In thinking of the alleged crimes of SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I find myself wrestling with a thorny issue: one that has been seen over and over again in the long list of sexual predators who have been revealed (or accused) in the recent past.
To begin with, let’s get one thing perfectly clear. Any sexual crime, no matter how seemingly minor it is (or was), nor how long ago, nor whom the aggressors (or victims) were, is precisely that: a crime. It must be treated as such. It is NOT something to be swept under the rug, nor hidden, nor ignored. Those who are the victims of such crimes – no matter how fragmentary and disjointed their memories seem to be – must be heard. They must be treated with respect, with compassion, with impartiality, and without prejudgment as to who they are, or how valid or invalid of a person (or victim) others may portray them to be.
Frankly, any victim of oppression must always be presumed to be telling the truth – until proven otherwise. Our first and foremost duty is to immediately see them, hear them, and protect them, They must be kept safe, and feel safe, from further aggression by either the original oppressor / abuser, or from the attacks of others.
And that leads me to my main point, which is a twofold concern.
This is an essay I wrote a few years ago (with a few minor edits). Given how fractious and judgmental our interactions with others have become, it seemed helpful to share these cherished memories of a lovely – if eccentric – friend….
– Pastor Allen
Although I may not have a lot to say about my ex-wife, one quality of hers that I admired was her ability and willingness to reach out to others from all walks of life. Today, I’m particularly remembering the friendship she initiated with “Old George”.
Old George was a bitter, foul-mouthed old man who lived in a very cheap apartment near the center of Rochester, MN in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. (I am not denigrating the owner of that building, who had a personal mission to provide low cost housing for those who in Rochester had no other place to go, but that’s a story for another time.)
He spent most of his time in and around the downtown of our hometown at the time: Rochester, MN – or at the nearby Apache Mall. He rode his old bike each day to and from his apartment. He always dressed the same: a worn and heavy coat apparently made from lambskin which was held closed with an old rope tied around his waist. Completing his outfit were rarely washed worn pants, a flannel shirt, and old shoes.
I enjoyed working as a dishwasher in my teens, and still do. Nowadays I’m often the first one of our family to get out of bed, and use my time alone in the kitchen for finishing up any dishes not done the night before, as well as cleaning the counters & stove top, emptying the dishwasher, putting things away, etc. It’s relaxing; and a meditative, creative time & activity for me. (I’ve written many a sermon or blog post in my head while washing dishes, including this one!)
Some part of me – as with most people, I suspect – really enjoys making things neat, clean, and well ordered. When all is done, there’s a sense of accomplishment. We’re ready for a new day. All is right with the world.
My wife and I have this little private joke, which seems to happen at least once a week: As I’m finishing with my morning kitchen cleanup and putting away the last dish – excited at the prospect of having everything DONE in just a few more seconds, I’ll hear a light “thunk” behind me and turn around to see her placing a dirty glass next to the sink. She chuckles and walks away. I chuckle, too. Sometimes I’ll be a little dramatic: “Oh God, NOT AGAIN!!!”
The people of Gaza have made it clear that all they want is jobs, food, adequate sanitation and healthcare, a safe place to raise their children. They want some hope for their future; something more than the hopeless and meaningless lives they now have.
The recent events in Gaza are distressing, to say the least: thousands of Gazans attempting to cross the border into Israel, protesting the inhumane conditions in Gaza. Scores of them murdered by members of the Israeli Defense Forces. Many of us have seen the videos of IDF soldiers cheering when a sniper shoots a protestor. We’ve seen people in Israel celebrating the slaughter of their Palestinian neighbors.
This whole situation is disturbing on multiple levels.
For one, many Jews (not all Jews) are seeing and treating their Palestinian cousins as animals: celebrating their deaths, taking their land, murdering and imprisoning those who resist or protest, giving no credence whatsoever to any of the concerns and voices being raised in protest to how Palestinians are being treated by the Israeli State, blind to the injustices that they themselves are visiting upon their neighbors. They’ve become indistinguishable from the genocidal regimes and individuals that were responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of Jews in WWII (and before).
In 1 Kings chapter 2, the Hebrew Bible speaks of the bloody purge commanded by King Solomon at the start of his reign. One of the young King’s targets was Joab.
Joab had been David’s most capable commander: ruthless, zealous, and without an ounce of compassion. He seemed to be intensely loyal to the Monarchy, but that did not necessarily mean he was blindly obedient to the King. For instance, a few years earlier he had killed David’s rebellious son, Absalom against David’s wishes; and he killed a rival (and his own cousin) Amasa, whom David had appointed to replace Joab. Finally, when David died, Joab made the mistake of supporting a rival claimant to the throne, David’s son Adonijah, instead of David’s [apparent] choice, Solomon. Not a nice guy, to say the least!
