Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Liberty and Justice for All

Today is Gay Pride Day in New York City.  The march commemorates the Stonewall Uprising by Gay men in a Greenwich Village bar over 40 years ago.  Stonewall was a watershed event for everyone.  It was a poignant reminder to all people that a specific population of our citizens were the victims of harassment and repression because of their sexual identity.  Stonewall was a bold proclamation that the LGBT community would no longer suffer in silence and shame.  Refusing to be victimized,  LGBT people would courageously come out of the closet at great personal cost to claim their place at the table of the worlds great democratic republic.  It is the very same spirit and motivation that led to the creation of the United States and its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Sodomy Laws prohibiting homosexuality and its practice has been on the books of state and municipal law since the founding of our republic.   Jefferson wrote the first sodomy law in Virginia in 1778,  proposing castration for those found guilty of the act. Pretty amazing that during the height of the Revolution, Virginia took time to write laws prohibiting homosexuality.  I also find it a bit ironic that as revolutionaries were striking a blow to end the rule of a foreign tyrannical monarchy they would focus their attention to pass a tyrannical law aimed at repressing the rights for a portion of its citizens.

Sodomy laws find their inspiration and justification in a biblical certainty proclaimed by parties that remain painfully at odds with the promises and problems of secular democratic government.  Proponents of  laws prohibiting civil rights to LGBT offer a world view informed by Old Testament precepts and proscriptions authored two thousand years ago.  Their moral compass seems to be ruled more by a dogmatic creed enforced by a vengeful deity.  In their zeal to live a pious life they seem to miss the greater message that all God’s children enjoy full and equal rights in God’s Kingdom and that we demonstrate our love of God by extending that love to others.

Those that oppose equal and full rights of citizenship to all people are the avowed enemies of democracy.  Democratic republics cannot survive if it withholds any right or civil liberty to a group of its citizens based on a legislative distinction of acceptability.  Indeed, today’s proponents of laws like Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Laws, the prohibition of gays openly serving in the military or the denial of the right for a teenage girl to go to the prom with her girlfriend share a mindset more in common with the Taliban then our Founding Fathers.  We recoil in horror as we witness the divinely inspired handiwork of the Taliban and rise to meet it with a national resolve to assert and protect the sacred liberties offered by secular democratic governments.  Given a choice and a true understanding of what is at stake, I pray that my countrymen will join me in support of equal rights and civil liberties for all citizens.

Frederick Douglas’s famous quote that “power concedes nothing without demand”, is as relevant today as it was when the great abolitionist spoke these words.  Douglas states,  “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

We salute the Gay Pride Marchers as they step off  this morning  to remind us that liberty and justice for all remain beyond compromise and an absolute necessity for America to remain true this promise for all its citizens.

You Tube Music Video: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Get Up Stand Up

Risk: democracy, civil rights, 

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June 27, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, legal, LGBT, politics, religion, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lighting a Lamp for the Festival of Lights

Why was I born to see these terrible things,
the ruin of my people and of the holy city?
Must I sit here helpless………

1 Maccabees 2 7

Today we celebrate Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights.  The holiday recounts the re-dedication of the Temple that was desecrated by a force of foreign invaders.  All the oil in the temple had to be thrown away save a single vessel previously sealed and sanctified by the rabbis and suitable for burning.  The oil from the jar miraculously burned for eight days.  The 25th day of Kislev was dedicated as a day to remember, the Festival of Lights.

Hanukkah and the stories recounted in the Book of the Maccabees testifies to the faithfulness of a people to endure by engaging the pressing challenges that confronted them.  The Festival of Light is an expression of gratitude for the faithfulness of  God.  We are the grateful heirs to our spiritual ancestors, the ancient people of Judah.  They remind us to light the lamps to honor the faithfulness of the  One Who Cannot Be Named.   We remain ever thankful to the One who lights the pathway and provides the means and nourishes the fortitude of faith that sustains us.

