Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line. I urge you all to check this out as it has information related to the teaching of science and academic freedom.

There is a section in this month’s newsletter for you to sign up for the 2017 Evolution Weekend.  You can contribute to the 2017 Weekend by offering thoughts on what the theme should be (the themes for past years are listed).

No matter whether you are clergy or laity, I urge you to check it out and get involved in the project.

Where are you going?


In a meeting of the Disciples just before going to Jerusalem for the final time, Thomas said to Jesus, “we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  (John 14:5)

I truly believe that our lives are private journeys publicly shared.  It is a journey of faith and reason.  It is a journey of reason for it will be through reason and with the accompanying tools of reason one can find their way.  It is a journey of faith because it is through faith that we know what lies at the end of the journey.

This is a journey in which I welcome others, no matter what their faith may be, because no journey should ever be undertaken alone.

Now I understand that your own personal journey is different from mine because a journey of reason allows one to see other options.  And should you desire not to walk with me, I shall understand and I will wish you well and offer my help should you ever need it.  I trust that you would do the same.

But today there are some who will not allow me to walk my own journey of faith, implying that they alone know the correct path and that all other paths lead nowhere.

These same groups also imply that only they have the key to knowledge and that all other paths to knowledge are false.  They will seek to limit the power of reason because they fear the ability of people to independently think and reason.

Jesus never intended for Thomas, the other Disciples, or even us today to not know the way.  He spent three years preparing the Disciples to understand what lay before them and what they would need to travel on their own journeys.  It was a preparation of faith and reason.  It was a preparation done with the understanding that each person learns differently and each person’s journey is different.

Now, I have come to this point in my own journey because of what I know and what I believe.  It has not been the easiest journey, to be sure, and I have no doubt that it will get any easier.  But I have chosen to walk this path and one of the things that came with choosing this path was that I would help others find their own path, just as there were those before me who helped me.

We cannot prepare for the future and we cannot travel either journey if our ability to reason is limited or there is only one path to walk.  We cannot prepare for the future if we are not prepared to help others with their journeys.

Come with me as we walk this journey.

Let us give thanks, but . . .


On this Thanksgiving, 2017, let us give thanks but let us also remember what it means to give thanks and what doing so requires.

Let us be thankful for our freedom but let us remember that this was freedom was not given to us but was gained through the efforts of many who came before us and will only remain if we work to maintain freedom.  And just because we may feel we are free, we must realize that others do not share in that freedom, and until that day that all are free, no one is free.

Our freedom can never come at the expense at others but in conjunction with others.

Let us be thankful that we have the right to be independent, to think for ourselves and develop our own ideas.  Our individual and collective freedom is a product of our ability to be independent and free thinkers.

And with this most important individual right comes the realization that we cannot think for others nor can we let others think for us.  We must work together to foster an environment that allows independent and free thought.

Let us be thankful that we have the right to believe as we wish.  But we also must also realize that our right to believe as we wish can never prevent others from believing as they wish to believe.  Our own right to believe does not allow us to dictate how others will believe nor can we let others tell us what to believe.

Ultimately, we can give thanks for freedom in many different ways but we must also realize that freedom is the outcome of the ability to independently think and believe while realizing that implementation of only one set of beliefs in the framework of a single mindset does not bring us freedom.

 

Dear President-elect Trump


This comes from “Yale Climate Connections”; per the notes in 4th paragraph, I am sharing it with you all.


Dear President-elect Trump

A Wisconsin retired lawyer has drafted an “Open Letter to President-elect Donald Trump” that he hopes will be widely shared, possibly signed and sent along to the President-elect, and used in a petition to him.

Requesting anonymity, he says that with Trump’s election, his legacy will be based more on his performance in office than on the “understandable pride” he and future Trump generations will take in the “Trump brand” and business. He calls climate change “one of the most important issues” affecting the Trump legacy and says his actions on that issue “will last long beyond your days on this Earth,” a clear appeal to Trump’s keen interest in his brand/image and thus his legacy. He points to a Trump-owned coastal golf course’s having already taken steps to manage risks it faces in a changing climate.

Reconsidering some of his earlier climate change statements as a candidate “would be good for the country, for the world, and for the legacy of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States,” said the letter writer, who describes himself as “a concerned citizen.”

The letter follows in full and can be copied and shared with others, or signed and mailed to the President-elect or used as a template or model in a petition, the letter writer said.


Dear President-elect Trump:

Re: Climate change and your legacy

“Before I get to the subject of this letter, I want to offer my congratulations on your successful campaign for president. The outcome on November 8, 2016, will likely stand like no other in the history of presidential politics. The election changed America and I believe it will change you, particularly as it relates to the subject of this letter.

Had you lost the election, your legacy would be the Trump brand. In that case, in the future when people would seek to understand who was Donald J. Trump, their search of the internet would reflect your impact in the various communities where you built hotels, resorts, golf clubs, etc. that bear your name. Your children, grandchildren, and the Trump generations to follow would point to these accomplishments with understandable pride.

Your victory on November 8 changes this. Your legacy will now be a matter of what you do during your term in office. Unlike your legacy as a builder, which will be fixed when you die, your legacy as president will reflect the actions you take during your term in office – actions whose effects will last long beyond your days on this Earth.

One of the most important issues that will affect your legacy as president is climate change. In the weeks leading up to the election it was reported that one of your properties – Trump International Golf Links Ireland – filed an application with local zoning authorities for permission to construct a seawall. According to that report, the application explicitly cited global warming and its consequences – increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century.

If you were to roll back the U.S. positions on climate change, the dangers noted by your resort application will most certainly ensue, along with severe population disruptions in the U.S. and elsewhere when millions are forced inland to higher ground to avoid the coastal flooding from currently projected major sea-level rise. In the future, when Americans and others around the world are enduring the miseries of unchecked climate change, they will likely look back and point to your actions as a significant if not deciding cause.

Post-election reporting has revealed your willingness to adjust some of the positions you took during the election – e.g., keeping some features of Obamacare. My hope is that you will reconsider your stated opposition to actions to halt or lessen the impacts of climate change. It would be good for the country, for the world, and for the legacy of Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States.

Okay, here’s the plan.


First, we need to continually remind President-elect Trump that he is the President of the United States and not chairman of the board.  He cannot appoint friends and cronies who will loot the United States Treasury for their own personal well-being.

He is the President of all the people but just as some of his supporters say that we need to support him, so too do we remind us that he must lead us all and not those who curry his favor or his temperament.  The Constitution remains in effect and he will take the pledge to preserve, protect, and defend it.  If he so desires to dismantle laws designed to protect people, if he so desires to dismantle laws design to ensure that this planet on which we live is safe to live on, if so desires to create and extend divisions between the people because of race, religion, economic status, gender, then he will have violated his oath of office.

And the second part of this plan is to remember that there is an election in 2018 and that every member of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate are up for election.  Despite the efforts of the Republicans to strip individuals of the right to vote, to return to the days when only a select and privileged group of old white men with property could decide the future of this country, the people still have the right to vote.  Any member of Congress who works to insure the equality of all people, to maintain this planet as a safe place to live and work, and works to advance the rights of all people has nothing to fear.

But any member of Congress who seeks to limit equality, who does not care about this planet on which we live, or seeks to limit the rights of all people needs to be voted out of office.

The American Revolution was a long and sometimes frustrating period in the history of this country.  And these next few years promise to be as frustrating.  But when one thinks of the future, it is what we must do.

What does it mean to be a conscientious objector?


There is a movie currently in release that describes the life and actions of the only conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  This individual felt that he needed to serve in the military during World War II but he also felt that his beliefs would not allow him to carry a gun or kill anyone.  After some difficulty, the Army allowed him to serve as a combat medic and it was in that role while on Iwo Jima in 1945 that he repeatedly risked his life to save the men of his unit.

When I was in college and faced with the possibility that I would be drafted into the Army, I contemplated seeking conscientious objector status.  But merely being opposed to the war and the draft was not sufficient conditions for such a status and I had to consider other options.

In the end, the effects of acne on my back was sufficient for me to be exempted from the draft and I went on to teach high school chemistry.

Now, before going on, let me point out that as the son and grandson of military officers, I was not, at that time nor am I now opposed to military service.  I am opposed to the draft because of its inherent inequality and the use of military power to solve a world problem should always be the last option and never the first.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that many people feel that way today, thinking that we should just bomb our enemies first and then seek a peaceful solution.

But more to the point, what does it mean today to object to something because it goes against one’s religious beliefs, what I believe to be the major point in considering conscientious objection.

When I was teaching college chemistry a few years ago, I had a Muslim woman in my class.  And as an article of faith, she wore the hijab.  I will be honest; this did not bother me but I was worried about the safety issue of having the fabric of the covering being close to any open flames.  But rather than make a big deal out of this, I simply conferred with her about being careful in the lab.  And that was the end of the discussion.

Later in the course, the question of ½-life and radiometric dating came up.  This was, for a few students, a problem because it was an article of faith that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.  And again, you have the problem of dealing with an article of faith and a matter of scientific fact.

In the end, my counsel to the students was because this topic was highly unlikely to play a factor in what they were going to do.  I simply suggested that they understand the mathematics behind the problem so they could solve the one or two questions I was likely to answer and any discussion about the meaning of physical evidence with relationship to issues of faith should be discussed within their faith community.

But there are situations where the article of faith is, in my judgement, faulty.  And to use faith as a reason for holding onto a false belief is wrong and a discredit to the faith in question.

There is in this country and around this planet a crisis of faith.  There is a need for faith in these times as there is a need for reason.  And the need for faith requires more than just blind acceptance but an examination of the reasons.  There are those who say that you can never question the articles of faith for it will destroy your faith.

But if you say to me that I must accept a statement of faith, then you must also show me why.  And you must allow me to decide.

Understand, there are some articles of faith that I do not question.  I trust that I understand what I believe and I know that I must work to make sure that is true.

But there are also articles of faith that I have discarded because it is clear to me that they were false in their basis and run counter to the basic tenets of faith.

In the end, you may claim that you cannot do something because it runs counter to what you believe.  But if what you believe is based on false assumptions or false teachings, then you will have a problem.