Posted by: smstrouse | September 26, 2015

The Pope Francis Phenomenon

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Why is everyone going gaga over Pope Francis?!

I can’t help thinking of the irony of it all as we in the Lutheran church will soon be gearing up for Reformation Sunday at the end of October.  Of course, we don’t get all anti-Catholic anymore, hurling invectives against the papacy. Still,  I can just hear old  Martin Luther ranting, “I have within me the great pope, Self.”

Luther-KopfhoererWhat would he think of this new version of the Vicar of Christ?

He’d probably be tuning in with everyone else to hear what Francis has to say next.

Even those who don’t agree with some of Francis’ views (e.g. gay marriage, the role of women, the canonization of Junipero Serra), are loving his humility, his compassion for the poor, his bold positions (and challenges to us) on climate change, immigration, the death penalty and creating peace.

And my favorite intrafaith and interfaith exchange (again, I could quibble with some of the language, but not the bottom line):

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!”

‘Father, the atheists?’

“Even the atheists. Everyone! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’

“But do good: We will meet one another there.”

Yikes, I can just hear the Lutherans screaming “works righteousness! works righteousness!” But could we not see it instead as a call to transcend dogma, doctrine and belief systems and meet in a place of common humanity? That’s how I’m reading it and I think it’s a pretty darn good message for today’s ‘spiritual independent’ or ‘none’ or member of the ‘church alumni society.’

11947618_10153646651944917_2958262449028598973_nJust the fact that a Christian leader is attracting this kind of attention (not because of a sex scandal or a ridiculous end of the world prophecy or a dumb anti-science pronouncement), but honest-to-Jesus Christian values is reason to celebrate.

Of course, not everyone is loving what the pope has been saying. But this is a blog from a “proud member of the religious left”! And I am very glad to see people who are not Catholic, not even believers of any kind embracing a representative of Christianity. We’ve needed some good press!

Yes, the Holy Father still has some evolving to do. But so does the Dalai Lama (check out his statements on sexuality). We seem to still be able to honor the DL for his wisdom and compassion, while challenging him in other areas. I hope we can do the same with the HF.

As one who identifies as Christian, I am thrilled that Pope Francis is showing the world what a follower of Jesus looks – and acts – like. My hope is that the world will see that there are many more, albeit unknown and unrecognized, just like him.

 

Posted by: smstrouse | September 19, 2015

Playing God Can Be Fun!

garden-of-eden-art-picture-the-bible-27092885-840-630For this year’s Season of Creation, we’re doing something different. We’re not focusing on our sinfulness and guilt for not taking care of the earth and promising to do better. Instead, we’re looking at how our cosmology (our creation myth) informs – or misinforms – how we see our place in the world.

Last Sunday, we read the story from Genesis 1, where everything is “very good.” Instead of the usual going through the whole “and then on the next day, God created the  . . .” scenario, we had some fun with it. Before the service, I asked one of our teenagers if he’d like to play God. Silly question; who wouldn’t?! (And just so you know, I asked the teen who showed up first; all genders are welcome to play the God role.) After he enthusiastically (of course) said he’d love to be God, I told him to read his lines with feeling. No wimpy God! When you say, “Let there be light,” say it like you mean it – with drama!

Then, having given “God” his instructions, I went off to speak to the person who would be reading the Genesis passage. He’d already noticed that the congregation had a speaking part. We would respond to each day’s Divine activity with “And so it was!” And finally with “And God saw that this was good!”

So he was ready for something a little different. But, I explained, there would be more. Whenever, the text said, “And God said,” he should stop and allow “God” to speak. OK, everyone was on board; we were good go.

The first time God had a line, I was delighted that our just-confirmed-last-year teen had heard my instructions. His voice boomed out with the best God impression an adolescent boy can do. The really cool thing is that this is a kid who wouldn’t have agreed to read in church a couple of years ago. But he had a transformational experience at Confirmation camp last summer – and sold me (the campaphobe) on the value of that program.

Anyway, all went according to plan for the first few “And God saids”. But then momentum took over and our lector began to keep on reading when it was God’s turn. I admit that this was my fault. Normally, I’d have printed out the reading for each speaker with each part highlighted, so this kind of confusion could be avoided. But it was my second day back from vacation and I hadn’t had time.

Good thing! The confusion is what made it fun. One of the words we use to describe First United is “playful,” and this was a perfect illustration. Instead of grinding my teeth over miscues, mistakes and comments from the peanut gallery (I mean the congregation) – which in my raging perfectionistic days would have been the case – I enjoyed the fun.

There were jokes during the reading about wrangling over who got to be God – hmm, does that sound like what goes on in our lives anyway? It was delightful, too, to see the interaction of generations, as we kept interrupting the adult speaker to allow the teenage “God” to speak and their bantering back and forth.

I can’t help believing that this was the way the story was meant to be told – not in our usual Bible-reading voices, but as a real good story, recounted with feeling, with give and take from the  audience.

Maybe if we do more of this kind of story-telling of our ancient myths, we can reclaim them and reinterpret them as foundations for our lives today. If the Season of Creation is to be more than focusing on confession of sins and promises to do better (not bad things), but a shift in how we see our place in the world, we have to be able to relate our creation myths to the creation story being told by scientists today.

After last Sunday, I think playfulness is a darn good way to begin to do that. I also think that “God saw that this was very good!”

Posted by: smstrouse | August 23, 2015

Reflections on “Being Mortal”

contentIt has been a week of being confronted with mortality. Not so much mine, although being with others who are having more immediate health challenges, certainly causes self-reflection.

Coincidentally, I’ve also been listening to an audio version of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book, especially not in audio form. Listening to mystery novels in the car is one of my greatest traffic stress relievers. But the East Bay discussion grop picked it for our gathering next week and listening in the car is the fastest way for me to be prepared. Little did I know how relevant it would be.

As I said, it’s been quite a week: a member of the congregation with a sudden life-threatening medical condition, a death in other members’ family, another having to make the difficult decision to move into assisted living. Added to these is my own significant other’s surgery and possible long-term implications.

MjAxMy1mM2FjNzM1NWYwNWRlOGRiEach of these has brought a unique perspective to matters of life and death. But they all remind us of a very basic fact of our existence: just as we are all born, so will we all die. Two weeks ago, our Buddhist Pluralism Summer guest last week told a joke about the Buddhist medical examiner who was always getting into trouble because on every death certificate, after “Cause of Death,” he would write “Birth.”

That’s a good joke, but it’s also an excellent reminder of what being mortal is all about. The book Being Mortal takes this reality into the realm of modern medicine and calls on us to find better ways of facing our mortality imagesand specifically to find better ways of dying well. My nomination for the patron saint of this has got to be former president Jimmy Carter. He is doing what can be done to treat the cancer, while also accepting whatever the outcome will be. Here is a man at peace with himself and with the birth/death cycle. Although it is touching to read that he waited two weeks before telling Rosalyn about the latest diagnosis.

All of these people – the world famous and the famous only to their loved ones – are teaching me what it means to be human. As they face their own changing bodies and life situations, I am forced to reflect on my own. I, too, have a terminal diagnosis. I’ve had it since birth; in fact it was my birth – no joke.

How am I going to live with this inevitable outcome in the time I have left? How will I deal with whatever illnesses, disabilities, limitations come my way?

And – how will I care for those who are going through these life changes? Atul Gawande’s book describes ways that have not been helpful. His is the perspective of the medical profession, but he’s challenging me also, as a spiritual caregiver.

It’s been a difficult week. But I consider the timing of the assignment of reading this book to be a gift. Even after all my years as a parish pastor and my training and years as a hospital and nursing home chaplain, I still have a lot to learn about being mortal. Maybe it’s part of my own aging process.

Hopefully I’m also becoming wiser.

 

 

 

Posted by: smstrouse | August 16, 2015

Snakes Alive Redux

Well, a good time was had by all at the Serpentine Celebration Circle for Women at Terra’s Temple last night. It was a celebration of the Divine feminine symbolized by the snake, organized by my friend Sridevi Ramanathan. August 19 is Nag Panchami is the festival of snakes on the Hindu calendar, so this was a fine way to celebrate.

