When We All Vote

One hundred years ago, men voted to limit their privilege and share their political power. In 1920, American men across the nation voted to approve the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing women’s right to vote.

For one hundred years before that, thousands of women had been marching, protesting, lobbying, and insisting that suffrage was their God-given right as citizens, but standard bearers of the status quo recognized the inherent dangers in admitting that women should have such an equal right; they foresaw the foreboding dilution of their power.

Even so, enough American men voted to do what was right because they understood this suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment as a quintessential American effort firmly grounded in the commitments of the U.S. Constitution “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility . . . promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . . ”

In the infant days of our nation, “we the people” meant White Male Landowners. As this nation matured and grew wiser, “We the—Female-Male-White-Brown-Black-Blue-Red-Rich-Poor-Old-Young-Gay-Straight-BornHere-and-GotHereAsSoonAsWeCould—People of the United States” are figuring out that guaranteeing citizens’ rights and expanding the vote does not limit power nor dilute privilege.

Rather we the people are recognizing that we are stronger and smarter together; that it takes all of us “to form a more perfect union.” When we all vote, when we all educate each other about the importance of voting, when we all participate in the process—from City Hall to the Halls of Congress—then we have good cause to celebrate this nation we hold in trust. When we all vote, we do our part to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Continue reading When We All Vote

When Disillusion is a Good Thing

The first year I got to vote in a presidential election was 1972 when I proudly cast my ballot for the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. As far as I could tell, voting for Republicans was what my family had been doing for generations. As far as I was concerned, this was what White Southern Christians were supposed to do.

Needless to say, I was disillusioned by the corruption of that president and the cover-up efforts of those Republicans. I was embarrassed to admit I had wasted my first chance to vote by voting for a crook.

However, this experience became a life changing learning opportunity. I learned that appearances can be deceiving. I learned that people in positions of trust will sometimes look us square in the face and lie to us. I learned that my parents, my grandparents and my White Southern Christian community weren’t always right. I learned to do my own research, challenge my assumptions and trust my own judgment.

I learned that disillusion—letting go of illusions—is a good and healthy thing for a grown-up to do.

Continue reading When Disillusion is a Good Thing

Celebrating the Tea in Boston Harbor

We love the romantic story about the 100 colonial revolutionaries who snuck aboard ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped 90,000 pounds of British tea into the sea (tea worth nearly $1million in today’s currency). “No taxes without representation!” their bold action declared.

Their meaning was clear: “Injustice must be actively resisted!”

Many people today probably don’t know that there was a second Boston tea party and other similar acts of resistance in numerous other harbors in Maryland, New York and South Carolina. The protest against unjust taxation imposed by an over reaching government was popular and widespread.

I’ve been pondering the tradition of civil disobedience these ancestors birthed along with this infant nation so many years ago. Even though their own cultural blinders kept them from seeing other injustices that allowed inequality to be enshrined into our founding documents, still their tea party precedent established a long proud tradition of active resistance that has helped grow this nation toward greater justice.

Continue reading Celebrating the Tea in Boston Harbor

Vicious Cycles of Violence

I graduated high school in 1968 and then met the man I would marry during my first year of college in 1969. I often think back about who I was during those years of national tumult and transition. I was so wrapped up in my own personal transitions, I confess I didn’t pay close attention to the turmoil going on in our country. I confess I looked at the riots and assassinations with shock and disapproval, maybe even with a touch of disdain and moral superiority. Then I escaped back into my Southern-White-Christian-Woman bubble and lived my small life—never really seeing the underlying realities of systemic violence that produced the protests and pushback in the first place.

Now, fifty years later, I’m grateful to say I’ve emerged from that bubble and I see with different eyes. Eyes that are opened to a more accurate reality and a heart softened to the pain of the world around me. This honest seeing is painful, but I still choose it over the old blindness that kept me so comfortable. The blinders that made me complicit.

Now, fifty years later, I’m sad to see exact same patterns of disdain and moral superiority demonstrated by too many of my White Christian neighbors in reaction to our current cultural chaos. And I grieve to realize that many of the underlying realities of systemic violence have scarcely changed in all these years.

Violence begets violence and our vicious cycles of violence continue. Which prompts this question in me: Which kinds of violence should we allow and what types of violence should we condemn?

Continue reading Vicious Cycles of Violence

Mean People and Non-Mean People

Martin Marty is one of my favorite historians and he’s seen lots of differences displayed in numerous religions, various churches, and a wide range of politics over the years.

Our typical differences like: conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, gay or straight, religious or non-religious, Black or Brown or White are not near as significant, Marty has come to believe, as this one crucial difference.

Are people mean or are they not mean?

