Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, August 31, 2012

God help us.

Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I'm a political junkie.

My addiction is so bad that I confess that I have been on a three-day binge. I actually watched most of the speeches at the Republican National Convention. Yes, I listened to Rick Santorum, John McCain, Chris Christie, Tim Pawlenty, Ann Romney, Condoleeza Rice, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and, last night, God help me, Clint Eastwood and Mitt Romney.

I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and that the last three evenings have become unmanageable.

I suspected that I had reached my limit after hearing the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, aptly nicknamed "Lyin' Ryan," say things that were so untrue even Fox News commentator, Sally Kohn, said his speech could be described in three words: Dazzling, Deceiving and Distracting.

True addict that I am, I pressed on. I could handle "just one more" night. I promised myself I'd stop after that, turn off the television set and try to sleep.

I knew I had gone "over my limit" when Marco Rubio took to the stage.  I'll be honest: The man scares the beejeesus out of me. He's like a 'boilermaker' - a mug of beer with a shot glass of whiskey at the bottom - for the true political addict.

I knew I was getting in trouble when he started talking about "American Exceptionalism". I could feel my stomach getting full from the beer when he said, "This country was founded on the principal that every American has God given rights.....that power belongs to the people ('Except reproductive rights for women and marriage equality for LGBT people', I heard myself yell at the TV, as Ms. Conroy called from the other room, 'Don't you think it's time to turn off the TV and read a book?)......we should be free to go as far as our talent and our work can take us."

And then the shot of whiskey hit when I heard him say, "We're special.....And Almighty God is the source of all we have! ('Oh, God help us', said out loud) ....We're special because we know that faith in God is the most important American value we have......And, we're special because we understand the scriptural admonition that to whom much is given, much will be required."

"Right!" I yelled at the TV set, startling the dogs, "Which is why the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have to go! Seriously! Are you kidding me right now? Are you listening to yourself?"

I could hear Ms. Conroy groan. My head started to pound.

As Rubio blathered on and on about "American Exceptionalism" and how "uniquely blessed we are as a nation," I could feel myself start to get a bit woozy. I mean, he's not the post-Revolution anti-Castro refugee Cuban he pretends to be - his family came prior to the revolution because of casino business problems! 

It's not about a pristine ideology of 'freedom'. It's about the freedom to be as greedy as you wanna be.

I got up to get a glass of water. I fully intended to come back, turn off the TV and go to bed. True addict that I am, I got hooked by the fact that Clint Eastwood was next on the agenda.

"We are delusional and detached. Vote for us!"
"Good!" I said out loud.  "I loved 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Grand Torino'. At least this will be entertaining." (Addictions can alter your perception of reality.)

Well, if your cup of tea is watching an 82 year old man talk to an empty chair as if the President were sitting in it, I suppose you were entertained. The crowd seemed to love him.

They even cheered him loudly and with enthusiasm when he talked about Afghanistan and said, "I think Mr. Romney asked the only sensible question, you know, he says, "Why are you giving the date out now? Why don't you just bring them home tomorrow morning?" Eastwood said.

I mean, at this point, I had enough self-awareness left to know that, while I was absolutely hammered on political speeches, even I was aware of the awkward spectacle of a Republican convention roaring for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battlefield.

Look, I haven't been physically drunk since my early 20s. I clearly remember vomiting in the back seat of my husband's car on the way home from a New Year's Eve party and still had to get up in the morning to tend to the kids. I swore I'd never drink that much again.

I hate to admit it, but as I have gotten older, my tolerance for alcohol has seriously diminished. I simply don't drink the way I used to because I can't. I don't like the way it makes me feel.

I haven't been tipsy or even drunk in a long, long while, but I do remember clearly that, when you are drunk, there often comes one sobering moment when someone says something and the words hit you like an ice-cold glass of water thrown in your face.

That moment came when Eastwood said, "I'd just like to say something, ladies and gentleman, something I think is very important. It's that you - we - We OWN this country!"

I sat up in my chair, stone-cold sober, and gasped. There it is, I thought. In 'the good and the bad' of this country, there was 'the ugly', staring at me, right in the face.

The crowd roared its approval. He mumbled a few more things about politicians being our employees and then he repeated the jingoistic mantra of this political party: "You are - we are - the BEST in the world....and we should not ever forget that."

I thought sure he was going to put on a Brown Shirt and everyone would start singing, "Edelweiss".

I know, I know. You're going to tell me that I've slipped into the point in the conversation where Godwin's Law kicks into effect: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches."

Anybody remember history? Anybody remember the 1930s-40s? Anybody remember a humble painter from a small village in Germany who rose to power by telling the people of that country that they were the best. Indeed, they were the 'superior race'? Anybody remember what happened after that? To Jews and Gypsies and People of Color and LGBT people and handicapped people?

This is not hyperbole. Listen to these guys. Read the Republican National Platform. No to reproductive justice for women. No to marriage equality. No to immigration. No to the Affordable Health Care Act. No to Medicare and Medicaid. Cut assistance like Food Stamps and WIC for the poor. No to eliminating tax cuts for the rich.

Which is all fine. Really. This is a free country. You and I can disagree. It's part of the process that our founders knew would make us a "more perfect union". Add the jingoistic language of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism, all sprinkled with talk of God and draped in the American flag, and you'll understand my concerns.

Look, I know many Republicans. I live with one. The Republicans I know don't think like that. They are deeply concerned about the economy, as am I. The reasonable ones even admit that four years is not long enough to turn things around after the eight year debacle that was the Bush Administration.

They visibly cringe when they recall Pat Buchanana's "Culture Wars" speech twenty years ago. Many think I should be "satisfied" with Civil Unions and not Marriage. There are many who are firmly opposed to abortion but can find compassion when talking about victims of rape or incest or in situations where the life of the mother is in danger. They understand my position on immigration but fall into predictable rhetoric about the need to 'secure our borders'.

And they hear "American Exceptionalism" as necessary to restore the "hope that brings change" we need in order to get this country back on its feet. They hear the Romney-Ryan rhetoric about the economy and tune out all the rest.

I think that's what Romney was hoping for in his speech. Yes, I watched it and listened carefully to it. I was stone-cold sober at that point. He was clearly going for the Republicans who did not vote for a Republican candidate four years ago.

As Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist who advised McCain, said, it was not the best speech he's heard and it wasn't the worst speech he's heard, but it was the best speech he's ever heard Romney give.

Which, actually, is damning the man with faint praise.

I was absolutely outraged when I heard Romney say, "If you want to get the job done, get an American to do it." I mean, was that absolutely necessary? Are there really that many 'Birthers' in the Republican Party?

Don't answer that. I think I know. There many not be many, but the ones there are have full, deep pockets. Money talks, and that was the money talking.

Bad form, Mitt. Bad form.

What I want to know is this: When did "liberty and justice for all" become "money and power for some"?  When did "This is our country" turn into "We OWN this country"?

When did the sacrifice our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents make to establish a life in this country become a political prop when it is not a cover for political greed? Where is our remorse for the injustice of the "First People" - those who continue to sacrifice THEIR country to our sense of what God wants for "us" - or African-American people who were brought here to work as slaves and continue to suffer the highest rate of unemployment and experience the greatest degree of poverty?

I may well be addicted to politics but it seems to me that a few people in this country have a serious, debilitating addiction to money and wealth and power.  A 12-Step Program may be in order.

I'm happy to work on my addiction. In fact, I think this last binge may have helped me to hit the "bottom" many addicts need in order to seek sobriety and recovery.

I do have a modest proposal, however, for politicians - Republican and Democrat. Instead of ending every political speech with "And God Bless America", perhaps we should say, "God help America."

Okay, to appease the Republicans, we could say, "In God we trust". After all, it IS what's written on every piece of US- minted currency.

We ARE blessed, as a nation. That's not the point. We need to share more of our blessings with others.  We need just a little more humility, a little more focus on servant leadership in our politicians and law makers and government representatives, in order to make this country great again.

I think we need to remember that "pride goeth before the fall."

We can do better. Yes we can. With God's help.

But, maybe no one will really know the truth of that until after the elections in November.

God help us!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rape 101: A Primer for People of Faith

The Rape of Tamar -  (2 Samuel 13:1-22)
The Republican Party has approved a platform for 2012 that is virtually unchanged from 2004 and 2008.  What has changed is the number of media outlets and activists pointing out that there’s no exception for rape or incest.

Mostly importantly, the comments by Rep. Akin which describe "forcible rape" and others like Sen. Ryan, the VP nominee, who speaks of "rape as another method of conception," reveal a stunning lack of basic biological knowledge as well as compassion and understanding for the rape victim.

Since the issues of faith and religion have been made to take center stage in the political arena, the question arises about a faith-based response to the issues of reproductive justice.

What are people of faith to make of all this? How can we begin to broach a subject that is often seen as off-limits in religious communities of faith? What can pastors and religious leaders - lay and ordained - do in their congregation or campus group to stop sexual violence and promote sexual health and well-being?

I have a few suggestions.

I am offering some facts and talking points and pastoral considerations, as well as some passages from tradition and scripture which speak to the issue of sexual violence. I hope these will provide a springboard for discussion and thoughtful reflection.

This is not an exhaustive list, but one which I hope will provide some resources so that people of faith might have an opportunity to have intelligent conversations and make informed decisions.


+ Rape is an act of violence.
Historically, rape was defined as unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman against her will. The essential elements of the crime were sexual penetration, force, and lack of consent. Women who were raped were expected to have physically resisted to the utmost of their powers or their assailant would not be convicted of rape. Additionally, a husband could have sex with his wife against her will without being charged with rape. Beginning in the 1970s, state legislatures and courts expanded and redefined the crime of rape to reflect modern notions of equality and legal propriety.
The Rape of Dinah
+ Although the overwhelming majority of victims are women, rape can and does happen to men.
As of the early 2000s, all states define rape without reference to the sex of the victim and the perpetrator. Though the overwhelming majority of rape victims are women, a woman may be convicted of raping a man, a man may be convicted of raping a man, and a woman may be convicted of raping another woman. Furthermore, a spouse may be convicted of rape if the perpetrator forces the other spouse to have non-consensual sex. Many states do not punish the rape of a spouse as severely as the rape of a non-spouse.

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics state that 91% of rape victims are female and 9% are male, and 99% of rapists are male.

Among patients at psychiatric hospitals, rates of sexual assault among women patients average around 38%.

The percentage of U.S. women who have experienced rape at least once in their lifetime (so far), is in the range of 14.5% - 33% (statistics vary depending on the source and the date of the study).
+ Rape is an act of violence because it is a sexual act which happens without consent. 
Persons who are physically or mentally helpless or who are under a certain age in relation to the perpetrator are deemed legally incapable of consenting to sex.

If a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol - consumed voluntarily or given to them surreptitiously - they are deemed legally incapable of consenting to sex.

In the United States the use of drugs, especially alcohol, frequently plays a part in rape. In 47% of rapes, both the victim and the perpetrator had been drinking. In 17%, only the perpetrator had been. 7% of the time, only the victim had been drinking. Rapes where neither the victim nor the perpetrator had been drinking account for 29% of all rapes.
+ Over two thirds of all rapes occur in someone's home. 
30.9% of rapes occur in the perpetrators' homes, 26.6% in the victims' homes and 10.1% in homes shared by the victim and perpetrator. 7.2% occur at parties, 7.2% in vehicles, 3.6% outdoors and 2.2% in bars.

This often leads to an under-reporting of rape because of the myth that rape is committed by a stranger. It deepens the sense of betrayal, shame and guilt.

People who have experienced a sexual assault are more likely to develop depression, an anxiety disorder, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol and drug problems. High rates of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are also found among people who have experienced rape. Studies have found that 31% to 57% of women who had experienced a rape also have PTSD at some point after the rape.
+ Rapes are rarely reported to law enforcement. 
The 2007 report for the Department of Justice shows only 18% cases of rape reported in the general population sample.

