I’m Not Racist?

We cannot be our own judge.

“No, I am not a racist.”

Really?

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.

Continue reading “I’m Not Racist?”

Whose Button?

About that button…

Mr. President:

This is not a cock fight.  Neither I nor a few billion other people care one bit whether your “button” is bigger than Kim Jong Un’s, or not.

You took an oath to protect us and our government: you swore that every single action you take while in office, and every single word you speak, will be done with the best interests of us and this country in mind.  Everything you say and do is a reflection of us, and of who we are and what we stand for as a nation.

To act as you have done here is an abdication of your responsibilities and duties as President.  Threatening nuclear war in such an offhand and unthinking manner in response to a blusterous comment (from a two bit dictator who has delusions of grandeur) elevates your opponent and degrades you and your office … and our nation.

We hired you.  You work for us: not the other way around.

Shut up and do your job.

And never forget: it isn’t your button, it’s ours.

– Pastor Allen


Copyright (c) 2018, Allen Vander Meulen III.

All Men Are Created Equal?

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.

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Conspiracy Theories

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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”

And Tell Me How This “Tax Reform” Makes Any Sense At All?

About the GOP’s proposed tax reform

The talk is all about how we need it to stimulate investment and therefore boost the economy.

To this, I have one question: When is the last time you handed out money, no strings attached?

If you want a particular result, you hand out the money with conditions. We call these “performance guarantees.” Look at any contract, you’ll see them there. Nobody in their right mind makes large financial commitments or investments without firm guarantees that their money will be dedicated towards producing the agreed-upon result.

Continue reading “And Tell Me How This “Tax Reform” Makes Any Sense At All?”

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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The Fallacy of Atheism

One thing I’ve noticed about many who reject Faith without thoroughly exploring the subject to begin with (“It just doesn’t make sense to me.”) – is that they envision faith as being focused on The Creation and The Afterlife – on narratives of The Beginning and of The End.  They see these narratives – which most or all faiths have – as factually and fatally flawed, if not downright foolish; and so not worthy of serious consideration.  Therefore, in their eyes, the faith as a whole must be flawed.

Now, there are many people who have adopted the label “Atheist” because they see the evil and pain in this world and cannot believe that a loving God would allow such things. (And perhaps even blame faith as responsible for much of the world’s pain – which, sadly, is true).  Therefore, they say, there is no God.  But, that’s an entirely different topic that I have referred-to in some of my past posts here on this site.)

When talking about the Creation or the End Times, the problem – at least in my view – is that focusing on a factual interpretation of a Faith’s narratives of The Beginning and The End completely misses the point.  (Biblical interpretation Literalists, please take note.)

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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.

Continue reading “An Incoherent Bully: thoughts on the GOP, ICE, and Sanctuary Cities”

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.

Continue reading “Mourning an Uncivil Past”

Plagiarism, Privilege, and the State of Christian Publishing

The words of a fellow Minister in the UCC, Rev. Emily Heath: “I’m left with this fact: a man walked into a Christian publisher with my own words – words deemed too controversial for publication – and got those same words published. He took my testimony, and the testimonies of an unknown number of others, and he cashed in on them. I don’t care about the money, but I sure can’t ignore the irony. When privilege is combined with mediocrity and dishonesty, it’s hard not to feel frustrated when it gets rewarded.”

Emily C. Heath

For the past several weeks I’ve been reading about the Rev. Bill Shillady and his book, Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Clinton. During the campaign Shillady sent Secretary Clinton daily devotions to strengthen her faith and keep her focused on the work at hand. When I heard the book was coming out, I made a mental note to buy it.

Then I started to hear about allegations of plagiarism, and about how Shillady had used the work of others without properly citing it. I was saddened to hear that, especially given how easy it is for an author to say “this idea is not mine…it comes from this person”. Giving credit where credit is due should be standard practice, especially among preachers and writers. After a few days, though,I didn’t pay too much attention to the story.

Fast forward to earlier today when…

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You Lost Me…

Beth Woolsey’s blog is always entertaining, and often deeply insightful: filled with a deep passion for life and compassion for others.

This particular post of hers (which lays out why she left Conservative Christianity behind) in many ways reflects my own journey on the same path.

http://bethwoolsey.com/2017/09/how-i-became-a-heretic-or-how-the-evangelical-conservative-church-lost-me/