I am not not afraid. These are worrisome and fearful times but I am not afraid. Recognize that I come from a place of privilege that others do not. Still, I am confident that God is our "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46 NRSV)."
We are in trouble and every day I am reminded at that by those that send their cowardly threats and taunts meant to dehumanize my existence and the humanity of those I serve as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ with a mandate to preach and teach the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus at the core is love, and though many have tried that ideal has never been diminished. It is the central organizing principle of all the great faith traditions of the world. What is divine is not limited to one religion or another. Love, justice, humility (Micah 6:8) are a summons to action that we all share.
As a follower of the Prince of Peace, my call is to preach peace. Does the anger and vitriol directed my way - and at all those who preach justice and inclusion - worry me? It is a sign of a spiritual sickness. When I respond in kind that sickness infects me and I pray to Jesus for healing. But I am not afraid.
I am resolved to continue speaking out against the powers and principalities that allow hate and violence to fester. My heart breaks because I think about the people of Chicago, the people of Newtown, the people of Roseburg, the people of Charleston, the people of Orlando and so many other places - inside the United States and around the world - but giving into bigotry and fear is giving into evil. This is not the time for building walls. We must walk the more difficult path. I am not afraid.
So I share this prayer from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, as inspired by Phillips Brooks of the Episcopal Church in the 1800s, as we steal ourselves for another season of struggle. My you find truth and inspiration in the words whatever faith or philosophy that might guide you.
Jesus said, "You ought always to pray and not to faint." Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger women and men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but for power equal to your tasks. Then, the doing of your work will be no miracle — you will be the miracle. Each day you will wonder at yourself and the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God. Amen.
Today I worshiped in Charleston, South Carolina where one-year ago an act of domestic terrorism took the lives of nine people attending Bible study. Just one-year later we are mourning an apparent terrorist attack at an Orlando night club where over fifty have been killed. Such mass killings are made too easy by the prevalence of assault weapons in our nation, and gun safety laws that differ from community to community. In Charleston, a white Christian, fueled by racism, murdered African-Americans. In Orlando, preliminary reports suggest an Islamic terrorist targeted gay Americans. There is nothing holy about hate. Our religious bodies must do more to promote love over conflict, and faith communities and civil bodies must join forces to dramatically reduce gun violence. We must mourn our dead while working for a more peaceful America. Americans should not have to fear violence in our schools, houses of worship, malls, nightclubs, or movie theaters.
- Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain, Pacific University
| Disclaimer: Views of Pacific faculty do necessarily reflect those of the university.
Leading religious leaders from across the nation have sent a letter to President Obama welcoming the decision by the Obama Administration to expand Title IX discrimination protections on the basis of "gender identity, including discrimination based on a student's transgender status" to public schools across the country. Over three hundred people of faith have signed on as endorsers of the letter.
“We recognize that this is a confusing and even unsettling issue for many, while for others who have faced discrimination this has been a harmful experience long ignored. From our perspective, however, you have simply taken another step toward creating a nation where the basic civil rights of all are protected,” reads the letter.
Among the prominent religious leaders to sign the letter include: Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Rev. Dr. Traci D. Blackmon, Sister Simone Campbell, Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, and the Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins.
“Too many LGBTQ youths are lost and abandoned. Many of these young people end up living in poverty and on the streets. None of these children should face discrimination at school or barriers in getting an education. We believe that protecting young people from discrimination is consistent with our faith. Love – not fear – should be our guiding principle. We challenge those who might respond to this decision to open their hearts and listen to the stories, particularly of transgender students, who are so often marginalized,” write the faith leaders.
Text of full letter:
As people of faith with a deep and abiding concern for the welfare of all children, we want to applaud you and your administration for the recent decision to interpret and enforce Title IX — a statute, written in 1972, that prohibits sex discrimination — as also prohibiting discrimination on the basis of "gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.”
We recognize that this is a confusing and even unsettling issue for many, while for others who have faced discrimination this has been a harmful experience long ignored. From our perspective, however, you have simply taken another step toward creating a nation where the basic civil rights of all are protected.
Too many LGBTQ youths are lost and abandoned. Many of these young people end up living in poverty and on the streets. None of these children should face discrimination at school or barriers in getting an education. We believe that protecting young people from discrimination is consistent with our faith. Love – not fear – should be our guiding principle. We challenge those who might respond to this decision to open their hearts and listen to the stories, particularly of transgender students, who are so often marginalized.
Thank you for showing us a better path.
Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality & University Chaplain, Pacific University
Rev. Dr. Alice Hunt, President and Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible & Theological Education, Chicago Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Traci D. Blackmon, Executive Minister, Justice & Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Israel | Portland, Oregon
Rev. Dr. Deborah Krause, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament, Eden Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology and President Emerita, Chicago Theological Seminary
Rev. Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Issues, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins, Senior Vice-President for Innovations in Public Programs, Union Theological Seminary in New York City
* titles are used for identification purposes only
Getting lots of anonymous tweets today from Donald Trump supporters, like the one pictured here, rejecting pluralism and embracing Islamaphobia. So many of them have white supremacist sayings and photos in their profiles. It should be frightening that people like this have taken over the GOP. Democrats should not crow. This is not good for America.
