Archive for the ‘values’ Category

Open Thread: Black in America Part 2

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The comments section  is open today for reactions to and impressions of last night’s CNN Black in American Part 2. Whatcha’ think?

By the way, did anyone catch President Obama’s speech last night where he went on the offensive against those trying to sink his health care reform initiative by fanning people’s fears about the ginormous costs associated with reforming health care? How did the president do in addressing those fears?

And what about that last question the president took from a reporter which was not about health care at all but about his thoughts on the recent tale of racial profiling that took place in Cambridge, MA where police arrested noted black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. there in his well-to-do home for what they thought was a break-in but wasn’t? The president really went out on a limb calling out the Cambridge police as “acting stupidly”, don’tcha think? Blogosphere is ablaze this morning with folks having all sorts of things to say about the president weighing in on such a volatile incident.

Oh well.

In the meantime, thought I’d post this  “Poem for 21st Century Children” which I came across recently in Marion Wright Edelman’s The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is so Small.

God, help us to not raise a new generation of children
With high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients;

With sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts,
With highly developed coomputer skills but poorly developed consciences;
With a gigantic commitment to the big “I” but little sense of responsibility to the bigger “we”

With mounds of disconnected and unsyntesized information without a moral context to determine its worth;

With more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation for the magic of life than cannot be quantified or computerized;

With more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.

God, help us to raise children who care.

Come to think about it, exactly how does one go about raising a compassionate, caring child?

learning in school

Why Do Men Cheat?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Because they can.

How’s that?

It seems that some of you have been wondering why I haven’t commented on the one story that in my neck of the woods managed to supplant the death of Michael Jackson  this past weekend. And that’s the murder of retired NFL star Steve McNair, married, father of four, by his 20 year old mistress

It’s not because I haven’t kept up with the story that I’ve haven’t brought it up on the blog. Hey, I’m a married woman. Stories of cheating husbands make you sit up and pay attention whether you want to or not. But if you’re one of the two readers who’ve wondered, the answer is simple. I’m not an ambulance chaser. If I chased down every story with tawdry details about yet another married man caught having an affair I wouldn’t be able to blog about anything else. Besides, this isn’t a gossip blog. A blogger who tries to stick with religious and moral dilemmas (mostly) has only so much moral capital to throw around. And I try to expend my limited share where it’s needed the most. Adultery speaks for itself.

But since the other blogpiece I’ve been working on isn’t coming together, and since our appetite for the salicious is still whet after a week of feasting on Michael Jackson’s remains, why not offer a comment or two on what there is to learn from McNair’s tragic end?

Permit me a disclaimer. Like the prophet Paul I write not as a prophet nor as a minister in this blogpost. Not even as a woman of faith necessarily. I write here as a thinking woman who happens to be married.

For those like me who don’t follow football, McNair retired famed NFL player was found murdered in his Nashville condo this past weekend, two shots to the head and two in the chest. His 20 year old girlfriend was sprawled out dead at his feet, one shot to the head, the gun underneath her body on the floor. Officials have all but ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.

McNair retired a year ago from professional football after 13 seasons in the NFL. He was a three times Bowl pick (whatever that means). He played nine seasons as quarterback for the Tennessean Titans before being traded in 2006 to the the Ravens in Baltimore where he retired in 2008. McNair was found dead this past weekend in his Nashville condo,  Black sports fans were especially proud of the fact that McNair, a graduate of Alcorn State, was one of only three quarterbacks in NFL history who was drafted in the first round out of historically black colleges and universities. Friends remember him as a kind and generous sort of fellow. (But as we see with MJ’s death these things get redacted a lot in death.) It’s just a shame that the man died because he couldn’t keep it in his pants. It’s a shame that in addition to his accomplishments on the field he will be remembered off the field as a man who was killed by his mistress who was a high school drop-out.

Did I mention that McNair’s wife of 12 years, Mechelle, mother of the four sons he leaves behind, had no idea about her husband’s affair?
But then the wife is always the last to know. Or, so they say. Another one of those posthumous redactions, I suppose.

definitionof adultery

To the question. Why do men cheat?

