Families Belong Together

2 Comments

I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the “Families Belong Together” rally and march at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, WA. This gathering was one of 750 similar gatherings held around our nation today, protesting recent actions taken by the current administration separating children from their parents upon crossing the border and the reality that there are no mechanisms in place for reuniting them.

This is the text of the speech that I gave.

Families Belong Together, Everett, June 20, 2018

Wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever your philosophy, or your approach to life, those who represent organized religion are duty bound to our societies to speak out and speak up when the values of our faith are misrepresented; when our values are manipulated to justify crimes against humanity; or when our values are used to abuse adults and children. The sacred texts of our faith – of the Abrahamic faiths – should not be used as a cudgel with which to beat down God’s gift of the glorious and free human spirit.

Jeff Sessions does not speak for us.

You need to hear from faith leaders like me that for more than a century The Episcopal Church (along with many other traditions of Christian faith) has been engaged in the ministry of welcoming immigrants, walking with them as they begin their new lives in our communities and advocating for immigration policies that protect families from separation, offer meaningful access to citizenship, and by our Baptismal Covenant serve to respect the dignity of every human being.

Our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, preached of the socially transformative power of Love during his sermon at the Royal Wedding of Harry and Megan in Windsor, England in May. He didn’t speak of love just because it was a wedding – he preaches of love every single time he preaches. Love has the power to unite people across any divide of history or society. In so doing, love make societies stronger and turns strangers into neighbors who care about one another. Love can also make diverse peoples into family. As it our priests say after uniting two people in marriage, “What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

We believe that the same principle applies to the incarnation of love in the diverse expression of families – whether bound by blood, by vows of commitment, by adoption or by the recognition of kindred spirits.

We affirm the family as a foundational societal structure to support human community, and we understand the household as an estate blessed by God. The security of the family provides critical mental, physical and emotional support to the development and wellbeing of children. Our congregations and immigration and refugee agencies serve many migrant families that have recently arrived in the United States. Leaving their communities is often the only option they have to provide safety for their children and protect them from harm.

Tearing children away from parents, who have made a dangerous journey out of circumstances of certain death in order to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is morally and ethically reprehensible. It is unnecessarily bullying, cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children.

As people of faith, our obligation is first and foremost to the vulnerable, especially to children. In this moment of history, I believe that we are called by God to protect them from being punished by forces of discrimination and racism in our country and inculcated in the policies of the current administration.

Therefore, informed by our faith, we call on our nation to live up to its highest ideals and most deeply held values, and we call on Congress to take action to protect families and children and to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy that is moral and consistent and that allows immigrants who want to contribute to this country the chance to do so.

This nation was founded upon the principle of liberty for all, it has been forged by the hands, hearts and minds of diverse peoples. Our diversity is our greatest strength; we must rise up to insist from our government and from ourselves a shared commitment to honoring the dignity and value of all people.

For those of us who adhere to the principles of radical equality and the unconditional love of God taught through the healing ministry Jesus Christ, our Christian values are at stake. Humane and loving care for the stranger, the alien, and the foreigner is considered a sacred duty and moral value for those who would follow the way of God. In his parable of the last judgment, Jesus commended those who welcomed the stranger and condemned those who did not (Matthew 25:35 & 25:43). This teaching of Jesus was based on the law of Moses that tells the people of God: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-35).

Just as Christ and the first century Christians stood against the violent forces of Empire that separated peoples into the wealthy, by virtue of injustice, or into the oppressed, by virtue of moral violence, we in our time are also called to stand against the cultural currencies of hatred, racism and greed. We will do so not by returning violence with violence – but rather by incarnating into this world what the alternative can and should be and what we dream together that we will create.

The Kingdom of Heaven – or however you conceive a just and ethical society – is not intended to be a comforting myth of some far off time or place. Rather, it is ours to create in every place and time, and in every generation, through actions of challenging injustice, healing the wounded and the broken hearted, feeding the hungry, and rejoicing in the beauty and strength of the diversity that God has made on this good Earth. We must – each of us – extend to one another the inestimable gift of human love that can truly create peace on Earth for all peoples.

We must today stand with those fleeing from violence and must not quietly abide the cruelty of children being separated from their parents, whose lives will be impacted forever by such action. There is no version of Christianity that can truly be called a Christian faith that permits or advocates the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual harm against God’s children.

To those who would dare quote Scripture to justify hatred, violence and rejection of the stranger, we say, “Separate Church from State, not children from their families!”

We who are willing to follow Christ to the service of love in the face of an oppressive and unjust Empire must bring the ministries of healing and justice into our time and place for building up the kingdom of peace on Earth, as a place for all peoples. We must insist on a nation and a government that truly reflects the best of our spiritual and moral values as people of diverse faiths and as citizens of these United States, a country of liberty for all who come to these blessed shores.

