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

Janie and Charlotte on Religious Liberty #2

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They both grew up in the same fundamentalist denomination in the Bible Belt of Texas. They both remain Christian but have grown in different ways, Conservative to Liberal. Even so, they work hard to maintain their friendship while they discuss honestly their different perspectives on the important issues of our day. Here is some of their ongoing debate about the topic of religious liberty.

In our first conversation, Janie and Charlotte agreed that the First Amendment to the US Constitution establishes religious liberty, but then went back and forth on how to apply the multifaceted meaning of the Amendment: how to limit government from restricting people’s practice of religion (“free expression”) while disallowing government from establishing religion.

Charlotte argued that Christianity has been privileged in America since our country’s origins and that religious understandings have indeed been incorporated into our civil laws numerous times. Janie argued that Christianity has been a motivation for law, sometimes for the worse and more often for the better, but seldom the entire motivation. Continue reading Janie and Charlotte on Religious Liberty #2

Lessons Learned from Yusra, Rafaela and Ibtihaj

I’m not a huge sports fan but I love the Olympics. The athletes amaze me: their passion, their precision, their discipline, their perseverance.

Every year there are heartwarming stories about various Olympians on their journey to the Games. I love the backstories. But this year some unique personal stories remind me how remarkable the human spirit can be.

There’s the amazing story of Yusra Mardini. Continue reading Lessons Learned from Yusra, Rafaela and Ibtihaj

Donald Trump is Wrong about Voter Fraud

I’ve been registering voters in Texas for years now and I’ve worked hard to explain to voters the challenges of the very strict voter ID laws we have endured here for the past several election cycles.

The IDs that they already have, IDs that work in almost every other situation were not allowed as Texas voter IDs. Citizens who didn’t have a copy of their birth certificate for some reason or another were in a bind trying to get the proper documents. People who live on a shoestring couldn’t afford even the fairly small fee to apply for the approved ID. Quite a few told me they didn’t have transportation or they couldn’t afford to take off work and stand in line at the DPS office.

So you can imagine how pleased and relieved I was when the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed earlier court rulings that the 2011 Texas voter ID law does not comply with the Voting Rights Act. Continue reading Donald Trump is Wrong about Voter Fraud

Janie and Charlotte Discussing Sincere Differences Sincerely

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They both grew up in the same fundamentalist denomination in the Bible Belt of Texas. They both remain Christian but have grown in different ways: Janie a Reformed believer in the Calvinist tradition and Charlotte an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After they left college, they both married, raised their families, and now gush over their grandchildren. They both developed professionally in their various careers: Janie as a magazine columnist and published author of several novels and Charlotte as a congregational pastor turned cyberspace blogger. Janie and Charlotte work hard to maintain their friendship while they discuss honestly their different perspectives on the important issues of our day. Through these conversations, their mutual respect has grown and their ability to articulate their viewpoints has increased. They sharpen each other. Here is some of their ongoing debate about the topic of religious liberty.

Continue reading Janie and Charlotte Discussing Sincere Differences Sincerely