Sunday, July 14, 2013


I mourn for the family of Trayvon Martin. I mourn for every person of color who feels even less safe now than they did yesterday. I mourn for us all as a society when we care more about unfettered gun possession than we do the sanctity of life.

Every time I write our Senator John Moolenaar about the outrageous assaults happening in Lansing on reproductive freedom or about his own misguided twisting of the concept of religious freedom, he responds touting his belief in the sanctity of life. Where are his so-called “pro-life” ideals now?

Where is the pro-life movement when 400,000 Michiganders need Medicare expansion? Where is the pro-life movement when programs supporting living, breathing children are defunded to support tax breaks for corporations and the super-rich? Where is the pro-life movement when lobbyists try to push more guns and bullets into schools and churches, hospitals and day-care centers? And where is the pro-life movement when Trayvon Martins die every day on our streets?

If you are not outraged at the outcome of the Trayvon Martin murder trial, then do not dare call yourself pro-life. If you care more about forcing unnecessary and invasive vaginal ultrasounds on women than providing them with affordable access to birth control and health care, then do not dare call yourself pro-life. If you live in Midland and do nothing about the fact that Saginaw - our neighbor just 30 miles away - ranks as the #1 most dangerous city for women IN THE ENTIRE U.S., then do not dare call yourself pro-life.

For you are Trayvon Martin. Today, tomorrow, or the next day, a George Zimmerman could stalk, attack, and murder you or your son, your nephew, or your neighbor’s boy and walk away unpunished. When the injustice and stupidity was great enough, even Jesus got angry.

I will continue to be nonviolent, because violence only begets more violence. I will continue to love my neighbors, even when they seek to trample the right of women, GLBT folk, people of color, and immigrants. I will continue to try to find the good in legislators who ignore their own rules of conduct, who seek no public comment or expert opinions, and who pass bills in the dead of night while democracy sleeps. But I will be nice no longer. And neither should you.

Truth and Meaning: Nice

Truth and Meaning: Nice

Clergy work in a world of words. Sometimes those words come from sacred sources, texts written by those listening to the mouth of god. Other times, our words come from saints and prophets, or great thinkers and theologians.

Today, my inspiration comes from a more modern sage, Patrick Swayze. In the film Road House, Swayze plays a zen-like bouncer, a master of martial arts and a scholar of philosophy. Teaching his new students the art of being a “cooler,” he tells them that they should be nice … until it is time to not be nice.

Nice is an apt word for Michiganders, for that quaint Midwestern attitude of people who strive never to offend others. Nice is especially appropriate for Midlanders. For we live in a nice town. Like another philosophical film, Pleasantville, Midland is a nice town. There is no crime in Midland — at least not the kind of crime you find in other cities like Flint or Detroit. No one in Midland lives in their car, or roots through dumpsters for meals. Like the residents of Pleasantville, everyone in Midland is colorblind. We treat everyone the same regardless of their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Midlanders elect polite, conservative politicians because we want nice government. We don’t need food stamps or medical insurance assistance. We don’t have unplanned pregnancies and we don’t traffic in women. We trust money to trickle down and politicians to not be swayed by greed and corruption, by private interests with deep pockets.

Nice is good. And, I want you to be nice. I want you to be nice … until it is time to not be nice.

Well, that time is coming.

In Texas, women are being dragged out of legislative chambers. All across America’s heartland, people are being arrested for stopping a pipeline. And just down the road in Lansing, the protests are growing — protests for guaranteed medical insurance for all, for marriage equality, for letting doctors and their patients make medical decisions, for restoring democracy, and for keeping intact the wall separating church and state.

When anti-intellectual fundamentalists run our government, it is time to not be nice. When the powerful and greedy seek to control all of the wealth and property, it is time to not be nice. When bigots seek to oppress women, people of color, GLBT folk, immigrants, and the poor, then it is time to not be nice.

Not being nice is hard. Fighting for human rights and liberties is hard. Swayze concluded his lesson by saying that we just need to watch each others’ backs, and take out the trash.