Friday, December 31, 2010

Revenge of the Lightning Bolt nerds..

"But if we don't kill nature, how will we build our houses?"



May all your dreams come true in 2011!

Evangelicals and The Good News: through Derek Webb and a blogger

Note: Post-Script added below

Frank Turk, PyroManiac or something, is apparently a Pretty Big Deal. He has over 800 blogger followers and... I'm sure there's some other evidence that he's a Pretty Big Deal, because he keeps telling his readers that he's a Pretty Big Deal in his little corner. Of course, since I never hang out in Turk's corner, the only reason I know or care about this Pretty Big Deal is because he takes issue with Derek Webb in a recent interview with the Huffington Post. Following Webb on Twitter, I realize that he's perturbed by Frank Turk's *ahem* persistence.

derek webb
dear angry bloggers: you're barking up the wrong tree. i will not respond to or encourage your bullying.

What is Frank Turk's big deal with Webb's interview? It, apparently, is that Webb, the somewhat controversial Christian singer/songwriter who addresses Christian issues head on, doesn't give a correct interpretation of what the gospel message is in the interview. According to Frank Turk, what one needs to talk about in addressing the issue of the gospel isn't the message of Jesus and love, it isn't the good news of peace and freedom and shalom and acceptance and "Come onto me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden" and healing and being made whole again. The Gospel Message, according to Frank Turk, is centered around Frank Turk. And Derek Webb should have acknowledged that during his interview, according to Frank Turk.
The key note of the Gospel, Derek, is the need for it. I am well-known in this little backwater of the internet for saying that any random sinner is "just like me"... The problem with that is that Jesus didn't die to establish common ground, Derek: Jesus died because the wages of sin is death, and that's the common ground of all men of all times and all places. I may actually be worse-off than the homosexual, morally: my sins may be more wide-spread and more deeply-rooted (which is an interesting question, given your position here; again: more on that in a second). But what that does not do is mitigate the fact that the homosexual's sin is actually an offense to God from which he must repent, and not merely recognize as a different expression of self.

What was it that Webb said that was so morally offensive to Turk? This!:
One of the hallmarks of following Jesus is to pursue and love people who are different than we are and have different beliefs than we do, and to live our lives loving, understanding and coming into common ground with those people.
Yes, I know what you're thinking! OmygourdshowDAREhe!


Of course, Webb isn't talking about presenting the Gospel Message as Turk and others narrowly define it. Rather, Webb is speaking about what should be fundamentally understood - and yet isn't - as living the gospel out loud: pursuing and loving people who are different than we are. That is the radical Way of Jesus.

Turk and Evangelicals in general pretend that if you just yell at people enough about their deficiencies, they'll get their need for Jesus. And then they'll automatically want to flock to the same leader/god that makes people like Turk and other Evangelicals yell at them. Because they love the abuse cycle and don't want to get off.

Sorry, Turk, but Jesus demonstrated a new life by actually demonstrating it. Not by hanging out until his brutal death. Or by delivering monologues. Or by writing really horrible Open Letters to songwriters who really don't want to be bothered by him anymore.

But enough about Turk. Read the entire interview here. But this is the part I'm in love with:
A lot of "Christian art" is about the lens [Christian artists are] looking through, rather than the world they see through it. I'm not going to criticize anybody for doing that, but I would rather look at the world through the grid of following Jesus and tell you what I see. But that doesn't presume that all the art I'm going to make will be about following Jesus.

The year I made Stockholm Syndrome, there were a lot of triggers that brought issues of race and sexuality to my mind. I have a lot of friends and family that have suffered because of the church's judgment; my best friend in the world is gay. I felt a lot of people around me drawing lines in the sand, and that year I decided: I don't want to draw lines and have to be on one side or the other, but if someone's going to push me to one or the other side of the line, I'm going to stand on the side of those being judged because that's where I feel Jesus meets people. Making Stockholm Syndrome was about that journey. That same lens, this year, brought Feedback to life.
I can't help but agree with that statement. We take the lens - our Christianity, or our theology, or our particular brand of theology/philosophy - and we talk about that so much that it's lost all meaning to the real world. The lens (theology/doctrine/'Gospel Message') becomes more important than the object (our neighbors) or the subject (God). It's yet another reason that, if I weren't a Christian and the only image of Christianity I were to see were evidenced in his open letter, I would never be a Christian.

Webb's detractors don't understand that.


Post-Script:
Derek himself writes a great response to the whole controversy, of which I'll just pluck out a few gems:

if you see a brother or sister online (even if they’re a total stranger to you) engaging in behavior or espousing ideas that seem contrary to your view of clear biblical teaching, here is a proven and rigorously practiced method for providing them with accountability and ultimately bringing them to repentance...

fire off a few suspicious, even pre-judgmental and leading tweets (e.g., “looks like i was right about [insert name]. have you seen this? [insert shortened link]” or “so sad to see [insert name] totally abandoning the faith. glad i unfollowed [him/her] a year ago”). this will show your clear concern for their spiritual well-being and restoration right from the get go...

as shown in the many examples of shepherds mocking and shaming wandering sheep in the bible, a public shaming can be very useful in restoring a lost brother or sister to the faith.

lastly, and THIS IS IMPORTANT, remember that once you’ve engaged someone online with the intention of holding them accountable based on all or any part of this method, they are MORALLY OBLIGATED to respond to you. if they don’t respond, it’s a clear indication that they are indeed guilty of the sinful behavior that you have publicly accused them of...
Nasty business, it is...

PPS:
I just realized that I forgot to put up the link to that non-reply reply. Please forgive my failure.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

We need to stand up for the REAL heroes!

Oh, those poor, fragile multi-millionaire multinational corporate executives! Who will save them from the ridiculing of Oliver Stone? How can their brittle and heroic egos survive such a crushing? How can they truly enjoy their hard-earned million dollar Christmas bonuses? They worked very hard at making sure those third-world employees didn't rise up and demand living wages. Do you know how many women they've had to chain up at their work stations? All those armies don't come for free, you know!*



*Real Facebook response. I'm tired of all Americans/Christians standing up for immorality. Give it a rest, already. Poverty is the enemy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chicago Tuesdays: More Miguel Plugs

First, there's this:
It had the look and the excitement of a political convention, and indeed it was: a convention of Chicago’s grassroots...

At the beginning of the New Chicago 2011 mayoral forum, held Tuesday evening at the UIC Forum, members took turns calling out their organizations from the podium, and in turn each section erupted in cheers.

It’s likely to be the largest crowd for a mayoral forum all season – well over 2,000 people — but for some reason, you won’t hear much about it in the city’s mainstream media...

In his opening statement, Del Valle drew the clearest line between his campaign and Emanuel’s, telling the audience, “You understand the need for a neighborhood agenda, not a downtown agenda, not a big business agenda, but a neighborhood agenda.”

When the candidates were asked about immigration reform, Del Valle drew the most sustained applause of the evening, attacking Emanuel as “the one individual most responsible for blocking immigration reform, as a congressman, as chief of staff,” continuing to a passionate crescendo over the rising cheers of the crowd: “How can we expect him to protect the residents of this city’s neighborhoods?”

He also made a clearest distinction with Emanuel’s program for schools: “We can’t continue to set up parallel systems of education, on one track selective enrollment, magnets and charters, on the other track neighborhood schools. It’s time to strengthen neighborhood schools.”

And here's an interview with Dr. Quentin Young (a longtime hero, activist for equality, a big advocate for Harold Washington and single payer health care) on how Miguel can finish off Rahm in the qualifying race:
Q: What do you like about del Valle?
A: He’s atypically straight-laced, clean, effective and committed for a Chicago pol. None of the other candidates come close to Miguel for leadership both in the legislature [he was a state senator for 23 years] and as City Clerk. He hasn’t gotten rich; he doesn’t give favors. He was an early supporter of [Harold] Washington, and I think you can see in his style and politics—what Washington tried to do for the city...

Q: During the residency hearing, Rahm seemed so calm, so polite.
A: While Rahm conducted himself impressively, I don’t think he can withstand the give-and-take of the primary race. I think the part of him that I find politically unattractive—the boss mentality, "take no prisoners" attitude, will emerge.
Of course, the interviewer can't keep his mind off of Rahm long enough to keep it positive. But, for my Single-Payer Health Care-focused mind, there's some money right here:
Q: So what’s wrong with the new national healthcare plan?
A: It won’t solve any problems. Costs have risen since it passed and will continue to do so. Having a bill that squeaked through puts a break on serious reform. [Young blames Emanuel, “a powerful mobilizer of the Democratic vote,” for the three-vote margin in the House].

Q: Would you have been happier had no bill passed?
A: Yes, it would be better to have a clean slate.
How important is Dr. Young's endorsement? It's pretty big for progressives in the city. According to The Ward Room's Edward McClelland:
Young, the former chairman of medicine of Cook County Hospital, is a healthcare activist who heads Physicians For a National Health Program, a Chicago-based non-profit that lobbies for a single-payer health care system. A Hyde Park acquaintance of Barack Obama’s, Young sat on the committee Obama created to draft a health care plan that would cover all Illinoisans. Young’s Movement roots go deep: he provided medical care to civil rights demonstrators in the South, and protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He also served as a physician to Martin Luther King Jr., Harold Washington and Studs Terkel.
The hits keep coming, of course. But without the big platform and name of an Obama staffer, without the resources of a millionaire politician intricately connected to big business who could pull ads out of his backside, with cold weather keeping people (like me) indoors, and with a huge gap that needs to be tightened within a few short weeks, can Miguel pull ahead to give Rahm a run for his money? I would like to believe so. All this positive media coverage only gives me more hope.

I mean, we're talking about a Chicago pol who didn't accept a security detail. I mean, how anti-Machine is that? We're talking a pol in the 21st Century who isn't taking money from mega-corporations or Chicago vendors. How gangsta anti-Machine is that? And what does the city need right now more than anti-Machine?

More here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christian Nation?

According to research revealed in this Slate story, Americans are twice as likely to report regularly attending Christian church services as to actually go to church services with any sort of regularity. Which, apparently, means that we're no more religious than, say, Europe.

But of course, there's more than meets the eye, right? A few thoughts:

1) Since we're basically a nation of functioning secularism, it doesn't make sense (as if it really ever did) to call ourselves a "Christian" nation. It, of course, makes even less sense to blame all of our societal ills on atheists, (h/t Alise) as this poor letter-to-the-editor author does.

2) There's that disturbing trend of mixing religion (and particularly, Christianity) with nationalism/patriotism. One should not confuse one for the other. Scary path, that is*.

No, the image is serious
I kid you not, this is a real poster at this church's website.

3) Going to church - or not going to church - doesn't make one a Christian. Following Christ does (and although different faith traditions have differing opinions on what that means, I will only say that simply reciting a prayer is *not* following Jesus). Within that, though, I do think that it's important for people who follow Jesus to be at church - or more importantly, to be church. To be in communion with others who share in the stories, the tragedies, the heart breaks, the hope, the lives, the burials, and the bread and wine of Jesus' body and blood. I do believe that the act of faith-community is an essential one.

