Saturday, April 28, 2012

The War on Women - Silent No Longer!

Silence No Longer
Rev. Aaron R. Payson
Saturday, April 28, 2012 
War on Women Rally
City Hall, Boston, MA
               My name is Aaron Payson, son of Marcia, husband of Kristen, father of Morgaine and Charlie.  I am also a minister to scores of women, men and their families at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester and a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington, D.C..  I am here today to categorically proclaim that religion, reproductive freedom and economic justice are not an oxymoron. As a person of deep faith and a professional religious leader, I know that the decisions related to family planning and economic welfare are deeply sacred. I am here too because I have faith in women to know when and how and if they wish to bring children into this world.  I believe we are here today to proclaim that very same message.  It would seem, however, that “religion” has been synonymous with the voices of those who deny the moral authority of women; those who claim “life” as though it begins at conception and ends with birth; who pit the human family against itself by denying the full personhood of those already in existence and will continue to do so unless people of conscience and faith proclaim and demand a different vision of justice.
               Today, my vision is that of Miriam, sister of Moses, who the Hebrew scriptures say was struck silent by the Divine for disobedience.  What if we got it wrong? What if this was written by those in power in order to protect their power?  What if, instead, as a number of women religious scholars like Rabbi Ruth Sohn of Los Angeles have suggested, she was silenced because she spoke for other women in her community, women like the Tzipporah, the Cushite wife of Moses.  What if the efforts to demand the just treatment of women and families was part of a conspiracy to silence such voices by those in charge?  Shall we follow the lead of those who seek to silence women?  Shall we take as gospel the notion of feminine subservience?  I implore you not to be silent!  When those we elect to represent us in government and those we entrust with religious authority demand our silence, in order to enact laws and doctrines which treat women in this country and world as second-class citizens who are incapable of claiming the full power of their citizenship and discipleship, we shall not remain silent!  When those in power refuse to admit the full humanity of women of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and ability, we shall not remain silent!  When those who govern us refuse to recognize the right of health care, including the right to contraceptive coverage, abortion and family planning services, we shall not remain silent!  When those in the religious institutions strive to high-jack the term “life”, we shall not remain silent.  When the those who claim religious exemptions from their civic duty to provide the full range of health care services to employees, students and their families, we shall not remain silent.  When politicians bank on religion to protect their bias, bigotry and bad theology, we shall not remain silent, and we will vote! And I have a message for Speaker Boehner. . .we will not give you a break!  The war on women is real.  It was not concocted by political liberal but by your political allies.  And the idea that we fund the status quo for student loan rates by defunding family planning services is morally indefensible!
               Today, let us proclaim to those who seek our silence that we will shout from the roof-tops our demand for justice and reproductive freedom.  For our mothers, our sisters, our wives and our daughters. For our fathers, brothers, and sons.  We have a voice, we will use it.  We will not be silent!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Heralds of Joy
A Christmas Dialogue by Rev. Aaron Payson

A recent archeological survey uncovered an as yet unknown ancient manuscript containing an illuminating conversation between two of Hebrew and Christian scripture’s most important personalities.  The following has been translated to date.

Gabriel, my most beloved, trusted friend, come in, come in.  Please have a seat.

Thanks. . .um, Michael said your message was urgent, and I figure if its urgent for you, must be urgent for all of us.  What’s up?”

Well. . .um. . .how do I say this. . .I. . I’m in a bit of a predicament.

You. . .in a predicament.  That’s rich.  Oh I get it. . .Did Satan put you up to this.  That little narc!  He’s always trying to get me in trouble.  I tried to tell him that I said “Gosh Darn” but would he listen. . . Noooooooo.  But its true, that’s what I said.  Ask anybody.  Ask Michael.  Wait till I see him next week.  I’ve got a itch to give him a piece of my mind.  Little tattle tale. 

No, no, no, Satan has nothing to do with this.  This is something, just between you and me see.  No one else knows yet, and I don’t want them to know yet.  So I have a special job for you.

Great!  What is it.  Want me to smite someone. . .rain down hail and fire. . .givem the old what for, so to speak.

Noooooo, now listen.  I need you to make a couple of house calls for me. 

House calls?  Why?   WHAT DID YOU DO?

Well I tell you.  But swear you won’t tell anyone else.

(whispers in ear).

Uhum, okay, yes, WHAT!  You didn’t!  How could you!  She’s supposed to marry soon!  What will the neighbors think!   How many times do we have to tell you not to play around down there!  It’s not Disneyland you know!

I wasn’t playing.  And you’ve got it all wrong.  I’m involved every time a child is born.  It’s all holy.  But this one, there’s something about this one that’s unique.  Not that they aren’t all unique and wonderful in their own way.  But this one. . .This one’s got an old soul.  Something rare.  He’s got it in him to spin a story so well, and so beautifully, that it’ll make your heart burst from your chest.  And like so many others before him, he’s got integrity, and wisdom beyond his years.  In fact he’s got the capacity to be present to others that I’ll bet they’ll swear he healed them right there on the spot. 

Isn’t this a bit dangerous.  I mean, what if Herod finds out.  What if Caesar gets wind of this new dreamer? How’s it going to look when the powers that be come crashing down on him.

Haven’t thought that one through all the way yet.  Want to give him a chance to love them first.  That’s where you come in.

Right. . .where do I come in.

Right now.  I want you to go down there and tell his mother and father that a baby’s coming.  Let them know who special this one is.  Give them a sense of their place in this miracle.

Right. . .well, wrong. . .not that you’re wrong, but I think you’ve go the wrong guy.  This sounds more like a job for Michael.  Remember the last time you sent me out.  Daniel, I think that’s what is name was?  I much better explaining things rationally.  If your confused.  I’m the guy.  But I don’t like this sentimental stuff.  Besides.  Every time I show up I scare the daylights out of someone.  I don’t like it.

But that’s why I choose you.   Seems to me that we need a bit of reason in all of this, and someone whose had some experience dealing with others in difficult times.  Besides, this is a skill that might suit you to learn.

What skill?



Presence. . .all you need to do is deal gently with them. They are already frightened.  Young, about to be married, now with child, and no real place to call home.  Go.  Remind them that they are not alone.  Remind them of how precious they are.  Let them know that whatever happens I’m with them.   And then just stand with them.  Surround them with all the joy you can muster.

Joy. . .what’s joy?  I’m certain I recognize confusion and can be compassionate.  But joy, that’s something entirely different.

Joy, my friend, is a feeling of fullness.  A feeling of gratitude, love, ecstasy, all wrapped up into one sensual feeling.  It is being so full of life that you can’t get that manna eating grin off your face.  It is remembering, in the face of all that would rob you of memory, of dreams and hope, where you come from, what you are for and whose you are.   It is that feeling that takes you beyond the things of life, to the core of your existence, and there it lights a fire that burns with the intensity of unfathomable fire.

Oh, I get it, right.  Joy.  Happiness rit large.

Not just happiness.  Unconquerable happiness.  Happiness that transcends any given worry, hurt, fear, or frustration.  Its about the heart of things.

Like I said, maybe Michael’s the one you want for this.  I don’t really think. . .

Look, would it help if didn’t go alone?

You mean I could take. . .

Take the whole blooming choir if you want.  Make it a party.  Enjoy each other.  Remind them that its important to share joy with those you love, friends, family, neighbors, strangers you meet in the marketplace.  Remind them that they too can be angels unawares.

O.K. then.  Whose first on your list?


Really. . .don’t you think she already knows? 

She’s probably got an inkling. But I want her to know, in spite of her confusion, she’s not alone and what she’s about is holy business.

Whose next?


Ouch.  Really.  Don’t you think he’s going to freak out a bit.  I mean, wouldn’t you?

Well, perhaps, but he’s a bit of a hot head sometimes (aren’t we all).  I think he’ll come around.


Then, if you have time, the shepherds.  If not, send the choir.  Shepherd’s love music.

So about this tendency to frighten people.  What do you recommend.

How about.  “Be not afraid.”  Tell them straight from the start you mean them no harm.

You think that’ll work?

Probably not.  Fear’s a natural response to unexpected experiences.  They’ll learn to trust you if you continue to be present with them.  A company them for a while, let them know they’re not alone.  Give’m an excuse to play their instruments and join in the singing.  You know.  Play with them.  Enjoy the experience with them.

We’ll alrighty then.  Guess I, we, should get started.  Anything else? 

On your way home, pick up some Arabic coffee.  I get the feeling this is going to be a long night.