I think that economics is the bleeding edge issue of our time. I recently had the opportunity to hear Colleen Wessel-McCoy, a Poverty Initiative Scholar, talk on this subject and she helped me in framing some of these issues with the suggestions of this typology around poverty.
There are at least four ways that we can explain poverty in our society: accident, pathology, destiny, systemic.
Poverty as accident assumes that our system is generally a generous and fair system and then bad things happen, like disasters or bad economic cycles that unfortunately enough impact families. Our response to this is to create short-term assistance.
Poverty as pathology says that bad behaviors and choices people make create poverty. Our response to this is that what we need to do is stigmatize the poor so people don’t want to be like them, then they will be afraid to make bad choices and then we won’t have poverty.
Poverty as destiny spiritualizes and romanticizes the poor because they are closer to God. The response here is often simple charity or no response at all. Why would we try to take away their destiny?
Finally, A systemic view of poverty sees the system itself as creating poverty, it is tilted against against certain people, or better yet, it is tilted towards the benefit of a few. In the systemic view, poverty is not an accident but rather the consequence of the powers and principalities at work. Our response here is to empower the poor within our communities and churches to make change. Continue reading
Trigger warning: Discussion around healing, being hurt, and other beliefs that have been used to wound people who are already wounded.
Meeting for Worship for Healing
In preparation for our “Meeting for Worship for Healing” I spoke to a couple of ministers who I like to learn from, I did my own thinking and writing on the subject, and continued to explore ideas that I have been drawing on as of late. One of my first steps is always to begin to sort out what experiences I have found helpful or hurtful (or if I haven’t had a first hand experience, consider the stories of others). When it comes to healing, I have participated in two types of healing services in my past: the “faith healing” kind in which people are expected to be “cured” (and there’s something wrong with you when you aren’t) and the second was something closer to what we did today in which people are invited to come forward for prayer and anointing of oil with the expectation that this is one point along the journey towards wholeness.
This article comes from friend and co-worker Emily Ostrowski. Emily is a suicide prevention counselor working with an organization that helps youth dealing with suicidal ideation. I think you’ll find what she’s offered here both helpful and moving.
In Infinite Jest, renowned author David Foster Wallace, who tragically took his own life in 2008, compares suicide to a trapped person jumping out of a burning building. Wallace writes, “Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.” He goes on to note that, “Nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
That idea of the hapless bystander unable to help or understand is one I’ve struggled with ever since volunteering as a suicide prevention counselor this past April. Continue reading
I have at least two more posts to share with all of you on the subject of suicide. This one comes from a woman, Julie Heidingsfelder, who is a member in our meeting. Julie has been impacted by the suicides of her grandfather and aunt. We are telling these stories because we think it’s important to reflect on the nature of suicide and how it impacts our lives. We are telling these stories because they’re important threads in our lives that have challenged and changed us.
This post was written in 2010 for Peggy’s Personal blog “A Silly Poor Gospel” after the death of Friend and member of Freedom Friends Church of which she was then the pastor. Peggy’s ministry has been important to me over the years and this post is no different. J. who this post is about was a friend, Quaker and someone who features prominently in my dissertation.
This post continues the theme of reflecting on suicide and its impact in our lives. It is written by Aaron Scott, a close friend, biblical scholar, poverty initiative activist, and all around awesome person. She lost her grandpa earlier this year to mental illness, here is some of Aaron and her grandpa’s story.
My grandpa committed suicide in early February of this year. He had slipped rapidly into a hallucinatory and paranoid form of dementia (after his death, a doctor suggested lewy body dementia). Between the quick onset of the illness and the agonizing slowness of the health care system to respond to our family’s requests for help, he ended up going without care for much too long. There’s more to say about all of that. But today I am wondering about: how past experiences and political realities shape people’s experiences of paranoia (especially when their minds are coming undone).
Grandpa served 32 years in the US Air National Guard. He was never deployed, but his unit was activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis and his base helped with tactical and supply operations through the Korean and Vietnam wars. According to my dad, Grandpa held a lifelong empathy for working people and his politics reflected this. But he was also a law-and-order, career military man (I think he joined up before he was twenty years old). My dad told me they barely spoke to one another during the Vietnam war. Grandpa was staunchly ideologically in support of it. My dad, just fourteen years old then, committed himself to resisting the war after being educated by his local UMC pastor on the economics behind it, becoming critical of the way he understood his peers’ lives were being used for profit.
Image on flickr by martin_kelley
This week is suicide prevention week and so it’s got me thinking more about suicide. I wrote some of my story about the suicide of my step-dad a few weeks back called “Suicide and the Things We Carry”.
My wife Emily and I had moved to Los Angeles a few months before my step-dad died. And I didn’t talk to him more than a few times in the period leading up to his death, though I did speak with him a week or so before. If I had known anything about suicide at that point – I was 24 – I would have known to take seriously some of the remarks that he made. But I was a kid and I didn’t really know how to help anyone with these kinds of issues, let alone one of my parents. I don’t blame myself for what happened but I do wonder if I had taken the signs of his spiraling depression more seriously, could I have been brave enough to call help for him?
It’s really scary when you find yourself on the other end of a phone call, or standing in front of, someone who has lost all hope. You want to believe with all your heart that they’d never “do it.” You want to believe that they know somehow deep down inside that are loved, they are precious, they are wanted and needed. But this is not always the case and it can be a dangerous assumption to make. Do not assume that someone you love knows, or understands, that you love them or how deeply you love them. And don’t assume that your love is enough on its own to pull them back from the brink. Continue reading
Children Meeting for Worship / Photo PYM
This is a guest post written by Chad Stephenson a Quaker from San Francisco. It is a response to the Friends Journal article “Bringing Children to Worship” and my follow-up article found here. This article comes largely from Chad’s work with children as a librarian as the San Francisco Friends School. He’s a good friend of mine and I’ve always appreciated his insights and thoughts, I think you’ll find the same is true for what he’s written here.
This is the message I gave on November 11, 2012.
“As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” (Mark 12:38–13:2 NRSV)
This is the sermon I preached on October 28, 2012. It comes from the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Also, note that the general scope and interpretation of this sermon comes from Parker Palmer’s book The Active Life.*
The Problem with Scarcity
This morning I want us to look at this classic story about Jesus and his disciples feeding more than 5,000 people from the perspective of the themes scarcity and abundance.
Many of us have experienced times of scarcity in our lives, when money is tight or seems to evaporate as soon as you touch it. Where love and friendship seems unpredictable or worse untrustworthy. Where God is found silent and your prayers go unanswered. Scarcity is a feeling that you don’t have enough of what you need or want, and is often the root of anxiety, and fear in our lives. It’s that feeling of being hollowed out and empty. Continue reading