Friday, February 17, 2017

I'm no proselytizer, but...........

................ I just have to share with you why this atheist attends church. You'll find it in the lead up to his sermon for this Sunday that the minister posted on my church's blog site.  Thrilling to me is also the great degree of social activism in this Unitarian Universalist church and the extremely large number of young people of all races, cultures, faith backgrounds and sexual orientation that are in attendance.

I truly believe that this introduction to his sermon shares a needed balm and comfort to surviving our present American dilemma.

A Great and Common Tenderness
As we wrestle with our own fears and anxieties about the direction of our country and the future of our planet, many of us have asked the question, "What do we tell the children?"
Here's the poet Rebecca Baggett's beautiful answer:
(for my daughters)
I want to tell you that the world
is still beautiful.
I tell you that despite
children raped on city streets,
shot down in school rooms,
despite the slow poisons seeping
from old and hidden sins
into our air, soil, water,
despite the thinning film
that encloses our aching world.
Despite my own terror and despair.
I want you to know that spring
is no small thing, that
the tender grasses curling
like a baby's fine hairs around
your fingers are a recurring
miracle. I want to tell you
that the river rocks shine
like God, that the crisp
voices of the orange and gold
October leaves are laughing at death,
I want to remind you to look
beneath the grass, to note
the fragile hieroglyphs
of ant, snail, beetle. I want
you to understand that you
are no more and no less necessary
than the brown recluse, the ruby-
throated hummingbird, the humpback
whale, the profligate mimosa.
I want to say, like Neruda,
that I am waiting for
"a great and common tenderness",
that I still believe
we are capable of attention,
that anyone who notices the world
must want to save it.
I love the poet's reference to Neruda's "great and common tenderness." I'm waiting for that tenderness, too.
My sermon this Sunday, "A Balm in Gilead," asks how, in this time of vitriol and scorn, we can treat one another with tenderness and compassion.  And we'll hear from the All Souls Choir, who will share the spiritual "Balm in Gilead" and other beautiful music.

And before long I hope to share a major thought stream of mine regarding my 91 years experience in churches that has led me to becoming an agnostic atheist who finds hope in attending "thoughtful" churches.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Blood of Emmett Till

I've had an opportunity to attend a great many author book reviews in my 23 years in D. C., but none has been more dramatic or surprising to me than The Blood of Emmett Till.  The opportunity is also yours at the youtube listing below. Obviously a southerner, Timothy Tyson worked almost 10 years on this book and is at Duke University and Duke Divinity School as Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture.

More information about the book and the author may be found at:

Tyson's presentation is folksy, droll and challenging.  The large crowd interrupts with applause at many statements.  As a fellow southerner by birth (Texan) I could identify with much of his insight, particularly as he told of his grandmother and church up-bringing many decades ago singing the following in Sunday School as atrocities like Till's murder were not uncommon,

"Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Whether yellow, black or white,*
They are precious in his sight,
Jesus loves the children of the world.

*A better lyricist than I might add a line here like,
Neither atheist, Muslim,or Seik

The book is indeed worth your reading and perhaps discussing with others as Tyson credits Till's mother with the courage that actually precipitated the civil rights movement.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

God....placed you (Trump) there.

 “I believed that you would be the next President of the United States. And if that happened, it would be because God had placed you there.

Editor: From all my church going I must proclaim, THAT IS NOT MY GOD! - Ron Lehker

You might recall though that those were the words of the minister who addressed the congregation as president Trump attended the pre-–inaugural service at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House. I know that a great many of you joined me in astonishment not only in the statement itself, but also in the virtual attack on one of our basic democratic principles, the separation of church and state.

Unfortunately it has only gotten worse.
Consider this "hot off the press" report of Trump's appearance at the National Prayer Service in The New York Times:

And then please take time to read the article in the March issue of The Atlantic Monthly by Franklin Foer:

What an amazing, awesome responsibility we all have to maintain and improve a democracy that was founded on (immoral) immigration and nourished and expanded through slave labor!

