Hillary for Prison. . .(a former Jail Chaplain Speaks)


We saw an expensive car in the Walmart parking lot today (I know, that does seem strange and, fyi, we don’t usually do Walmart).  It had two bummerstickers [sic]; one said “Fire Obama” and the other said, “Hillary for Prison” with a pretty ‘Merican flag.  I guess they’re Patriots.  I wonder if they’re Repubs?

Then it hit me. . .No, not the car!  An idea for a sticker with a bit deeper message.

If and when Hillary Clinton goes to prison, I have some hints for her.

Let me explain.

I served as a Chaplain for most of my career.  For ten years of my ministry, I was the first interfaith jail chaplain inside our county facilities where I led up to seven services each week for women and men, maximum and minimum security.  I got to know the system a little, especially the people–the human beings–on both sides of the bars (back when there actually were BARS).  I learned the great value of a chaplaincy, especially one where “presence” and listening were much more important than preaching and proselytizing.  Alongside some wonderful volunteers, we operated the Jail Visitor Center assisting family and friends through the intimidating process of entering a dark building with slamming steel doors and scary looking people–some with uniforms.

After ten years, I walked out the doors and became the chaplain outdoors, on the streets, where I saw many of the same people from the jail who ended up losing everything, sometimes their minds.  For some, the jail was just about their only “home”–certainly the biggest “shelter” in town.  My education and my “presence” work continued.

Now, today, I see these bumper stickers and signs that say, “Hillary for Prison.”  I know what that means, and it seems very irrational from my perspective, and actually quite UN-American, especially knowing that in America people are supposed to be Innocent until PROVEN guilty.

So, a brainsticker [sic] stuck on my mind.  I came up with this variation that would encourage Hillary to DO something while she’s there, just as I did.

Hillary For Prison. . . 

Maybe it’s time for more of us to Go to Prison (or jail, or a homeless shelter).

Visit. . .Listen. . .Learn.

You never know who you’ll find in there.

Instead of “Thoughts and Prayers”

View from Chimney Rock, NC

Divisive Debates, Disasters, Destruction, Disrespect. . .Shootings and bombings every day. . .Irrational Nonsense all over. . .

Back in my Faith Days I’d be a-prayin’ and a stayin’ on the faithful path, head buried in my Babble.  Nothing would change, of course, but I could assure myself that My Friend was protecting me and my loved ones from all the devilish (and secular) Bad Stuff (aka, Evil).

Now that the World, with it’s great Bad and great Beauty, is the real open book, the genuine scripture. . .what can we do?  What’s better than “Thoughts and Prayers” ? (had a good laugh at this).

I’m not sure what to do sometimes or how to stay hopeful, but I do know that a good bit of honesty, common sense, reality, and trying to help when I can seems best.  And, a daily dose of Nature helps.  Here’s my Daily Dose:

Smoky Mts Sunset




Fibbin’ for Faith (Lyin’ for the Lord)

Lies are like dead leaves lying

Trumpence (the T-P ticket) rolled through town again with more trumpery.  This time is was the two-Pence.  He was speaking to a convention of homeschoolers and their parents (sponsored by the Homeschool Legal Defence Association:  “a nonprofit ministry to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.”).

So, what family and faith values is the TP ticket preaching?

“Trump is a man of faith in God and faith in the American people” while Hillary is “the most dishonest candidate ever.”  (he apparently hasn’t paid attention to the fact-checkers and ignores the fact that repeating “crooked Hillary” over and over hasn’t proven she’s guilty of anything.

A Trumpence administration would repeal the Johnson Amendment prohibiting pulpiteering for politicians so “We will free up the voice of faith in America once again.” (this makes no sense; people of faith speak out all the time, and many pastors ignore the rules and preach for “God’s candidate” all the time; by the way, would they support imams, priests, rabbis, gurus and tax-free non-profit organizations taking up partisan politicking?).

“Pro-life Americans should not be required to see their tax dollars used to fund [abortion].”  (Whoops!  Another Lie for the Lord.  It is already the law of the land that tax dollars do not fund abortion).

So, what kind of education are all the homeschoolers getting?  I know a few homeschoolers, so I know that some is very good (though exclusively Christian).  Maybe a little is passable as “education.”  And some is plain faith-based, fear-based Lying for the Lord.




Autumn, Lake Washington, Seattle

One of my favorite images from an autumn walk along the lake shore a few years back.

I fell to my knees, not to worship or pray, not to praise other beings in other worlds.  Simply to see the light and shadow, the color and pure beauty. . .and gently snap the photo.

Sometimes great, delicate beauty is found below, at our feet, hidden, or almost hidden–inviting us to stop, look harder, look closer at THIS world, our only world. . . and be delighted.

Is there One Way to God. . .or Anything?

Trail we found today in the Blue Ridge Mts. with a canopy of branches and vines

I have a pointer I use in class presentations sometimes.  It has one finger (no, not the middle one) pointing up.  It’s useful.  Yet it reminds me of the “One Way” stickers we used to stick all over our cars and bibles and schools and. . .anywhere!  To “spread the good news” that:  Jesus is the ONE WAY, the ONLY WAY. . .to God, to Salvation, to Life, to Happiness, to Everything.

Makes me cringe a little, and sigh over my youthful passion and ignorance.

Well. . .now, all these years later, I really enjoy finding new paths, new trails, new places to explore and wonder and experience the joys and delights and wonders of this beautiful world.

If anyone tells me there is “one way” to go, to see, to think, to live. . .I tell them, “Nah, that’s ok, I think I’ll keep an open mind to discover all the trails out there.”

There’s always more than one way. . .

What is that Light?

Sand, Sun, Sea on the Sound

I had to comment on this WA POST article

“I Lost My Faith In God.  Then I Found It.  Now It’s Complicated”

The author says he became an atheist. . .yet seems not to understand non-believers very well. As a former minister and chaplain I would say he had a “crisis of faith” and then had a natural experience of wonder (who doesn’t have wonderful moments in Nature?) and found his (Christian) faith again. A story we’ve heard many times. But to claim this as proof of the superiority of the spiritual over the secular isn’t convincing. Many of us didn’t leave faith due to a family crisis but due to seeing a different light: the Light of Reason.

“Testimonies” are as old as Religion.  “I saw a light. . .No, I saw THE Light.”

In our culture that “Light” is always “The Light of the World”. . .the one and only, of course (in other cultures it might be the Light of Krishna or Buddha or Allah’s Angel).

I wonder why the Wonder isn’t enough. . .Why isn’t the Natural Beauty good enough?

Can’t we ALL sense that “connection” in Nature, whether we have faith or not?

After all, maybe the Sun is simply the Sun.

As my WAPO comment says, some of us found a new light:  the Light of Reason.

(maybe it’s the Sun in my eyes)

Beauty and Beasts


These are truly some beautiful images of this year’s Eid al-Adha Festival at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage:

Eid celebrations around the world (Aljazeera)

We can appreciate the cultures, the sense of community, the smiles.

One gift of Religion is the potential for unity, cooperation and better understanding.

Unfortunately, we’re also reminded that Eid is the “Festival of Sacrifice.”

Thousands of animals slaughtered–camels, goats, cows, lambs–(to honor Abraham’s sacrifice of a sheep instead of his son Ishmael).

Thousands of gallons of innocent blood shed for. . .God.

To be fair, much of the meat is given to the poor (I’m sure the animals appreciate that).

But it’s not the World’s Largest Animal Sacrifice:  that’s the annual Gadhimai Mela Festival of the Hindus when nearly 500,000 animals die for. . .God.

Religion is such a strange mixture of beauty and blood. . .service (living for Life) and sacrifice (dying for “Life”).

As for biblical religion (Jews, Christians, Muslims), I’ve always wondered about the beauty mingled with brutality.

Why does God enjoy the shedding of blood. . .over and over and over?

Deplorable Truth?


It may not have been “smart” for Clinton to be so “offensive” as to shine a light on the deplorables (meaning: “deserving strong condemnation” :origin: to weep for), but if it’s the truth. . .

A “highlight” from Charles Blow column in the NYT:

“A February Public Policy Polling survey found “Trump’s support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades.” What the poll found about those South Carolina supporters’ beliefs was truly shocking:

• Eighty percent of likely Trump primary voters supported Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims.

• Sixty-two percent supported creating a national database of Muslims and 40 percent supported shutting down mosques in the United States.

• Thirty-eight percent wished the South had won the Civil War.

• Thirty-three percent thought the practice of Islam should be illegal in this country.

• Thirty-two percent supported the policy of Japanese internment during World War II.

• Thirty-one percent would support a ban on homosexuals entering the country.”

So. . .who do we “weep for” when so many in our country hold such detestable beliefs?

Detestable: “intensely unlikable.” (sorry if that offends)

After we “weep for” these folks, who has the courage to call them out?

(esp. if they’re a real jerk of a tree!)



Standing Rock: One (Native) Nation Under-Oil?


Apart from Slavery, the denial of rights to Women, African and Asian Americans and other injustices, the broken treaties treatment of Native American Nations is a large, indelible stain on the history of America.

Now, every person of conscience should be aware of what is happening in North Dakota at this moment.  Tribes from across the continent standing together with the Standing Rock Sioux to stop the insanity of running an oil pipeline under the Missouri River!

This is a clear issue of religious freedom as well as protecting the land and water.

“This pipeline is going through huge swaths of ancestral land,” said Dean DePountis, the tribe’s lawyer. “It would be like constructing a pipeline through Arlington Cemetery or under St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”

“Water is what we’re made of,” said Burns, the elder from California. “We’re supposed to be the protectors of the land and water. My god, they took everything away from us. And now they want to take our water, too?”

With extended family in North Dakota, I’ve been watching the “Oil Boom” go bust and mess up towns and the environment.  Now, this!  Dakota Access wants to pump 500,000 barrels of oil Per Day under a major river.  The ghost of Custer invades again and again.

Watch this moment closely.  Those of us born in America but not “Native” have much more to learn from the Nations within the Nation.

I wonder where the “Defenders of Religious Freedom” are?  Quick to show up if a Bible club isn’t treated with privilege in a public school, would “Christian protection” groups like Alliance Defending Freedom ever stand up for Native Rights (or the Rights and Freedoms of ANY non-Christian group)?


Pilgrimage on Many Rivers

Version 2
Hudson River, NY

It occurred to me today, after my “Secular Pilgrimage” along the Freethought Trail in New York, that my “spiritual journey” is a story to tell and re-tell, not just to explain my “exodus” out of faith, but to remind myself how deep and wide my river travels have been.

I have, over the years, journeyed on many streams. . .

Recited Bible passages from memory in front of a Presbyterian congregation

Prayed for salvation while watching Billy Graham on a black and white television

Went on retreats with born-again Baptists

Shared the gospel on streets and beaches with Campus Crusade for Christ

Raised my hands in praise, speaking in tongues with Pentecostals

Sung in a youth choir, an adult church choir and a college chorus

Played guitar and studied the Bible in a house church with a “Messianic Jew”

Sat and walked in silent meditation with Zen Priests

Chanted Hebrew songs in a variety of synagogues

Placed my forehead down on prayer rugs in a mosque or two

Taken the Holy Eucharist with thousands in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

Joined other pilgrims in an old stone chapel on the island of Iona in Scotland

Was ordained as a Presbyterian Minister

as the streams flowed on, I have also. . .

Served as an Interfaith Chaplain for decades

Danced with ecstatic Sufis

Prayed with Christian Scientists, Mormons and Baha’is

Sat quietly with Quakers

Walked with Wiccans

Meditated with Hindus

Sweated in a sweat lodge with Native Americans

Taught Pagan chaplains

Led spiritual discussions among Black, White, Asian and Latino Jail inmates

Taught courses on World Wisdom in congregations

Performed weddings with a Rabbi friend

Joined memorial processions with homeless folks of many faiths and none

Organized annual Interfaith thanksgiving services in congregations

Directed a homeless shelter with the support of many religions

Held discussions with Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists and Freethinkers

Organized and led a “Secular Sanctuary” group walking and reading wisdom in Nature

Managed affordable housing for an Ecumenical agency

Taught courses on Freethinkers

And the rivulets and waterfalls roll on. . .

When I reflect on all these experiences I’m not ashamed or embarrassed; I don’t wish I had been a Freethinker way back when (well, maybe sometimes).  No, I think of the names and faces, the good people I met and continue to meet, those with deep faith, and those with no particular faith.

I don’t think of God.  I think of Good.

It’s been a wild, wacky and wonderful journey.  The common ground for almost all of this has been natural–natural goodness and the common goal of a happier, healthier world.  I no longer believe.  But I’m confident we can journey forward with all our differences, to be refreshed by the water, even if we don’t share the same streams.