Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Freedom’s Biggest Risk!

August 17, 2017

Freedom’s Biggest Risk

Jesus tells us to: “Judge not, lest you be judged;, and “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all of your mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as your self.”

There’s an old story
from well before digital,
where the knowing master
stops the novice
at the gate, tells her
to practice more,
return in ten years.
She does.
(Jerry Bolick)
To set anyone free, forgiving must be freely given–an act of free love, not a devious power play.  Forced forgiving makes matters worst for everybody. A major ingredient in free forgiving is respect for the person being forgiven. If we try to manipulate people into our own version of a happy ending, we are not forgiving freely. We are not really forgiving at all. It is the risk we always take in the forgiving game.

Brother Curtis Almquist tells us:  “Memory is a gift. Memory gives us a window to God. God is timeless. Our memory gives us a glimpse into how God sees and knows us, how God has loved us all along.” In looking at into our deep memories we all remember a love that we have felt at times, be it God or another source, that tells us, that only in in forgiveness, in letting go can we find true life.

Join me in seeking to live out an attitude of forgiveness, respect, love, as shown through the words of Henri Nouwen in being an activist, on Monday, August 21, 2017 at Noon at the Earl Warren Supreme Court Building, 350 McAllister, Street, San Francisco, CA. :

“An activist wants to heal, restore, redeem, and recreate, but those acting within the house of God point through their action to the healing, restoring, redeeming, and recreating presence of God.”


Vigil Against Intolerance and Racism

We Must Confront America’s Original Sin.

St. Maximilian served in Warsaw when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. He and other friars sheltered 2,000 Jewish refugees. They housed, fed, clothed and protected them. Inevitably, they came under suspicion and taken to Auschwitz. Later, Maximilian gave his life so that a man with a family could be spared. It is through his intercession that we can send the message of tolerance, respect, and love for all.

Silence is complicity. We all  must seek forgiveness and speak out to injustice.


Join With Us On August 21, 2017 at 12 Noon

at the Earl Warren Supreme Court Building


Vigil Against the Intolerance and Racism in our Society

Join to Pray and Reflect in Our own Traditions for a more just society.

for more information call


If you would like to participate through a reading, a poem, a comment, prayer, or Scripture from your tradition please bring one. Please bring a sign, and send this out through your email and social media and press contacts.

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.


P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

But Wait There Is More

August 15, 2017

If I dared to say what I really think…

Wait A Minute! There is More!

August 14, 2017

Wait A Minute! There Is More!

Matt. 17:22-27

“When the disciples came together in Galilee, Jesus said to them: “The Human One is about to be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. But he will be raised on the third day.” And they were heart broken.”

I have been thinking about the finitude of life lately.  Once we leave,die,  we are forgotten, like the wind all is  blown a way.Even if you are famous and have buildings named after you, they too go over time. All of our huffing and puffing, screaming and yelling becomes nothing. I have photos of young men, for the most part, who have long been dead, and in all probability I am the only one who remembers their names, and that they even existed. And soon–in a minute, hour, twenty four hours, day, a year, or a few years I will vanish like a puff of wind. All is vanity. Our lives have purpose, we leave behind our goodness, and that continues on once our names are forgotten. We only see reality as a whole when we begin to see that we are not the center of it.

Yesterday afternoon I paid a visit to my ninety five year old friend, who is  in a rehabilitation home.He is a gay man, who sees his life as awesome. He has traveled, has great friends. But his story is a story of being gay in a homophobic society. He was a priest and in the sixties was kicked out of the church, humiliated, but he got another job, and saw what happened for what it was–the evil, and ignorance of man. He is active in his church. We were talking about the little office he has volunteered in at his  church since 1969, and he had tears in his eyes as he said, he would not go back there. Soon he will be leaving to go to his nephew’s in another state, and he will fade from the life of the church. But his love, his care, his compassion will continue. As we celebrated the Eucharist I felt a power flow through the elements in my hands as I administered them, and that power of the presence of Christ, loving and caring for him. It was a strange power, and it was as if the radiant presence of Christ was every where surrounding us, for the elements had become his body and blood. In those moments my own sense of depression, and sense of hopelessness vanished, for I knew that in all things God works for good with those who loves him , and neither life nor death can every separate us from the love of God in Christ. My friend lived outside the boundaries of society for many years, until society changed, he lived a full life, and he teaches me the only boundary that we need to worry about is that we love the Lord our God with all of our soul, mind and strength  and that we love our neighbor as our self–money, friends do no provide us security—only God. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


It’s A Ghost!

August 13, 2017

“It’s A Ghost!”

Matt. 14: 22-33. . .it’s a ghost

Our lives are full of ghosts–fear of war, fear of loss of money, of becoming homeless, of losing health insurance, fear of the police. 

When I first started out in the ministry I had several parishners tell me that “you preach to much love–preach the Gospel,” well I am stupid, I still preach love. A hospital chaplain tells this story:

“As a divinity school student, I had just started working as a student chaplain at a cancer hospital when my professor asked me about my work. I was 26 years old and still learning what a chaplain did.
“I talk to the patients,” I told him.
“You talk to patients? And tell me, what do people who are sick and dying talk to the student chaplain about?” he asked.
I had never considered the question before. “Well,” I responded slowly, “Mostly we talk about their families.”
“Do you talk about God?
“Umm, not usually.”
“Or their religion?”
“Not so much.”
“The meaning of their lives?”
“And prayer? Do you lead them in prayer? Or ritual?”
“Well,” I hesitated. “Sometimes. But not usually, not really.”
I felt derision creeping into the professor’s voice. “So you just visit people and talk about their families?”
“Well, they talk. I mostly listen.”
“Huh.” He leaned back in his chair.
A week later, in the middle of a lecture in this professor’s packed class, he started to tell a story about a student he once met who was a chaplain intern at a hospital.
“And I asked her, ‘What exactly do you do as a chaplain?’ And she replied, ‘Well, I talk to people about their families.'” He paused for effect. “And that was this student’s understanding of faith! That was as deep as this person’s spiritual life went! Talking about other people’s families!”
The students laughed at the shallowness of the silly student. The professor was on a roll.
“And I thought to myself,” he continued, “that if I was ever sick in the hospital, if I was ever dying, that the last person I would ever want to see is some Harvard Divinity School student chaplain wanting to talk to me about my family.”
My body went numb with shame. At the time I thought that maybe, if I was a better chaplain, I would know how to talk to people about big spiritual questions. Maybe if dying people met with a good, experienced chaplain they would talk about God, I thought.
Today, 13 years later, I am a hospice chaplain. I visit people who are dying in their homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes. And if you were to ask me the same question – What do people who are sick and dying talk about with the chaplain? – I, without hesitation or uncertainty, would give you the same answer. Mostly, they talk about their families: about their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters.
They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave.
Often, they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.
They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not. And sometimes, when they are actively dying, fluid gurgling in their throats, they reach their hands out to things I cannot see and they call out to their parents: Mama, Daddy, Mother.
What I did not understand when I was a student then, and what I would explain to that professor now, is that people talk to the chaplain about their families because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives. That is how we talk about the big spiritual questions of human existence.
We don’t live our lives in our heads, in theology and theories. We live our lives in our families: the families we are born into, the families we create, the families we make through the people we choose as friends.
This is where we create our lives, this is where we find meaning, this is where our purpose becomes clear.
Family is where we first experience love and where we first give it. It’s probably the first place we’ve been hurt by someone we love, and hopefully the place we learn that love can overcome even the most painful rejection.
This crucible of love is where we start to ask those big spiritual questions, and ultimately where they end.
I have seen such expressions of love: A husband gently washing his wife’s face with a cool washcloth, cupping the back of her bald head in his hand to get to the nape of her neck, because she is too weak to lift it from the pillow. A daughter spooning pudding into the mouth of her mother, a woman who has not recognized her for years.
A wife arranging the pillow under the head of her husband’s no-longer-breathing body as she helps the undertaker lift him onto the waiting stretcher.
We don’t learn the meaning of our lives by discussing it. It’s not to be found in books or lecture halls or even churches or synagogues or mosques. It’s discovered through these actions of love.
If God is love, and we believe that to be true, then we learn about God when we learn about love.
The first, and usually the last, classroom of love is the family.
Sometimes that love is not only imperfect, it seems to be missing entirely. Monstrous things can happen in families. Too often, more often than I want to believe possible, patients tell me what it feels like when the person you love beats you or rapes you. They tell me what it feels like to know that you are utterly unwanted by your parents. They tell me what it feels like to be the target of someone’s rage.
They tell me what it feels like to know that you abandoned your children, or that your drinking destroyed your family, or that you failed to care for those who needed you.
Even in these cases, I am amazed at the strength of the human soul. People who did not know love in their families know that they should have been loved.
They somehow know what was missing, and what they deserved as children and adults.
When the love is imperfect, or a family is destructive, something else can be learned: forgiveness. The spiritual work of being human is learning how to love and how to forgive.
We don’t have to use words of theology to talk about God; people who are close to death almost never do.
We should learn from those who are dying that the best way to teach our children about God is by loving each other wholly and forgiving each other fully – just as each of us longs to be loved and forgiven by our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.”
The Rev. Kerry Egan

I doubt, I question, and in living by faith–being faithful to loving God and my neighbor, each person is sacred, even in at their worst. We came from the evolution of primates, monkey’s, apes, but the spirit of God has breathed into us, calling us to love each other with a love that only judges by how much we give.   David Vryhof tells us that “it can be threatening to move toward deeper union with God because when we do, we begin to see reality as a whole and realize that we are not the center of it.”  All of us are creatures of God on the same journey–let us embrace each other, reach out in acts of kindness towards one another. Our ghosts vanish when we live our lives loving, despite the pain others cause us.  Our ghosts vanish as we realize that we are embraced by the love of that great and awesome God, without judgment. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Becoming Touchable

August 12, 2017

Becoming Touchable

I watched a DVD on Friday about sex abusers and our laws that have grown up around the crime, entitled Untouchable and what left me saddened was the lack of love and grace towards humanity in general, and now how laws are based on the power of individuals who have money and for the most part are white. We react without looking at wholeness. From one extreme to the other. We never meet in the middle.  We make people untouchable out of our fears, our anger, without looking at the total picture.

On Friday the Catholic Worker House in Des Moines, Iowa was raided by the FBI because they have supported two women who have protested the oil pipeline.  They did do physical damage, which I disagree with, but raid a community that takes care of the homeless, women and children, early in the morning, without notice, and not even giving a notice for the reason, to me is extreme.  I know Frank, I know the House, and they are simply expressing their faith.

Below is an article written by Rev. Lacette Cross entitled “Sexual Wholeness As Justice Work,” which for me expresses the way we should approach all justice issues. We should seek wholeness in all of our relationships. So read this article and reflect upon it, and look at how we all can apply wholeness to our relationships and issues today:

Sexual Wholeness As Justice Work


Rev. Lacette Cross Founder, Will You Be Whole Ministries

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Pursuing sexual wholeness is a radical act of justice. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the church has a problem with sexuality. Many of us can quote the statistics and cite the scholarship. We can tell heart-rending stories of hurt and anguish as we wrestle with death-dealing, conservative theologies that keep many of us suffering in silence.

And yet the prophet Micah begs us to consider what the Lord requires of us.

The Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon, a black womanist theologian and ethicist, suggests that misunderstandings about sexuality send more people to the grave than any other issue. If there were one aspect of our humanity we wrestle with the most, then it is being in our very blessed and yet problematic bodies. From the time we are born until the day we leave this earth the pressing issues of our existence seems to be what do we do with our bodies, how do we treat the bodies of others, and what in this relating is good?

Beloveds, we have a problem with embodiment—plain and simple. When we survey the social-political landscape and we point our eye to prevailing issues of immigration, education, poverty, voting rights, LGBTQ equality, fair housing, and transgender visibility, it becomes crystal clear that we have an issue with our flesh, and with the very embodiment of humanity. And when we are honest, the church in general, and the black church in particular, has not been the most helpful, nor the most truthful, nor the most kind, nor the most just in dealing head-on with the very true reality that we are embodied spirits and inspirited bodies.

This is why my sisters, brothers and siblings, I suggest that sexual wholeness—the coming together of being sexually faithful and faithfully sexual—is a justice issue.

The question, then, is what do we need to do if we are going to be Jesus-loving justice workers in the world?

I am so glad you asked. The prophet Micah helps us by giving us three simple yet profound considerations:

1. Do justice. “Do” is a word that conveys our intentions for completing an action. And so, as Dr. Cannon would say, “Do the work your soul must have.” This means that we must engage in the living, working, and sharing of life that makes us come alive. And then we must ground that work in the character of God that is just.

2. Love kindness. The art of being kind is often lost on ourselves. And so to love kindness is to stop and take a moment to care for yourself even as you care for others. In fact, Dr. Cannon suggests that in order to be a justice worker in the world, we need a disciplined devotional life.

3. Walk humbly with God. Move in this world with awareness that our connection to God is experienced in our relationship with others. How can we rightly relate to others if our walk with God is not right-sized? Dr. Cannon suggests that, in order for us to ethically relate to others, we must see the imago dei—or the image of God—in ourselves and others.

Therefore, Beloveds, engage in the work of becoming sexually faithful and faithfully sexual.

Do this work knowing full well that it is what the Lord is requiring of you.


+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


August 11, 2017

Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected 2nd-5th Centuries by Wes Howard-Brook


Matthew 16:24-28

Memories flood our minds like a rainbow of colors.

People are always curious about why I do the ministry I do, why I live a life that seems so “different”( in reality I am no different than anyone else.) Those questions often put me on the defensive, but the past few days memories I have forgotten about have come to  press in on me, to enfold me in a dark depression, they overwhelm me, and I know it is the Spirit pressing them forward.

Through out my life there has been this Presence, that overwhelms me, that presses on  me in dark times, as well as the times of light, but always a Presence, whom I call Jesus.   And that is why I embrace the pain that often comes with the memories. That is why I  walk into the pain, walk into the dark places where others fear to go. I am not alone. I run away, but always turn around and run into the Light that one finds in the darkness. There is no fear on the streets, there is no fear in the face of pain and death because that is where Jesus is most visible.

I remember back to when I was 13, and my mom caught me and another boy fooling around. She grounded me, gave me books on the evils of homosexuality, and at the same time a sixteen year old friend of mine was murdered because of being with a boy. Those events shut me down, I enclosed myself into a closet of lies and deceit for 12 years, and I am still growing out of that closet of a 13 year old. I am still wrestling with those years of lies and deceit, those years of darkness and pain, and still struggle with my own goodness, my own acceptance. And the events that I stumble into, always push me. This ministry grows out of that struggle. I see that in certain events.

I remember my second year in seminary there was a a hugh party held out in the country every Saturday night, where I served a church. I was close to the kids and went to the party. And eventually what I observed were both the girls and boys being used for prostitutes, and other activities that were simply evil, beyond the normal use of alcohol and drugs. I talked to a few of the local pastors about going with me to the police and they clammed up saying “it is outside of our town.” So I went to the police and set up a sting operation. The result was the busting of a child trafficking and prostitution ring, and the anger of many, and the turning away of my ministerial colleagues out of fear; I shut down, with the rejection, tried to become the “perfect preacher boy.” But that never works for me–I never stay in any closet–I bust out–

My first full time church out of seminary was in a small town in northern Missouri. The second week I was on the job there was a murder of a man known  as the “town bully”, a drug dealer and who knows what else. The funeral home called and asked me to do the funeral–because no other minister in the area would even see the family, let along do the funeral, and so I performed the funeral and ministered to the young wife and four kids.  And for the next two years I was hated, threatened, until I moved. Again I became the perfect “preacher boy”, and as always it did not work.

Staying in the closet never works it destroys us.  People label me “gay, bi, and every other name”, but I have had sex with both men and women, love both, so am I “bi” or “straight” or now that I am celibate  am I a “eunuch”.  Labels are destructive–so I label myself “queer” which one can look at in many ways. Labeling destroys relationships.

The church often goes in the closet behind the Bible. And you can never hide from Jesus–we have to face our memories–

Only in facing our memories can we find our true selves. Wes Howard Brook  in his book Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected 2nd-5th Centuries sums up that the tradition Jesus taught was opposite  of the tradition formed through the Empire and political ambitions of its leaders, that the tradition of Jesus are not concerned with “the right words” but with the “right practice” which is the love of God and neighbor. Jesus never was concerned with “saving souls”, but loving people in all walks of life, but in particular the poor and the oppressed.

Henri Nouwen tells us that

“Often we are preoccupied with the question, “How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus?  What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?”  These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love.  Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses.  He was so full of God’s love, so connected with God’s will, so burning with the zeal for God’s Kingdom, that he couldn’t do other than witness. Wherever he went and whomever he met, a power went out from him that healed everyone who touched him. (See Luke 6:19.)

If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was.”

My  memories are like a rainbow of colors that are bright, dark, painful, and full of resurrection.   My memories shine into the presence and bring me to see simply Jesus in his love of people, and his care for others.

Our lectionary reading from Matthew tells us: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives will find them.”

For me the words of St. Mary Mackallop describes the purpose of our creation: ‘Find happiness in making others happy.”

I do not do a very good job, but I try with all of my mind, soul and strength to love God and my neighbor, and I hope others will try as well.

+Fr. River Damien Sims sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Living in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

August 7, 2017

Living in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Recently there was a young lady sitting in a corner of Hemlock Alley.  Around you could see people going into the bars and restaurants on Polk Street. She was picking at a rat hole in the alley, and what she was trying to pull out was some cooked rice. I sat down and gave her some food, and she looked at me with the most beautiful eyes and said: “When I have no food, I search these holes, and look in the dumpsters, and find grains of rice and other things I can eat.  I keep them in my back pack. God is kind- hearted. God watches over me and gives me everything.  When God watches me looking everywhere I always find some food.  I search the holes, pack my food away, and and go to sleep.”

A simple statement of faith that speaks to confronting our hungry ghosts.  WE are all surrounded by hungry ghosts. They are our shadows.  I see my ghosts all the time: the ghosts of growing up in an homophobic environment, being kicked out of the ministry for being queer.  I see my ghosts in the people who bring judgment on me for the way I work, when in fact it is their ghosts at work in the labeling, and judgment of  people on the street. Our hungry ghosts surround us and enslave us.  When we start looking at our shadow side–our ghosts go away.

The young lady is a ware of her hungry ghosts of addiction, of homelessness, that she struggles with every second of the day. She is aware of the hungry ghosts of the near impossibility of getting out of her environment–in a City that has little housing, and where you have to fight tooth and nail to get treatment. She has just moved a year beyond the age for youth services, and so all of that has become more limited.

She is one of so many of the hungry ghosts that I have been friends with over the years: Cade. who died of AIDS at 22, Derk, 23, of a drug over dose, Mike 30, a drug over dose and thousands more. On my wall are photos of young men and women I have known and loved for 24 years, and each one has lived in the realm of the hungry ghosts.

I was asked the other day by a friend  if I had time to “hang out.”  My reply was: “Hell yea, my ministry is hanging out.”  For me that is what ministry is–hanging out, without judgment, without fixing anything, but hanging out, listening, giving love and attention, and facing our shadows together so that we can push the hungry ghosts away.  One of the largest hungry ghosts we have to face is our need to “fix” others, to fix their situation. Once we confront that sucker, we can walk into the life of loving the other without expectation, with freedom, and the shining light of Christ beams through us.  We are set free to relate and love as equals, fellow travelers on the journey.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Closing Our Eyes

August 1, 2017


“We are not here to change the world, but to be changed by the world”. Buddhist Saying

Matthew 13:44-46

The pearl of great price that Jesus talks about is not something that we grab, we get for ourselves.  It is in being changed into new beings, new beings who see life as an opening, and as a means of service.  For years I have tried to change the world, but ultimately the world changed me.

We have kept our eyes closed for so long to the reality of drugs in our midst, have seen them as evil, rather than when they are used in an unhealthy manner. They are not evil in themselves.  We should open our eyes and see drug use for what it is, and the wide circle of people who use drugs and to approach its use from the form of health and doing no harm. We live in a drug society.  A society that uses drugs for everything, and we demonize some drugs for political purposes. We should at least decriminalize drugs and use the money for helping people with drug treatment and mental health; rather than demonize people we should value them as human beings. Here is an article recently put out that guides us in the direction, I invite you to read it, read it with an open heart, read it looking in the eyes of people:

4 Reasons Why The U.S. Needs to Decriminalize Drugs – And Why We’re Closer Than You Think

July 10, 2017 – By Jag Davies

Half of all adults in the U.S. have used an illegal drug at some point.   If this was your loved one, family member or friend, would they deserve to be arrested, jailed, and face a lifetime of punishment and discrimination?

Ending criminal penalties for drug possession, often referred to as decriminalization, means nobody gets arrested, goes to jail or prison, or faces criminal punishment for possessing a small amount of a drug for personal use. As detailed in a new Drug Policy Alliance report, there’s an emerging public, political, and scientific consensus that otherwise-law-abiding people should not be arrested, let alone locked in cages, simply for using or possessing a drug.

This is a pivotal moment.  Our retrograde federal administration is ramping up the war on drugs – despite widespread public support for ending it and instead focusing our limited resources on health-based approaches to drug addiction and overdose deaths.

Since most drug enforcement is carried out at the local and state levels, not the federal level, jurisdictions across the U.S. are responding to Trump and Sessions by moving drug policy reforms forward with increasing urgency.

Here’s why the U.S. needs to decriminalize drugs – and why we’re actually closer than you might think.

1)  Decriminalization benefits public safety and health.

Decades of empirical evidence from around the world shows that reducing and eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession does not increase rates of drug use or crime – while drastically reducing addiction, overdose and HIV/AIDS.

Today, as overdose deaths skyrocket all over the U.S., people who need drug treatment or medical assistance may avoid it in order to hide their drug use.  If we decriminalize drugs, people can come out of the shadows and get help.

More than a million people are arrested each year in the U.S. for drug possession, but this has done nothing to reduce the availability of drugs or the harms they can cause.  What we’re doing doesn’t work – and actually makes things worse.

Our current policies are diverting law enforcement resources from serious public safety issues.  Hundreds of thousands of rape kits go unprocessed at the same time we’re spending billions of dollars arresting and punishing people for drug possession. Our limited public resources would be better spent on expanding access to effective drug treatment and other health services.

2)  Drug possession arrests fuel mass incarceration and mass criminalization – not to mention institutionalized racism and economic inequality.

Criminalizing drug use hurts families and communities, compounds social and economic inequalities, and unfairly denies millions of people the opportunity to support themselves and their families.

U.S. law enforcement arrests about 1.5 million people each year for drug law violations – and more than 80% of those arrests are for simple drug possession. On any given night, there are at least 133,000 people behind bars in U.S. prisons and jails for drug possession – and 63,000 of these people are held pre-trial, which means they’re locked up simply because they’re too poor to post bail.

Discriminatory enforcement of drug possession laws has produced profound racial and ethnic disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system. Black people comprise just 13% of the U.S. population and use drugs at similar rates as other groups – but they comprise 29% of those arrested for drug law violations and 35% of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession.

Drug criminalization also fuels mass detentions and deportations.  For noncitizens, including legal permanent residents – many of whom have been in the U.S. for decades and have jobs and families – possession of any amount of any drug (except first-time possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana) can trigger automatic detention and deportation, often without the possibility of return.  From 2007 to 2012, 266,000 people were deported for drug law violations, of whom 38 percent – more than 100,000 people – were deported simply for drug possession.

3)  Other countries have successfully decriminalized drugs – and the U.S. is moving in the right direction, despite Trump.

Most drug laws exist on a spectrum between criminalization and decriminalization. Some countries have eliminated penalties for possession of all drugs, while some countries and U.S. jurisdictions have eliminated penalties only for marijuana possession. Still other countries and U.S. jurisdictions have taken steps in the right direction by reducing criminal penalties without eliminating them entirely.

Some of these efforts in the U.S. include “defelonizing” drug possession by reducing it to a misdemeanor (which the Oregon legislature just approved last week), decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana possession, establishing pre-arrest diversion programs such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), and enacting 911 Good Samaritan laws, which allow for limited decriminalization at the scene of an overdose for people who are witnesses and call for emergency medical assistance. But more ambitious efforts are needed.

Several countries have successful experience with decriminalization, most notably Portugal.  In 2001, Portugal enacted one of the most extensive drug law reforms in the world when it decriminalized low-level possession and use of all illegal drugs.  Today in Portugal, no one is arrested or incarcerated for drug possession, many more people are receiving treatment, and addiction, HIV/AIDS and drug overdose have drastically decreased.

The Portuguese experience demonstrates that ending drug criminalization – alongside a serious investment in treatment and harm reduction services – can significantly improve public safety and health.

4)  The American public – as well as leading governmental, medical, public health, and human rights groups – already support drug decriminalization.

Polls of presidential primary voters last year found that substantial majorities support ending arrests for drug use and possession in Maine (64%), New Hampshire (66%) and even South Carolina (59%).  In 2016, the first state-level decriminalization bill was introduced in Maryland and a similar version was reintroduced in 2017. The Hawaii legislature, meanwhile, overwhelmingly approved a bill last year creating a commission to study decriminalization.

Just last month, the United Nations and World Health Organization released a joint statement calling for repeal of laws that criminalize drug use and possession. They join an impressive group of national and international organizations who have endorsed drug decriminalization that includes the International Red Cross, Organization of American States, Movement for Black Lives, NAACP, and American Public Health Association, among many others.

To learn more, check out DPA’s new report, It’s Time for the U.S. to Decriminalize Drug Use and Possession, which lays out a roadmap for how U.S. jurisdictions can move toward ending the criminalization of people who use drugs.

Jag Davies is director of communications strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance



And We Decide

July 31, 2017


Feast of St. Ignatius

Matthew 13:31-35

“He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field.”

The Kingdom of God is in us, each of us has that spark, God’s presence. It is a hidden treasure. It is there ready to grow through being nurtured, and cared for. We need to look within ourselves, and nurture that seed.

Sr. Zdenka Cecila Schelingova of Bratislava-1916-1955- was a nun who worked in Bratislava during the Second World War, in the Communist regime. She was caught and imprisoned for smuggling priests out of the country.  When she was released  several months before her death in 1955, her order would not take her back because  she was labeled as a “conspirator”. She died alone and in extreme poverty.

Dorothy Day was reviled, hated, and despise, during most of her ministry. Only in later life was she given praise. And now there is a move to make her a saint.

Dorothy saw sainthood for what it was–a means of domesticating the Wild Spirit–that ran through her, and through the Sister, who is on tract to sainthood as well. Sainthood is a means of appeasing the guilt of those who were not as aware of God’s presence as the individual being promoted. We like to beat them down, sometimes kill them, and than make them a saint.

We talk about being a “professional”, and Henri Nouwen points out that “A professional is one who professes one’s deepest convictions, through which the essential spiritual unity between living and caring becomes centered.”

The fire of the Holy Spirit frees us from the boundaries that control our fears, our doubts. I gave a young man a hundred dollars to pay for a room this morning–the pearl of great price for me–but he was beaten down and sick–to me that is being a professional–to others no boundaries; to me it is being a professional–to others a co-dependent.  You decide?

Rather than judge let’s open our hearts to the Wildness of the Holy Spirit, let the Fire burn within us, and let our lives become saintly–in our own imperfections–without the blessing of an institution. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.



P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Riddles, Questions, and Love!

July 31, 2017



“Again the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of in fine pearls.  When he foun the very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.”Matthewe 13: 46

What is the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field, the fish worth keeping? We all know the right answer: God. To get the real answer we might ask ourselves: What is most important? What do I really want so badly it aches?

I have struggled with that question all of my life:  Security? friends? A place to belong? Simply to be accepted for who I am? Not to be picked a part by people? 

And in recent years as people have walked away because they do not understand me, as I have faced threats, and as resources have become scarce, and as I get older and realize I have less time left, what becomes clear to me is the “pearl of great price.”  It has been in front of my eyes all the time.

That pearl is seen in the face of the undocumented young man in San Antonio, Texas, who gave me his pan handling sign which reads:

“Tired and Hungry+Any thing Helps At All+God Bless+” and in the young man I met on Haight Street last Friday. He looked like a lad out of Dickens’s novel–dirty face, ragged clothes, and as I gave him money for food, and spent a few minutes, he shared he was traveling and had not eaten in two days.

That pearl is simply being a pastor to young men and women like these two–without judgment, wanting nothing in return, giving of what I have, simply being present to them in the moment.


They are the embodiment of the scared face of Jesus–and to be in his presence is more than enough. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164