Counterproductive Progressivism

I recently blogged an apology to Conservatives, admitting we Liberals all too often do not live up to our stated ideals of tolerance, open mindedness and generosity. The push back was immense. Quite a few disagreed and disagreed strongly; however, their conversation was civil and reasonable. Several other Liberal readers made my point for me though; their comments were filled with name calling, profanity, and ridicule.

More than a few Conservative commenters thanked me for the blog since they have been blasted by some of this “progressive” regression simply by stating their opinions in cyberspace discussion threads. Disagreement is not the problem. I’m much smarter whenever I’m forced to rethink and articulate my argument in the face of an opposing viewpoint. But insults are always a problem. We Progressives don’t like it when the name calling comes from the Right; so we absolutely ought to disavow it whenever it comes from the Left.

Such Liberal intolerance is counterproductive.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

I read an intriguing op-ed recently by playwright and lawyer Wajahat Ali in which he asks where he and his fellow Muslims fit into the current American political landscape.

Ali quotes Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Barnard College, who concedes that he’s a tad bitter about his political options.

“As a Muslim, I’d vote for Jesus, but the Republicans won’t let him in, and the Democrats don’t believe in him.”

Many American Muslims…support progressive policies, like affordable health care and a living wage. But privately, they adhere to traditional values, believe in God and think gay marriage is a sin, even though an increasing number support marriage equality.

American Muslims portray the gamut of beliefs and practices inherent within any typical cultural or religious group. Like many of us, Muslims hold a variety of opinions about a range of issues. Like most of us, Muslims demonstrate how individuals can hold both progressive and traditional ideals in a healthy tension.

While our Muslim sisters and brothers are being profiled and threatened from the Right, many of them who practice their faith with deep piety experience suspicion and disrespect from the Left.

Our Liberal narrow mindedness is counterproductive.

Some months ago, Vice President Pence was ridiculed unmercifully for his personal practice of avoiding private meetings with women. He and his wife made this commitment to each other when he entered politics and it has served him well. I daresay Bill Clinton would have benefited from such steadfastness – as would have John Edwards, Gary Hart, and too many other Liberal politicians to name.

Why in God’s green earth would any of us make fun of such integrity? Mike Pence has more than enough policy positions with which we can argue, confront and resist. We Progressives ought to be choosing our battles more wisely.

Such Liberal disdain is counterproductive.

When millions of women marched in Washington D.C. the day after the inauguration, march organizers rescinded their invitation to one of the march sponsors: the New Wave Feminists. This is a group of women who oppose the anti-woman policies of the Trump Republicans; they also stand against abortion. “Pro-life feminist” rings like an oxymoron to many Progressives and so it must have made sense to march leaders to un-invite the group.

But an opinion piece in U.S. News and World Report points out the irony inherent in the exclusion of this organization:

The mission [of the Women’s March] decries the intolerance in the rhetoric throughout the past election cycle, yet they fail to see the intolerance in their actions. Instead of finding commonality with women of different perspectives the left has once again shown its intolerant hand: They are only tolerant of their own platform and politics…

Instead of celebrating differences and the right to express those differences, progressive feminists would rather shut out women who don’t think like them.

Such an approach doesn’t sound much like a “big tent” to me.

This Liberal exclusiveness is counterproductive.

John McCain, staunch Republican leader, has rocked some Republican boats recently. He spoke out strongly for an independent investigation into the Trump-Russian ties and he penned a moving op-ed arguing against this administration’s foreign policy approach while advocating for foreign policy based on American values.

I read some of the comments following his opinion piece; I sighed. Again the response was mixed and some actually appreciated what Mr. McCain offered. But then again numerous commenters refused to hear him out and dismissed anything he has to say based on their disagreement with some of his other policy positions. Never mind that he is one of the few Republicans standing up to his own party. Who better to challenge lockstep conservative ideologies than a fellow Conservative? Shouldn’t the #Resistance seek out allies wherever we can find them?

This Liberal judgmentalism is counterproductive.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Intolerance, narrow mindedness, disdain, exclusivism and judgmentalism are not progressive values. American Progressives in 2017 need much less finger pointing and much more soul searching. We’ve made plenty of political mistakes and it’s high time we own up to our blunders so that we can correct them and move forward.

As Wajahat Ali commented:

One positive thing emerging from this political moment is that our respective communities are forced to confront issues … that have always existed but have been hidden under toothless slogans promoting progress. Now we have to actually do the hard work to achieve it.

It is hard work indeed. Let’s keep our focus on the real work at hand and get to it.

 

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She 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.

An Apology from an Embarrassed Liberal to my Conservative Friends

Some time ago, I wrote my apology from an embarrassed Christian to my non-Christian friends. Liberals loved it. But I’m guessing my Liberal friends are not going to embrace this letter so quickly. We’ll see.

I help admin the Coffee Party USA Facebook page that invites discussion across our differences. The page has a large following and one of my tasks is to monitor the comments. (This responsibility is particularly ironic given my past refusal to ever, ever, ever read and engage cyberspace comments!) The Coffee Party Facebook effort is committed to civil dialogue around important issues of our day. Some posts generate hundreds of comments and most often, the conversation is intellectual and respectful.

But then again, all too often, the conversation devolves into childish name-calling.

I’m embarrassed to say that (all too often) some of the worst offenders are my fellow Liberals. Continue reading An Apology from an Embarrassed Liberal to my Conservative Friends

It’s None of Your Business. Except When It Is

Some years ago, a speaker at my seminary told us bluntly: “What God is doing is none of your business.”

I was appalled. And my reaction reveals that (yes, I admit) I do have some control issues.

Sometimes we religious folks are tempted to think we know who God does and doesn’t love, what God is up to and what God thinks about every situation. It’s an idolatrous temptation that Anne Lamott warns us against:

You can safely assume you have created god in your own image when your god hates all the same people you do.

Of all people, religious people ought to acknowledge divine mystery. We should have learned by now that God never has and never will fit into any of our boxes. What God is doing really is none of our business. Continue reading It’s None of Your Business. Except When It Is

Charlotte and Janie talk about the Affordable Care Act: How Can We Make it Better?

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though Janie grew to the “Right” while Charlotte grew to the “Left” and now have some very different perspectives on politics, culture and theology. Charlotte and Janie have begun talking about their differences in a shared blog. You can find their earlier conversations here.

Charlotte:

You and I wound our way through a couple of discussions that brought us to a shared conclusion that Americans should have access to affordable medical insurance and health care. Now we are considering our differences of opinion on the role of government; should federal and state funds be used to provide health care and subsidize insurance plans? Is that a proper function of government? I say yes. Continue reading Charlotte and Janie talk about the Affordable Care Act: How Can We Make it Better?

Charlotte’s Letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick

Austin, Texas

Dear Mr. Patrick,

I am a woman who was in a compromising situation recently. I really really needed to go, and the women’s bathroom was locked so I used the men’s restroom instead. Would your proposal for a “bathroom bill” here in Texas require me to be arrested?

Continue reading Charlotte’s Letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Applauding Violence

The media stars were gushing. 59 missiles ripped into Syria and the media pronounced the president “presidential.” Praise burbled from both sides of the aisle in spite of the fact that the president scorned Congress’s required consent. The “mother of all bombs” caved in a mountain in Afghanistan; popularity polls jumped and the Western world applauded.

We’ve been down this road before. Fourteen years ago, a media desperate for readers, a Congress desperate for voters and an administration desperate for approval manipulated the American public’s support for invasion and war. But US policy in Afghanistan and Iraq did not bring security and peace; rather we are the ones who created this current enemy, feeding their hatred and fueling the passion of ideological recruits.

The spiral continues.

This insatiable thirst for war and a voracious hunger for conquest have nothing to do with honor; this is the deep shame of humanity.

I write this during the Easter season 2017. As this Holy Week began, Christians in Alexandria, Egypt died as they worshiped on Palm Sunday, innocent victims of hatred and hubris.

Christians think a lot about death and violence during Holy Week. Jesus Christ, the center of our faith is – for us – the quintessential innocent victim of humanity’s violence and inhumanity.

Violence is nothing new and I dare say the gore and war of our own day probably pales in comparison to terrors of the past. The cross of crucifixion is the primary symbol of Christian faith and we don’t miss the irony. In another day, in another time, the instrument of death may well have been a pyre, a gun, a noose or a gas chamber. Marking any of these as sacred symbols does seem bizarre.

But in the Christian story, Jesus’ fearless, faithful and freely offered baptism into the worst of human violence was the very act that has now begun to unravel death. Easter tells us that – in some overarching divine will – violence and death will not have the final word.

Others besides Jesus have also shown us the way of non-violence. It takes a special kind of courage and strength to look evil in the eye and refuse to stoop to its barbarisms. The violence of war or weapons or words can only destroy; they can never foster peace or hope. These inhumane actions will end up dehumanizing us. Applauding violence will eventually erode the goodness and wisdom that makes us human in the first place; it will make us a bitter, brittle shell.

I am well aware that some people would not characterize Christianity as non-violent. I confess that Christian history is rife with violence in the name of the Christ and some preachers even today have been cheering on the MOAB missile. My friend, Jim Rigby, a progressive pastor here in Texas, posted this to his Facebook page:

“As some pastors celebrate MOAB this Holy Week, I predict they will forget to mention Jesus’s words to Peter in the garden – to put his sword back into his sheath.”

Another example: when the president delivered the commencement address at Liberty University this spring, he was introduced as “the man who bombed those  in the Middle East who were persecuting Christians…” The Christian audience roared and cheered with approval. They literally applauded the violence.

Will we keep on fighting fire with fire, bombs with more bombs? In other words: will we continue to applaud the violence? Will we keep on seeking revenge? An eye for an eye until the whole world is blind?   Or will we eventually find new and different ways to break our destructive, dehumanizing cycles?

Years ago, Albert Einstein‘s brilliance changed the world. His insights allowed us to see new realities and accomplish impossible dreams. What might happen if we listened to him again?

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I wonder if we can ever stop doing the same insane things over and over again.

I wonder if we can reverse the spiral.

I wonder if our warring madness can ever be transformed into peace.

God only knows.

 

(The above quotes have been widely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein.)

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She 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.

The Problem with Unity is Uniformity

Our garden is looking really good. In this little corner of Texas, we’ve had just the right amount of rain and sun so our enthusiastic seedlings are all pretty happy right now.

I call it our “garden” as if it is one thing; and it is. But our tomatoes, okra and beans; our lilies, marigolds and daisies; our oregano, thyme and basil are obviously very different elements of our one garden. We planted for diversity on purpose.

Diversity is the whole point of a garden.

Our garden is one whole thing – and all the very different plants make up the unified whole. Like our bodies – arms and legs and hearts and kidneys: one body with all its parts. Like our families – moms and dads and babies and teens and grandparents: one family with all its members.

Like our nation.

One nation.

Under God.

Indivisible.

Over the years since our founding, America’s diversity has mushroomed. Not surprisingly. Here is a land of opportunity. Here is a nation of welcome. Here is a people who have benefited immensely from the gifts and gratitude of those who have been folded into this American community. No wonder people across the globe find their way to America. No wonder the face of America has changed dramatically from its early days.

But this growing diversity has created tension again and again throughout our history and the sharp outcries we hear today shouldn’t surprise us. Resisting diversity and resenting those who are “different” has long been a shadow side of this nation of welcome.

I’m thinking one reason we humans have trouble with this is because we sometimes work out of a mistaken definition of “unity.” If I define this “one nation” as a united people just because they look and think and speak like I do, then I am not describing unity. Rather what I am actually describing is  “uniformity.”

Uniformity is quite comfortable and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. Throughout human history, we tend to find others who are like us and so we create homogeneous groups for ourselves. Clubs, churches, political parties… This shouldn’t surprise us either. Our tribal instincts run deep.

But there is another way.

We can find comfort with like-minded people at the same time we appreciate the stimulation of people who look and think and speak differently. We can enjoy both the security of a uniform group and realize the value of a diverse group.

Homogeneous groups can help affirm who we are.

Diverse groups can help us grow to be better than we are.

What a boring world this would be if uniformity were the natural pattern! Instead, nature itself teaches us that unity-in-diversity is the norm. My beautiful garden. Our remarkable bodies. Oceans and ecosystems and galaxies. Our precious sometimes crazy, mixed up families.

“Unity” is not “uniformity.”

So too, our “one nation under God indivisible” is not a uniform, homogeneous nation. It is not supposed to be, and we never have, never can find our unity in any sort of cookie-cutter uniformity. Instead our unity has always, will always arise out of our shared values and our common dreams: liberty and justice for all.

We the people…” our founding document declares; “in order to form a more perfect union…”

It is a union our Fathers birthed for us; all of us – the people. These fifty wildly different states. Our precious sometimes crazy, mixed up nation.

It was a union the Founders conceived in the midst of the creative diversity of their day and it is a union still being perfected here in the ethnic, religious and intellectual diversity of our own day.

And it is here – only here – in our differences; right here in all our wild and amazing diversity that we will ever find our true unity.

Old and Young. Rich and Poor. Gay and Straight. Religious and Humanist. Black and White and Brown.

E pluribus unum. From many, one.

When we move out of our uniform, homogeneous tribes and recognize the shared humanity inherent within our wide-ranging diversity, that’s when we will discover a glimpse of a true unity that is far better than any sort of uniformity.

Like in my garden, our mothers and fathers planted the seeds and then passed on to us the task of tending, nourishing and relishing the vibrancy of this rich estate. If we are wise, cultivating the founding vision of this great nation, then we will be able to reap an abundant harvest of peace and prosperity, fairness and security, liberty and justice for all.

 

The above photo isn’t really our garden although it’s similar. This is a James Quinn photo from the University of Missouri Extension.

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She 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.

The Center of the Universe

Remember Copernicus? In 1543, he published his theory of a heliocentric solar system, positing that the earth was not, in fact, the center of the universe. Rather against all conventional wisdom, Copernicus insisted the sun was at the center while the earth, just like all the other planets, rotated in its ordered sphere.

Not surprisingly, his work was highly controversial. Not only by other scientists but also by the religious leaders of his day. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers rejected the idea that the earth was not the center of the universe.

Fast forward to 2017 and see the dramatic difference in our conventional wisdom about space, and watch how even what we think we know keeps shifting as new planets continue to be discovered across the galaxy. Quite recently, we earthlings pondered the significance of seven new earth-like planets that have been found orbiting a nearby star.

So now we know, we are not the center of the universe.

So why do we keep acting as though we are?

Continue reading The Center of the Universe

Charlotte and Janie Talk about Government: What is it and what is it for?

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though they have some different perspectives on politics, culture and theology: Janie grew to the “Right” while Charlotte grew to the “Left.” They have maintained their friendship and now talk about their differences in a shared blog. Charlotte and Janie published four conversations on religious liberty.

Recently they have been exploring their different expectations for health care and education in America. You can find their earlier conversation here. The current conversation seeks to lay some foundation about how they understand the fundamental nature of government.
Continue reading Charlotte and Janie Talk about Government: What is it and what is it for?

Charlotte and Janie Talk about Health Care, Education and NASA

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though they have some different perspectives on politics, culture and theology: Janie grew to the “Right” while Charlotte grew to the “Left.” They have maintained their friendship and now talk about their differences in a shared blog. Charlotte and Janie published four conversations on religious liberty and now they are exploring their different expectations for health care in America. You can find their earlier conversation here.

Charlotte: I’m pleasantly surprised and grateful to see that you and I agree that there should be a basic right to health care in America. I think this is a growing belief for more and more people and probably the Affordable Care Act contributed to that expectation. Continue reading Charlotte and Janie Talk about Health Care, Education and NASA