I’m seeing this one important distinction demonstrated in spades these days. Everywhere we turn, we can find mean conservatives and mean liberals, unkind rich people and unkind poor people, unpleasant people of all colors, shades and belief systems.

At the same time, all around us, we encounter plenty of conservatives who are not mean, lots of liberals who are kind, untold numbers of people who are generous, many non-religious people who are compassionate and quite a few of us religious people who actually try to practice what we preach.

As a matter of fact, I choose to believe that there are more kindhearted people in the world than there are cruel people.

So this awareness brings two thoughts to mind: when I judge other people, will I assign them to the stereotypical boxes of superficial differences or will I go deeper, considering the content of their character?

And further, will I choose kindness in my own thoughts, words, deeds and affiliations?

Continue reading Mean People and Non-Mean People

The “Change Back” Temptation

As a pastor, I was trained in Systems Theory. In this approach to family counseling, we seek to discern how the various people in a group function in light of how the entire system works: the part and the whole are deeply intertwined.

Systems Theory also prepares counselors to recognize the fearful, knee-jerk “change back” reaction.

  • A woman who has been abused begins to stand up to her abuser.
  • A man who has been drinking or doing drugs gets sober.
  • A teenager who has carried his parents’ emotional toxicity sheds his shame and learns how to become whole and independent.
  • An employee who has been taking responsibility for the problems in the office steps back and lets the boss deal with her own consequences.

Whenever people start changing their own unhealthy patterns, everyone in the system is forced to adjust. What was comfortable and predictable becomes disorienting and distressing. Thus the demand of other people in the system is (all too often): “Change Back!”

I keep processing what has been happening in our American society lately, trying to understand our current cultural turmoil. Here are some insights.

Continue reading The “Change Back” Temptation

It’s Our Turn

My mom was a champion toilet paper hoarder. It became a family joke but we all were happy to indulge her. We knew she had lived through the depression and spent some of her earliest years separated from her siblings because the family couldn’t afford to live together; the eight children were divided up and distributed to several relatives’ houses for a while.

Then, as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, she lived through the shortages and anxieties of World War II. We were happy to buy her some extra packages of toilet paper whenever she asked.

I’ve thought a lot about the lives our parents and grandparents lived, what those experiences were like for them and how such monumental events must have shaped and molded them in deep ways. I’ve been remembering her stories lately, thinking about how much her generation endured during those long, dark years.

Continue reading It’s Our Turn

Submitting to Equality: One Women’s Journey

A few weeks before my daughter left for Pepperdine University, we sprawled on my bed, giggling our way through some of my old diaries. I scarcely recognized the twelve-year-old girl who wrote those words; she now seems like a total stranger.

Silly, superficial, and nauseatingly boy-crazy, this Southern-bred, naively arrogant Church of Christ preacher’s daughter embarrasses me, astounds me, intrigues me. Tucked away amid the oohs and aahs and the ups and downs of young love, I found this little aside:

October 3, 1962    Pretty late.

Just finished h.work. There’s been a lot of hubbub about whether or not a certain Negro would get in Ole’ Miss College. Governor went against Federal law twice. Negro got in. 2 people were killed & several wounded. Walter Shirrah went around the earth 6 times. Wow.

Continue reading Submitting to Equality: One Women’s Journey

Crying ‘Peace, Peace’ When there is No Peace

All across America, prophets and protesters are challenging us—all of us—because of the ways we have been sweeping our national problems under our societal rug of faux peace.

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush…

(Jeremiah 6)

“From the least to the greatest,” much as the Hebrew prophet lamented, too many Americans have been guilty of deceit: outright lying and disinformation, foolhardy rumor mongering and misinformation, deceiving ourselves into believing that things are not really as bad as “they” say, digging in our heels with willful ignorance.

It’s time for a national repentance.

Continue reading Crying ‘Peace, Peace’ When there is No Peace

White Women: At our Best and At our Worst

We White women have been making headlines lately. I’ll start with the embarrassing ones.

Amy Cooper: New York Woman Calls Police on Black Man Who Asked Her to Leash Dog

By now, we’ve all heard the story and maybe seen the video of Amy Cooper and her Cocker Spaniel in Central Park on Memorial Day. Bird watcher Christian Cooper (no relation) asked her to put her dog back on the leash as the park rules required. She refused.

As their conversation continued, Ms. Cooper responded with over the top hysteria while Mr. Cooper recorded their interaction.

Ms. Cooper asked him to stop recording and when he refused, she opened up her own telephone: “I’m going [to call the police] to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”

I typed the word “hysteria” above then deleted it then typed it again. I’m sorry to use the word but unfortunately it’s exactly the right word to use here.

Continue reading White Women: At our Best and At our Worst