Patriarchy and the National Struggle to Embody Christ

1 Comment

Jesus Teaching at Galilee 3

Prelude: I don’t normally post my sermons to my blog site, but for me personally, the sermon I shared on June 10th was one the most important sermons that I’ve ever given. It’s about my identity and yours, and the struggle for everyone’s identity within the patriarchal tradition of  faith and of society, of Christianity and of The Episcopal Church as we have it today.  

This sermon is also one of my longest, and I am grateful to those who gave me their forbearance that day, those who have continued to view it on YouTube [a link is at the end of this column], and to anyone who now gives of their time to read it here.

Thank you, most especially, to the Sons of the Church who are thereby also my Sons, many of whom are also fathers of one kind or another. Your struggle is my struggle. Christ models for all of us a way to make freedom and peace truly real for one another.

Sermon: Pentecost 3 – June 10, 2018

The history of the rise of monotheism and the system of belief in the God of Israel emerges from a socio-cultural history of patriarchal social systems and belief systems within the context of greater ancient Mesopotamia. Western history and Christianity and the forces of colonialism stem from the advent of patriarchy and governance by men as social and religious leaders within patriarchal structures. What I have just said is evidentially true. The World has been both enriched and enslaved within this model over successive generations, in part due to the struggle inherent to patriarchy – the essential question of what male leadership is to look like. This struggle is as much with us today in our context as it was in First Century Jerusalem, during the time in which Jesus lived.

There are two basic models within patriarchal paradigms which struggle together to inform the underlying value system – the “stern father” vs. “nurturant parent.” In this duel understanding, the Nurturant Parenting contrasts with Stern Father parenting as two distinct metaphors each used as icons of contrasting value and political systems, i.e. Regressive (Stern Father, authoritarian) and Progressive (Nurturant Parent, small “d” democratic).

Within patriarchal society, there are men and women who are enculturated in or identify with the Stern Father cultiral cosmology, and there are men and women who are enculturated in or identify with the Nurturant Parent cultural cosmology. The struggle is not between men and women, but between two essentially different ways of conceptualizing authority and it’s exercise.

The struggle of patriarchy to identify its primary model of leadership continues to inform and impact the nations and communities of our world today. As a female leader within the patriarchially informed church, I can tell you that I love and care about God’s sons.  If I did not, I would not be here before you, and I would not have dedicated the service of my life to the church. That said, as a woman who is called to nurture the people of God’s kingdom, in my role as a spiritual mother in the church, the time has come for me to speak to my sons and to share something vitally important about their history and about the challenges they must rise to meet in the current time of world events.

Let us begin with our Old Testament reading – Samuel’s parents give him to Eli, the high priest, to raise as a nazarite dedicated to God. Samuel plays a key role in the transition from the period of the biblical judges to the institution of a kingdom under Saul, and again in the transition from Saul to David. Samuel initially appointed his two sons as his successors; however, just like Eli’s sons, Samuel’s proved unworthy. The Israelites rejected them. Because of the external threat from other tribes, such as the Philistines, the tribal leaders decided that there was a need for a more unified, central government, and demanded Samuel appoint a king so that they could be like other nations. Samuel interpreted this as a personal rejection, and at first was reluctant to oblige, until reassured by a divine revelation.

Within the discourse between Samuel and God, two types of kings are identified, “He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”

Alexander Hamilton had a similar concern about the nature of kings. In his Federalist Papers, Hamilton outlined the premises of a republic that favored an office of the President in contrast to a king. In paper #69, Hamilton points to the fact that the president is elected, whereas the king of England inherits his position. The president furthermore has only a qualified negative on legislative acts—i.e. his veto can be overturned—whereas the king has an absolute negative. Both the president and the king serve as commander in chief, but the king also has the power to raise and maintain armies—a power reserved for the legislature in America. The president can only make treaties with the approval of the Senate. The king can make binding treaties as he sees fit. Similarly, the president can only appoint officers with the approval of the Senate, whereas the king can grant whatever titles he likes. The powers of the president in terms of commerce and currency are severely limited, whereas the king is “in several respects the arbiter of commerce.” In many respects, the president would have less powers over his constituents than the governor of New York has over his.

As the first president of the United States, George Washington served from 1789 to 1797.  Though he was born into Colonial Virginia gentry to a family of wealthy planters, he was a modest man when it came to claiming the boundaries of his authority as president. He believed quite clearly that the new nation that he helped established should be governed by the people.

In the 32 handwritten pages of his farewell address, Washington gave much advise to both the governed and those who would govern. He recognized the pitfalls of a party system, writing, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

He added, “It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.”

Having endured the intrigues of several foreign powers during the Revolutionary War, Washington was cautious about international relationship. He advised, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government…. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.”

Human beings – and let’s be honest, we are speaking of the history of men – have struggled with forms of governance over the millennia since the time of Samuel. WWI was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. The trigger for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. The war drew in all the world’s economic great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) versus the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, while the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers.

At the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace. When the German U-boat U-20 sank the British liner RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915 with 128 Americans among the dead, President Woodrow Wilson demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships, and Germany complied. However, after the sinking of seven US merchant ships by submarines and a revelation that Germany intended to support a Mexican war against the United States, Wilson called for war on Germany on 2 April 1917, which the US Congress declared 4 days later.

Over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war (including the victims of a number of genocides). In the aftermath of the war, four empires disappeared: the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian. Numerous nations regained their former independence, and new ones were created. The end of the war was formally effected with the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on 28 June 1919.

The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. The League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis powers in the 1930’s. The credibility of the organization was weakened by the fact that the United States never officially joined the League and the Soviet Union joined late and only briefly.

The onset of the Second World War showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war. However, the League lasted for 26 years. After WWII, the United Nations (UN) replaced it.

The UN Charter was drafted at a conference between April–June 1945 in San Francisco, and was signed on 26 June 1945 at the conclusion of the conference; this charter took effect on 24 October 1945, and the UN began operation. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. The UN’s mission to preserve world peace was complicated in its early decades by the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union and their respective allies.

Global economic relations have emerged that include a forum for the world’s major industrialized countries. The Group of Seven (also known as the G7) emerged before the 1973 oil crisis. On Sunday, 25 March 1973, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, George Shultz, convened an informal gathering of finance ministers from West Germany, France, and the United Kingdom before an upcoming meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting was subsequently held in the White House library on the ground floor.

Today the G7 is a group consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries, with the seven largest advanced economies in the world, represent more than 62% of the global net wealth ($280 trillion). The G7 countries also represent more than 46% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) based on nominal values, and more than 32% of the global GDP based on purchasing power parity. The European Union is also represented at the G7 summit.

On 2 March 2014, the G7 condemned the “Russian Federation’s violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” On 4 June 2014 leaders at the G7 summit in Brussels, condemned Moscow for its “continuing violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty, in their joint statement and stated they were prepared to impose further sanctions on Russia. This meeting was the first since Russia was expelled from the G8 following its annexation of Crimea in March.

At the G7 meeting this past week, the President of the United States has made some stunning comments that have furthered an alienation of our country from our historic allies by condemning the G7 group as irrelevant and insisting on the return of Russia to the group. It is known to us that Russia has egregiously interfered in our democratic processes, and the President’s choices reflect an increasingly disturbing position against both the ideals of western democracy and the interests of the American people.

The most revealing comment the President made was when he indicated that he would remove America from participation in the G7. He said, “Do what you want, we have a world to run.”  I am not sure who “we” is, but I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t mean you and me, but rather the “strong men,” with whom he personally identifies – world leaders that tend towards autocracy and fascist dictatorship.

Make no mistake, the masculine imagery and patriarchal governance structures of history continue to inform our world order. European leaders attending the G7 were horrified. Several commented that they felt as though the formerly nurturing father role of America had become like that of an authoritarian and abusive father, one that rejected the sons previously claimed and supported.

The societal “king” described by Samuel and about which we are cautioned by George Washington is a man who does not value peace; it is a man who holds women and children and foreigners as subservient, it is a man who alienates the weak (the ill, the poor, the powerless); it is a man who values himself more than others, who sees in the world only what he can get from it and not what the world has to give to all; it is a man who believes that power is found in violence and threat of violence and the beating down of all those who would challenge him.

Christ offers a different model of what it is to be a man of power. Firstly, he was not threatened by women and children – they were included at his table along with phrases and Sadducees, royalty and homeless.  He modeled himself after his own Father, the second version of a king that Samuel and God had discussed – a father who leads by the ultimate strength – the power to bring diverse peoples together, the power to heal grievous personal and social woundedness, the power to reconcile.

Jesus uses the language of a loving father, as coming from a place of nurture and love and encouragement, of forgiveness, forbearance and unconditional love. He models a different style of male leadership that is one of the Nurturant Parent, not the Stern Father – he came into the world to forgive sinners and love all of God’s children, not to condemn them to eternal damnation and judgement.

He did not come to create a position of power for himself on earth, or he would have made friends with Herod Antipas and Caiaphas.  He would have been a friend of Empire. In point of fact, he quite intentionally presented a diametrically opposed version of God than the image of God of Israel had been until that point. He had only one law – Love your God with all your heart and mind and being and love your neighbor as yourself.

The image of radical inclusion that Jesus lived by was through the use of the table. He invites everyone to have a meal with him, none are excluded – he eats and talks with the wealthy, with Pharisees and Sadducees as readily as he eats with the poor and with women or the homeless or the ill and the marginalized.  He includes everyone and is willing to teach anyone with hearts to listen and to “eat” and “drink” of the bread and wine he offers – all who hunger for God.

The transformative and eternal power he shared of the omnipotent God of all things was Love.

The king of heaven creates a new world based on love, founded in a mutual commitment to peace, existing for the good of the people and of Creation.

In a contemporary commentary on our current President of the United States, artist Tim O’Brien created this week’s cover of Time magazine. The cover art depicts the President wearing a business suit, as he looks into the mirror and sees himself enrobed and crowned as a king.  This image is akin to Samuel’s fearful king who subjugates and extorts the people.

When Christ looks into the divine mirror of the Holy Spirit, he sees us –  we are reflected in his sight as the image of God, the children of God. We the People of our God recognize in Christ the model of our true and loving father.

Christ lived his life showing his followers and his country and for all future generations that love is by far the greatest strength in a man.  It is a power that goes beyond men, because it dwells as the holy spirit in the hearts of every man, woman and child of every community and nation and faith.

I believe, in the midst of all worldly trials, that love will rule. For Christ did not come into the world to run the world but to save it.

As a Mother of the Church, I say to you, to all men and women, to elders and to children, to the marginalized and the privileged – love one other and thereby, go out and save the world – in Christ’s name and for all peoples.  We can and we will make a New Creation, through the ultimate power of Love.

 

NOTE: This sermon can be found as delivered on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAjkhuUgaik   As I was giving the sermon, I edited out some of the content of the written version for the sake of time. So, the full content is included in this blog post.

Presidents Day: Reminders from George Washington

2 Comments
unnamed-1-1

George Washington 

When calculated by the Gregorian calendar, George Washington was born on February 22, 1731.  A federal holiday honoring Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1879, though at the time the holiday applied only to government offices in Washington.  In 1885, the act expanded to include all federal offices. Finally, in 1971, the celebration of Washington’s birthday was shifted to the third Monday in February

While serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, George Washington created the first military badge of merit for the common soldier. Revived on Washington’s 200th birthday in 1932, the Purple Heart medal (which bears Washington’s image) is awarded to soldiers who are injured in combat. As with Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Washington’s birthday subsequently offers an additional opportunity to honor our country’s veterans.

Although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, nearly half of the state governments have officially renamed their Washington’s Birthday observances as Presidents’ Day.  However, the latter has neverbecome the official national designation for the former in either government records or through Acts of Congress.

Within the country, some states recognize a variety of presidents on the holiday, but Washington’s Birthday (locally adopted as Presidents’ Day) was actually not intended as a day to honor the general office of the presidency – that idea arose from a newspaper article intended as a spoof during the Nixon era. Presidential records indicate that Nixon merely issued an Executive Order (11582) on 11 February 1971 defining the third Monday of February as a holiday.  The announcement of that Executive Order identified the day as “Washington’s Birthday.”

Celebrated for his leadership in the founding of our nation, George Washington was the Electoral College’s unanimous choice to become the first President. He was seen as a unifying force for the new republic and set an example for future holders of the office.

Since 1862 there has been an oft-forgotten tradition in the United States Senate that George Washington’s Farewell Address should be read on his birthday. It is my hope that in our time, the leaders of our government – and all fellow citizens — might take time to review at least the following sampling of advice Washington proffered to his new nation, contained within his Farewell Address of 1796….

On his hopes for our national life –

[May heaven] continue to [give] you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in time, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

On preserving our national unity –

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union…will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

On the pitfalls of party politics —

…to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community… are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

On preserving the separation of governing powers —

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.

On truth in education —

…Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

On national debt –

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. 

On international relations –

The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. 

On the undue influence of foreign powers –

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government…. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

In light of George Washington’s hard-won national liberty and hard-won personal wisdom, it is my prayer that the district that is home to our nation’s capital will take heed of the far sighted advice of our chief founder, for whom it is named.

In Christ’s Peace – Amen.

Drilling for Oil in the Arctic: The Loss of the Sacred Wild

1 Comment
Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge

“Humans are not the sole inhabitants of God’s Earth and indeed there are numerous places where wild paw prints in the dirt vastly outnumber our own.” – Tom Martinez

In December of 2017, Congress opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas drilling as part of the tax overhaul. With 45 species of land and marine mammals and over 200 species of birds from six continents, ANWR is more biodiverse than almost any area in the Arctic. The  coastal plain portion (Area 1002) especially represents arctic diversity and is the area now being opened up to exploration and drilling.