Selah

You Tube Music Video: Neil Young, Light a Candle

Risk: capitulation to hopelessness


December 11, 2009 Posted by | holiday, religion, seasons | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

To Build a Fire

bonfireOne of the best short stories I read during grammar school was Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”.  The story recounts the struggle of a Yukon prospector hiking through the wilderness in sub-zero cold.  The unnamed prospector falls through a thin layer of ice covering a spring fed pool of water.  Though he was wet only up to his knees if he failed to dry his boots and socks, hypothermia  would quickly overcome him.  Frost bitten feet in sub-zero temperatures would cripple the prospector making it impossible for him to continue his journey to the warmth and safety of a lodge just a few miles away.  If the prospector was unable to continue he would freeze to death.  His only chance was to build a fire so he could dry his socks and boots before he could resume his journey.  To build a fire was the difference between life and death.

I was reminded of this story this past weekend while participating in a Matt Talbot Retreat.  Matt Talbot is a non-denominational spiritual wellness movement for people in recovery.  It advocates the practice of The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as a suggested program of recovery.  Matt Talbot is a blessing for many people experiencing the grace of recovery.  AA teaches us that alcoholism is a disease and that alcoholics and addicts suffer a sickness that afflicts our mind, body and spirit.  The Matt Talbot Movement places an emphasis on the spiritual dimensions of our disease.  We attend seminars and meetings.  We enjoy fellowship with our brothers in recovery. We make new friends with others suffering from a common malady and we reconnect with other Matt Talbot brothers we have not seen since our last retreat.  The biannual retreat is a special weekend that allows us to nourish and recharge the spiritual batteries that become so dangerously low by the emotional and mental demands of modern life.  For many of us, Matt Talbot is a critical cornerstone of our recovery program.  It is a critical tool that helps us to free ourselves from the spiritual bondage of addiction.  It encourages us to draw closer to our Higher Power; thereby moving us further away from the emotional and mental shackles that threaten to enslave us.

On Saturday evening after the days sessions and nonstop witnessing and ministering to one another about our personal journey of recovery, many of the brothers assemble on the banks of the Hudson River for a traditional Saturday night bonfire.   On this moonless night the huge bonfire provided a striking contrast to the black woods that enveloped us.  Like our hopes for continued recovery, the dancing flames soared into the night air expressing a sincere yearning to touch the massive hardwood boughs that towered above us.  We closed in on the fire remaining transfixed by the unbounded flames and the fleeting shadows of ghostly apparitions that seemed to hover then flee the burning light. We were a band of wounded brothers drawn to a lamp of hope that we desperately needed  to navigate the uncertain dangers posed by the swift dark waters of addiction.

At the bonfire we are encouraged to choose a log to place in the the fire.  But before we can burn that log we must stand before our brothers and make a statement about a resentment, misgiving or fear that threatens our recovery.  As we say in AA,  holding onto a resentment will lead you back to a drink.   Naming our fears and resentments is our first step toward conquering them.   The brothers spoke of the ugly compulsions that drive our addictions; revealing painful truths about low self esteem, victimization, unbridled anger, tragic circumstance, sexual and emotional abuse, violence, poverty and ignorance and other issues that  led to unfathomable depths of guilt and shame.  As alcoholics and addicts we let these things have power over us and in so doing we feed our alcoholic and addictive behaviors.  Standing within a circle of trusted brothers, divulging secrets that have long held our soul captive and conferring bitter resentments and raging fears onto a log truly liberates the soul.  It is a critical step in the recovery process and spiritual wellness.   The giant bonfire is a life affirming tool that allows us to cast out these powerful demons, condemn them to death by fire and happily witness their power over us dissipate as they burn away into a pile of harmless ashes.

In Jack London’s story after the prospector fell through the ice he quickly moved to build a fire.  He moved under the protection of a tree, found some dry leaves and small wood chips and started a fire.  He was relieved that the fire caught and grew but a wind kicked up and blew snow off a pine tree and crushed his fire under a pile of snow.  It was a unfortunate event that would cost the prospector his life.  As the prospector began to accept his sad fate he remembered the advise of an old timer who warned him about traveling through the Yukon.  “Never travel alone”  said the old timer.  As the prospector lay freezing to death, he realized the hard truth of the old timers wisdom.

