Archive for June, 2008


June 28, 2008


Barack Obama
Pastor Who Officiated at Jenna Bush Wedding Launches Pro-Obama Website

Jenna Bush, daughter of President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, exchanged wedding vows with Henry Hager, right, in an outdoor ceremony at the Bush family’s Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford, Texas, as the Rev. Kirbyjohn Caldwell, center, performed the ceremony. (Associated Press)By Krissah Williams

The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, leader of the largest Methodist congregation in the country, launched a website yesterday titled “James Dobson Does Not Speak For Me.” The site is a jab at Dobson, a stalwart of the religious right who this week called Sen. Barack Obama’s interpretation of the Bible in a 2006 speech distorted “to fit [Obama’s] own world view, his own confused theology.”

Caldwell’s site launched a day after Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program aired a harsh assessment of Obama’s speech on faith and public policy and encourages readers to sign a statement declaring that Dobson does not represent them.

“I think it’s a crime and a shame that Senator Obama has had to explain the fact that he’s a Christian,” Caldwell said in a recent interview. “Criticize his politics. Criticize his stance on whatever, but don’t question his faith. Never in the history of American politics has someone said that he is a Christian and someone came back to say, ‘No you’re not.'”

If Rev. Caldwell’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he is the same Rev. Caldwell who introduced President Bush at the 2000 Republican National Convention and last month officiated at Jenna Bush’s wedding ceremony at the presidential ranch in Crawford. This election Caldwell is firmly in the Obama camp and doggedly trying to help the campaign bring other pastors and parishioners along.

Caldwell’s site encourages readers to sign this statement:

James Dobson doesn’t speak for me.
He doesn’t speak for me when he uses religion as a wedge to divide;

He doesn’t speak for me when he speaks as the final arbiter on the meaning of the Bible;

…What does speak for me is David’s psalm celebrating how good and pleasant it is when we come together in unity;

Micah speaks for me in reminding us that the Lord requires us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him;

…These words speak for me. But when James Dobson attacks Barack Obama, James Dobson doesn’t speak for me.

The site also provides a side-by-side transcript of Obama’s Call to Renewal speech and Dobson’s critique.

Caldwell is not an official surrogate for the Obama campaign, but has for months participated on a weekly Friday morning prayer call with members of Obama’s staff and other Christian ministers who dial in from across the county.

Caldwell, who oversees the 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, said he personally prayed with Obama before the Texas primary and talks regularly with Joshua DuBois and Paul Monteiro, the young staffers overseeing the campaign’s religious outreach.

The campaign has indicated recently that it will aggressively pursue religious voters, and Obama met with 30 evangelical leaders earlier this month, including the Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Rev. Franklin Graham (son of the Rev. Billy Graham), for an off the record Q & A session. And the campaign is reportedly working on a broad outreach to young evangelicals that it calls “The Joshua Generation.”

CBN reporter and blogger David Brody, who has been following the role of faith in the campaign closely, has suggested that Obama will struggle to win over many traditional Evangelicals but has a shot with younger Christians. “Clearly there are differences between Obama’s more progressive views of Christianity and the conservative viewpoint. It’s important to remember that while Obama will attract some conservative Evangelicals, Obama’s main goal is to win over moderate Evangelicals,” Brody wrote on his blog. “Also young conservative Evangelicals seem more open to Obama’s ‘Christian’ message of caring for the poor, fighting genocide, healthcare for all, and climate change. They also like the fact that he is reaching out to try and find common ground with conservative faith voters.”

For his part, Caldwell, who still considers Bush a personal friend, said he sees similarities between the President and Obama that may appeal to religious voters.

“They are both loyal to their God. They are very loyal to their country. They are very loyal to their wives and their families,” Caldwell said. “They are great husbands and great dads. Both of them have a clear understanding of the role that the families play in the community.”

Will that be enough for Obama to siphon off some of the heavily Republican evangelical vote, which went overwhelmingly to Bush in 2000 and 2004? If Dobson is any indication, skeptics remain.


June 28, 2008


June 27, 2008
From Miles Davis to Jay-Z, the Artfully Selected Secrets of Barack Obama’s iPod – Independent
What jumps off the page in a wide-ranging interview with Mr Obama are not his policies but his early musical influences and favourite books, along with his iPod playlist.

The Obama musical playlist effortlessly straddles generations and tastes, taking in the jazz of John Coltrane, the rock of Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones and finally coming bang up to date with the rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris, with a nod to the cellist Yo-Yo Ma along the way. Mr Obama says he loved the Stones, Elton John and Earth, Wind & Fire while growing up in the 1970s but, if he has to pick one musical hero, it is Stevie Wonder.

When asked “What is on your iPod?”, Mr Obama plunges ahead with a description of the jazz he learned to love while a somewhat disconnected high school student in Hawaii. “I started getting into jazz,” he explains, “so I’ve got a lot of Coltrane, a lot of Miles Davis, a lot of Charlie Parker. I’ve got all the artists we’ve already talked about, but I’ve got everything from Howlin’ Wolf to Yo-Yo Ma to Sheryl Crow to Jay-Z.”


June 27, 2008


Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The Numbers Are Bending Our Way

Obama’s Path to Victory in November

[While I agree with Bob’s important points here, I’m still one wary of the wild card: a Black guy is getting close to being President in the good ole USA, and I’m going to see it as a 50-50 tossup until it’s all over. –CarlD]

By Robert Creamer
Huffington Post

With Obama inching ever closer to clinching the Democratic nomination, some of his opponents have resorted to a campaign aimed at convincing superdelegates that, no matter how much they like him, “Obama just can’t win.”

In fact, the odds are good that Obama will win the Presidency. And if Democrats execute with precision during the campaign, the odds are good that he will win with a healthy margin. Here’s why:

If the election were held today – before the campaign begins – polling shows that he would have very high odds of winning states with 273 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win election. More importantly, he would win this victory without needing the states of Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia or Florida.

The people at the website have created a statistical model to predict the odds that a candidate will win each state in the general election. The model is based on a regression analysis of recent polling and sixteen additional political and demographic factors. It assigns a likely vote spread and the numerical odds that a particular candidate will win the state. The model updates its findings regularly based on recent polling data from the state.

As the campaign begins, the model predicts that 22 states, with a total of 273 electoral votes, will go for Obama. These include the obvious states of California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Oregon and most of New England. They also include swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. As it happens, the model predicts that Obama’s odds of victory are no lower than 63% in any of these states.

But the model also shows that a number of additional states are right at the tipping point for Obama. Obama’s odds of winning Ohio’s additional 20 electoral votes are about even, at 49.8%. His odds in Nevada are 46%. His odds in New Hampshire are 45%. If he adds these three states, his total increases to 302 electoral votes.

These are the numbers before the general election campaign begins. They are based on what voters say they will do today, and on voter turnout assumptions that generally reflect past elections. They are, in other words, based on past behavior. While it is true that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, it is the job of a political campaign to change that behavior. After all, if a campaign were not about changing the behavior of the voters, we should all just go to the beach for the next five months instead of knocking on doors, raising money, making speeches and all the rest.

And the odds are that this campaign, as it unfolds, will result in an even wider Obama victory.

The more people get to know Obama, the more likely it is that he will get their support. But the more they know about McCain, the less likely they are to vote his way.

Polling shows that McCain substantially outperforms a generic Republican candidate in the presidential contest. Though the Bush legacy has greatly tarnished the Republican brand, many people start out thinking that McCain is not a standard-issue Republican. Instead they view him as a “maverick,” an “independent.”

The problem is that the more they get to know him, the more they learn that on most of questions that really matter, especially trickle-down economics and neo-con foreign policy, McCain and Bush are twins. After all, as a Senator, McCain has voted with Bush 95% of the time.

In our polling, as people learn about McCain’s record of supporting Bush’s policies, they begin to drop him quicker than you can say McBush.

Every time Bush attacks Obama the way he did last week before the Israeli Knesset, he does Obama a huge favor. Anything that ties Bush to McCain – including his current fundraising tour for McCain – is a blessing. One of the campaign’s biggest jobs will be to keep Bush in the message frame.

People behave just the opposite as they learn more about Obama. Obama’s initial problem with some swing voters is that while they know he is charismatic, they are worried whether he is safe enough – whether he is really like them – whether he’s really on their side. Barack Obama is a likable, engaging person. The more that voters know of him, the more that they see his family, the more that he becomes part of their everyday experience – the more comfortable they become with him.

In Illinois, where the voters know him best, the same demographic groups that are skeptical elsewhere give him their support.

Obama’s campaign will change the electorate. It will massively increase turnout among minorities and young people.

Based on past history, Ohio has even odds of going for Obama. What happens if there is a huge spike in turnout among African Americans and young people? Obama takes Ohio by a respectable margin. The fact is that there is no plausible scenario where McCain wins in November that does not involve Ohio.

In the fall, Hispanics will not break as heavily for Obama as African Americans, but they are likely to give him a two-to-one margin. Increased Hispanic voter turnout in Nevada will tip that state for Obama and guarantee big margins in Colorado and New Mexico.

I believe that big increases in the African American and youth vote will also place a large number of other states into play including Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. By placing these traditionally Republican states into play this fall, the Obama campaign will force the Republicans to play defense on their home turf and spread their resources. When you’re on the defense, you’re losing. No traditionally Democratic state will really be in play.

Obama’s massive small-donor fundraising base will give his campaign a huge advantage on this new, wider playing field.

In this political environment, Obama’s persona and message will resonate with swing voters. Eighty percent of the voters think that America is on the wrong track. Obama is change. McCain is the past.

From the beginning of his primary campaign, Obama has had one consistent message: change you can believe in. He appeals for unity not division, for hope instead of fear, and to the fundamental premise that we’re all in this together, not all in this alone. This resonates with voters tired of the division, fear and selfishness of the Bush years.

Finally, Obama’s ability to inspire is a massive general election asset. Not only will it motivate his base, it will also attract independents and Republicans in record numbers. The reason is simple: when someone is inspired they feel empowered. People of all sorts want to be empowered; they want to have meaning in their lives. They want to be part of something big and important and historic.

The one thing we have learned again this year is that anything can happen in politics and those who predict with certainty will almost certainly be wrong. But if we set aside our cynicism – if we commit ourselves to victory this fall – I believe that we will all be part of something historic.

I believe that Barack Obama can win by more than 300 electoral votes and 54% or more of the popular vote. I believe that Democrats can take another 25 seats in the House and five to seven seats in the Senate. I believe that this could be a transformational election of the sort that happened last in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt launched the New Deal that made America the most prosperous society in human history, and committed our country to all of his famous “Four Freedoms:” freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

And what’s most exciting is that more than any election in modern political history, this election will be decided less by the strategies of a few political consultants than by what millions of everyday political activists do to make their mark on history over the next 161 days.

[Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book, Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on]


June 27, 2008


Wednesday, June 4, 2008
A Major Break in the Color Line

A Challenge
and Milestone
in Our History

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

I watched Senator Obama’s speech last night and thought to myself how, despite every reservation I have had about Senator Obama’s politics, I was moved by the moment. Deep inside me I had always expected that a conservative Black candidate could emerge at some point, but I thought that it was very unlikely that a liberal-to-progressive could, in the near future, emerge and win the nomination.

The color line has not been shattered. It has been further bent. It has been rendered more complex by the rise of a nominee for the Presidency of the United States of America who is of African descent.

His emergence challenges the history of the USA, even if his politics are not on the Left. The fact that he was forced, through events, to articulate the clearest and most eloquent analysis on race in the USA by a mainstream politician, made this campaign particularly significant. What is even more significant is that Senator Obama is correct: this campaign is not actually about him, but it is about a very deep desire on the part of millions of people in the USA for change.

How that ‘change’ will be defined is not primarily a question for who gets elected in November. It is a question for those of us in the field who have contending visions for what the USA and the world should look like.

I sat in front of the TV transfixed, knowing that this was an historic moment, irrespective of whether Senator Obama wins or loses in November. I, for one, will continue to critically support him. This means that I do think that there is a VERY significant different between Senators Obama and McCain. This is not a tweedle-dee / tweedle-dumb juxtaposition, even given my differences with Senator Obama.

Senator McCain wishes to continue the direction of George Bush and to advance the process of the consolidation of a neo-liberal authoritarian state. Senator Obama is looking for a politically liberal solution to the current crisis. I do not think that such a solution exists, but I do think that there is an opening for progressives to push for genuine alternative political and economic solutions to the crises afflicting the USA and the planet as a whole.

This will inevitably mean challenging and pushing Senator Obama on matters such as foreign policy and healthcare. This is the essence of critical support; actively supporting his candidacy while at the same time not being shy concerning expressing our differences

Yes, this was and is an historic moment. There is, however, little time to relish in this moment because it will soon pass. If we are not thinking both about building for an Obama victory, but more importantly, laying the foundation for stronger social movements and a mass political organization that can advance a progressive direction, we will have misunderstood our challenge and fallen prey to illusions.

Taking nothing away from Senator Obama’s own brilliance, he stands today as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party because of a groundswell of anger and hope that exists across the USA. It is up to progressives to do more than simply acknowledge this; we must help to gel it into a wave.”

[Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of, an intitator of ‘Progressives for Obama’, and Co-author of “Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and A New Path Toward Social Justice” See:


June 27, 2008


Monday, June 9, 2008

What Obama’s
Victory Means

By Dr. Martin Kilson, Phd
BlackCommentator Editoral Board


It’s mid-day Wednesday June 4, 2008, and as I write these brief reflections on “What Obama’s Democratic Party Nomination Victory Means,” the first thing I can think of is that this extraordinary achievement ranks alongside “Juneteenth” – the news of the victory of the Union over the Confederacy, news of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox.

That awesome Civil War-ending news reached thousands of Negro communities around the country at varying times during the month of June 1865, and as that awesome God-inspired news fell on the trembling ears of the former slaves – children, mothers, fathers, grandparents – they cried glorious tears and uttered glorious prayer, and these culminated eventually in “Juneteenth Celebrations” across Black America.

In announcing the extraordinary Barack Obama achievement to the nation, the New York Times front-page headline read: “After Grueling Battle, Obama Claims Nomination”. Here in Boston where I reside, the front-page headline of the Boston Globe read: “Obama Clinches Nomination: Clinton Not Conceding Defeat.”

The Boston Globe was, I felt, bold to inform the nation graphically of the “dark side” of what that New York Times headline dubbed a “Grueling Battle” – namely, that Hillary Clinton couldn’t muster enough “basic class-and-decency,” let’s call it, to extend a simple welcoming congratulation to Senator Barack Obama, a simple welcoming congratulation to America’s first African-American presidential candidate of a major political party. What makes this instance of Clintonian power-obsessive pettiness-and-rudeness so awful is that the African-American voter-bloc provided the predictable and consistent electoral support that facilitated Bill Clinton’s election as president both in 1992 and 1996.

Interface of Barack Obama & Martin Luther King

Be that as it may, with the announcement of Senator Barack Obama’s nomination victory on Tuesday evening June 3, 2008, we can all ascent to Obama’s comment at a massive victory rally of 32,000 in St. Paul, Minnesota, that his achievement enables liberal and progressive Americans to fashion “a better future” for our country. Obama continued:

“Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another, a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. …I face this challenge…with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.”

With these keen revitalizing characterizations regarding what his achievement of the Democratic nomination can mean for the country, Senator Obama was treading in the revitalization-of-America-footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, so to speak. And few scholars of King’s era have characterized the revitalization-of-America-footsteps of Dr. King as cogently as his greatest biographer Taylor Branch:

[Dr. King’s] appeal was rooted in the larger context of nonviolence. His stated purpose was always to redeem the soul of America. He put one foot in the Constitution and the other in scripture. ‘We will win our freedom’, he said many times, ‘because the heritage of our nation and the eternal will of god are embodied in our echoing demands.’ To see Dr. King and his colleagues as anything less than modern founders of democracy – even as racial healers and reconcilers – is to diminish them under the spell of myth. Dr. King said the movement would liberate not only segregated black people but also the white South. Surely this is true. (Taylor Branch, “The Last Wish of Martin Luther King”, The New York Times (April 6, 2008)) [Emphasis Added]

Accordingly, Senator Barack Obama’s winning the Democratic nomination is a special proclamation to the millions-on-millions of us Americans who grasp the fullness of Martin Luther King as a “modern founder of democracy.” A proclamation for a new political, civic, and moral activism to revitalize American democracy in order, as Obama put it Tuesday evening, “to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.”

Problem Areas an Obama Presidency Must Confront: (I) Iraq War

Of course, the steps and avenues to this end will be various and debatable, as they should be. Yet I feel certain that with the election of Senator Obama in November to the presidency of the United States, the road to a revitalized America must address straightaway two enormous problem-areas in American life. One problem-area is, of course, the monstrous Iraq War. The second problem-area is the horrific incarceration-crisis facing African-American males. An Obama presidency can, I believe, lay the groundwork for a broad revitalization of American democracy by tackling these two systemically crippling, morally crippling, and American citizens’ life-cycle crippling problem-areas.

Still today, too many of our American countrymen and countrywomen lack full understanding of just how monstrous the Iraq War has been, for us and for Iraq’s citizens. For starters, the Iraq War is the second longest war the country has experienced, save the Vietnam War. Not only have nearly 2 million soldiers served in Iraq but 30% have two-plus years of service there. Over 4000 have bravely given the ultimate service – their lives – some 60,000 wounded, injured, etc., many with horrendous injuries.

Beyond the massive loss of life and damage to thousands of American soldiers, the Iraq War’s damage to America’s economic life and well-being is extraordinary. First of all, it is hard to believe that after World War II the Iraq War is our country’s most costly war. As of March 2008, the Iraq War has claimed $600 billion of our country’s wealth. And as a data-rich article by Professor Linda Bilmes of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (“Another Year – Another $300 Billion” Boston Globe (March 16, 2008)) points out:

That $600 billion figure ignores four major costs. First, there are additional war-related costs buried in places such as the non-Iraq defense budget. That budget has grown by $500 billion cumulatively since the beginning of the war. …Second, the $600 billion excludes the cost of providing medical care and disability compensation for veterans. …Third, the $600 billion does not take into account the cost to “reset” the military – to replace equipment and restore personnel to prewar levels of readiness.

Thus, with the election of Senator Barack Obama as president in November there’s something equivalent to certainty that, I think, an end to the monstrous Iraq War will occur. A monstrous war that, according to Linda Blimes, “the cash cost of each month we continue in Iraq is $12 billion….” And, of course, what’s worse are the long-range systemic costs and costs to life-cycle well-being of American citizens. Here, too, Linda Blimes’ informs us candidly:

…The war has weakened our economy, increased oil prices, and made it more difficult for us to fund road projects, schools, medical research, and other vital needs. Apart from the oil companies and a handful of defense contractors, the war has not stimulated the economy. Perhaps most painful to consider is the opportunity cost: the money spent on the war could have fixed Social Security for the next 75 years or provided health insurance to all American children.

No doubt, ending the monstrous Iraq War will be an uphill battle for an Obama presidency, given the numerous establishmentarian systemic power-blocs intertwined with and dependent upon this war. As the Kennedy School of Government’s Linda Blimes points out in her study of the Iraq War: “The [Boston] Globe reported recently that the largest private contractor in Iraq, KBR [a company Vice President Cheney once headed] has dodged paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by employing its workers through a shell company in the Cayman Islands.” Can you image such power-class skulduggery?

Problem Areas an Obama Presidency Must Confront: (II) Black Imprisonment

Just as the Iraq war must be high on the policy agenda of an Obama presidency, so too must the horrifically devastating and debased plight of nearly one million incarcerated African-Americans, mainly Black males, be high on the policy agenda of an Obama presidency. I was inspired to read in the San Francisco Chronicle (May 29, 2008) that the new executive secretary of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous – former director of the leading African-American newspaper association, the National Newspaper Publishers Association – places the plight of incarcerated African-Americans at the top of the NAACP’s new agenda. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, “Jealous indicated that the most pressing issues for him [as new executive of NAACP] include the country’s incarceration rate, particularly of African-American men and boys, which far outpaces the rest of the world. Less than 5 percent of the world’s people live in the United States, yet the nation has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”

If a new head of the NAACP can get this great warhorse of African-American rights and progress to place the country’s horrific incarceration rate for Blacks at the top of its agenda, surely an Obama presidency can and must do the same. Today our country has 2.2 million souls in prisons – far beyond any other democratic nation and some authoritarian ones too, such as Russia, China, etc. – some 800,000-plus are African-Americans, Black males.

Research by editorial board member Professor Manning Marable of Columbia University reported that by 2000 in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, Black males comprised on average between 50% and 80% of inmates in state and federal prisons. Professor Marable also reported that research by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights revealed the following:

…That while African Americans today [2000] constitute only 14 percent of all drug users nationally, they are 35 percent of all drug arrests, 55 percent of all convictions, and 75 percent of all prison admissions for drug offences. (See, September 27, 2007)

Viewed from another vantage point, a Black male born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime, compared with a White male who has a 1 in 7 chance. What is worse – if that’s possible – the incarceration rates in this country are directly correlated with education performance, a finding reported this year by the Children Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. The Fund’s research uncovered that Black children are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than White children, and such children, in turn, disproportionately enter the vicious cycle of crime and imprisonment. As a study of this vicious cycle faced by our African-American youth published in the Boston Globe observed:

This “school-to-prison pipeline” begins in the nation’s neglected and under-resourced public education system and flows directly into the country’s expansive ocean of overcrowded, privatized, profit-producing prisons. …More than 70 percent of the prison population in Massachusetts is functionally illiterate. (See Daniel Meyer, “Problem Students in Pipeline to Prison,” Boston Globe (May 28, 2008))

Concluding Note

As I remarked earlier in this article, Senator Barack Obama’s winning the Democratic nomination might be considered a special proclamation to millions-on-millions of Americans who understanding our country’s dire need for a new political, civic, and moral activism to revitalize American democracy. A new activism that, as Obama put it in his victory address in St. Paul, will enable us “to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.” I, for one among progressive Americans, believe that to achieve this under an Obama presidency, the two major problems-areas facing the country today of the Iraq War and the massive incarceration of African-American males must gain a top place in the public-policy agenda of an Obama presidency. Anything less than this will render an Obama presidency a disappointment from where I sit.

Meanwhile, we must still recognize that even with the most optimistic public-policy outcomes by an Obama presidency, there will remain many barriers to the revitalized American society and culture that the great Martin Luther King entertained. The tale of one such barrier can be found in the following report in the current issue of Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (Spring 2008):

A 55 year-old black woman named Ruth Simmons came to New York on an autumn shopping trip in the first year of the twentieth-first century and chose to examine the finery at Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the city’s premier emporiums. She soon became aware that her movements were being followed by the store’s security people, evidently fearful that she was a potential, if not likely, shoplifter. “And I greatly resented that,” she said in recounting the incident. To add to her distress that day, a taxi driver locked his door as Simmons neared so that she could not get in. What made these slights, endured daily and disproportionately by black Americans, worth noting is that Ruth Simmons is president of Brown University.

Even so, I and many millions of other Americans wish the best of good luck to a future Barack Obama presidency.

