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Live 8

I remember Live Aid well. I was in high school, and was both an idealistic singer-songwriter and a passionate fan of U2, Elvis Costello, and David Bowie, all of whom were performing. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I wouldn't miss the beginning (Elvis Costello doing a solo rendition of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," as I recall -- I was deeply impressed that he did that instead of promoting his own work) and stayed glued to MTV for the duration, entranced by the hope that the music I loved might really change the world for the better.

It's twenty years later, and I think that I've undergone a journey similar to a lot of those whose hopes were sky-high for Live Aid. I've come to a position that while charity is good, justice is better. Charity provides gifts from the privileged to the marginalized while keeping those two groups pretty much where they are and the world much the way it is. Justice is like a washing machine: what's at the center goes out to the margins to bring what's at the margins in to the center, and as that process continues, the entire load is transformed.

Twenty years after Live Aid, it's time to do the laundry, and that's what Live 8 is about. This time, nobody's asking for your money; they're asking for your voice, to claim the power you have and use it to encourage the G8 leaders to forgive debts and expand intelligently targeted and closely monitored aid (no buying arms or a fleet of presidential limos with it!) to developing countries in a way that could actually end extreme poverty in our lifetime.

So check out the ONE campaign site (in the U.S.) or Make Poverty History (in the European Union), and please lend your voice NOW (President Bush is expected to announce his proposals TOMORROW for the G8 summit) to what just might be the most important movement for global justice in our generation.

June 29, 2005 in ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

an early evangelical influence

I just found Robert Boyd Munger's "My Heart, Christ's Home," a little booklet that was a huge influence on me in my early years in evangelical Christianity, online. Now THAT brings back memories!

My own ministry still strongly emphasizes the importance of individuals making conscious decisions to follow Christ. Now, though, I'd say that making a decision like that and being "born again" isn't something that happens once, but is something that we do over and over again in a gradual process of formation that includes fits and starts, some trudging and some strolling, and occasional tangents that prove unhelpful. I'd no longer say that we hand things over to Jesus and he just takes care of it; I believe that we are called to spiritual adulthood, maturity in Christ that takes seriously our agency and gifts as well as our limitations and weaknesses.

I wonder whether I'm still an evangelical -- or maybe a progressive evangelical charismatic Anglo-Catholic. Of course, there's just one Body of Christ, and taxonomy for various kinds of members is more recreational than instructive, I think.

One of these days I ought to read Brian McLaren's most recent book. I get the impression that his experiences in formation just might be even more eclectic than mine.

June 28, 2005 in Churchiness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

48 hours left to make history

One_banners_014_336x280 Dear President Bush,

Because:

  • ONE billion people around the world live on less than ONE dollar a day;
  • The US government spends less than ONE percent on overcoming global AIDS and poverty;
  • Citizens are uniting as ONE across political and religious divides to support action to overcome the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty.

At the G8 leaders meeting on July 6th we urge you to:

  • Help the poorest people of the world fight poverty, AIDS and hunger at a cost equal to just ONE percent more of the US budget on a clear timetable;
  • Cancel 100% of the debts owed by the poorest countries;
  • Reform trade rules so poor countries can earn sustainable incomes.

We urge you to lead an historic deal with other nations to help Africa and the poorest nations overcome global AIDS and extreme poverty. Together as ONE, we can Make Poverty History this July.

President Bush is expected to announce his plan for the G8 summit in two days.

SIGN THE LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH to show your support for ending extreme poverty in our lifetime.

June 28, 2005 in Current Affairs, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

preserving 'pastoral sparkle'

See this fabulous post from the witty and wise St. Casserole.

June 27, 2005 in Churchiness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday catblogging

BlackandwhiteLook at this adorable little girl! She and her brother (also awaiting adoption) are incredibly active and playful little hunters who are very attached to each other -- I hope they get adopted together.

Karen and I met her at the animal shelter again, where our job as volunteers was to go around to meet, scritch, hold, and/or play with cats so we could get a sense of their personalities and write up a description for Petfinder.org. It's a tough job playing with all of these cuties and absorbing all of that pent-up affection they've got for anyone who gives them some attention and time outside the cage ... but someone's got to do it, right?

This is the most fun I've ever had volunteering -- it's a real mood booster.

June 24, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday catblogging

MrorangeMeet Mr. Orange! He's one year old, he purrs like a well-tuned lawnmower engine, and he's currently living at Frederick County Animal Control awaiting adoption. I've really been missing our beloved Bette, and I've been feeling the need for a serious pick-me-up, so I decided to see whether the local animal shelter needed any help I could provide.

They do! Boyhowdy they do. There's a WONDERFUL website called Petfinder, where you can browse through descriptions and pictures of animals -- dogs and cats, and even rabbits and other animals -- awaiting adoption. Some need a foster home for a little time -- someone to care for them because they're too young for adoption, or need a little extra care as they recover from being undernourished or somesuch. If you go to Petfinder, you can meet some of these animals needing homes. You can search just local shelters, shelters in the region, or nationwide, restricting your search to just the kind of animal you want. They even tell you if the animal is good with small children and other animals. If you adopt a Petfinder animal, the adoption costs cover spaying or neutering (if it hasn't been done already), medical exams and shots, and you get a free month of pet health/accident insurance.

Karen and I went down to the shelter on Wednesday to help take pictures of the animals for the Petfinder site. Our shelter was in particular need of volunteers who like cats, and could help get them to look at the camera and generally be their adorable selves. That's how we met Mr. Orange and a bunch of other adorable cats and dogs who will be put to sleep if a home can't be found for them. We plan to come back regularly on Wednesdays to help get Petfinder photos and descriptions online (go there, and just try to resist all that furry cuteness!), and I think I might come back on Fridays as well -- cats are often very social, and the ones in the shelter are really starved for affection and attention.

I think that Friday catblogging will probably feature shelter cats for a while. Our Foster is adorable, but y'all already know just how adorable she is! Heck, maybe we need to start a custom of the Wednesday dogblog too!

Do stop by Petfinder, where you can also sign up to volunteer at your local shelter. Holding and playing with these little guys and gals is a major boost at the end of a workday -- I almost feel like I should be paying them for the privilege! And it doesn't have to be long -- you could even stop by for fifteen minutes on your way home, and it'll make a couple of animals VERY happy. I don't know why I didn't think of doing this sooner!

June 17, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

creating conditions to preclude peace?

Americans who read stories buried on page 14 or further in the newspaper have heard something (though not as much as I would hope the media would provide on something like this) about the Downing Street Memo, which indicates that American intelligence was being "fixed" around going to war in Iraq eight months prior to the invasion, while the Bush administration was still declaring its openness to resolving the crisis with peaceful means. The memo's language could be read in more than one way. One could read the memo's statement that American intelligence was being "fixed" around invading Iraq as meaning either that outcomes of inquiry were predetermined by a decision to go to war; one could also read "fixed" in that context as meaning something like "affixed," and conclude that the administration was simply metaphorically stacking data that would support invasion on one side as a means of assessing whether invasion was necessary.

Now the Times of London has transcribed a British cabinet paper from July 21, 2002 that (if it's reliable) seems to me to be unambiguously showing that invading Iraq was not a "last resort" for the Bush administration, as they were declaring in public in July of 2002, but was a goal toward which the administration was working, and hard. Here's the paragraph that clinches it for me:

Ministers are invited to: ...
3) Agree to engage the US on the need to set military plans within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.

Of course, Saddam Hussein did allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, and the U.S. invaded anyway.

I would have hoped that prior to the invasion of Iraq, our government and other governments around the world would at the very least have been doing their best to try to disarm Saddam Hussein (if, of course, he was armed) and bring him into compliance with international law and U.N. resolutions without risking the lives of our troops and countless Iraqi civillians. Seems reasonable, no?

I'm no great lover of the Bush administration's policies and style of government, but I still have been doing all kinds of intellectual yoga to try to see some way to get around this conclusion:

If U.S. and British officials were tasked with "creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action," then Saddam's peaceful disarmament and full compliance with U.N. resolutions would be a failure of policy. In other words, rather than trying to create the conditions in which peace was possible, U.S. and British officials were asked to create conditions that would preclude peaceful resolution.

Does anyone see another way to read this?

June 14, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Zach could use your encouragement

Pam's House Blend has posted the story of Zach, a sixteen-year-old gay teen in Tennessee. Zach came out to his parents recently, and they responded by forcing him to go to a "Love In Action" camp which will supposedly make him heterosexual. He was so frightened that he ran away, but when he came back home, they sent him to the "Love In Action" camp. Check out the VERY long list of rules for the program, and you'll have some idea of how difficult this is going to be for Zach, who will be completely cut off from friends and loved ones aside from his immediate family. Participants in this program aren't even allowed to listen to Beethoven or Bach, for fear that any non-Christian music will become a corrupting "outside influence" or "False Image." Participants (or, in some cases, it sounds like, prisoners) of the program are searched daily for such "False Images" or "F.I.s," which are confiscated by the "C.O.C." or "Chain of Command." No, I'm not making this up -- this is the language used by "Love In Action."

Like many teenagers, Zach has a blog, and you can leave a comment there to let him know about your support, that you're praying for him (but given that when a lot of the people around him say "I'm praying for you," they mean "I'm praying that God would make you heterosexual so you can leave this abhorrent and deviant lifestyle," I would be sure to say exactly WHAT you're praying for him), and all of the reasons he has to hope.

I wish I could jet out to Tennessee with a couple of hundred friends right now to line the road with people holding up signs of support. It's hard enough to be sixteen and all too easy for any teenager to feel isolated without being packed off to some place where cell phones, personal computers, house keys, and all photographs are taken away. Please consider sending Zach a message that he can see once he gets out of that awful place.

June 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday catblogging

StonedAffection is Foster's drug of choice. In the words of Bob Dylan: Everybody must get stoned!

June 10, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

medical insurance for a self-employed webminister

As I've mentioned a couple of times, my parish staff position is being eliminated. It's a real bear of a time of year to be on the job market; seminarians are graduating around the country, and there are a slew of incentives of both the "carrot" variety and the "stick" sort to encourage parishes to hire graduating seminarians. I'm looking at this, though, as a potential nudge from the Holy Spirit to consider different kinds of ministry, including consulting and providing services through this website.

I have another wacky dream too. I'd like to build Christian community closer to home. I've spent over two years commuting 60 miles each way to parish work, and the parish at which my partner and I are members is also 60 miles away. I'd like to be able to hang out and pray with Christians (and Christians who take for granted my belonging in the Body of Christ, which unfortunately isn't the case for churches in town) without having to drive quite so far. Now that I'm not going to have to spend so much time in my car, I could actually make that happen. Here are my ideas to get started:

  • Call on all of the people I've met around here who want a spiritual home in a Christian community, but who feel alienated by the conservative tendencies they perceive in churches in town.
  • Start up some book groups around town (meeting at places like Border's Books and the coffee house down the street from my house) on works like Thich Nhat Hanh's Going Home: Jesus and the Buddha as Brothers and Charles Marsh's God's Long Summer, on the role of faith in the civil rights movement.
  • Do in Frederick (where I live) something I've done for the parish where I work, namely "Theology Happy Hour: What Would Jesus Drink?" That's where (after clearing it with the management, of course) I go to a local pub, order a plate of appetizers, put up a little sign on the table announcing what the gathering is, and put out some pads of paper, pens, and a hat or bag. People who are interested in joining the conversation can write down any question or topic they'd like to discuss and drop it in the hat/bag. After a while of hanging out and collecting topics, we start drawing things out of the hat/bag one by one, and anyone who wants to chime in on the topic or question can, with me just serving as facilitator rather than as authoritative teacher. When conversation seems to be wrapping up on one topic or question, we draw out the next. Lather. Rinse Repeat for as long as seems fun.
  • And eventually, if I can get use of one of those currently vacant buildings around here (I've got my eye on one), open a community center where peace and justice groups or groups serving underserved populations around here (e.g., people whose primary language is Spanish) can have free meeting space, and maybe a shared office (a computer with multiple user accounts and a telephone). I think that would be a great way to make connections and build community with people who aren't feeling well served by churches in the area.

Here's the big catch:

Medical insurance.

I think that with a combination of consulting/retreat leading/guest preaching, website income (thanks to the generous folks who support this site), and the income from my (generous and wonderful!) partner, we might be able to make ends meet. But then there's medical insurance. For a while, I could do COBRA if I could afford it (I have to find out how much that is, but I'm imagining that it's pretty expensive), but I'm not sure what other options there are. I don't have access to insurance through my partner's job (she works for a Roman Catholic college, so that isn't going to change, either). My diocese can't put me on their policy if I'm not officially an employee. There are insurance options for self-employed people, but at the very least I could use some help with finding a good one, and in any case paying for it will be a challenge.

Anyone have any ideas?

June 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack