Searching For My Country

images-15            I don’t know this country anymore.

It used to be that I felt safe here. I felt like this country had a government which at least had the tools for us, the people, to work for justice. I used to think that the three branches of government were the safeguard that whatever had happened in other countries, shifting them from being democracies to being autocratic dictatorships.

I used to think that Americans really did cherish all of the “rights” guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, and I believed that Americans would fight for their country, no matter what.

I used to think that evangelical Christians had integrity. No, I didn’t agree with them, but I believed that they had integrity.  I believed that they had a moral foundation that could not be shaken.

But then came the 2016 presidential election. I have long considered politics to be distasteful; the political ads, the lengths that politicians go to in order to achieve power, always bothered me. But we got through political seasons, some more brutal than others, and we went on being Americans in a two-party system, a government which guaranteed that we would never have a dictator and a constitution which allowed us who had issues with the government and its policies, to protest, safely.

But the corruption in the 2016 went beyond the pale. The rhetoric, the lying, the name-calling, the overt racism and sexism – all of it – was troubling. I kept going back to my “safe place,” i.e. we had a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We had Christians who believed in the Christ, who called us to love and to serve each other.

Those reassurances made me believe that when things got too raunchy in the campaign, that those who loved democracy and those who loved God would rise up. They wouldn’t let their country be embarrassed and they wouldn’t let their God be minimized.  My confidence was blown away, bit by bit, as the candidate-now-president violated every principle of government and religion I had come to appreciate. My confidence was shattered even more, however, by the huge amount of public support he had.

Who were these people? What was/is this country, really? 

I thought Americans were patriotic, but I learned that my conception about patriotism was different than many of the followers of the GOP frontrunner, who put down Sen. John McCain, a man who fought for this country and became a prisoner of war. I thought “the American people” would rise up in indignation and rabid anger that anyone could say such a thing about a war hero.

But what the candidate said did not matter. It didn’t matter that he lied. It didn’t matter that he called names, or that he put down and insulted women in the most crass of ways. It didn’t matter that people heard those Access Hollywood tapes where he talked about what he liked to do to women. It was disgusting and I thought Evangelicals would rise up – against him – but they did not. They looked the other way. They still supported this man who said that he didn’t regret that he has never asked God for forgiveness for his sins. (http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-on-god-i-dont-like-to-have-to-ask-for-forgiveness-2016-1)

Because of the rhetoric of this president, we are on the brink of a nuclear war with North Korea. We have a president who seems to go out of his way to be nice to dictators and authoritarian leaders, like Duterte of the Philippines and of course, Vladimir Putin. The supporters of this president do not care! When I was growing up, “the Russians” were to be loathed. People called them “commies” and worse, but today, it’s all different. The president’s supporters don’t care about the Russians. They do not care if the Russians were engaged in a cyber attack against the United States.

His venomous character is spreading. Now we have a lawmaker, Roy Moore, who is running for senator in the state of Alabama, and it happened that a woman came forward to accuse him of improper sexual behavior toward her years ago, when she was 14. While I can understand the a politician thinking the timing of the publicizing of the accusations is meant to destroy one’s chances for being elected, what I cannot understand is people saying that it doesn’t matter if Moore is guilty or not. The statement that they would rather vote for him – who may have sexually assaulted a then-child – than vote for a Democrat made my heart sink.

They could choose not to vote at all, rather than vote for a Democrat.

Meanwhile, some Republicans are demanding that Robert Mueller, who is investigating what happened in the 2016 campaign, be fired. I am stunned.

There is no desire for truth or justice – or real democracy.

I don’t know this country. I don’t know these “American people” seem to have no moral compass. They do not care about truth or lies; they do not care about women or children or Muslims, or immigrants. They do not care about the things I thought American Christians cared about.

I am searching for my country but I am having a hard time finding it.

 

 

The Season of Dis-ease

Since the election of the new president, I have heard more than a few people say that they do not feel safe. People of color, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community have all said something to the effect of “I don’t know anymore, when I look at people, who is with me and who hates me.”

I feel them. I have felt the same way.

Not long ago, I was in a doctor’s office just to drop off a form. I went to the front desk and said why I was there and the receptionist, without really looking up, said, “You’ll have to sign in.”

OK. All right. There were about six names ahead of me. For the life of me I could not understand why I should have to sign in, but I did. I was irritated because I had somewhere else to go and had thought I would just be able to whisk into and out of this office.

After a half-hour wait, the receptionist called my name. Yes, by this time I was ticked off, but was relieved that I could finally just drop off the form. But another woman said, “you’ll have to sign in” as she looked at me.

