Tag Archives: justice

Uganda: These Are Crimes against Humanity

My heart hurts today for my brothers and sisters. I pray for their safety, as they are compromised in the midst of this political power grab and uninformed homophobia that is masquerading as righteousness. Imagine the fear and instability this kind of legislation will also bring to families and friends of our LGBT sisters and brothers. Anyone who knows the heart of God, also knows this cannot be the will of God. I am confident that truth and love will prevail because at the end of the day, God has the last word. We are all leaning on God’s everlasting arm. – Bishop Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship

May our thoughts and prayers be with the LGBTI people and their families in Uganda, the Kuchu Diaspora Alliance, and our global LGBTI family around the world. This is not the last word in Uganda, of course, and at this time let us pause for moments of solemn solidarity and then return to the work of solidarity, equality and justice. – Michael J. Adee, Ph.D., Global Faith & Justice Project of the Horizons Foundation

Our hearts break as we think about the unthinkable.  The new law in Uganda is surely as heinous an attack on humanity and human rights as we have witnessed in the 21st century.  The fact that U.S. so called religious voices have supported and encouraged this law is disgraceful  We pray for the safety and well-being of LGBT people in Uganda and their families, and urge the U.S. government to respond swiftly to this violation.  We pray for a day when all will see that sexual and gender diversity is part of God’s blessing to us all. – Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Co-founder and President of the Religious Institute, Inc.

Our hearts and souls are joined with the people of Uganda, especially those whose lives and liberty are threatened by this horrific injustice. We pray that the majority of people, law enforcers, and those in government will continue to live in the recognition that all people embody the Divine, and pledge renewed vigor in working to overturn such discrimination. We call on the people and officials of the Catholic Church worldwide to recognize that such laws perpetrate violence on the entire body of Christ, and to lead efforts to repeal this and similar laws. – Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA

May those responsible for the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda be healed in heart mind and soul. May their fear be vanquished, opening them to the grace, beauty and vitality of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations, resulting in the repeal of this law. May our LGBTQ comrades find safety, feel loved and be clear that they are part of G-d’s intentional Creation, beloved, manifesting an aspect of G-dself in our corporeal world necessary for the elevation of all consciousness. – Rabbi Debra Kolodny, Executive Director, Nehirim

“Right now, we have heard from LGBTQ people in Uganda who are fleeing their homes to avoid being beaten or imprisoned.  It is far past the time when religious people should be speaking against this vicious persecution. Persecution and brutality are not cultural differences; these are crimes against humanity!” – Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson. Moderator ofMetropolitan Community Churches

http://www.glaad.org/blog/life-imprisonment-being-lgbt-law-uganda-now

Advertisements

the fathers have eaten sour grapes

Ezekiel was sitting, listening to God and writing.  Somewhere outside, the sun was shining and the birds were singing.  But he was in Babylon.

A letter had come from their homeland, soon after they had arrived here in Babylon.  It had been brought to the ghetto that the Babylonians had assigned them to.

The Babylonians had a lot of ghettos. People from nations they had overrun lived in them, doing whatever work the Babylonians assigned them.  Sometimes they were a small sample of a larger population, most of whom were still living in their homeland.

Sometimes, they were all that was left.

In the message, God said he wanted them to settle in.  He wanted them to serve their new masters. Happily.  Just in case he decided to utterly destroy their friends and relatives who had been left behind.  Because of how evil they were.  Evil like rotten figs were evil.  Rotten figs weren’t useful to their owner. They were evil.

Ezekiel supposed it was a nice ghetto.  There were trees.  And they were allowed to plant gardens.  The Babylonians seemed to respect them.

It was better than Egypt had been.

Ezekiel tried to concentrate.  God was talking to him.  He needed to focus on writing.

He tried not to think about why God had given His message for the exiles to a prophet still in Jerusalem. Instead of to him.

He sometimes dreamed of home.  Of  the village he came from and his cousins.  Of his own garden and the vines. He wondered if anyone was taking care of them.

Sometimes God would show him visions of home.  Would show it to him one facet at a time- the elders, the women, the mountains- and explain how he was going to destroy it.  And how nothing could stop him.

There were no visions of home today. Today was, perhaps, a good day.

Other things that hadn’t happened, helping today to be a good day, were that God had not commanded him to preform bizarre yet detailed and specific pantomimes in any public area.  Or rendered him psychologically unable to speak to other humans. Or ordered him to eat food baked in shit.

Really, it was a pretty good day.

Those things had all happened to Ezekiel at one point or another. Those weren’t the most pleasant things, but if you refused Him, Ezekiel knew, you would shortly regret refusing very, very much.  And when he finally broke you, you would still have to do whatever it was he had ordered you to do in the first place.

Ezekiel considered himself pretty lucky.  God had never started ordering him to go sleep with so-and-so.  Or naming his children.

Some people had it a lot worse than he did, he knew. He appreciated that fact.

God was still talking.  He was more or less ranting at this point and sometimes Ezekiel wasn’t sure if God was still talking to him or just to Himself, but that didn’t matter.  He wrote quickly and as exactly as he could, in case Any One accused him of having misrepresented God’s Words.

He was secretly a little proud of his letters.   Proud of their shape and of their smooth flow. They weren’t chicken tracks pecked in clay like the cuneiform of these Eastern cities.  They weren’t pictures that had (somewhere at the dawn of time, no doubt) been assigned meanings- like the once-powerful Egyptians still used.  They were real letters.  He thought his people’s script was beautiful and he thought he wrote well.

Writing was a valuable skill.   It was more common among his people than among some of the other ethnic groups, but it was still not very common.

 The word of the Lord came to me:  “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

“Suppose there is a righteous man
    who does what is just and right.
 He does not eat at the mountain shrines
    or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
    or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.
 He does not oppress anyone,
    but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
    but gives his food to the hungry
    and provides clothing for the naked.
 He does not lend to them at interest
    or take a profit from them.
He withholds his hand from doing wrong
    and judges fairly between two parties.
 He follows my decrees
    and faithfully keeps my laws.
That man is righteous;
    he will surely live,
declares the Sovereign Lord.

 “Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):

“He eats at the mountain shrines.
He defiles his neighbor’s wife.
He oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
He lends at interest and takes a profit.

Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.

 “But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:

 “He does not eat at the mountain shrines
    or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.
 He does not oppress anyone
    or require a pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
    but gives his food to the hungry
    and provides clothing for the naked.
 He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor
    and takes no interest or profit from them.
He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.

He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.  But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.

 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.  None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

 “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites:  Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die.  But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life.  Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die.  Yet the Israelites  say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

 “Therefore, you Israelites,  I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!  [Ezekiel 18:1-32]

At this point God had finished expounding, and His speech had left Him fairly glowing with satisfaction.  He seemed to have settled something in His own mind, during the rant.  His thought touched on Ezekiel and Ezekiel thought he felt a flash of affection and a sort of humor.  Ezekiel’s heart practically stopped with fear.  Then the room filled.  Light that wasn’t light.  Sound that wasn’t sound.

When Ezekiel came conscious again, he found himself slouched over his scroll and pens.  He staggered to his feet and leaned against the wall.  God was gone.  Well- and he forced himself to smile faintly- at least He had left in a good mood.  God was perfectly capable of coming and going in a manner that didn’t knock His servants unconscious or leave their minds in shambles for hours or days afterwards.  But He only used that mode when He was sullen.  He seemed to think that He was depriving them of something they desperately needed by not blinding them with His Glory- which was obviously a fit punishment for Him feeling unhappy.  Considering the other things God tended to do when He was upset, at this point, Ezekiel  preferred getting knocked around a bit. 

He realized that there was a song running through his head.  Some thing about a lioness… lion cubs… and a vine.   He knew from experience that it would keep playing, over and over, unchanged, until he wrote it down.  God had left him a little parting chore.

He looked over what he had already written.  He hadn’t been able to attend to the meaning before, focused on listening and recording so exactly.

The word of the Lord came to me:  “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die….

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites:  Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?… 

Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

God was saying that people should be judged individually and not in hereditary groups or family lines.

Ezekiel’s eyes widened.  This was hard to believe.  He went over to a chest.  When he opened it, the sharp, sweet scent of cedar wood spilled out and there, nestled inside, were his scrolls.   He tended to lavished attention on his scrolls.  They were the only things he owned that he knew (with certainty) God would not command him to hack to pieces, which he must then destroy in various horrible ways, symbolizing the ways in which God was going to kill large numbers of his people.

Words of God.

He took out several of them and unrolled them next to his new scroll.  He looked for the part he thought he was remembering.   He found it.  It was part of the formal agreement God had decided that they would make with Him; signing themselves over to him as His possessions.

(God hadn’t officially said so, but at the time had given every indication that, if they didn’t agree, they would be destroyed.  He could make another people, after all.  If they didn’t work out.)

(Thus, they had agreed to be God’s possessions)

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.  [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

He sat back and let silence fill the room.  There was nothing to say.

God was not only changing the terms of the everlasting commandments that He had imposed on them.  He was also insinuating an accusation against them as if the original had been their idea in the first place.

Why will you die, people of Israel?

Is my way unjust?

Ezekiel had thought there were other passages.  He pulled himself together and began looking for them.

God considered it flattering that they wrote down everything he said.  They encouraged him to see it that way.

Ezekiel found the other passages.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”  Moses… said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” [Exodus 17:14-16]

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”  Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. [Exodus 34:6-8]

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation.  For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor …to pronounce a curse on you.  [Deuteronomy 23:3-4]

He wasn’t making this up.  God really had just switched rules on them.

The long struggle between the dying Egyptian power, and the rising Mesopotamian empires seemed to be grinding towards some kind of climax. If either were to finally break the power of the other, they would need to control… well… his homeland.   It was the gateway- the channel- between them.   

