The "Recent Comments" functionality is not currently working with Blogger. It's a "known issue." I really wish I was savvier. I would try to switch hosts. This is pissing me off...

Checking in...

It's been a few days since I've posted, and I'm feeling guilty for it. It's the holidays though, right?

I've been reading a lot of Wendell Berry (I adore him and wish I was a farmer) and some original Sherlock Holmes stories after watching the new movie.

I've been thinking a lot about the issue of advocacy, and what's actually meaningful, as it continues to come up here and elsewhere on the blogosphere: "is this really helping anything?!"

I'll be exploring that a little bit, soon.

Also, my good friend Adele is coming to visit. Maybe I can convince her to do a little video-blogging with me!!!

Talk to you soon,

Merry Christmas!

There's snow on the ground in Eastern Oregon. It's cold and crisp and I'm thankful for life.

Merry Christmas,

Avatar pt. 2: Video Review

I know, I know, I already blogged about this, but I recorded this right after seeing the movie. It takes a long time to edit the footage down, so I hated to toss it all out just because of the write up. I just finished editing...

Christmas: As I was saying...

"Anonymous" posted this comment today on my "Christ in Christmas" post, and I just couldn't resist sharing:

you must be a god damn idiot.

its CHRISTmas, why shouln't jesus be in it?

go to hell

As I was saying. Let's stretch ourselves a little...


Avatar: I see blue cat people...

Just finished the three hour tour that is James Cameron's Avatar and being a HUGE sci-fi geek I must say I have... mixed feelings.

Beyond the shameless, co-opted caricatures of tribal Native American, African and Aboriginal cultures, I think there is something deeply problematic in the way moviegoers are invited to participate in our own entertainment by sympathizing with the marginalized (as we clearly should, and must) - and then feel good about ourselves for being so sensitive.

The Empire outrages us when helpless savages (or natives, or pagans, or immigrants, or peasants, or "Rebel scum," or Bajorans - that's right, I went there...) are abused, attacked, and hopelessly outnumbered.

Here's the problem: nothing ever changes.

This may not be the fault of the filmmaker. Clearly, James Cameron has good intentions. Good 350 million dollar intentions (so there's a question of how funds might best be used...) but filmmaking makes a big spectacle, makes us clap and cheer, and then gives us PERMISSION to go back to our comfortable lives. Unchanged. Truly, unconvicted. At least, not for very long.

So I teared up when the blue cat people were getting blown to smithereens (yeah, I actually did) but that doesn't matter. And I'd bet what's worse is that I'm crying over a stolen story: this story played out here on U.S. soil, and involved tens of millions, instead of a few thousand.

When we're encouraged to sympathize with the "least of these" (be they human OR alien) and then get off the hook, habitual permission to go back to our lives unchanged, then it doesn't matter if you call it art or entertainment - it's destructive. How do we break the habit of caring enough to cry, but not enough to take action? We are, after all, still waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And ready to do so, elsewhere. The same script plays out in Braveheart and The Last Samurai, and dozens of fabulous, captivating "epics." And they all teach us to care about the RIGHT things. But not to care too much.

As an aside, I do love sci-fi, and Avatar created one of the most vivid worlds I've ever seen on film. After 45 minutes, I even got used to the douchey-looking cat people. It was an experience as much as something to merely watch. I want to give credit where credit is due, and it's an impressive spectacle. I simply cannot divorce my viewing experience from this feeling that makes my stomach more than a little unsettled.

God made truth a relationship, not an idea...

My wife receives e-mail meditations from Friar Richard Rohr, and sent me this one yesterday. I thought you may enjoy. Think about this: "God made truth a relationship, instead of an idea!" How powerful! God could have given Mary a set of rules and laws, like Moses on the mountain. Instead, God gave Mary a baby. There's nothing messier or more subjective than a human being - especially starting as an infant. THAT perilous choice is God's modus operandi.

On retreat I once wrote in my journal, “How good of you, God, to make truth a relationship instead of an idea. Now there is room between you and me for growth, for conversation, for exception, for the infinite understandings created by intimacy, for the possibility to give back and to give something to You—as if I could give anything back to You.

You offer me the possibility to undo, to please, to apologize, to change, to surrender, and to grow. There’s room for stages and for suffering, for mutual passion and mutual pity. There’s room for mutual everything.” This is good religion, worthy of free, intelligent, and mature people!

From Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality p. 67

response to: Everyone's got a Crusade...

Please read the post below this one for context...

Everyone's Got a Crusade... Me? I'm a Sponge.

