All posts by Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

About Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and her Intersections Facebook page. She is a retired minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and past president for Coffee Party USA. Charlotte also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach at her Living in The Story website.

“Enough of this centrist BS” ? No sir, Not Nearly Enough

I used to never, ever read the comments people make in cyberspace. We’ve all heard how toxic the conversation can be when commenters get to say whatever they want with the safety of distance and anonymity of the internet.

But now I read the comments and – besides the ugliness – I’m discovering some hopeful respectful connections in places I never would have imagined.

I volunteer with Coffee Party USA and one of my jobs is to post blogs and articles to our Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page. A dozen of us editors keep the page populated with content we believe is worthy of discussion, every hour on the hour, 24/7. Our Coffee Party Facebook page has over a million followers and we volunteers take our work very seriously. The things I post usually don’t garner much attention since I circulate articles that encourage people to disagree agreeably, to respect differences and to collaborate constructively.

In today’s polarized, angry culture, you can bet a message of civility will fall on deaf ears much of the time.

But I had an experience recently on our Join the Coffee Party Movement page that completely blindsided me. Continue reading “Enough of this centrist BS” ? No sir, Not Nearly Enough

Diversity is Our Reality; Unity is Our Goal

A friend once asked me why we liberals talk so much about diversity. As a conservative, she prefers to focus on unity.

I’ve seen this attitude in cyberspace conversations as well. Sometimes commenters scold: Making a big deal out of our differences is a kind of reverse racism. We should be color blind and see only the ways we are alike. 

I once posted this meme on social media once and got several of these “reverse racism” comments. Just by naming the various groups, some people see this meme as divisive. Here’s one comment: This type of message only reinforces a divisive identity policy instead of emphasizing what is our common human identity. The teacher should emphasize our individual human rights as opposed to group identities.

This makes sense in some ways as it speaks to the worthy ideal of being together in community without letting our differences divide us. I applaud this goal; but I disagree that only “emphasizing our common humanity” will stop the divisions. I disagree that “color blindness” will accomplish the goal.

I think we should all see all the color: the splashy and the subtle colors, the soft and the loud colors with which our humanity is painted. For me, color blindness sounds like a sadness, a handicap.

Our diversity is one of the gifts our Creator has given us so why wouldn’t we celebrate it?

Our diversity reminds us that our Creator is a multifaceted, many-sided Reality so of course humanity “created in the image and likeness of God” will reflect this infinite beauty.

Diversity is our inevitable human reality.

It is unity that that requires our serious efforts.

Continue reading Diversity is Our Reality; Unity is Our Goal

If the Right Must be Right then the Left Must be Heresy

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. People who don’t live in this bubble have no idea how much power such an ideology carries. In this way of thinking, there is this deep conviction that we must be RIGHT. Being wrong meant judgment, shame and a hell of a lot worse consequences. We Fundamentalists had to be right and that meant anyone who disagreed with us must be wrong.

Again – if you haven’t been there, you have no idea and I get that so, please keep reading and hear me out. I’m mostly writing this for my Christian Right friends but I’m hoping my Secular Left friends might also find some new insights. And even my Christian Left friends. And maybe some renewed compassion for- and from – all of us

Right and Wrong are interesting categories. They are appropriate descriptions in some fields, but even mathematics reminds us how broad truth can be. 2+2=4 but also 3+1 and 12-8. Right can be right in a variety of ways.

When we function within more subjective categories like philosophy or theology, right and wrong almost lose their meaning. Beliefs, doctrines and dogmas express something about our human experience rather than naming any sort of empirical reality.

Throughout history, humans have misused these subjective constructions as foundations, as eternal truths true for all people in all times. Ideology then becomes a basis for relationship and our beliefs define who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong.

If I am right, you must be wrong.

If my beliefs are orthodox, your beliefs must be heresy.

This black and white, dualistic thinking has plagued us since our human beginnings and has been a source of many of our human conflicts. Continue reading If the Right Must be Right then the Left Must be Heresy

When the Right is Always Wrong and the Left is Always Right

I hear this attitude a lot in my left-of-center circles. And even worse than the old “I’m right and you’re wrong” kind of comments, these days in our angry, polarized society, I’m hearing way too much “I’m right and you’re stupid” disdain meted out by liberal (so-called “open minded”) people.

This is what I call our liberal arrogance. (Stay with me here; this is for us progressives. I’ll spend another future blog talking about conservative self-righteousness. But right now, I need to say this to my friends on the left.)

It is absolutely normal for us humans to believe we are right. We couldn’t bear the moral tension if we knew we were investing ourselves in something clearly false. So of course, when any of us thinks through our positions, we come up with a stance that seems most reasonable and true based on our personality and experience. Of course we think we are right.

The problem comes when some of us also believe that ONLY we can be right on a particular issue. That ONLY our way of making sense makes sense in the world. Continue reading When the Right is Always Wrong and the Left is Always Right

Who is My Neighbor? Who is My Enemy?

I’ve come to the understanding that “enemy” is a social construct. I think humans are born with a need for community, for connection and our first instincts are to welcome and trust all with whom we come into contact. There is no “other” when we begin this journey; we all are human.

But somewhere in the process of clarifying that age-old “who is my neighbor” question, we think we need to decide who is in our circle and who is not. Tribal tendencies demand specification: we want to know exactly where we stand in the various social hierarchies we invent for ourselves.

Of course there is another definition for the word “enemy” and we humans quickly learn not to trust those who do harm. But the act of doing harm to another begins in the mind; there is a cognitive shift in basic understandings about what it means to be human. Someone who acts as an enemy to another has already placed them outside their circle and named them as “other.” They justify their actions based on contrived categories of who is in and who is out. Then the one who has been hurt responds to that mistreatment by doing the same thing: if we have been damaged by X or Y or Z, then everyone who is like them must also be our enemy.

It is a vicious cycle. Not at all neat or logical. We humans can be a complex mess. Continue reading Who is My Neighbor? Who is My Enemy?

Truth!

I really struggle with this question: why do so many people believe the unbelievable?

This sad reality is nothing new. Con men, scam artists and snake oil salesmen have been using and abusing people’s trust for centuries. These hucksters seem to have a special ability to target the naive, to tell them what they want to hear and then entrap them in the web of fantasy they have spun.

They swallow the lie “hook, line and sinker,” we say.

When President Obama spoke at Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth day celebration, he spoke to the increasing danger of this culture of deception.

Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.

We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more …

The current problem is two-fold: leaders and manipulators who lie in order to deceive coupled with people who believe and even defend both the deceptions and the deceivers.

Historian Will Durant once said: “It may be true that you can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.” Continue reading Truth!

Real Power From the Bottom Up

Top Down Power is the default position for us humans and this has been our story throughout our history. America has mostly been an exception to the rule, except that lately we have been watching authoritarian power infect our government, decreasing the authority that We The People have been accustomed to in this democratic republic.

When people give themselves over to Top Down Power, we are giving ourselves over to a kind of eternal childhood. We want someone else to protect us, to take care of us, to make the hard decisions and exempt us from the consequences. Living in this Neverland is much easier than growing up and taking responsibility for our own lives.

In every society, it’s the grown ups who step up and recognize the authority inherent within themselves and their communities. This kind of authority is not “authoritarian” – attempting to rule over others. Rather it is an egalitarian authority that understands everyone in a community has something to offer. And everyone has something to learn.

When President Barack Obama spoke at Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth day celebration, he reminded us of the power of this Bottom Up authority. Continue reading Real Power From the Bottom Up

Make America Kind Again

A photo of this cap made the rounds in cyberspace not long after the 2016 presidential election.

“Make America Kind Again” was the plea.

The campaign to be “great again” evidently resonated with enough voters in enough states that the Electoral College was tipped against the popular vote. So now we have what we have here in America – I would say: neither greatness nor goodness.

A Pandora’s Box of ugliness has been opened in our society. Of course people have always been unkind to one another but just a few years ago, regular Americans seemed to have better manners. There was a common civility that helped us navigate our personal opinions so that – at least in public – we mostly treated acquaintances and strangers with a basic politeness.

That began to fall apart with accusations of “political correctness” so that saying things in such a way as not to offend others was perceived as a censure on MY ability to say whatever I wanted. MY rights were more important than any one else’s feelings. Circumspection and kindness in our conversation were ridiculed as a weakness.

During the eight years that America had its first mixed race president, unkindness accelerated. Criticisms of any president’s politics and policies are nothing new, but somehow too many Americans grew more comfortable believing and repeating rampant ugly untruths about this particular first family. America’s shadow side of racism came boldly into the light.

Now, with our current president’s life long habit of disrespect and derision, even more Americans have lost a habit of common public civility. Continue reading Make America Kind Again

Do Unto Others…

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

We call it the Golden Rule and its wisdom shows up in most every world religion.

So why has the human race never really figured out how to live by this rule of life? Maybe because throughout history most people just flat don’t agree with it.

Other rules of life are much more popular:

Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.

Do unto others before they do it unto you.

Might makes right.

The end justifies the means.

The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies. (Genghis Khan)

These are the rules that have ruled human existence since our earliest beginnings. This is the reason human history is so screwed up.

But even in the dismal darkness of our past, some humans found the wisdom and the courage to live life with an alternative vision: a way of seeing and being in the world that is up-side-down and inside-out from the conventional wisdom. A golden thread of kindness, forgiveness and grace.

Nelson Mandela was one of those people. Continue reading Do Unto Others…

The Long Walk

“Journey” is a powerful motif in many of our human stories. In the tales we tell we often see ourselves as people in process; people on the way. Sometimes we know where we want to go but often we only have the vaguest notion of where we will end up.

Because life is a journey with zigs and zags, with mountain tops and valleys, with stormy days or peaceful nights, our best stories reflect on the meaning of where we have been, where we are going and where we find ourselves on the way.

Joseph Campbell studied Hero Myths from many cultures and taught us how this arch type functions – not only in our stories but within our lives individually and together as societies. The Hero’s Journey brings transformation. Traveling into the unknown, experiencing and surviving the dangers, finding wider wisdom that puts our lives into perspective – this long walk of the Hero’s Journey brings her “home” again; but the person who returns has become stronger, wiser and more resilient than the person who first began the journey.

“The Long Walk Home” is a movie set in Montgomery Alabama during the bus boycott of the 60’s. The title refers to the long miles Black housemaids had to walk to and from work when they refused to ride the city buses. But the second meaning alludes to the journey two women make together – one Black and one White – as they helped carve new paths for America during the Civil Rights Movement. Continue reading The Long Walk