Let’s get serious, people!

I’m furious today! Furious…appalled…disappointed…there aren’t enough words to express my feelings.

Why?

I’m furious at people who are not taking COVID-19 seriously. This is not just like the flu we deal with every year. It’s more like the 1918 pandemic.

I’m furious at those who continue to congregate in large groups, ignoring requests and orders to avoid gatherings or shelter in place because they don’t think it will impact them.

I’m furious at religious leaders who see no reason to stop services because they believe that they are somehow protected because of their beliefs.

I’m furious at an administration that frittered away weeks when we could have begun taking actions to mitigate the spread of this virus…and who continues to minimize its seriousness.

I’m furious at those who are asking first responders to put their lives–and their family’s lives–on the line without appropriate and necessary protective equipment as they deal with individuals suffering from this virus.

I’m furious at those who consider the elderly and vulnerable as “collateral damage” in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Yes, I know the economy is important–but not at the expense of our humanity.

I don’t know what alternate universe some are living in. How in God’s name can you look at what’s been happening in other parts of the world and believe that we’re not as vulnerable? Those areas that have taken major (and difficult!) steps to try to stop this virus have been doing better; the areas that have waffled and delayed…that didn’t think it was any big thing for weeks have been hit hard.

It’s time…no, it’s past time…for us to get serious about this. This is the time to listen to those who have studied past pandemics and viruses…who can give advice based on science and facts.

For the sake of everyone, please listen to those who know what they’re talking about–and then follow them!

 

Where is the church? Who is the church?

Many of us are feeling unsettled these days.

Not just because of concerns about the virus–although those are very real concerns that we have no answers for.

But for many of us whose lives have been built around church activities, we’re facing new questions.

Activities are being cancelled. We can’t leave our homes to go to a church building for services on Sunday morning (and any other days of the week we might be used to).

We’re not sure when we’ll be able to get together face-to-face again…when we’ll be able to hold each other tight in hugs…when we’ll be able to mourn together…rejoice together.

And it raises questions for us: Where is the church? and who is the church?

If we don’t have a building and activities to engage in, how do we understand church?

Yes, it is unsettling. But it’s also a wonderful opportunity!

Maybe we’ll find out that church truly isn’t a building…it’s us. And church can happen anywhere…and any time.

Maybe we’ll discover gifts we never knew we had.

Maybe we’ll discover opportunities we were to busy to see before.

Maybe we’ll discover that all those differences between faith traditions that we thought were so important…really aren’t. Maybe we’ll find that we have more in common than we thought…after all, all the great faith traditions have some version of what Christians call the Golden Rule.

And maybe…just maybe…we’ll rediscover our humanity towards each other.

Image result for golden rule

Who are we…really?

Who are we…really?

Each of us wears a mask on a daily basis–a mask that presents the face we want the world to see. But what’s behind that mask?

There’s a medieval story about an ugly man whose ugliness turned everyone away from him. He wore a mask that changed his appearance for years–and when he finally took it off, he found that his face had reshaped into the beauty the mask had always shown.

There’s also a related interesting etymology for the word “hypocrite.” That comes from Greek drama, where players wore huge masks to portray the character they were playing–someone whose mask didn’t necessarily match who they were.

This pandemic is challenging us in many ways–but one of those challenges focuses on the consonance or dissonance between the masks we wear…and who we really are.

Do our words and actions match?

If we follow a religious tradition, how well do our relationships and actions match the words we say we believe?

Are we putting on a mask of blessing…of inner beauty…and allowing that mask to change us into that person?

Or are we simply wearing  a mask like the Greek actors did–a mask that doesn’t match who we are?

We cannot hide our true selves during this time. How we treat and interact with others will show who we are.

Really.

This is Sabbath time…

I woke up this morning–Sunday morning–and I don’t have any place to be. My place of worship is closed, and that’s where I normally spend my Sunday morning.

Where to go? What to do?

I could worry and stew.

Or I could accept it as a gift…a time to step back, to let go of all the “stuff” I think I have to do.

I can stop and think. What is my relationship with others? family…friends…those I just bump into at the store or on the street. What do my interactions with them demonstrate? that I am concerned and care for them? or just myself?

What is my relationship with the Divine (whatever name I use)? Do I see the Divine as some kind of a Santa Claus to give a wish list to once or twice a year–but basically ignore the rest of the time? If the Divine somewhere far away who doesn’t really care what’s going on in my life? Or is the Divine my foundation? my friend? the One who walks with me every day in every situation?

How do I use my time? Do I prioritize wisely? or just fritter away?

This virus is changing our lives. It’s creating challenges for all of us.

But it’s also providing an opportunity…an opportunity to take Sabbath time…to think…to rest…to refresh and renew.

Who to listen to?

Who should we listen to? That question can relate to a number of topics and issues…but right now I’m thinking of it in terms of COVAD-19.

I’m seeing a lot of people saying this is no big deal…that it’s just like the flu and isn’t anything we should be particularly worried about. I hear the term “hoax” being thrown around a lot…

Folks, this is serious.

We’ve dealt with coronaviruses before–but not this one. There’s a lot we don’t know about it, and that in itself makes it dangerous.

What we do know is that it seems to develop quickly–you can feel fine and then in the space of just a couple of hours, you can be in serious condition.

We also know that it seems to hit the elderly–especially those with underlying conditions–especially hard.

We know that you can be spreading it, even if you don’t feel sick yourself…and that means that it’s extremely difficult to contain. At least with some of our other diseases, you’re not super contagious until you show symptoms…but with this, you’re super contagious before you start showing them.

We’re being caught flat-footed because the people whose job it has been to be planning ahead for situations like this were dismissed. We can’t just quickly call them back to deal with this crisis–it takes long-range planning and developing of relationships across borders.

Until and unless we are willing to listen to those who have spent their lives preparing for and dealing with these kind of medical issues, we’re going to be in even more trouble than we are already.

It’s fine to discourage panic. But it is not fine to dismiss science just because it doesn’t agree with what you want.

This is serious. Let’s listen to those who know what they’re talking about and take the necessary steps.

To be nonviolent…

I just spent an intense weekend listening to John Dear talk about what it means to live nonviolently.

There’s a lot to think about!

If I am truly a follower of Jesus, then I am challenged to live a life of nonviolence. And that means living in such a way that there is no situation under which I would support the taking of life.

I found myself wanting to say “But…but…” However, is there really any “but”? Is there a way other than fight or flight to deal with a culture of violence? Jesus says there is.

Have we ever really tried his way? Really tried?

Not for 1700 years–since Constantine co-opted Christianity as a tool of the state. Before then, followers of Jesus were forbidden to serve in the military…and as they were abused and tortured–and sent into the Coliseum to be brutally killed–they did not respond with violence. Instead, they sang hymns of praise. Really?? Could I?

The Sermon on the Mount says “blessed are the peacemakers.”

Do we make peace by killing people to bring them peace? Or does violence just beget more violence?

I’ve watched a couple of movies since the weekend. Selma and A Man for All Seasons. Both deal with the question of how to react when faced with issues in a world of violence.

I don’t know if I could have the courage to respond in the ways expressed in these movies. I hope I would.

Living nonviolently in a culture that seems addicted to violence…difficult but we have to start doing it. Otherwise–as expressed during the weekend–the question is not “violence or nonviolence”…it’s “nonviolence or nonexistence.”

We are at a tipping point. Which way will we go?

 

What I want in a leader…

Those of us who live in the United States are embroiled in the chaos that starts almost immediately after every presidential election. It’s been going on for a while–but it’s really ramping up now as the process is working its way through to decide who the main candidates are going to be.

I have to confess that I am beginning to hate elections! Not the process of listening and deciding…but the fact that we no sooner have one election than we start working on the next. I envy my friends who live in countries where the election process from beginning to end takes only a matter of weeks–or, at most–a few months rather than year after year after year.

There are all kinds of ads trying to get me to select this candidate or that…badmouthing this candidate or that. But not much telling me why this person is running…or what they are hoping to do. Occasionally that happens–and that information is available. But it’s exhausting at times digging it out.

So…if I had to make a list of qualities I’m looking for in a candidate, here’s at least some of what I would include:

  • Integrity. I know that no one is perfect, but I want someone whose words and actions correlate.
  • Willing to admit mistakes and take responsibility for them.
  • Willing to listen to experts, regardless of their political party.
  • Someone who sees the role as working to unite the country…to find areas of common concern and interest that we can all work on…together.
  • A person of faith. Not because I want them to push their faith on everyone else, but someone who has a foundation built on something larger than themselves.
  • Someone who delights in the success of others…and gives them credit when deserved.
  • A knowledge of history.
  • Willing to work with leaders in other countries to build consensus, but who doesn’t toady to dictators.
  • Someone who sees the importance of diplomacy.
  • Not beholden to people who have made huge donations to their campaign.
  • Willing to work across the aisle.

There are undoubtedly other qualities I could include, but these are the ones that came to mind quickly.

Quite honestly, I don’t even care if I agree with all their policies–as long as I believe they are a person of integrity. People can have honest disagreements over policy and still find areas of common ground…places where they can work together…who don’t see disagreement as a reason for hatred. That used to happen…

I’d really like for it to happen again.