wellregulatedmilitia

My social media feed has been ablaze over the last few days with arguments about the limits of the Second Amendment, and when I say “ablaze” it often feels as if my monitor is going to burst into flame from the heat.

This little cluster of twenty-seven words separated into two clauses is probably one of the most hotly debated elements of the Constitution:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Second Amendment is an odd-duck in so many respects and was one of the amendments written (primarily by Madison) to help ease the anxiety (particularly in the south) of a powerful federal government taking away the rights of the states.  There are some who hold that its actual intent was to assure the southern states that they could keep their slave patrols and there is significant evidence to support this.   Of course as with anything else involving the 2nd there are powerful arguments on both sides and it is likely that this is just one of the foundational reasons.  After all, a general distrust of government was a rather common sentiment in the aftermath of the colonial period.  All of this being said, our 2nd Amendment is certainly unique in all the world.  No other country has such a right written into its foundational document, and while the Supreme Court has held that the government DOES have some interest in controlling certain types of weapons, it has sidestepped broad rulings and largely permitted restrictions only based on other constitutional provisions such as the commerce clause of Article I.

Many make the case that the right to keep and bear arms would appear to be subordinate to the militia clause in which this right is framed, but the Supreme Court has largely avoided addressing this issue directly and no broad ruling on this question has ever been issued by the court.

One might also think that so-called “constitutional originalists” such as Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, or the late Justice Antonin Scalia would take a great interest in this question. It would seem from the wording that the original intent of the framers, as would have been understood at the time the Bill of Rights was written, was that the right to bear arms was to further the maintenance of a “well regulated militia” which could be called into service at times of national peril.   Once again, no such case has come before the court to see how justices who hold this philosophy or the more interpretive “living Constitution” philosophy would rule.

An interesting side note to this, and an angle that could be considered should we ever have a Congress interested in placing limits on the rights of individuals to keep weapons (or certain types of weapons) would be the definition of the word “militia” which might be construed by the wording in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to be the province of Congress:   

“The Congress shall have the power . . .”     “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”      (Underlined emphasis is mine.)

If the “organizing, arming, and disciplining” of the militia is the province of Congress, it would seem to me that “well regulating” said militia and providing how it was to be armed and under what circumstance would be a power of Congress allowing Congress to have considerable say as to the access to weapons.  Again, this would require a Congress willing to pass such legislation which would almost certainly be challenged leaving the decision to the Supreme Court, and unfortunately I don’t see this happening any time soon.

I’m expecting the hot debate to continue.

big-tent-down

Ronald Reagan built it.

Whatever my opinion might be of the 40th President (and don’t get me started), his reconstruction of the Republican Party in the aftermath of Watergate into the “big tent”, reversing the party’s free-fall was masterful.  “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.”,  Reagan is often quoted as having said.  What Reagan created was a platform that appealed to some of the most unlikely bedfellows, bringing libertarians into the same fold as social conservatives and evangelical Christians, big-money bankers to the  table with family farmers, young aspiring business people together with factory workers.  Just six years after many were predicting the death of the Party of Lincoln, Reagan carried all but six states and the District of Columbia in an electoral and popular landslide which also handed control of the Senate to the Republicans for the first time since 1955.  This was outdone only by the following election where he won every state except for Minnesota (and DC) a plurality of almost seventeen million popular votes, and an electoral sweep of 525 to 13.

Suddenly it was the Democratic Party that appeared to be on life-support.

One of the tenants of the Reagan juggernaut that catapulted this unlikely grade-b movie actor into power was a simple principle often referred to as Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment:  “Thou shalt not speak badly of Republicans.”  Party unity was placed above all else.  Certainly there would be differences, but by agreeing to compromise and work together toward a set of common goals, Reagan and his handlers were able to accomplish what had seemed impossible only a few years earlier.

