Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Mr. Trump

The underbelly of the Church – because it matters NOW

I’m feeling small these days. Are you? The challenge at the end of this post is meant for all of us who feel unprepared or small.

Below is a quote from Simone Weil about the social and patriotic power of the Church. Not church as we know it on Sunday mornings, but the Church as a powerful institution within a political setting.

Weil wrote during the Nazi era. Her words are troubling, given the rise of the white Evangelical church’s political influence in the USA. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, but also in public arenas where religious language virtually baptizes political figures as agents of God, up to and including Mr. Trump.

In light of the Nazi era, this turn of events is more than troubling. Many, though not all German Protestant and Catholic churches, including pastors and revered theologians, colluded in the rise of Hitler. Their open support amounted to baptizing Hitler as God’s agent sent as their Great Leader at this time. Yes, there would be some bloodshed. But in the end, life will be better for those who survive, and Germany itself will gain esteem throughout the world.

Here’s what Simone Weil had to say about herself and the Church during the Nazi era. I read this as a comment on both Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany, though she refers to the Catholic Church. Highlights are mine.

All things carefully considered, I believe they come down to this: what scares me is the Church as a social thing. Not solely because of her stains, but by the very fact that it is, among other characteristics, a social thing.

Not that I am by temperament very individualistic. I fear for the opposite reason. I have in myself a strongly gregarious spirit. I am by natural disposition extremely easily influenced in excess, and especially by collective things. I know that if in this moment I had before me twenty German youth singing Nazi songs in chorus, part of my soul would immediately become Nazi. It is a very great weakness of mine. . . .

I am afraid of the patriotism of the Church that exists in the Catholic culture. I mean ‘patriotism’ in the sense of sentiment analogous to an earthly homeland. I am afraid because I fear contracting its contagion. Not that the Church appears unworthy of inspiring such sentiment, but because I don’t want any sentiment of this kind for myself.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Published by Harper Perennial in 1950 to celebrate 100 years since Weil’s birth

I couldn’t agree more. I’m also troubled by the silence of many white Evangelical churches that (rightly) choose not to get on the Trump bandwagon. Silence often enables the abuse of power. I don’t want to catch the silence virus. Hence this post and others to remind me that I have a voice, it counts, and I must exercise it regularly.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2018, reposted 26 September 2019
Image found at books.google.com

Lost in an internal maze

Brilliant winter sun-rays
Filter through frigid air
Endangering darkroom eyes
Unaccustomed to light

Blinking he looks away
Unwilling to sacrifice
Hazy unclear sight for clarity
Or the fine details of truth

Better the sweet comfort
Of blurred lines mixing
Facts with fiction or
Reducing them to nothing

Stumbling blindly
From pillar to post
He makes his lonely way
Lost in an internal maze

I didn’t set out to write about Mr. Trump, yet it seems I have. So now I’m sitting here wondering what’s going on in me. Have I given up on his presidency? Disengaged myself from caring anymore?

That might happen if I believed that whatever he does, I will likely weather the storm. Yet I don’t believe that. His actions put us and others at risk every day.

More likely, I wrote this because I lack visible power over what’s happening in Washington. I voted. Now it seems there’s no more I can do to make a visible difference.

Nor can I say I hope for something better from Mr. Trump. I don’t. I’m an aging citizen, with limited time and energy. I want to know how to make my voice and my concerns heard.

Though I could perhaps feel sorry for Mr. Trump, that isn’t an option. He has openly chosen his way of doing business, and is following it regardless of intended or unintended outcomes for our nation or our allies.

What now? If I remember right, Jesus rebuked those who paraded their supposed righteousness before everyone’s eyes. Instead, he recognized with gratitude and admiration the widow who, almost unnoticed, gave from her heart the bit she had.

I want to find my bit, and offer it from my heart. Not to Mr. Trump, but to this world God already loves — the same world I’m learning to love in spite of our differences and blurred visions of reality.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 January 2019
Photo found at freepik.com

shadowy islands beckon

shadowy islands beckon
the end of the day

promises of greatness
if not prosperity linger
dying on the surface

perhaps tomorrow
will bring clarity and color
to a world gone missing
before the first day ended

(Many thanks to my Australian blogging friend John for permission to use one of his beautiful photos.)

As each week ticks by, seconds tick down with frightening speed. Especially when we measure damage done in what amounts to the blink of an eye. For example, almost overnight our government and its officials have created conditions that ensure hundreds if not thousands more children, young people and parents will suffer from PTSD.