But... I'm meeting more and more people who do not feel welcome in a church body. And that troubles me. It troubles me that people do not feel welcomed in the one place where they should feel invited. After all, wasn't it Jesus who gave refuge to the adulteress when the townspeople wanted to stone her (and curiously left out her partner)? Wasn't it Jesus who made the dreadful, scary, mixed-race Samaritan the hero of one of his most famous stories? Wasn't it Jesus that welcomed the outcast sinners and tax collectors and fishermen and zealots and women into his close circle? Wasn't it Jesus who went out of his way to touch the poisonous lepers? Wasn't it Jesus who moved the merchants out of the temple so that the lame and blind can come in?

How, then, can Christian churches - who are to live as the communal embodiment of Jesus - not be able to embrace those who think/act/look/believe just a bit differently? Many of our churches have such a hard time with people with mental tics (depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia), for example. Is this because they don't fit in with our particular notions of normalized Americans? Americans first, Christians second? Or is there another kingdom that Christians belong to? Is there another national identity that trumps all others - in which there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Greek, pagan, or Jew?

*/Lame Yoda reference.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lazy Sunday Readings (Christmas Edition): The Word Made Flesh

The following is from a sermon delivered by theologian/pastor/historian NT Wright on Christmas five years ago.
What is this Word?  ‘In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh.’  We are so used to it, to the great cadences, the solemn but glad message of the incarnation; and we risk skipping over the incomprehensibility, the oddness, the almost embarrassing strangeness, of the Word.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness didn’t comprehend it; the world was made through him but the world didn’t know him; he came to his own, and his own didn’t receive him.  John is saying two things simultaneously in his Prologue (well, two hundred actually, but let’s concentrate on two): first, that the incarnation of the eternal Word is the event for which the whole creation has been on tiptoe all along; second, that the whole creation, and even the carefully prepared people of God themselves, are quite unready for this event.  Jew and Gentile alike, hearing this strange Word, are casting anxious glances at one another...

That is the puzzle of Christmas.  And, to get to its heart, see how it works out in the rest of John’s gospel.  John’s Prologue is designed to stay in the mind and heart throughout the subsequent story.  Never again is Jesus himself referred to as the Word; but we are meant to look at each scene, from the call of the first disciples and the changing of water into wine right through to the confrontation with Pilate and the crucifixion and resurrection, and think to ourselves, this is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh.  Or, if you like, look at this man of flesh and learn to see the living God.  But watch what happens as it all plays out.  He comes to his own and his own don’t receive him.  The light shines in the darkness, and though the darkness can’t overcome it it has a jolly good try.  He speaks the truth, the plain and simple words, like the little boy saying what he had for breakfast, and Caiaphas and Pilate, incomprehending, can’t decide whether he’s mad or wicked or both, and send him off to his fate.

But, though Jesus is never again referred to as the Word of God, we find the theme transposed, with endless variations.  The Living Word speaks living words, and the reaction is the same.  ‘This is a hard word,’ say his followers when he tells them that he is the bread come down from heaven (6.60).  ‘What is this word?’, asks the puzzled crowd in Jerusalem (7.36). ‘My word finds no place in you,’ says Jesus, ‘because you can’t hear it’ (8.37, 43).  ‘The word I spoke will be their judge on the last day’, he insists (12.48) as the crowds reject him and he knows his hour has come.  When Pilate hears the word, says John, he is the more afraid, since the word in question is Jesus’ reported claim to be the Son of God (19.8).  Unless we recognise this strange, dark strand running through the gospel we will domesticate John’s masterpiece (just as we’re always in danger of domesticating Christmas), and think it’s only about comfort and joy, not also about incomprehension and rejection and darkness and denial and stopping the ears and judgment.  Christmas is not about the living God coming to tell us everything’s all right.  John’s gospel isn’t about Jesus speaking the truth and everyone saying ‘Of course!  Why didn’t we realise it before?’  It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations, and the darkness not comprehending it.  It’s about God, God-as-a-little-child, speaking the word of truth, and nobody knowing what he’s talking about.

That is the puzzle of Christmas.  And, to get to its heart, see how it works out in the rest of John’s gospel.  John’s Prologue is designed to stay in the mind and heart throughout the subsequent story.  Never again is Jesus himself referred to as the Word; but we are meant to look at each scene, from the call of the first disciples and the changing of water into wine right through to the confrontation with Pilate and the crucifixion and resurrection, and think to ourselves, this is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh.  Or, if you like, look at this man of flesh and learn to see the living God.  But watch what happens as it all plays out.  He comes to his own and his own don’t receive him.  The light shines in the darkness, and though the darkness can’t overcome it it has a jolly good try.  He speaks the truth, the plain and simple words, like the little boy saying what he had for breakfast, and Caiaphas and Pilate, incomprehending, can’t decide whether he’s mad or wicked or both, and send him off to his fate.

But, though Jesus is never again referred to as the Word of God, we find the theme transposed, with endless variations.  The Living Word speaks living words, and the reaction is the same.  ‘This is a hard word,’ say his followers when he tells them that he is the bread come down from heaven (6.60).  ‘What is this word?’, asks the puzzled crowd in Jerusalem (7.36). ‘My word finds no place in you,’ says Jesus, ‘because you can’t hear it’ (8.37, 43).  ‘The word I spoke will be their judge on the last day’, he insists (12.48) as the crowds reject him and he knows his hour has come.  When Pilate hears the word, says John, he is the more afraid, since the word in question is Jesus’ reported claim to be the Son of God (19.8).  Unless we recognise this strange, dark strand running through the gospel we will domesticate John’s masterpiece (just as we’re always in danger of domesticating Christmas), and think it’s only about comfort and joy, not also about incomprehension and rejection and darkness and denial and stopping the ears and judgment.  Christmas is not about the living God coming to tell us everything’s all right.  John’s gospel isn’t about Jesus speaking the truth and everyone saying ‘Of course!  Why didn’t we realise it before?’  It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations, and the darkness not comprehending it.  It’s about God, God-as-a-little-child, speaking the word of truth, and nobody knowing what he’s talking about...

John’s Prologue by its very structure reaffirms the order of creation at the point where it is being challenged today.  John is consciously echoing the first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God made heaven and earth; in the beginning was the Word.  When the Word becomes flesh, heaven and earth are joined together at last, as God always intended.  But the creation story which begins with the bipolarity of heaven and earth reaches its climax in in the bipolarity of male and female; and when heaven and earth are joined together in Jesus Christ, the glorious intention for the whole creation is unveiled, reaffirming the creation of male and female in God’s image.  There is something about the enfleshment of the Word, the point in John 1 which stands in parallel to Genesis 1.26–8, which speaks of creation fulfilled; and in that other great Johannine writing, the Book of Revelation, we see what’s going on: Jesus Christ has come as the Bridegroom, the one for whom the Bride has been waiting.

Allow that insight to work its way out.  Not for nothing does Jesus’ first ‘sign’ transform a wedding from disaster to triumph.  Not for nothing do we find a man and a woman at the foot of the cross.  The same incipient gnosticism which says that true religion is about ‘discovering who we really are’ is all too ready to say that ‘who we really are’ may have nothing much to do with the way we have been physically created as male or female.  Christian ethics, you see, is not about stating, or for that matter bending, a few somewhat arbitrary rules.  It is about the redemption of God’s good world, his wonderful creation, so that it can be the glorious thing it was made to be.  This word is strange, even incomprehensible, in today’s culture; but if you have ears, then hear it...

Listen, this morning, for the incomprehensible word the Child speaks to you.  Don’t patronize it; don’t reject it; don’t sentimentalize it; learn the language within which it makes sense.  And come to the table to enjoy the breakfast, the breakfast which is himself, the Word made flesh, the life which is our life, our light, our glory.

I really didn't want to steal the whole sermon. I think, even in reading it, there are some gaps that need to be filled in. But if you would like to read more by Wright, a good place to start would be NTWrightpage.com, which has many links to speeches, sermons, interviews, and even chapters that he's written. One of his most recent books, Surprised by Hope, is another great primer and one of my favorites.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas, from the Great White North

Sarah Palin vs Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, courtesy of the Great Coco!

Is this update fair? Should it have been Bambi's mom instead?

Speaking of Disney classics, I've just been watching (many times, on repeat) Dumbo with my daughter. Most of the Disney films deal with orphaned kids, but in this case, the loving, doting parent is neither murdered nor missing (and we see some tender moments between mother and child. In fact, the whole first fifteen minutes are told through her perspective) but is sent away to solitary confinement, leaving the child to - as all other Disney protagonists do - grow up on his own with the aid of a parental surrogate.

Nothing to do with the previous post (at least not without coffee and a loooot of stretching), but thought I'd share.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lazy Sunday Readings: Trading away our rights

From the summary for Trading Away Our Rights: Women working in global supply chains

Kenya: Rights to Women Workers Denied

* (translated into American English from the British variety)
“As a casual worker, I do not get a bonus, or paid holiday or severance pay. I am looking for a place to stay so that I can collect all my children to stay with me. To be a mother with all my chickens under my wings.”
  • Rage, picking fruit in South Africa for export to UK supermarkets


“We have to do overtime until midnight to earn a decent income. I am afraid of having children because I wouldn’t be able to feed them.”
  • Nong, 26, sewing underwear for Victoria’s Secret in Thailand


“We don’t have the right to be sick. One day when I was not well and I took a doctor’s note to my employer, he gave me a written warning.”
  • Zakia, 36, sewing garments for Spain’s El Corte Ingles in Morocco

Globalization has drawn millions of women into paid employment across the developing world. Today, supermarkets and clothing stores source the products that they sell from farms and factories worldwide. At the end of their supply chains, the majority of workers – picking and packing fruit, sewing garments, cutting flowers – are women. Their work is fueling valuable national export growth. And their jobs could be providing the income, security, and support needed to life them and their families out of poverty. Instead, women workers are systematically being denied their fair share of the benefits brought by globalization…

The harsh reality faced by women workers highlights one of the glaring failures of the current model of globalization. Over the past 20 years, the legal rights of powerful corporate entities have been dramatically deepened and extended. Through the World Trade Organization and regional and bilateral trade agreements, corporations now enjoy global protection for many newly introduced rights. As investors, the same companies are legally protected against a wide range of governments’ action. Workers’ rights have moved in the opposite direction. And it is no coincidence that the rise of the ‘flexible’ worker has been accompanied by the rise of the female, often migrant, worker. The result is that corporate rights are becoming ever stronger, while poor people’s rights and protections at work are being weakened, and women are paying the social costs.

Exploiting the circumstances of vulnerable people – whether intentionally or not – is at the heart of many employment strategies in global supply chains. Of course vulnerable social groups desperately need employment as a means of escaping poverty and inequality. But it is no escape at all if the way that they are employed turns their vulnerability into an opportunity for employers to pay them less, work them harder and longer, and avoid paying their rightful benefits. ..

  • In Chile, 75 per cent of women in the agricultural sector are hired on temp contracts picking fruit, and put in more than 60 hours a week during the season. But one in three still earns below the minimum wage.

  • Fewer than half of the women employed in Bangladesh’s textile and garment export sector have a contract, and the vast majority gets no maternity or health coverage – but 80% fear dismissal if they complain.