When it was my turn to cast a log into the raging bonfire I recounted a telephone call I received that morning.  A person from my home group with 40 years of blessed sobriety called to tell me about the death of a fellow alcoholic.  This fellow was in and out of the AA program for many years.  He was found dead in the bathroom of a boarding house in which he lived.  He was about 40, has a daughter in college, recently lost his mother and his job.  He went out a couple of months ago and was just coming back into the program.  He landed at the hospital, they told him his liver had high levels of enzymes and that he needed to stop drinking.  The past few weeks I was taking him around to meetings.   He was a Christian, loved to play guitar and was a gentle man who cared about his daughter and deeply loved her.

The 23rd Psalm says that God’s rod and staff comforts us.  I grabbed a stick that was worthy of Moses  to throw on the fire.  This disease needlessly claims too many souls but there is an easier softer way.  I wanted to convey to the brothers and to remind myself that God is always a near and present help during time of adversity.   We never have to go it alone.  That the fire of faith is freely available to all.  It is up to us however to draw near to the flame and to tender a burning desire of recovery for it to take hold in our lives.  Recovery is truly a matter of life and death.  I offered my thanks that God has never abandoned me to the ravages of my disease.  I remain grateful to be counted among the present here this evening still able to draw near to a fire to keep the hope of my recovery burning bright.  I blessed the soul of the fallen friend that the disease had claimed.  I also prayed that the brothers present by the fire this evening will be counted among the living at the next bonfire.  I placed my stick on the fire.  It burned a long time.

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land;
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise,
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawning

Isaiah 60:1-3

You Tube Music Video: Jose Feliciano, Light My Fire

Risk: alcoholism, recovery, spirituality, death

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Bible, faith, heal, life, love, psychology, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day of Atonement: Al-Chet for Risk Managers

YomKippurTNToday is Yom Kippur. It is the Day of Atonement. The Jewish faith marks this day each year as a day to reflect on our sins and shortcomings we have committed during the past year. It is a day of personal assessment. Calling all to examine how we have failed to live a life in conformance to our highest aspirations and ideals. It is customary to recite an Al-Chet confession prayer. The Al-Chet is a confession of a persons past year sinful behavior. It is hoped that this admission of sin leads to reconciliation with the aggrieved and an awareness that helps to establish a pattern of improved behavior in the future.

It is good that we commemorate such a day and use it to a constructive purpose. After all, how many among us are without sin? How many of us have achieved a level of perfection that obviates the need to reflect on how we can improve and make amends to those we may have hurt? To be sure, even the best among us have fallen short of the glory of God. The divine Higher Power that keeps mere mortals rightsized and humble when our egos and perception of ourselves grows too large and burdensome. The need to keep a strong self will from running riot is critical. It is particularly dangerous when a person or corporation is unaware and ambivalent to the collateral damage its actions spawn through the naked pursuit of self interest and ambition. In a sense, God is the ultimate celestial Chief Risk Officer that keeps wanton will in check.

The Day of Atonement is an important day because it is a day of transformation. It calls for self examination and transformation. Once we have learned the nature and extent of how our actions and inaction have negatively impacted ourselves and others, we are called to make amends to set things right. It is a day that requires considered action to improve ourselves so we can become a positive force for change in the world.

Considering the year that just transpired in the financial services industry, I wonder what an Al-Chet confession for risk managers would include. We need a strong dose of atonement so we don’t repeat the egregious mistakes we committed last year.

An Al-Chet for Risk Managers:

I was not strong enough to stand up to my boss

I put selfish gain ahead of ethical considerations

I falsified or hid data to conceal results

I failed to be objective

My risk model was too subjective

I ignored warning signs

I was in over my head

I did not understand all the risk factors

I failed to get an outside opinion

I was beholden to monetary gain

I was victim to group think

I placed institutional interest ahead of ethical considerations

I failed to admit I was wrong

I was not honest with regulators

I was not honest with shareholders

I looked the other way

I failed to act

I conveniently overlooked infractions / irregularities

I made exemptions

I did not understand the depth of the problem

I know there are many more.