When nighttime falls or even when daylight breaks, the nightmares won’t end.

The photo above isn’t ugly or deeply disturbing. It’s beautiful. At the same time, it’s full of ambiguity about what’s happening, especially beneath the surface and in the distance.

It reminds me of the shadowy picture Mr. Trump projects now under the guise of Beauty. As in, ‘It’s going to be really really Beautiful!’ As though repeating this mantra will calm us down or reassure us.

Yet when push comes to shove, I don’t see evidence that Beauty is happening for everyone in this country, much less elsewhere. Nor do I see a clear and present pathway from here to there that doesn’t involve backtracking and distractions and attempts to make something really really big out of nothing.

We have deep rifts and problems that need solutions. But creating more enemies internally and externally just doesn’t add up to a good day’s work or a good night’s sleep for any of us.

I still believe Resistance is Never Futile. If it doesn’t get us killed, it can make us both softer and stronger. I consider myself part of the loyal Resistance. It would also be nice if we could all enjoy a peaceful evening by a duck pond.

Peace to each of you,
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2018
Photo by John of Australia. You can check out his blog site here.

their own foolishness

Crumbling beneath the weight
Of their own foolishness
Kicking hard-won ground
From beneath their feet
Fools crown themselves
With honor and glory

Sporting signs of faux nobility
Grown thin and ragged
They flaunt flimsy garments
Of shifting sand and ironclad
Beliefs now hanging precariously
In the balance of truth and justice

Passersby stop to gaze at the
Horror of this new world now
Showing in museums everywhere
As bluster turns to tired old mantras
Long past their overdue dates not
Likely to appear in deserted cinemas

It’s a matter of time.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2018
Photo found at dailymail.co.uk; the old Paramount Theater in Newark, New Jersey, USA

friendly inhumanity

not large but small things
echo in hollow chambers
the sound of life denied
drips from human souls
into ground saturated
with the life-blood of refugees
halted at the border
of the promised land
of plenty caught in webs
of grief and disbelief
the latest casualties
of friendly inhumanity

Yes, I’m still at it. Why? Because our national inability to govern wisely is breaking down in front of our eyes. Most of us have to get up and go to work. I don’t.

This is my work: to keep in front of my eyes the tragedy of national leaders who seem to have lost the will to govern wisely and solely on behalf of the most needy among us. From the ground up, not from the heights of make-believe trickle down theory.

When I was working at the seminary, I experienced up close the chaos one ill-placed leader could wreak within a community. The scramble was on, not just among staff who desperately needed their jobs, but within the hearts of every member of the organization.

What do we do now? Do we shut up and pretend we’re doing business as usual? To what extent do we voice our concerns? And how?

Things that were straightforward, or at least manageable, became fraught with nuances and consequences to be avoided. Telling the truth was dangerous, even when supported by clear data and research.

And yet we stayed on. Not because we were cowards, but because we believed in the greater good of our students and of each other as trusted colleagues. We did what we could, and watched the rest being taken over by the hands of others. Not a fun way to work.

It wasn’t always that way, for which I’m grateful. Nonetheless, the last years of my tenure were fraught with conflict, uncertainty, promises that turned into something else, scoldings from time to time, and the breakdown of good will among people of good will. In the end, I chose to leave what had become punishing for my body and spirit.

Why this strange link between refugees and my work at the seminary? Because in each case a leader (dean or president) chooses to govern by creating chaos. The chaos at the seminary was somewhat controlled by those who governed differently. In the end, however, even that couldn’t save us from being exploited and taken over as an institution.

Mr. Trump governs by creating chaos within the White House and within our nation. This won’t save us from ourselves or others. Sadly, there isn’t much business ‘as usual’ anymore. Instead, we’re invited to witness and experience chaos every day.

My hope and my prayer is that I’ll be a grounded, hope-filled, prayerful neighbor, doing what I can to offer hospitality to strangers. Especially those unable to speak freely for themselves.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2018

The art of the deal goes South

I’m not against deal-making. It can be wonderful. I also know that fruitful deal-making takes time, patience, compromise, and loads of good will and transparency between all parties involved.

It could also be good that we now have in the White House a President who claims expertise in the art of the deal. I would also guess every President I’ve had since I was born knew how to make deals. It comes with the territory.

And yet there’s more than one way to make a deal. Though I’m not an expert on this, it seems Mr. Trump believes in one kind only. That would be the kind in which the winner takes all or most of the ‘loot.’ So that, in the end, he or she can say “I won!” And the other party will know that she or he lost, or came out with less than they had going in.

