Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Adequacy and Change

We are adequate
most of the time,
sometimes less,
occasionally a bit more--
but only occasionally.

More average than
we like to think, we
unwittingly buoy the mean--
contributing to normality’s

But adequacy belies
capacities and gifts
and energies that,
every now and then,
make us extraordinary
for specific challenges,
in particular moments,
within special encounters.

A transcendent cause lifts us,
we rise to an unanticipated crisis,
a deep devotion draws us forward,
we dare to care for neighbors,
we discipline our faculties
to focus upon an inspired goal.

Then adequacy is eclipsed,
normalcy becomes moot,
stability yields to risk,
humanity becomes instrumental
to life-saving ends.

We are capable of adequacy
(and that’s good, that’s laudable),
but also of loving
(and that’s grace, that’s divine).

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Practicing Resurrection

To "practice resurrection" (Wendell Berry's phrase in his 1973 poem 'Mad Farmer Liberation Front') means, to me:
to trust that truth-telling, justice-seeking and system-challenging, though apparently defeated and futile, wins.

to invest in people and places that most have written off, dismissed, bypassed, and left behind.

to challenge foregone conclusions about who is worthy, what is salvageable, where renewal can happen.

to dare to attempt to build community where most have given up and moved on.

to dare to express love and graciousness while others act in fear and express hate.

to reject the death penalty as a legitimate expression of justice and to always seek restorative justice.

to welcome and embrace all whom fear says should be labeled, excluded, expelled.

to accept full forgiveness and offer full forgiveness to hurtful people.

to undermine the ascendency of self-serving, greed-defined market practices with self-giving acts of community and neighborliness.

to say “no" to death in the midst of life; to deny death it’s victory of foregone conclusions.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday Neighborhood Prayer Walk

Here's how we prayer walked our urban neighborhood this Good Friday evening

Let us set out on a walk through our nearby neighborhood, stopping to pray at various points of community pain or hope. We have adapted the Roman Catholic tradition of following the Stations of the Cross as a public expression of faith. Walk and pray with us through our community. We will conclude each prayer with “Lord, in your mercy…” Response: “…Hear our prayer!”

Station 1: People’s Health Center

We pray: We grieve the difficulty our neighbors have getting access to good, affordable health care. We are grateful for People’s Health Center and Healthnet. We pray healing wisdom for all doctors, nurses, technicians, and staff who serve our neighbors here.

Station 2: St. Clair Senior Apartments

We pray: We grieve the many ways our society disregards and devalues senior adults. We are grateful for the creation of affordable senior adult housing that provides safety and security for many of our retired neighbors and neighbors with disabilities. We pray grace for senior adults—and all who serve seniors in our community.

Station 3: Commercial spaces at St. Clair Senior Apartments

We pray: We grieve the loss and absence of essential economic resources in our community. When basic services and commercial opportunities are missing, the costs to our neighbors are high. We are grateful for faithful and new businesses and services in the area. We pray for expansion and development of local industries and services that will fully occupy available commercial spaces, making good and services readily accessible and affordable to our neighbors.

Station 4: East Tenth Children & Youth Center’s Playground

We pray: We grieve when children are neglected and not given opportunity for early learning, guided care, and safe places to play and grow. We are grateful for East Tenth UMC CYC’s faithfulness to neighborhood children over more than 20 years. We pray wisdom for the staff and provision of generous resources to continue to provide creative and comprehensive care for children infant through pre-K.

Station 5: An abandoned house

We pray: We grieve the irresponsible actions, neglect, and financial problems that bring houses into disrepair, abandonment, and blight. We pray breakthrough in local policies and resources that will challenge blight and bring real estate exploiters and unreachable property owners to accountability and justice. May reinvestment transform abandonment into places of vibrant household living.

Station 6: A substandard rental house

We pray: We grieve the circumstances that prevent people from accessing safe, clean, affordable housing. We grieve property owners and landlords who compromise their dignity and the dignity of renters by providing dismal living conditions. We grieve the crime, illegal drug activity, and prostitution that festers in such settings. We pray for changed hearts of property owners and landlords. We pray watchfulness and wisdom for city health inspectors and law enforcement. And we pray breakthroughs for neighbors caught up in self-defeating lifestyles.

Station 7: A new house and a rehabbed house

We pray: We are grateful for community organizations and local resources that come together to make new and rehabbed houses affordable and available to neighbors. We are grateful for how this begins to revitalize our neighborhood. We pray safety for all construction workers, continued local resources to support this work, and for the families who will soon occupy these homes.

Station 8: A corner where youth are frequently present

We pray: Our hearts go out to all youth—and particularly to young people without caring support at home. We grieve the shortage of engaging initiatives and safe, supportive places where youth can grow without the undue risks of street life. We are grateful for places like the Boner Fitness & Learning Center at the Chase Legacy Building and City Life Youth Drop-in Center that offer help and hope. We pray new and more opportunities for youth in our community. And we pray that young people will be kept safe and find purposeful places of belonging and development.

Station 9: A pocket park

We pray: We grieve the sparseness of green spaces and play places across our community. We are grateful for the emergence of pocket parks and local playgrounds where children and families can safely walk and play. We pray breakthrough for plans for a new neighborhood park that will be fully equipped as a place for neighbors to enjoy green space and gather.

Station 10: An IndyGo Bus Stop

We pray: We are grateful for the provision of transit services in our community that provide mobility to thousands of neighbors each day. We are grateful for the promise of upgraded services. We pray safety and accessibility for all neighbors who use our city’s transit network to navigate to and from work and needed services each day.

Station 11: The Jefferson Apartments

We pray: We grieve the often high cost of rental housing for many of our lower income neighbors. We are grateful for the provision of affordable multi-family housing facilities like The Jefferson Apartments. We are grateful for the connection to services and homeownership readiness that residents can access. We pray peace upon each household dwelling in these apartments and condominiums.

Station 12: John Boner Neighborhood Center

We pray: We are grateful for the presence and range of services provided through the John Boner Neighborhood Center—from senior services to job training to emergency assistance offered to neighbors. We pray generous support for the Center and grace for the staff and volunteers who serve hundreds of neighbors weekly through this place.

Station 13: A rain garden on E. 10th St.

We pray: We grieve the many unsafe sidewalks and streets pedestrians traverse. We are grateful for the investment in the E. 10th Street streetscape, with its trees, rain gardens, and safety features. We pray safety for all who travel these sidewalks and streets each day.

Station 14: East Tenth United Methodist Church

We pray: We are deeply grateful for th presence and service of this congregation for over 100 years on this street and in this community. We pray continued faithfulness, foresight, and Spirit-guided care to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this place—both now and for the future.

There is so much more for which to pray--and to shape our prayers into actions of investment and service and advocacy.

Look around your community, your neighborhood. For what can you give thanks? For what can you intercede? How can you make a difference with your resources?

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday and Nonviolent Living

A weaponless, army-less liberator rides into the violent polis on a colt. Is he crazy?

WATCH CLOSELY NOW. It is not likely you have ever before heard this take on Palm Sunday. Here it is: in theological and anthropological terms, I imagine Palm Sunday to be as much about ushering in nonviolence as anything. 

NAIVE SOCIAL MOMENT? Palm Sunday is at once an outwardly naïve social moment and at the same time an inwardly authentic signal of a new way of living and leading.  It is not that Jesus has not thoroughly exemplified nonviolence before now. It is that he is now allowing himself to be publicly declared Messiah in the heart of the polis and the stakes are ever so much higher. Watch him ever so closely now. Strain to observe as he faces his foes and darkest hours having completely renounced violence inside and out.

SIGNAL AND CONFIRMATION. His disarming and symbolic procession into the city on a colt amid shouts of "Hosanna!" isn't just a stunt. Renunciation of violence is heard in Jesus' voice and seen in his actions throughout his last week. The profound shift Palm Sunday signals is confirmed in what we call Holy Week. The nonviolent way of living and leadership Jesus has taught in the towns and rural areas is manifested in the city center and in the crucible of power. Even Jesus' effort to drive religious profiteers (mere pawns of a corrupt system) out of the temple should be taken as a near comical expression of the futility of violence. What does it accomplish? 

STRENGTH TO LOVE. But never mistake nonviolence for weakness. Jesus is not at all powerless as he enters Jerusalem. It becomes clear as the week advances, even as the cross is planted and the tomb is sealed, that Jesus is the controlling enigma. His chosen response to intimidation, pressure, accusations, betrayal, desertion, condemnation, suffering, violence, and even death is a nonviolent nonresistance based on love. It is not about giving in to fate or conceding anything. Instead, it is about exercising power that is nothing more or less than faith and trust in a loving God to bring meaning and life to one's existence, journey and mission.

ON AN EXCEPTIONAL PEDESTAL? When it comes to thinking of nonviolence as a way of life, it is a mistake to set Jesus on a heroic pedestal. It is a mistake to think of his actions as exemplary, exceptional, unique, and unrepeatable. It is a mistake to surmise that Jesus' pattern is not intended for our own lives or social and political behaviors. It is a mistake to sentimentally accept Jesus as personal savior and Lord, but immediately bracket and set aside the very core of his witness and pattern. It is erroneous to think of Jesus' nonviolence as limited to--and intended only for--his redemptive acts on our behalf.  How can it be that we want his forgiveness and laud his sacrificial life, but are not willing to live nonviolently, nonresistantly, lovingly, trustingly, powerfully ourselves?  Is this not, in the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer's phrase, "cheap grace?"

SAYING ONE THING, LIVING ANOTHER. For all our words, worship, songs, and altruistic actions, when it comes to the most powerful aspects of Jesus' witness, do we imitate Jesus? We say we trust God, but do we make a mockery of faith in God's name before the world? We act as if we are certain the future of the world is best left in our self-defending hands and in our calculating control--better yet, in the hands of self-serving politicians and power brokers who give lip service to Christianity but live and act by the same power sources as did the Pharisees, Herod, and Pilate. And we bless them.

CHOOSE YOUR POWER SOURCES CAREFULLY. In Jesus, particularly in his so-called triumphal entry scenario, we are challenged to continuously renounce our violence every day in every encounter. We are given opportunity to renounce the subtlest uses of threats, intimidation, controlling, fear, and shaming. We are invited to let go of the impulse to be self defensive or to coerce others for the sake of keeping the peace or promoting just causes. Whether the arena is our household or the global stage, the opportunity is the same. We are shown how to live from a different place in our soul when it comes to making decisions, facing violence, and exercising power. It is a place of strength, the strength to love. So, choose your sources of power carefully.

A ROAD LESS TRAVELED. Nonviolence is not easy. Folks try hard to be nonviolent. It takes more energy and determination than going with the flow of violence that defines our culture. It is a road less traveled. It is marching to a different drumbeat. Sometimes we can be quite militant in our vigilant commitment to nonviolence, to the point of taking on a violent spirit. I am convinced that a commitment to and actions for nonviolence are not enough. Renunciation is pointless if not for a surpassing love that transcends violence and endues us with a higher power, a life-giving source.

AN EMBRACED TRANSCENDENT LOVE. Nonviolence apart from an embraced transcendent love remains mere idealism. It is right, but only partly so. Renouncing violence is unsustainable personally and socially in merely humanistic terms. Without a spiritually inward transformation, I am not sure that as a social agenda it will work. It seems to me that nonviolence can only lead to shalom if violence is supplanted by agape love.

LOVE AND VIOLENCE. But why is it that many who claim the name and love of God never renounce violence? Why do we not include personal and institutional violence when we declare, in the great confession, that "we renounce Satan and all his works?" Why do we continue to live in reflection of a violent god? Why is the spirit and example of Jesus on Palm Sunday and Holy Week not incorporated into the pattern and practice of our lives--personally and collectively? This remains an open question for me. It puzzles me. It keeps me looking forward.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Revisiting Wendell Berry's Poem 'Look Out' in the Shadow of Trump's Regime

I first posted this in 2008. As we face the specter of the Trump regime's rollback of essential environmental protections for the sake of exploiting fossil fuels for sheer greed, it seems just as apropos.

Wendell Berry challenges us to see and enact a different way forward.

This poem by Wendell Berry challenges me on a day like today--the day after the 7th anniversary of 9/11. We have been bombarded with the illusion that we are living in a "Post-9/11 world" that changes all the rules of ethics, rights, neighborliness, and international relations. I, for one, don't buy that line. 

It's an age-old ruse to justify entrenching fear and grabbing power. Berry doesn't by the line, either. The world did not change on 9/11. Neither did the sinfulness or grace-full possibilities of humans. 

"Look Out" is from Berry's collection of poems titled Given (Shoemaker, Hoard, Washington, D.C., 2005). This is what Wendell Berry sees outside his Port Royal, Kentucky farmhouse:

Come to the window, look out, and see
the valley turning green in remembrance
of all springs past and to come, the woods
perfecting with immortal patience
the leaves that are the work of all of time,
the sycamore whose white limbs shed
the history of a man's life with their old bark,
the river quivering under the morning's breath
like the touched skin of a horse, and you will see
also the shadow cast upon it by fire, the war
that lights its way by burning the earth.

Come to your windows, people of the world,
look out at whatever you see wherever you are,
and you will see dancing upon it that shadow.
You will see that your place, wherever it is,
your house, your garden, your shop, your forest, your farm,
bears the shadow of its destruction by war
which is the economy of greed which is plunder
which is the economy of wrath which is fire.

The Lords of War sell the earth to buy fire,
they sell the water and air of life to buy fire.
They are little men grown great by willingness
to drive whatever exists into its perfect absence.
Their intention to destroy any place is solidly founded
upon their willingness to destroy every place.
Every household of the world is at their mercy,
the households of the farmer and the otter and the owl
are at their mercy. They have no mercy.
Having hate, they can have no mercy.
Their greed is the hatred of mercy.
Their pockets jingle with the small change of the poor.
Their power is the willingness to destroy
everything for knowledge which is money
which is power which is victory
which is ashes sown by the wind.

Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.

WHAT DO I SEE? When I look out my window, do I see far enough--deeply enough, broadly enough--to perceive this? And if or when I perceive such, am I caring or daring enough to leave my window and go out and say "no" to the Lords of War--to Money and Fire--and "yes" to life? Or do I just stand and stare, or turn away and hope someone else will take care of it?

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Reflection on St. Patrick's Prayer

St. Patrick's Breastplate is, frankly, both freaky and intriguing

The following prayer is attributed to St. Patrick of Ireland, circa A. D. 377.  To me, it's both freaky and intriguing. Christianity is not wizardry or magic. But Patrick's use of imagination to envision God's presence in all nature and surrounding us--that's powerful stuff.

I read this prayer each year--half because there is actual historic and spiritual substance behind the now-mythic figure of Patrick and this prayer at least points us in that direction (as opposed to mindless drunken ethnic frivolity), and half because it's about the only time of the year I care to acknowledge that I am of Irish descent (via my maternal great grandfather Thomas Garrett).

This prayer, called St. Patrick's Breastplate, is fascinatingly comprehensive, even exhaustive. It mentions things I frankly never think of or even believe matter. Even so, that it reminds me of these things is instructive.

It also gives a sense of how much Patrick and early Christian forebears saw nature itself as being in concert with grace. This reflects the Psalms. "All nature sings." Talk about imagination!  Patrick's sense was that all life is bending toward or expressing Trinity at its very core.

But this thing about "summoning"--I don't get that, I don't think like that, and I do not see that as the manner of prayer or use of spirituality in the New Testament.  Christians are not wizards. Christianity is not magic.  Prayer is not incantations.  Prayer is a conversation in a relationship.  It is a communion.  When it comes to addressing temptations and evil, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples is far more simple and direct: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Interesting that Patrick's imagination envisioned Christ's perpetual, enveloping presence throughout one's day, but did not go so far as to imagine prayer as something just as intimate, simple, and direct.

It is likely that this "prayer" wasn't supposed to be prayer at all. Perhaps it is more in the genre of a pronouncement, a preaching, a teaching, a public prayer. Just goes to show that we can say some pretty weird and awesome things about God and grace and life when heads are bowed, eyes are closed, and we know people are listening attentively.

Here's the prayer:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I read this blessing in Sojomail from Sojourners a few years ago. In Latin, benedicere means “to bless."  It’s by Ken Sehested, a North Carolina pastor and stonemason.  Written on New Year’s Day 2005, it launches with a traditional Irish blessing.

I did some MTB riding in Wood County, West
Virginia, early last spring and came upon these
ruins at Volcano.
May your home always be too
small to hold all your friends. 

May your heart remain ever supple,
fearless in the face of threat,
jubilant in the grip of grace. 

May your hands remain open,
caressing, never clinched,
save to pound the doors
of all who barter justice
to the highest bidder. 

May your heroes be earthy,
dusty-shoed and rumpled,
hallowed but unhaloed,
guiding you through seasons
of tremor and travail, apprenticed
to the godly art of giggling
amid haggard news and
portentous circumstance. 

May your hankering be
in rhythm with heaven's,
whose covenant vows a dusty
intersection with our own:
when creation's hope and history rhyme. 

May hosannas lilt from your lungs:
God is not done;
God is not yet done.

All flesh, I am told, will behold;
will surely behold.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Office Beater Bike

I keep this bike in my office in the near-downtown Indianapolis Near Eastside neighborhood called St. Clair Place. It's actually my son Jared's beater bike that I have somewhat permanently borrowed.

This Beater Bike (http://www.beaterbikes.net - no bikes currently in production) is neither fast nor sexy. It's just sturdy and reliable. It's got a functional retro style and 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub. Jared added a cup holder and light brown Schwalbe tires. I outfitted it with cork hand grips (from www.a1cyclery.com; this should be good for a cup of coffee, Chris Wiggins), a bell, and a handy easy on-off pannier/shoulder bag.

It gets me to and from downtown and area meetings pretty well. It keeps me from circling city blocks looking for a vehicle parking space. It prevents me from endlessly feeding parking meters.

Sometimes, I commute the 14 miles from home on my Surly Long Haul Trucker (also via www. A1Cyclery.com), which is just about the perfect commuter bike. When I don't give myself enough time to ride to work (an hour is required) and end up driving my VW Jetta on the Interstate, I use Jared's beater bike to get around during the day.

Think about taking and keeping a bike at your workplace. It opens up lots of options.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Friday, March 3, 2017

Too Worldly to Be Holy?

Depictions of 'Secular Saints' by Brother Robert Lentz,
OFM, include this image of '21st-Century Christ.'
Before you pass on Lent again, before you dismiss it as just for people more religious than you—more holy than you: please hear me out.

If you’ve had enough of holiness, if “holy intention” for Lent agitates you, try “wholeness intention.” Leave religion out of it. Give up trying to be “holy.” Instead, ask: what small change could I make for 40 days to grow, to stretch, to love?

“Holy” has become for many of us a foreboding, off-putting word and image. As an alternative, I’ve come to think more in terms of wholeness, completeness, love. This helps me.

I have also begun to reframe “holy” in the context of daily, worldly, secular life. Laying aside halos and frescos and stained glass and liturgical rituals, I imagine “holy” in simpler, more profound daily realities.

“Holy” is the intention of a bruised-hearted person to heal and move forward, to hope and dare to love again.

“Holy” is the crazy thought and fledgling will to seek to find what one’s highest possibilities just might be.

“Holy” is the pause, the recognition, the awe for a sunrise, of a sunset, of a reflection in a puddle, of a neighbor being a neighbor.

“Holy” is the recognition of justice and injustice—and exerting one's capacities to end the latter and lift up the former.

“Holy” is recognition of earth’s abundance, preciousness, and fragility—and acting as a creative steward for its future wellness.

 “Holy” is loving oneself despite what’s been done, what’s been said, what’s not been said. Holy is being gentle with oneself and investing in one’s care.

“Holy” is loving one’s neighbor as oneself—not knowing what’s been done, said, etc. “Holy” is making room, offering support, walking with.

“Holy” is less about luminous halos and stained glass and more about daily grace and helping hands and gentle encouragement.

“Holy” is you as you are, as you were intended to be, as you endeavor yet to become, as you lean forwardly into life with love in your heart.

