Monday, April 30, 2018

Jeff Bezos: Standing Up for Gay Rights

Jennifer Cast, one of the first Amazon employees, asked Jeff Bezos to donate $100,000 to support a voter referendum on same-sex marriage in the state of Washington in 2012.

Bezos responded: "This is right for so many reasons. We're in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie.''

Thank you, Mr. Bezos, and thank you to Washington Post reporter Jonathan O'Connell for writing a report on the history of LGBTQ issues with Amazon and currently in connection with Amazon's search for a second headquarters.  In today's  print LA Times, it's titled "For Amazon, gay rights matter."  (posted on the LAT website on April 27)

Jeff Bezos - By U.S. Department of Defense photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz -, Public Domain,
Then Bill and Melinda Gates gave half a million, and Brad Pitt and others chipped in to support same-sex marriage in Washington, which passed 54% to 46%.  That's amazing, considering how much of that state is populated by people in Central & Eastern Washington and in small towns.  The liberal coast doesn't always prevail.

The search for a new Amazon headquarters (HQ2) is explicitly seeking a "compatible cultural and community environment" for its expected 50,000 employees.

Among the  twenty cities under consideration are Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, Washington D.C., and others in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, and North Carolina.  The last three states along with Texas would be cheapest for Amazon because of their "low-tax environments."  

But those four states may also have the least gay-friendly cultural environments.

  • North Carolina--"bathroom bill"
  • Georgia--proposals to restrict funding for same-sex adoption
  • Indiana--support of former Gov. Mike Pence, anti-abortion etc.
  • Texas--anti-abortion measures, etc.

The CEO of American Airlines, based in Ft. Worth, pointed out that there's some merit in going to a less-compatible cultural environment in order to change it.

And the pastor of a gay mega-church testified that Dallas has been friendly to him and his congregation.

But my advice, Mr. Bezos, is to go for Austin, not Dallas/Ft. Worth, if you like the low taxes in Texas.  Austin is a culturally better city with a university, like Seattle.

My cousin Racene McLaughlin has a daughter who was the top manager of the Walmart in Durango, Colorado.  

Three years ago this daughter moved her family to Dallas in order to manage a larger store within WalMart--but she moved back to Colorado less than a year later because of the "cultural environment."

Racism, specifically.  Though she and her husband are white folks from small-town Colorado, they were appalled by the culture of Texas.

Just saying, Mr. Bezos, look very carefully before you bet on Dallas.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Predators and How To Spot Them

I'm still wondering how this guy Joseph James DeAngelo got away with his rapes and murders over 40 years... 

And what was life like at home for his wife and three daughters?  Was he abusive or able to hide/control his rage and violence?

The article "Groomed for Abuse" by Maureen Farrell Garcia has given me a little insight.  It was published online at CT Pastors in January 2015.

Farrell Garcia says that sexual abuse is "always primarily about power and control."  She knows because she was an abused teen at age 14; she later married a man who sexually abused a female relative between the ages of 9-12.  In her anguish at learning the truth, she read and studied the subject.

It begins with grooming people to accept sexual abuse, and the basis of that grooming is to get people--often children--to accept engaging in secret behaviors. Small behaviors such as showing a photo or talking about body parts desensitizes the victim--gets her or him used to sexually explicit topics and to secrecy.

They either make the behaviors appear to be normal or they keep them well hidden.  She quotes Dr. Anna Salter in her book Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders--Who They Are, How They Operate and How We can Protect Ourselves and Our Children:

"The most chilling aspect of this behavior is its invisibility."

I agree with that point--the big problem is not knowing it is happening.  Or thinking that what is happening is normal.  Being duped.

The second problem: "Abusers are frequently likable, charming, and highly skilled at manipulation."

Farrell Garcia then outlines the methods used by abusers:

1) "They establish and enforce control through defining reality."  

2) "Sex offenders victim-stance"--that is, they take the stance of a victim. They "attempt to manipulate our empathy."  Once we feel sorry for them, "they can manipulate our trust and gain our support."