Sidebar: Mr. Trump’s imposing of tariffs on countries that don’t please him for various reasons seems to be backfiring. Witness their refusal to cave in and give him the victory he seeks.

Now I’m going to make a leap here and suggest that the pattern of Mr. Trump’s most recent tariff pronouncements look like the I win/You lose logic that’s driving our treatment of migrants along the Southern border. It may also help us understand our current treatment of immigrants who are not citizens of the USA.

Think of a tug-of-war. Clear winner; clear loser. I’m great! You’re not.

Yet there’s more than one way of making a deal. The best deals often end up with winners on all sides. We may not get everything we thought we wanted or needed. Nonetheless, we may get some beneficial things we’d never anticipated.

The Chinese Exclusion Act is a sad and sorry example of the I win/You lose style of making a deal. So are housing and employment laws and processes put in place or twisted around to keep certain groups of people in their places. Not overrunning ‘our’ protected places. We win/You lose.

I’m no historian and I’m not a financial expert. I just know that what I see isn’t adding up to success on the Southern border OR success for our country. Not here and not abroad.

The images I posted yesterday suggest an ill-conceived I win/You lose setup for migrants and for all of us. The first moves have already been made at the border. Appropriate quality of life and family supports have all but vanished. Plans for what comes next are vague or nonexistent. And there’s an air of secrecy about what’s happening now with migrants, and what will happen next.

Tom Kiefer’s remarkable photographs have given my eyes something else to look at and ponder, without looking away. Which is another way of saying I’ll be doing at least one more post on this topic.

What about you? Have you found ways to engage?

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 July 2018
Photo of toy cars found at the New York Times and on Tom Kiefer’s website
Toy cars are sometimes carried as mementos or gifts for loved ones; considered non-essential and discarded at the border

Gumdrops, Spring and Dr. King

Like gumdrops
Filling a candy jar
Seconds of daylight
Pile up helter skelter
Cheery gold and lavender
Green, purple and red
Steal the show
From winter’s icy grip
One precious drop at a time

Snow and sleet this morning; sun promised this afternoon. Crocus and forsythia bloom no matter what falls from the sky. Relentlessly, they’re taking back their space and sending winter packing.

On 4 April 1968, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I can’t think of another religious or political leader who has, in my lifetime, spoken truth to power as effectively as he did. Not once, but many times over.

Dr. King’s approach offers an alternative to Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again. Dr. King’s option is about hope for our future, though not because we’ll all be Great in the Trumpian way.

Instead, like the silent approach of spring, we’ll join others to steal the show from our long national winter of discontent. It will take no more and no less than small acts of nonviolent hope, listening as we’ve never listened before, and one courageous vote at a time.

We don’t have to wait until we’re part of an army or national movement to do what needs doing. Nor are we promised rose gardens or fame in return for our service. Instead, we’re promised the soul-satisfying, dangerous work of living and speaking truth to overweening, soul-destroying power.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 April 2018
Photo found on pinterest.com

The underbelly of the Church

Below is a quote from Simone Weil about the social and patriotic power of the Church. Not church as we know it on Sunday mornings, but the Church as a powerful institution within a political setting.

Weil wrote during the Nazi era. Her words are troubling, given the rise of the white Evangelical church’s political influence in the USA. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, but also in public arenas where religious language virtually baptizes political figures as agents of God, up to and including Mr. Trump.

In light of the Nazi era, this turn of events is more than troubling. Many, though not all German Protestant and Catholic churches, including pastors and revered theologians, colluded in the rise of Hitler. Their open support amounted to baptizing Hitler as God’s agent sent as their Great Leader at this time. Yes, there would be some bloodshed. But in the end, life will be better for those who survive, and Germany itself will gain esteem throughout the world.

Here’s what Simone Weil had to say about herself and the Church during the Nazi era. I read this as a comment on both Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany, though she refers to the Catholic Church. Highlights are mine.

All things carefully considered, I believe they come down to this: what scares me is the Church as a social thing. Not solely because of her stains, but by the very fact that it is, among other characteristics, a social thing.

Not that I am by temperament very individualistic. I fear for the opposite reason. I have in myself a strongly gregarious spirit. I am by natural disposition extremely easily influenced in excess, and especially by collective things. I know that if in this moment I had before me twenty German youth singing Nazi songs in chorus, part of my soul would immediately become Nazi. It is a very great weakness of mine. . . .

I am afraid of the patriotism of the Church that exists in the Catholic culture. I mean ‘patriotism’ in the sense of sentiment analogous to an earthly homeland. I am afraid because I fear contracting its contagion. Not that the Church appears unworthy of inspiring such sentiment, but because I don’t want any sentiment of this kind for myself.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Published by Harper Perennial in 1950 to celebrate 100 years since Weil’s birth

I couldn’t agree more. I’m also troubled by the silence of many white Evangelical churches that (rightly) choose not to get on the Trump bandwagon. Silence often enables the abuse of power. I don’t want to catch the silence virus. Hence this post and others to remind me that I have a voice, it counts, and I must exercise it regularly.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2018
Image found at books.google.com

I don’t think I like your religion

I’ve included a few comments below about the context for Morton’s lyrics.

Religion

I don’t think I like your religion
Don’t always make the best decisions
Not sayin’ you don’t have good intentions
I know that you are only human

But you blame your God when it’s your own fault
Where is the love that your God spoke of?
Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them

That’s what you were told, let’s just be honest
You didn’t even take the time to find it yourself
You just took their words to be true
You don’t even know why you believe what you do

But you blame your God when it’s all your fault
Where is the love that your God spoke of?
Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them

Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them (repeated twice)

P. J. Morton lyrics to Religion, recorded on his Grammy-nominated hip-hop album, Gumbo

This past weekend I listened to a public radio interview with hip-hop artist P. J. Morton. His father, also a musician, is an ordained clergyman. Morton talked about his commitment to hip-hop, his religious upbringing, and the way it influences his music. I didn’t make notes, but here’s part of what I heard during the interview.

The religious language of white evangelical Christians who supported Trump for president reminds Morton of the way white slavers kept Black slaves in their place. Thus, “I don’t think I like your religion.” This kind of religion became a vehicle for inhumane political ends during slavery. Today, this kind of religion is still a vehicle for inhumane political ends. It’s supported now as then by unexamined, faulty assumptions about the God of Christianity.

Morton’s response is simple: Don’t blame God “when it’s all your fault.” Don’t expect God to bless your decisions. They’re based on faulty, unexamined notions about God. What you call God’s will, supposedly being worked out through Trump, is your own uninformed will dressed up in religious language. God is not your puppet. And Trump is not God’s agent sent to do your faulty bidding.

You are, after all, “only human.” Even though you may have good intentions.

Too bad the Grammys chose to overlook Morton’s prophetic music.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 January 2018
Studio-recorded video found here on YouTube
Interview excerpt found here, plus a link to an audio of the full interview with Michel Martin on NPR’s All Things Considered

blustery wind blows cold

blustery wind
blows cold against my face –
shadows lengthen

I’m just back from a brisk walk outdoors with D. In freezing temperatures, with the bright sun in my eyes and an unpredictable icy wind gusting at will. Imagine the sound of waves against the shore on a stormy night. That’s the sound of tall evergreen trees being tossed around by winter winds.

Almost the moment I finished writing the haiku above I thought about the current sound and fury of winds of change if not warfare.

Our airwaves are full of blustery wind these days. The kind that gives me a chill. I don’t laugh easily or often at political ineptitude. From my perspective, it feels like I’m shrugging it off, defanging it, or even giving up and not facing it for what it is. Which right now includes facing the reality that Mr. Trump’s presidency isn’t going away anytime soon. Nor will we ever return to the way things were.

This isn’t necessarily bad, except for this. The damage done by Mr. Trump’s bold ‘initiatives’ is going to trickle faster than predicted. Not up to the good of those who most need help, but down (yes, down) to the ‘good’ of the most wealthy corporations, men, women and families in the USA.

Shadows lengthen. All the laughter and bluster in the world won’t cover up growing disgust, betrayal, and in-your-face nastiness being dished out to immigrants and to citizens of this nation, many of whom voted for Mr. Trump. The fact that I didn’t vote for him doesn’t make me righteous. We’re in this together, and are already paying the price. One way or another.

Even so, nothing will take away the grandeur of a walk outdoors with D in brisk cold weather, the sun in my face and the wind whipping around me. It’s a tangible reminder that Mr. Trump does not own or control the sun, the wind or the temperature. He is not now, nor will he ever be the Creator of this universe. Much less its Savior.

Praying you have a wonderful Sabbath rest, if not a lovely walk outdoors in the freezing cold!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 January 2018
Photo found at staticflickr.com

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