Rep. Ilhan Omar and the Same Old Questions

I’ve been pondering what to say about the recent/ongoing controversies around the president and Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The problem is that there’s really nothing new to say. These are the same old questions of power and ethics.

However, the lessons remain important – and never more so than during Holy Week, so:

The critically important voices of women of color are massively underrepresented in public discourse in our culture. May we listen and learn from them, recognizing and respecting that those voices are particular rather than monolithic.

White imperial capitalist patriarchy perpetually reacts with violence to challenges to its ill-gotten hegemonic power. The intensity of reaction generally mirrors the intensity of the perceived threat. This power is unambiguously harmful to people and the planet.

Cultural pluralism is one of the greatest gifts of life in the contemporary United States. In that context, religious differences ought to be a site of blessing and respect. May we who are not Muslim hold Muslims in our hearts as our friends and neighbors.

Our lives are suffused with holiness — of time, place, and being. We must actively, daily choose to grasp that reality, to live that way rather than drowning in the transactionalism of contemporary society, that system of dominance that reduces all worth to that of economic production and consumption.

Let those of us who claim an ethical principle of living, rooted in religious faith or not, do our best to embody compassion, justice, respect, and love in ways that reject exploitation, dehumanization, and commodification of all living beings and the whole of Creation.

That is the work of living in this age.

We do this work and walk this path together.


Globalization and the Value of Life

I’ve been thinking about an interview I heard the other day on the radio with a union worker who, defying his union leadership, supports Donald Trump (note: this is NOT a post about a particular candidate – this is a systemic problem and that’s what I want to emphasize).

His rationale was that illegal immigration is the cause of the weak job market. He believes that Trump is the man to fix that and thus restore us to an economy filled with well-paying working class jobs.

That this gentleman blames immigrant workers rather than globalization for the gutting of the earned wage economy in this country points to a central problematic narrative – one which is expertly manipulated – in our national discourse.

If this gentleman’s analysis did extend to globalization, it’s not unlikely that he would blame fellow workers around the globe rather than the system that pits his labor against theirs to detriment of both (and the planet) and for the enrichment of the people who created the system.

Modern globalization of world capital really began with the establishment of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) in 1948. It was further fertilized by the Uruguay Round of negotiations that took place from 1986-1994, resulting in the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Look at those years – that’s Reagan, HW Bush, and Clinton. This is a BIPARTISAN doing. The Doha round of negotiations began under W Bush and continues to this day under Obama. NAFTA started under HW Bush and was signed by Clinton. CAFTA has been signed (and almost certainly the TPP will be) on Obama’s watch.

The result is the concentration of wealth through the accumulation of capital by the very few. In the process, many of the rest of us have been literally invested in the system enough (think 401Ks over pensions) to have a stake in its preservation, but we should be under no illusion that we are its real or intended beneficiaries.

And the rest of the people – the millions of people in this country who will never have a decent paying job and who have no accumulated wealth to fall back on and the billions of people around the world whose national economies have been violently stripped of any residual capacity they had to be self-sustaining in the wake of colonialism – those people are desperate and in the cold light of globalization, they are disposable.

The majority of the world’s population has value only to the extent that they are consumers (whether they earn, borrow, receive, or steal the funds to support their consumption habit). And our ecosystems have value only as economic commodities.

This represents the height of dehumanization and crushing mechanism of environmental destruction. It is a political problem, an economic problem, and an environmental problem. It is a moral, cultural, and theological problem.

We cannot address if we do not see it for what it is.

if it’s always darkest just before the dawn, we ought to have one hell of a sunrise

If only every child could flee to Egypt
could go another way
when evil
creeps astride or
breaks the glass or
holds out its arms.

Bullets in babies
strangled boys huddled by their beds
girls who went to gather firewood and water
and instead found death.

School children and more
school children.

Though Herod got it wrong
the massacre of innocents has become
a daily feast of bloodshed.




* this was written a while back, but today I’ll add a dedication to the memory of Tamir Rice


For the Grief of the World – the Grief of the Whole World

I awoke this morning thinking not only about the horrible attacks in Paris, but about the fact that around 4 dozen people were killed in a terrorist attack in Beirut on Thursday.

Last night I grieved publicly for the deaths in Paris.

On Thursday I said nothing.

There are thousands of people killed on a daily basis around the globe in spasms of senseless violence, in ideological moves for power and control.

Most of the time I say nothing. Most of the time if I stop to grieve at all its in the abstract.