The accuracy of the statistics on male on male rape that occurs in prisons are difficult to obtain and verify, but the wide agreement and understanding by public health officials is that prison rape is the leading cause of the soaring rate of the transmission of HIV and AIDS in this population.
Every year, more than 200,000 individuals report their rape to the police. Almost all are asked to submit to the collection of DNA evidence from their bodies, which is then stored in a small package called a rape kit.  Unfortunately, in the United States today there are an estimated 400,000-500,000 untested rape kits sitting in police evidence storage facilities and crime labs across the country. (Human Rights Watch)
RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) reports that out of every 100 rapes, only 46 are reported to the police, 12 lead to arrest, 9 get prosecuted, 5 lead to a felony conviction, 3 rapists will spend even a single day in prison. 
+ While there are varying legal definitions of rape, the bottom line is that rape is rape. 
Rape is an act of violence. Rape is not about love, it is about an abuse of power. No one ever "asks" or "wants" to be raped, no matter the manner of their attire. No one "deserves" to be raped, no matter the circumstances. Rape is a crime. While conception may occur after rape, in no way can it be considered merely a "method of conception". 
Jesus and the woman to be stoned (Jn 7:53-8:1)

+ The first rule in providing pastoral care to victims of abuse is to give power back, in order to counter the power that was taken away. Denying a rape victim access to information about all options and lack of support for an informed, independent decision-making process only increases suffering.

+ All religious community leaders need to have available a list of community resources, including the number and location of rape crises counseling centers, pastoral counselors and social workers with expertise in rape and sexual assault recovery and post traumatic stress disorder, and medical professional who can discuss the options open to a woman who becomes pregnant after rape.

+ One of the hallmarks of any major religion is compassion. All rape is real and harmful, and no victim of sexual violence deserves to be doubted, questioned or judged for her subsequent decisions if a pregnancy results.

+ A woman deserves whatever resources she needs to heal, including the ability to make her own personal health care decisions which may include the option of abortion.

+ The ideal of "sanctity of life" and notions of "respect for life" includes the life of the pregnant woman - her physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual life.

+ Supporting abortion in cases of rape does not diminish a 'pro-life' position. Compassion and respect for a victim of rape is a manifestation of mature religious values.


Bible studies, educational forums and/or sermons that consider scriptural references to rape can be a good way to raise awareness of the issues concerning rape in communities of faith.

Dinah (Genesis 34)
In all scriptural study and preaching, it is important to remember the historical and cultural context of the passage. In ancient cultures (as in some, even today), women were considered property. The ancient mind understood that the male "seed" contained all that was necessary to create a human being, the woman merely providing the "fertile ground" in which the seed would develop.

It is also important to discuss our own cultural context and the evolution of thought concerning the equality of women:

Keep in mind, as well, Genesis 5:2 "(God) created them male and female; and blessed them: and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created". Adam is the Hebrew word for "mankind" or "humanity" (as opposed to iysh, which refers to a male human being).

The following are a few of the scriptural references to rape, not surprisingly, many of them in the context of war.

The rape of Lot's daughters (Genesis 19)

The rape of Dinah  (Genesis 34)

Murder, rape, and pillage at Jabesh-gilead  (Judges 21:10-24)

Murder, rape and pillage of the Midianites    (Numbers 31:7-18)

More Murder Rape and Pillage   (Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

Rape of Female Captives (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)

Laws of Rape   (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

Death to the Rape Victim   (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

Rape and the Spoils of War (Judges 5:30)

The Rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-22

The Adulterous Woman (Or, had she been raped?) (John 7:53-8:11)

A discussion of the rape and suicide of Lucretia in Augustine's City of God (1:19 - see also Virgina Burrus' remarks) may also be helpful. 

You may also find helpful a discussion of the portrayals of rape in Greek mythology (eg. Haides abduction and rape of Persephone, The rape of Europa and many others by Zeus, The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, etc.) as well as the depictions of rape in classical art.

Do visit the webpage of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (, where you will find a plethora of resources, including a Speaker's Bureau, a Fact Sheet about Safeguards for Women, educational seminars and webinars - some targeted for Black and Hispanic audiences - as well as statements about reproductive justice from all of the major religious denominations.

I hope this is helpful to you.  Our congregations and campus groups need to support effective, reality-based sex education and other programs that prevent sexual violence. This becomes even more critically important in these highly politically-charged times.

It is always risky to discuss issues like rape and abortion in communities of faith. Religious leaders are those who take risks for the sake of the betterment of their communities of faith.

We need them now, more than ever.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Confirmation: The birth of an activist

I was in Confirmation Class, a dutiful if not dissatisfied young Roman Catholic, when Sr. Mary Clement announced that our class was going to take a field trip to Washington, DC.

It was emphasized that the purpose of our trip was to tour "this magnificent City, our Nation's Capitol" - the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, Congress - the highlight of the trip was, of course, to attend Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Sisters had worked it out so that the entire trip cost $10 (we had been saving for this all year), which included the cost of the bus - at a special rate by one of the members of the congregation who owned a transportation company - breakfast served by the Altar Guild before we left, and sandwiches packed for us by the St. Martha's Guild of women, and - Oh, joy! - the promise of a hot dog a bag of chips and a can of soda for supper, the cost of which had been donated by the St. Joseph's Guild of men. Imagine! All this and "going out to eat"!

We would stay overnight in one of the sister-convents, have breakfast and then leave bright and early the next day for the return trip home. The sisters would pack us lunch and we'd be home in time for dinner. What a deal!

The date just happened to be August 28, 1963. Great time for tourists to visit our Nation's Capitol. Lots of kids would be heading back to school, so probably not a lot of crowds. 

Oh, and by the way, while we were there - I mean, you know, "as long as we were there" - to take part in one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history. 

The nuns didn't tell us about the last part until we were on the bus. If most of our parents had known - if MY parents had known - they never would have let us go.

We left before the very crack of dawn. I remember it being like, 5 AM. It was going to be a loooong trip.  Seven hours, I think.  We would have the whole afternoon and early evening in the City.

I was so excited I could barely sleep that night and had no problem staying awake for the entire trip. I had never been out of New England - just a few "day-cations" with the family to visit relatives in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

This was a Very Big Deal.

Before we started the actual trip, we had to say prayers for safe travel.  We said the whole, entire rosary with an Act of Contrition thrown in, you know, just in case we were in an accident. Sr. Mary Clement had a bag of brown scapulars which she handed out, just in case we had forgotten our own, so if that accident happened and we were killed, we were promised to go directly to heaven.

Nuns have such a way of providing comfort and solace.

When were on the bus, maybe about 20 miles away from home to be certain that our parents couldn't hear, Mother Superior took to the microphone. That's when she told us that, while we were there, we would be "attending" the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" as it was originally known.

This raised neither concern nor excitement among us. As immigrant kids whose parents worked in factories, we were used to being on strike lines or playing softball or Jax or skipping rope in the church parking lot while our parents were in the Parish Hall attending a Labor Union Organizing Meeting. This sounded no different.

Our parents did this, they said, because they wanted to make the American Dream a reality for us. So that we could live better than our parents and grandparents did "back in the old country". Making dreams a reality takes "hard work and sacrifice" they said. So, we worked hard and sacrificed. It was just part of the reality of our lives.

We thought - I thought - okay, we'll make an appearance and then onto the White House. I so wanted to see President Kennedy. Maybe he'd be out on the lawn playing with Caroline and John-John. Maybe we'd be able to see Jackie in the Rose Garden.

My grandmother had two pictures over the kitchen table. One was of Jesus - his high school graduation picture, with his hair neatly combed and appropriate back lighting. The other was of John F. Kennedy - young, handsome, the Irish Flag written all over his face and the American Flag in the background. Oh, and Roman Catholic, so you knew he was in tight with Jesus.

We didn't see the White House. Well, we saw if from the bus. We also drove by Congress and a couple of Museums and we DID attend Mass at the Basilica, but mostly we walked. Miles. Miles and Miles and Miles.

We got off the bus about ten or twelve blocks from the Washington Monument and the Mall and, after some appropriate prayers and instructions about holding each other's hands and "making Mary, the Mother of God, proud of us", we started walking.

The place was buzzing with people. I had never seen so many people in one place in my entire life.

Suddenly, gradually, it dawned on me. I had never seen so many Black people in my entire life. Well, then, we called them "Negroes". That's not what my father called them. It was an "n" word, but not "Negro". I began to realize that this was not going to be the same as a Labor Union Demonstration.

While I was used to - sort of - being an ethnic minority as the child of Portuguese immigrants, I had never been in a situation of racial minority. It felt strange. I remember being a little bit scared. I looked ahead to see Mother Superior and some of the other nuns and they were smiling and waving to the people, engaging other participants in the March in conversation.

I remember thinking that while it all felt foreign to me it all felt natural and right.

It was the first time that I realized that my parents were wrong. I had considered the possibility many times - mostly about disciplinary stuff. This was different. Very different.

I knew that they were wrong to think badly of people because of the color of their skin. I knew that they were wrong to keep people of color out of the labor union movement, and the ballot boxes and the lunch counters. I knew they were just as wrong to call them the "n" word as the light-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired girls in the Public School were to snicker and laugh at me and move away from the lunch table when I tried to join them, calling me a "Dirty Greenhorn".

Now, I knew. My parents were wrong. Really, really, really wrong.

I remember that revelation surging through my body like a bolt of lightening. It changed and transformed me and I was never again the same.

We didn't see or hear much that day, except lots of other kids from lots of other Confirmation Classes who were there with the nuns from their church. And, lots and lots of other People of Color - mostly African-Americans but some Hispanics and people of Asian descent.

At one point, we ran into a group there from the Baltimore sister convent of our nuns. There was a joyful reunion of these women in black, who didn't seem to break a sweat even though they were all bundled up in their starched white wimples and long flowing veils. I remember the sound of their rosary beads, which hung from their thick, black belts, clanging together.

There was this one African American girl, about my age, who was with that group. Indeed, most of the kids from that Baltimore Catholic School were children of color.

She looked at me suspiciously. "Here with the nuns?" she asked.

"Yes," I said timidly. I had just had this revelation about my parents and was trying to figure out what that all meant and was a little intimidated by her confidence and poise and sense of self.

"You Catholic?" she said.

"Yes.....yes, I am...." I said, suddenly - probably for the first time - pleased to admit that. My parents may have been bigots, but clearly, my church was not. Well, obviously, not on this issue.

"Well, good!" she said and smiled. "So am I. That's my pastor over there."

I looked where she pointed and was mildly surprised to see a jovial old Irishman in clergy shirt, glad-handing everyone when his arms weren't wrapped around several African-American children.

"We're not going to see much today," she said in a voice much older than her years, "but after everything is over, we're going to have hot dogs and a bag of chips and a whole can of soda."

"Me, too!" I said, excitedly.

We giggled and squealed at the very thought of it. I mean, how great was THAT!?!"

She put her arm around me and gave me a hug and said, "We'll walk together. You stay with me. Then, after the speeches and stuff, we'll have our hot dogs together."

I shook my head in excited agreement and we held hands the whole rest of the day. Somewhere during that day, I remember thinking that I had never held the hand of a person of color when she looked at me and said, "I've never held hands with a white girl before."

"Me, neither," I said. "I mean....well... you know....."

We both giggled with embarrassment and delight.  "I can't wait for that hot dog, can you?" she said.

"No, I said. I've seen some people eat them at the lunch counter at Kresge's Five and Dime, but I've never had a hot dog outside my house. Or, when it wasn't in my mother's hot dog stew. She puts green beans and carrots and peas in it. Yuck!"

"Mine, too," she said, skipping over the fact I remembered only years later: she wasn't allowed to eat at lunch counter at Kresge's Five and Dime. Now was the time for finding things we shared in common.

"Why do mothers do that, anyway?" she asked, disgustedly. "Must be to torment kids."

"Exactly!" I said. "All mothers are the same."

"Yup," she said. "You're a lot like me. I'm a lot like you. Turns out, we're all really the same."

Martin Luther King, Jr. was up there - way, way far away - talking about his dream, which we couldn't really hear because we were so far away.

It didn't really matter. We had already started to live it.

On August 28, 1963, more than 2,000 buses, 21 special trains, 10 chartered airliners, and uncounted cars converged on Washington. All regularly scheduled planes, trains, and buses were also filled to capacity. Police estimate that there were over 200,000 people who attended what is now known as "The March on Washington". March organizers estimate more than 300,000 were there.

Although I did not hear them, I remember hearing that some of my heroes like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary sang at the Lincoln Memorial. The nuns were especially moved by Mahalia Jackson singing "How I Got Over". I had never heard that song in church, and wondered if we'd start singing it. We never did.

I did not actually hear Martin Luther King say, "I have a dream", but I heard it repeated by people of all races who were all around me. It became a mantra. We repeated it softly to ourselves, like saying the rosary. Only better, somehow.

I do not remember the name of the little girl whose hand I held that whole entire day, but I do remember waiting for her to get her hot dog so we could both take a bite out of it together. I remember the look of ecstasy on her face, and I knew that my face mirrored it. 

I remember than some mustard got on her white blouse and I took my napkin over to the fountain to blot it with water so the stain wouldn't set it and her mother wouldn't be as angry as I knew my mother would be.  Later, one of the nuns whipped out a bar of Octagon soap from her pocket (Who but a nun would carry a bar of soap in her pocket?) and we got the stain out.

I don't remember much else about that day - not even the convent where we spent the night or much about the ride home. I never told my parents about that day. As far as I know, they both went to their graves not knowing what I really did that day. Maybe they did. I only know we never talked about it.

One hundred and forty-nine years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Forty-nine years ago today, hundreds of thousands of people Marched on Washington.

And, forty-nine years ago today, I held the hand of a young woman just my age and marched into the realization that an activist is someone who realizes that her dream is different from the one her parents gave her, and is willing to "work hard and make sacrifices" in order to make that dream a reality.

It was quite a Confirmation.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thundershirt Jackets of Faith

Thundershirt Jacket
It has been raining for the past two days here in Lower, Slower Delaware.

Saturday night, Mother Nature put on a magnificent show. Problem was, she stayed on the stage for at least four encores.  I didn't hear any applause or encouragement for her to continue.

The rain started around 5 PM. The thunder and lightening commenced around 6 PM. The storms rolled in and out for the rest of the evening and into the night and never ended until 5 AM Sunday morning.

Between 11 PM Saturday and 4 AM Sunday, there were times when the entire house was as bright as if it were 10 AM on a beautiful, clear summer day. The thunder cracked so loudly that, at times, I feared a part of the house had been hit by lightening and the whole house might cave in.

At 3 AM, I watched the lightening dance from dark rain cloud to dark rain cloud in a pattern that made the Alvin Alley Dance Company look like they stand still during a jazz routine.

It was incredible - when it wasn't scary - and yet, with a terrible, terrifying beauty all its own.

At times, it looked as if the root system of the earth was being exposed on a weird sort of X-ray.

At other times, it looked as if the very arteries and veins of the universe had been captured on a radioactive C.A.T. scan or M.R.I.

Most of the time, it looked as if someone was using a flash camera behind the clouds. I kept myself amused thinking that a photographer was saying to the angels, "Okay. That's good, baby. Work it. Smile for the camera. That's it. More attitude. Gimme some more shoulder. Now, pout. Good. Nice. That's it. Work it."

Not to be outdone, the wind occasionally got into the act, howling its delight at the magnificent show that was unfolding. At times, it sounded like a crowd at a sports event, cheering the players on.

The dogs were not happy. Well, Theo is pretty non-plussed by storms. Every now and again, he would lift his head up from his pillow to acknowledge a loud clap of thunder, look over at his siblings, Ms. CoCo and Lenny, cowering and shaking in their Thundershirt Jackets, in bewilderment but with just the right amount of sympathy. 

Ms. Conroy got up around 3 AM to sit in the living room, holding Lenny close to her chest, with Ms. CoCo snuggled near her thigh.  About five minutes later, Theo decided to join the rest of the pack, content to stand - or, rolled up in a ball - in solidarity with his siblings.

The Thundershirt Jackets have worked well in the past few days we've had them - gradually increasing their tolerance - but this storm went on way too long.

Ms. CoCo didn't bark as she normally does but she was clearly frightened. Lenny did his usual panting and drooling and shivering and shaking but not as bad as without the Jacket.

Truth be told, both of their humans could have used one. It was pretty scary at times.

"Boatie" filled to the brim
We were fortunate. No damage done. No flooding anywhere in the neighborhood. Amazingly, we didn't even lose electricity or cable or the internet.

We do have some work to do to get the water out of "Boatie" our rubber boat which we foolishly left right-side-up on the deck. It's now so full of water we can't lift it to flip it over and get rid of the water. We're going to have to bale it out. Once it stops raining.

Meanwhile, just a few miles away in Rehoboth Beach, there was quite a lot of flooding.

Several restaurants and shops had to close because the water was coming in near the electric panels. One motel had serious flooding in their parking garages, the water covering the hoods of the cars. Great way to ruin a vacation at the beach.

There were trees down everywhere on the road, forcing some roads to close until the crews could come and cart them away. Other roads were closed because of flooding. We didn't make it to church yesterday because we had been up all night. Turns out, we wouldn't have been able to make it, anyway, because some of the roads were temporarily closed. 

After a relatively calm beginning to the day, the rain and thunder and lightening have started again this morning. I've put the Thundershirt Jackets back on Lenny and Ms. CoCo, who is seriously annoyed at the noise. Theo has joined her in a woof-growl as they both stand at the door and kvetch at Mother Nature. Lenny keeps looking at me as if to say, "Can't you make it stop? Please?"

I've been thinking about the folks in the Midwest where drought has caused more calamity to people's lives than water damage to cars. And, the folks in Haiti where several people have died in the aftermath of Hurricane Issac. And, the folks in NOLA who are bracing for another hurricane almost seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina.

I'm wondering what some members of the Tea Party faction of the RNC will make of all this, given their penchant to ascribe things to God that I'm betting make God giggle - when God doesn't become thoroughly disgusted because we don't use the intelligence with which we were created.

I'm growing more and more convinced that the War on Women is really just a larger part of a War on Critical Thinking.

The RNC officially opens today in Tampa, FL, but I understand that it is being rapidly convened and then postponed until sometime tomorrow  - perhaps even later, depending on the path of Hurricane Issac.

This is the second consecutive RNC that has been disrupted by a hurricane.

It's very tempting to make a snarky remark about that but, you know, that would be as dumb as those who talk about events of nature as "Acts of God".

When you're in the sixth grade, that sort of theology is understandable. Problem is, adults - especially those who want to be elected leaders in this country - have long ago graduated from the sixth grade.

My pups don't understand what's happening, so they bark and growl when they don't shiver and shake.  As adult human beings, we try to care for them, calming them and soothing them as best we know how, even as we deal with our own wonder and awe and anxiety and fear.

Weather happens. Bad stuff happens to good people. Bad stuff seems to keep happening to good people - a sucker punch of a hurricane a few years after a catastrophic earthquake.

I don't pretend to understand how it all works - or, why. I just know that when bad stuff happens, it is a measure of our humanity - and a standard of our Christianity - to help those in need who have been adversely affected by events of nature.

As I've been writing this, the rain and thunder and lightening have stopped and the sun is trying to break through. There have been at least three rainbows that have made appearances in the East in the last half hour.

I'd love to think it's a sign of some sort, but I know it's just the splitting of white sunlight into component colors by raindrops. As I understand it (and, I don't really), some of the light that falls on a water drop enters the drop. As it enters the drop, the color components of the sunlight are refracted or bent by different amounts depending upon their wavelength.

Got that? Of course you do. Your an intelligent person. It makes sense, right?

Still, it's sort of fun - if not comforting - to think of it as God's promise not to destroy the earth.

That's a thought I confess I hold onto when I look at the damage in some parts of my neighborhood and the potential hazards to other places which are predicted by the oncoming hurricane.

Yes, we've been having - and continue to have - rain and some "extreme weather". Some places are experiencing severe drought. Other places have still not fully recovered, seven years later, from "extreme weather" even as they prepare for more.

It doesn't make any sense. Lots of stuff in life doesn't. I don't think it's supposed to. Not completely.

While I've got my brain fully engaged, I've got the eyes of my heart fixed firmly on the rainbow.

I like to think of it as my own "Thundershirt Jacket of Faith".

Sunday, August 26, 2012

" your hearts, by faith with thanksgiving"

When you're a Christian, there are some hard things you have to swallow.

Like, Jesus saying, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:53-59)

It's not just hyperbole in which Jesus is engaging. He means it.  Some of his disciples say to him, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?"

Right. Who indeed? Well, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox (the real ones, not the ones with a small 'o' and quotation marks around them). And, of course, some Anglicans. Those who walk on the theologically "higher" side of the Via Media.

For those who walk on the other side, there's the brilliance of the Elizabethan Settlement. After holding up the consecrated elements of bread and wine, Episcopal (Anglican) clergy say, "The gifts of God for the people of God," and are permitted to add, "Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving."

"....feed on him in your hearts by faith....". 

It's a way to keep everyone at the Table - Catholics and Protestants - those who believe in their heads as well as those who believe in their "hearts, by faith" that this is the actual body of Christ, who is "the gift of God for the people of God".

I've been thinking about this as I've listened to and read the plethora of news reports and articles and opinions about the issue of "legitimate rape" and abortion.

The 71st General Convention of The Episcopal Church passed Resolution 1994-A054 which states, in part:
We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community.
While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.
That part was actually taken from Resolution C047 at the 61st General Convention. In 1994, we added this:

We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.
 See also: " your hearts, by faith...."

We hold true to our Baptismal Vows to "respect the dignity of every human being" - including the dignity of the woman who is pregnant, affording her the right to have her "individual conscience" respected, the right to make an "informed decision" and not limiting "the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision".

And yet, we acknowledge that all abortions have a "tragic dimension" and that "legislation concerning abortion will not address the root of the problem".

Not everyone on either side of the issue of abortion is pleased with this statement. Those who are opposed to abortion under ANY circumstance lament that their church is not more blatantly "pro-life". Those who see that abortion can be a "blessing" to some women, lament that their church is not more aggressively "pro-choice".

From where I stand, it is a painfully honest statement.

The Episcopal Church wants means of legal abortion to continue while working to encourage conditions which would make abortions a less frequent occurrence.

Though the fact that The Episcopal Church is regularly identified as being pro-choice is accurate, it would be a misstatement to suggest that TEC is "in favor of abortions" or "promoting abortion." Rather, in regard to this issue, we seek to promote the sacredness of human life.

The Via Media - the classical "Middle Road" of Anglicanism - is not for sissies. 

It's interesting to me that this morning's passage from the sixth chapter of John's Gospel is actually the end of a sermon which Jesus delivers while traveling both sides of the lake near Capernum. It begins with the feeding of the multitudes from five loaves and two small fish which the disciples found a young boy to have. It ends with Jesus talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood as the food of eternal life with God.

Some of the disciples found this teaching "too hard" and they walked away. Jesus says to The Twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?”.

Peter responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"  


Funny thing is that I'm betting solid money that those who believe the junk science about "legitimate rape" not only don't believe but are repulsed by the hard teachings of Jesus concerning eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  I'm betting they are numbered among the disciples who chose to walk away.

And yet, they believe what they want to believe about the biology of a woman's reproductive system in order to satisfy their theology about what they believe sanctifies life. 

Jesus said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe."

From where I stand, there is only one way to go - one path to walk - in order to follow the hard teachings of Jesus.

That path, for me, is named "The Via Media".

In your hearts. By Faith. With Thanksgiving. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

EWC: A Call To Action.

Note: This is a statement from the Board of The Episcopal Women's Caucus yesterday. You can find a downloadable version here. Please take action! Visit "Contacting the Congress"  for information on how to reach the U.S. Senate & House of Representatives

Episcopal Women's Caucus calls Episcopal Church to action on reproductive justice

[August 24, 2012] The Board of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, a social justice advocacy group within the Episcopal Church, expresses our outrage at the current political discourse regarding reproductive justice.

We are appalled by the misinformation that speaks of “forcible rape” as something different from ordinary rape and asserts that, in a “legitimate rape,” a woman will not get pregnant, because her body has a way to “shut that whole thing down.”

Those of us who have worked to raise awareness about women’s rights and promoted changes in laws to more actively prosecute rapists, strengthen jail sentences, and help victims of rape and sexual assault find help and hope feel that we have back tracked in time. We are living a nightmare.

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus is committed to changing this nightmare, reinforcing and increasing acts of justice.

First, we take a firm stand against any and all representatives, senators and other legislators who aim to limit the health care options any woman — particularly a raped and pregnant woman — has available to her.