  • In China’s Guangdong province, one of the world’s fastest growing industrial areas, young women face 150 hours of overtime each month in the garment factories – but 60 % have no written contract and 90% have no access to social insurance.

The impacts of such precarious employment go far beyond the workplace. Most women are still expected to raise children and care for sick and elderly relatives when they become cash-earners. They are doubly-burdened, and, with little support from their governments or employers to cope with it, the stress can destroy their own health, break up their families, and undermine their children’s chances of a better future. The result: the very workers who are the backbone of wealth creation in many developing countries are being robbed of their share of the gains that trade could bring.

I walked into a local hipster coffee shop the other day, saw the cover, had a cursory glance and knew how important this was. I started transcribing it right away, oblivious to the fact that it's already fully on the interwebz in full color. Please read with me here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hey, Man! Leave Those Atheists Alone.

To be honest, I find the New Atheist movement flippin' annoying. It's like dealing with hyper-fundamentalists all over again - very reactionary, very ideological, very little grounding in fact. Much yelling, screaming, flying accusations and dishes... It reminds me too much of home...

But enough about me. What I do understand about the NAM is that -- on the occasions when they are flying off the handle -- they are reacting to something that is very threatening. Take for instance the reaction to the ads going up countrywide, as reported in the New York Times.
A clash of beliefs has rattled this city ever since atheists bought ad space on four city buses to reach out to nonbelievers who might feel isolated during the Christmas season. After all, Fort Worth is a place where residents commonly ask people they have just met where they worship and many encounters end with, “Have a blessed day.”

“We want to tell people they are not alone,” said Terry McDonald, the chairman of Metroplex Atheists, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, which paid for the atheist ads. “People don’t realize there are other atheists. All you hear around here is, ‘Where do you go to church?’ ”

But the reaction from believers has been harsher than anyone in the nonbeliever’s club expected. Some ministers organized a boycott of the buses, with limited success. Other clergy members are pressing the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to ban all religious advertising on public buses. And a group of local businessmen paid for the van with the Christian message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town.

The Christians' response (not to be confused with the Christian response) would make sense if perhaps the ads were being belligerent (like the ones in New York declaring Christmas to be a myth. Which, in a sense, it can be described of as in a fairly accurate way. But that doesn't seem to be the case here). The pastors who sponsored the bus answer that they're just trying to tell people that God loves them.

But that's the problem with much of contemporary Christianity. We talk a whole lot about love, but we don't seem to know how to practice it with people who are different from us. In fact, our love is pretty shallow, at least collectively. I'm sure some people are genuinely loving toward atheists, gays, and Muslims in person, but if you ask the typical non-Christian how they feel about Christians' response to them, you (if you were a Christian who thought the world loves Christians, that is) may be surprised. Well, it's because we're not very nice people. We're that annoying couple who come first, jabber in everybody's ear about our precious children and show dogs and jobs, and leaves hours after everybody else, and then thinks we were the life of the party. We're the muscle-necked kid in middle school who forces everybody else to be our friend, but then wonders why nobody signs our yearbook pics, or comes to hang out during the weekends or summer.

Those visuals are incorrect, though. They imply that we should be making friends. That's not a Christian's job, according to Jesus.

A Christian's job, according to the Bible and Jesus himself, can be summed up in three, interconnected parts: Love God; Love Others; Make Disciples. By being the majority bullies that we are - by not allowing others to disagree or think differently in peace - we're ignoring that second creed (ironically by saying that we're doing the second creed). Additionally, if we don't love others, we can't truly love God. And if we can't convince people that there is anything lovely about the Gospels (yet there is. We've lost that in much of our practices), what is there to attract them to it? Most of new converts would be just more fake friends, faking their way through their co-dependency, trading in one broken life for another, more dependent one. And that does nobody any good.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chicago Tuesdays: Why Local?

Tonight a few thousand Chicagoans are going to be grilling mayoral candidates about issues of local interest at UIC. While most of the world is interested in Rahm "Hammer" Emanuel, this forum excites me with the possibility of introducing Miguel del Valle to these entrenched citizens. Community activists of the most pure type, they are here to fight for the rights of their families and their neighbors. And I love them for that. (Suck on that, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin)

Speaking of Beck and Palin (and.... SUCK IT!), I realize that they are the big names. That if I want traffic to my site, all I need to do is talk about them - or some other big national name, but the KKKlowns tend to be the biggest draw - and then post a link on some sort of (usually left-leaning) political-interest/humor site. But the problem is, as much as I can't stand those ignorant racists and the profit-induced lies they spew, they really don't have much to do with the everyday mechanisms of our daily worlds (well, maybe they helped destroy true health care reform. Thanks for letting my extended family members suffer, a**holes!).

Although all politics ain't local, much of it is. The groundwork sure is. It seems obvious that most of the concern for politics in this nation only occurs every four years, at the election of a president. But of course, with the division of power in this country, and with its immense size, the president really only has so much power (though executive orders and the scope of the military industrial complex and 'homeland security' industrial complex, etc., have enlarged it in scary proportions lately). Localized communities, however, have more access to their local pols and policies.

Take, for instance, two issues we've been dealing with at this site for a while: health care access and affordable housing. Both issues could use some national help, for sure (creating laws that recognize health care and housing as a fundamental human right issue could be one such way, for starters), but, if we're honest, the work to accomplish such practicalities is local. Even if nationally we were to establish, say, Single Payer Health Care, we must acknowledge that that only changes the way hospitals and hcp's are paid, and the way that we - as a collective society - pay for our care. It can't, however, make sure that the hospitals, techs, nurses, and doctors provide equitable care to Black and Latino populations. And their neighborhoods.

Housing is also very local. Of course this only makes sense - after all, prices for a place in Manhattan are going to wildly vary from the same space in Aurora, Cleveland, Chicago, LA, Oak Lawn, Boston, or Seattle. In fact, in Chicago, it should become even more localized. The rubric for measuring what housing is "affordable" in this area is based on not just what the median payment is for a rental in the city, but in the surrounding collar counties - which includes the super-affluent North Shore. So, someone paying $600 for a three-bedroom in Garfield Park (ok, I totally made that up) is not going to be considered as weighty because someone is paying four times as much for something like that in Wicker Park, six times as much in Lincoln Park, and eight times as much in Wilmette. The result is that what is deemed as "affordable" in Chicago is not affordable for the typical working class family. People who typically make $20,000 a year between two jobs shouldn't have to pay half or more than that just to keep their families indoors.

Having said all of that, I'm going to try to maintain Chicago Tuesdays and ask my blogging friends to also have periodical local features (if not local blogs). I'm also in the process of adding a blogroll of Chicago interests. If you know of any worthwhile Chicago-area sites, please keep me informed. Thanks!

* Chicago and suburbs neighborhoods map courtesy of http://www.wildonions.org/Neighborhoods-Suburbs.htm

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Privilege-Denying Dude Pic Dump

I really, seriously, just want to host a few images. Because I keep running into these guys, especially on Facebook.

Privilege Denying Dude - Minorities can say...Privilege Denying Dude - Offense?



I know What Racial Oppression Feels LikeWhy Should I Take Women's Studies?

Feminism is outdated and sexism is no more
This latest one is courtesy of Chris Brown.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

On Allies and Accusations of Rape

Update(s) below


This Amanda Marcote post was on pendagon.net. I couldn't find the original link and found this through a cache that Glenn Greenwald put up, but I thought it was too important (and I think she's thoroughly right). I'll get links up and running in a bit.
"C’mon, we can do this acting like grown-ups thing

• Crime

Update: Julian Assange has been arrested.  Again, I must point out that if we treated rape seriously even when the accused aren’t people that are embarrassing the U.S. government, rape would probably be far smaller of a problem.

When I was in junior high school, one of my classmates got pregnant on accident.  The rumor spread quickly... that she was having sex with her boyfriend, the condom broke, she begged him to quit and he wouldn’t.  Even at the tender age of 13 years old, I knew that there was no way on earth that this was morally acceptable, or even close to it, and the proof was in the pregnancy that she (purportedly) begged him not to inflict on her against her will.  Again, this was a rumor...  But what I do know is that my friends and I who were horrified were 100% right.  What is amazing to me is when grown adults can’t wrap their minds around what childish virgins understand, which is that it’s wrong to fuck a woman who has withdrawn her consent, no matter when she does it.  It’s assault.  It’s rape, even if it’s not legally rape.

Interpol is using a rape accusation that resembles this one to put Julian Assange on their most-wanted list.  As Lindsay points out, this is just silly.  Sex crimes are never actually taken this seriously---we feminists wish!---and I’m annoyed to see rape used in this way, considering that rape apologists are already eager to suggest that rape accusations are about some evil bitch with ulterior motives. Indeed, as Lindsay notes, the usual rape apologist tropes are being employed, this time by people who should know better.  Jill has more on why forcibly fucking a woman who has withdrawn her consent because the condom conditions weren’t met is in fact rape, and it should always be legally treated as such.  The key here is “consent”, which was withdrawn.  That means that the woman was non-consenting.  Having sex with a non-consenting person is rape...

I don’t know if Julian Assange is guilty, of course, but I’m deeply disturbed by the people who aren’t content with suggesting that Interpol is politicizing a crime that shouldn’t be politicized, but instead slurring the victims with the usual course of rape apologist tactics, including accusing a victim of the high crime of being a “radical feminist”.  I suppose we should find this evidence against her, instead of evidence that Assange has sex with other people in the community of political radicals to which he belongs. I’m sorry, but why on earth is it so hard to believe that Assange is the kind of guy who power trips on women by promising to use a condom and then slipping it off during sex?  This is one of the most common kinds of sexual assault there is, and a favorite way for guys with power issues to get cheap thrills at the expense of women, who they often feel are contemptible and weak.  Are we to assume that someone who clearly gets a rise out of making the most powerful nation on the planet scramble around in a chickens-with-heads-cut-off manner doesn’t have a tendency to ego trip?  Are we to assume someone who risks life and limb for this isn’t the kind of guy who might get smaller kicks out of smaller, less internationally interesting power trips?...

I’m just annoyed at people’s black-and-white thinking---believing that because they support Assange’s actions in this one case, that means that his motivations must be pure as the driven snow and he must generally be above reproach.  It doesn’t work that way.  If anything, my experience says to me that men on the radical political fringes are quite often big assholes with power issues that they take out on women.  I’ve definitely seen with my own eyes the way that anti-war demonstrators who devote their lives to the cause often have the women in the kitchen making sandwiches while the men sit around on their asses bullshitting. And I’ve heard more than one story about anarchist communes and how the women are, despite all the lip smacking about radical politics, relegated to very unradical gender roles, which are, in turn, justified by some high-falutin’ rhetoric.. [I]t’s completely silly to think that leftists, especially in the fringe, aren’t capable of being massive dicks about women’s right to things such as bodily autonomy.

We can be grown-ups here.  We can entertain the idea that Wikileaks is performing a valuable service while acknowledging the strong possibility that Julian Assange is himself an asshole who treats women like they’re objects he can exert his massive power issues on.  We can criticize Interpol for treating these alleged sex crimes more seriously than they ever treat sex crimes and maintain sympathy for women who reportedly were quite afraid they had been exposed to unintended pregnancy or worse.  Maybe we can even do one better than that, and accept that more than a few men who consider themselves liberals or even leftists---or may even claim to be feminists---still act like women’s concerns should be dismissed and our rights can be transgressed with ease.  I’m not accusing Assange of anything, but I seriously think it’s silly to think the accusations couldn’t be credible.

Bonus:

Of course this whole fiasco is convoluted, filled with explosives and fishies and lurkers all over. I've heard all types of false accusations, many of which have been purportedly spread by the mainstream media or been actually spread by the mainstream media. Here's a few that I'm a bit worried about:

  • The false accusation, often repeated, that Assange was arrested on charges of statutory rape - or sex with minors - is chief among them. No one that I've spoken to in this regard can even produce a link to a story that even suggests that. Somehow, people read "rape" and "sex" and add "with minors" in between the lines.

  • That Wiki dumped ALL of their cables, indiscriminately.

  • That the cables risk hundreds of thousands of lives. (Again, links above)

  • That Assange, et. al are culpable of treason.

  • That Assange, et al are terrorists.

  • That it's all just pranksterism.

  • That we haven't learned anything new from the cables that have been released.


To this last point, I'll point out these revelations that Greenwald assembled for us here:
(1) the U.S. military formally adopted a policy of turning a blind eyeto systematic, pervasive torture and other abuses by Iraqi forces;

(2) the State Department threatened Germany not to criminally investigate the CIA's kidnapping of one of its citizens who turned out to be completely innocent;

(3) the State Department under Bush and Obama applied continuous pressure on the Spanish Government to suppress investigations of the CIA's torture of its citizens and the 2003 killing of a Spanish photojournalist when the U.S. military fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad (see The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch today about this: "The day Barack Obama Lied to me");

(4) the British Government privately promised to shield Bush officials from embarrassment as part of its Iraq War "investigation";

(5) there were at least 15,000 people killed in Iraq that were previously uncounted;

(6) "American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world" about the Iraq war as it was prosecuted, a conclusion the Post's own former Baghdad Bureau Chief wrote was proven by the WikiLeaks documents;

(7) the U.S.'s own Ambassador concluded that the July, 2009 removal of the Honduran President was illegal -- a coup -- but the State Department did not want to conclude that and thus ignored it until it was too late to matter;

(8) U.S. and British officials colluded to allow the U.S. to keep cluster bombs on British soil even though Britain had signed the treaty banning such weapons, and,

(9) Hillary Clinton's State Department ordered diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data on U.N. and other foreign officials, almost certainly in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961.

But then there's other problems. For all the mounting evidence that can be used against the US's imperialistic acts of aggression (and there are many), WikiLeaks also dumped a whole 'nother chicken the other day. In revealing crucial sites to US security the other day, they may have left any number of people open for severe attacks. Some of the information, apparently, is already well-known. Some, not so much and could be used to attack the weak - through biological warfare, etc. I have a feeling that there is another story here, but I'm not sure what that may be.

And then there's the fact that Sweden could very well extradite Assange to the US in the very near future to face criminal charges that could very well end freedom of the press in any regard in the US.

So, that's what we have. There are no more angels. Everybody is tainted, including the whistle blowers. Live happy ;)

Bonus II:

I finally found the original post for Marcotte's blog. Not sure what happened to that. Internets sure is acting strange these days. *wink*

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Chicago Tuesdays (Late Edition): Bad News, Good News

First, the bad news. Bad, I suppose, if you were hoping for miracles in this city. But I like to be hopeful; it's a nice change of pace.



Last week 13 members of a committee defied Daley and forwarded the ordinance to set aside 20 percent of the city’s annual tax increment financing revenues toward affordable housing to a full city council vote last Wednesday.

With more than half of the aldermen in support, sponsor Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) was concerned that a few might “double cross” he and others who have worked since last spring to bring the ordinance to vote.

One week later the ordinance was back in the joint committee after intervention by the Mayor’s office. In the end, it was Burnett who decided to avoid the full vote. He decided that the wiser course of action was to negotiate a new substitute ordinance over the original—one that Daley could agree on while satisfying other aldermen now seeking amendments and reelection.

One possible amendment rips the guts out of the affordable housing ordinance by turning the articulated mandate to spend 20 percent of annual TIF dollars—about $100 million in 2009—into an unenforceable goal.

But now for some good news, just in time for our elaborately long winter season (care of Humboldt Park Portal News):


Eight years of hard work, long hours, and countless SOS calls culminated today in the opening of Humboldt Park Social Services' (HPSS) new interim-housing facility for men. Deborah McCoy, HPSS Board President, cut the ribbon for this new 22-bed facility that will allow homeless men to transition from emergency shelter to interim housing.

During an impassioned speech, Delia Ramirez, HPSS Executive Director, explained that this new model is critically important. Emergency facilities only provide extremely temporary shelter – often no more than one night, given intense demand. Interim housing, on the other hand, provides several months of shelter along with the wraparound services essential to a successful transition from homelessness to permanent housing and independent living.

Through its Center for Changing Lives and Center for Working Families, HPSS will offer such wraparound services as housing placement, housing relocation, housing counseling, and employment preparation to men housed within the facility. They will also offer job training to interim-housing residents through their soup kitchen, which feeds 100 people daily...

As a volunteer for the project, Dan Splaingard, Rose Architectural Fellow for Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, designed and helped build the custom bunk beds for the space that will serve as the sleeping area. He explained, “We were trying to make something that, while utilitarian, was trying to give a bit of an uplift . . . a quality of the handmade with colors that will imbue a sense of home.”

