Category: Civility

“Let ’em go”

Years ago, an automobile dealership’s advertising punch line was, “The boss said, ‘Let ’em go.'” As in, “Should we give a big discount on these vehicles? The boss said, ‘Let ’em go.'”

I’ve thought about that line as United Methodists move deeper into the “disaffiliation” process. It has been personally painful to watch it unfold, but Phyllis Tickle’s wise observation has been helpful. She said this era of deep change in our culture and all religions will be like the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s–the faith and the planet will emerge stronger as various groups go their separate ways.

The Lester Memorial UMC in Oneonta has worked out a relatively amicable divorce, where a sizable contingent of those not desiring to disaffiliate are forming a new congregation. In a large city, those wishing to stay with the denomination, but find themselves in a group where the majority want to leave, can easily join another UMC that intends to remain. In a small community like Oneonta, it takes more creativity.

From “Oneonta United Methodist Community,” by Rachel Simmons, The Blount Countian, January 11, 2023 (via StayUMC Facebook page)

The art of concession

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) kept a journal that became a syndicated column on 12/31/1935 published as “My Day” in many newspapers until 9/26/62. Her column for November 4, 1954 describes a visit by an old friend, Britain’s Queen Mother.

The column also includes two brief paragraphs:

I am writing this column on election day, so I know nothing as yet about the final results. Being a pessimist, I always expect to lose and therefore, if I happen to win, it is that much more of a surprise. I hope with all my heart that we are not going to lose, but whatever happens in this world one has to accept it and go forward with the intention of doing better next time.

If one wins one has to put the best one can into one’s service because that is all one can do to repay the voters who put their trust in a candidate. If one loses one must struggle equally hard to build up one’s party and to use one’s time usefully in business, even though one does intend to go back to politics in the future.

From “The art of the concession speech,” by Al Tompkins, Poynter, November 6, 2020

Taking Fox seriously

In the early days, the Fox News Channel declared themselves “fair and balanced.” I still cling to that expectation, even if Fox no longer strives for that goal. I’m not a regular viewer, though sometimes I record Fox to get their take on a news event and I get plenty of exposure through its ubiquitous presence of Fox in fast food restaurants.

A few months ago, while in Tennessee to visit a hospitalized relative, I was eating breakfast at a Comfort Inn. The TV was tuned to Fox. My ideological filter was activated, just as it is when I view MSNBC or CNBC. If “objective” news coverage is no longer a realistic goal, then “fair and balanced” remains a good expectation.

One of my 2023 projects is to become more familiar with Tucker Carlson in case we ever bump into each other at McDonald’s. I would enjoy engaging him about what it means to be a true conservative, my view of which was shaped by William Buckley, George Will, Bill Kristol, David Brooks, Charlie Sykes, et al. I don’t view Carlson, Sean Hannity, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Donald Trump as conservative.

It’s a worthwhile conversation. A good place to start is his book, Ship of Fools.

From “From colonialism to Putin: what did Tucker Carlson defend in 2022?“, by Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian, December 28, 2022


What drags a person down into anti-semitism? Why does Judaism arouse resentment and fear among some people? These questions flow from yesterday’s post as I reflect on the long history of prejudice, including the Nazis’ anti-semitic strategy to gain power in Germany, 2017 tiki torches in Charlottesville and the appearance of Ye (Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes on Alex Jones’ InfoWar show.

The Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) should be a source of unity for Jews, Christians and Muslims, but cultural prejudice toward the people that produced the OT has damaged the credibility of some expressions of Christianity and Islam. Judaism’s prophetic tradition is rooted in the Law of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, etc.

The prophetic tradition stands for justice and against tyranny. Those who aspire to, or support, dictatorship properly understand Judaism as a threat to their power. Judaism’s respect for, and defense of, the “least of these” undermines authoritarian rule. To be anti-semite is to be anti-prophet, or anti-Bible. Anti-semitism tries to make the prophetic tradition into the “bad guys.”

From “The most striking photos from the white supremacist Charlottesville protest,” by German Lopez, Vox, August 12, 2017

Breakthrough markers

In the “Future of Christianity” summit (mentioned yesterday), Richard Rohr said: To pass on anything that lasts, you need a healthy container. … Until the middle of the last century, we lived almost worldwide in tribal consciousness. It was easy to build a container because we lived and thought as members of a group.

But this … began to fall apart. We made too many friends, we met too many holy and healthy people outside of our container. Consciousness itself has moved beyond tribal consciousness in many parts of the world. … Pope Francis talks in a universal, nature-based, natural religion, psychologically and anthropologically astute. There’s no reason to reject that if you’re healthy. There’s no reason to react against that.

There are clearly those who want to hold onto their tribe and that’s okay. I had my tribe most of my life. I dressed like my tribe. I don’t need that over-identification anymore, and I dare say none of this group does. But we don’t hate it, do we? We don’t laugh at it. We don’t reject it. It’s quaint, and sweet, and nice, and good. But, it’s over.

Brian McLaren responded that Pope Francis wants his message to communicate with Catholics, but he wants to communicate more broadly, which can be an example for us: Going forward, we’re continuing some old tribal identities but we’re also trying to transcend them. Rohr said, We’re doing both: the particular and the universal.

Can we live authentically rooted in our particular tribe while connecting universally with others as we affirm our common humanity and embrace the best principles of our various faiths?


An unclouded day

My mother’s favorite hymn was “The Unclouded Day.” I thought of that when, late Friday evening, I read Robert Hubbell’s “Dispelling the clouds of uncertainty.” Here are some excerpts:

Americans did something on Tuesday that was both extraordinary and unremarkable: they voted in a vigorously contested election that unfolded in peace and security.

Fear has been replaced by renewed confidence that America has more heft and momentum than its critics and opponents imagined.

…all it took to dispel the clouds of uncertainty about America’s future was a reminder that its people look to the Constitution and the rule of law for governance. It is in their bones—as it should be. It has been so for more than two centuries and will be so for centuries more—so long as the majority of its citizens remain diligent in defense of the Constitution. Each of you is part of an unbroken chain of faithful servants of democracy. 

A friend shared the All Saints’ Sunday anthem by the choir of Trinity UMC in Homewood, AL, “I’ll Be on My Way.” The livestream recording is on Facebook. You can fast-forward to the 1 hour, 17 minute mark of their November 6th service.

Veterans Day

To whom does it belong? That’s the grammatical question. If we called it Veteran’s Day, it would be a day that belongs to them. But, it’s a day that belongs to all of us. We observe Veterans Day because it’s a day for recognizing the veterans with us right now.

The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I in 1919. But the date that was remembered was November 11, 1918, the date when the warring nations agreed to cease fighting. They declared an “armistice,” a truce or ceasefire, that would begin at 11 am on November 11th.

So, it was remembered as Armistice Day, widely observed in Europe and North America in the years after the war. In 1926, Congress made November 11 a “recurring anniversary” known as Armistice Day to be “commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” It became a national holiday in 1938. After World War II and the Korean War, the name of this day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

From “The War to End All Wars? Hardly. But It Did Change Them Forever,” by Steven Erlanger, The New York Times, June 26, 2014


Some big picture reflections about Tuesday’s midterm elections:

I felt renewed energy among young voters. Part of their energy seems to be resistance to big government’s efforts to take away reproductive freedom. I thought the summer’s energy stirred by Dobbs v. Jackson had subsided, but I was wrong. Energy around this issue was still present–just channeled into the voting booth.

Our cultural/ideological divisions were reflected in the tight US Senate contest in Georgia. Colorado’s District 3 also was evenly divided. As of last night, Democrat Adam Frisch had 156,746 votes and Republican Lauren Boebert had 156,682.

In February, 2017, The Washington Post adopted the motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Apathy is another Democracy-killer. I’m encouraged by the various streams of energy I sense in today’s electorate. I’d like to learn more about the Republican energy among Florida’s Latino voters. I’d like to learn more about voters’ rejection of some candidates with extreme positions, such as Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.

I’m grateful that Democracy provides peaceful ways to express political energy.

From “Millions of Youth Cast Ballots, Decide Key 2022 Races,” by Abby Keisa and Alberto Medina, Tufts Now, November 9, 2022

Holy water

The Democrats did exceptionally well for an incumbent party in a mid-term election, which was a victory for moderation and common sense. The large turnout, particularly by young voters, was very encouraging.

Prior to the election, attorney Robert Hubbell calmly counseled patience as we wait for the results in his November 8 post: “Have faith in democracy!

Joyce Vance’s election day Civil Discourse post cited four living Pennsylvania governors, three Republicans and a Democrat, who asked candidates to commit to abiding by the results of the election, no matter who wins, to “accept the results” of the election and ensure “a peaceful transition of power.” Vance asked, “How did we become a country where this needs to be said? But thank goodness we have people from both parties who are willing to demand that would-be elected officials comply with the rule of law.”

(If you use Twitter, the two above pieces include insights about changes Elon Musk is bringing to his new toy.)

Josh Shapiro’s win in Pennsylvania points to America’s better angels, as opposed to the parochialism revealed in the Texas Observer article sent to me by our son Rob: “Christians Must Publicly Denounce Christian Nationalism.”

Richard Rohr’s November 8 meditation, “The Holy Water We Share,” is a powerful reflection inspired by Barbara Brown Taylor and Raimon Panikkar.

From Heather Cox Richardson’s November 8 post at Letters from an American.

He thought everything was over

Yesterday, on CBS Sunday Morning, historian Jon Meacham reflected on the election of 1864. The war had been going on for more than three years and no end was in sight. President Abraham Lincoln didn’t think he would win re-election.

Lincoln wrote: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration.”

Meacham commented: “A president devoted to justice and to the rule of law. A president willing to cede power graciously should he lose. A president who put the Constitutional experiment and the good of others above his own self-interest.

“Such words can seem nostalgic, even naïve, in our own time.”

And, “Perhaps 300 election deniers are on the ballot across America. At stake is … the viability and the durability of American democracy itself.”

From “Abraham Lincoln and the preservation of democracy,” by Jon Meacham, CBS Sunday Morning, November 6, 2022 (a 3-minute video, with transcript)