Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016.30.16 Ceiling Breakers and Hard Choices


Many wise people favor a both/and approach to discernment and wholistic spirituality. BUT in this 2016 election voters must deal with either/or. To sideswipe civic responsibility you can write in whomever you want, or pick a “dark horse” with no odds, or not vote at all. What takes real courage is to face into the discomfort of either/or— and CHOOSE ONE OF TWO.


I voted early with pride, and for once it was not a hard choice for me, because I’m a Christian and a feminist, not to mention being a Democrat. 

Jeanette Rankin was sworn into office in the House of Representative as the first woman in Congress, elected 100 years ago this November, 1916—and a Republican from Montana.

Rankin of course surprised the best of ‘em with her strenuous vigor and voice. The American politicians expected a wispy spinster with a delicate voice as they rued the possible loss of the art of profanity they had perfected.
Renée Loth wrote in her fine 10.04.16 Boston Globe op ed essay, “Breaking the Ceiling 100 Years Ago”: “A double standard? You bet your feathered bonnet.”

Rankin was everything a woman should “not” be: vocally aggressive, ambitious, and a powerhouse for women’s rights. Rankin was a strident unrelenting pacifist and voted against war no matter what. This stance alarmed even the female suffragists. Does this style sound familiar?

Hillary Clinton is not a pacifist, yet her vote in favor of the Iraq intervention has been singled out for attention and earned her the “hawk” label, scary even to many women. She made a hard choice, demonstrating her capacity to do such a thing as seemed right to her at the time. A hard choice is not a rigid one, but labels stick to women like brands. Even so, consistency isn’t the top quality of a good leader who has to make hard choices in fractious times. The capacity to think and change one's mind is a higher value.

No matter what Rankin said, and no matter what Hillary says, the media and the public pounce on it like a cat on a mouse. Yes, I know they pounce on Donald Trumps’ every word, too. Trump is a spotlight stealer, enabled by a reactive media. He is consistently misogynistic while denying it. This I think is helpful to his female opponent. Front-and-center misogyny forces us all to examine gender politics, which has formerly been submerged beneath lots of persiflage.

There IS a double standard and there IS a glass ceiling for women.
This isn’t a new issue at all but it is now so blatant it can not be ignored. There IS a difference between men and women. Women do bring a different style, a different experience, a different perspective to high public office. These distinctions matter.

Hillary Clinton, for example, notices women and issues that affect their lives intimately. She helped launch the first rape crisis hotline in Arkansas in the mid 1970s. At the UN conference in Beijing in 1995 she declared that “women’s rights are human rights.” As a candidate for president she calls us to work together. That is something women prefer and often do better than men.

In my experience, gender distinctions work the same in religion. Men and women are different, but differences often turn into political disadvantage for women. Women are ordained but not always treated equally. We do not get the best jobs; we are not accorded equal pay for the same work; not all dioceses have enforced minimum pay standards; we are still viewed as anomalous in pulpits in certain areas of the country. And our voices are not regularly consulted, and in some traditions not consulted at all. And to top it all off, God Godself is made masculine—quite thoroughly so. 

There is a Facebook site of which I’m a member called Breaking the Episcopal Glass Ceiling. It’s just for Episcopal women clergy. The fact that there is such a site and that it is used by so many is a sign. If our genders were equally recognized there would be no need for such a site.

The purpose of the site is to let women priests know when and where there are dioceses looking for a bishop and to get more women elected to the House of Bishops, where women are in a great minority. I have no interest in being a bishop, and many women don’t, but bishops are the top leaders and decision-makers in the governance of our church. We have checks and balances in our system. Thanks to the House of Deputies, lay and ordained leaders have voice and vote in our governance. Still, the folks with the pointed hats (House of Bishops) are seen as the ones with the power, whether that is actually true in the flesh or not. There IS a stained glass ceiling for women.

In religion and national government we all need to appreciate more clearly our gender differences and allow them to work for us, not against us, as we transform our religions and our country from patriarchal rank-ordering ways into a culture of shared responsibility for the common good.

Although, ironically, this election itself presents us with a viable either/or choice, we really do need  to strive for a both/and politics.

