July 8, 2008


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has scored another labor victory. "Burger King has agreed to pay an additional net penny per pound for Florida tomatoes to increase wages for the Florida farm workers who harvest tomatoes."

In West Virginian people will be able to get more bang for their buck when they shop for food. The state has now cut the food tax in half.

Because of Democratic Senator Jim Webb and others, a new GI Bill was passed and signed into law. The legislation provides substantially better benefits because the old GI bill was outdated.

The US Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo prisoners have the right to challenge their detention at the US military base in civilian courts.

Despite improvements in domestic nutrition programs, the recently passed Farm Bill failed to reform farm subsidies. Thanks for trying President Bush.

The House passed an updated and compromised FISA bill. The debate over telecom immunity will continue in the Senate today.

A report released by the human rights group, Physicians for Human Rights, reveals that former terrorist suspects detained by the United States were tortured.

In her new book and this interview, Professor M. Gigi Durham discusses the corporate media's sexual objectification of girls and how to help young women fight regressive media messages.

Chris Satullo suggests "we deserve no Fourth this year" in his newspaper column.

The Office: Japanese

AIPAC Pandering

In this clip Stewart claims that a real debate about Israel is only acceptable in Israel. Based on my experience in the US and in Israel I would say his comments are fairly accurate.

With regard to Obama's pandering at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he did at least offer some suggestions to Israel.
“Israel can,” he said, “ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank, and to refrain from building new settlements — as it agreed to with the [President George W.] Bush administration at Annapolis.” Inter Press Service

If Obama is elected, I hope that he will be able to critique the harsh violence of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

July 7, 2008

Short Film: Strangers

"Strangers depicts the unlikely duo of a young Arabic and a Jewish man who must put aside their fears and predisposed hatred toward one another when confronted with an even greater threat, a gang of skinheads.

This short film by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv really sheds some perspective on tensions between Arabs and Israelis, considering how both still face an incredible amount of prejudice and violence in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world." Alternet

Film: Promises

Before I left for the Middle East I watched the documentary, Promises. The film taught me a great deal about Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It also caused me me laugh, despair, and hope.

You are welcome to borrow the film from me

Cluster Bomb Treaty

In May over 100 nations approved a cluster bomb treaty ban.
For more on the story & on who didn't sign the treaty watch this video.

Dangerous Ground is a commercial that depicts what life would be like if Westerners could not walk on the ground due to landmines and unexploded cluster bombs.

ACT: Ask all the presidential candidates to commit to sign the global cluster bomb ban.

Hannah's Lunchbox

Kevin was one of several incredible lay persons who joined me and 29 other seminarians in our Middle East Travel Seminar.

His family was recently featured on CNN and the Today Show for their project, Hannah's Lunchbox. I hope you will be inspired and challenged like I was by their story. I refer to it in my column.

Music: Nick Cannon

One day at the United Methodist General Conference I attended a luncheon that featured a former abortion clinic owner. As the speaker told horrors stories from her experiences and spoke passionately against abortion I was moved. But I was also disturbed as she basically characterized all pro-choice advocates as being pro-abortion. I came away believing even more strongly that the extremism on both sides of the abortion debate is detrimental.

I believe I am apart of the moderate majority that is pro-life, but against the criminalization of abortion. If we are to effectively reduce abortions in America, we must find ways for persons who are pro-life and pro-choice to work together.

Nick Cannon's song below is a powerful testimony of his own personal experience with the issue. While you may not agree with the message he is conveying, I hope you'll take a listen.

Cartoon: Democrats

Quote: Bobby Kennedy

40 years ago Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. May his words continue to inspire us to do what is right, even when the work is difficult and seems insignificant.

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
University of Cape Town, June 6th, 1966

New Social Creeds

The United Methodist Church (UMC), the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and the National Council of Churches (NCC) have all written new social creeds.

I am proud to be a United Methodist because we retained the previous social creed and set the new social creed to music. This will hopefully enable the social creed to be used regularly in worship services.

Social Sin

What can one family do to help end poverty and hunger in Africa? They can do a lot if they sell their house and give away half the money. That is exactly what Hannah’s family eventually did through their project, Hannah’s Lunchbox. In a video about the project Hannah explains what got things started: “There are always homeless men sitting at [that stoplight] holding up signs and begging for food. And right in front of us there was a Mercedes. And I looked at the guy in the Mercedes and I said, “You know, if that guy didn’t have such a nice car, the man over here could have a meal.””
Hannah's words reminded me of the quote I came across in college that challenged me immensely: “Live simply that others may simply live.” This quote makes a claim that individual life choices affect the livelihood of other people. For me it also makes a value judgment that says, there is something not right about living beyond the necessities of life while others lack the necessities to live. This realization dawned on me in my experiences with the poor in Peru. Hannah realized it through serving the poor at a food bank in Atlanta and because of the disparity she saw between a man begging for food and a man driving a Mercedes.

To understand that we play a role in affecting disparities is to recognize how our individual decisions directly and indirectly impact other people. From there we can accept responsibility for the welfare of others. My faith tradition teaches me that all persons are my neighbor and my brother or sister. When our actions, even inadvertently, cause harm to our friends, the beggar downtown, or the struggling widow around the world, I believe we sin. That does not necessarily mean we are bad people, but it recognizes that because of our interconnectedness--what we do matters.

This is also true because we are apart of and participate in a variety of systems and institutions. In 18th century England one of those systems was slavery. In the 1791 pamphlet, An Address to the People of Great Britain, the author argues that if persons “purchase the commodity” of sugar they “participate in the crime." The same logic applies our financial support of governments, churches, and corporations. If governments, churches, or corporations we support engage in practices that oppress, exploit, and/or harm others, (which they often do) we too bear part of the responsibility, and thus part of the guilt. If we are silent or complicit in the harm that the institutions cause we all even more to confess to God and to our community.

I am define sin as that which distances us from God and/or our neighbor. The “that” which I refer to can be either an act or a condition, both of which feed off of the other. Social sin occurs when we fail to love our neighbor as a community or fail to love our neighbor through our participation in institutions that cause harm. Often this takes places because of naivet’e or apathy. These sins of omission are also apart of social sin. On a practical level I think the fact that Hannah saw a homeless man is an indictment of the man with the Mercedes and the community.
I do not know whether Hannah or her family were ever thinking about sin. However they decided to live differently and to give up their former ways. Their personal decision to reside in a significantly smaller house will have a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of African people. Their willingness to sacrifice for something greater than themselves inspires me to do even more to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).