Separating Church & State Honors Our Ancestors

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

U.S. Constitution, First Amendment, Establishment and Free Exercise clauses

For some time I’ve been observing a growing trend among some Christians (mostly evangelical) to want to end the separation of church and state mandated by the Constitution and make every one conform to Christian values and participate in Christian practices.  They say they love America but their stance is so adverse to the foundation stones of our nation, it’s hard to imagine they even know our history.

I’ve been particularly thinking about it in light of my genealogy research and the many ancestors who came here to get away from religious persecution.  My 10x great grandfather, William Brewster, was a Puritan Separatist and his religious views first forced him to flee England for Holland.  He later managed to return to England long enough to board the Mayflower and come to the Plymouth Colony.

He was one of multitudes of Puritans who fled England because their religious beliefs were outlawed.  They braved the hazardous voyage across the ocean and came to the new world in the hope of finding freedom to worship as they chose.

On my mother’s side I’ve long since lost count of the number of Scottish Presbyterians — they’re all over the tree on both sides of her family.  Some broke off from the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and came here to establish their version of Presbyterianism.  Others, after accepting land in Ireland for some years, wound up fleeing to America when England began persecuting Presbyterians for their failure to follow Anglican law.

Presbyterians weren’t particularly welcome here either as the established religions along the coast disapproved of their beliefs.  They gave the Scots land at what were then the frontiers, in order to let them serve as buffers against the Native tribes.  In other words they were expendable.  Presbyterian ministers were rare in those parts, so many became Baptists.

These are just some of the stories of religious persecution that led many of our early citizens to the Colonies.  The Founding Fathers were well aware of the persecution that had hounded so many out of their homes and across an ocean.  There is also a great deal of evidence many of them were aware of other religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, etc.  So when they established free exercise of religion and forbade the establishment of a state religion, they were specifically safeguarding people from the kind of persecution so many had endured and, by their explicit failure to name Christianity or any denomination thereof, they extended that freedom to all religions.

Ironically many of those who are trying to force everyone to conform to their religious beliefs, to bring Christian prayers back into schools and make Muslim and Jewish and Hindu children participate, are descendants of the persecuted Christians who arrived in a new land seeking freedom to worship as they chose.

Every time I see one of these calls for the State to violate the First Amendment and participate in promoting evangelical Christian beliefs, I feel my ancestors have been dishonored.  That their suffering has been forgotten.  “Separation of church and state” were Jefferson’s words, describing the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, a separation created to make sure such persecution would not be repeated.

This wall between state and church was built to ensure all people freedom to pursue their religious beliefs without interference from the government.  Every call to take down that wall is an assault on one of the great foundation stones of the United States of America and shows either ignorance of or contempt for one of the most important lynch pins of our democracy; one which is central to its greatness.

Let’s not forget why so many of the original settlers came here.  Honor their pursuit of religious freedom by honoring religious freedom.

People Power: Think outside the box

In the last post I examined some issues in which most of us are so buried in cultural beliefs we can’t see past them.  This time I’m taking up a few issues and suggesting possible alternative views that could change the game.  Change the belief, change the thought=change reality.

Health Care — Change it all?

When the GOP first started attacking the ACA, threatening the health insurance of millions, I joined the multitudes in wringing hands.  One day, though, as I contemplated people having no access to health care, I suddenly shifted to thinking about the health care I have known and used for the last 30 years –alternative.

Suddenly light bulbs flashed and I thought about how much better alternative care has served me than western/allopathic ever did.  I could see people going to herbalists and body workers and acupuncturists and actually healing issues instead of covering the symptoms.  And I thought, “could this actually be the way to shift our health care system to one that’s holistic and healthy and really good for people?”

Since I’ve not seen a “western” doctor or participated in any way in allopathic medicine for 30 years, it’s kind of funny it took me a while to make this mental leap.  But I’d dutifully signed up for insurance to obey the law and am sufficiently immersed in the cultural thinking that I felt some measure of relief in having the “safety net” of insurance. When they tried to take it away, I felt the same sense of outrage most people were feeling.

As soon as I saw the path to a complete alternative, I calmed down about the sense we HAVE to have government-provided insurance.  Most people spend so much on premiums and co-pays, if those payments were all removed, far more could afford  the much-less-expensive alternative health care costs and we might become healthier for it.

Do we really need the allopathic health care system at all? Or should we be funding alternatives that treat people holistically and without the use of harmful pharmaceuticals.  (Take that big pharma!!!)  Changes the insurance debate completely.

Put the Burden on the Men

I’ve been seeing some deep and thought-provoking articles exploring men’s role in unwanted pregnancies and pointing out many ways in which making men legally responsible for pregnancy would change everything about the abortion debates.  Others are pointing out that better support for pregnant women and young children would remove another set of reasons for not wanting a baby.

As I ruminated I realized we need to change the whole dynamic of the argument.  It’s time to quit discussing in terms of Pro Choice and Anti-Choice, abortion or not abortion, both of which place the issue entirely on women and both of which lead to legislating women’s rights to their own bodies.  Whichever way the legislation goes, it still suggests women need governments to direct or protect their own decisions and how they choose to deal with their own bodies.

As this terrific article pointed out, men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies.  But no one is discussing legislation to regulate their participation in unprotected sex.  No one is talking about increased penalties for rape.  No one is talking about regulating men as predators.  And yet that is precisely where the discussion should be centered.  Change men’s behavior and most unwanted pregnancies never happen so the need for abortion never arises.

Others point out that if you we put the time and attention into making it easier for women to keep and raise their babies, many abortions would never happen.  Lower birth costs, find ways to help fund those costs, better and cheaper child care, increased wages, increase and expand the WIC program (supplemental nutritional program for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under 5.  If we helped women who choose abortions because they can’t afford to have children, many would choose to keep the baby.

If the Anti-Choice crowd really cared about “Life” they would pursue these regulations for men and work on improving aid for pregnant women and their young children so the need to even consider abortion would drop dramatically.  The fact that they choose to focus only on stopping abortion makes it clear that saving fetuses is not their real concern; regulating women is.

But I want to be clear, as long as liberals in general and the women’s movement in particular continue to accept the right wing framing of this issue as a problem for women instead of insisting on discussing it as what it really is — an issue about men’s irresponsible and arrogant behavior and refusal to own the consequences of their actions — we continue to condone the misinformed viewpoint that it’s women’s problem.

Stop Buying

In the west, and particularly in America, our rampant consuming habits are responsible for (1) a vast portion of the climate change issues we face and (2) for providing the 2% with the profits they need to control us.  It’s such a deep issue but one we really need to face.

I can see it in myself and I’m not even much of a shopper.  But I own too much.  And in the years of illness, as carry out and prepared foods have become ever easier to access, I have realized I waste huge amounts of wrapping, packaging, etc. by taking advantage regularly of the chance to have a decent meal without having to stand around preparing it.  I’m working on re-thinking my buying habits and also how to contribute less to packaging waste.

When I look around I see many people far more immersed in consumerism than I am.  I watch some of the design and house search type shows and have been finding two interesting extremes.  The one that disturbs me involves people feeling they “have” to have the latest, nicest, and the most.

People who don’t cook but upon seeing a perfectly adequate but not recently-renovated kitchen announce, “it would HAVE to be redone”.  And the number of women who, without a shade of embarrassment, inform us they need a 10×10 closet and will barely fit all their clothes in it are turning my stomach regularly.

I smile then at the other side, which is the tiny house movement in which people are reducing their possessions to a couple of trunks full and reducing their living space to incredibly small spaces (to me, claustrophobic!). I’m not sure we need to go to quite that extreme, but certainly a move much more in that direction is needed.

This tendency to buy and buy without worrying about whether things are fixable or recyclable or whether we could get something used runs so deeply in American culture and habits it’s going to be tough to get out of it.  But if we’re really worried about the environment, it’s time for us to own how we contribute by mindless consuming and to find ways to reduce our enormously wasteful buying habits.

At the same time our buying habits contribute to environmental issues by using up resources and creating waste, we also contribute to those issues by keeping the global corporations who love to destroy the environment in profits and power.

If we start drastically changing our buying habits AND work at creating local grass roots movements to grow, produce, manufacture locally and buy as much as possible from local businesses and co-ops, we also can drive the multi-nationals out of business and power.

This isn’t a change that requires government intervention at all.  It’s change that requires us to delve deep and shift our auto-buy behaviors while also creating new vibrant local economies.

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I’m just trying to provide a few examples of how we need to step outside our ordinary thinking patterns if we want to change the world, so I’m leaving it with these three examples.  I would love it if others who have thoughts about a whole new way to think about a major issue would either comment here, or better yet write a post about it and link it to this post.