My part of the evening was to explain how the serpent came to be equated with evil. So of course I started with Genesis 2-3. You know the story: Eve s tempted by the devil. Oh, wait; it doesn’t say that, does it? No devil or Satan figure in Genesis – which was written, by the way around 500 BCE during the Hebrew exile in Babylon.

This is where they would have become familiar with the ancient Gilgamesh Epic, written around 2100 BCE. In this creation myth, a man is created from the soil by a god, lives in a natural setting among the animals, and is introduced to a woman who tempts him. Hmm, sound familiar? Parallels between stories of Enkidu/Shamhat and Adam/Eve have long recognized by scholars. But to top it all off, a snake steals a plant of immortality from the hero.

Creation stories from the Nag Hammadi library tell interesting variations on the tale. In The Hypostasis of the Archons, the “female spiritual principle” comes into the snake as an instructor, then goes away, leaving the snake behind as “merely a thing of the earth.”And in The Testimony of Truth, the author casts the serpent as the hero and comments about God: “Surely, he has shown himself to be a malicious grudger!”

Genesis is not the only source of serpentine wisdom. In Numbers, Moses lifts up a bronze serpent on a pole in order to heal the people who have been bitten by poisonous snakes. John’s gospel takes up the theme again, casting Jesus as the healing presence being lifted up. Hmm, Jesus the serpent? And of course in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Not an evil way of being at all.

The thing is: the symbol of the serpent is multivalent. You can find places where the snake represents wisdom, healing and eternal life. You find places where it’s about temptation and death. And you can find places where it’s both. Like the cross (and the snake on the pole): a symbol of death that also brings life.

So, celebrate snakes this week and let’s wish a Happy Nag Panchami to all our Hindu friends!

Posted by: smstrouse | August 8, 2015

What Would Jesus Debate?

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Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the Republican “debate” on Thursday night. I was facilitating our Uppity Women of the Bible discussion group (which would be a good series for the GOP to watch, now that I think of it!) Then when I got home, it was a tough choice between the end of the A’s game or the last Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It ended up being a weird back and forth channel-changer, so I didn’t really get out of either what I really wanted.

As I read the reviews of the “debate,” I’m convinced I wouldn’t have gotten much out of that either. Not that I would have expected to see a real discussion of issues or much beyond male posturing, jostling for position and good sound bites, and anti-Obama/ anti-Clinton rhetoric. But there was actually one comment that was worthy of some further thought.

No it wasn’t a Trump bluster. It was Ohio governor John Kasich who actually defended the Donald by saying that Trump is “hitting a nerve in this country. People are frustrated, they’re fed up. For people to just tune them out is a mistake.”

Republican-bashing has always been a popular sport among progressives. Trump-mocking has taken it to new levels. But I think Kasich is on to something here. We often ask how people can buy into the rhetoric of the Tea Party and their ilk, especially those who profess to be followers of Jesus. What would Jesus debate? For starters: care for the immigrant, economic justice for the “least of these” and health and wholeness for all people. That’s not socialism or communism; that’s just plain biblicalism.

But there’s another thing that Jesus has always been about – and that is a message that God has been speaking throughout the ages: Be not afraid. I would add to Kasich’s admonition that people are afraid. They’re afraid, not only for their economic future, but also the future of a way of life. That way of life may indeed be passing away (as it should with its racism, white privilege, xenophobia, homophobia and patriarchy), but even as we welcome in a new day of equality for all we can have compassion for those whose fear is blinding their sight.

Is it easy to have compassion for some of these folks? Nope. But I think it might be what Jesus would want to debate with us and them. He wouldn’t tune them out and neither should we.

How can we, as progressive Christians, convey a message of “Be not afraid” to those with whom we disagree? I don’t have a ready answer to that question. But I hope we on the progressive side of things can take it into consideration as the “debates” continue.

