Piece of the Puzzle

random musings on whatever…

Category: Current Events (Page 1 of 6)

New book — Bruised Skies

I wanted a way to share a few of my poems in a more traditional way so I decided to undertake this small experiment in self-publishing, coming up with this chapbook length book featuring 17 of my poems (12 of which have been previously posted on this blog). If you’re interested, you can buy it from Amazon now. Other booksellers should also have the ability to order it – if not immediately then in the near future.

Bruised Skies: Poems in Response to A World Gone Mad

The 17 poems in this short collection express dismay and anxiety over the state of life in this second decade of the 21stcentury, from the rise of fascism to the way we treat the earth and each other as we go about our everyday routines. Yet, at the same time, they call us to resistance and change while offering a glimpse of hope for the resurrection of compassion and connection.

 

Open letter to my congressional representative

To the Honorable Fred Upton,

As a voter in your district, I want to thank you for your post on Facebook stating your confidence in our U.S. intelligence agencies and your support of the independent Mueller investigation. However, this statement does not go far enough. We need to hear your complete and thorough condemnation of Donald Trump’s presidency, which has been a disaster for our country beyond anyone’s imagination. His constant and brazen lying, narcissism, misogyny, and racism should be enough to disqualify him from continuing in office.

However, we must also not forget his failure to live up to his vows to uphold our constitution. His frequent attacks undermining our free press are attacks on the first amendment. Further, he and his family’s use of the their government positions to promote their business interests are at the very least unethical and are mostly likely a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the constitution. Lastly, Trump’s former policy of separating asylum-seeking families, and now his inability to reunite those families as ordered by our courts, amounts to a crime against humanity as well as a violation of their right to due process as guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment. The dismantling of environmental regulations meant to protect our natural resources and financial regulations meant to protect the people from greed-fueled corruption also do our country a great disservice.

Since the beginning of his presidency, I have been greatly shamed by Trump’s undue criticisms of long time U.S. allies while kowtowing to violent dictators such as Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Vladimir Putin of Russia. All of this has been done while undermining U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, CIA and Justice Department by constantly casting aspersions upon their honesty and integrity. Finally, his actions of this past weekend and especially his statements following meeting with Putin on Monday amount to a betrayal of our nation.

Something must be done and we, the people whom you represent, should not have to remind you that it is your job as a member of congress to be a check and balance on the executive branch of government. The President is immoral, grossly incompetent, and a threat to our nation. Please do what is right for our country. I ask you and congress to take appropriate action immediately.

Please also know that I will be sharing this letter. I also pledge to vote forevermore against anyone who supports the treasonous actions of Trump. We must now whole heartedly and vehemently affirm our democracy as standing for the rights and welfare of the people of this great nation.

Sincerely,
Rev. Kenneth Arthur
Kalamazoo, Michigan

A Radical Welcome

Providing a radical welcome to marginalized people, especially the LGBTQ community, was a founding goal and principle for Phoenix Community Church. Of course, to welcome folks is about more than tolerance. Radical welcome is about providing a place of belonging, compassion and support. A radical, inclusive welcome remains as important as ever as we see renewed attacks not only on LGBTQ folks, but on many marginalized groups. Immigrants in particular have become a scapegoat for our nation’s problems and insecurities and are regularly demonized and persecuted. A recent public letter from the national officers of the United Church of Christ denounces governmental persecution of immigrants and reminds us that we are called to respect and honor the humanity and sanctity of all people.

It is important that we stand up and speak out, especially in this current stormy period in history that feels increasingly dangerous. As we more and more see the ugly shadow side of humanity on display in places of power, it is easy to feel frightened and panicky, much like the disciples who were caught at sea in a storm in Mark 4. In their fright they wake a sleeping Jesus who calms the storm and then challenges them: “Have you no faith?”

In their panic, the disciples reveal their lack of trust in God. On the other hand, Jesus in this story models faith for them by displaying the courage and audacity to confront the danger. His question “have you no faith?” implies the disciples should have handled the situation themselves. One might think the disciples had faith because they turned to Jesus in a time of trouble but by looking to Jesus to solve their problem for them, they actually showed how much they doubted God. Faith doesn’t mean trusting God will swoop in and perform miracles for us like Superman or the Lone Ranger. Faith means that God is already with us, guiding us, empowering us, ready to perform miracles through us.

But, how do we remain centered like Jesus and find the courage and audacity to act when the world feels like a deadly storm bearing down on us? How do we find the courage and audacity to stand up in the current climate against racism and homophobia? How do we find the courage and audacity to stand up for the rights of immigrants who are the beloved children of God as much as we are? Another way to ask the question is, what reminds us of God’s presence in a time of trouble? When panic, fear, and unfocused anger threaten to overwhelm us?

Unfortunately, we each have to answer that question for ourselves. One suggestion might be to choose an image we have for God and then picture that image merging with our own body. Perhaps the image is Jesus or a bright light or a flame. It doesn’t really matter what image we use for the Divine, but focus on that image (which is, of course, a symbol for God and not actually God) merging with us so that we become one with it. If we fix the merged image in our mind then when our seas are feeling too stormy we can call this image again into our minds to remind ourselves of the Divine that resides within us always, to remind ourselves that we are worthy and sacred, that through this Spirit of God within us we have the courage and audacity to perform the miracle of facing our fears, that we have the courage and audacity to stand up and speak truth to the powers of this world as we seek justice for all people.

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The above reflection is inspired by my sermon from June 24, “Stormy Seas.” Audio recordings of sermons are posted at www.phoenixchurch.org/sermons.php for about 6 months.

Thoughts on incivility, restaurant service and homophobic bakers

The issue of civility in no way compares to human rights violations. I also have no interest in hearing complaints about civility from Trump supporters as such complaints are completely hypocritical. On the other hand, there are good reasons to try to remain civil and respectful. Rude behavior can also demean one’s humanity. Perhaps the question is what constitutes incivility versus truth-telling, because truth-telling is dearly needed right now and to the oppressor it is going to sound like rude behavior. I despise everything Sarah Sanders and Trump stand for but I still believe that they are children of God worthy of love and respect. Of course, I also believe I have a responsibility to challenge their dishonesty, their constitutional violations and their crimes against humanity. But, incivility also widens the divide. In reading anecdotal articles about those who have made inroads and helped transform people who were white supremacists, it seems to happen through showing compassion and love, not getting in their face about the evil of their ways. I might also note that Jesus challenged religious authorities over their corruption but was also known to go to their houses for dinner. Is it possible to challenge immoral behavior and still remain respectful of their humanity (i.e. be civil)? If we not, then we put ourselves in danger of becoming them – incivility is a major tool of Trump and his followers. Kicking Sanders out of a restaurant could be construed as some dramatic truth-telling rather than incivility but what if, instead, the manager had pulled a chair up to Sander’s table and started engaging in a little verbal truth-telling, face-to-face? Maybe there were better ways to handle it (and maybe not).

Regarding the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, I’m not convinced the situation is really different. Both were refusing service based on their personal sense of morals. The only difference I see is that I agree with one of them and not the other. I’m also probably in the minority of gay people because I’m also not totally convinced that he should be forced to bake that cake (although I understand the arguments for that and don’t oppose them). Frankly, if a baker doesn’t want to make me a cake, I’d rather know that up front. I don’t want to eat a cake made for me by someone who despises my very being. What if, instead of suing the homophobic baker to force him to bake cakes in the future, folks engaged in protests and boycotts instead? I think we always have options on how to react to injustice. It’s not always easy to figure out the best way.

Ghazal for America, 2018

Ghazal for America, 2018

Tell another tale: build a wall high and thick, brick by brick.
Kill the sick, grab the chick. That’ll make us great again.

Parched of reason, we’re Jonesing for more Kool-Aid.
Guzzle it down, quick now. We’ll never be sated again.

Men with power suffer blood drain from the brain, get too
keen on their peen, can’t they just stay home and masturbate again?

Editors drop fly attracting dung bombs defining reality in six words
or less. Fire all the headline writers and tell it straight again.

Send Sherman to march on Congress, leave no regulation unturned,
un-spurned, burn it all down faster than dems can create again.

Elected hoods robbin’ from the poor muse: sure would be nice
to tax ‘em and leave ‘em, to the rich we can donate again.

Politicos drain from swamp, leave billionaire snakes,
racist rats and nationalist alligators to alienate again.

Jesus must have said love your guns and your money as yourself.
How else would the Christians fall for the bait again?

Sticks and stones might break our bones but AR-15’s are harmless –
just ignore the dead children – can we ever close the flood gate again?

Not my fault says the bitter twitter assault. So bad, so sad
our prez eloquently opines. Will the abhorrent torrent ever abate again?

Go grand with your claim, never accept the blame: surely it must be
the black guy or that nasty woman. See how easy it is to hate again?

From seeds of integrity we harvest trees of fake news,
putting truth beyond our ken – and so we obfuscate again.

©2018 Kenneth W. Arthur

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