Thursday, August 28, 2014

Everything that Dies Someday Comes Back... and then it goes the other way, too, Boss.

Remember the Springsteen song, Atlantic City? When it came out, it was a resurrection song, a good one too.

That wasn't too long before I left New Jersey for seminary, the ministry, and pursuits that took me to places hither and yon. I paid very little attention to what was happening in A.C.

But I hadn't paid much attention before I left, either. Casino gambling arrived whilst I was in my early twenties, and my first husband and I went to the casinos a total of two times. We saw Frank Sinatra, who was paunchy and testy and sang about four songs before setting down his glass and walking offstage. Still. What an amazing thing to think about now!

I have never gambled. At least, not with money. Never bought a lottery ticket, not once. What can I say? I am so utterly opposed to a system that lures people who can ill afford it to place their hopes on some pie in the sky day when they will be happy just because they hit it rich. I believe so strongly that we must endeavor to be content in this moment with what we do or do not have that I can't endorse or take part in gambling. 

I've supported efforts to keep Kentucky from having legalized gambling. We do have horse racing, but so far, no casinos.

So... strangely enough, here I am, serving a congregation just a few miles from what was the Casino mecca of the east coast!

Before I knew I'd be back here, so close to home, Hurricane Sandy had me riveted to the news, as it did most of the nation. I saw with great relief that my beloved Long Beach Island as well as A.C. was spared the worst of her wrath.

Nonetheless, I find that other forces have conspired to lay the once burgeoning resort low. Casinos have been suffering, it seems, for quite some time. Plans have fallen through, competition has arisen in neighboring states, and major investors have pulled out. Most recently, three casinos have closed or are about to close, leaving hundreds unemployed.

This is alarming. Perhaps to those who have lived in its midst, it does not seem shocking. You've had twenty years to watch the demise of the patient. All that's left is to sit back and see what the collective wisdom will come up with to make the place work.. or not, going forth. 

I am so delighted that the UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore has already signed on to take part in an interfaith initiative to house families who are displaced or homeless. This will go a long way toward a hands on involvement. I suspect there is more we can do, as well. These outreach efforts are not just charity. They help us learn about the "other," those who get squeezed between the forces of exploitation, greed, and convenience and who are merely trying to meet their day-to-day needs. They help us develop compassion, wisdom, and soul.

Everything that comes back, and everyone, still dies. In the in between, let us grow in understanding and faith. Amen

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ferguson: I Get It.

I am filled with emotion and suspense at what is happening in Ferguson. Not the killing of yet another Black male…. Sadly, that does not surprise me. But the sustained anger, the focused rage that has built into a national outcry, gathering strength and credence, poetically claiming forever now the image of upraised hands, a beautifully symbolic gesture that once meant submission and now signals defiance.

Unlike our President and so many others, I do not pray for an end to the protests in Ferguson and for peace at all costs. Not if peace means people have gone back to sleep. Let them stand up, even with anger if that is what it takes, and let this rage spread as far as it must, for ignoring this situation has not made it better, only worse.

There is a silent genocide in this country. Perhaps you disagree with me and that is fine. But I have studied and contemplated for almost 20 years the effects of institutionalized and systemic racism upon our society, and I cannot but conclude that the prison industrial complex, many aspects of our criminal justice system, much of our educational system, as well as corporate America….. practically every organized aspect of our collective life with the notable exception of the military… is arranged to sustain and to keep in power those already in power: white, mostly male Euro-Americans.

I think most people of color know this. They also know that white people must realize it and do nothing to change it.

If you were a Black American today, would you really like white people? Would you trust them? Believe them?

I wouldn’t .

I am a white American. Fifteen years ago a young black woman was shot to death in her car In Riverside, CA when police thought she was reaching for a gun. I marched with Jesse Jackson and invited him to speak in my congregation to seek justice for Tyisha Miller’s death. I made a decision that day that this cause was important enough to me to risk my life for. Anyone who has stood and marched next to Rev. Jackson knows they do just that.

Along the way a very elderly black woman got out of a car to see us pass. Her eyes met mine. I will treasure that moment always. I know I cannot possibly imagine the indignities she may have suffered, but I rejoice that she saw a colleague of Dr. King, as well as many clergy, both black and white, marching through the city to support a young black girl.

It’s been fifteen long years and the death of Michael Brown feels identical. The difference is that the marchers are angrier, the media is staying with the story, the outrage has grown because there has been Trayvon Martin and so many others. And we now have Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

I was welcomed to the marches and rallies for Tyisha as a white clergywoman. Rev. Jackson reminded us that Dr. King encouraged whites and blacks to work together for justice.

I’ll just be frank here.

In the fifteen years since that event, I have been told outright that I am no longer needed. White liberals aren’t trusted, and white people in general are just not welcome at table. This may not be true everywhere, but it's true enough that those of us who care deeply, fervently, and who believe with Dr. King that we will achieve justice by working together, are befuddled and impotent. And, I get it. I really do.

We can pray, send money, post things online. But can we show up, link arms with you, get arrested, come back to the table? Soon? I hope so.