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.

Political Reality

I’ve said this before, and it needs to be said again and again:

Some aspects of the GOP’s agenda, particularly with regards to economic policy and governance, have merit: reducing government bloat and overregulation are good goals; as is strengthening our manufacturing base and increasing our economic competitiveness.
 
I may disagree with some aspects of these goals, especially certain proposed implementations, but the basic ideas are sound. Making progress on these issues would be welcomed by many moderate Democrats and non-aligned voters, especially if implemented with some effort at building a common consensus with those outside the party. And many within the GOP, such as Senator McCain and even Dick Cheney have said exactly this.
 
However, the GOP’s blind spot is their assumption that they have been given a mandate to promote their social agenda and a pass on ignoring the influence of dark money and corruption in politics.  If they continue pushing on rolling back social reform and ignore the corruption issues (as they are actively doing), they’ll have a really tough time in the next election cycle – despite their extensive attempts at voter suppression and gerrymandering.
 
But Democrats be warned: American voters are determined to have a government that is focused on improving the situation of the middle class and the poor, and they see “dark money” and influence-buying as key obstacles to making that happen. I think it likely we’ll continue to see increasingly large, wild and ultimately destructive swings every few years from one party being given control to the other until both parties recognize this and do something about it.  Case in point: the current regime.

And let’s be perfectly clear on this: those of us who are devoted to the cause of social justice can never ignore the fact that people vote first with their wallets.  If we don’t provide the majority of people within this country with realistic hope for a stable and prosperous future, they will be adamant in their refusal to support any expansion of social justice that could be construed as taking away what little stability and hope they already have.  It doesn’t matter to them how right or just a particular cause may be: what matters is whether they have a roof over their own heads and food on the table for their own children.

That’s reality: deal with it.

– Pastor Allen


Copyright (c) 2017, Allen Vander Meulen III.
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A Message for All Ages: “Blue”

In this message, I showed this two minute video: “Blue” by Tech Insider.

The video shows us that a word for the color “Blue” usually develops much later in most languages than do words for “Black,” “White,” “Red,” “Green” or “Yellow.”  So, the question is “Can people without a word for ‘Blue’ in their language actually see the color we know as ‘Blue’?”  The video answers this question by presenting convincing evidence that people have great difficulty in distinguishing Blue from other colors when they have no word for Blue in their language.

This suggests several things – any one of which would be sufficient for a brief “Message for All Ages” – pick the one that suits your situation best…

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Hateful Speech vs. Hate Speech

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bloomington
Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bloomington, Illinois, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

There are two things of note in a recent article in the the LA Times about Students successfully rallying to Stop Trump’s recent scheduled appearance at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The first is regarding the angry assertions of Trump and his supporters that their rights to “Free Speech” were violated because the rally was shut down. (Which, by the way, is despite Trump stating at the time that he agreed the rally had to be cancelled because safety must come first.)

We need to remember that there is a difference between “Hateful Speech” or “Angry Speech” and “Hate Speech.”

I may see someone’s stances on various issues as “hateful”, but that is my own opinion, based on how I see that particular issue. And, it is the Other’s right to have that opinion, a right I will defend on their behalf even though I may strongly disagree with their position. The same goes for “Angry Speech”: Anger is a valid emotion, and must be given space to be expressed. That it is present in a dialog is important: the Other’s anger must be acknowledged and appreciated as real and important.

It is important for such speech to be heard, even if we disagree with it. It is part of the fabric of a healthy Democracy.

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“Listen” (A Meditation on Anger and #BlackLivesMatter)

#BlackLivesMatter helps us see a universal truth: that unless we start treating all people as human beings, we will all loose our humanity. We may not die, but we will no longer live. … We must invest in each other if we are to succeed. Defeating those who oppose us only means we’ve defeated ourselves. The battle is within us, not against us, and not against them. To overcome the challenges we all face requires that we all change.

Bonito - MS - Foto: Pedro Serra - Leia mais em www.blogsemdestino.com
Statue of Michael Jackson in the favela of Santa Marta, on the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro; where Michael filmed the video for “They Don’t Care About Us” (directed by Spike Lee) in 1996.

There was anger in our Centering Music this morning (“They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson), a lot of anger.

Michael Jackson filmed that video in the slums surrounding Rio De Janiero; communities of the extreme poor, trapped there for generations with nowhere to go, no escape.

For decades the Brazilian government refused to extend utilities, sanitation, roads or even law enforcement into these slums. Ultimately, they moved their Capitol elsewhere, escaping the angry vigilance of the poor looking down upon them from the hills above. They are still there: filled with suffering and the anger of a people left behind, cast aside as worthless. We see in the video that their anger is powerful.

At this point in time, Michael Jackson was the object of tabloid ridicule and accusations of child molestation, strange behavior and weird habits. He’d been sued; arrested; strip searched. I am sure he identified with the people in these slums because he felt abandoned and alone, he was struggling to not die, just like them. But, not dying is not the same thing as living. Life is more than merely existence continued.

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Kim Davis and George Wallace

12002911_10153667860574255_5030704171055636376_nThe comparison made here to Jeffrey Dahmer is inappropriate and inflammatory in my mind, but one commenter on The Daily KOS’s Facebook post of this meme suggests that Davis is more like James Blake: the man who refused to drive the bus if Rosa Parks did not move- and who said of that event years later: “I wasn’t trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job. She was in violation of the city codes, so what was I supposed to do? That damn bus was full and she wouldn’t move back. I had my orders.”  He never repented, apparently.

According to the Wikipedia Bio of Gov. Wallace, what’s really interesting is that years later Wallace apologized to the Black Community, saying he was wrong to stand in that doorway to fight for segregation – that it had been born out of his lust for political power and influence, and that because of his conversion to Born Again Christianity later on (in the late 70’s), he now saw how wrong segregation is.

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Women Going Topless In Public???

I admire those who are pushing for equality in this area. It does make me feel uncomfortable, but that’s OK: change tends to make all of us uncomfortable. But we’ll survive, and we’ll adapt. Things will be just fine, and our society will once again prove itself to be much more resilient and adaptable and compassionate than we imagined.

topless_300This issue (as well as occasional pushes to legalize going entirely naked in public) has been in the news off and on for quite a while.

Now, intellectually, I recognize that going topless should not be an issue, regardless of gender, gender orientation or gender expression – and frankly, treating two groups of people differently because of something they have no control over always disturbs me: it just isn’t right.

On the other hand, this is a society that sexualizes women’s breasts; and – from an emotional perspective – the prudish old fogey in me recoils at the idea of actually seeing a woman’s bared breasts in public.

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#BlackLivesMatter and The Legacy of Slavery

Much of what the “Black Lives Matter” movement is doing makes us uncomfortable, particularly those of us who are white. This is as it should be. If we’re comfortable where we are “at”, we won’t move, we won’t improve, we won’t change. If the injustices that exist are to be righted, we must be made uncomfortable. We must be made to see those things which are invisible to us because they’ve “always been that way” – working well for us, and so we ignore them or are unaware that they operate in our favor: that’s the very definition of “structural racism.” Yet, these same structural prejudices that are so deeply intertwined within our society and legal system do not work so favorably for others.

The first slaves arrive in Massachusetts on board the Desire, December 12, 1638.
The first slaves arrive in Massachusetts on board the Desire, December 12, 1638.

We often forget that slavery was everywhere in the US until the early 1800’s, and it was no prettier in Massachusetts, New York, or New Hampshire than it was in Texas, Delaware, or Virginia.

Some of the best known Blacks in U.S. History – such as Sojourner Truth, William Still, and Lucy Terry Prince – were born into slavery in the North, or were transported here as slaves from Africa.  Many of our most famous native sons here in New England (such as John Winthrop, founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) sanctioned slavery.  Many of the wealthiest families of New England and New York in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries built their fortunes upon the slave trade.  And, we forget that slavery was very much present in places like Massachusetts for over 150 years.  In fact, with the sole exception of Vermont, slavery was not abolished in any Northern State until after the American Revolution, and was not fully abolished from all Northern States until 1865.