Once he became aware that a purge was taking place, Joab fled to the Tent of the Ark of the Tabernacle, claiming Sanctuary as others had done before him – including David himself. Upon hearing this, Solomon ordered his new General to kill him anyway; and so Benaiah went into the Temple and slaughtered Joab there.
The modern “Sanctuary” movement embodies this same concept: we can (and should) offer sanctuary to those fleeing injustice. On the other hand, we cannot (and should not) provide sure sanctuary to those fleeing justice.
In my little New England hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts, this very question is on the ballot in this coming weekend’s Town Meeting: shall we as a town adopt a resolution declaring we are a “Welcoming, Safe Town which resolves to make all residents, workers and visitors feel safe and secure regardless of immigration status.”
Our current economic and social imbalances rob people of their dreams, and it is dreams that we need to have hope for the future. Our dreams embody our hopes; but if there is no hope then all we have is our nightmares.
The “Starman Tesla” we’ve all heard about in the news has caused quite a stir. Elon Musk’s launching of his own personal Red Tesla Roadster into space with “Starman” – a Spacesuit-clad dummy – at the wheel has captured the imaginations of many, producing innumerable new internet memes.
On the other hand, a fair number of Progressives and those involved in social justice have pointed to this as a prime example of the imbalances in today’s economy and society. They say that Billionaires like Elon Musk are throwing away money when they do things like this. They feel that this is another example of how out of balance our society is – too much money at the top, and not enough for people to meet basic needs, even for many who once saw themselves as “middle class.” And yet, going too far down that path can lead to error – as it did with Judas the Betrayer of Jesus.
Even so, they have a point: our society is out of balance.
We are all valid. We are all wonderful. We are all unique. God made it so.
I came across this fascinating video yesterday. It was created last year by Hillary Diane A. Andales, a teenager living in the Philippines, to provide an easily understandable explanation of the theory of relativity. Her video was the winning entry in the “Breakthrough Junior Challenge” of 2017.
What I find most fascinating about this video is its relevance to many of the battles we see being played out in the media and other forums within this country, and around the world, every day. The focus of these battles always seems to center on the question of “Who is right?” Ultimately, they are battles over the question of who’s reality is THE Reality. But, Ms. Andales’ video forces us to ask ourselves whether such battles are worth fighting at all.
We cannot be our own judge.
“No, I am not a racist.”
The problem with self-declared exonerations such as our president recently gave is that they’re meaningless. (And no, I’m not saying that he or his administration is meaningless – far from it! But, judging the meaning of the current administration is not the subject of this posting.)
Here’s the issue: statements such as “I am not racist” originate from our own point of view. They are an expression of how we see ourselves. And of course, we are our own heroes in the reality show that is our life. So, no – we’re certain that we’re not racists. We’re not misogynists. We’re not bullies. We’re not evil. Those are negative words, about nasty things – everybody agrees they’re nasty, but we’re not nasty – so no, such nasty, negative, sad terms are not labels that can be applied to us.
In proclaiming our guiltlessness, we ignore that we cannot provide a valid and balanced judgment of ourselves with regards to the accusation that we are racist. That judgment must be left up to others, to those who are the victims of racism. Our racism (or any oppressive behavior we may exhibit) can be only identified by another, not by ourselves. We cannot be our own judge.
What do we mean when we say “all men are created equal”? And, who gets to decide what “being equal” means?
It seemed appropriate for my final post here for the calendar year 2017 to focus-on and reaffirm the ideals that I see as central to my walk as a Christian (and indeed, for all Christians). Then ask how those ideals should (or at least can) be applied within the context of the issues of the present time.
Let’s begin with some well known quotes…
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
– Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
– The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)
The well known maxim “All men are created equal” is itself is a corollary of the First and Second Great Commandments as stated by Jesus…
[One asked] “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” [To which Jesus replied] “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
– Matthew 22:36-40 [The Message]
“All men are created equal” is the foundational principle upon which this nation is built. Putting that principle into practice is at the heart of the entire purpose of the Constitution and Laws our forefathers crafted for themselves (and us). And, “All men are created equal” is the standard by which all of our laws, regulations, court decisions, ideologies and leaders must be judged. It is the standard that lights our way in times of confusion and discord.
Here’s why I have no patience for conspiracy theories, and come down hard on those who unthinkingly repeat them…
With conspiracy theories, everything The Other says is assumed to be a false front for a hidden agenda.
The Other has no recourse, no ability to challenge what is being said, because anything they say is assumed to be in support of the conspiracy, even if what they say is objective fact or truth.
The Other, and everything they say, is judged as invalid (if not evil) even before they say it because they are seen as invalid for being (or believing in) the conspiracy.
Such thinking led to the deaths of millions of Jews (and others) in World War II, not to mention many other massacres of Jews and other minorities throughout history, all over the world.
Such thinking led to the U.S’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, and to the Vietnam War in the 1960’s and 70’s.
And yet, we all do this. Continue reading “Conspiracy Theories”
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.