Sunday, March 15, 2020

Here we go again, Corona version.

Ah dear friends, as we know, there's a truism that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.  And here we are, indeed, in a surreal experience that feels like the apocalyptic is overlaid on the mundane.

In the early 20th century, the bubonic plague was on the move, and gained a foothold in the American west.  Chinese immigrant communities were hit particularly hard.
[C]ity and state officials in California in the early 1900s tried to deny that the Chinatown deaths were due to the plague. Hoping to limit the economic damage that news of an epidemic would cause, they belittled the scientists and ignored their brand-new understanding that plague was caused by a bacterium carried by fleas riding on rats.

Once the reality of the outbreak was undeniable, the characterization of the plague as a disease born of a specifically Chinese squalor within the Chinatown ghetto delayed the response that the handful of trained public-health experts in place knew was necessary: eradicating the rats that could carry the disease beyond any quarantine line San Francisco’s city fathers might choose to draw. As a result, the disease gained time and space in which to spread—first, across the bay in an almost all-white population, three years after San Francisco’s last case in 1904, and then into rodent populations that spread across the American West, where plague remains endemic to this day.

That’s the epidemiological price we’re still paying for allowing racist tropes to drive disease response more than a century ago.

Ah, a Chinese plague. (By the way a few people get infected by plague in the Western US every's now endemic in rodent fleas in the mountains.)

Just a few years later, there was a pandemic of influenza that swept the globe.  Much more virulent than the normal seasonal flu, it infected fully a third of the global population and killed as many 100million. 670,000 of these deaths were in the US (which had a population of about 103 million at the time).  It was called the "Spanish flu" although it did not arise in Spain;  rather, at a time of war, Spain was the only country that talked about it. The Allies and their German foes did not want to reveal the sickness to their enemies. 

While science at time knew nothing of viruses, it was clear that this disease was transmitted person to person.  What we are now calling "social distancing" was recommended.  But not all believed this.  The striking comparison was between the cities o St Louis and Philadelphia.  The former closed down public gatherings, concerts, restaurants.  The latter brought everyone together for a large war-bonds parade.  As the graphic from the Washington Post shows, the consequences were lethally different in these two cities.

The 1918 flu returned in three waves between 1918 and 1919, and finally vanished.  Memory eventually vanished with it. The virus remained, however, in the bodies of its victims preserved in permafrost, where it was exumed a few years back, and examined for clues of its origin (probably birds) and lethality.  (By the way, climate change and melting permafrost and glaciers may release a number of old and new diseases. You're welcome.)

And here we are again:  a virulent disease that spreads person to person, complacent and irresponsible authorities denying science, and attempting to label it as a disease of foreigners in a racist trope.

But we have even bigger troubles. This is an epidemic that is spreading exponentially. With insufficient testing, people are foolish and complacent and assuming it is not so bad.  A science-denying partisanship and irresponsible media (I'm looking at you, Fox news) is feeding into this.  There is no sign that the US is bending the curve like Hong Kong, Singapore, or South Korea. 

But the response from our government has been disastrous.
Fox News viewers made the choice that would transform a minor infection into a pandemic back in November 2016. The man they elected appointed an incompetent grifter to head the CDC in 2017. He replaced her with a religious nut in 2018. Trump fired the CDC’s pandemic response team in 2018. He waited two years to even select a White House Science Advisor. Obama’s last Science Advisor was a physicist trained at MIT. Trump’s new one is weatherman from Oklahoma who is already downplaying the importance of federal research funding. Disease is personal. Plague is politics.

The response of the much-vaunted CDC has been laughably incompetent:  its goal appears to be to keep numbers low by not counting the sick.  But the sick are there.  You can't gaslight a virus.  It doesn't discriminate between Democrat and Republican.

The death rate of this new disease is much higher than the seasonal flu, especially but not exclusively affecting older people.  This has led to some complacency or downright cruelty on the part of the young, thinking it's not their problem if they aren't as sick.  (Though their rates of mortality are also higher than seasonal flu, which kills 10s of thousands of Americans annually.)  So last night, we saw packed bars and parties for St Patrick's day, and the virus spread further.

 The only wan light in all this is that many state and local governments and scientists and healthcare workers are doing their utmost.

Now, our only option is to respond by isolating ourselves as much as possible.  The Washington Post had a great animated graphic today explaining how social distancing works. And this Medium article lucidly explains why we have to do it.  The number of people who are infected is probably at least 10x more than the official cases.
When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:

The coronavirus is coming to you.
It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.

As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this.

You might have fears today: What if I overreact? Will people laugh at me? Will they be angry at me? Will I look stupid? Won’t it be better to wait for others to take steps first? Will I hurt the economy too much?

But in 2–4 weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore: They will thank you for making the right decision.
Have you heard of the concept "Flatten the curve"?  Basically it means to preserve health care and lives, we must slow down the spread of the virus, to keep it within the capacity of our healthcare system. 

That means, as  much as you can, isolate.  No bars, no clubs, no concerts, no travel.  If you must go around others, do it carefully, with gloves, avoiding crowds.  Some people have to go to work, the more we can reduce THEIR contacts with US the better for all. 

Recent news suggests that asymptomatic people may be infectious, which is particularly terrifying.

Good advice:
As Graham Medley, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling, told BBC Newsnight people shouldn't act like someone who is avoiding contracting the virus but rather as someone who already has the virus and is trying not to pass it onto others. the way to stop this is to see yourself as infected.
Will this be defeated?  Will it comeback in waves before dying out, like the 1918 flu?  Or will it become endemic, but manageable, like the bubonic plague?  Or is this a new, frightening part of our lives like Ebola?  We can't say.  But what is certain is unless we take severe and active steps NOW, our future looks grim indeed.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

How do we find middle ground?

We are so deeply polarized as a people.  How do we re-establish relationship with those who think it's okay to imprison children, who are afraid of Muslims, and who think that poor people are taking their hard-earned cash.  (It's not clear how illegal migrants can simultaneously be taking all those farm jobs that people want, and sitting around on welfare rolls for which they aren't eligible.)

Let's take same sex marriage as an example.  As the Evangelical leaders fulminate about Chik-fil-A deciding to stop donating to the anti-gay groups, how do we honestly come to a middle ground?

if someone tells me that they do not approve of my marriage to another woman, and/or that they approve of legal discrimination, I experience that as deeply painful, personal, and dehumanizing. I understand that they equally deeply feel that my marriage is wrong and against their own values.  But I'm not telling them that THEY can't marry.  I'm not directly interfering in THEIR lives. 

How do you find a resolution between those viewpoints, beyond acknowledging they both exist? 

There's a difference between using your viewpoint to exclude other people from participation, and choosing to exclude yourself. It's the live and let live doctrine. if you don't like same sex marriage, don't enter into a same sex marriage. But don't impose your attitude on others who disagree.

There really isn't a compromise between the view that gay people shouldn't marry, and that gay peopleshould have full civil rights.

Okay, generally, if someone doesn't want to "participate" in a same sex marriage (vendor),well I don't think I'd want them anyway. But follow it to the extreme expressed in Washington State during the marriage battles a few years back:
""What are rural gays supposed to do if the only gas station or grocery store for miles won't sell them gas and food?" The staffer, who refused to identify himself, reportedly told Castro that if such a scenario were to unfold, "gay people can just grow their own food." [Needless to say, the bill did not pass....and the staffer backtracked.]" 
And in the current climate, hate crimes and threats against the LGBT community are rising.

How do I find a middle ground with a person who thinks I shouldn't exist?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We’ve seen this before: UMC schism and conservative power

Our friends in the United Methodist Church (UMC) aren’t so united today. They have just completed a special conference that was specifically intended to resolve their conflict over issues re. sexuality and allow them to go forward. Their polity is different than The Episcopal Church (TEC): they are a truly global denomination where votes come from all around the world. In contrast, TEC is an American church in a loose federation with related independent churches in the Anglican Communion. (And you can certainly bet that conservatives in Anglicanism and the Church of England wish they had this degree of authority over TEC.) But I digress.

The Methodist book of discipline and other church policies are opposed to recognition of same sex marriage, or the full participation of LGBT people as ministers or bishops. In the US, the UMC is as divided as any other mainline on the subject, but has moved from “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to “Pay No Attention to the Pastor In a Rainbow Stole”. They even have an out, lesbian bishop who technically runs afoul of the rules but in actuality continues to serve faithfully.

The Bishops of the global UMC proposed a policy that would allow individual churches or affiliations to allow and accept LGBT people, marriage, and service, without demanding that all churches do so. This “One Church Plan” was promoted as a way forward. But the well-organized conservatives weren’t having any. They organized an umbrella group called the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) and promised to leave UMC if any liberalization passed. As one wrote in advance,
You may not understand it but we will not remain in a church where pastors and bishops are free to promote and bless what we believe is contrary to Christian teaching and dishonoring to God.” We are told that we should find this plan acceptable because we will not be forced to perform marriages and blessings that we do not support. I can appreciate that progressives don’t truly understand us. But whether they can comprehend our reasoning or not, they need to hear it: It violates our consciences to be in a denomination that promotes what we believe counters God’s will and purposes. We can live in a church where there is disagreement about our church’s teaching about marriage and sexuality – we’ve done so for decades – if pastors and bishops who promised to uphold the church’s teachings actually do what they promised. What we cannot do is remain in a church with an official sexual ethic that denies the clear and consistent teaching of Scripture. Liberals don’t have to understand our thinking. But they would do well to take our warning seriously. The local option will create schism – and it is likely to be litigious, costly, and ugly.

So they proposed an alternative plan that not only did not relax the language against LGBT people, but made it more pronounced and punitive. This plan was found unconstitutional under the church’s own rules, but yesterday, the conference PASSED IT ANYWAY. It is not insignificant that there were also two plans proposed for how to divide the church property: how to leave.

And, they won.
 The traditionalists did a bang-up job of political organizing and counting the votes. The progressives were all busy talking about unity and community and listening and loving. The conservatives were on the floor getting the votes….We spent time yesterday openly discussing, “Now, how much do we have to pay to have to leave? Is a third of a property assessment OK?” It was just weird hearing us talk that way. That’s not the way we’ve talked previously. If you talk that way, it means the debate is almost moot. This may be a bad analogy, but as a pastor, when a couple comes to me and says, “We’re talking about getting a divorce. We’d like to hear your views on our marriage,” I say, “If you’ve gotten this far, you’re going to divorce. What do you want from me?” I kind of feel that way here.

So, now what happens?  The WCA said it was their way or the highway, and they pulled it off.  So ....
As a committed centrist who has been working toward a compromise where all people would be welcome in The United Methodist Church, I've dealt enough with various members of WCA leadership to know that there will be no compromise. This is a matter of principle upon which they will not budge. No scenario that would permit an ordained gay and lesbian clergy or an elected lesbian bishop to be in any way affiliated with them will be entertained. 
Down the road, these same leaders I fear will become as hard-core about other issues as they are about LGBTQ exclusion. For those who stand for any "leftist" sounding cause (Health care reform? Gender equality? Compassionate immigration reform? Reasonable gun control?) or continue to call those to accountability for rejecting infant baptism, confirmation, and female clergy leadership, I have a hard time believing that eventually a target isn't going to be on your back, too. If the denomination starts heading "right," my centrist colleagues agree that LGBTQ exclusion isn't where things will end.
Hmmmm. This is not unlike a similar purge of the Southern Baptists in the late 80s-90s, when the liberals moderates were driven out, leaving a conservative behemoth. And look where that got us.

But it's not just theological fundamentalism. You might also want to follow the money.

The goal of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, as far as United Methodism goes, is to make the denomination so intolerable to progressives and moderates that we leave the denomination. … 
The prize is ownership of United Methodism, which despite its myriad problems is still an unfathomably valuable institution. United Methodism owns an incredible amount of real estate, hospitals, academic institutions, churches, offices, conference centers, retreats, camps, nonprofit and for-profit entities, and the incredible controlled wealth of the United Methodist Foundations. Not to mention WesPath. By purging progressives and moderates, they will lose some churches and conference centers and perhaps entire Annual Conferences, but they will retain ownership of all of the rest.
So, the money matters.

Back when Bishop Gene Robinson was elected, there was a similar conflict between conservatives and liberals in TEC. You may have recalled the bitter vitriol that ensued. But what you may not remember is that a shadowy conservative money-group, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), was up to its elbows in dirty water. Episcopalian journalist Jim Naughton followed the threads and wrote a hugely important piece called “Following the Money” that linked the IRD to a number of conservative foundations.
These foundations have provided millions of dollars to the IRD which, in a fundraising appeal in 2000, said it sought to "restructure the permanent governing structure" of "theologically flawed" Protestant denominations and to "discredit and diminish the Religious Left's influence."
Importantly, this was not limited to TEC, but also targeted the Methodists and the Presbyterians.  HMMMM.  (Our Blog Father, Father Jake Stops the World, also has a summary about the TEC experience).

Fortunately, the IRDs efforts to overturn TEC didn't work.  The contentious fights in the Episcopal Church from 2006 on eventually led to the broad acceptance of LGBT ministers and marriages (with some holdouts). The fiercest conservatives left to form their own group, ACNA, which has never been formally recognized by the Anglican Communion.

Blogfather Fr Jake makes an excellent case in his latest post for the IRD being deep in this Methodist mess.

 Meanwhile, lots of people are hurting. The arguments on Twitter were passionate and in some cases, cruel (aside: Twitter is a cesspool, but is invaluable for following breaking action. It’s also like eating a large bag of potato chips entirely in one sitting: you know it’s not good for you, and you will regret it, but you can’t stop).

 There’s a tendency of Episcopalians to want to bring these hurting liberal and LGBT Methodists in. But as someone said, they are grief stricken and have just lost a loved one. Don’t try to set them up on a date just yet.   Listen, be present, and recognize they may simply need a sabbatical before going back to fight. They may want to try to keep the church they love intact.  They'll need lots of support to do so.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Suffer the Little Children: our Christmas story.

Six years ago, an act of unspeakable horror occurred, when elementary school children in Sandy Hook Connecticut were massacred by a man with a gun--a legally purchased gun.

Oh, there were the "thoughts and prayers", the public hand-wringing, and everyone hoped that THIS TIME it would be different, that THIS TIME we (Congress) would do something to limit the access to lethal weapons like every other civilized Western democracy, but of course, there was no change.  The NRA and the gun fetishists saw to that.

And in a further sign of cultural depravity, the families of the murder victims continue to be harassed, pursued, and threatened by conspiracy theorists convinced it was all fake .  (In fact today, the 6th anniversary, the New Sandy Hook School received a bomb threat).

A tweeter  captured the new reality.  "Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over."

Sadly, we have decided that killing children is all right.  And with every step, it gets worse.

A migrant family is suing the US government (particularly ICE) for neglect of their child, who died of a respiratory infection contracted, and allegedly not properly treated, while she was in custody of ICE.  She was separated from her parents, taken to detention a healthy child, released as a sick one and dead within weeks.
The toddler’s death is not an isolated incident. Human Rights Watch obtained medical records for 52 detainees who died under ICE custody since 2010, and its experts concluded that nearly half of those deaths were linked to inadequate medical care.
In a separate case, we just found out that a 7 year old child died of dehydration last week hours after the migrant group she was with turned themselves in to the Border Patrol .
According to CBP records, the girl and her father were taken into custody at around 10 p.m. on Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in. 
More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders who arrived soon after measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”
Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam during the middle of the night, prior to the onset of seizures.
Let that sink in for a moment.  It's not clear that CBP treated this child, fed her, or gave her water, for hours after they took her in.

This is not the first time that abusive conditions have been reported for migrant women and children detained by CBP and ICE.

Writing in the Atlantic, Adam Serwer makes a case that this cruelty is the point.  In a searing essay, he writes,
It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds [Trump's] most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.
This didn't start with Trump, of course.  Our current era has only exposed the hypocrisy, sadism,  and cruelty that have always simmered beneath the surface. Our American history is one of cruelty.  Manzanar, Jim Crow lynchings, the Trail of Tears, slavery.... to be American is to be bound into cruelty against the weak, the different, the other

Only now, we don't even pretend to exempt children, or care about them.  Talk about depravity. 

And here we are in a Christmas season, and our predominantly Christian country purports to celebrate the birth of a poor child, a refugee, born to save the world.    The modern day version of the story would be José and Maria, as in this compelling image by Everett Patterson .

Jose y Maria :

How many Christians will lift their voices in song next week, thinking of Baby Jeezus!  when Jesus, José and Maria are suffering right here?  How many Christians will purport to be "pro life" as desperate families seek legal asylum and their children are taken from them and allowed to die?

Apparently to a large swath of Americans, there is not cognitive dissonance in this contrast.  It's okay. The cruelty is the point.

And that is our American Christmas story.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Here we go again, Albany edition

The Bishop of Albany, who is remarkably named Love, refuses to accept the results of General Convention and the resolution B012. To remind you, this was widely viewed as a compromise on the issue of same sex marriages.  As the ENS described it,
The resolution provides for:
  • Giving rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Resolution A054-2015 and the original version of B012 said that clergy could only use the rites under the direction of their bishop.
  • Requiring that, if a bishop “holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” he or she may invite another bishop, if necessary, to provide “pastoral support” to any couple desiring to use the rites, as well as to the clergy member and congregation involved. In any case, an outside bishop must be asked to take requests for remarriage if either member of the couple is divorced to fulfill a canonical requirement that applies to opposite-sex couples.
  • Continuing trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer
Of course, no priest or parish can be required to marry LGBT people,  or indeed anyone else.  But for those who want to , they will be able to.  Of the 100 dioceses in the US Episcopal Church, this really applies to the 8 holdouts, those few bishops who are opposed to same sex couples marrying in the church.  Seven of those bishops have indicated that they will live within these rules, and their choices range from a temporary and limited role for a fellow Bishop, to refusing to have anything to do with the inclusive parishes (except presumably accept their money).  But still, progress, particularly for gay people yearning to be recognized in their faith community, and cover for the bishops who don't have to have anything to do with them.

And then there's Bishop Love of Albany NY.  He released a letter refusing to allow ANY LGBT people marriage in his Diocese, resolution or no resolution.  As the Episcopal Cafe notes, this is a direct challenge to the authority of convention.

The letter is hard and hurtful.  He uses the term "same sex attracted" which is the conservative's current favorite in their attempt to deny our lived reality and make us into a sickness.  (I wrote years ago here about the effort to make us a pathology, rather than a normal human variant.)

Bishop Love writes,

The fact that some in today’s sexually confused society (to include 5 of the 9 U.S. Supreme Court Justices in2015) may have broadened their understanding of marriage to be more inclusive, allowing for same-sex marriages, doesn’t mean that God, “the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth”(BCP 96) has changed His mind.....B012 by its very intent of making liturgies available for same-sex marriages, (while perhaps well intended) is in fact doing a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian Brothers and Sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship

There is the usual citation of Levitical and Pauline clobber passages, and he defines us as distorted and unnatural, struggling with this apparent illness of "same sex attraction". And there are threats:
There are many in the Diocese of Albany who have made it clear that they will not stand for such false teaching or actions and will leave – thus the blood bath and opening of the flood gates that have ravaged other dioceses will come to Albany if B012 is enacted in this Diocese.
Given that Albany and surrounding areas are not backwards or ignorant, I'm going to assume that there are just as many who are outraged at this letter.

And this:
To engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and women, is against God’s will and therefore sinful andneeds to be repented of, NOT encouraged or told it is ok.
So, about all those straight couples who are having sex before or outside of marriage--what 's he doing about them?

But what I really want to do is focus on this attempt to minimize our marriages and our relationships.
the Bible does not forbid two people of the same sex from loving one another in the sense of caring deeply or having a strong sense of affection for one another. Strong friendships are a blessing and gift. As already mentioned, God commands us to love one anotherboth male and female. The Bible doesn’t forbid two people of the same sex from sharing a home or life together. It doesn’t forbid two people of the same sex from being legal guardians for oneanother or health care proxies for one another. All God has said through Holy Scripture regarding relations between two men or two women is that they should not enter into sexual relations with one another, and that marriage is reserved for the joining together of a man and woman. 
As we have gone over and over, marriage is not about sex.   Many married couples cannot or choose not to engage in genital behavior, for one thing.  For another, even a sexually active couple spends far more of their time out of bed than in it, and if they are sensible, always working on all the other aspects of relationship that make a marriage.

Moreover, we are not suddenly un-gay when we are not having sex.

Dear Bishop Gene Robinson addressed this lunacy a number of years ago, when the Church of  England decided that gay priests could have civil partnerships as long as they promised to be celibate:
I don't care whether any couple, gay or straight, has sexual intimacy or not. That's not my business. That's their business. But to require someone to give up this piece of one's life, which is so central to who each of us is as a human being, just seems, it seems cruel, and it also, it bespeaks something that I think is not talked about enough around the issue of gay sexuality, which is that gay is not something you do, it's something we are. 
I'm not just gay when I'm making love to my husband. I'm gay all the time. I'm gay right this minute talking to you. And it affects how I relate to the world, how I relate to people. And it comes out of this notion that, you know, it's OK to be gay as long as you don't act on it. 
Well first of all, I don't think that's - I think that statement is disingenuous because the people who say that don't act as all as if it's OK to be gay. But taking them at their word, you know, when do you become gay? I laughingly will say to a more conservative audience, you know, OK, so if it's OK to be gay but not act on it, could two men live together? Could we sleep in the same bedroom if we slept in twin beds? 
Well, could we sleep in the same bed if we didn't touch each other? Well, could we touch each other as long as we only held hands? I mean, at what point, at what point is it gay? Do you know what I mean? It just doesn't make any sense. And it comes out of what I think is a very male understanding of sexuality, which is you're only being sexual when you're making love. 
But the fact of the matter is we are sexual all the time, and this bifurcation of, you know, being gay versus acting on it just seems to me ludicrous at best and cruel at worst.
Indeed.  But here we are, again, with one last holdout.  Bishop Love has drawn a line in the sand, to the dismay of some, but not all, of his flock.  He stands defiant, waiting to see what will happen.  Bishops in neighboring Dioceses offer support to those affected. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry writes that he is considering the implications, and reminds us
As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage. It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact. 
Indeed it is Bishop Love who does not respect the conscience of those who disagree.

PB Curry also says, “In all matters, those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the Church.”

Discussions on the Episcopal Cafe suggest that due to differences in New York state law, we aren't going to see an attempt to walk away with the whole Diocese a la Mark Lawrence in South Carolina.  It appears that Bishop Love wants to martyr himself on Title IV, which will bring scandal and bad press on the church he presumes to love.  He should do the honorable thing, and resign.  But I'm betting he wants to be a martyr to the Big Bad Gay Agenda.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Internment camps: we've been here before.

The government is now planning to house immigrant families in "temporary and austere" camps on military bases, including San Diego's Camp Pendleton.  The language is chilling.

Last year, BP and I traveled down highway 395, which winds down the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.  We visited an actual temporary and austere internment camp:  Manzanar, one of the camps used to imprison Japanese-Americans, citizens and non-citizens alike, during the second world war.  They were rounded up from their homes and businesses, which they never recovered.  The US Census provided information to help locate them. With only a few possessions in hand, they were shipped to these remote places throughout the west.

Parts of Manzanar have been rebuilt and restored, as a National Historic Site run by the Park Service, so visitors can see exactly what it was like.  It's a grim, sere place, with the cold majesty of the mountains overlooking a plain that is swept by fierce winds. It is hot and dusty in the summer, and frigid cold in the winter.

The facility was hastily built, and the residents lived in humiliating conditions.  Thrown-together buildings with thin, gapped walls.   Shared toilets in an open-roomed latrine with no privacy panels. Barbed wire and guard towers.

Our Japanese compatriots endured this vile and illegal imprisonment for years, as their sons joined the Army to form a highly-decorated unit that suffered enormous losses, to "prove" their loyalty.

In one of its darker moments, the US Supreme Court in found in Korematsu v US that the exclusion orders were justified. This is now recognized to have been "bad law" but is still relied upon today by certain actors.

