Monday, January 15, 2018

Why You Won't Hear Me Posting About Donald J. Trump Any Longer

I am completely disturbed by many of the words and actions of President Donald J. Trump. And I am not going to tweet, post on Facebook, or blog about him anymore.

I am not going quiet on social media because of my lack of resolve to stand against policies, words, and actions I find contrary to my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am committed to working against these things which I feel are harming the country I live in and am grateful to live in. Rather, I'm going to quit using social media to speak against Trump for a number of reasons.

But first let me say that I do not think Donald J. Trump is unintelligent. He may be impulsive, but I think he knows the power of words and uses them very calculatingly. He knows his base will excuse his vulgarities -- especially when those opposed to him clamor against his vulgarities and nasty talk. He knows that I and others like me will be offended. And I believe he hopes we will speak out so that when we do his supporters will speak out against us and defend him. He can thereby drive a deeper wedge between the peoples of the United States.  I do not believe that he is interested in advancing a culture of care and respect and unification of the people of this country. I do believe he is interested only in his own agenda and views.

No politician is perfect. Presidents Obama, the Bushes, Clinton, Kennedy, Lincoln, Washington et al had their faults. Yet I believe they all acted in what they thought were the best interests of our country as a whole. I do not feel that way about the current occupant of the White House.  I think he is cold and calculating and knows exactly what he is doing -- consequences be damned.

It is precisely because I feel this way that I have to remove any discourse about this from my social media postings.  Here's why.

I am trying, and often failing, to be a Christian. As such, I am trying to hold two scripture passages in my mind and heart as I endeavor to grow more Christlike. One is from Galatians 5 -- "... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." The other is Micah 6:8 -- "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." I am finding that I cannot exhibit "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" or "walk humbly with God" when I tweet, Facebook, or blog about Trump. My words betray those biblical principles.

I am trying , and often failing, to live up to my Quaker faith which urges me to seek that of God in all people and to live at peace with all. When I post on social media, I find that I too easily get caught up in the rhetoric and fall into bombast myself. Likewise, one of the reasons that I am a Quaker is because much of what it calls me to is against my nature. I am not a peaceful person. I love a good argument. I enjoy dismantling by my (imagined) intellectual powers those who oppose my values. Which includes Donald J. Trump. Such actions on my part are not consistent with my trying to live my faith. And so I must stop. It's harming my soul.

Others, and I am glad for this, can use social media to oppose without becoming mean and low. They can retain the high moral ground in their words and intentions. So I shall leave them to this worthy work.  I, on the other hand, will try to post things -- in addition to my usual silliness which I need to refresh my spirits -- that are aimed toward "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." I shall try to post what I am for -- not what I am against.

So, as a start, let me say some of the things that I am for:
  • a country and government that respects all people regardless of ethnicity, gender-identification, sexual orientation, religion (or choosing to have no religion), and so forth.
  • an administration and government that exists to serve all under their care and which recognize that diversity of color, lifestyle, opinion, religion, and more enrich our country.
  • a nation that guarantees and equally protects the rights of all its residents -- again regardless of ethnicity, gender-identification, sexual orientation, religion (or choosing to have no religion), and so forth.
  • a country that emphasizes peace in its actions and spending.
  • a nation that works to ensure that all its residents have the best healthcare, education, housing, worthy work, and food possible. I don't just mean "access to" -- I mean, have these things -- regardless of ethnicity, gender-identification, sexual orientation, religion (or choosing to have no religion), and so forth.
  • a government that encourages civil discourse and acts and speaks with care and respect.
  • civil discourse among peoples of differing views so we can learn from each other.
  • a country that is known for its mercy and justice toward all peoples everywhere.
I am for these things as a person of faith.

Do not think that while I will not be posting against Donald J. Trump's vulgarity in word or deed, that I am accepting them. I will be happy to have personal conversations about these things -- so long as we can talk civilly. And I will be stepping up my direct contact via email and postal mail with the office of the presidency and my elected officials. I will be endeavoring to speak, even in those communications, about what I am for more than what I am against. I need to do that for my own spirit's sake and to ensure that I remain humble and exhibit (as best I am able) love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These feel like times that are fraught with peril. They are also times that are filled with possibility. For those of you who are able to use social media wisely and well in facing the dangers around us -- blessings on you. May God bless us -- every one.


Friday, December 22, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Twenty-Two -- "laid the Holy Child here inside my heart."

"The Miracle"
by Georg Johannes Gick


When all the winds were mild,
Mary came to me apart
and laid the Holy Child
here inside my heart.

My heart was made the manger,
and my body was the stall.
And now no man is stranger:
my life goes out to all,

To bring to each of them
this Child of heaven’s light,
to let them enter in, like flames
of candles to the holy night.

Source: The Shepherd’s Pipe


Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings/thoughts during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).


Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Twenty-One -- "The Great Joy"


Thomas Merton

The gospel of the nativity is, therefore, not merely the gentle comforting story of a mother and a sweet baby lying in a manger, a story which appeals to our hearts and brings us back once a year to the simplicity of our own lost childhood. It is a solemn proclamation of an event which is the turning point of all history – the coming of the Messiah, the anointed king and son of God, the Word-made-flesh, pitching his tent among us, not merely to seek and to save that which is lost, but to establish his kingdom.

The birth of the son of God is, then, our own birth to a new status, an elevation, an opening out of entirely new possibilities for humanity in Christ.

The nativity message is not only of joy but of the joy; the great joy which all the people of the world have always expected without realizing what it was. The nativity gospel is, then, the announcement of life.

Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings/thoughts during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Twenty -- "The Risk of Birth"

"The Risk of Birth"
by Madeleine L'Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.


Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings/thoughts during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).  And I share this poem almost every year. I have loved it -- and been challenged by it --ever since I first read it in The Risk of Birth: A Gift Book of Christ Poems selected by Luci Shaw (my copy is so old that the retail price was just $1.45).

Right now, given the recent actions of the current U.S. administration and congress, the first two lines of the first stanza strike me especially hard. Instead of "the earth," in my heart and hearing I substitute the word "humans." Especially the most vulnerable among us.

The hatred and lack of civility in our discourse disturbs me. The nasty wall-building -- rhetorical and literal -- dismay me. The self-centeredness of many politicians and those who voted for them confounds me. The seeming intentional provocations of international "enemies" alarms me. As a result of the actions of the administration and congress, it does feel as if "time runs out & the sun burns late."

All those things bother me, if I am honest, because I behold the seeds of them all in myself. Seeds which, if not for the grace of God, could too easily flower into bad fruit. Hatefulness, inequality, bigotry, warlikeness, and more. Far from the fruit the Christ-child, that Love who took the risk of birth, came to bring us -- "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

I wrestle with how to be a person of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control when it feels like the times call for outrage, action, protest, and rebellion against the powers and principalities.  Perhaps they are not incompatible. How do I channel my outrage into appropriate soulful action while abiding in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In other words, how do I let Love still take the risk of birth when I'd rather be angry and in-your-face?

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.  



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Nineteen -- "No child does"

"A Child in Starlight"
by Elmer Diktonius

There is a child,
A new-born child --
A rosy, new-born child.

The child whimpers --
All children do.
And the mother takes the child to her breast.
Then it is quiet.
So is every child.

The roof is not over tight --
Not all roofs are.
And the star puts
Its silver muzzle through the chink,
And steals up to the little one's head.
Stars like children.

And the mother looks up at the star
And understands --
All mothers understand.
And presses her frightened baby
To her breast --
But the child sucks quietly in starlight:
All children suck in starlight.

It knows nothing yet about the cross:
No child does.

Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).   

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Seventeen -- "We left our sheep that night/ And found the Lamb."

"Star Witness”
by Beth Merizon

How could we be anything but true
believers –
We shepherds who heard the news
first-hand from heaven.

There stood that angel on the
grazing ground
Like a white fan,
Like a white blaze,
lighting the air all around;
Telling us the Promised One had come,
And where He was,
And what His destiny.

And then that great arc of angels
Singing a gloria.




Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Sixteen -- "Silence, God's Presence, and Advent"

Biblical parallels. I've been thinking about them a lot this season -- especially when it seems like all sorts of parallels are being made between the worlds in the Old Testament and the New -- to point to Jesus' coming. Still, I thought of a parallel that I don't think I've seen anybody else has drawn -- and that is between Jesus and Elijah and caves (hmmm, perhaps that's a tri-allel).

But it occurred to me, that Jesus was probably born in a cave (mangers in that day and place often put in caves) and Elijah hiding out in one. And how silence infused them both.

Yes, silence.

Silence speaks – yes, speaks, oddly enough – to a hunger evident in our culture. Just look at the rising interest in silent retreats and contemplative reading. Something in our souls tells us that getting quiet is a good way to meet God. That is something the prophet Elijah discovered. When he needed to hear God, the Lord told him:

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”

Now Elijah was not a Quaker, though we would be happy to claim him (but only if he repented of killing the 800 prophets of Baal – hardly a Quaker act). Come to think of it, maybe Elijah was the first Friend. He learned that God was in “a gentle whisper.” What Elijah’s story teaches us lies at the heart of Friends silence. Quaker silence is about the real presence of Christ being with us in an intimate way. Quaker silence encourages us to relax so deeply in the love of God that we hear the Spirit’s voice whispering softly in our soul’s ear.

And that is "the silence of eternity" that Whittier spoke of -- a silence experienced by Elijah and those who stopped by the manger in the cave. At that manger they experienced a holiness that awed them into stillness and silence which is the only appropriate response to being in the presence of the Divine.

And in that silence, they heard in their souls the words echoing down eternity's way "`et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis." "On earth peace, good will toward all humankind."

It is my hope during this season that I put aside the rush of life and any expectation of hearing God amidst the busyness. I need to wait quietly by the cave of my soul for the Eternal presence.

Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).  

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Eighteen -- "O all ye who have trod/ The wine-press of affliction"

Poor mothers, with your hoard
Of endless love and countless pain–
Remember all her grief, her gain,
The Mother of the Lord.

Mourners, half blind with woe,
Look up! One standeth in this place,
And by the pity of His face
The Man of Sorrows know.

Wanderers in far countrie,
O think of Him, who came, forgot,
To His own, and they received Him not–
Jesus of Galilee.

O all ye who have trod
The wine-press of affliction, lay
Your hearts before His heart this day–
Behold the Christ of God!


Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
Source: from “A Hymn for Christmas Morning” in Thirty Years: Being Poems New and Old
Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life). 

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Fifteen -- "A Child will be our King."


Prophets

Once in the Advent season
When I was walking down
A narrow street

I met a flock of children
Who all came running up to me
Saying that they were prophets
And for a penny they
Would prophesy

I gave them each a penny

They started out
By rummaging in trash-cans
Until they found
A ragged piece of silk

It’s blue, they said
Blue is a holy color
Blue is the color that
The mountains are
When they are far away

They laid the rag
On a small fire
Of newspaper and shavings
And burned it in the street

They scraped up all the ashes
And with them decorated
Each other’s faces

Then they ran back to me
And stood
In a circle ‘round me

We stood that way
In a solemn silence
Until
One of the children spoke

It was the prophecy!

He said that long before
The pear tree blossoms
Or sparrows in the hedges
Begin to sing

A Child will be our King.

--by Anne Porter

Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).