Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Coming Theocracy

I have worried about the state of this nation for a long time now.  Today, we took another step toward eroding the separation of church and state as the Michigan House of Representatives passed the first of several anti-abortion bills clearly aimed at forcing a narrow religious interpretation of personhood on all citizens.

House Bill 5711 is primarily concerned with how abortion providers are regulated and with the disposition of organic material following fetal death, whether by abortion, or natural causes.  Both initiative make abortion tremendously more expensive, which will in effect chase OB/GYN's out of the state and place an undue burden on women across the state seeking abortions.

During the debate on the House floor, Representative Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) made several eloquent points.  One in particular dealt with her Jewish faith.  She pointed out that Jewish law mandates that therapeutic abortions needed to protect the life of the mother are not only recommended, but mandated.  Therefore, the bills under consideration would criminalize women obeying the dictates of their faith.

Of course, this only one specific example. What about the thousands of women out there who do not belong to an organized religion, or whose personal spirituality does not consider the fertilized egg as a person, with all of the rights of a fully formed human being? According to these bills, too bad.  Michigan legislators have declared that they possess the absolute truth on when human personhood begins.  These legislators not only feel that they know better than doctors or women themselves what is medically best for women, but they feel that they know better than clergy of all faiths what the law of the land should be regarding the unborn.

I try not to throw the word "Fascist" around lightly.  But this is how totalitarianism begins.  When the State can establish laws beyond its bounds unchecked, without even following its own rules of discourse and public input, then you are already on the road to tyranny.

Ironically, there is no scriptural support for this view of human personhood.  If anything, the Bible gives little regard to the fetus.  Jesus did teach us, however, to be merciful in a number of ways.  Feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; shelter the homeless; clothe the naked; visit and ransom the captive, (prisoners); instruct the uninformed; bear wrongs patiently; forgive offenses willingly; and comfort the afflicted, among others.  If you consider yourself a Christian, how about if we work on these?  Where are the bills to reduce poverty, create jobs, reform our criminal justice system, support public schools (especially comprehensive sex education), and provide family planning and support services for women who are victims of male violence?  House Bills 5711, 5712, and 5713 are anything but merciful, and they pave the way for the coming theocracy unless we stand up in united opposition to this intrusion into our freedoms and democracy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Joyful Noise

I'm just back from Lansing, where I joined several hundred people sending the message to the Michigan House of Representatives that government should not regulate our bodies and our medical choices.  When the time came to enter the legislative chamber, the stairs were clogged with pink-shirted advocates anxious to watch the proceedings as the representatives considered House bills 5711, 5712, and 5713, the omnibus package of anti-abortion laws.

The gallery must have filled, and many of us could not get in.  After 20 minutes or so, many people wandered around in the rotunda area on the second and third floors.  Soon, at least one hundred people, mostly young women, ringed the circular railings looking out into the open space.

Soon, clapping began and a rhythmic pounding of the handrails.  Then, with vibrant energy and the persistent pounding, the voices sprang into a unison chant of "This is My House," which carried on for at least five minutes without letting up.  Then another chant began, "My Body, My Choice."  The relentless pounding continued and people emerged from offices to snap pictures with cell phones. 

Ten minutes passed and another chant, "We'll Remember in November."  The noise continued, never abating in intensity or volume.  Fifteen. then twenty minutes.  At first, I stood back watching the police to make sure that the disruption was not going to cause a violent reaction by security personnel.  But, it soon became clear that they had no intention of stopping the force of these voices.

Twenty-five minutes, then thirty and no let up.  By now I had joined in with "This is What Democracy Looks Like."  I imagined that peoples' hands must be getting numb by now, but they just kept going.

I found myself unable to stop smiling.  Feeling the amazing energy and passion of all these folk was a spiritual experience.

Whatever the politicians eventually end up doing, I hope so strongly that this joyful noise spreads across the state and across the country so that no amount of money and power can drown it out.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Are Good Intentions Enough?

Yesterday, I conducted my first Blessing of the Animals worship service.  The weather graciously cooperated, so we held the service in a pine grove behind the Fellowship.  We had many two-legged and four-legged attendees, including dogs, cats, birds, one gecko and two monarch butterfly cocoons. 

The day began interestingly.  When I arrived and walked toward the Fellowship, I noticed a bird sitting on the pavement.  I was already fairly close when I noticed him and was surprised he had not already flown off.  It occurred to me that the bird was perhaps injured, so I slowly approached, speaking calmly.  He made no effort to flee and I gently stroked his feathers.

I couldn't discern what had happened, so I went inside and got a basket, lined it with a dishcloth and returned to bring the bird in to safety.  Since it was a rather large bird (perhaps six inches long), I assumed it was not a baby, but had either been hit by a car or flown into a window and injured a wing.  I cut out the bottom of a paper cup and gave him some water and then began preparing for the service.  I posted a picture of the little fellow on Facebook and encouraged anyone experienced to offer assistance.

I stopped by my companion every 10 minutes or so, asking him how he was doing and trying to offer some calming energy.  He moved very little, and occasionally closed his eyes as if trying to rest.  Since I cannot own animals in my rental home, I thought that this might be the universe's way of offering me a living friend to bring to the animal blessing, and not a puppet or stuffed animal.

About an hour before the service, I passed by the basket.  The bird's eyes were open, but he did not seem to be breathing.  I stroked him and realized that he had died, as his little body already seemed to be stiffening.  I surmised that he must have suffered internal injuries and had succumbed to them.

I was disappointed that he could not be part of the blessing, saddened that I couldn't do more to help him, and resigned to the reality that I had probably done all that could be done.  At the end of the animal blessing, I brought him into the worship, as a reminder that the circle of birth and death is an essential element of Life.  Ironically, I had read Gary Kowalski's words before the sermon:
We give thanks for the animals
Who live close to nature,
Who remind us of the sanctities of birth and death,
Who do not trouble their lives with foreboding or grief,
Who let go each moment as it passes,
And accept each new one as it comes
With serenity and grace.
Holding the basket with his little body, I accepted his death with serenity and accepted his last hours of life as a gift as the grace of the cosmos.  I couldn't prevent his death.  I can't know if he understood my good intentions.  Maybe all that matters is that I did what I could to make his passing peaceful.  Sometimes good intentions aren't enough, but they are all we can offer.  And maybe that thread of Love will linger on, strengthening our interdependent web of all existence.