Politics and a Higher View

I am reading a book by one of my favorite writers, Parker Palmer. Like many of the books I have visited lately, On the Brink of Everything, deals with getting old. It is a collection of some of his writings over the years, including articles, speeches and poetry. Through these, he brings his message to the world almost as a last testament. As a writer, I understand exactly what he is doing. My book, The Memorial of Jesus, is less about Jesus and more about what I want to pass on to my loved ones and to the world.

This morning I read two pieces Palmer wrote after the last national election: “What’s an Angry Quaker to Do?” and “The Soul of a Patriot”. I have been hesitant to write my thoughts about the current president or about what is happening in congress. This is because I view politics as an enlarged view of what goes on within each of us or in the relationships we have each day. I have this idea, perhaps an illusion, that if we only understood the battle that goes on within, we would understand the other battles that go on in families and communities throughout the world.

I find myself not able to  avoid all political discussion, however. There are certain issues that come up on Facebook that are so  important to me that have to jump into the discussion. My intention has not been so much to debate issues but to present a deeper view or, as the Eagle flies, a higher one. I like to assume the good intentions in those who take views different than my own. I know and love conservatives and see their innate goodness. I may question their knowledge but I never question their intentions.

The higher view I try to project is this: our national problem is not that we see things differently. Our national problem is that our differences are degenerating into self-righteousness, hatred, fear and violence. I believe that if Satan is real and has a mission in this earthly realm, it is to divide us. Because of this, my attack when I engage in political discourse, is against words that divide such as name-calling, judgment, and stereotyping. Jesus’ words about loving our enemies, forgiveness and our oneness come flying at me when I hear them. The more we contribute to the divide, the more distant is the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish.

Message in Unexpected Places

I read a story in my morning meditation book this morning that I thought was interesting. I thought I would share it.

A man once had a flat tire right outside the gates of a mental hospital. As he removed the lugs from the flat to switch them with the spare, they slipped off the curb where he’d placed them and down through the grill of a sewer drain. As he realized there was absolutely no way to retrieve them, he began to swear in frustration.

Just then, an inmate, who had been standing at the fence watching him said, “Why don’t you remove one lug from each of the other wheels and put them on the spare?”

“My gosh,” said the man, “what a brilliant idea! What in hell is someone as smart as you doing in there?”

“I may be crazy,” said the inmate, “but I’m not stupid!” 

(Step by Step by Muriel Zink)

The concluding remark: My Higher Power speaks to me through others in unexpected ways.

My thought: I will hear what God has to say to me when my ears are open to listening.

Our Amy for Presidency

I rarely write about candidates running for public office. I prefer to address issues and I can get pretty passionate about that. But after listening to our own Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, speaking at a town-hall meeting, I can’t help myself. This is not an endorsement. It is about how Amy rattled my thinking.

Generally, Amy holds the same positions I do on gun control, health care, education, etc. But she was painfully honest and realistic.  I have never heard a candidate that didn’t talk about what they were going to do in office as though they were actually going to be in control of everything after their election. No one who seriously hoped to get elected ever suggested that they might have to compromise or take baby-steps when they get there. Amy wouldn’t even guarantee that what her constituents wanted could even be achieved. I wanted her to at least say that her long-run goal was what I wanted, namely single payer health care. Instead, she talked about fixing what is broken in Obamacare and tackling the problem of the drug costs. Her goal, she said, is to make health care affordable to all. She wouldn’t add much of anything to that. She said that we have to begin where you can expect to be successful.

She did the same thing with the Bernie Sanders idea of free education through a four year degree. She was speaking on a college campus and a student, whose monthly loan payment was more than his rent, questioned her about this. She talked about making junior college free because industry so desperately needs people trained. Because of this, she said, these students can almost be guaranteed  jobs when they graduate. She also said that those buried in student debt should to have a way to renegotiate their loans to make them affordable. When the moderator reminded her that she was speaking on a college campus and that her answer might not be exactly what the student wanted to hear, she said, “I have to tell the truth. What is being asked is not attainable at this time. I want to focus on what we can do now.”

Amy has the best record on Capital Hill for getting legislation passed into law. After she announced her candidacy, a number of republican senators spoke about her as someone they could work with. One even added that he hoped his speaking on her behalf doesn’t hurt her campaign. She seems to understand that legislators represent different needs and finding solutions to problems can be a challenge. But she has never shied away.

As I have listened to candidates for public office, I used to smirk a bit when I would hear their promises, “I will…blah, blah bah.” “Yeah, right,” I’d say. “Wait until you get into office. No way in hell will you  be able to do all that.” I understand how government works. Even in the perfect situation with everyone vying for a piece of the American pie, getting a broken bridge fixed in your state means some other state might not be able to invest in building public housing. But Amy did just this and could because she understands about cooperation and compromise. All legislators know this but they won’t tell you this when they are running for office.

I am as guilty as anyone and I felt guilty as I listened to Klobuchar speak. I know what I wanted to hear. I wanted my hopes lifted. What Amy was doing was shaking my tendency to not accept the realities of life as life is. Life is messy and making laws is messiness at its best. I feel challenged. I will support Amy Klobuchar because she has been so good for Minnesota. She visits every county in the state every year, not to campaign, but to listen to her people. My guess is that, if at all possible, she will do the same for each state if she becomes our next president.

I said this is not an endorsement. It still isn’t. This writing is more about me as a person and as a citizen. Am I really ready to accept such truth from a candidate?

I am working on it.

Lie We Believe about God: “You Need to Get Saved”

I look forward to discussing with my book club our most recent pick: Lies We Believe About God, by Wm Paul Young. I am leading the group discussion this time and plan to ask the members which of the lies about God they themselves have believed and perhaps still believe. I look forward to the discussion.

The lie I once believed is this one: “You need to get saved”

Young is author of the book The Shack and if you have read it or seen the movie, it is easy to appreciate his comment about this lie.

“The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true.”

It took me a long time to come around to this way of thinking, that all are saved, whether we believe it or not. The challenge is to see it and when we do, it changes everything.

It was interesting how Young, a devout Christian, speaks about his early days of preaching his belief to others about salvation through Jesus. He felt an obligation, he said, to save others from damnation. It never felt right, though, he said. (That Theology) “leads to selling Jesus and coercing people, tricking them into hearing the word. Everyone is a potential customer (victim), rather than everyone being a child of God and therefore our brother or sister.”

I was reminded of the early days in our marriage when Bernie was a struggling insurance man. Everyone, friend or relative or friends of friends and relatives of relatives, were potential clients. We were so poor at the time, a policy purchase meant bread and butter on our table. Needless to say, his hidden motive tainted every relationship. He was out to get something rather than enjoy relationships.

I have been on the receiving end of this type of salesmanship from Christians who may be sincerely worried about my salvation. God bless them for caring, but I know where I stand with my God. I was saved from day one and finally came to believe what was already true.

On Negative Posts on Facebook

It has happened only a couple of times since I began blogging that I began a response to a comment and decided that the response is a blog. This blog is one of these. The person who comment was kind. She was concerned that I was taking negativity too personally, messing with my own sense of peace. If you want to see what she said, look at the comment section in yesterday’s blog. Here is my response to her:

Thanks for the constructive suggestion. The fact is that I am not personally bothered by the kind of posting I talk about here. If you note the topics I choose to write about on my blog, you can see that I am very interested in politics and religion. I don’t even mind extremist views. Extremists actually help me think. I ask myself questions like “Is there some truth in their position?” or “Why are they so angry?” But extreme and negative statements like the ones I cited in my blog fail to solve any problems. They only push people to further extremes because they are on the defensive.

The really strange thing is that often people have no clue they are doing this. They see a post that is a bit sarcastic, maybe funny, and post it. The problem is that they may be bashing people that they actually like in their day-to-day goings-on. I read over and over again statements that demonize liberals. I mean, DEMONIZE. I am a liberal. I think I am a nice person. Those who know me might even say that I am a loving person. I just have a particular opinion on ways to solve some of our social problems. To me that is what liberal and conservative or libertarian is about…problem solving.

In my blog writings, I often address the issue of extremism, usually launching from a particular situation. I do this a lot during campaigns. As we gear up for another election, i anticipate a lot of hate speech to fly around again. I try to use my writing as a way to make people think about what they are actually saying. We need to be conscious of the words we use and who they hurt. This time, I thought I would just tackle a whole bunch at a time. I want people to see what they are doing when they post things that demonize others. Just because they are wrapped in humor or pictures of animals or babies doesn’t mean they can’t be used to reinforce hatred and fear that is festering in peoples’ hearts.

Some of the people who post these kinds of things are dear friends or relatives. Often I don’t respond at all. Occasionally I comment but try to be as respectful as possible. I do my best.

From Either – Or to Both – And

I am not an either-or person. Not always popular. Often misunderstood. I get upset sometimes over what people post on Facebook, especially if the post is expecting something of me. Here are some examples of what I mean:

If you don’t repost this you are not patriotic.

If you don’t give a like, you don’t care about the person who posted.

People who support care of animals don’t care about human beings.

Those who are anti abortion, don’t care about live babies and children.

Those who are pro-choice don’t care about the unborn.

Those who are anti-war don’t support our troops.

Those who have money don’t care about the poor.

Those who are pro-business, don’t care about employees.

Those who are anti religious, don’t have values.

Those who don’t support the president are anti-American.

All liberals are…(you fill it in) All conservatives are…(you fill in). Either way, the other side is evil.

Taking a stand for something does not require that we take a stand against something else.

If one’s position has merit, if it is useful in some way to others, it will hold its own.

We should not have to manipulate a system or deceive anyone to get our way when our position has merit.

Other people’s ideas flow from their experience…it makes sense at least for them. We should not bash them personally.

Other people’s perspective is simply their perspective. Not all differences in recall require that someone is lying or deliberately trying to hurt someone.

People make mistakes. We don’t always have to share our mistakes but should not lie about them either.

People change. If they change at heart level, you can usually tell if you pay attention.

Bad people sometimes do good things. Good people sometimes do bad things. We should wait to see what unfolds.

Truth tends to emerge slowly. But sometimes we are challenged to speak before we know the whole truth of something.

I am open to your thoughts. What kinds of comments come up on Facebook that make you angry?




We Need a Year of Jubilee

Bernie Sanders and a few others complain a lot about how only 1% of the American population own something like 90% of the wealth. One might say that the 1% own the country. It sure seems that way. But the imbalance of power and control that this reflects took years to achieve. I watched a documentary on TV not long ago that showed how it began with the industrial revolution in the late 19th and early 20th century with men like Rockerfeller, Ford, Carnegie, and Vanderbuilt. As each of these industrial leaders gained wealth, they began the process of trying to outdo one another and undermine one anothers industries. It required money, each using devious means to gain the power they wanted. To increase profits, they abused their workers paying just enough money to keep them on the edge of poverty. They also manipulated the banking system and to make sure legislation supported them they bought the legislators themselves.

This has happened before. In fact, it happened during the agricultural revolution, when  wealth was connected to land ownership and the ownership of the laborers who managed the land. The Jewish people came up with an ingenious way to set the world straight again when the imbalance of wealth got out of control. It is called the Year of Jubilee and its process is recorded in the Old Testament. Wm. Paul Young, in his book lies we believe about God, says this about the Year of Jubilee:

“The Jewish system had some wonderful practices. One of these was the internal reset button, the Year of Jubilee. Every fiftieth year, they would push this button and everything went back to zero: debts, liabilities, punishments, etc.; the whole system was supposed to start over after a year of celebrating our common humanity.”

He adds, “By the way, that reset button was God’s idea, for our benefit.”

There is no way in hell that the United States would follow such a rule. Even Fundamentalists, who preach following the Bible literally, would make this one exception. Once one experiences wealth and the power over others that wealth provides, it is difficult to let go of it. Thus begins the process of trying to manipulate the story to convince the underdogs that what they are experiencing is not injustice, but somehow the way things are supposed to be.