ANWR is home to the largest number of polar bear dens in Alaska and supports muskoxen, Arctic wolves, foxes, hares and dozens of fish species. It also serves as temporary home for millions of migrating waterfowl and the Porcupine Caribou herd which has its calving ground there.

The biome of the tundra environment is particularly vulnerable to any disturbance of the land. “It’s easy to do something on the tundra but it’s very difficult to restore,” said Francis Mauer, a retired biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. “Once you start disturbing the tundra vegetation, it takes sometimes nearly forever for the mark to go away.” Arctic Drilling

The good news is that there is time for counter action by environmentalists, state and local groups and people of faith. The new legislation requires that the Department of Interior conduct one sale within four years and a second within seven. However, there are several procedural steps that must be taken before those sales can be held, and the process is not clear. Lawsuits and other actions by opponents of drilling could slow things, both before and after any lease sales.  Additionally, as The New York Times reports, Democrats’ ability to halt progress toward drilling in the refuge is dependent on the party’s ability to recapture the majority in one or both houses of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. Arctic Drilling As Process

Within the ongoing efforts of the current administration to overturn Obama-era legacies, the Interior Department has additionally rescinded the rule that would have added regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal and tribal lands. Also, the Interior Department has repealed offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill. The Obama administration had blocked drilling on about 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the submerged offshore area between state coastal waters and the deep ocean. However, the recent legislation now allows for new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, giving energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades and opening more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard. The governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington have all opposed offshore drilling plans.

Interior Department officials have indicated that they intend to hold 47 lease sales between 2019 and 2024, including 19 off the coast of Alaska and 12 in the Gulf of Mexico. Seven areas offered for new drilling would be in Pacific waters off California, where drilling has been off limits since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara. Though the current US president claims that the decades-old ban “deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth,” this is simply not an accurate statement.  Offshore Drilling

Even if oil companies find oil in the Arctic refuge, it will increase U.S. oil reserves to a bit more than 3% of the global total. OPEC has 70%. There is no conceivable path to oil independence by producing oil domestically. Offshore Drilling Facts

In addition to the impact on land and animal populations, drilling for oil in the Arctic means that indigenous peoples will suffer from the loss of culture, lifeways and spiritual practice. Fifteen villages and small towns scattered across northeast Alaska and northwest Canada are the home of approximately 7,000 Gwich’in – the most northernly location of all indigenous nations.

The Gwich’in’s cultural affinity with area caribou herds has deep spiritual roots. Ancestral stories describe how northern people lived in peaceful intimacy, with all animals. When The People became differentiated into distinct cultural groups, it was agreed that the Gwich’in would hunt the caribou. The modern day manifestation of this spiritual belief is that “every caribou has a bit of the human heart in him; and every human has a bit of caribou heart.” The belief is that the Gwich’in will always have partial knowledge of what the caribou are thinking and feeling, while the caribou will have a similar knowledge of humans and attachment to them.

The indigenous peoples’ historical respect for the caribou is reflected in stories and legends that include the importance of using all parts of the animal, community cooperation, and sharing. The traditional caribou management belief system of the Gwich’in has continued to the present, including in legislation of modern game management practices and through the establishment of an International Porcupine Caribou Commission [IPCC]. The members of the Commission represent the villages of ArcticVillage, Venetie, Fort Yukon, and [Inupiat] Kaktovik in Alaska; andOld Crow in the Yukon Territory. ANWR and The Gwich’in

The consideration of human-animal relationship as spiritual practice and theology must be raised as a central concern to Christian faith practice and belief.  An avid hiker and UCC minister, Tom Martinez, offered this reflection after his recent trek through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

In our modern world we have become alienated from our integral relationship to the ecological systems of God’s Earth. Perhaps the physical, emotional and spiritual distance we have put between ourselves as humans and the natural world allows us to approach the wild as a place to conquer. A place we can guiltlessly raid as we extract resources such as oil and gas… The price we pay for our disconnection with God’s creatures and wilderness is vast and life-threatening… Perhaps most profound is the spiritual price we pay as we desperately seek for what we have lost, tormented by our disconnection and isolation as a species. With an expanded awakening to the meanings we have heretofore lost, there comes a growing sense of urgency and a call to deepen our understanding of our true place in God’s creation — moving from a place of dominance to one of stewardship and caregiving. As we begin to shift our consciousness from a view of the planet as an object to be conquered to one more akin to how the Gwich’in experience it, as ‘the sacred place where life begins,’ only then can we find our true selves as God’s created beings.  The Rev. Tom Martinez, Article

Truly, my friends, healthy environmental stewardship is rooted in a Creation spirituality that appreciates and strives to comprehend humanity’s interdependence with and responsibility for the diversity of life that God created and called, “Good.” Our connection with the Sacred cannot be alienated from ecologically sustainable practices and an understanding of the scientific, economic and political realities that inform the background of what is essentially THE spiritual struggle of our age.

Our true dependence is upon the Earth, not upon oil.  Our deepest need for connection with God is satisfied only by the experience of the wilderness – that most sacred place where we are compelled to go, in order to encounter God face to face. Sometimes the face of the Divine takes the form of a fox, or a bear, or a hummingbird, or a caribou.  The Sacred is wild, after all, and in its vulnerability, we are called to discover our truest strength.

ANWR Polar Bears

Polar Bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Transforming the Toxic Masculine: Resistance for Our Time

3 Comments
Indigenous Father 2

Maori Father & Son

Over the past few years, the term “toxic masculinity” has entered mainstream conversation.  The term refers to an unhealthy social and self-concept among men, of every nationality, belief and culture. Like any illness or addiction, not all men suffer from toxic masculinity.  Being male is not a “problem” and men are not “the problem.” However, the wellness of men – and of every society and nation – is subject to the effects of toxic masculinity, so it behooves all of us – of every gender – to understand its symptomology and global impact.

The concept of toxic masculinity is used to describe behaviors among men that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects. Toxic masculine norms include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions. Behaviors of misogyny, homophobia, and violence are considered toxic within the area of social sciences due to the harmful effects such behaviors have within society. Additionally, behaviors of extreme self-reliance and suppression of emotions are correlated with harm to men themselves through psychological problems such as depression, increased stress, and substance abuse.

Over the past few years, some very important research has been done regarding the link between toxic masculinity and environmental decline. For example, the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research included an article detailing a series of seven studies providing evidence that the concepts of greenness and femininity are cognitively linked in male behavior norms –  Journal of Consumer Research .  This is to say that, “Consumers who engage in green behaviors are stereotyped by others as more feminine and even perceive themselves as more feminine. Further, men’s willingness to engage in green behaviors can be influenced by threatening or affirming their masculinity.”

Living from and with toxic masculinity is typified in behavior that cares more about self-image than about others or the environment. Within its complex of behaviors, to the toxic masculine, the feminine – and anything associated with the feminine – is abused, disregarded and only deemed valuable insofar as it serves to serve the needs of the toxic masculine ego. I would add that the toxic masculine ego can likely never be satisfied, and can subsequently never experience fulfillment. The toxic masculine ego is the ultimate insatiable consumer.  Whatever it cannot consume or forcibly conform to meet its needs, it abhors and destroys.

Last month (December 2017), Scientific American published a follow up on the JCR article of the year prior – Scientific American . The authors note that, “Women have long surpassed men in the arena of environmental action,” making the suggestion that, “masculine affirmation and masculine branding may be effective in narrowing the gender gap in environmentalism.”  Basically, by making a man feel manly, he’s more likely to go green.

This isn’t a bad conclusion to come to, though I do think it’s somewhat narrowly focused.  I think the studies provide some backlighting to a larger social shadow that is broadly linked to the social/global history of patriarchal cultures and the heritage of patriarchal cosmology which our world is collectively attempting to transform.  I believe the global transformation to a new paradigm of equitable environmental sustainability will require the social, theological and psychological deconstruction of toxic masculinity.

In my opinion, toxic masculinity is at the root of every major social and environmental challenge in our world today. From violence against women and transgendered persons to wars for land and natural resources, from mass shootings to the military industrial complex, from prohibitions against women’s’ education in some societies to corporate and nationalistic lobbies in the halls of legislature of other societies, and from species extinction to loss of indigenous sacred sites, toxic masculinity is incapable of valuing life for all time because it truly only perceives its own here and now.

Finally, toxic masculinity in leadership is perhaps the greatest threat to the viability of our world.

The healthy masculine is not threatened by emulating behaviors that are generative, relationally equal and mutual. The healthy masculine exercises empathy, values the full spectrum of human/personal emotion and has an expansive sense of compassion. There are many historical, religious/spiritual, philosophical and cultural male models of the healthy masculine. Christ is one such model.

