Category Archives: Politic

My Big Gay Vote No

(Inspired by my friend Jacob, a few thoughts on why I’m Voting No against the Marriage Amendment)

The first time she noticed another woman.

What it was like coming out to his parents.

The challenge and longing in looking for a partner.

Over the past decade or so a few friends have sat in our dining room finding themselves telling their story. This is never a light conversation. I do my best to listen, I try to ask gentle questions, and without fail, there are always tears. Sometimes I wonder, what’s behind the tears? Are they from the pain of secrecy after so many years? Are they tears of relief since the soul was finally able to express its true identity in this body its found itself in? To be honest, I may never really know.

This is where I think empathy comes in.

Empathy is that Jesus-taught ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. To seek to understand. To look at the bigger picture. To wonder how love might respond.

You cannot legislate empathy. It does not fall under any law. More will sit at my dining room table and find themselves telling the story of when they first realized they had fallen in love with someone who happened to be of the same gender. Regardless of the status of Minnesota’s Constitution next year, multitudes of us will still continue to listen to, affirm, receive and offer love to those finding themselves in our LGBTQ community.

However, the consequences of a passed amendment in the coming election are serious. I’m Voting No on November 6, no question about it. I hope you do to, and I think it’s the most loving, compassionate, and Christian thing to do. But maybe the first question shouldn’t be about whether you are voting YES or NO. Maybe the question should be this:

Are you listening to the people around you?

Brene Brown says, “Something powerful happens when you realize it’s a privilege for others to hear your story.” If you’ve never had someone tell you they are gay, then ask yourself why not?  Gosh, I know more gay people than I do Packer Fans. They’re everywhere! Why haven’t they found their way to your dining room table?

Now hear those of us who have sat in that listening chair. There is real pain, heartache, and suffering as a result of marriage inequality and if this Amendment passes, it will make it even worse. It will ensure the ongoing anguish of loved ones stranded in hospital waiting rooms, denied health insurance, and a message from society that reads second class citizen. And consider our children. Gay teen suicide rates aren’t an anomaly. It’s the result of our collectively closed ears and oppressive insistence that the world is flat—all at the risk of accepting something we’ve been taught to fear.

Have no fear of the gays my friends! They are human. They eat, sleep, drink and breath the same air. Much more, my gay friends have been my teachers. They’ve taught me a better and bigger understanding of love. They’ve helped me love myself. They’ve showed me how to love others who so easily get under my skin. As a Christian, I find this simply prophetic. These people are leaders in my life and I’m honestly ashamed to even have to defend them in this way.

A day is coming when you will be caught off guard and someone who’s been storing it up for years will strike a moment of courage and tell you who they really are:

Queer.

Will you try to impose your own sexual preference? Or will you listen? The former is not working, not effective, and you will have brought someone one step closer to becoming a statistic. The latter will bring you one step closer to what it means to be a real friend. Empathy does that to people. It sparks friendship and possibility.

I wish you Vote No on Tuesday, November 6. And I wish you true friendship, with an open ear and a loving heart.

Prayer for a Political Convention

Oh God, there’s a glorious and powerful political convention coming to town.

Many think these people will protect us and keep us safe from evil.

Have mercy on us.

Many have given them their hope.

Have mercy on us.

Many have sworn to them their allegiance.

Have mercy on us.

Many have raised the flag above the cross.

Have mercy on us.

 

Help all of us, oh God, to be reminded of the difference between your kingdom and man’s kingdom.

Your order is full of peace, justice, compassion, and love.

Peace that ends war.

Justice that cares for the poor.

Compassion that understands an enemy’s story.

Love that sacrifices itself for a neighbor.

Man’s kingdom is full of sin: twisted politics, empty promises, gaudy rhetoric, corruption, and military violence.

Help us, oh God, to see the difference.

 

Be with the police this week, oh God.

As they are armed with tear gas, clubs, and guns; may such things stay holstered.

Have mercy on them and protect them from any harm.

Help them to maintain order in a humane way.

Let them look into the eyes of the protestors and see your divine creation.

 

Be with those who are protesting this week, oh God.

Have mercy on them and may their activism be nonviolent and non-passive.

Let them look into the eyes of the delegates and policemen and see your divine creation.

Let their marching beat like a drum for justice.

Let their chanting sound like a trumpet for peace.

Let their presence send a message of truth.

 

If there is violence, may it expose the wickedness of the perpetrator; may it stir empathy for the victim and the oppressed.

 

At the end of this convention, at the end of this election, you are the everlasting God.

Some day, this earthly kingdom will find its end, as all do.

