Saturday, September 20, 2008

six percent racist; 100% ironic

Obama would be 6% higher in polls, if there was no racism in white Democrats, according to this article about an AP-Yahoo News poll.

Some findings:
"There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots," said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.

Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.

40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.

One-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that. Three in 10 of those Democrats who don't trust Obama's change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.

---that's what I don't understand. If you doubt that one candidate can bring the change you want, you'll vote for the opposing candidate? It's irrational, and that's the problem. Political liberals argue from reason; political conservatives stir up feelings, and promise to address those feelings.

Perhaps our fear of change is so strong, that if we cannot be sure of the outcome, we'll vote for no change at all. If Obama loses the election, it won't be due to the specific fear of racism, but rather the more generalized fear of change. What an irony, when both major parties are running on a platform of "Change." McCain promises to change "those people" in Washington; Obama promises to change *us*. That's what people most fear. And that's the transformation that we most need. Whoever wins in November, that's the change that religious liberals must continue to work toward.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

AIG 401k SOS

Banking crisis got you down? Concerned about diminishing dividends, or your forlorn 401k? Are you becoming more interested in the FDIC, and whether your checking account will be covered if your bank folds? For the record, virtually all accounts up to $100,000 are covered ($250,000 in retirement accounts); and most banks are nowhere near collapse. However, the ongoing crisis is frightening.

One solution would be to follow a parishioner's wisdom: upon seeing his statements with lower and lower numbers, he opined, "I wish I had given more of it away." If the banks, or governments, or the "unseen hand" of the markets is going to take a big chunk anyway, you may as well get the satisfaction (and tax advantage) of donating to your church.

Another approach: talk to a minister, and check in with (find?!) a financial planner. We clergy may not know how to protect your money, but we do know about feelings. We religiously liberal folks often have a complicated relationship with wealth; we sometimes feel guilty about our own success. Whatever you're feeling, ministers are here to listen, without judgment and with compassion. Just saying things out loud can help.

Clearly, there is a justice issue here: the "haves" get bailed out; the "have-nots" face tougher bankruptcy laws and foreclosure. Of course we need money; yes, nest eggs are important--and the lesson here is so old it's a cliché: our real wealth is our health, and our relationships. Make a deposit in a "friendship" account today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

O. Henry & 9/11 a day late

Today is the 146th anniversary of the birth of William Sydney Porter ("O. Henry.") Porter popularized the short story as an art form, and is best known for his plot twists.
In "The Cop and the Anthem," the main character, Soapy, is trying to get arrested for the winter. Sleeping outside in the cold is too dangerous, and charitable institutions might not let him go in the spring, but a misdemeanor offense carries a three-month sentence -- just long enough.
Unfortunately, he cannot seem to get arrested. When he can't pay at a restaurant, the management simply throws him out. He finds a policeman, and pretends to be drunk, but the cop tells a passer-by, "It is one of them Yale lads celebrating the goose-egg they gave Harvard! We have orders to let them be."
Other attempts also fail, and a frustrated Soapy finds himself in front of a church. He hears the organ playing, and he undergoes a change of heart. He remembers a job he was offered, and he resolves to get a new start on life. Then he feels a tap on his shoulder, and he is arrested for loitering and sentenced to three months in prison!

Today is also the 7th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Let us be mindful of all those who died that day; and those who loved and still miss them; and of the millions who have been affected by the subsequent wars. Let us also be mindful of the failure of our elected leadership. Somewhat like an O. Henry plot-twist, life's tragedies can sometimes lead to transformation and opportunity. Alas, virtually all of our public leaders failed to lead us in that direction, seven years ago. When we vote in a few weeks, let us think carefully about the values of the candidates. Who will lead toward real transformation and hope?

Friday, September 05, 2008

nine billion names

Following Arthur C. Clarke's Hugo-winning story about selling a computer to "lamas," so they can more quickly finish their earthly work of printing the nine billion names of God...

The list of names is not important,
nor is the question of whether or not
any god exists that might be called by one of those names.
What is important
is that there are six billion human beings on this planet right now.
Each of those six billion people,
at this very instant,
is thinking or dreaming or feeling or acting,
and those thoughts and dreams and feelings and actions
will affect the next instant,
and the next.

Every instant, every moment,
six billion people spend something of ultimate value—
their own life energy—
on thinking and dreaming and feeling and acting.

It could be love, or sustenance, or rest or children
that is the focus of our individual life energy at this moment.
It could be work, or recreation,
or hate or fear or greed or envy
or hunger or agony or illness.

Every instant, those six billion ideas and emotions combine
to create the next instant,
which starts the whole process over again.

We aren’t exactly naming gods,
but we are indicating what we feel is important.
There is a list of six billion concepts
and emotions and actions
generated every moment.

It would take my printer years to print it all out,
but the combined mass of human beings
does it over and over again,
every second of every day,
as we tumble into the future
that we are co-creating.

What if all six billion of us
were focused on the ideas of fairness and justice.
What would the world look like, in that next instant?
What if we give our energy
only to that which we truly value,
and did not give it
to those things from which we wish to be free?

There are things which are larger than ourselves:
truth, love, beauty,
Life, fairness, connection…
Worship, to me, is paying homage to those human values,
reminding ourselves
to be aware of what we are creating,
as we think and dream and feel and act.

Worship is not self-denial,
not chanting “we’re not worthy” or “we’re so sinful”
I understand if that’s what it feels like,
because you learned it as a child.
Once, when I was six or seven,
I woke from nightmare with tears streaming from my eyes
and my heart clattering in my chest.
The nightmare?
I went to heaven,
and discovered it was an everlasting, never-ending
church service.

I do know how the concepts and limits
of other faith traditions can wound us.
That is why it is so important for us
to take back those words,
and not allow others to force their meanings into our heads...

Worship is a human activity,
reminding ourselves of our highest human values.

It does not give away or deny our power;
rather, it is an affirmation
of the huge amount of power that we possess
as six billion of us
create the next instant
and the next
with our thoughts and feelings, and dreams and words and actions.

Once a day, or once a week,
or at least once per year, on Resumption Sunday,
let us remind ourselves
of our collective power and responsibility
to co-create our world.
So may we be.

--from last year's UUCGT "Resumption Sunday" service