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Friday, September 4, 2015

On Open Letter to Dr. Michael L. Brown

by @ 10:20 pm. Filed under Gay News, hate speech, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Dear Michael, (dropping the formalities of Dr. to have a human to human chat)

I keep seeing your name pop up on my twitter lists, people repost your videos, and I have read your blog articles regarding gays and lesbians. You and I have shared a few twitter rants back and forth although I think I walked away feeling rather disappointed because the needs for genuine connection or understanding were not met for me.  I suspect you walked away thinking every criticism I have of you is some sort of attack on you.  Seems everyone is in their own sort of flight or fight mode.  I think you are accustom to being attacked here and there, so I get that.  I have had my fair share of unkind words posted about me on the web.   So be the world of twitter and social media.

I also saw the requests you keep putting out there seeking to debate with Michael Signorile.   I think I am seeing your disappointment and frustration that your push for meaningful interaction with gay voices keeps failing or being met with resistance and even push off.   I think I can offer you some explanation of why that happens to you and unless you change your approach, it will not change. Gandhi had a few clues into debating and talking with those who disagreed with him and I have learned much from his lessons.   I do warn this article might be hard to read for you.  I was honest and compassionate and you’ll have to humble yourself to listen knowing my intentions are about dialogue.  I have no books to sell.  I don’t need any attention in the world (and I would prefer not to have it).  I just wanted to be up front, honest, and real with you.

The debate is over!

I know you want to debate because you keep saying it.  The biggest issue is Michael,  people come to debates ready to defend their position.  That means they come believing from the start they are right and the other side is wrong.  I can tell you as a long time mediator in both courts and out, no one really does well with the debate model because it is adversarial.  In the gay community, no one is really interested in debating our lives, our loves, and our marriages. (you can call them what you want but thats the language in the certificate I got in MA).  I think some may be okay with a dialogue if you could gain some trust.  Much different than debate in many ways.  Debate is about winning and losing where dialogue is about learning and changing.  I and many others don’t believe there is room for change from you.  I get the sense that you seem pretty locked in your ways and beliefs and that doesn’t feel welcoming, safe, or productive to any GLBT person on the planet.  Dialogue is also about finding the places you agree by listening and understanding.  Debates are about finding flaws in the arguments to prove one side right or wrong.  More importantly, dialogue requires participants to suspend beliefs to fully empathize with each other.  Debate requires people to invest fully in their own beliefs at the discount of others.  You can see why debate doesn’t sound inviting to anyone when you consider what it is you plan to debate: our lives and those who we love.

GLBT Folks Don’t Trust Your Intentions!

Dialogue is also about trust and many GLBT people have little trust in anyone who doesn’t affirm our love, lives, and relationships.   Most of us ask, what does this guy want? For many of us, the answers are not good when it comes to those labeled anti-gay christians.  Considering you defended the laws in Uganda calling to imprison gays and lesbians.  You have discounted and disrespected those who believe differently than you on being gay and Christian while demanding they respect your beliefs.  Most recently, you posted on twitter about the name calling in talks with GLBT supporters and followed it with an article name calling us as “Twitter Trolls.”  That doesn’t really fit with my understanding of integrity or walking your talk.  You say one thing and do something else.  When GLADD called you out on some of these issues, rather than respond to the specific comments made, you deflected blame to another blogger saying why pick on me when he is worse.  Followed by more name calling.  Thing is, they were talking about you, not JMG.  You never answered their claims, just deflected.   With that background, trust will be hard to come by for you.

We also assume you are out to change us.  Guess what, we have heard it all before and we don’t want to hear it again.   Most of us spent our early years praying to every god possible to not be gay.  Some subjecting ourselves to harsh camps, treatments, or other programs to change us.  For many of us, the process of coming out to ourselves was one of finally accepting ourselves just as we are and finally giving ourselves permission to love. It was a freeing sense of sweet surrender. The end the years of a battle against ourselves we were surely tired of fighting.  Some loose that battle to drugs, reckless sex, and even suicide.  We walked away from the shame people much like you have placed on us and said, no.  I am done with that shame.

Some also assume your intentions have nothing to do with “us” at all and these attempt to dialogue are really attempts to promote your radio show and sell books.  Neither of which do we care to help you do.   Considering you remind people what you wrote in what book in multiple tweets, videos, and articles.  Do you want us to talk to you or read your books?

Your history is also not building or allowing the trust needed for dialogue.  Your association with people like Peter LaBarbera or Matt Barber, who have been documented saying things that don’t meet anyone’s needs for respect, doesn’t leave any gay person or their allies trusting your intentions in wanting dialogue.  Trust is built and these past connections you’ve shared leave people like me and most gays and lesbians skeptical your intentions are not just self-serving or just meant to exploit us.  It also means we are a little easily triggered by people like you hence its easy to lash out.  GLBT carry years of pain with us that we have learned to manage each in our own way.


Coming to GLBT voices and asking for a debate after releasing a book about surviving the culture war against us sounds like a low chance way of getting anything to happen.   I might suggest (with a few years of experience under my belt around community dialogue and conflict) you change the approach if a true and honest conversation is what you wish to achieve.  I have to admit I am the first to doubt that is what you truly want AND I am willing to give you a chance.  Here is my list of things I suggest:

1) Stop asking for a debate and request a real honest human to human connection.  As someone who has done dozens of restorative circles, hundreds of mediations, and my fair share of large community dialogues, debates are only about somebody winning and somebody losing.  No one wants that.  Change the tone to one of seeking mutual respect (which you may think you have been doing and I can tell you it doesn’t meet with my understanding of the human need of respect)

2) Instead of a debate, take a cue from the world of restorative justice and set up some restorative circles.  You might want to do your homework on those or call in experts like Dominic Barter from Brazil and you will get a whole lot further.  Don’t be surprised if no one comes if you have not earned or built trust about your intentions or the “why” you want to talk.  What’s in it for everyone not just you! What would be the benefit to any GLBT voice in having any interaction with you?  Honestly, I don’t think I would dialogue with you if I didn’t see it as mutually beneficial and as of now, I wouldn’t.   I must have some hope for you, or enough that I took the time to craft this letter.  (Something I am sure to get some flack for doing from my own side not that I actually believe in “sides” per se.)

3) I think you could get further if you abandon the language of WAR.  Even your radio show’s title is a war reference.  If you want peace with those on the “other side” you might want to change the tone of the conversation.  Read the book, Taking the War Out of Our Words by Sharon Ellison.   Recognize just how much war and battle language you are using and how much those reference violence.  Being “on target” or “in the line of fire” are not just catchy terms, they are violence related.  Referring to everything as a “spiritual battle” means someone will win and someone will loose.  If that is your desired outcome, then just be honest about that and stop asking for dialogue.   If you want peace,  learn to Speak Peace.

4) Humility is not just a word.  I have seen and read twitter remarks to you and in other places where it is clear to me that some people, including myself, experience your words and interactions as condescending.  When you walk into the conversation convinced you are right and everyone else is wrong OR when you walk thinking once you know what I know, you’ll change.  It is unlikely people will warm up and trust you enough to talk to you.  You may not call our unions “marriage” and you would do better to respect the fact, we do.  You might just need to bow to the earns of respect and relationship, swallow your pride, and meet people where they are not where you are.  In simple terms, don’t let your pride get in your way!

5) I might suggest you talk with ex-ex-gays and learn as much as you can about them.  After all the scripture quotes are done, some of us are still gay.  I think it is cruel to ask people to live celibate lives without romantic love.  We all deserve someone to share our life with.  I am happy to have someone who I love more than words and have been sharing my life with for over 15 years. I have every intention of sharing the rest of my life with him regardless of people like you or your beliefs.   You learning to respect that is key to us trusting a conversation with you.

6.) If you truly want an honest conversation GLBT people will trust, it might be beneficial for you to refrain from promoting any book or radio show.  In fact, don’t make it about YOU at all.  Make it about listening, learning, and connecting, not selling yourself.   I can almost guarantee if GLBT folks think your goal is all about you and promoting your books, and radio, they will not trust you at all and the offensiveness will lead to name calling and fuck you statements.   Why?  No trust.   Take the advice of Marshall Rosenberg and make your goal of of conversation and dialogue about human connection on the needs level.   Regardless how we all differ, we all share the same basic needs.

With all that said, I wish you luck!  I agree with most people.  The SCOTUS ruling ended the game on marriage.  I am hoping this will be followed with nondiscrimination laws to protect GLBT people in housing and hiring.   I don’t think anyone deserves to be kicked to the curb for decided to live who they are even if your religious views say otherwise.  Your view and belief isn’t the only one!  If you truly want people to respect your beliefs, I suggest you start by respected theirs.



Friday, July 11, 2014

A School 4 Kayimet

by @ 2:41 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication, Poverty

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A School for Kayimet: Marshall Rosenberg Classroom for Peace

by @ 1:39 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication


The land where the school is to be built

Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green in Branford, CT has begun a project to build a school in the town of Kayimet in Northern Haiti.  As a part of that mission, they are allowing those who donate $7000.00 to have the rights to name a classroom. I, Joe Brummer, author of this site,  want to name a classroom the:

Marshall Rosenberg Classroom for Peace.”

I am asking my friends, family, and those who are supporters of Nonviolent Communication and Marshall’s incredible work throughout the world to donate to this cause.  Why?  So every kid that passes through that room asks the question, Who is Marshall Rosenberg and what’s he got to do with peace?

About the project:

Trinity Church was introduced to the people of Kayimet through the work of Global Health Ministry. Rev. Sharon Gracen and Janet Constantino, a nurse practitioner who attends Trinity, have taken part in this non-profit organization’s yearly trip to Haiti. The visits to the villages are to set up health clinics that are organized by Sister Jackie Picard, from the convent The Religious of Jesus and Mary, in Gros Morne, the nearest town to Kayimet. She is one of our local partners for this project.

The plan is to build a two story building, built to the best earthquake and hurricane resistant standards, that will house seven classrooms, a cafeteria, clinic, office, restrooms and showers. It will also include a food pantry, and a storage facility which will qualify Kayimet for distributions from the World Food Program.

Who is Marshall Rosenberg and why name a room after him?

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Marshall Rosenberg has been a huge influence in my life and my work.  While I agree, it is odd to name a room after someone who is still alive and well, my hope is that those who have also been influenced and touched by Marshall’s work in Nonviolent Communication would agree this is a worthy cause and would enjoy seeing Marshall’s name attached to something so worthy! It is also my hope that this school could one day be a giraffe school.  While that is further down the line, this is a nice start.

How Can you Help:

Trinity Episcopal Church is serving as the project facilitator, which also allows all contributions to receive tax deduction eligibility (please consult your tax advisor). Donations can be made by check or online with PayPal*. Send your check to Trinity Church, 1109 Main Street, Branford, CT, 06405.  Please note Kayimet School-ROSENBERG in the memo line of your check so your donation will go to the Kayimet School Project and the naming of the classroom for Marshall Rosenberg. The funds will be held in a discrete account and wired as appropriate to our onsite partner in Haiti, Sister Jackie at The Religious of Jesus and Mary convent in Gros Morne.  ALL proceeds from donations, less wire transfer fees, will go directly toward the Kayimet School project.

DONATE ON THE WEBSITE: A School for Kayimet

*To donate using Paypal, there will be a box on the second page of your PayPal process that allows you to make notes, please type Kayimet School-ROSENBERG in the note field.

If you have questions, or would like to talk to someone who has actually been to Kayimet, contact Rev. Sharon Gracen atrector47@trinitybranford.org.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

10 Ways to Give Up Violence for Lent

by @ 3:12 pm. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Recently, I was asked by a local church to do a series on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in celebration of Lent. During this time, Christians are suppose to give something up in penance for the 40-days before Easter, we chose to name the series: Giving Up Violence: Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict.  I was thinking that going beyond just learning Nonviolent Communication, I really want to challenge those who attend to actually give up violence for Lent.  So many people believe in their hearts that they are not violent, that is until we really look at our daily lives and see exactly what violence we help to support on the planet.  So here are my 10 suggestions for doing this.

1. Give up Violent TV, video games, and Movies:   Stop supporting violence as a form of entertainment!  No more Law & Order, no more Criminal minds, even Pretty Little Liars or other shows that focus on murder, killing, revenge and crime.  No movies with explosions, wars, machine guns, or scenes where violence is celebrated.  There are many films and movies where violence is implied and never seen. While I prefer those over the blatant killing, blood, guts, and gore.  I would even try to avoid those.  See if you can get through just 40-days of not allowing those violent images into your mind and heart. In stead for these 40-days, find movies and tv that will make you laugh (not at other’s expense), movies and tv that will inspire and feed your spirit.  Stuff that makes you smile or weep in joy. Look for romance movies, feel good comedies, documentaries that inspire you to be and do more.  Try watching the movie “Happy” rather than the show called revenge. OR even better yet, read a book!

Also, put down the video game controller that allows you to shoot people, run little old ladies over with cars, and stab people with magic swords.  See if for just the 40 days of lent, you can make it without killing anyone in the cyber world for points or pleasure.  Especially for those who are younger and teen boys, this constant barrage of violence is having an effect on your spirit and your life.  Now contrary to popular scare tactics, these games don’t turn youth into serial killers, but they do have effects on youth.  Some studies have shown these games won’t make kids more prone to violence but will make them more prone to believing they will be the victims of violence. While other studies show these games actually change the brains of healthy young men between the ages of 18-29.  While we are still unsure what those changes mean, I would bet that NOT playing games that fill your soul with violence would have far more impact than actually playing them.

I have been following the work of educator and author, Jackson Katz for many years.  His work focuses on the fact we as a nation are addicted to violence and that the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men and young boys.  As we continue to fill our system with violent imagery, we are also teaching young men and boys that to be a man is to be masculine.  I explore this much further in a post written last year.  You can read it here.


2. Keep a Violence Journal: So many of us don’t realize violence is more than just physical. It is also the amount of emotional violence we inflict on others.  We may not do it on purpose and we still do it.  The name calling, the put downs, the judgements, maybe even the simple acts of gossip are all forms of violence.  One of our worst uses of violence is to shut others down when they need us.  We send kids away for a “time out” to punish them yet it is the times we think they deserve our love the least are the times they need it the most.  Write down daily all the violence you own. Write down the nasty stuff you said under your breath about the lady who cut you off on the highway.  Write down that you cut in line at the supermarket.  Write down that you flipped off the guy driving to slow while you passed him.  Even write down how you refused to help with the dishes to get back at your spouse for not listening to you about your day.   The more aware of your violence you are the more you will be likely to change it.

3. Give up “Power-Over”:  Be mindful during these 40-days of how you use power.  If you are truly using nonviolence then you seek to use power-with and calibration to achieve your goals.  Give up on the idea you can make people do stuff by using threats, bribes, rewards, punishment, or fear. Seek only to share power on decisions.  Don’t use power to get your way to meet needs, attempt to negotiate ways to meet everyone’s needs.  Conflict really happens at the strategy level, not the needs level.  As you become aware of all the times in the day you were about to use power-over or when you discover you had already done it, add it to your violence journal.

4. Give up violence to the earth: Make sure you recycle everything you possibly can and make sure you are mindful are where your trash will end up.  Make sure the chemicals and cleaning products you use are kind to the earth and to the other creatures we share this planet with.  Skip products that have been tested on animals.  Buy local and organic foods when it is possible.  Use paper or reusable bags at the grocery store instead of plastic.  Get yourself a refillable, reusable water bottle rather than drinking bottled water.

5. Give up Self-Violence:  It is amazing the things we say and do to ourselves we would never say or do to others.  The name calling, the put downs, and even the excesses we ingest into our bodies can be horrible forms of self-violence.  The biggest form on violence on this planet is the violence we inflict on ourselves.   We tell ourselves we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not man enough, not smart enough.   We feed our bodies poisons and foods that hurt our systems.  We take drugs and eat junk food in excess.  We drink sodas with more chemicals than we can even pronounce.  These are all forms of self-violence.   Be kind to yourself.  Find self-compassion.  Eat foods that comfort and sustain you without killing you.

6. Give up the word “SHOULD”: One of the ways we drive violence in our lives is having these locked expectations of how each of us “should” be.  Aside from the unhappiness this inflexible way of living causes, thinking in terms of should is one of the ways we justify and fuel our anger and sometimes our violence.  YOU SHOULD BE MORE….  I SHOULD HAVE BEEN.  The word should is laced in blame thinking and blame often leads us to violence.  Change the word “should” to a simple “I would like.”

7. Give Up right/wrong thinking:  The biggest problem with right/wrong, good/bad thinking is that the lines are so blurry.  One persons “right” is another person’s “wrong”.  One person’s freedom fighter is another persons terrorist.  The terms have a hidden baggage that comes with them and that why Marshall Rosenberg referred to them as “Deserve Language.”  They are basic moral judgements of others that secretly tell what punishment or reward we think people should get. Sadly, that is an easy way to justify violence against others.  They are bad, therefore….  Change all of your moral judgments into values judgments.  Instead of worry about who is wrong or right, good or bad, look at what universal human needs are met or not met. You have a much better chance of remain peaceful when you see the needs in other humans rather than what you think they deserve.  I wrote more about disconnecting language like this in this older post.

8. Drive Peacefully:  One of my early mentors in nonviolence told me that if I could master nonviolence in my car, I could master it in my life.  When they cut you off, instead of calling them a maniac, think about your own needs unmet and then give some empathy.  Maybe they honestly didn’t see you, we all make mistakes.  While it is tempting to respond in violence and flip them the middle finger with our scary mean face, that response hurts us more then them.  When people are going too slow for you, empathize that this may be the first time they have driven their car since their big accident.  They may be nervous and would request your patience.  Would you give it to them?  All the names we call people prevent us from connecting with the needs that keep us human.  They prevent us from seeing each other’s humanity.

9. Give Up Punishment:  So much of the violence we have on the planet stems from the belief that others have wronged us and therefore they “should” be punished.  In our schools, our homes, and our streets we are always trying to make people “pay” for what they have done.  We misguidedly believe that people learned valuable lessons from punishment and nothing could be further from the truth. Punishment has several big problems:

PEOPLE NEED OUR LOVE THE MOST WHEN WE THINK THEY DESERVE IT THE LEAST!  Here are some tips to end the use of punishment


10. Give up BLAME!  For the 40-days of lent, take responsibility for all of your actions.  That means giving up the phrase “I have to” and “I had no choice.”  The reality is we always have a choice about how we respond in the world.  We may not choose the things that happen to us and we do get to choose our response.  In William Glasser’s Choice Theory, he explains that the only behavior we can control is our own.  No one controls us and we don’t control them.   Our reality is that our universal human needs cause our feelings and our actions.  We do things because they meet our needs for fun, love, worth, or freedom.  Everything we do is our choice and it is generally in the service of one or more of those needs.  In others works, nobody made us do it.  We don’t “Have to” do anything, we choose to because it meets our needs. Think of any activity you believe you “have to” do and change it to “choose to because it meets my need for….”  By owning our actions and allowing others to own theirs, we give up the blame that so often leads to violence.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Gay Rights Movement

by @ 1:52 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402Recently, Matt Barber wrote a piece for World Net Daily about what he believes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s position would be on gay rights. While it is impossible to really know where King would have really stood, everyone wants to make these assumptions because it simply helps their cause.  Of course, Matt lines King’s beliefs with his own based on things King said about gays back in 1958.  The trouble with this logic is that if we really want to make a prediction about where King would have stood on Gay rights in 2014, his 1958 words won’t tell us nearly as much as the Six Principles and Six Steps of Nonviolence already tell us.

King lived his life based on the principles of nonviolence.  He took those from both his Christian beliefs which basically mandate nonviolence in both thought and action for Christians, and from a well studied and meditated review of philosophy, theology, and personal experience.  His Pilgrimage to Nonviolence was an amazing testament to that study.  His message and his work evolved beyond just civil rights for blacks in his later years and moved to a campaign against poverty and his opposition to the war in Vietnam.   It is my belief based on my study not just on King, but on those principles he based his life on that he would have evolved to see rights for gays and lesbians not just as a civil rights issue but a human rights issue.

For starters, I believe King would have followed the steps of Nonviolence.  He would have started by gathering the most current information on all sides.  That is the first step he put out there on Nonviolence.   He would have wanted all the info on the science and current theological arguments both for and against rights for gays and lesbians.  I think even King, who was well documented for being a scholar, would have been overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of information some of which is accurate some not so much.

Next, I would imagine King would have gone to Step 2 in his Steps of Nonviolence.  He would have educated everyone involved with what he had gathered and learned.  In almost mediator fashion, King would have laid out all arguments on both sides and tried to make some sense of them.  He would have consulted and met with all those involved on all sides of the issues.

For these reasons, I believe King would have come to the same conclusions both socially and theologically that gays rights are more than just civil rights, they human rights.

We also have the evidence of his words in the Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.  King clearly showed his own evolution of thought on liberalism, socialism, communism, and social evils.  It shows a man who searched for the truth, the answers.  I am completely positive that King would have continued the search for truth.  He would have thought homosexuality as evil in 1958.  He would have also evolved his thinking by 2014.

I also believe King would have been extremely opposed to the language and violence of words used to discuss the issues.  Words like homofascism, heterofascism, GayKK, and even the word bigot would have brought about strong objection from King as they are personally attacks on people and not actions.  King’s principles would not have approved of calling anti-gay folks like Peter LaBarbera names like “porno peter” which I also personally find unhelpful.

King’s principles were to build the Beloved Community and in that, he hoped we would all find ways to live with our differences.  It is for those convictions, I think he would have supported and affirmed gay couples, same-sex marriages, and human rights for gays and lesbians.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Responding to Matt Barber’s WND Article

by @ 2:16 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Last night, religious pundit, Matt Barber published a piece for the e-commentary site, World News Daily. The site is more of a opinion site than a news site. I wouldn’t have even paid this article a second glance except Matt tweeted 31 tweets in a row linking to the article, which actually made me laugh out loud.  I wonder if Matt was afraid we’d mis it if he didn’t post it repeatedly.  Oddly, his tactic worked because I actually read his article.

Matt’s article was in opposition to atheists, nonbelievers, and Planned Parenthood.  He wrote the article in response to a previous article by a woman named, Valerie Tarico, where she writes her opinions about the signs she sees leading her to believe that “fundamentalism is going down”.  Matt’s article makes some interesting claims that have nudged at my intellectual neurons just enough to make me feel like writing, something I haven’t been up on doing for the last several years.

First, before I jump to thoughts on the article, I want to put out there that one of the reasons I stopped writing about gay rights, religion, and nonviolence was the challenges that come from living compassionately and nonviolently while still respectfully being able to challenge ideas.  I sometimes find this blog itself has been a journey of that.  If you go back to my original posts from 2006 and compare them to the stuff I wrote in the past few years, the is a huge differences to be seen in my response to things I believe are harmful and things and people with which I disagree.  It has been part of my reason for not writing, I need to keep growing in my own understanding of nonviolence, respect, and compassion first.  Now, onto Matt’s article.

I think what has struck me most about this article is the strong tone of black and white thinking that seems to permeate our current culture.  We have been living in this “all this-all that” mindset for just far longer than I like.  I amazed how many people ask if I am for or against guns or even gun control as if those are simple yes or no answers.  The same is true of socialism, communism, marxism, abortion, god, nationalism.  You are either for these things or against them rather than a spectrum of ideas.  We Americans seem to feel more at ease if we take complex and colorful concepts and simplify them into black and white issues.  My experience of the world is that life just isn’t that simple and neither are these issues.

Matt’s article is heavy in the language of sides.  You are either a north American progressive or a god fearing conservative.  You are on god’s side or satan’s side.  You are either for god or against god and by that, he is only referring to his god and none others.  Again, I don’t think the world is this simplistic.

Matt writes:

For those of us so very blessed to have raised our personal white flag in mankind’s inherently fruitless struggle against the Creator, there can be no joy in watching God-deniers continue to labor under the grandest of all deceptions. Regardless of how nasty they may be as individuals, there can be only sadness, genuine pity and prayer.

First off, I want to say I totally get what Matt is saying. I can empathize with this pain because I share the exact same sentiments just from the other view.  It is painful for me to watch religious folks to labor under what I would call the greatest of deceptions.  Over the years, I have found no joy or pleasure in watching people engage in things in which I don’t believe. This includes god, psuedo-science, homeopathic medicines, chiropractors, and acupuncture.  Where Matt and I differ is that I am working in my life to find compassion for those who believe different stuff than me.  I really want to have empathy and understanding as opposed to pity.

I also am not really sure what a “god-denier” actually is.  How do you deny what you do not believe exists.  I personally don’t believe in a god.  There is no more denial in that than there is the fact I also don’t believe in ghosts?  Does that make me a ghost-denier? I don’t believe in homeopathic medicine.  Does that make me a homeopathic medicine denier? Makes me wonder why Matt would make such a choice for a label?  Does he not really understand how belief works?  Does he simply think everyone who doesn’t believe really does believe and they are faking it with denial?  Not sure I could make any logical sense of that and then again, is there any logical sense to be made of it?

Belief is an interesting concept Matt seems to only grasp in terms of choice.  Reality is we don’t actually choose what we believe.  We take in the evidence (and I use that term lightly) and come to our own conclusions.  Even if we wanted to believe in something, we cannot make ourselves believe.  I certainly can’t wake up tomorrow and say, “Yup, I am deciding I believe in unicorns” and then actually do it. Doesn’t work out that way.  I could say I believe in god and the fact is, I don’t.  It would be  lie if I said I did. I also know I can’t make myself believe in god anymore than I could make myself believe in ghosts, psychics, or the Loch Ness Monster.

The flip side of this, and a fact that has built much compassion in me for those who do believe, Matt won’t be waking up tomorrow and making a choice not to believe.  He has read and heard the evidence and it has led him to believe there is a god and that it is the god of the Christian bible.  He couldn’t stop believing that by choice anymore than I could start believing it by choice.

I find his comment about nonbelievers being “nasty” as just his anger that people like me don’t see what he sees the way he sees it.  Guess what, Matt?  I don’t see what you see and it doesn’t make me nasty, sad, unhappy, or anything of the sort.  I will say that I miss my belief in god and Jesus.  I was raised a Catholic.  I went to mass most weeks.  I was an alter-boy in 6th and 7th grades.  I also went to Catholic Schools for all of my schooling.  I studied scripture in high school and for a short time in my early teens, I sincerely wanted to join the priesthood.  I had very strong beliefs then that god existed and that he and I were actually talking to each other when I prayed.  Something I did often.

Over time, those beliefs changed and faded.  There was no one reason for this but many.  I do have to admit, the kicker for me was the realization that religion was more geographical then factual.  Most people are the religion they are because they were born into it by location.  If I had been born in the East, I might be a Hindu or a Muslim.  Since I was born in the USA, I happen to be Christian.

I do miss my “beliefs” in god.  I sometimes think it would be lovely to wake up tomorrow and believe there is a god.  On the other hand, I am also happy I that won’t happen.  There was a lot of comfort to be found in it.  There was also a great sense of community going to church each Sunday and being involved with church activities.  That is why, while not a Catholic church, I do still attend a church.  The pastor of the church knows I am an atheist.  She also knows I joined this church because of the social justice work they are doing around hunger, Haiti, and the homeless.  I get a little freaked out by the whole communion thing because I see it differently than I when I was a kid.  It now seems a bit odd that people are eating flesh and blood regardless of whom they think it belongs.  Either way, I still enjoy going, especially for the sermon  which generally meets with my values.

Matt also writes a few paragraphs about there being no freedom unless you are a believer.  Of course, I would ask Matt, what is your definition of freedom?  I don’t think I felt anymore freedom when I was a believer than I feel now except now that I don’t believe, I no longer struggle with odd and outdated rules about morality that makes little sense to me.  In fact, I might say I feel an increased sense of freedom in my life because I am no longer held down by dogma.

Matt writes:

When God-deniers like Ms. Tarico dig in their heels, a pitiable paradox occurs. While they think they’ve achieved intellectual enlightenment and freedom, they have, instead, been played for the fool. They have become slaves to the flesh, and playthings to the enemy.

I have never met anyone who thinks they have more intellectual enlightenment and freedom through the strategy of “god-denial” whatever that means.  I don’t think I ever met anyone who thinks intellectual enlightenment is an achievement that is achievable.  I would go as far as to say, what does that even mean.  Next, I just laughed at the slaves to the flesh comment.  I can assure you Matt think about and writes about sexuality way more than any nonbeliever I know.

Ultimately, I see Matt’s entire article as a way of drumming up fear and hate for people who don’t believe in Matt’s god.  My question would be, what purpose does that serve?  Does Matt think he will insult them into believing?  What is Matt’s end game? To turn other believers against those who don’t believe?  Is it to rally the troops of believer into having some reaction?  What is Matt’s intention behind his article?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Heading to Church

by @ 11:25 pm. Filed under Atheism, Empathy, Nonviolence

So, I have been attending a church.  It is a local Episcopal Church in town.  The building has been around for over 100 years.  When you walk inside, the church was designed to look like the inside of a ship turned upside down which makes such sense when you live on the shoreline.  It has two Tiffany stained glass windows I wish they would sell off to the highest bidder and use the money to feed the poor and help the town and I guess I can live with their choice not to do that.  I get they want to hold on to the history.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing has changed.  I still don’t believe in a god, let alone the Christian god.   I struggle a little with some of the readings from the bible, and I definitely struggle with the communion thing each week as I think it is creepy to talk about eating the body of a dead guy.    I stay for two reasons.  One my beautiful and partner and husband wanted to join a church and I could have sent him to do this by himself and that also wouldn’t be me.   I am there because I want us to do this together.  I also think there is something here in this church for me to learn.

Over the years I have gone from a very devout Christian to a die hard nonbeliever.  It has also left me with some intolerance of religion.  That hasn’t changed for me.  I get very frustrated with the lack of critical thinking I see in religion.   It seems people of faith have made a conclusion and then looked for facts and data to back up this conclusion. This is very different from my belief that we have to look at the evidence and come to a conclusion not come to a conclusion and then look for facts to back it up.

I am looking to this local church to teach me tolerance and patience.  Not everyone is where I am and they are happy where they are.  Maybe this whole god thing meets needs for them it clearly doesn’t meet for me.  Can I learn the lesson of understanding for this?  Can I learn to be okay with others believing in stuff I not only believe is crap, I believe this can be harmful?  I don’t know the answers to those questions but they fit with this journey of nonviolence I am trying to take.  So, I have been going to church each Sunday and exploring it.  I love the people and the coffee hour after service.  I am a little freaked out by the rituals.  While some part of me finds them nostalgic, the other parts of me find them creepy.

It will be interesting to see where this takes me and what I will learn.  Mostly, I am hoping to learn a new view and look on believers.  I want to be able to find a place of compassion for those who believe even though I don’t.  While the intellect in me wants to debate with them right and left, the spiritual person in me wants to stay open.  While the atheist in me wants to roll my eyes, the Gandhian follower in me wants to learn a new respect for believers I currently don’t have.

Monday, November 1, 2010

giveGreater Challenge 2010

by @ 8:35 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication, Restorative Justice, Site News

As many of  my readers know, I stopped blogging so much because I was able to move on to a new and exciting job doing what I love and care about.  I took the job of Associate Executive Director of Community Mediation, Inc. (CM)  You can guess on your own that I have already begun infusing Nonviolent Communication into much of the work that we are doing.  Since I know many of the folks who read this website also support the work I am trying to do and my hope of training a whole city in conflict management skills, I ask you to help my new organization with this local challenge to raise money.  No matter where in the world you live, change has to start someplace, why not CT?  Give and help support the work we are doing……

In the past few months, CM has been in the schools teaching New Haven youth peer mediation skills.  We have been to various agencies like Madonna Place in Norwich, Public Allies in New Haven, The Children’s Center in New Haven and New Haven Family Alliance presenting workshops based on Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication.  We helped to organize and present at the Seventh John A. Speziale Alternative Dispute Resolution Symposium titled, Achieving the Goals of Criminal Justice: A Role for Mediation.

We are currently working with New Haven Police to present community dialogues that will introduce citizens in each district of New Haven to the new NHPD Police Chief, Frank Limon.  We are also working with the New Haven Juvenile Review Board (JRB) along with New Haven Family Alliance to provide mediation at each of the JRB panel hearings.  We are  working to start new programs, expand our mediation services and train more people in our community in mediation, conflict management and facilitation skills.

We cannot do all the great work we are doing without support from you, the community.  The Community Foundation has started a new website to make it easier for you to support us.  They have also issued a challenge to the community to find 50 people willing to make a donation more than $50.00 to make us eligible to get an additional $25,000 to continue and expand the work we are doing.  We ask that you help us with this challenge by making a donation through the new giveGreater website for us.  Your money goes toward making New Haven, Connecticut and our world a more peaceful place.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

VIDEO:RSA Animate – Crises of Capitalism

by @ 10:40 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence

What I enjoyed about this video is that it didn’t come from Fox or CNN, it came from a science organization in England. This isn’t rhetoric from American new agencies but opinions from people who actually study this stuff.  I will say my line again….if by socialist, you mean I believe in people over profits than yes, call me that. In fact call me whatever you want just stop spending your billions while people suffer.  You don’t need a flat screen in your bathroom while millions of people don’t have a bathroom.

I over heard this young man who worked at Walmart talking to his fellow cashiers about who he got a deal buying this gold watch and gold pendant that was bigger than my whole hand for $1000 dollars. He was just gleeful in his good fortune of getting such a deal on these fashion items…I felt sad hearing him talk as he was so young.  I thought, he could have put that into a savings account or used it towards going to school so he could get a better job than cashier at Walmart. He could have put it towards his retirement or savings for his own child’s college education.  He could have used it to do so many things and yet the gold sits on his neck and he doesn’t realize just how much it is weighing him down….yet.

I agree with whoever it is that made the statement that it will not be until the last drop of water is gone and the last piece of bread has been eaten that folks will finally get it…you cannot eat money or gold.

VIDEO: Jack DuVall – The Dynamics of Civil Resistance (FSI 2010)

by @ 3:42 pm. Filed under Nonviolence

Great video explaining what nonviolence really means in a campaign and why it works…..a must see for activists.


Monday, June 7, 2010

VIDEO: Expensive Shoes vs. Human Life (The choice is easy, right?)

by @ 11:32 pm. Filed under Nonviolence, Poverty

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

VIDEO: The Empathetic Civilization

by @ 6:26 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Friday, May 28, 2010

Peace Takes Action, Not Signs

by @ 9:04 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

In my sleepy New England beach town lives a group of people who stand on the corner at the main light in town holding signs that read “honk for peace” and “Stop the War.”  Of course, I support this message.  I don’t support people standing on the side of the road holding signs for peace and that is because I don’t believe peace comes to anyone through crayola creations.  If you truly want peace, put down the poster board, role up your sleeves and take a short trip into the downtown city near you where kids are killing kids, gangs are more popular than schools and our elected leaders see nothing wrong with putting 14 year old children in jail for fighting.  Put down the sign and realize that peace takes work, action and persistence not signs.

I have always been a bit annoyed on some level when I see people going to great lengths to promote the idea of peace in the middle east, peace in other countries, even world peace and yet those same people do little or nothing to foster peace in their own backyards.  I mediate with groups of kids more often than I would like, who have been arrested in their schools for fighting, even all out brawls of kids fighting.  They get arrested, expelled from schools so they won’t get educations and the bloodlines of poverty continue. When these young adults come to me, they carry in charges like assault or breech of peace.  Many are in hearings to be expelled from school.   In most of the cases I have done, the fights come from petty he said/she said arguments that kids just haven’t been taught to manage.  We fail our kids for each day that goes by and we don’t teach them the skills they need to manage conflict with others. We fail them even further when we punish them for our failures rather than restoring them and the community by teaching them, counseling them and giving them the tools they needs to succeed.

From this, I hope you can understand my frustration when I see this group waste a whole Saturday on the side of the road with signs for peace when I know they could have spent the day mentoring kids, volunteering at the local community center or offering to babysit for a single mom who needs child care so her kids don’t grow up in poverty.  They could have spent the same Saturday taking some inner city youth hiking in the woods, or to clean up the parks where the adults left their trash.  Perhaps they could have volunteer to be the ones that teach these kids conflict skills so they stop killing each other.

I understand they want to express their passion for peace and I want them to know, it takes more than passion to have peace.  Eleanor Roosevelt said once, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”  Not sure I could get this message across to others any more clearly than she did.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rep. John Lewis: “US Lacks a Moral Leader”

by @ 10:39 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

In an April 4, 2010 interview with CNN, Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that, “We are missing the moral leader of America who had emerged not just the moral leader of America but of the world.”  Now he did say this on the anniversary of King’s death and yet something about his statement struck a chord for me.  I wonder what the world would/could look like if we stopped thinking in these absolutes that are far from absolute?

When it comes down to words, moral is a tough one.  It is up there with words like good, bad, right, wrong, truth, lie, terrorist or freedom fighter.  All of these words are subjective to one’s own beliefs.  We can never truly have the moral leader unless everyone agrees with a universal definition of moral and that will never happen.  We also don’t have definitions or clear guidelines with words like right, wrong, good, bad, etc.  All of these words change by person, time, or place.  What is right for some isn’t right for all.  What is moral to some is immoral to others.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?  Who gets to make these calls?

These words are really just a part of our language that stems from our system of punishment and reward.  Those that are good, right, or moral deserve reward and those who are bad, wrong or immoral deserve punishment or pity.  The issue remains that these things are arbitrary and get us no closer to what is really going on with people or ourselves or how to meet their real human needs.  Sadly, these system are the source of much of the violence on our planet that I wish to change.

I get what Rep. Lewis is saying and yet I disagree with his strategy to meet the need.  In the past, we have had leaders like King, Gandhi, Chavez, and others who are my hero’s in life and yet not everyone agreed they were moral, truthful, or right.  The lines between what is right or wrong, what is good or bad, what is moral or immoral are a bit thin and at best, shaky.  How can we have a moral leader if we can’t even decide what is moral?  Who would he lead but those who agree with his version of moral?  I believe a leader has to lead everyone not just those who agree with him.

I propose we stop thinking in terms that don’t work for all of us and start looking at things more universal to all of us.  Lets start thinking about what connects us rather than what put us into boxes based on what we deserve, like good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral.  All of these terms are just code for what we think people deserve.  Let’s start thinking in terms of universal human needs!

Human needs cross all the barriers whether it be race, age, religion, sexual orientation, or culture.  All humans have the same needs.  Why not evaluate things based on how well they are meeting universal human needs rather than what we think people deserve.  I might say to Mr. Lewis, stop caring about “WHAT” people “ARE” like moral or immoral, good or bad, right or wrong since those thing are so fuzzy and start thinking in terms of how those same people’s universal human needs are being met or not met.

When you really stop and think about it, there are no human needs that are negative or positive needs.  It is hard to think of food, shelter, creativity, safety, spirituality or rest as positive or negative, good or bad.   They just are, right?  So if, like psychology says, we are all just out to meet our needs, then there are no actions that are negative or positive if we evaluate how well they meet human needs.  In simple terms, even if the strategy you chose wasn’t effective, the goal was to meet a human need.  There were other choices, strategies that could have been chosen that could meet the same need at less cost to others.

The thing about needs is that psychologist have been telling us for decades that all human behavior is in the service of needs, yet we live in a society that tells us having needs is weak or too touchy or mushy.   How do we live past the contradiction  of what our language allows and what science has discovered to work?  How do we get back in touch with our human authentic selves?

I know Rep. Lewis wants the same things I want….human needs met.  I bet he wants his needs for harmony and peace met.  I bet he also wants his needs for congruency with his faith met too! I bet he would like his need for respect for life to be met.   I can respect those needs because I have them too, we all do!  That is what connects us as humans, our needs!  We can understand each other much better when we see that we are all after the same things…..getting our needs met…

Again, I ask you to stop looking for a moral leader and look for a leader who can understand what will really meet human needs and open to all the strategies available to do that.  I ask that we stop looking for people to do the right thing (assuming we can get past the arbitrary right or wrong) and look to do what contributes to human needs being met.  Stop worrying if our actions are  aligned with a political party or church and ask to these actions contribute to life?  Do they meet universal human needs?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Message of Nonviolence

by @ 7:10 pm. Filed under Nonviolence

Although I am pretty much a secular minded person now, I can tell you that much of my roots believing in Nonviolence came from what I learned as a child attending Christian schools.  I learned Jesus was the model of nonviolence.  I learned the commandment, thou shalt not kill and noticed that didn’t have exception next to it as I often see people adding.   I learned that “blessed are the peacemakers” and I learned that if some hits you, turn and offer them other other cheek so they can hit that too!  Turn the other cheek has never meant to turn and look the other way, and if fact means the opposite.  I find so many people who don’t realize that nonviolence wasn’t a suggestion in the bible but a requirement.

This article I found at Huffington Post makes some great obeservations about nonviolence in the bible.  I think more Christians who are happy to promote the idea of god’s army would take a look the other side of the coin!!

Read on…..The Easter Message of Nonviolence

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