September 10, 2009
As a husband, I support health care reform because my 26-year-old wife was denied health insurance coverage because of childhood operations.
As a friend, I support health care reform because I have friends who have had to gamble with their lives and their livelihoods because they could not afford health insurance.
As an American, I support health care reform because I value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.
Will you join me in working to ensure that quality and affordable health care will be an option not just for some but for all of God's children?
(This was a Letter to the Editor I wrote for the Argus Leader. It appeared on September 9, 2009)
ACT: You can write a letter too. It's easy. Just go to this website to get started. You can find your local paper, see a list of talking points, and write your letter all in one spot.
September 2, 2009
During a weekend discussion on Fox News, Juan Williams of NPR spoke up against this twisted logic.
But let me just if I could say quickly, two quick things. One is, in a democracy you don't torture people. It's against the law. We're having this discussion here like oh well, you know if it works, it's okay. No. It's not okay. You don't torture people.
I think NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard could benefit from talking with Juan Willams. Shepard refuses to describe what Americans have done as torture. But she will refer to what other countries do as torture. This affects all of NPR's reporting.
NPR will use the word "torture" to describe what other governments do because they do it merely to sadistically inflict pain on people while the U.S. did it for a noble reason: to obtain information about Terrorist attack (Salon)
In addition to being waterboarded, it has been revealed that many detainees suffered some of the following acts of torture and abuse:
(a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle (Glenn Greenwald)In my opinion, it doesn't matter who the person is, because torturing human beings is wrong. God created EVERYONE is God's image, Jesus commanded us to LOVE our neighbor, and how we Treat Others is directly related to how we TREAT CHRIST. It's as simple as that.
Earlier last month there was a story about a 6 year old boy kidnapped by al Qaeda operatives in Iraq and tortured. His captors pulled out each of his tiny fingernails, broke both his arms, and beat him repeatedly on the side of the head with a shovel" (CNN). Torturing children is wrong. Torturing human beings is wrong. Torture is wrong.
For more on why torture is wrong, check out David Gushee's article in Christianity Today
(5 Reasons Torture is Always Wrong)
ACT: Endorse the Call for a Commission of Inquiry (NRCAT)
July 30, 2009
While at Faith in Public Life this summer I have had a second row seat watching the efforts to find common ground on abortion. Last month I blogged a little bit about my position, what Obama's been doing, and the new Common Ground blog at RH Reality Check.
Last week the movement for common ground on abortion picked up steam as an exciting new piece of legislation went public. It is called the "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act."
More than three dozen religious leaders and groups from across the ideological spectrum announced their support for landmark legislation unveiled today by Representatives Tim Ryan (OH-17) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) that makes concrete progress toward the shared goal of reducing the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and families (Faith in Public Life Press Release).
When they say "from across the ideological spectrum," they're not joking. We're talking about Jews, Evangelicals, and Planned Parenthood. This legislation has support from pro-life and pro-choice religious leaders, and pro-life and pro-choice secular leaders. It also has support from people like myself who indentify themselves more in the middle.
Despite the legislation having broad support, several conservative organizations and religious groups would not support the legislation and are in fact actively opposing the legislation, as well as criticizing persons who endorsed the legislation.
Commenting on the new divide that has emerged between people, William Saletan writes, "A new fault line has opened in the abortion debate. The fight is no longer between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. It's between militants and pragmatists." Even though "pro-choicers got money for contraception and sex education, [and] pro-lifers got abstinence-friendly curriculum, a bigger adoption tax credit, and financial support for women who continue their pregnancies," pro-life extremists are refusing to have anything to do with pro-choice organizations (Slate).
A press release from Concerned Women for America stated, "But pro-lifers are not fooled -- a vote for either Ryan/DeLauro or the health care bill is a vote to increase abortions." Focus on the Family's activism arm, CitizenLink used a quote to tell their supporters that the legislation was about "death." I believe these statements are not only baseless, but they also represent an immoral and distorted pro-life position.
I understand not wanting to compromise or work together with your rivals, yet I believe there is an unprecedented opportunity before us to actually reduce the number of abortions in America. For over 35 years, millions of Americans have been fighting each other on abortion, and they have spent millions of dollars in the process. Meanwhile there are nearly a million abortions every year in this country. The time has come for a new approach. I hope individual pro-lifers will not stand on the sidelines or stand in the way for common ground on abortion. For to do so, I believe, would be a fatal mistake.
*You can find a 4 page summary of the legislation, as well as the full list of sponsors and their statements over at Third Way.
July 24, 2009
In case you didn't know, racial tensions still exist in America. We can see this quite clearly by the response to the recent incident in which a Harvard professor was arrested at his home. It's not exactly clear what happened, but basically the police saw Dr. Gates trying to get into his home, however they thought he was an intruder. Tensions arose as Gates felt he was enduring another incident of police misconduct and racial injustice. From the perspective of the police officers, Gates appeared suspicious. When they confronted him, he did not cooperate and he became belligerent.
Obama stirred the pot on Wednesday by suggesting that the police acted "stupidly." Since then allegations have been flying from all over as to the appropriateness of the conduct of the police, the professor, and the president.
Today Obama weighed in again on the situation when he spoke at the White House press briefing. I believe Obama's profound, humorous, and humble remarks, reflect true leadership.
In his remarks, Obama said he'd called Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, and spoken with him. He made some attempts to tamp down the furor, saying his impression of Crowley is that he's "an outstanding police officer and a good man" and that he'd talked with him about the three men -- Crowley, Gates and Obama -- having a beer together in the White House (Salon).His entire remarks can be found on the link and are worth a read, but here's an excerpt.
My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved...My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what's called a "teachable moment," where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.Now I'm not much of a beer drinker, or an alcohol drinker for that matter, nor do I think Obama is perfect, but I think we could all benefit from learning from Obama's approach to this conflict.
- Courageously speaking up for those who are mistreated
- Knowing when to back off and restate your opinion
- Praising the positive qualities of your opponents
- Speaking directly with your opponents
- Addressing the larger issues at play
- Finding common ground and humor
- Working for reconciliation between people
- Getting together with folks for drinks
July 22, 2009
- There are scenes in this film of chickens and cattle that made me want to scream and weep. Now I know I’m biased because I’m a vegetarian, (for ethical and religious reasons) but even if you eat meat, I think you should be horrified at some of the ways in which many animals are treated in the process of them making their way to your dinner plate.
- More effectively than I've seen done by another other film, Food Inc. weaves together a host of seemingly unrelated issues to form a tapestry of injustice. How we treat the environment and the animals in it effects how we treat fellow human beings. The role the agricultural industry plays in our political system effects our justice system. Our quality of health is directly related to our food prices and food options, which are directly related to what farm subsidies are lobbied for by big business.
- My favorite scene in the film takes place when some Wal-Mart representatives meet with a few organic dairy farmers who have a contract with Wal-Mart and Stonyfield Farm. The crazy thing is that the farmers themselves intentionally don't shop at Wal-Mart. They’re sticking it to the man, but they’re sleeping with him too. As I wrestle with the challenges of being a Christian and being involved in politics, perhaps I can learn a few things or two from these farmers who are simultaneously boycotting a company, while helping it to expand its more eco and animal friendly product line.
July 18, 2009
Going in I knew that the families were a bit conservative. This was confirmed by the prayer before we ate, which referenced Christ’s sacrifice on the cross paying the ultimate price for the sins of wretched humanity.
Dinner got started and the food was good, the conversation was pleasant, and then I was asked the question, “So tell us about what you’re doing in DC?” Generally I like this type of question; it’s very open ended and it allows me to express myself. Yet as the room became suddenly quite and everyone’s attention shifted to me, I felt like I might be entering tricky territory. With a bit of trepidation, I attempted to articulate where I was working and what I was doing. I informed them that I was a Beatitudes Society Fellow at Faith in Public Life, where I helped them in their mission to be a resource center for justice and the common good. Then there were follow up questions and some comments. The conversation was casual, but with an element of seriousness that caused me to feel like I was on trial.
I felt like everything I was saying made me come off as a crazy, hippie, liberal Christian. I wasn’t ashamed to talk about…
-compassion, justice, and love
-a broader understanding of transformation salvation
-interfaith and ecumenical work
-climate change, healthcare reform, and immigration reform
But I knew they were suspicious of me. I can just imagine the host father silently praying that I would either see the light or never pastor a church. With all due respect to GLBT persons, I felt like I was bordering on coming out of the closet as a progressive Christian--to a group of people who were not going to fully accept me.
In the midst of it all, I was trying to decide how much should I share. How specific, how theological, how political should my responses be? Do I use liberal code words or conservative code words? Should this take over the rest of the evening? Do I want them to discover who I am, or do I want to blend in? Crap, now the seminarian is asking me if this is connected to Brian McLaren. Crap, now the father is asking me who founded these organizations and what book my reflection group is reading. For a second I blank on the title, (maybe that’s a good thing). I tell him it’s about progressive Christianity. “What’s that?” his wife asks. This is it, this is the moment I’ve been preparing for these last six weeks. I just gotta bust out my elevator speech, throw in a personal story, and they’ll be hungry for more. Yeah well, it wasn’t a disaster, but it was pretty close. Somehow the conversation ended with the father being concerned about people worshipping the earth and the conservative seminarian complaining that organic farming can’t feed enough people.
What was I supposed to say? I don’t want to hide, but sometimes it’s just easier. If I had been more forthcoming, I suspect that we would have inevitably more openly clashed with one another. I’m ok with conflict with friends and family, face-to-face or online. But put me in a room with a older, conservative, and dominant male that’s convinced that I’m out of line with God’s will, and I’ll curl up and crumble. If he discovers that I don’t believe the “right” thing about, God, Christ, the bible, humanity, sin, salvation, and faithfulness, I will want to run.
There are several resources that I think can be helpful in talking with conservatives, particularly the recent writings from evangelicals who are emphasizing the Kingdom of God. To name a few…
-David Gushee: Kingdom Ethics & "Kingdom theology makes a comeback"
-James Choung: True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In
-Richard Stearns: The Hole in Our Gospel
I realize that some conservative folks will always write me off because I believe the Bible is inspired, not infallible, gays are probably ok, violence is sinful, men and women are equal, penal substitution lacks grace, Muslims might go to heaven, and the fundamental character of God is love. And I guess it makes sense that folks like this would want me to be the last person with a flock. But I hate that feeling.
For now, I’ll keep praying for God to form me, get an elevator speech and then practice it, and work at telling and weaving God’s story with my story.
July 14, 2009
I have been questioning authority and asking the why question for about as long as I can remember, but I think my opinion on the issue might also have had to do with the fact that whenever I played multi-player Bond or Mario Kart on Nintendo 64, I would curse up a storm. But it was never out of hatred or malice, it was just a little venting for whenever I got my ass kicked. Boy did I string along some rather peculiar combinations of swear words back in those days:)
Then at some point in high school I heard Tony Campolo say the following,
I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.
That quote validated my own feelings that God really didn't care if Christians swore; what really mattered was that we care about loving our neighbor by preventing so many children from dying.
I was reminded of that the other day while reading a United Methodist News Service article/report about ending hunger. The article included quotes from David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. As part of his tireless efforts fighting and advocating on behalf of hungry and poor people around the world, he has stated that we actually have the resources to end worldwide hunger. In addition to prayer and advocacy, he says "The main thing we need is more 'give a damn.' It is political will." I think Beckmann is exactly right and I think his word choice helped him to make his point.
Last week, Derek Webb released his latest album, Stockholm Syndrome. There has been some controversy surrounding the album--in part because of the song "What Matters More," which has a swear word and addresses homosexuality."
‘Cause we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin’ today
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion,
July 11, 2009
From Democracy Now
In South Dakota activists with the environmental group Greenpeace scaled the Mount Rushmore National Monument Wednesday and hung a banner urging President Obama [to] take the action on global warming. The banner was hung next to the carved mountain face of Abraham Lincoln. It reads quote “America honors leaders, not politicians: Stop Global Warming.” The action came as Obama was in Italy for talks with other world leaders of the G8 summit. The group of 11 Greenpeace activists were arrested and charged with trespassing. They each face up to six months in prison.
It's hard to believe that environmental activism in South Dakota made news around the world. I can't say that I support everything that Greenpeace does or stands for, but I like this action. They felt that they needed to engage in civil disobedience to make a point. Their actions in South Dakota combined with their other advocacy efforts, combined with the movement to care for the environment have led to significant policy changes and new legislation aimed at reducing pollution, expanding sustainability, and assisting those most hurt by climate change.
I think the decision to engage is civil disobedience in never one people should take lightly; people must consider safety and ethics, and wisely discern the best course of action. If this does not occur, civil disobedience can be counterproductive or even immoral.
Last year six Greenpeace activists painted a smokestack in the United Kingdom as part of an effort to stop the expansion of coal plants. They were also arrested and charged, but they were found not guilty.
They were accused of causing £30,000 (US$53,000) of criminal damage to the Kingsnorth smokestack from painting. The defence was that they had a 'lawful excuse' - because they were acting to protect property around the world "in immediate need of protection" from the impacts of climate change, caused in part by burning coal.
Nick Broomfield directed this fascinating documentary of their story. Do you think the actions of either group of activists was justified?
July 8, 2009
July 4, 2009
As the health care debate heats up and Senators head home for Independence Day Recess, pastors from across the country are taking to the airwaves with radio ads to remind lawmakers that the status quo on health care is "not who we are as a nation" and that "America can do better," emphasizing our nation's values in the days leading up to July 4th.
Drawing on the Scriptural call to act with a spirit of courage, love and action, the ads will run beginning today through July 4th in five key states--Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska and North Carolina--urging Senators from those states, whose support will be critical to the passage of meaningful legislation, to support reform that makes quality coverage truly affordable for every American family. The ad script and audio are available here.
Unfortunately some faith-based groups like the Family Research Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy seem to be trying to derail healthcare reform. Last week I blogged about Tony Perkins debate with Jim Wallis and this week Mark Tooley sent an email out blaming the Religious Left for the plague of fatherlessness, illegitimacy, crime, social decay, and further poverty in the 1960’s. Why are conservative Christian groups actively opposing efforts to ensure sure that Americans have affordable and accessible healthcare.?
This goes to demonstrate the importance of having groups like Faith in Public Life--who provide an alternative to the Religious Right, but also groups like the Beatitudes Society---who work to counter the harmful actions and influence of the Religious Right (more about that in my previous post).
July 3, 2009
Today in America, the widespread perception of Christianity -- one centered in nationalism, materialism and intolerance -- bears little resemblance to the life and teachings of Jesus, particularly as they concern justice, compassion, and peacemaking. To counter that, The Beatitudes Society develops and sustains a national network of emerging Christian leaders at seminaries and divinity schools who will:
June 26, 2009
All across America battles have been waged and millions of dollars have been spent by the pro-choice and pro-life movements. In the struggle for dictating the laws of the land, it seems as though little has changed except the deterioration of dialogue and relationships. Often those on the far left and the far right can be heard demonizing their opponents by labeling the other as baby killers or women haters. Meanwhile abortions continue, children born into poverty continues, and unintended pregnancies continue.
So when Obama began talking about finding common ground in the area of abortion, I was deeply pleased. His desire to bring folks together to find places of agreement filled me with hope and resonated with ideas that I had already been thinking about.
That work is continuing and many courageous people are stepping forward (often at the cost of being attacked by their friends) and extending their hand to their opponent. They are joining together with the people like me in the middle who see this issue as a complicated one, but who agree that we should find ways to reduce abortions. I personally identify myself as pro-life, however I'm not so sure that we should criminalize abortion.
Just in the last two weeks there have been some exciting developments and conversations taking place about common ground on abortion. I encourage you to check out the new blog: www.rhrealitycheck.org/commonground as well as watch this civil and sincere dialogue of Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee discussing abortion.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
This isn't so much an update as a really great article that I forgot to reference. It's about a similar effort occuring in Canada.
"If we made abortion illegal tomorrow it's not going to change anything. I am not concerned with the law," said Yvonne Douma, the executive-director of the British Columbia-based organization.
Her group's goal is to "create a Canada where demand for abortions dwindles and decreases until there's none left -- not because it was forced upon anyone, but because that is what women choose."
June 25, 2009
June 23, 2009
"I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I'm listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It's worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I'm two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow's children..."
The misspelling, the range of punctuation, the immediacy: it was like overhearing snatches of discourse from police radio. Or it was like reading a million little telegram messages being beamed out like an SOS to the world. Within seconds I could transcribe and broadcast them to hundreds of thousands more.As I did so, it was impossible not to feel connected to the people on the streets, especially the younger generation, with their blogs and tweets and Facebook messages - all instantly familiar to westerners in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. This new medium ripped the veil off "the other" and we began to see them as ourselves.
"Martin Luther King once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,'" Mr. Obama said in a statement released after security forces in the Iranian capital clashed repeatedly with protesters. "I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian people's belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness."