Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I'm pleased that on Friday the House of Representatives approved a plan to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy.  This is another step toward doing away - entirely - with legislated discrimination.
There is of course a move, both inside and outside the military, to discourage this action - sadly, and predictably, it comes from religious leaders appealing to "Orthodoxy."
      (CNN) - Hours before the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a measure that would repeal "don't ask, don't tell," a group of pastors, priests and rabbis gathered in the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to retain the ban on gays in the military.
      The group opened the press conference with prayer, asking for God to bless their efforts and to soften the hearts of senators and congressmen to their position.
      Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who co-sponsored the presser, said repealing "don't ask, don't tell" could undermine the religious liberties of those serving in the military, particularly military chaplains.
      “You have over 200 sponsoring organizations that may be prevented from sponsoring chaplains because they hold orthodox Christian views that will be in conflict with what the military says is stated policy,” said Perkins.
I think it should be noted that in my opinion, in this context, "Orthodox" should probably be capitalized or not used, because the generic meaning of the word is "right thinking" or "true thinking."  I don't mean to limit usage to specifically Orthodox Chuches, but to a "brand" of orthodoxy that is rooted in liturgical church tradition.  This is because the "rightness" or "trueness" of this issue is highly subjective and vehemently debated within Christian circles - which is fine.  And "Orthodoxy" as it relates specifically to HISTORICALLY-Orthodox Christian teaching seems an appropriate identifier.  But I don't believe historical Christian Orthodoxy has the right, the biblical foundation or the moral standing to dictate what is objectively orthodox (the Holy Spirit, on the other hand…)
Well, it will continue to be an interesting sequence of conversations and events.  I find it sad that, conservative or not, any Christian or person of faith would find it "in conflict" with their faith to SERVE alongside an LGBTQ person.  Really?  It's not enough for you to believe differently and live your life differently?  You can't align yourself in common endeavors?  What about serving food to the homeless?  No, not with a queer?  How about putting out a fire in a burning building?  No, can't align there?  What about praying to Jesus?  No?  Their prayer "taints" yours?
This is sad religon, defined by its smallness and by its moral fragility.

Hillary Clinton: You ROCK! "The Rich Aren't Paying Their Fair Share"

I love this woman.  Hillary Clinton spoke at a conference at the Brookings Institute today, and - well - said what I think a lot of people would like to say:
"The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues [like the U.S.] – whether it's individual, corporate or whatever the taxation forms are," Clinton said after clearly stipulating that these were her opinions, not those of the Obama administration.

Clinton went on to cite Brazil, long known for its high taxes, as a model of a successful economic policy.

"Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western Hemisphere and guess what – they're growing like crazy," Clinton said. "And the rich are getting richer, but they're pulling people out of poverty."

"There is a certain formula there that used to work for us, until we abandoned it, to our regret in my opinion," she added.  Click here to read more.
I love it!

I wish more people on the national stage had the guts to call a spade a spade.  This is reality, and we've swallowed a lie that the rich need to be placated and buffered for anyone else to be able to capture crumbs off the floor (I say this, fully cognizant that I am in a strange liminal space: both representing the wealthy and powerful as middle class bourgeoisie, but also captive - like so many - to debt, health insurance, and the struggle for some kind of retirement security for the long term).

Anyway: God bless you, Hillary Clinton.

Vegetarianism & Humane Eating: Checking in after 18 months...

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged about vegetarianism.  I have fond memories of some spirited comments: we can talk about queer Christians till we’re blue in the face, but if you really want to piss folks off, tell them eating meat is cruel!  It’s akin to "hating America."

And I don’t think I ever outright said: “eating meat is cruel.”  Because I don’t think it is, and I love eating meat.  In fact, I know I stated that I don’t have a moral problem killing animals.  My moral convictions continue to come from a belief that the predominant systems for “manufacturing” meat are cruel, inhumane, and quite literally a moral attack on Creation itself.  As I’ve discussed here, and countless sites and sources testify elsewhere, factory farms – by design - are continually and systemically guilty of animal abuse and torture through every stage of animals’ miserable lives, on the way to “harvesting.”  These animals live in fear and pain from birth to painful death.

So it was all the way back in December, 2008 that I declared my vegetarianism.  And I think I made it about 6 months, not eating ANY meat.  Since then, I have slowly integrated small amounts of meat back into my diet after some lovely discoveries that make life (and food) much more enjoyable while remaining aligned with my convictions.  The first is that Oregon is a very, very easy place to eat humane meat.  It is accessible, there are local farms everywhere, and there are restaurants that brag about it!  And not just upscale restaurants: the McMennamins pubs and restaurants, and BurgerVille USA both serve meat from Country Natural Beef farms (  Their website reads:

Animal Welfare & Stewardship.  Country Natural Beef is third party certified for humane animal practices and environmentally sensitive land management by Food Alliance.  In February of this year, the Country Natural Beef Animal Welfare Standards were endorsed by Temple Grandin, a well known animal behaviorist and industry expert.

Reading Country Natural Beef’s website, I think Wendell Berry would be proud.

There are other restaurants, co-ops and grocers locally that provide humane, local, organic options to the conscientious omnivore.

Even with a lot of local options for meat, 18 months into my eating-lifestyle-shift, I probably only eat a meal with meat 2-4 times in a month.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, I’ve just discovered so many great vegetarian recipes to cook at home, and I love the way I feel after a meal of largely-fresh produce (buying produce from local farmers is another important step: culturally, economically and ecologically)!  Now, meals with meat are a rare (and delicious) treat!

I know making the leap to outright vegetarianism is hard for some of you to stomach (heh, heh) but I hope you’ll consider being more deliberate in evaluating the source of the food you consume, and making sure your dollars are going to support companies, grocers, restaurants and farms that live up to your values.

Here’s a great place to start your exploration:

Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization that certifies farms, ranches and food handlers for sustainable agricultural and facility management practices.

By choosing Food Alliance Certified products, consumers and commercial food buyers can be assured they are supporting safe and fair working conditions, humane treatment of animals, and good environmental stewardship.

Here’s a link to other posts I’ve written about this:

And here are some other great online resources I have pointed to:

Arizona, Xenophobia, Zeitgeist, & other "Z" sounds...

 After all their drama with legislation concerning a “crackdown” on illegal aliens, The State of Arizona is now asking for Predator drones to help patrol their borders:
NEW YORK ( -- Unbowed by a raft of boycotts over her immigration policy, Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer has requested helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles from the White House to patrol the border region with Mexico.
Brewer, in a letter to President Obama, asked that the National Guard reallocate reconnaissance helicopters and robotic surveillance craft to the "border states" from other parts of the country.  (click here for full story)
Since these attitudes (nationalistic, xenophobic, protectionist) are awfully problematic when it comes to most of the New Testament, and much of the Hebrew Bible, I thought we should try to help the Birthers and the Tea Partiers and the Anti-Immigrant groups some kind of work-around for pesky “hospitality” Scriptures.  For example:

Ezekiel 47:21-23 (New International Version)
"You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel.
 You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.  In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance," declares the Sovereign LORD.

Or this one:
Deuteronomy 24:14
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.
I mean, what do we DO with those kinds of commands, if we want to “get rid of all the Mexicans” (as Mr. Garrison in South Park so eloquently entreats throughout the series)?

Here are some addendums I came up with...

Rand Paul: Racially Problematic, Just Like His Dad...

On Wednesday I listened to a brief interview on NPR radio, in which Ron Paul’s son Rand dodged, evaded and weaseled around questions involving his support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  I was shocked!  “He can’t get away with this, can he?  This is political suicide!”

But I’m not so na├»ve.  In the 2008 presidential primaries, Rand’s father Ron ran for the Republican ticket.  During that campaign, racist material was uncovered from 1990s issues of the “Ron Paul Political Report.”  Paul denies that he personally wrote any of those articles, but they were nevertheless published in a newsletter bearing his name and his endorsement.

The controversial newsletters include rants against the Israeli lobby, gays, AIDS victims and Martin Luther King Jr. -- described as a "pro-Communist philanderer." One newsletter, from June 1992, right after the LA riots, says "order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks."

The Tea Party Strikes Again!

Interesting how brazen some folks are in attacking the God of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, ignorant of (or defiant against) the historical and biblical commonality.

(CNN)A national leader of the conservative Tea Party movement has been strongly criticized by Islamic civil rights leaders for referring to the proposed site of a New York City mosque as a place for Muslims to worship "the terrorists' monkey-god."

Tea Party Express organizer Mark Williams blogged on his Web site last week that the mosque - to be constructed near the former site of the World Trade Center - would be a "monument ... for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god and a 'cultural center' to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult."

Williams, who also referred to "animals of Allah," was rebuked Thursday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The group issued a release Wednesday calling on other Tea Party activists to repudiate Williams' remarks.

"It would be shocking if such ignorant comments failed to elicit a strong response not only from Tea Party leaders, but from other parties throughout the political spectrum," CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor said.

Click here to read more.
If you want to call Allah a “monkey-God,” then that’s YHWH, my monkey-God, you’re disparaging. Which is fine; that’s your right. But don’t pretend you’ve got some sort of religious objectivity. Are they theologically different? Sure. But not historically – and I would doubt, ontologically. If Allah is a “terrorists’ monkey-god,” then it probably follows that YHWH is a “child molesters’ monkey-god.” And I don’t see any moral high ground there.

Jennifer Knapp's CNN Editorial...

I went to a lecture in Portland with author/historian Dr. Marcus Borg from the Jesus Seminar.  I'm too tired to share much of that, but he has a new book just out that I'm really excited about - his first fiction work, Putting Away Childish Things (image to the left).  I'm ordering it now.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Knapp wrote an editorial for today that I thought was moving - about her experiences and observations becoming a Christian, becoming a Christian musician, and then becoming an "out" homosexual Christian musician.

Quite a journey.

Here are some excerpts:

As a young adult, I began to pursue a purposed life of faith centered on the teachings of Jesus. Many would say that I "became" a Christian. Curious, passionate and confounded, I entered my local evangelical Protestant church with a new appreciation for my spiritual self and participated with full fervor. There too, I experienced music as a gift that could draw out the deeper cries of not just my heart, but the hearts of others as well.… 

Almost exclusively, I was playing in and around churches - Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Catholic - and some churches that had no recognizable denominational affiliation other than a cross over their door. Where I began thinking that all Christians were alike, I quickly discovered that they were not. They all spoke of Jesus the same, but their practices and traditions, their “do’s and don’ts,” could be vastly different.… 

Why we need a Robin Hood; Why we wouldn't tolerate him

I haven't seen the new Robin Hood flick with Russell Crowe, but from what I've read, it tends to underplay the "robbing the rich and giving to the poor" theme, choosing instead sweeping, large-scale battle scenes - a war paradigm.  I can't speak for what I haven't watched, but if that's true, it's a good thing.  Today, the last thing Americans want is someone robbing from the rich to give to the poor.  Our social value system has been so corrupted by rampant debt under robber baron economics – a matrix dominated by the wealthy few, hidden from equity and social accountability by opaque multinational corporations and government regulations and tax laws skewed to favor the rich and powerful - that most of us don't even realize we have a national case of Stockholm Syndrome (as Derek Webb poignantly sings about in his latest album) - we have fallen in love with the captors who are raping us.  This is the horror of empire. 

So a "hero" like Robin Hood is no hero at all.  He's a wealth-redistributing communist.

His greatest critics are not the wealthiest, from whom he is stealing.   Strangely, today the folks who complain the loudest are often the ones who wish they were wealthy, and want to be able to achieve it "without government interference."  The "have-nots" have bought the lie that if they work hard enough in their forced-part-time shift at Walmart, they can reach the upper echelons of a classless society...

But we are not a classless society. 

And the "equal opportunity" of early American land runs (genocide of native peoples, and regulated opportunity, primarily for whites, notwithstanding...) no longer exists amidst the firmly fixed geographic and economic boundaries of an aristocratic society-in-denial.

Nas & Damian Marley - Distant Relatives

I'm so excited.  Later this month, for my 31st birthday, Jen is taking me to see Nas and Damian Marley in concert at Eugene's outdoor amphitheater - the Cuthbert.  That's right - I'm an old white guy going to rap concerts.

This project Nas and Marley are doing together is in many ways a tribute to Africa - in a sense, re-presenting or recontextualizing Africa, given so much negativity, pessimism, and First World "pity" directed toward the continent.  This is parallel to some of what I've talked about in the past: the powerful defining the marginalized - telling their story for them.

More than anything though, I have to admit that the music I've heard off the collaborative album (releasing May 18) is AMAZING, and that's what I'm most excited about:

As We Enter - Distant Relatives

Distant Relatives | MySpace Music Videos

Acknowledging Problems=Christian/Solving Problems=Communist

A great meditation from Friar Rohr yesterday:
We can no longer be satisfied by simply being the Church for the poor from our position of establishment. We must realize that sometimes that very generosity, that very attempt to be good to other people, has kept us in a position of power and superiority. Somehow we must be of and with the poor, and then be ready for some mistrust and even criticism.

Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999), the holy Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, said it so truthfully, “As long as I fed the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked, ‘Why are there so many poor people?’ they called me a communist.”

~ Richard Rohr
   April 2010

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...

I keep coming back to this same fork in the road, and arrogant as it may sound to simplify the nature of this fork, I find it consisting – at least initially – of only two choices:
  • Pursue a faith in a God that aligns with my innate sense of right-and-wrong, that calls me to greater good, deeper discipline, and greater personal sacrifice, but does not fundamentally conflict with my conscience or my understanding of love.
  • Pursue a faith in a God that asks me to reject what my heart tells me, to abandon my own morality, and to ignore my conscience, all in deference to a collection of documents that are historically questionable and oriented to an ancient world and a pre-modern mind.
Orthodoxy would likely (a) seek to find paradoxical tension, with truth in both statements, and more likely (b) find my reductionism and oversimplification here unconscionable in the first place.

Those leaning to the conservative will no-doubt find the first statement arrogant, far too existential, and deeply problematic. It is certainly problematic, because it subordinates Scriptural testimony to personal bias, feelings and convictions. The latter choice stands firmly in the conviction that truth can be both fully known and universally-applicable. But the truth is, everyone is already subordinating Scripture (and religious tradition and doctrine) to the tyranny of personal bias – some systems merely hide the fact, better.

Merton's "Seven Storey" - Avoiding Suffering

I'm continuing to slowly read Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain.  It's a great read, although it has received a lot of criticism over the years for being so staunchly "Catholic."  Indeed, Merton treats Protestant Christianity with a great deal of judgment, and at times, even contempt.  Nevertheless, he became increasingly ecumenical later in life, eventually spending most of his time meditating and sharing fellowship with Buddhist monastics.

Today I read Merton's account of the loss of his father to a brain tumor.  I think his conclusions on suffering are beautiful, profound, and tragic:
What could I make of so much suffering?  There was no way for me, or for anyone else in the family, to get anything out of it.  It was a raw wound for which there was no adequate relief.  You had to take it, like an animal.

Maybe it's just a brilliant scheme? No, it's probably just hate...

Last month, in a post about a school's response to hate rhetoric from the Westboro Baptist Church, I wrote: "Sometimes I wonder if groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (famous for "God Hates YOU" picket signs, and protesting at the funerals of fallen US soldiers) are actually the concoction of a genius, subversive (slightly crazy) liberal thinktank seeking to unite progressives under a common banner of hope, peace, unity and kindness."  

I don't really think that, but it's clear such extreme hate rhetoric has the power of uniting disparate people behind common decency: most conservatives don't approve of this sort of hate speech any more than liberals.

As a started to read an article on today, I almost thought my tongue-in-cheek theory was right: 

'Most-hated,' anti-gay preacher once fought for civil rights

Crazy, huh?  The article explains some little-known facts about hate-monger Fred Phelps.  In particular: he was a prolific, very successful civil rights attorney in the '60s, who fought tirelessly for African Americans.

That got me thinking, maybe this hate rhetoric really is some sort of horrible, genius master plan to [rightfully] demonize and bring to the forefront the dangerous insanity of violent, hate-based Christian fundamentalism.

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