A Glass Half Full

The mother-wisdom I used to offer my children is coming back to me: Trouble and Goodness are both always abundant in this world and so the way we engage life depends on how we focus. We can focus our attention and our energy on what is negative and we will live our lives with anxiety, anger and fear. Or we can focus on what is positive and live our lives with gratitude, generosity and hope.

glass-half-full-webWe can say the glass is half empty or we can say the glass is half full. But it’s still the same glass. It’s still the same world. It’s still the same America.

I’ve been struggling to see the good in these days since the election. I’m anxious about the future of our nation. I’m angry that nearly unbridled power is being handed over to mean, ugly men. I’m afraid that our vision of an inclusive, compassionate America will be deeply damaged during the next four years.

I’m struggling to find my balance and to figure out how to focus my attention and energy. If these negative realities take over my vision, then I may become paralyzed; this feeling makes me want to crawl into my shell, pull the covers over my head, put my fingers in my ears and repeat “la-la-la-la…”

But today I will remember that positive realities are also at play. Today I will focus on the good, the healthy and the helpful. I will continue to believe that our collective goodness is greater than the darkness that threatens our nation.

On these days when my emotions overwhelm my reason, when my head and my heart are out of balance, I have to be especially careful to challenge myself to operate out of my intellect. Times like this I have to discipline myself to engage in cognitive exercises that help me find my balance.

For example, I ponder our current reality within the larger perspective of history.

American politics have been deeply divided many times before, the most horrific of which was the time of secession and civil war. At least we are not there.

As we remember the venom and vitriol of the public conversation over our history, we can recognize that today’s ugly jousts are nothing new. As we recall the incompetence of some of our former presidents, we can realize the sturdy fabric of America endures even with the many flaws within our system. As we are repelled at the horror of brothers killing each other on American soil, we can trust that we have learned some things that will help us navigate any future divide.

Things are not as bad as they have been and today we have the capacity to shape our future in light of the lessons of our past.

For me, as a Christian and a minister, I have been especially grieved at the unfaithfulness of American Christianity during these days. Modern Evangelical Christianity has sold its soul to the devil of politics and has damaged the witness of Christians everywhere. Americhristianity has revealed itself to be completely bankrupt.

But when I put even this shameful reality into the larger perspective of Christian history, I find hope.

Christians in 19th century America were deeply divided over slavery. Too many people allowed the culture of slavery to blur their vision of the gospel. Too many preachers abused their position and misused Scripture to justify inhumanity and evil. But at the same time, many Christians – because of their faith – sacrificed their lives and fortunes to fight against such darkness.

Christians in 20th century Germany were deeply divided over the ideology of racist nationalism that swept the country. Too many Christians allowed the climate of hatred and fear to infect them. a2d26dad26a255f00fedb37a61cccf7fBut at the same time, the Confessing Church of Germany stood against that evil. Again, many people – because of their faith – offered themselves as martyrs to the cause of goodness and justice.

At least we are not there.

I don’t know what the next four years will bring to America. I may be looking at our glass as half empty. I may be over reacting to the negatives; I certainly hope so.

But given the lessons of history, we will do well to stay aware of both the Trouble and the Goodness that are ever abundant in this world. We must not allow blinders to obscure our vision. We must train ourselves to see the big picture.

At the same time we look our Troubles in the face, we must also discipline ourselves to focus on what is positive. Only then will we be able to live our lives with gratitude, generosity and hope. Only then will we find the strength to stand against the evils of our own century.

This new administration has many unacceptable attitudes and approaches I cannot and will not affirm. Therefore I will faithfully and adamantly protest what I see as harmful to the American dream, unworthy of the American ideal and contrary to the gospel.

But I will protest from my faith, not from my fear. I will advocate from hope and not from despair. And I will engage all my fellow humans not from hate – but always with the power of love.

I wrote these words before the election and I affirm them today:

I believe in the goodness and generosity of the American people. I believe in our creativity and resilience. I believe in the panoramic, stereophonic, technicolor America that our Founders unwittingly launched into being all those years ago. And I believe there are millions and millions of us who share that big, beautiful, courageous vision.

We cannot let that vision die.

We will not let that vision go.

It feels like our American glass is half empty these days; we certainly have plenty of challenges ahead. Even so, let’s commit to work together across all our divides so that some day our nation will actually overflow with the fullness of liberty and justice for all.

The Third Day

On the first day, I was in shock. Not because of the gross error of pundits and polls, but because of my overwhelming confusion that my fellow Americans could possibly have voted in favor of a man who embodies such anti-American attitudes and actions.

On the second day, the reality began to settle in. The classic grief cycle was in full swing and my shock and denial moved to anger.

On the third day, I awoke with a glimmer of hope. Continue reading The Third Day

Antidisestablishmentarianism

I learned how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism in the sixth grade. I was so proud of myself. I can still spell it today although it is nowhere near the longest word in the dictionary anymore.dictionary-780x439

Of course I had no clue what it meant and I still have to unpack all the prefixes and suffixes when I think about this odd word all these years later. This word has come back to my vocabulary because Election 2016 has turned out to be a very odd turn in our nation’s history and it demands some new vocabulary.

Some of my friends who voted for Trump say they were voting against the establishment. For a variety of reasons, they are anti-establishment, all for the undoing of the Establishment.

Dissing the Establishment.

Disestablishment. Continue reading Antidisestablishmentarianism

America in Process

I pulled into my parking space next to a small pickup truck. I didn’t notice the bumper sticker on the window until I was getting out of my car. “Hillary for Prison 2016” it said. The driver of the truck was just opening his door to get in and our eyes met. A small older man who smiled and nodded and touched his cowboy hat the way country gentlemen do in my small East Texas community. It was a sweet smile, a real smile. I guess he didn’t notice my bumper sticker. Continue reading America in Process

This Remarkable American Family

A friend of mine cast her ballot in a metropolitan suburb in Texas and she remarked how “remarkable” was the mix of voters who stood in line with her.

I looked around me in awe at the diverse group of citizens there to cast their political opinions. Those with different colors and shades of skin and features, with varying faiths, from any number of occupations and education and economic situations, first time voters and life time voters, mothers with their children, adults honoring elderly parents; all smiling and chatting, all of us knowing that different votes would be cast by those around us. I was so proud to be under the same roof with these remarkable neighbors to exercise this incredible freedom!

Continue reading This Remarkable American Family

Stunning and Outrageous Ignorance

The stunning, outrageous assault upon our fellow Americans continues.

This past week, an Oklahoma legislator orchestrated a McCarthyesque hearing at the State Capitol and blatantly proclaimed (without solid evidence) some local Muslim spiritual leaders and respected Islamic advocacy groups to be “terrorists.” He has said before that: “Islam is a cancer that needs to be cut out of the nation.” Continue reading Stunning and Outrageous Ignorance

Mental Gymnastics

Growing up in a fundamentalist denomination, I know something about mental gymnastics. The particular issues of my religious upbringing were not so much “issues” as they were life and death. A particular way of believing determined who was faithful and who was not; who was in and who was out. There was a certain comfort in thinking we had most all the big questions settled and we cornered the market on truth.

In order to maintain this illusion, we needed to contort our arguments to explain away any facts or evidence or experience that did not align with our fixed notion of reality. But it wasn’t just a contortion of thinking; it was an unconscious contortion of reality itself. The whole enterprise of keeping our balance on this tightrope required our own unique exercise of mental gymnastics.

This is not justification; it is simply confession. And maybe a bit of explanation.

gettyimages-484797712_custom-695b9781e4a550ac0cdd3eba481660feefd333a8-s900-c85Much has been made of the puzzling Evangelical Christian support of Donald Trump. This poster boy for materialism, narcissism and perversion of power contradicts every heretofore voiced value of any authentic expression of Evangelical Christianity. He even mocks the cornerstone Religious Right  issues of abortion and homosexuality by mouthing transparent platitudes that everyone knows deny and spin his actual positions.

Many pundits have pondered the puzzling irony of Mr. Trump’s Evangelical support. My contribution is hardly definitive but I keep going back to this one insight: we humans have an uncanny ability to convince ourselves that just about anything is true/right/good and we can justify even questionable/shady/convoluted means in order to accomplish our self-righteous, pre-determined end.

I  see too many of my Evangelical friends caught in this trap. I think it explains some of the mental gymnastics we see coming from that camp. Mostly though I’m pondering my own culpability in new  forms of mental gymnastics that twist my interpretation of reality into fresh convolutions. I’m wondering what my journey into painful honesty may have taught me in this odd political/social/cultural season in which I  live.

I see two approaches that may help safeguard against unhealthy, unhelpful, unconscious mental gymnastics.

On the one hand  – the more convoluted the reasoning is, the more likely the logic is actually hopelessly illogical.

But then on the other hand – the more simplistic the reasoning is, the more likely it is that multivalent, multidimensional truth is being contorted into untruth.

As to the first challenge, I recognize my own temptation to create elaborate defenses for whatever  I want to believe. These defense mechanisms can trick us into creating a reality of our own invention. (And I’ve noticed that my Liberal friends can be just as defensive as my Conservative friends.)

The second challenge of simplistic thinking comes because it’s so very tempting to  try to divide our lovely  human rainbow variety into boxes of black and white, good and bad, right and wrong when the truth is – we are  all a messy mix all the time.

This conversation is of particular importance these days because of the bizarre candidacy of Donald Trump and the toxic and dangerous passion of his supporters. Too many of them sadly support and cheer him on because of their own xenophobia or misogyny or deep seated anger over some real or perceived wrong.

contortionist_ravi_standingBut too many of them support him because of their convoluted mental gymnastics. Trump does not care about protecting the unborn as they pretend to believe he will. He does not care if same gendered people are married. He only cares about himself: his money and his power. And yet too many kind-hearted, sincere believers have allowed themselves to believe he cares about them and their issues.

As a woman, a mother, a grandmother, I denounce the blatant insults Mr. Trump heaps upon other human beings – particularly those who are not male, white, beautiful or wealthy.

As a Christian, I disavow all the insidious mental gymnastics that convolute the truth of the Christ and the Christian faith.

As an American, I challenge any who pretend his leadership will be beneficial for our nation or for the world.

Let’s remember who we are as Americans and reclaim the ideals of welcoming community that is the true foundation of our greatness.  There is a point at which gymnastics becomes a deadly exercise. America has certainly reached that point.

 

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. cvclogo copyShe is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

 

Ravi the Scorpion Mystic stands on one leg performing his act in Times Square, NYC, 2004

Janie and Charlotte on Religious Liberty #4

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though they have very different perspectives on politics, culture and theology.

This is the fourth conversation Janie and Charlotte have had about their different approaches to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty. See the first conversation here, the second conversation here and the third conversation here.

Charlotte asked Janie to respond to her blog: Letter to my Christian Friends Who Are Anxious About Your Religious Liberty. Continue reading Janie and Charlotte on Religious Liberty #4

Two Good Reasons Why I’m Going to #VoteAnyway

1) Because of our grandmothers.

2) Because of our granddaughters.

It wasn’t that long ago in the history of our nation that it was illegal for women to vote. That fact boggles my mind. As a modern woman with so much privilege, I have trouble understanding the cultural mentality that insisted women were incapable of voting responsibly. Continue reading Two Good Reasons Why I’m Going to #VoteAnyway

Janie and Charlotte on Religious Liberty #3

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though they have very different perspectives on politics, culture and theology.

This is the third conversation Janie and Charlotte have had about their different approaches to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty. See the first conversation here and the second conversation here.

CVC photo

Charlotte

OK Janie, now I have a question for you: Why is it that some Evangelical Christians insist that homosexuality is only behavior and not part of the innate essence of some human beings? Why can’t they allow room for other people to be who they are and do what they do and live their lives in peace? Continue reading Janie and Charlotte on Religious Liberty #3