Honoring King in the Age of Trumpism


This year marks the 50th year since we lost the greatest prophet for justice and social change in the history of the United States. I would have hoped that we would have progressed much more in fulfilling Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream than we have, and in many ways we have gone backwards, but it would not be a befitting honor to Dr. King to simply lament the lack of progress up to this moment. King would not want us to dwell in lament of the past and present, fear of the future, or hatred for the foes of justice. Dr. King would want us to look forward with love and hope (through the lens of realism) at what needs to be done nonviolently to move us towards the promised land of Beloved Community that he envisioned the night before his death.

I think the most fitting tribute to Dr. King on the day named in his honor is not to dwell so much on what his life and accomplishments meant during his time, but to ask what his life and accomplishments might contribute to bringing transformation for justice today and into the future. King knew he was not going to make it to the promised land with us, but he hoped to prepare the way. Honoring King means to keep preparing that way, to keep creating the road towards the Beloved Community, to keep bending the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

And what does bending the arc of the moral universe towards justice look like in the age of Trumpism? How do we keep King’s dream of Beloved Community alive in the Nightmare of Trump’s narcissistic chaos of racism, xenophobia, sexism, greed, exploitation of the environment, Islamophobia, and discrimination against persons who are LGBTQ+? How shall we overcome when a blatant racist holds the most powerful office in the land and perhaps the world?

One thing I think King would tell us today is that we cannot allow our work of resistance to be overly focused on only resisting Trump. Don’t get me wrong, I believe if King were alive today, he would be resisting Trump with the same energy and passion with which he resisted the prominent racists of his day. That being said, King knew that racists do not come to political power in a vacuum. Their ability to gain, maintain, and misuse power grows out of systems that perpetuate the evil that their hold on power personifies.

The primary goal must be to transform the systems that have created the context in which someone like Trump could come to power, and those systems are social, economic, cultural, and political. They are systems that have perpetuated racism, sexism, poverty, militarism, and exploitation of the environment. They are systems that have created a social and political environment in which a truly horrible person could be elected President of the United States of America. Horrible systems have paved the way for a horrible person to be president. Unjust systems have corroded the structures of our society and made it possible for Trumpism to come to power.

King knew that the evils within the world could not be overcome only through changing individual hearts and minds. He knew that revolutionary change of the systems is needed. Only then can we create the more just, peaceful, participatory, and sustainable society that King called the Beloved Community.

If we only remove Trump, and we do not transform the systems that made a Trump presidency possible, we will be dooming future generations to different but still pernicious forms of Trumpism, and given the fierce urgency of now to address the global economic and ecological challenges facing the human community, we cannot afford not to transform our current unjust and unsustainable systems. This work of systemic transformation is a work that honors King both today and in the days to come. Dream or nightmare? The choice is ours, but we had better choose quickly, for as King was apt to remind us, there is a such thing as too late.

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A University Whose Time Has Finally Come

There once was a university that like so many universities was struggling with its enrollment and finances. The university never had an endowment that was adequate for the size of its student body, and thus it was dependent on tuition revenue to cover the bulk of its instructional and other operational expenses.

As expenses inevitably increased, the interest from the university’s endowment was inadequate to cover the growing costs, and the university became even more dependent on tuition revenue. To meet expenses, the university had to increase tuition and fees; but it was not able to increase real dollar scholarship assistance, thus passing off most of the increased costs to the students.

With higher tuition and higher fees, fewer students were able to afford the price of attending the university. Over the period of a decade, enrollment declined precipitously. New programs were created to attract new students, but there were costs to starting new programs and the new enrollment in those programs could not make up for the losses in other areas. New strategies were put in place to recruit students whose families could pay the higher tuition and fees, but the university’s financial difficulties and deferred maintenance made it difficult to attract students from more wealthy families. Enrollment continued to decline.

During this time of the university’s struggles, leaders of the institution were sometimes heard saying that “the university didn’t have any problems that a billion dollar endowment couldn’t solve.” Interest from such an endowment could easily sustain the university financially for generations to come.

