Oakland church

Archive for democracy

Blessings

I’m writing this on Tuesday, the last day of voting in the 2020 election, and the health of American democracy is in crisis ( NTY Times opinion- “End Our National Crisis“). 

At the same time, in the midst of this  crisis, the strength of democracy also is on display. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his final speech, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

This week, I wish to offer you a prescription for happiness; a Greek word that can be translated as “blessed”, “fortunate”’ “greatly honored”’ or even “happy.”  Bear with me as a I nerd out a bit here with some different translations. In fact, there are two Hebrew words for blessing. First, A’shar means blessing but it can also translate as “to find the right road”. And, Barak – yes, it’s the same spelling – which also means blessing but translated literally means “to stoop or bow down”. Consider what these translations open up when we return to these familiar words from Jesus. “You are on the right road” when you are poor in spirit, or when you are merciful.

And forget for a moment about “happy” or even “blessed” are those who mourn, or “happy” are those who are persecuted.  Consider instead this far more poignant offering:

God bows down before those who mourn.
The Lord stoops before those who are meek.
God bends the knee to peacemakers and to those who are persecuted!

What a blessing, especially for this week. Join us for worship on Sunday as we explore more deeply these blessings from Matthew’s gospel.

Speaking of Blessing, I encourage you, if you weren’t able to join us Monday night, Nov 2, to enjoy our recording of  our interfaith vespers service, Calm in the Storm

My deepest thanks to our talented musicians: Gabrielle Lochard, Benjamin Mertz, Ken Medema and to you for joining us!  

Resources to Respond to the Divide & Reestablish a Shared Reality

Photo by Tim Gouw unsplash

Most of us, myself included, are experiencing anxiety as we reflect upon the upcoming election.  Now, even as we grieve the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is a fast-tracking of a new conservative justice. 

How did we become so divided?

How did our relationships become weaponized? 

How did we come to accept such lack of integrity in our leaders? 

How did we create worlds based on radically different sets of facts, and how do we reestablish a shared reality? 

Here are a few resources that I find helpful in answering these questions, and more importantly, in responding constructively. 

  1. Brian McLaren (yes, the same author of the Great Spiritual Migration that we are reading!)  provides a short video on Kitchen Table Logic, describing  the emergence of a new electorate that represents the deep disruption we see today. He notes, “You may think, as many people do, that there are only two kinds of voters in American politics, Republican and Democrat or Conservative and Liberal. You may even add a third category, Independents. Whatever your current understanding, I think you’ll benefit from this alternate way of seeing American politics in 2020: there have been four kinds of voters in recent elections, but now, a fifth voter element is emerging, and that changes everything.”

  2. Netflix movie called “The Social Dilemma.” It does a brilliant job of outlining the complex challenge we now face with social media companies selling you and me (their real products) to advertisers. Their business model generates more profit when we are angry, divided, and divisive. We spend more time on their platforms in that state and, often unknowingly, click on more ads.

  3. If you haven’t already seen the film, Suppress the Vote, you might appreciate this film from Netflix: “All In: the Fight for Democracy”  The film offers a  primer on the history of voter suppression in the United States. The film features Stacey Abrams in her failed bid for the Governor’s office in Georgia. It serves as a warning that what happened to her could be a sign of what is in store for our future.

My intent is not to make us more anxious. It is to make us less naïve, more aware of the sophisticated strategies at work, and to empower us with a consciously loving, powerful and faithful response. 

We are in this together, keep the faith!

with love, Pastor Laurie 

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Prayer for the week: 

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love…
May it be so through our lives, in honor of those who have come before and those who will follow after us.
Amen.

– adapted from the UCC Prayers for Justice and Peace

 

“Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance”

We are living at an inflection point in the history of our country, and in the history of this planet. 

Michelle Alexander; a writer, civil rights advocate,  visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, and author of The New Jim Crow; writes in the NY Times:

“Our democracy hangs in the balance. This is not an overstatement.

As protests, riots, and police violence roiled the nation last week, the president vowed to send the military to quell persistent rebellions and looting, whether governors wanted a military occupation or not. “

Is this the beginning or the end? Where lies our hope? Where do we begin? We must face our racial history and our racial present. We must re-imagine justice.

Michelle Alexander continues:

My hope lies in the movement that brings together people of all  ethnicities, genders and backgrounds as they rise up together, standing in solidarity for justice, protesting, marching and singing together, even as SWAT teams and tanks roll in.  — a reflection of the best of who we are and what we can become. It is a glimpse,  of a beautiful, courageous nation struggling to be born.

Let us, as people of faith, be inspired by this Spirit.  

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Take Action:

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He has recently recorded and posted two video messages about the killings of African Americans that have been fueled by white supremacy. I hope you will make, over the next couple days, the forty minutes it will take to watch and listen to them both.

The Trinity UCC YouTube channel suggests watching “When Is Someday?” first.  The other video to watch, whatever order you watch them in, is “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.” 

May these two messages to awaken your spirit, open your hearts, and inspire you to action.

P.S. The petition Dr. Moss refers to in “When Is Someday?” can be found here.

Poor People’s Campaign Town Hall: In the context of the uprisings across the country against police killings of Black people and the devastation of COVID-19, people will come together across movements at a virtual town hall entitled “Poor People’s Campaign 1968-2020: Everybody’s Got A Right to Live! We Won’t Be Silent Anymore,” which will be held on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time). Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will be the keynote speaker. RSVP to join the online town hall on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Being Grateful in Difficult Times:  Theologian and historian Diana Butler Bass  is offering an online class on “Being Grateful in Difficult Times.” It includes mini-lectures, suggested practices, and conversations with other writers (including some surprise guests whose books you probably love!). It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. The course goes live on June 22 and only costs $59 if you register by June 20. Learn more and register here.

Advocacy: For those of us who can’t take to the streets, we need to take to our phones and computers to make our opinions known to the politicians. Here are two ways you can do that:

  1. Sign up to be part of the Poor People’s Campaign.
  2. Become part of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Peace Action Network.

Care for the Earth at Home: Undertake some (or all) of the environmental activities that can be done at home listed here. The list maker says they are activities kids can do; adults can do them, too.