The People Power posts:

People Power: Deep in the Cultural Fabric

Many of us (and everyone who regularly reads this blog!) have been delving into the depths of our psyches for a long time now as well as doing practices that raise vibration.  I believe we’ve raised the vibration of the whole to a place where the depths of whole cultures are rising to the surface.  This means it’s time to explore our cultural beliefs and release those which no longer serve us.

I’m just exploring a few of them here that seem particularly relevant now.

Women

Ever since I poked around the world of sports and wrote a piece on the dehumanizing attitude toward women (see post)– which I think reflects the general attitude of our culture in the U.S. — I’ve been thinking about patriarchy and the many ways in which it is insidiously deep in our culture — even in ways many women don’t see.

I’ve watched #MeToo impact men on Wall Street and in corporations by leading them to stop hiring women rather than cope with the possibility of accusations.  Not really the triumphant outcome women were hoping for…  And an indication of how deeply entrenched the patriarchy is.

There are still lots of women dressing like pole dancers and arguing that they’re “expressing themselves” and “feeling sexy”.  I shake my head and wonder why the ONLY way they feel they’re expressing themselves or can feel sexy is to dress like a man’s wet dream.  And it’s always the same Playboy type stuff.

How is that expressing your individual uniqueness to dress to suit someone else’s preferences?  How is there nothing women themselves love that makes them feel sexy? Unique would be wearing an electric blue fedora with an emerald green ’80’s jacket, a yellow feather boa and orange tap pants… Weird, but an outfit that would tell me the woman has a particular sensibility and she’s expressing it.  Dressing like every porn character and Playboy Bunny on the planet… not so much.

We’ve been so trained to define ourselves by our attractiveness to men, many women have no idea how to just be themselves and not care what men think.

Racism

For a long time I’ve worried occasionally about how much racism still existed.  But like most, I was content to complacently assume the Civil Rights legislation took care of it…  Still, a nagging worry that you can’t legislate people’s hearts kept appearing.

Nothing in those periodic doubts prepared me for the degree of racism we’re been confronting the last few years.  And I’m realizing subtle aspects of racism lurk in most of us — including the usual victims of racist attitudes, who often hold their own beliefs about races other than their own.  None of us can really know what it is to be in the skin of someone of another color, so none of us can totally understand.

Along with the overt white supremacy, equally worrying are many studies I’ve read about white people who aren’t overtly racist but who become emotional at training sessions about race.  Corporations have stopped training and sent the instructors home when white people complained about what people of color tried to tell them about insensitivity and subtle racism.

If we can’t even manage to listen when people try to tell us what hurts, what we need to understand, how they need us to change, how can we possibly imagine more overt racism can be addressed?

Media and the Bad News/Good News dichotomy

In this day and age of worldwide media we’re so affected by news.  The corporate-controlled mainstream media likes to focus on problems and negative news.  It serves the powers that be to keep us in fear and, especially, upset with one another.  Otherwise we might figure out our power and take over.

In the meantime positive news is happening every day.  As I saw in a lovely interview with Jack Kornfield,

Each time there is a bad piece of news that gets publicized, there are 100 million acts of goodness that happen in that same hour—people putting a plate of cooked spaghetti in front of their child, people stopping at a red light so you can safely pass on the green, people planting gardens and designing new homes, millions of acts of goodness. Then there’s the beauty of life itself, where even after a rainstorm, we see the lavender reflections of the sunset in the puddles in the street.”

From Greater Good Magazine, “Why We Should Seek Happiness Even in Hard Times”

When our focus is constantly on the few negative things that happen and we ignore the millions of positive events every day, it skews our feelings about the world and then impacts our decisions to vote, participate, etc.

This negative focus mentality is so deeply embedded, it’s going to take a lot of concerted effort, releasing and shifting to move people’s focus to the positives of the world.  See previous post for more on this topic.

Governments have to fix things for us

I’m not sure historically when the general belief that governments run the show and we depend upon them to keep things safe and secure — possibly monarchies and empires? — but I can see in lots of reactions to environmental issues there’s a widespread attitude it’s more up to government than us to save the environment and the world.

The more I observe what’s happening in recent years, the more I think the opposite is true.  When we as individuals carry unresolved issues in our beings, we negatively impact everything, including the environment.  When we as individuals consume mindlessly and do nothing to curtail our personal impact on the environment, we are culpable and governments can only do so much to reverse our thoughtless habits.

A whole movement has been quietly building for some years in which individuals have invented answers to environmental problems, formed co-ops to deal with multiple issues and cities have been in the forefront of government action on climate change and social justice.

So why do we still want to wring our hands and hope for a change in power so the government can save us?

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These are just a few of the places in which we are so immersed in the beliefs and habits of our culture we can’t even see how we are trapped by them nor how we fail because of them to see other roads.  Consumerism is also a big one but I almost think it would need its own post…

For those of us who know how to dig in the depths of consciousness, it’s time to look at the ways in which we are immersed in cultural norms and release them within ourselves.  For those less familiar with tracking deep issues, it’s time to look at these issues and step outside the norms to create new ideas, programs, and directions.

The People Power posts:

 

 

People Power: Create a New Business Model

Fall Line Farms Co-op

Back in December 2016 I wrote a series of posts about bring a spiritual, peaceful attitude to the political arena and in one of them, I wrote about the secondary economy I’d seen evolving for years among the “cultural creatives”.  Now I see a grass roots cooperative movement joining this secondary economy and in the two I see hope for leaving the 2% behind as we quit doing business with them and use only socially conscious businesses’ products and locally owned and run co-ops and small businesses.

I’ve spent a lot of time hunting around the internet on this question — and often Yes Magazine and Good News Network are dropping info into my lap.  I’m so encouraged by seeing the many ways in which people around the world are stepping up to create their own solutions.  From Black farmers creating cooperatives to neighborhoods like Northeast Minneapolis cooperatively buying buildings and supporting local businesses to the Village Financial Cooperative providing Blacks with fair banking opportunities people are coming up with creative sidesteps to the greed and unfairness of the 2% and their institutions.

There are also neighborhood repair events where people can bring their broken items and to skilled workers and either learn how to fix them or have them fixed (different ones have different practices).  Community markets where people can give unwanted items and anyone can take what they want.  Support for local produce and products.  Neighborhood solutions to environmental issues.

These things are already happening.  What I don’t see yet is a collective consciousness of purposely evading global corporations and creating an economy that doesn’t need them.  Bureaucracy tends to destroy more than helps so I’m not saying I want some unified organization to start running the show, just more people who are getting how much power we have to freeze out the 2% and their shady businesses and build our own system of trade on a more local and sustainable basis.

As I said in my last post, we don’t need the 2%.  Now we just need to grow the consciousness that not only do we not need them but we can create our own new economy.  [Way down at the bottom you’l find a list of links to the other People Power posts so far]


Some more to read:

Degrowth:  A Call for Radical Abundance

https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/a-radical-vision-for-food-everyone-growing-it-for-each-other-20171225

https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/no-price-tags-these-neighbors-built-their-own-economy-without-money-20180124

https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/a-populism-of-hope-begins-when-people-feel-their-own-power-20180116

and don’t forget my regular fave:

The People Power posts:

Are there changes that could stop shootings of unarmed citizens?

NYPD Police Academy

As I’ve explored various issues for the People Power series, I’ve come up with a side issue that doesn’t quite fit with the theme of those posts though it’s relevant to the overall topics so I’m interrupting the PP series to throw in some thoughts and questions about the issue of police shootings and why some remedies aren’t being pursued.

For several years I’ve been running into articles occasionally about former military people who’ve joined the police after coming home.  In some cases the vet has shot someone just to wound and sometimes it’s been vets who are in trouble with their department for either failing to shoot or for only wounding.

In each case the big mention that gets my attention is military training and how they’re taught to do more of an evaluation and NOT to shoot as the first instinct, nor to kill as the first objective.  Police training, on the other hand, is to shoot first and think later and apparently always to shoot to kill.

As we keep following along in horror as unarmed person after unarmed person is killed by the police*, I keep wondering why I’m not seeing a big movement for changing the police training to follow the military example.  I’ve long said “you can’t legislate people’s hearts” and in the same way, I understand that changing the training will not change blatant racists in police departments.

But many stories involve police officers who are mostly just afraid and in fear instinctually use the shoot-to-kill training.  So it seems a shift in training could eliminate a significant percentage of the killings of unarmed citizens.  Some departments have added more on de-escalation techniques to the training but there doesn’t seem to be a widespread movement to change the training across-the-board.

All of this falls much more heavily on Blacks (and I suspect Hispanics but I’ve found far less discussion…) so changing the training is just one piece.  I’m also wondering why they aren’t doing more psychological screening in hiring to try to screen out blatant racists.  And then more gender and racial sensitivity training to reduce unconscious bias.

