Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Doria and the Limits of Alone-ness

She has gone “viral.” The Internet, they say, adores her. She radiates poise and pride. She more than held her own in the presence of the Queen of England. She, of course, is Doria Hagland, the mother of the first ever, newly minted Duchess of Sussex, née Meghan Markle.

Her image is etched in history: the single, stoic black mom of an unlikely princess, an older divorcee who had tamed a rebel prince’s heart, reducing him to a hapless lover cooing that he had “missed” her though they had been together just the day before!
But back to Doria.

In a glowing article, The New Yorker, declared that she, in her aloneness in that pew, had done what black (read: single black) mothers had always done, “straighten the mess up” of people around them. In her case, an ex-husband both morally and physically too weak for the regal affair, while she personified “self-effacing altruism.”

That analysis, for the all the world to see, is true.

In the cascade of praises, one is tempted to forget that Doria was, in what must have been the most surreal moment of her life, forced to bow her head inward, towards her chin, towards the floor, instead of a gentle outward tilt, onto a waiting, familiar, comforting shoulder. There was no human echoing, even in a whisper or a wink or a caress, “yes, I know; I got you; it’s all perfectly wonderful and always will be; well done.” No one there to say to her, “you look amazing.”

Shall we all agree that, truly, truly, nothing on earth feels quite as … flattering as romantic attention?

Prince Harry and Meghan basked in that mutual adulation. I half expected them to start crooning, “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

But Doria was alone. Looking at her daughter or at the floor. I don’t believe she looked at anything else that day. Not the magnificent art or architecture that surrounded her. Not the guests who were surely analyzing her. She just sat there, a bit like Rosa Parks must have done in that Alabama bus.

The New Yorker described it as a “profound presence.” Of course. But she also reflected a profound absence. There she was, a wad of emotions, rolls of history, contradictions, fears, gratitude, memories, worries, pride, love. And no one was there, at that precise moment, to help unpack and sort and share them.

Am I the only to think that picture--and the reality behind it--tragic?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Bible and governments

In light of Mr. Trump’s nascent presidency and the discussions it has unleashed about immigrants, I have been earnestly seeking to know the answer to one key question:  what does my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob say about human government in the Bible?

The most complete example of God’s ideal for human government is found, of course, in his instructions to the young nation of Israel.

Arguably, God created Israel for two reasons: so that the Israelites may worship him (he said to the Pharaoh: “Let my people go so that they may go and worship me”) and so that to He may be known by all nations, including Israel.

Following the exodus, he gave three key commands to the national leaders: obey and worship Yahweh alone; do justice, with a special eye on the poor or powerless; and treat the foreigners among you very well. These commandments are repeated again and again throughout the Bible.

God also describes who should become leaders: men (women were not included) who are honest, competent, and fear God (and would therefore presumably obey and worship him alone and treat foreigners well).

God seems to apply those rules even to pagan nations.

Lest we err, Sodom was punished for, among other sins, a lack of attention to the poor, as found in Ezekiel 16, a particularly passage: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned: they did not help the poor and needy ... Therefore I did away with them." v. 49-50.

Still, most modern day governments are not theocracies. They do not exist to worship God and to make him known. So what does God require of them?

Apparently, not very much.

Romans 13 does provide some answers. It says that a governmental leader  “is God's servant for your good ... he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.”

According to that passage, the government exists to punish those who would do harm, presumably to fellow human beings. And it is free to use force to achieve that objective.

So those who argue that government’s first and fundamental duty is to protect society are on solid ground. Punishing harmful behavior is the one governmental function cited in the New Testament, and punishing bad behavior facilitates peaceful co-existence within society, and good deeds.

Moreover, human government is expected to conduct administrative affairs, specifically census and taxation, and all under their control (not just citizens) must acquiesce. There is not much else that is mentioned, much less commanded.

Christians who argue against Mr. Trump’s actions on Biblical basis miss the mark, I believe, in as much as the American government is just a modern, secular institution, just like those of China, Uganda, or Australia.

So an initial question must first be answered: “how closely do we want the American government to reflect God’s ideal, e.g., Old Testament, model?”

Definitions before accusations.

Monday, March 9, 2015


After 430 years of slavery
the Israelites marched out their exodus,
No hand had been raised
except Moses.

The night before
Yahweh had kept wake, 
over them,

So here I pray for Haiti, in year 211:
would grace not half the suffering
and set a Kiskeya vigil?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


There are times
when life 
takes flight
leaving us in a miasma,
a chasm,
grasping for air,
groping for what remains
when faith and friends
are sought in vain
when knowing
gives way, limp.

It will return, of course,
life that is,
the sun and a song 
on its wings.

Goodness will circle, circle, circle.
The Lord, the Lord Almighty has traced it so.