Posted by: smstrouse | August 1, 2015

Snakes Alive!

images-1For someone who doesn’t have a great affection for snakes, they’ve been appearing pretty often in my life recently. Earlier this year, during Lent, we read: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Chosen One must be lifted up  . . .  (John 3:14, from The Inclusive Bible)

In the course of sermon preparation, I became intrigued with the symbolism of the serpent in ancient mythology and how it was incorporated into the biblical stories (the Internet has made it so easy to go down this kind of “rabbit hole!) I got so fascinated by it that I even went to the library at the Graduate Theological Union and found  a few tomes on the subject.

But practicality intervened. I wrote the sermon, and as is the way of pastors who preach every week, I moved on to preparation for the next week. The books were returned unread.

However – in the midst of this serpentine meandering, I had coffee with my friend Sridevi Ramanathan. I don’t remember why the subject even came up, but we started talking about snakes. Maybe I’d mentioned that I’d been reading about Nag Panchami, a Hindu snake festival.

UnknownAnd I probably went on about how the snake in the Garden of Eden had gotten a bad rap by becoming equated with Satan. And how we’d lost the multivalent meanings of the serpent – even within Judaism and Christianity. After all, John 3:14 compares Jesus to a snake – that is, as a symbol of healing from Number 21: Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then whenever the people were bitten by a snake, they looked at the bronze snake and lived. 

And then, snakes alive! Sridevi announced that she was going to hold an event in Berkeley on August 15. It’s called Serpentine Celebration Circle for Women and here’s some information about it:

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Around the world and throughout time, the Divine Feminine in her Serpentine form was revered and worshipped. The Snake can move on Mother Earth and within Her, undulating between darkness and light. But attitudes have changed. Today, in many cultures, darkness is dreaded and snakes are demonized. Yet the Snake endures.

On the 5th day after the new moon of August, certain communities in India hold Nag Panchami, a Celebration of the Snake. On the other side of the world, we also celebrate the Snake in a different way. Calling women to reclaim darkness and the healing Serpentine energy of the Divine Feminine!

You can find all about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/394140994105791/

But now I have to go back to the library and take out those books again, because I’ve been asked to make a presentation about how the snake came to be demonized. And this time I have to read them! I guess I’ll have to rely on the snake as my symbol of wisdom.

After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Be as wise as serpents”?!

Posted by: smstrouse | July 25, 2015

Thoughts from the ‘Dismantling Racism’ Workshop

There extwere maybe sixty people in the sanctuary of the church that hosted the ‘Dismantling Racism’ workshop today. Ten of them were people of color. Six of the ten were from Lutheran Church of Our Savior, San Francisco. I had traveled to the workshop with the pastor and members from LCOS. We talked on the way about o6a010535ce1cf6970c01b8d06105e4970cur expectations and hopes for the day. Would the presence of African-American folks inhibit the discussion? Would there be action plans or just more talk? Would we get to the issues of white privilege and white defensiveness?

On the way home, we discussed how we thought it went. Pastor Evered Cohen from LCOS, who is African-American, was pleased with the day. He was glad to know that there are white people of good will in our synod who are wiling to honestly look at the issue of systemic racism and begin to take steps to tear it down.

I appreciated the presenters’ definition of racism and our need to be clear on what it is we’re talking about. In this definition, we’re talking about talking about institutionalized racism, not individual acts of prejudice.
Race prejudice + the misuse of power by systems and institutions = racism

The other thing I really appreciated was the TED Talk video we watched, “The Danger of a Single Story.”

What this perspective did for me is offer a way through the logjam of white defensiveness. I admit that during another video about white privilege I felt myself wanting to argue with the premise – even though I certainly agree in principle. But, as the presenters said at the beginning, as they asked us to agree to create a safe space, these are emotional issues.

Self-awareness is key.defensiveness-judy-nelson1

And so are tools. As I remembered the TED talk, I recognized that I didn’t have to get stuck in my defensive posture. I hope you watch the video; it was really helpful!

So we agreed that the day was worthwhile. Now our congregations are going to explore ways that we can carry on the conversation together. Some of our youth had an idea to invite kids for other churches to come, make pizza together and have some kind of discussion about race. We’ll be working on the best way to help them make that happen.

