Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Truth Will Set You Free

On Impeachment Eve -- Tuesday night December 17th -- hundreds of rallies were held around the country in support of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. I was honored to be asked to speak at the rally being held here in Los Angeles ... but didn't make it back in time due to weather delayed travel home from Alabama. Here is what I would have said if I'd gotten back in time:

We stand together tonight and in solidarity with over 600 rallies happening around this great nation of ours -- in witness to the strength and power of the aspirational goal which we call the American dream: the dream of a nation where liberty and justice is not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.

As a priest and pastor, I stand here tonight claiming the promise my faith teaches me in the words of John 8:32 … and that promise is “the truth will set you free.”

My brothers and sisters and gender fluid siblings, the truth that will set us all free is the truth that nobody is above the law.

The truth that our House of Representatives will be voting on tomorrow is the truth that that the oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies -- foreign and domestic – does not come with an asterisk that reads “*unless the enemy is the President.”

And the truth that we must continue to hold sacred is the truth that our sister Margaret Mead spoke when she said “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Over 200 years ago the founders of our nation were those people as they imagined the great democratic experiment that is the American dream. And we stand on their shoulders tonight as we rise to resist the shameful and systematic efforts to dismantle that democracy before our eyes.

May the truth that sets us free sustain us in the struggle and give us the strength and courage to continue to be the change we want to see as we commit to protect our Constitution against all enemies – including the President.   

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Why I Blame Biblical Literalism

If we manage to survive as a human race long enough, a few hundred years from now scores of PhDs will be earned as scholars analyze the combination of social, political, and economic factors leading to the rise of the current resident of the White House and to the concurrent orchestrated assault on our constitutional democracy. So, let me get a head start. 

I’m convinced biblical literalism is a prime cause of the mess we find ourselves in as a nation.

Yes, there are a complex set of factors that lead to the rise of the populist, nationalist, sexist, xenophobic, white supremacist, homo/transphobic toxins that have contaminated our body politic and dominated our public discourse.  

But incubating those factors into this particular set of toxins requires a kind of cultural Petri dish which will simultaneously provide the nutrients necessary to nourish the toxic worldview while protecting it from contaminates like data, facts, diversity and multi-cultural competency.

The biblical literalism foundational to 21st century American Evangelicalism does precisely that.

It feeds, waters and fertilizes exclusively male language for God -- marginalizing women and non-binary people, perpetuating the patriarchy and fanning the fire of unexamined privilege making a Putin-style oligarchy appear preferable to a democracy where brown and black women have voice and power.

It creates a context where it is a very short journey from “the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it” to “my country, love it or leave it” – with a direct connection to the rise of nationalism, sexism, white supremacism and the rest of the litany of isms that plague our nation and our world: the rise of the forces we struggle against daily as we live out our baptismal promise to persevere in resisting evil.

And it is this fertile environment that becomes a breeding ground for a population pre-programmed to believe fact-based science is an enemy of faith. It quite literally lays down neuron tracks in the brain set up to reject as “fake news” the very science that calls us to come together to save what we can of this planet we have exploited and the very evidence that proves our President is criminally abusing the power of his office for personal and political gain.

To be clear: the beauty, power and importance of the First Amendment is that it protects every last one of us to freely exercise the religion of our choice – including the freedom to exercise no religion at all. And including the freedom to reject science, fact and data and to believe whatever one chooses about what God wills, blesses or condemns.

However – and it’s a big however – the First Amendment does not protect the right to confuse the freedom to exercise religion with the license to impose religion. And the job of defending the Constitution against all enemies – foreign and domestic – requires each and every one of us to do our part.

If we are going to save our nation from devolving into a kind of theocratic oligarchy, those who believe that science and data are things – those who embrace the vision of a nation where liberty and justice for all literally means all -- must provide an antidote to the toxins of ignorance and “alternative facts” threatening our constitutional democracy with polarization and division.

Otherwise we risk finding ourselves in the last scene of the last act of “Camelot” -- looking for a boy to run and tell the story of what almost was: a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people were created equal.

The stakes are too high, the challenges are too great, and the struggle is too real to do anything less than to stand up, to speak out and to resist the rise of the populist, nationalist, sexist, xenophobic, white supremacist, homo/transphobic toxins contaminating our body politic and dominating our public discourse.

Pick your thing and do it. Now. Together we can make a difference. Together we can overcome.