The Rule of Law: A Challenge for my Conservative Friends

I read an article around Mothers Day about an effort in Philadelphia to raise bail for moms who had been incarcerated for quite a long time just because they were too poor to raise $500 for their bail money. Here they had been sitting in jail for several months, separated from their children, unable to work to support their families, awaiting their trial. These were people who had been accused of crimes, but not tried, convicted or sentenced. Because of this bail out effort, they were released to go be with their children for Mothers Day and await trial while taking care of their families.

As I read through the comments that some people made about the article and the Mothers Day effort, I found myself both sad and angry at the arrogance of these rule of law advocates who thought this crowd funding project was immoral or illegal. Why on God’s good earth would anyone object to that?! Continue reading The Rule of Law: A Challenge for my Conservative Friends

Charlotte and Janie Talk about Rule of Law and Immigration

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:

I mentioned recently that I often hear Conservatives talk about “rule of law” and I asked you to help me understand what that means to you. I appreciate what you said in our last conversation about “rule of law” and “rule of men.” I can see we have a lot to talk about here (especially your reference to “making law from the bench…” I’m chomping at the bit to get to that one!)

But here is your statement as it concerns our topic of rule and law and immigration: “Sidestepping or ignoring the law altogether, as when immigration laws are not enforced, leads to confusion, suspicion, and cynicism…” I get this. But what about discretion when it comes to applying the law? That is and always has been common practice. How does one negotiate the grey areas? Continue reading Charlotte and Janie Talk about Rule of Law and Immigration

All You Need is Love

June 25, 1967. It was fifty years ago that the Beatles recorded this iconic song. I was 16 at the time and I can still sing all the words and croon my way through all the musical transitions.

1967 was the ‘Summer of Love.’ The chaos of 1968 was building but it had not erupted yet; we still held on to some innocence and hope.

All you need is love. Love is all you need.

In 2017, it’s tempting to add love to our list of fantasy thinking from our childhood, right up there with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Love seems a flimsy response to the shock and political chaos we are enduring. It sure doesn’t seem like love is all we need to deal with the terror, violence and never-ending war of this 21st century.

But I’m going to argue that the Beatles were on to something.

Often when I officiate a wedding, I read the famous biblical passage about love from 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient. Love is kind.

Love is not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude.

Love it is not irritable or resentful and does not seek its own way.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

These words don’t describe how love feels. These words tell us how love acts.

Warm fuzzy feelings are fine and good. Hot pulsing emotions are part of what makes us human. And of course, all that is part of the love-spectrum.

But when it comes down to the core, the center, the foundation – love is a verb, not an emotion. And it’s a really strong verb: persistent, resistant, insistent action on behalf of another.

A few months ago, in an On Being interview, Congressman John Lewis talked about how the Civil Rights Movement was a movement of love.

In that interview, Rep. Lewis said these amazing words:

The [Civil Rights] movement created what I like to call a nonviolent revolution. It was love at its best. It’s one of the highest forms of love. That you beat me, you arrest me, you take me to jail, you almost kill me, but in spite of that, I’m going to still love you. I know Dr. King used to joke sometimes and say things like, “Just love the hell outta everybody. Just love ‘em.”

Just love the hell out of them.

We need more people to love like this in 2017. We’re not going to turn this climate of vitriol and violence around by spewing more vitriol and doing more violence to one another. We need the yeast of love to work in all sorts of hidden ways so that this powerful force can eventually overcome the darkness of our days.

Wherever you’re coming from, whether you are a believer in the Beatles or in the Bible or in the bold tenets of nonviolent revolution, I still will argue that love is all we need.

So let’s start loving the hell out of this crazy societal chaos. I’ll give it a go. Who’s with me?

 

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.

Charlotte and Janie Talk About Immigration

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.

Janie: So here’s what happened: I threw you a short list of topics, and you chose this one. Thanks a lot!

Seriously, I haven’t said a lot about this subject because I don’t keep the figures and stats on hand (figures and stats tend to fall out of my head anyway). But it strikes me that a lot of people who debate this question do so on the grounds of broad principles, not precise numbers, and broad principle is where it starts anyway. So I can do that.

As you suggested, we may have area of broad agreement here. So let’s see—as a way of opening the discussion, which of these statements would you agree with?

  1. No nation in the history of the world has been more open to immigration than the United States.
  2. The Statue of Liberty symbolizes the mission of the U.S. to offer a home to the homeless, a new start for the destitute, and a shelter for the oppressed.
  3. Legal immigration is not a problem, but illegal immigration is, and can become an even bigger problem.
  4. Sanctuary cities are in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
  5. The rule of law is a casualty of our incoherent immigration policies.

I realize some of these statements can be interpreted different ways, and some of them can be qualified on a scale of 1 to 10. Feel free to throw some statements and/or questions my way, too, and we might choose the most contentious as a way to start.

Charlotte: This is what you get for letting me choose the topic. Ha! You are very welcome! Continue reading Charlotte and Janie Talk About Immigration

Jesus Wept

Just so you know, these words are from the shortest verse in the Bible. From the story of Jesus grieving at the graveside of his good friend Lazarus.

