Mr. President-Elect, Surprise Me


Mr. President-Elect,  you surprised me last summer when you came down that escalator at Trump Tower and entered the large field of Republican candidates for president. I expected you to make a little news and then just fade away like old soldiers do.

And then, you surprised me last fall when your candidacy did not shrivel after you made more than a few of what I thought were disqualifying comments. I expected your flippant statements about war heroes, women’s menstrual cycles, and Gold Star families to end your run.

But no, you further surprised me when you started winning Republican primaries. I saw no substance in your positions, only your overwhelming charismatic bravado and bluster. I thought that such audacity was not enough for you to gain the nomination. Silly me!

Then, you surprised me once again when you indeed captured the Republican nomination for president.

You further surprised me when your general election campaign remained firmly in the environment you crafted during the primaries instead of moving to more neutral, centrist waters. That was not the way to win, I told myself.

And finally, surprise of all surprises, you surprised me on November 8 when you gained enough electoral votes to claim the presidency of the United States and defeat Hillary Clinton.

You have surprised me time and time again. And now, Mr. President-Elect, I implore you, please, keep surprising me.

Surprise me by shelving the rhetoric of fear, mistrust, and violence that you stoked at your rallies during the campaign. Repudiate the signs and t-shirts that say things like “Trump that Bitch” and “Lock Her Up.” Apologize to the young boy with cerebral palsy who, at your rally in Florida, was jeered at and threatened. The antonyms of fear, mistrust, and violence are assurance, faith and peace. These are the “best” words I know: please start using them. If you truly want to make America great again, you must first seek to make America civil again.

Surprise me by once and for all disavowing talk you deem fit for locker rooms. It is neither appropriate for locker rooms nor anywhere else. Pair this disavowal with a true apology, not one conditioned by the word “if.” Do not say, “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry.” Just say you are sorry because you have offended people. You offended me, for instance, and I do not have the anatomy of which you spoke on that “Access Hollywood” bus with Billy Bush. Some say the president need not be a role model, but that is preposterous. You have been and will continue to be a role model. The question is, what role will you be modeling?

Surprise me by making the transition from public figure to public servant. You have existed on the sustenance of your own celebrity for so long that I expect you will find it difficult to relinquish the need to be liked and praised. The president must make hard choices and sometimes the popular choice is not the right one. As the chief public servant in the nation, you are tasked with putting your own needs behind the needs of the country and the world. For a lesson on what it means to be a servant, since you say that the Bible is your favorite book, I invite you to read that passage in John’s Gospel in which just before he is arrested and crucified, Jesus took off his outer robe, tied a towel around his waist, knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet. In this great act of humility, Jesus demonstrated the true meaning of leadership as service. Please follow his example.

Surprise me by continuing to reach out to all who exist on the margins. You won the presidency by mobilizing an overlooked segment of the electorate, who has been ignored for far too long. Sadly, the margins of this nation are wider than they should be: too many people exist there, including many groups of historically persecuted peoples who did not vote for you. As president, they are your priority; please do not forget that.

Surprise me by turning your charismatic entrepreneurship into leadership that turns old foes into unlikely allies. Much has been said about your outsider status, but as president you are about to be as “inside” as it gets. Allow your entrepreneurial heart to guide you to build coalitions within the government so something actually is accomplished in Washington. Just make sure that something is the right something.

Surprise me by allowing your famous intuition to be leavened by an inquiring mind. The world is more complex than any of us knows, and soon you will be handed the same binder that President Obama was handed eight years ago. It will lay out the actual state of the world in all its complexity. No one is ready for such revelation, and you must respond by doing your homework, not just by going with your gut or picking up information from the Internet or Fox News.

Surprise me by reaching out to the LGBT community, the Latino community, the Muslim community, and the African-American community. Apologize for your campaign rhetoric and promise you will continue to protect their rights, both longstanding and more recently achieved.

Surprise me by earning my trust, or else such promises are worthless. I must admit that my trust level is rather low right now, so prove me wrong.

Mr. President-Elect, you will be the forty-fifth president of the United States of America. You will step into the shoes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and, yes, Barack Obama.

So surprise me. All of us like surprises and I am not the exception.

Please, keep surprising me.




Leonard Cohen R.I.P.


Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), September, 2016

Dance Me To The End Of Love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in

Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone

Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon

Show me slowly what I only know the limits of

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long

We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born

Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn

Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in

Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

-Leonard Cohen, 1984

[About “Dance Me To The End Of Love”: According to Leonard Cohen, “It’s curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that’s why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on; those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song – it’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.]

The incomparable gravelly voice of Leonard Cohen is silenced. Cohen died a week ago on November 10. There are others with similar gravelly voices. Tom Waits and Bob Dylan come immediately to mind. But there is no voice quite like Leonard Cohen’s. And it is not just the voice, but what the voice sings about that is unique and distinctive.

For me, last week was a terrible time. On Tuesday, November 8, Hillary Clinton was defeated in the election by Donald J. Trump. So we now have a foul mouth, thrice married, pussy grabber for President of the United States!

I was devastated, distressed, and distraught at the news.

And then on Thursday, November 10, came the news that Leonard Cohen had died. Cohen was one of my favorite singers/songwriters/poets. Cohen death was announced with a message to his fans on Facebook Thursday stating “We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.” A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date.

I was dispirited, depressed, and dismayed at the news.

Cohen’s son and producer, Adam Cohen, said that his father “passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor.” Adam Cohen penned a touching note about his father: “My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal,” Adam wrote on Facebook Sunday. “With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked.”

“As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work,” Adam continued.

“There’s so much I wish I could thank him for, just one last time. I’d thank him for the comfort he always provided, for the wisdom he dispensed, for the marathon conversations, for his dazzling wit and humor. I’d thank him for giving me, and teaching me to love Montreal and Greece. And I’d thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music, and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him. Thank you for your kind messages, for the outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father.” Cohen’s private burial took place at Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Cemetery.

Leonard  Cohen was born in 1934, a year before Elvis Presley, and his background – personal, social, and intellectual – could not have been more different from those of the rock or folk stars of any generation. Though he knew some country music and played it a bit as a boy, he did not start performing on even a semi-regular basis, much less recording, until after he had already written several books as an established novelist and poet.

He was born Leonard Norman Cohen into a middle-class Jewish family in the Montreal suburb of Westmount, Quebec. His father, a clothing merchant, died in 1943, when Cohen was nine years old. But it was his mother who encouraged Cohen as a writer, especially of poetry, during his childhood. This fit in with the progressive intellectual environment in which he was raised, which allowed him free inquiry into a vast range of pursuits. His relationship to music was more tentative. He took up the guitar at age thirteen, initially as a way to impress a girl, but was good enough to play country & western songs at local cafes, and he subsequently formed a group called the Buckskin Boys. At seventeen, he enrolled in McGill University in Montreal as an English major. By this time, he was writing poetry in earnest and became part of the university’s tiny underground “bohemian” community. Cohen only earned average grades, but was good enough as a writer to earn the McNaughton Prize in creative writing by the time he graduated in 1955. A year later, the ink barely dry on his degree, he published his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), which received great reviews, but did not sell especially well.

He was already beyond the age at which rock & roll was aimed. Bob Dylan, by contrast, was still Robert Zimmerman, still in his teens, and young enough to become a devotee of Buddy Holly when the latter emerged. In 1961, Cohen published his second book of poetry, The Spice Box of Earth, which became an international success, both critically and commercially, and established Cohen as a major new literary figure. Meanwhile, he tried to join the family business and spent some time at Columbia University in New York, writing all the time. Between the modest royalties from sales of his second book, literary grants from the Canadian government, and a family legacy, he was able to live comfortably and travel around the world, partaking of much of what it had to offer – including some use of LSD when it was still legal – and ultimately settling for an extended period in Greece, on the isle of Hydra in the Aegean Sea. He continued to publish, issuing a pair of novels, The Favorite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), with a pair of poetry collections, Flowers for Hitler (1964) and Parasites of Heaven (1966). The Favorite Game was a very personal work about his early life in Montreal, but it was Beautiful Losers that proved another breakthrough, earning the kind of reviews for which authors dare not even hope.

It was around this time that he also started writing music again, songs being a natural extension of his poetry. His relative isolation on Hydra, coupled with his highly mobile lifestyle when he left the island, his own natural iconoclastic nature, and the fact that he had avoided being overwhelmed by the currents running through popular music since the ‘40s, combined to give Cohen a unique voice as a composer. Though he did settle in Nashville for a short time in the mid-‘60s, he did not write quite like anyone else in the country music field or anywhere else. This might have been an impediment, but for the intervention of Judy Collins, a folksinger who had just moved to the front rank of that field. Collins had a voice just special enough to move her beyond the relatively emaciated ranks of remaining popular folk performers after Dylan shifted to electric music; she was still getting heard, and not just by the purists left behind in Dylan’s wake. She added Cohen’s “Suzanne” to her repertoire and put it on her album In My Life, a recording that was controversial enough in folk circles to pull in many listeners and to receive a wide airing. The LP’s “Suzanne” received a considerable amount of radio airplay, and Cohen was also represented on the album by “Dress Rehearsal Rag.”

It was Judy Collins who persuaded Cohen to return to performing for the first time since his teens. He made his debut during the summer of 1967 at the Newport Folk Festival, followed by a pair of sold-out concerts in New York City and an appearance singing his songs and reciting his poems on the CBS network television show Camera Three, in a show entitled “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen.” It was around the same time that actor/singer  Noel Harrison brought “Suzanne” onto the pop charts with a recording of his own. One of those who saw Cohen perform at Newport was John Hammond, the legendary producer whose career went back to the ‘30s and the likes of Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and extended up through Bob Dylan and, ultimately, to Bruce Springsteen. Hammond had Cohen signed to Columbia Records and he created The Songs of Leonard Cohen, which was released just before Christmas of 1967. Producer John Simon was able to find a restrained yet appealing approach to recording Cohen’s voice, which might have been described as an appealingly sensitive near-monotone; yet that voice was perfectly suited to the material at hand, all of which, written in a very personal language, seemed drenched in downbeat images and a spirit of discovery as a path to unsettling revelation.

Despite its spare production and melancholy subject matter – or, very possibly because of it – the album was an immediate hit by the standards of the folk music world and the budding singer/songwriter community. In an era in which millions of listeners hung on the next albums of Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel – the latter whose own latest album had ended with a minor-key rendition of “Silent Night” set against a radio news account of the death of Lenny Bruce – Cohen’s music quickly found a small, but dedicated following. College students by the thousands bought it; in its second year of release, the record sold over 100,000 copies. The Songs of Leonard Cohen was as close as Cohen ever had to mass audience success.

“I’ve never chosen a style that was deliberately obscure,” Cohen once told Entertainment Weekly. “I never came up with the idea of writing a song that would mystify anybody or prevent anyone from tapping their foot to it.” And mining the dark side of the psyche was a stock in trade he came by naturally. “I always experience myself as falling apart,” Cohen explained to Rolling Stone magazine. “The place where the evaluation happens is where I write the songs, when I get in that place where I can’t be dishonest about what I’ve been doing.”

Cohen became a practicing Buddhist during the mid-70s and spent time between 1994-99 secluded at a monastery in Mount Baldy, Calif., as a personal assistant to his teacher Kyozan Joshu Sasaki – an experience that produced his 2006 poetry collection Book of Longing, which inspired a song cycle by Philip Glass.

After his monastery years, Cohen jump-started his musical career with Ten New Songs. After discovering his close friend and longtime manager Kelley Lynch had bilked him out of his life savings and music publishing, leading to a rash of lawsuits, Cohen began touring in earnest again in 2008, delivering generous, acclaimed shows chronicled on a series of concert albums and live videos.

“Maybe he went back on the road for financial reasons, but he really started to love it,” said longtime bassist and musical director Roscoe Beck. “He knows there’s an audience out there who wants to see it, and he enjoys the lifestyle. He likes hotel rooms. He likes the camaraderie of the band and crew. He just felt comfortable being on stage, and you could see it in his performances. It was an amazing thing to be part of and to witness.”

During his career, Cohen won four Juno Awards and one Grammy and was also given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. In addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cohen was also part of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received a Princess of Asturias Award among other literary prizes and honorary university degrees. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award, in 2011.

Inducting him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, Lou Reed said Cohen was among the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.” And frequent Cohen backup singer Sharon Robinson, who recorded many of his songs and co-wrote her 2001 album Ten New Songs with him, explained that, “The beauty in Leonard’s songs is that he expresses really universal feelings. A hundred singers could sing the same (Cohen) song and they’d all be different.”

Of Cohen’s death, actor Russell Crowe simply wrote: “Thanks for the quiet nights, the reflection, the perspective, the wry smiles, and the truth.”

Yes, especially the truth.

Pick up an album of Leonard Cohen’s music, sit back and listen for yourself. I guarantee that you will not regret the experience.

Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen. You will be sorely missed.


Leonard Cohen in 1987

The Evangelical’s Deadly Sin

evangelicalsI am, like so many of you and so many millions of Americans across the country devastated and dispirited by Donald Trump’s surprising victory. It seems almost incomprehensible and yet this is the reality we face. We do not know what forces this election will bring to bear in this country. And that is nothing compared to the sheer terror that is being felt by millions of Hispanics, Muslim-Americans and African Americans in the days ahead, knowing that so many Americans voted for a candidate who does not view them as full citizens.

But there are a few things that still need to be said.

William “Bill” Maher is a comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, media critic, and television host of HBO’s  political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher. Last week, in the “New Rules” portion of Real Time, Maher called out evangelicals for the dangerous hypocrisy they displayed with their support for everything they preach against, which Donald Trump exemplified.

With his typically crude self, Bill Maher hit this one out of the park.

“Before leaving this election behind we must all thank Donald Trump for the one good thing he did,” Maher began. “He exposed evangelicals who are big Trump supporters as the shameless hypocrites they have always been. I don’t know if you noticed, but Republicans didn’t get to play the Jesus card this time around because it is hard to bring up the Ten Commandments when your candidate spent his life breaking all of them. Trump’s commandments are like the regular commandments with LOL (Laughing Out Loud) at the end.”

Maher then went on to itemize with examples the commandments Trump continuously break. He displayed the women with whom he committed adultery. He played clips of him cursing and bearing false witness. He used Trump University to illustrate his stealing. He displayed Vladimir Putin as an example of Trump having false idols.

“He is the world’s least godly man,” Maher said. “Jesus saw the good in whores and lepers, but if he met Donald Trump he would say ‘Sorry man, that’s a preexisting condition.’”

Maher said that with four days left until the election, he wanted to celebrate one thing. Because evangelicals chose the most ungodly character to support, they could not inject religion into the campaign.

“But I still think we are owed an explanation from the values voters as to how they could line up behind Trump,” Maher said sarcastically. “A man who loves to say, ‘Nobody loves the Bible like I do.’ Who when asked couldn’t name a single passage. Even Sarah Palin said ‘Hey for f$ck sake, it’s not a newspaper.’”

Maher reminded the audience about the fiasco that occurred when Trump tried to name a book of the Bible. Instead of saying second Corinthians he said “two” Corinthians.

“Trump has nothing in common with Jesus who was from the Middle East,” Maher said. “Trump wouldn’t even let him into the country. Jesus healed the blind. Trump mocked the handicap. Jesus turned the other cheek. Trump grabbed her pu$$y. Jesus turned water into wine. Trump just whines. The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.’ Trump says fine. What about my daughter?”

Maher further illustrates the hypocrisy of the evangelicals.

“In the primaries, evangelicals had a whole bouquet of religious nuts to choose from,” Maher said. “Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson.  Ben Carson who doesn’t just walk with Jesus. They shower together. But they went with the foul mouth, thrice married, pu$$y grabber with one exception. I never thought I would hear myself say this. But, let’s hear it for the Mormons.”

Maher went on and pointed out that evangelicals support Trump 75%/14%. Mormons only give him 19% support. He gave kudos to the Mormons. “Apparently the Mormons believe you shouldn’t vote for a lying infantile scumbag just because he is on your team,” Maher said.

As I said, Bill Maher hit this one out of the park.

But then there is James Dobson (leader of Focus on the Family, an Evangelical “values voters” political group) who has this to say about Donald Trump: “It’s a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief.”

Oh, how the pious have fallen. How easy it was to justify condemnation of Bill Clinton! (Which Dobson did when Clinton was embroiled in the scandal that ended with Congress attempting to impeach him.) But how awkward to have to find a way to justify a man he wanted to support because he had decided to take his bribe!

This is a pretty good summary of the majority of politically motivated evangelical personalities these days. A few stuck to their guns and refused to endorse Donald Trump – a man who does not even come close to possessing the qualities you would think evangelicals would look for in a moral, Christian leader – but for the most part they were quick to forgive and endorse. The reason could not be any more despicable: these “Christian leaders” do not actually care what politicians ARE. They only care what they DO.

In short: as long as Donald Trump opposed abortion and gays, he could grope whomever he likes.

This should not be a big surprise to anyone. Political evangelicals support Republicans, because the Republican platform has the things on it they want. If the Republican platform did not have those things, they would not endorse. It is a purely transactional relationship – the words coming out of their mouths are just the packing material you stuff around the goods being shipped in order to keep them from being too damaged during transit.

The political wing of the evangelical movement can no longer call themselves “evangelical.” In a political context, the word means nothing more than “this soul is for hire.” It is an empty, hollow shell, willing to sing “Lord, Lord” for a reasonable hourly rate, negotiated in advance.

It is certainly not evangelical in the religious sense – you know, where the word actually came from, meaning people who believe the Great Commission is still in effect today. It is not the evangelical who makes people sacrifice in order to minister to the lost, either by their own fervent work or by supporting that work.

No. The political wing of the evangelical movement by endorsing Donald Trump showed that the thing it loves first and foremost is the accumulation of political power, and that it will ally with anyone who will promise them that power. It has, finally, exposed its secret idol to the rest of the world.

Evangelicals worship the deadly sin of power.

They lust for it.

They hunger for it.

They hoard it.

They are angry when they do not have it.

They envy the people who do.

And they are proud of what power they have accumulated so far.

The only deadly sin they do not have in this respect is sloth – I will give them credit for that. They work very hard to sell their souls, each and every day.

But people have been watching it all, and regardless of the perceived gains, there is a price to be paid by evangelicals for this deadly sin of soul-selling.

That price is their credibility in the world.

That price is the integrity of the word Christian.

That price is the very name of Jesus.













I Refuse to be a Christian. . .


Peter R. Scholtes wrote the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” while he was a parish priest at Saint Brendan’s Church on the South Side of Chicago in 1968. The hymn was inspired by John 13:35 (“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”) At the time, Scholtes was leading a youth choir out of the church basement and was looking for an appropriate song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. When he could not find such a song, he wrote the now-famous hymn in a single day. In case you are not familiar with it, the hymn goes like this:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord And we pray that all unity may one day be restored And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side We will work with each other, we will work side by side And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

Well, I, like most Christians, would like to be known by my love.

Actually, it would be more accurate lately to say that I am still a Christian, though it has become increasingly harder for me to say that on a daily basis.

Looking around at much of what represents Christians today – particularly in this election season – it has become a daily battle to make this once effortless declaration, knowing that it now automatically aligns me with those who share so little in common with the Jesus I know and love. It aligns me with playground bullies, politicized pulpits, white privilege, overt racism, and with bigotry toward so many groups of people who represent the “world” I grew up believing that God has so loved.

There are things that used to be givens as a follower of Jesus, but no longer are.

For far too many people, being a Christian no longer means that one needs to be humble or forgiving. It no longer means that one needs a heart to serve or bring healing. It no longer requires compassion, or mercy, or benevolence. It no longer requires one to turn the other cheek, or to love one’s enemies, or to take the lowest place, or to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

In other words, being a Christian no longer requires one to emulate the spirit of Jesus.

So yes, I am still a Christian, but there is a kind of Christian whom I refuse to be.

I refuse to be a Christian who lives in fear of people who look, or speak, or worship differently than I do.

I refuse to be a Christian who believes that God blesses America more than God loves the world.

I refuse to be a Christian who uses the Bible to perpetuate individual or systemic bigotry, racism, or sexism.

I refuse to be a Christian who treasures allegiance to a flag, or a country, or a political party, above emulating Jesus.

I refuse to be a Christian who is reluctant to call-out the words of hateful preachers, venomous politicians, and mean-spirited pew sitters, all in the name of keeping Christian unity.

I refuse to be a Christian who attends a Church where all people are not openly welcomed, fully celebrated, and equally cared for.

I refuse to be a Christian who speaks always with holy war rhetoric about an encroaching enemy horde that must be rallied against and defeated.

I refuse to be a Christian who is generous with hell-fire and damnation and stingy with grace and love.

I refuse to be a Christian who cannot see the image of God in people of every color, every religious tradition, and every sexual orientation.

I refuse to be a Christian who sees the world in a hopeless spiral downward and can only condemn it or withdraw from it.

And, I refuse to be a Christian who rejects the idea that we should live as persons of hospitality, of healing, of redemption, of justice, of expectation-defying grace, and of abundant and life-affirming love.

Yes, it has become more difficult for me to say that I am a Christian these days than it has ever been before, but I still say it.

But I refuse to be a Christian without the spirit of Jesus – without his humility; without his compassion; without his smallness; without his gentleness with people’s wounds; without his attention to the poor, the forgotten, and the marginalized; without his intolerance for religious hypocrisy; and without his clear expression of the love of God. These are non-negotiables for me.

How about you, “Christian?” Are they non-negotiables for you as well?