This was the politics of Jeanette Rankin 100 years ago. It is the campaign politics of Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Do we want to wait another 100 years to eliminate the double standard? Do we want to wait another 100 years for this wholeness? 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016.10.23 Dominus Flevit

As Christian women we are appalled by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's recorded remarks that disparage women and condone sexual assault. Such language cannot be dismissed as “locker room talk.” Mr. Trump must offer public contrition that fully acknowledges the seriousness and depravity of his actions.

The sin of misogyny has caused many of us to experience sexual assault or sexually abusive language that threatened our safety, dignity and well-being.

Christian leaders cannot condone such violent speech about women as a minor mistake or an innocent attempt to be “macho." These excuses teach our young people that such language is acceptable and do further harm to those who have been abused.

We urge all religious leaders to preach, teach and help their communities heal from the twin sins of sexual violence and misogyny. While we are disheartened by Mr. Trump's toxic words, we believe this moment presents an opportunity to teach our daughters and sons that they are loved, and to teach all Americans how to speak out against sexually violent language.

        -Rev Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life.

I signed this letter with little hesitation and then immediately wondered if I should have. Was it “Christian” to condemn another person? Oh well, I thought, it’s in line with the biblical prophetic tradition, and we all know that it’s okay to condemn the sin but not the sinner, don’t we?  Besides, I’m not Jesus.  Even as Lyn, I know that misogyny and the toxins it stokes—violence, rage, profound physical and spiritual pain, and social disorganization—are godless. 

One of the most poignant places we visited in 2012 when we went to Israel was the location at which Jesus is remembered in the New Testament as looking out over the beloved city Jerusalem and weeping. The site is a small chapel at the foot of the Mount of Olives with a dome shaped like a teardrop. Built in 1955 it's called Dominus Flevit: The Lord wept.

Luke’s gospel remembers it thus: “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”  This lament may reflect the historical destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. A great political mess of contending parties—Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Tax Collectors, Samaritans, Zealots and Scribes—warred for primacy and authority in Jesus’s time. All of these spiritual and political streams buzzed in and about Jerusalem. Jesus was trying to recall their attention to God’s ways of justice, compassion and peace. No wonder he wept.

I weep too scanning the national scenario in the USA right now. I also rage. I’m a woman, and, like most women, I know the sting of misogyny. So does the woman who is running against many currents to be elected our next president.

“As it turned out, Clinton, who began her campaign intent on breaking the last barrier—the glass ceiling—has found her most compelling rationale in her own role as a barrier, a bulwark against the impossible alternative. As I was leaving our interview, she smiled, looked me in the eyes and left me with a casual reminder. ‘As I’ve told people,’ she said, ‘I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse.’ ” (Mark Leibovich, “Her Way”, NY Times Sunday Magazine, October 16, 2016.)

Is it that dire? I don’t know, but some days it feels that way as the delusional scenario of individuals and groups “building proud towers which shall not reach to heaven . . .” (Hymn #573, Laurence Housman) unfolds.

Still, I’m not one to sit around. I’m powerless, not helpless. SO: I sign petitions like the one above. I pray with specificity. I order books for grandkids. I write to steady my convictions in hope.  I remember I am a Christian and  I remember dominus flevit.  Tomorrow I will vote for Hillary and get my little oval “I voted early” sticker with the American flag on it.

I'm voting for her because she is practiced and practical. Second, I'm voting for her because she has stood her ground and managed to avoid serious head bleeds from glass ceiling shards as she pokes through a barrier that needs breaking. Finally, I am voting for her because I am not afraid of her.

I am voting for her, because I bet, that behind the necessary defenses, she weeps.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016.10.16 None Of The Above?—NOT!

Many people, including some news personnel, like Jim Braude of Greater Boston, whom I admire, are advocating that we the people check or write into our ballot: NONE OF THE ABOVE. 

It sounds good, maybe even true. It also sounds snarky. It sounds like a wasted vote. It sounds whiny. It sounds cowardly. It sounds individualized. It sounds like a way to contribute to the fracturing of our society, already anxious and scared.

If we Americans, whose country is founded on principles of freedom of the best kind, cannot get up the guts or the grit to vote, because we just don’t like either person on the ballot for president, or because we just don’t care about “the facts”, then we deserve what we get: a failed presidential election and a mockery of our freedom. In addition, a vote for a minor third party candidate is a cowardly cop out, contributing nothing.  So VOTE!

I am solidly for Hillary. She is not my best friend. I’m not even sure I like her personality. I don’t care. I do think she is the most qualified person we have ever had run for president. Hillary is a woman, and she therefore represents a step towards our founding idea that all men are created equal and should have equal opportunity, when qualified. "Men" includes "women". The wave of vile misogyny sweeping much of our nation, and accelerated by the media, is a sign that we have lost sight of democracy itself, not to mention decent civilized, yes, Christian behavior.

First Lady Michelle Obama has broken the confines of her traditional role to speak out in horror and pain about this kind of politics, particularly the outrage of  a presidential candidate making public braggadocio of sexually predatory behavior. She asks: Is this a model for our young boys and girls who look up to the leader of their country?  She does what prophets do. She is notable, because frankly there aren’t many honest and courageous prophets speaking out anywhere in any halls of power, including the church, right now. Are we drowning in fear? 

Be brave. Be a citizen. Be an American. Be a good Christian. It’s your duty and privilege as a Christian to exercise your right to vote. We pray weekly for our nation and all nations to work for justice and peace. That means a commitment to our political processes. The kingdom of heaven, founded by Jesus the Christ, is no less political than it is holy. Jesus himself felt the anxiety of hard choices and unpopular politics. But he did not wimp out. He did what he thought was right, in accord with the desires of a loving and just God, and the best for his nation.

What is best for the good of this nation and our neighbors whom we influence and serve?
Vote your conscience based on this spiritual discernment. Think beyond your own disgruntlement. Before you vote, pray for guidance as you would for a beloved who is ill, for our nation is ill right now. And you have an opportunity to make a healing difference. 

NONE OF THE ABOVE is not a vote, it’s a trick. NO VOTE AT ALL is passive cowardice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

2016.10.09 Maybe It IS the Economy, Stupid?

Some years ago I changed my political party affiliation with some trepidation, sneaking into Town Hall and feeling like “Judas.” I used to argue with my father the Republican when I was a college student full of zeal and ill-digested information. Once I told him I favored economic socialism and political democracy. I still might. He loved me anyway.

My parents had been loyal Republicans their whole adult lives, and I followed along without much thought until I recognized that the values of my Christian faith coincided closely with those of the Democratic party. Biblical heroes championed social justice for the marginalized and the poor, an economy that served all people, not just the rich, and yes, a government that looked more like Robin Hood —foolishly generous—than the CEO of a huge corporation—foolishly hoarding. I still consider it a privilege to pay taxes to help those less fortunate than I am enjoy equal access to the ample resources we have in this wealthy country.

Over time I understood politics from my parent’s generational point of view. They were twenty-somethings when the Great Depression threatened their dreams, made them afraid, very Republican, and politically focused on “the economy, stupid.”  Dad was honest, generous, hard-working, and not a corporate show-off. He consumed martini lunches with the best of the “mad men,” yet he was a principled capitalist. In fact he left his NYC ad agency in 1970 when the executives started manipulating their ads to enhance products. He said it was unethical.

I bet today Dad would be voting for Hillary, not only because he was the father of three daughters, but also because she understands the basics of principled economic policies.  This daughter would say she knows how to kick ass and stay balanced.

I recently received a note from a brother Episcopal priest in Overland Park, Kansas, the Rev. Robert Terrill. He makes a connection between Christian faith and the economy, just as I did years ago and do today. He wrote:

“My college degree is in business and economics and over the years I've held fast to the Keynesian principles that have governed progressive economic policies of Democratic Administrations. These economic principles closely represent the ideals of Frederick Denison Maurice, the architect of Anglican Christian Socialism, though I am not a socialist. I'm in favor of regulated, controlled Capitalism that does not screw labor and consumers. The attached article is an editorial that was published by the Kansas City Star, our metropolitan newspaper:

This year's Presidential race is about personalities. I disagree. My vote will be about economic
principles.Conservatives suggest that the principle of free market capitalism is hope of the nation.