An investigation was opened by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, leading to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that was signed by President Ronald Reagan. The act provided reparations for the survivors, acknowledging  that "The Congress recognizes that, as described by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Commission, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership...For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation... " There was no security justification for the internments, and indeed the government was found to have lied to the Court about evidence of espionage.

The Manzanar Monument, in the cemetery at the camp, is surround by strings of faded paper cranes.  It is formally "Soul Consoling Tower" (that is the meaning of the characters in the front).  The wind whistles past it, sounding like the grieving whispers of history.

It is hard to get there, being quite distant from major centers, but that was the point:  out of sight, out of mind. The drive is worth it, though, because it's a vital part of our history.

I hope that we have not forgotten the lesson of Manzanar, but I fear otherwise.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Facts from the border

This post has been going around Facebook from Michelle Martin, PhD Cal State Fullerton, with actual facts and citations. 

All it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing, so raise your voice at what is happening!

There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the border. Before responding to a post defending this policy, please do your research...As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues, so here, I'll make it easier for you:
John Moore/Getty Images
Myth: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton - FALSE. The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the brainchild of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit.

Myth: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration - FALSE. Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it legally more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it's the Democrats' fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they've already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy appear to be political asylum-seekers.

Myth: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs - FALSE. Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. This is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible.

Myth: We're a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get - FALSE. We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though the majority of people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do.

Myth: The children have to be separated from their parents because there parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents - FALSE. First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is a typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE "family residential centers," again, for civil processing. The Trump administration's shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones. See p. 18:

Myth: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum. FALSE. The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn't allow any refugees into our country because "it's not our problem," neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions' claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border. Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements:

Myth: The Democrats caused this, "it's their law." FALSE. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). Thus, Trump's assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats "gave us this law" is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy.

Myth: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents' court cases are finalized. FALSE. Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors ("unaccompanied alien children"), which typically means they are sent into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump's new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers.

Myth: This policy is legal. LIKELY FALSE. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government's motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration policy is "brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency." The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

New polling on Same Sex Marriage

Sometimes it's hard to remember that those yelling loudest aren't actually in the majority. 

PRRI reports that support for marriage equality is rising, even amongst conservatives.

Nevertheless, even those religious groups most opposed to same-sex marriage have become more accepting of it over the last five years. Since 2013, opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped 13 percentage points among white evangelical Protestants (from 71% in 2013 to 58% today).5 Over a similar time period, opposition among Mormons has dropped 15 percentage points (from 68% in 2014 to 53% today).
 And like so many changes, this is driven by a generational shift.
A majority (53%) of young white evangelical Protestants favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared to just one-quarter (25%) of white evangelical seniors. A majority (52%) of young Mormons also believe same-sex marriage should be legal, while only about one-third (32%) of Mormon seniors agree.8 While only 37% of black Protestant seniors favor same-sex marriage, nearly two-thirds (65%) of young black Protestants support it.
This is also hopeful
Americans are broadly supportive of laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. Seven in ten (70%) Americans favor such laws, including more than one-third (35%) who strongly favor them. Fewer than one-quarter (23%) of Americans oppose legal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans.
The journey is far from over but at least the road is getting easier to travel!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rest in Peace, dear Ann

I note with sorrow the passing of our own dear Ann Fontaine, Episcopal priest, fierce warrior for justice,  a Friend of Jake's, and founding member of this blog.  Ann died yesterday at home in Oregon, with family. 

Oh my, I can't remember a time when I was a part of the Episco-blogosphere and didn't know Ann.  And my participation extends back 15 years and more! We met IRL only once, at a 2009 meetup of this community at General Convention  but as a facebook friend in more recent years, she was a daily part of my life. She routinely added me to various Episcopal FB groups (which if you think about it, is pretty funny).  Her typical crisp comments and strong opinions always kept a vibrant conversation going!

I was sad when she told us about her lung disease, and awed and humbled by the open and grace-filled way she followed her journey to its conclusion.  Always teaching. What a blessing to us all.

There's a fine memoir at the Episcopal Cafe. 

Leave your memories in the comments. 

We all extend our deepest sympathies to her family.

Friday, February 23, 2018

QOTD: We must love one another or die

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

                  WH Auden, Sept 1 1939