Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Calling Theo Epstein, Calling Theo Epstein...

It was not until divinity school that it occurred to me how central the idea of blessing was to Judaism and Christianity.  This revelation came from the combination of a NPR (in divinity school I started listening to state-run radio) story on a book of Jewish blessings, fabulous Old Testament teachers, and fellow students who pointed out the calling of Abraham.  Since this revelation I have focused most of my pastoral ministry (and pastoral theology) on blessing.  I define blessing as simply calling out or acknowledging or giving thanks for the goodness already present within someone or something.  

It is amazing how deep a pastor can get in the lives of people by focusing on blessing.  

But this presidential election forced me to alter my understanding of blessing.  I was only focusing on the positive side of blessing and not looking at the other side: cursing.  

I believe this election cycle has cursed America.  

By cursing I mean simply calling out or acknowledging the evil already present within someone or something.  How else to explain the feelings I have toward people I love and care deeply for because they voted for Trump?  How else to explain the feelings others have toward me because I was an adamant anti-Trumper.  (I need to confess here that I was not a pro-Clinton person, yes I voted for her but it was not an aspirational vote that I hoped it would've been).  How else to explain the basket of deplorables comment, the hate-filled and racist language at Trump rallies?  How else to explain the 700+ hate acts since the election? 

How do we reverse the curse?  I know Theo Epstein can work wonders (i.e. Red Sox and Cubs World Series - sorry baseball fans but I know there are some folk who do not know their baseball well enough to get the Mr. Epstein reference) but I don't think he can help us out here.  

Here is my way to try and reverse this curse.

1.  A National Pardon for all the people that voted for Trump.  There is no use holding onto the anger for the 62.2 million people that voted for Trump.  True, they may not want a pardon, but we need to do this for ourselves.  

2.  Organize, Resist, and Community.  We have moved beyond party politics.  Now it is about justice, mercy, fairness, equity.  We need to be prepared when the policies of hate are enacted.  We will need community to sustain us in this struggle of resistance.  Because social progress cannot go backwards.  
3.  Love the Blessing, not the Curse. Call out hate speech, racist acts, xenophobic acts, misogynistic language, behavior and acts, and damaging policies.  But realize we are all human beings and if religious teachings teach us anything is that we all have our own inner demons we need to keep in check.  We may like to believe we are superior but we are just a few steps away from similar behavior, acts, thoughts, and language.  Keep an abiding faith in the image of God within others, even if it is barely visible or hidden by deep pain and hate.  It's there, and it is the job of our religious imaginations to see it.  

4.  Humbleness.  As a white male I realize that my disbelief at the curse released on our nation is a late-coming realization.  Many Americans have lived with the effects of this curse on their lives everyday.  I am deeply sorry it took me this long to see the curse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bicycling in the Trump Era

A cursory search on a mega-lo-search-engine has turned up zero images of President-Elect Donald Trump riding a bicycle.  (For the record I did find images of Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Ford, & Kennedy).

Nevertheless, I propose that Trump will reinvigorate bicycle riding during his presidency (as a form of social protest)

It appears Trump will roll back many environmental gains: the Paris Agreement, Clean Power Act, Vehicle Emission Regulations.  And it appears he will open up federal land and offshore areas for exploration.  Some counter these backward measures with predicted movements of the deified market.  "The Market" will take care of it all.  Indeed, "the market" may just do that - cheap natural gas makes coal a poor investment and pulling out of the Paris Agreement will allow China to achieve the pinnacle of green technology exporter.

I, however, have a different approach.  Under the Trump presidency it appears we cannot count on input measures: regulation, a carbon tax, an active EPA, and etc.  We will need to focus on output measures: specifically, using solar powered vehicles - i.e. bicycles.

Solar powered?  Indeed!  Because of photosynthesis we are solar powered creatures which power the bicycles, thus solar powered vehicles.

We are not powerless.  What if enough Americans started riding bikes and stopped driving their cars? What if fossil fuel companies started losing money because the demand for gasoline dropped because Americans started riding bikes more?

Every now and then the woman who chose to marry me comments, "You think bikes are the answer to everything, don't you?"  Sometimes I do.  Indeed we need structural change, we need massive changes to the way run our economy and lives.  But I think we need some kind of small individual/community gains to inspire and generate greater gains.  Is there enough time to reverse the damage we've done to the environment?  I don't know, I hope so.  But we have to change culture before we change society.

Therefore, I think we are going to need to ride bicycles during the Trump era for two reasons: one, as a generative act; and two, for our health.  I predict I will be frustrated and angry more days than not over the next four years.  I'm gonna need to ride off my anger, anxiety, and  frustration.  I imagine you will too.  Along the way I will not only do my body some good, but also I will meet other bicyclists and form a new community.  This new community will find power in ourselves and will need power to confront and challenge a Trump presidency and prepare the way for structural change.
So you want to counter the Trump presidency?  Get on a two-wheeled solar powered vehicle and let's have at it.

And like Bill McKibben has told us: is it permissible to burn gasoline when we drive a car or ride in a train/plane to attend an environmental protest/rally?  Indeed, it will be the best gasoline you burn that year!