of the killer’s name who I view as a domestic terrorist.

Finally, a shout to Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro. His graciousness exemplified how to handle maltreatment, when our brutish President shoved Markovic aside as he moved to the front of the group for a picture of the NATO leaders. This was not the worst thing our President did while in Europe, but it is emblematic of his bullying nature where everyone stands in his way.

We need to recognize those who do the right thing, especially when the cost is so severe. Former news anchor Dan Rather gets it, as he admonished the President for saying nothing about the Portland terrorist act. The President did finally say something, but he used a less popular channel than he normally uses when he feels slighted or threatened.

Have glorious remainder of your week. May it be a gem. And, let’s applaud those gems among us. We need their morality.