We are now fully in summer, as heat leads to growth in the vineyards, and vegetables arrive in our gardens and market, a truly blessed time with God's abundance all around us. Still, even amid this beautiful season, the short sightedness and bias of our species often has an untoward effect. So let us pray for justice, for truth and for God's grace and Christ's love to surround and support us, here in our own lives and community, and especially so in the larger world, where rulings and legislation can at times seem to counter one another.
In an almost miraculous action, last week the US Congress passed a bill to address the flood of gun violence in our land. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, proposed by a group of Republicans and Democrats in the aftermath of consecutive mass shootings, will boost background checks for gun buyers between 18 and 21 years old, incentivize states to create "red flag" laws to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous, and release hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health and school safety. It would also expand to dating partners a federal law to prevent domestic abusers from purchasing guns. Not as much change as many would like, still no ban on assault weapons, but a major step forward none the less.
On the other hand, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a NY state law to curb concealed weapons, and then later last week, reversed its 1973 ruling, Roe v Wade, by finding the underlying legal arguments to be questionable, with the result that abortion is now illegal in many parts of the US as of this past Friday.
Bishop Sally Dyck, acting interim bishop of the California Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, recently shared her thoughts in response to this reversal by the Supreme Court,
"I was 20 years old in 1973, when the Roe vs. Wade ruling came down and I distinctly remember what my mother (a devout Mennonite woman) said to me, 'Abortion should be legal but it's not for us.' What she meant was that in spite of her beliefs about abortion being wrong, it should be legal for others. Throughout the years, I have believed that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
Over the years more and more people like my mother have accepted Roe v. Wade until now it is 61% approved (or more in some surveys) by the US population. Plus, the number of abortions has significantly decreased, not increased with legalized abortion, and certainly fewer women have died as a result of abortion.
Over the years I, like many clergy, have counseled women and couples who are contemplating abortion due to their various circumstances, including the medical news that their unborn child may not be viable at birth or has severe health conditions that will be an infliction of pain and suffering. Others have experienced rape and incest or bearing the child would jeopardize the life of the mother. For these women and couples, abortion will be not legal for them in many states.
After the overturning of Roe V. Wade, I heard an article on NPR where an anti-abortion proponent was celebrating the "victory," and his main message was that now people (and he implied mostly women) will need to take more personal responsibility for their behavior.
Emphasizing personal responsibility in regard to any social problem overlooks the major social responsibility that is needed: paid maternity leave for all, not just privileged women(many European nations have at least one year); maternal and early childhood health care, including the cost of the birth; and free childcare, to name a few.
The 'original intent' philosophy that was used to overturn Roe V. Wade--meaning the Constitution didn't consider abortion as a right in the 18th century-could also be used in the future by the Supreme Court for some other rights that we have come to accept and even rely upon, such as same-sex and inter-racial marriage.
the confidence in the Supreme Court has fallen to a very low 25% level in the US. It's not lost on many citizens that this is the first time that major civil rights have been denied by the Supreme Court and that it targets the most vulnerable among us, particularly women, people of color and the poor.
There is no "original intent' in the scriptures about abortion, but I do believe that the underlying message of the scriptures is that we are to care for the most vulnerable in our midst and to find ways to live in a world of competing values, with neighbors who have different needs from our own.
I go back to my mother's words so many years ago. Even though she believed abortion was wrong, she didn't
deny that other women and families had different situations that required there to be safe, legal and rare abortions in our nation. Her faith was deep enough to love her neighbor."
As people of faith, no matter which faith, we must act upon our conscious reflective sense of what's right. What is right for all people, not just for some. When we allow violence to continue without taking every step possible to curtail it, we are supporting that violence, by letting the free market determine individual access to weapons of mas destruction.
When we legislate to control the rights of the majority of the populous, i.e. women, they are held hostage so that the smaller population, i.e. men, might feel (self) righteous in its management of the mystery and miracle that is women.
In the first case, money drives the equation; in the second, it is the need to control and marginalize, though it is said to be in the name of divine justice. This is total B.S., and Jesus weeps at our lack of generosity and compassion for one another. It is not our God who enacts this biased view of humanity, it is not scripture that supports it either. Rather it is the age-old equations of self-interest, ignorance, greed, and revenge on those who are different and not willing to conform to the norm. God save us from these bigoted, zealots who say they act on God's behalf but who know less of the divine than those whom they persecute.
Pastor news to close today's blast, I will be away the last three Sundays in July. Karl Parker will fill the pulpit on two of the Sundays, with Caroline Pietrangelo Owens preaching on the 24th. I know that they will bring great spirit to the church in my absence.
While away, I will be on a comping trip with my son Bryn, visiting with family, planning for the rest of the St Helena church year and seeing native sacred sites in the West.
I have found great comfort recently in Romans 12, especially so in the Native Nations Version. The challenges and confusion in our world cannot be easily fixed and repaired. Yet when we go to God and ask for guidance and wisdom it is given. For when we bring our best self forward, and willingly serve the spirit and creation, we become more mature, capable, and faithful.
So not permit the ways of this world to mold and shape you. Instead, let Creator change you from the inside out, in the way a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. He will do this by giving you a new way of thinking, seeing, and walking. Then you will know for sure what the Great Spirit wants for you, things that are good, that make the heart glad, and that help you to walk the path of becoming a mature and true human being.
Blessings and peace be with you,