Having a crusade (please forgive the violent medieval connotations) is an important and even precious part of being human: being passionate. There are so many things worth taking up as a cause. It seems all of my friends have a cause, and I find I have a tendency to take up those causes with them, on their behalf (I'm a passion-sponge) because I think it's ALL so important! For example...

  • Women's issues are my wife's crusade. Most of what she hears and reads and experiences is translated through a feminist lens, and evaluated via her passionate critique of misogyny and its expansive impact on society. She lives with the ongoing compulsion to do something productive about it. I'm incredibly inspired by this, and Jen has opened my eyes to so much I have taken for granted, assuming it was normative rather than symptomatic.
  • Queer issues are my good friend Adele's crusade. After coming out a few years ago, she has passionately advocated for equality, social justice, tolerance and respectful religious dialogue. Adele, too, has helped me become aware of so many issues of prejudice and injustice that would have never occurred to me in my own tunnel-vision-reality! (maybe I'm just slow...)
  • One of my professors is a zealot for Green Theology! His own view of God has radically evolved as he has explored the connections and synapses between stewardship and earth-keeping, and God and spirituality. It's a fascinating area that a lot of Evangelicals are [finally] getting excited about. Perhaps just in time...

For me, though, I don't feel like there's one definitive subject I am particularly passionate about. The Emergent Conversation was my "thing" for a couple of years, beginning in 2004 when I started writing about evolving faith and progressive cultural and philosophic ethos. Hence this URL. And I haven't stopped caring about Christian emergence... it's just that emergence is the process. A lot of us thought it was the answer. It was just the path to more (and bigger) questions about God and society and spirituality and the world.

So Emergent really can't be "my thing," because it isn't a thing (sheepishly, I believe Brian McLaren, Doug Paggit and Tony Jones have been saying that from the beginning). Worse, the folks who have made Emergent their permanent "thing" are really just mainstream Evangelicals - who aren't particularly different from typical Americans - finding a "style" (a superficial change of clothes and language) and sticking with it for way too long. Worse, they (we?/!) come to it very late (like Christian boy bands or Gospel Rap) and think it's the NEXT BIG THING... instead of last year's big thing.

Now some well-intentioned Christian idealists might like to say, "but JESUS is my crusade/passion/cause." And you might THINK that. And it sounds nice. But none of us manages to follow Jesus without bringing in all sorts of personal preferences and prejudices along the way.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS's... contemporary Christian music.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS... as he fits into the social circles at work.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS... as he's communicated by their charismatic pastor.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS's... social justice.
  • Or JESUS'... kindness toward women/the poor/the marginalized.
  • OR JESUS'... supernatural healing and miracles.

And honestly, none of those are bad. Not even the cynical first three. They are simply the reality of what human beings [with needs and wants] do with God. We make God in our image. Or the image of our ideals. And religion follows.

The biggest thing for me is realizing I AM a sponge for causes. Tell me yours, and I might jump on board! That's not because I'm so naive (which I might be) but because I just get so darned-excited about what God is doing in and through other people. And I'd like to stay that way. Academia (as much as I enjoy it) is centered on being a comprehensive expert on one very narrow field of interest. I'd rather stay casually informed about dozens of topics, stay excited about all of them, and find ways that their aims and priorities overlap and complement one another.

Glad I'm a sponge...

Makes you want to change your life...

So without too much detail, my wife and I had a health-scare over the last couple of weeks. The sort of thing that forces you to contemplate the rest of your life and deal seriously with the realities of mortality.

Lots of tears... A few moments of terror...

And the tests come back clean, and just as suddenly we're reintroduced into life-as-usual. Sort of.

How do you deal with life-and-death wake-up calls? I recently read an article in a business magazine that said 90 percent of people who go through major, "life changing" crisis situations revert BACK to their old way of living within two weeks of the situation resolving. Are we so unchangeable? So caught in our ways?

Your prayers change when death is unexpectedly knocking at the door. God becomes nearer, because God has to be nearer. And that's not a God-thing. Either God is a complex set of emotional responses based on cultural conditioning, or we simply don't allow God to break through, into the reality of our lives, in any meaningful way until crises break down all our cynicism, stress, forced-productivity and fragmented loyalties.

How many times have you told yourself or a loved one, "we've got to change the way we live" and gone right back to status quo?

I'm not even sure I'm capable of rejecting the way I've habitually (compulsively?) lived for 30 years. But it's in times like the last few weeks that I'm acutely aware: we've got to change the way we live. Now, how do I go about being a part of that 10th percentile that actually lives out its renewed awareness? God has been faithful. How do I return the favor?

In Exodus 9, God speaks to an aching, battered, enslaved people, desperate for liberation: "But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

I'm enslaved by nothing less and nothing more than myself, and the safeties and securities I have constructed around me. I'm coming to believe that the definition of true power is only manifested in power's own surrender or sharing with those who do not have it. Thus the power of God is never demonstrated by demonstrable power, but by power acquiesced to the marginalized, the weak and the "least."

Public Service Announcement: Urinal Etiquette 101

I'm not trying to be divisive or hurt anyone. But some things need addressing...

Won't you join with me to help spread the word?


Conspiracy theories are fun, aren't they?

I don't want to sound like a sycophant - and I'm not especially happy when President Obama gives a pro-war speech (balanced, sensible and eloquent, though it was) that is subsequently praised by BOTH Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich... I think that's a red flag. Nonetheless, Obama talked about "the politics of fear" during his campaign, and that message deeply resonated with me. It carries particular meaning for me in dealing with "THE CHRISTIANITIES OF FEAR." 1 John 4:18 reads, "Perfect love casts out fear. He who fears is not made perfect in love." I make sarcastic jokes, but the truth is I'm saddened and continually shocked by the fearful stuff I keep hearing...

Uganda, Executing Queers, "The Family"...

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Some of you may be aware that there has been an aggressive bill in Uganda to make homosexuality not only a crime, but one punishable by execution.

One of the leading supporters of the bill there is an African pastor who is close friends with Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren. Warren has invited this pastor to speak many times at Saddleback.

"As an American pastor," Warren said in his statement, "it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues." He told the Ugandan pastors that the bill was "unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals." The bill's requirement that Ugandans report any meeting with homosexuals to authorities, he said, would hinder the ministry of the church and force homosexuals who are HIV positive underground. He also defended the timing of his denunciation. "Because I didn't rush to make a public statement," he said, "some erroneously concluded that I supported this terrible bill, and some even claimed I was a sponsor of the bill. You in Uganda know that this is untrue." He added, "I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality."

Thankfully, after pressure and public outcry (worldwide) execution has been removed from the bill. However, it continues to move forward in an only slightly less virulent form. This is still unacceptable, and American voices need to speak out and continue condemning this outrageous bill and its insidious, subversive American supporters.

"Keeping Christ in Christmas..." Really?

Why do we fight so hard to hang on to some sort of meaningless cultural dominance? I was reading an article the other night at school, and it got to me. Here's my rant...

Speaking of Native/First Nations issues: Twiss & Woodley

Speaking of Native/First Nations issues, I think you'll really like Richard Twiss' humor and insight in this video...

And Randy Woodley is an adjunct professor at George Fox Seminary, teaching on Native American History and Native American Spirituality.

You should check out his blog at Sojourner's...

Kim: On Discussion on Native American Genocide...

I wanted to highlight Kim's recent comment here:

I think it is imperative that everyone in America and Canada learn ALL sides of their history. In America, we are not taught American Indian history in school. Only the so-called victors’ side of history is acknowledged. I will bet that Native history isn’t taught in Canada either. Even, myself, as a member of an Oklahoma tribe did not learn about my tribal, Oklahoma, and American Indian history in general until my own personal recent in-depth study. Like I mentioned, I have written a picture book about the destruction of my tribe. I am in a few writing critique groups. When one of the groups (all Caucasians) read my story, they asked me if they could read about this information in the library. I told them it was all there. They actually wanted to know more!

They were all shocked to find out that the land run (that our state celebrates each year through reenactments in our public schools etc.) actually stole land away from tribes. Yes, Oklahoma was formed on land thievery. Oklahoma schools even celebrate this. My son’s third grade class dressed up in European attire and had a land run reenactment. I wrote a letter to the school telling them that he would not be attending that day to celebrate the stealing of our tribal land. We celebrated our Native history instead with a trip to the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, Oklahoma. The interesting thing is as I child I participated in the land run reenactment at school as my own parents did not know the history. My dad’s family was from Anadarko, Oklahoma and my great-grandfather wanted a better life for his kids and moved them to the city (Oklahoma City). My dad then went to an all white school and pretty much did what was passed down -- forgot he was Indian. We are all reclaiming that part of ourselves and it is like coming home.

Here is an interesting article regarding the history of the Oklahoma land run…

Click here

I know that the Trail of Tears story is taught in schools, but did you know that tribes like my own tribe which is actually aboriginal to Oklahoma already owned the land in Oklahoma? My tribe is one of those “uncivilized” tribes. Only the tribes that adopted the white lifestyle like owning slaves were considered civilized by the way.

Also, many people do not realize that the worse genocidal efforts were not of the Holocaust against Jews. It was the American Indian genocide that happened right here in America. Did you know that the U.S. government sterilized thousands of Native women, in many cases, without their consent?
Click here, on forced sterilization...

I’m not sure how we can get schools to teach the truth about American Indian history in schools. That is one of the reasons why I wrote my picture book. All I can do is pray, write about Native topics and teach my own children the truth. I told them the true story of Columbus and Thanksgiving. As for my own journey of repentance and reconciliation, I am honestly still working on that. God is slowly healing my soul. He has ignited a passion in me for writing the truth about history for children. I have a journalism background, but have finally found my calling.

Kim, I passionately sympathize, though I confess the solution is far beyond my comprehension. I'm sure there are many solutions, and none of them can undo, solve or remedy that damage that's been done. Americans of European descent are living on stolen land with - as you said - the blood of millions on our hands, staining our family trees.

Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit references Henry Dobyns, who estimates there were 18 million American Indians present at first contact with Western Europeans. He also suggested that in 1492 there were likely 112 million native peoples in the hemisphere, the majority in Mexico and Central America. These estimates are shockingly higher than earlier [placating] numbers that tend toward numbers closer to 1 million, total in North America.

If the high numbers are true, then the truth of your genocide comment is almost too horrible to imagine, Kim.

Page writes:

By the early part of the twentieth century, there were only some 250,000 American Indians alive, their lowest ebb since millennia ago. Their population had been reduced in the four hundred years of recorded history by as much as 95 percent... [p. 105]

Liberation, Boff, and Cheesy Webcast...

So I'm playing around with iMovie and trying to develop webcast components to accompany some of my writing. Please don't judge too harshly - I'm just a few years late in the YouTube game. Hopefully I'll get better...

Respectful Dialogue: Kim and Al...

I'm just really enjoying the exchange taking place between Kim and my friend Al, regarding the abuses and atrocities committed against First Nations peoples in North America. It's important to emphasize that the impact of those abuses unquestionably continues to directly wound, oppress, marginalize and even to culturally (and economically) enslave our brothers and sisters of Native decent.

Click here and scroll to the bottom of the comments section to really see a beautiful kind of dialogue between stranges of very different backgrounds. It's a level of conversation I strive for (and often fail to attain).

Kim offered some links for further interest:

Also a book by Richard Twiss, an incredibly important voice in Native conversations...

Al, Kim, thank you both for your example.

2Pac and the Vatican...

This affirms my belief that there is order and meaning in the universe. I've been advocating for 2Pac Shakur's sainthood since 1997...

(CNN) -- Music from late rapper Tupac Shakur has been included as part of the Vatican's official MySpace Music playlist.

The seat of the Catholic Church released a list of 12 songs onto the social networking Web site's streaming music service this week when the site launched in the United Kingdom. Among selections from Mozart, Muse and Dame Shirley Bassey is the slain rapper's song "Changes," which was released two years after his shooting death on a greatest hits album in 1998.
"The genres are very different from each other, but all these artists share the aim to reach the heart of good minded people," the Vatican wrote on its official MySpace Music page. As of Thursday night, "Changes" had been played more than 4.6 million times on the Web site. The list was compiled by Father Giulio Neroni, artistic director of church publisher St Paul's Multimedia. He was also responsible for compiling the Vatican's recent Alma Mater album, which combined Gregorian chants and prayers with classical music and the voice of Pope Benedict XVI speaking in five

... The lyrics of "Changes" describe Shakur's desire to change a grim life of drugs, crime and violence on the streets. Lyrics of the song, which is labeled as "explicit," include 'Is life worth living, should I blast myself?" "Give the crack to the kids, who the hell cares, one less hungry mouth on the welfare," and "My stomach hurts, so I'm looking for a purse to snatch."At another point, Tupac sings: "Cause both black and white are smokin' crack tonight..."

Ha! I love it. Now, as a feminist, I probably shouldn't celebrate 2Pac's veneration without some qualifiers. He was a deeply flawed young man. But he was a very young man, and his music was transcendent and conscious as often as (or more so) it was ignorant and vicious. 2Pac certainly wasn't any more misogynystic than St. Augustine or Tertullian.

So I celebrate with this bizarre olive branch extended by the Roman Catholic Church, to hip hop culture and those racially and economically marginalized.

2Pac meditated, "I wonder if heaven got a ghetto..." Maybe this move reflects the grace, complexity and strange juxtaposition inherent in the truth of that answer: "In contrast, the playlist also contains selections from the album "Music of the Vatican" such as "Advocata Nostra" and "Causa Nostrae Laetitiae." (CNN)

Hot Evangelical Sex!

In class several weeks ago, we were talking about the Trinity and the use of sexuality as a metaphor for God, for the Trinity, and even for our relationship to God. A few students in class really had a problem with the sort of marriage-centricity (got a better word?) that such language reveals.

I think that talking about the Trinity and the spiritual life in terms of sexuality is a little bit like Ted Haggard claiming in 2005 that "Evangelicals have the best sex lives." And not only because Ted Haggard was a closet-homosexual, but because there's nothing about Evangelical culture that could legitimately claim to foster healthy sexuality. We shame and condemn young people for temptation, experimentation, exploration or even for frank discussion - until they're married. And then we expect years of repression to magically melt away because the couple said "I do" in front of a pastor. The one thing Evangelicals are more uncomfortable with than sexuality is homosexuality. So when the question legitimately comes up in class, "why is marriage posited as the ultimately picture of spirituality?" (or however it was worded) my first answer is: latent homophobia. If you're single, you might be gay. If you're married, you've at least managed to convince everyone you're straight.

When I volunteered in youth and drama ministries at a large Pentecostal church several years ago (before I was married), a pastor took me out to dinner and asked me if I "struggled with homosexuality." I was shocked. At the time, I was even a little offended. The pastor explained, "Some of the pastoral staff have been talking. The last guy to be so involved with drama and music ministry was gay..." Yup. I know about the one that got away... At the time, rather than deeply questioning the ethos of a church that would function in such an overtly homophobic way, I simply worked at making my dating a lot more public. I dragged girls to church to erase any doubt (but I still listened to Depeche Mode).

Secondly (and directly connected) is that Evangelical culture values assimilation, more than secular culture at large does. It informs everything we do. When someone breaks that mold - chooses to live differently (i.e. celibate, ascetic, starving artist, anarchist, queer...) and still identifies with our religious narrative, it leads to all sorts of questions we aren't prepared for: "what if we're wrong?" "What if I need to change?" "What if I have to invite the OTHER over for dinner?" Assimilation (and the "advertising spirit" of Evangelicalism) is also what would make Ted Haggard's claim at least partly true: Evangelicals HAVE to say they have the best sex lives, because to admit otherwise might undermine our marketing strategy, our inspirational literature, and our positive, encouraging music.

I still love the idea of using sexual concepts and imagery in relation to spirituality - in a way that is respectful and inclusive of other models. But in every way I've seen it discussed or promoted within my Christianity-of-origin, it comes off forced and disingenuous. I hope our churches get a little braver about welcoming alternative ways of being Christian and being human, even if it stretches our own comforts and sensibilities.

Look out for terrorists!

Wow, this story is so old I probably shouldn't even post it. But I was skimming the web on Dr. Kärkkäinen after a comment I just made (okay, I was looking for the right spelling) and noticed this article from back in 2004!

Evangelicals and the Christian majority need to realize that when we begin infringing on the rights and freedoms of the "other" (Muslims in America) the snowball will inevitably roll over themselves.

* * *

[Veli-Matti ]Kärkkäinen, along with his wife, Anne, and two daughters, returned to Pasadena on September 5. They had been forced to leave the United States on July 31 when the Department of Homeland Security revoked Kärkkäinen's "special immigrant religious worker" visa.

Immigration officials, now under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, questioned Fuller's tax-exempt status. They ruled that Kärkkäinen's role as a seminary professor was not a "traditional religious occupation." They also claimed that Kärkkäinen, who has two doctorates and two master's degrees and served as president and theology professor at IsoKirja College in Keuruu, Finland, did not have the necessary experience for his position.


Since Fuller is an interdenominational seminary, it did not fit under new post-9/11 rules, which require that schools be affiliated with specific denominations. Also, as Fuller does not have an official relationship with the Pentecostal church that ordained Kärkkäinen, he did not qualify as a religious worker.


Howard Loewen, dean of the school of theology at Fuller, said that Kärkkäinen's situation "cuts against the very mission and vision of Fuller as an evangelical, multidenominational, global institution." More than 600 of the seminary's 4,300 students are from outside the United States, he said, as are a dozen faculty members.


"Ten years ago, we were not so concerned about having international faculty," Corey said. "Now, there is tension between the desire to become a more global institution and the difficulty of getting and keeping international scholars here."

In August, the Department of Homeland Security revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar and Swiss citizen. Ramadan is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with a terrorist history in Egypt. Ramadan, generally considered a moderate voice, was to begin teaching on August 24 at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

"What amazes me," Kärkkäinen said, "is that the world's most influential country and its administration are obviously unable to make a distinction between threats and friendly, productive immigrants."
* * *

Whose Bible Is It? Formation of the Scriptures...

Bit by bit (outside of class reading) I'm enjoying Whose Bible Is It?: A Short History of the Scriptures by Jaroslav Pelikan. It gives a narrative account of the development, formation and evolution of Jewish and Christian Holy Text, the transition from oral to written, Hebrew to Greek, and so on...

Pelikan is brilliant and concise. When I was learning ancient Hebrew a few years ago, I became keenly interested in how we got these texts in the first place! This has been the most approachable material on that subject, I've found.

"But you don't have to take my word for it..." (said LeVar Burton)
  • "An engaging and highly readable survey of biblical scholarship that tells a fascinating and complex story."
    —The Wall Street Journal
  • "A crisp, remarkably succinct history of the Bible as preserved, interpreted, translated and canonized by the various faiths that believe in it."
    —Los Angeles Times
  • "Outstanding . . . Pelikan takes the reader through the process of scripture building with a fluency and ease that is both accessible and understandable."
    —Publishers Weekly

New Left Media: Palin Book Tour

I've been enjoying a series of video interviews by a group called The New Left Media.

The video below features footage from a Sarah Palin book signing event. I think it's a real problem, but I know any political "phenomenon" could be accused of the same - we all remember the Biggest Celebrity in the World critiques of Obama...

Here's how The New Left Media responds to obvious criticism:

It has been said in comments that we would find similarly talking point-driven, substance-less supporters at an Obama rally, and we agree. But no politician has emerged on the national stage as undefined and unqualified as Sarah Palin, and her public persona--which is anti-intellectual by definition--discourages substance. Instead, we get winking. One could hardly imagine her giving a complex speech about race in America, or speaking eloquently about our country’s relations with Islam. Not just because she couldn’t write such a speech (Obama has speech-writers, of course) but because she wouldn’t--such necessarily academic discussion is antithetical to the persona she’s created for herself and that her supporters have come to love.

As for accusations of cherry picking, which are commonly thrown at interview-based videos, it simply isn’t what we did. We interviewed only a few more people than ended up in the video, not hundreds, and what was cut was done for time purposes. The people were selected at random--some offered to be interviewed--and we were only there for 90 mins (it gets dark early and fast in Ohio right now). What didn’t make it into the video was just more footage of people talking about taxes/spending, drilling, and abortion, and we constructed blocks in the piece to represent those issues. Of course the piece was edited to be entertaining (this is YouTube, after all, where the currency is cat videos) but we don’t believe we misrepresented the attitudes of the people at that signing in any way.

This NEW LEFT MEDIA film was produced and edited by Chase Whiteside (interviews) and Erick Stoll (camera).

But you've really got to let the "folks" speak for themselves...

I think this is a problem.

Anti-Queer Legislation in Uganda

I heard on NPR today about THE FELLOWSHIP's political movements in Uganda to illegalize, persecute and even execute homosexuals there.

Coincidentally (or not) my friend Adele, at her site, posted some startling information today concerning homosexuality in Africa:

Queer In Africa

I don't presume that all my readers are egalitarian on the issue of homosexuality, and as I've said before of gender issues, I have enjoyed the luxury of remaining somewhat neutral. In the last year, I have moved from that supposed (and often only illusory) "neutrality," to a much more supportive stance. Queer issues are human rights issues. Homosexuals, like women, First Nations people and other minorities, are "the least of these." They are the marginalized. Jesus came to set captives free.

Who have we prevented from reaching freedom? From equality? From emancipation?

My favorite Lauryn Hill song says, "It's freedom time..."

Christian Meme: Praying for Obama's Death?

I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of any liberals who prayed for or advocated for the assassination of George W. Bush. Yes, there was harsh criticism and there were angry words - right or wrong, kind or cruel, that's a freedom to every political and social persuasion in this country.

A bizarre fringe movement within Evangelicalism has been gaining steam on the blogosphere, in chain e-mails, and - until recently - on do-it-yourself t-shirts through CafePress:

On November 16 Rabbi Brad Hirschfield wrote...

Any time the citizens of a state, particularly a democracy, invoke their faith to pray for the demise of those they oppose politically, we should be concerned. When the call for such prayers becomes one of the most popular Google searches in the country, we should shake, especially those of us who believe in God, prayer and the Bible... Among the world's top Google searches today are phrases that contain the words "Psalms 109 8", and "Psalm 109 8 prayer for Obama". For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads "May his days be few, may another take over his position." And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, "May his children be orphans and his wife a widow"...

All this is especially upsetting in light of the last weeks' events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies? How is it that the very same people who would have wanted to curtail access, and rightly so, to the hate-filled, violence-inducing, sermons to which Major Hasan listened, do not cry out against these prayers and those praying them?

...The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree...

What is this double standard we have? This sort of virulent intolerance (juxtaposed with Christianity's own outrage over ironically-parallel Islamic fundamentalism) is exactly why sites like are so tragically poignant. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of the Christianity Meme, here's some content from their site:

About Christianity Meme
Christianity Meme is an organization of people who wish to expose Christianity for what it really is--a mind virus that controls human behavior to facilitate its own survival. As such, it is a living, but unconscious player in human affairs.

The site's homepage explains:

These pages espouse a point of view about religions in general, but Christianity in particular. Our thesis is as follows:

  • Christianity is a meme--a mind virus that lives in the minds of people and is spread through proselytization and other means.

  • Christianity is a meme about God, but it has no other connection to God.

  • The Christianity Meme has been shaped purely by natural selection--the law of survival of the fittest--as it has played out in human minds. It is a sophisticated product of cultural evolution.

  • Being a "true Christian" infected by the Christianity Meme will subject you to aid its survival through its adaptations that allow it to exert control over human behavior.

  • As a consequence, the more Christian you are the more you are prone to certain kinds of immoral behavior. The Christianity Meme is not bound by the moral principles it carries.
    We seek to expose Christianity for what it is and we advocate a conscious and rational approach to morality in its place.

* * *

Now, if I thought all of that was inherently true, I wouldn't still be a Christian. But the fact that I don't believe it's all true may simply mean the meme has completely brainwashed me to its purposes.

MORE IMPORTANTLY (to me) however, is that critiques of Christendom's abusive, militant, protectionist, often-paranoid and morally schitzophrenic behaviors are too accurate; too-rarely the exception.

I've asked this question before: is the world a better place because of Christianity? For God's sake, our "brothers and sisters" are likening a Christian president to Adolph Hitler, and praying to God for his death!

Someone tell me what the Gospel is.
Someone tell me: Are we better off?

Quick! Someone e-mail me something funny I can post!
I've had way too many negative posts recently...

Another HUGE DOWNER! (a great poem)

So, I'll have to reiterate, I'm doing just fine - but I think it's important to create space for sorrow, suffering, and transparent struggle. Christianity, at it's best, is weak and unassuming - a corporate manifestation of beatitude-leastness. That's where transformative, subversive power comes from (power "made perfect in weakness").

My friend Adele ( posted yesterday's poem, "A Prayer of Anger" on her blog with a raw and painful glimpse into her struggles. I'm so thankful for how real she is.

In the comments of the post, Marika posted another beautiful, gut-wrenching, horrifying, painful poem about Christianity and colonialism (and I'm sure about a lot more than that) that I just HAD to share with you...

Marika posted...

'The Island' by R S Thomas:
And God said, I will build a church here
And cause this people to worship me,
And afflict them with poverty and sickness
In return for centuries of hard work
And patience.

And its walls shall be hard as
Their hearts, and its windows let in the light
Grudgingly, as their minds do,
and the priest’s words be drowned
By the wind’s caterwauling. All this I will do,
Said God, and watch the bitterness in their eyes
Grow, and their lips suppurate with
Their prayers. And their women shall bring forth
On my altar, and I will choose the best
Of them to be thrown back into the sea.

And that was only on one island.

A Prayer of Anger

A Prayer of Anger, by John Shea... Actually, I'm not angry at all. I feel fine. But we read this poem tonight in class, and I was deeply moved. It reminds me of a book written by my college theatre professor, Tom Gressler, called Occasions of Sin.

Here's the poem...


No hymn of praise today.
No hand-clapping alleluia

For the All-Good God
And his marvelous handiwork.
A child has been born bad.
He gangles and twitches and shames
The undiscovered galaxies of your creation.
Why could not the hands
that strung the stars
Dip into that womb to bless and heal?
Please no voice from Job's Whirlwind
Saying how dare I. I dare!
Yet I know no answer comes
Save that tears dry up, skin knits,
And humans love broken things.
But to you who are always making pacts
You have my word on this -
On the final day of fire
After You have stripped me
(if there is breath left)
I will subpoena You to the stand
In the court of human pain.

John Shea

No call for theologizing, here. This a sort of raw, ugly, beautiful truth of a faithful heart speaking faithful outrage to God, for so much that is wrong. I wish more of us were this honest, this brave, and this faithful.

The Wisdom of Woody Allen

A few of my favorite Allen quotes, for your enjoyment...
  • How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?
  • How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?
  • I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying.
  • If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.
  • It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better... while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.
  • Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.
  • To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
  • What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

"Make me an instrument..." Prayer of St. Francis

I did something last night that I haven't done in awhile. I get wrapped up in devil's advocacy, deconstruction, cynicism and "righteous" indignation and it can often separate me from the sense of spiritual connectedness that has so often, and so faithfully, sustained me throughout my life.

Last night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I prayed the Prayer of St. Francis. Not verbatim - I don't have it memorized - but as much as I could remember.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Humility is a lesson we need taught and retaught. Obedience, even moreso. "Obedience" doesn't come natural for me, for my generation or for my culture. Obedience is counter-intuitive, even as I speak words that suggest I value it.

Lord, use me. Make me an instrument. Help me be less of a douche...

Abortion/Healthcare Controversy


I'm not going to understate how complicated the issue of abortion is, for me. Not just because my background was conservative evangelical, but because the history of the Christian church has been pretty consistently against abortion, from the 1st Century C.E. I can't just let that ethos go, and the idea of being "consistently pro-life" (pro-women, pro-welfare, anti-death penalty) does resonate with me. But that doesn't "solve" or answer the question for me, by any stretch. I believe in women's rights, and don't believe in legislating morality (unless it's for the protection of others... ah, yes... I know how you feel). It's hard to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Especially if their shoes happen to be more painful to walk in (as is often the case). So I remain conflicted - which is a luxury I'm aware that I have as a man, middle class and with good medical insurance. Neither side - neither irony - is lost on me.

But I do find the rationale of today's block of any public access to abortion, via the proposed healthcare plan, a little jarring - after all:

  • I'm against war. Why should I have had to pay taxes to fund the murder, rendition and torture of thousands of people - including civilians?

  • I'm against the subjugation of women. Why should my tax dollars have to help underwrite the exemptions of those fundamentalist churches propagating misogyny (who subversively and dishonestly engage in rampant politicking) because they are - supposedly - non-profit?

  • I'm against the outrageous incarceration of a third of black men in America. I don't like having to pay to support racially oppressive policing.

  • I'm against the enforcement of anti-marijuana laws (heh, yes, insert jokes here). I think my tax dollars are wasted on weed when they could be fighting meth and crack and contemporary Christian music.

I'm against a whole lot of things that my tax dollars go toward, but all of those things happen to be legal. That's the "curse" of living in a society with laws.

I'm sure someone else could argue this far better than I can. I'm sure plenty of you could argue against me quite effectively. But something about all this, today, strikes me as wrong - the wrong method and venue for this debate.

Armstrong & Tutu: Compassion must unite us...

A great treatise (even if you don't believe everything theologically asserted here... which is fine) on our need for common ground, common acceptance, and active love, compassion and reconciliation between nations and religions. I love the heart of ecumenism.

(CNN) -- We have called on the world to sign up to a Charter for Compassion.

Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves into the place of the other and it lies at the heart of all truly religious and ethical systems.

The charter, which will be unveiled Thursday, November 12, has been composed by leading thinkers in many different faiths. Thousands of people have contributed to it online. It is a cooperative effort to restore compassion to the center of religious, moral and political life. Why is this so important?

One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global community, where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace.

Religion, which should be making a major contribution to this endeavor, is often seen as part of the problem. All too often the voices of extremism seem to drown those that speak of kindness, forbearance and mutual respect. Yet the founders of every single one of the great traditions recoiled from the violence of their time and tried to replace it with an ethic of compassion.

The great sages who promoted the Golden Rule were nearly all living during periods of history like our own. They argued that a truly compassionate ethic served people's best interests and made good practical sense.

When the Bible commands that we "love" the foreigner, it was not speaking of emotional tenderness: in Leviticus, "love" was a legal term: It was used in international treaties, when two kings would promise to give each other practical support, help and loyalty, and look out for each other's best interests. In our global world, everybody has become our neighbor, and the Golden Rule has become an urgent necessity.

When asked by a pagan to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg, Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, replied: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah -- and everything else is only commentary." His Holiness the Dalai Lama put it even more succinctly when he said: "My religion is kindness."

Click here to read the whole article...

We Exoticize, and then Marginalize...

A friend of mine quickly added (via e-mail) to my last post: "don't forget to add RACIST" to the misogynistic and homophobic undertones of the "dudes" at Deadly Vipers.

He sent me this link, which includes an incredible segment of a lecture on the way we continue to marginalize anyone who is "other"...

Here's the second. It's even more shocking. You should watch them both...

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