These changes seem so “duh” to me, I’m puzzled that (1) among those who are outraged about the unjustified shootings of so many unarmed Blacks they keep saying “this needs to change” but I’m not seeing suggestions like this for how and (2) among the many things I keep reading from various Democratic candidates so far I’m not seeing any of them making such practical proposals either–if they address this issue at all [noting Marianne Williamson as an exception].

Since police departments are locally run, federal action may be harder to get.  The better way to push for change might be concerted community efforts; change police academies and policies one city at a time.  Often when a few departments have adopted changes and can show improved statistics, the change begins to spread. NYPD seems to have done more than most so I’m thinking some focus on changing even more there….

Am I missing something here? Or just not landing on the right articles when I “google”?  Or just nuts to think these ideas would be worth pursuing?

* I’m not stating Black citizens till below because this shoot to kill directive leads to deaths in a wider spectrum; farther down in the post I get to the racism issue.

People Power: The 2%…we don’t need ’em

The corporate machine has been growing ever more powerful, perhaps since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution–or has concentration of wealth in the hands of a few just always been the norm? At this point global corporations “own” far too many politicians, have far too much power and create havoc on the environment with their never-ending greed and will for “more”.

They puzzle me, though, these theoretically smart billionaires.  They seem to live in a delusion that we are still a feudal society.  They are lords who own the land and can half starve the peasants who will still manage to produce enough crops.  But, hello, it’s the 21st century.

You people are not feudal lords. You own hotels and restaurants, you manufacture goods and hawk technology.  And in order to have profits you need us, the 98% to have enough money to buy your crap or you won’t make a profit.  You also need a work force that’s healthy enough to do their jobs.

So why do you refuse to pay people a living wage?  Why do you buy politicians and attempt to keep the 98% from having health insurance, or having enough money to afford to buy more than the basics?  Amazon, for example, pays a wage that’s barely enough to rent an apartment, works their employees to the breaking point, setting targets that mean people can’t even take a break.  And that’s just typical.  And not the worst wage or conditions.

Deep rooted in society for centuries has been a belief in scarcity that’s built into capitalism.  The idea that there’s a limited supply and some will have to go without, which encourages people to hoard.  A simple shift to the belief that there is abundance enough to go around could change the world completely. (See below for links to some insights on this history)

In the meantime, if the 2% break the 98% too badly, profits go down.  So they need us.

Not so clear how much we need them.  Their advantage at the moment is lots of people who think they need their stuff and can’t imagine an alternative.  But we can create our own goods and services.  And in building those businesses we can create our own jobs.

Do we need the 2%?  Not so much… Stay tuned for more.

For some interesting insights about how indoctrinated we’ve been for centuries:

  1. Myths of Capitalism: The Myth of Scarcity
  2. Degrowth: A Call for Radical Abundance

The People Power series so far:

People Power: Government

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am intrigued these days by the degree to which most Americans on both sides of the current divide assume government action of one sort or another is the best solution to everything.  It’s a big expectation to hold toward a government that isn’t really ruled for the people or by the people.  Until we address the issue of elected representatives who are governed by the 2%, I don’t think we can count on the government to lead any significant change.

People don’t seem to want to explore the degree to which global corporations and their money run the government in the U.S. (and probably many other countries).  And I believe the finger pointing and divisiveness suits them very well because it keeps everyone blaming “those people”–the immigrants, the refugees, the Muslims, etc– instead of blaming the real culprits, the 2% and the companies they manage.

The first time I was aware of it being pointed out was John Kenneth Galbraith’s New Industrial Society and the situation of industries ruling nations has only grown worse.  Many successors to Galbraith have been pointing this out for the decades since.

The grip of defense contractors and the associated massive over-spending in the Pentagon is one of our biggest problems and nobody in the government is willing to even raise a question about it, though many studies have shown that a reasonable reining in of military spending would free enough funds to pay for every social welfare/benefit program there is and some new ones too.

But other industries also pay massive amounts in campaign contributions and then expect “their” representatives to toe the line.  We need laws to stop these corporate super PACs but first we need enough corporate-free representatives to even pass such a law.

In the 2018 election we finally had a number of candidates running without corporate backing and many whose campaigns were funded by individual donations.  There seem to be a growing number of activists and politicians who are aware of how important this is but I think we need to grow this awareness.  We should not accept any candidates for any office who are not certified free of any corporate backing.

In my vision I see the possibility of this changing but I also see it changing too slowly to address many problems.  People Power is the answer.

The People Power series so far: