Friday, April 22, 2011

So let me pose this question; "Good Friday"?

My father died at Christmas when I was a boy. I was sent to church and prayed that prayer; "Our Father who art in Heaven." I looked up into the church's clerestory and saw beauty and art and stained glass windows. I saw light refracted from the sun to bathe lovely wooden pews in an opalescent light. But I did not see God and worse still, I did not see my dad.
When we got to Good Friday, and I saw what they did to Jesus, I couldn't help but ask somewhere deep in my soul and often right out loud to Sunday School teachers and clergy; "How can you call this Friday "Good"?
There were no satisfying answers.
Today I am praying for Peter. He was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 44, and leaves a young bride and two boys 8 and 6. Barbara just found out that she has lung cancer, and that sounds very serious. Charlie went blind in one eye, his face went into paralysis, he could not walk without assistance. All this on "Good" Friday.
My dad is dead, so is Jesus, and the millions more suffer like Jesus suffers on the cross. I myself have just come through a bout with prostate cancer and on it goes.
So how is any of this "Good"?
When my father died, religious folk said he could not go to heaven because he did not go to church. The non religious folk in my family were much more merciful. They just said he was dead. Period. The religious people wanted him to serve time in purgatory, or worse still in a place where there is much discomfort for ever.
Thank God I'm not religious. Thank God my family isn't either. My grandmother on the other hand was religious in a different kind of way. She was a storyteller, a grand storyteller, who could take a narrative from scripture, twinkle up here eyes, hold your attention with all the dramatic flair of a Shakespearean actress. She told me the story one night of the Call of Samuel (1 Samuel 3). She looked me in the eye when she said "The young boy Samuel did not yet know God". She looked right at me. She did not have to read the text. She knew it by heart.
Something caught me then and there. Later I asked her if God could really call a young boy into the ministry, and she merely hugged me.
Not long after that, coming home from church one clear and sunny summer's day, I sauntered home in wonder as I often did about life and death, and as I squeezed a leaf between my nails from a city hedge, it was as if there was a voice within my heart that seemed to say; "Don't you know there's a special place in my love for your dad? I stopped dead in my tracks. I listened to that silence more closely and it said the same thing again. Then I gave it a voice and said it right out loud. "Don't you know there's a special place in my love for your dad?"
I ran home as fast as I could. I burst into the kitchen where "Ma" as we called her was stirring up a recipe for her family.
"Ma is there a God?"
"Of course there is," she answered simply and as a matter of fact.
"Is there a heaven?"
Somewhat irritated by this sudden onslaught of mundane theology, she said, "Of course there is."
Then daring to pose a somewhat more difficult question, I asked her this; "Is my daddy there?" I knew what she thought of the Irish. They ruined Boston, and my mom too apparently. She didn't think much of the Italians either and I ended up marrying one contrary to her wishes.
She hesitated, but then she said something I shall never forget. In fact I can still feel her embrace and even smell her, and feel her hair as it brushed up against me when she held me in the nape of her neck and said; "Of course he is."
My heart leaped for such joy then as it still does. Imagine! Some day I will see my dad again, and we can go for a ride in his brand new 1951 Chevrolet (that how long ago all this happened).
So I became a priest. I wanted as many people as possible to know what I knew.
There is a special place in God's love for you and all those you love both here and forevermore.
Over time I understood that this Friday is "Good".
I have been a priest for 38 years. Hundreds upon hundreds of Baptisms, Marriages, Holy Unctions, Funerals and Sunday after Sunday lively proclamations of God's Good News!
I fought for civil rights, gender equality and the emerging inclusive church.
I fought for the poor, the hungry and the homeless and built a homeless shelter, helped battered women and abused families find shelter. I expanded a soup kitchen and a food pantry. I fought against injustices of all sorts and I collaborated with hundreds and thousands of those who fought side by side with me.
There's lots of Good in that and it all started because Jesus died. My dad died. And God spoke in the silence of the human heart. "Don't you know there's a special place in my heart for the love of YOU!"

Friday, April 01, 2011

Mass Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Labor Day

THE KING’S BEACH STATEMENT

by

PAUL B. BRESNAHAN


Preamble:


The primary concern we have is in the disparity of wealth in this nation. 1% of the population commands the vast majority of the wealth. The upper 10% now commands more than 92% of the wealth. We, the vast 90% now have less than 8% of the wealth. In 1983 we had almost 17% of the wealth. Thus the famous “trickle down” promise of Reaganomics has in fact been a “trickle up”. Those who decry the notion of redistribution of wealth, use their socialist/communist “boogeyman” bombast to smokescreen what is in fact a reverse trend. Thus the nation is concentrating wealth in a few hands at the cost of the many. As a result, jobs disappear, and the viability of such an economic system is self-evidently untenable. We, therefore must mobilize in order to intervene, since greed is as addictive as any other drug. We support peaceful, non-violent resistance in the tradition of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela to seek redress and justice.

From Cairo to Wisconsin the people have taken to the streets to demand justice. The grinding poverty under which too many of us are living has caused enough pain and we will join in solidarity with all those who are suffering to hold a series of GENERAL STRIKES FOLLOWED BY A GATHERING AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL ON LABOR DAY.

We labor for wages that cannot support a family, while the super-rich are giving themselves billions in bonus money. The corporate machine sends our jobs overseas, closes our means of manufacture, lays us off by the hundreds of thousands, and the government cuts our jobs, and now they even want to take away collective bargaining rights. In the name of smaller government, they even want to lay off teachers, first responders, and others who provide essential services to the public good, safety and welfare. I They want to take away a hard won health care victory, they want to take away our homes, they want to take away our social security, and cut medicaid all for the sake of lower taxes for the rich. They have no idea of the pain they inflict upon the poor and the worker and now even on the middle class.


In the meantime we come to discover that major corporations and the super-rich pay little or no taxes,

NO MORE!


Obviously, the next GENERAL STRIKE should be on April 15th. If we are to pay our taxes, we insist that corporations and the super-rich pay theirs. Obviously, if we are to fund a more just distribution of wealth, it will come from those with the money. If we are to fund a balanced budget, it will also have to come from the same source.


The next GENERAL STRIKE should be May 2, then of course month to month as needed and as momentum builds.


ULTIMATELY WE WILL GATHER AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL ON LABOR DAY BY THE MILLIONS, ALL AMERICAN UNEMPLOYED, TEACHERS, FIRST RESPONDERS, AND THE ENTIRE AMERICAN WORKFORCE. YOU WILL BEG US TO COME TO THE BARGAINING TABLE BY THE END OF LABOR DAY.


HERE IS WHAT WE DEMAND!


1. Jobs and Job Security

We demand full employment. “Un”employment is a misnomer. The proper name for Public Service from now on will be The EMPLOYMENT BUREAU. Unemployment insurance should then be EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. Government at all levels shall provide for the dignity of work where the private sector will not or cannot do so.

We demand that all teachers, police, fire and EMT’s be rehired and that we beef up education and public safety. It is a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY THAT WE DO SO! We cannot afford not to do this.

THERE SHALL BE UNION REPRESENTATION IN ALL WORKPLACES. The workers shall elect representatives from the workforce who will negotiate on behalf of the worker. THAT IS CALLED COLLECTIVE BARGAINING.

No more layoffs or terminations without a review of elected workforce representation. Grievances shall be brought to the same representatives for mediation and negotiation. WE INSIST ON UNION PROTECTION FOR THE AMERICAN WORKER.

In the meantime, figure out how to bring our jobs home again. We want to buy American made products again.

2. Wages

We demand an immediate doubling of the minimum wage.

We demand an immediate increase of 20% of all wages under $100,000. You can figure out how to pay for that but you can begin with a super-tax on the super-rich.

And we want another 20% bonus for our work too every November 15th so we can spend it on Black Friday and pump up the economy. They’ve been giving themselves billions in bonuses while we were losing our jobs and suffering from cutbacks, and losing our homes. You owe us!


3. Universal Health Care

We have fought long and hard for healthcare. It is unconscionable that in this country anyone should be deprived of good health care. Now you want to take away this modest advance on behalf of millions of folk in this nation! NO! We demand healthcare. We’re willing to negotiate how to pay for it. But we demand it and we demand it now. Hands off heath care!


4. Two Year Moratorium on Foreclosures

You made a huge mess and we bailed you out (Banks, Mortgage Companies, & Finance Institutions.) Now its your turn to bail us out. No more home foreclosures while we secure the American worker with good jobs and good pay. Then you better be ready to cut a deal, or its back to the streets!


5. Three Weeks Paid Vacation

You keep preaching to us about family values. I’ll tell you about family values. We want a minimum of three weeks paid vacation, two weeks annual allowance for illness, and five personal days a year. We cannot afford what you have. The least you can do for us is give us time with those we love. Then, as a bonus we'll take four weeks after five years working for you.


6. EQUAL RIGHT FOR ALL WITHOUT REGARD TO RACE, ETHNICITY, CLASS, GENDER, OR ORIENTATION. EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK FOR ALL. Quit picking on Gay Folks! Quit the bullying! Quit the threats on Obama and the Liberals! IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED THE GREAT AMERICAN EAGLE CANNOT FLY WITHOUT BOTH WINGS. YOU NEED US AND WE NEED YOU. WE CANNOT DEAL WITH ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS UNLESS WE DO SO TOGETHER.



Interesting quotes:


"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy" : John Pierpont Morgan

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." : Thomas Jefferson

“We're not a democracy. It's a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we're a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy." : Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General

"Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise. Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."

Warren Buffet speaking to the US Senate Finance Committee, November 14,200


Paul Bresnahan is a semi-retired Episcopal Priest living in Lynn, Massachusetts.