Changing Gun Laws

Lennonquote_nMy brothers went on Dad’s hunting trips. My sister and I were expected to help clean and cook those pitiful little birds. I didn’t want to hunt and I deftly avoided kitchen chores, so it didn’t seem like a big deal then. But guns seem like very big deal right now.

I’m willing to admit that some very nice people like to hunt even if I never did. Those tiny birds seemed like a foolish payoff for all that tramping in the weeds. The birds weren’t very tasty and you could crack a tooth on a leftover bullet.

I’m writing today because life has changed since 1940 and we need new gun laws. My Dad hunted in places like Corona that are now wall-to-wall houses. One of my favorite movie scenes is when Eddie Murphy as a new congressman goes on a hunting trip with NRA types and shoots birds with an Uzi. It was so ridiculous in Distinguished Gentleman that everyone laughed. But assault weapons are not funny in real life.

I’ve never really bought the idea that hunting is a transcendental experience. Nevertheless, lots of people I’ve respected have enjoyed hunting so I’m willing to leave regular guns in the hands of responsible people. But the rest is nonsense.

The Sandy Hook massacre apparently created enough public awareness so that we are on the verge of political action. I trust that President Obama will do what he says he’s going to do, especially since a large majority of Americans are in favor. But he cannot do it alone. Good people like us need to continue a steadfast activity in the direction of change. Let’s not get discouraged or confused but forge ahead. Let’s not get trapped in rhetoric about how complicated change is. Complications dissolve where there is a clear vision.

We people in New Thought know how to hold a vision. We use the power of prayer daily. Will you join me and devote part of your spiritual practice to envisioning fewer guns and less violence? Include it in our prayer for peace?

I believe in the power of prayer and I also believe in backing up my prayer with activities that support the desired goal. There are some simple steps to take. We can endeavor to be centered in peace ourselves. We can make sure any guns we have around are securely locked up. We can also get rid of them.

Prayer works. Follow-up action works. We are not powerless and we are with the majority opinion.

When an idea takes hold, change happens and each of us can do our part to support this idea. That is actually how all change happens on a personal, community, national or worldwide level. First we establish a clear vision. God then supports that vision. I believe we must also support the vision with our actions.

God does the work but there is an old saying, “Treat and move your feet.”  We seldom get the job unless we send out the resume. We seldom move ahead unless we take political action. Our actions confirm our commitment to the vision.

Don’t get confused about the issue in the following weeks. We often hear that guns are not the problem – that people who shoot guns are. That’s simplistic. Without assault weapons, fewer people would have been killed in massacres like Sandy Hook and Tucson and Columbine.

You may also hear that the real problem is violence in the inner cities. It is true that young people are losing their lives every day in the streets. Urban mayors are pushing hard to regulate guns in their cities and that is one more  beginning. Tightening up gun regulations will reduce  problems.

I don’t want us to be distracted during this window of opportunity, although it is clear there is not just one single solution, but many partial solutions. We must approach the problem of violence in the United States from several angles.

Mental health is a big part of the problem. We need changes in mental health identification and treatment. I can see those changes coming but I am not willing to postpone action on banning assault weapons until we solve the myriad mental health treatment issues.

Violence in the entertainment media is also a problem. The special effects that accompany crime drama in today’s movies are appalling. Many people in New Thought already choose to avoid entertainment violence. I find it’s no big loss. If enough people boycott violent films and video games, it will help.

Then there are the constitutional arguments. Both liberals and conservatives use them to defend their beloved First and Second amendments.

It is ridiculous when liberals rage against the 2nd Amendment “patriots” then turn around and insist that the appalling graphic carnage in movies is protected by the 1st Amendment. Nonsense on both sides.

The First and Second Amendments were written as a reaction to English rule. They are not written in stone. They can be interpreted differently and they can be changed. Fundamentalism, whether from the right or left is nuts.

Yes – I want to support stronger controls of violence in movies, TV and games. And…  I do not want to let that slow down the control of assault weapons and tighter regulations on guns.

When the NRA and others try to cloud the issue by pointing out that the issue of violence is complicated and there are other problems, it amounts to static on the airwaves. We know there is truth in what they say and we know they say it to distract us from taking action today.

They say what they say because there is big money in guns. We know that reducing the availability of guns will help reduce violence. We also know you don’t need assault weapons to shoot birds or deer.

You do make a difference.

I believe we can reduce the violence in the United States by getting assault weapons off the street and tightening up all gun laws. I salute and support the leaders who are in front of this movement and I will sign the petitions, write the letters and pray for passage of laws and the establishment of peaceful life in this land.  How about you?

I write this today because I would like to see every one who believes in the power of peaceful change to speak up in the next few days. Write letters to your representatives. Sign petitions to ban assault weapons. Send money to the organizations that support the cause.  Send this blog to your friends. Spend some of your prayer and visioning time on this issue.

Ask Yourself

What do I think about gun laws?

Will I pray about it?

Will I write a comment on this blog about it?

Will I take political action about it?

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Get Out The Vote!

After many hours of watching the inspiring political conventions, I now truly understand my grandson’s enthusiasm for the Lakers. The speeches were great, it was very exciting and I cheered a lot.  I certainly hope my team wins the pennant.

         I am happy to be an American and I believe in democratic elections. While I’d like to see some changes in the electoral system, I’m happy with the balance of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial  branches of government. I even believe that most of the people in politics are honest and well-meaning.

That said, I don’t agree with everyone and I don’t think things are as good as they can get. While I know the United States is a world leader in liberty and justice for all, I also know we can do better. Change is a long time coming. Most of all, I don’t want to go backward.

Last week, I was especially pleased to hear Rep. John Lewis talk about marching with Dr. King back in the “olden days.” Many of you weren’t born but I was an adult and I marched in a few mild parades myself. I even worked on Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s campaign.

Mostly, I watched history unfold on the nightly news and those images are engraved in my mind. Hoses turned on school children! You cannot imagine how heart wrenching that was to parents and teachers like myself.

My personal memories may seem as distant as the fighting in the trenches during World War One or sailing to North America in clipper ships. However, my memories are not irrelevant because I want to remind us all that we stood for courage, fairness and equality for a long time. That is not political spin.

The great New Thought leader, Emmet Fox, believed that the United States had a spiritual destiny to lead the world into government based on spiritual principles and Love. Many New Thought leaders believe that New Thought came of age in the United States because of our nation’s founding principles of freedom and equality.

I think it is important to remember who we are and then to envision who we can be. I also think it is very important to vote in November.

I have New Thought friends and acquaintances who think all political activities are nonsense. Some of them are quite proud that they never read or listen to the news. There are even some New Thought authors who suggest we handle stress by turning off the news. I cannot agree.

Letting elected officials do their thing without citizen’s supervision is a blueprint for disaster. We take care of our physical bodies and we want to take care of our planet… so why wouldn’t we take care of our government?

Laws are important. Many of them directly impact me, my friends, and my family. It is also my loving duty to watch out for my neighbor.  Whether it is the right to vote, health care, aid to dependent children or tax cuts for the wealthy, they quite directly matter in our lives.

I am mildly politically active. I read and listen. I write letters, sign petitions, send money, and exercise my vote. While I truly believe in the separation of church and state, I did not give up my rights as a citizen when I became a minister. Besides, I’m (sort of) retired.

I have no desire to pass laws that make others believe the way I do. On the other hand, I don’t want to live under laws based on some one else’s narrower religious beliefs. Several subjects, including same-sex marriage, the right to contraception and abortion, leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, school funding, labor rights, prison reform and extending voting ability are on my mind these days. This year, there is no way I want to be above the fray!

Most New Thought followers hold definite views on many of these same subjects. However, I know that some people who believe all political parties and politicians are equally wrong. Believe me – some politicians are more equal than others.

When citizens are silent, bad things can happen. We used to laugh when I was in Long Beach State College. It seemed as though our professors started all their sentences with, “I’m not a communist but…” Those professors were politically silent and they were terrified. Many good ones lost their jobs because of McCarthy’s damage.

As we all know, people have different opinions. There are always more than one way to look at things.  Our experiences are different. Some of us have more money than others. Gender makes a difference. Facts seem more or less important. The majority rules when the majority votes but when the majority skips the voting booth, the minority rules by default.

We can tell ourselves that everyone creates his own reality and it’s all good but that doesn’t always work. If someone imposes his belief about who you can marry or decides against your rights in favor of the “unborn child”, you won’t like it.

I want to make my opinion heard. I want my  elected officials to know that “survival of the fittest economics” doesn’t appeal to me.

The list of issues is long and challenging. Jobs may top the list but it is not alone. We need to insure all children are well-fed, well-schooled and have a roof over their heads. We need to retrain our displaced labor force. We need to stay out of costly wars that kill. Good government can make a lot of difference.

Please, please, do not turn away and say, “A pox on both their houses.” Believe me, there is a difference in the kind of  “houses” that are being proposed.

You have a right to make the choice you want. You also have a right not to vote. But – if you stay away from the polls, it will be pointless to complain. Anyone who thinks she can enjoy the freedom of this nation and not exercise her choice to vote, is mistaken.

Ask Yourself

Do I agree with Dr. Jane?

Am I informed?

Am I registered?

Do I want to volunteer?


An Agreeable Spiritual Practice

I am watching an Oprah program and Bishop TD Jakes is talking about finding your life purpose and pursuing it. He seems to think that having an aim is the solution to all of life’s problems. While that’s a great pro-active attitude, I’m not certain anything is that simple. However, after watching for almost an hour, I realize I agree with Bishop Jakes almost completely.

         Bishop Jakes is a hugely popular black preacher from a traditional background. As he and Oprah talked, I heard not one word about sin, hell, the devil, or any of the other concepts that drove me away from my first church’s teaching. At least in that conversation, he seemed to be completely about hope and love.

I love that and I hope that his message of love and hope is as consistent as it seemed.  I don’t have enough information to make an absolute judgment but he sure looks like the real deal. Isn’t that wonderful?

Many of the things he said seemed to be right out of a Science of Mind lecture. He talked about releasing the past, being self-directed and following your inner promptings. I am happy to hope that these ideas are replacing the old stories of sin, punishment and so forth.

Despite their fundamentalism, black churches have always had an emphasis on forgiveness, community, redemption and living together despite human frailties. From slave days, they have been social, political, educational and spiritual institutions. While some of those needs have dissipated over the past fifty years, there is still loyalty at work. We continue to more segregated on Sunday at 11 AM than any time of the week.

New Thought thinkers, along with Quakers and Unitarians, have always been an exception to the color barriers. We have always welcomed people of all colors and all religious heritages and they do attend and participate. The Carlsbad church has always been proud to have people of color and several religious backgrounds since its beginning. That is typical.

New Thought has also had strong black leaders who founded churches that were open to anyone but were predominantly black. Dr. Barbara King of Atlanta, Dr. Johnnie Coleman of Chicago, Dr. Daniel L. Morgan of the Guidance Church in Los Angeles were three very prominent New Thought leaders who had large, mostly black churches, at least  since the Sixties.

Dr. Michael Beckwith of West Los Angeles was the first to blast out of that historical mold and attract a truly urban mix of people. His church was always different from his those of his predecessors.

I believe that Dr. Michael is the harbinger of things to come for our denomination. There is a wonderful openness in our churches that is in the teaching itself and it extends to our spiritual communities. Dr. Michael’s celebrity status, now that he has been on Oprah so many times has, no doubt, opened a lot of people up to the joys of positive living based on spiritual truth.

I have always believed that black churches had more in common with New Thought thinking than most of the other fundamentalist groups. We both are very big on living in the present and releasing the past as well as believing in redemption – or the ability to release the past and change for the better. Rev. Vivien Nexon, who is an activist in prison ministries, said in a recent interview… I do have a basic core belief in the process of redemption. I believe that any deity that anybody serves is a forgiving and graceful being.

 There is resonance here. I hope Bishop Jakes and Rev. Nixon are  the harbingers of things to come in the traditional churches. I hope they are all moving away from stories of sin and eternal punishment into inner-directed questions such as, What do I believe? Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose?

As we celebrate our religious and social diversity in this nation, we need to remember that we are more alike than we are different. All you have to do is live somewhere outside the US or Canada for a while and you will see that you have more in common with your compatriots, despite their ethnic or religious background, than you do with people from other places.

Shared values of optimism, belief in possibility, an ingrained sense of self-reliance and self-trust are a strong part of our heritage. When we talk about the individual’s right and ability to change, there is nowhere in the world that people believe in that concept the way they do right here at home.

Ask any North American if he thinks people can change and the answer will be yes. Sometimes it will be a qualified yes but basically, we believe that an individual has the ability and right to move from one social class to another, the right to scale economic ladders and the right to determine his own destiny.

We find many truths – such a woman’s right to drive a car or a child’s right to food and shelter or an adult’s right to choose his own church (or not) to be self-evident. We were founded on the idea of individual freedom and self-reliance and we really do believe in it.

I am always hearing how much more religious we are than our European counterpoints. That’s true and it looks to me as though we are releasing a lot of dogma. I don’t hear much of the old nonsensical notions about good and evil. I get many fewer questions about how to talk with people’s born-again relatives.

I hope the literal interpretation of the Bible is less prevalent.  Despite the peculiar notions we see expressed on TV about same sex marriage and corporal punishment in the schools I believe the general population is saner than it was 20 years ago. Talk about evolution being a myth appears to be quieting down.  So does the idea that the devil might win the war of good and evil. Are things saner? What do you think?

I think they are, although we have a long way to go on a woman’s right to choose and same sex marriage equality. But even on these hot button issues, most people don’t seem so certain the other guy’s ideas will send him to hell. A lot of us do not even believe in hell (except the one we create for ourselves here on Planet Earth).

What we do seem to believe in is creating a good life for ourselves and helping others. Is that a religious belief? I think so. Is that a belief that you, I, Bishop Jakes, Dr. Beckwith and the President of the United States can agree to believe in? Certainly.

Perhaps we are on our way to a national religion and perhaps it has many names but will surely contain a healthy dose of positive, spiritual living.

Ask yourself

What do you believe?

Who are you?

What do you want?

What is your purpose?


New Vistas

My ministerial class reads emails from some Religious Science ministers that I copied from our chatter group. The discussion is on New Vistas or what we believe about church and state issues.  My class concludes that there are an amazing variety of opinions and they all make valid points.  Next week my students will bring in their own position statement to class.

 

Certainly, issues of church and state are relevant and ministers in training need to be thinking about how they will guide themselves and their churches through the complexity of attitudes about social action.

 

Should they speak out about same sex marriage laws? Or should they stay quiet and do their prayer work?  Is it a New Thought minister’s place to talk about supporting the Occupy Wall Street groups? How about anti-war marches? What about contraception? Abortion? Migrant workers? Privacy and anti-terrorist measures? The list of issues is long.

 

While most of us in New Thought would agree about most of these issues, I know for a fact that we wouldn’t agree about all of them. But we do agree that we want our New Thought churches and centers to be open to people of varying opinions – don’t we?

 

Whether we are ministers or not, if we are citizens of the US, we are up to our necks in church and social action issues right now. We are aware of this, I’m certain. Last Monday, I posted a blog about women’s rights and how I didn’t think the “old boys” should push us backward. I got more favorable responses to that blog than any I’ve written so far.

 

I obviously hit a nerve. Since women have always been a big part of New Thought leaders and followers, I wasn’t surprised. It turns out that my blog was part of a bigger picture that is hitting a nerve all over the nation.

 

This week, the news is full of the question, “Where are the women?” Most women are against the proposed laws designed to whittle away women’s access to abortion and possibly contraception. These laws are in play for many reasons but at least partly because of religious convictions. We are, once again, dancing between our right to religious freedom of expression and our belief that religion has no place in government policy.

 

The United States was founded on the idea of separation of church and state, yet, our history is riddled with change based on religious meddling. I don’t like that fact when my side loses. I liked it just fine when my side won so it really comes back to consciousness of the individual and how it is formed.

 

Here’s something I know about consciousness. I believe in things that I know – mostly through personal experience. For example, I’m a woman so I really get women’s issues. I’ve had black and gay friends since I was very young and so I get most of their issues. I’ve never been a hunter so I don’t understand why anyone would want a nation with enough guns to start a revolution. And so it goes.

 

Church and State are obviously separate and obviously intertwined. Our country will continue to have opposing sides to any question and the majority will win in the long run. One thing that means tome is that we need to elect more minorities to the government at local, state and federa level. One thing that the election Pres. Obama is teaching us is that one guy isn’t enough.

 

Meanwhile, our country is based on the idea of individual liberty and I will continue to believe that everyone has a right to his or her voice.  Though I am pro-choice and I believe small families are a good idea, I would honestly hate to see anyone forced to use birth control or forced to abort at any stage in the pregnancy. I truly do believe in choice.

 

At the same time, I believe in social activism. We need more women, more ethnic minorities and more openly gay people in our government. Since most people find it easier to identify with issues they have personal experience with, it would make votes more representative and equal.

 

My state is blessed with three large cities. One has a Hispanic Mayor, one has a gay Mayor and one has a City Manager who is a straight white male. Our two Senators are women and right now, we are fortunate. I’d like us just to be normal. I look forward to the day when no one will even think to ask, “Where are the women?”

 

By the way, here’s my position paper. If Mitt Romney can say, “Corporations are people” then I can say, “Clergy are people”. Which puts me behind the eight ball because I don’t agree with most of the more traditional ministers who are actually speaking out. I do agree that they have the right but I would love to hear more opinions from New Thought clergy. I don’t want to fight but I do want a voice.

 

We need to grow for many reasons and one of them is that we would have a stronger public voice. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if New Thought were so large and powerful on a day to day level that we were routinely called to testify in State and National capital hearings? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could show people how to respect both sides and continue to love each other while we listened and then decided?

 

I understand that our primary way of getting things done is to pray for it. On the other hand, I have heard from the beginning, “Treat and move your feet.” I’d love to see us move our feet in the direction of social action.  Wasn’t it the Dali Lama who, speaking of the environment, said something like, “We should take care of the earth because it is where we live.”

 

Let’s not space out and ignore our activities here on Planet Earth. It’s where we live and we need to be part of the conversation about what happens.

 

Ask Yourself

Is the issue of church and state important to me?

Do I have anything to say about current events?