Blog Entries The Political

Rev. Barber: We Will Take Back Our Country, by Moral Means | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Diane Ravitch recently posted excerpts from an article Rev. Dr. William Barber wrote for Think Progress on December 15, 2016. If you do not know who Rev. Barber is, you should find out. He is the president of the NAACP in NC and a pastor of a church in Goldsboro, NC and wrote a book called, “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear,” which I cannot recommend enough.

I learned about Rev. Barber a number of years ago when he helped build the Moral Monday protests, which were in response to the “extremist makeover of North Carolina’s government,” in other words, what it looks like to “take back America.” And this past spring, I had the good fortune to meet and work with Rev. Barber as we invited him to Guilford College to be our commencement speaker (video of his talk here). That was an incredible experience for me in so many ways. I admire Barber’s political insight as a community organizer and I am inspired by how it flows out of his theological commitments and analysis as a pastor and theologian. Barber is building a “fusion coalition,” rooted in a history of the fusion party in the South, of people across various issues, needs and communities, something he is working to build across the country.

Here is an excerpt of his piece via Ravitch:

When Obama broke through in North Carolina in 2008, we witnessed firsthand the whitelash that America is reeling from right now. Some folks are saying we’ll have to wait and see what a Trump administration decides to do. But we’ve already seen it in North Carolina. The blueprint for what it looks like to “take back America” in the 21st century was laid out in the extremist makeover of North Carolina’s government during the 2013 legislative session. What’s the policy agenda of Make America Great Again? I can tell you because we’ve seen it:

Give tax breaks to corporations and to the wealthy, attack public education, deny people access to health care, attack immigrants, attack the LGBTQ community in the name of “religious liberty,” strip environmental protections, and, finally, make it easier to get a gun than it is to vote….

First, we must recognize the need for indigenously led, state-based, state-government focused, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-justice, pro-labor, and transformative movement building. There’s no shortcut around this. We must build a movement from the bottom up. We must build relationships at the state level because that’s where most of the extremism of the current-day deconstructionists are happening. They see the possibility of a Third Reconstruction, which is why they’

Source: Rev. Barber: We Will Take Back Our Country, by Moral Means | Diane Ravitch’s blog


The Political

Romney, Sheep and the 47%


Understandably, there’s been a lot of hullabaloo in media since Mother Jones revealed Mitt Romney calling 47% of us Americans mooches. In case you’ve missed it, here’s some of the transcript of what he said to the attendees of this $50,000-a-plate dinner:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax Watch the video here.

Romney’s comment should catch you off guard, it should sting. 47% is a lot of folks. It certainly includes me and my family, and there’s a good chance it’s you too. But it becomes even more ridiculous when you realize that more than 1/5 of the 47% are the elderly. Not to mention this also includes many others, such as those in college, those in the military, the lucky beneficiaries of the Bush-era tax cuts, the super-wealthy and more — find these and other statistics here.

Featured Sermons The Biblical The Political

Uniformity, Religio & Solidarity (Psalm 133)

This is the message I gave during our meeting for worship on Sunday August 13, 2011. 

_religion and Norway

On July 22, 2011, a 32-year-old man drove his car into the city centre of his hometown, Oslo Norway, near a number of government buildings. He was not out to file for a marriage license, or pay his bills, he was out to detonated a massive car bomb that ended up leaving eight people dead with many more injured in the explosion. He then took another car out to the island of [ooh-toya] Utoya where a youth camp meeting was being held by a group sponsored by Norway’s Labour Party which is represented by their current Prime Minister (similar to more liberal democratic party in the US). More than 600 of Norway’s youth meet on Utoya ever summer to learn about social democracy. We all know what happened next. Anders Behring Breivik arrived on the island in a police officers uniform and killed 68 people in cold blood. (Wiki) By all accounts this was a terrible massacre and each description of what happened is equally heart-wrentching and baffling. How could someone do something like this? Murder so many people so senselessly?

Blog Entries Reviews The Political

GMO OMG! Jeremy Seifert’s New Sizzle Real

My friend Jeremy Seifert, the guy behind the popular documentary Dive!, which I have reviewed here in the past, is beginning work on a new documentary about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). I am really excited about the new project and have posted it a few times in various places, but I haven’t shared the “Sizzle Reel” that Jeremy’s put together. You need to watch this. And if you can support the film that would be awesome too!

GMO Film Project Sizzler from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

Sermons The Biblical The Pastorate The Political

Peace Through Equality: Lucretia Mott, Paul and MLK (Galatians 3:26-29)

This was the message I gave this morning based on Galatians 3:26-29.

First we discussed some of these queries:

  1. What do you think the connections between peace and equality are in the passages above?
  2. In what ways have I experienced inequality in my own life or around me?
  3. What inequalities stir us most? What disturbs us? Whom do we care about?
  4. In what ways might we respond to inequality and work for peace in Southwest Washington?

