Things I’m For

My Ideal World

things I'm for - lincoln determine a thing shall be done

I’m for equality, for justice for all, for caring about other people above asserting our own rights, for defending what’s good for most people rather than for 1% of us, for an end to bigotry, for kindness, for compassion, for courage, for an absolute commitment to, and unwillingness to shirk from, intelligence, for the idea that formal education by no means makes our ideas better than anyone else’s but it’s a good start, for all of us banding together to give no quarter to anyone who hates or fears people different from them, or who in any way believes other people to be less worthy of love and compassion than themselves.

I’m for the truth, however it presents itself, whether or not it agrees with my politics. I’m for being willing to change our minds. If you’re not interested in and open to the truth over your own political ideology, there are other pastors/writers who can deal well with you, but you’re not in my wheelhouse.

I’m for caring about the things Jesus cared about more than the things Ronald Reagan cared about, and for understanding the difference.

I’m for a world where everyone knows that another person living the way they want to live doesn’t in any way keep anyone else from living how they want to.

I’m for people pursuing God out of curiosity, courage, love, or interest, but not out of fear. I’m for a world where the only theology we care about is the theology that springs from compassion and loving others, so theological statements and doctrines are only useful when they help us to do that. I’m for a church and a world where love is the law, and it’s enough.

I’m for an end to violence of every single possible imaginable kind — emotional, spiritual, psychological, physical, social, verbal, economic, and I’m for searching myself to see where I might be perpetrating some of this violence unconsciously, and then doing what I have to do to address it.

I’m for a world where no one, ever again, says, “I love you, but…”

I’m for not towing the party line, whether that means me not towing it for the church when the church is wrong, cops not towing it for cops, teachers not towing it for teachers, whites not towing it for whites, gays not towing it for gays, blacks not towing it for blacks, for everybody being willing to learn to identify and root out the sickness in our own houses. I’m for seeing problems, naming them, and working to fix them.

I’m for religion that opens up questions and mystery, rather than making us certain and self-satisfied.

I’m for reading both the Bible and the Constitution openly, not in letter but in spirit, trying to discern what general point was intended and how that applies to us today, for wrestling with old documents and using them as guides, not as templates.

I’m for people taking personal responsibility, so saying things like “I am responsible for the world being the shitty place it often is,” and “I’m responsible for traces of racism, greed, and lack of empathy in my own heart.”

I’m for all people being considered worthy of basic love, respect, and humanness, even including bigots, as long as they don’t spew their bile onto other people.

I’m for the idea that America, in fact the world, isn’t a good place until it’s good for all of us.

Most of all, I’m for taking another step — today — to be the change I wish to see in the world.

Compassion vs. Approval/Disapproval

True Compassion is LOVE inAction

photo courtesy of Viking Karwar, licensed under Creative Commons

The Place of Compassion

If you think of disapproval and approval of people [and their actions/attitudes/opinions] as two opposite ends of a continuum, where would you put compassion?

It’s a trick question. Compassion doesn’t even belong on that continuum. Compassion is something wholly different.

You will automatically tend to sit in judgment on whatever you disapprove of. “That’s wrong.” “That’s inappropriate.” “That’s ridiculous.” Even saying these words out loud probably makes you feel a little bit negative, and you can feel in that negativity the seeds of judgment.

On the other hand, you will tend to elevate whatever you approve of. “That’s good.” “That’s right.” “That’s wholesome.”

For too many people, the whole world is divided and placed into either the approve column, or the disapprove column. Whatever column you put something in, you can, and often will, remain almost completely passive, rendering your verdict and simply declaring it and defending it from then on. You see people doing this all the time on Facebook and other social media. (Declaring and defending are also the basic fuel that fires religious fundamentalism.)

Compassion exists on another plane, a higher and better one. Compassion gets you off the approval/disapproval hamster-wheel, and moves you to action.

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The Best Way to Live

mandela - best way to live

image courtesy of

When looking for examples of the best way to live and move the world forward, is it generally best to look to people above us or below us? Smarter or stupider? Braver or more cowardly? Happier or less happy? More or less content? More virtuous or less so?

Nearly every universally respected person — MLK Jr., Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Vaclav Havel, Solzhenitsyn, Elie Wiesel, Dalai Lama, etc. — ends up not getting more disapproving and militant as they get older, but embracing love and compassion as lenses for living and stances for being better in the world, and helping to inspire, empower, and release others into better lives.

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Response to responses to the death of Whitney Houston

I cannot talk meaningfully about the death of Whitney Houston. I don’t have anything productive to add to the dialogue. But I can respond to some of the other responses to Whitney’s death. When Whitney Houston ruled the world I was in high school and her music was not my style. But there was never a time when I did not have the highest and deepest respect for her craft. She was, and is, the greatest vocal talent in the history of recorded music. It will be a very, very long time before someone of her caliber comes along again.

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I have been inspired and deeply challenged in the last few months by the writings and lectures of Fr. Richard Rohr.  At every turn he is forcing me to rethink things I once took for granted.  Below is a repost of a recent daily devotional I received from him.

How can I be of and with the poor?

We can no longer be satisfied by simply being the Church for the poor from our position of establishment.  We must realize that sometimes that very generosity, that very attempt to be good to other people, has kept us in a position of power and superiority.  Somehow we must be of and with the poor, and then be ready for some mistrust and even criticism.

Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999), the holy Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, said it so truthfully, “As long as I fed the poor, they called me a saint.  When I asked, ‘Why are there so many poor people?’ they called me a communist.”

Source: Fr. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations