This week a state representative sent me a couple of Tweets regarding the controversy surrounding Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber that seemed disingenuous. These tweets echoed my own calls for prayers (though the representative felt the need to call on the governor to accept Jesus as his personal savior...I know nothing about the governor's faith nor is it my business...nor is it the business of one public official to tell another how to worship).
I finally responded to these tweets by telling the representative that he was a bigot and a bigger embarrassment to Oregon than the governor. Why? There is a long record of this representative, a Tea Party leader and radio talk show host, of making bigoted statements against African-Americans, gays and lesbians, people of faith who disagree with his own very conservative evangelical faith, and even all Portlanders (as if all people in Portland live and believe the same).
Still, it was wrong of me to respond in the way I did and I apologized this morning. My apology wasn't based on the feedback from this representative's fan base - which came quickly on Twitter:
and on Facebook where the representative sought to stoke the fire:
Mike Broberg Well he is from the same church as "the reverend" Jeremiah Wright so it's not all that surprising that he feels that way...a little surprised he was dumb enough to put it on twitter. Btw who are you a big got for wanting governor Coruptionhaber to get right with Jesus
Karen Darnell United Church of Christ. The man is a communist to the core.
No, these comments and more didn't force me to apologize.
Oregon faces a crisis right now - one caused by the actions of our governor. I've asked the governor, as many have now, to resign after first believing it would be better for the stability of Oregon if he stayed in office.
I agree based on the news that @GovKitz attempted to destroy emails that he must resign from office at this time. #orpol
I've also been encouraging the people of Oregon this week to pray for the bi-partisan leadership of this state. Whatever happens in the next hours or days the state’s bi-partisan political leadership could best serve the public by working in a spirit of cooperation with an eye to reconciliation and reform of any broken institutions. These are difficult days for Oregon. We can lessen the hurt by offering compassion as Oregon moves forward.
Regardless of whether or not this elected official is a bigot it was wrong in the context of this moment to make the claim. I inflamed tensions instead of lowering them. That was a failure on my part. We need to be careful with our words so that Oregon can find healing after too long a winter.
What Oregonians need now is to look to the future:
Oregon Minister Responds to President’s State of the Union Address
Rev. Chuck Currie, chaplain at Pacific University (Ore.) and director of the institution's Center for Peace & Spirituality, is available to discuss President Obama's State of the Union speech (503-208-6521, email@example.com).
His initial thoughts: "Having read President Obama’s State of the Union Address and spoken today with White House officials about the proposals the president is making, I can report without hesitation that the president has put forward an agenda people of faith concerned about families, poverty and education can support.
We need a tax system that benefits all Americans and not just the wealthiest. Tax cuts now for middle class families will help those struggling during the recovery. Paid family leave will help create new opportunities for healthily communities. Free community college will help a generation move into higher education and we all know education is the best way to escape poverty.
Diverse faith leaders across the United States have been calling on President Obama and Congress to pass many of the initiatives announced by the president. There has already been strong support from the faith community for the president’s executive action on immigration and climate change. As a minister in the United Church of Christ deeply concerned about the future of America, I support President Obama’s vision and call on members of Congress to work with President Obama."
Rev. Chuck Currie Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality University Chaplain Pacific University
This morning people gathered in the chapel of Old College Hall on the campus of Pacific University for an Interfaith Service to remember to life and legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We also gathered to consider the "UnFulfilled Dreams" of King's movement for social justice and how we from our various faith traditions and different backgrounds might continue to further the work of building up the Beloved Community. View some of the photos from the service on Facebook.
(some browsers - like Firefox or Google Chrome - will allow you to simply click on the link and listen...otherwise click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose “Save Target As” and save to your desktop or other folder – once downloaded click on the file to listen).
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5 NRSV)
We note during this difficult time for our nation and the world that there is hope. Let this Christmas be remembered as the time that good people of faith gathered with together with others - regardless of their faith tradition - to set the captives free, as Jesus taught. Too many people are held captive today by poverty and hunger, racism and oppression, war and human caused changes to our environment. In this season of darkness we must summon new hope, and shine a light that brings justice to places where sin thrives on darkness and indifference.
The president of the Portland Police Association, the police union, has released a statement arguing that those protesting for reforms of unjust systems of policing and criminal justice are to blame for the tragic killing of two NYPD officers.
As I said over the weekend, the murders of those two public servants were an attack on all Americans. PBA president Daryl Turner's rhetoric is reckless.
The PBA has been a long-time opponent of reform. The union has protected officers who have dishonored the Portland Police Bureau. There are too many examples of the PBA putting the union before the city of Portland and the civil rights of our citizens.
Officer Turner is free to express his opinions as a union representative. But we need leaders in Portland right now who respect civil rights, respect the citizens of this city, and are willing to begin the hard work of starting a process to bring reconciliation between police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.
I think all Portlanders recognize the sacrifice made by the Portland Police and we honor that. At the same time, we should not be disrespected as a city by the PBA president who is willing to tear Portland further apart when we need to be brought together to fix serious issues that impede justice in Portland.
It is generally a good assumption that any attack on a public servant is an attack on all of us. That was certainly the case yesterday when NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead by an assailant who earlier shot his ex-girlfriend. Liu and Ramos represented the diversity and promise of America. Ismaaiyl Brinsley claimed to be killing in revenge for police misconduct. Proponents of reform of America's dysfunctional criminal justice system have argued during mostly non-violent demonstrations for legislative changes and court remedies. Violence has no place in this movement.
Sadly, NYPD Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch laid blame for the deaths of Liu and Ramos on not just their killer but directly on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has supported reform, and other conservative voices on Sundays televisions programs have indicted President Obama and AG Holder - along with clergy and non-protesters...anyone who questions the system as it stands. This is reckless rhetoric.
The system as it stands is broken. We treat African-Americans differently in the criminal justice system then we do whites. Women are targets of domestic violence in a society that allows such violence to occur often with impunity. Cops can be shot down by people that never should have had access to guns because they are so easy to obtain in the NRA's America.
Right now we need to be about the building of a stronger America where the structural injustices of race are addressed and the hard work of reconciliation is engaged. There is too much violence. There is too much hatred. Our obligation is to build a better America. The deaths of Liu and Ramos will just be two more meaningless murders otherwise.
The media often calls clergy and lay leaders to respond to social issues, such as gun violence, racism and marriage equality. Too often the media only invites more conservative religious to share their views with the public. Join us on December 15th for a webinar, which will teach participants skills to use social media as a tool to promote progressive Christian messages in ways that are both ethical and effective – tools that will help capture attention from traditional media. Sponsored by Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ and presented by Rev. Chuck Currie, Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University, you do not want to miss this helpful training.
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.