Fast forward to 2016. Among Republicans the “11th Commandment” appears as quaint as great-grandma’s dating rules from the 1930s.  The party has fissured into multiple factions along establishment vs. doctrinal conservative lines with multiple sub-camps vying for dominance.  Fueled by absolutest rhetoric from champions of the various factions, amplified by right-wing talk radio preaching the gospel of absolute conservatism to the party faithful and spread like a viral pathogen via the unrestrained free-for-all of social media, this division has destroyed any semblance of Reagan’s sacred party unity.  The anger of the electorate, particularly those who more often identify as “right-of-center” in some way has made rational discussion of significant issues impossible with no room for compromise and no middle ground.

If there is a major earthquake in California this year, it will doubtlessly be the result of Ronald Reagan rolling in his grave.

Donald Trump is the inevitable result of this division.  Devoid of any identifiable philosophy of governance and lacking any type of well developed moral compass, Trump has masterfully tapped into the anger and division within the party. Building on the fears and animus that have become the party identity for the last decade, Trump feeds upon this toxic stew.  Like Reagan he has found a way to build a big tent, but the circus inside this tent is at war with itself.

There could not be more contrast between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.  One might have despised Reagan’s policies and politics but personally he was not unlikable.  Something of a doddering grandfather figure, Reagan was calm, patient, and projected a demeanor of kindness and maturity.  The rude, bloviating, boastful, insecure NYC real-estate tycoon turned reality TV icon is anything but likable.  Reagan made people want to work together despite their differences, Trump builds his personal power by driving people apart.  Having successfully labeled his opponents as losers, liars, weaklings, and cowards he has fanned the flames of the cauldron and bubbled to the top of this caustic brew.  At this point he appears to be the likely nominee to take on the mantle of the GOP in November.  Should this happen he will almost certainly fall to whichever candidate is nominated by the Democratic Party, a fact not lost on the Republican establishment which has come to the conclusion, likely too late, that the gamble they made in attempting to use Trump to divide the party’s right wing has backfired.

Currently in some oak paneled room in suburban Virginia filled with the smoke of Cuban cigars, the power brokers of the Party establishment are working out the details of how they might prevent this certain disaster from happening.  National poling shows the only reliable candidate they have who stands a chance against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is Marco Rubio.  The question is, how can they propel Rubio who has virtually no realistic path to the nomination into the end-zone.  Unlike the Democrats, Republican “superdelegates” make up only about 7% of the total delegate count, and while Democratic superdelegates are free to vote for any candidate they wish, Republican superdelegates are required under a rule adopted by the party last year to vote for whomever receives the most votes in their state.

At least on the first ballot.

Probably the best chance the Republicans have of dropping Trump would be a brokered convention.  Assuming that Trump goes to the convention with less than 51% of the 2,339 available delegates and the first ballot is indecisive all of the delegates would be released from their obligations, and through what could become a rancorous process where votes are traded a consensus candidate would emerge.  Under this scenario the most likely winner would probably be Marco Rubio, but in this year of unprecedented crazy we can only expect the unexpected, and a lot can happen between now and July 18th.

No matter what happens, the Republican Party as we have come to know it will not exist after this election.

No matter what happens, the tent is coming down.  In fact, it is already down, it’s just that nobody has bothered to tell the clowns.

 

gunplate

If it is not clear enough to everybody by now, we need to regulate firearms.  A suggestion that has been made is that the very least we treat them the same way we treat automobiles.

This sounds like a good start to me.

Each time ownership of an automobile changes a certificate of title is issued and recorded and the vehicle is registered to the new owner.  There is no loophole if you buy a car at a car-show or an auction.  There is no loophole or exception for cars sold by a private individual.  At the very minimum it should be the same with guns.

When an automobile owner moves from one state to another the title and registration in the former state of residence is surrendered, and a new title and registration is issued.  At the very minimum it should be the same with guns.

When a person wants to drive a motor vehicle, they need a license.  In order to obtain that license, they need to be trained and pass both a written and practical test.  The more complex and potentially hazardous the vehicle they wish to operate (tractor-trailer, taxi, bus, special purpose vehicle, etc.) the more demanding the training and testing requirements.   At the very minimum it should be the same for those who wish to own a gun.

