“Callous?!” Look in the Mirror, Gov. Abbott

Gov. Abbott, did you misplace your dictionary? I don’t think you know what the word “callous” means, so let me help you. According to Merriam Webster it means “feeling or showing no sympathy for others: hard-hearted, a callous indifference to suffering.”

When you used this word to describe President Biden and his administration’s policies, you were completely out of line. “Callous indifference” more aptly describes you and your Texas Republican party.

Hard-hearted Republican officials ignored warnings about the unstable infrastructure of the Texas electric grid, failed to rush help to those who were suffering, and then blamed consumers who were stuck with exorbitant electric bills.

Unsympathetic Republican policies reinforce cycles of poverty, restrict access to healthcare, and weaken our public schools.

Texas Republicans have shown no sympathy for our neighbors to the south: migrants desperate to find work and safety for their families.

And then just this week, it was you who decided to lift coronavirus protections, demonstrating a gross indifference to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Texans.

And you have the gall to describe President Biden as “callous?”

No sir. Your faux outrage is a textbook demonstration of the principle of psychological projection—“the attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects, especiallythe externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against anxiety.”

Your tweet is a failed attempt at distraction—“something that directs one’s attention away from something else.” Texans can see how Republicans keep making bad bets and are holding a losing hand; doubling down—“becoming more tenacious, zealous, or resolute in a position” – is a bald, foolish, and callous play.

You must IMMEDIATELY stop this divisive rhetoric. You must work with President Biden and this administration to create collaborative policies that will benefit all Texans.

Now is the time for mature, courageous leadership. Step up, Mr. Abbott; stop doubling down.

Sincerely, Reverend Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Find your Courage, Gov. Abbott

Dear Governor Abbott,

My mind boggles at your foolish decision to remove coronavirus protections for Texans. We are on the cusp of getting this pandemic under control; now is not the time to fail in leadership.

I applauded your decision to listen to the scientists and order a mask mandate fairly early. When you used your proper authority properly in this way, you demonstrated political courage and non-partisan wisdom. Please find that courage again and rescind your order to remove these vital protections.

Businesses need for you to have their backs when they provide safe spaces for their customers. Schools need for you to have their backs when they make decisions about our teachers and students. Medical workers need for you to have their backs as they bravely battle this horrific disease and put their own lives at risk. Texans need for you to have our backs when we are – just now – so close to finding some normalcy again.

Please do not let failed leadership at ERCOT tempt you to yet another spectacular failure of leadership. Please do not let angry extremist demands drown out responsible voices that are urging patient persistence. Please do not let politics overrule science.

Announcing that you have listened to reason, attended to the science, and changed your mind may make some people unhappy; so be it. Your job is not to kowtow to special interests but rather to protect your citizens and work for the common good of every Texan.

You MUST do that for us now.

Sincerely,

Reverend Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Speak the Truth, Mr. Cruz

Dear Sen. Cruz, Thank you for responding to my earlier communication. Please note below my corrections to several of your statements.

“The 2020 election…featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.”

Allegations of fraud are a lie and you know it.

“Reuters/Ipsos polling tragically showed that 39% of Americans believe ‘the election was rigged.’ That belief is held by Republicans (67%), Democrats (17%), and Independents (31%).”

The reason people believe this lie is because you and Trump kept telling them to believe it. Since the time of Gingrich, Republicans have become increasingly vicious about repeating lies over and over again until the American people are understandably duped and confused.

“Millions of Americans who have peacefully expressed their deep concerns regarding election integrity deserve to have their voices heard.”

They DID have their voices heard – by state election officials (many Republican officials who – thank God – did their jobs with integrity). They were heard in numerous courts and their arguments were shown to be non-factual. They were heard in the public conversation and those of us who also listened to credible sources rejected their hysteria. Your ploy to call for an electoral commission is grandstanding and you know it.

“In Congress we have an obligation to the voters and we have an obligation to the Constitution to protect the integrity of our electoral system.”

This is precisely my complaint about you: you are not fulfilling this core responsibility – neither to the voters nor to the Constitution. If you want to actually “protect the integrity of our electoral system” then you will support the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

I would be immensely sad if I thought you actually believe in what you are doing; that’s pathetic enough. But instead I have come to believe that you are using your high position to gain political power and to damage democracy; this is inexcusable.

“Input from fellow Texans significantly informs my decision-making and empowers me to better represent the state.”

Really? When has any input other than that of big donors and radical media influencers informed your decision-making process? Name some examples please.

Trump lost, Sen. Cruz. Speak the truth and say it to the world. Bearing false witness not only damages our nation but also sins against the Ten Commandments and the Gospel.

Repent, Mr. Cruz, and change your ways.

Reverend Charlotte Vaughan Coyle


For the People Act 2021: To expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.

The John Lews Voting Rights Advancement Act: To amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to revise the criteria for determining which States and political subdivisions are subject to section 4 of the Act, and for other purposes.

Will the GOP become the POT?

I am watching with great sadness as the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Enterprises.

The current rupture within an erstwhile reputable party alarms many of us as we watch radical Trump devotees challenge the integrity of their own political institution. I imagine this chaos among the Republican leadership is as sad for many of my Republican friends as it is for me.

But this is more than just an ugly family feud; this is a deep danger to our entire nation.

When our founders challenged the age-old authoritarian rights of kings in order to form a new nation, they struggled to clarify what kind of nation this should be: to define who gets a say, who has a vote, and who should be in charge. Although they created a remarkable, history changing government, they still enshrined typical cultural assumptions as they answered those questions: white, male, property owners had the say, got the vote, and stayed in charge.

When Abraham Lincoln saw how that approach had devolved into unsupportable inequities and violent oppression, he confronted toxic structures and helped create a new political party grounded in the ideals of America’s original Declaration: “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator . . .”

Continue reading Will the GOP become the POT?

More Law and Order, Please

How sad that “law and order” somehow has devolved into a catch phrase instead of an actual principle for American life and an ideal for American values.

We heard numerous cries for law and order during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. We heard this president proclaim himself the “law and order president” out of one side of his mouth while undermining the rights of states to manage their own affairs and respond to those protests as their elected leaders saw fit. Now we are hearing too many of our fellow citizens cry out to overturn a certified election, and we are watching too many elected officials work to subvert the legal and orderly process of our bipartisan elections process.

What has happened to our national commitment to Constitutional law and the societal order that the rule of law helps create among us?

If there were legitimate legal challenges to November’s election, they would have come out in the numerous court cases that have been filed (more than sixty!). But No: lawyers—who may well lie to the media—know better than to lie in court, and judges who honor the rule of law and have sworn to uphold the Constitution rightly refuse to pervert justice from the bench. Our justice system confirms that the election was legitimate; law and order still prevails in our nation.

If there were legitimate claims of voter fraud in this past election, they would have been uncovered in our uniquely open elections processes that have been established in the various states. Bipartisan officials in counties and states across this nation conducted a fair and free election in the midst of a raging epidemic. They put themselves at risk and bent over backward to accommodate every one of us who wanted to cast our vote safely. Election officials counted our votes carefully and transparently, with bipartisan observers documenting our community leaders’ impartial commitment to make sure every voice is heard; every legitimate vote counted.

But now, instead of thanks, too many of these public servants have been vilified, accused (by people in their own political party!) of illegalities. These unsubstantiated accusations against our elections process and our fellow citizens who manage the process are ludicrous, perverse, and wicked. These foolish cries of voter fraud are the bellyaching whines of losers: pathetic and yet dangerous. We all need to reject this toxic disinformation that is damaging our fundamental democratic processes.

I keep listening for more voices of integrity to speak out from the right. I strain my ears, aching to hear more authentic conservatives who actually believe in our system of laws; traditional Republicans who want to reclaim some of their party’s historic values. I am grateful to hear some appeals to reason, reality, and responsibility, (thank you Sen. Mitt Romney!) but this nation needs a mass chorus of these voices right now: a multitude of cries against anarchy and for a peaceful transition of power. We need a whole host of people demanding a return to bipartisan cooperation all across our land.

Law and order means every citizen gets to vote—without threat or hindrance. It means all votes matter—even the votes I don’t agree with. It means the winner wins fairly and the loser concedes honestly—no matter which side wins and loses. And it means all of us, as responsible citizens, accept the outcome of our constitutional process and move on to engage the work that lies ahead of us.

If the rule of law means anything to us as a nation, then it must stand for fairness, equity and justice for all of us. More of this, please!


Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Jason Getz, photographer

See Sen. Romney’s (R-Utah) here in his press release dated January 3, 2021.

Thanks also to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) for his integrity. Find his detailed statement about the electoral process here at his Facebook page posted December 30, 2020.

Pros and Cons of Unity Movements

I appreciate President-elect Joe Biden’s calls to unity after long years of national fracture, but I confess my unease. Not for the concept of unity, but rather because of common mistaken notions about what unity means. In my experience, when some people call for unity, what they really want is uniformity.

I was born and raised within a religious “unity movement”—a movement that (by the time I arrived) had divided into three major streams and numerous other rivulets. Growing up, I was thoroughly immersed in the notion that we were right and everyone else was wrong; that we had discovered what was real and true, and if only you would believe the truth as we believed it, we could all come together in unity. It’s an enticing mindset.

As in the fundamentalist denomination of my youth, I’ve seen similar calls for unity coming from political conservatives in recent years. “Join us in our full throated support of this president and his policies and then we could all get along.” (My op-ed published last year in our local newspaper challenging this kind of mislabeled appeal was met with resistance from my conservative neighbors.)

So maybe you can understand my discomfort with unity movements. Still I believe unity is possible and a noble goal for our nation. However, the goal must be seen clearly as a quest—not for sameness—but for authentic concord and harmony.

Continue reading Pros and Cons of Unity Movements

Alternative Realities: Or The Dwarfs are For the Dwarfs

One week ago today, 71 million fellow Americans voted to affirm and continue the trumpian vision of reality that has reigned during the past four years. Today, a full week later, 7 in 10 Republicans are being convinced that the election results—an election they lost—was fraudulent. As hopeful as I am that a new administration can do a great deal to repair the harm done to our nation, I continue to struggle with the fact that starkly oppositional worldviews continue to create chaos and division among us. I keep trying to understand.

Some of you may recognize that part of my title comes from one of the delightful Narnia stories by C. S. Lewis: The Last Battle. In this tale, Narnia faces its final days before Aslan, the Great Lion, calls an end to Time itself.

King Tirian of Narnia battles against overpowering forces of evil near an old stable. Anyone who goes through the stable door disappears in a flash of terrible light

But we, the readers, get to go beyond the door and we realize the stable door is actually a gateway into paradise. Many of our long time friends from Narnia are met there in happy reunion as Aslan invites them to keep going “further up and further in.”

Back at the stable door, however, sits a miserable huddle of Dwarfs who can’t (or won’t) see the heavenly landscape; they only know the dank misery of a dark, cramped stall. Our good-hearted Narnian friends pity their blindness and try to help them see the beautiful reality that stretches endlessly all around them.

Continue reading Alternative Realities: Or The Dwarfs are For the Dwarfs

Loving Our Enemies

This may be Jesus’ most difficult expectation. “Love your neighbor” is tough enough, but “love your enemy” pushes me beyond my human ability. I know I don’t love well.

The words come from two of the gospels: Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain.

I say to you that listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you . . .

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6

Much of what Jesus says in these beatitudes is pretty much impossible for us mere mortals to accomplish. I suppose some of the saints have drawn close to the high standards, but not many of us regular Jesus followers are anywhere close.

Several thoughts come to mind as I unpack Jesus’ words and try to figure out how to be in relationship with too many difficult people in my own life in these current days.

Continue reading Loving Our Enemies

Living in Fear

Back in the early days of the mask hysteria of 2020, I saw a photo of a woman with a protest sign: “I need a haircut,” she proclaimed. Her concern struck me as childish. But then later I saw another woman marching in defiance of mask mandates brandishing a large sign that said: “I’d rather bury my family from Covid than to see them enslaved to the fear of it.”

It is a bizarre and tragic twist, I think, that for some people masks have become a symbol of fear instead of a symbol of care.

I’ve thought about that woman’s fear that her loved ones might become “enslaved to fear.” I’ve wondered if these are some of the same folks who, for eight years, lived in fear that Obama was going to take away their guns. If these are some of the same people who are so afraid of “Brown hordes” at our southern border, “Black thugs” in our cities, and “Islamic terrorists” while evidently oblivious to the widespread domestic terrorism of white supremacists.

Continue reading Living in Fear

Spiraling Grief

For the past four years, I’ve been lurching back and forth between various cycles of grief. Shock. Denial. Anger. Rage. Depression. Acceptance. Denial. Anger. Depression. Rage. Pull the covers over my head. Acceptance. Denial . . .

I’ve spent four years trying to understand: trying to understand why too many of my fellow-Christians worship at the altar of a false god.  Trying to understand why too many of my stubbornly independent neighbors give themselves over to an authoritarian wanna-be-dictator. Trying to understand why otherwise good-hearted people tolerate and even celebrate bad faith actors.

I really wanted this election to be a blowout for “my side”; I wanted a clarion call to equity, compassion and justice. Or I could live with a close win—even though we knew lawsuits and interminable delays would occur. But I did not want yet another reminder of the huge disconnect that stands between me and my neighbors.

I just don’t get it. I don’t get them. The spiraling grief dizzys me.

Then this morning it occurred to me that understanding is not one of the classic stages of grief. Healing through grieving, it seems, must happen without clear-cut understanding, without knowing the “whys.” Instead, healing acceptance must come right in the messy, muddled middle of not knowing; of not understanding why.

Continue reading Spiraling Grief