Second, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus supports Rev. Harry Knox, president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, when he writes:
“Congressman Akin misunderstands the Biblical meaning of the word ‘justice.’ He talks about bringing rapists to justice, but he apparently doesn’t realize that true justice requires that a woman who has been raped have every resource available to her as she rebuilds her life after trauma. One of those resources must be the option to end a pregnancy caused by her rapist.”
Additionally, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus calls upon the membership and leadership of the Episcopal church — at international, national, diocesan and local levels — to write to their representatives, senators and other legislators to express their outrage and distress about this archaic ideology and deeply flawed theology that is the foundation of this political and anti-women position.

In turning nightmares into dreams of justice, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus will actively work to ensure that people are informed and not misinformed. We actively work to promote the well-being of all people. Each woman should have the right to choose how to best care for herself, her whole self. Because we are made in the image of God, and that is sacred.

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus is a justice organization dedicated to Gospel values of equality and liberation and committed to the incarnation of God’s unconditional love. For more information, visit

Visit for information on how to reach the U.S. Senate & House of Representatives

One Term More!

I'm offering a little something for your Saturday morning listening pleasure - this political parody of "One Day More" from Les Miserables called "One Term More!"

I've embedded it below, but just in case that doesn't work, the link is here. (This link has subtitles so you can get all the words.)

The revised lyrics include such politically-charged lines as:
"One term more, a time to celebrate democracy, repeal Republican hypocrisy...this man who would unseat Barack (is) a bleak choice at the ballot box."

"A GOP perdition-bound, a sense of right and wrong eroded. With laws that let 'em stand their ground. Republicans are locked and loaded."

"Contraception's now a sin (Screwing G.M. in the clutch). Incivility's a virtue (Homophobic out of touch). Filibusters, budget scrums (Ultrasounds and speculums). To the Dark Side they've succumbed."
The message is clear: If you're tired of hypocrisy and lies, of immoral budget proposals that take from the poor to give to the rich and compromise reproductive justice for women, storm the ballot boxes.


Not only that, help reverse the effects of voter suppression and assist others to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

As Nelson Mandela said:
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
One term more!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I don't get it

There are lots of things I don't understand - things I use everyday and don't know how they work:

Electricity.  Radio - much less the difference between AM, FM and Sirius FM. Television - much less the difference between local and cable stations. Computers. The telephone. The cell phone. Cyberspace. Batteries.

And yet, I'm thinking that I could - if I really applied myself - learn to understand all these thing and do that better than understanding why anyone - but especially a woman - would vote for either Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan, given their stance on reproductive justice.

I understand. Reproductive Justice is among the top ten issues that concern voters. However, according to a recent poll, the top three issues votes are most concerned with are The Economy, Health Care and Medicare/Medicaid.

I get that. And, I agree with it. Here's what concerns me, however.

Demographic studies indicate that single, young women are one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups — there are 1.8 million more now than just two years ago.

They make up a quarter of the voting-age population nationally, and even more in several swing states, including Nevada.

They, too, are concerned about the economy and the debt, but their economic concerns are closer to home: employment, underemployment, paying the rent, affordable child care, quality education, and access to affordable, quality health care for themselves and their families.

I understand that. What I don't understand is why more women - especially those of childbearing age - aren't more outraged over the Republican Platform which will be ratified when the RNC has its convention in Tampa. It has been described “the most conservative platform in modern history.” Among other things, it calls for a “human life amendment” with no exemption for rape or incest and praises “informed consent” laws.

Is it apathy?  Or is it just that most young women have grown up not ever seeing women working in positions of authority: doctors, lawyers, politicians, judges, priests, athletes, etc., etc., etc? Have they simply assumed that this is the way the world works and don't know their history and don't understand how fragile the gains of social progress can be?

Or, is it that this generation of women grew up always knowing that reproductive justice had been won for them before they were born? Is it apathy informed by assumption and expectation?

Is it what Ann Coulter recently said in a Fox interview: "Ronald Reagan managed to win two landslides without winning the women’s vote, but it is as you say, it’s striking, it’s not the women’s vote generically, it is the single women’s vote. "

"And that’s because single women look to the government to be their husbands and give them, you know, prenatal care, and preschool care, and kindergarten care, and school lunches...."?

Or, is Ann Coulter just the (very unattractive) female mouthpiece for the RNC, telling them what they want women to say because she's discovered that she can make lots and lots of money on their ignorance and arrogance?

I really don't get it.

Do you?

If you do, would you fill me in? Honestly.

I would love to know.

Just leave your comment and I promise to read each and every one. Only those of you who identify yourself, however, will get your comment posted. No anonymous comments, please, unless you have something to say that would compromise you with your family or place of employment.

And, no nasty stuff, please. If you are a Democrat, no bashing, just explanation. If you are a Republican - especially if you are a woman, even if you're not of childbearing age  - please help me understand why you will vote for Romney-Ryan, given their policies on reproductive issues for women.  That would be really, really helpful.

Because, you know, I just don't get it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pussy Riot

I'll admit it. The first time I saw the headlines about "Pussy Riot" - the Russian punk rock women's group that was recently sentenced to two years in prison camp for their very brief protest of Putin's government at Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow - I thought, "Hmm, I wonder how 'pussy' translates in Russian and if they mean what I think it means".

So, I checked iGoogle Translate. Here's what I found:

кискаpussy, puss, kitty, pussycat, moggy, mog
пиздаcunt, pussy, quim, fanny, sissy, vagina
кошечкаpussycat, pussy, catling, puss, fox
девушкаgirl, lady, maiden, maid, lass, pussy
сережка на вербеpussy
мандаcunt, fanny, pussy, quim, sissy, vagina
женские половые `органыvagina, fanny, pussy, quim

However, when I typed in the words "Pussy Riot", what I got was "Pussy Riot".

I'm thinking I'm not the only one who is curious about the name of this group. I'll bet they 'cleaned up' the translation in the past week.

Something in me giggled wickedly as I typed in, "Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!" on my laptop just to see if the Google police would censure me.

They didn't.  That only happens in the Michigan Senate.

So, other than the interesting - if not just a tad vulgar - headlines, what's the story behind the "Pussy Riot" in Russia and what ever does that have to do with the price of caviar?

Turns out, a lot.

Three members of the punk rock band, Pussy Riot - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, ages 22-30 - were arrested in March for an extremely brief performance in Moscow’s main cathedral that featured an anti-Putin song. 

Pussy Riot called their “punk prayer” “Mother of the Lord, Chase Putin Out,” invoking that young Palestinian woman who desired that the mighty be brought down, the lowly lifted up and the hungry fed.

Her story, and that of her son, was also to end up in court. And the charge against him was not wholly dissimilar.

Pussy Riot emphasized that the act was a political protest against Patriarch Lukashenko (the representative of the Orthodox church's hierarchy) campaigning for Putin in the Presidential race.

However, the official charges were “hooliganism driven by religious hatred”. The judge bluntly denied that there was any political inspiration, and ruled instead that religious hatred was the motive of Pussy Riot’s performance.

Each of the three women, two of whom have children, were sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison where, Nikolai Polozov, their lawyer says, “We have a serious basis to think they can be faced with physical harm, moral pressure and even violence.”

In the closing section of the verdict, Judge Marina Syrova read “psychiatric-psychological examinations” of Nadia, Masha, and Katya, as the women are known. All three were found to suffer from a “mixed-personality disorder,” a condition that included different combinations of a “proactive approach to life,” “a drive for self-fulfillment,” “stubbornly defending their opinion,” “inflated self-esteem,” “inclination to opposition behavior,” and “propensity for protest reactions.”

Oh, no! Women with an 'inflated self-esteem', a 'drive for self-fulfillment', and a 'proactive approach to life'? That's quite a "mixed-personality disorder". We can't have that! Women are supposed to be humble and subservient. You know, they should know their "place" - and stay in it. In silence.

Gulag Archipelago, anyone? Wiki reports: "Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Russian Federation, The Gulag Archipelago is included in the high school program in Russia as mandatory reading in 2009".  

Ironies abound.

What's fascinating to me is that Pussy Riot’s feminism and expressions of frustration at the political stasis in Russia (aided, in their view, by the Orthodox Church), was branded by the Church—and the supposed victims who were injured by the performance—as deviant acts that offended their feelings and violated their religious rights.
Hmmm....Christians claiming that they are "offended" and that their "rights have been violated" by women who are protesting that their rights have been compromised.  The "church" acting as an agent of the state for its own benefit and political expediency?
Where have we heard this before?  

Lemme give you a clue: It's not Russia. 
Yeppa. It's right here in the good ole US of A. 
The Republican National Committee has just approved platform language on Tuesday calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or incest
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” said the draft platform language approved Tuesday, which was first reported by CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
This, of course, makes it very awkward for the Romney-Ryan ticket. They've spent most of this week trying to distance themselves from Todd Aiken, the Missouri Republican who hopes to get elected to Congress.

Aiken claims that a woman can't get pregnant if the rape is "forcible" because something happens in a woman's body that "shuts everything down".

Mitt Romney has denounced Mr. Akin’s comments about rape and abortion and has said that he supports exceptions to allow abortions in cases of rape.

His running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, was already drawing scrutiny for his support for a more absolute ban on abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.
The Republican Party Platform is fueled, of course, by the socially conservative, Evangelical Right and their ideological counterparts, the Tea Party.

Need I point out that Romney is a committed Mormon and Ryan is a "devout" Roman Catholic? Well, as devout as one can be when one claims to have been influenced ideologically by atheist, Ayn Rand.

No, I need not point out the religious affiliations of either candidate because they are only too happy to tell us every chance they get. (Which gives others the chance to whisper that the President of the United States is a Muslim - when they're not tittering that he's a godless Socialist, who, of course, was born in Kenya.)

But really, folks, this campaign is about the economy and jobs. That's all. No, really. Seriously.

They'll "get back to you" on that as soon as they can get the idiots in their party to shut their mouths. Problem is, they have so many of them. Until then, "you're just going to have to trust" them on this.

Make no mistake: What happened in Russia with the women from Pussy Riot is but one verse of the same song being played in America with the planned oppression of reproductive rights for women.

It's the odd couple of politics and religion, claiming to want smaller government while they take up residence in a woman's reproductive system so they can be in control of creation.

As Mary Daly said years ago, "If God is male, then male is god".

If He - (ahem, God) - created the universe, then men should have control over creation. And, procreation. It really is as simple - and as dangerous - as that.

The women of Pussy Riot were determined to suffer from an "inflated self-esteem". Women who are raped are only saying they were because they want an abortion. See? "Everybody" knows that if it's "legitimate rape", they would never get pregnant.

Talk about your "proactive approach to life"!

The intriguing part of this Pussy Riot story for me is the shift in the role of the church in Russia. It has moved from 'ecclesia non grata' during the Soviet era to its current role, under KGB-connected Patriarch Kirill I, as Putin’s unofficial bulldog, defending the faith and the state from dangerous dissent.

Ironies abound.

Except, of course, when things are politically expedient. Then, they make perfect sense.

I think iGoogle has it right to translate English to Russian "Pussy Riot" to "Pussy Riot".  It's the same whether it's in English or Russian. Nothing is lost in translation.

Indeed, I think we need a bit of a pussy riot in this country. Time for women - and the men who love us - to speak up for democracy and speak out against theocracy.

Pussy Riot is still making music from the Gulag.  A recording of their new song, "Putin Lights Up the Fires" has just been released. They sing:  Putin is lighting the fires of revolution / He's bored and scared of sharing silence with the people / With every execution: the stench of rotten ash /
With every long sentence: a wet dream". 

You don't have to be a member of a punk-rock band to make your voice heard and known - in the church or the State. You, too, can be guilty of a “proactive approach to life,” an "inflated self-esteem," and “a drive for self-fulfillment."

One of the most politically radical prayers we have in the Prayer Book is "The Song of Mary".  Next time you pray or sing the "Magnificat" in church, remember the members of the Pussy Riot and say a special prayer for them. Remember also those women who are pregnant due to rape or incest - or any woman who is pregnant and doesn't want to be - and pray for them, too.

One of the sweetest songs in this country is our ability to vote.  It's the way we make our voices known and heard. Which is why women were the last to attain the right to vote in this country.

I seem to remember that, when women fought for the right to vote in this country, they, too, were determined to have psychiatric disorders and were imprisoned. When Suffragist Alice Paul went on a hunger strike in prison, she was moved to the prison’s psychiatric ward and force-fed raw eggs through a feeding tube.

November will be here before you know it.

Cause a pussy riot of your own.