In order to maintain one’s license to drive one must be in good enough health to do so safely, and must not have any condition that would impair the safe operation of a vehicle.  If a person develops a condition that calls this into question, they must surrender their right to drive until such time as they are certified fit to safely operate a vehicle once again.  At the very minimum it should be the same for those wishing to possess a firearm.

When one owns a motor vehicle, one is required to maintain liability insurance to cover damage done to the property or person of someone who might be injured by the improper operation of the vehicle.  The cost of the insurance varies with the risk profile of the owner and the risk profile of the vehicle.  More risk, more cost.  If your insurance lapses, your registration and right to operate the vehicle is revoked.  At the very minimum this should be how we treat firearms.

Every two years most states require that vehicles are inspected for safety and compliance.   At the very least this should be the same for firearms.

In short my friend, there are some extremely good parallels that can be drawn here.

Not perfect, but it would be a start.

speechless800

I’ve been resisting the urge to write about this all day.  What more can I say that has not already been said?  What more can I say not written on the faces of those forced to witness this barbaric act of inhumanity or those waiting for loved ones who are not going to come home?  What more can I add?

Not much.

I’m beyond disgust.

I’m particularly beyond disgust with the fact that this keeps happening with what is becoming predictable regularity and we seem unable to muster the will to take the first and most simple steps to do something about it.  But this has been said already, many times today, and many times in the last few weeks and months.

I’m beyond disgust with those who keep trying to make this about something, anything else but our love affair with guns in this country.  But this too has been said more times than any of us could count.

I’m beyond disgust with those who shamelessly use each installment of this serial national nightmare to make points for their side of the pointless partisan political non-debate.

I don’t care what the motives of these two perpetrators were, nor do I care about their religious beliefs.  They had whatever their supposed justifications were, just as those who shot up the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, Newtown Elementary School in Connecticut, The Sikh temple in Wisconsin, The movie theater in Aurora CO., The shopping-center parking lot in Tucson AZ, The liquor distribution warehouse in Connecticut, The Virginia Tech campus . . .  and on, and on, and on, and on . . .  They all had their motives, and none of them matter.

There just are not many words any longer, none that are meaningful.  Not as long as we refuse to take the steps to actually do something about it.

My dear God good people!  My dear God!   You can’t drive a car in this country unless you prove you are fit to do so, and a car cannot be operated on the highway unless it is registered and insured.  If you become unfit to drive, if your car cannot be safely operated, if you get caught driving under the influence . . .  we don’t let you drive any more.

Why can’t we at least treat weapons designed to inflict death the same way?

My dear God.

What purpose do assault weapons, intended for the sole purpose of killing as many people as quickly as possible, serve in the hands of a private citizen?

In many states in this country you can obtain one of these killing machines if you can fog a mirror.

Are we completely mad?

But all of this has been said before.

What has also been pointed out numerous times in the past couple of days, in answer to the obligatory calls to “pray for the victims and their families” is this simple truth:

God Ain’t Fixin’ This

If it is true that 80% of Americans are ready for stricter gun laws, why can’t we make it happen?

I’m just out of words, at least new ones.

How about you?

angryflames

 

Anger, anger triggered by the slightest perceived offense or disagreement seems to have become a cultural norm.   Blogger John Pavlovitz, often quoted and re-blogged here published a piece recently titled, “Why Are We All So #@%^&$! Angry?”

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit of late.

After his first few introductory comments, John asks the six-million-dollar question: “. . . why are we so damn angry and what, if anything can we do about it.”

The short answer to the first part of that question, as trite as this may sound, is “fear”.

Anger is one of those “fight or flight” emotions.  Rooted deep in the ancient reptilian core of our brain known as the “hypothalamus”, once a situation, pattern, or person has been identified as a potential threat this information is stored for future analysis by a nearby portion of the brain known as the “amygdala”.  Think of the amygdala as the “fear memory” department of your brain.  Anger is our brain’s response to something which has previously stimulated our self-preservation and protection resources.  These responses are our “on-guard” response to something we suspect, based on prior experience might pose a threat now or in the future.  It’s the “I see you as a threat . . .  so you had best keep your distance” posture.

