New Year’s Resolution: Resistance With Respect

December 31, 2017

The preacher at our Episcopal Church this morning (a lay person of whom we have quite a number licensed and trained) spoke of this new year’s eve as a time to pause, looking back at 2017 even as we prepare to enter 2018.

He grounded this nicely in today’s Lessons from Scripture, seeing John’s Prologue as looking backward to a time when the Word was with God; Isaiah looking forward in chapter sixty-one to a time when God would “cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations;” and St. Paul in Galatians 3 rejoicing in the present, what he called the “fullness of time.”

As I take that pause “between the times” on this new year’s eve, I look back on 2017 as a devastating year at least in the political arena and, from my perspective at least, for this nation and the world. I believe Donald Trump has already done enormous damage to this country, undermining the respect the world used to have for us (as recently as under President Obama) and making life in the not-too-distant future extremely difficult for poor and working class people, immigrants and people of color, and threatening the very environment in which “we live and move and have our being.”

I look forward to 2018 as an opportunity to reverse at least some of these trends by working to elect Democrats to local, state, and national legislatures — particularly to flipping the Senate and House of Representatives so that the worst of this Administration’s proposals can be thwarted legislatively…perhaps even the likely extreme appointments the President may attempt to make to the judiciary, perhaps even the Supreme Court.

In short, I shall rededicate myself to the “resistance” in 2018, but I want it to be “resistance with respect.” I commit myself to monitoring my language and tone particularly on social media so as not to add to the coarsening of society we find there so often. I will try to give my opponents the benefit of the doubt and to focus my attention on their arguments or positions, not on them as persons.

This will not be easy because I do perceive great evil out there in these days. But, if I claim to be a follower of the One who was able to pray — even as they drove the nails — “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do, it is the very least I can do.

Please join me in this effort. Redouble your efforts to resist evil. But resist in a non-violent manner which truly does “respect the dignity of every human being” and which will be seen as light shining in the darkness.

Remember,  we have been told that “the darkness did not overcome it.”

Mary And The Tax Plan

December 23, 2017

As we enter this weekend on which we will celebrate not only the Fourth Sunday of the Advent season, but begin our celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas, my attention is drawn to the song Luke tells us Mary sang at the Annunciation of her role in all this. We sing it every day in Evensong. It is called the Magnificat as our hearts join hers in “magnifying” the Lord.

This plucky Jewish teenager not only praises God for choosing her for such privilege, but joins her fore-mother Hannah in reminding us all that “Yahweh raises up the poor from the dust (and) lifts the needy from the ash heap.” (I Samuel 2:4)

Mary puts it this way, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53).  Such is the justice of God to be embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Mary’s son.

In these days, President Donald Trump has announced a “big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas.” And yet there are many who fear that, unlike Mary’s gift to us, our government has just passed a tax bill which may “cast down the lowly, and lift up the mighty on their thrones,” taxation which may –in the long run — “fill the rich with good things, and send the hungry away empty.”

We do not yet know the ramifications of all this, but as we prepare to commemorate the birth of Jesus, let us rededicate ourselves — in the New Year — to standing with those who may be most negatively affected by the new tax laws. And, just as importantly, to shine the very Light of Christ on those who will unfairly reap the benefits — those who in fact need no tax relief but who should be paying even more in thanksgiving for the bounty they have received (often through no merit of their own) and to ensure the well-being of those less fortunate than themselves.

For remember, Mary also sang of the One who “has mercy on those who fear him in every generation” but who has also “shown the strength of his arm (and) and has scattered the proud in their conceit.”

May it be so.

Merry Christmas!

 

In The Wilderness (Of Today) Prepare The Way Of The Lord

December 11, 2017

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That quotation is heard regularly from this pulpit and is one of my favorites from Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. ( It is apparently one of Barack Obama’s as well since he not only used it in many speeches, but quite literally had it woven into a rug in the Oval Office!)

The quote is sometimes criticized for being overly optimistic and even deterministic. In other words “Don’t worry, be happy” everything is going to turn out right in the end anyway…perhaps suggesting that resistance and efforts working for justice and peace are not even necessary. In these days, the words may really seem overly optimistic as we are confronted daily with facts some of which John Harper called our attention to last Sunday:

The U.S. Congress is working on putting the finishing touches on a tax plan which has many poor and middle class people (as well as deficit hawks) extremely worried; the Supreme Court has given carte blanche to President Trump’s travel ban on persons from certain predominantly Muslim countries; this same president seems hell bent on rolling back federal land protection in such sacred Native lands as the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah; and the great state of Alabama seems almost certain to elect an alleged sexual predator to the United States Senate.

And still the stock market surges and employment figures are good.  Even in the face of the concerns I just listed; and the fact that there is genuine worry about an outbreak of nuclear war, beginning (but perhaps not ending) on the Korean peninsula and new tensions arising in the Middle East over the Administration’s decision to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem! Don’t worry, be happy!

Is the arc of the moral universe really bending toward justice? Really?  Well, I believe that it is, but it may be helpful for us to look first at the context of Dr. King’s familiar quotation and then turn to our scriptural lessons for this 2nd Sunday of Advent to see why…and how.  First – as is so often the case – we need to look at the context of Dr. King’s quote. It was not original with him. He was citing a 19th century Transcendentalist, a reforming Unitarian minister and abolitionist named Theodore Parker – and the whole quotation reads like this:

“Evil may so shape events in this world that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross; but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C. so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In other words, bad people will often prevail in this carnal world where Caesar still rules, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t engage in social activism and strive for justice.

Just as Dr. King always looked to the great stories of his faith for strength and inspiration so it may behoove us to pay attention to our history in order to be strengthened in the present and to await the future with hope. Look at our Lessons today:

Isaiah was “comforting” (which means strengthening) his people with the confidence that – even while they were in exile – God was preparing to do something new.   And, by the way, in Isaiah, it’s not “a voice crying in the wilderness” but “a voice crying, in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.” In other words it is while we are in the wilderness that God is to be seen most powerfully at work! The people of Israel had to learn to trust their God while they were in Exile, not only after their joyful return. (Isaiah 40:1-11)

The Psalmist too looks back with gratitude at God’s action in their return from exile, “You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, you have restored the good fortune of Jacob….Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” (Psalm 82:1, 10-11)

Centuries later, Mark quotes our same passage from Isaiah as the Jews suffer under yet another occupying power – this time the Roman Empire.  Decked out like Elijah – the first of the prophets – John the Baptist assures his people that (even though he may not have all the answers) this state of affairs will not stand, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize with the Holy Spirit,” (Mark 1:7-8)

And finally this morning, the second Epistle ascribed to Peter was likely written after the fall of Jerusalem yet again in 70 AD. Everything had fallen apart and yet still Jesus had not returned to set things right. So, the early Christians were encouraged to settle in and wait for him, “Do not ignore the fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you…” (2 Peter 3:8-9b)

But does that mean they are to sit around doing nothing? Hardly, the author continues: “Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” (2 Peter 3:11-12a)

Can we really “hasten the coming of the day of God?” Well, Isaiah thought so. The Psalmist thought so. John the Baptizer thought so. Jesus thought so. “Peter” thought so. Theodore Parker thought so. Martin Luther King, Jr. thought so. Each one of them put their ultimate trust in God’s power to save. But each one of them spent their lives striving for justice and peace in God’s name.

Do not flinch from the events brought to your attention in the daily newspapers, beloved. Read them and weep. But then, dry your tears, find one cause with which your heart aligns and start making a difference. For it will only be then that

“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together…” (Isaiah 40:4-5b)

Sexual Misconduct Is A Social Disease

November 27, 2017

“In 1995 the Diocese of Iowa adopted Policies and Procedures Concerning Allegations and Incidents of Sexual Misconduct. The policy was the attempt to prevent the occurrences of sexual misconduct in the first place and to ‘ensure that where allegations of sexual misconduct are made the response to any allegation or instance will be just and compassionate, and so may allow God’s grace to work redemptively.'”

“The new policy met the Church Insurance Company requirements and all vestries and bishop’s committees were then required to accept them formally on behalf of the local congregations.” (from A Beautiful Heritage: A History of the Diocese of Iowa 1853-2003; page 123)

I was Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa at the time these policies and procedures were hammered out and put in place. The quotation above highlights several things: First, our document provided detailed definitions of such terms as “sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse.” This was intended to have a proactive dimension helping people understand just exactly what constitutes such behavior and alerting many for the first time about just how unwanted and sometimes unintentional such actions may be.

There was also clarity about the role that power differential plays in sexual misconduct and the unliklihood that “consent” is even possible when a person in a position of power over another (employer/employee, doctor/patient, clergy/parishioner) acts in an exploitative manner. This took a lot of education, but gradually our people began to see the logic.

The document was published in the diocesan newspaper for all to read, was discussed and voted upon at Diocesan Convention, and became a published part of the Constitution, Canons, and Policies of the diocese brought out in a new edition each year. Specific procedures were outlined for those filing allegations of sexual misconduct as well as the steps which would be followed in investigating such allegations, seeking to insure the confidentiality and privacy of all.

Because it was made crystal clear that such allegations would be taken seriously and that (usually) women who brought such complaints were — in the first instance — presumed to be telling the truth, there was a good bit of resistance on the part of some clergy who feared false allegations.

This was an understandable concern. However, in the perhaps half dozen allegations I received during my time as bishop (and the two ecclesiastical trials which stemmed from them) never were the women found to be making a false allegation. And the priests were held accountable.

Finally, although I wish these policies and procedures had been put in place because of our compassionate sensitivity to the plight of abused and exploited women, the truth is we were motivated to work on this issue in the 1990s because of pressure put upon us by the Church Insurance Company which had been forced to pay out millions of dollars in the 80s because clergy were not trained or sensitive to the tragedy of sexual misconduct in their ranks. Therefore Church Insurance threatened to stop covering the clergy for such violations unless training, policies and procedures in every diocese were put in place.

Nevertheless, I am proud that The Episcopal Church was “ahead of the curve” on this issue and that a high level ecumenical meeting was held at our Church Center in New York some years later in which representatives from the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and other denominations consulted with us as they worked out their own policies on sexual misconduct on the part of clergy.

Perhaps the entertainment industry; local, state, and national governments; the Congress of the United States; and even our Presidents should take a look at the current iteration of The Diocese of Iowa’s Policies and Procedures Concerning Allegations and Incidents of Sexual Misconduct.

They are on our website http://www.iowaepiscopal.org/safeguarding-gods-people.html

 

 

The Souls Of The Righteous Are In The Hands Of God

November 3, 2017

All Souls’ Day 2017 Just a few words to remind us of the context in which we gather for this glorious Victoria Requiem: We’re in the middle of what I like to call the “All Saints’ Season.” Yesterday was All Saints’ Day when the church remembers the great heroes and heroines of the Christian faith – the Marys and Marthas, the Peters and Pauls, the Clares and the Benedicts who have left major impressions and great impacts on the faith we profess.

Today is All Souls’ Day, or the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, when we remember “Grandma and Grandpa,” our Great Aunts and Uncles, and all those other relatives and friends who have gone before us and who now rest in eternity. Those are likely the ones for whom we have lighted candles and will remember in our prayers tonight.

And, this coming Sunday is sometimes known as All Saints’ Sunday when we gather up both categories of “saints,” likely being more faithful to the New Testament understanding of “saints” as all the baptized – those saints Paul writes to in Corinth or Rome or Galatia who were Christians, but who may have not have acted anything like the saints we find in stained glass windows or read about in the various hagiographies, lives of the saints!

Christians began making pilgrimages to the tombs of the martyrs and commemorating the anniversary of their deaths very early in the history of the church. By the 8th century All Saints’ Day was being observed regularly in England, our Celtic ancestors having perhaps chosen November 1st because that was the festival of Samhain in the British Isles, the day of the dead, when ancestors were remembered.

We don’t of course know exactly what is going to happen to us when we die. Anglican theology has tended to agree with the author of the Wisdom of Solomon tonight who says that “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them” (3:1) while we all await that Last Great Day about which St. Paul writes so vividly in tonight’s Epistle. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

We believe that our loved ones are with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven “because grace and mercy are upon (the) holy ones and (God) watches over (the) elect.” (3:9) But, one day, in the fullness of time, when things are set right again, once and for all, “those who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died…so we will (all) be with the Lord forever.” (4:17)

Jesus seems to agree with this scenario as he is quoted in John’s Gospel this evening as saying, “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25) There seems to be both a future and a present dimension to resurrection, and to our eternal salvation.

Most of us have experienced a sense of the presence of a departed loved one at some point. Indigenous people live with a conscious sense of being surrounded by the spirits of their ancestors. The Pueblo Indians call their mystical forebears “the kachmas. We call the same reality the “communion of saints”.

An image I sometimes used at funerals in my last parish was to suggest visualizing the communion rail as extending to eternity on either side. And, as folks come forward for Holy Communion to experience those departed loved ones kneeling alongside them. For, as we draw close to Jesus in the Eucharist, so we draw close to those who now rest more fully in Jesus.

Not sure exactly what image to suggest here at New Song since we come forward to receive our communion in stations. Perhaps to sense those faithful departed in line before us, making the sign of the cross upon our foreheads with the water of our baptism. Or, perhaps surrounding us all in a great circle, inviting us forward to receive the Lord in whom they rest.

However we may wish to think about it, surely it is good to observe a day on which we commemorate all the faithful departed. We have not been alone in this world. Those who have gone before us have prepared the way.

We will not be alone in eternity. For “the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace…their hope is full of immortality…because grace and mercy are  upon (the) holy ones, and (God) watches over (the) elect.”  (Wisdom 3:1-9 passim)

My Seminary On All Souls’ Day: A Reflection

November 2, 2017

As I continue my work as a life-long learner, I continue to be grateful for what was a really remarkable theological education I received at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois in the late 1960s into the 1970s. Never considered one of the Episcopal Church’s top academic seminaries, Seabury nonetheless had a solid history of preparing well trained and faithful parish priests. However, I have never believed that I received anything less than a top flight academic preparation as well.

I have been dipping back into Teilhard de Chardin who is experiencing something of a renaissance these days and I remember Professor Julian Victor Langmead Casserly waxing eloquently about the “Omega Point” and the “noosphere” as we read Teilhard’s The Divine Milieu and The Phenomenon of Man in his philosophical theology class.

In my work, many years later with the Lutherans, I was greatly helped by remembering and reflecting on the best course I ever had on The Epistle to the Romans taught by Professor Jules Moreau who made the theological concept of “salvation by grace through faith” fairly sing in his presentations, usually delivered without notes perched upon the corner of his desk. I believe we used Anders Nygren’s commentary as well as the classic by Karl Barth.

This week I opened my new edition of The Anglican Theological Review and began to read several articles on something called “The Theological Interpretation of Scripture” which is apparently gaining some ascendancy in the world of biblical scholarship today. And I remember an elective offered by Old Testament Professor Jack Van Hooser and New Testament Professor Fred Borsch entitled “Biblical Theology.” As I recall it was offered over pizza and beer at Fred’s house and explored a thematic approach to the whole Bible treating common themes like covenant and salvation and justice, looking for continuity across the centuries without for a moment neglecting the very specific contextual and historical contexts in which each of the authors worked. Back to the future?

I could go on and on including Professor David Babin’s enthusiastic introduction of the work then underway for a “new” Prayer Book and preparing us to use it pastorally in every situation as well as on Sunday mornings. David was also the best preacher on the faculty, delivering powerful but very brief “postils” as tightly constructed as a sonnet at every Friday morning Eucharist. He was, of course, homiletics as well as liturgics instructor and I have always been grateful for his encouragement and wisdom on the preaching life.

We were always counseled that the seminary task was not to impart a body of knowledge which would carry us once and for all through the years of our active ordained ministry. But rather, that they were providing us tools to become lifelong learners. I have tried to rise to that challenge and, on this All Souls’ Day, to give thanks for those giants who gave me those tools.

Laus Deo!

 

Because We Are Already One!

October 30, 2017

Since this little blog is called “That We All May Be One,” I had to share these wonderful thoughts from Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, from her book The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love.

I got this courtesy of Richard Rohr’s daily e-mail meditations which a number of you likely already receive. But, I just wanted to make sure you saw it!

Every human person desires to love and to be loved, to belong to another, because we come from another. We are born social and relational. We yearn to belong, to be part of a larger whole that includes not only friends and family but neighbors, community, trees, flowers, sun, Earth, stars. We are born of nature and are part of nature; that is, we are born into a web of life and are part of a web of life.

We cannot know what this means, however, without seeing ourselves within the story of the Big Bang universe. Human life must be traced back to the time when life was deeply one, a Singularity, whereby the intensity of mass-energy exploded into consciousness. Deep in our DNA we belong to the stars, the trees, and the galaxies.

Deep within we long for unity because, at the most fundamental level, we are already one. We belong to one another because we have the same source of love; the love that flows through the trees is the same love that flows through my being. . . . We are deeply connected in this flow of love, beginning on the level of nature where we are the closest of kin because the Earth is our mother.”

Isn’t that great?

Summarizing The Law

October 29, 2017

Jesus loved to play theological word games with Pharisees! Often this would happen as a result of the Pharisees asking Jesus a question (usually intended to trip him up, like when they asked him – in last week’s  Gospel — whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not!). But in this morning’s Gospel, Jesus actually bates them with a question!

So, he asks, “Who is this Messiah you say you’re waiting for? Whose son will he be?”

“The son of David” (of course, you simpleton!) they seem to reply.

“But how then can David in Psalm 110 say, ‘The LORD said to my Lord (the coming Messiah), Sit at my right hand…’ The writer, David, wouldn’t call one of his sons ‘Lord’, would he? That would be against all the customs of our people! Better think again on that!”

And I love the way Matthew closes this little clashing of foils: “No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” No, I guess not!

Now Jesus knew that the Messiah was to be a descendent of King David. At least that was one of the views of the coming Messiah. But he was also sick unto death of the Pharisees’ obsession with purity laws and cleanliness and having the right family tree:  Respecting people because of their lineage, not because of their being created in the image of God.

The Pharisees loved to parse the Scriptures and prove to everybody that they, and only they, knew the correct interpretation; that is, what God really intended. So Jesus shows them the truth of what many of us know today: You can prove anything you want out of Scripture, provided you pick and choose the proof texts which will buttress your own position!

Jesus wanted to show the Pharisees (and us!) that you can get so lost in dogmatic and doctrinal niceties that you lose the very simple and basic message of the Scriptures themselves. Instead of getting sucked into an argument about taxation and just who ought to pay what to whom, Jesus just says “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s!” And then he lets us decide what the implications of that might be.

And today, when they ask him (in the first part of our Gospel reading) which commandment is the greatest, he astounds them all by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment, and a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets!”

First of all, like many of the prophets before him, Jesus pretty well ignores the vast majority of the 613 laws and commandments scholars have identified in the Hebrew Bible in favor of the 10 Commandments, Decalogue, the Ten Words…. And then he even “simplifies” them into two – love God, love your neighbor. That’s a perfect “summary of the law” because the first four of the 10 Commandments have to do with loving God, and the last six have to do with loving one’s neighbor. If you love God, you’ll keep the first four; if you love your neighbor, you’ll keep the last six!

So Jesus draws from the rich tradition of the Hebrew Bible, but he does it in such a way that the few simple verses he cobbles together truly and accurately summarize what the whole Bible is trying to say! The whole history of Israel tells the story of a people struggling to love their God… and gradually realizing, over many centuries, that that also meant loving their neighbor. The first part of the Old Testament describes their up-and-down attempts to be loving and faithful to God; the later Prophets begin to challenge them to show that love by loving their neighbors (which turns out to be — all people!)

The Summary of the Law – so familiar to us Anglicans from the Prayer Book liturgy – is, of course, simple to remember; not so easy to carry out! So many things compete with our loving God and therefore putting God first in our lives these days. But, loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind means that God has to be considered, indeed put first, in everything we do.

We need to think about God in our business dealings. We need to think about God in our relationships and family life. We need to think about God in our politics! We have separation of church and state in this country, but there really is no separation between religion and politics, between our faith and how we live our public lives together. And that leads us to consider just how we might love our neighbor as ourselves.

Here we have to distinguish between what we might call “goals” and “strategies.” Christians may disagree about how to do tax reform, for example, but we should not disagree that everyone should pay their fair share for the common good. Christians may disagree about how much humankind is to blame for climate change, but we should not disagree that we should all do what we can to protect the planet, God’s good creation.

Christians may disagree about the scope of the Second Amendment to our Constitution, but surely we can agree that something must be done to curb the scourge of gun violence in our land. Christians may disagree about how to fix a broken immigration system, but we should not disagree that we are called to welcome the stranger and the sojourner and to protect refugees fleeing violence and death in the lands of their birth. We can disagree on the strategies. But not on the goals!

The goals are to love God…and our neighbors as ourselves. We can thank Jesus for “simplifying” the law and the prophets for us. But we will still spend our lifetimes learning specific ways to love our God and love our neighbor. It’s simple… but not easy. After all, it’s much easier to argue about who is “orthodox” or “politically correct” and who is not, than truly to get on with the business of loving our neighbors as ourselves!

No Hate, No Fear; Immigrants Are Welcome Here!

October 20, 2017

Yesterday afternoon I joined a couple of dozen others for a demonstration at the offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The rally was to “Free Asucena” and the details follow:

Asucena came to the United States for refuge, fleeing severe personal abuse in Guatemala. She turned herself in at the border, and the U.S. government granted her permission to enter and to seek asylum status.

She has cooperated with ICE and is pursuing her asylum case in Iowa. But, at one of her scheduled check-ins, ICE unexpectedly detained her and refused to set bond for release. What shocking and heartless treatment for an abuse survivor seeking asylum, with a clean record and cooperating with the government!

When we arrived for the demonstration (which had been requested by Asucena’s young lawyer) we were delighted to hear that, due to public outcry such as ours, ICE had changed its position and approved her release (after a terrifying night in jail) on a $5,000 bond which she was, fortunately, able to raise. I am sure that it was no easy task putting together even that amount of money from friends and supporters. But she is safely at home this morning.

We marched around the block behind banners and with chants such as the one above, positioned ourselves in front of the ICE office building where we heard an update on her case from the lawyer. Next steps are for her to await a court date (which could be as late as next August!). Can you imagine the anxiety she will experience over those many days, weeks, and months?

Several brief addresses followed. I said something like, “My name is Christopher Epting. I am the retired Bishop of Iowa and I’m here because our faith tradition is sensitive to the plight of the strangers and sojourners in the land and therefore we will always stand with immigrants and refugees such a Asucena. We are sometimes called ‘witnesses of Christ.’ We are also ‘witnesses for Christ’. We are his eyes and ears and we are watching for and with him. ICE, we are watching!”

We must hold our government, and in this case the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm, accountable to basic values of dignity and fairness. Join us as you can, wherever you are.

WHY ARE WE KILLING EACH OTHER?

October 3, 2017

That was the title of an NPR sequence this morning after the horrendous massacre in Las Vegas. It is an important question which set me thinking. Why are we?

It’s not all about racism (even though, God knows, America’s “original sin” is racism) because lots of the shooters, over the years, have been white and their targets have not necessarily been people of color. It’s not all about poverty (even though income disparity in this country has never been wider) because mass murderers are rarely at the bottom of the income ladder.

It’s not all about mental illness (even though much more could be done in this area — another casualty of our broken health care system) because there is no evidence that Americans have a higher percentage of folks under emotional and mental distress than any other nation on earth.

No, the only unique factor that I can discern leading to the incredibly high number of mass shootings and rampant gun violence in general is the easy availability of firearms and particularly those assault-style weapons only designed to be used in wartime by the military or perhaps in extreme circumstances by a Special Weapons and Tactics unit of local police departments.

Please do not jump to the tired cliche about people killing people, not guns; or the fact that if a nut wants to kill someone, he (and it is almost invariably a “he”) can just drive a vehicle at high speed onto a crowded sidewalk. As true as that is, you cannot kill 60 people with a truck. Nor am I interested in the plea not to become “political” on the day after a tragedy such as this one because our attention should be focused on the victims and their grieving families.

As I stated in yesterday’s Facebook post, “It is possible both to pray for, grieve with, and mourn the victims of the Las Vegas shooting AND, AT ONE AND THE SAME TIME, call for a complete ban on assault-style weapons except for the military and, perhaps SWAT teams on police departments. Prayer and action are not mutually exclusive and this has NOTHING to do with partisan politics unless someone chooses to make it so.”

Chief among those who “choose to make it so” are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). My wife posted today the amounts of campaign contributions the NRA has given just to Iowa politicians.

  1. Senator Chuck Grassley (R) $27,000
  2. Rep. Steven King (R) $20,403
  3. Sen. Joni Ernst (R) $9,9004
  4. Rep. David Young (R) $9,905
  5. Rep. Rod Blum (R) $8,450

Total  approximately $76,000. And you wonder why we cannot pass common sense gun control in this country? And it is not just the money. Each one of those 76,000 dollars represents a number of vote in Iowa elections, people who support the NRA and its insane p0licies. Our politicians, who desire nothing more than to be re-elected and retain their hold on power are terrified to buck these constituents.

I have spent my entire life trying to win the hearts of men and women to accept the love and grace of the God who created them and to respond to that awareness by loving their neighbors. I have obviously failed in that task as have my sisters and brothers who join me in calling themselves Christians.

Until we can get our act together and find a way to convey the good news of God’s love in such a way that people can actually hear it, can you just help me do something that would at least lessen the impact of our failure?

Get The Guns Off Our Streets, For God’s sake!