The Big Lie

I am a religious and political liberal. I make no bones about it.

But I also appreciate the contributions of religious and political conservatives to our common life.

In my experience, good ideas often come from the interplay of these seemingly contradictory impulses. But in order for that to work we have to tell the truth about ourselves, and each other.

Which is why I am so appalled by the repetition by conservative politicians of what feels to me like the Big Lie: Democrats (or “Washington,” seemingly the most evil place on earth) raise taxes, while Republicans (the not-Washington party that seems to want to get back there pretty badly) cut them.

The truth is that part of the Stimulus legislation cut taxes for 95% of Americans–$288 billion in tax cuts. That was done with no Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate–the rest voted against cutting taxes.

There is room to debate whether the Stimulus Package worked or not–I say yes, but also it seems that it did not work as well as backers claimed it would–but there is not room for debate on the fact that taxes were cut.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is now offering Politi-Fact VA, a review of claims by politicians for their truthfulness. Check it out T-D, tell us who is spreading the Big Lie.

Even with BB, I’m Still Praying the Old Way

I use a  Blackberry. In fact, my Blackberry is integral to my life–not as valued as Jonathan or my daughters or Cocoa or even my church or friends, but many days I refer to it more times than I talk to them.

Thanks to BB (when I was a kid, that stood for Brigitte Bardot, not a gun–I was not into guns), I am more organized and more in touch with the totality of my world. Some people report feeling like captives of their BB, but I do not. It does not run my life, but it helps me organize it and keep it organized.

It seems amazing to me that it in 1984 I used a PC for the first time–to write my Master’s thesis, using three 5.25 floppies to record the magnificent creation (and figuring out how to number the pages consecutively between floppies). Now, I attach a 4 gigabyte flash drive (smaller than my old rabbit’s foot) to my belt, and send and receive emails from my phone (barely bigger than a PC mouse).

This is all grand. I am even thinking about an iPhone, or its like (although generally I adopt new technologies slowly).

I still pray the old way. God does not require new technology for connection–although BB helps me remember when I have scheduled time to hook up with God.

The Table Is Set. Come and Be Fed.

Bread. The staff of life.

The centrality of bread in Christian, and Jewish, religious life came to mind recently.

I have been attending Shabbat with Jonathan periodically, and sharing the challah is an essential part of that liturgy.

And then, Michelle Campbell, who prepares a homemade and home-baked loaf each week for communion at MCC Richmond, called to say she was going out of town unexpectedly. Who could bake the bread for Sunday (she already had dough in the freezer)?

That problem was easily solved (Bubba Bruce will bake it, of course).

So, we will have bread. We will share in the glory of simple, nourishing bread.

Jesus broke it open for the disciples, and for us, to symbolize the breaking of his body. Jews see in it the wholeness of God, feeding the entire community.

Christians also can see the loaf of bread as the Body of Christ–the whole believing community–and, as we eat of the bread, how the community feeds each of us. “This is my body, broken open for you . . . .”

This Sunday, again, the communion celebrant will say, during the central moment of worship, “The table is set. Come and be fed.”

Perhaps we can begin to understand that is the invitation of Jesus not only to the divine meal but also to participate in the divinely-created community.

God Will See Us Through

U.S. elections are only a week away. Tension is mounting. Will the Republicans enjoy a massive sweep? Or will the Democrats hang on?

I am not a cynic about this. The outcome matters. The two parties are different–more so than they used to be.

But I also am not one who believes much of the hype.

I remember four years ago, after the Democrats swept the congressional elections, when the pundits were practically predicting the end of the Republican Party (as they had done to the Democrats after President Bush won re-election two years before that). Just two years ago, many thought President Obama was invincible.

Oh my.

The country will be different because of this election, however it goes. But it is highly unlikely that either party will go out of business, or that our entire system will change. I simply do not become unglued by these things.

Maybe it is because my zodiac sign is Libra, the scales in balance. Or maybe it is because I know that the politicians, and the government in which they labor, are not the supreme power of the land, indeed of the universe. 

God will see us through, whether we rejoice, or mourn, next Tuesday.

Another Casualty of War

Governing is not a clean. neat business. Nowhere is that more clear than in the various moves and counter-moves surrounding the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Many people wonder, “Does President Obama want to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or not?” The confusion is understandable.

He says “yes,” but then does not issue an executive order doing so. He says its the job of Congress to overturn the law it passed in 1993. That is probably right.

But, then, when the House votes to do it, he lets the Defense Department ask for a delay while consultants engage in a prolonged study to see how to deal with repeal. Now, that a federal judge threw out the policy in its entirety, he lets the Justice Department request, and temporarily at least, win a stay on the judge’s decision.

Ouch. This all hurts. A lot. It creates great anger. I surely feel it. When will our leaders learn that “we” are just as good at serving as everyone else? Its plain civil rights.

I don’t think that President Obama is playing for votes–he is alienating a key base, namely LGBT folks and he certainly is not winning any conservatives. Instead, he made a deal with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to do this a certain way and he is sticking to that. He needs Gates–and other military leaders who are more conservative–too much in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not the first time when war trumps justice.

