A United State of Inequity

The most inequitable activity on the planet is the continued erasure of women’s agency to their full humanity.  We see this in rape as a weapon and as a result of political conflict or as an expression of cultural class dominance. We see it in obstructing women from education. We see it when weaponized religion becomes policy as in the current religiously driven overturn of a woman’s right to an abortion in the United States.

The most inequitable thing on the planet is a gun.  It weaponizes human impulse like no other implement can.  When guns are supercharged like our current assault weapons available to everyday citizens, they become tools of personal genocide.

The most inequitable system of governance is democracy beholden to and guided by capitalism.  In such a system, the only winners are people who can afford to be in the system where the group in charge keeps itself intentionally small.  It was that way in 1789; it is that way today.

The most inequitable document in modern use is the original United States Constitution.  Written entirely by men, some of whom held human beings in hereditary slavery.  Some of these men created more wealth through rape, creating new owned offspring.  The Constitution was designed based on their flawed and limited understandings of ethics, faith, justice and “enlightenment.”  The Constitution was designed to both privilege and excuse their ignorance and brutality.

This is a United State of Inequity.

We cannot retrofit equity.  Equity cannot be an overlay. Equity needs to be more than “at the heart”…it needs to be at the beginning…the foundation…the cornerstone.  The original intention must be equity for equity to be achieved.

And then again, maybe we don’t want equity.  Maybe our culture, that seems so addicted to competition, only wants winners and losers.  Maybe our culture has to be made of haves and have nots.  Maybe we only want religion that functions as a barrier and not as an embrace.  Maybe we are so accustomed to looking for “first” class we don’t recognize that a “first” always implies that there is a “second.”  Maybe we don’t want equity.

In order to come even close to the beloved community we so often talk about, that we toss off like a throwaway when we preach or advocate for those “less fortunate”, we must first commit to equity.  That commitment asks us to be fully willing to make the public statements and decisions that will require giving up some if not all of the “good life” we have been accustomed to.  We have to be willing to go back to square one and question what it is we are willing to actually fight for.  We have to believe it is possible, or it will never come to pass.

Most of all, we must understand that the price of equity is not more than any of us can afford.  Because ultimately, equity is something none of us can afford to live without.

-ALD

Birthday Wish

This picture is my 6th birthday in 1971.  Monday April, 18, marks exactly 51 years later.  When I was six, my biggest wishes were for model cars and G.I. Joes.  The boy to my right was also named Adam the other boy was named Paul (?) and the girl Natalie or Natalia (?)…not sure why I remember these names.  They were my only friends at that time as I wasn’t in school.  I had started first grade early the previous fall while I was still five, but my parents pulled me out of public school shortly after I began, in part because of ongoing teachers struggles in the New York City school system.  Later that year, we tried me in school again.  I started at the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine where my brother was already a student, and where one of my classmates was Ben Stiller (albeit not famous yet.)  Funny how well I remember that ice-cream; I know I wished for that as well.  My wishes were much simpler then.

And yes, I am wearing a daishiki. #blackpowerchild

I think about heavier and more weighty things these days.  But considering the fact that the backstory to this picture includes teachers striking for equitable treatment, I guess it is no surprise that questions of justice are still part of my world.  Now however, I am part of helping justice emerge or stay present and not just the unwitting happy child benefiting from the hard work and advocacy of others.  Now, I hold my work to be just as important as education in that I am committed to ideas of equity in religious freedom in this country and the world.

In a democratic republic such as the United States, it is not enough to have “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” because the nature of democratic choice means that there also exists the freedom to use religion as a weapon or intentional tool of oppression.  In a truly pluralistic society, there must also be religious equity…that is, a commitment to balance, relationship, and accountability among religions.  This is how free entities of religion can remain in community with one another.  Without a tool of relationship, there is the potential for chaos, unchecked conflict, and total war.

Religious freedom alone as a definition was fine in the United States when “religion” was defined solely as coming from Abrahamic traditions as expressed and dominated by a homogenous population that maintained total power. In the 17 – 20th centuries, the primary tool of relationship maintaining religious freedom was hegemony.  The narrowness of an understanding of what religion was and how it functioned in a civil society and who had access to that understanding kept the definition of “religious freedom” contained.  In a globalized world, with the decentering of wealth based, white male hegemony and after the emergence of women’s rights to full humanity, the end of African enslavement and the recognition of Indigenous genocide, true diversity requires additional systems of accountability.

Yep, I think about heavier and more weighting things these days.

My birthday wish is that the principles of religious equity will become clearer and take hold in the United States.  And I pray that we will all benefit from an equal investment in protecting each other’s rights to living the faithful, ethical and or moral lives we choose.

-ALD