Reflections on the Fallacy of Either/Or Thinking

 Every year, I write a "Blessing for the Sharing of Light" for the Christmas Eve service at the church I'm serving. This year, I wrote two, but the light was shared virtually because both of our services were held via ZOOM.  I've been thinking a lot this year about the ways that we portray dark and light culturally, which prompted the blessing I used for the early family service. We as a people will only get closer to building the Realm of God when we deal honestly with White Supremacy and all that derives from it or inspires it. One sick inspiration for it is the notion that light is always better than dark; it comes through the metaphor of light=good and dark=evil that was an ancient philosophical and religious idea that was twisted by those whose greed and thirst for power needed an ideological underpinning.  God’s first words were, “Let there be light!” And there was light.   God separated the light from the darkness, making day and night. We are born with a fea

The Deprecation of Simple Fixes

In 2 Kings 5, the commander of the Aramean army, a man named Naaman, suffered “leprosy.” Whether this was the disease now known as Hansen’s Disease, a more virulently contagious skin disease such as impetigo, shingles, or chickenpox, or an autoimmune disease that manifests on the skin, such as psoriasis, eczema, or even pemphigus, is beside the point: in almost every culture of the time, any sign of infection on one’s skin marked one as “unclean.” For what it’s worth, the description later in the chapter of skin “as white as snow” suggests vitiglio, which is thought to be an autoimmune disease and may be heritable, but is definitely not contagious. At the urging of an enslaved girl from Israel, who insisted that a prophet there could heal the general, the King of Aram sent a wealth-laden Naaman to the King of Israel. I suppose the King of Israel was suspicious of this sudden appearance of an enemy general—that would be natural, of course. So rather than acquiescing to the request tha

Nine Minutes

Nine Minutes I did something today I’ve never done before: I went to a demonstration to show solidarity with a group of people who aren’t like me. I didn’t take a sign. I just showed up. I’ve been to PRIDE events. I’ve been to educational events for racism, economic justice, and immigration justice. I’ve been part of a drama troupe that tackled all of these things and ecological justice, too. But until today, I’d never exercised the particular First Amendment right to gather to demonstrate my horror at a reality that does not directly affect the quality of my life but does diminish—in fact, is potentially and dramatically lethal to—the quality of life of my siblings who are black and brown. In Conway, New Hampshire there were not many black and brown siblings in attendance at this demonstration in solidarity with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatianna Jefferson, Ahmad Arbery, and far too many others who have died because of white supremacy. The whole event was organize

It Really is All About the Fear

Of all the commentary about the Senate trial of the current occupant of the White House, I think only Sherrod Brown has come close to identifying the reason 52 Senators failed to convict and remove him from office. Brown wrote , “For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator. They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like ‘Low Energy Jeb’ and ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary.” 1 I don’t think that’s the entirety of their fear, however. If it were, Lamar Alexander, I think, would have voted with Mitt Romney because he’s retiring anyway. Pat Roberts and Mike Enzi are also retiring; given the overwhelming case made on abuse of power, it’s hard to see how even the most diehard supporters of the president would risk their integrity to vote against conviction and removal if their re-election were not

Of Fallen Walls and Paths Not Taken

November 9, 1989, found me in my apartment on the Boston University campus watching the remnants of my teenage career plans go up in clouds of cement dust as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. I had thought that I’d have a career in the United States Navy as an intelligence officer, followed by an illustrious career as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) capped off with appointment as the United States Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Never let it be said that I dreamed small. The Navy part went by the wayside when my eyesight proved to be so bad that—as I now know—even the broadest waivers wouldn’t allow me to pursue commissioning. At the time, there was a blanket “no waiver” policy thanks to the way that Tom Cruise made the military look glamorous in Top Gun . Ah, well, as the Army chaplain recruiter noted when I said you don’t have to be able to see to pray in a foxhole, you do have to be able to see to get out of one. When the Army says no, the

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...Despite Everything Else

I love my country. I am honored and humbled to know that circumstances allowed me to be born here, the daughter of a US Army retiree, descendant of men who fought in the Continental Army in the American Revolution and on both sides (ugh) of the Civil War. My lineage includes whalers, farmers, teachers, musicians, slaveowners, and abolitionists. We have all valued our lives as Americans, the liberty afforded us as Americans, and been able to pursue happiness with minimal limitation. I was taught to value these principles for all people, and because of this, I value the lives of the men and women who put on the uniforms of our armed forces and volunteer to lose their lives for the freedoms granted to us by the Constitution, shaped as it was by the ideals underlying “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. I value the words of those who speak out against the worst devils of inhumanity that keep people from having those Constitutional rights; t

Playing With God

This is the manuscript version of the sermon I preached (without manuscript) on Sunday, June 16, 2019, at First Church of Christ, Congregational, United Church of Christ, North Conway, New Hampshire. I very likely said a few things that aren't here and didn't say a few things that are here, which is the nature of preaching in the style that I do! Psalm 8 (NRSV) O  Lord , our Sovereign,    how majestic is your name in all the earth!   You have set your glory above the heavens.      Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,    to silence the enemy and the avenger.   When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,    the moon and the stars that you have established;   what are human beings that you are mindful of them,    mortals   that you care for them?   Yet you have made them a little lower than God,    and crowned them with glory and honor.   You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;    you have p