On Tuesday, November 7, 2006 the United States of America went to the polls. On the very next Sunday, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, California for the Sunday Morning Service. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Something remarkable happened this week. I’m sure you all know that the Democrats now have taken control – that’s an interesting idea, the Democrats will take control – of the House of Representatives. What that means is that they will have a majority of the Representatives. I believe the current figures are the Democrats will have 229 Representatives and the Republicans will have 196 Representatives. So the Democrats actually have a large majority
We have two chambers of Congress. We have the House of Representatives and we have the Senate. The Democrats also, by a very slim margin, now have a majority of Senators. There is some dispute as to how this should be counted because there is an Independent Senator, but it is currently thought that the Democrats will have 51 Senators versus the Republicans who will have 49. There is a discussion about the former Democrat, Joe Lieberman, who ran and won as an Independent and what that means. Still, the Democrats now have a majority in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate and this is the first time it has been this way in a long time – twelve years. People are talking about what this change means. What shift in perception is this? What does it all mean?
Along with these results is another interesting thing. Nancy Pelosi, who is the women you see on the front cover of the program (and this *Miracles Monthly*) , is currently the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. She’s a Democrat. She was voted to be the House Democratic Leader in 2002, making history by being the first woman ever to hold such a position in either party. She currently is still the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives because until the new Representatives take office in January the Democrats still are in the minority. She will probably become the Speaker of the House when the House reconvenes in January, 2007. She will most likely be elected by the whole House, especially since the Democrats will hold a majority of the House at that time. She will most likely be elected as the person who will preside over the House of Representatives. This is a very powerful position. If this indeed does happen, and most people believe that it will happen, she will be the first woman ever to preside over the House. She will be the first person ever to be addressed, “Madame Speaker.” This is a significant thing.
Those of you who were here a number of weeks ago, on August 27, 2006, will remember I gave a lecture about Hillary Clinton possibly running for President of the United States and how the country was accepting this. (Rev. Tony holds up the program from that service that has a photo of Hillary Clinton on the front.) A cover article in Time magazine that week merely talked about Hillary Clinton the Senator, her pluses and minuses, but nowhere in the article was there any mention about the significance of her being a woman and the breakthrough that her running would be. It was just accepted. Now we have another powerful woman who will most likely be Speaker of the House. The shift is that women are coming into their own. It’s very accepted. It’s noted and accepted and it’s the right time. It’s certainly the time for women to emerge as political leaders and the people easily accepting this.
Nancy Pelosi is the Representative from the eighth California district. This district includes most of San Francisco but not all of San Francisco. If you look on the program (and the cover of this *Miracles Monthly*) you’ll see a little map. (Rev. Tony holds up the program which has a map on the cover.) The green area is the eighth district which includes, of course, all the downtown area and the area that we, the Community Miracles Center, reside in. She is our Representative. She the Community Miracles Center’s Representative. The Community Miracles Center doesn’t vote but she is the Representative for this area which is also the area that I personally live and vote in. She’s my Representative,
Here’s a little more information about Nancy Pelosi. She was born Nancy D’Alesandro in 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was born into a political family. Others from her family have been in politics. She moved to San Francisco in the sixties after marrying Paul Pelosi. She has five children. She has five grandchildren. She first ran for the Senate in 1987 which happens to be the year we formed the Community Miracles Center, almost 20 years ago. She has been reelected to the Senate nine times. She’s a very senior Senator. She usually gets more than 80% of the vote when she runs. In fact she gets so much of the vote and she is so assured that she’s actually going to get in, she doesn’t campaign at all for her elections. (laughter)
However, she is a strong campaigner, but not for herself. In her tenure she has campaigned in 30 different states and in 90 different districts for other Democratic candidates who weren’t as much of a shoe in. She’s a very active campaigner – but not for herself because she doesn’t need to campaign for herself. This is an interesting thing for me and it answers an important question, “How does one get in power?” Answer, “By helping others get in power.” How did Nancy Pelosi become the House Minority Leader, by helping many of the other people in her party win their elections along with her many other achievements. It is her support for her party, she’s a great politician, that got her to be the Minority Leader and probably, soon, will make here Speaker of the House. This is a great demonstration of the A Course In Miracles principle, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” (W-pI.108) She gives power; she receives power.
Another one of the reasons she doesn’t have to campaign is that the district she is in, California District Eight, our district, is one of the most solidly Democratic districts in the entire country. There are only 13% registered Republicans in this district. She, of course, has had to win the nomination from other Democrats.
When it was becoming possible for Nancy Pelosi to actually emerge as the Speaker of the House of Representatives because the Democrats would take the House and she might become Speaker, a lot of the people who comment about politics – some of the more right wing commentators and there are certainly plenty of these conservatives – were saying that it was scary. It was scary that Nancy Pelosi might become Speaker of the House. I remember hearing, “Nancy Pelosi with her San Francisco values ...” “San Francisco values” were talked about in a derogatory manner*1 – like those were scary values. What are scary San Francisco values? (laughter). Do we have scary values in San Francisco? (more laughter)
Frequently, when Nancy Pelosi gets up and speaks, she introduces herself like this way, “As a mother, and also as a grandmother ...” Then she’ll talk about why she is championing specific causes. She does have certain agendas. She certainly is pro-choice. She has been an opponent, she is against, the Federal Marriage Amendment which would, of course, eliminate the possibility of gay marriages. While one might not say she is pro-gay rights, that’s a little dicey and probably a politically liability for her to say, she actively fights against things that would limit gay rights. She’s definitely pro-education. She one of the very few who voted against the war in Iraq. She’s moderately “green” on the environment. She’s into immigration rights. She’s voted to increase the minimum wage. I guess these are San Francisco values. To be strong on the environment, anti-war, to be for equal rights for all people regardless of their sexual preferences, to be pro-education ... this must be what having San Francisco values means. Interesting.
It’s interesting that the illusion is ending that women cannot be leaders. Obviously, in our country, women can be and are emerging as strong leaders, leaders that many people, including many men, want. She will most likely replace the current speaker of the House who of course is a Republican. I want to thank Rev. Peter for properly identifying the Republican Speaker of the House for me, Dennis Hastert from Illinois. There is also a current Majority Leader in the House. He is the head of the Republicans in the House and this is John Boehner of Ohio. So Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will be moving into positions of power that Dennis Hastert and John Boehner have occupied. Many of us here are, and I am, politically liberal. I probably identify more with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party, although I am not a registered Democrat. For many of us this shift seems to be a good thing. However, as an A Course In Miracles student, I step back. Is it really a good thing? Does it actually make any difference at all?
A Course In Miracles says, “Where the ego perceives one person as a replacement for another, the Holy Spirit sees them joined and indivisible. He does not judge between them, knowing they are one.” (T-18.I.2.2-3) We like to think of one person as a better replacement for another, one politician as better than another politician, but that’s the ego’s domain. The Holy Spirit’s vision is we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re all the same. I heard someone talking, “Isn’t it great now. Now we can impeach George Bush. If we impeach George Bush and then also impeach Vice President Dick Cheney then what will happen is Nancy Pelosi will be President because that’s the chain of succession.” If you get rid of the President and get rid of the Vice President then the Speaker of the House becomes the President of the United States. It’s just replacing one brother or sister for another. Viewed from the ACIM perspective, can it truly make any difference? If there isn’t also some shift in perception, a shift in the mind, then it makes no difference what-so-ever. It’s just changing the form.
A Course In Miracles tells us this and I think it is an important thing to remember, “Now the ego counsels thus; substitute for this another relationship to which your former goal was quite appropriate. You can escape from your distress only by getting rid of your brother. ... <Hear not this now!>” (T-17.V.7.1-2.4) The ego is always encouraging us to substitute brothers and sisters. Substitute this brother for the next one. If we substitute Nancy Pelosi for George Bush things will be better. That’s the kind of thing the ego always says and ACIM tells us, don’t hear this. “<Hear not this now!>” (T-17.V.7.5) Our salvation does not lie in these things.
These political happenings of the past week are interesting events to note. It might be part of an evolution of consciousness but the important thing is the shift in consciousness not the shift of bodies around in the dream.
Six years ago when George Bush first became President – we usually say he was elected President but a lot of liberals like to say he actually wasn’t elected President. Someone else “won” the election. Al Gore got more votes, but George Bush became President anyway. However, George Bush won the election on the basis of the rules of United States Presidential elections, the way that they are. Six years ago when that happened and then two years ago when he got reelected there was a lot of talk about how right wing, Christian fundamentalists were the ones who decided the agenda in this country and that the reason George Bush won was because he had the support of the right wing, Christian fundamentalists. There was fear that soon these right wing, Christian fundamentalists would have even a stronger role in the political agenda. They would even have more influence. They were coming into their own power and this was a part of a resurgence of fundamentalism and extreme conservative values. A lot of people I know, who are liberals, were afraid that this was indeed happening.
As many of you know I do a mental health discipline called Recovery Inc.*2 Recovery has these little phrases that it wants you to remember. One of them is, “We, as nervous people, tend to jump to the insecure interpretation of things.” When you have a tendency to be fearful your tendency is to always jump to how bad something is going to be, “... the insecure interpretation of things.” A Course In Miracles would say that the fearful send out the dogs of fear. We send out fearful messengers who go about and scurry around. They find fearful little facts and bring them back to us and lay them at our feet so we can look at them and say, “Ah ha! Oh yeah – it’s scary. Those Christian fundamentalists are really calling the shots. They are going to decide everything. Pretty soon abortion will get repealed and who knows what will happen next.” It didn’t happen. It certainly didn’t happen in this election. I believe the day of the Christian fundamentalists having that much power is on the wane. Of course, it could resurge again. These things do come and go in waves but I don’t really think it’s going to happen again.
I’ve heard similar things said about the Moslem world – Islamic fundamentalists will gain all power in the Middle East and we in the West need to be truly concerned because their global influence will spread. We could easily see witnesses to this happening. However, in the core of being, I don’t believe that’s going to happen. One reason is I don’t think Moslem women will allow it to happen. Eventually the women will have more education. They will get the jobs. They will have access to resources, more than they have now, and they won’t allow it. They won’t allow themselves to be subjugated indefinitely. Especially because they will look at the world stage where we might soon have a female President of the United States. The image of women being powerful political leaders will influence the Moslem women. There’s nothing inferior about the female gender, or there’s nothing that says females can’t be in those particular power roles. Some don’t do the inferior or superior comparisons. Some people say that certain roles just are not appropriate. The female role should be this and male role should be that. However, the image of the most powerful nation in the world being led by women, or co-lead by men and women, is out there. There is no stopping that from having a global impact. I don’t believe that the Islamic fundamentalist attitude – the most extreme aspect of it which has women totally cover themselves up even their faces – I just: can’t believe, don’t believe, don’t get the guidance that this is going to be the prevalent world view. It certainly may persist for any number of years. It certainly might be problematic but eventually everybody learns, as A Course In Miracles says, “ ... that there <must> be a better way.” (T-2.III.3.6) I believe that women in those countries will rise and not allow it.
What did we find out about the Christian fundamentalists? They’re just people. They have as many scandals and problems as any group. Just a couple of weeks ago Ted Haggard, the head of the National Association of Evangelicals was caught. It was exposed that he goes to male prostitutes and that he uses methamphetamines. He’s into “PNP” as they say in the community, “party and play.” (laughter) Maybe he’s also, “searching for ‘Tina.’”*3 (more laughter) He’s just a guy looking for a little frisky, gay sex with a buzz. I feel sorry for him. He got exposed by a male prostitute he had been with many times, who found out that Ted Haggart’s organization was trying to stop gay marriages. The National Association of Evangelicals came out strongly against gay marriage and they support the Federal Marriage Amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The gay male prostitute that Ted Haggard had been with exposed him. Ted Haggard resisted it and denied it for awhile, but the last thing I heard is that he finally has admitted to it.
So, what did we learn? People are just people. The Christian fundamentalists are just people and they have as much going on as anybody has going on. Does that mean that the country is better now because this has been exposed? Well, it might be part of a slow evolution. I don’t think it’s as radical as it might appear. It is something to note. I don’t want to rest thinking, “Well we’re on the right track now.” It is important to note that eventually everything comes out. Eventually all those idols, all the worldly idols that we hold up, get taken down and get exposed. Even the Islamic fundamentalist idol of totally covering up women and making them subjects of men will get exposed too, at the right time. Probably this is more effectively done from within their own community than from pressure from outside their community. I have faith that their community will self correct. I don’t think we have to impose a correction on them. They will self correct. I have faith and confidence in the slow evolutionary process that A Course In Miracles tells us we are embarking on. The Course says, “By far the majority are given a slowly evolving training program, in which as many previous mistakes as possible are corrected.” (M-220.127.116.11) In the Text it has this passage, “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition.” (T-16.VI.8.1-2) It’s not likely that we will have radical, revolutionary changes. Some people like to think that the current shift in government, Republican to Democrat, is a radical revolutionary change. I don’t know if it is a change at all. It might be part of a slow evolutionary shift and that I can be happy about. That I certainly want to note.
This recent election has put a spotlight on us, and it might be a little window of opportunity for us in San Francisco to champion our San Francisco values which must include miracle values since we’re right in Nancy Pelosi’s district and we were formed the same year she was first elected to the House! (laughter) What are those values? They are the values that accept all people. Those values that accept diversity. The values that don’t want to marginalize people on the basis of anything: sexual preference, race, whatever. These are the values that say that education is important, the values that say that the environment is important. These are the values that say that all religions should have equal rights and an opportunity to be practiced without any persecution. I think these are great values. The Community Miracles Center has always stood for these.
