Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

You Don’t Own Me

September 6, 2022

Looking back on the 60s, I thought this was radical for the time–and for many even today in the 20s it is radical.

You don’t own me

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me

Don’t try to change me in any way

And don’t tell me what to do

And don’t tell me what to say

And please when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display.

Written by John Medora, David White; Sung by Leslie Gore, 1963

Even in my nerdy teenage years, those words resonated.

And today even more so.

The non-technology part of my Twitter stream concerns women hurt by evangelical pastors and evangelical husbands. I’m sitting here not 15 miles from a guy who famously injured emotionally if not physically many women.

I know of many who hold to a theology ripped from part of the Apostle Paul’s writings to justify that behavior. They may make fun of how that disciple of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson, famously cut phrases from the Bible that he couldn’t agree with (understand?), but this is the same in reverse. Let us just cut a few phrases out of Paul, paste them on our walls, and follow them.

Count the number of times Paul instructed mutual submission. Observe the way Jesus treated women. Follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor (and no, not that way…).

The radio in my wife’s car is set to Sirius XM’s 60s Gold (for contrast, mine is on Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville). This Leslie Gore song pops up occasionally as a reminder of how to treat other people.

Try it.

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

August 23, 2022

The seventh Beatitude in The Message translation:

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

And, God, can we use more of these today!

This blog has an international readership. I studied international politics at university writing a major paper on US-China relations (in 1968). I’ve imported and exported and dealt internationally for most of my career. I don’t think there exists a single place where I know people or read about in the entire Earth that cannot use someone who can show people how to cooperate.

I am working on a blog post/essay analyzing several announcements by technical trade organizations that have competed vehemently over the past 15 years or more. These announcements have at least one common theme–cooperation. They still compete. But, for the good of the customer, they are cooperating on standards and compliance. The organizations represent companies from Germany, US, France, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, even China. And more.

Cooperation makes life better for us all.

That’s why I turn off all inputs to my mind that emphasize divisiveness. TV news. Social media. Most print/web news. I pick my sources carefully with the goal of knowing what’s going on in the world with as little hype as possible.

And I tune out all the people who seek to make faith in God political. The guy I follow, Jesus, shunned politics. His kingdom was God’s kingdom. It was about living with God. He tried to show both the Roman governors and the Jewish leaders a new way.

Every day in every way we can point to cooperation and reconciliation rather than strife and conflict. We could make this a movement.

Emphasize How We Are Alike

July 6, 2022

More people recognize the dangers and evils that lie in divisiveness. They talk about it more often in public. That in itself is a triumph. Trolls are everywhere to swamp your comments with, well, divisiveness.

Why I wonder do we devote so much effort emphasizing how we are different from one another. And why those on the other side of the dividing line are evil, bad, very unlikable versions of humans.

Our wish to feel superior to others forms the substructure of this attitude.

Christians specialize in dividing themselves from those who are not. But also so do those of other faiths–Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, nothings, and on and on.

Even within Christianity love divisiveness, there are liberals, mainstream, evangelical, reformed, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal (if you haven’t spoken in tongues, are you even saved?)–I think I could probably go on.

Christians who worship in all manner of forms and who hold some tenets stronger or weaker all have one thing in common–Jesus. Thinkers have devoted way too much time figuring out just who or what Jesus was. But at least all agree he existed. That’s a start.

Thomas Merton (one of my spiritual heroes) found common ground of contemplative Christianity and Buddhism. And, after a lifetime of experience, I agree with his path. He was on to something.

I bet that if we tried that we could find more common ground. But we would have to lay aside our pride, and our fears, and open our eyes and hearts. That’s not impossible. But it’s hard.

Justice Requires Listening

February 9, 2021

I just realized that I’m beginning my 10th year writing this blog. I’ve sorted out a lot of my own thinking over that time, and I hope that I’ve helped a few people along the way. Perhaps I’ve introduced some books over the years that have helped you deepen your own journey.

The Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks writing in his book, Morality, (yes, I’m still working my way through that one) talks of being invited to fly on the Prime Minister’s jet to a funeral in Israel. Aboard were the leaders of the three main British political parties (Tories, Labour, and Liberal for my American readers). They agreed to set aside posturing aboard and just discuss frankly what their hearts said about solving Britain’s issues at the time. The conversation affects Sacks deeply.

Reflecting on the conversation, Sacks discusses the story of Cain and Abel. (As an aside, this is also a hint at the dangers of taking the English translations of the Hebrew–and Greek–and trying to interpret literally to fit the theology du jour):

The text cannot be translated literally because it is syntactically ill-formed. It says that “Cain said,” but it doesn’t say what he said. The text’s fractured syntax forces us in the most dramatic way to focus on the fractured relationship between Cain and his brother–and then spells out the consequence: when words fail, violence begins.

This line of observation led Sacks to this conclusion, with which I heartily concur:

1. For there to be justice, all sides must be heard.

2. Truth on earth cannot aspire to be truth as it is in heaven. All truth on earth represents a perspective, and there are multiple perspectives.

3. The alternative to argument is violence. That is why the argument must continue and never cease.

We Are All One

January 22, 2021

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

For Paul writing as a Jew, bringing together “Jew and Greek” essentially meant bringing together all races. Slave and free brings together economic classes. Male and female, of course, genders.

He knew that there were still people of different races, political/economic status, and genders. It is an important part of our spiritual growth that we people who are practicing spiritual formation realize there exist no real boundaries among people. We are to treat and live with all as the same.

A thousand years before Paul spiritual seekers discovered the same truth.

Two thousand years after Paul, we still struggle with bringing that reality into our lives. In America we celebrate (well, some of us) a woman who is also black and south Asian rising to a high political position. And not without some struggle. Why do we need to celebrate? Why is it so unusual.

But not just here. Much of the strife in Africa is tribal. In Asia, it’s religious and ethnic. Europe has its own difficulties.

Treating everyone as simply human seems to be a difficulty for all humans.

We need to break the chain. When you meet someone, try to see what sort of person they are inside not just outside. And treat everyone the same–kindly.

Violence Won’t Resolve Ethnic Issues

January 18, 2021

I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I echo those thoughts. Much of the cause of the events in America on January 6 lay in fear leading to anger leading to hate.

But Americans shouldn’t feel alone in that, even though those feelings toward black people and “foreigners” are as old as the country. There is no country in the world of which I’m aware where this vicious cycle doesn’t play out. Europe is struggling. The Middle East has its own problems with ethnicities. It’s still dangerous to be a Jew in Russia. Likewise to be Uighur or Tibetan in China. Or Rohingya in supposedly Buddhist Myanmar or Bangladesh.

It’s a human problem.

We can try legislation, which has some, but limited, impact.

The solution lies in a change of heart. Jesus worked specifically on that heart problem. A pastor I heard once called Jesus the first cardiologist. But even Jesus didn’t change all the hearts. The rule makers and followers killed him.

But as we look in the mirror today—the day America sets aside to honor Dr. King’s legacy—what is the condition of our own heart? What do we need to do to change and bring it in alignment with that of Jesus? When can we look past ethnicity into the character of the person?

Today would be a good time to start.

For You Are All One

November 20, 2020

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Apostle Paul, Letter to the Galatians, 3:28

A recent news item reported on the “first all-black officiating crew to work a game in the National Football League.” My first thought was, “Why did this have to be significant news?”

Similarly, there is a female official working NFL games. Although football isn’t necessarily a female sport, why would this particularly matter?

If the ideals of the 60s had really come to pass, we wouldn’t have to notice such things 55 years later. People would just be people. Various people have passions, skills, talents for various things. Good. We reward passion, skill, dedication, training, education, and the like.

Despite these words from the Apostle Paul in the first century and despite that two millennia of Christians have poured over Paul’s words looking for a list of rules to separate themselves from the non-believers, so many in the Christian church have missed this little sentence. No, women are not to be shoved aside into “women’s roles”. No, 10:00 am Sundays should not be the most segregated hour in America (probably still today).

When we don’t need news items like the NFL one, then we will be arriving at the original destination. Meanwhile, let’s all go back and study Galatians.

Special tip:

I have written at times about the value of handwriting your notes. It’s even great to send handwritten notes to people–a personal touch emails can’t reach. Someone sent me this link to an infographic of 20 Ways Handwriting Is Good For You and Your Studying. You have to scroll down a bit on the page.

August 26, 2019

“Often injustice lies in what you are not doing,” said Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and philosopher, “not only in what you are doing.”

Marcus was blunt and to the point. The Hebrew prophet Amos was much more poetic:

But let justice roll on like a river,

righteousness like a never-failing stream!

My personal political philosophy does not revolve around being liberal or conservative, but more around justice. Calling BS on greed, pride, and arrogance. Acting on justice for the poor and oppressed.

I think of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. When the man still didn’t feel like he was doing enough to earn righteousness with God, Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. One point Jesus was making was the right use of wealth. And not to let wealth stand in your way as an obstacle to salvation. Rather, let the just use of wealth be a path to receiving God’s righteousness.

What are we holding back from doing? Where are we being unjust by not doing?

Nassim Taleb said, “If you see fraud and do not say fraud, then you are a fraud.”

Justice for the Poor

November 20, 2018

“Let the poor say, ‘I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us.’ ”

From Give Thanks by Henry Smith.

We sang that song last Sunday as part of a Thanksgiving service. (Thursday is the American Thanksgiving Day holiday.)

The social movement of 19th Century Europe (and later in America) was farm workers flocking to the cities to get jobs in the new industrial manufacturing plants. Only, they discovered very low wages and terribly unsafe working conditions.

And the owners of the factories? They lived like the kings and princes they had displaced in the social hierarchy.

The Christian church in Europe where most of this was going on responded by saying, “Let the poor rejoice in the kingdom to come.”

Reaction to this attitude was predictable. The workers rebelled when they could. Philosophers and political thinkers rejected the church. These “preacher’s kids” started writing atheist tracts about justice for the poor–now, not in some future when they are dead.

Residue from these attitudes on each side affect the Christian church in Europe, and to a degree in America, even to today.

Jesus and his followers talk often about justice, mercy, and giving to the poor. Think of the story of Ruth and Naomi and how they were destitute and shown mercy by a wealthy kinsman.

As we thank God for our blessings, let us show mercy and compassion as Jesus commanded and give to the poor for their blessing.

Two Men Walk Into A Coffee House

May 30, 2018

And they get thrown out.

Not the beginning of a joke. Today Starbucks is closing stores to provide training to associates on how to interact with people of all races and genders.

The corporation has a policy. Not an unusual policy. I’ve experienced it in many countries and many establishments. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

It became one.

Morgan Freeman makes jokes and comments about the physical features of women. There was a time that was pretty common. Men never stopped to think about the effect of the comments on the women. It’s just “joking” around. But, who knows, maybe they’d “get lucky.”

It now became a big deal.

Roseanne cracks a crude joke on Twitter. There are lots of crude comedians–in comedy clubs. Not that I like those. Putting it out in the public for everyone to see? Within 12 hours she was dissed by a co-star, had her series cancelled, had the actions dealing with her confirmed by the CEO of the corporation, and she lost her agent.

It became a big deal.

We have ancient teachings that can guide us, if we but choose.

Jesus spoke 2,000 years ago and quoted something from 2,000 years before him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Or we can look for guidance from the Apostle Paul who advised his friends in the churches in Galatia, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Time after time people in organizations are making decisions that they think upholds company policy but act in a wrong manner.

Following these guidelines (commands) you cannot be wrong.

Unfortunately those acts to not make the news. We only hear about loud-mouthed, bigoted “Christians” and acts of great insensitivity. As for me, I’d just as soon not be in the news.