Because the other thing that will enable us to abolish our nation’s “original sin” is relationships. In my opinion, the workshop would not have been as effective without the presence of the ten African-Americans, especially six from LCOS, an historically Black congregation. The burden of dismantling racism should fall on white shoulders. However, it is good to have Black allies who encourage us white folks as we struggle and love us when we stumble. I hope that I can learn to be just as good a white ally.

Today was a good start.

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Posted by: smstrouse | July 18, 2015

Demanding Justice for Sandra Bland

If changing lanes in traffic without signaling is a capital offense, there are a whole lot of peoUnknownple who should shaking in their brake shoes. I don’t know about anywhere else in the country, but here in the Bay area, turn signals seems to be considered optional. It’s a pet peeve, hence one of my favorite bumper stickers is: “Visualize Using Your Turn Signal!”

Having said that, I admit that I’ve been guilty of it myself at times. I even got pulled over once in San Francisco. I’d swerved into the right lane to avoid a car that had suddenly pulled out of a driveway to my left. I was at fault, no argument there. I’d acted on instinct and swerved.

To my chagrin, the cop who stopped me was really angry (OK, I probably almost hit him), but how he handled the situation has stayed with me ever since. In a very condescending manner, he asked me if I knew how to correctly make a lane change. I said I did. He then made me tell him, step by step: signal my intention, look over my shoulder to see if the lane was clear, etc. I complied, feeling humiliated but knowing it wouldn’t do any good to argue with him. Then he gave me a lecture and let me go – no ticket, thankfully – but all the way home I experienced a combination of humiliation and anger. I still think about that incident, especially when I pass that spot, and wonder why he felt that he had to act in such a condescending way. My conclusion: because he could.

My little (almost) run-in with the law is nowhere near what Sandra Bland experienced. For one thing, I’m not Black, and for another, I’m not in Texas. I got away with a lecture; Sandra ended up dead in a Texas jail. Her death leaves us incredulous, asking how in the world this could happen. Why would a cop treat a driver who had made a lane change without signaling with such brutality? Answer: because he could.

It’s come to light that the county sheriff where this happened had been fired from a previous position as chief of police because of documented cases of racism. So I have to wonder about the culture of the law enforcement community under his leadership. But I also know that anyone in a position of authority is susceptible to the temptation to abuse power. Power in itself isn’t a bad thing; we need police forces. The trouble comes when we don’t recognize this temptation to cross over from legitimate authority into abuse and educate law enforcement people to be self-aware enough to know when it’s happening. The trouble increases by leaps and bounds when abuse becomes part of the system.

My run-in with the law was a one-time thing. Sandra Bland’s was part of systemic racism and abuse of power – at both the local level where she was arrested and at the national level where we’ve never done the collective work of atoning for the sin of slavery and our on-going racism. So while I’m glad that the FBI and the state-wide Texas Rangers have been called in to investigate this case, I’m wary.

Maybe it will turn out that Sandra did mouth off at the cop who stopped her. But so what? Did that call for the extreme measures he took? No.

Maybe it will turn out that Sandra did commit suicide. But that’s no reason to write this off. If she did, it was because of the precipitating trauma she experienced.

We must continue to shine the spotlight on the abuse of power to which many in law enforcement have succumbed. We must demand justice for Sandra Bland – and for all the others who have died at the hands of out-of-control power.

Systemic racism and the abuse of power that goers with it is a national disgrace. And not one of us should be silent in confronting and dismantling it.

Texas – and everywhere else – we’re watching you.

Posted by: smstrouse | July 11, 2015

“No Cheap Grace for White America”

There’s been a lot said and written in the wake of the murder of the martyrs of Charleston – so many ways of expressing shock, sorrow, outrage and all the other emotions that have been roiled up by this senseless act. There has also been much said and written about the forgiveness extended to Dylann Roof by the victims’ relatives.