The temptation in campaigns is to vilify those we do not support and I fall victim to that myself sometimes too.
Primary elections often times become difficult and acrimonious even when the candidates involved share many of the same principles and values. Now #ImWithHer. She's qualified. Hillary Clinton will continue the work of Barack Obama, and that is of vital importance.
For many, that isn't enough. I'm one of those that want change to come quickly but I also have nearly 30 years of experience working for social justice and recognize that change is a process. Sometimes we can move forward in unexpected ways when we are ready to seize the initiative and push justice-centered agendas forward. Just consider how quickly we advanced the cause of marriage equality in this nation. Still, a president has to create coalitions to pass legislation in the Congress and work with the courts.
I also recognize that the formal political process, the passing of legislation and such, is only one venue to advance the cause of social justice.
Bernie Sanders is a man of good moral character. As I've said before, I believe in many of the principles that he articulates. His focus on economic inequality can only make the nation a more fair and equal place.
The reality is that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both good and decent individuals who share a progressive agenda for making America a better nation. I don't agree with Bernie Sanders on every issue and it is fair to say so. Some of you may be critical of particular policy stances that Hillary Clinton has taken and that is fair. I don't agree with her on every issue - and I support her. When people find a candidate that they agree with 100% of the time it concerns me. A cult of personality develops. Donald Trump is the ultimate example of that in this election cycle as his followers uncritically support his every statement.
So my hope is that as the New York primary approaches that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and their supporters can move back to a more issue oriented campaign. We need to stop this nonsense talk about whether or not Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president. She is. And what progressive could argue that Ted Cruz or Donald Trump would make a better president than Bernie Sanders?
Debate the important issues. That is what a primary is for. But let's stand down with these personal attacks. Progressives need to remember that our ultimate goal is having a strong candidate to face either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in November. These two don't share our basic values. They have campaigned on division. They have a campaigned on religious bigotry. Their campaigns have been truly sexist and racist. It would be disastrous to have either as president.
Progressives still have the opportunity to show the nation, and demonstrate to the world, that our democratic election can be a process where ideas are debated with our nation's highest ideals in mind.
In the end, an election is not about candidates or political parties. Elections are about the common good of a nation. We are not doing as well today as we need to be. Despite the enormous progress since the Great Recession of 2008 when the economy collapsed under the leadership of President George W. Bush, too many people are still hurting. Elections are about the common good. About how to make life better for us all. Let's focus on that, campaign for the candidates we believe in, but do so in a positive spirit the lifts the nation up and offers hope.
Was it worth a 36-hour round trip from Portland to DC and back again to attend the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast. Absolutely. Here's why.
First, it provided the opportunity to thank President Obama personally for the kindness he and his staff have shown me since 2007. It took amazing moral courage to get the Affordable Care Act passed. The Iran Deal moved us off the path toward another war in Middle East. Saying thank you in person was important and this could be my last chance before President Obama leaves office.
It also gave a chance to see many friends - both White House staffers and religious leaders - who I've come to know and care about. There was a sense of nostalgia today. The president said so in his remarks. This will be his last Easter in The White House.
I was able to briefly share with Vice-President Biden my support for his cancer "moonshot." I'm a cancer survivor. But the wound of my mother's death from cancer is still raw. He understands this as well as anyone. We also got a few seconds to talk about our friend Les AuCoin.
Other conversations were just as important. I spoke with a senior State Department official about my hope that the president take a resolution before the United Nations outlining a path toward peace between Israel and Palestine. It was an opportunity for me to share my belief - shared widely - that the Palestinian people need hope and relief from suffering. Nothing justifies terrorism. I strongly support the right of Israel to exist. But I also strongly believe the human rights of the Palestinian people are not being met.
Many conversations dealt with the ugly rhetoric of this campaign season. If you're thinking that those gathered were a bunch of progressive Christians, well, you'd be wrong. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, some of them conservative, were in attendance. They were just as upset as me regarding the Islamaphobia and misogyny evidenced in this campaign. As religious leaders, I think we are all struggling within our own contexts with how to best offer a prophetic word this election year.
...in light of recent events, this gathering takes on more meaning. Around the world, we have seen horrific acts of terrorism, most recently Brussels, as well as what happened in Pakistan -- innocent families, mostly women and children, Christians and Muslims. And so our prayers are with the victims, their families, the survivors of these cowardly attacks.
And as Joe mentioned, these attacks can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do. And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge. That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses, our better angels.
And Pastor preached on this this weekend, and I know all of you did, too, as I suspect, or in your own quiet ways were reminded if Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid.
Bringing light to dark places. That has always been a central understanding of what it means for me to be a Christian.
So I talked with faith leaders today working to assist refugees. I talked with faith leaders working to combat climate change. I talked with faith leaders working for civil rights and police accountability. I talked with people who disagree with me on important theological and social issues and asked where we could find common ground and work together. You better believe I invited all of these people to visit Pacific University.
Yes, it was worth the trip. I'm a little bit tired typing this out on my iPad while flying back to Portland (a very first world problem to have) but my own hope is restored after breaking bread this morning with a group of faithful Americans who, like President Obama, are trying in difficult and conflicting times to bring light to dark places.
Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Loyd Hubbard and Richard Meyer
Loyd Hubbard – Southern-turned Oregonian, former chief of staff to the Oregon Senate, confidant of legendary Oregon Governor Tom McCall, manager / owner of The Empire Apartments, and advocate for ending homelessness at Baloney Joe’s – died today. He was 82.
Loyd’s family shared the news on Facebook a short time ago.
As a long-time friend and Loyd’s “spiritual advisor,” his words, I was fortunate to spend time with him this week. Richard Meyer and other close friends kept close watch over Loyd as his health declined. He wanted no memorial but I would suspect that friends will remember Loyd in different ways.
This past summer, after spending some time visiting Loyd, I wrote this post on Facebook describing our friendship and Loyd’s tireless work for the community:
Our first meeting occurred when I was just 16. A Democratic Party operative seeing some potential in a very young Chuck Currie, made it his mission to introduce me to every candidate considering a run for the democratic presidential nomination in 1988. In 1985, this included my attending a small event in the West Hills for then Senator Paul Simon (D-IL). Also there was Hubbard. Hubbard had been a confident of the legendary Tom McCall, Oregon's finest governor, and chief-of-staff to the president of the Oregon Senate. For some reason, in 1985, he thought a short man with glasses and a bow tie would make an ideal president (later I came to learn that this was because Simon was one of the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate and a person of deep integrity). Loyd took one look at me and made a joke about the cowboy boots I was wearing (in my teens and 20s - still today on special occasions - I always wore cowboy boots). The next year I ran into Hubbard again at Baloney Joe's, the always controversial and colorful shelter for homeless men, where he again made fun of my boots. Hubbard was volunteering his time at the shelter (in "retirement") bringing in major gifts. Mayor Bud Clark awarded Loyd Portland's highest honor, The Spirit of Portland Award, in 1985 for his civic work. He even once talked Doris Day into donating a diamond ring for an auction. By 1988, I'd left Pacific University after one year to spend all my time serving as a board member for Burnside Community Council, which operated Baloney Joe's (minus the summers when I had a very odd job of producing a series of summer concerts with the Oregon Symphony which drew crowds of over 75,000 to Portland's Waterfront Park...Loyd would always bring a contingent of friends from Baloney Joe's and try to start chants of of "Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!" - I'm thinking of you, Shari! - whenever I came on stage to make an announcement). Living off the $6,000 a year I made running the Waterfront Classics wasn't easy. Loyd, being Loyd, had somehow managed to come into partial ownership of "The Empire" apartments and to his ever lasting regret rented me a studio unit where I was nearly always short on rent (I went three winters there without heat) and had two cats, Freedom and Libby, known as being somewhat messy (some people will want to comment on this but restrain yourselves). The Empire was legendary. Everyone you wanted to know lived there. Some of them possibly felons on the run. But with Loyd's help and support, which included feeding me many home cooked meals and taking me and others out to great places like Alexis, I was able to start the all-volunteer Burnside Advocates Group (BAG) and begin work at Outside In. Loyd introduced me during those years to some of the most outrageous characters in Portland - from drag queens to politicians, all part of the colorful make-up that is Portland past and present. Many people from the "Empire days" are still friends and that includes not just the people who lived there but those who were always present at Loyd's dinner table and fully stocked Happy Hour bar. Loyd was there at our wedding (where he made a completely inappropriate toast in Hubbard style) and there for my ordination where he whispered to my mother: "The Lord moves in mysterious ways." Her perfect reply: "He sure does." Today we remembered these long years of friendship and enjoyed telling stories about all the people he has introduced me to along the way and some of the friends we've lost on this journey as well. Loyd, it isn't often I write a public tribute for a friend but you are one of a kind, a blessing in my life, and I love you. P.S. I will quickly email you an insult to move past this mushy stuff. See you soon!
When I was last with Loyd he had CNN on and was watching coverage of the election primary fight. He loved President Obama and was a loyal democrat who liked to win elections. Loyd was tuned in to the world around him until the very end. I will miss him.
If even Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the most right-wing member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, has reached the conclusion that the siege on the Gaza Strip should be lifted, we can only wonder: What is actually delaying Netanyahu? After all, lifting the siege would be an easy and wise move on the part of Israel.
In a Jan. 19 speech at the conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Bennett harshly criticized Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and accused them of a “conceptual freeze.” Bennett presented the Gaza Strip as an example and said, “After all, you won’t suspect that I’m a lefty, God forbid, but are we doing the right thing in Gaza? Wouldn’t it be better to reconcile with reality and disengage from our responsibility for the Gazans, open new paths in their lives with proper security oversight?”
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.