Lucretia Mott

Quakers are convicted by the power of Gospel love for all people. Part of this is contained in our statement “there is that of God in everyone.” For a people who truly believe that there is something of God in all people, slavery is an impossibility, gender inequality is an aberration of the goodness of creation, classism crushes the most vulnerable among us and violence destroys another being who was made in the image of God. When we subject others to this kind of inequality, we work against a deeply held conviction. But when we are moved to respond to inequality, when we are disturbed enough to take a stand and to take on the work of peace then we enter into a story that has been going on for centuries. (We can respond).

Blog Entries Featured Sermons The Biblical The Political

Lineage, Belt Buckles and the BIG US. (Matthew 1:1-25)

Here’s my sermon from December 19th.

This morning is the fourth and final week of advent. We have travelled long and far in our discussion this advent season, and hopefully some of the ideas, stories and experiences you have had thus far have been meaningful, maybe even transformative, to you.

(We did an activity to start off the morning. After having a group of people read Jesus’ Genealogy we outlined our own genealogies on the back-side of our bulletins).

A. What’s in a name? (The lineage of Christ)

Especially in the Biblical times of Jewish culture, but I think that this is true in some parts of the world today, a person’s lineage is of utmost importance. If you think back to the Old Testament there are many places where there is a well-placed geneology. And if you’ve ever tried to read through the Bible you know exactly what I’m talking about, those genealogies might even be part of the reason why you never finished reading the bible through to the end.

Six Months Quaker Preacher The Cultural The Pastorate The Political

Interfaith Clergy Letter to the Editor in Clark County

(This is a letter a group of us from Clark County wrote in response to some of the controversy surrounding September 11th this past week. We submitted it to our local papers which did not pick it up so I thought I’d post it here.)

This year, a small group of clergy in Clark County began gathering monthly to learn from one another and to support one another as community leaders.   As an interfaith group, we honor and celebrate the religious traditions and spiritual paths of all people in our community.

For many people of faith, this week includes two major religious holidays with Rosh Hashanah for the Jewish community and Eid al-Fitr for the Islamic community.   However, this week is also charged by the memories of 9/11, plans to build a community center and prayer space in a building 2 blocks from Ground Zero and the furor over threats to burn The Qu’ran, the sacred Muslim text, by a pastor and his followers in Florida.   We are grieved at some Americans’ misunderstanding of one of the world’s largest religions. We celebrate the rich diversity within all faith traditions.  We stand together to honor the Islamic Society of Southwest Washington and all Muslims who are our neighbors.

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Those It Is Acceptable to Hate

This summer some of us from our church meet every other week to discuss a query dealing with some issue related to things happening around the world. A few weeks back we talked about a query dealing with the oil spill and how it is or is not affecting us, and our larger society. We kind of think of our group as the world problem solving small group, of course we say this with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Our last meeting we discussed the Arizona Immigration law, our thoughts on it and what is it about now made that law possible. I felt we had a really helpful and meaningful conversation. We had a small group of people there but a spectrum of ages were represented, and we actually had a woman who is an immigrant from Germany there, and another woman who was in a bi-racial marriage, has children from that marriage and is half Hispanic herself. She was able to talk about racial profiling in a very real way.

This got me thinking about today, and the history of those who are for one reason or another stuck on the outside, and are seen as “abnormal” or “alien” by another group (often those in power). The Arizona law is the symptom of something that runs through the course of human history. We continually find ways to make hate acceptable.

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We All Know That Reality has a Well-Known “Conservative” Bias

2282847042_a117183473One of the things my favorite (fake) newscaster Stephan Colbert says on a regular bias is that “Major media has a well-known liberal bias.” And this is definitely something many people believe. This perspective has cropped up again recently all over the web, and yes on The Colbert Report has helped, with the new Conservative Bible Project. The ridiculous (and copy-cat) assertation that this project intends to make is that the bible has “a well-known liberal bias.” And as ridiculous as it may first appear I think they are actually right, but not in the way they think.

It seems to me that we could easily consider that major network news and papers such as the NY Times are not in fact liberal at all but rather conservative in that they all seek to put reality “as it is” on display. That is, all major network news from MSNBC to FOX seek to expose or reveal what is happening “out there.” After all isn’t that what news is supposed to be? The opinion section or segment is sectored off for a reason. “News” tries to relay information about reality, about what happened that day, or that week, in your neighborhood and around the globe. It may also seek to expose what is true about this or that issue, person, event, etc.

The problem then isn’t the object of news, the events that transpire, but rather our interpretation on that reality. What gets relayed about the “truth” is where things get a little tangled up (to say the least). Thus in my mind, it’s not that some news is good and some is bad, instead the point is to realize all interpretation is slanted, all interpretation of reality runs through a filter (our own or someone else’s) and thus has a bias. In other words, all news is opinion to some extent. The question becomes for much of how media is handled in this country, which kind of interpretation will sell better, or that tells me what I want to hear the most? Which source, according to me, interprets those events in a way that makes sense to me, connects with me intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, etc?

On the other hand, it seems like very little of what passes as “news” is “progressive” (I admit to be taking some liberties with this term “progressive”). I am taking “progressive” here to mean not taking reality at face-value, what it is, but rather what it should be. Progressive in this way means owning up to the fact that it is embedded in an interpretation of reality, and that it is putting it’s best presentation forward in a compelling way. Here then “conservative” signals trying to tell the events of the day “objectively,” and pretends to report without (subjective) interpretation, and certainly both “conservative” and “liberal” media are guilty of this. In both cases, on the right and left, these modes of relaying information are rooted in the Enlightenment, a kind of “Just give me the straitght-up facts Johnny” mentality that conceals its own embeddedness.

So what is the “progressive” alternative? I take much of blogging, zines, and other subcultural forms of communication to be more progressive (laying outside both liberal and conservative). This is because these forms of media, while they are often upfront already about their biases and influences, just read the about page on virtually every blog for instance, but they are often more interested in imaginating another society, an alternative way of approacing this or that situation, and offering critique of the status quo. And that’s what is so threatening about these progressive forms of “news,” and cultural re-writing. It isn’t content with leaving reality where it is, or concealing its biases (a position that threatens those still pretending to be objective) but pushing it along, changing it, subverting, in the name of some other narrative.

(I am not on the other hand insisting that we should not read/watch major news networks, just that we recognize and are upfront about theirs, as well as our own, positioning.)

Now that I’ve said all that, I can return to the real point of this post and make my hypothesis: the problem with the Bible for those in the conservative Bible project is not that it is either conservative or liberal, but that it is progressive in this manner. In this way it exceeds the categories, continues to be re-interpreted afresh and challenge the status quo of reality. My reading of Jesus is that he is especially active in this regard. Scripture puts forth an alternative vision of reality, an entirely different way of living and approach one another, politics, economics, society, religion, etc. It is not an upside-down viewpoint as so many like to say, it is instead present the world as it should be, or right-side up. And for those who have an interest in stability, safety, and maitaing power “the way its always been” the Bible can be rather unsettling. Jesus’ message was unsettling even for his own followers, we should expect that 2000 years removed from that we will still find people trying to dodge the society that Jesus sought to put in place. And this will bother more than just one side of our polarized society.

[Image from Chris233]

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One (Growing) Perspective on Evangelicalism and Politics

I was recently asked why as an Evangelical I don’t follow the standard issue Evangelical party platform, here’s how I start to answer that question.

Heated political rhetoric comes and goes in waves. Currently in the United States, we’re riding a tidal wave named “Health Care Reform.” Everyone, especially Evangelical Christians, has come out in all their stripes and colors. Within this dialogue, if we can call it that, there is much debate about whether or not religion should keep its two-cents to itself. Some on the left say, “keep it out of the public square,” while others on the right try to bully their way in, like a party they weren’t invited to. (This all operates under the assumption that there really is some religion-free, neutral space like a “public square,” which I have great doubts about). My confession is that I often feel rather hopeless after hearing both these sides. It is as though both groups are predetermined machines whose course cannot, will not, be altered.

But on my more upbeat days my response to all of this is something different from either of our two caricatures above. I am interested and active in politics because I am a Christian, yes, even an evangelical one at that. Yet, I gladly do not identify with either the left or right because for me to be a Christian is to pledge allegiance to only one political party, Christ’s kingdom. The Christian church is at its very core political. That is it is, or at least should be, deeply concerned about all, or at least many of the things, that often get shoved into our “public” discussions. Things like war, poverty, abortion, capital punishment, caring for the sick, hunger, marriage, etc. are all issues that concern the very practice of what it means to be Christian. These are not voting blocks or single issues to be fought over. These are real life, embodied, questions that impact real people in our congregations.

If I get my ethics from the Sermon on the Mount, then as a Christian I play politics to a radically different drum beat. These are ethics, that is a way of embodying core convictions, that are closer to poetry than they are mathematics. This poetry makes little sense to the logical, rational and the powerful. Yet deep within Jesus’ sayings, his parables, and his miracles is a world of reversals, subversions, and love where the losers are winners, the mournful rejoice and the wounded are healed. It sides with the weak, the poor, the orphan and the widow. This is how the world looks like right-side up. These “ethics” are the throbbing heartbeat of Jesus’ movement and the church.

Rather than reducing people and politics down to a single issue as the right does so well, or pretending as though a neutral religious- (or conviction-)free zone could possible exist in our world (as the left obsesses over), Christians following the poetry of the Kingdom of God slice this another way. The church is itself a politic that answers to God, to Jesus’ ethics, rather than the king’s. We are to embody love of enemy, we are to do good to those who abuse us, we are to welcome the “alien” among us, and we are to give daily bread to those praying for it. Therefore, whether or not we live in a country that votes, has soldiers “protecting those freedoms!” or has leaders who believe the proper religious dogmas (often at the expense of actually living those dogmas) is all beside the point. Yes, I (typically) vote and help where I can within the established political system. I live in a country that (still) allows for disagreement and participation (though those on the fringes of the Right seem to favor less difference of opinion, maybe even difference of conviction, with growing fervor even in a free country such as ours), and the outcomes are still (for the most part) not predetermined. But I am not required to do this as a Christian, it is not our duty to transform the world by the means of the world. My duty is to love without measure and pray with my life that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, even if (or when) it costs me everything.  As Christians, or people seeking to practice daily the Sermon on the Mount, I cannot see how this would ever be done with violence, lies, greed, exploitation and other under-the-table charades.