3) "They coerce secrecy and isolation."  They often bind their victims to themselves with shame and secrecy: "This is our secret" and "Don't tell your parents--they'll be angry."

4) "They deal in entitlement...  They are entitled to feel what they feel, say what they say, and act how they act no matter what."   They demand loyalty and forgiveness.  "...they will justify their abuse no matter what agreement or promise they have made... they feel entitled to sympathy instead of to accountability."

Thank you, Maureen Farrell Garcia, for writing on this subject, thank you to all the researchers like Anna Salter, and thank you to Christianity Today / CT Pastors for taking on this topic. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Attempts to disentangle evangelicals from Trump

Thank you to my friend Diane for sending a link to this article in The New Yorker:

It's about a recent meeting at Wheaton College to try to extricate evangelicals from the snares dt has set for them.

The first afternoon session at Wheaton began on a sombre note. “This gathering is not an occasion for celebration of evangelicalism,” Mark Labberton, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, said. “This gathering emerges instead from worry, sorrow, anger, and bewilderment—whether we are Democrats or Republicans.” That so many white evangelicals supported Trump had created a “a toxic evangelicalism” that has turned “the Gospel into Good News that is fake.” He charged that U.S. evangelicalism had been complicit in violence against people of color over centuries, and that where denunciation was needed there had only been silence.

Thank you to author Katelyn Beaty, former managing editor of Christianity Today, for reporting on this conference.

Among those present were the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena CA and Mark Noll, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. 

The main organizer, Doug Birdsall, had hoped that a statement refocusing the word evangelical on Jesus Christ and the Church would be hammered out. 

But, days before we arrived at Wheaton, Birdsall clarified to attendees that our gathering was not meant to be held in opposition to the June meeting. He pointed out that he had planned the event long before the one with Trump became public. Organizers seemed to be getting nervous that their efforts would be seen as partisan and anti-Trump. After two days of often tense conversations, it became clear that no statement would be released at all.

Thank you to those who organized and tried to do something.  Katelyn ends it on a positive note, but clearly she is disappointed.

Evangelicals against Trump

FYI, not all evangelicals love the current president.  

Check out the recent covers of Sojourners Magazine:

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer decided that killing Hitler was what Christians in Germany needed to do in 1944-45.  He was captured and killed for his plotting with others.  Lori Brandt Hall and Reggie L. Williams consider his example for evangelicals in the US today.

William Barber II analyzes King Nebbuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel to find out how to deal with our current president.

Racism among born-again Christians is an old phenomenon, writes Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Seminary.  

Online the website offers a timeline of "evangelical backsliding" by Jim Wallis.

Mark Labberton, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena CA, is also out there speaking on "The Crisis of Evangelicalism."

It's a veritable snowstorm of evangelicals against Trump--but will his base hear it?  

Probably not--they're actually not very much into church or following Jesus or reading articles on faith/dt/any other topic.

The creepy dude next door...

Serial murderer's profile in today's LA Times

The photo of Joseph James DeAngelo pollutes the cover of the LA Times today.  Pollutes my kitchen table.

Creepy old dude with teeny eyes, bald, fat, white t-shirt, thin mouth turned down at each corner.  Kind of saying "duh."  His booking mug.

Yesterday the only thing I read on the front page was "Decades-Old Hunt Leads to Ex-Cop: Task force arrests 72-year-old linked to series of 1970s and 80s rapes, killings."

Today his mug leers at me from the front page, and I read all of two stories: the profile of him and how they finally found him.  He served in the Navy, including 22 months off the coast of North Vietnam.  (Is that what poisoned his brain? But nobody else on his ship turned into a serial killer.  Maybe it was events in his childhood...)

The worst part of the report (other than the bare facts) was finding out that:

  • his sister sobbed when contacted by a reporter.  
  • he had a wife, an attorney, from whom he was separated.  Married in 1973. 
  • three daughters, one an ER doctor, another a grad student at UC Davis.  
  • 6 weeks after he killed a couple in Dana Point, "his first daughter, Misha Louise, was born."

He masqueraded as normal, while killing 12 people and raping 46 or more women from Orange County to Santa Barbara to the East Bay of SF to Sacramento.

I lived in Orange County, the East Bay, LA County.  I was married in 1972.  I have three daughters, a sister, brother who was in the Navy.  DeAngelo is my age plus two years.

Clearly there are creeps all around us.  Perhaps we interact with a murderer or rapist every day.

Perhaps one of them is my father, brother, uncle.  I know my brothers and husband are decent people, but as the circle of male relations widens, who knows?  

What do we really know about anyone?

That's what makes this news story so creepy.  

"I'm pretty much in shock," [his sister] said. "I'm in disbelief. It's difficult to think about." Thompson said she hopes that police are wrong about her brother, whom she regarded as "the kindest, gentlest man with his children."

That's what makes this news story so creepy.  Sadism and sexual violence are all around us, even in our own homes.

What happened in that household of two parents and three daughters?  

How do you carry on after learning that your father is a monster?

Thank you to Sarah Parvini, Joe Mozingo, Richard Winton, and Joseph Serna for their reporting on this killer who managed to live as the guy next door for fifty years.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Christians envying Christians

For Christians only: have you ever envied the dramatic conversion story of someone else?

You know, the kind that begins with drugs, alcohol, sex; then moves to a direct personal encounter with Jesus, and ends happily and sinlessly after?

If you own faith story is rather tame, you will enjoy reading Melanie Springer Mock's "When Big Jesus Doesn't Show Up"--chapter 2 of her new memoir Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else.

Christians who grew up in homes with parents who themselves took their faith seriously often wonder if they count as "real" Christians, never having had an encounter like Paul's on the road to Damascus.

Melanie was a teenager like this who in college found herself asked to share her testimony--and felt compelled to embellish the story a teeny bit... or a lot.

I'm on Chapter 3 now--I recommend it as a gift to any Christian you know.

Kidnapped Girls, 4 years later

New York Times photos of girls kidnapped from Chibok, 4 years later

Thank you to the New York Times led by reporter Dionne Searcey and photographer Adam Ferguson for bringing us these moving photos and stories of the Boko Haram girls, taken from their school in Chibok four years ago, April 14, 2014.

Out of more than 200 kidnapped, over 100 now live on a college campus in northeastern Nigeria.  More than 100 are still missing, and 12 or more are dead.

The photos are beautiful, but the girls are still prisoners, now at a university in pleasant surroundings.

They can't return home unless with special permission.  One girl missed seeing her father before his death.  

They can't have visitors except in certain cases.  The children they bore in captivity have been separated from them.  All these precautions are supposedly to protect them from their own notoriety--there are people who would harm them still. 

Some of the other students fear them--are they potential killers, converted to Boko Haram?

They are forced to speak only English, and even the psychologist treating them speaks only English when counseling them.

It's a sad story, but the focus is on giving these young women a future.

The world prays for them today 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pee and the President

It's hard to "take a step back and contemplate" when the morning's news is full of faces talking about urine and Russian prostitutes in connection with the president of the United States.

Depressing.  Disgusting.  While cooking and eating breakfast.

I keep trying to put this disastrous presidency on the back shelf so I can get through my day--but the fool keeps popping up again with ever more outlandish, attention-grabbing words and rumors.

I will have to return to not turning on my television or radio in the morning--at the risk of not knowing that he has bombed Syria and started World War III.

What has become of our national discourse ?  When will kids again be allowed to watch the news?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Too Many Lead Stories

NYT, Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You know your country is in trouble when the New York Times places an imminent US bombing of Syria lower on the front page than:

I'm following the first two stories closely, hoping the money trail in Michael Cohen's records will expose enough campaign violations to get Republicans on board with impeachment.

I'm amazed at the third story, that dt persists in following Bill Clinton's recipe for "How To Get Impeached."

As for Facebook, I've stopped looking at it or posting on it.  I'm so angry at FB for allowing Russians and Cambridge Analytica to post lies about Hillary Clinton on the feeds of voters vulnerable to those lies.

The biggest story here is that tonight or tomorrow night, my nation may be bombing big enough targets in Syria to force Russia to bomb US targets, such as our aircraft carriers.  Nuclear war, anyone?

The latest chemical attacks on civilians, including children, in the village of Khan Shaykuhn are horrific enough to justify joint action by the United Nations against Bashar al-Assad--but Russia holds a veto.  So Prez #45 boasts that he will take unilateral action with his "nice and new and smart" missiles.  
Chemical attack on April 4 near Khan Shaykuhn (in 2nd province from sea on north)

A pause in the fast movement of escalation followed that threat, so we don't know what to expect: a peaceful and lush springtime here in the US or a hot branding iron of war clamping down on all our lives.


Anyway, thank you to Common Cause for complaining to the Justice Department and to the Federal Election Commission about the $150,000 that Cohen solicited from a Ukrainian billionaire.  I'm hoping we can get dt impeached on the basis of illegal campaign donations.

The Jeopardy music is playing.  When will Mueller's report come out?  When will the impeachment begin?  

Meanwhile, our illegally and barely elected president teeters on the brink of US-Russia conflict in Syria.

The NY Times editorial on April 11 "The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump," lists the several incredible things happening this week under dt and asks this question:

Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?

Friday, April 6, 2018

What ever happened to the Moral Majority?

Women at the Empty Tomb by Fra Angelico
President Obama is clearly the moral superior of what passes for a president today.

Obama is faithful to his wife.  Trump is faithful to his sex workers.

Yet people calling themselves born-again Christians still prefer 45 to 44.

Thank you to Amy Sullivan for writing about this problem in the NYT Sunday Review on Easter Day. In the print edition, the title is "Trump's Christian Soldiers;" online it's called "Democrats Are Christians, Too."

"Eighty percent of white evangelicals would vote against Jesus Christ himself if he ran as a Democrat,"  she writes.

Her article concludes:
At the 2015 breakfast in the East Room, which featured music by Amy Grant, as close as evangelicals come to royalty, Mr. Obama spoke about the daily challenges of faith. “Today we celebrate the magnificent glory of our risen Savior,” he said. “I pray that I will live up to his example. I fall short so often. Every day I try to do better.”
Conservative evangelicals were unmoved. One year later, a Public Policy Polling survey found that only 13 percent of Trump supporters believed Mr. Obama was a Christian. They won’t have a chance to hear Mr. Trump himself speak about faith and the resurrection this Easter season. After he came into office, the Trump White House ended the short-lived tradition of Easter breakfasts.

I never thought I'd be pining for the good old days of 1970 and 1971 when I worked for Christianity Today Magazine, the beating heart of born-again Christianity.

The Moral Majority seems to have morphed into a confused minority that asks with Pilate "What is truth?"  

They aren't sure what truth is, or what fake is, but they still want the current president to be their leader.

"We knew we weren't electing a saint," they say, but as more and more truth emerges about the man they elected, I don't see many born-again Christians turning away from him.

Cognitive dissonance is hard to bear.  It's easier just not to listen to evil or see it.

Immoral as he may be, he's their man.

But Sullivan does label this group "conservative evangelicals," not just evangelicals.  She notes the presence of progressive evangelicals.

I am among these folks--the Sojourner Magazine, Anne Lamott types.  I'm a member of EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.  EEWC stands for Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus.  

We'll be there to pick up the pieces of the evangelical churches when Trump is impeached. 

Sullivan notes that these right-wingers tend to identify opposition to gay rights and to legal abortion as part of the Apostles Creed.

Someday those idols too will fall, and the followers of Jesus of Nazareth will fully accept sexuality of various kinds as well as the sovereignty of women's control of their own bodies. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Eyebrows and Easter

The Reverend Dr. Lynn Cheyney

"You always get to me," the pastor said, close to tears, turning to the choir as she stood to begin her 8 am Easter sermon.  

The sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses of Westwood Presbyterian Church had just performed the anthem, "My Eternal King," by Jane Marshall. 

Then the Reverend Dr. Lynn Cheyney cleared the choking from her voice and began preaching.

"I was getting my eyebrows done," she smiled, adding an aside: "How's that for a transition?"

The congregation chuckled.  I sat there delighted: only a woman pastor, and a confident one, could begin this way.  It was payback for all the goofy football illustrations I've had to listen to in sermons all my life.

"I was getting my eyebrows done the week before last when the delightful Pakistani woman hovering over my face, a Hindu who knew that I am a minister asked, 'So what is Easter about?  What does it mean?'"

"And I confessed that I panicked.  In a nanosecond the following thoughts flashed through my brain: 'Oh my gosh, I'm a pastor, I should know the answer to that question.  I've been to two seminaries, preached dozens of Easter sermons, taught Bible studies on the Passion and Easter narratives, I've read countless articles and books and read Gospel accounts a thousand times.  What on earth is the meaning of Easter?  Why haven't I prepared my 30-second Easter elevator speech?... And what is she really asking?  Do I need to fit in bunny and eggs?"

We all laughed several times. After a moment, she replied to the woman:

"It can get a little complicated, but most simply, Easter is about two things: it is about love and it is about hope.  It is the ancient story of a God who loves the world enough to die for it.  On Good Friday God's son Jesus was put to death because he would not give in to hate.  But then just when it seemed that death and evil would win, God raised Jesus from the dead, and it means that whatever is bad or terrible or painful now is never the end of the story.  There's always hope because bringing life out of death is what God does.  Easter is about love.  Easter is about hope."

Then she launched into her sermon.  You can listen to it from the church website: 

Here are some excerpts:

About Good Friday:
"The worst possible thing that could have happened happens...  And yet two millennia later, some two billion of us remember and revere this failed moment.  The week that began with hosannas ends in crucifixion as a movement is crushed and a hero is humiliated.  At least that was the thinking when they put their heads on the pillow that not-yet-so-good Friday night."

About the women at the foot of the cross:
"They watched his breathing slow to nothing....  And if you have seen death, you know there is no mistaking it when it comes.  Something is so obviously gone." 

About the women on Sunday at the tomb:
Bewildered and terrified, they sprint for home when they are met on the way with a living, breathing Jesus.  Life too is pretty obvious when you see it. The worst possible thing has happened.  As the Apostles' Creed puts it, "Crucified, dead, and buried"--but that was yesterday's news....  The worst possible thing has given way to the best possible thing.  Jesus is alive.  Christ is risen indeed."

Quoting Harry Emerson Fosdick:
"One of the most colossal defeats in history becomes one of the greatest triumphs ever won."

Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
(on his way to his own death in a Nazi concentration camp)
"This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life."

In summary:
"The cross alone bears up under the weight of life as we know it...."

"From time to time all of us find ourselves in Good Friday failure.... And we are met in those dark places by Jesus, God's own son....  There is, whether or not we feel it in the moment, hope."

"Easter's profound truth is simply this: that in some mysterious way that is difficult in the moment to comprehend, Jesus reverses the power of death.  Endings become beginnings.  Failures pave the way for successes.  One of the worst possible things becomes the best possible thing."

Quoting Anne LaMott
"I believe in resurrection because I got sober against all odds....  Life happens, death happens, and then new life happens."  

Last line:
"Easter is about love.  It is about hope.  Christ is risen.  Christ is risen indeed!  Amen and amen."

Note: The full texts of Pastor Lynn's recent sermons are available in the church lobby and probably by mail or email request as well:  or 10822 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90024.

Maya Angelou's Tragic Birthday

James Baldwin was helpful in the publication
of Maya Angelou's first book

What do you do when your birthday becomes a national day of mourning?

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on Maya Angelou's 40th birthday, and for years she could not celebrate her birth.

Thank you to Brian Park of the Los Angeles Times for discussing this tragic conjunction of events in today's newspaper:

Today marks what would have been her 90th birthday, and Google posted a delightful reading of her famous poem "Still I Rise" by Oprah Winfrey and others. #GoogleDoodle

"Still I Rise" resonates beautifully with Easter this year as Jesus's resurrection and Maya's birth nearly coincide.

But with the death of Stephon Clarke in Sacramento, so close to Good Friday, and with our marking of the 50th year since the murder of MLK Jr., the deep undertones of Maya's poem are evident:

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise....  (read by her son Guy Johnson)

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise

Racially-linked deaths continue.  Child sexual abuse continues (she was a survivor). Resurrection continues.

We must each walk with Jesus and rise.

See also:

April 4, 1968 to April 4, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fifty long years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. preached the gospel and walked this earth.

I was living with my parents and younger brothers and sister near Baltimore, MD, when news came that he had been murdered while leaning on the balcony of his motel in Memphis, Tennessee.  

The hard part for me was the following evening when my family was watching Walter Cronkite report the assassination on the CBS Evening News.

My father was raging at the television: "He deserved it!  He was a Communist!"

I hovered in silence, looking into the darkened TV room from the kitchen.  I knew this man was a saint.  He had given his life for civil rights and justice.

"He didn't support our boys in Viet Nam.  He was out there demonstrating with those people who are tearing down everything we died for in World War II," my father continued.

I knew that bombing villages in Viet Nam was terrible.  My country was killing civilians for what we knew as "the domino theory."  I also knew that arguing with my alcoholic father, 54 years old, was pointless.  

There were a lot of things I didn't know:

1) President Lyndon Johnson was continuing the war mostly to save face.  

2) The Pentagon Papers had already documented the flimsy reasons for the US entering and continuing this war... but they were not released until 1971 when RAND employee Daniel Ellsberg gave them to the New York Times.  Wikipedia: "The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967."

3) Martin Luther King Jr. had come out against the Viet Nam war exactly a year earlier, when most of the country still believed the lies that President Johnson and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, were repeating. 

King risked his life to connect racism and the deaths of black, brown, and poor boys in Viet Nam.  He was one of the first national figures to oppose the war.

My father was among the patriotic majority who believed the president, the Congress, and the country could do no wrong.  Any opposition was treason, probably motivated by Communist sympathies.  Viet Nam was the domino that, if it fell, would trigger the fall of other nearby nations to Communist China.  

And I?  Most of all, I just wanted to go back to Stanford University in the fall for my junior year.  I was taking the spring quarter off in order to earn money, after having spent most of my sophomore year in an overseas program.  Every day I rode in my father's car to work as a clerk-secretary in the Social Security Administration headquarters, where he was a computer programmer.

During that terrible spring and summer, with the assassination of King followed by that of Bobby Kennedy followed by violent police actions against demonstrators at the Democratic convention in Chicago, my father was ranting against students and all those who opposed the Viet Nam war.  

"That Communist college!" he raved.  "You can't go back there. You students are demonstrating against everything my generation fought for."

"Now, Kermit," my mother would say. "Of course Anne can go back to Stanford."

He was right that my understanding of who King really was had come from being at college, hearing sermons by B. Davie Napier and William Sloane Coffin there, and witnessing--but not participating in--demonstrations against the war.  

Fifty years later, my mother and father are dead and buried.  I am 69 years old, a graduate of those schools my father abhorred: Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.

The nation honors Martin Luther King Jr. and his courage.  

We try to forget Lyndon Johnson and his mistakes.  Hollywood produces films like The Post to explain to the young ones what the Pentagon Papers were and why they matter.

The feckless majority has morphed from "the Greatest Generation" to "the Moral Majority" to the "Trump base..."  And the beat goes on.