Ceding My Space

Phil Gulley is a Quaker pastor in Camby, Indiana–one of Indianapolis’ bedroom communities. He lives in Danville, another small community. Gullley is also a humorist; he writes for the Indianapolis Monthly and for the Danville Republic, among other publications. He has graciously given me permission to share the following essay, which focuses on America’s future prospects.

When I am tempted to say something critical about “churchy” folks (as I often am) I think about Phil and about several good friends who are members of the clergy. (Those of you reading this know who you are!) They are all truly good human beings “walking the walk” of their various faiths–and their presence in the community and in my life reminds me that painting any group of people with too broad a brush is bigotry.

Here’s Phil’s essay.
         The study of American history requires a keen eye for irony. It began when Thomas Jefferson, an enslaver of some 600 souls, was charged with writing the first draft of The Declaration of Independence, which included these soaring words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For something that was self-evident, equality wasn’t apparent to Jefferson, nor to the 48 other founding fathers who held enslaved people, hence the irony.        

Women were not accorded the right to vote for the first 144 years of our nation’s history, and not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did Blacks gain that right, though even today, in some of our more benighted states, that right is under steady assault by those who laud freedom in one moment and deny it to others in the next. As I said, one must have a keen eye for irony.      

A more recent head-scratcher occurred after our last presidential election when a mob of miscreants, moaning about the demise of American democracy, nearly dealt it a death blow by storming the Capital Building to halt the peaceful transfer of power. As of this writing, over a thousand rioters have been charged, with one glaring exception, the Rioter-in-Chief, Donald Trump, who so far remains free. So much for that old American chestnut that no man is above the law.

Even now, those who crow the loudest about American exceptionalism are the same ones bemoaning our nation’s supposed fragility, daring to call those who believe most strongly in America’s promise of equality “snowflakes.” (Again with the irony.) If the United States of America should ever end, it will not be at the hands of those who demand equality, but at the hands of those who demand rights and privileges for themselves, while cunningly denying them to others. Should those robbed of their freedoms dare to complain or march or organize, their silence is demanded, their compliance required. Let a woman insist on the right to make her own medical decisions, let people of color decry police brutality, and all of a sudden America is perilously close to collapse, the end times are near, the socialists are coming.
It should come as no surprise that our faint-hearted brethren have draped themselves in the garments of religion, cloaking their tyranny in divine authority. It is God they are fighting for, not themselves. Or so they claim. Robert Ingersoll, a Republican when Republicans were sane, famously said of our founders, “They knew that to put God in the constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought.” Fanatics and zealots are, and have been since our founding days, the gravest threat to America’s future. If we are imperiled, it is because of them.

But I am an optimist. I believe these lovers of piety and power, posing as lovers of freedom, will be seen for who they are. I believe wise Americans will reject their shrill demands, will recognize their crocodile tears as performative art and nothing more, and will dedicate themselves to a better America. As is nearly always the case, the younger among us will see what their elders refuse to see, that “freedom” which comes at the expense of another is not freedom at all, but oppression masquerading as liberty, and they will stand against it, and our nation will be saved.


To which I say, “amen.”

See you tomorrow.


  1. Lol,

    Thanx for this Sheila!

    I Believe that I have commented on this blog many times about this very issue!

    It seems like I’m in good company…..

    Of course the hypocrisy is astounding, hijacking any philosophical or religious dogma to manipulate and/or subjugate while alleviating our private sequiloquy of conscience which is constantly at battle with itself, towards
    giving permission or excusing, accusing, abusing, or recusing moral/immoral Beliefs and conduct!

    It doesn’t take much for one to allow the occasional dip in that nice warm moral turpitude. Sometimes it seems that people start to revel in it, to the detriment of decency, honesty, compassion, and empathy!

    Agape, Eros, Storge, Philia,

    Four different kinds of love, that are constantly confused with each other and it leads to unfortunate consequences. Humanity is always searching for direction, but humanity never seems to be able to find it. Why? Because, humans and humanity tend to be self-serving, and, humanity becomes its own deity or God! Freeing its conscience and silencing that saquiloquy of the mind so Misdeeds can be allowed without that pesky baggage!

  2. Morton,

    Don’t worry, this will be a very light thread today. After all, sometimes self-reflection leads to self- condemnation, and actually who wants that?


  3. As mentioned before it is the 25% of us who cause 75% of the issues with irony, hypocrisy, ignorance and self-service. And again: 90+% of the 25% vote for the idiots like MTG, Goetz, Gosar, Boebert, et. al., while around 50% of the 75% sit on their asses during elections.

    In 2016, over 90 MILLION registered voters didn’t vote at all. The results speak for themselves.

    In this case, we make our own irony: the democratic process in which too many, who will eventually be the oppressed of the tyrannical majority, do not participate. So much for freedom of choice. Of course, the 25% don’t want universal freedoms. They are too backward to appreciate the overall quality of life that a participative democracy can render. The grievances from the 25% are mostly self-imposed due to the lack of intellectual energy. It’s easier to whine and complain and even become violent for these folks that bend over to help their fellow countryman.

    We are running out of chances to rectify the situation and push the 25% back into their fetid closets of bigotry, hate and willful ignorance. The 75% MUST vote beyond 75% participation, or they won’t be able to vote at all.

    Is that enough of a comment, Morton? LOL

  4. I agree with you about self-serving, but in America’s history, the oligarchs have always oppressed their will on the working class. Many will mention that this oppression was used on enslaved people and the Chinese. The uprisings across the world would indicate it continues en masse.

    Our “democracy” has always been an illusion (“…48 other founding fathers who held enslaved people…”), and the less than people have been fighting for their freedom from oppression, but it’s class warfare. The oligarch’s media uses wedge issues to divert attention based on cultural and social issues.

    A Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed book report:

    “Freire perceives the current world as one entrenched in an ideology of oppression, defining oppression as: “Any situation in which ‘A’ objectively exploits ‘B’ or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person… [interfering] with the individual’s… vocation to be more fully human”. In Freire’s book, the oppressors’ consciousness desires to “transform everything surrounding it into an object of its domination”. The need to objectify humans is driven by their materialist nature, and the belief that “Humanity is a thing, and they possess it as an exclusive right”.

    Conversely, the “oppressed are regarded as the pathology of the healthy society, which must therefore adjust these ‘incompetent and lazy’ folk to its own patterns by changing their mentality. These marginals need to be ‘integrated’, ‘incorporated’ into the healthy society that they have ‘forsaken’”.

    Such rhetoric is common in drug-related public discourse; the dehumanization of drug users transforms them into objects to surveil, discipline, and punish through prison, stigma, coerced treatment, or anything in between. Specific to drug prohibition, this objectification is further codified by legally prohibiting (by criminalizing) drug use. The oppressed are denied the chance to demonstrate their “responsibility”; trying drugs even once is deemed irresponsible, and those who use drugs are frequently described as immoral and damaging to society.

    Freire highlights how the objectification of the oppressed in society, alongside uncritical education models, results in the internalization of oppression. The oppressed internalize “the image of the oppressor and [adopt] his guidelines” and become fearful of freedom. The oppressed fatalistically accept their inferior position and believe the punishment, violence or condemnation they receive is deserved.”


  5. I find it ironic that the Republicans working so hard to impress their lies on the media are suppressing votes of Republicans by making it too difficult to vote in person or by mail because they live in the areas which are gerrymandered out of reachable polling places. And like the Indiana Republican Senate who have TWICE lowered the paid for Public Employee Retirement Fund retirement income for senior Republicans throughout this state, including thousands of their fellow Republican Legislator retirees.

    We are again nearing another election and again seeing little, if anything, about local candidates or the election. I need to find when to apply for a mail-in ballot; elderly and disabled should not have to apply prior to every election and we are never assured that we will be accepted as qualified to mail in our votes. We know who to blame here because Sheila keeps us informed by naming names and outing their egregious actions against democracy and our civil rights.

    Mr. Gulley; I am 85 years old and I see much of what the younger generations (including younger seniors) refuse to see; that we are still vital, thinking Americans who seek information outside the box to keep up as best we can. And President Biden may be physically moving slower and stiffer but his mental abilities, like his decades of qualifications and experience have taught him, is still as active as when he began his political career. It would be a loss to this nation and our allies around the globe to dismiss and replace him in 2024.

  6. “…the younger among us will see what their elders refuse to see, that “freedom” which comes at the expense of another is not freedom at all, but oppression masquerading as liberty, and they will stand against it, and our nation will be saved.“ Gulley’s optimism is refreshing, heartening even. But this last sentence underscores the drive of the radical Right to destroy the public schools in order to fully indoctrinate children, so that they reach adulthood believing the toxic ideologies being taught to them. Thus I’m less optimistic.

  7. Ian so true. Friend/Pastor Gulley has much to do in the “vineyards” of the communities in which he lives and works. I am sure that he is up to the task.

    He speaks the truth and preaches hope, the effect of which is nothing short of eloquent.

    There is indeed a lot to be optimistic about among “wise Americans,” both young and old.

  8. It does my heart good to occasionally hear logic from a Christian clergyman. It seems so rare that those who do it might be deemed an endangered species. Thanks for the post, Sheila.

  9. Thanks. I also know many people who practice their Christian faith in a way that benefits others as well as themselves. It’s good to be reminded of them and also remember that the same is true of every religion. People who practice compassion, generosity, acceptance and forgiveness can be found in every faith community as well as in those who are naturalistic rather than supernaturalistic in their thinking.

  10. No rant today – just a gentle reminder to those who have faith that the “young”: Millennials, GensXYZ will turn things around. They create their own values/standards; they vote much less; they are about their/their tribes’ brands. Read Bowling Alone….

  11. Phil Gulley has been a breath of fresh air for years. I always pay close attention when he speaks.

  12. Damn ,now if only their theology allowed the christain right to read whats right.

    socialism:bumper sticker.
    if You dont like socialism,
    build your own freeways.

  13. I might throw in a couple of extra tidbits on some of these religious zealots.

    Mark 9: 38-40 reads; “John said to him: teacher, we saw someone expelling demons by using your name, and we tried to prevent him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said: “do not try to prevent him, for there is no one who will do a powerful work on the basis of my name who will quickly be able to say anything bad about me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

    But Jesus also taught his apostles, and his disciples, at Matthew 7:22 and 23 which reads; “Many will say to me in that day: Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name? And then I will declare to them: I never knew you get away from me you workers of lawlessness!” (This scripture in Matthew the 7th chapter was discussing his day of judgment! The days when all of those who claim to be followers will be judged on their works.)

    First John 3:10 reads; ” The children of God and the children of the devil are evident by this fact: whoever does not practice righteousness does not originate with God, nor does the one who does not love his brother.”

    Jesus Christ also Said about these individuals that he would not recognize, John 8:44 which reads; ” You are from your father the devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a murderer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie. ”

    And, we read, after the death of Christ, in 33 CE, there were 7 sons of a certain Pharisee named Sce’va Who decided to cast out spirits. The Pharisee was one of those who condemned Christ to death.

    The apostle Paul continued performing miraculous signs in the name of Christ, but this incident in Acts 19:13-16 reeds; “but some of the Jews who traveled around casting out demons also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had wicked spirits; they would say: “I solemnly charge you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Now there were seven sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sce’va doing this. But in answer, the wicked spirit said to them: “I know Jesus and I am acquainted with Paul; but who are you?” At that the man with the wicked spirit leaped on them, overpowered them one after the other and prevailed against them, so that they fled naked and wounded out of that house.”

    That’s why Christ told them originally, that they would not be given favor because they were workers of lawlessness. They were liars and deceivers who conspired against him while he was alive. And they were instrumental in having him put to death.

    So when we see these multi-millionaire pastors, claiming that they can pray for you by you sending in a nice contribution to their wealth fund or whatever, and you will become rich yourself, do you think Jesus Christ looks favorably upon any of that? He recognizes them for what they are, workers of lawlessness, and, blind guides both falling into the pit. (Matthew 15:14)

    And as in my comment yesterday, I mentioned that Jesus Christ was Jewish and came to minister to the Jews, this very thing is brought out at Matthew 15:21 -28. But Jesus Christ was not devoid of mercy, he was not devoid of compassion and empathy. He could not turn his back on those in need.

    There is a day of reckoning that will be coming, and, unfortunately for those who are deceivers and thieves claiming to be disciples, it’s going to be fairly horrible for them. And I’m sure they’ll recognize the error of their ways during their last breaths.

    The apostle Paul again alluded to this very thing at Acts 20:29, 30 which reads; “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you, and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”

    Exactly what we have today!

  14. And lastly,

    Gandhi famously said; “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Gee, I wonder why?

  15. Lester: Bowling Alone is now a very dated book (one with which I disagreed “back in the day”–I wrote “Distrust, American Style” to argue with his diversity observations.

    The Brookings Institution has some up-to-date analysis on young voters:https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2023/02/27/younger-voters-are-poised-to-upend-american-politics/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_medium=email&utm_content=248016352&utm_source=hs_email

    Turnout remains a problem, but attitudes do not.

  16. So, how does one spell “irony?” HYPOCRISY, perhaps?
    Thank you for that book report, Joanne!!
    Indoctrination is a big part of the issue, as seen in an article about the
    indoctrination Florida’s idiot governor received in his Florida education,
    along with so many others:
    A historical perspective of education in FL

    Public Schools
    The Long History of Conservative Indoctrination in Florida Schools
    The top educational priorities in the Sunshine State were apparently reading, writing, and anti-communism.
    By Tera W. HunterTwitter

    The cover of a 1961 reprint of a pamphlet describing the Florida State Department of Education’s efforts to develop a high school course titled “Americanism vs. Communism.”

    When I was growing up, my Florida high school required me to endure a course called “Americanism vs. Communism.” I was hardly alone. Between 1962 and 1991, Florida mandated the class for all high school juniors or seniors in public schools. Each lesson had the same takeaway: “Americanism” was all good and “Communism” all bad.

    Keep this history in mind when you hear Florida Governor Ron DeSantis talk about his opposition to the College Board’s Advanced Placement course in African American Studies because it is “woke indoctrination.”

    “Americanism vs. Communism” was one of only two statewide requirements for graduation; the other was functional literacy. The top educational priorities in the Sunshine State were apparently reading, writing, and anti-communism. The course title has stuck with me all these years, especially as a college professor of history, because it forecast today’s sham debate about education in Florida.

    The concept of “Americanism” dates to the colonial era. It’s meant to identify the nation’s distinctive historical origins and democratic political idioms. Individuals and groups across the political spectrum have marshaled it for varying purposes, including an inclusive vision of citizenship, but also racist anti-immigrant campaigns during the 1920s . Its capaciousness shrunk considerably during the Cold War as political conservatives used it to buttress exclusive ends. The rise of the Soviet Union and the fear of totalitarianism it provoked was an existential crisis that could only be neutered, they believed, with a contrast nationalist creed: Americanism.

    Concerned that high school students were vulnerable to a Soviet plot to control the world, the state of Florida designed the course to ensure no teenager be tempted by communism. It defined Americanism as: “the recognition of the truth that the inherent and fundamental rights of man are derived from God and not from governments, societies, dictators, kings or majorities.” Americanism was a system that produced higher wages, a higher standard of living, and “greater personal freedoms and liberty than any other system of economics on earth.”

    Florida depicted communism as an “ungodly” ideology promoted by an “enemy” with the “manpower, the resources, and the technological weapons for waging war” against “human freedom.” The state forbade teachers from suggesting that communism was preferable to Americanism and instructed them to warn students of the miseries of those who lived under its aegis.

    Advocates extolled the course as an objective comparative study even though its biases were glaring. It was conceived as “the best method… to have the youth of the state and the nation thoroughly and completely informed as to the evils, dangers and fallacies of communism.” They described mandating the course as “similar to that of a scientist who examines the poison in order to offset its evil effect.”

    An all-white, mostly male advisory committee consisting of educators, legislators, and private citizens representing the Florida Bar Committee, Florida Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion designed the course starting in fall 1961. They compiled a list of instructional materials that were unabashedly slanted. Reports from the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover’s, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in American and How to Fight it (1958), were prominently featured. Hoover also famously provided consultation and endorsed the course.

    Teachers often exercised some autonomy in their classrooms, recoiling from heavy-handed state intervention. Still, the bibliography continued to be sanctioned and the course retained its unique status as a requirement for graduation from 1962 to 1991.

    A group of educators and lawmakers protested the course starting in the mid 1970s. Finally, in 1982, they got the state legislature to debate a bill to eliminate the course, but it failed by a lopsided vote. Leaders among Cuban American exiles from Fidel Castro’s Cuba formed a powerful constituency that lobbied to retain the course, prolonging the Red Scare in Florida. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union eventually persuaded supporters that the course had passed its prime.

    The Red Scare was never just a concern about a Russian bogeyman poised for world domination. This rhetoric rationalized domestic repression of dissident voices that critiqued the prevailing vision of Americanism that rejected racial and economic equality.

    The Florida legislature formed a committee in the 1950s like the one Senator Joseph McCarthy led in Congress to annihilate “un-American” activities it labeled as communist. The Johns Committee, as it was known, first attacked Black Americans for supporting civil rights and then moved on to target lesbian and gay faculty in the early 1960s at the University of Florida, University of South Florida, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (a historically Black college), which led to firings and forced resignations. If DeSantis is confused about the relevance of Queer theory to African American studies, this is a case book example of the Lavender Scare and the Red Scare intersecting to destroy presumed enemies of the state.

    DeSantis is openly flaunting the resuscitation of a decades-old playbook. His “stop woke” indoctrination of school children and his attacks on the free speech and academic freedom of teachers and college professors are sustained through a bevy of restrictive policies. The governor signed a law last year that requires teachers instruct students about the “Victims of Communism,” which echoes the objectives of the course that I had to take. He supported the state’s designation of a new civics and government curriculum falsely claiming that the founding fathers did not believe in a strict separation of church and state.

    The Stop WOKE Act, also instituted last year, forbids academic instruction and workplace training that criticize racial inequality, taking special aim at caricatured versions of critical race theory and the 1619 Project. DeSantis has signed into law the banning of books in school libraries, potentially subjecting violators to prosecution for committing felonies. Teachers are draping their classroom bookshelves in cloth to avoid being accused of harboring materials they may not even know are on the ever-growing contraband list. DeSantis signed into law the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits discussions about sexuality and gender identity in classrooms of certain age groups and in ways that fall outside a “specified manner.”

    The implications of these bills are grave. Under this regime, professors and teachers cannot instruct or do research, and students will not be able to learn about subjects that an authoritarian government does not like—even as it lies to its citizens by saying the regulations promote an “open exchange of ideas.” This looks a lot like the sinister tyranny perpetuated under communism that my high school class warned me to reject.

    Florida has an illiberal history that DeSantis seems eager to replicate to appease a reactionary base and make himself the favored heir to the twice-impeached former President Donald Trump. We must be clear-eyed about what he is trying to achieve and the dangers everyone will face if he succeeds.

    Tera W. Hunter is a professor in the history department and department of African American studies at Princeton University. She is the author of Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the 19th Century.

  17. Sheila – WADR – 1. attitudes don’t vote – Bowling Alone identified the attitude change correctly; “the right attitudes and $5 gets you a latte”; 2. Younger people cluster in DEM urban areas and vote mostly in gerrymandered DEM districts; 3. To a greater extent, younger people don’t trust either party and most politicians.

  18. Lester, what does WADR stand for? Also, Sheila already acknowledged that turnout is still a problem.

  19. Excellent essay.

    As my atheist mother would have said, in Yiddish, with no sense of irony – from his mouth to god’s ears.

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