Give up trying to be “holy.” Leave religion out of it. Instead, ask: what small change could I make for 40 days to grow, to stretch, to love?

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Violence and Nonviolence in Social Media

In our back-and-forth online political sparring, can we express the transforming practice of nonviolence?

Let’s talk about violence and nonviolence in political sparring, particularly via social media. Many of us engaged in online issue debate employ strong rhetoric. What crosses the line from what’s fair and nonviolent to what’s hateful and violent?

Haven’t we all seen Tweets or Facebook posts that we know cross a line into ugliness--but we “like” or retweet them anyway? I know I have. And I’m sure I’ve sent out things intended mostly just to get the goat of someone on the other side of a political issue. I’ve usually regretted it.

I am an advocate of nonviolence, but I am as guilty as the next social media user in wanting to set others straight and expose obvious flaws in their thinking and information--and to do so with emphasis and a bit of punch. But, I’ve been thinking more lately: Shouldn't my my commitment to nonviolence include my verbiage and messaging via social media? What are my expressions via social media doing inside me, to or for others, and for the issues and greater causes I feel committed to? To me, it's worth contemplating.

Here are a few more or less stream of consciousness observations and suggestions I’ve been mulling over regarding violence in social media--and the powerful possibilities of taking nonviolent principles to heart and action in our online discourse:

1. Violent-language political sparring may be tempting and immediately satisfying, but it is ultimately self-defeating. Twitter and Facebook invite emotive reactions and unchecked venting as par for the course. But if one’s use of social media might be remotely intended to increase understanding or encourage others to consider an alternative point of view, then character bashing and mean-spirited repartee undermines that effort. It also reduces us to merely reflecting the image and antics of hateful people.

2. Refraining from violent repartee and pointedly de-escalating heated political sparring via social media takes much more discipline, energy, and wit than launching or passing along a real zinger. Again: I'm guilty here. But I always find it refreshing when something better is shared.

3. Denial, suppression, or distortion of what is fact and true is, in fact, violent. Intentional distortions do violence to truth--one of the most important principles of our social fabric. Untruth and half truths--including obfuscating spin that has become so much the stock in trade of politicos--needs to be called out and its purveyors held accountable. BUT…how can we make valid political statements and hold others accountable for unfounded distortions without enflaming hatred and verbal violence?

4. Violent-language repartee on social media doesn’t move anything forward. It just makes our cohorts and us feel more justified and right. It might feel good and it might serve a purpose of comfort and consolation, but it doesn’t move the issue forward. We all wallow in self-pity for a while. But the sooner we can turn our anger into responsive, constructive conversation and action, the better chance we have of being the difference we wish to see in the world (to paraphrase Gandhi).

5. The effort to call out Trump & Co.’s lies, distortions, and obfuscations by those who feel called to resist his regime is important enough to do so without malice. Instead of seeing ourselves as merely drive-by social media gangsters spraying easy sarcasm and “let the chips fall where they may” verbiage at things that offend us in our news feed, what if we see ourselves as a small but critical part of a collective resistance in which each voice speaking the truth in love for our neighbors, our nation, and our world turns the tide?

6. On one hand, I don’t think Trump should be given an inch; strong responses are required. On the other, the nature of responses matter much. Unless our varied and many expressions of truth-telling and resistance are nonviolent, our very words and actions play into the self-defeating lie of justifiable violence. Justifiable violence is one of the greatest and most pervasive lies that goes unnoticed and unchallenged 95% of the time. But it is a lie. Those who do violence become violent and perpetuate its endless downward spiral. When we engage in violent language, not only will violent people and forces feel justified in their violent ways, but we will become like them while trying to undermine, stop, and defeat them.

7. One principle of effective nonviolent change is both maintaining a moral high ground and offering an alternative path that ennobles all. This is the wise teaching and effective practice of Gandhi and King. In resistance to Trump, the moral high ground is to deny him the justification for acting violently because those who resist his policies are violent. The alternative path is a better worldview and reasonable--if complex and difficult--path forward that includes and seeks the best in all people, all nations, and the earth itself.

8. Seek and follow exemplary purveyors of nonviolence on social media. Who are the exemplary social media participants who reflect nonviolence but on-target messaging and winning wit in their political debate? I try to follow and emulate those who do not shrink back from the fray of political issues but who engage without malice and who demonstrate that they are making serious effort to contribute to a way forward and upward. To me, those who engage in creative humor in response to Trump & Co.'s distortions are worth a follow.

I invite your ideas and responses. Social media in the political domain fascinates me. I am a participant in back-and-forth issues daily. I have lots to learn. You have much to teach me. I look forward to hearing from you.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On NOT Letting Go

Twelve convictions for which I am vigilant and seek redemptive expression

I keep reading that I'm supposed to "let go" as part of my spiritual growth. Franciscan Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen preach this in their writings, which I embrace. Lots of spiritual gurus do. The principle is that only by letting go of something lesser or false can we embrace what is greater. We say “no” to what sabotages and diminishes so we can say “yes” to life and wholeness.

I buy that. I've done a lot of letting go: regrets, hurts, harm, violence, guilt, shame, grievances, grudges, betrayals, childish notions, naivetés, ideologically-based assumptions, institutionalism, etc. I have no doubt I will continue to undergo what my friend Morris Weigelt calls “blessed subtraction.”

At the same time, I am convinced there are some things those of us who accept our calling as ambassadors of reconciliation or change agents cannot or should not let go.

Here are some convictions I have not let go--nor plan to, unless I am mightily persuaded otherwise.  In fact, instead of letting go of these, I am drawn to pursue their change or distinction as part of a creative stewardship of the capacities, relationships and opportunities I am given. Instead of resignation into carelessness, release into divine "beyond us" action, or yielding to collectively coercive human agendas (in the name of God's or a government's will), I consider vigilant wrestling with these challenges as part of working out my salvation with fear and trembling in this world in this time.

1. I'm not letting go of my God-given ability to make choices about my life, or my ability to choose my responses to things beyond my control that directly and indirectly impact my life.

2. I'm not letting go of what I have learned and continue to discover through diligent study, diverse experience, and contemplative living.

3. I'm not letting go of my sense that working daily with purpose, self-discipline, perseverance and joy is as critical to spiritual vitality as any sabbatical breakthrough or mountaintop experience.

4. I'm not letting go of my sense that all authority needs to be fairly questioned and validated through its reckoning with truth and its service to--and empowerment of--all within its range of margin-seeking and accountability.

5. I'm not letting go of my right to dissent and talk back to those who would presume to "tell it like it is" or try to define reality through their use of power, control, or influence.

6. I'm not letting go of my sense that being faithful to loved ones, friends and the poor is more important than doing what seems expedient for my professional or personal advancement.

7. I’m not letting go of my sense that vigilance against dogmatism and legalism of every sort is necessary for personal spiritual and emotional health, and to check the encroachment of these distortions of reality purveyed through ideologies and institutions.

8. I'm not letting go of my sense that the biblical call to compassion and justice for the poor--not as left-over charity but as a system-challenging and economic and social order-redeeming priority--needs to be lifted up through clear, pointed, and persistent articulation and action.

9. I'm not letting go of my sense that there needs to be vigorous push-back against those who reduce the Christian Gospel to institutional promotion, evangelistic crusades, speculative prophecy, church politics, partisan politics, and success strategies, instead of incarnating in word and deed the liberating kingdom of God.

10. I'm not letting go of my sense that much of what passes for preaching in churches tends toward shallow, standardized propositions, franchise-reinforcing promotions, ideologically-based diatribes, or borrowed moral-of-the-story messages instead of solid biblical exposition with valid contextualization, and hermeneutics and application--and I'm holding out for the latter as the enduring best practice.

11. I'm not letting go of my sense that predominant "pro-life" positions and single-issue politics have little to do with the overarching and connected biblical value for all humans, all living things and the earth and creation itself, and, if left to be articulated and applied as it is, will undermine the integrity of the Word of God.

12. I’m not letting go of my sense that redemptive love can be expressed and genuine community can be found in unlikely, unorthodox people and situations, and that grace can be read and revealed between the lines of lives considered outside the walls of the church in ways which don't seem to be recognized inside.