The real threat

It was a tumultuous week politically — generated by the raucous goings on at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland — and while I don’t expect the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to come close to the noise made by the Republicans, it will nevertheless be interesting.

But it will all be for naught.

It has become abundantly clear that no one is listening anymore. We are so locked in to our own point of view, that we dismiss anything that challenges it as twisted, partisan or outright lies.

Here’s an example:

A friend simply shared on Facebook The Associated Press’ fact-check of Donald Trump’s convention speech (AP Fact Check: Trump resurfaces debunked claims in speech), with no comment other that “Love my former employer.” Someone immediately commented saying something about “open season on police” and how they were not safe under President Obama, and what could you expect from the AP liberal media. (I’d quote it exactly, but keep reading.) To call the AP “liberal” is laughable, but that’s another discussion.

My friend then cited statistics about why that wasn’t true, how police deaths have actually declined under President Obama, etc. And I chimed in that the exchange was an example of how no one listens to facts which contradict what they want to believe.

To which came the reply: “Yep. I knew that joining this conversation would turn into an attack. So I’ll just take down my comment so I don’t bother anyone.” (I can quote that ’cause it’s in the email notification I got from Facebook.)

Attack? You’ve got to be frigging kidding me!?

Attack? Being presented with contravening information?

Attack? How about, instead of withdrawing, bolstering your point — for example you could argue, perhaps, that recent events make the historical trend irrelevant.

But no, the response is to say “I’ve been attacked,” and leave the conversation.

And this, my friends, is the real threat.

I confess to being in a bit of an echo chamber myself. While I am willing to listen to reasoned discourse, even that has pretty much disappeared, so my various newsfeeds and timelines generally reflect a left-leaning point of view.

There have been several quotes and/or posts which have echoed this in recent days.

Posts such as this.

So the question becomes why bother.

Well, for some inexplicable reason, there seem to be about 20-25 percent of the voters out there who are still undecided (according to the latest figures I can find, but those are pre-RNC).

So perhaps there should be a sliver of blue or green in that image above, so while I started writing this to say I won’t post any more political stuff, I’ve now decided that maybe just a little won’t hurt.

There is one thing though (and yes, I get the irony, maybe even hypocrisy): here is nothing, NOTHING, you can say that will sway my vote in this presidential election. There’s too much at stake, and while Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are not perfect — they are the only reasonable choice. There is no “reasoned discourse” for the other point of view. There’s only hate, bombast and ego. The choice is so clear I have no comprehension how those undecideds remain so.

The Washington Post said it best in its front page editorial: Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy.

Pretty much sums it up.

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All people are created equal. By God!

Monday is July the Fourth, Independence Day in the United States of America, when we celebrate our Declaration of Independence, which includes these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

All men, all people.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness … (NRSV)
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … (American Standard Version/King James Version)
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness… (New King James Version)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (English Standard Version)
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … (New International Version)
Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us … (Common English Bible)
God said, “Now we will make humans, and they will be like us. .. (Contempary English Version)
Then God said, “And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. (Good News Translation)
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature. … (The Message)
God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves … (New Jerusalem Bible)

There are a lot more translations of the Bible than these, but I think you get the idea.

God created humans.

God didn’t create white humans, then black humans, then brown humans, then yellow humans. God didn’t recreate normal humans or abnormal humans. God didn’t create gay humans or straight humans. God didn’t create smart humans or not-so-smart humans. God didn’t create nice humans, then rude humans.

God didn’t create Jewish humans, Muslim humans, Hindu humans, Zoroastrian humans, atheist humans, Christian humans.

God didn’t create Presbyterian humans, Roman or Orthodox Catholic humans, Baptist humans, Methodist humans, Unitarian humans.

God didn’t create American humans, French humans, Iraqi humans, Syrian humans, Chinese humans, Korean humans, Malaysian humans, Iranian humans.

God, especially, didn’t create Democratic or Republican humans.




“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

And yet we humans fight as if our skin color, our ideas, our faith, our nationality, our government, our race are somehow elevated above all others. Instead of acting as if we believe in a higher power — whatever we may call that power — we act as if humanity is the highest power.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and wondering what would it be like if we really got rid of these divisions.

One world? Maybe. Are we so different?

As Shylock laments in the Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 1:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

Substitute any word you want for Jew. We are all the same, we are all created by God. It doesn’t matter if you think God created the world, and humankind, in six, 24-hour days, or that God set in motion the Big Bang that led to the creation of the universe.

“In the beginning, when God created …” That’s the starting — and really, ending — point.

As we sing in “This is my song:”

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
and hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
myself I give thee; let thy will be done.

To me, the true face of evil is when one group/belief/color/system believes it is superior to the another to the point that it has to kill/hate/maim/oppress the other.

And, if anyone should dare to question or challenge or wish for a world where these differences are irrelevant, they are called naive, silly or worse. They don’t get it. They don’t understand the realities of the world.

When in fact, what they are, is in touch with God’s wish for this world.

I realize that it is not likely that humankind as a whole will make much progress towards this kind of world. But I will not give up making the point.

So as you celebrate this Fourth of July, think about the words that launched this Republic, and remember that last line:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

This is what I am willing to die for.

(PS: I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t note that John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey, was the only clergy to sign the Declaration. Also, my Great Aunt Etrulia Heyward’s husband was a direct descendant of Thomas Heyward Jr., one of the signatories from South Carolina.)

Posted in Life's challenges, Politics, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), religion | Tagged , , | 1 Comment


When I began blogging several years ago, I wanted a name for the blog that reflected a bit about me. So, since I spend a lot of time working in Presbyterian circles, where we (try) to do things “decently and in order,”  and I live in West Virginia, known for its hills and hollows, the name seemed obvious: Decent Hills and Orderly Hollows.

And, because the format asks for a subtitle, and I like word play, and I intentionally subtitled it: “Loving the (mostly) ups and (sometimes) downs of life in West (By God) Virginia.”

The past couple of weeks have brought both of those into sharp reality.


And let’s not forget:


And, of course:

And then today we got some serious news about a family member’s health.

It’s times like these that I’m thankful to know that God is in charge — or as we say it in churchy language, to have confidence in the sovereignty of God.

This does not mean, to me, that God is behind any of these things, or caused them to happen for good or ill. No, they are just life — the natural occurrences of the world that God has created.

But it is helpful — and providential — that the daily devotional from Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago from yesterday addresses the ups and downs, the hills and hollows, of life. (I’ll pause here for a plug for these devotionals; if you’re looking for a daily devotional, check it out.)

The devotional is based on Psalm 33:

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
Praise the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches
all the inhabitants of the earth–
he who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
A king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a vain hope for victory,
and by its great might it cannot save.

Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
to deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. (NRSV)

The devotional, written by Katie Patterson, Fourth’s junior high and youth mission coordinator, says in part:

Psalm 33 … reminds us to give thanks, to celebrate, to fear, and that God is in control. It is a check-in: How are you doing? Are you doing what you need to be doing? What is the next step you need to take? Trust that, because God is with you, even when you are scared. Give thanks and sing along.

And so I give thanks, and pray, and worry, and pray, and sing, and pray.

All the while remembering Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Posted in Life's challenges, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) | 1 Comment