24 January 2011

a letter to the editor

I wish to present a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.  It was written by Darin Robbins, who is the treasurer of the Steuben County (NY) Green Party.  He wants it to be clear that the views expressed are his own:

The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, and the injuring and murder of others, should bring some facts to the foreground in our public debates.  Much more than the need for civility, which is warranted, is the fact that the widespread expansion of rumours and outright lies as if they were true distorts people’s ability to comprehend reality.  The shooter in this situation clearly had a history of mental illness, but we live in a time where outrageous and patently false claims are being considered possible facts by people of supposed average intelligence and sane disposition.  For example, some elected members of Congress actually believe that president Obama is a “foreign-born secret Muslim socialist.”  Stringing these lies together in one phrase shows how ridiculous they are, yet they continue to poison our discussion of policy and national direction.

If lies are considered truth, then how can real alternatives such as the Green Party emerge to supply the needed change in our economy and government?  The use of violent imagery by the right, spread as far as the lies, also implies that violence is the only way to respond to this imagined threat.  This use of violent rhetoric is part of the conservative movement’s belief in redemptive violence, or violence’s ability to solve problems.  The violent rhetoric can be dismissed on its own by sane people, and the lies can be dismissed by sane people.  But taken together they form an equation which those who truly believe the lies will see and try to enact.

One thing I would probably add is that those in the center and on the left aren’t exactly immune from violence—or lies, for that matter.  Ultimately, each of us, no matter our perspective, must take responsibility for what we say, for what we put out into the world.  Imagine what would happen if we first developed our ability to listen…and then to speak.

(Thanks to Darin for his insights and his kind permission to post them.)

21 January 2011

to a snow shovel

O snow shovel!
Dear snow shovel!
Have you felt neglected?
Has not your pumpkin-hued blade
shown its full potential?
By employing you to clear our deck
and the steps leading there to,
have you felt demeaned in a job
any simple broom would do?

O snow shovel!
Dear snow shovel!
Have you felt neglected?
At the far frontier of lake effect snow,
have I shamed you by your scant use?
Then I call you, nay, implore you
to gaze at the foreground tableau,
the driveway, tangerine friend, again is in need—
the skies still shed snow, the winds still blow!

13 January 2011

is it too light?

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). This is from the second of the so-called “Servant Songs” in the book of Isaiah. The Servant—be it the prophet, Israel, the Messiah, or another identity—hears the call to be a light to the nations. The call is not simply to his/her/their own people, but to the entire world, the entire creation. Do we (can we) imitate the Servant?

To be light. The problem is that we too often try to bring our own light, instead of receiving the light that is given to us. In bringing our own light, it too often winds up being more heat than light.

A perfect illustration of this was Tucson, five days ago: the mass murder and the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords’ life. It was an occasion for plenty of people to radiate a lot of heat, but not much light. Within a couple of hours, there was already a firestorm of speculation about the motives of the shooter. Many were attempting to draw a straight line from him to politicians and media personalities who make incendiary comments.

Clearly, the shooter and any possible accomplices are responsible for their own actions. But that goes for the rest of us. We shouldn’t pretend that our words and deeds don’t have consequences, especially those of us in positions of influence and those who have large audiences. We are responsible for what we say. Can we learn to use words that help bring more light and less heat?

05 January 2011

Bill Long, AARP spelling bee finalist

Here's a look at Bill Long, a quite interesting fellow who I'm quoting in my sermon this Sunday on Isaiah 42. Go to his website at www.drbilllong.com