A Good Idea We Need More than Ever

Seventy-five years ago today, the United States of America was forever changed–on this date in 1935, the Social Security Act became law.

It was the beginning of a new era in our national life, when as a society we began to apply a basic principle of living in community:  we need to make sure all our people survive, and have an opportunity to thrive, all the way to the end of life.

It is a spirit sadly lacking in much national debate today. Too many do not seem to care that 45 million don’t have affordable, accessible health care, and many others are on the brink of losing what they have. Many, especially in Congress, resist simple things like making sure millions of workers have emergency levels of unemployment insurance. Others seem to think that whatever big banks want to do, no matter how it might hurt others, is okay.

Of course, large national deficits are of profound concern. But who is caring about the deficit in health care, or in protections for workers (at work and out of work), or in regulation of industry and commerce so that the public interest is protected? Deficits are more than money.

Sripture claims that the love of money is the root of all evil. Refusing to share a portion of the money we have with others–in the form of charitable giving and taxes–that all may live, sounds to me a lot like that kind of love.

Spare me, spare us, from that kind of love, God.

Go, [Your Name Here], Go!

Today is a new day. What gifts does God have in store for me today?

When I begin the day with this focus, it is amazing how well it goes. When I focus on the good things in my life, it is incredible how many more such things there are. It almost feels like magic. And yet, far from magic, it is the Spirit, the essence of God, at work in me.

We can let go of any old scary, forbidding images of God, as a stingy, guilt-inducing being who does not care about our happiness, or anyone else’s. Instead, we can rely on God who continually pours out blessing for us, encourages us to live at our highest and best level, who wants us to be fully alive in each moment of our lives.

God is far more than a cheerleader, of course, but there is something of a cheerleader in God–always urging us to take a risk to claim our heart’s desire, to rely on love and generosity rather than fear, to open our arms in compassion rather than fold them in judgment.

Today is a new day, a day God has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Enough Is All I Have

Yesterday morning, I got all messed up. As I walked with Cocoa and Jonathan, I started running my “to do” list over and over in my head. Before long, I was in full-bore panic, growing more and more grumpy by the minute, and no fun to be around. Even Cocoa kept his distance.

Strange, then, that twelve hours or so later I felt really good about all that I had accomplished. I even felt a measure of serenity.

Looking back, I see now that I thought I did not have enough time.

Not enough time. I say it all the time, “There are not enough hours in the day.” Of course, at the end of the day, when I drop, I am grateful there are not any more.

The truth is that I always have enough . . .  time . . . and love, peace, and  joy . . . the gifts of God.

“To know you have enough is to be rich,” wrote Lao-Tzu in the Tao te Ching. I am actually rich in time. Gunilla Norris writes, “Let me be wholly present to living the gift of time.”

The issue, then, is not whether I have enough, but how I use “the enough” I have. 

Stop the Nonsense

Social democracy is in trouble in the United States.

One of the foundational values that defines us is our willingness to work together for the common good. The preamble to the constitution enshrines that in these words, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . . .’

Certificate of Live Birth issued by the State of Hawaii for Barack Hussein Obama II

But how can we work together when 27% of the nation harbors at least doubts about whether the President we elected in 2008 is a citizen (11% are sure he is not, and 16% have strong doubts)? Only 42% strongly believe he is a citizen, while 29% say he “probably” is.

This is just plain kooky. President Obama was born in Hawaii, and the authorities in that state, from the Republican governor on down, have asserted, repeatedly, that hospital and public records validate his birth on August 4, 1961. Just in case one doubts, Hawaii was a state in 1961, and even before that was a territory “owned” by the United States. Everyone born there is a citizen.

I pray that this nonsense ends soon. We need all hands on deck to solve the nation’s woes–not squabbling over the legitimacy of our duly elected president and the government he is charged with leading.

Of Rage and Failure, and Healing

I recently met with a couple I had married some years ago. They came to me to ask that I dissolve their Holy Union.

I am generally reluctant to do this, but usually the couple knows when it is time to call it quits. They had done so quite a while ago, and their request to me was part of a strategy to find the closure that has eluded them so far.

After being with them a short time, I knew I had to sign the document. But I was sad, because so much was unresolved between them. I wanted to help them process their hurt and anger, but the amount of it defied my poor powers.

Every time, both parties share responsibility for a break-up. But in this instance, it does seem one of them bears more responsibility. And the other one is so bitter.

When we were done, and they had left, my office fairly reeked of the hot heat of rage and the sick smell of failure. I am still feeling it.

I write of this today, not to bring others down, but to ask for prayers for them, and for me (did I do the right thing in blessing their marriage in the first place, could I have done more to help?).

God, please help them, and me–indeed all of us who feel pain–to heal.

It’s Revolutionary

Judge Walker did it.

He overturned Proposition 8.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

But he did more than that. In eloquent phrases, and with precise, relentless logic, he advanced the cause of queer people–finding that the facts set before him lead inescapably to one fundamental conclusion: same-gender sexual attraction is constitutionally protected. That is farther than any court in the land has gone. It is revolutionary.

Of course, ultimately, the Supreme Court–maybe even an federal Appeals Court–may not agree, but the legal landscape has been forever changed. This opinion matters.

One of the reasons it matters is that future litigants can point to discrimination against LGBT folks as sex discimination–not just a violation of the right of privacy (which is the basis of Lawrence v. Kansas, the anti-sodomy law case, and other decisions in our favor).

Yes, it is time to celebrate. A federal court has declared what we have known all along, that what God creates in and through the love and commitment of LGBT people is as favored as what other people create. And more–that we are inherently, consitutionally good, the same way all other people are good.

Thank you, Judge Walker, the plaintiffs who brought the suit, and the lawyers for equality in this case, Ted Olsen and David Boies–and all those in California who have persevered for 40 years (beginning with MCC’s Troy Perry in 1970) for marriage equality.

And thank you, God, for helping us keep hope alive.

Where Do You Stand?

I am becoming irritated, perhaps even angry. I hope you’ll permit me to vent today. Of course, you can vent back.

The focus of my ire? Those who have health insurance, jobs, homes, maybe even a second home, not to mention several cars, and possibly even country club membership, or even full citizenship–but claim society has no obligation to help those who don’t. I call them paragons of privilege.

In response, I am going to do what Glenn Beck considers unpardonable. I am going to be a preacher who quotes the Bible in support of social justice.

In the Bible, the scales tip toward the poor and oppressed

“Let justice roll down like waters.” (Amos 5:24)  “You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice . . . Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 24:17-18) “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)

If you’d like more of the verses, several thousand by most counts, in the Bible about social justice and welfare, check out the books of the prophets–Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah are good places to start–and the ministry of Jesus (any of the four gospels can help).

God has a pretty good blueprint for creating a world of bounty, grace, and justice–it calls us to stand with the oppressed, the widows, orphans, strangers and aliens–not against them. Where do you stand?