Because it’s easy to do. Because it’s one of the privileges that come with patriarchy. Because men claim to need more sex than their wives are willing to put out. (As one man put it, “Men are always thinking about sex: they’re either thinking about the last time they had sex, or thinking about the next they’re gonna have sex.”) Translated: Men cheat because they can’t help themselves. Men cheat because there are women out there who don’t think twice about sleeping with married men. Men cheat because they crave the affirmation and the boost to their ego. Men cheat because of the adrenaline rush they get from sneaking around and getting away with something they’re not supposed to do. Take your pick.

Lots of men do not cheat on their wives (or significant others). Many, many, many do, or so it seems. Especially men who are public figures.

That is, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. And lots of politicians too. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. David Vitter, R-La., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., one-time Democratic presidential hopefuls John Edwards and Gary Hart, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-DC Mayor Marion Barry, current New York Gov. David Paterson, former President Bill Clinton.

And, oh yeah, there are the preachers.

You’re probably asking, “Do married women cheat?” Of course they do. But that’s not the question on the table.

If I were writing as a minister (which I’m not, mind you) I would probably quote Scripture to bring men to their senses. But the Bible, at least the part written by men, doesn’t say  that adultery is a sin. Not when it’s men doing it. Let me be more specific. Not when it’s a married man having an affair with an unmarried woman. It’s only an affair when he’s having an affair with another man’s wife. As for what the Bible has to say about when a married woman has an affair. Stone her . Whether her lover is married or not. Stone her to death.

Lots of men cheat and never end up having to pay publicly. In times past there were politicians, presidents even, who tipped out and didn’t pay publicly, John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt are two that come to mind.

It’s a different world now. Ours is a public that goes into a feeding frenzy at the opportunity to download stories of marital affairs, review videos of extramarital trysts,  listen in to tape conversations, read text messages and email between clandestine loves, click to examine a mistress’s dress with his DNA still on it. Technology has developed in the public an insatiable appetite for scandal, an appetite that media is only too eager to feed.

Which makes it all the more unfathomable why men, especially men who are famous, tempt fate by cheating on their wives. But they do. Despite living in a fish bowl men like Governor Sanford of South Carolina, you would think, would resist flying the coup and running off to Argentina to see his mistress. But he didn’t.

You would certainly think that adulterers would know that there is no such thing as free extra meal. Eventually the bill comes due. Somebody will pay for those text messages and  hotel bills. And I promise you, it won’t be just you – and your mistress. It will be your family. Especially your wife whose every tear or stoic expression and dress size will end up being parsed by a public that’s dying to know how much she knew, when she knew, what’s wrong with her that she couldn’t keep her man at home, and why does she stay(a topic I’ve addressed before). And then there’s the children, the poor children. The greatest victims of it all. How will the way their father died impact the lives of Steve McNair’s sons as they grow up? Heaven help them.

Moreover, you would think that the fear of disease, public humiliation, losing your job ruining your family life, hurting your wife, damaging your children, and undermining your life’s work would be a deterrent to men who cheat. Not.

So, why do men cheat? Because it’s worth the risk. Or so says the part of the brain that’s responsible for the blood rushing to the penis.

What’s a wife to do? Get a life. Have a plan. And stay on speaking terms with God.

But remember, I’m blogging not as prophet here today, but as a thinking woman who happens to be married.

The President’s Pastors

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The president has quietly collected a handful of pastors to meet with him on the phone for private prayer sessions  and for discussions on the role of religion in politics. Three are black. Two are white.  All of them are men.

Their names are well known. They are all ministers with major religious followings.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., veteran of the civil rights movement, Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Baptist in Cleveland, Ohio and father of Rev. Otis Moss, III, the young man who succeeded Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright at Trinity UCC in Chicago. Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, both pastors with entrepreneurial savvy who pastor mega churches in Texas  also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion. And Rev. Joel C. Hunter, former president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, pastors a Florida megachurch and is the author of the book “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians.”

Presidents have through the ages tapped pastors for spiritual support, policy advice and political cover. The Rev. Billy Graham was a counselor to at least five (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush).

The ordeal with his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright has probably made Obama skittish about the idea of trusting his soul (and reputation) to one pastor or of casting his lot with any particular church there in DC. Although many churches and pastor have been eager to get him and the First Family to visit and join their church, I’m from friends in the know there in DC. What a circus church services  are likely to become if the First Family should show up. Forget about the crowds that gather whenever President and Michelle Obama step out at night for dinner at a restaurant. I guess setting up conference calls with his favorite pastors is the next best thing the president can do. Well, at least Obama is being spiritually counseled, I suppose. But what can of counseling can we expect him to get from these particular spiritual leaders? Moreover, we can only assume that the wife and children have come up with their own spiritual disciplines.

Too bad life as  President means that you sometimes have to choose between God’s House and the White House. Yeah, yeah, yeah, God is everywhere. And one doesn’t have to attend church to find God and spiritual nourishment. Still I’m just saying…

I happen to believe that there is something special about belonging to a community of worshippers and regularly attending services with your family. Too bad the Obama girls won’t get to experience singing in the children’s and youth choirs. Too bad the family can’t attend Wednesday night bible study. Too bad they won’t know what it is to hear “amen” ring out from the pews during Sunday worship and not know what it is to stand up and clap when Usher Board #3 marches in in grand style on the Sunday of their anniversary service.

Still, the President has his own personal pastors. I guess that’s a good thing.

obama in church

Rest is A Radical Notion

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

onvacation

If making sure there’s spotty Internet service in my room here in Hawaii is God’s way of seeing to it that I rest from my labors, I am not impressed.

But how do I explain the fact that for the five days I’ve been here on the Big Island in a room overlooking mountains and beach, five time zones away from my normal routine, I haven’t been able to compose one intelligent paragraph? Evidently I write better when I’m pissed. Or feel passionate. Neither of which I feel here in Hawaii. Everything’s surreal to me here. I feel awful about what’s going on in Iran. I was sad to hear about the train derailing in DC.  And I had meant to write here on the blog about fatherhood and masculinity for Father’s Day.

Nothing.

But still I can’t say that I’ve entered that place of sabbath rest our biblical ancestors had in mind in (Gen. 2:4): “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it and abstained from all the work which God created to make.”

It’s taken me me three days to stop checking my email. Four days to stop checking my cell for texts. This morning a co-worker wrote asking for some information I promised to send while on vacation. The information he needs is sitting there on my desktop computer. Another one of God’s jokes, I suppose.

I’m lying around not doing much here in Hawaii, but it’s not like I’m resting. More like just not doing anything productive. Which, believe me, is not the same as resting. I go to the fitness center and work out every day which is no fun. Definitely not resting. More like “working” out.

The beach where we’re staying is beautiful — and baby I do mean beautiful– but, unlike the the many pale faces here with us at the resort,  laying out in the sun has never been my cup of tea. There’s a luau tonight which the young ones will enjoy, and snorkeling later in the week which my baby’s daddy looks forward to. But me? Nothing. It would help if I liked the book I’m reading (recommended by a reader). But I don’t. Heading back to Borders when I finish this post.

Resting is work, that’s for sure. It’s taken me five days to unwound from my normal routine. In this age of 24 hour Internet and 24 hour cable news and constantly charged cell phones, where the lines between work and home have become blurred, where it’s possible to always be on, available and accessible, it takes some time to shut off. Unplug. Chill.

I like 12th century Nachmanides interpretation of the Genesis 2:4 verse better which says:  “God ceased to perform all His creative work.”

But God I’m a blogger. Readers forget you if they click on and see that you haven’t written anything fresh in three days!

The notion of resting from one’s labor was a radical idea when it originated centuries ago. (So was the idea of tithing, mind you, but that’s another post.)  Demanding sabbath rest was the slaves’ way of saying to the Empire, to slavemasters, to landowners, to supervisors, “enough is enough.”  Slaves are not machines.  Even the poor deserve time to themselves, with their families, to breathe in God.

Rest is a radical notion because it says, “the world has already been created. There’s really nothing more that can be added. Everything else is tinkering.” Sit down, be still, and observe God’s creation.

Rest is a radical notion because it says to all,  employers and family alike, “you are not the boss of me.” While I have obligations to you I don’t belong to you. I belong to myself and to my Creator.

Here’s something to consider. The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can sometimes mean rest, ensouled, breath, to catch one’s breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being. A living being is the more popular translation. Each of us has a nefesh — a soul. Meaning, we are not machines.  Rest is taking the time out to gather the bits and pieces of our self that we’ve given away to others– whether for money or out of  love– and to put our self/our soul back together.

I leave you for now with a story found in a book about renewal.

In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Laborers were engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day of the trip the tribesmen marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.