This 91-year-oldster continues to be amazed at the vigor of young people in peacefully expressing their concern through demonstrations. May we all be equally committed to appreciating the progress of the past and our responsibility to keep moving forward providing refuge for those in need and freedom and equality for all. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When the power of the state controls the press and the CHURCH

One of the long-standing traditions of the inaugural weekend are two religious services, one held at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square across the street from the White House just before the inaugural. The other is held the following day at the historic Washington Cathedral. The public is invited to the service at the Cathedral, and I was particularly excited since I had attended the service four years ago for Obama's second inaugural.  I was most impressed by the sermon given by a Methodist minister focusing on the importance of humility and the person holding that office. How disappointed I was to find the following information in The Washington Post several days before the service "Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Washington state, “ that the request of the president elect was that there be no sermon.that the request of the president elect was that there be no sermon." While the service did involve representatives of a great variety of religious faiths the Post also reported, "the service focused on biblical readings, patriotic music and Christian hymns and prayers for the  country and its leadership.

I had never before heard of a congregant dictating to the church the content of a service.  But I had hope,  

What might be the message for the president elect at the service before the Inauguration - the one at St. John's?
  The entire sermon can be read at:

A brief summary follows:

Before attending the inauguration ceremony, President Trump attended a private religious service at St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House, as part of a modern Inauguration Day ritual.
The service was led by the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist who campaigned hard for Trump during the closing months of the election.
Here is an exclusive transcript of Jeffress' sermon, which drew on the story of Nehemiah, a historical figure described in the Old Testament for rebuilding Jerusalem.

.President-elect and Mrs. Trump, Vice-President-elect and Mrs. Pence, families and friends, it’s an honor to be with you on this historic day.
President-elect Trump, I remember that it was exactly one year ago this weekend that I was with you on your Citation jet flying around Iowa before the first caucus or primary vote was cast. After our Wendy’s cheeseburgers, I said that I believed that you would be the next President of the United States. And if that happened, it would be because God had placed you there.
As the prophet Daniel said, it is God who removes and establishes leaders.
Today─one year later─God has raised you and Vice-President-elect Pence up for a great, eternal purpose.
When I think of you, President-elect Trump, I am reminded of another great leader God chose thousands of years ago in Israel. The nation had been in bondage for decades, the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God raised up a powerful leader to restore the nation. And the man God chose was neither a politician nor a priest. Instead, God chose a builder whose name was Nehemiah.
And the first step of rebuilding the nation was the building of a great wall. God instructed Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack. You see, God is NOT against building walls!  .Mr. President-elect, I don’t believe we have ever had a president with as many natural gifts as you.

While I am well aware of leaders of the church in Germany like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who valiantly set up to Nazi power, the following information is too indicative of the church at large in Geermany at that time..


The population of Germany in 1933 was around 60 million. Almost all Germans were Christian, belonging either to the Roman Catholic (ca. 20 million members) or the Protestant (ca. 40 million members) churches. The Jewish community in Germany in 1933 was less than 1% of the total population of the country.
How did Christians and their churches in Germany respond to the Nazi regime and its laws, particularly to the persecution of the Jews? The racialized anti-Jewish Nazi ideology converged with antisemitism that was historically widespread throughout Europe at the time and had deep roots in Christian history. For all too many Christians, traditional interpretations of religious scriptures seemed to support these prejudices.
The attitudes and actions of German Catholics and Protestants during the Nazi era were shaped not only by their religious beliefs, but by other factors as well, 
*Holocaust Encyclopedia

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Factual facts and (hopefully) well considered opinions.

I am truly "fired up" about the election of our 45th president and felt energized by being a part of the Woman's March in Washington DC on February 21. The most critical issue now is to sustain the enthusiasm and opposition to ill considered actions by the administration and prepare for the midterm elections of 2018. .My strong compulsion to be heard on social media stems from at least two sources:
  • My "privileged" residency in the nation's capital provides me with the opportunity to read local reliable media, not normally available to readers in other locales.
  • A strong desire to do all I can to leave this country and the world in better shape than when I entered (and at 91 the actuarials tell me I don't have too much time}.
While there is much I dislike about the social media, I do appreciate the fact that I am able to vent my frustrations without interruption. Thus I'll take the opportunity to "Rant and Rave" with greater frequency than ever before. I'll close with a few facts on Metro ridership on the day of the inaugural and the Woman's March as well as a few personal observation from this rider.

Metro recorded ridership:
Inauguration of Trump – 570,557 trips
Woman's March 1,001,613 trips the second heaviest day in ridership history surpassed only by ridership for Pres. Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009

I never waited nor stood in line for a Metro train on the day of the inaugural. There were enormous lines for the Metro on the day of the Woman's March and it was so difficult to walk the streets that "unknown participants" – noting my cane – insisted on escorting me to a Metro line so that I would not trip. The conviviality began with singing on many cars as we metroed and continued throughout the day.

I'll soon follow this up with perhaps some other trivia concerning the fiasco of  Don's Johns!
And even sooner get back to some of the more serious issues.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two topics concerning me: 1.Trump and the Inaugural Church Service at Washington National Cathedral and 2, More important than D. C. statehood to me................

1. I know the immediate reaction of some to the tradition of a prayer service on the day after the inaugural might well be,"Doesn't it violate the separation of church and state?" But it is just one of a number of those well-established traditions in this field such as the fact that there's a chaplain in the Congress who provides prayers every day. And so I was gratified that the tradition lives on and that Trump would be away from his tweeting long enough participate in a service that might provide divine assistance. Little did I realize that he was expanding the authority of the executive branch of government to the church. Consider this quote from The Washington Post:

According to the Right Rev. Marianne Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington, “Trump asked that there be no preaching during the interfaith service." 

Rather than attributing this to his tendency to follow the historic action as certain dictators I'm wondering if his patience is so limited that he is unable to sit for this length of time or if he is unable to have his tweeting curtailed for this long a period.

2.  More important to me than statehood for the District of Columbia is the loss of freedoms we have as individual citizens to make basic decisions effecting our lives. The recent election has only underscored how increasingly difficult it will be for District statehood to gain any traction.   Yet the front page of The Washington Post on Thursday, January 19 discloses the enormity of our continued loss of ability to control our lives as individual citizens. Even more important to me than "taxation without representation" is the loss of my ability to control the basic and essential aspect of my life.  The article speaks of rolling back gun control laws and the availability of local tax dollars for abortions .And for me personally at 91 would be be the denial of my right to die with dignity.  I'm personally offended by the affront of someone like "United States Representative Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) vowed last week to use his perch atop the House Oversight Committee to roll back the law making the District the seventh jurisdiction to allow terminally ill patients to legally in their lives."

Who is he to tell me how to live or die?  Just because I live in the District!  I realize and respect the great effort and strong feeling of many who have sought statehood for the District. It's time, however to realize it's politically (and to some degree, in my mind, logically) impractical and impossible. Is not perhaps a new strategy and/or legal venues possible for achieving basic human dignity and rights?

A good place to work to make America truly great would be to give the people of the District an opportunity and resources to work with the president and Congress to make it the "Shining City on The Hill" it has the promise and potential to be!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How have you continued to maintain such a youthful countenance?

Sorry I forgot the totality of the question, but this is an answer I gave to one of Ask Me Anything?
As I recall, it was a question from someone struggling with some of the pressure and issues of life.

OMG, this is such a marvelous question and one that I wish I were insightful enough to give a brief, meaningful answer. At first I was struck by how simple it is and that the answer is found in your question. "Keep... childlike wonder". Eureka, there it is, "Keep Childlike Wonder". In many ways I sincerely believe that has been my "Fountain of Youth". (I realize this sounds a great deal like one of the most forceful teaching of a man called Jesus, and yet I consider myself for the past 10 years, an agnostic atheist.")
And so for the nonbeliever (a term I disdain) let me try to list a few "childlike" characteristics" that I have found helpful.
  1. Upon arising in the morning try to focus solely on the beauty of this day and the good I have around me. 
  2. Reach out by really look at (and possibly) greet people on the street
  3. Read biographies to look at the lives of others.
  4. Seek and accept the friendship and joy of others.
  5. Take time during the day for some type of meditation
Such a good question I may put it on my "rant and rave blog