Your mustard seed kingdom has no end and is unstoppable.

Yours is the power and the glory forever and ever.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Amen. 

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

 

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion- put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap for power,

please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.

 

Wendell Berry, Good Poems Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor (New York: Penguin Group, 2002) 274.

Claiborne and Haw on the Yoke of Jesus

 Jesus is ready to set us free from the heavy yoke of an oppressive way of life. Plenty of wealthy Christians are suffocating from the weight of the American Dream, heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we embrace. This is the yoke from which we are being set free. And as we are liberated from the yoke of global capitalism, our sisters and brothers in Guatamala, Liberia, and Sri Lanka will also be liberated. Our family overseas, who are making our clothes, growing our food, pumping our oil, and assembling our electronics–they too need to be liberated from the empire’s yoke of slavery. Their liberation is tangled up with our own. The new yoke isn’t easy. (It’s a cross, for heaven’s sake.) But we carry it together, and it is good and leads us to rest, especially for the weariest traveler.

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus For President (Michigan: Zondervan 2008 ) 113.

Totally Disarmed

Last week I attended a luncheon hosted by Shane Claiborne at the Justice Revival in Columbus, OH. He asked us to share with the people at our table about the person or experience that made us start to really care about social justice. To me, this was a brilliant question. It was obvious that there were people in the room on all sides of the political spectrum. Shane’s radical message no doubt offended some while those of us who agreed sank further into our self-righteousness indignation.

But when I reflected on the experience that I would share about, I was totally disarmed. I thought back to a trip I took to Mauritania in West Africa. One night a young mother asked my friends and I to pray for her nine month old son. He was suffering from malnutrition and parasites which made his stomach abnormally large and round. Her home of four walls and a dirt floor was dark. We gathered around her son and each placed a hand on him. We said prayers hoping to change his circumstances.

I don’t know what happened to the boy after that. I don’t know if any of his circumstances changed. But as I reflected again on this old story of mine, I realized how much that experience changed me.

At the luncheon, when it came time to share my story, my voice started trembling, I teared up, and couldn’t talk. The old story had new meaning and it began to work on me in a powerful way. Not able to finish, I had to pass on to the next person. Feeling totally disarmed by God’s love, I looked at the people in the room around me in a different light.

Working for justice isn’t about being dynamic, one step ahead of the rest, or even being “right”. It’s about people with real lives and real stories. Anything more than that is an imitation of working for justice (and something that will most likely be watered down, put in a box, and sent to the market).

I’m still reading Jesus For President and I’ll be sharing some interesting quotes later in the week.

LOVE Cannot Be Capitalized!

In recent posts and poems, I’ve been voicing my increasing frustration with consumerism and capitalism. It seems there is a system in place which takes something beautiful, waters it down, puts it in a box, and sends it to the market. This is done with religion, art, and spiritual movements. Upon reflection I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness. I worry for people who find hope in the word ‘capitalism’ and follow a president who urges his people to consume for the good of the economy.

But upon further reflection, I was led to hope. Love in its truest form cannot be marketed or consumed. You cannot buy stocks in love. You cannot buy love at the store. You cannot make money off of love. Interestingly enough I think that some of the most successful and profiting products are false immitations of love (i.e. pornography).

True love brings true hope. And our task is to identify it and bring it to light. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes in the Life of the Beloved that we are to “constantly unmask the world around us” to see it for what it truly is. In this process, it is helpful to realize that love endures and will continue to endure capitalism, consumerism, and whatever other sort of “ism” the world develops.

St. Paul asserted to the Corinthians that these three things would remain: faith, hope, and love.

Thank God.

Jesus For President

I just started reading Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s Jesus For President. Last month I saw Shane speak at Bethel University. Expecting a dynamic and trendy speaker (he does, after all have dreadlocks), I instead found Shane to be goofy, homely and….genuine. To me, Shane’s real attraction was in his message and stories. It seems that he really does want to live like Jesus, love others, and work to change the world around him. Here’s a quote from his latest book which I think sums it up well:

This book is a project in renewing the imagination of the church in the United States and of those who would seek to know Jesus. We are seeing more and more that the church has fallen in love with the state and that this love affair is killing the church’s imagination. The powerful benefits and temptations of running the world’s larges superpower have bent the church’s identity. Having power at its fingertips, the church often finds “guiding the course of history” a more luring goal than following the crucified Christ. Too often the patriotic values of pride and strength triumph over the spiritual virtues of humility, gentleness, and sacrificial love.

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus For President (Michigan: Zondervan, 2008), 17.