Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Both Sides Now

In Learning, Resistance, Prejudice on August 16, 2017 at 5:55 am

So it’s come to this, an American president defending Nazis, calling them fine people. We tried to warn you. It was obvious this man was unhinged, undisciplined, unfit, but you refused to listen. “He speaks his mind and says what he thinks,” you said. Now you know what he thinks. Now we all know.

If you still support him, we know what you think, too.

He thinks both sides are equally at fault for the violence in Charlottesville. One side came with torches in the night, shields and weapons and Nazi slogans in the day. The other side said, No. They are not equal. White supremacy is evil. Nazis are evil. The KKK is evil. You can’t side with them and pretend to be Christian, or a good person, or an American. This is over. Whose side are you on?

You thought he would shake things up, and he has certainly done that. His ignorance and recklessness will destroy us as a country if we let him continue; he has already destroyed our reputation and leadership role with the rest of the world.

What we need now is a show of true patriotism and courage from both sides of congress. We need you to admit that this can’t go on. We need you to Stand up for your country and take him down.

We need both sides to work together.

Both Sides.

Now.

The History Train

In Learning, Prejudice, Resistance on August 15, 2017 at 7:31 am

We’ve had a busy few days since Charlottesville, and the fallout continues. Some have called it a breaking point when America can no longer deny what our racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant, lying so-called president has wrought. I sure hope they’re right. It would be nice to think we have finally turned the corner on this dark period.
Meanwhile, this happened:
Forty-eight hours after the violence Trump finally said “racism is evil” and denounced neo-Nazis and the KKK in a statement considered weak and cowardly in the mainstream media and celebrated by white supremacists.
Three CEOs have resigned from the White House manufacturing council in protest of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence.
TIKI Brand, the company responsible for creating tiki torches, issued a statement separating themselves from the neo-Nazis who used their products at the rally.
The mayor of Lexington KY announced plans to remove two confederate statues from the courthouse.
Officials in several states, including Florida and Maryland have also called for the removal of confederate statues.
Protesters in Durham NC didn’t wait for official action. Chanting “No KKK no fascist USA,” they pulled down a statue of a confederate soldier.
Social media sites are working to identify participants in the Charlottesville rally. So far, one man lost his job, another was disowned by his family, and a third may be expelled from college.
Those who beat up Deandre Harris have been identified and police are searching and will arrest them.
The man who drove his car into a crowd killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others is in jail without bond.
Go Daddy canceled the domain name for a white supremacist website. When they registered the site with Google, that company also canceled it.
Texas A&M canceled a white supremacist rally scheduled for 9/11.
And so it continues.
In 1971, Paul Simon wrote Peace Like a River, containing these words, “Misinformation followed us like a plague” and “You can’t outrun the history train” that seem curiously prophetic today.
I know I’d like some peace like a river, even if only for a day or two.

A Little Light

In Church, Learning, Prejudice on August 14, 2017 at 6:19 am

A Little Light
What can I say in 300 words about the white supremacists in Charlottesville and everywhere else, including the White House? I despise you more than words can express and I hope you die an agonizing death–soon–and spend eternity writhing in hell. That just about sums it up in only 43 words. Not very Christian, I’m afraid.

I spent Saturday weepy, clicking through channels and scrolling through Facebook to find information about Charlottesville. The news stations focused on Trump’s threats of war against North Korea and Venezuela and ignored the white supremacists threatening us here in America.

Later, after the man in the White House gave his mealy-mouthed response to the violence in Virginia and refused to call out domestic terrorists, I saw a meme that said, “Not many presidents could make threatening nuclear war the second worst thing he did in a week.”

Sunday morning couldn’t come soon enough. Our movie this week was Wonder Woman and I was afraid Pastor Brad would say something about how we had to love even the terrorists. I knew I couldn’t do that.

Instead, he used Diana Prince’s words, “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat.”

He talked about light defeating darkness and was surprised to get choked up talking about Wonder Woman. I was weepy again through the whole sermon as were several other people. When it gets posted on the website, I’ll let you know. I need to listen to it again.

We closed the service by singing This Little Light of Mine, just like the stalwart clergy in Charlottesville. That will be my lasting impression of Saturday’s events. Not the Nazi slogans or the killer ramming his car into a crowd of protesters. When I think of Charlottesville, I’ll think of the line of clergy of all denominations and races and ages, male and female, locking arms to surround the forces of evil and singing This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine.
I’ll give the last word to Hillary Clinton, “If this is not who we are as Americans, let’s prove it.”

I’m with her.

I Am Not Your Friend

In Learning on August 11, 2017 at 5:50 am

To Trump HQ:
I don’t know how you got my email address, but I assure you I did not subscribe to your list as your message indicated, and I am not your friend.
However, since you said my input is critical, here are my answers to your questions.
Q1 Do you believe President Trump is working hard to fulfill the promises he made to the American people?
A1 That’s a tough one. I cannot conceive of the words Trump and working hard in the same sentence unless by working hard you mean watching Fox News, tweeting, and playing golf. I believe he’s doing everything he can to dismantle our democracy because he seems to see himself as a dictator.
Q2 Do you believe obstructionist liberals in Congress are purposely trying to sabotage the President’s agenda?
A2 I believe anybody with a working brain in Congress or out is trying to sabotage his agenda and thank God for that.
Q3 Do you trust the Fake News Media to accurately report on President Trump’s accomplishments?
A3 If by Fake News Media you mean Fox News, Breitbart, The National Enquirer, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and the new Trump-sponsored Real News, then, no, I absolute trust nothing they say about his so-called accomplishments. If you mean the mainstream media which relies on journalistic ethics and principles, such as having reliable sources, then, yes, I believe what they report.
You said, “Together, we’re DRAINING THE SWAMP and getting things done in Washington, even though liberals are trying to obstruct us at every turn.” You’re half right. I’d really like an explanation of how you’re “draining the swamp.”
If the man in the White House really wants to make America great again, he should resign immediately before he blows us all to kingdom come.
Please let me know if you need more guidance.
You’re welcome.

Not That Kind of Woman

In Church, Learning, women on August 10, 2017 at 6:33 am

Biblical womanhood is not for me.
Let’s just start there. First, women in the bible pretty much have to be married. Been there. Done that. As God is my witness, that won’t happen again.
As an unmarried woman, I would probably have to move in with my brother, who is way too smart to allow that. If necessary, he would take me in, I think, but with some justifiable reluctance. I can be a handful. I’m opinionated, outspoken, and hypercritical, and I really don’t like being around other people very much. Plus, I have a temper and a cat, and he’s allergic to both.
As I write this, I am halfway through A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Like A. J. Jacobs in The Year of Living Biblically, Evans set out to spend a year living as the Bible instructs women to live. She combed the Bible looking for every passage related to women’s behavior. Not surprisingly, she found some paradoxes and contradictions.
“So what I have found is that any time you think you have found a sort of blueprint or standard for biblical womanhood, a woman in scripture comes along and is praised for breaking it.” Hmmm. I could probably go for that “breaking it” business.
She decided to focus on a different virtue each month—gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace. She also developed a “Biblical Woman’s Ten Commandments,” but she lost me on the first one, “thou shalt submit to thy husband’s will in all things.” If you’ve ever wondered why I’m not married, that would pretty much sum it up.
Much of the book referred to the Proverbs 31 woman, a person I had never heard of, but who seems to embody the ideal Biblical woman for many evangelical Christians. Evans quickly discovered that the verses “perpetuating a three-thousand-year-old inferiority complex” among Christian women are used by Jewish husbands to honor their wives. So there are two sides to that story.
Some other things I refuse to do: grow my hair, wear skirts, cover my head, and keep my mouth shut in church (or anywhere else).
I will, however, dress modestly, bake bread, and praise women of valor, especially that last one.
Evans concluded that “the Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood.” As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” including those in the Bible.
Thank God for that.

