Monthly Archives: January 2021
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
— 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
It’s easy to be a Christian in the company of other Christians. The challenge comes when we are with those who are either not Christian or not devout Christians. Vermont is not one of the most religious of states. Vermont Public Radio (VPR) recently asked, “What’s The State Of Religion In Vermont?” According to VPR, a Pew survey from 2014 found only 34 percent of adults in Vermont considered themselves “highly religious” — making Vermont one of the least religious states in the country. The same Pew study shows 41 percent of Vermonters “absolutely” believe in God. And an even higher proportion of people, 47 percent, said that at least once a week, they feel “a sense of spiritual peace and wellbeing.” There are plenty of churches (I live next to an Episcopal Church and across the street from a Methodist Church), but they were not often full on Sundays, even before the pandemic. People rarely speak about religion in Vermont, and it is not a subject that comes up in everyday conversations.
In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, the Apostle Paul tells us to “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” Such simple verses that pack a lot of meaning. Within these two verses, there are five distinct commands for us to follow: be on guard, stand firm, be courageous, be strong, and do everything in love. Many people who consider themselves Christian, especially evangelical Christians, have no problem with the first four commands. Many evangelical leaders are always on guard to tell others when they see something that they feel is a slight to their religion. They stand firm in their perverted views of Christianity, which reject those who are not exactly like them and follow their every word, which doesn’t often follow the Word of God, but what they want the Bible to say. They believe themselves to be courageous when they discriminate against others and attempt to force upon everyone around them their version of the Christian faith. They often strongly condemn those who disagree with them even in the slightest way and refuse to waiver in their beliefs. However, when it comes to doing everything in love, they ignore that commandment. Often their actions are the opposite of love. But let us look more closely at what Paul is really commanding us to do.
The command “be on your guard” is directed at our spiritual wellbeing. We should always be looking for how we can help others and show them love. We should also be alert to those who want to harm us or others with false beliefs and misplaced agendas. We should “stand firm in our faith” and show others the loving and accepting version of Christianity. As Christians, we are responsible for knowing the truth of God’s Word for ourselves, understanding what is in it, and not allow false teachers to lead us astray. We are also commanded to “be courageous.” When there are those out there using Christianity to exclude those with whom they disagree, we have to be brave enough to face the challenges that false Christians present. We can be ready with an answer and be willing to share our faith and belief that God is love. First John 4:16 tells us, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
Evangelicals preach that society forces us to be politically correct and not to say anything that might offend someone else. However, those who do not hold their tongue to keep from harming others with their words are not acting in a Christian way. God called us to “be strong” and show His love to everyone whether we agree with them or not. We cannot be weak and pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to follow and ignore the details we would like to forget so easily. We should be mindful that our words are always grounded in God’s love. If they are, we should be strong enough to speak these truths with confidence, knowing that God’s word never returns void. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” What we say has consequences, and we must be strong in spreading God’s love.
The four previous commands are forceful, but our Christian love for other people is the essential part of this equation. God is very explicit when he tells us to “Do everything in love.” Love is what binds us together, and our love for all humankind is what should motivate us. God does not ask us to be judgmental or to beat people over the head with a Bible. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus tells us, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Our kindness and love for humankind will go a lot farther than the browbeating we often get from anti-LGBTQ+ ministers who claim to speak for Christianity. God wants us to show acceptance and love. Together we can show the love of Christ to those who need Him the most. With our love, we can be the beacon of light that shines the way to Jesus.
This is really Isabella’s moment of zen and not mine. Nearly every morning when I get out of bed, Isabella immediately curls up in the warm spot I just vacated. Usually, she stays there for most of the morning before venturing out of the bedroom around lunchtime.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has been in the news a lot this last week as more and more evidence of her support for terror and extremism mounts. CNN reported that Greene “liked” a social media post that suggested “a bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and seemed to approve of a suggestion that other prominent Democrats should be hanged, not to mention similar calls for the death of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Greene has supported QAnon conspiracy theories about a global pedophilia cabal, approved of suggestions that mass shootings were staged, and made various racist comments. Furthermore, a video emerged of Greene harassing David Hogg, who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018. The video shows Greene following Hogg down the street in Washington, D.C., in March 2019, and badgering him, calling him a crisis actor paid by George Soros, telling him she was armed, demanding he talk to her, and calling him a coward. Hogg walked on without engaging her.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday in a press conference that, “Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school — what could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing? It’s absolutely appalling, and I think the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the death of those children.” Pelosi knows that Republicans have known for a while that they had trouble brewing with Marjorie Taylor Greene back in the summer of 2020 when she was running for Congress. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the QAnon supporter’s comments about Black people and Muslims “disgusting,” while a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “appalling.” Scalise backed her primary opponent.
So, I am sure a lot of people have questions about how this woman could be elected. I have some thoughts on that because I have always lived in rural congressional districts. In most congressional races in rural districts, especially in the South, candidates often don’t get many campaign contributions. Many don’t even have websites, and if they do, they are sparse with their information. If multiple people are in a primary, I believe most people just pick the name they like best. Voters don’t really care who they are voting for in these primaries. When the general election comes around, they either vote for the one with the R after their name or the D after their name. As a general rule, I do vote for Democrats almost exclusively. Still, I’ve known a few Democrats I won’t vote for, and on rare occasions, I find someone in the Republican Party or a third party that I want to vote for, but I do my research on candidates. Most voters don’t research candidates. Ignorance by the voting public is especially problematic in rural areas where school systems are often the poorest. People are often uneducated or undereducated. Internet access is difficult to come by without paying exorbitant prices, making it difficult to research candidates. If they have a smartphone, they probably get most of their information from Facebook, which is misleading at best but is most often completely inaccurate.
While Greene was covered in the news as a QAnon candidate, Green and other Republicans tried to distance her from her QAnon conspiracy theories during the general election. Now the crazy is coming out in full force. She should have never been elected, but our previous president and his followers pushed for her election. To top that off, northwest Georgia, which Greene represents, is extremely conservative and backwoods and is over 84 percent white and nearly 57 percent blue-collar. The district leans heavily Republican. Donald Trump carried the district with over 75 percent of the vote in 2016, his eighth-best showing in the nation. Among Georgia’s congressional districts, only the neighboring 9th district is more Republican. Since its creation, no Democrat has managed as much as 30 percent of the vote.
When I lived in Alabama, I lived at times in the 2nd Congressional and the 7th Congressional districts. The 7th Congressional district is the “Black Belt” district. The shape of the current district was largely established in 1992 when it was reconstituted as a majority-minority district under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982 to encourage greater representation for minorities in Congress. Since its creation in 1843, a Republican has only represented the district once and for just one term from 1965-1967. In contrast, Alabama’s 2nd congressional district is majority white, and only one Democrat has represented the district since 1965. That one Democrat, former Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright, only served one term, and most recently switched parties and ran again and lost as a Republican candidate. The current representative from the 2nd congressional district is Barry Moore, who was elected for the first time in 2020. Moore is crooked to the core and has been under near-constant investigation for using his office as a legislator to get preferential contracts and for committing perjury in another corruption case. Moore’s opponent, a black woman named Phyllis Harvey-Hall, worked as an elementary school teacher for 25 years before her retirement. Her credentials and clean history of no criminal charges made no difference. She only received 34.7 percent of the vote (the minority population of the district is just 37 percent).
The House of Representatives tends to be more radical than the Senate because of the smaller and more localized districts. While there are moderates in the House, there are more members who are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. There are also more members who are highly unqualified to be in Congress. The Senate has its bad eggs too. Alabama’s new Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville could very well make history as the most unqualified and incompetent, at least in recent memory. There are some awful people in the Senate, such as McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Cruz, etc., but they at least have some brains, even if they continuously make stupid, hateful, and often contradictory statements. Tuberville, however, takes the cake. He was a football coach known for being extremely lazy. Every time it appeared that his job would become challenging, he left the coaching position.
Furthermore, he’s a crook who defrauded investors of millions during his ownership of an investment company. His partner in the venture was convicted of fraud and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Tuberville turned on him during the trial and escaped being indicted. The Tommy Tuberville Foundation has also been found to mismanage the funds and lining the pockets of Tuberville. He was only elected because he somehow gained our previous president’s support, probably because he sucked up to the former president the most. Voters did not care that he had zero experience that showed he would make a good politician. They cared nothing about his inability to understand the most basic of civic lessons. They cared that he ran as a Republican, was hateful, and had the support of a Republican president. One of his first acts as a Senator was to cast a treasonous vote to overturn a legitimate election.
The point I want to make is that the American electorate is composed of millions of uneducated individuals who are easily swayed by propaganda and hate. Politicians feed on their fears when they actually do tell constituents what their policies are. When NBC News asked Greene’s constituents about the awful things she has said and supported, they simply did not care. One woman talked about how Greene was bold and spoke her mind; we heard Trump supporters say the same thing. Another woman said she didn’t care what Greene had said or done; she still supported the congresswoman. These attitudes and the radicalization and encouragement of extremists led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A lack of education is a dangerous thing because it makes people too impressionable and gullible.
In the late 1970s and through the 1980s, the bath and beauty company Calgon produced some iconic advertisements. One of the commercials for Calgon bath powder from 1978 starts with woman considering all the hectic and stressful events in her life. She mentions traffic, her boss, a crying baby, and the dogs. Then she said “That does it! Calgon, take me away!” In another advertisement, a woman wearing a fluffy pink robe is seen in a chaotic home scenario. As tension rises, she utters the slogan “Calgon, take me away!” The next scene shows her relaxing in a bath in a quiet room.
I remember these commercials when I was a kid, and last night as I was thinking of all the aggravation of the day, the slogan came in my head, “Calgon, take me away!” Yesterday was was not exactly stressful, but it was aggravating. I had a virtual staff meeting that seemed to drone on forever. Then, my mother called which in itself is a little aggravating at times.
The most aggravating was dealing with my boss’s insecurities. Yesterday afternoon, I sent some promotional material for some upcoming public programs for the museum to my boss, and he sent them back commenting that he “made several grammatical and wording changes.” I wouldn’t have minded this too much except I knew these were perfect. I’d had an editor, my friend Susan, look over them before I sent them for his approval. Every time I send him something that just needs his quick approval, he makes stupid changes. He does this to all of us because he’s so insecure in his own abilities that he uses thins like this to exert his authority. It’s aggravating because: 1) I am far better educated than he is, 2) I used to teach English and grammar and 3) he has the worst grammar of anyone who works for the museum. So, yes, it pisses me off when he makes changes just so he can look like he’s doing something.
Furthermore, the university where I work is having a COVID outbreak because students broke quarantine, and now we are getting close to the threshold where the state says we will have to transition completely virtual learning for the semester. If that happens, we will have a huge budget shortfall, and we have been told before that if this happens, there will be layoffs. They are doing everything they can to keep all employees working. Our university president released a message last night saying that they believe the university has the situation under control. However, it’s not clear yet if in person classes will be able to begin next week or not.
Add to all of this, I need a vacation. I usually take a vacation or two each year to get away from the stress of life and work. However, the pandemic hasn’t allowed me to travel for over a year. I did not go home at Christmas and New Years, and I haven’t had any other trips. I’d love to head up to Montreal for a few days or down to Manhattan to see my friend Susan. Since I moved to Vermont, I have done more traveling than I have ever done previously in my life. Most of my traveling has been for work, but it was rarely all work and no play. I just want to get away somewhere. However, I don’t think a bubble bath is going to do it. I think we are all feeling this way, so “Calgon, take me away!”
I don’t have much to say today. A lot is going on in the news. There was a tornado in Fultondale, Alabama. Senator Patrick Leahy was hospitalized last night, but apparently, he was released a short time later. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Fultondale and with Senator Leahy. There are other things I could write about, but as I was writing this last night, I just wasn’t up to writing much. Every once in a while, I just need to take a day off.