Jesus valued the perspectives of women, children and men – of people who were different from him. He did not value violence or see it as the answer to threat. He was courageous without bravado, caring without the need to be repaid, loving without self-interest and able to share his emotions of fear/grief/joy/love/pain without questioning his value as a person. He was fearless in his conviction that might does not make right, that one’s life is made whole through healing, nurturing and caring for others and by creating a new social reality through dialogue and greater mutual understanding. His courage was not found in conquering the will or lives of others but in his resistance to living as though he was conquered (by an emperor). He was free in heart and mind and spirit, and because he was a truly free man, he had no need to enslave anyone. He was a man who gave life where there had been only death.

Christ’s hope, I think, was that all  men should be freed from their emperors – from the ways of being men in history and in our day that keep all the world in thrall.

Jesus with Children, Fr. John Giuliani

Jesus with Children by Fr. John Giuliani

The Trinity: A Model of Interdependence and Sustainability for a Threatened World

Leave a comment

Three Sisters

Every society and culture that has arisen on the earth appears to have developed a concept of power(s), supreme being(s) or wise teacher(s) that provide/s instruction or guidance on how to live.  Within the study of cultural anthropology, there has been a long history of academic dialog regarding the role of spiritual or religious belief within society.

In early human societies, belief as a method of transcending self can be considered a highly adaptive and successful strategy for coping with dangers in the environment and engaging in risky or innovative behaviors that may yield a high reward or benefit for the self and/or the family/community. From the historical perspective of the study of spiritual/religious belief systems, the ability for a community to survive within the competition for land and resources, for achieving freedoms and new opportunities, has always come down to what a given culture believes and is prepared to do because of those beliefs.

I believe that we are observing (again) in our current time, that no matter what demonstrable knowledge we may have of the world, it is what people believe about that knowledge that makes the difference between either assuring human survival or assuring our demise. Subsequently, belief itself could be said to be the summation of an ultimate power.

One example of how belief (in supernal beings or wisdom figures) dovetails with knowledge of the natural environment as a successful survival mechanism is the domestication and cultivation of the crops of squash, beans and maize (corn) among the Iroquois peoples.  In a technique known as “companion planting,” the three crops are planted close together. Flat-topped mounds of soil are built for each cluster of crops. In parts of the Atlantic Northeast, rotten fish or eels are buried in the mound with the maize seeds, to act as additional fertilizer where the soil is poor. When the maize is around 6 inches tall, beans and squash are planted around it, alternating between the two kinds of seeds.

The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as biome of living mulch that helps retain moisture in the soil, while the prickly hairs of the vine are a natural deterrent to bugs.

Anthropologists theorize that the process to develop this agricultural knowledge took place over 5,000–6,500 years. Knowledge of how to grow “The Three Sisters,” as they are called among many North American indigenous cultures, has been passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. Variations of the theme exist between Native cultures, adapted to specific environments, resulting in a diversity of “Three Sister Gardens.”

For many Native peoples, the meaning of the Three Sisters runs deep into the physical and spiritual well-being of their people. Known as the “sustainers of life,” the Iroquois consider corn, beans and squash to be special gifts from the Creator. The well-being of each crop is believed to be protected by one of the Three Sister Spirits. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet. In this instance, knowledge and belief support one another and collaborate to assure the survival of several types of plant species as well as supporting several types of human communities.  The interdependence of knowledge and belief becomes cultural wisdom, while the interdependence of several species supports the well being of each.

Within the stories associated with the Judeo-Christian belief system, three interdependent beings emerge in the form of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Though there are variations of the specific nature of the relationship between these three beings within the variants of Christian belief, the common theme is that the Trinity is a divine expression of a unified way of being. The three beings support one another, care for one another and ultimately seem to be mutually dedicated to sustaining and nurturing people specifically and life in general.

The adaptive survival mechanism to human communities through maintaining a Trinitarian belief system may not be as readily tangible or apparent as food production.  However, when one applies the importance of the belief in the incarnation of God in Christ, Jesus becomes the model for how his followers are to incarnate the Holy Spirit as an indwelling reality. Through the spiritual ritual of Baptism, the believer is motivated (called) to actively engage in several practices that can effectively improve the survivability of several species simultaneously.

Trinitarian spiritual life practices include (but are not limited to): service to others, dedication to social justice, commitment to the alleviation of poverty and hunger, sustainable stewardship of Creation, healing of communities and reconciliation between peoples, laboring for peace, and teaching about the life-giving power of love. These actions are understood to demonstrate the believer’s love of Christ, having an ultimate affect that changes the socio-cultural world and improving the chances of survival of life – in all its diverse expression as the singular entity known as Earth.

Truly, as the stories of many faiths and cultures teach us, the archetypal form of the Trinity within belief systems speaks to a deep and shared wisdom – an intuition that seems passed on in the human genome – that all of life is connected, interdependent, mutually resilient, collaboratively co-creating, capable of tremendous life-sustaining nurture and equally threatened in survival without this awareness.