Another aspect of oppressive systems, such as slavery – and like any institution or behavior deeply embedded in any society or organization – is that its effects persist long after people even remember that it was there. You see this in how some churches keep on “chewing up” new Ministers, in how corruption keeps on toppling one political figure after another in certain communities, or in why we here in America drive on the right hand side of the road, or why we set the table with the fork on the left.

Continue reading “#BlackLivesMatter and The Legacy of Slavery”

A Matter of Words – Losing a Customer and Opening a Conversation

As this St Louis Bookstore owner says, “Black Lives Matter does not mean White People are Bad. It never did. Saying someone matters does not mean that nobody else matters. It just says to someone who feels invisible, ‘I see you and I value you.'”

jareksteele

Yesterday, we received an anonymous letter in response to this window display commemorating the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting:

blmThere was no return address, and it wasn’t signed.  It was a very short message on a note card telling us that we had lost a customer.  In it, the person said we stoked the flames of enmity between races and promoted division.  The person asked us why we insisted upon doing that.

It’s hard to know how to respond.  What I want to do is call up the customer and chat.  I want to take him or her out for coffee and talk about what those three words mean and why I and our store feel compelled to repeat them in a window along a busy street in what seems to some to be an act of ill will.

There is no way to do that in this case so…

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Civil Disobedience and Gay Marriage?

shutterstock_124493413Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary on Fox radio, recently posted an article that supports a pledge recently signed by many Religious leaders, in which they commit to rising up with acts of “Civil Disobedience” to highlight their opposition to Gay Marriage.

I am puzzled by this: how could “Civil Disobedience” be exercised here? “Civil Disobedience” is the act of deliberately, nonviolently and publicly transgressing a law that prohibits you from exercising rights that others can exercise without a second thought – highlighting the inconsistencies inherent in allowing some people a right that is denied to others.  Further, such disobedience is done from a position of powerlessness and humility, allowing the “illegal” act you perform to speak for itself through confronting others with the pain and injustice you personally experience because of that unjust law. The point is never to directly hurt the other, but rather to force them to see the injustice they are participating-in or allowing to happen (and therefore are complicit in inflicting upon you).

Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to widen the legal definition of marriage, so that anyone can marry the person whom they love.  We all know and acknowledge this will be hard to accept for some.  I think it is right and proper – and compassionate – to be cognizant and understanding of this, even though we do not share their opinion, and are not called to set aside our own expanded sense of what is just and right for the purpose of alleviating that discomfort.

But, what law could those (who oppose such a change) disobey to show how their own liberties are being unjustly limited in this case?  Refusing to serve another because they are married to someone of the same sex doesn’t do it – the only person you’d be hurting is yourself (and perhaps those who depend on you) through the resulting loss of income.

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Just Show Up

Being faithful isn’t about being skilled or perfect at anything. It’s about showing up. That’s all that God asks us to do – show up, and you’ll find that God is there too: showing us the way, impelling us to speak or act as needs to be done, helping us to learn what we need to learn, and providing the grace for those we encounter to rejoice in our presence and willingness to stand with them, no matter how clumsy we feel we might be.

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NYPD Officer Lawrence DePrimo buying boots for a homeless man in Times Square this past November.

During this past Sunday’s “Open and Affirming Forum” at ARK Church our guests related some of their own experiences to help us better understand the pain and alienation that many transsexuals encounter every day, and also provided a great deal of information to help us be more sensitive, compassionate and affirming when dealing with anyone who is “other” – especially those in the LGBTQ communities. Our eyes were opened to the challenges of being someone who doesn’t fit into the neat (and very binary) categories of “male” or “female” or “opposite sex loving” or “same sex loving.” It was a moving, growing (and humbling) experience.

The leader of the forum said something near the end of the meeting that has stuck with me all week: “just show up.”

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