However, in each historic period this principle results in a national and world wide depression,
including high unemployment, low productivity, high interest rates, and low acquisition of capital for investment. Think 1933 and 2008.

Progressives have historically corrected these economic blunders by increased government
borrowing and spending, reduced interest rates, increased borrowing by business and
consumers, increasing the flow of money into the economy, and thereby producing jobs,
increased profits and higher wages, increased taxable income, thereby reducing the federal
deficit. This occurred in both the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.

This is why I will vote for Secretary Clinton, not Donald Trump. Both personalities, while
important, are insignificant.

Hey Dad! Is God a Democrat? Are you one yet?  I love you no matter what.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

2015.10.02 Dear Hillary

Dear Hillary, 

I don’t know you personally but I feel as if I do what with all the political exposure you have and with all my passion and prayers for your election as our first woman president—a very obvious choice for every reason I can think of. How in the world can this race be close?

What I really want to say is not political but personal. I am sure it stings your heart to hear and see and read so much nasty commentary about you—your every move, your clothes, your body, your teeth, your ambition. Good God!  And then having to work so hard to hide your true feelings from public exposure, lest they they call you “weak” after spending much time calling you “hard” or “cold” for not revealing your feelings. The media screams for your “true self”— whatever the hell that is. What do people expect? Don’t answer that in case it might incriminate you.

I have tasted some of this kind of emotional pain at a time in my life when I was fighting with the patriarchal church to be ordained priest back in the early 1980s, just after the Church had voted we could be priests. I was dumb, or innocent enough, to think that the vote to include women had cleared the path forward. It did, but the path turned out to be a torturous cow path with lots of stinking flops along the rutted way. Despite progress, many minds, doors and paths remain closed.

I guess I was lucky I didn’t know how bad it was when I applied. One of my interviewers told me she was against the ordination of women but that would not interfere with her ability to screen women objectively. I admired her pathology. Another interviewer, a gay male priest, declared that I had “two-point-two-four-too-many” children. Which of my four children to assassinate? The committee and the bishop rejected my application, saying I couldn't be a mother and a priest—"dual vocation" they called it. I tried again—and again.

That’s what I see you doing, Hillary. You may get slapped down, you may make big mistakes, you are unpopular, but you keep believing in yourself. You have never given up. What stamina!!

I never gave up either. But I had some things to consider—one of which was that the church was as political as any other institution. Oh, yes, it is holy too, but then not much is purely  blessed or cursed. I hadn’t kept up with feminists or talked to other women. I hadn’t even made it my business to know that the bishop of my diocese had voted against the ordination of women. All I’d done was pray, read Betty Friedan, launch a wild midlife crisis, confess my own sins and flaws and mistakes, and try to drink away my shame at being rejected. I thought the church would be, well, nicer.

It wasn’t until I got political that I understood the double standard for men and women in the church.  Besides raw sexism there was also the silent collegial pact of white male authority—dangerous to breach.
I could have used you as a consultant. I learned as I know you have. We are still learning, becoming.

Time by itself doesn’t heal a darn thing, but it does guarantee that people like bishops get older and retire. I waited and watched my Crockpot; it taught me to simmer. Time and love provided space to grieve, get support from good family and friends, and deepen my trust in myself and in God whose presence strengthened me from within. I can not tell you how I knew that exactly but I did. I bet you know the same.

Hillary, you have devoted your entire adult life to politics. You have given your considerable gifts to make democracy safe and fair and American. You have stumbled and fallen. You have been betrayed and belittled, and you haven’t quit trying. You are also a woman of sturdy faith.

I am so sorry about all the abuse you have suffered. I admire your courage. I am praying daily that God will continue to give you integrity of soul, strength of body, and wisdom of mind. (I am praying the same for Mr. Trump, because he will need these things after he loses this election.)

Besides prayers, you have my gratitude for being a heroic front runner—also my vote.