A couple of weeks ago a woman was here from Wisconsin. Her name was Abby. Maybe you were here. She’s from the Miracles Healing Center and Endeavor Academy and many within the A Course In Miracles community consider these people to be very radical. There are a lot of people who say we shouldn’t associate with those people because they are dangerous. Their leader, The Master Teacher, maybe he’s “dangerous.” However the Community Miracles Center stands for diversity. Diversity is a San Francisco value. Abby wanted to come and say “Hello.” They had a program they were doing in San Jose she wanted to talk about. She was sweet. She was nice. They did their program in San Jose last week. A few days ago someone called up, a woman, who had been to their San Jose event. This woman lives in San Francisco but she didn’t know that there was an ACIM organization in San Francisco. She found out because she went to that program in San Jose. Abby told her about us. Why did Abby tell her about us, because Abby had been here the week before. It all works together. It’s synergy. It’s evolution. It’s diversity. Those are some great San Francisco values that the Community Miracles Center has always stood for. We don’t exclude people just because they don’t think of ACIM the way we do or because they don’t practice ACIM the way we do. I certainly believe we have much more in common with them than we have differences. Why don’t we see what we have in common? Why not continue to be in dialogue with them and in acceptance of them so that we can see where we do join? When we do this, mostly I see that we do share a loving connection to a discipline that teaches us something very different and I’m happy for that loving connection. The part of their practice that is different from ours – it’s just the part of their practice that is different from ours and I don’t have to make that the most important thing. I think that’s what ACIM is asking us to be vigilant about, to look at: how we’re all connected, how we’re all one, how we’re all the same. The Course says, “Be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom.” (T-6.V.C.2.8) That’s what we need to be vigilant for, that we are all the same. We need to be vigilant about this with the Republicans and Democrats too. They are all the same. Things aren’t better now because the Democrats are going to be in power. It’s still the same country with the same problems. It’s still the same political process. There’s corruption in the Democratic party and there’s corruption in the Republican party because there’s corruption in our minds and it reflects all over the world.
Rev. Larry and I have been talking about a controversy that’s going on within the more fundamentalist segments of our A Course In Miracles community about the conference that we are going to be doing in February. This controversy is still going on. We still have people calling, and strongly trying to convince us to change how we are running and structuring the event. There are people who think what we are doing is wrong and that it communicates the wrong message to people. It’s all still going on. ACIM says, “The arrogant must cling to words, afraid to go beyond them to experience which might affront their stance.” (W-pI.186.5.5) This is what I’m resting with, “Just come to the damn conference.” (laughter) “Shut up about it already!” (lots more laughter) Come to the conference. You might have a different experience. Maybe we’re wrong; maybe we’re not. If they come they might have an experience of: love, joining, friendship and fellowship and they might see that all these diverse teachers and groups that totally disagree can exist in the same space and still have an experience of love, connection and joining. Come for the experience of joining. Join with others who are diverse, who believe different things. It’s not about proving some right and proving others wrong. It’s not about looking for the controversy, focussing on it and making that the whole picture. The Course says, “... and those who seek controversy will find it.” (C-in.2.1) (laughter)
If you want to find controversy you will find it. We found it in the Democrats. We found it in the Republicans. We found it with evangelical Christians. Some people have this illusion that if women are in power there won’t be any controversy. This is funny. (laughter) I can’t wait for our first female President who gets busted by her masseur. He’ll be male, good looking, probably 25 years her junior. (laughter) I see her having to say, “I did not have sex with that masseur it was just a ‘full body’ massage.” (lots of laughter) It’s going to happen. Women aren’t immune to any of this stuff either. If you look for controversy, you will find it. Overlook it. Go to what’s good. What’s good is that we’re equalizing. What’s good is that we’re evolving. What’s good is that we can be diverse. What’s good is that there is a window of opportunity to be the champion for San Francisco values, miracle values, of acceptance, education, diversity – all kinds of wonderful things. I think we could be very proud that there is a little shift in this direction. How do we handle that shift? Do we make it right? Wrong? Do we now make the other party, the Republicans and the conservatives, bad. “Naw, naw, naw, naw, naw. You lost!” Do we do things like that?
We need to take the high ground, all of us. I believe Nancy Pelosi is doing a good job of that in these few days after the election. She’s looking to mend fences and build bridges. I think what’s going on is indeed interesting. However, the significant thing is the shift in our own minds, the shift in our own values. Let us find those San Francisco values of acceptance and diversity that we know to be true. Let’s reinforce them and help to bring those out into a world that does need them and apparently seems to be ready to accept them just a little bit more. That’s it for today. Thank you. (applause)
*1) • “Pelosi will be speaker and her far-left San Francisco values – gay marriage, cutting and running from Iraq, coddling terrorists, raising taxes, amnesty for illegals – will become the House agenda.” Editorial in the Augusta, GA Chronicle
• “Will everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish be lost to the San Francisco values of would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi?” Newt Gingrich in an on-line fund raising pitch
• “Do we really want Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco values leading the culture war?” Current House Speaker, Republican Dennis Hastert, National Review On-Line
*2) Recovery Inc. – http://www.recovery-inc.org
*3) Predominantly (but not exclusively) gay slang for wanting to have sex while high on methamphetamine or crystal meth. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the October 2006 (Vol. 20 No. 8) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.