About Kathy Vestal

Kathy is a college educator with master’s degrees in divinity and education, and she most often writes about religion, social justice, politics, education, or current events. She enjoys writing, teaching, reading, and traveling, and she writes from a Christian and politically Independent perspective. Kathy also blogs at http://kathyon.blogspot.com/ and http://www.redletterchristians.org/author/kathy-vestal/

SP25. Christians and Politicians

Duke UNC

A couple of weeks ago I commented on-line that one particular local candidate would be the worst possible candidate we could elect. I’m sorry I said that (and hopefully I deleted it before many people saw it). While I believe him to be the wrong candidate for that one particular position, I also believe him to be an intelligent, honest, respectable, and just plain good person, and politics is no excuse for making hurtful comments about any single human being.

We seem to divide ourselves all the time. Sports fans call each other Tarholes or Dookies. Then after the game they go out together for wings and pizza. Politics is nastier though. It’s like we have a “politics will be politics” mentality which excuses us from all otherwise expected civilized behavior. We expect candidates to lie and deceive, and if they are lying and deceiving for our side, we cheer them on – anything to win.

I just heard on NPR that the Hagan/Tillis race has cost 54.4 million dollars, for 90,000 ads! I don’t know anyone, Republican or Democrat, who is not sick of hearing those two twist and contort each other’s records. But I digress.

For those of us who claim to be Christian, how can we justify our political games? How could I justify “love your neighbor as yourself” and “be kind one to another” with saying something hurtful about about another human being, especially one of whom I think highly outside of politics?!  How can we justify spending 54.4 million dollars even on the entire political process, much less on one race, and then talking about poverty, homelessness, and world hunger as if we care about them?

Our politics is broken. Where are the candidates who sincerely run to serve the community, not the party or themselves? But far more disturbing, our Christianity is also broken. Where are the Christians who love God and love their neighbor above all else, for whom the life and teachings of Jesus are foremost in their hearts in every word, action, and relationship?

Jesus is not the model for our ugly games, our hurtful attacks, and our shameful waste of money.  Jesus is not the model when we claim that either of our corrupt parties is God’s party. Jesus is not the model for our divisiveness and name-calling.

A little athletic ribbing is probably harmless, and maybe even a healthy way to let loose some of our competitive spirits, but at the end of the game, both Duke and Carolina are shades of blue, they share an academic and geographical culture, and neither team is infallible.

Politicians know all the right words to say.  Christians know all the right words to say.  But all too often the words are empty and meaningless. While we can’t single-handedly fix the whole system, I/you can decide to work on my/your own biases, attitudes, and relationships. Compassion, love, and unity are God’s way, and somehow must remain so, even in politics.

 

photo credit: espn.go

 

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SP24. Rowan County Commissioners Election and the Local Tea Party

scale-1-to-10-copy Imagine with me a political continuum from one to ten with one being extreme Democrats whose every opinion is in agreement with the Democratic Party no matter what, and with ten being the same extremism but of the Republican Party. These extremists believe they are right about everything and that there’s no need to consider other opinions because theirs is the only one that’s right. Rowan’s population includes some of these extremists on both sides, but the vast majority of our county’s population falls somewhere between two and nine, able and willing in varying degrees to listen to other opinions and to work together for compromise and for what is best for the entire county.

County Commissioners are elected to work together as a body to make intelligent decisions that affect the lives of all citizens of the county they serve – men and women of all political affiliations, all religious ideologies, all ages, all races, all language groups, and all economic spheres.  Rowan County’s board is made up of five commissioners. Ideally, this would be a diverse group of women and men representing the diversity of the county’s population – perhaps including one extreme Republican and one extreme Democrat, and three others who fall somewhere between two and nine on the political scale.

Unfortunately Rowan’s Board of Commissioners has been operating off balance for the past several years, and this upcoming election is the voters’ opportunity to restore our county government’s political integrity.  The tens on our political scale, many of whom call themselves Tea Partiers, have attempted a take-over and have achieved some success.

In 2012 former FOX News sports anchor Rich Brenner was the guest speaker at Rowan’s monthly Tea Party meeting, and he challenged those present to accomplish their goals of electing Rowan County Tea Party Patriot candidates who will impact the future of our country. Whether Brenner ignited the fire, or whether he merely added fuel to a fire that was already hot, the Rowan County Tea Party has steadily been attempting to take over our local political offices and our local newspaper’s opinion pages, and because the rest of us are not paying attention, and also because many of us have fallen for the political rhetoric that says “Republican” and “God” are synonymous (That idea, while a genius political strategem, is definitely not a word from God) they are making some inroads.

The Tea Partiers are the tens on our scale. They are Republican to the extreme with no tolerance or need to hear any other viewpoints; but don’t be confused into thinking that Republicans are all Tea Partiers. Republicans on our imagined continuum are scattered from numbers 6 to 10, and most of the Republican Party has distanced itself from the extremists.

Why are they dangerous? Extremists, whether religious, political, or whatever other kind of group, are always a danger to social order when they are in positions of untempered power or control.  That’s why a five seat board is important. We elect five officials to work together for all the citizens of our county. It should work, but it isn’t.

Even those of you who don’t keep up with local politics have probably heard rumblings about the current commissioners not working together with other local officials like the City Council and the Board of Education. Here’s what we voters have unintentionally allowed to happen. Four of the five members of our current board are tens on our imaginary scale, and their ‘informal” outside-the-meeting meetings, leaving out the fifth member, followed by controlled pre-planned voting in the official meetings, are well documented.

With the coming November election, we are guaranteed three new commissioners, and our choices are scattered across the 1-10 scale. The two current members who will remain on the board are tens, so if we, the voters, elect one more Tea Partier, they will retain control of the board, and the imbalance will remain in place.

This is not a political party post, nor is it anti-Tea Party. The Tea Party segment of our county certainly deserves a voice, which is already there.  Personally I plan to vote for some Republican candidates and some “not Republican” ones, but if we want to restore order to our local government, we MUST fix our broken board. Your vote, for change or for more of the same, could easily be the deciding vote in a midterm county race.  So could your decision to sit this one out.

 

 

Rowan County Commissioner Candidates:
Leda Belk, Democrat
Chris Cohen, Unaffiliated (previously ran as Republican)
Raymond Coltrain, Unaffiliated (previously ran as Democrat)
Greg Edds, Republican
Jim Greene, Republican
Judy Klusman, Republican
Rick Locklear, Democrat
Gene Miller, Unaffiliated (previously ran as Republican)

Important Dates:
Thurs., Oct. 23 thru Sat., Nov. 1  Early Voting at the Rowan Public Library (201 W Fisher St., Salisbury) and other locations. Check Salisbury Post or Board of Elections for exact times and places.
Tues., Nov. 4  Election Day

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*My views are my own and not a reflection of my workplace, my church, or the Salisbury Post.

 

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SP23. Personal Reflections of a School Board Meeting

school board 001

I pulled into the parking lot 15 minutes before starting time and immediately thought I should have come much earlier. As I drove to the back parking lot, I noted the surprising number of cars and even a Baptist church full-size bus, from Kannapolis which is not even a part of the Rowan Salisbury School System.

The event? An RSS Board of Education meeting to revisit the newly changed policy regarding GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) clubs in the local high schools. A few years ago the board voted to disallow what they called “sex-based” clubs in the school system, then within the last two months, under legal advice, changed that policy.

At the following meeting during the public comment time, eight spoke out against the change, and the board responded by choosing to revisit the issue in a public meeting with their attorney. Thus this meeting.

As I walked into the building in my church lady skirt, I was treated as a 52-year-old woman, with cordial greetings and smiles exchanged with strangers, and young boys opening the doors for me.  Entering the meeting room, I quickly spotted a friend amidst the crowd of strangers, and sat down in the back beside him. Then another friend came in and sat with the two of us.  Theirs were the only faces I recognized in the crowd, except for the board members and the media, most of whose faces I know only as public figures.  A TV camera was in place.

By starting time, there was standing room only, with many standing. There were maybe 100 present, including several young children, there with their parents. In the row in front of me were presumably a husband and wife and four little boys approximately 6-11 years old.

The atmosphere was pleasant, although charged with anticipatory energy.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the announcement was made that, although this was a special meeting, they would take public comment.  14 had signed up to speak, four in support of allowing the GSA clubs and ten in opposition, including six of the eight who spoke at the previous meeting.

Those speaking in support included a local PFLAG leader with a lesbian daughter, and a pastor. Among those in opposition was a young woman who brought her baby as a prop, and cried as she related her fears of her baby girl growing up and someone telling her she could be something besides a girl.  Another speaker cried at the thought of what she would tell her little children if they one day asked her about gay people.  As I returned to my seat after speaking in favor of the clubs, the glares from the audience were icy cold.  I was no longer the kind church-looking lady, but was Satan himself.

The young boy in front of me couldn’t stop watching me the rest of the meeting, with eyes that seemed to reflect both fear and the desire to show me he was not afraid of me. He knew how to deal with Satan.  How sad his eyes made me for the Christian Church. I longed to tell him that Jesus is the most important influence in my life, and that I love all children.  I wanted to tell him that if he or one of his brothers finds himself struggling one day with same-sex attraction and is rejected by his family and his church, I and other Christians with me will be there ready to support him, listen to him, and love him. Of course all I could do was smile at him and breathe a silent prayer.

As the speakers took their turns at the microphone, the crowd became a Baptist congregation.  The opposition speakers, often quoting Bible verses, were lauded with a sea of amens and loud applause, with an uproar when one supporting speaker was accidentally allowed more than his allotted 3 minutes. Two speakers accused the board of secretly letting the supporters know that public comments would be allowed, while keeping that knowledge from the opponents. The evidence: two of us had speaking notes. It was a church circus, reminiscent of the not-so-long-ago commissioner meetings during their discussions on prayer.  Two commissioners were present.  Mike Caskey spoke in opposition, and Jim Sides came in maybe an hour late and sat in the back.  As far as I could guess, if there were 100 people in the audience, 94 of those were in opposition to allowing GSAs, and four of the other six were the supporting speakers.

Following public comment, the board members, guided by their attorney, dove into their business. Susan Cox made a motion to ban all extra-curricular clubs. There was much discussion on this from the board members and the attorney. Although most of the board members seemed to want to ban the GSAs, they finally voted down the motion to ban all clubs. During the discussion, it was brought out that the largest GSA club in the county has no more than six students. It was amazing to me that these few students are apparently a large enough threat to our community that we would seriously consider banning clubs that are enjoyed by hundreds, maybe thousands of our students: Junior Civitan, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bible clubs . . .

During the discussion, Dr. Richard Miller, board chairperson, presented an admirable discourse about Jesus’ response to all kinds of people, with a reminder that not all Christians are in agreement on the issue, and that there is not just one Christian way of thinking. One woman in the audience arose dramatically, folded her arms in disgust, and exited the room.

A second motion was made by Josh Wagner that the wording be changed to only ban clubs that would encourage or discourage anyone’s sexual orientation. They went into closed session with the attorney, and came back to vote that one down also.  Thus the issue closed without any change, leaving all extra-curricular clubs open for students.

I didn’t stay for the final segment but left when the board went into closed session.  As a friend walked me back to my car, the air had changed. There were storm clouds in the sky but larger ones in my heart, as I pondered the state of the Church and how we have moved so far away from the example and teachings of Jesus.  I didn’t know at that time what the final vote inside would be, but my heaviness was that a whole roomful of people believed with all their hearts that fighting against gay people is God’s will. God, help us.

 

Salisbury Post‘s coverage of meeting here

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SP22. Racism Patriot-Style?

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50 years ago today, July 2, 1964, the United States passed the Civil Rights Act.

This morning’s local front page news headlines another of Rowan’s own, a local Tea-Party politician, being asked to step down from his appointed position because of racist posts on Facebook.

Earlier this week, in an article about racist accusations being made against him, he denied all racism, then in seemingly the same breath, stated that the NAACP is the most racist organization in the country.  I had to reread that line a few times to believe he actually said it in his own defense.

Do the Donald Sterlings, the Paula Deens, and the local Tea-Partiers believe themselves not to be racists? Are we really living in such a self-deceptive society?  Or are they well aware of their racism, like the white pointed hat wearers of the not so distant past, and attempting to conceal it just as those predecessors did?  I choose to believe most of today’s racism is of the ignorant variety . . .

According to the local paper, the offending Facebook posts have been removed, but here are a few that were easily accessed.  (I wonder what the “offensive” ones were like!)  The all-caps type is his, not mine; and the black print comments are mine.

 

Our country is the Confederacy?
“LET US CROSS OVER THE RIVER AND REST UNDER THE SHADE OF THE TREES”, FINAL WORDS OF STONEWALL JACKSON. THE END OF OUR COUNTRY, THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.

The Republican Party is not Right-Wing enough. To hell with lesbos, queers, liberals, and abortionists!
I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE NATIONAL GOP. I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE GOP AT EVERY CAMPAIGN LEVEL SINCE I WAS 9 YEARS OLD AND THE ONLY WINNING FORMULA IS TO BE THE PARTY OF CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES. THIS OUTREACH CRAP HAS BEEN TRIED MANY TIMES BEFORE AND HAS ALWAYS FAILED BECAUSE THE GROUPS YOU OUTREACH TO CARE ONLY ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU ARE GOING TO PROMISE AND GIVE THEM AND WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO GIVE MORE THAN THE LIBERALS AND DEMS BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE A PRINCIPLED BONE IN THEIR BODY AND THEY DON’T CARE EVEN IF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC IS DESTROYED. TO HELL WITH THE LESBOS, QUEERS LIBERALS AND BABY KILLERS.

Those irresponsible blacks
THE IRRESPONSIBLE BLACKS WILL REELECT HIM AND HE KNOWS IT. http://www.ncgop.org/ncgop-calls-patrick-cannon-resign-mayor-charlotte/

Got your assault weapon yet? Better hurry!
EVERYONE NEEDS AT LEAST 1 IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES AGAINST THE COMMING TYRANNY. http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/video-2/the-assault-weapon-rebellion

Of course
THE MOST DANGEROUS PERSON TO FREEDOM IN THE WORLD TODAY. http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/us/watch-how-obama-responds-to-35570-counts-of-voter-fraud-in-north-carolina

Likes Tillis
PRO LIFE, PRO TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE, PRO 2ND AMENDMENT, PRO FREEDOM. WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR. THOM TILLIS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!!! FRANKLIN GRAHAM FOR PRESIDENT 2016!!!http://cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-muslims-who-want-practice-sharia-law-should-go-back-where?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Marketing&utm_term=Facebook&utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=graham-sharia

THIS PROVES THAT DUMBASSES CAN BE LAWYERS AND SERVE ON THE US SUPREME COURT.

a portrait of Robert E. Lee   http://fineartamerica.com/featured/2-general-robert-e-lee-1807-1870-everett.html

 

On Facebook he “likes”:
Warbird Pinup Girls
The Tea Party  

The Tea Party   

 

This sub-cultural brand of racism cannot be pinned to the Republican Party nor to the conservative religious denomination of which he is a part. Neither condones such radical extremism.

50 years ago today the United States of America passed the Civil Rights Act  . . . As Leonard Pitts so perfectly said it in his Sunday column, 50 years later we still have a long long way to go.

 

photo credit: Victor Chalfant. Posted on Mac Butner’s Facebook page with this personal comment: I KNEW THE SOUTH WOULD RISE AGAIN! GOD BLESS DIXIE! YEE HAW!!

 

 

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SP21. Jacob and Esau and NC Teachers

Masbury wordpress

Senate Republicans unveiled a plan on Wednesday that would give North Carolina teachers their biggest pay increase in history, 11.2%, and would raise the state’s teacher pay ranking from its current 47th to somewhere near the middle.  Hooray, right?  Well, not so fast.  There’s a catch.

Remember the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau?  Esau, the eldest son with all the rights that entailed, came in hungry, probably from hunting and trapping, smelled the porridge his brother Jacob was cooking, and sold his birthright for it.

The proposed plan is this: Take the raise, and trade in your tenure.

We have no indication that Esau thought about his choice.  He was hungry.  He wanted soup.  Soup was for right now.  A birthright was for sometime in the future, for children, grandchildren, and future generations.  Not a concern for the moment.

Sure, we could debate whether tenure is fair, whether it helps or hurts education, etc., but that is not what Esau was thinking about.  He was hungry.  Right now he wanted a bowl of soup.  He would enjoy it, but would be hungry again tomorrow, and his sons and descendants would forever wonder at the choice he made for them.

NC Teachers, should your 2014-2015 pay be dependent on your own choice between a raise and tenure, at least think about your choice.  If you choose a raise, immediate gratification will be yours.  It won’t satisfy or be remembered for long before you are hungry for another.  But much farther reaching than that, your collective choice will change history.  Right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, tenure has been a part of the teaching profession for generations.  The soup spoon being extended to you will stop that; and don’t let yourself be fooled – Unlike raises, which will always be debated by the legislature, once gone, tenure will not return, not for you, not for your daughters, not for any future generation of teachers.

Of course, Jacob was happy.

 

 

photo credit: masbury wordpress

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