One day, as if an answer to a prayer, the university was given over $1 billion by an oil tycoon whom the university had been cultivating for over a decade. This donor had given significant gifts before, but this gift was the game changer. The university’s future was now secured. Enrollment increased, the faculty and staff at the university grew in quantity and quality, and the university steadily rose in the national college rankings. The university’s time for flourishing had finally arrived.

About two generations later, the university closed its doors; its enrollment decimated by the massive human die off caused by the climate change induced economic and ecological collapse that so many universities dependent on fossil fuel cash and other corporate donations did so little to address.

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Church Revival in the 21st Century


There once was a mainline Christian denomination in the United States that was experiencing significant membership decline. Since its peak in membership in the 1950s and early 1960s, this denomination lost millions in total membership despite many intentional efforts to quell the decline. Untold numbers of church growth workshops and trainings and significant investment in consultants to right the course could not turn things around. Membership continued to plummet.

The inability to reverse the decline was met with understandable concern as budgets and ministries were cut. As in all mainline denominations, there were many disagreements, including theological, among the clergy and laity; but nearly all were in agreement that something must be done to increase membership. Without more people in the pews, a once great denomination could become virtually non-existent within a couple of generations.

Then over a ten-year period, something of a miracle happened. After many years of study and strategizing about how to attract new members, the denomination finally began to turn around. Finding the right combination of engaging worship and preaching, community involvement, and programs to help people deal with life’s challenges; the denomination started to regain the membership it had been losing since the 1960s.

Other denominations took notice and learned from the revitalized denomination. Over time, this denomination led a revival of mainline Protestant churches in the United States. Membership boomed, new buildings were built, old buildings were renovated, budgets were increasing, new agencies and ministries were created, ministerial pension plans were in better shape than they had been for decades.

In a relatively short period of time, mainline denominations were no longer looking back with nostalgia at the 1950s. A new day had dawned for mainline denominations in the United States, and the denomination that started the revival experienced growth and prosperity that it had never experienced before. Seminary attendance swelled as the church struggled to meet the demand for all of the new ministers who were needed. Church growth experts lauded the 21st Century as the Century of Renewal for Christianity in America.

Two generations later, the membership of this denomination and all of the other denominations that had benefited from this significant revival saw their membership decimated by the massive die off of humans caused by the climate change induced economic and ecological collapse that the churches had done almost nothing to address.

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Strong Suggestions for Democrats and Progressive Independents in 2018

Election 2018

As the political hell of 2017 comes to a close, I have a few suggestions for Democrats and progressive Independents in 2018:

  1. in 2018, our republic hangs in the balance. We must keep our focus on this fact. Anything that takes away from an awareness of and unified response to this existential threat is a waste of time politically speaking in the year 2018.
  2. The chances that this Republican Congress will impeach and convict Trump are extremely low, so don’t waste too much time focusing on impeachment in 2018. Any great hope about this Republican Congress having the courage to impeach and convict Trump should have been dashed after witnessing the Republican love fest on the White House steps after the tax cuts bill was passed. Yes, we can hope for impeachment, wish for it, even sign a petition or two calling for it; but don’t spend too much energy on it, unless Mueller is fired, then when we are in new territory. If Mueller is fired, we must be on the streets in the millions – seriously. Until that time, as long as Mueller is allowed to keep investigating, don’t let impeachment be our primary focus in 2018.
  3. The primary focus of 2018 must be on the November 6, 2018 elections. It is imperative that Democrats take either the Senate or the House of Representatives. It would be best to take over both the Senate and the House. Much of the worst that a Trump administration could do between 2018 and 2020 could be blocked by a Democratic controlled Congress, and as the Mueller investigation proceeds, a Democratic Congress could take appropriate measures related to impeachment and conviction of the president if the evidence warrants such action.
  4. 2018 is not about changing Trump supporters’ minds. Let’s stay away from fantasy. 2018 is about staying focused, united, and intentional about getting every person not supporting Trumpism to be registered and voting on November 6, 2018. We have to help each other register, we have to educate each other about what is on the ballot, we have to help each other get to the polls (or learn how to use absentee ballots), and if we live in a state that has voter ID laws, then we need to help each other get those IDs. Focus on what we can do. We can overwhelm Trumpism at the ballot box. We cannot change the minds of those who are still supporting Trump. If Trump’s words and actions in 2017 did not convince to stop supporting trump, there is very little that rational arguments from a liberal friend or relative is going to do to change their minds.
  5. 2018 is about staying united. No matter whom you supported in 2016, do not let your hard feelings about that election get in the way of staying on task in 2018. As much as you may hate the two-party stranglehold on state and national politics, 2018 is not the year to once again fall on your ideological sword. The Supreme Court, the entire judicial system, the EPA, a livable climate, racial justice, economic justice, justice for women, and our identity as a pluralistic society are all at stake in 2018. if you were a Sanders supporter, suppress your desires to criticize Clinton, and if you are a Clinton supporter, suppress your desires to criticize Sanders. Yes, we have our differences, but wake up and smell the Trump coffee that is currently brewing and boiling over in Washington and get over it. We have to forgive each other, reconcile with one another, and fight like hell together in 2018 and 2020 to save our republic. No buts about this one. Just stop it!
  6. Do not vote for non-incumbent third-party candidates in 2018 or in any other year unless your state has a ranked choice voting system that allows you to vote for a third party candidate without harming your favorite or perhaps least disliked major party candidate. I hope that someday the whole country will have ranked choice voting so that we can all vote for our first choice every time and create a robust multi-party system, but until that time comes, voting for a third party candidate simply strengthens the major party that you would least like to see strengthened. Really it does. It’s just math.
  7. Don’t let any seat go unchallenged in 2018 or 2020. Yes, running for office is difficult and expensive, and it may seem like a waste of time to run Democrats in the districts heavily controlled by Republicans; but in 2018 and 2020 (and in every election for matter) every vote counts, and the more Democrats there are on the ballot for all offices, the more likely Democrats and progressive Independents will come to the polls in record numbers.
  8. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Democrats must not simply be the anti-Trump Party. Be the party of fairness, the party of justice, the party of compassion, the party for equal opportunity, the party for sustainability and environmental justice, the party of vision, the party for education, the party for community, the party of true religious freedom, the party for human flourishing. Be the Democratic Party – a party that cares for people, fights poverty, and protects the planet.

We can do this! We must do this! Happy New Year.

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Making the Colony Great Again


There once was an ant colony that was struggling for its survival. Food sources in its environment were running low, and the colony was having trouble sustaining itself much less expanding. The colony was barely getting by and longed for the past when work was plentiful and food was in greater abundance.

One day a group of ants who had been out exploring came back to the colony loaded up with a new source of food. They told the members of the colony that after eating this food they experienced more energy and productivity, and the best thing about the new food is that it was plentiful and relatively easy to access, extract, and then transport to the colony. The explorer ants brought the news of this new food source to the leadership of the colony who along with the Queen became convinced that this new food had the potential to make the colony great again.

The explorer ants were given the task of extracting as much of this new food source as possible and transporting it back to the colony. They even constructed new trails and tunnels by which to make the transport more efficient.

In a relatively short period of time the colony was booming, with energy and life that it had not experienced in a very long time. The colony expanded, and the ants were very pleased with the new way of life their new food source was bringing them.

Over time though, some of the more perceptive ants began to notice troubling signs for the colony. The new source of food, though abundant and providing tremendous amounts of energy, was also creating more and more health problems in the colony. Those who were in charge of extracting and transporting the new food source were the first to get sick, and many of them were beginning to die prematurely. The perceptive ants warned that the new food source might be the reason the ants were getting sick and dying.

Some of the leaders of the ants were open to listening to the perceptive ants and became convinced that the downside of the new food source was greater than its benefits, and they began to warn the colony of the danger of continuing to extract and consume the new food. The colony, however, had become dependent on the new food, and many of the most powerful leaders in the colony ridiculed those who argued for taking away that which had made the colony so great. They convinced enough of the colony that the ants who were arguing to stop using the new food source were alarmists and just trying to keep the colony from flourishing.

The perceptive ants realized that their arguments against the new food source would not be heeded unless they found substitutes for the new food source that had brought such energy to the colony, so they worked together to find alternative food sources for the colony. They presented their plans to the colony leadership, but by this time most of the colony leaders had been so enriched and made so powerful by the use of the new food that they would not listen to those wanting to implement plans to use alternative food sources.

In desperation to protect the colony, the perceptive ants even took action to try and block some of the tunnels through which the new food was being transported to the colony. The pro-new food leaders of the colony labeled some of the perceptive ants as enemies of the colony and said that their claims of the new food causing problems and sickness among the ants was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the colony. The colony decided to stay with the new source of food that had brought so much energy and growth. The ants in favor of the new food won the day.

In a couple of generations, the ant colony was decimated by the slow release ant poison that it thought was the source of food that would make the colony great again.

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#MAGI: Resisting Herod


In the Christmas story, we are told that three wise men (Magi) were in Jerusalem asking about a child who had been born King of the Jews. When Herod heard about this, he plotted to con the Magi into informing him about the whereabouts of the child. Sending the Magi to Bethlehem, Herod told them, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage [believe me!]” (Matthew 2:8) Of course, we know that Herod was not planning to pay homage to the child. Herod was planning to kill the child whom he perceived as a threat to his power and greatness. There was no room in Herod’s kingdom for a perceived outside apprentice to his power.

Upon arriving in Bethlehem, the Magi were overwhelmed with joy in the presence of the child, and they knelt down in the presence of this vulnerable and soon to be refugee child and family and offered him  “gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). In a dream the Magi were warned that when Herod says “believe me” that they should by no means believe him, so they wisely resisted Herod and did not return to him, going back to their country by another road, thus siding with the vulnerable child and his family over the authoritarian leader Herod who would do anything to maintain and expand his own power, even if it meant the suffering of the most vulnerable, even if it meant families separated from each other, even if it meant many children would die, and even if it meant the child and his family would have to become refugees to escape Herod’s tyrannical intent.

The father of the child, Joseph, was warned by a good angel in a dream that they should flee to Egypt to escape Herod and the raid that he had planned to remove the threat to his power posed by the child. Though the child and his family escaped to Egypt, many other children and their families were ripped apart by the raids of Herod’s men. Two dreams, that of the Magi, and that of Joseph, saved the child and his family. These dreamers found the strength and wisdom they needed to escape the unjust and violent plans of Herod to harm this innocent child and family.

Eventually, after spending years as refugees, the child and his family were able to return to the land of Israel; and the child grew up to do great things to bring new life, love, and justice into the world. Billions of people have followed the child’s way of peace and joy in the world, a way that his followers celebrate on Christmas day, and a way they are called to follow and live every day –  the way of the Magi, the way of wisdom, the way of resisting evil, the way of caring for the most vulnerable among us in all that we do.

Meanwhile, Herod is one of the most reviled men in history, choosing the favor of a foreign country (Rome) over the well-being of his own people, and known for using tax schemes to enrich himself and build monuments to his greatness. Herod had ten wives whom he treated horribly, and it was reported that he died an excruciating death (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.5.) About two generations after his death, his monuments and the magnificent architectural achievements that he hoped would serve as a reminder of his greatness were destroyed by the Romans, with whom Herod ironically colluded even to the detriment and suffering of his own people. The Magi are remembered for resisting tyranny. Herod is simply remembered for being a tyrant.

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One World House: Top Five Posts of 2017


Here are your five favorite posts from One World House for 2017. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the over 42,000 views of One World House thus far in 2017.

1. Refusing the Hand of the Empire


2. Choosing Ceasar over Jesus

Take a Knee

3. The War on Christmas

Jesus Image

4. No Such Law

She persisted

5. “We Resist” – An Anthem for Our Time


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