A Game of Inches

The Virginia General Assembly is rarely the scene of inspiration. Generally speaking, this week has been no exception.

However, despite an ultimately disappointing result, I was impressed this morning at an House Education Subcommittee hearing considering HB 1575. The bill, offered by Del. David Englin of Alexandria, would mandate school authorities to set up ways to prevent bullying and hold them accountable for how they do it.

Del. David Englin

The disappointment, even anger, comes because the Subcommittee failed to move the bill forward. One young woman said afterwards, “These are bad people.” Part of me wants to agree. On behalf of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, I joined others in urging them not to delay.

What they did was refer the bill to a yet-to-be named group that will study the entire issue of bullying. Hardly action to cheer about!

And yet, all members of the subcommittee indicated their support for action against bullying. Most said they want the study to be done this year so they can act next year. This is, I am sure, a gain over what would have been the attitude a year or two ago.

I am reminded that changing public policy is generally a game of inches, not yards, and very rarely does “going long” for a successful touchdown pass work as a strategy.

I know Del. Englin is not abandoning the cause, nor will People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, Equality Virginia, and many others. We will be watching, and participating in the process every way we can.

The lives of our children are at stake. We shall not be silent. We shall not be satisfied until the law matches the need.

This Beautiful Play

Jonathan and I went to the theater on Sunday–a production by the Richmond Triangle Players of “This Beautiful City.”

It is an amazing musical drama. It is the story of a time in the life of Colorado Springs, Colorado–for some years now considered the Evangelical Christian (Right) Capitol of the United States. The story is based on interviews with real citizens of that city in 2006, as Colorado went through a statewide vote on marriage equality (like we did in Virginia that same year) and as leading evangelist Ted Haggard confessed to having sex with another man and to using illegal drugs (that did not happen in Virginia, at least not yet).

What makes this an amazing piece of theater is not only the quality of the production and the actors–director John Knapp has it as close to perfect as you can get–but also the profound quality of the story. The authors include no words that were not said by those they interviewed–even the songs are entirely based on the interview texts.

But the greatest thing is that they allow the characters to tell the story without forcing a conclusion. I left with a more fierce determination than ever to engage the cause of equality in Virginia–AND a newfelt care for the deeply troubled soul of Ted Haggard (and others like him).

It is possible to do what Jesus tells us: love our enemies, even as we oppose them.

P.S. The play runs through February 5. Go see it. And tell your friends. http://www.richmondtriangleplayers.com/

Praise God for Cocoa!

Our Cocoa came home last night.

We are overjoyed to have him home, even if he looks pretty groggy and just sleeps. He had surgery in the night on Tuesday–the surgeon cut open his stomach and righted it and then secured it to something inside him.

I don’t understand much of this–we took him in because of lethargy, refusal to eat, and unsuccessful attempts at vomiting–and the doctors thought he might have “bloating,” a condition where the stomachs of larger dogs “flip.” This can cause quick death because the intestines and other things get tangled up and blood flow stops.

Now, they are not sure what caused his symptoms on Tuesday. So, maybe the surgery helped, or maybe it just made him miserable and cost us a lot of money.

But its okay. More than okay. He is alive, and he is home. And we are happy to nurse him back to his beautiful, loving, playful self.

In my book, dogs are the gold standard for devotion and unconditional love (maybe that is why dog spelled backwards is God). And Cocoa is the gold standard of the gold standard.

Thank you, God, for our Cocoa.

Thank You, Jesus, for Keeping Me Focused on What Really Matters

I wrote to Congressman Eric Cantor today. It won’t do any good, probably, but I feel better.

Hon. Eric Cantor

I told him I was disappointed in him, my Congressman, and others, for voting to repeal the new health care law when they don’t have any viable alternative to it. If they should succeed, we will go back to the old way–people kicked off insurance when they get sick, health care bureaucrats (the private ones working for companies whose main business is making a profit) making decisions about whether my doctor is right to order a certain test or medication, etc.

I know you have read me on this subject before, so I will not go on.

But I do need to register my sadness that our leaders–and it can be laid at the feet of more than one side–so often seem more interested in making points than in making laws that work.

I am so glad I work for a coach who wants me to make things work for people, not worry about whether they are on my side or not, not worry whether they believe the way I do or not.

Thank you, Jesus, for keeping me focused on what really matters.

Cutting Up the Pie

We have more than one equality problem in the United States. It is clear we have an equality problem relating to LGBT people, and we have not fully solved racial and gender equality problems either.

But we have an economic equality problem, too, and it is creating a spiritual problem for all of us. It is not that everyone must have exactly the same share of the economic pie, but there is increasing evidence that, as Nicholas Kristof says, “our stunning inequality is not just economics but also is a melancholy of the soul.”

What Kristof refers to is the fact the wealthiest one percent of Americans possess a greater collective wealth than the bottom 90 percent.  There is evidence, scientific evidence, that this kind of inequality undermines social trust and community life. That hurts everyone, not just those at the bottom.

There is biblical evidence, too. Jesus is not against wealth, per se, in my view, but he cautions people from being owned by their wealth. He clearly is concerned, as were the Hebrew prophets, with rich people who ignored the plight of those around them.

Indeed, he suggests that each of us–rich and poor alike–care as much about our neighbors as ourselves.

Guns in Church?

“It is a good thing we don’t allow guns in church.”

I once heard that statement after a particularly angry exchange within a group of church folks (not at the church I serve). The speaker was a priest who was clearly, and it seemed justifiably, concerned about the level of rage present in the group.

I remember that incident every time we experience the ravages of gun violence in a place where it is not expected–a university campus, a federal office building, a congressional constituents gathering at a suburban shopping mall.

It certainly seems the young man being charged with the shootings in Tucson suffers from mental illness. But so far as I know there is yet no professional diagnosis, nor is there any indication of what may have caused that illness.

At the same time, there is argument among some who argue for a living about whether our increasingly angry and vitriolic national debates might have contributed to his motivation for the shooting rampage. I personally believe that some of that language is unhelpful to us all, not just this young man.

My suggestion is this: let us all recognize that there is truth in what is said by most of those with whom we disagree, and even when we find no truth we can still recognize our shared humanity.

I think that is what Jesus meant when he told us to love our enemies. I know my priest friend believes that.

Look Over Here!

One of my daily mediation books begins today’s entry this way: Like a plant that moves to face the sun, let me turn my attention to the beauty and joy of life.

I am excited to return to work today after a week’s (wonderful) vacation, so this suggestion feels timely. But then it occurs to me that inevitably something will not go well–or at least the way I want it to go–today, or certainly by tomorrow. What then? Will I still feel like turning my attention to the beauty and joy of life?

That is the key, is it not? Willingness to keep the focus even when events can so easily turn us another way.

This is where God comes in, at least for me. I can will myself to keep my eye on beauty and joy, but my will is not powerful enough to withstand the onslaught of life. I will lose the focus if I rely only on myself.

I must trust God. God is the author of the beauty and joy of life, and wants me to enjoy that beauty and that joy all the time.

Thank you, God, for these gifts, and for sharing your strength with me to enjoy them, no matter what.