By: Mike Cookman Westchester UMC Reconciling Ministry
August 2015 Westchester UMC Messenger article
When I first taught–lo these many decades ago–I got myself a brand-spanking new grade book. It had preprinted lines for names and grades and a great little introduction with tips for teachers. And all the pronouns were feminine. In ‘Anti-Intellectualism In American Society’ Richard Hofstadter posits that while we give lip service to education, we really don’t hold it as sacred. Witness the bromide, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach” and the disdain toward Adlai Stevenson when he ran for president in 1952 and ’56–he was dismissed as an egg-head.
So when I saw all the feminine pronouns in my brand-spanking new grade book, I thought I shouldn’t be surprised. I’d read ‘The Virginian’ and saw lots of Western movies and the beloved school marm was always a young lady filling in ’til she got a real job as the wife of a rancher, or a farmer, or a store-keeper. Men could be headmasters. And, of course, college professors. But a man teaching elementary school wasn’t doing a real job. I believe it is the main reason teaching has traditionally been one of the lowest paying professions. It was considered ‘woman’s work’.
That’s kind of an introduction to the thrust of this article. ‘Cuz, my friends, we’re back in the ’60’s and ‘the times they are a’changin’. The recent Supreme Court decision recognizing gay marriage has Evangelicals up in righteous arms decrying the death of a God-fearing American society. God’s laws are immutable! By gum! Bill Hatton gave me an article from the ‘Times’ last Sunday. The author was pointing out that Evangelicals had for a great number of years been anathema to pastors being divorced. After all, Jesus said that, “divorce, except for adultery, was wrong and a man who got divorced and then took up with another woman was guilty of adultery. And God help that couple if the new woman had also been divorced. Double Secret Adultery. Many good men were driven from their pulpits. But after 1980 Evangelicals grew strangely quiet on the subject of divorce. In 1980 Evangelicals found the perfect political candidate, Ronald Reagan. But Ronnie had been divorced. Worse yet he married Nancy, who had also been divorced. What about God’s immutable laws that were unchanging? Or, maybe, those laws only applied to liberals. Or Democrats. And, wonder of wonders, Jesus never said ‘jack-diddly’ about homosexuality.
So when I turn Fox News either on or off–always using my right hand–I don’t quake in fear at the blandishments of those who purport to know God’s immutable laws. Those folks that most loudly proclaim the unchanging inerrancy of the Bible or the Constitution are often the most ignorant of either of those works. Somebody ran for governor on the sole platform that President Obama was not a citizen of the United States. Duh! idiot, if you are born to a United States citizen anywhere in the world you are a United States citizen. And, my darlings, why do you think there have been so many amendments to such a perfect document as the Constitution? A document that in it’s original form endorsed slavery, considered slaves as three-fifths of a person–for population purposes so slave-holding districts could have more representatives. A document that denied voting rights to women, First Peoples, and slaves–whom, of course, were not human, only chattels. It begs the question, if slaves were but beasts, weren’t many slave owners guilty of bestiality?
And then there’s South Carolina and the Confederate Battle Flag. Ulysses Grant said it best at Appomattox when–and I paraphrase–he said, ‘few men have fought so nobly for such an ignoble cause’. The Confederate states were fighting for the right to be free to hold others in bondage. And some folk think ‘military intelligence’ is the most obvious oxymoron! People are welcome to personal views but governments can’t be allowed to support hurtful and hateful opinions.
Teddy Roosevelt called the presidency a ‘Bully Pulpit’ and a column can also be a ‘bully pulpit’. The Jesus I recognize is a purveyor of love, of acceptance, of open-mindedness. The Everywhere Spirit is rejoicing that a society is recognizing that all people have value. That women are the equal of men. That marriage is a right of all people. That governments should not endorse evil symbols.
Y’all can’t legislate morality and values. Opinions and ideas have to change one person at a time. One heart at a time. One mind at a time. So tonight, when you sip your tea, or your coffee, or your soft drink, or your water, or your Cabernet, or your highball, give my words some thought. And answer in your own mind, your own heart, your own soul, what’s so wrong about love and freedom? Stay thinking, my friends. Blessings on us all….—Mike Cookman.