Invocation for the LA County Board of Supervisors

May 16, 2017

Thank you for the honor of addressing you this morning. My name is Rev. Hannah Petrie and I serve The Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City. Our church has been a hub for 12-step meetings for over 50 years – we rent out space at low cost for over 40 meetings a week. We advocate to end needless gun violence. We host a “Laugh Out Proud” LGBTQ comedy night each month. We UUs embody justice and compassion in our families and wider communities. Part of my church’s covenant says, “service is our prayer.”

We believe you have to work hard toward right relationship, which makes it holy work. That’s what your work is, too, Honorable County Supervisors.

You are the role models and advocates of right relationship, stewards of all who dwell in this vast and vibrant region of America. A region that is as flagship and influential as you dare make it. Never doubt the seismic impact of your power on our nation’s course, and inevitably, our history.

So take a moment to settle into your soulful and sacred space, whatever that means for you. Close your eyes if you like, breathe deeply, and let yourself take pride in your holy work,

When there are impossible decisions to make and you must make them,

When you choose to lead by protecting the least among us,

(the undocumented, the elderly and disabled, the homeless),

When you lead with generosity and boldness, in service of the truth,

It is holy work.

I have a more specific message to deliver, from Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, or POP!, where I serve on the Executive Board, and where we advocate successfully for some of the strongest sanctuary city policies in the nation. Our full-time organizer is a Dreamer and an attorney.

First, thank you for your bold action taken for the Legal Defense Fund. POP applauds all who voted in favor. But second, please don’t carve out loopholes in the Legal Defense Fund. This is no time for Swiss cheese policy, when so many immigrants across our embarrassed nation are targets of exclusion, cast out with nothing, the tactic of a tyrant who deals only in absolutes.

A bungling Sith the likes of which no world has ever known.

Let California respond with our own style of absolutes: unity, leadership, common sense, compassion.  An historical grasp that we are a young nation of immigrants.

May your work today be holy work, for everyday is a chance at salvation, in that refuge of conscience, integrity, and vision.

Blessings of foresightedness upon you, and AMEN.

Then I got my picture taken with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who was hilarious moments before when she explained that after my invocation, we would turn and salute the flag.  “But I don’t salute myself,” she said.  “I just stare at the flag and ask, what the hell happened to my country?”  She puts her hand on her heart, as do I, to recite the pledge.

Just another morning in my clergy hustle, this holy racket I humbly serve.

PS.  Okay, I didn’t actually utter, A bungling Sith the likes of which no world has ever known.  But I bet if I had, the Honorable Sheila Kuehl would have chortled.  I opted for civility, that dwindling precious resource.

 

“Love Letters to God”

Or, A Mind-Blowing Week of Midwest Academy Organizing Training for A Community of Hope!

“Father West… Father North… Father East… Father South

Grandfather, I’m calling on you, need your guidance now”

Nahko and Medicine for the People sing on their seminal, 2016 album HOKA, a reference to his Native American background. The word comes from the language of the Lakota tribe and signifies a call to action. The Puerto Rican, Apache, and Filipino leader of this favorite new band, Nahko Bear, is greatly influenced by his mixed heritage.

HOKA!  No other album has inspired me as much to keep fighting the good fight for social justice. It’s why it kicks off one of the best music curations I’ve ever made (new word, curation: I, as curator, juxtapose a list of songs that in my case only fit on an 80 minute CD as MP3s sound like tin. Yes I know many only stream now, hence this blog’s cornucopia of links).

I’ve been making curations of newly released tracks obsessively, compulsively, since the dawn of the millennium. It’s when I went to seminary in 2000. I discovered Amoeba in Berkeley and CDs. I went apeshit. I ended up spending a chunk of my grad school student loans (how dumb is that) on CDs I still have in a monstrous CD collection I currently have nowhere to put. But it is one hell of an I-as-curator collection! Come the cyber apocalypse, I’ll be the one with tunes.  FYI.

So yes, like hundreds of us managing life without basements in California, I am in need of a mancave. For my posters, too. One of them is River Phoenix circa 1985. (Keanu Reeves is on the other side but I’d show River. My mancave. My rules).

The display and access issue is beside the point. I am obsessed with music. It’s a combination spiritual practice/sanity saver/obsessive hobby. Got one of those?

To make me even weirder, yes, I think it’s a terrible idea to pay nothing for music. I make my living off intellectual property and it’s the same thing. It’s why some great bands over the years just don’t make it and have to quit. It’s why even when they DO make it, they don’t make it, because life is endless touring to make ends meet. Think of how much Mark Twain hated the end of his career, forced to tour his speeches around the world to pay the bills. No matter how legendary you are, the life of a successful act is a life on the road, which is tough.

It wouldn’t be that way if we compensated artists properly for their services.

But back to my magnum opus, titled “A Community of Hope,” recently completed. Since having children in 2009, I haven’t been able to press a complete set of Best-of curations each and every year. I had to do a single run of 2012 – 2014, for example, resulting in a 16 CD set, which I may or may not have narrowed down to a dozen. Each year individually yields anywhere from 2 – 6 CDs.

Hot off the press is Best of 2015 -2016, yielding five, the best one “A Community of Hope” which I dedicate to my most excellent Midwest Academy Class of March, 2017!

This training blew my mind. Community organizers, professional and volunteer, came from all over the country to Sierra Madre, CA for five days of full-time, intensive instruction. We learned that progressive organizing is all about leveraging power over decision-makers, or targets. It’s as sophisticated as any political strategizing because that’s exactly what it is. We learned the intricacies and subtleties of choosing campaigns, allies, and tactics. How to make a dossier of your target, how to find weaknesses. How to not waste energy on pageantry and how to win.

I met staff from the headquarters of the NAACP, tenants’ and labor unions, environmental agencies, neighborhood groups, efforts to reform the criminal justice system, immigrant rights, and more. I was there with POP! Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, which has just won its first major victory in a matter of weeks since our full-time organizer Lizbeth Mateo came aboard March 1.

I dedicate my curation “A Community of Hope” to my fellow Midwest Acad alums because it speaks of the injustices of our day: poverty, incarceration, deportation, racial profiling, earthicide, and yet, also manages to totally rock and celebrate the beautiful diversity of our country and our world.

The second song after the first track “Directions” is the one for which the mix is named The Community of Hope by PJ Harvey. It’s a song about a poor community on South Capitol Hill. It’s dark and hopeful at the same time, much like the times in which we live. I see us activists as being part of a community of hope, along with those who suffer injustice directly. We are growing powerful together, united in our solidarity.

The third track is We the People by A Tribe Called Quest. The refrain says it all, “All you black folks, you must go . . . all you Mexicans, you must go . . . all your poor folks you must go . . . Muslims, and gays, boy we hate your ways . . . So all you bad folks, you must go!” Summing up nicely the platform for a politics of fear.

I won’t go into all the Yoko Ono (Track 4: Approximately Infinite Universe) that sprinkles this curation, except to say that, as Octogenarian Oracle-in-Chief, Yoko’s groovy collaborations are a creative interpretation of the art of winning at progressive social justice campaigns!  Plus she’s always been an activist.

M.I.A. (who, at the moment, I believe is banned from our country for her terroristy ways) makes her debut with Visa on Track 5. “At the border, I see the patroller, cruising past in their car. Creeping in my socks and slipper, Mexicans say ola?  Hiding in my Toyota Corolla . . .”

Track 6 is Blood Orange’s “By Ourselves” featuring poet Ashlee Haze who says, “If you ask me about representation . . . I will tell you, that right now there are a million black girls just waiting to see someone who looks like them.”

And now, with Track 7, brought to you by your Rev. Hustler, it’s time for all of us to have a good cry, because that is part of this work, whether we like to acknowledge that or not.  At least, I just now had one, as I watched this video of Nahko Bear’s second appearance on “A Community of Hope.” I haven’t watched an actual music video in about 30 years, and this one slays me because it summarizes the Standing Rock resistance movement with one of the most beautiful songs for our times, Love Letters to God. The searing lyrics will replay in your head during those moments of gathering courage, or when we fight to not lose hope.

“Love letters to God – I wonder if she reads them, or if they get lost in the stars . . . so many parts to a heavy heart, if there’s no beginning, then where would you start?”

If there’s any song I want you to pay attention to, it’s this one, so I’ll end this meandering blog here. Below is the rest of the mix, with asterisks for notable tracks. I hope you enjoy my curation, meant to soothe and groove you, and keep pumping that fist in the air.

In farewell to my righteous guardians of justice, don’t forget to feed your soul, so your mind, body and heart can keep doing this work. Listen to music, or whatever inspires you to keep writing those love letters to God, we the authors of this Community of Hope.

Hustlin’ in all ways and always, HOKA!

Rev. Hannah

8) Medicinals – PJ Harvey

9) I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie

10) Move on Fast – Yoko Ono

11) Hands Up – Blood Orange*

12) The Space Program – A Tribe Called Quest*

13) Talk – M.I.A.*

14) We Shall Overcome – Nahko and Medicine for the People*

15) Catman – Yoko Ono

16) Dis Generation – A Tribe Called Quest

17) Bird Song – M.I.A.

18) She Gets Down On Her Knees – Yoko Ono

19) The Wheel – PJ Harvey

20) Thank You – Blood Orange

Newspeak and Truthspeak

A disclaimer: this blog smacks of elitism. I just want to note that I have self-awareness about this. If it’s elitist to take a stand for the truth, to speak truth to power, to “truthspeak,” then so be it.

Not everything in “1984” translates directly to the current predicament we find ourselves in, this new age of fake news and foreign campaigns to alter US elections.  1984 says that dystopia is communist, or at least anti-capitalist. At any rate it is totalitarian to its most imagined extent, when not only words become obsolete, but also the thinking with which those words is done. It’s reminiscent of “The Matrix,” with its phrase early in 1984, “Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” Not only shall the masses be unconscious, later in the Matrix, they shall also be harnessed for electricity.

This blog is not meant to be alarmist. Dystopia has been employed in literature and film for ages, as a device to wake people up from their complacency. It warns and it prods, “if you don’t protect that which you currently take for granted, here’s what can happen.” As your hustler of justice, it’s my job to lift you out of complacency – not only to protect democratic principles that we hold sacred – but also to inspire us to live lives of integrity and civic participation. Participation in service to something larger than ourselves is a path to worldly salvation.

I invite us to be of active service to democratic ideals we have taken for granted perhaps all our lives. Ideals such as the sanctity of an independent press, such as standards of communication that allow the public to think and act with reason, are suddenly threatened as we become conscious to the extent and pervasiveness of the problem.

In some ways the problem is nothing new. Our consciousness now, as it did back in Roman times, has to contend with bread and circuses. How seduced shall we allow our brain power to be? Shall we only think for work and then after work, sitting in front of the screen? Or shall we use our brain for more than just this – such as activism and reading literature and reputable analysis that helps us understand the world we live in and its current challenges?

There’s a new book out that I might like to read called, “The Age of Anger: a History of the Present” by Pankoj Mishra. He argues that the fury of the populist wave we see here in the states and the UK is similar to the fury of disaffected Muslims who pledge themselves to ISIS. Its root is emotional, a mixture of envy, bewilderment, and disappointment about not fitting into the modern economy or culture. Being told to achieve what is  not achievable has resulted in rage and humiliation.

Trump spoke to this anger so well that he got elected. If populism could take power in the US and Britain, it could also take power in more of Europe. America is currently the standard-bearer of Western values, where we (purportedly) stand for freedom, equality, and human rights. Purportedly or not, to unequivocally erode these values in America sets a horrible example for the rest of the world. There may be more leaders like Trump about to take power in places like France, the Netherlands, and Austria.

Liberals may be in Shitsville right now, but we have a solid history of reminding American power that civil liberties and human rights deserve better protection, as a matter of strengthening and protecting democracy. We have a history of including people whom society often marginalized, although apparently not the such latest voting block.

We need to do serious soul searching, correcting, and ultimately, convince the marginalized again that we for realsie stand for justice, equality, the truth, and transparency in our democratic institutions.

That, as We the People, we demand facts so we can make informed decisions about how and by whom we are governed.

We’ve forgotten about the “proles” – the proletariats – those who have never benefitted from Enlightenment values because no one put much thought into their education. These are not bad folks – they live for work, play, and family, good ol’ American values. We all value these things, but the difference between them and us is that whereas we employ critical thinking as we go about our lives, they do not. They do not know what critical thinking is or care. And yet the refrain in 1984 is classic – “If there’s any hope, it’s in the proles.”

In fact, there is far more than critical thinking they have rejected. I was fortunate to have a 3rd row seat at the speaking appearance of William Barber at Occidental College a month ago. Barber is the architect of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. Every Monday there is civil disobedience at the Capitol building, in protest of weakened voting rights and funding cuts of social programs.

The point of Barber’s talk was to speak of redemption after rejection, that “prophetic preaching lifts hope out of despair and then becomes subversive.”

He said that the election of President Trump signifies 4 or 5 things our electoral collage has rejected:

  • The quality of statesmanship in personal manner of our elected leaders (think reserve and grace ala President Obama)
  • Real answers and issues in favor of lies and deception. He said there are great swaths of our society who would rather be lied to than told the truth. Instead of calling them alternative facts he said we should call them alternative lies
  • Half the electorate rejected participation altogether in our democracy and stayed home on election day, about 95 million people
  • The rejection of authentic faith for an inauthentic faith that trods on the poor, his point being that no authentic religious faith trods on the poor
  • And finally, there is the on-going rejection since the birth of this nation to reckon with systemic racism.

As Barber pointed out, the only thing that could make so many people believe the lies of candidate Trump is racism – wanting that badly to believe that, despite voting against their better interests, whites are better than blacks or browns or any personage of color.

Egos so battered and bruised, they would rather give up life-saving benefits, such as affordable health-care, than acknowledge they have more in common with poor people of color than their more urban and well-educated white counterparts. Barber reminded us that 2/3 of the people who voted for Trump need the healthcare they are currently dismantling.

In such a mindset, the white proles of today believe anything. They ate up the Russian propaganda infiltration like hungry children, every story that affirmed what they already suspected: that the elite don’t care about their fate, never did and never will. The Russians saw our urban and rural divide clearly and leveraged it to propel Trump into power.

Which leads us to newspeak, or fake news. Actual fake news, that is, not mainstream reporting called fake news by our president.

We don’t need to be a superhero to whistle-blow – we can kindly point out to our friends, family, and neighbors when something is real and when it is not. It appears that upholding the standards for reporting and the free press has never become more important. We must defend education and critical thinking, we must keep the English vocabulary more vibrant and dynamic, lest it lose its power and we may not be able to think critically.

So, as part of our moral, whistle-blowing duty, we must retain and encourage critical thinking within our own circles, in our personal Echo Chamber. We can ask our friends on social media to check their source when they post something they think it real news but turns out not to be.

Also, we also have a moral duty to meet people at where they are, and consider the disadvantages of the poorly educated. It’s not fair that public education in a suburban setting should so outshine public education in a rural or inner-city setting, or in a state that has reactionary values.

Liberals have always been great proponents of education, and one hands-on thing we could do is help tutor the children in our community who don’t enjoy the advantages with which we may have grown up. We can teach these critical thinking skills to young people and adults who otherwise might not learn them. There are literacy agencies where we might volunteer – fully 15% of adults living in the states are illiterate, and that includes many right here in So-Cal.

While the story in 1984 is so extreme and horrible, there are echoes of the familiar there, echoes that chill.

Manipulating and shredding the English language into “Newspeak” is one thing, and we recognize that in the general dumbing down of American culture. But what rang even truer was the rampant apathy, or the inability for people to remember current events, to the point that it became impossible for people to think critically, and therefore impossible to care, without the tools we today so take for granted.

For example, I texted my dear friend Chris recently, “Is it just me, or are we on the brink of civil war?” And he replied, “You assume enough people give a shit.”

I had to text back, “I see your point.”

I’ve talked to so many friends and family who have shut down since the election. They say they don’t know what to listen to, and so they’re just not listening to anything. While I sympathize, I want to shake these people and say, “Don’t you see? They don’t want you to care! It’s not enough people caring that got us into this mess in the first place!”

So while I don’t recommend being alarmist, as that seems to shut people down, it’s good to make suggestions in a non-anxious manner.   Such as talk about what you do believe in – truth-telling and transparency in our government – not some shadow, new-world order. As liberals, we are truth-tellers, we believe in Truthspeak. Point them in the direction of articles, news programs, and events you’ve vetted.

It’s not that such vetting guarantees our claim on the truth. This is a very important point, because we know there are times when we get the truth wrong. And, because we know no one group has a claim on the only truth, therefore no one entity gets to solely define the truth. This is a bedrock liberal value. We recognize humanity is flawed and that, in order to arrive at the truth, it’s often necessary to explore something from a variety of angles and positions. Our understanding of reality and the truth has evolved with humanity’s evolution. We must concede that much of knowledge cannot become a static thing.

So even when it seems like a good idea – say, for example, what is being considered in Europe, literally a Ministry of Truth, whose mission it would be to identify and illegalize fake news. There was an interesting dialogue about this on Warren Olney’s NPR’s show, To the Point.   A Danish journalist – the same one who caused controversy several years ago, publishing cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed – is speaking out against such an institution. He makes a good point about freedom of speech. If we take a hard line against fake news, against what may be interpreted as hate speech, then we run the risk of being no better than Big Brother in 1984. We cannot have any absolute claim on the truth or reality, or any descriptions of such thereof.

A free society allows for freedom of speech, period. No, you can’t cry out fire in a crowded movie theater, but that’s different. I’m talking about allowing free speech because to suppress free speech is a slippery slope we don’t want to tread.

This is a matter of giving hate speech and fake news enough rope to hang itself. Like Americans getting to see what fascism actually can look like and rejecting it, fake news will also lose its traction because it will be rejected. But we do need to be leaders in rejecting it, and take it upon ourselves to show others why and how to do the same.

If it’s a rejection of sacred democratic values that got President Trump elected, then it will be a larger rejection of totalitarian values of intolerance that eventually will kick out leaders like him.

Remember, there are more of us than there are of them. That’s why they’re so mad. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t still need to meet their needs like any American’s – to find solutions in an increasingly automated world, to find a way all people can have dignity, and enjoy the things most all of us Americans love.

It reminds me of the chorus of a Zac Brown song, a mainstream country artist who wrote “Chicken Fried” – a song for our modern proles perhaps, but I don’t buy that. Unless you’re vegetarian, everybody likes these sorts of things:

A little bit o’ chicken fried
Cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio up
I like to see a sunrise
See the love in my woman’s eyes
Feel the touch of a precious child
And know a mother’s love

 Zac Brown notes that it’s the little things in life that mean the most – and yet a lot of people no longer can afford those little things, the jeans that fit just right, the beer, a meat dinner. As part of our truth-speaking, we have to acknowledge that, and the disappointment and frustration of our huddled masses, who don’t know the details of a successful American life, even if it’s just fried chicken we’re talking about. 1 in 6 people in America faces hunger.

What have we taken for granted as part of our charmed existence? Whom of our fellow Americans have not had it so well because they were not born white or middle class or urbanite?

How do we reach them? We might go to them.

My folks have a house in rural Wisconsin – I fantasize about being able to rub elbows with neighbors there, talk about what I care about and what they care about, what they’re concerned about, and vise versa.

How else will urban and rural folks ever talk again face-to-face?

We have to try new things, or our Enlightenment values may slowly shred to incoherence, distrust, misunderstanding, then extremism . . .

First, in such a conversation, we might find what bread and circuses we have in common – what TV do we both like to watch? Could a common love of Game of Thrones reunite America? Could a common desire for good education, decent jobs unite us? Could wanting our families to be safe from violence unite us?

The point is our liberal values speak of this commonality, and affirm its existence. As human beings, we have more in common than we don’t have in common, no matter where we are from, how we grew up, or where we now live.

For the media’s part, it would be helpful if they reported on the array of bi-partisan issues that have broad support, rather than the wedge issues. For example, broad-based support issues include home financing reform, early childhood education, electric cars, and financial aid reform for education.

We have to build unlikely friendships, and maintain those friendships.

And, watch less television in general. Listen to or read your news more than see your news. Read more books, devour stories in print rather than passively view them on TV. Why? Our critical thinking skills are more attuned when we listen or read.

Mr. Trump can decry the free press as much as he likes, call real news fake news and the like – it’s his free speech right to do so. Indeed, it’s deeply unfortunate that he also happens to be our president. But this is the democracy we have earned somehow. How can we turn crisis into opportunity, and articulate more clearly than ever before the sacred tenets of a vibrant democracy?

Remember, America has always been an experiment – it’s an ongoing experiment. Perhaps never has it been in sharper relief the need to reckon with our racist beginnings and present manifestations. I’ve heard it said by Barber and other truthspeakers – racism may destroy this country. As we expel brown people who carry our economy on their backs; as we refuse entry to Muslims who bring advanced skills we face a shortage of; as we have turned incarceration into a rural-town, supporting industry. When and how will it cease?

There’s no doubt that we are threatened by Newspeak, today’s fake news. It’s not just coming from Russia, but any quarter that unscrupulously wants to earn a buck and can write a fake news story.

In the face of this threat that has already had enormous consequences, our task is to, first, not panic. Second, think of the ways we can counter the fake news trend that work well for us individually, as we bolster education and critical thinking. My suggestion is that you do something that simultaneously feeds your soul AND works to protect democracy.

Thankfully, we are on this road together, as we take a stand for truth, for free speech, a free press, and this imperfect democracy that some of us may only truly be seeing in all its imperfection, for the first time.

May each of us carry with us a thirst for justice, that can be slaked each time we hustle for a difference in our families, our communities, and in our world.

Hustle on!

– Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ the Hope Petrie

A Day Without Women

I don’t have red, but I will wear burgundy tomorrow, says the white middle class lady who is choosing to work rather than protest tomorrow. I was told to wear red if we couldn’t walk off the job.

If I walked off the job tomorrow, my husband would have to take the kids to school by 7:45 since he has to report to his job by 8.  But we have no childcare there at 7:45.  We do at 8:00.  For one of them.  Hmm.  I’m sure my 7 year old boy could find something to do until 9:10.  Maybe I don’t need to get up tomorrow.

If I walked off the job tomorrow, the admin at my church job would kill me, who’s also a woman.  She was like, no way am I taking tomorrow off.  We have too much to do, fund-raising messaging to craft, pledge cards to print, it’s that time of year.  Time to hustle.  Time to avail myself to donors so they can see that funding voluntary organizations that hold democratic values and traditions in high regard is a good bet.  It may not just be a bet.  It may be our best shot at saving America.

Liberal religious institutions are hardly the only ones who have the power to save – we are probably third in line in importance after civic and labor organizations, like the League of Women Voters or the ACLU.  NDLON.

And once upon a time, there were those quaint ones, remember?  Optimist, the American Legion, something about moose, and the Junior League are what come to mind.  Not to say that they’re gone and wasted (as I used to call the old before I got old) – I’m a Soroptimist myself and I know we still do amazing work in the community.  So does the Rotary Club.  But for good work to continue we need new generations of bodies, and hardly any of my co-horts belong to clubs. I don’t know why.  Clubs are awesome.  Every now and then you get to party.  Once all the good work is done, of course.  You don’t think this hustler needs a drink every now and then?

The point is – I’m sorry I can’t report to the Day Without Women tomorrow.  It’s supposed to be lovely weather here in LA!  Instead, I’ll be trying to be a good minister, so we can have an awesome church, so the church can do good work in the world.  The other point is – we should all support and participate in voluntary, community organizations that are offering a grassroots opportunity to change our collective circumstances, alter American history.  You never know when you might be doing that – because it’s small groups of people (that get larger and larger) that alter history.

I’m super excited about POP!  Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, one such burgeoning community org.  We have our first big event coming up March 18.  Don’t miss it – it’s a fantastically organized event that will plug your action into the deportation crisis so we the people can stop it. Here’s the flyer:

POP Flyer Support Immigrant Neighbors(1)

You can see there are opportunities in several ways to participate.  Also check out our new web site.

To the women who are walking off the job tomorrow, you have more ovaries than I do.  I know people are poking fun, saying this is a Day Without Women for the elites, who have more free time.  But there may be an intrepid few who are more desperate to change the system than any white woman could ever understand, so much that they want to make a point to their boss. To them, I say, you go girl.  You go woman.  Do it and then make sure your story gets heard.

There are people trying to listen, and a rally is a place people can learn.  BTW, the men are free to walk off the job, too, (but only tomorrow plz).

Do the hustle!

Rev. Hustlin’ the Hope Petrie

 

 

Native American Thought-Ways for a Land in Flames

It’s not just teepees that burned down for the last showdown this week between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Standing Rock movement to divert the Dakota Access oil pipeline. It was the hope for a real victory, for once, for the native people of our country that was reduced to frozen ashes.

It’s been decades since the Indian movement unified in this manner, with many of their immigrant brothers and sisters (the non-natives) joining the struggle. To see the Water Protectors ignite their teepees so their oppressors couldn’t touch them, was a powerful act of resistance that we may marvel at and soon forget. But we should not forget. We should consider how we might transform our worldview and our influence on the world – by studying the main tenets of the Native American worldview that so many First Nations hold in common in North America.

You may find that these Native American thought-ways will move you – they have moved me. I frame it this way to be sure to convey my humility – as a white person, I wish to take care in how I speak for Native Americans. It is not my tradition, it is their tradition, and all I can own of it is my own experience. The term “thought-way” refers to how you think influences how you live.

Crazy Horse, great warrior of the Oglala Lakota, my favorite hero of all time, of any nation, said:

The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.

 I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.

 In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.

 I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.

Crazy Horse’s thought-way of a leadership of humility has moved me greatly, and influences my leadership style. The best leaders are humble leaders who don’t mind who gets the credit. He says here, the young white ones will ask for the wisdom of the native people. To ask for anything, let alone sacred wisdom, takes humility. As you know, our country is now led by a man who emulates humility only when it serves him. And so he, like so many Americans (white or not) is one of “the young ones.” What Crazy Horse meant by “young” is that Native Americans have always looked at our spirituality and grasp of true wisdom as one that is immature and undeveloped.

I see that as an interesting challenge for us, for we long for a spirituality that is not superficial, but mature and wise. I have always been attracted to Native American thought-ways because I trust them. I trust any spirituality that seeks to be in harmony with the earth – a thought-way that we desperately need to bring to the mainstream at this juncture. For we wish to bring about that day Crazy Horse speaks of when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life.

One of the most moving Native American thought-ways of all to me and I will home in on here is that, in the original languages, they have no word for “evil.” There are only those actions which sustain life or destroy life. Thus you cannot destroy evil with evil, only banish those whose behaviors are corrupting the whole.

While we don’t have the power to banish our country’s leaders whom we fear are leading us down a path of harmful actions (at least – not yet), we do very much have power of another kind: we have free will over the state of our minds and the state of our spirituality. As we wade more deeply into a time of uncertainty and intolerance, we find that we can’t live our lives angry or fearful all the time – we discover that doing so is only to do violence to ourselves.

It’s not unlike the predicament of wishing ill on someone who has harmed us. No matter how many revenge fantasies we might spin in our minds, the world goes on spinning, and we’ve only wasted emotional, mental time and energy. We discover, with chagrin, that the person is still harming us because we are allowing the dynamic to continue.

And so whether it’s existing under a leader who is remote to us, or existing with an enemy that is nearer to us, at some point we have to wake up to the damage such emotions can inflict on us, and choose a different thought-way that creates a different way to live.

This isn’t about forgiveness, though restorative justice is another Native American thought-way. It’s about a vastly different world-view from our Western one, which was quick to embrace a dichotomous world. A world where Eve was bad because she listened to the evil snake who told her to eat from the Tree of Life, and Adam was good because he did not. The Bible depicts much retribution on the part of God, much vengeance – even of the petty variety.

No, the worldview of Native Americans doesn’t begin with a story about a lost Garden of Eden, or a paradigm of human dominance over nature. It begins with a vast web of life that includes all creatures, big and small. It is a resilient web in some ways – despite the damage that has been done over the centuries since Cortez and Columbus arrived in the so-called New World, and especially since the Industrial Revolution, nevertheless, our natural world persists in caring for us – at least, we the lucky ones, who have enough to eat. People like us live in a time of plenty that, down the road, will be looked back upon with regret that so much went wasted.

In other ways the web is fragile. The oceans can only take so much pollution and temperature rise before they will be unable to sustain the life they have for millions of years. It’s one reason why some people – often women – believe the Earth is female – the Earth started as one big ocean, or one gigantic womb of amniotic fluid. If you’ve seen the wonderful children’s movie Moana, it was a man who raised the islands from the sea (for obvious reasons), the demi-God Maui, who is, like, totally hot by the way, even as a cartoon. But I digress.

Our soils that grow food can only take so much acidity before they can’t grow food anymore. Our fresh waterways can only take so much, and so on. The great web is also fragile.

The web of life also includes our international relations and societal systems of governance. A healthy democracy is like a fragile web of life – it can only take so much corrosion before authoritarianism and a volatile nationalism sets in like a ravenous mold.

And so, we first have to take stock of the fact that the web is wounded. Our Mother Earth does Her best to sustain life, but she is wounded. Our democracy still functions, though, only for some. From the beginning it failed Native Americans, to say the least, and it has disenfranchised thousands of Black Americans in every election. Our democracy is a web not spun well.

But we are deprived of web-healing language. As good as it felt to me to identify our new President as a fascist last month, this does little, if much of anything, to heal the web. Identifying a problem is important, but then we need to move on.

Our spirituality is very much at stake here, for the spiritually enlightened person knows that she can’t fight hate with hate. She or he has to make choices. We can’t fight vitriol with vitriol, and if evil is not a thing, if only actions that sustain or destroy life are things, then that is exactly what we must go for – those actions that heal the wounded web.

We are faced with such choices everyday, and it gets to the heart of why we call ourselves liberals, for we are primarily concerned with what it means to live well, to live a life that is loving, a life that gives more than it harms.

As spiritual beings, the most challenging thing is to live a loving life – especially in a worldview that values competition and personal achievement. Especially in a capitalistic system that creates a lot of stress. The people who get ahead are often ruthless and sacrifice relationships for status. We have a saying for it, “nice guys finish last.” And so being mean isn’t looked down upon so much. Ignoring regulations that protect the Earth but raises profits is acceptable to many.

How do we live well in this kind of world, in a way that powerfully defies such destructive thought-ways, but also strengthens and heals the web?

We have to know who we are – we have to nurture the kind of self-awareness that Crazy Horse had. A wisdom that understands which actions will hurt the web (or ourselves and others), and those actions that will do the opposite, that will mend our fragile bonds.

For starters, we might find some acceptance. This is the world as it is. This is the President as he is. How shall we respond? The Buddhists ask this question all the time – they believe the key to contentment is to accept what is. And then, much like Native Americans, they believe in right action, that our actions matter, that how we choose to respond matters.

For many, there is the temptation to escape, whether we do so with television, or consumerism, drinking or drugging. Such activities help us move through anxiety or stress. But they do nothing to heal the web. When the purchasing is over, when the program ends, when sobriety returns, the web is no healthier because you are no healthier. It’s no wonder self-destruction is one of America’s favorite past-times, for our worldview is so often destructive.

Peace in the world begins with ourselves and our closest relationships. Peace begins with how we respond to those structures that prefer violence and oppression.

Perhaps a collective response of right action that is healing will not allow the new fascist agenda to get traction. Without traction, it will self-destruct. We do well to remember that the fragile ego of our new president feeds mightily on our anger – he loves to get us riled up – our anger and dismay titillates him. Much like our anger and hate titillates our worst enemy.

So instead of being angry, let’s be positive, let’s be pro-active. What wonderful ways the people are coming together, what amazing potential for right action on a scale we’ve not seen before is in sight.

Rather than destroy fascism, let’s frame it as healing democracy, for we didn’t have a healthy democracy to begin with. Think of this: we don’t have to sit back with our first woman president and do little to improve the world. Instead we get to participate more fully than ever before in healing the world, healing our democracy. We don’t have to sit back in smug self-congratulation, we get to affirm who we are and what we believe in as never before, much more powerfully ensuring that the world is as it should be for our children to inherit. And their children, and their children, and so on, like the seven-generation thought-way goes.

This isn’t about making lemonade. It’s about having a mature spirituality that transcends ego and individual righteousness. It’s about understanding more deeply how connected we indeed are, despite the generations of conditioning that say otherwise, that say we exist for me and mine. This crisis of leadership is an opportunity for collective spiritual growth.

In a way, I’m seeking to give you permission – you don’t have to be angry all the time. You don’t have to be afraid. In the meetings for social action that help heal the broken strands of the web, you’ll find there is comfort there, there is some laughter. There is camaraderie and healing there for our worried hearts.

Our self-expression may take on a new life we didn’t know we had before. It will open doors for us. Remember we as individuals are part of the web, so what we do to heal ourselves also heals the web.

I’ve been taught that Native Americans will joke a lot with non-Natives and make fun of them, in order to help them heal by seeing that their ego means nothing. They laugh at ego! Much, again, as the Buddhists do.

I conclude with a short story from my childhood. A story that involves Christianity, evil, and Unitarianism.

Having grown up Unitarian Universalist, I am pleased to say that, looking back, I intuited early on that evil actually isn’t a thing. There was a Christian youth group in high school called Young Life, and I went because my friends went, and I happily translated all the Christology in the songs as we sang them. But one night, one of the youth leaders, a college student, sat with me in my car for nearly two hours, badgering me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I kept explaining that I believe in all the values that Jesus espoused, but that my Unitarian faith assured me accepting Christ was not necessary to emulate Jesus. He finally gave up, but I was emotionally shredded by the conversation. I was a Senior in High School.

My parents were worried sick by the time I got home. We then talked for another couple hours about what Unitarians believe, that we don’t buy into this talk of original sin and so forth.

Around this time, I joined an inter-mural basketball team – yes, believe it or not, I’m a good basketball player; I challenge anyone to a game of HORSE! The name of our team was “Pigs in Zen” – yes, borrowed from the Jane’s Addiction song. On the back of our jerseys we wrote in marker our nicknames. Mine said in a jaunty font, “THE EVIL UNITARIAN.”

It was my way of saying that evil is a joke – that no one can call me evil, because an evil person is not a thing. The closest we can get to evil existing is in the actions that harm life. And if this is true, then all of us have done so, in ways we are more conscious of than others.

We Unitarian Universalists believe all humans are born with a mixed bag traits – and that it’s up to ourselves and our communities to shape our traits for the better. In Christian language, we hate the sin and not the sinner. For hating people only does violence to ourselves and the web of life.

Think about it. It may sound too weak and Pollyanna to you, but therein lies the wise paradox. We are powerful in our peacefulness. We are resilient in our non-violent protest. We are happier in our healing than we are in our harming. Think about the ways we can harm the web less, and heal the web more.

Think of what Crazy Horse saw and shared with us – a time when we would be one, and “the whole Earth will become one circle again.”

 This Justice-Hustler says, “Ho!”

– Rev. Hannah Hustlin’-the-Hope Petrie

MLK: “Now Is the Time”

Before reading this blog, watch/listen or read the historic “I Have a Dream” speech, in its entirety, from August 28, 1963 at the March for Freedom and Jobs in Washington DC.

I almost named the blog “We Can Never Be Satisfied” – it’s one of the four anaphoras in this speech. An anaphora is a rhetorical device that emphasizes the speaker’s point by repeating a phrase at the beginning of a series of clauses.

“One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free . . . Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy . . . We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”

And, well, you know what the fourth one is.

Experts agree that this speech was not his best nor most powerful, and yet it’s his most famous. King’s greatness as a speaker, James Baldwin said, lay “in his intimate knowledge of the people he is addressing, be they black or white, and in the forthrightness with which he speaks of those things that hurt or baffle them.”*

It’s incredible how many good parts of the “I Have a Dream Speech” have been forgotten by the eclipse of its famous ending. I heartily recommend the short book, “The Speech,” by Gary Younge, a Black British journalist who analyzes the story and context of the famous 17 minute speech, only 302 words of which are most recognized and remembered.   Upon hearing it again in its entirety, one cannot deny its timeliness at the dawn of 2017, when we bid farewell to our first Black president.

In President Obama’s Farewell speech he delivered in Chicago last week, he sought to speak to the whole of America as much as Dr. King did that hot August afternoon in Washington DC, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. Like MLK, Obama gave us some specific instructions on how to move forward after his progressive presidency. No doubt that he is one of the figures who inspired Obama to become a Community Organizer in the first place.

What many have forgotten on the left is that the line between activism and governance is thin, the truth of which Obama has faithfully modeled.

He told us last Tuesday,

Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.  When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote.  When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.  When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

 And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings. Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift.  But it’s really just a piece of parchment.  It has no power on its own.  We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make.  Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms.  Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law.  America is no fragile thing.  But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

 In his own farewell address, [Obama continued] George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but ‘from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;’ that we should preserve it with ‘jealous anxiety;’ that we should reject ‘the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties’ that make us one.’

The world is hungry for a new prophet – a living prophet. And like all prophets before him, Obama is not a perfect human being. Regardless, I’m definitely interested in what he’ll be doing after he sleeps for two weeks and goes on vacation with Michelle. He talks about his future goals in the interview he gave in Rolling Stone the day after Trump won the election.

He is, in fact, going to lead the redrawing of districts, which will be an unsexy and tenacious fight, but who better to lead it than a man of Obama’s credentials. I’m going to be receiving a marvelous organizing training by the standard-setters of such training, The Midwest Academy, based in Chicago, in March in Sierra Madre, so I can be confident in my organizing knowledge, and be of service to President Obama’s new vision.

While President Obama and Dr. King in some ways have little in common, in other ways they are quite similar. They speak eloquently of an idealism that still calls to us, one that might redeem the founders of our democracy as well as its living inheritors.

I was on my colleague and pal Chuck Freeman’s radio program, Soul Talk Radio, last Thursday and we were doing a bit of debate around Obama’s legacy, a little “good Rev./bad Rev.” Chuck contends that Obama is a sentimental propagandist, and I conceded that perhaps he is at times, sugar-coating our deeply violent and discriminatory American legacy, and not adequately identifying the suffering of the current age.

But we need that idealism articulated, I posit, so that we know what we’re fighting for. We are reminded in this way that, for millions of Americans, the status quo is not enough and never has been. We are reminded that half the country takes our democracy SO for granted, that they didn’t even bother to vote in November.

It was not such in 1963, when MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. And that is in part why, with toil, struggle and imprisonment, some key Civil Rights legislation was passed in that era. But because, since then, we’ve been happy to imagine the best and turn our attention to our personal prosperity and time-consuming consumer habits, much has come undone. In some ways, having a black president caused us to live in a pretend post-racial la-la land. We have started to wake up since 2014, with the resurgence of organizing like Black Lives Matter, as well as many cities across the country winning higher minimum wage initiatives.

“Now is the time,” as battle cry, is simple and apt today. Obama borrowed a similar phrase directly from MLK’s speech as he was campaigning for president in 2007. He said, “I am running in this race because of what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ Because I believe there is such a thing as being too late, and that hour is almost upon us.” No, Obama may not have picked the urgent battles we wanted him to once in office, but he picked them himself. He had little choice but to focus on the economy which he retrieved to a stable condition, and healthcare for the uncovered was something he picked and succeeded at in significant measure.

Like Dr. King, President Obama will not enjoy widespread support in the decades to come – he will have to continue to fight for it, even among his progressive cohorts, just as MLK did throughout the 1960’s. It may be that we don’t truly listen to Obama’s words until he is dead, but I think we will see a different Obama post-presidency. One who is more like the man who ran in 2007, calling on “the fierce urgency of now.”

Thank God Obama was not assassinated – remember how worried we were about that? The truth remains that Dr. King’s speech was only lifted out of obscurity after he was killed.

The phrase “Now is the time” in MLK’s speech captured a reality that was very pertinent in 1963, when much of the civil rights leadership had been slow to acknowledge the impatience of its base – much like Democratic leadership did not adequately acknowledge the discontent of its historical base, which lost Democrats the presidency. Younge writes that it was the lesson King had tried to convey in his letter from the Birmingham jail, and that one of the organizers of the March for Freedom and Jobs relayed to Kennedy, when he told the president (who was reluctant about the march taking place) that, “The Negroes are already in the streets; it is very likely impossible to get them off.” Younge says, “[’Now is the time],’ is, in a sense, the lesson of every liberation campaign: a successful movement needs to recognize its most propitious moment to strike and seize it.”

Yes sir, and my Lord, “now is the time.”

Now, with just days to go before the inauguration of Donald Trump, the erosion of democratic safeguards has never been on such a brink of devastation.

We must counter these trends non-violently, with dignity, and with power.

There are many things I’m going to miss about Barack Obama being our president, but there is one I want to especially highlight, that MLK modeled in spades and for which he set the standard, and that is the honorable manner with which civic discourse was presented.

In the very same ways, MLK and Obama have been criticized as being “too weak,” for not hitting back, for insisting on a philosophy not only of non-violence, but of dignity, which includes choices of words and manner of dress. Dr. King said in his speech, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high place of dignity and discipline.”

I believe that. Part of that dignity and discipline is a leadership style that honors promises and agreements. Obama had no scandals because his conduct matched the honor of his high office. Obama followed one of my favorite creeds of Mark Twain, when he said, “stick to the truth because it’s easiest to remember.” No, many of us wanted him to be more boldly progressive, but it’s true that he was in office who he said he was going to be, a moderate centrist. It was poignant to hear Vice-President Biden affirm this key quality, that throughout the 8 years, the president upheld his promises to him, when he accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week.

There is spiritual significance in decency in that it demands of us that we align our conduct with our moral character. Such conduct is not born of a vacuum, but of the thoughtful consideration that is the agency of high moral conscience.

This thoughtful consideration honors the sacred ties that hold this fragile, on-going experiment of democracy together. We are all in this together, as Obama has always contended, and as MLK stands before him, we seek the leaders who shall stand in front of both men, in the generation to come. Leaders who lead without more bloodshed and violence than is surely necessary. Leaders who will guide us with dignified efficacy, be they black, or brown, yellow, red, or white.

If idealism and optimism is an ideology, then sign me up. Sign me up as one of the dreamers. Dear Lord, help give us who would answer the call the strength to articulate beyond the attainable, for that vision of God MLK evoked, in the utterance of the most famous amphora of our time “I Have a Dream!”

In those shimmering cadences, his wife Coretta Scott King recalled, “it seemed as if the Kingdom of God appeared. But it only lasted for a moment.”

Now is the time to revive such a moment. I conclude with the last paragraphs of Gary Younge’s book, “The Speech”:

King could have limited his address to what was immediately achievable. He might have spelled out a ten-point plan and laid out his case for tougher legislation or made the case for fresh campaigns of civil disobedience in the North. He could have reduced himself to an appeal for what was possible in a time when what was possible and pragmatic was neither satisfactory nor sustainable.

Instead he swung for the bleachers. Not knowing whether the task of building the world he was describing was Sisyphean or merely Herculean, he called out in the political wilderness, hoping his voice would someday be heard by those with power to act upon it. In so doing he showed that it is not naïve to believe that what is not possible in the foreseeable future may nonetheless by necessary, worth fighting for, and worth articulating. The idealism that underpins his dream is the rock on which our modern rights are built and the flesh on which pragmatic parasites feed. If nobody dreamed of a better world, what would there be to wake up to?

Wake up and hustle!

– Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ the Hope Petrie

* P. 99 in book “The Speech” by Gary Younge, published 2013.

Prophets: Real and Fake, or For Chrissake, There’s Too Much at Stake!

Jesus is purported by the Book of Luke to have said, “No prophet is welcome in his hometown.” It’s one of my favorite sayings of Jesus.

It’s another way of saying that prophets are known for saying deeply unpopular things, or things that are hard to hear, even for the people who nurtured the prophet – for this they garner notoriety that makes such voices powerful and threatening to the establishment. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was such a prophet – toward the end of his life, MLK said a lot of things about the Vietnam War that drew all kinds of rebuke.

This is one of the more interesting attributes that can make someone a prophet: speaking truth to power so effectively that it makes power twitch, and get nervous.

Prophets are those who point to the truth of things, and in the words of theologian Walter Brueggemann, “They reframe what is at stake in chaotic times.” The Refuse Fascism movement did so last Wednesday, when they published a full-page ad in the New York Times of their petition: “In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!” It is just such an uncomfortable statement that falls squarely in the category of prophetic dialogue. Thousands of people have signed it so far, including some prominent voices of our time.

As bold as we religious (and otherwise) liberals may purport ourselves to be, the temptation to stick our heads in the sand is great at this time. This new presidency is going to be far worse than we imagine, if current events are any indication. I signed that statement on-line as I personally believe we are at grave risk of supplanting democracy with fascism.

If we are unable or willing “to speak with bravest fire,” then I invite us to listen to those who are, for prophecy is in bloom this 2017. Not everyone who signed that statement in the NY Times is a zealot activist like Cornel West or a famous writer like Alice Walker. One of them is scientist Milton Saier, of the University of CA in San Diego. I highly recommend listening to his interview on the Michael Slate show on KPFK – it was this past Friday. Here are some main points I want to highlight that he raised.

As a scientist, he is extremely anxious by the degradation of scientific work that is one of the hallmarks of fascist regimes. Federal funding for scientific work is public funding in service of the truth – that, Saier says, is what scientists do: they have an extremely systematic process for arriving at the truth that allows us as a society to proceed with intelligence and caution in an increasingly imperiled world, especially when it comes to climate science. Rather than fund science, Trump will fund the military, another hallmark of fascism.

I urge you to listen to the interview because Saier was especially eloquent in his defense of the scientific acquisition of truth that arrives at facts and knowledge. It spoke to me as a liberal religious leader, because we have always been defenders of the free search for truth. It’s something we have in common with science.

And so we must call out the fake prophets who would have us believe they offer salvation, when they only offer a degradation of our lives and liberty. Look, I’m just going to say it: I do think of Trump as the anti-Christ, and most of his cabinet selections as his demented disciples.

At this critical juncture, it behooves us to know the proper criteria for telling the real prophets from the fake. It reminds me of the new imperative we have of teaching our young people how to know real news from fake news, for language is the medium of prophets, both real and fake.

The whole concept of prophecy most historically equates with the Judeo-Christian tradition, which includes Islam. Prophets are those who are anointed by God to deliver a message, and therefore, belong to God. My liberal religious translation: finding the courage to use skills such as writing and public speaking, I use my prophetic voice in service of the God who prefers the poor and marginalized, per the exemplars of Jesus and MLK. I say this by virtue of being clear on which god I’m serving. Are you clear on which god you serve? As religious liberals, it behooves us to get clear on our own religious beliefs concerning God, if we wish to use our talents and treasure in prophetic service of a more just and peaceful world.

This is especially important in light of the religious right’s penchant for utterly misinterpreting the teachings of Jesus to suit their homo/xenophobic agenda.

But let me back up and share more of my own personal reasoning here. Currently, I’m grateful to say, my family has everything we need, and yet – the election of Trump has reminded me that the horror of the great unknown is omnipresent, and I have to live with that. In fact, no matter who we coronate, the terror of the great unknown remains, for we live in a time of looming uncertainty.

Overwhelming as it is, I have come face to face with my greatest vulnerability: I love my family so much, and yet, I know I cannot protect my children from all that may befall them in their lifetimes.

What kind of vulnerabilities do you have to live with?

Perhaps they are similar to mine, and can be summed up as the risks of love. There is a type of suffering in that vulnerability when we love, and suffering can lead to great leaps of faith.   For many Christians, it is Jesus’ suffering that is of most comfort – to imagine Christ’s suffering allows people to live with their own.

These kinds of reflections cause me to consider the substance of my faith. Do you have faith? I ask again, do you believe in God? Let me explain how I won’t take no for an answer, with the help of JLA. Liberal theologian James Luther Adams insisted it’s not possible to believe in nothing – we serve gods whether we are aware of it or not, so it’s worth examining which gods we want to serve. He says,

“The question concerning faith is not, Shall I be a person of faith? The proper question is, rather, Which faith is mine? Or better, Which faith should be mine? For whether a person craves prestige, wealth, security, or amusement, whether a person lives for country, for science, for God, or for plunder, that person is demonstrating a faith, is showing that she or he puts confidence in something.”

That quotation is, for me, my Hail Mary prayer. It centers me, it asks me unequivocally to define my gods. When was the last time you defined yours? Now may be the time to do it, and whether we call it God is not as important as being able to bring it forth in our lives.

Here’s one way of thinking about God that really works for me – it’s from modern literature, from a best-selling novel, called Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It involves two nuns of great faith and explores themes of commitment, both to family and to medicine.

One of the nuns’ faith is described like this, that “her job was to make her life beautiful for God.” Whether my beliefs mention God or not, I can still get on board with this notion, that my job is to make my life beautiful for God. It is the function of believing in God that I have faith in. If it means that I have to carefully consider what makes my life beautiful, then I am hot to trot for this faith.

What could you say authentically makes your life beautiful? Of course it’s many things, but in the context of these uncertain times in which we find ourselves, this knowledge of how fragile life is, how vulnerable we really are, I see that this beauty can be distilled to a few commitments.

Adams emphasized throughout his writings that our beliefs aren’t anywhere near as important as our commitments. This is good news for folks who squirm when asked to recite their religious beliefs, because you can say, “well, what’s really important to me are my commitments, and these are what they are.” It’s a way of claiming that actions speak louder than words, which is essentially what liberal religion has tried to be – to enable us to put stock in the lives we lead, rather than the dogma we profess.

Of course serving the well-being of my family is my first commitment, but if I stopped there, what would I be teaching my children? That my faith is limited to serving the God of Fear, that we are put on this earth to look after two things: me and mine. This faith should not be mine, as popular as it is these days. There’s an important distinction to make here. The knowledge of vulnerability is not meant to inspire fear. Herein lies the paradox: we embrace our vulnerability to find our courage.

You’ve heard it before and it’s true: courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s walking through our fear. It takes courage to move beyond the “me and mine” attitude. But I know God wants me to. To make my life beautiful means to see the vulnerability in everyone, in every living thing. And to understand that I have some responsibility to this world we share. I certainly want my kids to understand this responsibility when they come of age and inherit this ever-fraying world of ours.

Prophets who belong to the loving and inclusive God to whom Jesus and MLK belonged, can come from any walk of life, or occupy any station. There are prophets of state or peasantry. Real prophets point to the Kingdom of God, in word, deed, and action. The Kingdom of God defined as the beloved community, of peace, inclusion, justice, sister and brotherhood, where every child can grow up and be who they want to be, contributing their gifts to the altar of humanity.

Fake prophets and the selling of their goods are rampant – drugs are fake prophets, and sadly our huddled poor have fallen victim to this tragic epidemic. In 2016, 20% more people in America died by drug overdose, than by car accident, an unprecedented stat. But any type of addiction that cuts us off from the holy, anything we think fills the void, but never does in the long run – whatever material items we think are important but really aren’t – all such worldly and ego-driven goods are sold by fake prophets – and sadly, such prophets become our gods.

State-wise, fake prophets hawk empty promises, placating the people while enriching themselves and their friends, creating a kleptocracy. Putin is a fake prophet, exalting his narcissism while ignoring his huddled masses. He is a frightening mentor and bro-mancer of Trump.

We must call out these fake prophets.

Jesus said in the Book of Matthew, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” I can’t think of a more timely aphorism, even though it’s thousands of years old. Knowing what these fruits are, we must stop their propagation.

And so I hope many of you join the fight this New Year in response to, by all indicators, a fascist agenda.

To tie this all together, I’d like to share a portion of the Christmas letter I received this year from my beloved colleague and mentor, retired UU minister John Corrodo. Yes, I know, Christmas is over, and I’m sure many are glad for this. I, for one, can’t wait to get the mess out of my house . . . But let’s remember what African American theologian Howard Thurman says in his litany, “Now the Work of Christmas Begins.”

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

And so my colleague wrote me,

Things aren’t terribly different than they were 2100 years ago. They’re terribly the same.

 There were wars and rumors of wars, violent religious and secular leaders, displaced people desperately seeking safe havens, zealots preying on the fears of the populace, and over all a pervasive pall of anxiety. Bread and circuses distracted the masses.

 Grim as those times were, a wonderful, everlasting story came out of them . . . Three men, wiser than most, would not let the times define them. They sought something eternal. They sought hope and its source . . . what they came upon was a young woman holding a newborn baby. It was an aha! moment that has resounded down the ages.

 If we can be as wise as the three sages, we can see that the hope of the world is newborn again and again and again; we can realize that even in the darkest, coldest, most unlikely of places, with all kinds of beastly behavior going on, the holy can occur. We just have to be able and willing to see it.

Though I personally am confident in the gods I serve – for the most part, because I’m not perfect and no one is – as an at-heart humanist, I recognize that, when it comes down to it, I have to find my own way, choose my own commitments of what’s most important to serve at this time, and then honor those commitments with my time and treasure.

I hope you will join me, but most of all, I hope you will do the hard work of defining your gods and your commitments, then honor them, and at times, honor them in a prophetic manner. Liberal religion touts a free faith, but free has never meant easy. Sometimes we shall have to speak down to our own people.

This freedom we shall hold sacred and lift high, working hard to protect its legacy of fairness and inclusion forever, and forward through the ages.

So hustle up, O young and fearless prophets, HUSTLE UP!

– Rev. Hannah hustlin’ the Hope Petrie

Amen! To the “Beautiful Struggle”

I’ve heard a lot of people in my life comment that they “just aren’t paying attention to the talking heads for a while” or that they “just can’t listen to a thing that man [President-elect Trump) says.”

I am the opposite. I have the radio going most of the time during the day, and still worship Warren Olney on KCRW’s To the Point and hope the man never retires, much like I hope Ruth Bader Ginsburg lives lucidly-enough  . . . forever. Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now is another of my favorites, along with The Ralph Nader Hour on Pacifica, PRI’s Marketplace and The World, and KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center. I read the articles that other people like me who want to know everything they can send to me. I am keeping my ear to the ground as much as possible.

My heart aches for the civilians of Aleppo slaughtered by an evil triumvirate (Iran, Russia, Syria) we might as well start referring to as the Axis powers. Trump’s new foreign policy can kiss my ass – I will never accept Russia as our friend so long as Putin is in power. My mind aches for the people of Standing Rock who, despite a temporary victory, face an uphill battle, and for the residents of Flint, MI who see no safe drinking water via their pipes in sight. My soul aches for the people of South Sudan – where the vast majority of women in the refugee camps are routinely raped and made to watch other women being raped. All these things represent seismic shifts in the magnitude of their inhumanity.

Do not look away, for this is the world we share.

It’s no time to tune out, but we can be forgiven for allowing some holiday respite here and there. I am working to be generous, giving or pledging money to worthy institutions who see building relationships as the first thing to do as well as the last resort.

One fledgling organization I’m proud to be associated with and supplying seed money to is POP, Pasadenans Organizing for Progress. We have raised about 25K so far toward our 100K goal in order to hire a full-time, experienced community organizer. We are the same coalition of activists, professors, clergy, labor organizers, and attorneys who got Pasadena to pass the increasing minimum wage ordinance to reach $15 by 2020. Our organizer will be very busy when we bring her or him aboard, as we work to enforce the ordinance, make sure the undocumented know their rights in the near-term, uncertain future, and organize tenants. Further, we aim to reign in unjust policing, advocate for public education, and enfranchise those who lack a say in many basic areas of their lives.

So many are asking, “what can I do?” in this grave new world?  You can give to POP. POP will be supporting NDLON’s monthly POPular Assemblies in which the undocumented and fully franchised may combine their talents and meet to hear the latest strategies of how we together can counter the fear that ICE and imminent deportation induces in the community – a date in January will be announced soon. POP will also be building relationships between black and brown people, so that they may help one another in their common struggle to counter the penchant to incarcerate people of color.

Florence Annang, a black woman from Ghana, has been attending our organizing meetings and shared some inspirational thoughts with me recently that I’d like to share with you. Florence is a member of the Pasadena Chapter of the NAACP and spoke of the “beautiful struggle” we will undertake during the next four years.

What is the beautiful struggle? It is this: no matter how bad things get, one thing that cannot be prevented from happening, that cannot ever be taken away from us, is the beautiful struggle to love our neighbor and build friendships of solidarity. Florence is especially interested in seeing this happen between Latinos and African Americans, block by block in Pasadena. If the police are raiding a Latino home, someone in that home might call their African American friend in the same neighborhood and vise versa. Slowly the dots will be connected, relationship by relationship, until the targeted of the war on drugs, the war on immigrants, and the war on terror work together in a unified front of resistance.  The powers that be want these groups to disregard one another, the ages-old divide and conquer m.o. – but we at POP understand their potential power.

“What can you do?” If you are white and/or documented and middle-class you can support the facilitation of the forming of these relationships and our organizing work. The minimum wage effort succeeded because brown and white people worked together to create a formidable force that could not be brushed aside by our electeds. Imagine how powerful this organizing body can become if African Americans and Muslims enter the scene. Florence says that “to reveal a love daily that makes no sense is the beautiful struggle.” It may make no sense at first to form the unlikely friendships between black and brown, Jewish and gentile, rich and poor, undocumented and documented, Christian and Muslim, but that is indeed the very beauty Florence speaks of. What doesn’t make sense on the surface can quickly become lovely and enduring, especially as we as a whole community begin to see the fruits such powerful relationships bear in the struggle for a more just and peaceful world.

Together we will not normalize intolerance, ignorance, and hatred. Only together can we effectively counter incarceration nation. Only together can we prevent America calcifying into a feudal class structure. “What can you do?” If you’re a member of the shrinking middle class who participates in the social and political theater of noble Pasadena (you need not live in Pasadena to support efforts to make Pasadena a beacon of exemplary hope for the rest of the country), then join this effort. Giving at least $100 per month ensures that our full-time organizer can be hired sooner than later. That is what I’m doing – but any gift helps us reach our goal.

Join this beautiful struggle – a struggle, in Florence’s words, “to reveal Christ daily.” If Christ language isn’t your bag, translate: to realize our human potential daily in building bridges of resilience and power for inclusion, caring, and fairness for all. True, “to reveal Christ daily” is more succinct. So how about this: Don’t be Christian, be Christ. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha. Don’t reference MLK, be MLK. Now is the time to reveal our true prophets – in our own actions, in our own words, in our own friendships.

Happy Justice-Hustlin’ Holidays!

Rest well, for 2017 is going to be one beautiful bitch of a struggle.

– Rev. At-Large, aka Hannah Hustlin’ the Hope Petrie

The Human Saga of Which We Are a Part

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

And he said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

At the moment I am not tireless.  I haven’t had a cold in years, and the election made me sick. It’s a good thing the holidays are coming up, so we can rest and regain our strength for the passionate concerns ahead.

In case you were wondering, yes, I was part of the feckless group-think that thought Hilary would scrape in, but nor was I blind-sided. I know America and its history. The pendulum swings, especially after a President like Barack Obama, who represented so many progressive values, just by the color of his skin.  The back-lash prevailed.

I am part of the professional class that the Democratic party has been perceived to primarily represent (by no fault of Obama’s with such an obstructionist congress; they blocked stimulus the working class could have used). But I’m also part of the <1% who has been working to play an activist role in recent years. As Peter Dreier has recalled the words of Joe Hill, “Mourn. And then organize.” Or, as the case may be, convalesce from the immune-system compromising election, then get to work.

You may not believe me, but activist work is fun. It’s invigorating. It provides the kind of structure and purpose that keeps you thriving.  It’s not all righteous indignation.  We crack jokes too.  There is laughter.

If you’re suffering and feeling afraid for our country, you’re not alone. I have a message of hope, of good things to come. Now is the time to play an active role in the story of America.  Isn’t this more appealing than the role of complacent consumer, squanderer of freedom?

Our American story began with extreme oppression of native people and people of color, especially African slaves. That oppression continues to this day, but here’s some good news. There are activist movements gaining momentum in recent months and years, and the irony may be that they are even more motivated and determined than ever with the election of the Donald. It depends on people like us to make that choice. Will we join them?

Take that fury and fear and disappointment and do something constructive with it. Join the movements that already exist and lend your talents and your voice. Find your community of people who care deeply like you. Counter the hate crimes on the rise, committed against people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. I can help you find those movements if you need assistance. Join the feminist movement. And/or, ignite the movement you want to join.

Yesterday, I went to the Army Corps of Engineers office building in Los Angeles, to participate in a worldwide day of protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which transgresses the rights of native people. Not nativists, the descendants of actual Native Americans. I surmise there were about 1200 people there who peacefully took a stand for our nation’s “water protectors.” I heard someone say, “we are not protesting, we are protecting.” Protection will become quite the theme in the months and years to come.  Will you get to claim the role of “protector”?

Protesting an oil pipeline that’s to be built in North Dakota may seem far removed, but it’s not. We live in such a small world now, and the story of climate change is everyone’s story. One of my biggest fears is going backwards in the progress we’re making toward clean energy and a sustainable world for our children and their children.

So I’m going to do something about it.

Activism has been a part of my story for several years now, so it doesn’t seem so daunting to, simply, continue the work. Like I say, it’s fun and rewarding.  It forms a life well lived. Take friends with you, and know that one good thing to come is that you’ll make friends along the way – if you show up. And show up, and show up.  And show up.

Half of life is about showing up. I believe that. You may not always feel like it, you may be tired. But more often than not, when you show up, you’re glad you did. This is how we empower ourselves and our fellow human beings.

So enjoy your holidays, but prepare to make space for activism in your life. And look at your budgets because this is going to take dinero. I’m looking at making my own lattes and less lunches out. I am putting my money where my mouth is and I hope you’ll join me.

I look forward to the future. Our work is cut out for us. With Clinton as our president, we would have sat back into complacency. It’s a good thing that we cannot do that now, for the truth of the matter is, all of our biggest concerns were still in full throttle under Democratic leadership. Too much green house gas, too much war, too much police state, too much corporate power, too much suffering of the poor and disenfranchised. Too much injustice. This is the human saga of which we are a part.

The progressive task has always been before us, and now more than ever, it’s time to try new things. Like forming the unlikely friendships we’ve wondered about. Like listening to and working with those with whom we think we have nothing in common.

If it’s true, in a democracy, we get the leader we deserve. If that strikes you as hogwash, keep in mind, only 25% of the American people voted for Trump, 25% voted for Hilary, and around 46% of the American people did not vote. So it’s not only conversations with Trump voters I urge you to have, but also with non-voters. Let’s get to work, and earn the leader all of America deserves in the future. If issues and personal rights are not your thing, jump into the political fight, and help find the next progressive leader who can win the White House in 2020.

Right now, we have to live with not knowing what’s coming. We have to wait, and this not-knowing is an anxiety factory. Rather than sitting, not knowing, and worrying, the best salve is to activate.

People of color:  tell us white people what we can do. White people: let’s use our white privilege to demolish white privilege. Men, we could use your strength in the feminist fight.

Everyone, let’s call on our deepest spiritual reserves to do the hard work of mutuality. Relationship-building and activism is spiritual practice – it’s how we affirm who we are and walk our talk of compassion, equality, and inclusion. So be strong. Be well. Hustle with heart and hope!

Faithfully yours,  Rev. At-Large aka Hannah Hustlin’ the Hope Petrie

Healing the Political Mind

In early September, the polls were in a dead heat between our two presidential candidates. Now, weeks later, it’s not looking like such a dead heat anymore. Yet it’s not a time for complacency, even if we are sick and tired of politics.

Whatever the result in November, how might we reflect on this topsy-turvy election, so we could learn from it, progress from it, and evolve our country toward one that is more unified, compassionate, and peaceful? Where every child, no matter what house she’s born in, no matter what color his skin is, has the opportunity to live the American dream, with enough to live comfortably and if desired, raise a family.

Every American deserves that chance, regardless of one’s worldview. How can we work together for the common dream of living with fulfillment? Because, if the polls are right, when Secretary Clinton takes office, she will face gridlock in congress much like President Obama has in his tenure. The cultural shift that needs to take place from one of division to functional cooperation needs to occur at the people’s level – as in, we the people, we who democratically choose who represents us. But how can this occur?

It starts with you and me and people we know and love who share different political views. We can find hope and healing in these relationships, especially if we have some tools to help us see where the other is coming from.

The Republican party and its cratering, crumbling, imploding – choose your favorite verb here that describes falling apart – has been really something to watch, and while liberals may look upon it with some glee, that glee will be short-lived because it’s really a sign of national instability we should be concerned about. It is a seed of discontent that could grow into grapes of wrath, maybe even a 2nd Civil War if we don’t figure out a way to meet needs and move forward.

One might use the word crisis – and in crisis, there is opportunity. I want to reflect on that opportunity, and highlight indicators of hope – the first being that, when we each see that we have a role to play in healing our divisive political mindsets, we are empowered when we take responsibility for the democracy to which we all belong.

Here is a healing tool you might bring into your relationships and dialogues with people who differ in political orientation. The main crux of Jonathan Haidt’s research in his 2012 book, “The Righteous Mind” is that there are five moral foundations of the political, or righteous, mind: Caring, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity, or tradition. The left and the right value all five, but the left emphasize the first two, caring and fairness, while the right emphasize the last three, loyalty, authority, and tradition.

I want to talk about some relationships in my life that might evoke thoughts of your own. I’m someone who not only values racial and ethnic diversity in my day-to-day life as part of my community, but also political diversity. It’s not because I’m a moderate – I’m solidly left – it’s because some of these people are like family to me, so deeply do I love and appreciate them. I don’t have any blood relatives who are conservative, and I’ve heard a few horror stories of last year’s thanksgiving when different political persuasions sit down to eat and it’s not pretty. My friend Chris told me he wore a Bernie Sanders T-shirt to Thanksgiving last November hosted by his husband’s Orange County in-laws, who are staunch Trump supporters. It did not go well. Chris has decided he’d rather come have Thanksgiving at my house this year, even if he misses the chance to gloat among his Trump-thumping relatives. But I’ll ask Chris what he thinks about the Haidt research and if he think it could help him build any rapport with his family.

I’ve known Chris since 4th grade, and I have an even older friend, Angie, who goes back to 3rd. She’s Republican, though this year she says she’s voting for Hillary. It’s similar with my friend David, who I’ve known about ten years. David says the election has been traumatizing for him, reminding him of growing up with his untreated, bi-polar mother. He says Trump being like a loose cannon reminds him of his mother being the same, not knowing what would happen next. It could explain David’s attraction to conservatism, the desire for order in the form of loyalty, authority, and tradition. My friend Angie also values high standards of order in her life – her house is immaculate; all storage containers in the basement are neatly organized – perhaps because her father has been in and out of prison her whole life.

I don’t mean to home in on deeply imperfect parents as the key to determining conservatism. Whatever determines it, keep in mind the moral values conservatives hold dear are also held by liberals, but conservatives prioritize them before liberals do. If liberals could remember these prioritized values when interacting with conservatives, it could help liberals see where conservatives are coming from.

Both my friends Angie and David value loyalty, which is one reason why Angie and I have been friends for 35 years, even though we are very different. I’ve been inspired by David in his loyalty to his country, that he will not stand by a party he sees as destroying what America is really about. That is one of the brightest beams of hope in this election cycle: so many conservatives saying, “no, we won’t stand by this, the values of our party’s candidate are not okay,” including many high profile republicans such as Mitt Romney.

Some other wonderful Republicans in my life are sticking with Trump, but, thanks to studying the principles of Haidt’s research a little bit, I see why it makes sense for them. For a year and a half, I’ve been working with a family in Altadena, whose 26-year old son was killed in a gang murder in front of a restaurant in the neighborhood we share, even though he had walked away from gang life several years before. This is a conservative, middle-class African American family who gave their son every advantage, including private school, but it wasn’t enough to protect him from affiliation with the Crips throughout his formative years. Because I helped the family organize a march in observance of this tragedy, I’ve become close with them, continuing to community-organize around an effort called Council for Peaceful Community.

I’ve gained much perspective from this family. The parents, Ursula and Richard Walker, are committed, conservative Christians. They decry the Black Lives Matter movement because they feel so strongly that people should take responsibility for themselves and not be interacting negatively with police in the first place, and that the authority of the police should be respected. They especially respect the tradition of the armed services, and connect their enjoyment of freedom with freedom protected by the US military. It’s all there: tradition, authority, and loyalty, as part of their worldview. No, I don’t agree with them on everything, but I respect where they are coming from, because I’ve gotten to know them, and I see how strong their love as a family is, and how graceful they are in the face of tremendous loss. It is their faith that’s gotten them through, as well as the traditions of familial and community ties.

Even though we are very different, the Walkers and I are learning from each other. We’re brought together in our common values of caring, and working to remove community violence from the Altadena/Pasadena area. We are liberals and conservatives working together for a higher cause.

So who are the people in your life with whom you disagree politically? Hopefully you aren’t already un-friended on Facebook, as I’ve heard happening lately, but if you are, is there no common ground on which you can walk? Sometimes it does take being the bigger person, being the lesser judgmental, to be the first to open the door between you. These are some of my dearest values as a religious liberal: the high road, radical compassion, and acceptance.  We need not prescribe to another’s worldview to see where we are both human, and fundamentally good people, who both care and have valid, though differing perspectives. The righteous mind – which we might think of as a veneer – when it’s chipped away, underneath, we are people with the same needs and similar desires.

The truth is, Americans agree on a lot more than they don’t. I went to a fundraiser recently for Public Citizen, which is a lobbyist group that counters all the corporate lobbies on K street in Washington. The Director, Robert Weissman, sited some encouraging stats:

There’s a story of convention that says we are a divided nation. It has some truth, but it overshadows another story that is at least equally or more important. We’re actually an amazingly united country when it comes to the public policy agenda that Americans favor. 83% of Americans think the top 1% have too much power; ¾ of Americans favor a steep rise of the minimum wage; 9 out of 10 Americans say we need stronger financial regulations; 4 out of 5 voters favor expanding social security; 3 out of 4 Americans say they want to close corporate tax loopholes; 3 out of 4 Americans favor stricter air pollution standards; more than 9 in 10 Americans say corporations should be held more accountable to the law.

It was surprising yet hopeful to hear that. And then it didn’t seem so surprising, because it’s what I suspected all along. We as Americans, whatever our religion or social location or color, are united in the basic tenets of fairness and caring, but somehow there is benefit for corporate advertising to have us believe we are hopelessly divided. It’s some kind of divide and conquer strategy, and currently, the majority of the American people are getting the shorter end of the stick. So the bad news is that we have to do this kind of work, we have to sleuth, and our BS radar has to be finely tuned. But the good news is that we are, by and large, on the same side.

And the more we dialogue and relate to one another with respect and genuine interest, the more we wake up and realize our power as one people, in a “post-partisan” way.  There is hope for our ailing political system when we are able to be peace-makers, and facilitate dialogues or modes of understanding.

Even if we are unable to have the verbal conversations about contentious matters, we may yet be able to be in relationship with one another, if the other is willing.  This is hugely positive when compared to the alternative of ignorance, animosity, and having no relationship. In fact, such relationships should be treasured in our lives, for they spread good will and unity.

So, hang in there, voting public – we only have about ten days to go.  But, come to peace with the fact that achieving an election result doesn’t signify the end, it signifies a potential beginning, a post-partisan era where everyone’s gifts are brought to the table, and are equally valued in this continuing experiment of democracy. We are blessed to be a part of it, this great American family, even when some members of our family drive us nuts. In the end, let us all sit down together and break bread in peace, sharing our hopes and excitement about the common dream, where all boys and girls can grow up in peace and prosperity.

Amen, brothers and sisters, and may it be so!

– Rev. At-Large, Hustlin’ Hannah Hope

P.S. The sermon version of this piece elicited this comment:  The problem is, you can screw up the liberal moral foundations and you mainly get problems of waste, which is not so terrible.  But when you screw up the conservative moral foundations, the potential for catastrophe is much more dangerous and caustic.