[ Editorial Board member Martin Kilson, PhD hails from an African Methodist background and clergy: From a great-great grandfather who founded an African Methodist Episcopal church in Maryland in the 1840s; from a great-grandfather AME clergyman; from a Civil War veteran great-grandfather who founded an African Union Methodist Protestant church in Pennsylvania in 1885; and from an African Methodist clergyman father who pastored in an Eastern Pennsylvania mill town – Ambler, PA. He attended Lincoln University (PA), 1949-1953, and Harvard graduate school. Appointed in 1962 as the first African-American to teach in Harvard College, in 1969 he was the first African-American tenured at Harvard. He retired in 2003 as a Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government, Emeritus. His publications include: Political Change in a West African State: A Study of the Modernization Process in Sierra Leone (Harvard University Press, 1966); Key Issues in the Afro-American Experience (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970); New States in the Modern World (Center for International Affairs) (Harvard University Press, 1975); The African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays (Harvard University Press, 1976); The Making of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African American Intelligentsia (Forthcoming. University of Missouri Press)]


June 26, 2008


Obama’s Victory:
How Big? How Far?

By Immanuel Wallerstein
Agence Global

June 15, 2008 – Let no one underestimate it. Barack Obama has won big. He has not only won the Democratic nomination for president. He is going to sweep the elections with a large majority of the Electoral College and a considerable increase in Democratic strength in both houses of the Congress. Before we analyze how far he will go, can go – that is, how much of a change this will actually mean – we must spell out how real is his electoral triumph.

In the long drawn-out contest between him and Hillary Clinton, both the polls and the results showed that each was stronger in certain categories of voters. Obama had greater strength among the younger, the more educated, the African-Americans of course, and the politically further left. But he also seemed more attractive to independent and Republican crossover voters. Clinton had greater strength among the older, the less educated voters, the women of course, the Latinos, and the politically more centrist.

However, the real decision was made by the superdelegates. And they voted on a quite different basis. They seemed convinced that he would be a stronger candidate, and could actually win in some traditionally Republican areas. Or even if he couldn’t win a majority in these states, he could help Democratic candidates for Congress to win. It is quite striking that he drew strong support from superdelegates in precisely these states, many of whom were individually among the more centrist, least left-oriented Democratic leaders. Since these superdelegates were anchored in their local situations, they are telling us something of U.S. political realities of 2008.

I have just done an analysis comparing McCain’s state by state strength in the latest polls and Bush’s proportion of the actual votes in 2004. In 45 of the 50 states, McCain is weaker, often much weaker, than Bush was. And in the other five, he is about the same. Of course, if Bush had won a state by a large margin, McCain will still win it albeit by a smaller one. But in the states that were close in 2004, the tide is in Obama’s favor.

Furthermore, we have to realize that McCain is currently at the top of his strength. The Democratic Party is now reunifying and hungry for winning. Obama will lose almost none of the traditional Democratic percentages among women and Jews. He will increase the national percentage among Latinos and will bring in a very large number of young people and African-Americans who otherwise would not have voted. He will also get the votes of the considerable number of independents and Republicans disillusioned with Bush. The people who will vote against Obama because he is African-American were almost all already going to vote Republican. This issue is behind him, not in front of him.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are still deeply divided and quite morose. The Christian right still doesn’t trust McCain, and so far is dragging its feet. And we forget too easily the defection of the libertarians. Ron Paul is planning on a convention fight. And while he will of course lose it, his supporters are already disgruntled. With Bob Barr running on a Libertarian Party slate, many of Paul’s supporters will vote for him. Barr may be to McCain in 2008 what Nader was to Gore in 2000 – just strong enough to deny him a few states. And in general, McCain’s line on the plunging U.S. economy is going to lose him a lot of the support he counts on obtaining among so-called Reagan Democrats.

If one analyzes the situation in detail, state by state, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 in which McCain seems to be competitive today is Michigan. The states that Bush won in 2004 in which Obama is competitive are numerous – Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, and maybe Nevada, North Carolina, and Montana. He’s even doing well enough in Mississippi that Republicans will have to invest money and time campaigning there. If Obama won all the competitive states except Michigan, he’d have 310-333 electoral votes. He needs 270.

The picture looks even better in senatorial races, where Democrats might win in some states in which Obama cannot quite make it – for example, Kentucky, where the Republican minority leader in the Senate is in serious trouble in this very Republican state.

Now what will this mean? Obama is not planning some revolutionary turnabout in U.S. politics. He is surrounded by a lot of conventional Democratic politicians and advisors. But he will be swept into power by a wave of enthusiasm for change that the United States has not seen since Kennedy’s election. True, there is only so much he can do on the world scene, despite the fact that he will be cheered on by the entire rest of the world. The global geopolitical anarchy is far beyond the control of any American president today.

But he will be pushed to make important changes within the United States. Of course, the very election of an African-American will represent a remarkable cultural change, and cannot fail to have a great impact. His electors will expect him to launch the equivalent of another New Deal internally – health care coverage, tax restructuring, job creation, salvaging the pensions. How much he can do depends in part on the global recession, which is largely beyond his control, but even so forceful leadership can play an important role up to a point. The example of Roosevelt shows us that.

The biggest unknown is how far he will go to dismantle the quasi-police state structures that the Bush regime has instituted under the umbrella of a war against terrorism. This involves far more than appointing better judges. It means a radical revising of both legislation and executive policies and exposing the ultra-secret rules and practices to the light of day. Much can be done, as we know from what was accomplished in the 1970s, reining in the CIA and the FBI. But the situation is worse now and requires more. History may well judge Obama most of all on what he does in this domain. Up to now, he has been quite silent about this arena.

Obama has won big. His election will mark – mark, not cause – the end of the counterrevolution of the world right of the 1980s. He has rekindled hope, and created space for a more progressive world. But this space is structurally cramped by the constraints of an ever more anarchic world-system. The basic question is not whether he will transform the world and/or restore U.S. leadership in the world-system – he will do neither – but whether he will do as much as it is possible to do in allowing us all to push our way forward. Even if this is less than the world might wish he could do.

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write: Wallerstein is an early supporter of ‘Progressives for Obama’]


June 25, 2008


The Destruction of Commandment Keepers, Inc. 1919-2007
by Rabbi Sholomo Ben Levy

The traditional day of mourning for Jews is the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av because on it the temple that King Solomon built in Jerusalem was destroyed first in 586 BCE and then again in 70 AD. Normally the month of Av occurs in August. However, in 2007 the month of Av came in April for members of the Israelite community because that is when our oldest congregation was destroyed. Psalm 137 says, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget (her skill). Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not.” Similarly, I say if we forget how this once great congregation came to such a pitiful end then we have no reason for having a brain or a heart. Therefore, I have written this article as an epitaph upon the tomb stone of Commandment Keepers Congregation.

Thousands of Israelites passed through its doors and almost every black rabbi in America owes his existence to its presence. Books, articles, and film documentaries have been made about this most famous Israelite place of worship. It was built by a young man named Wentworth Arthur Matthew who at the age of twenty-seven stood on a ladder in the streets of Harlem telling its residents that they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and needed to return to their God. In 1919 he assembled a hand full of men and women who believed enough, loved enough, and were willing to sacrifice enough to build a congregation for God’s honor and glory. Over the next eighty-eight years of its life it would be located at several places in Harlem. When my parents joined it in 1957 it was located above a drug store at 87 West 128th street. In 1962 it moved into a mansion built in 1890 for John Dwight, one of the founders of the Arm and Hammer Company.

In 1942 Rabbi Matthew published a memoir called the Minute Book, it was a summary of the early years of the congregation. In it he described those first decades as the “most gigantic struggle of any people for a place under the sun.”1 By this he was referring to the other black synagogues that did not survive the Great Depression such Beth B’nai Avraham and the Moorish Zionist Temple founded by Rabbi Arnold Ford and Rabbi Mordica Herman respectively. Even Commandment Keepers had lost a residence but the congregation—which is always more than the building that houses it—survived. Their faith in God and love for each other allowed them to overcome forces that had destroyed even Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.

When the congregation moved into its final home, Rabbi Matthew himself painted the number “one” on the vestibule door. In part it represented the address, 1 West 123rd Street, but on a deeper level it represented Rabbi Matthew’s dream that Commandment Keepers would be the first (and possibly best) of many black synagogues to follow. In fact, some of its stationery referred to the congregation as “Headquarters” and it was thought of as such by many of Matthew’s students throughout New York and Chicago until its decline. Moreover, in the minds of many people outside of our community, Commandment Keepers Congregation was synonymous with Black Jews. Because of its unique history it was the only black synagogue in the United States that was recognized as an historic landmark.

The Fall
The Talmud says “when the parties to a suit are standing before thee, let them both be regarded by thee as guilty, but when they are departed from thy presence, regard them both as innocent, the verdict having been acquiesced in by them.”2 – Avot 1:8. Therefore, if we were to apply this teaching to the parties responsible for the loss of Commandment Keepers Congregation then publicly we would have to say that they are all guilty. Indeed, we are all guilty of things we did or failed to do that might have changed this outcome. However, the scriptural images that comes to my mind is the case of the two woman who came before King Solomon both claiming to be mother of one living child. Here, too, both sides in this calamity claim that they are the rightful leaders and owners of the building. King Solomon’s verdict to divide the baby in half relied upon the belief that the true mother would say the child’s life is more important than her being right. Therefore, she would give up her claim to save the child.

“The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” – I King 3:26
Thinking about what happened to Commandment Keepers Congregation is like watching an explosion in slow motion. The fire there had been burning slowly and internally almost since the death of our founder, Chief Rabbi W.A. Matthew, in 1973. Reliving what happened there is like performing an autopsy or writing a manual for how to destroy a synagogue from within.

Each side in this internecine struggle thought that they were fighting the enemy when, in fact, they were fighting themselves. Hence, they were committing suicide as they murdered the congregation. On some level this was obvious to everyone except those who were most emotionally obsessed with the battle. Over the decades attempts by respected individuals and organization within the Israelite community to broker a peace were repeatedly rejected by both sides. As Rabbi Hailu Paris describes the squabbling the plagues our community, “Yom Kippurs came and went without any forgiveness.” Conciliatory phone calls were made and letters of reconciliation were written, but they seemed locked in a downward spiral of accusations, confrontation, litigation—somehow believing that the next law suite will finally resolve the problem. Even now, the sale of the building may not be the end of the feuding. The last attempt was made about three years ago. I informed the parties that the Israelite Board of Rabbis was willing to convene at Bet Din (Rabbinic Court) to resolve this issue and finally heal this open wound which has been a blight on our entire community. Both sides rejected this offer; once again putting their individual wants above the needs of their congregation and ignoring the institutions of the Israelite community that they claim to cherish.3

“Two households, both alike in dignity…” The words that Shakespeare used to open his tragic play Romeo and Juliet would be a fair description of the two families that were at the heart of the conflict that destroyed Commandment Keepers Congregation. Both families were honorable and distinguished. One of the warring camps was led by Rabbi David Dore, the grandson of Chief Rabbi Matthew, and the other combatants were led by the late Rabbi Chaim White, one of Chief Rabbi Matthew’s most loyal and trusted students. By most accounts, Rabbi Matthew expected these parties to work together. He never imagined that they would become entangled in a struggle to the death for control of what he built.

Commandment Keepers 87 West 128th Street Rabbi Matthew’s two sons had not followed in his rabbinic footsteps; therefore he naturally placed great hope in David, his daughter’s son. Although he was advancing in years, before the chief rabbi retired he ordained his grandson. Rabbi Dore was only seventeen at the time, the youngest rabbi ever ordained in our community, and the news of his elevation took some by surprise. Still a student at Yeshiva High School, Rabbi Dore was looking forward to his studies at Yeshiva University. He was bright and promising but obviously too young to lead a congregation alone. Rabbi White was a dedicated, faithful, and proud man. He was also a gifted speaker as opposed to a Torah scholar or Baal Tefillah. It may very well be that the source of animus between the two men stemmed from the perception in their eyes that the younger was arrogant and disrespectful and the older was insecure and ill prepared. What is certain is that both men could have benefited from the other’s strengths. Instead, what followed was a series of insults and counter insults that started small and eventually grew, consuming what could have been a strong partnership—or at least a smooth transition—and replacing it with a bitter and ugly feud that continued for almost three decades and ended in self-destruction. Each side claims that the other committed the first intolerable act that justified his subsequent bad behavior.

Tension turned into open rebellion when Rabbi Dore was locked out of the synagogue and effectively banned from the bimah in the early 1980s. From Rabbi Dore’s perspective this was the start of the coup d’état that wrongly deposed him of the position his grandfather bequeathed. Rabbi White regarded that moment as the necessary actions taken by the congregation’s legitimate board to deal with an ungovernable member. Although a few people took sides in this civil war, most people whose history in our community extends back for thirty years or more remember these events like a child who grew up in a dysfunctional family. We did not wish for a winner in the fight between father and mother or our sister and our brother. We simply wanted the fighting to end and prayed that the wonderful times we shared together with the combatants when we were as one unified and harmonious family could return.

Other low points on the road to destruction include a sidewalk bar mitzvah in 1994 when Rabbi Dore’s son was forced to enter manhood on the curb because they were not allowed to use the sanctuary. Almost ten years later another flurry of law suits occurred and the altercations became more violent as Rabbi Dore claimed that he was pushed to the floor inside the building following a prayer service by someone close to Rabbi White. Police were brought in on several occasions including one in which people close to Rabbi Dore hired a locksmith to enter and temporarily occupy the building. As late as 2006, several people including Rabbinit White were physically assaulted on the Sabbath while trying to enter the synagogue. These incidents did not occur frequently but their severity and unpredictability created a climate of hostility that weighed on the declining congregation like death itself.

During this long embattled period, Rabbi Dore entered into a self-imposed exile during which he virtually cut himself off from the rest of the Israelite community. Except for an occasional funeral or wedding he was rarely seen. He was not a member of the Israelite Board of Rabbis, he did not teach in the Israelite Rabbinical Academy, and he did not generally worship at black congregations. In contrast, the White family—particularly Rabbi and Rabbinit White—remained engaged in the Israelite community beyond Commandment Keepers Congregation. It may be that Rabbi Dore and his supporters assumed, incorrectly, that any person or synagogue that welcomed the Whites was ipso facto against the Dores and vice versa. Without a doubt the family feud at Commandment Keepers was a blight on the entire community, but there was very little that people outside the congregation could do to ameliorate the situation. The families of Rabbi Yehoshua Yahonatan and Rabbi Levi Ben Levy urged the parties to seek a compromise, but during most of the period these rabbis were building new congregations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Mt. Vernon.4 It was hoped that when a new rabbi was appointed, Rabbi Zechariah Ben Lewi, following his ordination in 2000 that he might be able to usher in a new period of reconciliation—since he was not a party to any of the earlier fighting. Sadly, things declined even more precipitously as members who stuck with the congregation through earlier storms grew weary and frustrated. As one of these members described it, near the end “it wasn’t the fighting outside that turned me away, it was the fighting inside.”

David Lee, the Gabi of the congregation and a fierce supporter of the Whites, told the Israelite Board of Rabbis that the decision to sell the building in April 2007 for a reported $1.6 million dollars was not easy. Since he and other principles to the original dispute are now in their seventies and eighties, it may be that they feared that the building might have fallen into the hands of their nemesis should they die or retire. Rather than see this happen, they sold the synagogue without so much as a memorial service, which is requisite when a synagogue is closed. Members were not even told of the last service or given an opportunity to pay their last respects. No efforts were made to find homes for the Torahs, religious articles, or financial proceeds from the sale within the Israelite community. Needless to say, the manner in which all this occurred added a degree of sadness that is worse than had the building burned down because that would have been an accident but this was done with an element of spite and hate—the two things that really destroy a congregation.

In retrospect, the handwriting was on the wall. Like Babylon our hearts and actions were measured and found lacking. Therefore, as tragic as this is, I yet believe that it is a warning from a merciful God asking us to look at how we behave. We should be embarrassed by the spectacle that we see in the mirror enough to change. In this conflict there was no mother who was willing to sacrifice her desires in order to save the child. Learn from this warning. Do not let divisions fester in your congregation. Our problems will never be solved by courts, police, or any outside bodies. We must love each other, support each other, and trust our own institutions. If they are weak then we must work to make then stronger as if our survival depends upon it because it does.

We did not lose this part of our foundation to a tragic fire, nor was it due to a lack of financial resources, nor were racist or anti-Semites to blame. No! We loss that building because self-interest became more important than devotion to Hashem and love of each other. Thus, the memory of that building has now become a monument to self-destruction.

Author with father, Rabbi Levi Levy, on bimah of Commandment Keepers, 1967


1Sholomo B. Levy, African American Lives
2The full Hebrew quotation is:
:אַל תַּעַשׂ עַצַמְךָ כַּעוֹרְכַי הַדַּיָּנִין. וּכַשֶׁיִּהְיוּ בַּעַלַ דִינִין עוֹמְדִים לַפַנֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בַעַינֶיךָ כַּרְשָׁעַים. וּכַשֶׁנִּפַטָרִים מִלַּפַנֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בַעַינֶךָ כַּזַכַּאִין, כַּשֶׁקִּבַּלוּ עַלַיהֶם אֶת הַדִּין
Various translations are possible but the point will always be the same.
3The Torah actually commands us to create our own courts to settle these matters. “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” – Deut 16:18
4Rabbinit Leah Yehonatan remained on the Board of Commandment Keepers until the end and Rabbi Yahonatan had the status of emeritus, but even they were omitted from all discussions and votes on the sale of the building, which raises a host of other question about legality and propriety of the sale


June 24, 2008


Church and healing—the ongoing mission

Cindy Neely
Reprinted from the June 5, 2006, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

Church can mean different things to different people. To some members or attendees, church provides a worship service where they can praise and honor God, while to others, involvement in a church means paying homage and obedience to religious rituals and creeds. And still to others, church is a place to meditate and feel at peace.

To Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science in 1866, the concept of Church transcended a physical structure. She saw Church, in its spiritual meaning, as “the structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” Unequivocally, she knew healing and Church as one—as synonymous.

In Mary Baker Eddy’s day, it was considered normal for people to be healed during Christian Science church services. Seekers came looking to be set free from whatever physical or mental ailments they had. Many who came to the earliest Christian Science services in Boston were lame, blind, or struggling with some disease, and they often walked out free and well.

Today, we can have that same kind of experience, when we realize that every service is a healing service. This very thing has happened to me.

One Wednesday afternoon many years ago, I suddenly became quite ill. I’d been planning to attend the weekly testimony meeting at my Christian Science branch church later that evening, but now I felt that was impossible. As I started praying for myself, the most startling and arresting thoughts came to me about Church.

A testimony meeting is a good place to be when you’re not well.

It occurred to me that a testimony meeting is the best place to be when you’re not well, because you’re going to a healing service that rests on Truth and Love, and those words are synonyms for God. These ideas roused my thinking as I realized that I could go to that testimony meeting and expect healing.

These thoughts, which I felt were coming to me straight from Truth and Love, awakened me to realize the full potential of church services. So, that evening, still feeling ill, I went to the meeting. And while others were sharing their testimonies of healing, I, too, was healed. I walked out completely well.

The next day, I began to contemplate what had touched and healed me during that service. Suddenly, I glimpsed and understood more fully the impact that Church and its healing influence had had on my consciousness.

And I saw the power of effective prayer. I had felt totally embraced by divine Love throughout that hour-long meeting, and the fear of disease just collapsed and vanished. The presence of the Christ—the voice of Truth that speaks to each one of us—had so permeated my consciousness that I was elevated to a spiritual oneness with my Father-Mother God. That church service had fulfilled its mission that day.

Each church member is an effective healer.

Every church service has a mission. Its true mission is regeneration and restoration, better known as spiritual healing. Each member of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, can be praying to see everyone in the congregation and beyond, spiritually, as the child of God—whole, pure, loved, and sound. In essence, each church member is an effective healer.

That Wednesday when I felt ill, I’m sure that the members of that branch church in Virginia were praying, individually and collectively, for the healing efficacy of that service, and my healing was the fulfillment of that prayer.

Today, each Sunday and Wednesday Christian Science service held around the world is fulfilling the healing mission that Mrs. Eddy envisioned for her Church. She expected Christian Scientists to heal. She saw every member of her Church as a healer.

Are we demonstrating that expectancy by seeing everyone who comes to our services through the lens of Spirit, and not in any negative, material, or personal way? Do we truly love others?

Everyone attending those services will be blessed.

As we lift up our concept of man spiritually—from seeing men and women as burdened by limitation, deprivation, or inadequacy, to beholding those who come to our churches as complete, vibrant, and unencumbered expressions of Life—everyone attending those services will be blessed.

Whatever thoughts fill our consciousness—spiritual or material—determine what we experience. We each have our own comfort zones, but as we rise up in our thought and action to a greater commitment to healing spiritually and loving unconditionally, we will fulfill the desire to free others from illness. Healing always requires the spiritual view of God and His creation.

The spiritually correct view of all things shuts out the clamor of fear and doubt, which try to imprison human hearts and minds through oppressive pictures of human frailties, hereditary disease, cruel indifference, immoral behavior, or a financial crisis. Our prayers for church services set the captives of such circumstances free, and enable those who had been oppressed to become active healers themselves.

Love and Christian fellowship are vital.

A church of healers has a welcoming atmosphere, where the expression of universal and unconditional love is continuous. Love and Christian fellowship are vital to offering the community such a healing environment.

Once, I had a conversation with a minister in Boston about welcoming newcomers to church services. He told me, “Every newcomer wants to feel loved and accepted the first time they step inside your door, or they won’t return, because they are looking for a church family.”

In his church, they make sure that each visitor meets at least seven members, and he always asks newcomers to stand up so his congregation can recognize them later.

I so liked his idea that when I brought someone new to a Wednesday testimony meeting, I took my new friend around after the service and introduced her to almost everyone in the church. On the way home, she commented on how warm and friendly the members were, and said she’d like to return when her work schedule would permit it.

After that evening, I found it easier to make the effort to promote Christian fellowship.

In loving, we find forgiveness and grace.

As healers, we value Christian fellowship because it’s a vital part of Christian Science. When we interact lovingly with one another, we’re expressing the highest standard of ethics. We love, and it’s in that loving that we find forgiveness and grace.

“A Rule for Motives and Acts” in the Church Manual (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 40) shows how to provide a pure, healing atmosphere for the benefit of everyone attending Christian Science churches—by mentally refusing entry to thoughts of hatred, judgment, condemnation, as well as refusing to be influenced in a malicious manner.

Another time, I brought my next-door neighbor to a Wednesday service, and she fell asleep just as soon as the First Reader began to speak. I might have been tempted to feel discouraged. But when the service was over, she apologized and said that a heavy weight had been lifted off her, and that she felt so peaceful. Clearly, she didn’t feel condemned.

The only real structure of any relationship is Truth and Love.

The Christian Science church is charged to demonstrate that the only real structure of anything or any relationship is Truth and Love. This fact is all that can touch the receptive thought during a service—and it will attract everyone in your community to your doors.

A direct link exists between a Christian Science branch church and its community, a link we can see and strengthen through our actions. It lies in a spiritual oneness, a sister-brotherhood that oozes with Christly love. This awesome presence binds up the brokenhearted.

The Christ knows no boundaries, stereotypes, or closed doors. Through church members’ prayers, the outreach of Church extends beyond pews, location, size of congregation, to the hungry and receptive thought looking for home and rest.

This impartial Christ-presence reaches out and envelops all humanity with a comfort that meets every need. It spreads a wonderful assurance that, as healers, we have the opportunity every day to bear witness to God and His perfect creation.

Cindy Neely is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher based in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

Church and healing:

Science and Health:
King James Bible:
Matt. 18:20

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June 24, 2008


Building and rebuilding communities with love

Live audio chat with Cindy Neely
February 21, 2006

The transcribed text has been edited for clarity. Scroll to the end of the page for audio links.

Starting with the Biblical examples of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem, and the selfless Good Samaritan, Cindy Neely, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science, answers questions from site visitors and explores ways to bring healing and restoration to communities struggling with issues of conflict, division, and frustration.

When we see the spiritual equality of all people, Cindy says, and recognize everyone’s true spiritual identity, we can restore elements of harmony and perfection to our neighborhoods, enriching our own lives as well as building and strengthening those around us.

Through boundless love, charity, compassion, honor, and respect—and realizing the effectiveness of the power of prayer—we can create a community that unites people and helps us all feel safe and secure. host: Today, we’ll be talking with Cindy Neely, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, and our topic is “Building and rebuilding communities with love.” Even today, areas from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana, are struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. And other parts of the world, such as those affected by the mudslide in the Philippines, are also dealing with disaster.

And then there are events that affect our individual communities—our families, churches, work, and schools. That’s a lot of territory to cover, but Cindy is willing to go there with us.

Recently, she spent a year as President of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, here in Boston, where she worked with community groups to provide human and spiritual solutions to the city’s social and economic problems. She has traveled in the United States, Canada, Japan, Jerusalem, England, and the Caribbean, speaking on women’s issues—family, defeating racism, and overcoming addiction. So she’s got a lot to offer us.

Cindy, do you have a few comments you’d like to make to get us started?

Cindy Neely: Yes, I do, and I would like to start out by saying I’m so happy to be on the show today. As I was thinking about the topic, “Building and rebuilding communities with love,” what came to my thought most was that everybody wants to feel loved. And when someone can feel God’s love and His embrace, they feel safe, and they feel secure.

And as I was thinking about that, I went back to the Bible, to two stories, to get inspiration. The first one was about Nehemiah building the wall, and then story of the good Samaritan.

So I’d like to start out with Nehemiah building the wall. Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, and he saw the city and its wall in ruins. He went out at night, and went around the wall. And he had a vision that the wall could be rebuilt.

A few men went with him when he went around the wall, and when the people living in Jerusalem saw and heard his vision, they said, the Bible tells us, “Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” He had a vision, and then from that vision, he had a plan. So he rallied all these men together, and they began to rebuild the wall, brick by brick.

As I think about brick by brick, I think about quality by quality: determination, moral courage, spiritual strength, persistence, commitment, unselfed love, and service. And there wasn’t any mud of criticism between each brick; it was just that seamless web of love that was building and rebuilding that wall.

Now that’s not to say that Nehemiah didn’t have opposition, because he did. But because of his vision, he saw the opposition and overcame it. And what he did was, every man that worked had a tool in one hand, and had a weapon in the other. And the wall was finished within 52 days. Well, that was a very short time for that to be accomplished.

And as I think about that story, I think about today. And I think if Nehemiah were here today, what would he say about New Orleans? What would he say about Mississippi? What would his vision be, what would his plan be, to rebuild the city, or to repair the levees? What would he say to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]? What would he say to Homeland Security? What would he say to the mayor, or to the governor of Louisiana? He would have a plan, because he had a solution. And that’s really the hope that everybody is looking for, that there’s a solution and there’s a plan that can be carried out that would meet everybody’s need.

Then I think about Nehemiah, if he were in Boston—what would he say about the youth violence? What would he say to the parents that are struggling and are in anguish about losing their children? He would also have a solution. What about those that are homeless? Again, he would have a solution.

And as I thought about Nehemiah, I thought, it’s the vision. Behind every spiritual vision, the outcome is going to be a human solution to bring restoration right where despair and devastation appear to be. And to be able to see that, we need to have a vision.

So wherever you find yourself, or whatever circumstances you find yourself in—if you’re in Louisiana right now—there’s a solution that will meet your need. And God will communicate to those who need that intelligence or that wisdom or that understanding; God will communicate to them the plan. And God will also communicate to you.

Then, the second story is about the good Samaritan. Because after the plan—after you have your home back and you have your job, and the city is restored—there’s a comfort issue. Many individuals have lost loved ones, pets, employment, and so they need to be comforted.

And as I went to the good Samaritan, I came away with such enlightenment—again, a vision, but also a comfort that binds up the broken-hearted, that restores a true identity to its original state of being.

So I’d like to talk a little bit about the good Samaritan. There was a certain man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, and they stripped him of his raiment, and left him half dead.

And the story goes on that a priest came by, and when he saw him, he crossed on the other side of the street. And then a Levite, he avoided the injured man also.

But then the Samaritan “came where he was.” And isn’t that really the key? To come where the brokenhearted are. And he met that man. His heart went out to him, and he had compassion on him. He was binding up his wounds. He made him comfortable. Isn’t that what everybody that is a victim of Katrina—or a victim of violence or homelessness or crime or whatever it is—wants? They want to be made comfortable. They want to feel loved. They want to feel peace and heavenly rest.

So the Samaritan dressed his wounds, “pouring in oil and wine.” I thought about that: boundless love, compassion, mercy, charity, gentleness, unselfed service. The good Samaritan was so inspired by doing good. And that sense of doing good could just lift up thought, lift up that broken spirit, to restore it to its normal understanding of its true identity.

Then he took the man “and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” And then he gave the innkeeper two pence. When I was researching two pence, it said, two silver coins, and that two silver coins was the equivalent of two days’ wages. Well, you know, in that day and age, two days’ wages—that was a lot of money. So that was generosity. He was lavishly pouring love and harmony and joy into this man’s experience, into his consciousness. And then he told the innkeeper to take care of him, and he said when he returned, he would reimburse him for anything that he had spent.

Both Nehemiah and the good Samaritan are needed in spiritual rebuilding, restoring to its original perfection, restoring to its original identity. And so that’s what I hope we’ll be talking about today—how to bring this restoring element into our lives, regardless if it’s in the workplace, if it’s in Louisiana, or if it’s in the community in Texas that you’re struggling with, there’s a solution, because there’s spiritual vision. host: We’ve got a lot of questions. I think your comments will help those people while they’re waiting for us to get to their specific question.

To start, Evan, from Kansas City, says, “I’ve just moved to a new city, and I miss the close-knit circle of friends and neighbors I used to have. What’s the best way for me to start building a new community for myself? And is that a selfish way of thinking?”

Cindy: Evan, your desire to reach out, it may seem selfish to you, but in the end it will become unselfish, because as you reach out, you’re going to go to different organizations. Maybe you have a church affiliation. Maybe you’ll find friends at church or in your community or in your neighborhood. But as you reach out to express that love, you’re going to find a like-mindedness. You’re going to find a spiritual attraction where people start to come into your experience that have the same likes that you have, and that you both can express spiritual qualities to each other. And it will be an enrichment, a spiritual growth to you, along with lots of fun. host: That’s great. Nadine in Tucson, Arizona, is asking, “Should we pray for defined communities? Is it right to single out particular groups for prayer? Shouldn’t we pray for the whole world?” Perhaps Nadine is thinking of communities within communities when she talks about particular groups.

Cindy: I think that when our motive is just to reach out and see humanity, we find ourselves connected to those we can help, and they can help us. And we go past the barriers of cultures and find ourselves in settings that are comfortable to us and to them. We also, as we reach out, are attracted to other cultures and diversity that’s going to bless and enrich our lives.

I remember coming to Boston, and just reaching out to organizations and to clergy, and meeting new people. I was enriched by that. I was enriched by getting to know people of other religions and other organizations that I wasn’t used to associating with. So that was a blessing for me. host: Harriet is writing from New Orleans, and she says, “There is such a feeling of uncertainty about what is coming next here in New Orleans, whether people are facing the question of if they should return to this region, or if they should rebuild, or will they be able to get insurance. And what will happen this summer as far as weather is concerned? And will the levees be fixed? Can you speak about how to handle that feeling of uncertainty?” I think that’s a real good question.

Cindy: I’d like to go back to Nehemiah, because there’s a statement in Science and Health, page 199, and it says, “The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible.” That sense of devotion of thought—Nehemiah had that devotion of thought, and he held on to that devotion of thought until it was evidenced humanly.

Harriet has already made a list of the things that she feels uncertain about. But there’s a solution for each one. And to be able to see that God will communicate to her what is just right for her, what is right for New Orleans. It will be revealed. There’s nothing hidden “that shall not be revealed.”

And God is a loving God. So if He’s included in the process of this spiritual rebuilding, He’s certainly going to impart to you, Harriet, what you need that’s going to give you comfort. He’s going to meet you where you are to allow that list to diminish until it’s no longer a list of questions and uncertainties, but it’s a list of accomplishments and achievements. And that you do see the solution. And your devotion of thought to that honest achievement is going to help everybody in New Orleans. host: I wonder if we could just briefly go into the whole question of government bureaucracy and the uncertainty that seems to be tied in with that. How would you pray about government? Like when you were in Boston, surely there were some issues with city government and so forth, and seemingly the impossibility of getting answers. And I’m wondering if the folks in New Orleans maybe are struggling with that, too, at a state and city level.

Cindy: I’ve listened to the news, I’ve heard the bickering—there’s not any other way to put it—and the confusion, and the blaming. I think we need to go up higher. We need to let go of that human view of how it should work out, or how it didn’t work out, or what’s next. We need to go up. If we’re praying for solutions, then only the divine solution is going to meet the human need.

And so if we’re going up and we’re looking for spiritual solutions, then those ideas, those angel messages, that we need are going to come to the forefront of thought—for those in government, and also for those individuals right there in New Orleans. It’s going up higher and letting go of the limitations, the restrictions, and all the clamor and commotion and the unhappiness about it that are what really need healing.

There’s a statement in Science and Health where Mrs. Eddy said, “Spirit, God, is heard when the senses are silent.” And to be able to quiet all that unrest, all that fear and that uncertainty—when that fear has been destroyed, right in the midst of that fear is the solution that’s developing right now. Right now there are answers for every question that everybody has. There’s an answer. And those answers are being imparted to those in government. As we pray about that, then we’re going to see that more clearly evidenced, and we will begin to trust God more to bring it about. In the Bible it says, “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.” So we’re going up to a higher level of government. host: That’s wonderful. And I just wanted to follow up one last time, and that’s with the idea of Nehemiah, as I’m thinking about him in light of what you’ve said. Basically, he didn’t let anything hinder his spiritual vision of God’s ultimately being in control. Even when enemies came against them, he still held to that vision. And it sounds like that’s what you’re saying.

Cindy: Yes. He was alert. He was aware of what was out there. But he didn’t allow that to have an impact on his vision. He didn’t allow that to make him come down. I’ve always thought of Nehemiah as the one that refused to “come down” in thought to the human level.

Right now, things may seem on a very human level. But if we go up and do that spiritual building, that’s going to allow the manifestation, or the evidence, to present itself in a natural way for everyone there. host: That’s very helpful. Now we have a number of questions. Two are on similar subjects. Here’s the first one. It’s from Katherine in Houston, Texas. And she says, “What about making our communities more welcoming to people who may be considered outsiders? Do you have any practical advice?”

Cindy: Love. Love is really the key. I was in Houston in September, helping out at the George Brown Convention Center with the Katrina victims, and they felt displaced. They felt that they weren’t loved or welcomed. And to just bring in that Christly love was so needed. Everybody wants to feel they’re special. Everybody wants to feel that they have something to contribute. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Houston or in California, that same need is still present. Everybody is feeling the same way. And so to be able to reach out beyond yourself—in your communities or whatever—to be able to see someone else’s need and to meet that need is important.

There’s a statement, again in Science and Health, where Mrs. Eddy said, “The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood …; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good.” And wouldn’t you say that’s what the good Samaritan did? He went beyond himself. That man wasn’t in his community. But the Samaritan saw a need, and he reached out, and he included him in his community.

I have had many experiences where I’ve been in new communities, and I have felt out of sync, didn’t feel like I belonged. But I was the one that grew. And I was the one that went beyond the barriers. And I was the one that began to become more comfortable in any setting, because I realized that Love was always there.

I can remember moving into Chinatown, and there were 12 townhouses—six on each side. I was the only one that wasn’t Chinese. So you can imagine how I felt. But I didn’t feel like I was out of sync. I felt like we were all embraced in Love. I had already had experiences before where I was a minority, and I had overcome that. So I felt like I was leaning on past experiences.

To make a long story short, they started talking to me. I remember this woman coming over and ringing my doorbell. I had a flower garden, and she said, “Will you help me with my flower garden?” And I went out and helped her dig up her yard. We went out to the store. When I was lecturing in England, that same woman did my banking for me. So, I mean, it made me feel more comfortable.

Diversity is a good thing, because then it doesn’t matter what setting we find ourselves in—we feel comfortable, because we know that Love is there. And it’s that love that we’re expressing to each other that makes us feel comfortable. We don’t feel separate. We don’t feel isolated. We don’t feel like we don’t belong, because it’s our understanding that Love is within us, and Love is within them, and Love is within that whole community. host: That’s very helpful. And it starts to answer the second question, which is from Steven in Atlanta. He says, “I find it easier to fit into some communities than others, because there’s still quite a bit of prejudice and intolerance, even in otherwise sophisticated and intelligent parts of the country. How can I help build community when some of my neighbors do not want to include me?”

Cindy: Well, you persist like Nehemiah. You have the vision, and you build brick by brick—those qualities of mercy, compassion, understanding, forgiveness. And you just keep seeing that that’s what’s there. And that building is going on in your thinking.

I moved into an all-white neighborhood. They didn’t want me there. I was a single parent. The family to the right of me had a son, and she didn’t want her son to play with my son. He’d climb the fence every day. When the grandfather or mother saw that, out the back door they’d come. And they’d call Michael back over the fence. Can you imagine how I felt? Pretty painful.

Did I give in? Did I sink? Did I come down from building the wall? No, I didn’t. I kept knowing that Love was present. And I kept knowing that I was loved. And I went past race. I had to go past it to see, How did God create us? Was I going to view my life as material creation, as multicultural environment? Or was I going to see creation spiritually? And as I saw creation spiritually, I began to see that we all sit together, that we all honor and respect each other.

I think about the fall, and the trees and the leaves changing, I don’t hear the oak saying to the maple, “You’re too bright. Move over.” We just come together, and we begin to honor and respect and love each other. That’s the key.

The good Samaritan saw the need to go beyond himself. He saw the need to extend boundless love to this man, and to build up his broken spirit to completion, to wholeness, to be intact. So Steve in Atlanta, what you have to offer your community, they’re just waiting. They’re hungering for you to reach out and love them, and just knock those barriers down, those ruins, and build up true brotherhood right there. host: Anne in Florida is asking something similar. She says, “Communities seem fragmented. They want and deserve their own identity. But they identify more with themselves than with their town or city. How can we help bridge cultural, language, ethnic, and other dividers?”

Cindy: It’s all the same thing. It’s all what I’ve been saying. Either we’re going to view ourselves from a material standpoint, with our flaws and our deficiencies and inadequacies, or we’re going to go up to the divine. And when we go up to the divine, that eliminates the fragments. The fragmentary element disappears in God’s wholeness of love.

“Blessed are the peacemakers.” As we become peacemakers in our own thought as to whatever the division is, then the barriers just collapse. They stopped calling Michael back over the fence. And he could stay, and he could play. And I remember the time when his mother invited us over for dinner. Can you imagine how I felt? I was like, “Hip, hip, hooray! The healing is intact.” But I worked at it, and I worked at it. And that understanding is within me now. It’s the foundation upon which I lean.

There’s a poem by Edwin Markham entitled, “Outwitted.” And it says:

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

So we open our hearts like the good Samaritan, and we let that love just pour into that community—the oil and the wine. And before we know it, it’s a different community. host: I think that idea’s going to be helpful for the folks who’ve sent in this next question. They’re saying, “We’re from Rialto, California, First Church Sunday School. Last year there was a race riot at our school. The black kids and the Chicano kids started fighting. The school was closed down for a week after that, and the tension was intense all year.

“This year there has been some fighting, but no riots or school closures. How can we heal the situation?” I think they’re referring to a public school, rather than to the Sunday School. But they’re still saying, “How can we bring healing to the situation?”

Cindy: There’s a statement in Science and Health, where it says, “Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.” A panoply is like a covering, or I call it an umbrella. I envision it as an umbrella, and we’re all under that umbrella of Love.

No one wants to react in conflict. No one wants hatred or envy directed toward them, really. And so, Love is the most healing element in rebuilding that whole situation. And to pour in the oil and the wine on that situation. So for that church to daily pray about that situation until there aren’t any more reports that there’s something brewing, because it’s just eliminated, because Love has replaced it, that’s the key. My experience with that family to the right of me—I had to persist. I had to keep going. And I had to turn straight forward and not allow any sense of reaction or retaliation to come into my thought, but to realize that Love was going to win. And that’s the key.

We have these situations in our world. We turn the nightly news on, and we’re hearing about it all over the place. So in California, that isn’t any different than what we’re hearing in the Middle East.

But as we pray about these situations, and go up like Nehemiah, and refuse to come down until the city is mentally rebuilt in thought, then that has to have a bearing in the human realm, in that community, with those kids, in that school. I would pray daily for that school until I didn’t hear any more reports. host: That’s a very good answer. This is a question from Alison in Shreveport, Louisiana. She was at a lecture you gave in Shreveport and really enjoyed it. And she says, “My husband and I are in the process of trying to buy a house. However, the sellers are giving us a hard time about fixing certain problems, and it looks like we might have to pull out of our contract. We really love the house and want everything to work out. How can I use the topic for the chat to help with our dilemma?”

Cindy: It’s the same thing that I’ve been saying: you’re not going to come down; that “devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible.” And to know that if that house is yours, it’s yours, and nobody can take it from you. And if it isn’t right, then you don’t want it, either. And so, give it to God and know that it has to work out, it has to bless everyone: “… whatever blesses one blesses all ….” But then, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” So God is on your side, but He’s also on their side. So there aren’t two sides. There’s just one side, and that’s good.

And so to be able to see that by your eliminating sides, you’ve eliminated the contention. And what you’re doing is you’re trusting, and you’re knowing that there’s an answer, there’s a solution for both parties that will be agreeable. host: Thank you. Barry, in San Francisco, in California, is saying, “We have a lot of homeless people sleeping in front of our Reading Room. Can you share the right kind of aid that we can give them?”

Cindy: Love them. See them as having a home. I have seen in many instances when I have lectured, that the homeless find themselves in front of Reading Rooms or churches, sleeping. I’ve seen that many times. So there’s an attraction, I feel, of comfort.

But, again, as you go up, and you’re doing the rebuilding, as you’re going up with this vision—to me the vision is that they have a home, the solution. That they’re not without their integrity and their dignity and their self-worth. They haven’t lost that; they haven’t lost sight of it. And that spirit isn’t broken. And that is an opportunity to go up and really see that their needs are met, and that there’s a home for everyone. Home and heaven are within you, and everyone has a home.

So they’re really calling out and saying, “We don’t have any place to go, and this is a comfort zone for us.” But as you pray about it and go up even higher, building that wall brick by brick, and seeing that the Comforter is within them, but also Mind is within them, and Mind is leading them. Maybe Mind will lead them to a shelter. Maybe Mind will lead them to some place for employment. But Mind is leading them upward, onward, and so it would have to be productive for them.

And so our spiritual building is restoration, is restoring to its original. So if they’re being restored to their original, that would mean that they are whole again. And isn’t that really what everybody wants to feel—is whole, intact? No one wants to sleep in front of a Reading Room or a church—I don’t believe so. And so to be able to see that our spiritual building as having an impact on all these issues, on all these problems, because Mind is providing us with the solutions, just like it provided Nehemiah and the good Samaritan with a solution and a sense of direction and a sense of compassion. host: I love that idea about wholeness. This is a question from Nancy in New Orleans, Louisiana. She’s saying, “Rebuilding communities can involve neighborhood, city, regional, state, and federal support. How can we pray about integrity and leadership?” And that’s a kind of wholeness too, isn’t it?

Cindy: Yes. It’s seeing man from the highest instead of from the lowest. Regardless if they’re in government or not, that identification is what everybody is asking. How are we identifying ourselves? From our driver’s license, our birth certificates, or our passports? Or from the first chapter of Genesis?

And as we can see our government and our officials from that standpoint—you know, FEMA and Homeland Security, they’re not favored right now, it’s not a good time for them—but we can bring healing to that. And that really is what we want. Can you imagine Nehemiah looking down and getting caught up in all of that, and saying, “How did this happen?” and, “Wow, it’s too overwhelming for me to tackle”?

And then when they tried to kill him, to take his life, he didn’t come down. He became wiser. And so intuition, inspiration, is what’s going to communicate to you what you need to see that’s going to allow that spiritual building to take place in your thinking and in your experience. host: And the first chapter of Genesis, of course, is where God created everything in His own image. And so are you saying that we can see each of these individuals really as spiritually created and under God’s government?

Cindy: Yes. Under His jurisdiction. At the end of that chapter of Genesis it says, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and … it was very good.” And so if we’re seeing that about everyone there, that’s the only true view or vision that we could have that’s going to produce a right outcome. If we’re looking at them from the negative, that’s the mud, we’re slinging mud.

But if we eliminate the criticism and the judging and the condemning, and as we go up, just love with compassion and boundless love, it doesn’t mean that we are being foolish. It means that we are identifying man from the highest instead of from the lowest. And everybody likes to be identified from the highest. They begin to act that way, because that’s what’s being called upon them—to act out from the highest, instead of from the lowest, element. host: You know, that’s so interesting, because as you were talking, I was thinking back again about Nehemiah and that idea of the highest. If he had gone down and played politics with the people who were against him, they would still be doing that. That wall would have never got built. It was keeping that sense of vision, and insisting on it spiritually. And his certainty that God would fulfill it. Isn’t that part of what you’re saying here?

Cindy: Yes, because those were part of the bricks—the determination, the steadfastness, not being talked out of it, not coming down, not being dismayed or discouraged. But being steadfast, that “devotion of thought to an honest achievement,” that stick-to-itiveness. host: Now from RB in Indiana, we have a slightly different kind of question. He says, “For someone who has not been involved in the community, local as well as beyond, what would be a good way to begin getting involved?”

Cindy: Well, maybe you could look in the newspaper and see if there are any activities that are going on that you would be interested in becoming involved in. To see what’s around you—maybe tap on your next-door neighbor’s door and ask what he or she is aware of that’s going on in the community. Just becoming neighbors with the people around you and then asking them what activities are they involved in. They will introduce you to what they’re doing, and from there, it will just build. host: Then there’s one here from Pearl in Idaho, who says, “How do we cut through the racial and cultural barriers that isolate some in the community?”

Cindy: You just love. We just love. The priest and the Levite walked by the injured man. But the Samaritan didn’t. He went there. We have to get to the point that we see man as God made him, and not the color of their skin; and that we are able to just love.

In this last year, I have traveled a lot in Spanish-speaking countries. In June, I was in Spain; and in October and November, in Guatemala; and now recently, in Puerto Rico. When you’re in a different environment, a different culture, you pick up their culture—“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Well, when I was in Guatemala, when you walk down the street, everybody speaks to you. So they’re always speaking to you according to the time of the day—buenos días, buenas tardes, buenas noches. Well, I was so concerned about speaking to them, one day this man said, Buenos días, and I said, Buenas noches. It was the wrong time of the day that I was saying, but I was so caught up in trying to do my part. And when we just come together, when we don’t feel isolated …. Love unites. It doesn’t divide. It doesn’t separate. It unites.

And Love shows us ways that we can unite so that we don’t feel like we’re an outsider, or we’re cut off and it’s this sense of many races or many groups. It isn’t. It’s one race, one brotherhood. And that really is the key. We have to live that, though. We have to prove that. It can’t be lip service. It has to be something that touches the core of our being, like the good Samaritan, that says, “I want to go beyond myself. I want to go beyond this.”

I can remember in Boston going into a meeting, an interfaith meeting. And I stood up, saying that I was President of The Mother Church. And there was dead silence. It was like, “Where did she come from?” Well, the average person would have run out the front door. But I stayed. And I continued to go to those meeting every month—until there was a change in me. It wasn’t that there was a change in them. But there was a change in me. I had to develop my own comfort zone to realize that there wasn’t a place that I wasn’t welcome; there wasn’t a place that I couldn’t be.

And in the end, the last day that I was leaving Boston, I went to that meeting to tell them good-by, and they called me up to the front of the platform, and they prayed for me. Here was a complete opposite turn from the first time, where it was no recognition that I existed—to the end result where they were blessing me. But I worked at that.

I can’t tell you the building that I have done, the spiritual building that I have done in the last 20 to 25 years. I can go anywhere, and I’m comfortable, because it’s within me. I don’t see cultures and races, I see mankind, I see brotherhood, I see my sisters and my brothers. When we can see our sisters and our brothers, aren’t we going back to Malachi: “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us”? That’s spiritual building. That’s going up. That’s the vision. But it’s a vision that has to be proved. We have to prove that. And each and every one of us that’s proving it to some degree, is blessing the whole world. host: That’s very inspiring. And we have a question, speaking of the whole world, from Stacy in New Jersey. She says, “When events like the Philippine mudslides happen, what can we do to help? The whole community has been destroyed. Is prayer enough?”

Cindy: Sometimes, God shows us how to help, where we’re able to either send supplies, send money, to do something. And so that desire to not only pray, but to do something in a tangible way is practical. You can see that the good Samaritan, he didn’t just pray for the man, he did something. So, we can do that.

So I trust that God will show you, if your desire is to help them. How you can help them will be revealed to you. It will just come, in some way. Maybe on the TV there will be a fund that you can contribute to, or something, but your desire will be fulfilled. host: This is a question from Tom in Montreal, Canada. He says, “Mexicans are going through similar events that the community in Virginia went through a few months ago, with mine workers being trapped. How can we pray for those hundreds of relatives and friends who are waiting for those miners to walk out of that nightmare?”

Cindy: The same way that we were praying for those in Virginia—we don’t stop. And we should be getting better at it because of Virginia—our thought should be, I would feel, more immediate and more effective, so that these types of disasters cease.

So to me, it’s a call upon us for our prayers to be more effective, for us to be able to see through that disaster to the point that we can see God’s face right in the midst of that. So if God’s face is right in the midst of that, that vision would be whatever needs from a human standpoint—maybe there are things there that need to change, regulations, policies that need to change—that those will come to light. And they will be implemented, and then there will be a change, and then that won’t happen in the future.

So it’s a complete plan. It isn’t just working about the mines, that they have better safety regulations, but it’s also those relatives that are waiting for them to come out. And then if they don’t come out, there’s the grief and the sorrow. It’s to be able to see, again, that the Comforter is there and the Comforter is revealing itself to everyone that’s there. In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy says, “The poor suffering heart needs its rightful nutriment, such as peace, patience in tribulation, and a priceless sense of the dear Father’s loving-kindness.” That, again, is that oil and wine being poured into that situation in Mexico. host: Thank you. This one is from Fred in New Hampshire, and he’s saying, “Rebuilding communities can be difficult, especially if there are many different agendas present. How do you coordinate everyone’s plans toward one goal? How do you maintain the harmony?” That’s a good question.

Cindy: Well, number one, you’re not maintaining the harmony, God is. host: Touché!

Cindy: And you’re bringing your harmony with you, and so you become the neutralizer. And so instead of looking at the friction and the inharmony and the confusion and misunderstanding, you’re bringing your view to the table from a spiritual standpoint—from that vision that Nehemiah had, you’re building there. And so what you are bringing with you has to have an impact, has to make a difference. You’re seeing something different.

You can’t see harmony and peace and joy and true brotherhood, and then also see conflict and division and separation. You can’t hold to two opinions at the same time, so you have to choose which one. And again, it’s that devotion of thought to an honest achievement that makes the achievement possible. If you desire to bring healing or freedom or brotherhood to that situation, then those angel messages are going to come to you, and they’re going to be revealed to you in a way that you can see the change that’s taking place right where you are. And then you’ll continue until it’s permanent, until it’s complete.

I continued with my next-door neighbor until it was complete. I didn’t stop until there was a definite change. And she became my friend. And she helped me. I remember when I had a flat tire, I called her, and she came to get me. She became my friend. It wasn’t just, Okay, Michael can play with my son. She became my friend. host: That is a big difference.

Cindy: Yes. host: Well, speaking of families and family demands, Eduardo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, says, “When I try to help members of my community with prayer or similar assistance, I too frequently find that my desire to help has been used to manipulate me into material assistance—money or something like that. How do you handle this type of situation?”

Cindy: Again, as you’re going up—and the clarity of your thought and your motives and the purity of your thought—you couldn’t possibly be taken advantage of, you couldn’t possibly be manipulated, because you’re listening. You’re listening to Mind, you’re listening to God. And so He isn’t going to have you do something that isn’t right, for you or for them. And this, again, we’re going up. And I would say the mud is that there’s a manipulator out there.

All these pictures of man from a material standpoint, need to be changed. The first chapter of Genesis shows a spiritual view of creation. That murky view of man is not in the first view of creation. And as we begin to go up and to see man as totally spiritual and are able to define, What does that mean?—that’s integrity.

What I hear you saying is, There’s a lack of integrity, there’s a lack of honor. And that lack of honor and integrity is there. But honor and integrity are there, are present. Maybe you can’t see it because of the mud, so we need to wash that mud off until the true view, the true identity, shines forth and that’s what you’re seeing. So that’s your spiritual building—restoring to its original. Restoration, regeneration. You’re going up.

That woman next door to me, I would say, if I were to share how they treated us, that you would say that that person was a racist. But you never heard me say those words, because I never saw her that way. I would never see anybody that way. I would never call anyone that. I would only see the highest.

And what you’re seeing is what you’re going to receive. If you’re seeing what’s true, then what’s true is going to come back to you. And if it’s not evident today, you don’t stop. You keep building and building and building, and then you become so confident and so assured that under the mud is the perfect child of God, is the loving, caring child of God. Somebody needs to wash away the mud. host: That’s great. Jean in Auburn, California, says, “How can we get past the political polarization? Even in our letters to the editor, name-calling and rancor seem to be dominating over the issues and finding solutions.” More mud washing needed, huh?

Cindy: It’s all the same. It’s our ability to go up, and to say, I’m building, and I’m not going to come down to that level. You’re not avoiding it. You’re not turning aside like the priest or the Levite. You are looking at it, but you are doing something to it. That’s the difference. The priest and the Levite did nothing. They didn’t want to have any part of it. But the Samaritan did something about it. I’m sure he was a different person, and I’m sure that Nehemiah was a different person in the end—because the building went on within them. And it was evidenced outwardly.

So if we’re looking at the name-calling, if we’re looking at this in the newspaper and on the TV, or whatever, it’s still coming to us as an opportunity for us to go up and to say, I’m going to put a different brick up. I’m going to see a different quality. I’m going to see man totally clothed in his rightful mind, loving, including righteousness, right thinking, right acting. That’s restoration. host: Daisy, who’s writing from the West Coast says—this is sort of a comment, actually—“Do you think perhaps that Nehemiah’s weapon in one hand and tool in the other could be representing his mental defense, which denied any negative influence, plus his positive tool which affirmed his confidence in God’s protection?”

Cindy: I would say so. He was working at it. He was building. And that tool of putting on and seeing the completion of that task, but also seeing that there wasn’t any opposition, and that this spiritual building could come to fruition. And isn’t this what all those comments and those questions are saying? They’re really yearning—the one who wants to buy the house in Shreveport—for fulfillment, fruition. That’s what they want. In New Orleans, Harriet—it’s fruition, fulfillment, completion. Everybody, that’s what they’re saying.

But that’s all part of being the child of God. We include fulfillment. We include that perfect, complete state of being that has everything. As we see that about ourselves, it isn’t just for ourselves, it’s for the world. And the world is hungering for that view. And as we can pour that view, that oil and wine, on our day-to-day problems and our day-to-day issues that confront us.

Then we’re binding up those thoughts, those criticisms, those condemnations. We’re binding them; we’re burning them. And if they’re burned, there isn’t any place present for them to be seen. And the place one’s seeing them, shall see that no more.

And so your confidence rises, too. I can imagine that Nehemiah’s confidence level had risen at the end of the 52 days.

I would imagine that he was stronger at the end of 52 than he was on day one. And I would encourage everyone to build and to build. Maybe get a journal and write down the ideas that are coming and the challenges that you’re confronted with—and the date.

And then look back five days later and say, Where are you today in the view that you had on day one? Day 52 would have to be entirely different than day one. And that would give you such a storehouse, such a staff to lean on. So that when something came up—like in Shreveport, when they can’t seem to come to agreement—I’m sure in your storehouse of experience in praying to God, you would have many experiences where the confusion and the disagreements just fell. And so you can go back and lean on that, and say, It happened then, so it will happen now. It’s our assurance that allows the obstacles and the limitations and the restrictions to fall, because we’re so convinced of the solution. Nehemiah was convinced of the solution. host: That’s really helpful. Susan in Boston is writing, “Do you have a favorite story of seeing community rebuilding happen in your own experience, working with The Mother Church?”

Cindy: Yes. I have lots of stories. Don’t have time for all those stories. But the most favorite story is Rosie’s Place. I had given two lectures for the Peace Institute, and the fliers had gone out electronically to all the churches and all the organizations in Boston.

And there was a woman at Rosie’s Place that saw the flier, and she called me up, and said, “I just saw your flier about this lecture that you’re giving on overcoming anger and retaliation and replacing them with peace and harmony.” And she said, “I can’t come, but I’m wondering—we’re getting ready to do an interfaith, healing service, and I’m wondering if you’d be a part of it.”

That was a connection. I didn’t even know her, but she saw the flier, and she felt like that she wanted me to be a part of this interfaith event. So I said yes. And for the next two months, we worked together. There were Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, and Baptists, and Rosie’s Place. host: And Rosie’s place is…

Cindy: A homeless shelter. host: Was it for women?

Cindy: Yes, for women. And then, there was also a program for those struggling with alcohol. And it included Jewish women. So we were part of this interfaith healing service.

A man at the service stood up and said that he had been struggling with alcohol for the last 15 years, that he was a recovering alcoholic. And he talked about how he had stopped drinking and how he was overcoming it. And he said, “It’s a disease that I’m working to control.” And there were other people that participated.

Then it was my turn. I stood up, and I shared how I had been healed of [using illegal] drugs. And the significance of saying that over 25 years ago, I had been healed of drugs. I wasn’t recovering from drugs, it had been healed, I had been set free of it. And because I had been set free of it through prayer, I was now going out and helping others to be set free of it also. I can’t tell you what an impact that had on the audience.

There were over 60 people. And for them to come up afterward and to thank me, and to say, “You’ve given me hope that I can be set free of this,” that one incident—I mean, there were others, but that one incident of being right in the midst of community. I was in community, and I was building bridges. I was helping them to see that it isn’t that you’re recovering from something, and then you’re struggling with it, and you’re going to struggle with it all your life, but you’ve been set free of it. And that was what they needed to hear. host: That’s really great. We’re running close to the end of our time, but we’re going to extend it a little bit, so we can answer about four more questions.

This one is from someone who hasn’t given his or her name, but is in Eugene, Oregon, and the writer is saying, “How does one address spiritually what would appear to be cultural incompetence, that is, statements and behaviors that seem to perpetuate old stereotypes? Unfortunately, we live in a very ethnically homogeneous city that has been historically racially homogenous. Is there a way we can get past the politically-correct way of interacting with persons who appear to differ from us phenotypically? As a person of color, I pray about this daily. But I’m finding that though I don’t want to, I’m feeling alone and somewhat alienated.”

Cindy: It goes back to everything that I’ve said. It’s spiritual identity. I’ll go back to my experience. If I really had believed about the person next to me that there was a difference in the way God loved us—that she was white and I was black, and so God loved her more because she was white and me less because I was black, I acted a different way than she did, or had a different mind than she did, whatever, or that I had less than she had, and she had more—I couldn’t have brought healing, I couldn’t have brought restoration to that situation, because I would still have been looking at it from a lower level, a human level. I would still have been seeing flaws and inadequacies. We’re always going to see that when we look at man from a human standpoint.

When we go up and see man from a spiritual standpoint, it’s a different view, it’s a different experience. And that eliminates all the barriers. It just eliminates it. You just feel so connected.

I was in Guatemala—and I’m not fluent enough in Spanish to say that I could go there and just start talking. But I was with a host family and wanted to be able every day to speak a little bit more to them when I had my meals with them. But there wasn’t any distinction. It wasn’t like, They’re Guatemalans, and I’m an African-American woman. We were all breaking bread together. But do you know why? Because that’s the way I see myself.

So if I had gone there and was thinking that the culture wasn’t racially diverse, and I was alienated and separated, then that’s what I would have found. And maybe even if I hadn’t been thinking that, even if they had been thinking that, I would have to accept it in order to experience it. And I guess that’s the key: even though Nehemiah knew that there were people—Sanballat and Tobiah—out there to do him harm, and they asked him to go and meet them at Ono, he said no. He didn’t come down to that human level.

And so wherever we find ourselves, as we refuse to go down to that human view of creation, but we keep building to that spiritual view of creation, that’s what we experience.

I grew up in an all-white neighborhood, where there were race riots all the time. At four years old, to have my sister and brother come home from school talking about race riots wasn’t a good thing. But you would never hear from me, or feel from me, that I feel in any way victimized, or that I was subject to that while I was growing up and even as an adult, because I don’t see that. I see that those experiences forced me to see who I am. I know who I am, spiritually. And when I go in any different setting—to travel the world and feel so comfortable, so welcomed, that’s the outcome of this spiritual building that has taken place within me.

In Eugene I refused to come down, in each case. I could have come down. I could have been injured, could have been hurt, could have had a pity party, could have been angry, but each time I went up and up and up. And it took me up, and it gave me a mastery. I feel such a mastery over that challenge of racism, or challenge of race. It just isn’t in me. It just isn’t there.

I see man spiritually. And I see myself that way. And that’s how I’m treated. So when we see who we are, and we are happy with who we are, that determines how we’re treated. It isn’t outside. It’s within us. And when we can see that, and we feel so good, we’re not going to give it away. You’re not going to come down. You’re going to keep building and building those bricks until you become so secure—and happy—that right there in Eugene, you’re just leaping with joy, because the barriers have fallen. Those barriers have fallen because of your vision. host: Thank you. This one is from Karen in California, and it’s a little bit complex, so I’m just going to give the high points here. “Our community’s ministerial association has some members that want to change the bylaws in ways that others can’t approve of.” And what seems to have happened is that they’ve broken up into factions and people are dismayed by that. And she’s saying, “How can this group resolve their differences and work together for their community?”

Cindy: Love. Come together and realize, okay, what is it that binds us? What is it that unites us? And write down everything that unites you, and then build on that. And that will eliminate the factions. That will eliminate this sense of being fragmented. And you will see the oneness return, because the oneness is there. So again, you’re building on that oneness, and not on the fact that there are many aspects of dissension, but you’re building on the oneness, which is love.

The good Samaritan just loved. And if that love is in our consciousness, if that love is within us, and that love is overflowing, then pour on the oil and the wine in your church. Just keep pouring it in and pouring it in and pouring it in, until there’s nothing left for you to pour in. Love heals. host: Thank you. Wendy’s in Riverside, and she says, “In the community of family, I find times when I have to aggressively address bad actions my teenagers take. It comes out as anger, and then I feel guilty. I remember that Jesus got angry at the moneychangers, but I also know that love is a better way to handle things. How can I overcome this confusion?”

Cindy: Well, Love is going to communicate. And Love is going to communicate to you, Wendy, when you see that child the way God made them. Then you’ll communicate to that child. But when we’re seeing the flaws and the bad behavior and the attitudes, it’s a reaction. But when we can know the truth so clearly, so firmly, that has an impact. Sometimes we forget that the power of prayer is effective; that it doesn’t need communication sometimes.

I remember hearing something about my granddaughter that was very troubling to me. And for a whole month, I just prayed every day. I never said a word to her, I never said a word to my son or his wife about it. I just knew for that whole month what was true about her.

And when she came to see me for Thanksgiving, and I asked her about the situation, she said, “Oh, I’m not doing that any more. That’s over.” That was it. But it was my steadfastness, it was my devotion of thought to an honest achievement. What did it do for me? It regenerated me to see, What was I believing in her? What was I seeing in her? Was I seeing what was true in the first chapter of Genesis? Or was I seeing what was in the second chapter—the mud view? And so, I refused to do that.

It’s hard when we’re face-to-face with our children, our teenagers. It’s hard, and I understand that. And so God is going to give you the strength not to react, but to go up, and to pour in the oil and the wine until all that behavior is just turned around and changed. host: Great. Well, we have just two more now. This is from Tammy in Arizona, and in a way it relates to what you’ve just been talking about. She says, “How can I pray for some youth today who seem to be relying on drugs and alcohol and so forth, to find their own sense of place in the community or society?”

Cindy: You know, kids nowadays do drugs and alcohol for a lot of different reasons—peer pressure, it’s the norm, it’s expected of them. But again, our spiritual building is seeing the false view of a teenager. It’s looking at that teenager and saying, “Is this the prodigal son gone out, or the prodigal son come back?” I would prefer to see the prodigal son come back, when he was restored to his senses.

And so, it’s up to us to see that these kids, the youth, haven’t gone off on their own to a far-off country and they’re rebelling. But to see that they’re clothed in their rightful mind. A child—receptivity, teachableness. To go back and to write down, to build. What does it look like? What are those bricks? What do they symbolize? What are those qualities? Those are the qualities that you’re seeing for the youth—that’s proper identification.

Those youths are going to thank you a hundredfold in the end, because somebody needs to see them correctly. And the majority of the world is seeing youth from a very negative standpoint. So somebody needs to see them from that higher view that Nehemiah had. host: That’s great. And finally, this is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Rebecca, who says she’s grateful for the topic, and she says, “Our church is located in San Therese on an area where many old wooden houses had been expropriated by the government, and hew high-rises, very expensive, are going to be built. We as a church have been seeing these people who have to leave the place they have lived all their lives.” She says, “You have inspired me to see the situation differently. Thank you.” So we’re just really grateful to you, Rebecca, for letting us know. And we know that, like Nehemiah, you and your fellow church members are going to find a good answer. Isn’t that right, Cindy?

Cindy: Yes. host: Well, Cindy, we’re really grateful to you for spending this extra time with us and for sharing these wonderful ideas. And before we go, Cindy, did you have anything else you’d like to add, or have we said what we need to say?

Cindy: I would encourage everybody out there to become a Nehemiah and a good Samaritan together—to just join forces to realize that the steadfastness and the vision that Nehemiah had, coupled with love and compassion, is a good team. And when we can implement that on a daily basis, it’s a powerhouse. And the world, and your communities, and your neighborhoods need that vision and that love. And as you are expressing that love wherever you go, every place you go is going to be so blessed because of that vision. host: Thank you so much. And thanks to all of you who’ve joined us, for your prayers, for your good questions, and for participating with us this day.

Citations mentioned in this chat:

Science and Health:
King James Bible:
Neh. 1:1-11
Neh. 2:1-20
Neh. 3:1-32
Neh. 4:1-23
Neh. 6:1-19
Neh. 7:1-73
Luke 10:25-37
Neh. 2:18 Let
Luke 10:33 came (to 🙂
Luke 10:34 his wounds,35
Matt. 10:26 there
Isa. 9:6 and the (to 2nd 🙂
Neh. 6:3 I am
Matt. 5:9
Rom. 8:28 all (to ,)
Gen. 1:1-31
Gen. 1:31 (to .)
Mal. 2:10 (to 2nd ?)
Luke 15:11-32 A

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June 24, 2008


The time to love is now

Cindy Neely

At the end of his music video supporting victims of Hurricane Katrina, activist and songwriter Stevie Wonder said, “A time to love can’t be just a project—it must be a promise.”

That’s a profound statement to commit to and live by. It is a pledge we can fulfill daily when we genuinely love our neighbors.

My involvement with the Boston community gave me new insights into how to live love, to see the value of spirituality, and to become part of the solution to challenges around me. I needed to see my next-door neighbor’s need, and also to discover how a spiritual approach would meet those needs.

I visited a homeless shelter for women, some of whom were my mother’s age. Meeting those women really tugged at my heartstrings. I learned about the restrictions and economic discrimination my neighbors faced as they struggled to find affordable housing. Racism, youths killing other youths, and families devastated by this always-senseless act were other burdens on residents.

I began to see that I could help my community find solutions through my prayers and volunteer efforts.

Love is at the heart of community.

I quickly realized that love is at the heart of community, and that our interactions with each other make love real and viable. Sometimes we can go right past unhealthy and unhappy situations and never notice what’s actually wrong because we’re so involved in our own concerns.

Living love, however, wakes us up to these needs and encourages us to offer a helping hand. This is what I felt I needed to do.

The daily study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures had been an active part of my life for what seemed like eons, but now I was striving to learn how to bring this spiritual understanding into my community work.

Gradually, I lost my fear of not knowing how to make my prayers real and practical. I began to feel deeply that prayer isn’t effective unless you have evidence that shows you it’s working.

One statement that kept coming to me to ponder was, “The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good.”

I was committed to do more.

These ideas are from Mary Baker Eddy’s book, Science and Health. With an earnest commitment to do more, I reached out to divine Love to show me how to unite and love—in one grand brotherhood—with the citizens of Boston.

I realized that nurturing spiritually means seeing and perceiving God’s children as being completely loved, cared for, innocent, pure, all expressing the equality and integrity of Principle. I daily cherished these ideas as I attended interfaith and other organizational meetings.

Every day I prayed this way. And little by little, I began to see changes take place. Sometimes it was a recognition of my presence as a Christian Scientist at a meeting, while other times the organization or church would ask me to open the meeting by leading them in prayer. Many times I felt people were acknowledging the spiritual solutions I brought with me to the meeting.

I brought a sense of God’s presence to every meeting.

To me, God isn’t far away, but is close at hand, and so in my prayers I tried to bring the sense of God’s presence to every meeting or event I attended.

One day, a woman at a local shelter called to ask if I would be willing to participate in an interfaith healing service. This invitation was the practical proof of my prayers to make a genuine connection with the community.

That service was unique because many organizations and other churches participated, and Christian Science was acknowledged and recognized as an active community presence. The service brought us all together, respecting each other, and trusting the Father-Mother of us all to keep us safe and to end conflict.

We had gone beyond making love a project—it really had become a promise, and we were keeping it!

It’s a wonderful thing to feel loved and connected to the people who live and work around us. Our human efforts for improving conditions in our community, our desire for everyone’s safety and well-being, and our prayers toward achieving this can make a difference. It begins with an awareness of our neighbors’ needs, and it is proof of our commitment to live love.

Today, when I see a need in Chicago, or any other city I happen to be visiting, I find once again that the time to love is now. It doesn’t matter where you are or what time zone you’re in. So let’s just do it!

A life of love:

Science and Health:
King James Bible:
Matt. 22:39
James 2:14-17

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