Advent and A New Beginning

Advent and A New Beginning

Sermon by Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Lynch

November 27, 2016

First Unitarian Church of Honolulu


This is a sermon about creating a new beginning. We are a liberal / progressive community in a liberal / progressive state but on the day after November 8, 2016—the American election day for the 45th President of the United States—our community became painfully aware that we also exist in a country of two visions for our nation’s future and our vision lost. In this sermon, I will call our vision Progressive and I will call the 2016 winning vision Populist.



For those in the Progressive Vision, we immediately entered what the Washington Post author Alexandra Petri called “The Five Stages of Trump Grief,” which are represented in this sermon by the five Advent candles. Like Kebler-Ross stages of grief, Petri’s first stage is DENIAL, which you may have felt this month. Most of us have said to ourselves and our significant others that this election result cannot be happening. After that initial overwhelming thought, you may have rationalized that we will be fine. Then, you also said maybe Trump really did not mean what he said. Then, you were overcoming with a trance that in some cases lasted a day or two. Then, as you came out of the trance, you realized that he won and he will do almost all of what he said he would do. Then, perhaps you said, “How could someone like him possibly win the electoral college vote?” But he did!

Petri’s second stage is BARGAINING. Did you say to yourself and others that “Maybe, somehow the political process can negotiate with him and it will not be so bad.” Then you recalled that his party now controls both chambers of the Congress and will soon also control the Supreme Court. Bargaining seems remote but you say to yourself it must somehow happen.

Her third stage of Trump Grief is ANGER. Maybe you demonstrated as did people in fifty cities in the United States. Or perhaps you shouted encouragement to the protesters on your television screen. You felt anger and you kept asking, “How could I have been so wrong.” The polls told you that your champion would win and she did win the popular vote by a good margin! But that meant nothing. Is history now moving in the wrong direction? How could those with a Populist Vision, that was so wrong, win the election? How could you be so unwise as to think they could not possibly win? Did you say, “Yes, our country was not perfect before the election but it was at least slowly moving in the correct inevitable direction.” Are you now angry that so many Americans did not even care for our future in that they did not even bother to vote? Are you now angry that what you believed to be the inevitable swing in public policy is not really inevitable any longer in this democracy?

Her fourth stage of Trump Grief is DEPRESSION. Did you say to yourself that maybe I should not even get out of bed and I will pretend that this Trump presidency just does not really exist. Did you mope around your house for days in a strange daze? Did you find yourself crying for no particular reason but you just had to cry? Did you find yourself moving from being quiet to yelling to being quiet again? For days and maybe even weeks, was depression a family activity around you among those who voted?

Her final fifth stage is to not to accept Trump and his policies. As you may recall, Kebler-Ross last stage in grief is to accept the loss and move on. Instead, are you saying, “No, not now, not ever.” Was your rejection filled with questioning how you should manifest your none acceptance? Is wearing a symbol of a safety pin enough? Should you sign petitions? Should you demonstrate more? Should you send letters protesting his appointees? Should you pledge to yourself that in the next elections you will do more to elect a progressive and defeat those populists?



As your minister in front of you today, I am saying Alexandra Petri was correct but she was also not quite right. Yes, she is right that we should not accept the Populist Vision; but, if you believe the Golden Rule should guide your life, she is wrong.  One version of the Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” I believe that neither the progressives nor the populist are fully aware of what the Golden Rule calls on each group to do. Progressives need to become more aware of what drives the populists point of view and then create progressive solutions to their real problems. Populist need to understand that the Golden Rule is not about the “me, my, mine” but is about the “us.” They need to understand, for example, the when they apply the Golden Rule they cannot use zero sum solutions, such as deportation, trade barriers, and oppression of others. In other words, both of us need to embrace and apply the wisdom of the Golden Rule that exists in almost all the world’s religions.

If you look at the U.S. map, the places that voted for Hillary Clinton were primarily along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts—and in our case in the Pacific Ocean–and those places were mostly in non-rural areas. Of note, about half of all Americans now live in urban areas and most of them are located a few miles from either the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. Those facts tell where the heartland of America really exists.

The Obama Administration is correctly proud of the fact that the current American unemployment rates is very near 5%. That is very good when you realize that his administration brought us out of a near depression in record time with strong push-back to his policies continually from the opposition party. However, what helps explain the high Populist vote in the recent election is that while the unemployment rate is only 2.8% for those who have a BA degree or better, the unemployment rate for those without a college degree is 8.0%.

As a person with a PhD in political science, those facts are interesting to me. I can recall a former professor telling me that people do vote rationally but their rationality focuses primarily on their family economic situation. It they think it is worse than it should be, they will vote for the candidate that they think will help them. You know the facts in this election year still bear out his political science wisdom. In general, in the urban areas near the two oceans were financially better off than rural areas not near the two oceans. Why? The answer is mostly related to educational attainment and the simple fact that more educated people get more money and are less likely to be unemployed.

I looked a little closer at the numbers in the few years before this election. The unemployment rate for 20 to 24 year olds was 20% for people with less than high school but only 5% with a BA or better. Rural areas with low education attainment have high levels of poverty and those areas are not very near the populated urban areas of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. In 2013, 29% of those with less than a high school degree lived in rural areas but only 19% live in metro areas.

However, numbers do not tell the whole story. We need to bring it down to the personal level. If you had a high school education and had a family that lived off the production of coal and within a very few years you found your job disappeared, might you feel anger and be depressed? Yes, you and your spouse were able to get another job but with your poor education it paid only half as much as that good coal job.

To make matters worse, immigrant families that were living in the big cities and also working at poor paying jobs realized that in your rural community that the cost of living was much lower. Being rational, they moved in relatively large numbers to your place and were eager to take those low paying jobs that you had to settle for with after the loss of coal jobs. You now had to live with competition from strangers that did not look like you or speak like you. They were so very different from you and your former very comfortable life no longer existed. Both the disappearance of your coal job and the arrival of new immigrants in your space was due to that silly Progressive Vision of clean energy pushed by that minority president.

Ah, but now he is no longer going to be President. You reason that that deadlocked federal government that did away with your job in the name of global warming and allowed those non-Americans to move into your space to take the few low paying jobs from you, your family, and your kind. In this election there was a candidate that is rich, white, but significantly has a Populist View. No other candidate on the Republican side has that view and you vote for him. Sure he is not perfect but he is for real change that should make your life better. In the general election he runs against a white established Progressive who helped create your miserable situation while in the Senate and while as Secretary of State with those treaties that took jobs like yours away to foreign countries. Given you are that person from coal country, how would you vote in the 2016 election?



In this church, most of us call ourselves liberals or progressives. We realize there is global warming and coal is a very large part of the reason why there is global warming. Therefore, stopping electric plants, which are fueled by coal, makes sense to us. Americans must stop digging coal. That is rational. In this church, most of us have a BA degree or better. In fact, the only faith tradition that has a higher educational attainment in America are the Hindus. According to Pew research on religion, our church members have a higher educational attainment then even the Jews. That means per family we are doing alright in terms of family income and social status.

Given our education, we realize that immigrants moving to this country are a significant net economic and cultural plus for our country. Our less educated American compatriots see immigrants as a net loss to their family incomes given that immigrants are in competition for their jobs. When living in Baton Rouge, we had a friend that had MA degree in music education and she really disliked illegal Mexicans immigrants. She said that they come across our border and she is now in competition for jobs with them. My wife asked her how many Mexicans, who illegally came across the border, played the clarinet professionally in the local symphony orchestra? The conversation stopped at that point. I mentioned this to point out that even well-educated citizens can and do hate recent immigrants that do not look like them because they fear them for a variety of reasons that are often irrational.

Let us come back to the Golden Rule that I again stress is a doctrine in almost all religions in the world. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Put yourself into the shoes of a poorly educated person in rural coal country who just lost his job. In that situation, would you want your job eliminated and at the same time have people quite different from you move into your space and maybe even take a low paying job from you? Well, those are types of people who voted for our next president. Can you feel their anger and frustration? Can you begin to understand why it was not so much the person of Hillary Clinton they voted against but rather a person that spoke to their pain. Do not misunderstand me—I am a progressive. However, I think I get why they would vote against a Progressive.

What is the answer to this battle of the Progressives versus the Populist Visions? Let me suggest that the answer is being aware of the other. There are Progressive answers to our fellow Americans in the coal and oil industries of American. There are also Progressive answers to our fellow Americans that work in technologically outdated factories that are being closed and those factory jobs are going away. Those manufacturers stay a few years overseas but eventually they come back to the US to much smaller but higher tech plants that need fewer but more educated employees. America, with only 5% of the world’s population, is the number one nation in terms of manufacturing output in the world today. So what is happening? Technology. Automation and automated plants need very few workers with less than high school education in rural areas.



Let me digress with a little story. There was a modern textile plant in American and it had only two employees: a man and a dog. The job of the man was to feed the dog. The job of the dog was to keep the man away from the machines. Advanced technology requires a few very well educated employees but that technology can produce more products than the old factories of the 1950s and 1960s. And those new products are better and cheaper than the ones produced in those old factories.

Our future means that the less educated coal miners who are losing their jobs will not be alone in the future. The pool of Populists is likely to grow unless Progressives can develop policies that address this growing problem. Making college educated well paid jobs is what Progressives do but Progressives need also to make many jobs for those who only have a high school or less education.

All Americans—Populist and Progressives–need to expand our consciousness awareness level so that we can truly live the Golden Rule. Progressives are good about accepting people of color, gender differences, religious differences, the handicapped, and the poor. We are not so good about seeing a large segment of our population that do have lesser education than ourselves but are otherwise much like us. We simply say that we are doing alright and they simply chose to not get educated. Then we retreat to mix and mingle with ourselves and have our conversations with our like-minded friends. But our view misses the message of the Golden Rule and we do not live it.

My wife and I are in the process of finishing writing a book we called Awakening Consciousness. Clearly, my wife and I believe something is needed to open American minds to understanding the fears and anger that dominates political America today. We need to help awaken consciousness so that Progressive can grasp the Populist Views and Populist will realize that a new and improved inclusive Progressive view will make their lives better. This is the New Beginning or should I say “the Advent” we need to create within ourselves.

Progressives are caring people. We care about non-heterosexuals and we think they should have the right to have jobs, be free of discrimination, be married, and have children. We care about the homeless and believe programs are needed to help them. We care about peoples, who are discriminated against, because of their skin color, who come from other cultures, who are handicapped, who were prisoners, and so on. However, we need also to care about the people being left behind by the globalizing world with its hyper technology. We need to realize that we are the people of the Golden Rule and now there is a another set of people that need our love even if they do not agree with our vision.

What are some progressive solutions to the real problems of our populist Americans? A decent answer to that question goes well beyond this sermon. However, some possibilities can be stated to begin to address that question:



Let me end this sermon with a story that my favorite President—Barack Obama–likes to tell. When he was at the beginning stage of the first primary for running for president, he happened to be in South Carolina sitting next to potential Democratic voter. He did the political “ask” of saying. “I would appreciate your vote for me.” She said, “I would if you visit my town of Greenville, South Carolina.” Knowing every vote counts, he said, “YES, of course I will visit Greenville.”

A few months later he was again going to be in South Carolina and his staff set him up to fulfill his promise. On a very stormy day a few weeks later, his plane landed in Columbus around mid-night after a long day of campaigning. He was tired and exhausted as his aide took him to his hotel. But just before he entered his room for some much needed sleep, his aide said that to get to Greenville for the promised meeting, he had to get up at 4:30 AM. The drive to Greenville took 3 hours and he needed to be there for an 8 AM campaign meeting. His alarm went off and exhaustedly he got dressed and his aide took him to their rental car. His aide drove through the rain on two lane roads while he tried unsuccessfully to nap.

Finally, they arrived in rain soon after the sun came up and they saw a very small town with a few two story buildings. Eventually, the aide found the meeting place and the presidential candidate got soaked getting into the building to see about twenty not very excited possible supporters waiting to hear him speak. At the back of the room was a middle aged not particularly impressive lady with a gold front tooth. He was introduced and he gave his normal stump speech to a very listless group. When he finished, he noticed a little recognition from the group.

Then the gold tooth lady said, “Fired Up” and the group said “Fired Up.” The chant went on and got louder. And the presidential candidate started to feel something and he realized that he was getting Fired Up. Then the gold tooth lady said, “Ready to Go!” and the group said “Ready to Go.” And the new chant repeated itself many time. When they were finished candidate Omaha was Ready to Go and he did go on to win the nomination and eventually to become the 44th President of the United States.

Now my answer to the Trump Grief is that chant. We will raise our consciousness and hear our fellow Americans. We will improve our Progressive Views to include their feelings and find for them Progressive solutions to their problems. Why? Because we are Fired Up and Ready to Go. Please stand up and repeat with me the first chant: “Fired Up.” Now the said chant: “Ready to Go.”


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