The ultimate power of belief in the Trinity is that it has the potential – if fully lived among human communities who practice its tenets – to save the world, not from some mythic end of divine retribution but from an all too real consequence of humans not believing in the interdependence of all life. The human species has an immanent survival need to create sustainable communities based in a mutual commitment to sharing resources, cultivating multiple species upon which we depend and which in turn depend on our species for their survival through responsible care of creation – appreciating the knowledge we have (in fact) of the impact of our species on the Earth.

Knowledge and belief are lovers in the aware mind, and we are called to incarnate the compassion by which that union compels us to act. Knowledge, belief and compassionate action compose a trinity of consciousness unique to human kind, an incarnate trinity that can transform the world as we know it into a new creation, one on which all life depends upon us to realize.

In the name of the Creator, the Gardener and the Nurturer – Amen.

Nurturing is the Labor of Spring and of the Easter Season

Leave a comment
Angelico - Magdelene & Jesus in Garden

Fra Angelico’s Painting of Mary Magdalene recognizing the risen Christ, who is depicted as a gardener, carrying a hoe used in cultivation – the New Adam cultivating both Creation and people through his relationships with them.

At the end of a grey and rainy winter, I feel very grateful for the breaks of sunlight and sweet spring melodies of the songbirds that have returned to nest in the woods and brush that surround our home.  To support the birds and squirrels that are making nests at this time of the year, I have put out special containers containing the carefully saved lint from our dryer at home for the animals to use in nest building.

As I watch the animals in the spring and experience my own desire to assist them, it seems to me that nurturing is an instinctive quality among most species – even older trees share nourishment through their root systems to help support saplings and trees that are unwell. Nurturing is sacred work, and it is work in which all the earth appears engaged.

For human beings, Nurturing draws on our fullest capacity for physical, emotional and spiritual labor. When we nurture, we become deeply connected to the recipient of our care, even as we become deeply connected to those who care for us in our vulnerabilities. Christ models the impulse to nurture as spiritual response to the need he sees around him.  His response is grounded in compassion and love, which is the essential work of God and reflects the summary of the Law as the commandment that Jesus gave to his followers to love one another.

In the last days of his life – when deep appreciation for his life and the love he felt for his friends welled up in him like the sweet nectar of a ripe grapes or the yeasty impulse of rising bread – Jesus nurtured those around him with all that he had to give; he bathed them, he fed them, he taught them, he comforted them, he forgave them, he encouraged them and he loved them.  Jesus nurtured all who came to him.

In the late 14th century, the English anchoress and mystic, St. Julian of Norwich, wrote:

It is a characteristic of God to overcome evil with good. Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him ­ and this is where His Maternity starts ­ And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us. Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother. And He showed me this truth in all things, but especially in those sweet words when He says: ‘It is I.’ As if to say,  I am the power and the Goodness of the Father, I am the Wisdom of the Mother, I am the Light and the Grace which is blessed love, I am the Trinity, I am the Unity, I am the supreme Goodness of all kind of things, I am the One who makes you love, I am the One who makes you desire, I am the never-ending fulfillment of all true desires…

The nurturing quality of God is in us as part of the image of God in which we are made.  In each of us resides the essential trait of mother/father nurture, even as this aspect was essential to the nature of Christ.  At this time in history, in the life of our world, nurture is a radical force that utterly unhinges the swinging door of hate that can shut away and separate parts of the human family, one from another.

Nurture is a force for unity, for profound relationship and connection across national boundaries, across belief systems and cultures, across ages, economic disparities and even across species – as we see in so many unique and beautiful animal friendships in nature. Surely, God is at work in all of Creation as the loving force of nurture, and we are meant to be part of that force.

This Easter, for you, for our Church and for our world, I pray that we may all know the deep nurture of God through our relationships with one another and with God’s Creation.  Through the sacred labor of nurture, let us live from Christ’s selfless love that has been instilled in our hearts.  Let us serve Christ by giving our hearts freely away to the world that Christ lived and died and rose again to save.

This Good Earth, like a Pearl of Great Price, spinning amidst the awesome wonders of the universe, is Beloved by the God who called it good and which has been given into our care. Let us be a force of nurture in our world.  All the lives on our dear planet deeply long for and deeply need the cultivating touch of genuine care.  In every heart there is a seed, you see, that needs the water and sun in us that we must provide. Every life with which we share God’s Creation desperately needs the gifting impulses of our Baptism, the fruit of the covenant that we have made with the Son of God. For, the Water and the Son in us is enough to nurture all the world, if only we believe.

Rachel Science March

At the March for Science, Coupeville WA – April 23, 2017