Please help me to uncover, understand make right and overcome.

Shalom

You Tube Music Video: Aretha Franklin, I Say a Little Prayer

Risk: compliance, reputation, catastrophic risk, moral hazards

September 28, 2009 Posted by | banking, compliance, credit crisis, culture, operations, psychology, regulatory, religion, reputation, reputational risk, risk management, sound practices | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lasting Sanctuary: 911 Remembered

Corkscrew_Swamp_SanctuaryEight years ago today,  I was running down Wall Street fleeing a protoplasmic cloud that I believed was intent on claiming my life.  Fortunately as it was about to overcome me a revolving door of a Charles Schwab office offered me an escape portal from the deadly billows of powered cement, asbestos and other matter emulsified by the collapsing South Tower of the World Trade Center.

I was fortunate to have access to a sanctuary of  safety and ready escape.  The brokerage office was filled with confused, terrified and wounded people.  All consumed in a maelstrom of an iconoclastic force that at the time laid beyond our understanding or comprehension.  The hysteria in the room was balanced by the command of resolve summoned by the afflicted to survive and a compassion that recognized our shared humanity and common plight.  Most responded with a spirit of action that held out a hand to help those in distress.  It was heartening to witness such a selfless demonstration of empathy and commitment to others.  It was how we escaped and survived the terrible fate that too many suffered on that infamous day.

On this day as I sit watching family members read the names of those lost at the World Trade Center,  I am moved by the endless tears they shed for the dearly departed.  The aggrieved wear shirts with images of the fallen.   They hold photos of people captured in the light of the victims finest day.  Children wear medals and the caps of fallen fire fighters.  I  marvel at the depth of their love and wonder how they will find a portal of escape and a lasting sanctuary from the deep wounds and loss afflicted upon them that day?

We all need to discover and walk through a portal of escape to a sanctuary of restoration.  As a nation we desperately need  to heal the seemingly fathomless wounds of loss we all so keenly feel as a result of 911.  A sanctuary is a place of transcendence.  It is a place where the faithful can meet the divine and are in turn transfigured by the miracle of grace.  We must prepare ourselves to enter the sanctuary.  We need to find a place where this national nightmare can be laid to rest on an alter in God’s sanctuary.  God hears our cries for justice.  God understands the depths of the dark places in our hearts that scream and wail from the deep wounds of loss suffered.  God’s justice holds out a hope that we become fully restored from the deep loss we experienced.  God’s wisdom  requires us to shed our sense of victimization so as we can realize our restoration.

The events on 911 has deeply transfigured our nation.  We have sacrificed civil liberties, entered two wars and raised fear, xenophobia and the pursuit of righteous vengeance to a national obsession.   Vengeance is a bitter bread to feast on.  The wisdom of the Bible instructs that vengeance is the province of the Lord.   We must prepare to enter the sanctuary by practicing peace.  It is the best way to honor the loss of our beloved brothers and sisters and it is the only way this terrible wound will ever heal.   Together we can eat the bread of peace and drink from the chalice that promises to heal and restore that which has been lost.

Rest in peace beloved.  I offer prayers of restoration and healing to those who lost loved ones.

Loping Wolf:  Christo Redentor

Risk:  war, restoration, peace, faith

September 11, 2009 Posted by | 9/11, Bible, culture, faith, family, life, love, politics, psychology, religion, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suicide of a Friend

mounts_bay_sunrise_2This is one of those mornings in our lives when we welcome a rising sun with grim dread. This is one of those mornings where we become loosed from our moorings of certainty. This is one of those mornings where words fail and the throne of faith is overthrown by shame and guilt. This is a morning to put on a nice suit and proper tie to attend a funeral of a friend who died by suicide. So final. So silent doth the dead speak to us. Crying out their pain with a clarity we never heard or understood as they walked among us here on earth. My friend continues to speak to us from the beyond.

