The Most Durable Power

Another treat for the anniversary of ‘I Have A Dream’. This is one of my favorite preachers, Rev. Tamara Lebak, Associate Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you only listen to one sermon today, make it Dr. King’s, but if you listen to two, make this the next one.

Harry Belafonte on Racism, Activism, Captialism, & Media

Harry Belafonte. Photo by David Shankbone. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.


Harry Belafonte once again kills it in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

Click here to read the full article

Here’s an excerpt:

THR: Has the world changed for activists like you?

Belafonte: Definitely. Back then, the enemies were very clear, very precise. It is easy to fight oppression if it comes in [the form of] a swastika and a boot, and as a dictator, and you can see it and feel it and touch it. It is easy when there is a sign that says “No N—–s“ or “No Jews.“ Where it becomes the most insidious is when it buries itself and you can no longer touch it but can taste that yet it is there, fully blown, doing insane mischief. That is why I think the period now is the most challenging I’ve ever lived in. The power in many societies has become almost absolute. Those who have the power in the free-enterprise system start to crush societies and create wars that are unholy. What we did during the Bush period, what we still continue to do, even with Barack Obama, is the continuency of not changing the paradigm, of not changing the view. We still have laws that encourage torture; we did not change Guantanamo; we have laws that allow the police to arrest you at any time, not having to tell you why, and take you wherever they want. This kind of capitalism is taking us to the doorstep of [a] Fourth Reich, I think.

And here’s another one:

THR: Can you pin down what the enemy is nowadays?

Belafonte: Unbridled capitalism. The concentration of money in the hands of a very small group is the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to civilization. We are facing an oligarchy of force. Just look at who controls the press. We all witnessed how money and power squeezed out all essense of Rupert Murdoch and [Silvio] Berlusconi. Thank God for social media, which aids transparency. But even that becomes more and more restricted now, with companies like Facebook buying up all the roots of this technology.

The Call to High Adventure

Vida Dutton Scudder. Image is in the public domain.

Vida Dutton Scudder (1861-1954) was a professor at Wellesly College, a member of the Socialist party, and a prominent activist in the Episcopal Church.  She was involved in the Social Gospel movement, the campaign for labor rights, the equality of women, and (eventually) pacifism.  She helped to organize the Women’s Trade Union League, the Episcopal Church Socialist League, and joined the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross.  Vida and her partner, Florence Converse, lived together for 35 years, from 1919 until Vida’s death in 1954.  She is celebrated in the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints: her feast day is on October 10.

Earlier today, as I was reading Diana Butler Bass’s book A People’s History of Christianity, I came across an amazing prediction of Scudder’s that Butler Bass took from Scudder’s 1912 book Socialism and Character.  In this passage, Scudder prophesies the advent of mainline church decline, which eventually started to happen in the latter half of the 20th century.  I was amazed at how closely Scudder’s views resemble my own, except that she was writing a full century before I started thinking about it.  Listen to what Scudder has to say:

One certitude is forced on us : it is unlikely that Christianity will retain so nominally exclusive a sway as it has hitherto done in western Europe. In all probability, the day of its conventional social control is passing and will soon be forgotten. The time will come when the Christian faith will have to fight for right of way among crowding antagonists as vigorously as in the times of Athanasius and Augustine.

And in thoughts like these all genuine Christians must rejoice. Without the call to high adventure, the faith has never flourished.




This is me NOT weighing in on the Chick-Fil-A thing


Those who know me already know where I stand and why.  No need to rehash that here and now.  Nor do I wish to dignify this week’s mutual posturing exercises with any sort of direct response.

If you’re reading this and, like me, you identify yourself as a Christian and you care about your religious values being known and respected in this country, I recommend that you follow in the footsteps of your Lord and Savior and do the kinds of things that Jesus did.  The folks at your local food bank, rescue mission, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter are desperate for donations and volunteers.  As Jesus told his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light shine before all people, that they might see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Help your church become known for these kinds of good works and your actions will speak volumes to the world about the sincerity of your faith and the depth of your convictions.  I guarantee that it will leave a far more lasting and fruitful testimony for Christ than standing in line for fried chicken.

If you’re reading this and, like me, you care passionately about equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, I recommend that you get involved with the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at your school or the local Parents & Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) chapter in your community.  If there aren’t any such organizations in your area, consider starting one.  By all means, vote with your dollars and don’t patronize any establishment that troubles your conscience, but don’t think that the personal opinions of CEOs will be swayed by your non-participation.  The truth is that they positively couldn’t give a rat’s posterior about your basic human dignity.  Instead, focus your efforts of political change on achievable goals with tangible results.  Donate to or volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).  Write to your elected officials and tell them that you care about marriage equality.  Campaign and vote for candidates who support equality.  Talk to your local school board about bullying.  Educate your kids.  Love your neighbor’s gay kid, especially if that kid isn’t getting much support from home.  Knowing that you’re there and available to listen will make all the difference in the world.  You might even save a life.

I firmly believe that things will get better, but before they do, we all need to do our part to make it happen.

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time,
sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime,
but nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.
Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

-Bruce Cockburn


For those who are uninformed about what Occupy Wall Street is all about, read this article first:

Taken from a Facebook discussion, here’s why I think this joke is relevant:

Let’s look at the setting: The Temple. It’s a fair bet to say that it was in the outer court of the Temple, most likely in the Court of the Gentiles, which is the only section …of the Temple where non-Jews were allowed to worship (it reminds me of the balcony in my wife’s church, where slaves were segregated out and forced to sit apart from the rest of the congregation back in the day). The money-changers came in and set up their business in that section, forcing people to exchange foreign coin for Temple shekel (because the former had images of ‘foreign gods’ on them) in order to buy animals for sacrifice. I should add that this was done for profit.

It’s no accident that Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 on his way in: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people”. This comes from a larger section of Isaiah where the prophet describes how non-Jews will be welcomed as part of God’s people. God’s wants to be known as the one who “gathers the outcasts”. Going back to Isaiah 2:1-5, God’s ultimate goal is to make Jerusalem into a multi-cultural center for education in agriculture, nonviolence, and spiritual enlightenment.

Jesus knew all of this and was angry that the powers-that-be had taken the one small place that non-Jews had in the Temple (the one place that could fulfill the divine vision), and had taken it away from them in order to keep their profit-making machinery going. Jesus intended to give it back.

So, without the approval of the authorities, he set up an unlawful occupation of the Temple courts. Every day for that last week of his life, Jesus and his followers gathered in that section to teach and learn. He was fulfilling Isaiah’s vision to make Jerusalem a multi-cultural center for education in agriculture, nonviolence, and spiritual enlightenment. The powers-that-be questioned his authority and tried to shut it down, but were unsuccessful. In the end, the text tells us that this was the point where they started the conspiracy to have Jesus killed. He was too much of a threat to their power.

Occupy Wall Street isn’t a perfect reflection of this action. I’m not arguing that it’s particularly Christian in nature. However, it’s appropriate to note the similarities between the two: A powerful populist movement of marginalized people (i.e. “freaks and geeks”) sets up an illegal occupation of a symbolic power-center in protest against profiteering schemes that rob people of their God-given rights.

To the extent that this works, the authorities lash back with violence and death (hence the crucifixion). Or, as Gandhi put it: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”