Celebrating the Empty Tomb with an Empty Church

A pandemic has never been prayed away. It is not the result of human sin. It can only be fought by changes in our behavior and science, and we know that until our scientists develop treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19 that our behavioral changes must include washing our hands, not touching our faces, staying at home, not gathering in groups outside of our immediate family units, and venturing out only for essential errands. We must do all of these things and more to flatten the curve in relation to the spread of the virus so that our healthcare workers and systems are not stretched beyond their limits. Hundreds of thousands of lives, perhaps millions of lives over time, are in the balance.

We are social animals. We are persons-in-community. We are meant to be together and to interact with one another. What we are being asked to do to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19 does not come naturally for us. Sheltering in place is a sacrifice – a personal, social, economic, and spiritual sacrifice; but it is a sacrifice that we must make if we are save to the lives of our neighbors from this horrific virus.

In the United States, we have a disturbing situation in some states in which churches are being designated as “essential services” and allowed to be exempt from the prohibitions on holding gatherings. A small minority of churches are making the tragic decision to continue meeting together in person in spite of the warnings coming from our public health experts. Perhaps in some cases it is a combination of scientific illiteracy coupled with confusion caused by some of our leaders’ early downplaying of the crisis and their “aspirational” remarks about churches being open again by Easter. Perhaps in other cases, it is an example of the greed of ministers who believe that without persons in the pews, there will be less money in the offering plate. Whatever the reasons may be, continued gatherings in churches during a global pandemic are a danger to us all.

The reality is that we are not loving our neighbors if our churches are still meeting in person; and if we are not loving our neighbor, we are not loving God. Packing our churches, even on Easter, would be the absolute worst way to witness to the love of Jesus this year. If on Easter morning 2020 we have packed churches, I envision that on Easter afternoon 2020 Jesus will weep. For Easter and many Sundays to come, loving our neighbor means celebrating the empty tomb with an empty church. Right now the empty church is a symbol of hope and resurrection for our world.

During this extremely challenging time, love must practice the paradox that to be truly present for one another we must be physically distant from one another. If we cannot show that we are capable of surviving having empty sanctuaries for a period of time to help save each other from COVID-19, then we don’t deserve to have full sanctuaries when the dangers of the virus have passed. I pray that we will have enough love for each other to change our behavior for the sake of all of our neighbors until it is once again safe to gather together hand in hand.

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We are afraid…

We are all afraid – afraid for ourselves, afraid for our families, afraid for our friends, afraid for those we know are most vulnerable among us. This fear is multiplied by the reality that we have to be physically separated from each other to slow the spread of the virus and that those who contract the virus often have to be physically separated from their families and loved ones.

Our fear makes us hesitant to talk with each other about this reality. In some ways it is easier not to talk about it. It can be so overwhelming that we are apt to try and ignore it as a coping mechanism. We may give each other knowing looks that show we know what each other is feeling, but we often find it very difficult to talk about it.

Maybe for some of us not talking about our fear and vulnerability is the only way we can cope with the anxiety, but I hope we will work through this and begin to share our fears and feelings more openly with our friends and family. We are all in this together, and we need to let each other know how we are feeling, how much we love each other, and how scared we are to be physically separated from one another.

We also need to let each other know that if we have to be separated from each other by physical distance that our love for each other cannot be removed even if we cannot be physically present. The healthcare professionals may have to be our physical representatives of the human presence, but our love and spiritual presence will always be there.

We need to have these conversations of love and care with each other so that our spiritual presence of love is felt even more fully in the event of our physical separation. We need to let each other know that nothing can ultimately separate us from each other. Our love will be eternally present, no matter what.

So take this post as one of my ways of breaking through my fear to let you know that I love you and that you are important to me, even if we have never met. We are in this together. Nothing will separate us from each other.

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Why I Voted for Bernie Sanders Today

Math – today on Super Tuesday there are two candidates who are viable for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Neither of those candidates was my first choice for the nomination in 2020, but that is the nature of politics – you don’t always get what you want, but hopefully we will still get what we need.

My first choice was Elizabeth Warren. I respect greatly all who will be voting for her today, but I have looked at the numbers and the polls of all the states, and her chances of being in the top two candidates in delegates going into the convention are extremely low (FiveThirtyEight puts her chances now at less than 1 out of 100 to win the nomination – Bloomberg’s chances are not any better than Warren’s). I still think Warren would make the best president, but she is not going to be the next president. She will be brilliant and excellent at whatever is next for her, continuing in the Senate or perhaps in another role if the Democrats retake the presidency.

This morning, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Oklahoma Democratic Presidential Primary. I am a social democrat, and of the two remaining viable candidates Sanders’ policies and vision are closer to my own than are Biden’s. I believe that we need revolutionary change in the way we are addressing the climate crisis, healthcare, poverty and income inequality, equality of opportunity, quality education for all, and the eradication of a system that puts college students under crushing and sometimes lifelong debt.

I wish Sanders referred to his views as social democracy rather than democratic socialism given that what he is proposing is much closer to the former than it is to the latter. He is giving the opposition the opportunity to define him as a socialist, which as we know is a problem for a significant portion of the electorate, especially older Americans. I hope that if Sanders were to win the nomination that moderates will look closely at what he is actually proposing and see that it is basically the same as what the social democracies in the Nordic countries have, and they are the happiest, healthiest, best educated, and least corrupt countries in the world.

I voted for Sanders today, but if Biden wins the nomination, I will do everything I can to work for him to be the next president and then work to keep challenging him to address the climate crisis, healthcare, education, and poverty with the fierce urgency and systemic change that are necessary. If Sanders wins the nomination, I hope Biden supporters will do the same because if we do not unite after the nomination, we run the very real risk of losing our republic.

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Young Voters and Social Democracy

We should not be surprised that the clear majority of Democratic voters under 45 years of age support Bernie Sanders and his Social Democracy platform (a platform very similar to that of Elizabeth Warren). Unlike people over 45, these young people have lived most of their lives in the aftermath of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush destruction of many of the social services and safety nets that exist in all of the happiest, healthiest, safest, most educated, and least corrupt countries in the world.

Many of these young people have seen their parents and grandparents struggle under massive medical debt (some of them have already incurred significant medical debt themselves), they have watched wealth inequality become more extreme than ever before, and many are afraid to go to the doctor because they know that in this system they are one serious illness from bankruptcy. For many of these young people, a financial crisis caused by reckless banks wreaked havoc in the lives of their families, from which some have never recovered. Many of them are also living under crushing student debt that they had to incur because our society chose not to support strong public education at all levels.

The criticism that young people support Sanders and his Social Democracy platform because they think Sanders will give them free stuff is the most disingenuous criticism I have ever heard, especially when it comes from persons from generations who paid a fraction of the current cost of college and a fraction of the current healthcare costs and who enjoyed a much better societal infrastructure than decades of austerity have delivered to us, all the while doing almost nothing about the most pressing crisis in human history – the climate crisis.

Young people are not for Sanders because they want free stuff. They are for Sanders because he gives them a consistent message of hope that we might garner the political courage to give young people and future generations a chance at survival, greater equality of opportunity, and maybe even the possibility for flourishing.

Personally I think Elizabeth Warren’s vision and plans are stronger and more thorough than those of Sanders, which is why she has been my number one choice, but I absolutely understand why young people and many others show such strong support for Sanders. It is not because they want free stuff, and it is not because they don’t know history. It is because they have first-hand experience of the failure of the last 40 years of American politics and know in their hearts and see from the example of many other countries that there is a better way.

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Social Democracy and the Democratic Party

It would be helpful for Democrats to be more careful with their language. None of what they are advocating in terms of policy is what one would define as democratic socialism. Even Bernie Sanders, though he refers to himself as a democratic socialist, is arguing for policies that resemble the social democratic systems of the Nordic countries, and this does not include the social ownership of the means of production that socialism entails.

What Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are really arguing for is a social democratic philosophy of government and economics. In such a system, government provides services that are essential to equality of opportunity for all persons and fair and equitable access to the core necessities of life regardless of one’s income. This entails strong public K-12 education and access to strong college and vocational education for all. It also entails universal healthcare and social programs for the elderly and most vulnerable in our society.

Such a social democratic system also uses progressive taxation to support social programs and infrastructure for human and ecological flourishing. In social democratic systems there is less income inequality and greater equality of opportunity. This does not mean that government owns everything or operates everything. It does mean that the government maintains systems and regulations to maintain fairness, justice, health, safety, workers’ rights, and ecological sustainability – all of which are essential for the flourishing of persons-in-community.

