I Believe in a Wall


I thought that might catch your attention.

I don’t usually post blogs so close together, but my daily Lenten reading from Howard Thurman could have been written today and resonated with what I wrote earlier this week in “Grieving Violence Near and Far.”

“The final thing that my faith teaches me is that God is love. Not only that He is; that he is near; but that he is love. Fully do I realize how difficult this is. There is so much anguish in life, so much misery unmerited, so much pain, so much downright reflected hell everywhere that it sometimes seems to me that it is an illusion to say that God is love. When one comes into close grips with the perversity of personalities, with studied evil – it might be forgiven one who cried aloud to the Power over Life – human life is stain – blot it out! I know all that. I know that this world is messed up and confused. I know that much of society stretches out like a gaping sore that refuses to be healed. I know that life is often heartless, hard as pig iron. And yet, in the midst of all this I affirm my faith that God is love – whatever else He might be.”

Thurman knew all too well of what he wrote. Closely aligned with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and as an African-American who grew up in segregated Daytona, he knew about “unmerited misery,” about “downright reflected hell,” and about “perversity of personalities” personally. All of his books treat in one way or another in how the Divine can help people to overcome these situations. But I had not read a paragraph that was such a naked confession as the one above.

I read it this morning after a group meditation on the holiness of hospitality and “entertaining angels unaware.” Most Wednesday mornings, I am part of worldwide group of people who pray for the world over the telephone. We are led with a guided meditation and then 15 minutes of silence before we offer what the Divine Spirit has said to us during that time. It seemed particularly necessary to pray together today after the slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand.

So after that experience, and then immediately reading Thurman’s meditation, my first response was to think that the amount of hatred and violence in the world today makes it seem not only like an illusion, but almost a profanity to say that God is love.

My second response, however, was to see that love is the only cure for the hatred and violence.

I’m not talking about loving the people who perpetrate this hatred and violence. I’m talking about connecting with all the people who believe in the Divine unity of creation and all beings in it to come together to build a wall of love that will eventually make it impossible for hate to enter in.

That wall is invisible, and it is penetrable for all who see themselves as part of a great whole. This is not to say that there will not continue to be violence, but it will not fragment that wall of love.

May it be so.


Never Again?



























By Their Fruits You’ll Know Them


When I was in my 20s, I went out with a man who made himself objectionable to my friends.

One friend, an older man, tried to talk to me about the relationship. He pointed out that if a person is kind to everyone, that is a good character trait. But, he said, if someone like my boyfriend was only nice to me but unkind to others, it could mean he was just trying to get something from me.

I was hurt, and the relationship went on to a predictably unhappy ending. It took many years for me to gain the wisdom to see that my friend had given me some serious life advice.

I thought of this unhappy episode Saturday morning while listening to Scott Simon on NPR’s Weekend Edition. He interviewed David French of The National Review. This was before the Northern California shooting, and not a week after the Sutherland, Texas, rampage.

Mr. French was there to accuse “Twitter activists” of being unfair to politicians who offer “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings.

“. . .the prayer life of a Christian is something that’s very, very rich,” he said. “And prayer saturates their lives. . .So when you’re targeting prayers, a Christian, for example, would look at that and be, frankly, kind of puzzled by it.”

As a Christian, as someone who believes in the power of prayer, and as a “Twitter activist,” I bristled at Mr. French’s words. Perhaps you had to hear his patronizing tone. He spoke as if only Christians have a rich prayer life and as if “Twitter activists” are heathens.

Mr. French went on to say that “it’s not that these politicians are offering thoughts and prayers and no action . . . “ Yet he equivocated about what kind of action these politicians are supposedly taking. In fact, Mr. French said that he can’t even imagine what kind of action might have been appropriate after the Las Vegas massacre.

When Mr. Simon suggested that it is the difference in reactions to domestic terrorism and imported terrorism, Mr. French said, “But different mass killings demand different kinds of responses. They’re not all the same.”

He concludes by saying, “What use is an activist tweet anyway?”

Well, I’ll you, Mr. French. The more people who are talking about the problem of gun violence in this country by home-grown terrorists, the better. The politicians you say we twitter activists are criticizing unfairly are white male members of the GOP such as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who only like government when it is used to hurt people, such as punishing tax “reform” (read tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy) and taking away any kind of a safety net for the most vulnerable among us.

I do not believe them when they speak of thoughts and prayers. Mr. French, you quoted Scripture on the air; I’ll quote back at you: “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) This is Jesus speaking, the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, where he has spoken about the poor, the humble, and hypocrites. It doesn’t get any more “Christian” than that. And the fruits of the politicians who talk about “thoughts and prayers” when they have the power to take action (“Faith without works is dead” James; not a scriptural principle, Mr. French, but actual Scripture) to prevent these tragic, senseless, avoidable murders is nil. If a bill is brought to the Senate or the Congress that might actually help citizens of the United States, and I include Puerto Ricans here, these politicians will do their damnedest to derail it.

I learned my friend’s lesson well, because what he was really telling me was “You will know them by their fruits.” That’s what I look for in a politician. They can say whatever they like, but what do they do?

If they do good in the rest of their dealings, fine, I believe them when they send thoughts and prayers. If they don’t, like our current GOP-controlled Congress, I don’t believe them. And I’m not puzzled by twitter activists who criticize them.

Adventures in Twitterland


Here’s a tip: If you use Twitter, don’t mention “white men” and “guns” in the same sentence unless you want to hear from every angry white man with a gun in the country.

I did and got more than 600 angry notifications and still counting.

Oh, their white female counterparts chimed in also; it’s hard to tell sometimes because not one of them uses his or her own name and the majority use an avatar for their profile picture.

I was called everything from an ignoramus to a cow to an old hag to cunt. It was suggested that since I obviously was alive during World War II, I should know how important white men with guns are. And I should be reported to the FBI. These are some of the less offensive remarks!

In just seven words in which I suggested that white men with guns are dangerous in our society, it somehow also turns out that I am racist, sexist, a “libtard,” a race-baiter, and a traitor to my country.

Here’s the irony: The respondents jumped all over themselves to charge that Muslims, African-Americans, and Mexicans are the truly dangerous people; one gentleman suggested that I am a racist while using the “N” word.

And Chicago. I can’t even count how many people mentioned Chicago. These people’s Supreme Leader started talking about what a morass Chicago was during his campaign and even this week brought up Chicago after Ali Vitali of NBC asked him about extreme vetting for gun buyers. You might recall this was when he said that with gun control, the slaughter in Sutherland, Texas, would have been much worse.

Then the “conversation” (of which I was no longer a part) turned to the stated “fact” that the white male killers are all Democrats, liberals, and atheists.

I forebore to bring up the white men with guns who originally plundered this continent and decimated the indigenous peoples.

I forebore to bring up the white men with guns who herded human beings they’d kidnapped onto ships , tossed some overboard if they needed to lighten the ship, and sold the rest into slavery.

I forebore to bring up the mass murder of freed African-Americans by white men with guns during Reconstruction, or the lynchings that have continued to this day.

I also forebore to call any of these people by derogatory, vile names or make suggestions about violent sexual acts they could perform on themselves.

I’m not seeking sympathy or comfort. I’m a big girl now and we have to know what is going through the minds of the opposition in order to respond to it. But how does one respond to people who appear to be brainwashed from birth? And who are so insecure that they threaten 65-year-old women who don’t agree with them?

I know that not all shooters are white men. However, when the shooter IS a white man, we can be damn sure that nothing will be done to prevent it happening again. The GOP simply refuses to put the word “domestic” in front of “terrorism.”



The Moral Universe – Slavery and the Second Amendment


So what does the Second Amendment, which gun rights advocates claim enforces their right to carry their guns, have to do with slavery?

It starts with New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, a passionate advocate of sensible gun laws. Mr. Nocera keeps a weekly tally of shooting incidents on a blog, and the numbers are mind-boggling.

His op-ed column last week was about a new book by Michael Waldman called The Second Amendment: A Biography. The book came out, with horrible irony, three days before Elliot Rodger went on his killing spree in California.

From what Mr. Nocera writes, Mr. Waldman set out to discern how an Amendment that for 200 years was taken to refer to militias has been subverted to refer to an individual’s gun rights since the 1970s. The book pretty much underscores what many gun-control advocates have been saying for years: that the Second Amendment does not have anything to do with private rights to own and carry, openly or otherwise, guns of any kind.

Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun? – Joe Nocera

The amendment, according to Waldman, is strictly about the duty of a state to have “a well-regulated militia” and to be ready to serve when necessary. That was how the Amendment was read until the 1970s when, Waldman claims, the National Rifle Association was taken over by what he calls “Second Amendment fundamentalists.” Mr. Nocera points out that in 1972 the Republican Party favored gun control laws, but that by 1980 the NRA was endorsing Ronald Reagan for President (the first time it had endorsed a Presidential candidate), and the Republican platform was opposed to gun registration laws.

“A surprising discovery that Waldman found and points out in his book is that there was less debate on the Second Amendment by the framers of the Bill of Rights than any other amendment in it. In the little debate that there was, there was no mention of a citizen’s right to keep guns for any reason whatsoever, and the Amendment passed easily,” writes Mr. Nocera.

Here is where slavery comes in, according to a blogger who calls himself Mike the Mad Biologist. The blogger asserts that the Second Amendment arose directly out of the need to maintain slavery.

Mike argues that the Southern delegates were terrified that the new Constitution would do away with slave patrols. Patrick Henry, a Virginian, he says, argued that if there were a slave insurrection, the Southern states would have to go to Congress for permission to put it down. Heretofore those states had all had their own militias organized to keep an eye out for any kind of slave revolt. If the states had no say in the matter, their hands would be tied by free states who wanted to see an end to slavery.

 …slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias. – Mike the Mad Biologist

The reason for so little debate on the Amendment, Mike says in effect, was that without Virginia’s delegates, the Amendment would not have been ratified at all. This is why, he says, it refers to state militias rather than a federal militia. “The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote,” he writes.

Does it have the ring of truth? I think it does, but one can’t help but wonder why Mr. Waldman’s research did not go into this aspect. He is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which implies pretty good credentials.

Whichever way it goes, the argument that has been stated outright by gun rights advocates that their right to guns outweighs a community’s right to not be shot down is tantamount to the South’s argument that its right to own slaves trumps the Declaration of Independence’s statement that “all men are created equal.”

It is no coincidence that many of the gun rights folks that have been in the news call themselves militia and believe themselves not to be governed by the laws of the land. It is also no coincidence, to me, that most of the Internet postings I see about gun rights are written by members of the Tea Party, which have blatantly shown their racism since the creation of that party after President Obama’s election.

And finally, it is no coincidence that it is the extreme right justices of the Supreme Court who have been disabling gun control as well as voter rights, which hurts minorities most of all, since at least 2008 (hmm, why is that year significant?) in Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in the court’s decision to strike down gun control laws in the District of Columbia.

That’s the bottom line for me. What’s yours?

You can read both Joe Nocera’s column and Mike the Mad Biologist’s blog at these links:



Message Given at Christ Episcopal-Trinity Lutheran Church on Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath, 3/16/14


“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my God and my Redeemer.”

Every year, as soon as a new flu virus is identified, a vaccine is produced within weeks, if not days. There are people who probably work 24/7 to accomplish this, and it is praiseworthy that this is so and that public and private concerns work together so efficiently. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and no one wants to see another world-wide epidemic such as that of Spanish flu in 1918.

Yet another epidemic has been spreading for years  that is killing our children at the rate of almost 3,000 a year, and neither our politicians, our public health institutions, nor our citizenry has done anything significant to stop it.

Churches of all denominations around the country are marking today as Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath. The National Episcopal Church has held events since Friday in Washington; our own Bishop Doug Fisher and Jack McKelvey are members of Bishops Against Gun Violence.

When asked to speak to you on this subject, the only appropriate Scripture I could think of was, “Jesus wept.”

In one year on average, more than 18,000 American children & teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, accidents, or by police intervention. Eighteen thousand!

Every day our children are put in harm’s way just by going to school or the playground; by sitting on the front stoop on a summer evening, killed in a drive-by shooting gone awry; by playing with their parents’ guns and accidentally killing a sibling or themselves; by playing with rifles actually made for children; by having easy access to a gun and believing that the future holds nothing for them.

Is it worse to be a parent of a child who is killed by a gunshot, or to be the parent of a child who has pulled the trigger? What if you were both?

Jesus wept.

As Christians, when confronted with any situation we cannot reason out for ourselves, we are called to ask, “What is the will of God in this?” Or one may put it, “What would Jesus do?” We know from the Ten Commandments that God does not want us to kill one another. We know from John 10:10 that Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly. We know from Romans 12:9 that in order to practice love, we must hate evil. We cannot just avoid evil; we must take a stand against evil.

The word “evil” has several definitions. That which is morally reprehensible. That which offends. Cosmic evil. And that which brings sorrow, distress or calamity. It is in this last sense that I speak about the evil of gun violence. What stand are we taking against it? Luke 11:13 says, “Even you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children.” What gifts are we giving to children when we allow gun violence to run rampant in our country? How many children will never have the gift of growing up as a child of God, will never experience the fullness of a life well lived, will never give to the world his or her particular talents? How many future Martin Luther Kings or Gandhis or Jonas Salks or Mark Twains or Eleanor Roosevelts or Elizabeth Warrens never realize their potential because of gun violence How many people like you and me, simple laborers in the Vineyard, never know the joy of community and working together for the common good because of gun violence?

Peter’s first letter, 2:16, says “As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.” Is it not the issue of our freedom as US citizens that is one of the issues that those who work against rational gun laws use frequently to justify their beliefs? Yet God tells us we should not use our freedom to perpetuate evil.

After the Newtown shootings, Episcopal priest Gary Commins chose to preach about gun violence on December 30, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. He compared our society and all the politicians and the NRA members who resist rational gun laws and all the people who abet gun violence by doing nothing, to little Herods. “The media always wants to know the mental state of the murderer,” he said. “But the more pertinent question is: what is our mental state? Why do we, as a nation, continue to be accomplices in the murders of children? Do we suffer from a collective hallucination? Or are we a nation of Herods? Do we prefer to cling to money, power and guns instead of making our children safe?”

While we are quick to point out violence in other cultures, we allow violence to flourish in our own. 3,000 people died on 9/11, a horrible, horrible tragedy, and we went to war because of it. Yet every year 31,537 people die in the United States in gun violence. Where is our outrage? Who has declared war on gun violence? Have we?

Again, from Gary Commins’ sermon: “….”but where is God? We yearn for a God who will defeat our enemies and keep us safe. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said he could pray for legions of angels to protect him, but he doesn’t. We want a God like that, a God who will always protect us. We want a mighty God we can blame, but we can’t blame God for the society we have made. . . The question is not: God, why have you forsaken us? It’s: why have we forsaken you.

“To me God is in the words of Wendell Berry. Before the US invaded Iraq, Berry asked: how many children do I want to have killed so that I can maintain my freedom? How many children should die so that I can maintain my comforts and my lifestyle? None. Zero. None. Those are the questions we need to ask: how many children should die so that someone can own a gun? How many children should die so that corporations can make billions of dollars. How many children should die so that politicians can retain power another two or four or six years? To the Herods of this world, money and power and comfort take priority over the lives of children.”

The National Episcopal Church as well as other mainline churches and the Brady Campaign are asking that three actions be taken:

  1. Ban all assault weapons. The assault weapons ban that elapsed in 2004 must be reinstated.
  2. Require universal background checks.
  3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Let us all take time today to pray about how we can take a stand against this epidemic. We can, individually or as a church, join the Brady Campaign or Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. We can put up a sign outside our church saying that no more children should die from gun violence. We can use a coffee hour once a month to write our legislators and pressure politicians in states that refuse to restrict gun sales. We can go to Washington and bear witness in front of the Capitol. We can go online and find out about boycotts of companies that support the NRA’s intransigence. Individually and as a church community there is so much we can do, if we have the will to do it.

Let us not be the ones who have forsaken God by failing to protect the lives of His, and our, children. Let us truly be Christians, Christ followers, and help Jesus in the work of bringing life, and life abundantly, to all God’s children.