Category: Weekly Roundup

The thread of inclusion

The “markers” I’ve cited this week share a common thread–inclusion. I believe the competition between parochial, tribal worldviews and more inclusive, global worldviews is the definitive struggle in this era of earth’s history.

For me, inclusiveness has emerged as the decisive factor in matters of faith (aka religion), governance (aka politics), business (aka economics), personal decisions (aka lifestyle) and community health (aka ethics).

Inclusion (or lack thereof) has become the marker I look for when weighing options for how to act and how to think. Am I including others or excluding others? Am I weaving a life of inclusion or exclusion?

Far from being an “anything goes” approach to life, a commitment to inclusiveness requires a strong capacity to say “No!” These days, my most vigorous “no” responses are to attempts to exclude, to limit inclusion.

From a 7-minute segment of The Rachel Maddow Show, November 28, 2022, highlighting 24-year-old Nick Fuentes’ views, which deserve a vigorous “No!”

Engagement

There are countless ways for people to be engaged in the workings of democracy. Two examples came to mind on Thursday. Robert Hubbell, a brilliant student of democracy and prolific writer, provides incisive insights about events that may go unnoticed. His November 17 post, “A bittersweet victory,” reviews the Senate’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act; Donald Trump’s announcement for a 2024 bid for the White House; and questions about polling in the days leading up to the midterm elections. He’s a tour de force.

Michael Gerson (1964-2022) was the lead speechwriter for George W. Bush, a columnist for The Washington Post and a regular participant on PBS NewsHour. His evangelical Christian faith and his conservative political convictions led him to speak and write extensively about Donald Trump as a threat to democracy.

This week, the Post re-printed Gerson’s popular 2013 column about his child going to college, “Michael Gerson: Saying Goodbye to my child, the youngster.” His 2019 sermon at the Washington National Cathedral shared his experience with depression.

When the history of this era is written, Gerson’s opposition to Trump, beginning in 2016, will be an authoritative resource about the use and misuse of presidential power.

From “Michael Gerson, Post columnist and Bush speechwriter on 9/11, dies at 58,” by Brian Murphy, The Washington Post, November 17, 2022

Russian moms

Today, the Sabbath in Jewish tradition, I’m reflecting with gratitude on the role of the Old Testament in my life. Like everyone in the Christian faith, I inherited the Jewish tradition, so I view it through a “Jesus lens.” However, the Jewish tradition belongs to every human being who welcomes its wisdom.

Judaism has a strong, though painful, history in Russia, powerfully revealed in the classic play/movie, Fiddler on the Roof. As the Russian czar cracked down on Jews, Tevye wryly asks/prays, “So we’re the chosen people? Once in a while, couldn’t you choose somebody else?”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is tragic and obscene at so many levels, including the division it has caused between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Orthodox, Jewish and secular moms, wives and girlfriends may be among Putin’s greatest problems now.

Russia is experiencing its most dramatic mobilization and forced military service since World War II. The Sabbath is a day to break away from worldly brokenness to experience (or imagine) harmony among persons, nations, and all creation. Today, I stand in harmony with the babuskas.

From “The Russian Orthodox Leader at the Core of Putin’s Ambitions,” by Jason Horowitz, New York Times, May 22, 2022

Synergize

Each day, I’m helped by three “first read” emails. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation offers spiritual grounding via Daily Meditations. Yesterday’s “A Living Web” quoted Joanna Macy: “You know your lives are as intricately interwoven as nerve cells in the mind of a great being…. Out of that vast net you cannot fall…. No stupidity or failure or cowardice can ever sever you from that living web. For that is what you are … rest in that knowing. Rest in the Great Peace…. Out of it we can act, we can dare anything … and let every encounter be a homecoming to our true nature….

Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American offer historical context. Yesterday’s letter from the Boston College professor described those who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden: “The difference between Biden’s first 17 award recipients and those former president Trump honored reflects their different visions of the country.”

California Attorney Robert B. Hubbell’s Daily Edition Newsletter offers “a reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” Yesterday’s newsletter, “An Opening for Democrats,” cites several resources including Michael Klarman’s Harvard Law lecture on Dobbs v. Jackson, and “The Threat of Exhaustion,” from Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

Another helpful resource is my friend John Draper, an educator who teaches a Sunday School class. Tomorrow’s lesson is about Habit #6 from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

From “Synergy Saturdays: Practicing Habit 6 with the Family,” by Tara West, Leader in Me, August 31, 2019

The challenge of unconditional love

A few months ago, I said “Yes” to the Fullness of Loving Relationships, an emerging community and movement that I fully embrace. The website is growing, including Stories, “the means of telling the past, interpreting the present, and dreaming the future.” I didn’t know then how much I needed FoL’s focus on practicing unconditional love and forgiveness in all our relationships.

On Wednesday I was a “house sitter,” preparing for a hospital bed to be delivered to the home of our daughter and son-in-law. They were returning home from the hospital, as his care transferred from the heroic UAB Lung Transplant Team to a group of hospice heroes. My mind rotated between UAB and the agony of our Uvalde sisters and brothers. We’re all related.

I listened to Governor Abbott, waiting in vain for a statement that it’s time to end easy access to weapons of war such as the AR-15 that made it impossible to identify, apart from DNA samples, the remains of those whose bodies were destroyed in their elementary classroom. Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson identified the challenge of unconditional love. Here’s an excerpt:

All day, I have been coming back to this: How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so?

This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself. 

From fullnessofloving.com

A love greater than politeness

This weekly roundup follows some discussions with friends about a secessionist movement within the United Methodist Church. They speak with a love deeper than politeness:

Can we fellowship with integrity with those who insist on using cold literalistic biblical interpretation to contribute to the very real hurt and real culture of oppression for real people in the real world?

This is not some abstract theological or exegetical difference of opinion. Did in any respect the life or teaching of Jesus suggest using legalistic dogma to hurt people?

When Methodist clergy’s bureaucratic, institutional thinking considers reactionary ideologues a legitimate part of the body, elemental Christian ethics are pushed to the side and off the table.

My friend Don sent this James Baldwin quote from Following Jesus, a project of the Mustard Seed School of Theology, founded in 2004 by Kurt Struckmeyer.

From followingjesus.org

The Free Press

Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Muratov is editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, now published outside Russia to avoid government censorship. Since 2000, six of the newspaper’s journalists have been murdered.

On April 18, Muratov survived a chemical attack after boarding a train in Moscow. US intelligence attributed the attack to the Russian government.

Timothy Snyder’s 2010 Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin has been updated in a new 2022 paperback edition. Hitler and Stalin attacked “the fake news media” as “the enemy of the people.” Snyder discussed with Chris Hayes the origins of Putin’s war and the importance of truthful journalism.

From “A Russian editor says he won the Nobel because his slain colleagues could not,” The Economist, October 16, 2021

Earth Day

At a recent conference about climate change, we discussed our individual choices about how to conserve energy, recycle, etc.). My friend Joe Elmore (in his 90th lap around the sun) said the scale of the problem requires governments to take action. The US can reach our target for 2050 net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 through a bill in the US Senate (a carve-out of President Biden’s original “Build Back Better” program) that would provide $555 billion to address climate change.

Yesterday, Heather Cox Richardson and Diana Butler Bass both cited a stirring speech by Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow, who said: “People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape…. We cannot let hateful people …. deflect from the … real issues that impact people’s lives.”

Jeff Borzello’s ESPN story about the retirement of Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright after 21 seasons quotes former Baker Dunleavy, former Villanova player and now head coach at Quinnipiac: “Coach Wright’s true legacy will not be his championships. His legacy is the set of values he has instilled in his coaches and players.”

From Earth Day: The Official Site, one initiative is The Canopy Project: “Home to about 80% of the world’s biodiversity, forests are collectively the second biggest storehouse of carbon after oceans, absorbing significant amounts of greenhouse gasses. They also enhance biodiversity, while protecting waterways, enhancing soil nutrition, and providing buffers from natural disasters.”

Some current resources

Yesterday’s post was from Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation, whose daily meditations provide some of my soul fuel.

My second read of the day is Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters from an American.” Edward Luce of the Financial Times wrote a delightful article about his visit with Richardson in her coastal Maine village.

Other helpful resources in my email inbox include:

1440 Daily Digest, with links like this from Microsoft: “The Rise of the Triple Peak Day.”

The unabashedly blue Robert Hubbell’s Today’s Edition newsletter provides respite in deep red Alabama.

And a few others, such as The Atlantic, The Bulwark, Christianity Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

From “Historian Heather Cox Richardson: ‘Now people see what’s happening. Thank God!” by Edward Luce, Financial Times, July 16, 2021

Put love first

Richard Rohr invites us to move from “fear and contraction” to “love and expansion.”

Vladimir Putin’s war has added a new dimension to the fossil fuel/renewable energy conversation.

Heather Cox Richardson unpacks recent developments in the January 6 insurrection investigation.

I hear in many of Gretta Vosper’s words echoes of Jesus: “…put living a virtuous life—one guided by love, justice, and compassion—before whatever your religious tradition might tell you to do. If it happens to be exactly what your tradition would tell you to do, fantastic! But if it isn’t, think twice and put love first.”

A recent Liam Adams article in the Tennessean describes the soon-to-be-launched Global Methodist Church. I will not be part of the new group, but I wish them well. May we all put love first.

From “Why Do So Many Russians Say They Support the War in Ukraine?” by Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, March 29, 2022