Our Oldest and Best Friend

I am not a very good swimmer. I can tread water and do a sloppy butterfly stroke. The reality is that I never really spent enough time and focus to learn to swim with ease.

Some folks have a similar relationship with prayer.  They can say the Lord’s Prayer, especially in a group, and they can mumble a few words of thanks. But they have not, yet, learned to pray with ease.

Part of the reason, I think, is that they are afraid of prayer.

I understand that. I am much less afraid of the water than I used to be, but I am still not entirely comfortable in it. I was in my 40s before I decided to get over that fear, and I am still working on it.

For many, prayer requires fancy language–with which they feel uncomfortable. For most, it involves talking–and since it is often difficult or unpleasant stuff we need to talk about, we avoid it.

But prayer is first and foremost about spending time with God. We don’t have to say a word (and that can be uncomfortable, too). And if we do speak, it is good to speak with God the same way we talk to our friends.

God is, after all, our oldest and best friend. Make a little time for God today.

Thanks, Alicia and Jane

Simon Baker as Patrick Jane

I have spent many years watching very little television. I felt special when I could say, “Really, the only TV I watch is PBS.”

Juliana Margulies as Alicia Florrick

I still watch PBS–the News Hour whenever I can, and Masterpiece offerings on Sunday evenings.  The latter is a ritual for Jonathan and me.

A new ritual of late has been some commercial television–specifically The Good Wife and The Mentalist.

I admire the lead actors in both–Juliana Margulies as the good wife, Alicia Florrick, and Simon Baker as the mentalist, Patrick Jane–and the stories are well done. I especially admire the class of Mrs. Florrick as she navigates through tangled personal and professional landmines. And Jane (yes, mostly he is addressed as Jane) is, in his pixie seriousness, both hot and charming.

Perhaps I am lowering my standards as I age, or perhaps the stories have gotten better than I remember. Whatever it is, these two shows are intellectually and morally engaging. The dialogue is crisp, stimulating, affectionate and principled by turns, and nearly always interesting. The situations are generally not simple, and not resolved easily (although Jane makes it look easy).

What a great antidote they both are to the current level of public discourse exhibited by many people running for office (or the lack of it; see “Eric, Where Are You?”).

Eric, Where Are You?

I feel disrespected.

Congressman Eric Canton, who represents me in Washington, has decided not to debate his election opponents. He has said that the debate would become a “food fight.”

Now, I disagree him on just about everything. It is only fair that you know that.

Hon. Eric Cantor, M.C.

But until now I respected him. I know his colleagues have given him considerable power, and clearly he is an intelligent public servant. 

I felt sure he respected me. But now I see that he is like so many others (Republican and Democrat) who forget for whom they work.

He has $1.2 million in campaign funds in the bank, so who needs his constituents? We don’t really count. He doesn’t have to show up at a public meeting and let us evaluate him side-by-side with his opponents (a Democrat and a Libertarian). As a matter of fact, I don’t recall him showing up much of anywhere in “our” district so we ordinary types can meet him and question him.

When was the last time he held a town meeting to take questions from his constituents? Maybe it was recent, but I did not hear about it. If anyone who reads this can correct the record, please do so. I’d like to be wrong. 

But, in the meantime, I must ask, “Eric, where are you?”

Share the Light

“When I share my light with the light of others, miracles take place!” Those wise words are from Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Pastor of Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Ft. Lauderdale.

They are appropriate on this day–the 36th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Don’t you wish we had Dr. King today? Just think for a moment what a difference that voice of moral clarity made in the 1950s and 60s, and what a difference it would make today. Of course, many of the people who laud him today were fighting him back then.

We think our level of political discourse is cheap today–and much of it is. But the people today who don’t believe that our President was born in this country or that he is a Muslim (and think that would be a bad thing, were it true, which it is not) are  descendants of the people who thought Dr. King was a communist, or worse, when he was alive. Some folks probably still do.

Our task then, as Dr. Watkins writes, is to share our light, as Dr. King did. We may not be a leader in his mold, but there is something each one of us can do today to bring a little light, a little moral clarity, even a miracle, to a very hurting world.

Have You Asked God?

When was the last time you came out of a hard time? Depression, losing your job or not finding one (or both), disease attacking your body or the body of someone you love, a loved one leaving you (by death or by ending your relationship), things at work going from bad to worse . . . most of us have been through these sorts of things in our lives.

Some of us are going through them right now.

Chances are, we’re looking for some inspiration.

The first miner is greeted by Chile's President

And I am finding it in the liberation of the Chilean miners. And in the decision by a federal judge to immediately stop all enforcement of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. And in knowing that people–many of whom hold opinions very different from my own–are debating, or trying to debate, the direction of our country.

Maybe what I am celebrating is persistence. Showing up, no matter what. Staying the course when you know it is the right course, and standing up against what you think is the wrong course.

I know this. No matter how discouraged we become, God is with us. The trick, as Abraham Lincoln said long ago, is to be with God–to be on God’s side.

Have you asked God today what She or He wants you to do? Its not too late, and the answer might save your life.