Sunday, December 02, 2007

B.R.E.A.D. Annual Assembly

From the First Congregational Church newsletter

First Church will host members from 50 congregations on Mon., Dec. 3, at 6:30 p.m. for the organization’s annual meeting.

At this important event an action issue will be chosen for BREAD to tackle in the new year. The issue will be selected from among the concerns discussed at the house meetings and “town hall” assemblies held last month.

Attending the meeting is an excellent opportunity to see BREAD in action as it begins crafting the target issues for 2008.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What my dog taught me

This started as a comment in response to Dogs, Doorwalls and Dianisms at My Left Wing. Somewhere along the way, the comment got long enough to actually be a post. That doesn't seem to happen to often lately, so I decided to go with it...

One of the things that has been on my mind this fall is the sacredness of my connection to one of my dogs. It hasn't been easy to put into words, but I took a shot when my brother and I took Brady and Winnie to the dog park over the Thanksgiving weekend.

In part this has been prompted by my realization that Brady, the collie, must be around 10 years old at this point. I hadn't really given his age much thought--while the changes in my kids have been hard to miss, Brady always seems the same to me. It was only once he started to show some stiffness upon getting up that I really gave his age much thought.

Then there was last month's retreat. Its theme of Celtic spirituality (emphasizing nature and animals) served to reinforce the notion that I had some spiritual "work" to do centering around my relationship with Brady. There's just this amazing connection between us--sometimes it seems like he can read my thoughts.

Yet he always seems to be "underfoot", and our son in particular doesn't like the dogs around him. Winnie can go lie down somewhere when she's not wanted around, but Brady picks up on people's moods, and if anyone is emitting any "upset" vibes, he just *has* to be right there. (Winnie has that same sense of compulsion if she detects the presence of food.)

Anyway, the easiest way to restore some sense of calm or order is usually to just put Brady out in the yard. Over the years, he's spent a lot of time in the yard.

When I first got Brady, I took him to obedience classes once a week. We went through the beginner's class, and then intermediate. He earned his "Canine Good Citizen" certificate. The goal had been to eventually get involved with animal assisted therapy as a volunteer activity we could do together.

But then I got into animal rescue. Then I got out of animal rescue, but not without acquiring a second dog. Once I had two dogs, I was less inclined to take Brady "out" anywhere, and felt less compelled to do so, since the two dogs had each other.

Late this summer, I found out that there is a free (meaning no charge--you can just show up rather than paying for a membership) off-leash dog park in a suburb of Columbus. The first time I took Brady there, I was just blown away by the utter joy I could see in him. It had been ages since I'd seen him genuinely happy. His most characteristic mood for some time before that, had been "worried". Worried about the "pack", the family. I decided that I needed to make an effort to take him out more often. Like I should have been doing all along, but I'd stopped at some point. And dogs are so darn forgiving and accomodating, aren't they?

Earlier this fall, when I was working on a temp project and teaching three classes, I was sometimes too tired to get up for church by the time Sunday rolled around. On one such Sunday, when I had failed to get myself to church or the gym, I decided that taking Brady to the dog park could take the place of both that day. I was starting to think of time with Brady as a form of spiritual practice.

Boy, if that doesn't sound like some sort of namby-pamby watered-down progressive version of religion, I don't know what does.

But this is bigger than just "doing right by the collie", I've come to realize. It's about living more deliberately, acting rather than just reacting. Actually stopping to make choices rather than just allowing myself to be pushed along by life's currents. And that applies to my personal life as well as any involvement I choose to have in the "public square", whether that ends up being political or quasi-political or--whatever. But, as I mentioned here, all I know is that I'm committed to doing something to help make the world a better place.

Yet it's too easy for me to allow "the prevailing mood", whether it be on blogs, or in the media--or just my kids sniping at each other--to distract me from focusing on that goal. And now, with the artificial "frenzy" of the holiday season added into the mix, I could really use some help with this. I'm sure I can't be the only one dealing with this. So, I'm thinking that this would be a good time for those who are kindred spirits in feeling this way to come together and support each other. And help each other find strength, patience, humor, and perspective for the journey.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zimbardo on "nurturing the heroic imagination"

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo (photo courtesy of The Lucifer Effect web site) came to speak at a community college here in Columbus last month. I recorded the whole talk, which was an hour long. The whole thing was fascinating, but I set myself the modest goal of transcribing only the last eight minutes. Those last minutes of the lecture were the uplifting, hopeful part, and, I don't know about you, but I sure could use more of that in my daily life.

"The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being", says Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. ... "It's a decision that you have to make every day in various ways."

So what I want to do, is I want to end on a positive note, because I know I've depressed you. When I was writing this book I was so depressed, going through all this horrible stuff, and being immersed in this "evil shit", if you will. (Laughter) But the positive note is, heroism as an antidote to evil, by promoting what I call "the heroic imagination" in every man, woman, and child in our nation.

What I mean by that is, here's Joe Darby. He's the guy who exposed the Abu Ghraib abuses. His friend gave him a CD with those pictures and more--he looked at them and said, "This is terrible! We're supposed to bring democracy to these people, and we're humiliating them!" He took that CD and brought it to the senior investigating officer. He was a private in the Army Reserves. That's a thing you never do. And he knew that his buddies were going to get in trouble. But he said "I had to do the right thing." They had to put him into protective custody along with his mother and his wife, because everybody wanted to kill them. ...He is the most ordinary person, G.I. Joe, and he did the right thing.

And there's also the guy in China, in Tiananmen Square, where students were having a peaceful demonstration to promote more freedom, and here was a line of tanks trying to crush them. He jumped in front and said, "We are all Chinese, we all want freedom! We want the same things--please don't do this!" And he turned around. And so here's a powerful physical hero. Darby was a whistleblowing hero. So I want to refocus away from evil to understanding heroes.

Hannah Arendt, in her analysis of the banality of evil said, you know what, evil monsters like Adolf Eichmann, who orchestrated the deaths of millions of Jews, before he went to Auschwitz, was normal. When we see him in this trial, he's normal. You put him in a situation, and give him power, and permission to kill, you know what? He does his job very well. And she said, the problem with evil is that the perpetrators of evil look like your next door neighbor. They don't look like the comic book monsters that we're led to be afraid of as kids. That's the danger--that they're terrifyingly normal.

So I extend her concept to the "banality of heroism". There are two kinds of heroes: there's Nelson Mandela, there's Gandhi, there's Mother Teresa--but these are the exceptional heroes. They built their whole lives around heroic deeds. They had a call, a mission, to serve humanity. They are the exception. Most heroes are like Joe Darby--ordinary guys, who only once in their lives do a heroic deed. And never again--almost every hero is a one-time hero. And so I'm going to argue that everyday heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary deeds. There's nothing special about them. And I want to argue that the same exact situation that inflames the hostile imagination in some people, and makes them do bad things, that same situation inspires the heroic imagination in other people.

And for most other people, it renders them passive. I call that "the evil of inaction". Most people do what your mother said, "Mind your own business and don't get in trouble!" You have to say, "Mama, in this case, you're wrong, because humanity is my business."

And so, with the psychology of heroism, we want to encourage children, families, everyone, to develop the heroic imagination. To think about yourself as a "hero in waiting". And that, to be a hero, you don't have to be more religious, you don't have to be more compassionate. All you have to do is be ready to act when others are not, or when some people are doing bad things, and you have to be ready to act on behalf of other people. Being have to stop thinking about yourself and what will it cost you or what will you gain. To be a hero you've got to act, and you've got to act on behalf of other people--that's all you need.

And so what we want to do is have curriculum--I'm working with people to develop curriculum, starting in the fifth grade, getting kids to think about what it means to be a hero, who are the heroes in your life, what have you done that's heroic. What skills do you need--because some kinds of things you really have to know something, like first aid skills. So when the time comes--and I tell you, it's only going to come once in your life!

So I want to end with this wonderful story that some of you know about. A guy named Wesley Autrey, who's the New York subway hero. He was in a train station with 75 other people. A white guy falls on the tracks. The train is coming, and it's going to cut him in half. He's (Wesley) got a reason not to get involved--he's got two little girls. He's got no personal connection. Instead, he jumps on the track to try to save the guy. The train was coming, it could wipe him out. So I'd like you to actually see this in action.

(He showed this video)

So one day, you will be in a new situation, and there's going to be three paths before you. Path 1: you join in and become a perpetrator of evil. Not Abu Ghraib evil, but teasing, bullying, spreading rumors, spreading gossip. Path 2 is you become guilty of passive inaction. You're home at Christmas, and Uncle Charlie starts telling a racist or sexist joke, and you don't say, "Uncle Charlie, please don't." Or you're in a cab in New York, where they do it all the time, and you say, "I find that insulting. Please stop." If you don't do that, you allow this person to think "Everybody likes it. Everybody thinks it's funny." You have to take action.

Path 3 is to go straight ahead and do the heroic thing. You challenge authority, you challenge the system. And so I hope we are all ready to take that path and celebrate being ordinary heroes--heroes in waiting. Waiting for the right situation to put our heroic imagination into action. We have to think it--by thinking it, it increases the probability of doing it. We know from psychology that if I convince you that everything we know about you means that you're really more generous than most people. Next week there's a blood drive--you know what? You're going to give more blood than him. Next week there's a charity drive--you know what--you're going to give more money than somebody else.

I think that promoting a heroic imagination in our schools--just thinking about it--because it's only going to happen once! Wesley Autrey never did it again, he never will--he's not going to be in that particular situation. Joe Darby, never did it before, and he's not going to be in that situation again. So the point is, you always want people to be primed--ready for the situation where things are going to happen, you're prepared, and you're going to be the one to take the action.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Many voices of Islam forum

What: "Many Voices of Islam" public forum
When: Sunday, October 28, 2007, 2:30 pm
Where: Atrium of The Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, OH

Columbus, Ohio - The Interfaith Association of Central Ohio will hold a public forum on the "Many Voices of Islam" at the Atrium of The Ohio Statehouse on Sunday, October 28, 2007, 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm.

The public forum will help Central Ohioans better understand and appreciate the oneness, complexity, and diversity within Islam in contemporary American society by addressing:
  • the growth of Islam in America and around the world
  • the different Islamic voices and perspectives
  • how each voice of Islam reflects a distinctively "American" perspective
  • how Muslim leaders can approach fears that exist about Islam.
The panelists will include:

-Dr. Zulfiqar A. Shah, Executive Committee member of Fiqh Council of North America (recognized as the highest Islamic authority in North America that can issue religious fatwas- decrees)

-Imam Mostafa Al-Qazwini, Director of Islamic Education Center of Orange County, California

-Dr. Anisa Abd el Fattah, Founder and Chairwoman of National Association of Muslim American Women

-Dr. Robert Dickson Crane, Adviser to former U.S. President Richard Nixon.

The program is free and open to the public. It is organized by the Education Committee of the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio and is co-sponsored by the Ohio Humanities Council (a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), Ohio Council of Churches,Council on American Islamic Relations - Ohio, Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, Islamic Society of Greater Columbus, and the Columbus Council on World Affairs.

The Interfaith Association of Central Ohio, incorporated in 1986, is governed by representatives of Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, and Sikh faith traditions in Central Ohio. The association works towards creating an inter-religious community, based on understanding, friendship and trust, in which social justice, peace, and human dignity are valued.

57 Jefferson Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 849-0290

Monday, September 24, 2007

A dog party! A big dog party!

Just a little something fun that I thought I'd share...

It's not often that I find myself with the time, or the inclination to write about anything these days. I've got a busy work schedule--which is about to get busier for the next couple weeks. We've got an IEP to sort out, with a "resource" teacher who is in desperate need of education on Asperger's Syndrome. (Probably also in need of an attitude adjustment.) We've got a daughter who, on her twelfth birthday (earlier this month) announced that she was becoming a vegetarian, without having dropped any hints that she might be inclined to do such a thing. This is a girl who, when she first began combining words, memorably said "More beef!" So that has been yet another new complication in a life that is already plenty complicated, thank you very much! And politics? Pffft! Don't get me started...

So, where was I? Oh yeah...

The "Doggie Paddle" (a fundraiser for a local dog park) was actually supposed to take place two weeks ago, but was cancelled due to rain early in the afternoon. Once the rain had cleared, Daughter and I put Winnie in the car and headed up to the pool. When we arrived, there had only been a few cars there--belonging to other disappointed dog owners who were discovering that the event had been cancelled.

The next week, I was pleased to learn that the event had been rescheduled, and as we pulled up to the pool yesterday, we were met with a decidedly full parking lot. And a quick look inside the park revealed lots of dogs having a good time. I couldn't help thinking of the scene at the end of Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman (who Daughter in Ohio, as a toddler, called A. B. Beastman).

A dog party!
A big dog party!
Big dogs, little dogs,
red dogs, blue dogs,
yellow dogs, green dogs,
black dogs, and white dogs
are all at a dog party!
What a dog party!
Of course, the dogs at the pool were just the ordinary dog colors, and they weren't partying at the top of a tree, but it was definitely a dog party. And a good, wet, time was had by all.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I didn't know ahead of time that people would be getting in the water with their dogs, or I would have had Daughter bring her swimsuit. So I just decided we wouldn't worry about her clothes getting wet. After all, this isn't something she gets to do very often.

Remember Dances With Wolves? When I saw this picture, it occurred to me that Daughter's name could be Swims With Rottweilers. ;)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

That's Winnie on the left. She wasn't into the whole water thing, but had a great time meeting new dogs. And in the last half hour of our three hours there, she did finally venture into the shallow water.

Monday, September 10, 2007

More on B.R.E.A.D., Payday Lending, and Ohio Representatives

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post (on another blog) about Doing Justice in Ohio. The following excerpt comes from my church's September newsletter:
At that Nehemiah Action Assembly, Senator Ray Miller pledged to introduce legislation in the state house to curb PayDay Lending. You may have seen recent articles in the Columbus Dispatch and elsewhere in which this issue and its abuses have been well documented. Though B.R.E.A.D. is mentioned, it is rarely given the credit for having moved this issue to the forefront.

Behind the scenes B.R.E.A.D. has been working with Senator Miller, a Democrat, and Representative Bill Batchelder, a Republican, to sponsor the same legislation in the House and in the Senate. This kind of strong bi-partisan cooperation will be necessary to pass a bill. At the August 24 meeting, B.R.E.A.D. was reminded that it will take phone calls, e-mails, and letter to state lawmakers to get this bill passed. PayDay Lenders have a well funded lobby and have doubled their spending in the legislature since 2006. Be prepared for some requests from your B.R.E.A.D. team to write, call, e-mail those who represent you in the statehouse!
About that bipartisan support--that is apparently the reason Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty has been hesitant to support the legislation. From the Other Paper article I linked yesterday...
Several state lawmakers of both parties have agreed to take on the cause. While others surely have their reservations, Beatty is one of the only legislators to openly criticize the effort, brushing off the proposed reforms as shortsighted and politically motivated.

Using her influence as the minority leader, Beatty has discouraged Democrats from working with Republican state Rep. Bill Batchelder of Medina, whom advocates have asked to sponsor the legislation in the House.

Known as an arch conservative, Batchelder has been against high-interest loan centers dating back to the 1990s, when he opposed legislation that led to the proliferation of payday lending shops. However, Beatty has repeatedly suggested Batchelder is using the issue to advance his aspirations to be speaker of the House next session.

“I will not support any legislative agenda that I feel is solely for someone’s political gain,” Beatty wrote in an op-ed column published last month in the Akron Beacon Journal.

That’s a problem because legislation will require bipartisan support, and Beatty is known for her ability to keep her caucus in line.

“It’s already damaged the prospects for getting the bill passed,” said Miller.

“I think we’ve laid out a good strategy, we’re fortunate to have bipartisan leadership on this with Rep. Batchelder and myself,” he added. “At the present time, our biggest challenge is the opposition from Rep. Beatty and her work to encourage members of her caucus to be neutral or opposed.”
I have a hard time understanding how a powerful Democrat in the Ohio House would want to delay implementing measures to protect our most vulnerable citizens from predatory lending practices for basically political reasons. Still, she did say I will not support any legislative agenda that I feel is solely for someone’s political gain, and has said that she is willing to hear from her constituents on this matter. Maybe even polite letters from people who are not her constituents, but are able to clearly express why this is not solely for someone's political gain.

The bill (I've been searching for a bill number and an official link, and will update if/when I find that) only proposes the same safeguards against predatory lending that military personnel are now granted via the Nelson Talent Amendment.
The proposed bill would cap interest rates on short-term loans at 36 percent. Currently, the rate on these loans can reach nearly 400 percent when calculated over a year. The bill also would call for financial incentives and tax credits for traditional lenders to encourage them to offer short-term, low-interest loans.
So we're talking about reasonable limits on the interest rates that can be charged, not shutting these places down, as Rep. Beatty seems to suggest here:
House Democratic Leader Joyce Beatty, who represents some of the same citizens as Miller, said she has talked to people in line waiting to get payday loans.

"People said to me, ‘Rep. Beatty, these folks will at least cash my check.’ One lady told me she couldn’t get her check cashed in any bank in the city," Beatty said.

"I have not had anybody call me and say, ‘I go to a payday lending establishment, and I think you should close them down.’ "
That quote is from an article that was published on July 23. Hopefully by this point, people have clarified to Representative Beatty that no one associated with this proposed bill is suggesting that payday lending establishments should be shut down Still, since she is in a position to either help or hurt the passage of a bill that could offer even some minimal protection to Ohio's most vulnerable citizens, I think it couldn't hurt to politely help see to it that she does understand what this is really about.

Update: In addition to Rep. Beatty, B.R.E.A.D. also has meetings scheduled with the following representatives.

Rep. Jim McGregor, District 20

Rep. Larry Wolpert, District 23

Rep. Tracy Herad, District 26

If you live in one of their districts, please consider writing to encourage their support of this bill.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Action alert: Postal rate hike would harm smaller publishers

Hat tip to it's simple if you ignore the complexity at My Left Wing, I want to draw your attention to an important action alert from Free Press.
Postal regulators have accepted a proposal from media giant Time Warner that would stifle small and independent publishers in America. The plan unfairly burdens smaller publishers with higher postage rates while locking in special privileges for bigger media companies.

In establishing the U.S. postal system, the nation's founders wanted to ensure that a diversity of viewpoints were available to "the whole mass of the people." Time Warner's rate increase reverses this egalitarian ideal and threatens the marketplace of ideas on which our democracy depends.

It's time stand up for independent media. Demand that Congress step in to stop the unfair rate hikes.

Click here for more.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

THIS is what I hate about politics...

Apparently (according to a front page post on Booman Tribune) Harold Ford is going to face off against Markos "The Great and Powerful Kos" Moulitsas on Meet the Press this Sunday. I'm guessing the idear for this match-up came about as a result of this statement made by Harold Ford on Fox News.
I would have gone to Daily Kos and told them, I think they’re wrong the way you go about practicing your politics. If you’re serious about winning the war and bringing the country together, get another message and another set of tactics…
Which tactics would those be, Harold? The ones where you cozy up to and make kissy faces with the people who will never be on your side no matter how "moderate" and reasonable you try to come across? The tactics where you buy, hook, line, and sinker, Bill O'Reilly's "spin" that Daily Kos is/are the "bad Democrats", because you think you can play that to your advantage? And that perceived advantage is so valuable to you that you can't possibly do the minimal, cursory research it would take to learn that "Daily Kos" is not as monolithic as you suggest.

Harold, do you seriously think that the way to "bring the country together" is to paint a Snidely Whiplash mustache on a segment of the Democratic party, and then celebrate that you and the Republicans now have a common foe? That's just freakin' sad.

I won't be rooting for Markos either. As far as I've been able to discern, his only core value is winning. Period. That, and I think he's an arrogant ass.

This is, of course, not the only thing I hate about politics, but it's a pretty good example of the petty pointlessness of it. And all this energy and air time is being directed toward something other than making things better for people. (Pssst! Millennium Development Goals, people!)

So I won't be watching Meet the Press. I'll be in church listening to my daughter sing with the choir. And I should probably spend some time in quiet contemplation, because I really don't know what's next. Part of me would like to tune out all of politics as Somebody Else's Problem. But I don't know that I could ever do that. A few years ago, I promised Someone that I would work to help "heal the world", and I meant it. I guess I need to connect with some other people who feel the same way, and start working together on one little part of the world that needs fixing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Calling the Pope a primate is "hateful"?

Somehow I missed this one. Apparently Bill O'Reilly used the fact that some commenter on Daily Kos called the Pope a "primate" as evidence that Big Orange is a hateful site. He used that and other random statements by DK commenters to make his "case" about how hateful the site is. But this was all set up for going after Jet Blue for being one of the sponsors of Yearly Kos.

As with anything that issues forth from Mr. O'Reilly, there are many layers of wrongness that could be addressed. He's like an onion in that way. A big stinky onion. To take an obvious example, it is possible to cherry pick comments from a blog to make whatever case one wishes.

But as Booman points out, there is nothing hateful or offensive about using the word "primate" to refer to the Pope or any other human, lemur, gibbon, orangutan, etc. And he further notes that there is another usage of the word:

pri·mate -noun
1. Ecclesiastical. an archbishop or bishop ranking first among the bishops of a province or country.
In fact, Bill, it's even in the online Catholic Encyclopedia. And you were an altar boy, too. I'm so disappointed in you...

Now, I'll be honest with you. When I first started to work on this post earlier today, I was planning to go for the cheap laugh, speculating that, from a taxonomic perspective, Bill doesn't quite make the cut as a primate. And then I was going to try to figure out the funniest creature with which I could compare him.


Last night we started a weekly discussion series at my church on the concept of "grace". Our rector started the meeting by sharing this prayer, which he had also shared during the service earlier in the day:

Thanksgiving for the Social Order
7. For the Diversity of Races and Cultures

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Show us your presence in those who differ most from us", huh? Guess that would imply a willingness to see that presence in those who differ most from me. Even those who come off like real jerks.


Guess that's one of the reasons I need grace...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

That quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. I don't know if he actually said it or not. If he did, he was probably being at least a little bit tongue in cheek. But even if the saying is meant to be humorous, I think it's safe to say that the person who uttered those words thought of beer as one of the Good Things this life has to offer.

What strikes me about that quote at the moment is people can have very different ideas about what the Good Things are. For me, beer is waaaay down on the list.

Here's what started this train of thought. This week in church I noticed that On Eagles Wings is one of the songs included in our summer order of worship. That's one of my favorite hymns, and I've often wished that we sang it more often at my church. Anyway, upon seeing the words and music, I also remembered that it was one of the songs sung at our wedding twenty years ago.

Our anniversary is still a few weeks away. But it occurred to me that I should ask to have it included in the Prayers of the People on the Sunday closest to August 1. "In thanksgiving for 20 years of marriage..." I don't know yet how we are going to "celebrate" per se. Depending on what else is going on in our lives, sometimes it can be hard to get into celebrating birthdays, holidays, etc. And I don't believe in forcing celebration, or feeling guilty about postponing it to a time that works better for us.

But I won't postpone the prayers of thanksgiving, whether they be formal or informal, in the form of words, thoughts, or actions. Because, when I think about where in the world I can see the signature of a loving Creator who wants me to be happy, it's not beer that I think of. I think of the marvelous divine gift that we celebrated almost twenty years ago, and for which (when I remember) I continue to be thankful.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Net Neutrality Action Item

This arrived in my inbox from Free the Internet, and I thought it was worth sharing--Renee

Dear Media Reformer,
Save the Internet: Click here

Watch and Rate Our New Video

We have only five days left to defend a free and open Internet at the FCC. The agency needs to hear from you about Net Neutrality -- the principle that stops AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from controlling where you can go online.

Thousands of people have already told their stories (see below) urging the FCC to protect Net Neutrality. Now it's your turn:

Tell the FCC to Save the Internet

You need to act now before the FCC closes its comment period. If we flood them with comments in support of Net Neutrality, the FCC will be pressed to stand up to the giant phone and cable companies that seek to undermine free choice on the Web.

At, you can read stories from others, view photographs, and join the fight to make the Internet affordable, open and accessible to everyone. You can even create your own personal comment page to share with others. Go there now to see our new video:

Watch Our New Video and Save the Internet

This may be the best chance we have this year to demonstrate to Washington that protecting the free and open Internet is an issue that matters to millions of Americans. The FCC needs to know why Net Neutrality is important to you. Tell them how an open Internet impacts your daily life, your business and your ability to connect with others.

To save the Internet, we need to flood the FCC with stories from people around the country. Can you ask five friends to send their stories to the FCC?

Tell Your Friends to Take Action

With your help, we can send a message to the FCC that they can't ignore.


Timothy Karr
Campaign Director

P.S. Here's what others are saying:

"The greatest hope that this country has is the reconnection of American voices with our political system. The Internet is the first medium that is truly interactive, in which one person's voice can reach millions. This fundamental change would end the open Internet as we know it." Read Jennifer's full story.

"In rural America, the Internet is very important in staying informed. We read several national newspapers every day to get the news our local paper does not thoroughly cover." Read Charles & Carol's full story.

"Currently the media is not diverse at all, and the only option I have found to escape from it has been the Internet. ... If the Internet is controlled by powerful people with money, will it ever be what it has been? Will we be able to enjoy diversity?" Read Norie's full story.

To read thousands of other stories visit:

Take action on this campaign at:

Tell others about this campaign at:

If you received this message from a friend, you can click here to become a Free Press activist.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

News from the home front

Here's the video my husband Demetrius (the guy who designed the banner for this site) did for the The PopSci Podcast/Jonathan Coulton "I Feel Fantastic" Video Contest. (You can see some of the other videos here.)

This project ate up almost every waking moment of the past week for him--and many moments that should have been sleeping moments--so I thought I'd share.

Update: The winners have been announced.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some thoughts on courage

Originally posted last night at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance

At the end of the work day, I do a brief scan of blog headlines to try to get up to speed on what's happening out there in the wide, wide world (channeling the Poky Little Puppy). This evening, a predominant theme is that the Democrats "caved" on Iraq. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what I think about that. The thing is--I just don't have the time or interest to follow this story (and others like it) closely enough to have a genuinely informed opinion on what constitutes necessary political courage versus wisely playing the cards you've been dealt. So, guess I'm not cut out to be a political pundit.

But I've been thinking a lot about courage in the past 24 hours, after hearing this man speak at a forum at my church

His name is Davis Mac-Iyalla, and he is the founder of Changing Attitude-Nigeria, a support group for Gay and Lesbian Anglicans, and he is visiting the United States to call attention to the persecution of LGBTs in his country. Even attending a GLBT-affirmative event--something I didn't have to think twice about here in central Ohio would subject me to tremendous risk if I lived in Nigeria. If a draconian "Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act" were to pass, the penalty for being openly "straight but not narrow" would be a five year prison term.

From time to time, I have wondered, if Demetrius and I were born at a different time...if we had met in 1964 rather than 1984...would I have had the courage to follow my heart and marry outside my "race". It's not an easy question to answer. Mind you, part of the difficulty is my tendency to ask pesky, practical questions, such as, "Where would we have met?" and "How likely is it that we could have spent those long, casual hour together with our mutual friends?" But the basic question I ask myself is, "Would I have the courage to be that kind of pioneer? Could I really be that brave?"

Last night, I was faced with a new question: "Would I have the courage to risk my personal safety--possibly my life--in order to make hostile religious and political authorities acknowledge that I exist?

That's an easy one, and I can answer it right now.

No. Freaking. Way.

So I couldn't help but be awed, humbled, and impressed to hear Davis tell his story. From a statement on the first anniversary of Changing Attitudes-Nigeria,
In the first year, we have many achievements to be proud of, including our impact on the life of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, which had previously denied that lesbian and gay people are members of the church. The Church was so disturbed by our visible presence that it attempted to discredit the organisation, at the same time falsely claiming to be open to gays.
At last night's meeting, Davis Mac-Iyalla described being arrested after one of the early meetings of his organization. He and his fellow members were beaten, and were held for three days without food or water (and without charges), before finally being able to get the bribe money so that his jailers would release him. And not long after that experience, he led the first national meeting of CAN, which was attended by over 1000 GLBT Anglican Nigerians.

I encourage you to read more about Davis Mac-Iyalla and Changing Attitudes-Nigeria. This is not an Anglican issue, or a GLBT issue, or a Nigerian issue--it is, quite plainly, a human rights issue.

The Daily Office (Sponsor of Davis Mac-Iyalla's U.S. tour)
Changing Attitude UK (The director of this organization was instrumental in helping Davis get Changing Attitude Nigeria up and running)

Also posted at My Left Wing, Street Prophets, Booman Tribune, and ePluribus Media

Update with regard to funding:

The people who wish to silence Davis and others like him are very well funded.

Changing Attitudes Nigeria is not. Josh Thomas, who arranged Davis Mac-Iyalla's U.S. tour, and who operates the Daily Office web site, is helping him raise the money needed to continue his work in educating the rest of the world about the plight of GLBT people in Nigeria. Donations are being accepted here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

GLBT Leader of Changing Attitude- Nigeria to speak at St. Stephen's

GLBT Leader of Changing Attitude-Nigeria, Davis Mac-Iyalla, will speak at St. Stephen's, Columbus on May 21 at 7:00 p.m. The Anglican Church of Nigeria has pressured the Nigerian government to pass the most sweeping anti-gay bill in the world, aimed at silencing Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude-Nigeria, a support group for Gay and Lesbian Anglicans.

Mac-Iyalla has been falsely arrested after printed materials were found in his car, beaten and held for days. He's received death threats and been forced to flee his home.
Mac-Iyalla has accepted an invitation from the Episcopal Church's Executive Council to address them June 11-14 on what's really happening in the Church of Nigeria. He is also scheduled to appear in New York, Chicago, four cities in Ohio and the San Francisco Bay Area, where he hopes to meet seminarians and their professors.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and University Center is located on the campus of The Ohio State University
30 West Woodruff Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Standing up (and sitting down) for justice

I got a letter from my church this week, in advance of B.R.E.A.D.'s upcoming annual assembly, reminding me of what an appropriate choice it was to call this the Nehemiah Action Assembly. At last year's assembly, in his opening reflections, Rabbi Howard Apothaker provided an excellent (and, at times, humorous) retelling of the story of Nehemiah calling an assembly, including what, for me, was the most memorable line:

G-d does not just want us to do justice. G-d is *waiting* for us to do justice. G-d is *expecting* us to do justice. G-d is saying, "Get off your tuckus and do justice!"
Since one of the main issues being addressed at this Monday's assembly is predatory payday lending, the Nehemiah reference is quite fitting. From the letter my rector sent:

The fifth chapter of Nehemiah tells the story of how the governor of Jerusalem, Nehemiah, calls a great assembly to deal with a situation that is jeopardizing the rebuilding of the community. The situation has to do with the charging of interest to those resettling Jerusalem at such rates that people are sliding into poverty and slavery. Nehemiah, though governor, does not have enough power to make the nobles and officials of Jerusalem stop this blatant practice of usury. This is why he calls the great assembly. Confronted by the people, the moneylenders and the governing leaders, who allowed this debilitating practice, change their minds.

The parallels to predatory payday lending are so many that I can only list a few here. Interest rates that can exceed 390%. Fees tacked onto fees tacked onto fees until a $500 loan can only be retired by a payment of $3000. There are few regulatory statutes over payday lending in the State of Ohio. What B.R.E.A.D. is asking is not the end of payday lending but a just interest rate that cannot exceed 36% and the passage of regulations that would bring payday lending institutions into line with accepted banking and lending rules. The Nelson-Talent Amendment, passed by the United States Congress, that exempts military families from the worst excesses of payday lending is what we are seeking.

This is a statewide issue and B.R.E.A.D. has already begun meeting with state representatives and others who may be helpful in passing some new statutes. Payday lenders, though, are well financed and well represented by lobbyists in the legislature. We will need a great assembly on May 7 if we are going to use our people-power to combat the injustice of predatory payday lending. That is where you come in.

And the letter goes on to say that the only offering that is being asked of us is our time. With the kind of hours I've been working for the past few weeks, my time is a rather precious commodity. Yet I am mindful of the fact that powerful people are only able to get away with this sort of usury because ordinary people don't stand up. Heck, often we don't even *know* these things are going on, because we're so busy trying to keep our *own* heads above water.

But things like this are important, so I'm gearing up for a drive to the other side of town after work on Monday, to once again be "packed like sardines for justice". Because, well, I gotta. In a recent essay, BrimStone was explaining why the God of Fred Phelps and Randall Terry sucks. And I was thinking, mine doesn't suck, but s/he sure can be a bit of a nag sometimes. Always calling us, again and again to, "Get off your tuckus and do justice!"

Please click here for the information about tomorrow's meeting, and pass it along to anyone you know in central Ohio who might be interested.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

B.R.E.A.D. Action Meeting

Nehemiah Action Meeting
Temple Israel
5419 E. Broad St.
Monday, May 7, 2007
6:15 pm-Registration

√ Increase the ability of families below 200% of the poverty level to become homeowners, start small businesses, or increase their education by quadrupling local IDA programs;

√ Effect new regulation on payday lending to reduce the amount of interest that they can charge on short-term loans from 400% to 36%;

√ Increase Access to Healthcare by supporting state legislation to increase coverage for families and increase state support for the Columbus Neighborhood Health Centers;

√ Celebrate the implementation of a new model truancy reduction program.

Please wear a BREAD hat (available at Action Meeting @$5.00) or other head covering in respect of Jewish tradition.
The Wikipedia page on payday loans has a good overview of some of the controversy around these businesses. There is also an overview on the Center for Responsible Lending web site and more information at Policy Matters Ohio.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Day of Prayer in Action

We Believe Ohio Puts Prayer into Action on National Day of Prayer at Statehouse

“Day of Prayer in Action” Includes Meetings with More than 20 State Reps and Senators

Clergy and lay leaders of We Believe Ohio will put their prayers into action at the Statehouse this Thursday, the National Day of Prayer, to call for passage of a moral budget. Meetings are scheduled with 22 State Representatives and Senators -- including 8 Democrats and 14 Republicans, most in positions of leadership -- as well as Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher.

Because the state budget reveals of the values and priorities of Ohio, clergy and lay leaders from across the state, including a bus load from Cleveland, will gather in Columbus to fulfill their duty, right and responsibility as people of faith to advocate for a budget that is just and compassionate. Specifically, We Believe Ohio will ask legislators to:

· Resolve long-term funding inequalities in public education by targeting parity aid to 60% of the districts most in need and increasing in funding for early childhood education -- because every child in the state of Ohio is entitled to have the opportunity to receive a quality education.

· Lift the cap on the Housing Trust Fund -- because We Believe Ohio acknowledges God’s call that we cares for the poor, the wayfarer and the stranger.

· Raise parents' eligibility for Medicaid to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level and allow a buy-in for uninsured children in families with incomes over 300% of the poverty level -- because our Creator desires health and wholeness for all people and quality healthcare is a God-given and constitutional right.

Statewide clergy leaders of We Believe Ohio are available for comment. Please contact Katie Barge at or 202-481-8147 to arrange interviews.

WHAT: Day of Prayer in Action”

WHO: More than 75 clergy and lay leaders of We Believe Ohio.

WHEN: The National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 3, 2007

10:30 AM: Prayer and Preparation (First Congregational Church, 444 E Broad Street in downtown Columbus)

12:30 PM: March to the Statehouse

1:00 PM—3:00 PM: Meetings with State Representatives and Senators inside the Statehouse

WHERE: First Congregational Church and the Statehouse

We Believe Ohio is a coalition of clergy and lay leaders that launched in 2006 to unite diverse religious voices to achieve social justice. We Believe Ohio considers the inclusion of religious traditions and perspectives critical to the creation of informed public policy, while respecting the Constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state. We Believe is committed to acting and speaking in public ways on behalf of the poor, the voiceless, and the unrepresented.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The church as a "public" institution

As I mentioned yesterday, the Diocese of Southern Ohio has a new bishop, and his consecration will be this Saturday. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will come to Columbus to take part in the ceremony. So, ever since I knew this event was coming, it has been my intention to attend if at all possible. On Friday, I heard from my rector that there was indeed a ticket being held in my name. So, yay!

Well, maybe "yay" isn't quite the right word. I'm pleased that I will be able to attend, and I'm sure I'll be glad I did. But this is going to involve a number of things I *don't* particularly relish--crowds, trying to park at Ohio State, standing for extended periods of time...

Probably some incense, now that I think of it. (Wrinkles nose in anticipation)

Anyway, knowing that I had this event coming up, I knew couldn't pass up the opportunity to hear the bishop-elect speak at my church last night. And then, actually *having* something a little unique to blog about, I couldn't pass that up either, could I?

Tonight I'll share the first part of his talk, in which he addressed what it means for the church to be a public institution.

Rev. Breidenthal started by telling us that his most recent position was Dean of Religious Life at Princeton, which he said was a "fancy term for University Chaplain". Most of his work has been as a teacher in one way or another, with students of different ages and situations, and alongside other teachers. Speaking at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and Univerisity Center, he said that it was a relief to be in a setting where he could say that proudly "without it being assumed that therefore I am unworldly". He noted that the university setting is, in fact, the intersection between many, many communities, where it is impossible to isolate oneself from the "real world".

About being "in communion": Communion is not a product of agreement, but has to do with staying at the table, respecting each other's arguments, and having reverence for the basic commitments that bring us together around the altar in the first place.

Breidenthal said that it was important for the church to be "public". When the Roman Christians emerged out of the catacombs, the first thing they did was build churches, and they built basilicas. He said these were the Roman version of today's mall--an enclosed forum with room for businesses, shops and vendors all around the edges, and a lot of space in the middle where public disputation could happen.

So it is significant that they, once they started to build churches, chose the basilica model, which was basically the agora, or public forum. Where God and God's people were interacting publicly and opening themselves to a world where there was really no reason you couldn't be part of that community as long as you were willing to be baptized. And to be baptized wasn't to enter a community, it was to be expelled from any community that was exclusive.

We tend to think of baptism as inclusion, but in fact, the primary metaphor of baptism is birth, and birth is about expulsion into something large and scary...and public. And so, the early Christians at their best--they were able to be as crabby and exclusive as we are--but at their *best*, they understood the Gospel to be utterly practical to the world. And they understood the church, not primarily as a refuge, as a place of withdrawal from the world and safety from the world, but they viewed the church as a people in exodus--in exodus out of all of their exclusive and closed communities. This is what it meant to define ourselves as a people who included all people, without exception. That every possible non-universal identity was transcended by membership in the church.

So, one reason why I think that campus ministry, and churches that have strong and intentional campus ministries, why that's so important, is because the university recalls the church through its initial public witness. And parishes like St. Stephen's help remind other parishes that may be in danger of becoming *just* extended families, that however small or suburban they may be, they are, each of them, a gateway into the whole world. I like to think of going to church as not going inside, but actually going through the doors into something outside.
More to come, as I find the time, on topics such as ecumenism and interfaith relations--the hard, but necessary work of coming together, respectfully, in our diversity.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Radical welcome"

Last night I started to write up some of what Tanya Erzen said at the presentation she gave at my church the other night, which was about the two years she spent studying the "ex-gay" movement and how it fits into the agenda of the "Christian right". But, man, was some of that stuff depressing and anger-inducing. So I decided to share some other things first, which fit in with the notion of churches (and individuals) practicing "radical welcome".
Radical welcome kicks welcome to the next level. It asks, Who would never even come to the door, because they are so sure we will not receive them, and because, historically, we have not?
Click here to read Now *that's what I call "good news"!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Interfaith Prayers for Peace

A Brethren Love Feast

When: Thursday, April 5, 2007, 12 noon - 1 PM
Where: St. Thomas More Newman Center (near OSU campus), 64 W. Lane Ave., Columbus OH 43201.
Phone: 291-4674, Ample free parking available in church parking lot

The April 5th prayer service will be a special Brethren "Love Feast" complete with foot-washing and communion, for the third year in a row. Come experience the Church of the Brethren's 4-fold communion in an open, interfaith setting. All are welcome as participants or observers; the Brethren belief of "no force in religion" applies both in life and in worship.

The worship service will be led by Dr. Verdena Lee, Columbus physician and national board member of On Earth Peace, an agency of the Church of the Brethren. Dr. Lee is also a member of Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Columbus. All are invited to attend.

We gather together as communities of diverse faiths to:
- pray for peace
- promote peace, harmony, restraint, and interfaith understanding, and
- foster unity among people in Central Ohio and around the world.

Sponsored by
Faith Communities Uniting for Peace

Faith Communities Uniting for Peace is a gathering of people of faith, prompted by the war on Iraq, to find common ground, encouragement and wisdom for the transformation of the world. The organization affirms that "all faiths call followers to live and speak with peace, justice and compassion," and commits itself to putting our faith values into action.

Members of Faith Communities Uniting for Peace include persons affiliated with several faith groups (American Baptist, Baha'i, Buddhist, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal, Friends, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Sikh, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist) as well as other people of conscience.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

From the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio:

The House of Bishops met this week at Camp Allen in Texas for their regular spring meeting. The main topic of the meeting was to respond to the Primates' Communique issued in February. They crafted a letter called a Message for God's People that explained their collective response to the Communique. They also developed "Mind of the House" resolutions and issued an invitation to the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with a group of the bishops and discuss the issues.

Southern Ohio's Bishop-elect Tom Breidenthal and Bishop Ken Price offer their reflections on the House of Bishops meeting. Click here to read Bishop Price's response. Click here to read the Bishop-elect's response. They also encourage folks to use this forum as a place to talk about the events this week -- and about other issues in the diocese.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Soup and Study at St. Stephen's

From the church newsletter of Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church...

Sunday Soup and Study meets again on March 25. As the final session on Christianity in America: the Present, Assistant Professor Tanya Erzen, Department of Comparative Studies, OSU, will talk about the religious right and its impact on society. From her biographical statement: "Her research interests include American Religion with a focus on Christianity and Evangelicalism, religion, gender, and sexuality; religion and American politics, American social movements, and the Christian Right." Her 2006 book Straight to Jesus is subtitled Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement. Supper begins at 5:30, the program at 6:15 ending at 7:30. The fee for this single session is $8.00. Students are welcome free of charge.

Saint Stephen's is on the campus of The Ohio State University
30 West Woodruff Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210

From Gay, godly and guilty

The thoughtful new book "Straight to Jesus" reveals the torment suffered by gay Christians who entered a residential program to battle their sexual desires.
Click here to hear Tanya Erzen on NPR's Fresh Air (taped in October of 2006)

From National Sexuality Resource Center, an article by Tanya entitled Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian conversions in the ex-gay movement

A Columbus Dispatch article from June 2006: Rejecting gay feelings, some strive to change

And from Free and Responsible Search,
Tanya Erzen is an ethnographer who did her dissertation field work at New Hope Ministry, a California program devoted to "healing" gay men of their homosexuality. In other words, she plunged right into the heart of the Christian Right and set up shop in a West-pointing Temple of the Sunrise. If you can stand it, her new book Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement is a crash course on the worldview of conservative Christianity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

From We Believe Ohio

Just two days before the release of Governor Strickland's proposed budget, We Believe Ohio held a press tele-conference to call on both the administration and the State Assembly to maintain civility in the budget negotiation process, and to keep the focus on the most vulnerable citizens in the state. Clergy leaders of We Believe Ohio also specifically called on the administration and State Assembly to work together to expand health care coverage for the more than one million uninsured Ohioans and to comply with the Supreme Court's mandates on public education.

* You can read the press release by visiting:

* Individual Statements from We Believe leaders who were on the call can be found at :

During the call, We Believe also announced plans for a "Day of Prayer and Action," when clergy and lay leaders from across the state will lobby the administration and legislature. Additional details regarding the May 3 event will follow in the coming weeks!

To learn more about the State budget, please Please join us at one of our March meetings:

In Columbus:
March 22, 8:45-11:00 a.m. at Congregation Tifereth Israel, 1354 E.
Broad St., Columbus Ohio 43205

In Cleveland:
March 29, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave,
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

War protest at National Cathedral

This action alert is from Faith in Public Life

3,500 Christian Leaders from 48 States to Protest War at National Cathedral, Mass Arrests Expected at White House

(Washington, DC) – Christian Peace Witness for Iraq will begin with a worship service on Friday, March 16 at Washington National Cathedral to be attended by more than 3,500 people of faith from 48 states, followed by a candlelight procession through the center of our nation’s capital, where thousands will surround the White House bearing the light of peace, and 700 will risk arrest by remaining in prayer in front of the White House. The service begins at 7 p.m., and the White House vigil will begin at 10:30 p.m. It will be the largest Christian peace demonstration, as well as the largest single civil disobedience action at the White House, since the beginning of the Iraq war four years ago.

More than 190 Christian and interfaith peace vigils and actions will also be held around the country in conjunction with Christian Peace Witness for Iraq-- including large-scale acts of moral civil disobedience organized by Christian Peace Witness coalition member group the Declaration of Peace .

WHAT: Christian Peace Witness National Cathedral Worship Service, Procession and Action at White House

WHEN: March 16, 2007 at 7pm

WHERE: The National Cathedral
Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW
Washington, D.C. 20016-5098

WHO: Features speakers include:

Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal and author of God’s Politics

Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of America in the King Years and a Presbyterian Elder

Rev. Raphael Warnock, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.

Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, President of the North American Conference of the World Council of Churches.

Rick Ufford Chase, convener of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq’s steering committee and former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

Celeste Zappala, a United Methodist and founding member of Gold Start Families Speak Out, whose son was killed in Iraq in April 2004

SPONSOR ORGANIZATIONS: Adventist Peace Fellowship, American Friends Service Committee, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Brethren Witness, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Christian Alliance for Progress, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Declaration of Peace, Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church, Faith in Public Life; Kairos: A Time to Speak, A Time to Act; Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA, National Council of Churches, No2Torture, On Earth Peace, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, Pax Christi USA, Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Protestants for the Common Good, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The meaning of a "Black Value System"

This is related to my post about A Black Theology of Liberation from the other day. In addition to the overview link I posted, I had also looked at a PDF that went into detail about what is meant by a Black Value System. This part stood out to me, and I think I heard it echoed when listening to Barack Obama speaking at an event in Selma commemorating the voting rights march that took place there 42 years ago.

Disavowal of the Pursuit of "Middleclassness"

Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the "talented tenth" of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor's control.

Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:

Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.

Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.

Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of "we" and "they" instead of "us".

So, while it is permissible to chase "middle-incomeness" with all our might, we must  avoid the third separation method-the psychological entrapment of Black "middleclassness": If we avoid the snare, we will also diminish our "voluntary" contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.

Anyway, I thought that excerpt was worthy of some reflection. In yesterday's post, I linked to the lively exchange between Sean Hannity and Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, about whether Trinity United Church of Christ espoused a "radical separatist" agenda. What I failed to mention at the time is that I do "get" why many White people are uncomfortable with the wording Hannity referred to from the church's web site--commitment to the Black family, the Black community, etc. Hannity asked, wouldn't it sound racist if you substituted the word White--if there was a church that openly stated it was all about supporting and strengthening the White community.

And I can't judge him for asking that. I've wondered the same thing in the past. Wright responded that churches have been that way for ages--White by default. White is "generic" to many of us, so we don't even use the word as a descriptor when we are describing a new person we met, for example.  But that's not an easy concept to "get".  It's going to take some serious thoughtful discussion among people of good will. Which means, and this is just a guess, it will likely be taking place somewhere other than Sean Hannity's television program.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Soup and Study at St. Stephen's in Columbus

From the Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church newsletter:

Sunday Soup and Study continues looking at Christianity in America: The Present. On February 18, our guest will be the Rev. John S. Paddock, Rector of Christ Church, Dayton, a church in an urban center. He and his parish are focused on issues of poverty, racism, homelessness, and economic decline. Christ Church - like St. Stephen's - is a member of The Center for Progressive Christianity. The title of his talk is "With Fingers Crossed Behind My Back: How A Progressive Christian Recites the Creed."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Just doing what the voices tell me...

I used that line the other night in response to someone who has tried to "reason" with me about the futility of my latest internet project. I was being tongue in cheek, but I was also referring to something I've addressed before, in my story God, the Blue Puppy. As the mother of young children who watched Blue's Clues, I enjoyed the idea that God left little "clues" to let me know when I was on the right track toward fulfilling the purpose She has in mind for me.

Of course, now that my kids are 11 and 13, that show is a distant (sometimes pleasantly nostalgic) memory, so I don't talk about "God's Clues" any more. But from time to time I do feel "called", for lack of a better word, to take action. How do I know it's something I'm meant to do? 1. It feels out of character and scary. 2. The damn thing just won't go away. So, while I don't have a name for that insistent feeling that there is something I must do, there is an image/metaphor that seems to pop into my mind: Joan of Arc. Of course, the big problem with that... that for Joan, it led to this.

And, you know, I am so not into that.

Of course I'm being metaphorical here--I don't expect to be barbecued. "Flamed" perhaps, in the good old-fashioned usenet sense, or potentially banned or reprimanded, depending on the site. Because the issue I currently feel that I must do something about, was spurred by the Orwellian-ly named Blogroll Amnesty Day. But it's not just about medium to small blogs being purged from the blogrolls of the "big dog" bloggers. It's about the increasingly evident consolidation of power that can be seen in some of the top ranking blogs. That's just wrong in my mind. The blogosphere has such potential to be truly democratic. As I wrote yesterday,

But the blogroll purge which, as I have already stated, does not affect me personally, has been the catalyst that prompted me to revisit some of these issues. Also an overarching issue that I have noticed over time: the man really tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, he's been quoted as saying that he is "not a leader" or that he's "just a guy with a blog". But on the other hand, he has often behaved like a very autocratic guy who just "happens" to have one of the most widely read blogs on the Democratic side of the aisle. And he has a great degree of power over what issues can see the light of day in front page posts.

This was starting to remind me of the situation with the mainstream media. They were controlled by interests other than "we the people", and they were too willing to play along with Bush during the buildup to the war in Iraq. They were also silent for far too long about the election integrity issues that many of us saw a mile away.

Anyway, in addition to work, digging out from the snow, and just generally the day to day responsibilities of an ordinary American who does *not* have ad space worth $9000 a week needs to keep up with, this is what I've been working on lately...

Read the point of view of the smaller bloggers on "Blogroll Amnesty Day"

Saturday, February 03, 2007

We Believe Conference--more to come

I received an e-mail from Heather, who does the web site at We Believe, that there will be minutes forthcoming, so those of us who couldn't attend the retreat, or who, like me, had to leave early, can be kept in the loop. In the meantime, I wanted to post a link to the keynote address Rev. Tim Ahrens gave in Washington D.C. at Faith in Public Life's Faith Leadership Meeting, which took place in December. He read the first part of it aloud to us at the meeting earlier this week, and it was the first time I'd heard it...
The day after the midterm elections, Katie Barge and I talked by phone. With her encouragement, I sat down and wrote these words:

This morning the sun rose once again over beautiful Ohio. It was, perhaps, one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen here.

Yesterday, rain fell and a steady wind swept through our land. The rain brought cleansing. The wind brought change to our state. The change came in political offices. But, much more so, the wind blew through the hearts and minds of people who courageously stepped forward to vote their values. People stepped in the polls in 88 counties and said, "We believe the working poor deserve a hand up. We believe gambling is no way to pay for our children̢۪s education. We believe that smoke free air and a healthy environment is better for us than smoke-filled rooms." People said, "We believe in standing up for justice and against elected officials who 'stay the course' even when no one can tell what the course is and where we are going."

Today, I am proud to be a Christian leader in Ohio. I am proud of those in all faith traditions with whom I stand to make a brighter and more beautiful future. We love God with our whole hearts, minds, and souls. We love our neighbors as ourselves. We are multi-cultural and multiracial. We are bridge builders. We love humanity and don't seek to demonize others. We are faithful and moral to the core of our souls. But we will not impose our faith and morality on others.

We are uniting people everywhere and we are united in this effort. We are and will continue to be ones who seek to heal the world. We will not be silent. We will listen to the voice of God guiding us forward in faith and action.

Today, I stand in the sunshine of this state beaming with delight. I stand among all Ohioans who braved the wind and the rain yesterday to make a change. I am humbled to be counted among those, who on a rainy, windswept day lifted their heads, walked into the prevailing winds stood courageously and voted for a change - determined to show God and one another that wind itself could change.

On November 7th, The people of Ohio demonstrated the audacity to hope! Ohioans heard the cries of the poor and answered. Ohioans spoke out against corruption and greed. Ohioans stood up from the midst of the mud-slinging in this campaign season and declared, "We see what we need to do . . . and we will do it!" Today, in the sunshine of God's love, we step forward. That is what I see today as I soak in the sunlight. We believe in God. We believe in Ohio.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A prayer for the new year

Originally posted elsewhere on December 31, but I wanted to share it here as well. And it is still January, so here goes...

Holy Mother...Loving Father...
Source of All That Is...
Oh--You know who You are!

That daughter You gave me said a funny thing yesterday:
"It seems like God has gotten shy over the years"
(Meaning You don't talk to people like in the "old days")

I said I wasn't sure that was true--
that sometimes it just doesn't get written down
Sometimes people aren't sure it's really You
(Or are afraid to believe that it is)

And I told her of the time I heard from you
(or one of Your "people")
"Help heal the world" were the words I heard
while lying in bed early that morning
And then You held me close

Maybe I imagined that, but it didn't matter
The words felt real enough, and the need for healing was real,
so I promised that I would
Later I learned about tikkun olam,
the Hebrew phase which translates to "repairing the world"

That confirmed the notion that the call to help heal the world was true and real...

It's also impossible

There can never be enough glue, tape, bandages, needles and thread, hammers and nails, hope, patience, and love, to get the job done

I suppose that's why the baptismal vows say, "I will, with God's help"

So as we begin a new year, I ask again for Your help
Help me to find the strength, energy, and love to keep working
to mend that which is broken,
both in myself and in the world You entrusted to our care.

We Believe Leadership Retreat

I attended part of the We Believe Leadership Retreat today. I wasn't planning to stay over night, but I had hoped to at least stay all of today, but I was really nervous about the idea of trying to drive home from hilly, snowy, unfamiliar Belville, Ohio IN THE DARK. And it turned out I couldn't get any signal at all on my cell phone, so I had no way of contacting family to let them know I'd arrived safely. And my husband had no way of getting any important information to me.

So I headed home, even though I was really looking forward to continuing the discussion, which was to include issues such as:
Among the issues to be considered and moderated at the retreat:
*Are we a Movement—or an Organization?
*How do the answers to those questions affect our structure and our plan?
*How do we broaden our circle?
When I arrived home, I was met an increasingly more challenging situation with Son in Ohio's school that needs to be dealt with, and the news that I need to report to work tomorrow rather than Monday, which is what I'd been told yesterday.

Anyway, the reason I'm going into this much detail about things is that it speaks to that goal of "How do we broaden our circle?" I very much support the mission of We Believe and would like to be part of it. So one goal *I* would have for the organization would be multiple ways of keeping people "in the loop" if they aren't able to attend meetings and such. So, for starters, if anyone who attended the conference would be willing to fill me in about what I'm missing by not attending the last 2/3 of the event, I would be most grateful.