This man was more then a friend. He was a father, husband, brother and a son. He held many occupations, enjoyed diversions, displayed passions and imperfections like all human beings. He was also a child of God. Though tormented and sick he was never forsaken. He deeply loved many and was unconditionally loved by many. In the end an addled brain led to a desperate alienation. Self medicating himself to find sanctuary in the hollow solace of prescription drugs and booze. It would in the end consume him. Enabling him to close the door on a life that family and friends diligently tried to keep ajar. All we wanted in return was his continued presence among us. My friend choose to slam the door shut.

Anger rises. We put so much into him. How could he slap us in the face like this? As we gathered about his coffin, in hushed whispers we sought out information, confirmation and consolation to alleviate a sense of guilt and quiet the shame that enveloped us. The deceased’s mother, shaking with Parkinson’s disease, stares down at a bare coffin holding the remains of her son. How much did she invest in this boy? She suckled him at her breast. She mothered him under her roof for two decades. She continued to mother him with a pervasive love that continued till the end. Did the child squander this love? Has this mother loved wastefully? I see no anger in her. Only a continued extension of her abundant love. “Sleep well my child. I’ll soon join you.” I could hear her coo silently to herself as she softly touched the burnished wood of her child’s casket. Any anger was mine, certainly not hers.

My friend’s sisters were his loving attendants to the end. They were heroic in a desperate attempt to save their beloved brother. They gave him refuge under their roof. They nursed him within the sanctuary of family. One may think that their deeds of heroism now matter little or count for less. But such shamelessly squandered love is what our hurting world needs more of today. I marvel and cherish their example, as I witness one sister arrange an errant ribbon on the cluster of roses sitting atop the casket. A loving touch, a caring hand, an attending heart remembered to bring their brothers beloved Boston Red Sox cap also placed on the casket.

My friend’s daughters and former wife arrived to the service late. One daughter entered the crowded room nestling flowers. She moved quickly toward her father’s casket. Her expression was like that of a child racing toward a Christmas tree on the blessed morning. Did Santa come? Is it really here? Has this thing arrived? Her breakdown into tears confirmed her worst suspicion. A terrible expectation realized. Her father was really dead. Now laying in state in a room full of awkward people. The other daughter fraught with grief remains in the protective arms of her loving aunt. She sobs into the woman’s bosom. Tears saturate her blouse. Women absorb the pain and transform it into strength and a curious wisdom that remembers how to endure future pains to come.

How do you approach the daughters of the deceased? What can you say that has any meaning to them during the nadir of their young lives? How do you expect them to understand the sincerity of your pain when theirs is fathomless? You fear for them. Has the actions of their father bound them to a lifetime quest to seek answers to questions that cannot be answered, motives that cannot be understood, truths that will remain forever hidden?

The grace of my friend’s former wife was sorely tested. She is devastated to discover her ex husbands casket on display at the front of a crowded room. She sobbed, embracing and kissing many as she made her way toward the casket. Her painful separation from my friend after 27 years of marriage was difficult for her but was a consequence of her husbands spiral of decline. She loved him greatly and it was greatly returned to her by my friend. College sweethearts, they joined together in a youthful promise to love and endure all things as one. I pray she isn’t consumed by the demons of nostalgia and fall into a black hole of guilt. I don’t think that will be. She is a spiritually centered, emotionally healthy woman. She does yoga. Her next life chapters are waiting to be written.

On the day they were married I wore a new gray suit and tie to the affair. During the cocktail party a man played musical glasses. It was a bit quixotic and it stamped their union as something that was uniquely blessed. I liked it very much. I also liked the open bar. I got sloshed. As I would continue to do until I got sober 27 years later.

My friend knew of my sobriety and participation within AA. I asked him to join me at a meeting one week before he died. He left a message on my cell phone. He said he was going off to rehab to start the process of recovery. He said he would call me when he got out. He left the rehab after one day because of insufficient insurance coverage, checked into a hotel room and killed himself.

When I entered the room for the funeral service my friends crying sister met me with an embrace. Her tears stained a new tie I chose for this service. She thanked me for trying to help her brother. She said that her brother called her on the terrible day asking for a slip of paper that had telephone numbers of important people. I was number two on that list. I shudder and ask myself, for the want of a phone call?

As I left the service I stopped by to wonder at a small aviary of tiny exotic birds that was in the lobby. The multicolored birds were nesting and gleefully chattering at the roil of life. They flitted among hanging flowers of verdant vines of ivy. They were beautiful. Seeing such beauty is one of life’s simple affirmations.  My friend is now winging home.

Vaya Con Dios Amigo

You Tube Video: JS Bach Badinerie Wine Glass Music

You Tube Video: Vaughn Williams, Lark Ascending

August 15, 2009 Posted by | children, culture, faith, family, life, love, psychology, religion, seasons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Water

holding-a-piece-of-time-2It was an amazing experience to attend the Gay Pride parade in NYC last Sunday. The colorful exuberance of celebratory revelers enthralled in a proclamation of who they are is a refreshing revelation to experience. For so many LGBT people, the prevailing culture still casts aspersions on their lifestyles and persons. Many LGBT people face ridicule, terror, exclusion, violence and death as a daily reality of their lives. It forces them to hide who they are. Many go throughout their entire lives hiding or denying their identity for fear of discovery or from the guilt of self loathing. This is a pernicious condition of a daily life that takes a physical, emotional and psychic toll on victims guilty of nothing more then claiming a sexual identity different from what is perceived as the cultural norm. It is brutally enforced by religious pronouncements, civil law and a pervasive peer pressure that seeks to eradicate anything that diverges from acceptable community standards of sameness and conformity.

For LGBT youth it is particularly damaging. Afraid, alone, uncertain and unaware they are extremely vulnerable and remain at risk to the dangers and condemnation their sexuality exposes them too. So it was wonderful to witness young people at the parade expressing pride in their identity; perhaps for the first time in their lives beyond the eyes of judgment. It is wonderful to witness and participate in an event that allows people to express a self affirmation and experience the joy of true freedom.

So it was with great pleasure that I recognized the Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire offering water to the Gay Pride marchers and celebrants. It was a poignant scene to witness, and it brought to mind the Woman at the Well scripture from the Gospel of John.

At its center, John’s passage speaks about affirming identity. Indeed it is the through the acceptance of one’s identity that allows one to drink from the well of living waters. God calls the faithful to affirm oneself in spirit and truth. I cannot help but to think how this scene captures Bishop Robinson’s personal journey of discovery, self affirmation and coming to terms with the truth of his sexual identity. As he offered water to the thirsty, I realized how the many generations of LGBT celebrants and activists salved the thirst of Bishop Robinson as he came to the well of living waters wanting to live into the spirit of truth about who he was and what God calls him to be. On this day Bishop Robinson was dutifully living into God’s spirit of truth by offering water to marchers and celebrants ever so thirsty to drink from the same life affirming well of living waters. This could not have been possible had there not been someone from a non-distant past  encouraging Gene Robinson to drink from the ladle of living water, dipped in the truth of God’s deep well of unconditional and inclusive love.

Let our hearts not be troubled. Bishop Robinson stands with ladle in hand offering all who thirst a long and cool drink from God’s abundant well.

Thanks be to God.

You Tune Video: Mahalia Jackson, Women at the Well

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Bible, children, Civil Rights, community, faith, gay rights, holiday, LGBT, life, politics, psychology, religion | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ghetto of Fear

Banksy BangAmidst our poverty of riches we tremble with fear and loathing. We resent the blessings The Almighty has so richly conferred upon us. A maddening clamor of a million incessant voices ceaselessly whisper “be afraid, be very afraid” dispatching us on an endless war with the infinite armies of darkness that we perceive to encircle us. This provokes an intense inner struggle with a seditious soul, a self saboteur, that endlessly works to undermine our emancipation from the ghetto of fear.

Our state of the nation mirrors our psychic state. Barraged with a fusillade of negativity from a multichannel digital discourse of real time bad news our physical state of being and virtual emotional resources are more depleted then the Treasury Department’s account balance after a TARP payment. War, terrorism, recession, home foreclosures, wealth dissipation, culture wars, job losses, the calamities go on ad infinitum. This is our daily bread. During the height of the Civil War in Northern Ireland I recall the picture of a child passing a graffiti strewn wall scripted with the question, “what will the monster bring today?” Indeed, what will our monsters bring today? Most likely more of the same. And it is the ongoing sameness of ever increasing distress that makes the crisis du jour just another routine day. Crisis has become the new normal.

We think ourselves to be unique in our victimization. Victimhood is a bad damn hood to be from if there ever was a bad hood to be from. Our national posture during the past 8 years under Bush has exclusively been about our victimization at the hands of the terrorists. We believed our victimization to be peculiarly ours because the evil doers hate us for who we are. Bush nursed it into a xenophobic obsession that led us to surrender our civil liberties, invade a sovereign nation to depose its head of state and use interrogation methods and tools refined by Spanish Iquisitioners 4 centuries ago. We rationalize it by promoting the fear that the consequences of another strike will be to terrible to suffer. It as if the entire history of civilization had never known the slaughter of innocents, the sacking of cities, the devastation of blight, plague and famine and the excessive collateral damage from the clash of civilizations. Indeed if history teaches us anything it is that egregious conflict is just another day at the office.

Fear has taken up full residency within many houses of worship. Too many sermons emanating from the pulpit preach of a vengeful God, heard by the trembling souls of congregants filling the pews responding with an affirmative amen. Fundamentalist preachers, imams and priests of all religious stripes and secular ideologies carefully construct a theology of fear to avoid eternal or temporal damnation. They warn against having your soul cast into eternal lakes of fire. Said Thomas Paine, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” The admission price to the eternal paradise promised demands a vengeful soul fired by the vulcanism of fear.

Guarding your eternal well being or next life manifestation is available only by strict adherence to the fundamental precepts of a narrow belief. Non-believers are damned. Backsliders are shunned. Heretics are tortured and beheaded. Given the choice between a beheading and fearful submission to a jealous deity most will eat the bread of fear a jealous deity abundantly offers. Thomas Paine wrote that “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

These victims of conviction don’t get better they just continue to be victimized. The Pharisees warned Jesus that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Right wing conservatives need to consult this passage to understand why they should support universal health care. True conservatives are fearful this program is the sure road to socialism. Jesus asks what is more important, to cure the sick or worry if it meets the criteria of some stale dogma? I agree with Jesus and ask conservatives not to be fearful to heal on the Sabbath.

There is a comfort with the certitude the ideology of fear offers. One need no longer wrestle with the great cosmological questions of a universe that is older then 6,000 years or Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution to understand how species evolve. The tenants of secularism, liberalism and humanism as flowering ideals of the Age of Reason can be dispensed with as well. As we disallow the satanic verses concealed within the learned tomes of humanist literature; America, the grandest political expression of the Age of Enlightenment democratic foundations will crumble due to a poverty stricken citizenry ignorant of the cradle that suckled our legacy of liberty.

Fearful that these ideas threaten a fundamental understanding of God as the source and creator of all things they demand that their deity hide away from the prism of science, anthropology and history. Such a God is a small God indeed. It demonstrates how fear robs the human experience of a rich spiritualism and deeper relationship with a God of their understanding; condemning the true believer to a bankrupt religion of stale dogmas and inert ritualism. The Infinite One’s knowableness surpasses all understanding. All of humanity’s trite scientific inventions and worldly philosophies occupy but a minuscule portion of a single cell within God’s cranium. The All Knowing One would not have allowed the sciences, arts, philosophy and other branches of knowledge to flourish if it was not useful to serving the development of humanity and enriched our understanding of the Beneficent Ones love for all creation.

A truth I heard spoken in the rooms is that as children we are afraid of the dark. As we grow into adulthood we become terrified of the light. This profound truth speaks plainly about our mental, emotional and spiritual condition.  Children fear darkness because they think that they are alone. They tremble under their covers unaware of the protection and security of their home and a guardians presence in an adjoining room who sits ever mindful of a duty to protect the child. Darkness confronts children with a wall of uncertainty conjured from an untamed imagination. The capability to comprehend and understand the condition of darkness is merely an absence of light and is not a lair of monsters and bogymen. In workplaces all over the world workers tremble with fear in the cubicles and workshops fearing the delivery of the dreaded pink slip that condemns the worker to an awful redundancy and a certain downsizing in their standard of living. It may come or it may not. Fear and conjecture will not make it go away.

Fear is abolished when the child becomes safe in the knowledge that their guardian is near and remain fully secure in a comfortable bed. Darkness then becomes a place that doesn’t threaten but is an ideal condition where rest and the restorative power of sleep can be realized. We should engage the darkness that surrounds our nation not hide under the blankets or blindly flail away at it in an exhausting exercise of shadow boxing. It presents numerous opportunities for our nation to engage our demons and gain a better understanding of our country’s enemies and how we can disarm conflict by discovering the common ground of our shared humanity.

Paradoxically as adults we become fearful of the light. We ignore Socrates advise about the undesirability of an unexamined life. We prefer pathways of avoidance to stay secure in our ignorance. Agonizingly fearful about confronting the personal demons that continually haunt us we prefer to sit in darkness content to engage our guilt and shame in an ongoing conversation with ourselves; chaining us to the paralysis of a broken past.

We are only as sick as our secrets. Think about the sick soul of Bernard Madoff. Had he only brought to light many years ago that some of his investments did not perform well. His clients would have understood and forgiven him. He would have been off the hook and not beholden to the damnable demands of a larcenous ego and the financial ruin it brought to the people who trusted him. Or think about the obsessive mania of Dick Cheney to withhold information about events and discussions he held with parties that determined the fate and well being of all Americans. Transparency shines the light of disclosure and assessment on things vitally in need of clarity. Mature adults shine a light on themselves to conduct sober assessments and initiate corrective actions to grow and become more perfect.

The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be anxious in anything. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we don’t embrace this teaching. We have allowed fear to move into our neighborhoods and it has fully expropriated the fine residents of our communities. Fear has commandeered our country and bent it to its ugly will. Fear forces us to react to challenges with anger to engage in an endless vendetta that imprisons and tortures our spirit. It has separated us from one another with suspicion and denigrates our sacred relationship with the natural world.

We have allowed fear to become the omnipresent existential condition of our soul. It has fully eradicated the holy spirit from its rightful place as the unifying force that brings us all together in the human family. Fear is a pernicious millstone that grinds away our earthly home. Fear can be eradicated with courage reason, tolerance and faith. Certainly worthy vehicles to consider for an exodus from the ghetto of fear.

You Tube Video: War, The World Is A Ghetto

You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, culture, democracy, faith, jazz, life, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aztec Two Step

Moses
Frida Kahlo

President Obama has rescinded the Mexico City policy which seeks to block funding to foreign family planning organizations that also provide abortions. The Mexico City policy was first signed into law during the Reagan administration. It was rescinded by Clinton, reenacted under George W. Bush and will now be rescinded by Obama.

Pro Choice supporters hail the move, while the Right to Life proponents are dismayed about Obama’s decision to continue this Democratic party legacy. Protesters voiced their concern during the The March for Life demonstration in Washington DC. The protest is an annual event that is usually held on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The fight to maintain legalized abortions, the right to choose one’s reproductive rights and the Right to Life movement continue a struggle where opportunities to find common ground and compromise seems forever elusive.

You Tube Video: Mariachi, Viva Obama 2008

Risk: civil rights, respect for life

January 23, 2009 Posted by | art, Civil Rights, democrats, folk, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bishop Robinson’s Benediction Censored by HBO

Censorship
Eric Drooker

Someone somewhere in the offices of HBO decided not to include Bishop Gene Robinson’s Benediction Prayer in the cable broadcast of “We Are One”.  Included is the text of Bishop Robinson’s Benediction prayer and a You Tube Video of the Benediction. Link to Pam’s House Blend for more discussion.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN.

You Tube Video: Christianity Today Link to Benediction Video

Risk: censorship

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Civil Rights, gay rights, LGBT, media, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment