Category: Hope

The beloved community

One of ML King, Jr.’s gifts was making widely known–and expanding–Josiah Royce‘s idea of the beloved community. When I was young, I accepted the widely held US idea that America was the beloved community, i.e., uniquely blessed by God. Ronald Reagan inspired many people with his idea that we are a nation “set on a hill.”

America is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, (until recently) moderate climate, and our Founders’ (unfinished) vision of liberty and justice for all. It’s easy for an awareness of blessing to merge a national self-understanding with the biblical concept of ancient Israel as “God’s chosen people.”

I once heard a rabbi say of the Israelites: “Chosen yes, but for mission, not privilege.” The nature of the Royce/King vision is completely inclusive. It embraces all the earth–all the Universe. We are beloved because the Universe is beloved. The beloved community practices the art of receiving and giving unconditional love.

From “The King Philosophy” (including the Beloved Community), The King Center. (L-to-R, Ralph David Abernathy, James Forman, MLK, Jr., Jesse Douglas, John Lewis,

Dressed for the occasion

On December 26, 1941, Winston Churchill said to a joint session of the US Congress: The fact that … here I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life, which is already long and has not been entirely uneventful.

On December 21, 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered–in English–to the same assembly, in the same chamber, a memorable, well-received speech. He and Churchill were on the same mission: to thank America for help with resistance to a warring dictator, and to ask for more help.

This was Zelenskyy’s first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion began almost a year ago. Given the current winter hardships being endured by Ukrainians, the simplicity of their president’s clothing lent a sense of urgency and authenticity to his presence and to his message in Washington.

From “Full Transcript of Zelensky’s Speech Before Congress,” The New York Times, December 21, 2022

Addressing the problem

Thomas Friedman: …if it is true that it now takes us ten to fifteen years to understand a new technology and then build out new laws and regulations to safeguard society, how do we regulate when the technology has come and gone in five to seven years? This is a problem. (Current example: SBF and FTX.)

We go to school for twelve or more years during our childhoods and early adulthoods, and then we’re done. But when the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.

Eric Teller, per Friedman: If we could “enhance our ability to adapt even slightly… it would make a significant difference.” He then returned to our graph and drew a dotted line that rose up alongside the adaptability line but faster. This line simulated our learning faster as well as governing smarter, and therefore intersected with the technology/science change line at a higher point.

In sum, said Teller, what we are experiencing today, with shorter and shorter innovation cycles, and less and less time to learn to adapt, “is the difference between a constant state of destabilization versus occasional destabilization.” The time of static stability has passed us by, he added. That does not mean we can’t have a new kind of stability, “but the new kind of stability has to be dynamic stability.” (More tomorrow.)

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.

Fighting fascism

I’ll remember this era as a struggle against two contagious viruses, COVID-19 and fascism. COVID-19 hasn’t been defeated, but vaccines and sensible social distancing have helped us turn the tide against death by infection.

Our best vaccine against fascism is memory, and today’s global rise of fascism illustrates that memory isn’t humanity’s strong suit. We’ve forgotten how Hitler and Mussolini gained control of Europe at an enormous human cost.

Normandy is a metaphor of freedom for me, like Passover is a metaphor of freedom for Jews. Many battles have been fought in myriad wars, but for me Operation Overlord represents them all.

A former president views Americans who died in battle as “losers” and “suckers.” I view those who landed on Normandy’s beaches as people who took life’s greatest risk to free the world of a deadly fascist threat.

Today, I expect none of the candidates for whom I will vote will be elected. My vote is an act of freedom, a statement of hope (in spite of the data), and an act of solidarity with all who prefer democracy over fascism. Voting is a spiritual practice.

From “Storming the Booth,” by editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 12, 2022

Ties that bind

After a blissfully grueling 30-day trek in a small camper, we picked up another passenger, my 91-year-old aunt. The final leg of this vacation was a 5-hour drive for her to have an interview this morning at her potential new home–a memory care facility much closer to her still-breathing family.

We three old folks spent last night in a motel with a curious but flexible canine companion. As we moved toward sundown yesterday, my dear aunt explained to me that my parents (her sister and brother-in-law) are not deceased. I have their death certificates, but I didn’t buck my aunt.