None of this is remotely close to the totalitarian socialism of the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and Venezuela. It is very close to the social democracies of Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, which by all measurements are the happiest, healthiest, most participatory, and least corrupt countries in the world. These countries are the success story of social democracy, and this system has proven to be the best way to organize our societies for the well-being of both people and the planet. Democrats would do well to be clear about this distinction in their language as they articulate their vision for our country.

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Unite or Lose the Republic

It pains me greatly to say this, but it is very likely that unless we see the greatest political mobilization in U.S. history, Trump will win the United States Presidency again this year. The Republican Party is his party now, and there will be no accountability between now and the election when Trump attempts to lie and cheat his way to a second term.

The support of Trump’s base has hardened to such an extent that their enthusiasm will be extremely high. Republican presidents have often given lip service to the desires of the party’s nationalist and theocratic base, but President Trump has actually done what previous Republican presidents only talked about – rejecting immigrants and refugees even to the point of actively separating thousands of children from their families, scapegoating Muslims and discriminating against them in practice and policy, favoring Christianity over other religious expressions, and moving systematically towards the banning of all abortions no matter what the reason.

When the Democratic primaries are over, those who understand the threat that Trump poses must come together like never before. This is it – our last chance. The urgency of the climate crisis and the rise of nationalism around the world call for comprehensive action right now. A second Trump term slams shut our last window of opportunity to address the climate crisis. We don’t even want to think about the unthinkable suffering this will continue to create in our earth community. At the moment, we are not responding with the unity and urgency needed to address this most pressing existential threat facing our republic and the earth as a whole.

If Trump wins in 2020, we may very well see a Trump in the White House for the foreseeable future. As long as a Trump wins, they will keep running Trumps – Donald Trump Jr. in 2024 and 2028 and Ivanka Trump in 2032 and 2036. I am deadly serious about this. In addition to Trump wanting his family to remain at the highest pinnacle of power and thereby furthering Trump’s legacy, a 2020 win by DJT followed by a 2024 win by DJT Jr. is likely the only way DJT avoids prison time, and he will do anything to avoid this.

Trump’s first term was deadly for refugees and immigrants, a deep threat to women’s autonomy, a significant diminishment of rights for persons who are LGBTQIA+, a time of experiencing scapegoating and deep discrimination for persons who are Muslim, a disaster for the climate and the environment as a whole, a threat to the health and safety of the most vulnerable, and a test to see how far Trump could take his presidential authority (the senate trial provided us with the answer – as far as he wants).

As bad as the first Trump term has been, a second term will be exponentially worse and could make it nearly impossible to maintain anything close to a democratic republic. This is a warning. We will be a theocratic fascist state barreling the planet towards climate chaos if Trump wins this November. The only way to keep this from happening? – the greatest political mobilization in U.S. history. Democrats, Progressive and Moderate Independents, and Moderate Republicans Unite or Lose the Republic!

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Long Live Nixon!

It was just a break-in at the DNC headquarters. Yes, Nixon covered it up. Yes, Nixon lied about it. Yes, there were tapes. But Nixon was just doing what he thought he needed to do to get elected for the good of the country. It was such a total sham that he was effectively forced to resign from office in disgrace for the kind of things that the Republican Party has clearly shown are not impeachable offenses.

Is what Nixon did inappropriate? Of course it was inappropriate, but today’s Republican Party has shown us that Nixon got a raw deal because you can’t be removed from office for doing something inappropriate to get elected when you think your being elected is in the public interest.

Perhaps we should posthumously revoke Nixon’s resignation from office. What a witch hunt! This week Nixon was exonerated by the Republican Party! Nixon was right all along. He was not a crook. Our long national nightmare of thinking Nixon should have resigned from office is over. Long live Nixon!

Roger Stone, you should go shirtless this week in prison to celebrate. You probably won’t have to stay there much longer with a pardon coming soon for you and all of Trump’s loyal associates who have been convicted of crimes by our increasingly obsolete and irrelevant justice system. Sorry Cohen, no pardon for you.

While Trump is at it he should probably also go ahead and pardon all of those poor souls who were convicted and spent time in prison related to Watergate. Maybe they can all get together for a little vacation and celebrate at the Watergate hotel. Wait, what am I thinking? – the Trump Hotel of course!

And to Ben Stein, who has argued valiantly over the years that Nixon basically did nothing wrong and even once tearfully said that Nixon was a saint,  your tears of sorrow have finally been turned into tears of joy. Tears of joy Ben Stein, tears of joy.

Note – This is satire. If you cannot recognize that it is satire, please seek professional help.
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