Their act of forgiveness raised a lot of questions about how people of faith respond to acts such as these. We’ve seen it happen before. The Amish school shootings in 2006 comes immediately to mind. A former seminary classmate forgave the man who murdered her husband and daughter. It’s hard for most of us to fathom how they could do that. Could I do that? Does it let the wrongdoer off the hook too easily? Is it cheap grace?
There’s a really good interview with the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, in which  she reminds us that religions have always wrestled with how we respond to wrongdoing.
Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and former President of the Chicago Theological Seminary. She’s also a contributor and editor of Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War, which offers practices of repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation.
She admits that she initially opposed including the forgiveness aspect in the book because of the ways it’s been used against battered women. And now in this case, she wants us to remember that forgiveness is not a “get out of jail free” card, that repentance is part of the process. A relative of one victim said about Roof, “I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that He can change him and change your ways, so no matter what happens to you, you’ll be okay.”
Maybe this call to repentance will have an effect on Dylann Roof. Maybe not. We can only hope, for his sake, that it does. But Thistlethwaite doesn’t stop with Dylann Roof. She takes the issue deeper and speaks to all of white America: “White America craves this language of forgiveness because they want to forget. You want absolution, but you don’t want to confess, you don’t want to repent, and you don’t want to change.”
That’s a powerful indictment. Are those of us who are white able to hear it, feel it and do what is necessary to confess, repent and change? I’m afraid Thistlethwaite is right; in very large part, we are not. I can’t imagine us collectively doing what Pope Francis did in Bolivia  last week when he apologized for the “many grave sins” committed by Christians against indigenous peoples in South America.

But, at the same time the process of canonization of Father Junipero Serra continues, to the dismay of Native Americans who see him, not as  a saint, but as an agent of brutal colonization. Will the Pope also apologize for this?

All this is to say that the issue is not simple. Racism isn’t going to go away just because our churches had services of repentance and mourning last week. With repentance comes change. With change comes action.

As Thistlethwaite declared, “There is no cheap grace for white America!” We are not off the hook. We do not get a free pass on this. Racism does not go on the back burner until the next time it so violently rears its ugly head.

I don’t have good answers for how we’re going to achieve reconciliation. I often think the only way is to do what South Africa did with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Also by Canada in response to the damaging legacy of Indian residential schools.

Could America – land of the free and home of the brave – be free enough and brave enough to undergo the same kind of truth-telling and, hopefully, reconciliation process?

Posted by: smstrouse | July 4, 2015

Who’s Left Out on Independence Day?

Before we get too giddy this weekend with waving flags, patriotic songs and exploding fireworks, how about we take a moment to consider who’s been left out?

If we go all the way back to 1776, then let’s remember African-American slaves and Native Americans for starters. We still have a long, long way to go to make up for the freedom we took away from millions of people. I wish we could have a Truth and Reconciliation process like they had in South Africa after apartheid. How else will we ever be able to hear the terrible wounds that still infect our nation today?

Let’s at least recognize the fact that the original Independence Day left out a lot of people. And while we’re at it, let’s recognize the fact that we haven’t been too quick to grant freedom (the Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964) or willing to protect it (as of 2014, 21 states have enacted new restrictions).

We also took freedom away from thousands of Native American children, forcing them into boarding schools for the purpose of assimilating them into “American” culture. They were separated from their families, forced to give up their native languages, clothing and even their names. The Church had its hand in this as well, replacing Native American traditions with Christianity. This is but one aspect of the tragic history of America’s treatment of the indigenous population of this land. But this history isn’t one that we’ll hear about on Independence Day in the midst of boasts about being “the greatest country in the world.”

Then there’s what’s become known as the Prison Industrial Complex, which is fueled and sustained by an ever-increasing prison population made up of an inordinately large percentage of people of color. The inherent racism in the justice system calls into question the denial of freedom to many who are caught in its maw.

These are just a few examples of those left out of our Independence Day celebration. We could add those who are not free from poverty, from discrimination, from the threat of gun violence, from fear of attack because of race, sexual orientation or gender identity.

On this Independence Day weekend, we would do well to adopt a spirit of humility. We are indeed a great country in so many ways. But we aren’t perfect by a long shot. So instead of leaving it up to God, as we do in the second verse of America the Beautiful (“America! America! God mend thine every flaw”), I suggest that we take it upon ourselves to “mend our every flaw,” calling on God for courage, guidance and wisdom in so doing.

Have a wonderful weekend. Celebrate well. But, please, give a thought to those who aren’t included -and a commitment to make Independence Day truly meaningful for all.

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