dimanche, avril 09, 2017

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

After a warmer than normal February and a March that featured the only substantial snow of the winter, we have been gradually working our way towards spring in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Today held the promise of temperatures in the upper sixties, abundant sun, and a plethora of daffodils, grape hyacinths, and trees bold enough to show more than a little bud at last.

Of course, it was also Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week of the Christian year, marked by Christians all over the world.  This year, as a friend told me last night,  Orthodox Christians marked Lent and will celebrate Easter at the same time.

Palm Sunday, the commemoration of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, should have been marked with palms, chants, and triumphant songs.

But we learned, as we awoke and got ready to make the drive to church, that in Egypt, for Coptic Christians, it will be remembered today for violence, sudden death, and desecration that had all the hallmarks of the terror group Isis (they later took responsibility for perpetrating the two bombings).

Isis has a particular hatred for Christians. Strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had told Christians in Egypt that he would protect them.  As in Syria, where many Christians have allied themselves with Assad for roughly the same reasons, such promises turned out to be no bulwark against a remorseless enemy whose agents are willing to blow themselves up to cause maximum destruction.

This week also featured a hideous attack, likely by Assad, on his own people, first with banned chemical weapons, then with barrel bombs.  While the victims were probably not Christians, they are, men, women, and children, just as dead.

As we gathered outside the sanctuary of our peaceful church,  children stood next to their parents, friends near friends, couples singing cheerfully in the warmth of the late morning sunshine.  The spectre of violence that haunts so many communities that morning was not generally within the realm of our experience.

But as our rector reminded us in his sermon, safely tucked into our pews once inside, suffering is at the heart of the Christian message. There is no way but through it.

Yet it seems, often, that though we may experience great pain as individuals, the suffering of Christians in America is an echo of the horrors visited upon other nations.

In a larger sense, we are all part of the same community - to forget the Coptic Christians of Egypt in the ruins of their churches and the glassy-eyed children of Syria would be to betray the message of l0ve and empathy that is at the heart of the Gospel.

Of course, betrayal is also part of the journey of Holy Week. I hope that we do not forget, when we arrive at Easter morning, that our joy is only authentic if it includes a tireless determination to work to ease the suffering of those who cannot, and will not, rejoice next Sunday.  This battle is so fierce - today we heard, if we were listening, the echoes of the warring arms of the night, with morning just a promise away.

samedi, novembre 05, 2016

Why did the Republicans try to court Amish voters?


mercredi, octobre 05, 2016

The Amish legacy of forgiveness endures ten years after Nickel Mines: Philadelphia Inquirer


samedi, octobre 01, 2016

Ten years after the Nickel Mines shootings, the work of forgiveness continues


lundi, juillet 25, 2016

A journalist reflects on why sex abuse by clergy continues to haunt Pennsylvania - and its churches.


mercredi, juillet 20, 2016

PA State Representative Mark Rozzi's "je t'accuse" ecclestiastical Philadelphia moment


vendredi, juillet 08, 2016

Do our polarized views on race and violence represent an America being torn apart?

Two African American men shot and killed at the hands of police in cold blood on the streets of Baton Rouge and St. Paul.

Five police officers murdered by snipers near the end of a peaceful protest route in Dallas.  Dallas, a city in which the police have worked successfully to bring down the arrest rate and number of officer-involved shootings.

Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.  Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.  Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md.  The Justice Department, which investigated the Martin and Brown cases, couldn't prosecute (and it's looking unlikely that any police officer will be convicted in Gray's death), because to do so would mean proving intent.

But we, the American people, who generally aren't judges or jury members - we don't really need to prove intent, a tremendously high bar.

The problem we're having isn't really isn't solely about bad cops, though there certainly are rogue policemen.

To be clear - it's  not an excuse for the horrific killings of black men to say that unless they have accompanied officers on patrol, most Americans probably don't have much idea of the pressures under which many policemen and women actually work.

Maybe it would help for some of us to learn more.  It's possible that some of the aberrant behavior we have seen is a result not only of bias but of lack of training, overexposure to violence, or a culture of toxic masculinity. It may be no coincidence that one of the gunmen was an Army reservist who served in Afghanistan.

But at least in part, there's a larger problem - it's us.

A long time arriving here, many of us have stubbornly refused to see the toll institutional racism and militarization is taking on the daily lives, not only of minorities, but of what we claim to value most about our culture: mutual respect, compassion, civility, the humane decency that should inform our democracy.

Centuries of racism aren't erased with a war over slavery, Congressional legislation like the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, or even proactive policing policies (though those offer some real hope of success in reducing the carnage).

When I watched those videos (once was enough), and read the articles, the first question that sprang to mind was: why were those officers so afraid? Is fear of blackness that engrained in some of us that our first response is to shoot?

That black men are killed at a higher incidence than anyone else (except a smaller population of Native Americans) isn't up for debate. The question is why.

Given your political leanings, it's way too easy to fall into these traps.  I'm sure you can name many more.

If police are generally good, the protesters must be bad. If the protesters have justice on their side, there must be no good police.  

Men and women of goodwill can respect the authority and good intentions of most officers of the law while expecting them to treat African-American men like human beings - at a minimum.

These tragic incidents are all about white rage. No wait, they are all about black rage. 

Let's not confuse the Black Lives Matter movement with a sniper atop a building shooting white officers.  Conversely it's not helpful to  imagine that every white person is filled with racial hatred.

White Americans have no right to prescribe a fix for racism.  White Americans are solely responsible for fixing it. 

First and foremost, privileged white men and women have got to find a way to sit still and listen to the pain of our black sisters and brothers.  But it's also true that there is no way our culture can heal without white participation, given the power we wield in more or less measure.

This crisis is all about racial justice. Or about police misconduct. Or America's toxic gun culture. 

Wise voices among us, like Congressman John Lewis, are calling us out on all three counts.

In embracing anyone of these perspectives, with polarization as our default setting, we have abandoned not only reason but responsibility for the fate of this country many of us claim to love. It's broken.

If we  don't take a hard look at our own assumptions, the favored narratives that inform our perspectives, there's really no hope of substantive change.

Do we really want to be a society that slaughters or incarcerates its African-American young men or has lost faith in the rule of law? Is the bloodstained, angry, fearful America we saw this week the best that we can do?

There have been few times in recent history when the questions seemed so pressing - and the need to find constructive and hopeful answers so great.  Are you scared enough yet?

I am.