Tag Archive: Living Christ


President Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) reads like a modified Dickens’ novel.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope … we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going to Hell …

Here’s one tale of the President’s action.

In dodging the press, Attorney General (aka “I Can’t Remember”) Sessions referred to DACA as unconstitutional and criticized it as:

“… unilateral executive amnesty that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences” and had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens. We are a people of compassion and we are a people of law. But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, enforce our laws, and, if Congress chooses to make changes to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our Founders in a way that advances the interest of the nation.

The decision could affect as many as 800,000. These participants are known and registered for the program since its inception in 2012. Immigrant rights advocates state 200,000 more have sought legal status through DACA.

GOP lawmakers and constituents have hammered the public of the consequences of DACA participants and immigrants denying jobs to hundreds of Americans. However, CNN Money claims experts say repealing DACA would worsen the shortage of workers in the United States. “Getting rid of DACA reduces the number of skilled workers and a lot of industries are facing worker shortages. To push this now is really an inopportune time.

And the other tale of President’s action?

President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida filed requests with the government on Thursday to hire 70 temporary foreign workers as cooks, housekeepers and servers at the private club, according to records posted by the Labor Department. The jobs would begin on October 1 and end in May 2018. These positions would take advantage of the H-2B visa program, which allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nations to the country for temporary, non-agricultural work.

The irony is that the Trump administration moved to expand the H-2B program saying it would offers an additional 15,000 visas because not enough American workers are willing or able to fill the country’s employment needs for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year.

What Trump and Sessions represent is a form of “Scarcity Mentality” from Stephen Covey. As the Trump administration progresses, maybe they see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. Accordingly, as Job noted “They thrust the needy from the path and force all the poor of the land into hiding.” Maybe what Trump appears to say is that the odds of economic advancement differ considerably based on family, race, neighborhood, and other factors. If you’re someone otherwise classified as non-American, you will not escape the income category we’ve defined.

To enforce this vision, in a little-noticed April 2015 speech during the Texas Patriot’s PAC, Trump talked about people crossing the border illegally in the same breath as foreign goods.

“Everything’s coming across the border: the illegals, the cars, the whole thing. It’s like a big mess. Blah. It’s like vomit.”

In a Trump world, DACA registrants represent the worst. They’re vomit. However, if you’re a foreign cook at Mar-a-Lago, you represent the best. Yet Christ, Buddha, Dr. Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa saw the best in the marginalized, those considered no better than vomit.

So, review your life. What represents the best of times? What represents the worst? How would God see your choices?

“Even though The Tonight Show isn’t a political show, it is my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being.”

“What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting. I was watching the news like everyone else, and you’re seeing Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists, and I was sick to my stomach,” Fallon continued, tears welling in his eyes. “My daughters are in the next room playing and I’m thinking, ‘How can I explain to them that there’s so much hatred in this world?’ They’re two years old and four years old. They don’t know what hate is. They go to the playground and they have friends of all races and backgrounds, and they just play, and they laugh, and they have fun.”

“But as kids grow up, they need people to look up to—to show them what’s right, and good. They need parents and teachers, and they need leaders who appeal to the best in us. The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful. And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It’s important for everyone—especially white people—in this country to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it.” 

“And remember: there are people who have given their lives to make sure this kind of hate doesn’t spread. They’ve fought and died on the right side of history. One brave woman in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, died standing up for what’s right at the age of 32. I can’t look at my beautiful, growing, curious daughters and say nothing when this kind of thing is happening. We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists, and stand up for all that is right, and civil, and kind. And to show the next generation that we haven’t forgot how hard people have fought for human rights. We cannot do this. We can’t go back. We can’t go back.”

Jimmy Fallon got it right.

IcarusI’ll admit it. Washington’s “Trump-Russia” connection can make engrossing television. Recent disclosures of meetings between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russian backed attorneys reveal the complex world which we live. Media outlets could have focused on the administration’s G20 meetings, healthcare, or any number of items. But the ongoing coverage seems to return to Russian collusion.

I will not overtly condemn Trump Jr. My thoughts are broader and something covered previously. More to the point, in today’s world, there most certainly an electronic copy of our life. And deciding whether to take a suspicious meeting, one must understand who is watching and when will same said information become public.

In 2008, British newspaper The Telegraph noted Britons are recorded approximately 3,000 times a week. In the U.S., license plate readers, public space cameras, store and loyalty cards, phones, television, computer, emails and businesses entered are recorded. Information is complied, stored in some database and retained for years, if not definitely.

Whether the Trump-Russia collusion connection pans out or not. Donald Trump Jr. is not unlike many Americans. Either naivety or the willingness to win at all costs overwhelms the “gut check” common sense demands. I tend to believe the Trump views any all opposition as a perversion that must be pulverized.

And the willingness to pulverize is not unlike the Greek Myth Icarus who flew too close to the sun. It’s the fascination with fire that lead many astray.

Many years ago, I was contacted by a recruiter from a rival nationwide consulting firm. After cursory conversation, the recruiter proposed a well-intentioned employment offer, substantial raise and benefits. Nearing the end of the offer, the recruiter then requested a list of every customer from my current firm and projects being proposed. Stunned for only a minute, I calmly rose, shook the recruiter’s hand and said, “I believe our time has concluded.” Leaving, I was appalled by the recruiter’s audacity and honored by my principles not to engage.

Personally, I chose not to fly that close to the sun. Maybe Trump Jr. accepted the risk. Saint Bernard Clairvaux is attributed to the saying L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs” (hell is full of good wishes or desires). An earlier saying occurs in Virgil’s Aeneid, “facilis descensus averno (the descent to hell is easy).” The commonly used version is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Many fail to understand the concept of “do no harm.” One ancient text states that “non-harming is the distinguishing characteristic of Buddhism.” Let’s modify this to non-harming is a distinguishing characteristic of good men. For unenlightened Buddhists, the commitment of non-harming is carried in the ethical precepts where non-harming becomes integral to their nature and “delight in harmlessness.”

While the principle of non-harming is a noble one, its application in daily life raises many questions about when such a principle is relevant and in which circumstances it might be discarded.  Is harmlessness an absolute precept for Buddhists?  Does it prohibit any use of violence for the purposes of self-defense or when it can prevent a greater harm? Does harm mean only physical violence?

Even if violence is prohibited, the principle of acting out of hatred, anger or envy is. And looking at the current state of politics, the very nature of acting in hatred (regardless of party) is very transparent. Accordingly, acting out of hatred, anger or envy is common in daily events.

Christ stated that one sins simply by thinking. Meaning if one thinks of adultery, then adultery has been committed. As a Buddhist, we are instructed to become better by abstention of evil actions, speech, and intentions. If we don’t, I am sure emails, video and other information will humble even the most arrogant. Maybe that’s the humbling lesson Trump Jr. is learning.

If I had simply abstained through my walk, I would have been a much better person, in both life and love. But I wasn’t. And like Icarus, I died a thousand deaths in the Sea of Humility.

Hopefully, you will not.

Family

In a seemingly quiet neighborhood, a feckless man used an assault rifle on unsuspecting Republican GOP colleagues practicing for a fundraiser. Congressman Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and members of the Capitol police force were wounded. At least five were hospitalized, Scalise remains in critical condition.

In the wake, GOP Senators assisted one another with the injured as the attacker was gunned-down by police officers. They were, as Speaker Paul Ryan mentioned, “a family … brothers and sisters in the line of fire.” Ryan looked unto his political “family” and sought words of impartiality. Must have been a strangely uncommon moment for a “family” rife with anguish, pain, name calling and baseless bigotry. Still, Ryan repeated what many families of gun violence have had to endure – that the best we can do is offer prayers and thoughts.

Thoughts and prayers. That’s all we’ll ever do.

Like others, my own life will remain remarkably unheroic. My thoughts and prayers for shooting victims lived in moments – today as I watched live television, tonight as I’ll watch countless television hosts and political partisans come forth to sing kumbaya and tomorrow over a cup of coffee while reading news. Then poof! Thoughts and prayers slow to a drip and succumb to life’s impediments.

I’ll admit, I find it hard to relate to Ryan’s family? Am I suddenly “family” for simply having witnessed the resultant pain of a madman? Emotions are mixed. Even at this moment I fight to push away this legislative family, for they will likely doom millions through repealing any number of legislative issues? Still, some of this “family” are victims. As such, they need our comfort and love.

Of course, there are other families. They remain in the backdrop. Will the Sanders’ “family” of supporters become the new “deplorables?” And what of the Clinton supporter “family?” Will Clinton’s supporters forever denigrate Sanders’ supporters, not only for the election, but this act of violence? Will the Trump family renew the call to prohibit, racialize and demean? Or will we, for love of God, see even one day of peace?

Ryan told his “family” humanity will win the day. I have bad news. Humanity doesn’t. Many a man has shed much of their humanity eons ago. Me included. I’ve forgotten most of my real family. Having left Chicago at the age of 24, I buried an entire family of brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews in the archives of time. If I had been “family,” would I not have shown? For anything? I did’t have a good reason. There was no “good” cause. I was noted as “the no-show.” If at life’s end from a violent act, could I be reconciled for my own injustice by saying “My thoughts and prayers are with you?

Doubtful.

I wonder how long Ryan’s newly minted Congressional “family” will remain family.” As the sun dips below the horizon and rises Thursday, will Congress still be “family?” Will you still have your family? Will I have mine? For a variety of reasons, Buddhism does not seem to spew forth a tremendous wealth of family wisdom. So screw Buddhism. Let’s change that. Today and tomorrow, let’s learn to love. Deweaponize egos. Cast aside hatred and prejudices. Live in love. Abandon with simply “going through the motions.” Put in some effort. Forget anger. Forget skin. Forget brown, tan, white. Forget Irish, European, American, African or Asian. Just forget.

Live in real love. When nothing else is, Love is solid. And though it may give way and dump people into a basement of despair, true love remains dependable. So tomorrow, love your child. Love your neighbor. Love your family. No matter what illogical idiocy swarms about, let love flourish. Love every victim of violence.

And for god-sakes, love yourself.

In the past several weeks Stephen Colbert, Kathy Griffin, Rena Aslan and Bill Maher have wandered into a world where many have ventured, yet few survived. Maher and Colbert have survived. Griffin and Aslan did not. Hate filled speech by comedians and commentator alike appear to be more raw in recent times. Maybe it isn’t more raw as more reported. In a world filled with iPhones and Galaxy whatever, if you spew hatred, you’re likely to be recorded.

Colbert, Griffin, Aslan and Maher should have been fired. And each in their own way will live with the consequences. Do I personally believe Colbert, Griffin and Maher are racists? No. You wouldn’t know that from some of vitriolic words spewed from all sides of the issue. Yet, Americans’ collectively yawn to the broader issues political leaders undermine weekly.

For those that wade into stupidity, public indignation is often swift and severe. However, while that same public and news media endlessly debates such racist diatribe, real life issues are silently condoned. It is within the public squabbling that business elite and politicians alike hope the public remains fixated. And within that fixation, politicians barter American lives as policy decisions are made, deals are cut and riches made.

As the Trump-Comey fight lingered in media headlines, Americans who need the most help in affordable health care will get purged under the Obamacare replacement plan. As Americans were glued to Comey’s testimony on Capital Hill, GOP Senators moved the House GOP healthcare plan toward passage. Hiding details, GOP Senators were making backdoor deals to coerce wavering Senators. With little fanfare, public debate or protests, we silently condone our fate, waiting for the privileged few to determine the fate of millions. It’s a process which has been repeated for thousands of years. We naively think, “Well, this time it’s different.”

It’s not.

The least among us will be detrimentally impacted for decades. As Americans and individuals, we must speak for those who cannot. Yet publicly, and individually, we are more apt to take a hands-off approach, turn our head to the cold wind ahead and silently thank fate that we aren’t affected. Don’t have health care? “Sucks to be you.” Is your marriage experiencing significant turbulence? “Sucks to be you.” Out of a job. “Whew. Sucks to be you.” Are you hungry neighbor? “Sucks to be you.” Have a bad President? “It’s ok. He’s different.”

Yesterday a coworker stated he opened his company assigned email and found a rather short, four line email from Human Resources, stating he was being reclassified from full-time to hourly. “If you want to continue health care insurance, you’ll need to contribute $500.00 on a bi-weekly basis.” No phone call. No Human Resources conference. Just an email. “Sucks to be you.

As a whole, we’ve ditched decency and embraced apathy, racism and hatred as acceptable values. “It’s ok. It’s different,” we’re told. In spite of living in highly racialized times, Americans appear rather indifferent to many social issues, including killing of innocent African-American citizens by police, bigotry towards Latinos, and outright condemnation of Muslims.

The golden rule propounded by Buddha is that you do not do unto others what you do not want others to do to you. We must get back to those values. What’s happening now is not ok.

Life requires a series of ongoing daily chances which are often dealt like random cards from a casino dealer. The chances we take are enormous. Small events, the crisscross of human paths etched as we transverse each day. Most dismiss these small events as mundane. Yet each path offers opportunities for both opportunities of joy and sorrow. Quirks of time, moments of interconnected strangers passing between brief singular points of focus.

I don’t know singer and entertainer Ariana Grande. If I heard her music, I wouldn’t recognize it. However, late last night, I checked Ms. Grande’s Twitter for the very first and last time in my life. Two days prior, her account hovered over her tour, tour notes, and upcoming performance events. Forty-eight hours later, Ms. Grande’s was filled with love and vile. I’m unsure why, as some claim, how Ariana Grande is sole heir to the deaths of concert patrons.

From a tragic event, comes continued pain and joy. For those who left the arena uninjured, joy. For the fourteen or so who remain unaccounted, everlasting anguish. Here one minute, gone the next. Where are they? Alive one second, ghosts another.

If there is ever a time I question God’s honor, it’s especially ripe in such moments. If we truly admit, such times are an open scar for the world to bear. Why do children have to perish in such horrific ways? Surely, I would have given my life for any of the missing. Yet, 4,600 miles from the destruction, I remain alive. The victims are not.

I have no answers to long sought after questions. For many, God remains as silent today as several hundred years ago. In truth, Jesus, nor God, nor early Biblical writers offer much hope for victims of terrorism. One preacher I heard shortly after September 11th stated that 9/11 in and of itself was a test of faith. I tend to reject such allusions. Let’s confirm we aren’t sure what God beliefs are.

From my Buddhist training, I reach back to the eightfold path and grasp the first three: the right view, the right thought and the right speech. My view rightfully suggests this was a horrific event. The right thought is to honor those who lost, including the performer. Ariana Grande is just another victim in a list of many. Lastly, my speech is one of comfort not hatred.

We must choose to “Do No further Harm” to any of the victims. Doing otherwise forsakes the path of love we are commanded to carry.

Rather to have chosen the vile, I choose love. To those who lost or suffered in Manchester. I offer my love, my tears and heart.

In a strange way, both the US House American Health Care Act vote and Emmanuel Macron’s French Presidential victory were about rejecting secularism and hatred. Both the US and France experienced moments where some factions of society tried to institutionalize separatism and division within borders. Where America accepted, France rejected.

The Washington Post noted, “Depending on your interpretation, President Trump either endorsed far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or suggested that her stock was rising because of a pre-election terrorist attack in Paris.” In an Associated Press interview, Trump added, “She’s (Le Pen) the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France. Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders will do well in the election.”

Yet in the United States, the US House of Representatives voted for the American Health Care Act which, if it becomes law in its current form, will repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act, change the rules for subsidies, and make major cuts to the Medicaid program, which funds care for the poor and disabled. A whole lot of people will lose coverage.

Looking for a lesson? I find the following scene from the television show “Kung Fu” illuminating.

Looking into a pool of fish, Master Kan said to young Caine, “Look at the world you live in and this pool of fish. There are twelve fish, twelve worlds.”

“But only one pool.” Young Caine replied.

“Many. The one you see, the one I see, and the world of each. Ten million living things have as many worlds. Do not see yourself as the center of the universe, wise and good and beautiful. Seek, rather, wisdom, goodness, and beauty, that you may honor them everywhere.”

The history of own life and society ripple through us from generation to generation. Most of us are unaware of our own thoughts, attitudes and emotions; where those thoughts and emotions originated.  As American’s, as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and as citizens of the world, we need to work to recognize and transform fear and anger so such emotions do not dictate our life, our own inaction or own acceptance of injustice.

Desmond Tutu observed that in order to free the blacks from Apartheid, Mandela realized he had to free the whites from their fears – this kind of analysis and related strategy is necessary for all of us. In a similar way, Marcon stated the same.

The National Front, our main opponent, is attacking us on all sides. Never boo them. Fight them.”

In everything, do not see yourself as the center of the universe. Seek only that which honors people everywhere.

As GOP leaders continue marching the American Health Care Act through the legislative process, we are left with bickering pros and cons of affordability and coverage. As one who’s earned a livelihood from the healthcare industry, I view legislative gladiators from the cheap seats and ponder, “If you can’t afford health care, should the state let you die?

The current House plan relies on government tax credits, regulation of the insurance industry, and continued government funding to keep the low-income population insured. Yet in-between weeds, down in the fine print no one ever reads, one can find insurance reforms are positioned so carriers can offer a wider array of policies that pick up less of the tab for getting care. Additionally, Insurance companies can charge the oldest enrollees as much as they want, roll back the Medicaid expansion thereby eliminating approximately 11 million of the nation’s poorest from health care and eliminating healthcare services of poorer via planned parenthood.

In February 2017, Cardinal Burke noted, “Catholic health care, by its constant and careful attention to the perennial moral teaching of the Church, safeguards and promotes the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death ...”

Sounds wonderful, but there are little safeguards that promote the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our faith-based nation spends a hell of a lot time upending/defending Roe vs. Wade, but the notion we protect all human life from conception to natural death is bullshit. The back hallways of healthcare facilities are littered with the strewn, discarded and neglected. These hallways are filled with the “let them die” arrogance. We simply do not care about the respect of human life.

Both Bernie Sanders and the Pope have stated similar positions, “…access to health care regardless of income” is a right. Technically speaking, even one without health care can get health care coverage via a hospital emergency room. And in truth, both the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s American Health Care Act provides opportunities for health care access. Now whether one can afford that access is an entirely different matter.

Health care is not mentioned in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yet our Founding Fathers rightfully focused on life, liberty and justice. Conservatives continue to believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Several years ago, a 17-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School wrote:

“… it must be noted that the key word in said act is “affordable.” The American people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, worrying about groceries, bills, and car payments. For better or for worse, that is capitalism, and as a country the United States has stayed true to its ideals. Nevertheless, the competition of the game of life should never have to be a game of life and death.”

Health care coverage is extremely complex. By nature, medical clinicians, Buddhists, Christians and many others of faith are concerned in their own way in the alleviation, control and ultimately the removal of human suffering. The American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck began his bestselling book The Road Less Travelled with the statement “Life is difficult.” He added, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”

Borrowing from Peck, the current health care debate is difficult. The disparity between health care and American values is crudely displayed as political views, politicians, managers, and administrators impact who receives what level of proportioned health care. While hospitals are forced to meet sometimes arbitrary measurements of performance, financial incentives are dolled-out on the backside. Lost in all this is what matters. For instance, what may matter more to a patient is the intangible and unquantifiable aspects of care experience. On what measurable performance scale can it be recorded that a dying patient is helped through denial, anger, and resentment to peace and serenity?

Of course, we can mimic Rep. Roger Marshall’s (R-KS) holy view to wash our hands. Marshall used Jesus to justify his opposition to Obamacare by explaining that poor people will reject health care.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are.”

Can we afford to be spiritually ignorant as some politicians? Should society claim that if one can’t afford health care, they die? No. At this point, both societal value and the American Health Care Act are morally unaffordable.

img_0011Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer tried to undercut the national view of misleading facts into alternative facts. Ok, let’s get real, “Alternative Facts” are nothing more than lies.

After listening to Conway’a message, I kept thinking of how vast the difference between her statement and Precept 4.

Let’s start with some history. The Trump administration basically started his Presidential term with trying to convince Americans that Sean Spicer’s arguments about inaugural crowd facts. Of course the rift between the media and Trump’s press secretary was quite the show.

In case you missed it, Sean Spicer basically went on national television and new White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily lectured reporters this past Saturday from the podium of the press briefing room with a long digression about how many people had shown up to watch Trump be sworn in as president.

This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

As CNN noted , aerial photos indicated former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience. To these, Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.

Kellyanne Conway coined a new term Sunday morning when she stated that White House Press secretary Sean Spicer was not lying about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. Instead, Conway claimed, Spicer simply told us “Alternative Facts.”

Of course no one understands Trump made almost 200 statements during the campaign that were deemed “Pants on fire” lies or simply false.

I will side-step the politics here, but seriously query, should I meet God, can I use “Alternative Facts” to condone my actions? Can my son use “Alternative Facts” should during a court trial? If the President uses false precepts and lies to the public over crowd numbers, what will he do in times of serious trouble?

As a Buddhist, any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion and lead us away from unity and harmony. Any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in giving, love and wisdom and thus help clear the way to peace. To know what is right and wrong in god-centered religions, all that is needed is to do as you are told.

In a human-centered religion like Buddhism, to know what is right or wrong, you have to develop a deep self-awareness and self-understanding. And ethics based on understanding are always stronger than those that are a response to a command. So to know what is right and wrong, one needs to look at three things – the intention, the effect the act will have upon oneself and the effect it will have upon others. If the intention is good (rooted in giving, love and wisdom), if it helps myself (helps me to be more giving, more loving and wiser) and help others (helps them to be more giving, more loving and wiser), then my deeds and actions are wholesome, good and moral.

Of course, there are many variations of this. Sometimes one may act with the best of intentions but it may not benefit either myself or others. Sometimes intentions are far from good, but that action helps others nonetheless. Sometimes by acting out of good intentions helps me but perhaps cause some distress to others. In such cases, the actions are mixed – a mixture of good and not-so-good. When intentions are bad and the action helps neither myself nor others, such an action is bad. And when my intention is good and my action benefits both myself and others, then the deed is wholly good.

So looking at the Trump organization, when the fake is presented as truth, then to whom does this benefit? And when lying in life, to whom do you benefit?

We all deserve honesty. Unfortunately, most of us get only shit.

img_0009Author J. Gresham Machen once wrote “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” In fact, grace is the most important concept in Christianity and the world. It is most clearly expressed by God’s promises, as revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ. Grace is the love shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God. It is this type of grace we are called, by God, to provide others, just as God provides to us.

This form of grace – this form of love – is the first thought crossing my mind after hearing of Chelsea Manning’s commutation. As you may recall, Ms. Manning is in the seventh year of a thirty-five year prison sentence for leaking classified military data to Wikileaks. In this essay I will neither review nor comment on either the nature of the crime nor the prison sentence. Rather, I simply choose to focus upon the President’s act of grace.

In truth, I have no idea why President Obama commuted Ms. Manning. Suffice it to say, there are probably many who are equally deserving. And I respect and honor all the effort and love for those who fight on their behalf.

There are many who claim the disclosure of documents was brutal, that many were impacted by the breach. And therefore, Manning is unworthy of such grace. Others will claim American taxpayers should not pay for Manning’s gender identity and counseling. I sympathize with such thoughts. Then again, as a taxpayer, I did not want to pay for the Iraq war and I certainly did not want to pay for the military effort in Afghanistan as well. As such, every taxpayer in America sucked it up and paid the price. I also did not enjoy reading, seeing and hearing of American soldiers committing horrendous acts of brutality either. Yet many remain at large, free from prosecution.

Strictly speaking, the blessings of everyday grace does not appear to descend from a Supreme Being or deity. Rather, grace comes from the normal interaction of people meeting people, by enlightened travelers who go forth, interact, forgive and love daily.

At the core of our humanity, all of us want to believe and embrace grace. At the same time, at our most human level, none of us will never emit the powers of Christ. Yet Christ and left humanity with two of Christ’s most powerful weapons – love and grace. These weapons transcend every day smugness, anger and hatred and provides real grounds for human hope. Transcendent grace reaches beyond our limitations of human understanding and provides relief to those who suffer.

I believe this is the same form of grace Manning received.

We don’t have to assess evidence for worthiness. We don’t have to condemn the fallen. We don’t have to impose our own limited bias to a woman most have predetermined forever unworthy.

What’s honorable is that somewhere, somehow the President of The United States reached down to a very wounded soul and provided grace. It should be our hope that all of us receive this level of love.

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