But there is another moving story about this passionate man that comes to mind as I read the news these days. As that story goes, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, not on a prancing war steed, but rather on the back of a humble donkey. The crowd cheered, hoping he would be the one who would overturn the Roman occupiers. Instead Jesus carried a Roman cross to his own execution just a few days later while this same crowd jeered. In the days between the two processions, it is said that Jesus looked across at his beloved city and wept.

When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day … the things which make for peace!

If only.

A bomb ripped apart the diplomatic district in Kabul, Afghanistan. They say over 90 people died and more than 400 are wounded. Many are women and children.

Another bomb blasted a concert hall in Manchester, England. 22 people died and over 100 are wounded, many of them teenagers with their moms.

Three Good Samaritans were slashed by a white supremacist on a Portland Oregon commuter train. Two died and the terrorist railed on defiantly about his patriotism.

Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body slammed a reporter to the ground and then lied about it. He won his election the next day.

Texas Legislators brawled in the final hours of the 2017 regular session, threatening to shoot each other in the head.

And this morning we watch in shock as reports continue to come in from Las Vegas about the worst mass shooting in America’s history. And gun stocks are becoming more profitable on Wall Street.

And Jesus weeps.

If only we knew the things that make for peace.

A certain Christianist has been applauding the violence recently by calling for a “more violent Christianity.” I refuse to even mention his name and relate the ugly things he has said except that he claims body slamming, bullying and violence is what biblical, godly authority is supposed to look like.

Even more recently, a famous (infamous) megachurch pastor in Dallas applauded Trump’s bellicose rantings against North Korea. Robert Jeffress way of interpreting Scripture led him to proclaim that a biblical passage in the book of Romans endowed “rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil.”

I call BS on such heresy.

Jesus has shown us that non-violence is the only way to peace. Mahatma Gandhi has shown us. Martin Luther King Jr. has shown us. Non-violence is the only power that can reverse our adverse cycles of violence. It is only non-violence that stands tall with its unique ability to demonstrate true authority by virtue of its integrity.

But somehow we still don’t get it. Our human thirst for war and violence keeps us spiraling down into vicious cycles of hopelessness and we can’t figure out how to rise above this baseness.

And Jesus weeps.

Philosopher Rene Girard has written extensively about patterns of human violence. “Redemptive violence,” he calls this thing we do. We make ourselves feel better by convincing ourselves that violence is necessary retribution. Someone ought to pay. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” seems logical and needful to us in our human ways of making sense.

But violence never makes sense. It is a foolish, childish, non-sense response to the challenges of our humanity.

What does make sense – if we are willing to see its wisdom – is Jesus carrying his cross into the worst hell his enemies could muster. It is Gandhi fasting and resisting the colonial might of all England. It is King dedicating his life, and giving his life, for The Beloved Community. It is Imams and Rabbis and Priests marching and praying together in solidarity in Manchester. It is Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best stepping up to defend two frightened girls and resisting the hatred of their attacker even at the cost of their lives.

These are some of the people who have understood what makes for peace. And people like these are the ones who understand that peace is not wimpy, fragile acquiescence. It is not holding hands and singing KumBaYa.

Peace is not simply the absence of conflict; rather peace is the active presence of justice.

Non-violence demands a strong and sturdy courage. As ― Shane Claiborne has said in his wonderful book, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity.
It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice,
the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer,
the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight
but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice.
It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressor free.

Don’t tell me love is not enough; I know better. And Taliesin knew and Martin knew and Mahatma knew and Jesus knew.

May we all weep for the cycles of violence that continue to rend the fabric of our world.

May we weep at the hardness and the smallness of our hearts.

And may we find the sturdy courage to walk boldly into the revolution of love.

 

Sculpture weeping man 1 by R.O. Flynn

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche // Noelwah Netusil

Please read this powerful essay by Taliesin’s professor at Reed College. Professor GhaneaBassiri speaks to the love that motivated this remarkable young man.

 

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 president 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.

I Once Was Blind But Now I See

These words, of course, come from the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace. Most of us have heard its famous melody, either in church or in a funeral chapel. Or maybe your favorite version comes from Willie Nelson or The Three Tenors or Mahalia Jackson or Judy Collins or Aretha Franklin or Elvis.

Remember back in 2015, when we were grieving the horrific murder of Rev. Clementa Pinckney and his little Wednesday night Bible study group at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston? And then remember how we took comfort at President Obama’s moving eulogy, wiping tears as our Pastor in Chief broke into song:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see!

You also may have heard the story behind the poem. It’s a story that will “preach” (as we preachers like to say), but it’s also a story that has captured the imagination of cinema and Broadway.

John Newton, as the story goes, was raised in England by a devout mother but in his youth he chose a life of drinking and brawling and then as crew on slaving ships between West Africa and England. Once, while carrying its horrific human cargo, Newton’s ship sank and his near death experience drove him to faith. He eventually became an Anglican priest and wrote the words of this poem for his New Year’s Day sermon in 1773.

The powerful themes of repentance and redemption and grace remain as crucial to us now as they were to John Newton.

America’s original sin of white supremacy and racism still haunts us, hinders us and holds us back from true greatness.

Continue reading I Once Was Blind But Now I See

Counterproductive Progressivism

Some time ago, I 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 of my fellow Progressives disagreed and disagreed strongly; however, their conversation was civil and reasonable. However several other Liberal readers made my point for me: their comments were filled with childish 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 our problem.

In the face of an opposing viewpoint,  I’m forced to rethink and articulate my argument; this process makes me much smarter. So disagreements are not a problem. 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 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 within a healthy tension.

While our Muslim sisters and brothers are being profiled and threatened from this current administration and 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.

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 disdain this kind of integrity? Mike Pence has more than enough policy positions with which we can argue, confront and resist. How about we stand together against Pence’s policy positions? Stand where it matters? 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.

The 2018 Women’s March was phenomenal, wonderful, exciting. But this particular issue has not yet been resolved. Can Progressives make room for pro-life Democrats?

If not, this doesn’t sound much like a “big tent” to me.

Such Liberal judgmentalism is counterproductive.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

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

As David Gushee penned his own op-ed voicing similar concerns: “There is plenty wrong on the right. But there is plenty wrong on the left, too. Each side needs to get its act together. If there is a sensible, grown-up center to American public life, it’s about time it showed up…”

And 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. Come on, Grown Ups. Step up.

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.

I admit I also tend to think other people’s business ought to be my business. I think I should know something about what everyone else is doing and I am quick to have pretty strong opinions about other people’s lives.

Purple hair. Tattoos that creep up necks and studs pierced through tongues. Saggy pants that expose what used to be underwear, not outerwear. Shorts that are so short I can see bouncy cheeks. “Don’t tread on me” bumper stickers and confederate flags. Preachers and politicians pontificating with a deep Southern drawl.

There.

I said it.

See what I mean?

I admit I can be pretty judgmental.

But these people don’t deserve my judgment. Most of them don’t really have anything to do with me. I’m not related to them. I’m not responsible for them. They function in another entire sphere that only barely bumps into mine. So why on earth do I think I need to judge their clothes or their hair or whatever?

Some wise teachers are trying to help me learn to notice without judging. To stay awake, be alert and aware; to observe the people and situations around me without feeling any responsibility to assess value. To see clearly.

I am trying to learn – since I can’t change what other people wear or what kinds of bumper stickers they choose to put on their pickup trucks – I don’t even need to waste my time having an opinion about them. It’s not about me. It’s none of my business.

But then, on the other hand, there are plenty of things going on in the world that must become my business, for example, attitudes and actions that, when anointed with power, can cause immense damage, not only to me but to my fellow human beings.

Opulence, arrogance and hubris.

Oppression, injustice and hatred.

Negligence, carelessness and greed.

I want to learn to see these things clearly and rightly. To look evil full in the face without fear, to keep my center and stand my ground. And then, whenever I am able, do something.

“Seeing” has another aspect: looking at my fellow human beings and recognizing our shared humanity. Acknowledging their suffering and honoring their pain. I want to learn to look at every other person and to see their innate value. I want to be able to look misery full in the face without despair or hopelessness, to find my compassion and to love with courage. And then whenever I am able, do something.

But choosing what is mine to do can be tricky. It’s not always easy to discern my way forward within this society rife with madness; within a world that is filled with chaos.

What IS my business? How do I discern?

When my children were coming of age, some of the mother wisdom I offered them included this little formula:

What do you love to do?

What do you do well?

What needs doing in the world that is within your reach?

Somewhere in the intersection of these questions lies an answer to: What is MY business?

The current political realities in America can feel overwhelming these days. There are so many various problems that challenge us on so many fronts that it can be hard to figure out where any of us needs to spend our time and energy.

But the current grassroots efforts that have sprung up across our nation give me hope. More and more people ARE figuring out how and where to become more involved. More and more people are making it THEIR business to step up and speak out.

With so much going on in our country, with so many needs around the world, I want to remember that judging someone else’s appearance is a complete waste of energy. (Not to mention: none of my business.) But critiquing the work our politicians are doing, assessing the effects of corporate actions, evaluating the quality of candidates and then making judgments with our votes should be the business of every citizen.

So I’m going to continue to work on my unhelpful, unhealthy judgmental tendencies. Some of those folks with purple hair and saggy pants may well become my allies in this multi-fronted resistance.

I’m going to continue to work on the idolatrous temptation to think I can control what God is doing in the world. But I will always believe the God of my understanding is somehow working for justice and goodness in the world. As many wise prophets before have taught us:

The arc of the universe is long

but it bends towards justice.

But exactly what that mysterious divine work is and where it might show up next? God only knows. It’s none of my business.

So I’m also going to continue to do my part. What I love to do. What I’m good at. What needs to be done that is available and accessible to me.

One of my heroes, Helen Keller, used to quote her friend, Edward Everett Hale.

I am only one, but still I am one.

I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;

and because I cannot do everything,

I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

There.

My business.

Your business.

Our business.

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. You also follow her on Twitter @cvcoyle.

Charlotte is national president 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.

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?