She said my parents were with her parents back in Jellico (their hometown). It reminded me of the biblical phrase applied to several people, including Issac. When he “breathed his last, he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”

My aunt’s loss of short-term memory can be exasperating, but it has a whole other dimension that I have observed in her and other people, but do not fully comprehend. In the next few posts, I plan to share some reflections about the institutional and informal ties that bind us together.

Jellico United Methodist Church (Tennessee)

Transformation

In Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity, pp. 107ff is about “Born Again: Dying and Rising.” He wrote: In the gospels and in the rest of the New Testament, death and resurrection, dying and rising, are again and again metaphors for personal transformation, for the psychological spiritual process at the heart of the Christian life.

When I was young, operating from the “earlier paradigm” Borg describes (September 13 post), I thought resurrection and life eternal were “invented” by God after the death of Jesus. Borg wrote: … the path of death and resurrection is “the way” that Jesus himself taught. I now see that the crucifixion and resurrection story as a revolutionary, timeless “object lesson” to demonstrate the way things are.

Borg helps me understand that the point of this story, of creation, of life itself, is transformation. It is a universal experience to which Christianity witnesses but does not hold a copyright. It is at the heart of every faith and everyone’s life experience, whether or not one is conscious of it or grateful for it. Because transformation is a universal experience, it can be a starting point for every human conversation.

The Jesus story–which I understand within the context of the larger Jewish story, which I understand within the larger context of the story of the Universe–is my story. As I live into the theme of transformation (which I understand to be the heart of everything), I’m able to receive, appreciate and find common ground with everyone’s story. This makes me excited about waking up every morning!

From “Marcus Borg: The Essence of Christianity is Transformation,” Interfaith Voices, June 13, 2014

Remaining hopeful

My third read of the day is Today’s Edition Newsletter, written by California attorney Robert B. Hubbell. It’s a free email distributed by Substack. This resource was recommended by some guys in my weekly Fullness of Love group shortly after I learned of it through Morning Rounds by blogger Rita Clagett.

Hubbell’s theme is “A reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” He’s a tenacious attorney, passionate and partisan, though primarily focused on the US Constitution. He’s a tour de force, providing essential legal background for the day’s news. I think of him as Jamie Raskin on steroids.

Hubbell saves me an enormous amount of time by condensing important news stories with a hopeful tone. A daily dose of Richard Rohr, Heather Cox Richardson and Robert Hubbell puts my day within the context of faith, freedom and hope. Together, they help me stay oriented to life’s greatest theme: love.

Hubbell’s August 30 installment of Today’s Edition Newsletter, “A coward’s bluff” unpacks the legal issues surrounding the current investigations into Donald Trump. Hubbell referenced a new free Substack blog by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance. Hubbell ended this edition with:

As always, we have plenty of reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent.

From “A Conversation with Robert at the Los Angeles Arboretum,” with Jill Hubbell, November 8, 2020, via YouTube, about his blog that began on the day Donald Trump was elected president. The Hubbells’ daughters were devastated by the election. He writes Today’s Edition Newsletter to keep them informed and to give them hope. I’m one of many thousands of readers who eavesdrop on this resource.

Artistic resistance

Tyrants tend to underestimate the opposition. Early war reports emerging from Ukraine quickly made it clear that the Ukrainians would not be easily overrun. An August 14 article by Javier C. Hernández in The New York Times describes an inspirational “artistic resistance” to the Russian war by Ukrainian musicians. In “An Orchestra Supports Ukraine, and Reunites a Couple Parted by War,” Hernández quotes Yevgen Dovbysh, “I don’t have a gun, but I have my cello.”

Dovbysh and his violinist wife, Anna Vikhrova, were members of the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. Now, they are among the 74 musicians in the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra.that gathered in Warsaw, Poland to begin a world tour. The Canadian Ukrainian conductor is Keri-Lynn Wilson. The tour itinerary includes London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, New York and Washington. They will play at the Lincoln Center in NYC on August 18 and 19, and at the Kennedy Center in DC on August 20.

In the 1990s, a choir of Cuban Methodists visited the US. They were mostly professionals–attorneys, teachers, and various others. The Cuban economy was reeling from the US boycott and the collapse of Cuba’s Soviet benefactors. Everyone in Cuba was poor. The choir arrived in Birmingham with paper sacks for luggage. A host congregation took them shopping for shoes. The unforgettable moment for me was their closing song, in English, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

From “Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra review – tears and roars of delight for new national ensemble,” by Flora Willson, The Guardian, July 31, 2022