Anger can be quite appropriate when encountering someone or something that is either a real and present danger, has done harm in the past, or based on experience is likely to cause such a threat.  The risk posed by the object of one’s anger does not need to be physical to be valid.  A person who has previously caused emotional distress or harm to you or others may quite legitimately stimulate the anger reaction – again, the memory of a prior fear stimulus.  One might also become angry when one witnesses harm or injustice inflicted on others, even strangers . . .  “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you might just do unto me”.

The question is, when is anger (and the fear it presupposes) an appropriate response, and why does it seem that our amygdalae have become hypersensitized to the point that anybody expressing an opinion on a topic online via social media (or on this blog) so often unleashes a tirade of invectives, accusations, vile comparisons to hideous villains . . .  or worse?

I don’t have all the answers, but I can sure throw out a few ideas and observations gleaned over what is soon to be six decades amongst my fellow inhabitants of this little blue globe.

Technology has brought world events we would never have witnessed before right into our homes, and right into our brains.  Today we are subjected to real-time and near real-time images of things we would never have witnessed at all just a few short years ago.  Among other things these images are brought to us by the over 2-billion and growing smart-phones that turn just about anybody anywhere into a video journalist with global reach.

We have become both desensitized and sensitized to acts of violence.  We have become desensitized in that images of violent death and wanton destruction both real and simulated are something we are far too used to seeing. We have become sensitized in that our brains are wired to take in this information and use it to determine potential threats in the future.

Cultural and social standards have changed dramatically, and whether real or imagined the lack of certainty about our neighbors and how we relate to each other contribute to fear that “our way of life” might be threatened or that “we” might lose some of the power and privilege we take for granted.

All of this works together to call in to question our notion of our boundaries and our identities . . .  what is “mine” and what is “yours”?   Who are the safe “us” and the maybe not-so-safe “them”?   How can I tell the difference?  How can I be sure that “my” way of life will be respected and that my certainties will still be certain in the face of all of this change.

And we are afraid.

And fear makes us angry.

And anger is just a few neural synapses away from lashing out in violent action.

It is pretty obvious that the genie is out of the bottle, the cat is out of the bag, the can of worms has been opened, and the horse is out of the barn . . .  (can you come up with any more metaphors for “there is no going back”?)  Despite it hall, many among us still want to reclaim a sense of the stability and the certainty that feels safe, while others wish to move bravely on into the future and embrace the possibilities in this new and unknown world.

And I have no certain answers.

And so I’ll end this with the second half of the question posed by Pavlovitz . . .

“What, if anything, can we do about it?”

Once open, worms don’t go back into a can.  Once liberated cats don’t go back in bag, horses will often roam for a long time, and genies set free will never be “bottled up” again.   Understanding this makes it clear that those who believe that the answer to our future is returning to the ways of the past just don’t make any sense.

How do you believe we can move forward?

Gratitude and Abundance

 

“As we express gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  – John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

 

As those of us who celebrate this holiday prepare to gather with our families and friends, let us be mindful of just how much we have to be thankful for, and consider how we might express our gratitude in a meaningful way throughout the year.

If we are gathering with our families let us give thanks for the blessing that they are, and remember those who have lost their families to the violence and bloodshed in so many places around this small planet we call home.  Let us consider what we can do through our own choices and our own words to bring this to an end.

As we watch our children play let us give thanks for their joy and innocence, and remember those children whose innocence has been taken and who find little joy this day.  Think of those children in refugee camps, those who are trying to make it to safety, those who are turned away because of fear, and those who have perished trying to make it to safety.  Let us consider what we can do through our own choices and our own words to bring this to an end.

As we open the doors of our homes, or enter the doorway of a relative or friend to celebrate this holiday let us give thanks for the roof over our head.  Let us remember all of those who have no home, who rely on space in a shelter if they are so lucky, who live under bridges, in makeshift tents, in cardboard boxes, abandoned cars, or in whatever form of shelter they can find.  Certainly in this, the wealthiest country in the history of the world we can make it so that nobody has to live in these conditions.  What can we do through our own choices and our own words to help end homelessness?

As we celebrate abundance around a table laid out in extravagant bounty, let us give thanks for our good fortune, remembering that this is not the norm in much of the world, or even in much of this country.  In a nation where we waste and discard almost 40% of our food supply there is no reason why anybody should go hungry.  It’s a nice gesture to donate a turkey to the homeless shelter, but what about the other 364 days of the year?  What can we do through our own choices and our own words to end hunger every day?

Gratitude, real gratitude is not passing or temporary, and gratitude is more than attitude.  Gratitude is a way of living in such a way that we cannot imagine allowing another soul to live in need.

Let us be thankful and live in gratitude this day, and every day.

Live in blessing.

Most of us are familliar with the “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by the Voyager-I spacecraft in 1990.  From a distance of six-billion kilometers our earth takes up a little more than one-tenth of one pixel.

The late astronomer Carl Sagan, at whose suggestion this image was captured wrote the following a few years later.  In light of current world events and the dialog happening here in the United States over refugees, immigration and the ageless and timeless battles over religion it would do us well to ponder these words again.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”  – Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Considered from a different perspective, this image is a closeup . . .  a “selfie” taken with a really long stick.  The vantage of Voyager’s cameras at the point where this picture was taken is at the edge of the Kuiper belt which lies at the outer reaches of our solar system.  Our solar system in turn is but a tiny and insignificant fuzzball in the infinite vastness of the universe, the observable portion of which is a sphere some 552 sextillion miles in diameter.

Who is my neighbor?

In reality, every person on this tiny spec of dust we inhabit is really, really close.

Perhaps we should all start acting as if we understand this.

 

paypal-scam

 

This appeared in my email this morning as I scanned the inbox on my iPhone for whatever came in overnight.  

Now, being an IT professional with a number of network security certifications the chances that I would actually fall for this are essentially nonexistent . . .  yet I will admit that my initial gut reaction when I saw the message was something like, “Oh crap – how did this happen.”

In the amount of time it took for a few of my pre-caffeinated neural synapses to wake up I actually wondered why PayPal would have closed my account.  In a post French-roast state this might have been milliseconds – but as I had not made it down to the kitchen to visit Mr. Keurig yet it might actually have occupied my mind for several entire seconds.

And so I understand why people fall for emails that, to me, are obviously phishing scams.  I know that PayPal would never send out such a message with a blind link requesting that I reveal my credentials.  I know that PayPal would never just “close my account” because of suspicious activity.  I know that credit card providers don’t share information about unusual charges on my account with merchants like PayPal.  I also know that legitimate emails from a company like PayPal would not be replete with multiple phrases written by someone who could obviously benefit from an extensive remedial course in sentence construction.

There are plenty of other clues that email messages like this are an invitation to create serious havoc in your life.  So as a public service I will use this as an opportunity to remind all those who happen by of a few basic rules to live by when messages like this manage to sneak past your junk-mail filter.

  1. Never follow a link in an unsolicited email to a page where you will be asked for ANY sensitive information including user names and passwords.
  2. Never follow a link in an unsolicited email that seems out of context for the sender.
  3. Remember that legitimate financial institutions and vendors will NEVER send out a message like this.  If you suspect that such a message might actually be legitimate, close the email, open your browser, and go to the site yourself like you normally would.  NEVER USE THE EMBEDDED LINK IN THE EMAIL.

And finally, a note about passwords.  I know it’s a pain in the rubber parts, but please do yourself a favor and develop good password habits.  The following rules apply to any account you have that you don’t want some Ukrainian wiz-kid accessing.  This obviously includes things like online banking accounts, merchants that might store your credit-card information, email accounts . . .  essentially any account that you care about:

  • Use a unique password for each account.  NEVER use a password for your online banking account or an account like PayPal for ANY OTHER PURPOSE.
  • Don’t use trivial passwords like 12345 or (God forbid) “Password”
  • Don’t use common words, your spouses name, your birthday, or the name of your pet.
  • Do use combinations of different character types.  Mix uppercase, lowercase, numeric, and symbols.  More and more sites are actually requiring this now.
  • The longer the password the better.  Eight characters containing a mix of upper, lower, numeric, and symbols is a bare minimum.

Periodically check your account names with sites that track known breached accounts.  This one is pretty good:   https://haveibeenpwned.com/

Oh yes . . .

Never start responding to emails before your first cup of coffee, or after your second glass of wine.

 

 

faithandreasonWith vacations, entertaining relatives and various other summer distractions including a worship service I wrote and presented earlier this month I’ve been absent for a while, but all the time collecting fodder for future posts here at DPS.

As I mentioned in an earlier piece I follow a number of blogs including Stuff That Needs To Be Said by John Pavlovitz, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who is out of a rather different mold than most who hold that identity.  Yesterday he posted a piece called, “We’re All Really Just Agnostics With Suspicions” in which he wrote . . .

“A few years ago I was talking to a good friend about faith and doubt, and about the constant, annoying tension between what we believe and what we know. The subject of organized religion ( more specifically, pastors) came up and my friend offered the following critique:

 “Boy, it takes a lot of guts to get up there every Sunday and preach at people!”

Only she didn’t say guts.

She used a decidedly more colorful word, one that much more aptly captured her feelings about a religious leader (or for that matter anyone) who claims spiritual things with any sort of absolute certainty.

The idea that anyone would be so bold and arrogant and brazen as to stand before a group of their peers on a given day and dare to say, in essence, “What I am about to say? This is exactly what God is like, this is exactly what God says, and this is exactly how you should live and believe in light of it”, seemed to her to be the very epitome of “gutsy”.

I’ve come to agree with her.”

My response on John’s Blog is below.  You may want to read his excellent article in full first.

 


 

Yes John . . .  “Gutsy” indeed . . . and spot on, even though it will be too “gutsy” for those who cling to a need for certainty.

My journey to agnosticism began at an early age. Raised as a Roman Catholic I was taught in Catechism class that only good Catholics would get into heaven, a notion that I quickly rejected as nonsensical when I was eight or nine years old. In the small, rather WASPy New Hampshire town where I grew up us Catholics were a decided minority – and it made no sense to me that my best friend Robbie would be excluded just because he was Protestant. Even as a young child I had figured out that I was Catholic because my Dad was Catholic . . . and I knew that Robbie was a Congregationalist because his parents were. That Robbie and my mom (a non-practicing Baptist) were to be excluded from heaven was . . . well . . . so nonsensical as to call the entire notion of selective salvation into question.

And question I did . . . and question I still do.

There is, as you say, little that we can really “know” for sure, and each one of us develops our own understanding of God (or whatever word or notions one may choose to describe the Ultimate Source) as well as the specific paradigm that makes some sense of that notion be it scientific, theological, mystical, mythical . . . or some combination of the above.

What takes a great deal of “guts” (or the more masculine-oriented colloquialism your friend used) is to insist that others accept my understanding of God and my path to getting there.

Yet, there are a few things I think I do know with a significant level of certainty, at least as much certainty as is possible to us mere mortals.

I know, for instance, that you and me, and all of those reading this blog . . . and the people next door . . . and the homeless guy who stands at the Interstate onramp every day at 5:00 . . . and the undocumented immigrant . . . and his kid . . . and the CEO of the mega-corporation . . . and the starving child in Somalia . . . and the angry Muslim youth who has been told that we are his enemy . . . and every other human soul on this little blue ball floating around the sun . . .

All of us are made of the same stuff.

All of us came from the same source.

As did the bright-eyed golden retriever standing in front of me wondering why I would rather play with this silly iPad instead of the ball she is holding expectantly . . . as did the butterfly on the flower and the flower . . . as did the soil on which it grows and to which it and we will all return.

Christians are made from the same stuff as Jews, as Muslims, as Hindus, as Buddhists and Sikhs and Celtic Pagans and confirmed atheists and questioning agnostics and . . . and . . . and.

All from the same source.

And what is the nature of that source?

I don’t know.

And what happens when we return, as all of us surely must – as at some point this Earth itself must too return?

I don’t know.

And that’s okay.

And that one certainty that I do have . . . the iron-clad knowledge that you and I are brothers along with all of creation compels me to live humbly and walk with all others knowing that same spark lives within every person I know, every person I will ever meet, every person I have never and will never meet.

And how you pray, or who you pray to, and what scripture you read . . .

May you find it fulfilling, and may you grow in your understanding.

And may you live in blessing.

UUMJeff:

As I work on building Don’t Push Send, I continue to be inspired by some of the great writers in the blogosphere. One of the inspirations behind my renewed efforts in this space is John Pavlovitz, the author of the blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said

On queue, as he always seems to be, John kinda hits the nail on the head in this post. For me personally he highlights the struggles I face as I try to set the direction for this blog, and inspires me to stay above the ugliness that characterizes so much of what we read in our virtual on-line world. And while I do not identify as a Christian in the traditional sense of the word, (I’m a Unitarian Universalist . . . more on this in later posts) I’m totally in sync with the Christianity that John Pavlovitz reflects in his work.

Expect to see more of John’s thoughts reblogged here.


Originally posted on Stuff That Needs To Be Said

 

This is getting simpler.

I’ve recently found a clearing of sorts; a place where my mind and my spirit are finding peace and rest no matter how loud and ugly things get—though it wasn’t always this way.

 

For a long time I let the angry, mean-spirited, violent noise get the best of me. That happens to so many good people out here trying to change things, trying to care about stuff that matters, trying to help build the world they wish to see.

Spend enough time in the thick of the fight and you become conditioned to it, poisoned by its cynicism and contempt, hardened by its continual cruelty. Face the world in a battle posture long enough and you lose the ability to live any other way.

Too many people can only function if they have a villain to war with, a cause to rail against, an evil to condemn.

I’m conscientiously objecting to that fruitless war these days. I am finding a better way to fight.

 

More and more, I am letting what and who I care deeply about drive and move and fuel me. It allows me simplicity and clarity:

I abhor racism and bigotry, so I strive to see and treat all people equally and individually. 
I detest homophobia, so I care for and support my LGBT brothers and sisters and their families.
I believe fully in gender equality, so I do my best to advocate for this equality.
I find poverty detestable, so I look for ways to contribute to eliminating it.
I can’t stomach hatred in the name of Jesus, so as a Christian I try daily to reflect Christ’s love as well as I can as often as I can.

In short, I am learning to live and love offensively.

I no longer allow myself to be burdened with those who see me as an enemy. 

 

Their perceptions are formed from a distance anyway, and so I simply refuse to be defined by them. The more you know who you are, the less threatened you are when someone attacks you and the less interested you are in attacking back.

 

I am not very concerned with convincing others to agree with me either. I simply speak my heart clearly and continually and unwaveringly, trusting that those whose hearts echo mine will come alongside me while those who disagree will still be forced to hear me.

 

I spend less and less time these days being baited into verbal public battles, as those rarely do anything for the dignity of either side. I do not feed those who thrive on confrontation, as it takes my time and energy from those who need me; those who are so often forgotten, ignored, or drowned out by the din of social media shouting matches and endless culture wars.

 

More and more, I simply live to be the antidote to the things I find hurtful or damaging in the world, rather than arguing with those I believe are being hurtful or damaging. There are certainly times to identify dangers and to call out injustice, but those pale in comparison to the countless moments that simply require personal goodness.

 

Friends, there will always be those whose medium is vitriol, whose currency is condemnation, whose agenda is provocation, but resist responding in kind because that only conforms you to their image.

 

If you claim Christ, until you have a Christianity without venom you don’t have one that resembles Jesus quite yet. As a person of faith, this is the only kind of religion I am interested in.

 

Maybe you are like me. Maybe you’re bloodied and weary of the fight, but finding your second wind and discovering a better path, one less mired in sarcasm and less toxic to touch. 

 

Maybe you’re intentionally walking away from the war trenches, so that you can move toward the hurting, the unloved, the waiting—and respond.

 

If so, welcome.

 

This is the beginning of a holy movement in the world.

 

This is the stuff real revolutions are made of. 

 

May you fight well.

 

May you learn to love offensively.