Make (Me) Believe

In Books, Church, Learning, spirituality on August 8, 2017 at 6:37 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was talking to a couple of the young men in our congregation about our beliefs. Greg said, “I believe Jesus died for our sins.” The other man agreed, and I said, “I don’t believe that.” Frankly, I don’t even know what it means.
Greg looked shocked and said, “You HAVE to believe that.”
I said, “The reason I like this church is that nobody gets to tell me what I have to believe.”
Fourteen or so years later, I’m still here, but Greg left not too long after our conversation. I don’t imagine that had anything to do with his leaving, but I do imagine he found a church where he could tell people what they have to believe.
It all goes back to the Bible. I’ve never been much of a Bible reader. I don’t know if it’s the small print, the tissue thin pages, or the archaic language (and, yes, I know there are versions available that correct all those “defects.”) Shortly after I started going to church I bought The Children’s Illustrated Bible thinking I might actually read that, but no. Somehow I never managed to read more than a few of the stories in that book.
Call me a secular Christian. I accept the Bible as part of my cultural heritage while not considering it factual.
A book I did read was A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Ten years ago when it first came out, I thought it was hilarious, showing how futile and frustrating a quest it was.
I just reread it and still find it very funny. I enjoyed his discovering the near impossibility of not mixing fabrics as well as his difficulty in locating an adulterer to stone. He carried pebbles in his pocket just in case he found one. (He did and the man threw the pebbles at him.) He also had to try many tactics to avoid lusting after women in his heart before finally hitting on one that worked: thinking of them as his mother.
Nevertheless, some of the rules had a positive effect on his life. For example, when he stopped cursing, he became calmer, not so angry. Wearing white made him feel light and happy.
He ended the year still an agnostic, but observing that “the Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas, but that doesn’t mean the Bible can’t be beautiful and sacred.”
That I can believe.

Featured Films

In Church, Learning on August 7, 2017 at 6:08 am


We started our summer movie sermon series about ten years ago. A nice break from our usual service, they teach us that we can learn valuable lessons even from pop culture.
This week’s movie was Moana, and we will also feature Wonder Woman, A Monster Calls, and The Wizard of Oz. In the forty or so movies we’ve seen, I have never once guessed correctly how the pastor will interpret them. Since I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz roughly 45 times, it should be interesting to hear what perspective we get on this much-loved classic.
Moana tells the story of an 8-year-old Polynesian girl destined to become her island village’s chief. She feels a strong pull to the ocean despite her father ordering her to stay away from the sea and stay safe. Her grandmother, who calls herself the village crazy lady, has other ideas. She encourages Moana to fulfill her destiny by setting sail to break an ancient curse and save her island.
On her journey, Moana encounters obstacles and dangers, but wavers in her quest only once.
Our lesson from Pastor Brad was, “When everything falls apart is one of the best times for us to answer the question, “Who am I?” When things fall apart, all the pretense, all the expectations, all the things that aren’t really us, that’s when they fall away.”
We’ve all been tested in crucibles of our own. Philosophers from Nietzsche to Kelly Clarkson have assured us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
The hard part is understanding that our voyage is never over. We have to, in the words of Nat King Cole, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.
Unlike in the movie, one voyage doesn’t a voyager make.
And each journey reveals more and more clearly who we are.

Slip Slidin’ Away

In Learning, Prejudice on August 4, 2017 at 8:24 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The election of Barack Obama was the last straw for some white people. This included white supremacists and also ordinary working and elderly people who saw the world changing around them. “They’re afraid their way of life is disappearing,” a friend said.
They’re right about that.
In 2014, of the 20 million children in the U.S. under the age of five, 50.2% were minorities. Millennials are the most racially diverse generation ever, and census projections predict that by 2055 the country will not have a single racial or ethnic majority.
The big swath of white voters desperate to hang onto their central and controlling place in our culture brought us the disaster of Donald Trump. They seem to believe that they can turn around the decline of white supremacy by holding on tight by taking actions that
Revoke voting rights of minority communities
Reject LGBTQ equality
Investigate affirmative action as discriminating against whites
Close the borders
Crack down on legal immigration
Demonize religions other than Christianity
Etcetera.
While these things might make them feel better, they’re temporary fixes that won’t change the demographics. Many scientists predict that the future will bring more and more people of mixed race. The more optimistic believe that “by 2050 we’ll witness a country united by its diversity, unique interests, and melded backgrounds.” Then we can relax and accept that we are all just different aspects of the human race.
I wish I could believe that, but experience tells me that, as humans, we will always find someone to hate.

First the Bad News

In Learning, Resistance on July 26, 2017 at 6:05 am

 

 

 

 

 

We talked about the good old days when the news consisted of more than whatever atrocity the man in the White House committed that day. You remember. Last year. Before DJT.
One friend said she wondered if the mainstream media doesn’t go too far in trashing him, thereby turning off his supporters even more.
I said I didn’t think they were “trashing” him, just reporting the truth, and the truth is that he and his fellow republicans keep doing some truly despicable things.
Someone said he knew other things were still happening in the world, and he wants to hear about them.
I’ve been thinking about it. I do that sometimes—speak first, think later.
So I paid close attention to ABC News tonight and found this: The first seven minutes of the newscast focused on whether or not Trump will fire Attorney General Sessions and on Senator McCain’s return from brain surgery to vote to take health care away from tens of millions of people. Okay, that last part is my editorializing.
In the six minutes before the commercial break, they covered five stories, including a child’s death at a summer camp, a company that’s microchipping its employees and the future of microchipping for things like medical records and passports.
After the next break, they had a story about the death of a baby orca whale at Sea World. One minute and another break.
Next came five short stories in two minutes before the last break.
America Strong, a final inspirational story, featured the rescue of a pet dog from a fire in Bakersfield CA and how a group of Girl Scouts raised $2400 to buy special pet oxygen masks for every fire station in the city. Notably, this was the only positive news presented in the entire show.
While Washington politics dominated the first and longest slots, ABC News did present several other stories, albeit briefly. They could have easily spent less time on the political crap (more editorializing) and either lengthened the other pieces or added more.
My concern at the end of the show, though, dealt with how, except for the final signature feature, all the news was negative. No wonder we’re so depressed. I know that good things happen every day; why are they not considered newsworthy?
To counter all this negativity, I started following the Good News Network. I can see their uplifting stories every day, and on the weekend I watch CBS News Sunday Morning. That’s always good news. Too bad it’s only on once a week.

Reading Roundup

In Books, Learning, spirituality on July 25, 2017 at 7:23 am

Here are the books I’m currently reading. I never read just one at a time.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
A mystery set in a thinly disguised Tattered Cover Bookstore in Lower Downtown Denver, one of my favorite places. This book has everything I love: a bookstore (the best one ever), Denver, quirky characters, an imaginative mystery, and terrific writing. I’m about a third of the way through and trying to balance my wanting to know what happens next with my desire to go slowly and make it last. He can’t write his next book fast enough to suit me.
The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs
A secular Jew, Jacobs decides to explore religion by taking a deep dive into the Bible a year trying to obey all of the 700+ rules documented there. One of my favorites is his difficulty in finding clothing that doesn’t mix fibers. He also carries pebbles in his pocket looking for an opportunity to stone an adulterer. The often contradictory and nonsensical rules lead him to a funny and thoughtful spiritual journey. I first read this when it came out ten years ago and chose to reread it (this time on audio) to accompany the next book.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
This is not an instruction manual.
Evans, raised in an evangelical home in Dayton, Tennessee, site of the Scopes Monkey Trial, now writes progressive Christian books and blogs. Using humor and compassion, she explores Biblical heroines and wrestles with passages that encourage misogyny and violence against women. I just started reading it on Kindle and look forward to accompanying her as she remains silent in church (some advice I definitely won’t be taking) and moves into a tent in her yard during her “unclean” times.
Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
I’ve followed Goins’ career since he came to prominence through his blog several years ago. This is just the sort of book I ought to like, but I’m finding it a difficult slog. He has some good ideas and an interesting perspective although too much of the book is rehashed from other books I’ve read and liked more (see Austin Kleon). He comes across just a little too earnest and humorless for my taste. I may manage to make it through before its due date only because it’s a short book.
There you go. What are you reading?