Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ignorance of God and Other Tiny Concerns.

If we believe our national leaders, God is partial to the Presidents of the United States.

Jimmy Carter claimed a personal relationship with the Big Fella. So did Ronald Reagan. Dubya was a praying man, who claimed that God alone (with a little help from Laura) kept him off the bottle and walking the straight path to global supremacy.  Under his administration, the United States instituted a way to pay tax dollars to the churches doing the work they should do without the money.

Dubya created a whole new branch of government, and called it good. The Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has a clergy man at the helm, and billions of dollars in its coffers. They fund everything. I mean everything. They fund the presence of religious groups in federal prisons with the clear and certain purpose of converting offenders to the love of Jesus Christ. They fund health initiatives, for heaven's sake - claiming faith-based groups can assist in a pandemic.

Our own dear, darling, blessed Mr. Obama is a faith-based initiative fan as well.  Makes sense.  He's ordained President of the United States.  He sitteth at the right hand. 

So, let me put the record straight, right here and now.

Before I start my rant, rememer, I'm an ordained Presbyterian Pastor.  And clergy around the nation know who and what the church is. Granted, it is many things. It is not, however, a social service agency. Sunday-go-to-meeting protestants are not trained, nor are they equipped to negotiate housing, jobs, child custody and parole for convicted and released sex offenders.

Here in Minnesota, our Governor sends tax dollars down that hole, however. For many years his Commissioner for the Department of Corrections held a contract with Inner Freedom Initiative, a faith-based program instigated by Chuck Colson, former Watergate conspirator. The program cherry picks offenders from the prison population, isolates them in tax funded facilities, teaches them Christian principles and when they are fully "discipled," gives them special privileges while they are incarcerated and promises special benefits when they are released.

One of these freedoms apparently, is the freedom to form a prison "gang;"  a group of righteous offenders, roaming the prison grounds together, professing eternal truths that other offenders may not access because they are not "chosen" into the IFI program.

Other freedoms as well - freedom to access housing in your neighborhood when released. A "mentor" on the outside, and a job.

None of this is available, mind you, if the offender is a Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic or Jew who refused the indoctrination of the program.

In the real world, the Salvation Army offers resources to poor people. Food, shelter, clothing - but first they must submit to a sermon and a little moralizing.

A little tough for some poor folks to take, but they have a choice. If they want the free food, they'll listen to the free message. The Army raises charity funds for these services - there are no other strings attached.

In the prisons, that ain't the case. Imagine yourself incarcerated for ten years. Your family abandons you - your church ignores you - your life, it seems, is over.

You learn through prison gossip, that your whole experience inside the prison will be different if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, give yourself over to the gang of religious thugs running the IFI program, submit to their tenants and relinquish your will.

You learn also that life on the outside will be easier as well.  Do you give up your Catholicism?  Do you turn your back on your Lutheran upbringing?  You're all ready in prison - why not? 

I'll tell you why.  Because faith is not for sale.  No matter what Pawlenty and his commissioners say.  Faith, real faith, does not come to those of us who need it to hide.  Faith is a gift, wrapped in grace.  It is not to be grasped when offered in order to gain creature comfort and false safety.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elizabeth Edwards - stop the lies!

American women are not stupid. We've lived through the Clinton administration, the Gary Hart scandal, the awful truth about John F. Kennedy.

Our mothers told us what happened to Eleanor Roosevelt when she found out about Franklin Delano Roosevelt's affair with Lucy Page Mercer Rutherford.

Heck, even Ike had a dirty little affair with an Army woman. We understand. Political men drop their morals as quickly as they drop their commitment to the American people. As easily as they drop their pants.

And we know that political life is filthy with lies.

What we are learning now, however, is that politicians wives are as good at the game as their no-count men.

I saw Elizabeth Edwards on the Today Show this week and wanted to climb into the set, put my arms around her and tell her to stop, stop, stop. No one should have to go through what she is going through to redeem a political animal like John Edwards.

I hate seeing Elizabeth Edwards reduced to an apologist for adultery. I want Elizabeth to look in the camera and tell me the truth - that she is finished with the scum bag who betrayed her - that she has no time, whatsoever, for a man who dishonors her sacrifice and loyalty.

Her son needs to hear from a woman who hold accountable a man who publicly humiliated his mother. Her daughter needs to see her mother stand tall and reclaim her dignity and power.

Elizabeth is a dying woman - if she writes anything at this stage of her life, I want it to be the truth about the awful and irretrievably foul nature of John Edwards betrayal

She's not doing it, however. Instead, she's selling some schmaltz about the virtue of a long-term marriage, even if the marriage is to a sleaze-ball. The woman, I believe, is not only lying to me. She is lying to herself.

John, she tells us, is a good man. So good, she says, that right now, today, he is in El Salvador, working for needy people, exercising his humanitarianism.

I want her to tell us how she really feels. Doesn't John Edwards have a few needy people living in his home? Isn't his wife dying of cancer? Elizabeth seems nonplussed by her neglected, rejected impending death - her mortality means nothing to John, and apparently even less to herself.

Both are more concerned with a book contract mandating these painful, awful, cruel interviews where Elizabeth is forced to tell the world she still "loves" John - although that love is "complicated."

Damn straight it's complicated. He paid another woman $114,000 in campaign funds to sleep with him on the road. That's complicated love, all right. That's the kind of love that throws itself under a train to entertain the passengers; that jumps out of an airplane without a chute to charm a sadist.

John, wandering through El Salvador . . . is anyone asking him if he still loves Elizabeth? I think not.

So, no more lies, Elizabeth. Please, no more clap-trap about "better or worse" or the "loving look" on the face of the man who screwed you and bamboozled the rest of us.

I don't want your children remembering a mother who hung on a cross to redeem a dead, exploitative and abusive relationship.

I don't want it because I'm an American woman, and I'm not stupid.

I want you to step out of your coached role as "help meet" and "long-suffering" wife. I want you to be the first political wife in American history to write the first political truth about the political powerless of political wifery.

Eleanor Roosevelt couldn't do it. Jackie Kennedy didn't do it. Lee Hart wouldn't. Heck, Lee actually said, "If my husband's infidelity doesn't bother me, why should it bother anyone else?"

Well, there's a good question. And you know what? These adulterous men do bother us. They bother us to our national core.


I think of it this way. Elizabeth Edwards abandoned her personal ambition to support her husband's political career. She lost a child to early death. Her future is robbed by the constant pain of a devouring cancer that is destroying her bones.

None of these things were sought out. Elizabeth Edwards asked only to raise a healthy family in a loving home.

She happened, however, to choose a politican as her partner. Nonetheless, if a man cannot keep the faith with a woman like Elizabeth, what hope is there for the rest of us?

That's the question I Elizabeth Edwards to answer- and tell us the truth.

Her book is titled, "Resilience." You must be kidding, Elizabeth. We're not stupid. Neither are you.

Do it, Elizabeth. Before you die, tell us the real story.

Make history.