Why I Am Voting

2018midtermelection

As an earthling, I am voting for the environment.

As a human being, I am voting against vulgarity, division, deceit and violence.

As a white southerner, I am voting against white nationalism and racism.

As a straight person, I am voting against homophobia, transphobia and bigotry.

As a man, I am voting against sexism and misogyny.

As a runner, I am voting against ableism.

As a person of faith, I am voting against fear.

As a Christian, I am voting against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.

As a pastor, I am voting for freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

As an employee, I am voting for fair living wages.

As a husband, I am voting for marriage and family.

As a father of two children, I am voting for public education.

As an American, I am voting for liberty and justice for all.

As a follower of Jesus, I am voting for people who are sick, poor, imprisoned, hungry, naked, and outsiders.

As a person who tries to love my neighbor as myself, I am voting against anyone and anything that harms my neighbor.

As a voter, I am not voting Republican, and I am not voting Democrat. I am voting for right over wrong, love over hate and good over evil.

Listen Up Nation! Seth’s Got Something to Say

SETH SMILE MCM TRAINING 2

On Sunday, during the Marine Corps Marathon in our nation’s capital, Seth Allen, who has Cerebral Palsy and Autism, will not recognize the White House, and he doesn’t have a strong opinion about who currently occupies it. When we roll by the US Capitol, Seth will not think of his Representative or his Senator from Oklahoma. The Supreme Court will be just another large building. When we pass by the monuments on the National Mall, Seth may not recognize them or understand who or what they memorialize. When we pass by the WWII and Vietnam Memorials, and when we start and finish near Arlington Cemetery, Seth will not grasp the significance.

For Seth, it will be just another race with Ainsley’s Angels, one that he participates in every month. I am sure he will notice that the course is much longer and has more runners; however, for Seth, the joy he experiences may be no greater than the joy he receives from participating in a small local 5k.

So, why spend all the money? Why travel all the way to Washington DC from Roland, Oklahoma? Why roll 26.2 miles?

Seth’s father George perhaps answered these questions best when he said: “Because this land is his land too.”

Seth’s inclusion with over 30 other Athlete Riders with Ainsley’s Angels in what is called “the People’s Marathon” powerfully proclaims the words inscribed in the granite of the Jefferson Memorial:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The inclusion of Ainsley’s Angels in the Marine Corps Marathon declares to the occupant of the White House, to each lawmaker at the Capitol, to the judges seated on the Supreme Court, and to the entire nation: “Regardless of ability, difficulties, individual differences, unique characteristics, and different needs, ALL are created equal. ALL have a right to live. ALL have a right to love. ALL are worthy to be free. All are worthy of respect. ALL deserve to be happy. ALL deserve to be included.”

And if we continue to vote for this principle in two weeks, Seth’s smile at the finish line near the sacred grave markers of Arlington will reveal to the world that those who sacrificed their lives for this nation did not do so in vain.

And this will certainly not be “just another race.”

 

 

 

I Pledge Allegiance

Poor People's CampaignDelivered at the Introduction Meeting of the Poor People’s Campaign at First Christian Church in Fort Smith AR, May 6, 2018

I

In America, I as an individual,have certain inalienable rights. As an individual citizen of this country, I have freedom. And with that freedom, I have a great responsibility. I have a voice. I have a vote, and I have the responsibility to make this country the very best that it can be. And that includes keeping our water safe, our air clean and our land pure.

Pledge allegiance

Our allegiance does not mean blindly accepting our faults, never questioning our past, and never second-guessing how current policies will affect our future. Allegiance means faithfully doing our part to “mend thine every flaw.”

It means being loyal, law-abiding citizens committed to our civic duty of voting in elections. However, it also means voicing opposition to laws that need to be changed and to elected officials who need be corrected. Civil allegiance sometimes means civil disobedience.

Like a faithful marriage, pledging allegiance means being loyal to our country in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, never giving up, never becoming complacent, never running away. It means perpetually praying for it, continually correcting it, forever fighting for it.

To the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands

The flag is not a mere sign for our country. It is the profound symbol of our country. Signs are limited as signs only give information. Signs do not have the power to stand for something. Only symbols can do that. Whereas signs invoke intellectual responses from the brain, symbols elicit visceral emotions from the heart and gut. This is the reason seeing the Confederate Battle Flag flying on the back of motorcycles this weekend turned my stomach. The flag is not a mere historical marker, label, design or brand but a powerful symbol that stands for something. Flags have the power to move us, stir us, and guide us.

One nation

Our flag stands for one nation. Although heritage and culture are important aspects of life in different parts of our country, they are never more important than the unity of our country. Abraham Lincoln and Jesus spoke truth when they said: “a house divided against its self cannot stand.”

We need to come together not as liberal or conservative, republican or democrat but simply as Americans who believe we can do better and be better.

Under God

Not under God because we are down here and God is up there. Not under God because we want some sort of theocracy like the belief of ISIS and other Islamic extremists. And not under God because we believe we were established to be a Christian nation like the beliefs of Christian extremists.

Rather, we pledge our allegiance to country under, after, second to, our allegiance to the law of God.

As people of faith, this is why our allegiance is not blind. The Commander-in-Chief is not our chief commander. The Supreme Court is not our supreme being. Our allegiance is first pledged to something that is bigger than our nation, even larger than our world.

It is an allegiance that informs our vote, rallies our civic duties, admonishes our obedience to civil law, and yet, sometimes calls us to civil disobedience. For the Christian, it is the God revealed through the words and works of Jesus who becomes our civil conscience. We believe the law of God revealed through Christ supersedes every human law.

Immediately following words from the Apostle Paul regarding good citizenship and obeying the law, we read that every one of God’s laws is summed up in just one law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said it this way: “On this hang all of the laws of the prophets “…that you love your neighbor as yourself.”

And just in case some are still confused to what “love” is, Paul defines love by saying: “Love does no harm to a neighbor.”

Jesus said, “There is no law greater.” It is as if Christ is saying, “If you don’t get anything else from Holy Scripture, you need to get this: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Yet, as evidenced by the amount of hatred, racism and violence that is in our nation today, much of it propagated in the name of God, this supreme law is widely ignored, disobeyed or rejected all together.

I believe it is when we first pledge our allegiance to this supreme law, that we have the opportunity to be a great nation. For when we love our neighbors as ourselves, when in everything we do to others as we would have them do to us, it quickly becomes “self-evident that all people are created equal with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Indivisible

When we pledge allegiance to the supreme law of God, when we pledge to love our neighbors as ourselves, we promise to work together under God to build bridges to overcome the gaps and barriers that we have created that divide us: racial, sexual, ethnic, political, economic, educational and religious. We pledge to come together, side by side, hand in hand, for the equality of all people and the inalienable rights of all people.

This does not mean that we are to never disagree with the beliefs or lifestyles of others. We can certainly love our neighbor while disagreeing with our neighbor. It is not hating our neighbor when we disagree with the flag that our neighbor flies; however, when we infringe on their life, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness by supporting public policies or actions that treat them as second-class citizens, that do harm to our neighbor, that keep the poor poor while keeping the rich richer, it is certainly not loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. As our 44thPresident said in the eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney: “…justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. [Our] liberty depends on [our neighbors] being free, too.”

With liberty and justice for all.

We pledge to work for freedom and fairness not just for our educated, rich neighbor who can afford the best attorneys, and not just for our advantaged, abled-bodied and able-minded straight, white, Christian, English-speaking neighbors. We pledge ourselves to stand for liberty and justice for all. And according to the Abrahamic faiths, “all” especially includes foreigners, minorities, the poor, the differently-abled, all those who have been pushed to the margins.

All even includes people of every nation. For our love and our mission to stand for liberty and justice have no borders.

In response to a call to include the rights of the LGBTQ community as civil rights, one of my friends raised the following question on Facebook, and to avoid being obscene, I am going to paraphrase: “They only represent 2% of the population. Why do they matter?”

This was not just one lone, ugly, hateful voice, but one that was representative of the sentiment of many.

“They only make up 2% of the population. Why do they matter?”

For the Christian who pledges his or her allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all: LGBTQ+ lives matter; Black lives matter; Poor People’s lives matter, because according to everything for which this flag stands under the supreme law of the God of love, all lives will never matter, until all finally means all.

Holy Week

Emma

It happened 2,000 years ago, and it happens today.

Someone experiences suffering.

They love their neighbors as they love themselves.

They have a dream that love can change the world.

They heal. They teach. They unite. They march.

They speak truth to power.

They inspire.

But they also disturb.

Pushback comes.

Betrayal. Denial. Lies. Mocking. Humiliation. Degradation. Dehumanization.

Some of it comes in the name of God.

The good news is that Easter is coming.

Hope is rising.

And love will win.