Violence Begets Violence

I can understand a church’s desire to protect its’ people. We’ve seen far too many massacres at churches (or anywhere, for that matter).  But, despite that reality, threatening more violence in reaction to violence doesn’t even remotely approach having anything to do with the teachings of the faith.

When relating the story of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene, Matthew 26:52 tells us that when a disciple sought to defend Jesus from those arresting him:

…Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

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An Incoherent Bully: thoughts on the GOP, ICE, and Sanctuary Cities

Several Boston media outlets are reporting this morning that Federal immigration officials arrested 50 people in Massachusetts as part of a nationwide sweep focusing on what they called “sanctuary” jurisdictions…

Said one ICE official: “This [is] a concerted effort to target those locations where we don’t get the cooperation from those agencies. We need to put additional resources into these locations to make these arrests.”

In other words, the Federal Government is stooping to bullying those who are acting to protect innocents from the current administration’s cruel and racist immigration policies: hoping to beat such dissenters into submission.

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Racism and The Star Spangled Banner

A great deal has been made in the last year or so of NFL’er Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem.  I thought it might be useful to understand some of the reasons why he does so.

For one, Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner’s lyrics, was a slaveowner.

For another, read the original verses of the song for yourself, particularly the third and fourth verses…

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Mourning an Uncivil Past

While passing through Mississippi back in 1987, I took the opportunity to spend a day visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park there.  I’ve long been a student of the Civil War and its impact on our country.  I knew a fair amount about the Siege of Vicksburg and its importance in the War; and was excited at this, my first opportunity to visit an actual Civil War site.

It wasn’t what I expected.  In those days before the internet, getting detailed information and images for places of interest was not easy or straightforward – especially when driving across the country on a more or less random vacation journey.  So, I was a bit taken aback by what I saw there: a long trail looping around both sides of the siege tench that surrounded the hilltop that is the heart of Vicksburg.  Every few feet along that trail is a historical marker – some small, some large: telling where and when particular military units and individuals were at that spot during the siege, and any actions of note that occurred there.

It has the feel of a huge cemetery, which is what it is: a monument to all those who bravely fought and died on both sides in a bloody and prolonged battle that was a major event in a war that has been over and done with for more than 150 years.  Over 1400 monuments, memorials and commemorative plaques can be found in the park.

Many of the Civil War battlefields I’ve been to in the years since have a similar feel, such as Gettysburg, but none of those I’ve seen provide a detailed and profound narrative that comes close to what I found at Vicksburg.

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Lord of the Flies

The recent news that a remake of the classic film, “Lord of the Flies” with an all female cast is in the works has sparked quite a bit of backlash.  Reactions have ranged from outright derision and mocking to those who point out that the original book (and film) are about toxic masculinity (implying that the plot’s basic premise can’t work with an all female cast).

Hmmm.

I remember that many years ago I was the only male in my department within a large and well known company.  And, every so often, my boss – who’s office was directly across the hall from mine – would rush out of her office, muttering  “I hate managing women, they’re so damned CATTY!” as she ran down the hall.

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1566 Churches in Houston Doing Nothing?

This meme (which has been making the rounds over the last few days) is purely a case of thoughtless and blatantly dishonest church-bashing…
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Even if the claims it makes were accurate (which I highly doubt: given the unsettled conditions in Houston, how would you find and verify such information?), most churches do not have the resources to do much by themselves, especially on short term notice – they tend to rely on their denominations to do the heavy lifting in such cases.  Their parent organizations have the trained staff and dedicated resources (and fundraising capabilities) needed to support such work.  Local churches don’t.
There are definitely a number of denominations, including my own – the UCC – that are ramping up major support efforts, with the intent (and proven track record) of being there and staying there to help folks rebuild, years after the news cameras and social networking site feeds have forgotten about them and their needs.
For more information on what the UCC is doing, read this article on their website:
 Also, here is a blog post about what the ELCA is doing in the area…
Churches that are part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are also setting up a long term relief effort…

Getting Real: Harvey

The New York Times just published an Op-Ed piece that discusses the link between Hurricane Harvey and Global Warming in a reasoned and balanced way.  The author, David Leonhardt’s point is that: “…when we are faced with actual misery that stems in part from climate change, we should be honest about it.  … What’s happening in Texas is heartbreaking, and yet it will be a more frequent part of modern life unless we do something about it. That, ultimately, is the most compassionate message about Harvey.”
 
Sadly, when we use the words “Climate Change,” many on the Right hear only “Libtard Conspiracy.”
 
Hurricane Harvey will not change that.

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Climate Change Is Here To Stay

A few hours ago, the New York Times published an article summarizing the findings of a just completed congressionally mandated Climate Change Assessment Study.  The report is currently awaiting final approval of the current Administration before release.  Scientists from 13 Federal Agencies participated in the study.

There was concern that the report would be suppressed by the administration, so the final draft was leaked by unnamed government scientists to the New York Times, which has a summary here (“Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.”), and the complete draft of the report here (“U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report”).

I’ve perused the first few dozen pages of the report.  Very little of what I read was a surprise, but the magnitude of the environmental changes to come that are foreseen because of this research is larger than seen in past forecasts.  The report is carefully written, thoroughly researched, and very sobering reading.  Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, the cumulative effects of the carbon dioxide already released into the atmosphere will continue to increase for centuries to come.  Large areas of coastal land will likely be flooded by the end of this century, including most of Florida.

We can no longer ignore what is coming.  Those who continue to do so, particularly those in leadership or who are in a position to influence public opinion, are putting the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people at risk – doing us, our nation, and our children, serous harm.

Climate Change is not a partisan issue.  Climate Change is not a political football.  It is not a left wing conspiracy.

It is a certainty.  And, responding to it is a matter of survival.

God help us all.

Misogyny in the IT World: a Rebuttal

The furor that erupted in the media this week in response to a Google employee’s manifesto that claimed women aren’t biologically suited for high tech careers got me to thinking, and reflecting, on my own 25+ years in the high tech world.

I began working on this post by trying to list all the female superiors, mentors, co-workers and subordinates I’ve had over the years who have had a positive impact on my own career.  But, that list quickly became quite long; and so I quickly set aside that effort.

Besides, while recalling my old friends and co-workers brings back many fond memories for me, it would be meaningless to you, the reader.  I also did not want to risk missing someone, and wasn’t sure how some of my long ago co-workers would feel to see their name popping up here without warning (or permission).  So, I’ll just say that I could not have been who I was in the IT world, and the man I am now, if it hadn’t been for them.  To each and every one of of them I give a deep and heartfelt (though anonymous) “Thanks.”

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“Approve of Him”?

I’ve recently seen a spate of Facebook posts, political emails and opinion columns saying the writer can’t (and we shouldn’t) “approve of the President.”  I would suggest this is a fundamentally flawed approach…

Saying this suggests we should hate or dismiss the man for what and who he is.

Really?

And yet, as a minister, I and many of my peers constantly preach and demonstrate we love all of our neighbors no matter who they are or what they believe.  No matter what their race, income, nationality, immigration status, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  Jesus taught that we are to love each other without judgment, without preconditions.

That includes the President, too.

So, I cannot approve of him, nor disapprove of him.

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Going Too Far

Some thoughts regarding the push to get advertisers to drop sponsorship of Megan Kelly’s new show in advance of her first broadcast tonight, in which she interviews a conspiracy theorist who’s said some really vile things about Sandy Hook and its victims…

In a Huffingtonpost article, Emily Peck says…

“We unleashed this monster, and sometimes it’s a great weapon for social justice and sometimes it’s people censoring and sometimes it’s both.”

I know people who were very close to some of the Sandy Hook victims, and others who were deeply involved in ministering to the survivors. And so, I know that conspiracy theorists like the crass and hate-spewing blabbermouth Ms. Kelly interviewed (to be broadcast this evening) should not be given a chance by anyone, let alone competent journalists (of any political stripe) to spread their hateful and hurtful poison.

But I think the author of this article is right. Trying to shut down the broadcast of something, because we have PREJUDGED it to be abhorrent is censorship, and will ultimately do more harm than good. We don’t yet know how she will portray this guy or his message.

We can go too far, and this is such a case.

They Started It!

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

– The “Second Great Commandment” – Matthew 22:39

In a recent interview with Sean Hannity on Fox, Eric Trump said that those who oppose his dad “are not even people” and then proceeded to criticize those who are calling his father names, and making all sorts of vile accusations against him.

I’ll have to admit, it’s really hard for many to take such ire seriously.  After all, no one has ever accused our current president of being a high-minded politician.  And, all of us (even his most ardent supporters) can easily recite quite a long list of derogatory phrases he has used to label those he sees as enemies.  He’s a master at the craft of name-calling and the memorable insult, we all know it.

But, does that justify our own insults of him in return?  And, does our own insulting of him justify his supporters (and him) re-insulting us back?  And, does their re-insulting of us in response to our insulting of them after they insulted us justify our re-insulting them back again?  And, does our re-insulting of them for re-insulting us after we insulted them for their insulting us justify their re-re-insulting us again?  And…

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