One shred of clarity I have in midst of all of this horror is the conviction that no one life ought to be valued more than any other. According to my faith (and many other faiths and the beliefs of people of no faith at all in their own ethical language), we are all precious children of God.

It may be easier for me as an urban person of European descent to identify with urban European people out for an evening’s meal or music who die a needless death. And the incidents in Paris are a deep, deep tragedy.

But neither must I allow myself the luxury of grieving only them. I must not overlook and must not forget the violence we humans do to one another (and to the earth) on daily basis. Its sheer magnitude is heartbreaking and daunting. But that fact must not keep us from finding ways to care for one another, That fact must not keep us from working to bring about peace and justice for all people.

Rules of the Game

Political pundit on the
news says our wars
work best when we have
skin in the game

Skin in the game,
as if wars happen
any other

brown skin
black skin
white skin
bodies of
boys and girls
soldier bodies
breathing and

the tight animal
fear of bloody
sleepless nights and
days of
no bread
no school
no work
no sense of

Skin in the game.

Bright American lives
women and men
with mad skillz and
dedicated hearts.

Our skin in the game.

Until they return
home to our
indifference, our
distance from
their pain,
the pain they
caused, the pain
they know that
cuts through
every cord of
stable hope,
every shred of
soul’s gentle

Skin in the game.

Endangered bodies of
other lands trying to live
their daily lives.
Hoping for
clean sheets,
ample meals with a
bit of wine
music lessons
soul-settling worship
a good doctor for a
child ill with some
easy disease,
perhaps pinkeye,
as the worst thing
that happened today.

Their skin in our game.

In our games we play
Risk and Battleship
without popcorn and laughter,
writ large across the
map of black-ink
borders and language.
Minecraft with
real mines
that take off legs
at the knee
at best.

We play them like a game.

But there is – always –
skin in the
That is how war is

For some there can be
no forgetting.

A Midweek Morning’s Prayer

Gracious and loving God,

This morning I pray across the
great gaps of our differences,
across the pain we cause one another.
I grieve my own complicity –
intentional or unintentional –
in the suffering of of the world.
I lift up our yearnings for justice,
our deep desires for wisdom,
the kindness we hope to
give and to receive.
You have created us
in love, for love.
May we embody that
love with our lives.


A Short Sunday Meditation

We have conditioned ourselves to accept violence done to others. And in some ways we do so in order that we may live – so that the deaths of Turkish peace activists, the shooting of Tamir Rice, the campus killings in one state after another, the countless acts of brutality near and far do not jolt us from the necessary stuff of our daily lives.

But sometimes we need to let it touch us. We need to let it touch us not so that we get mired in despair but so that we let it change us. Not so that we are changed toward bitterness and fear, but so that we are changed toward love and compassion and a drive for justice. So that our hearts are more open and more determined to engage one with another in ways that interrupt bloodshed as the price of doing the business of life.

A Morning (Mourning) Prayer for a Difficult Week

dear God, dear God,
we don’t know what to
make of this week.
Or last week.
Or next week.

So much sorrow surrounds us
even in the midst of the beauty of the day.
broken windows, broken hearts, broken spines.
People held in place by a
heavy, brutal hand.
Bricks and mortar
bricks and stones
argued points
harsh words
We think other people are ignorant and
they think we are,
a sharp crack in cultural understanding.
We lift up to you natural disasters and
human ones.

God, we witness destruction and
we know death,
distant and near.
Help us not to turn away.
Give us wisdom so that we might
speak well into sorrow,
that we might act with skill and compassion,
that we might mend old wounds
or at least stop wounding
or at least want to stop wounding.
We confess our sins,
for we have wounded.

Help us to turn our faces toward justice like we
lift them to sun on lovely spring day.
We cry out for a transcendent presence,
something greater than us,
something that asks us to be better
today than we were yesterday, to be better
tomorrow than we were today.

Jesus taught us to side with the oppressed.
May it be so
wherever we might find them.
May we find them.
May we seek them.
May we living according to your transcendent presence.
May we live into that world,
on earth as it is in heaven,
heaven on earth.
May we make it so.


A Desperate Evening Prayer – April 27, 2015

Prayers for Baltimore
Prayers for Baltimore
Prayers for Baltimore

Prayers for Nepal
Prayers for Nepal
Prayers for Nepal

Prayers for all who suffer
all who know fear
all who are caught in the middle
who are caught out in the cold
who are left hungry
who are hungry for justice
who see no other way
who have no hope
who have no reason for hope
who have no home
Prayers for all who grieve.