The few stories he had heard of his home lately reported that their internal politics were reaching a high froth.  The public lived in a state of panic, rulers were ousted or taken as hostages by stronger states every few years, and the allegiance of Jerusalem vacillated wildly between Egypt… Mesopotamia… Egypt… Mesopotamia…

If they chose wrong, they were probably going to cease to exist as as people.  As had so many others.

And God… well. Every time they allied with one side or the other, God would start sending them death threats.  They didn’t trust Him enough.  He was going to have them all killed. He was going strip them naked and beat them almost to death, with all the nations of the world looking on, laughing at their agony and humiliation.

But ever since the time of King Hezekiah and his son Manasseh, God had been saying that He was going to destroy them.   Ever since the time of King Manasseh, He had been saying that it was because He hadn’t forgiven the nation for Manasseh’s sins. Before Manasseh, He had still been saying He would destroy them.  It just wasn’t clear why.  Hezekiah had fallen all over himself following the rules God had given them.

That was several generations ago.

Ezekiel looked at the new Words again.

Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.

So they couldn’t be blamed for the sins of Manasseh?  Several times, since the days of Manasseh’s reign, they had had collective fits of utter devotion to God, throwing themselves without reservation into their agreement with him.  All that God had said was that he was still going to destroy them.  Horribly. Because of King Manasseh. 

So maybe if the people living now out did themselves in devotion, God would…? Or at least- God wouldn’t…?

It was hard to fathom why God said or did certain things.  It was hard to tell if he meant what he was saying or if he didn’t.

But maybe this change of standards was a good thing. Maybe they would find a way to survive.

He decided he wasn’t going to complain about it.

He picked up his pen again and sighed.  The song was still running through the his mind and now he attended to it in order to write it down.

His face blanched and his knuckles whitened as he listened.

The Lioness and the Vine both symbolized his homeland.  The Lioness’ two cubs represented two factions of of his nation.  Both of them were trapped- netted- dragged with hooks into cages and offered as gifts- to the kings of Egypt and Babylon, respectively.  Meanwhile, the Vine, their land…

The land God had promised them.

The land He had given them.

The sign of His oath of protection and the concern that was supposedly the reason for his strict control.

The symbolic Vine was burned to dust.  Not even a stem was left.

That was his plan for them.  Under the new rules.

Or maybe it wasn’t.  Who knew.

For a moment, Ezekiel thought that he felt afraid.  Then he realized that he didn’t.  He didn’t feel anything.

He began to write, but he was having trouble.  He looked at his hands sadly. They were betraying him. They were shaking so badly.

The beautiful letters. He was ruining them.

***

At night, the streets and houses were silent.  They weren’t quiet.  Those who slept weren’t at rest and those who were awake…  In a city the size of Jerusalem, there should have been some noise, somewhere.   But the darkness was still.

The night itself was holding its breath. Waiting.

In one of the districts of the city the houses were rich.  The curtains were heavy and soft, and people spoke in soft, polite tones, even when their words meant betrayal or the threat of death.

In the endless darkness, something moved.

Something had come in to one of the rooms. There was nothing to be seen, but the air had shifted.  Just a little.

The darkness had filled.

Two people were sleeping in the room.  One of them began to to breath differently.  Then to twitch as if being stabbed.  His limbs began moving, flailing in his sleep. His body was trying to ward off an attacker.

There was nothing there.

The convulsions got stronger and he started to moan.  His own motions became violent enough to wake him, and he clawed his way up to his knees.  He crawled over to the other sleeper. His voice was husky.

“Baruch! Baruch!”

Baruch woke.  He groped in the dark for a little lamp and lit it off the coals in the brazier.     His companion’s dark eyes were looking back at him, red rimmed and full of pain.  His face was fragile.

It had been a beautiful face, when his companion was a child.  When this began.  It had never become less beautiful.  Age and a deepening sorrow had brought another kind of beauty to blossom.

They didn’t speak.  They didn’t need to.  Baruch unrolled a clean scroll and dipped his pen.

Gasping as the words pulsed in his mind, his voice suddenly strong and clear, the first sleeper dictated to Baruch.  Baruch wrote. The sounds of their voice and pen were the only things breaking the stillness.  The darkness was electric around them.

…Restrain your voice from weeping
    and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded…

I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
    ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
    and I have been disciplined…’

The days are coming when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant. In those days people will no longer say,

‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

 The days are coming,
    when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them.
This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time.
I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people…

For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more…  [Jeremiah 31]

As the final words were spoken, the compulsion went out of him and the speaker gently collapsed.  Baruch frantically wrote the last few lines, then pushed the scroll aside.  He gathered his friend’s limp body in his arms and held him.

After a while Baruch spoke.

“How is it?”

His friend’s voice was weak now.

“It is good, Baruch. So good. This time.”

The dark eyes looked up at him, as if to say something else. Before it could come out, they drifted shut.   Utter exhaustion had sent him back to sleep.

Baruch sighed and leaned back against the wall, still holding his friend.  The darkness was empty and quiet.  He wasn’t sure how long it had been that way.

He could never do what his friend had done, over the course of their lives. He could not hope.

Not even now.

He had never wept for anything but his friend.