Totally irritated now, I said – and my irritation came through my voice – “I already signed in” and someone else in the area, feeling the tension, verified that I had in fact signed in. The woman at the desk rolled her eyes at me and said, grudgingly, “oh, all right.”

This happened after the presidential election. I had heard of increasing incidents of racial hatred in schools and in businesses and saw a truck slowly moving in my neighborhood sporting a Confederate flag. It had all made me uneasy. I thought white Americans were pretty much moving away from racism.

But what I’d seen and heard since the election did not verify my beliefs, and raised in me, I admit, some concern and anticipation of what to expect from people who were happy with who was now in the White House.

They were glad; they had a guy in place who would “make America great again,” which meant, in my mind, that he would make America unabashedly embrace her white supremacist world view.

The fact that I have heard so many different people say the same thing boggles my mind. At a recent direct action rally, a man of Hispanic descent said the same thing. I have heard Muslims, little black and brown children, members of the LGBTQ community all say the same thing – and I have read stories where even the little children, little white children, have picked up the language of division and hate and are spewing it to their classmates.

Nothing, when it comes to race relations and tolerance and acceptance and affirmation, and egalitarianism and pluralism has changed. In spite of her boast of being the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” America is still a foundation ally racist country which espouses and supports hatred toward people of color and people of different religions.

It is very disheartening, but true.

I don’t know if that woman in the doctor’s office that day rolled her eyes at me because I sounded irritated or if because she felt her whiteness gave her the right to do so. I know I raged inside because of my now heightened distrust of the fundamental American spirit when it comes to people of color.

None of us feel safe …here. Radical Islamic terrorism are the battle-cry words of those in power, but for us who are black, brown, members of marginalized groups, Muslim…for us, “radical American Christian terrorism and hatred” are far more real to us. I and many like me are in a state of dis-ease, the same dis-ease that people of color have felt for literally hundreds of years.

Little has changed, in spite of our hope that it would.

A candid observation.

Growing Up Christian

Whenever someone says to me, “I am a Christian,” or when I hear that “there is a war against Christians,” I shiver.

In spite of having Jesus as the master teacher and role model, giving people instructions on how to live as God would want, Christians, unfortunately, have too often fallen short, and they do not seem to care.

I have been stunned as I have read how Christians kept black people out of their churches, how white churches adopted “whites only” membership policies, and how so many Christians meted out horrific violence against black people in this country. Christian pastors have endorsed and sanctioned racism and sexism, pointing to the Bible as justification, a sacred text which has been manipulated for literally centuries to fit certain political ideologies.

I have been hurt and bothered as I have seen Christians treat people with HIV/AIDS like pariahs, keeping them out of their churches, away from a place that is supposed to be a place of healing, warmth and love.

Christians have engaged in shaping and adopting the most vile and discriminatory public policies that make life miserable and unfair for the masses. Christians have blamed horrific storms that devastate the lives of innocent people on the LGBTQ community.

While touting the God of love, Christians have openly and unabashedly hated others who are different – different races, different ethnicities, or who have different views.

In the current political race, Christians on both the right and the left have engaged in name-calling of those with whom they disagree.

I remember when the HIV/AIDS crisis really hit, and visiting a young man in the congregation I served who had full blown AIDS. Nobody from the church had been to visit him. He was terrified of dying because he was afraid he was going to hell. He was gay…

When I went to the hospital to visit him, he seemed genuinely terrified. He had been visited by Christians already. They had told him he was wrong and bad, and that his condition was the result of his “sin.” He was dying thinking he was part of the very scum of the earth. When I touched him, he drew back. When I told him God loved him, tears welled up in his eyes. Nobody had told him that. Christians had told him God was punishing him.

I was angry and hurt for this young man. I was angry at Christians.

The hateful rhetoric that comes too often from Christians doesn’t quit; the tendency to resort to that kind of hateful language does not abate or decrease with the passage of time. Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham, is a case in point. Nowhere in his language do I see the presence or the evidence of Jesus the Christ. He pushes hatred and intolerance, following a long line of Christian clerics who have done the same. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/franklin-grahams-turn-toward-intolerance/398924/.

Christians in leadership positions in churches everywhere initiate and perpetuate horrible “messes” in church, spreading lies and discontent because they want their way. So many Christian pastors end up walking away from their pulpits because they cannot take it. Too many commit suicide. (https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2014/06/25/why-half-of-all-pastors-want-to-quit-their-jobs/32683)

What Sunday School lessons are we being taught? Clearly there is a disconnect between what Jesus says to do and what our Sunday School teachers teach us. And it’s not enough to be a “missionary,” going to lands which white supremacists have labeled “barbaric” to minister to the “savages.” That doesn’t cut the reality of the hate-filled Christians here in the United States.

What would Jesus say, really?

In this political season, Evangelical Christians, those who purport to be closest to Jesus have embraced a man who seems as far away from the Christian ideal as humanly possible. They seem not to care that their candidate comes off as racist, misogynistic, Xenophobic and sexist. Even fellow Evangelicals are confused by the enormous support Evangelicals are giving the GOP nominee for president. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/philip-yancey-donald-trump_us_57e95557e4b08d73b8328566)

Growing up Christian should produce a crop of people who understand the difficulty, yet the power, of being Christian, of paying the cost of discipleship and risking whatever must be risked in order to be within what the Christian Bible says is the will of God.

That isn’t the case, though. Growing up Christian seems more to have produced a crop of self-righteous people who see nothing wrong with being racist, sexist, hateful, people, causing more angst than comfort amongst “the least of these,” who are many. It was that group of people, the masses, that Jesus the Christ admonished us to care for, and you can’t care for people you hate and/or disrespect.

What would happen if Christians rose up, as a group, against the economic, political, racial and sexual injustice in this country? Would America look different?

I think so, but I don’t think we’ll see it, because growing up Christian has not resulted in the creation (in general) of kind and compassionate “soldiers” for justice and righteousness. We Christians are sorely deficient in the ways of God – as taught and outlined in the Christian Bible.

A candid observation …

The Phenomenon of a Co-Opted Media

I realized this morning as I watched Matt Lauer of the TODAY Show interview GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, more than ever, that the media has been co-opted by the powers that be.

In spite of the horrific phenomenon called mass incarceration, in spite of blatantly racist voter suppression movements in Southern states, in spite of problematic policing that is resulting in way too many black people dying at the hands of police, Lauer didn’t ask Trump a single question about any of it.

I was disappointed. Journalism is supposed to be a profession that looks for and exposes truth. It is supposed to give listeners, viewers and readers a comprehensive, inclusive and honest picture of the world. Instead, “we the people” get what the powers that be want us to get.

Yes, I know that the media have covered the disturbances following questionable deaths at the hands of police. And yes, the media covered the disturbances (some call them riots) in Ferguson and in Baltimore …but that was largely self-serving, because so many people want to see black people looting and fighting because it feeds into their perception that black people are bad and that if black people are dying at the hands of police, they must have done something to deserve it.

But there has been little mention of what is going on in Alabama, as white officials are closing 31 driver’s license offices in Alabama in counties that are primarily black, even as the state has announced that driver’s licenses (the most popular form of picture ID) will be required in order for people to vote in upcoming elections. (http://whnt.com/2015/09/30/alea-announces-driver-license-office-closures-includes-two-in-north-alabama/) There has been some mention, but not much, about mass incarceration, in spite of the fact that this nation incarcerates more people than any other modern nation.

There was little to no coverage on major network and cable stations on the anniversary of the Million Man March, where literally hundreds of thousands of black people, largely men, gathered, with no violence, nothing but a hunger to be in a place to learn how their lives and the conditions in their communities could be made better. Yes, Minister Farrakhan spoke, and though I respect him, I found his some of his comments to be sexist and problematic on several levels, but to not cover that mass gathering of black people was a travesty of journalism.

The questions posed to Trump included immigration and the Second Amendment. Mr. Trump, without providing a single detail, continued to give his pat answers, about how he will make America great again, about how he will build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants from piling into this nation, and make Mexico pay for it, about how we need to honor the Second Amendment – all issues that are issues for swaths of white, Conservative voters for the most part, but not entirely. Matt Lauer pushed some, but could not, or did not, get past Trump’s pat, non-specific answers …and the people in New Hampshire in the audience seemed giddy with approval.

Charles Marsh wrote in his book, God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights, that America was then a closed society. He wrote, “People spoke, without blushing, of “Christian” morals – values, families, clubs and society – even of Christian fun and wholesomeness.” The closed society had taken the divine into its own possession; it had brought God under its nervous management.” (p. 146)  He also wrote that white Christians were too often silent on social issues and was “hostile to the Gospel, indeed to Christ himself.” (p. 139) White Christians believed and acted within their belief that church policies were in line with “God’s design for separate races.” (p. 138), and spoke of the “theological bankruptcy of white moderate Christianity. (p. 137) Whites were socialized, writes Marsh, to be “insensitive to black suffering.” (p. 131) More important, he wrote of the conditions in the 60s, (and I would say, even now), was the preservation and continuation of the white way of life, God notwithstanding.

I could not help but go back to Marsh’s words as I listened to the interview of Mr. Trump this morning, Neither he nor any of those people eating pancakes seemed to care an iota about the suffering the black, brown and poor people of this nation are going through. There was not an iota of parents who are crying, schools that are grossly inferior, voting laws that are being pulled back in ways that will again keep black people from voting, nor the mass incarceration which is a trademark of these United States.

The media failed this morning.

A candid observation …

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The Reality of Two Gods, One Black, One White

I have long been troubled by the way white and black people interpret the same Bible. There is one Bible, one God, one Jesus …and yet white and black people interpret that book in entirely different ways.

Charles Marsh writes, in his book God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights,: “Of the images coming in the civil rights movement, none seems more replete with contradiction than that of white mainline Protestantism. In most cases, the Southern white Protestant adheres to an evangelical belief, the heart of which is the confession of a “personal Lord and Savior,” who has atoned for the sins of humanity. Yet in most cases, the confession remains disconnected from race relations …” (p. 6)  He further writes that “in the final analysis, concern for black suffering has nothing to do with following Jesus.”

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was a fixture in the Civil Rights Movement, said outright, “You cannot be racist and be Christian!”, something which I firmly believe. But for white people, that proclamation would draw sharp criticism. Writes Marsh, “If people took seriously their identities as Christians, they had no choice but to also give up the practices of white supremacy – and not only white supremacy, but also class privilege, resentment, the concession to violence, anything that kept one from sacrificing all for the beloved community…”

White people, for the most part, seem uninterested in having, helping form, or living in …a beloved community.

The so-called “attack on Christianity” is coming primarily from white Christians who, while they hate abortion and gay rights, including gay marriage, ignore the reality of racism and white supremacy. They seem incapable of feeling even a modicum of the outrage they feel about aborted violence for the already alive black children living in abject poverty and living on the outskirts of society. They seem disinterested in the fact that already alive children suffer horribly in this nation, from bad schools to inadequate health care. They seem all too willing to blame the children for their lot in life.

And yet they call themselves Christian.

Marsh writes that “white Christian conservatives …(remain) largely indifferent to black suffering, preoccupied instead with evangelism and church growth, and with personal vices like drinking, dancing and heavy petting.” In their religious practice, God, and God’s son Jesus, is all right with their blatant disregard for the plight of people of color.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on the presence of God for his work in the Civil Rights Movement, white supremacists called upon that same God to justify their actions. Sam Bowers, head of the Ku Klux Klan, saw as his godly mission the need to slaughter black people and those whites who worked for civil rights for black people. In his mind, those who worked for freedom and justice for black people had betrayed the Lord Jesus.  He wrote and posted publicly a manifesto that said outright that “if you are a Christian, American Anglo Saxon, who can understand” the practices of trying to purge the religion and the country of black and brown people, Catholics and Jews, then “you belong in the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.”  He was dedicated to ridding his beloved America of the impostors who, in his mind, were an affront to God – who, we might assume if we read the scriptures, created us all.

The issue and the problem of this “two-God dilemma” of the United States is that it creates a group of people who are as religiously fanatic in their religious and ideological beliefs as are the hated Islamic radicals. They, too, think they are on assignment from God to destroy Americans. If and when God is in the center of a fight, it is hard to stop that fight before it does irreparable harm.

Of course, having God at the center of a fight can bring about good, too. Ironically, the same zeal that fuels hatred in the name of God fuels the desire for justice and mercy …in the name of God. The results of the Civil Rights Movement is testament to that fact.

Donald Trump is feeding into the “white God” group, a group which is adamant about there being an attack on Christianity, even as they attack radical Islam. It feels like a bomb ready to detonate. The white God, they would say, is on their side, while radical Islamists would say Allah is on their side.

The question for me is and has been for some time, “Why doesn’t the one God step in and stop this foolishness? God’s silence and inaction in shutting down forces of evil and hatred have perplexed me for the longest time. The other issue is, though, that the presence in this country of there being “two Gods, one black, one white” means that racism will never end. The religious fervor which uses God to justify racism and white supremacy is not about to wane. The white God is a God of Empire; the black God is a God of liberation …and those two Gods are never going to meet in the middle and merge into one.

That being the case, I don’t exactly know how we as a nation move forward. White Christians turn a deaf ear and a hardened heart toward the masses of black people who suffer because of white supremacy, while they wage war about the plight og unborn fetuses. Black lives do not matter to them, and really, never have.

And that is a troubling reality.

A candid observation …