I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I call myself that in order to distinguish myself from the dominant strain of North American Christianity. At the risk of sounding arrogant and judgmental, I am compelled to say that conservative Christians have adopted a very narrow and exclusionary reading of the Bible, thereby rendering static and dead a book I find dynamic and alive. It is not my purpose here to defend my faith or my reading of the Bible; neither needs defending. My purpose is simply to clarify what I believe. Before developing my own beliefs about Christ and the Bible, I think it appropriate to share a little of my personal history.
This week's parsha is Aharay Mot and Kedoshim, Leviticus chapters 16 to 20. During leap years, it is split into two parshas, but this year is not a leap year so the two parshas are read together. The Haftarah (reading from the prophets) is either Amos 9: 17-15 or Ezekiel 20: 2-20, or Ezekiel 22: 1-16, depending whether you are Ashkenazi or Sephardi (apparently the Sephardim have two traditions on where to read from Ezekiel).
This week's reading includes Leviticus 19, which, along with the Ten Commandments and the Shema (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9), comprise the most important teachings of Judaism in the Torah. Although Chapter 19 contains a mixture of ritual and ethical laws, the ethical laws alone proclaim a duty to our fellow human beings that should provide a guidance for all humanity, regardless of faith or lack thereof.
The most famous words in chapter 19 are from line 18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus proclaimed as the fundamental Jewish teaching, which Christianity would follow, that the Shema and "Love your neighbor as yourself" were the two greatest teachings of the Torah - "all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Mark 12: 30-31 and Matthew 22: 37-40. And a few years earlier, Rabbi Hillel had agreed, teaching (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a):
That which is hateful to you do not unto your neighbor. That is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary thereof. Now go and learn it [the commentary].So, to follow the teaching of Hillel, lets examine another verse from Leviticus 19, explore the commentary thereon, and then ask whether the self-proclaimed righteous Christians who dominate the governments of too many states, and who occasionally refer to their values as "Judeo Christian", are actually following Judeo-Christian values when they enact their war against the poor. From Leviticus 19:9-10:
Over the years, Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, has become a very strong proponent of women's rights, to a point where he has spoken out against the falsehoods and extremism we see within the 'religion' of Christianity today. In 2009, he penned an open letter, severing ties with the mega SBC/Southern Baptist Convention, after being a member of the Convention for 60 years. Carter said the decision was difficult and painful, yet 'unavoidable,' after the Convention leaders chose to take bible verses out of context and claim 'Eve' was responsible to for 'original sin,' and thus all women must be subservient to men. In Carter's aforementioned open letter, he expands on his reasons and concerns:
This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.Carter states how the subjugation of women was not always a part of Christianity.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truthsIn his letter, Carter discusses the independent group of global leaders to which he belongs, called The Elders. Founded by the late Nelson Mandela, the members have come together on this issue and collectively published this statement to all religious leaders around the world:"The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable." This discrimination can and must end says Carter. He believes it's within our power:
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.Thank you, Mr. Carter, not only for the work you do for the sake of our daughters, our granddaughters, and their daughters, but also for our sons, grandsons, and the whole of humanity. Thank you, to you and Rosalynn for creating The Carter Center. And thank you for living by example. You are a good and true man, and this world is a better place by your presence.
In his Wednesday general audience remarks, Francis asked Catholics to consider “the Christian seed of radical equality between men and women” when discussing the reasons behind declining marriage rates around the world, according to Vatican Radio.He's not the first pope to remark on the income gap:
In response, Christians should “become more demanding” for that “radical equality,” the Pope added. For example, “by supporting the right of equal pay for equal work.”
“Why should it be taken for granted that women must earn less than men? The disparity is pure scandal,” Francis said, according to the Italian news service ANSA.
In 1995, Pope John Paul II addressed the issue of equal pay directly in a “letter to women,” writing that ” there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights.”Will business leaders and government officials hear this new message? Twenty full years after the last? We can only hope.
"How many of Cone's books have you read?"
Ever since Jeremiah Wright posed that question to Sean Hannity eight years ago, I've been meaning to write a diary on James Cone, the premier figure of Black Liberation Theology. I've promised many times to do it, but have been held back by a sense that I had to do it perfectly. I've started to revisit Cone in light of #BlackLivesMatter - his writings are so pertinent to the conversation about racist police brutality that has been going on for decades but is just beginning to gain traction beyond the spaces one could always expect it. Instead of providing an overview and summary of all of Cone's ideas, I'm just going to reflect a little on re-reading his first major book, Black Theology and Black Power.
You can say 'em with me: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Haters gonna hate.
But this year, the number of faith leaders who joined a friend of the court brief written by the President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church in support of marriage equality has grown significantly from 2013, the first time same-sex marriage cases were argued at the Supreme Court. The list of signatories in the 2013 brief ran only six pages long, but the list of supporters joining the 2015 brief has stretched to 117 pages representing more than 1,900 faith leaders, according to Jack Jenkins.
Originally organized through the work of several Episcopal bishops, it was co-signed by a long list of groups from across the “Judeo-Christian” religious spectrum, such as the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Muslims for Progressive Values, as well as pro-LGBT groups operating within Quakerism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, and Lutheranism. Like many left-leaning progressives, the brief argues the Court is primarily tasked with discerning the civil — not religious — definition of marriage, but highlighted the swelling number of Americans whose faith calls them to embrace LGBT rights.No one view speaks for "religion." Amen.
“Whether it be the ordination of lesbian and gay clergy, the express welcome to lesbian and gay congregants and their families, or the affirmation that lesbian and gay individuals possess the same inherent dignity as any other person, the American religious landscape includes same-sex couples and their families and affirms their role in both faith communities and civil society at large,” the brief read. “No one view speaks for ‘religion’—even if, contrary to the Establishment Clause, it were appropriate to give weight to religious views in the application of the Constitution’s secular promise of equal protection.”
I would like to point you all to a really great piece on today's CBS
This Sunday Morning about Atheism.
It was reported by Mo Rocca, who I must admit I have a fondness for, and this piece did not disappoint.
Among the subjects: a man who lost his family and job.
"Because around here, people are taught that morality comes from religion. So if you don't have religious beliefs, then you must not be a moral person."And a black Atheist who talks of the pervasive religious presence within the African American community.
One man attending said, "Once you say 'I'm an atheist,' all the doors start closing. You can hear 'em."These are the types of stories those of us in the Secular community hear a lot about, but few outside ever come across.
Thomas told Rocca, "They often feel isolated, and so we help with that. You know, we don't want anybody feeling that they're alone in this."
One man said, "Among our community, the black community, what's the first thing women say they're looking for? A God-fearing man."
No surprise: Almost half of all Americans say they'd be unhappy if a family member married an atheist.
The piece also includes Todd Stiefel, an active member in numerous Secular organizations including Foundation Beyond Belief, a secular charity organization, and how the group Openly Secular focuses more on changing public opinion on Atheists.
"It's about changing hearts and changing minds," said Stiefel. "It's about people realizing that we are somebody you don't need to fear. We're somebody you don't need to distrust."Though brief, I felt this piece really gave a good impression of what it is like to live without belief, and especially some of the social costs that go along with it, something that even more in-depth pieces have a hard time conveying.
We often associate the idea of people being shunned by their community for leaving the religion to fringe religions like the Amish, or Jehovah's Witnesses, but it happens a lot in Atheism too. Hence, the language of being "in the closet" now comes up a lot when talking of Atheism, as well.
One of the hardest things about the conflict between Religion and Secularism in America is getting beyond the shouting matches over who is wrong and who is right, who has suffered more and who has been wronged more. What there needs to be is a way for both groups to find a comfort zone where each can feel engaged without feeling threatened by the other. The reality, though, is that for this ideal to be reached, one of the important message that must be conveyed is simply what it is like to live without religion with this country, and how it can be difficult at times, and why. This piece on an early Sunday morning TV show, though but one small piece in the continuing culture clash, does a good job of moving it along.
The above photo is from Patheos. There is yet another perspective on this passage given in that article. You can read that article here.
Perhaps, the passage most fundamentalist Christians (who actually know something about Biblical interpretation) quote most often to condemn gay folks is the one referenced in the title. However, I (along with many other progressive Christians) still believe that they are interpreting this passage incorrectly. Some passages require a bit deeper understanding of the relevant history, the linguistic issues, and even a bit of science (and, where various cultures were at on the science of the related issue). Such is likely the case for interpreting Romans 1.
Here is the King James Version (I am always tempted to change King to Queen when I write that -- sorry) of Romans 1:26-27:
26) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:Let's discuss the relevant issues below the orange cheeto.
27) And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one for another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.
A short bus trip to the supermarket turned out to include a spiritual experience.
No sooner did I get on the bus than someone directly behind me began coughing and hacking and it seemed as if he would never stop. This irritated me to no end. Last month the same thing happened and as a result I was bedridden and unable to even think of eating for almost a week. Not being Jesus, Peter or Kenneth Copeland I knew I could not cast the disease demons out and heal him. I felt like smacking him in the mouth and telling him to put on a surgical mask and move to the back of the bus. It remains to be seen if he has made me ill.
Upon getting to the supermarket and completing my purchases I went out to the bus stop and sat down. I had 20 minutes to wait. It was a chilly grey Saint Patrick ’s Day and the first thing I noticed was the absence of ravens. Ravens are usually omnipresent and not to see a single one was unusual.
As I sat there a fellow rode up on his bike. He asked me about the arrival of the bus. As it turned out we were waiting for the same bus. He sat down and pulled out of his pack a reduced price prepared sandwich the type you find in the deli sections of large supermarkets in the morning and which, if are not sold by noon, are thrown in the dumpster in the afternoon and written off at tax time.
He ate it ravenously as if he could not get it into his stomach soon enough. As he ate I noticed his blue jeans were unwashed and stained, his coat worn and faded and his shoes coated with mud.
Living far below the poverty level myself I felt compassion and solidarity, yes empathy, for him. He was, in a sense, my brother. But it was also clear to me I was better off than he was. I was going home to a very humble abode, but it was a home and the refrigerator had food in it. I would be making soup for supper. From the earth stained clothing he wore it appeared to me that he had slept in the bushes and would be doing the same tonight.
As I watched him eat I wondered if I still had the dollar bill in my wallet that I had discovered yesterday. I did. I got up and asked him if he would be offended if I offered it to him. He wanted to know why I wished to give it to him. I explained I was also poor and understood what it was like to have very little. He took it. I remembered I had some change and also gave it to him.
We didn’t speak anymore until the bus came. He finished his sandwich and I waited and my thoughts began to wander. I remembered the poor people’s campaign in 1968 and wondered why the poor do not organize and petition the government as they once did. There are many more poor than there are rich. As long as the pretense of a democratic society exists there is a smidgen of hope that the majority can achieve justice. Having seen the Republican attitude in the last decade toward poverty and the poor themselves I understand it was this activity to aid the poor and disadvantaged that sealed Martin Luther King Jrs fate even more than his opposition to the Vietnam War.
When the bus pulled up and I was getting ready to get on he spoke to me. “I was a dollar short for the bus fare, thank you.” I almost cried and was so glad I had listened to my heart. I slapped him on the shoulder and said “God works in mysterious ways” and when I said it I felt it was a trite and meaningless comment on my part, but it came from my heart.
Poverty has been a function of capitalism from the beginning in this nation. While the huddled masses from Europe were invited to come to our shores when they got here the only work was as underpaid laborers in the capitalist mills that were the fortune generating apparatus of the corporate elite of the day.
Not only that, the Jews, the Catholics, the Irish and most others who came here were treated like animals or worse. A man who owned an animal at least felt the obligation to see it was fed and housed and given medical care so it had the strength to work. No such obligation was recognized with regard to the foreign laborer by the American capitalist. There’s an old mining story of an Irish miner about to go down into the mine with a mule which was used to haul up the coal. His supervisor tells him to take care of the mule. The Irishman asks his supervisor “What about me boss.” The supervisor replied. “We can always hire another Irishman but we have to buy the mule.” (This is a paraphrase.)
I offer two links to videos here. One is a short feature of the 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign. The second link is a lecture on the same topic by Gordon K. Mantler a sociologist and historian of the civil rights era of post-WWII USA. It is titled “Power to the Poor-- 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign” This video is a longer but worth the time in order to review the history of the poor in America.
On the bus trip home I began to think how Bill O’reilly would comment on a poor people’s crusade such as was seen in 1968. Let’s try and put it together.
We can imagine O’reilley’s perennially red and wrinkled face as he points his finger. We can imagine him extolling the virtues of American capitalism while commenting: “Why don’t these poor people just find a job and make something for themselves like Ben Carson. In America there is opportunity for all.”
We can imagine him digress. “But most of these so called poor are drug addicts and could not pass an employment screening and most are unreliable having no place to live and not showing up for work which makes me wonder if they want to work at all. The poor have no one but themselves to blame for their poverty. They lack the initiative to get up and achieve success and just want it handed to them. If they need to use drugs and can’t show up for work they need to be eliminated or at least incarcerated.”
This brings me back to the title which comes from the bible. It comes from the 25th chapter of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus, the compassionate and just one, says this beginning with verse 31.
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Now is the time to use your civil rights. Tomorrow they may be gone. Are you a sheep or a goat?
It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes.
Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:
No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.
Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government — all you need for a night behind bars — John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.
President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans:
There are places, and moments in America where this nation's destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America's character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.
Selma is such a place.
In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher — met on this bridge.
It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.
And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America — that idea ultimately triumphed.
As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.
We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice.
They did as Scripture instructed: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came — black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope. A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.
In time, their chorus would reach President Johnson. And he would send them protection, echoing their call for the nation and the world to hear:
"We shall overcome."
What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God — but also faith in America.
The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities — but they didn't seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.
What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate.
As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse — everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.
And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?
What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people — the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many — coming together to shape their country's course?
What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?
That's why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That's why it's not a museum or static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:
"We the People…in order to form a more perfect union."
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
These are not just words. They are a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all our citizens in this work. That's what we celebrate here in Selma. That's what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.
The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It's the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.
It's the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what's right and shake up the status quo.
That's what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down a wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world's greatest superpower, and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.
They saw that idea made real in Selma, Alabama. They saw it made real in America.
Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed. Political, economic, and social barriers came down, and the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African-Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Oval Office.
Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.
What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.
What a solemn debt we owe.
Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?
First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day's commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it's that our work is never done — the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.
Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.
Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice's Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report's narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing's changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it's no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.
We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing's changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed. Ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the "race card" for their own purposes. We don't need the Ferguson report to know that's not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character — requires admitting as much.
"We are capable of bearing a great burden," James Baldwin wrote, "once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is."
This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.
With such effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on — the idea that police officers are members of the communities they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland just want the same thing young people here marched for — the protection of the law. Together, we can address unfair sentencing, and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and workers, and neighbors.
With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don't accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity, and if we really mean it, if we're willing to sacrifice for it, then we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts their sights and gives them skills. We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.
And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge — and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.
How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.
Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we'd still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America's future?
Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We've endured war, and fashioned peace. We've seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they'd risk everything to realize its promise.
That's what it means to love America. That's what it means to believe in America. That's what it means when we say America is exceptional.
For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That's why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.
We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea — pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That's our spirit.
We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we're Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That's our character.
We're the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free — Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That's how we came to be.
We're the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We're the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers' rights.
We're the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we're the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We're the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.
We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.
We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.
We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.
We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who "build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how."
We are the people Emerson wrote of, "who for truth and honor's sake stand fast and suffer long;" who are "never tired, so long as we can see far enough."
That's what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don't pine for it. We don't fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That's why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.
And that's what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.
Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.
Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word "We." We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.
Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation's founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Our job's easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road's too hard, when the torch we've been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:
"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint."
We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country's sacred promise.
May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.
From The Advocate:
Boyd was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1955, having left a career in film, TV, and radio production for the religious life, the Episcopal News Service reports. As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, he became an activist clergyman, advocating for racial integration and other social justice causes. He embraced the era’s counterculture, speaking in coffeehouses and other unconventional venues, such as the Newport Jazz Festival and the Hungry I nightclub in San Francisco. At the latter he sometimes opened for politically outspoken comedian Dick Gregory.I haven't read any of his books -- something else to add to my reading list.
In 1965, Boyd published a landmark book of prayers called Are You Running With Me, Jesus? It “took prayer out of church onto the city streets in a slangy vernacular not found in Sunday missals,” the Los Angeles Times noted in its obituary. Dealing with such issues as racism and teen pregnancy, the book “is a classic of spiritual writing for its generation,” the Rev. Robert Raines once told the Times. “It tells about the underbelly of society, which Malcolm knew something about. His was a Christian faith lived out in bars and on the streets. His prayers came out of the realization that God is not only in church. God is in the painful situations of your life.”
While many lauded Boyd’s unusual approach to ministry, few of his fans — or members of the church hierarchy — were ready to embrace his homosexuality when he came out in 1976. For several years no church would hire him.
“It was wilderness time,” he told The Indianapolis Star in 2003. “There was criticism, there was unemployability. I learned you have to be flexible in life.” He wrote books on gay spirituality and ran consciousness-raising groups, and finally, in 1982, St. Augustine-by-the-Sea in Santa Monica, Calif., offered him a job.
Boyd is survived by his partner of over 30 years Mark Thompson. In 2004, the two had their relationship blessed in a church ceremony and in 2013 were legally married in California after Proposition 8 was struck down by the Supreme Court.I just have a minor correction to the Towleroad article. The US Supreme Court did not strike down Proposition 8. They dismissed the case because the Prop 8 defendants did not have Article III standing. That left federal district Judge Walker's ruling (from the Northern District of California) striking down Prop 8 in place.
Sorry - was that hard to read? Nowadays we would write it, "Sometimes how you do something is as important as what you do it with. This would be hard to read on stone monuments or a computer screen."
We take for granted the customary tools of capital and lower case letters, of spaces between words and punctuation. These tools though were not known to the Greeks or the Romans, whose manuscripts looked more like the first lines.
Shortly before 800 a new calligraphy developed that combined upper and lower case with letter forms that were clear and consistent. The resulting writing was more legible than much of what had gone before. Charlemagne put such a premium on improving this aspect of his kingdom that he brought over Alcuin of York to head the imperial schools and standardize the writing of manuscripts.
Scholars during the Carolingian Renaissance sought out and copied in the new legible standardized hand many Roman texts that had been wholly forgotten. Most of our knowledge of classical literature now derives from copies made in the scriptoria of Charlemagne. Over 7000 manuscripts written in Carolingian script survive from the 8th and 9th centuries alone.Carolingian minuscule was definitely part of the effective bureaucracy that allowed the Carolingians to function so well, but it was more. Charlemagne and to a lesser extent his heirs valued secular learning, and set the monks to copying as many of the classical texts as they could recover or borrow. How much difference did that make?
Charlemagne encouraged the production of manuscripts, and his library contained the largest collection of books of his day. He sent for books from Monte Cassino and Rome to fill gaps in his library or to improve the accuracy of texts he already owned. It is salutary to note that 90 percent of all classical Latin literature is only known to us via Carolingian manuscript copies.More over the flowing orange Carolingian scroll ~