This is not a drill

At my church our value and mission statement talks about how we ‘welcome without exception’.  This past weekend this statement was put to the test.  As a congregation we voted on whether or not to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) community; one that explicitly welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  This vote was a true test of our mission statement and a timely moment to find out who we are as a congregation.  In a time when there is a lot of uncertainty for minority groups and emboldened hate crimes are occurring, knowing that my local congregation passed this with 95.2% of the vote brought tearful elation.

The results of a different vote the week prior brought me confusion, concern, and disappointment.  As someone who believes that the number one priority of every nation should be moving away from fossil fuels, the whole US election cycle was a disappointment.  The debates did not have any direct climate change questions and the topic was touched on for less than 2 minutes.  It appeared as though something that is incredibly important to me had virtually no prioritization with the candidates or moderators.  I empathize with Trump voters and agree that a shakeup in Washington would be beneficial.  It would be great to see term limits for politicians and having less “Washington insiders” in leadership roles.  To me, the views documented by Trump on his own website and his treatment of humans created a scenario where the ends would never justify the means.

The president elects website indicates that he intends to open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands for fossil fuels and “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”  I think it is generally understood that there is no such thing as “clean coal” and I truly cannot imagine any scenario where increasing our production and use of fossil fuels will be a long term benefit.  Despite being white, heterosexual, male, Christian, and born in the US, I am afraid of the president elect.  I can only imagine how an undocumented lesbian tree hugging minority must be feeling at the moment.

This is a critical moment in history in my opinion, one of those moments where I think about a futuristic conversation with my children and grandchildren asking me what I did to protect human rights as well as the habitability of our planet.  While I have day dreamed many times recently about moving off of the grid and completely escaping the society that seems to be gaining a voice, I realize that I need to help shape it.  I need to Testify.  One other great thing happened at church this last Sunday was a well-timed sermon that I strongly encourage you to give a listen to, you can skip to the 9:03 mark and go from there.  It is important that we as a society, as human beings with compassion, and as citizens of this planet recognize this opportunity to Testify and stand up for ourselves and others.  We need to ensure our elected leaders understand that they were actually elected to follow (the will of the people).  The wonderful and timely sermon concluded with a great rendition of Leonard Cohens’ Hallelujah which of course only added to the tears already rolling down my face.

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Off Topic: The Police and BLM(2)

Growing up I had plans to follow in my father’s footsteps and be a police officer.  What changed my mind was the TV show COPS.  I still find it and similar shows interesting to watch, but back in college I realized that I would never have the patience and disposition of the officers on the show.  I realized, as an example, that if I came to a home where a husband had clearly been beating his wife, I would not have the right temperament to legally deal with the husband.  I would have likely issued some form of my own justice in that scenario.  Though my self-control has matured through the years, recognizing that would be a challenging career for me while I was still in college was likely very beneficial in retrospect.

To this day, I am still very much pro police.  I think they have an incredibly difficult and challenging job that has never been under more scrutiny.  Any job where a split second decision can determine if you or someone else lives or dies has to be psychologically and mentally challenging.  I think that the majority of officers are very good people doing very good things.  Like in any occupation, there are a few bad apples but I do not think that is the core issue here.  Officers are a reflection of society and the analytics support that racial bias still exists in some police forces just as it does in society as a whole.  Many police forces have already taken steps to improve this and many others are in process.  Certainly with the limelight on this issue, positive iterative changes will continue to come.  If you have strong skepticism about the police, I challenge you to call your local precinct and find an officer to treat to lunch so you can speak directly and gain a better understanding of the fact that they are human and want to go home after their shift.  Many officers have co-workers who were senselessly shot during routine traffic stops or similar and that can without question impact the mentality of an officer.

As a society, I believe that part of our role is to make things easier and less confusing for officers so there is no question about our intent.  There are many ‘shoot or don’t shoot’ videos circulating social media showing just how challenging it can be for officers to not know someone’s intent.  When it comes to routine traffic stops, I think following Coffey Anderson’s PSA on what to do is a good idea.  Ensuring that the officer can clearly see your hands, your car is off, your license is already on the dash, and you are respectful is beneficial.  It is embarrassing to say, but I have been pulled over about 6 times in the last 8 years (speed, taillight or headlights out, etc.) and have only been given a warning each time which I attribute to making the officer comfortable.  On a more comedic note, The Chris Rock show did their own PSA back in the 90’s which is still relevant and funny.

Being Pro Police does not mean that I am anti-black.  I have struggled with the inappropriateness and idiocy of some protesters but it is important to recognize that those people are a reflection of a small percentage of society who think hurting police will have a positive impact.  There was a small protest group the other day who were demanding that the police force as a whole dismantle.  I do not think this groups spokesperson had very good foresight in to what the consequences of lawless society would be.  What caught my eye on the live news footage of the protests the other night was how the majority of protesters wanted to be peaceful and were making efforts to stop the violent perpetrators who had showed up.  I am still not convinced that marching on freeways or making unreasonable demands for immediate justice is an effective means of pushing things forward positively, but I support the cause.  A few days ago I heard a sermon (skip to 8:10 mark) which brought me more empathy and a healthier perspective to social injustice as a whole.  As an example, I struggled with the fact that the phrase Black Lives Matter seemed to leave out all non-blacks as though they did not matter.  Now, when I hear or see the phrase BLM I infer “too” at the end of it and that I think BLM2 is a more accurate depiction of the intent.  For me, the sermon influenced a change in my perspective that provides me a healthier balance.  Pastor Andrea is one of my favorites and this sermon is timely and well thought out.

The last link of this entry is from Trevor Noah of The Daily Show, give this video a view if you have not seen it.  Like The Daily Show does so well, it mixes substance and comedy.  ‘You can be pro-cop and pro-black which is what we should all be’, I couldn’t agree more.  We, as citizens of this planet, need to be more cooperative, tolerant, and patient so we do not continue down a path of being divided.  Our diversity is what makes us great and worth celebrating and there is room for both “sides” of this issue to make improvements and compromise.