quick reflections on Executive Council

I'm in the hotel restaurant in Omaha for a quick brunch before I get on a plane to come home from the Executive Council meeting, so I thought I'd dash off some quick notes for the Episco-curious.

The most important thing by far that happened at the meeting, I think, is the pledge Council made unanimously on behalf of The Episcopal Church to give AT LEAST an ADDITIONAL $10 million for the rebuilding of our sisters' and brothers' communities in Haiti. These funds are extrabudgetary -- i.e., on top of any funds in the church's 2010 budget for Haiti -- and are on top of the excellent and extensive work Episcopal Relief and Development is doing there. $10 million is essentially a tithe of the church's entire budget.

Mark Harris, you are as much a genius as you are a rascal, and that's saying something. (Mark is the initial proposer of such a tithe.)

And, by the way, as the resolution inspired by Mark's suggestion was first being proposed by Ian Douglas (soon to be the Bishop of Connecticut), it was our Presiding Bishop who suggested a making the resolution pledge AT LEAST $10 million rather than just saying $10 million. Bishop Katharine, that was truly inspired.

Folks, I know times are tough here in the continental U.S. for a lot of people. I'm unemployed myself. But you know, the wages of my wonderful and supportive high-school-teacher spouse still put us as a household in the top 1% of wage earners worldwide, according to the Global Rich List. We have a roof over our heads, clean water to drink, and something to eat other than boiled dirt, which is what a lot of people in Haiti are eating now. We're not in any danger of getting cholera.

In my view, this situation is essentially a medical emergency in the Body of Christ and the family of all humanity. When I had a gallstone a while back, we quite rightly went to the hospital first and figured out how to pay for it later. Karen (my partner) has suggested that we should do the same with donating to help rebuild Haiti, and she's absolutely right.

Please consider the same -- for yourself, for your worshipping community, for your company or club, or pub trivia crowd, or wherever you are and gather. 

On other matters people have asked about:

Church Center employment: I am and Council as a whole is deeply concerned about the cleaning staff recently laid off. There are nuances to the story that are important, and that were missed or distorted, in the New York Post's story about it. The employees let go were not employees of the church, but of a company the church contracted with for cleaning services -- the Church Center didn't fire a bunch of people, but switched cleaning companies after a process that, Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt reported to us, was open to non-union companies as a way of being able to solicit bids from more women- and minority-owned businesses.

I appreciate that report, but it does not dispel my ongoing concern for workers' rights and human decency, nor does it ameliorate, in my opinion, that communication about the situation was (to say the least) very poorly handled. I expressed that view, as did others, and I and others will be continuing to monitor the situation and strive to support workers' rights. I want to thank those people who hold my and others' feet to the fire about this. Keep it up! This is important stuff.

It's also not the only Church Center employment matter about which I and others are concerned. The layoffs of 2009 continue to hurt. There are faces of people that still, when I look around at meetings, I'm subconsciously expecting to see. There's expertise and passion missing from people who used to work for the Church Center and don't. And I still think about and pray for employees and their families. Remaining staff are doing a heroic job striving to cover the territory, and are working together in truly creative ways.

But I'm not going to pretend that the reduced budget -- especially the personnel lost and reduced support for dioceses of Province IX in Central and South America -- isn't really painful. I and wiser heads than mine on Council are continuing to wrestle with figures, pray, and keep eyes, ears, and hearts open to count the human (and environmental) cost of our decisions even or especially when those decisions are difficult.

Which makes me all the more pleasantly flummoxed that the proposal to come up with $10 million more for Haiti swept with such immediacy and awe to take the room when it was offered. That for me is evidence -- as if I needed still more evidence -- that God really does show up where people gather seeking to ride the wave of what God's mission, of what God is doing in the world.

And with that, I think it's time to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Oh, just one more note: I was going to start listing the specific people I was particularly glad and grateful to see and hang out with, but the list got so long as to be silly. So I'll reduce it to just one for now, since it's someone for whom this was the last meeting of Council and whom I will sorely miss there:

The soon-to-be Rt. Reverend (and therefore still the Not Quite Right Reverend) Ian Douglas. I'm only drinking iced tea, but I'll still raise the glass to you. Thank you. I'm glad you're going to be in the House of Bishops, much as I'll miss you at Council and in Boston.

February 23, 2010 in Churchiness, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

the Hancock UCC U2charist - televised!

As y'all know, on Tuesday evening I played lead guitar and did the vocals alongside drummer Elisa Lucozzi and bassist Roseanne Hebert at Hancock UCC in Lexington for a U2charist with entirely live music.

I didn't know until shortly before the start of the prelude, though, that the service was to be televised (on local cable) and recorded to DVD. *Gulp!* And on my first public outing as a lead guitarist too -- which I was trying to do while also doing lead vocals!

There were some additional challenges as well. Various technical issues meant that I didn't have a vocal monitor as such; we were using our monitors as a P.A. system to project the vocals and drums into the congregation. Even my guitar amps were angled primarily for the congregation to hear; the direct sound out from the amp hit me at about knee level. Guitar cut out during "Sunday Bloody Sunday." My microphone cut out during "Walk On." I missed a chord or two, I'm pretty sure.

In other words, it was rock and roll! I reminded the perfectionist part of me that U2 themselves often have things go awry, and sometimes (e.g., Bono's unplanned and very lengthy plunge into the audience during "Bad" at the original Live Aid concert at Wembley) the Spirit's worked powerfully through it.

I'm still not entirely sure I'm going to watch the DVD. I'd rather judge the evening by what I saw of the congregation's experience of it than by a recording. And by what I saw in the congregation, it was a very, very good night. A packed house pledged their voices to the ONE campaign and gave generously to Oxfam for relief of extreme poverty, and by the end of the evening, I don't think there was a single person in the congregation who wasn't on their feet and singing their heart out.

I'll be posting more about the experience and what I learned from it (yes, I've been doing U2charists for almost five years now, and I'm still learning!) at the U2charist resources page.

March 6, 2008 in Churchiness, Music, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), Television, U2charist | Permalink | Comments (2)

U2charist (with all live music!) @ Hancock UCC, March 4

I'll be singing and playing guitar alongside Elisa Lucozzi, drummer extraodinaire, at a U2charist at Hancock (Massachusetts) UCC on the evening of March 4th. If you're in the area and would like to experience a U2charist with live music -- or to see how you can do a U2charist with entirely live music when you've only got two musicians -- please save the date! We're planning a session in the early evening at which anyone who wants to come to the service but isn't familiar with U2's music can learn songs we'll be singing, then have a break for my voice and Elisa's hands to recover, and then the service will start. I'll announce the exact times soon.

Blessings, and I hope to see some SarahLaughed.net readers there!


For more info on the U2charist, check out the U2charist resources page.

February 19, 2008 in Churchiness, Music, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (0)

engaging God's mission

Lately there has some discussion in the partisan blogosphere as to whether one should give to Episcopal Relief and Development if one disagrees with one or more things going on the The Episcopal Church, or to Anglican Relief and Development if one doesn't, or if it's better to give to some other organization entirely.

I plan to update this post to offer links to the organizations I mention and to ones to which I refer, but I want to go on the record as saying immediately and unequivocally:

If you want to give to change the world, to relieve global poverty, than the theological bent of particular people involved in the organization doesn't matter much.

What matters much, in my reading of the life and teaching and death and resurrection of Jesus, God's Christ, is our giving is that we're engaging God's mission by doing so, and that means giving as much as possible from compassion for the poorest and most marginalized and as little as possible from our sense of what will accomplish any partisan church or civic political aims.

So yes, I support Episcopalian Relief and Development, and rejoice when others do. They do amazing work, partnering with indigenous ministries for maximum efficiency and sensitivity to local context, and spending as little as possible on overhead versus aid. I've looked into them, and I feel on solid ground in saying that their work is worth supporting, whether you're an Episcopalian or not, and whether you're a fan of any particular policy or other tendency of The Episcopal Church or not. Episcopal Relief and Development, as far as I can tell (and I would welcome any data I should take into account that might demonstrate the contrary), is doing important and urgent work that's Good News to the poor.

I have not investigated to the same degree organizations such as Anglican Relief and Development (which, as I understand the situation, was formed by groups seeking to break away from The Episcopal Church to provide aid especially from organizations and people who, for a variety of reasons, can't accept funding for or don't feel comfortable donating to anything associated with The Episcopal Church) and Five Talents. I hear good things about what they're doing, though.

What I encourage everyone to do is to INVESTIGATE. Ask questions about how much money goes to fund people in the U.S. (you'd be surprised at how many organizations claim to be about ending extreme poverty involved and that still spend most of their income right here, one white people better off than me). Ask them about their partnerships with organizations indigenous to the populations they serve. Personally, I don't chalk up anything I give to organizations that spend more than 15% of their total budget as PROGRAM budget OVERSEAS part of the 1% that organizations such as the ONE Campaign is advocating.

In other words, how much is my giving helping comfortable American citizens live comfortably while they talk about extreme poverty? Talking about extreme poverty is important, but does not necessarily relieve extreme poverty, and personally I prefer to fun initiatives -- such as Global Voices -- that give voice to people outside the U.S. and who work directly with if not being immediately among the populations most affected by extreme poverty.

And with respect to organizations abroad, how much budget goes to administration as opposed to program -- i.e., the program of relieving extreme poverty, as opposed to talking about relieving extreme poverty? What accountability measures are in place to assure that checks cashed are used by the organization for its stated mission?

Personally, I don't many organizations -- faith-based or no -- that match Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) in terms of efficiency, cultural sensitivity, and working to channel relief in directions that foster autonomy.

If you want to register your disagreement with The Episcopal Church in some way, though, I'm going to do something crazy:

I suggest, a la St. Paul's advice in his letter to the churches in Rome, that you strive to outdo ERD in collections gathered, in accountability offered, and in effectiveness in getting relief and means to economic sustainability to those in extreme poverty. Do that and I'll stand up and cheer at the top of my lungs.

Because in the end -- I have to say as some who takes seriously Matthew's report of Jesus' talking about 'sheep' and 'goats' -- I don't give a rodent's posterior about which organization sends which people which tax form.

I just want a world in which every child has a chance -- clean water, enough food to get by in reasonable health, enough health care to end childhood mortality from diseases we have for decades had cheap technologies to cure, enough education and a clean enough environment to make a living by their own hands.

We could do it -- not just because we have the resources (and we do -- because God has blessed this world with more than enough resources), but because, I think, there's critical mass in this world such that if those of us who believed this but aren't making a big deal about it decided to make a big deal about it, we could witness firsthand the changing of the tide that God is doing.

I'll write more about this soon, I'm sure -- especially given that this is Lent, and that I've got certain ideas (for which I'm deeply indebted to the prophet Isaiah, among others) about in what kinds of fasts God is engaged and honors -- but I wanted to go on the record about this much right now.

Thanks for listening.

February 6, 2008 in Churchiness, Current Affairs, Episcopal Relief and Development, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist | Permalink | Comments (0)

vacation thoughts

Today is the last day of a truly lovely vacation. I'm writing on the screened-in porch of our cabin overlooking a New Hampshire "great pond" (think small lake), listening to the wind whispering through the trees and reflecting on just how much good it's done my soul to spend a week getting lots of sun, fresh air, and time on the water, preparing and enjoying simple and delicious meals, watching clouds drift across the sky, and thinking.

I did some reading on development to reduce or eliminate extreme poverty. Since the U2charist has taken on such a remarkable life of its own around the world, I've felt the need to be better informed about issues related to extreme poverty. I have often preached and written about the spiritually dangerous position we place ourselves in when our response to poverty is to lob money at or in the direction of poor people such that we feel generous, but retain a death-grip on the power and privilege that keeps us in the position of deciding, in effect, through our charity who lives and who dies. I worry that sometimes when I'm talking with people planning U2charists, where the money should go and why seems like an afterthought. I think about how many times I've heard an American Christian say something along the lines of, "well, it really doesn't matter WHAT you do to help; what matters is that you try to do SOMETHING, and that your heart's in the right place." It matters a great deal, I dare say, to those who do live in extreme poverty whether what you do is effective and for whom, and I want my work to support organizations and approaches that make the most difference for those in greatest need. I think in the months to come I'll do some more blogging about what I've been reading and what thinking it's prompted, though I'm still deciding whether Grace Notes or the U2charist page would be a better venue for it.

But I haven't been spending all of my time or even most of it this week reading and thinking about development. This has been a real, honest-to-gosh VACATION, and the first one I can recall of this length in I don't know how long. I've used many vacation days over the years for speaking or conference engagements, and have sometimes been able to surround the work with a few days in a nice spot nearby to make a sort of working vacation. I've visited family or friends, usually for a long weekend and also often in conjunction with some kind of work. It's a different experience altogether to go somewhere beautiful and quiet -- no cell phone reception to speak of, no Internet access, and no intrusions of concerns from elsewhere. To post my lectionary blog, I drove around until I found an open wireless network -- and New Hampshire must be the top state in the Union for Internet security, as it seems just about everyone keeps their network locked down tight. I finally found a tiny public library -- the Frost Free Public Library, a name which must strike many as ironic in New Hampshire winters -- that was closed, but that kept its wireless up and open. But at the cabin, there's no 'Net at all, so not even Anglican politics could intrude. Lovely.


I'm finding that the Impact self-defense classes I've taken have inspired me to renegotiate my relationship with my body, which I'd been seriously neglecting for quite some time. For my honey's birthday, I arranged for us to take kayaking lessons, and we now have a "season pass" on kayak rentals that lets us try out all kinds of kayaks whenever we want for the rest of 2007. This week, I've been paddling a Wilderness Systems Tempest Pro 170, and I love it. It's a versatile kayak, suitable for ocean use, long enough to track decently, and maneuverable enough to still be fun in quieter water. It's longer and narrower than the kayak I used in our class, which makes it easier to tip and a little more difficult to get into and out of (especially for a gal with dislocating kneecaps), but it's also significantly more responsive, which is fun -- and very useful when the wind kicks up. It's got a composite hull that's lighter and seems to allow for more speed than plastic ones as well, and I've very much enjoyed paddling fast enough to get a nice breeze in my face and to work up a sweat. I'm almost tempted to say that this is the kayak for me, but I do plan to try others, and it's nice in the meantime to have a physical, outdoor activity that I actually love (other than surfing, a sport for which the Charles River and Boston Harbor are far from renowned). I think it'll be good for body and soul for the rest of the season to walk once or twice a week to the boathouse and paddle for a couple of hours.


August 17, 2007 in Life and Whatnot, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

U2charist sermon from Saturday

A number of folks have expressed interest in a copy of my sermon for the U2charist held this past Saturday sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, Journey of Faith Church, and Christ Church in Dearborn, Michigan. I'll probably blog on it later this week -- it was a wonderful, amazing experience, thanks to the hard work of those who prepared it and the good hearts of those who participated -- but I've already posted my sermon from the service here.

(And aside from this most recent sermon, my sermons page is rather out of date; I've got it on my to-do list for this week to upload more of my recent sermons.)

June 18, 2007 in Churchiness, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

U2charist in Dearborn, Michigan

For those of you in the area, here's the press release with details of the U2charist in Michigan this coming Saturday. It'd be great to see you there!

Journey of Faith Church to host “U2Charist” service with music of the Irish band U2
Theologian Sarah Dylan Breuer of Cambridge, Mass. will preach.

DEARBORN, Mich. (May 21, 2007) – The walls of Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn are expected to reverberate with the music of the Irish band U2 during a special worship service, known as U2Charist, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, 2007. The church is located at 120 N. Military in Dearborn.

Hosting the service is Journey of Faith Church, formerly known as St. David’s in Garden City. Partnering with Journey of Faith will be the Episcopal diocesan office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries along with Christ Church of Dearborn and St. John’s of Plymouth.

“By Episcopal church standards, our services are highly informal in dress and style,” said Journey of Faith Pastor Mark Jenkins. “We’re trying to reach those who find less traditional approaches to worship more appealing. Hosting a diocesan U2Charist seems like a natural for us.”

Delivering the message for the U2Charist will be Sarah Dylan Breuer of Cambridge, Mass., who developed the idea of the U2Charist service in 2004. Since then the U2Charists have grown beyond their origin in the Episcopal Church to become a worldwide phenomenon.

The U2Charist service focuses on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which have been endorsed by every nation in the world and many religious denominations, including the Episcopal Church, to eradicate extreme poverty and global AIDS.

“Our service will follow the pattern of Journey of Faith’s weekly worship service and incorporate multimedia featuring music from U2 including such favorites as “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “Yahweh,” and “One,” added Pastor Jenkins.

The band U2 has given permission to use their music in such services as long as emphasis on the MDG is maintained. Bono, the lead singer of U2, has been very outspoken on issues for social justice and has initiated several programs including the ONE Declaration, www.one.org, an effort to rally people in the fight against poverty and AIDS.

The public is welcome to attend the U2Charist. More information is available by calling the church office at 313-565-5512 or visiting www.JoFChurch.org.

About Journey of Faith

Journey of Faith Church is a small, open group that is highly informal in its dress and worship, which includes a blend of contemporary and ancient forms and prayers. Worship services are led by the Reverend Mark Jenkins and conducted in much the way early Christians worshipped with readings, reflections, prayer and table fellowship. Journey of Faith Church describes itself as being a “journey of faith,” offering a new approach to traditional religion by encouraging each person to experience the spiritual journey in a way that is authentic and honest. Regular services are held every Saturday afternoon at Christ Episcopal Church at 121 N. Military in Dearborn.

# # #

(Photo attached of Sarah Dylan Breuer)

Media Contacts:
The Rev. Mark Jenkins
Journey of Faith Church
[email protected]

Margaret Blohm, APR
Margaux & Associates, LLC
[email protected]

June 10, 2007 in Churchiness, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist, Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

+Duncan rejects APO proposal

Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, presumably speaking on behalf of the Anglican Communion Network (since his response was published on their site) has rejected The Episcopal Church's response to the Network's request for "alternative primatial oversight" -- or for a "Commissary" (described by +Jim Stanton as "a sort of vicar") -- or for whatever it was that the Network was requesting following its reported modification of a request for "alternative primatial oversight" after one of its own members pointed out that the Presiding Bishop doesn't have "primatial oversight" in the ways outlined by the petitioning dioceses' request to grant, and therefore it might not be in the far right's interest to, in effect, grant such powers to the PB before any PB requested them.

Admittedly, Bishop Duncan did take as much as six hours (assuming he was waiting breathlessly by his Internet connection for the news, despite his refusal to participate in the conversation that led to the proposal answering his requests) to consider the proposal before rejecting it on behalf of his ACN constituents. I'm sure he spent every minute of that time in consultation with the other ACN bishops, clergy, and laity to make sure that what he said really reflected what they were seeking.

The ACN has, for some reason or a few dozen, declined to seek my advice before issuing this statement. Had they sought it, I might have said that in light of the confusion resulting from their making very public statements before reaching agreement as to whether they really wanted to be under someone more "primatial" than our current polity makes our Presiding Bishop, they might want to think long and hard about whether they wanted to reject something that grants just about all of the points our constitution and canons would allow before rejecting it on the basis that the proposal would leave them without someone sufficiently "primatial" in power over them. I also might have said that, given the "we can't come to the table with a person who doesn't represent us fully" line of thought they're using, it might be wise to make well and truly sure that EVERYONE they need on their side is willing to go as far as they will in this seemingly all-or-nothing strategy they're employing.

I suspect that the speed and lack of conversation with which the response was issued will lead to the ACN's response being taken as an indication of just how little the ACN is interested in real conversation or actual communion with the breadth of those Baptized as and faithful by all creedal and canonical measures of Christianity and Anglicanism.

And, to be honest, this grieves me. I truly believe -- on the basis of our shared Baptism into Christ and our shared declaration of intent to walk in the way of Jesus the Christ's Cross -- that members of the Anglican Communion Network would gain far, far more in their spiritual walk with Jesus and in the mission of God in which Christ's Church participates, if we and they were looking for points of connection in Christ rather than excuses to sever Eucharistic relationship. My sense, in conversation with many people who disagree with me about all kinds of issues related to interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1, is that there are many, many conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who would be willing, when pressed, to call me a sinner in ways they believe they aren't sinning, but who nonetheless will take it as a sin far more grievous than anything I've done that some will split the church and divert resources from causes like clean drinking water for those who have none to achieve a symbolically important split from the rest of us "sinners."

Last time I checked, we were all sinners. I hope my conservative friends in favor of this very rapid rejection of what is in my perception a profoundly gracious offer will explain to me what they feel they have to gain (if anything) from +Bob Duncan's response. In the meantime, I'm still scratching my head.

Here is the bottom line of where I'm coming from: I promise any and all interested parties that we can have that knock-down, drag-out, winner-take-all fight about sexuality stuff the very second that we've taken care of the extreme poverty stuff that is killing thousands of my sisters and brothers in Christ far quicker than every month. I swear. I do take seriously that personal holiness is important, and that sexual morality is important. I just can't believe it's more important than these basic issues of clean water, good food, basic education, and other life-sustaining issues out there.

I don't agree with our Presiding Bishop about everything -- or even about everything important -- either. I just don't see why we shouldn't be able to agree to lay aside any and all of our concerns with other points that she makes until we deal with the one she's chosen as the centerpiece of her tenure: the totally possible elimination of extreme poverty before the end of her tenure. I'm quite sure that if we do that, I'll be so giddy in 2015 that I'll be inclined to support darn near anyone who's visibly worked hardest in the intervening years to make that happen.

Are you bothered by other points in other people's agendas? Join the club. But let's add a point to the charter club of Christians Eagerly Awaiting Jesus' Eschaton: let's make all the points of fighting among ourselves a list of agenda points for what we do after we make sure that ever child born in this world has a chance to do what we think people are born to do, whether that's accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, understanding and living into their vocation as Baptized members of the Body of Christ, working in the world as agents of God's justice, or whatever else is on life's docket.

Honestly, I have a very hard time taking anyone as being seriously "pro-life" while it's still both possible for someone to be doomed to death before age 7 simply because of where s/he was born. I completely fail to understand what could possibly more more urgent on the world's agenda than changing that.

Literally -- and I don't use this language even remotely lightly -- for Christ's sake, let's take all of these other issues up after we've got this totally solvable and very urgent one solved! The "full employment for litigators" initiatives being pursued so vigorously thus far in so many quarters makes me want to throw up. Everyone, let's get our symbolic victories after we've achieved the real victory of giving every child in this world a chance.

November 30, 2006 in Churchiness, Current Affairs, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

on the road with Biff; 'ello, Cleveland!

A very, very kind reader got me a copy of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Jesus' Childhood Pal, and it's in my suitcase for reading as I'm on the road, which is going to be until March 13. My honey and I are driving up to New York today, where we'll be staying with friends. Tomorrow I'm going to the panel on the UN Commission on the Status of Women at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City to cover it for The Witness. On Monday and Tuesday, I've got an Episcopal Church commission meeting at the Church Center in New York, and from Wednesday to Friday I'm going to a consultation at a conference center in Connecticut. On Sunday, March 13, I'm preaching and doing a forum at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland (I apologize to the people of Cleveland for the Spinal Tap reference in this post's title; I'm sure y'all have heard it far, far too many times). I'm really looking forward to that -- it seems like a very cool community doing very interesting things, and I'm looking forward to seeing in person some people who I know now only via the Internet. If you happen to be in Cleveland, I'd love to see you there!

March 3, 2006 in Books, Churchiness, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), Where's Dylan? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Bono mentions people like me

I know that Bono's bandmates have expressed impatience with his being photographed with “dodgy politicians,” and I've shared that impatience from time to time. I understand and, to a certain extent, stand behind Bono's intentional strategy of single-issue lobbying, being willing to stand at least sometimes with people with whom you agree on only one thing, if that thing is sufficiently important. And the things around which Bono meets with politicians are very important indeed.

But it's bothered me sometimes that Bono has never, as far as I can tell, criticized religious conservatives about anything except their lack of response to people in need (especially people with AIDS) in Africa, and hasn't talked, to my knowledge, about how all of the “isms” of hatred and fear sublimated into indifference are related. Now that Nigeria has, with the enthusiastic support of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, made it illegal (with severe criminal penalties) even to gather as gay people or advocate for civil rights for gay people (and homosexuality was already criminal there -- apparently that wasn't harsh enough for some), it feels to me that silence is a matter of complicity.

Maybe compared to the number who are affected by AIDS or malaria, it's relatively few people who are murdered or hauled off to harsh prison sentences for being gay, or for suggesting that gay people are still people, i.e., still deserving of human rights as beings created in God's image, but it still grates on me to think that it's acceptable to give up on the human rights of some humans because you think they're not very important humans or because you think it's better to trade their lives for others in whatever numbers -- and I had a sinking feeling that Bono was keeping a balance sheet of lives and dignity somewhere in that head of his, full of contradictions and difficult choices.

So it was with some trepidation that I read Bono's prepared remarks (apparently there was some ad-libbing) to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. But then I saw it; a word or two acknowledging some people I hadn't been aware he acknowledged before as living souls:

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, “Equal?” A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, “Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God.”

And eventually the Pharaoh says, “OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks.”

“Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man.”

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

I'd like to live in a world in which I'd be allowed to live -- not in prison, not having my throat cut or being raped by my neighbors as punishment while everyone looked away -- even if I'd been born in Nigeria instead of the U.S. I've got just a touch more confidence now that the world Bono is working for might be like that. And while I've never depended upon rock stars to advocate for me -- my white skin and multiple degrees give me enough privilege not to need rock stars for much more than entertainment -- gay people in Nigeria aren't nearly so lucky, and I hope that one of these days Bono might become more vocal on their behalf.

February 2, 2006 in Current Affairs, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack