Glenn Who?

Glenn Beck is clearly an important person.

I just don’t understand why.

His speech at the Restoring Honor Rally rambled, creating a pastiche in which Abraham Lincoln seemed to stand on a biblical pedestal with Moses as he, Beck, pointed repeatedly to a seemingly generic God. One thing seems clear: his God is an American God.

As much as I love our country, I know God is bigger than the United States of America. So, I appreciate Beck, even as he extolled us as God’s chosen people, calling us back to God. We are a long way from God in our life as a nation.

But it is, in my view, not because we care too much for the well-being of all, but because we care too little. Beck’s God seems to be very much a God of individualism, who does not want us to care for the good of the whole community. That is not a biblical God, although it may be an American God.

So, I am confused.

And also a bit offended. The idea that “America today begins to turn back to God” (because of his rally) denies the ministry of so many millions of many faiths already engaged in God-work. Who does Glenn Beck think he is?

More to the point: where does he want to lead us?

Or is he less a leader, and more an entertainer, a guy who, by his own admission, has a big mouth that gets him in trouble and also keeps him in the public eye?

So far, I don’t get it. A lot of harrumphing, and bloviating, and criticizing and belittling those with whom he disagrees–but where is the program, where is the leadership to help us make the hard choices facing us as a nation?

Do We Want to Recover?

Recovery.

Its what many want, but its something hard to achieve. And what recovery means varies widely, depending on your situation.

For 15+ million Americans, recovery means a job. For others, it means restoration of the value of their 401k or 503b or other investments, or saving their mortgage. For still others, it may mean their loved one coming home from war–and for  others, it means getting their health back to a good place (or finally having affordable health coverage). And of course, for yet others, it means getting, and staying, sober and clean from whatever addiction destroys life.

In other words, we need a whole array of recoveries. But most of all, we need a recovery of spiritual well-being. Spiritually, as a nation, we are in a mess. As a social organism, we are growing ever more dysfunctional.

A solution many seem to be adopting these days is demonizing others, calling people names, impugning the legitimacy of our government (and our president). That is dysfunction building on dysfunction.

Its time for us, as people of a great nation, to leave our self-righteous anger at the door, and engage in dialogue. Time to stop the shouting matches.

If we want to recover, we have to stop pointing accusatory fingers at others, and begin listening to each other and examining ourselves. And for those of who are believers, we have to get on our knees and pray, listening to God (by whatever name).

I Live in a Civilized Place

Life is too short to be lived without daily comics.

I am a fan of The New York Times, but it takes life too seriously: No comics. But then none of the newspapers in New York give much due to this essential element of good living.

This is one reason I say that Richmond is a more culturally rich town than New York (and the arts here are wonderful, too, and far more accessible than New York). I am not a great fan of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but they do have one thing going for them: a full range of comics every day.

What a difference it makes in the day if, instead of reading the headlines–or the editorials–first, you turn to the comics, to connect to people whose foibles amuse, peccadilloes amaze, and triumphs inspire you? I start my day catching up on Sally Forth and Ted and the kids, Dilbert and the wierdos, Judge Parker and his moneyed circle, Dr. Morgan and June and the gang, Funky Winkerbean, Elly and John and the tribe at For Better or for Worse, and even the often strange doings on Non Sequitur.  And everyday I identify more and more with Pluggers.

I don’t know how I survived all those years in New York without comics. Thank God I live in a civilized place now.

Our National Security Is Not a Game

We are going through hard, sad times in our beloved nation. Unemployment won’t go down, lots of small businesses are really struggling, people are scared for the future.

former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Although deeply concerned, I have not been scared, believing that Americans are Can Do people and that we will pull out of this. I still believe that, but I am becoming more anxious–because I am watching unreasoning hate fill the air. The hate is a sign of just how scared people are, especially when leaders choose to fan its flames.

Hate is the single most dangerous threat to our national well-being, indeed our national security. It always has been and always will be–because hate undermines our fundamental values as an open society that values all people, all faiths (and no faith), all nationalities and ethnicities and colors, and cares for the most vulnerable among us and understands that building people up is always preferred to tearing them down. Our people are our most important resource.

former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Leaders who are fanning the flames of hatred of Muslims–including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former New York Mayor Rudolf Guiliani, not to mention Rush Limbaugh–and many others–are endangering our national security.

This is especially true because the anti-Islamic rhetoric plays right into the hands of those terrorists who claim America and Islam are in a holy war. Nothing hurts the work of General Petraeus, our brave troops, and our diplomats–and all the non-governmental organizations working along side them in Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and elsewhere–to combat the scourge of terrorism more than what these leaders are saying.

former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Most of the time I choose to believe the best about people, even people with whom I strongly disagree. I try never to become cynical about people’s motives. But, it is growing difficult for me in regards to these and other leaders.

I hope I am wrong about them–because our national security is not a game.

Creating Family

We create family wherever we can.

I am part of a group that works well together, even when we have significant disagreements (which happens from time to time). We engage in spirited debate, even sometimes raising our voices or saying things that are not helpful. Yet, I observe that we instinctively, as individuals and a group, seek common ground.

What causes us to interact this way? Some observers, without a spiritual lens, might say we are simply avoiding conflict.

On the other hand, I see the work of the Holy Spirit, empowering and guiding us to create a win-win situation. Creating win-win is a spiritual process, resting on our recogntion that not only is there truth in what we say but also there is truth in what the other person, with whom we disagree, says. Our assumption is that God calls us to addition not subtraction when dealing with each other.

In that process, we create trust, which means that the next time our process can work better than the last time. That’s how we create family, where once there was only a group needing to work together.

Jesus Laughed

Do you remember the passage in the New Testament where Jesus laughed?

I don’t. The gospel writers forgot to include that part.

And yet I know he laughed. I am sure he laughed at the wedding in Cana. I am sure he laughed at–and with–the disciples quite a few times. Surely, they told each other some jokes. He had to laugh with the children.

I bet Jesus danced, too–probably at the wedding. I am sure he dances today with all of us. This came to me Saturday night at the dance following the wedding of my friends Jane and Gay. As I danced a bit, and watched others do so more, I thought, “I bet Jesus is really enjoying himself tonight!”

In other words, although he was serious and he taught and healed and cared and died, he also knew how to have fun, to enjoy life. And he enjoys life with us today.

The next time you’re down in the dumps, think of Jesus–not just the Jesus with good advice and love for you, but also the one that laughs and dances. Let him bring joy to your heart.

When Ideology Gives No Ground

My mother taught me long ago not to speak ill of the dead.

James J. Kilpatrick

Thus, I am cautious in speaking of James J. Kilpatrick, who died today.  He was the former editor of the Richmond News Leader, and in that role he was the most powerful and eloquent voice for Massive Resistance in the country. His pen was very sharp, and the power of his witness made sure Virginia stood foursquare against school desegregation.

We in Virginia are still seeking to overcome the residue of that resistance. And that is what is on my heart today.

I honor Kilpatrick for eventually repenting of his racist views, although he never apologized for Massive Resistance. Of course, we all make mistakes. Some affect others, sometimes even many others. And we do our best to make amends, when we can. I leave Kilpatrick’s soul to the grace of God.

But I note that often when people insist on ideological purity–claiming the authority of God or the constitution or some other higher authority for themselves, and ignorance for their opponents–that real people suffer.

For example, in the health care debate, politicians claim violations of state sovereignty–just as Kilpatrick did long ago with regard to integration–but I do not hear many of them addressing the need of people without adequate health care.

Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia apologizes to the victims of Massive Resistance. Will we someday be apologizing to those who lost family members due to the lack of adequate health care?

A Good Idea We Need More than Ever

Seventy-five years ago today, the United States of America was forever changed–on this date in 1935, the Social Security Act became law.

It was the beginning of a new era in our national life, when as a society we began to apply a basic principle of living in community:  we need to make sure all our people survive, and have an opportunity to thrive, all the way to the end of life.

It is a spirit sadly lacking in much national debate today. Too many do not seem to care that 45 million don’t have affordable, accessible health care, and many others are on the brink of losing what they have. Many, especially in Congress, resist simple things like making sure millions of workers have emergency levels of unemployment insurance. Others seem to think that whatever big banks want to do, no matter how it might hurt others, is okay.

Of course, large national deficits are of profound concern. But who is caring about the deficit in health care, or in protections for workers (at work and out of work), or in regulation of industry and commerce so that the public interest is protected? Deficits are more than money.

Sripture claims that the love of money is the root of all evil. Refusing to share a portion of the money we have with others–in the form of charitable giving and taxes–that all may live, sounds to me a lot like that kind of love.

Spare me, spare us, from that kind of love, God.

Go, [Your Name Here], Go!

Today is a new day. What gifts does God have in store for me today?

When I begin the day with this focus, it is amazing how well it goes. When I focus on the good things in my life, it is incredible how many more such things there are. It almost feels like magic. And yet, far from magic, it is the Spirit, the essence of God, at work in me.

We can let go of any old scary, forbidding images of God, as a stingy, guilt-inducing being who does not care about our happiness, or anyone else’s. Instead, we can rely on God who continually pours out blessing for us, encourages us to live at our highest and best level, who wants us to be fully alive in each moment of our lives.

God is far more than a cheerleader, of course, but there is something of a cheerleader in God–always urging us to take a risk to claim our heart’s desire, to rely on love and generosity rather than fear, to open our arms in compassion rather than fold them in judgment.

Today is a new day, a day God has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Enough Is All I Have

Yesterday morning, I got all messed up. As I walked with Cocoa and Jonathan, I started running my “to do” list over and over in my head. Before long, I was in full-bore panic, growing more and more grumpy by the minute, and no fun to be around. Even Cocoa kept his distance.

Strange, then, that twelve hours or so later I felt really good about all that I had accomplished. I even felt a measure of serenity.

Looking back, I see now that I thought I did not have enough time.

Not enough time. I say it all the time, “There are not enough hours in the day.” Of course, at the end of the day, when I drop, I am grateful there are not any more.

The truth is that I always have enough . . .  time . . . and love, peace, and  joy . . . the gifts of God.

“To know you have enough is to be rich,” wrote Lao-Tzu in the Tao te Ching. I am actually rich in time. Gunilla Norris writes, “Let me be wholly present to living the gift of time.”

The issue, then, is not whether I have enough, but how I use “the enough” I have.