James, one of the inaugural residents of the facility, seemed to agree. The university graduate had always held a job, but suddenly found himself unemployed, then homeless, several months ago. He expressed gratitude for the services provided by HPSS, asserting, “We need more like them” in the community.

5

Saturday, November 27, 2010

THoT 3: Aaron Huey: America's native prisoners of war

Aaron Huey, photographer, spent some time with the Lakota people. Here he presents a chronological history of lies, broken promises, and war-ish aggression against the tribes cut against contemporary photos of the people and their communities.

In fact - and I had never considered this before - he refers to the reservations as "Prisoner of War Camps." Definitely worth a view. I'll have to watch again.



Beginning of transcript, courtesy of TEDX:

I'm here today to show my photographs of the Lakota. Many of you may have heard of the Lakota, or at least the larger group of tribes called the Sioux. The Lakota are one of many tribes that were moved off their land to prisoner of war camps now called reservations. The Pine Ridge Reservation, the subject of today's slide show, is located about 75 miles southeast of the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is sometimes referred to as Prisoner of War Camp Number 334, and it is where the Lakota now live. Now, if any of you have ever heard of AIM, the American Indian Movement, or of Russell Means, or Leonard Peltier, or of the stand-off at Oglala, then you know that Pine Ridge is ground zero for Native issues in the U.S.

So I've been asked to talk a little bit today about my relationship with the Lakota, and that's a very difficult one for me. Because, if you haven't noticed from my skin color, I'm white, and that is a huge barrier on a Native reservation. You'll see a lot of people in my photographs today, and I've become very close with them, and they've welcomed me like family. They've called me brother and uncle and invited me again and again over five years. But on Pine Ridge, I will always be what is called wasichu, and wasichu is a Lakota word that means non-Indian, but another version of this word means "the one who takes the best meat for himself." And that's what I want to focus on -- the one who takes the best part of the meat. It means greedy. So take a look around this auditorium today. We are at a private school in the American West, sitting in red velvet chairs with money in our pockets. And if we look at our lives, we have indeed taken the best part of the meat. So let's look today at a set of photographs of a people who lost so that we could gain, and know that when you see these people's faces that these are not just images of the Lakota, they stand for all indigenous people.

Friday, November 26, 2010

THoT 2: The Clarification

Note: This is both a clarification and an extension of yesterday's post, Thankless History of Thanksgiving.

I want it to be abundantly clear that my post yesterday was not a salvo in some War on Thanksgiving. I abundantly love this feast of abundance - as my girth can attest. I love spending time with family. I love turkey. I love tryptophan and naps. And sweet potato and pumpkin pies. And NFL games somewhere playing in the fray.

But history needs to be acknowledged in full. Too many of our friends and neighbors and cousins have suffered too long because we are too full of ourselves to acknowledge that we and our families have done and do bad things.

A friend found my last post to be too anti-Thanksgiving. Granted, the story within the story does seem awfully harsh. I do not, however, apologize for another writer's excesses (if that's how one wants to describe them as). If that's how Robert Jensen feels, that's how he feels. I have no qualms nor arguments therein. I also would not be angry with various indigenous tribes people who also felt a need to not acknowledge the Thanksgiving tradition in this country as some sort of benevolent or good remembrance. After all, do we recognize their fests, let alone their sufferings? Can one enjoy one without sharing the other?

I however, would like to talk about our history as a means of redeeming ourselves, rather than the lazy work of redemptive 'history' that's been making its way through the Great American Redemptive Mythos.

This, then, is my response to my friend:
If the blog comes across as anti-Thanksgiving, that is my error in message control. I'll have to check and edit then.

My intention, however, wasn't to butcher the day - one of my favorites - but to highlight a much-neglected context.

If I heard correctly, Winthrop hosted a second large Thanksgiving feast fifteen years after the initial one to thank God for their successful campaign against the lpcal tribes*. We need to tell our history straight. It needs to include both the inclusion and the exclusion, welcoming and murder, community and violence.

To do less is to do a disservice to our heritage and to neglect our current DNA as well as its majestic and horrible potential.

We can begin to remedy the situation by taking simple steps. Like spreading support for current laws to support current tribes, such as the H.R. 1385:

H.R.1385

Title: To extend Federal recognition to the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe. This Act may be cited as the `Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009'.

....

There is a provision in current law that allows unrecognized tribes to gain recognition through appeal to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Source

Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 has hurt the Virginia tribes in their prior appeals to the BIA, according to the Washington Times. Tribe officials say the Act forced Indians to identify themselves as "colored" and led to the destruction and alteration of genealogical records. Source

Tribal proponents say the Virginia law amounted to a "paper genocide" and makes the bureau process difficult for the six groups, although there are some genealogical records that do exist and have been submitted to the bureau. Va. Gov. Tim Kaine called the vote "a major step towards reconciling an historic wrong for Virginia and the nation." Source

President Barack Obama has reversed from past presidents and pledged to support recognition of the Lumbee Tribe, which has sought federal oversight for more than a century. According to the AP, Obama has not said whether he will support recognition of the Virginia tribes. Source


*To be fair, preliminary research has not led me to believe that this story is true, either. Story revoked. Genocide, however, is true. And THAT story needs to be told.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankless History of Thanksgiving

Update: Clarification on any perceived anti-Thanksgiving bias and a chance for action here.

In looking to the United States' history as a nation of genocidal power over the original Nations (Native Americans, the Tribes, Indians, First Settlers), Robert Jensen asks how we can just so easily rub aside our murderous past? Especially as this murderous past is not *just* our past, but - I add - a part of our very current DNA.

How does a country deal with the fact that some of its most revered historical figures [Washington, Jefferson, T Roosevelt] had certain moral values and political views virtually identical to Nazis [in desiring all 'Redskins' to die]? Here's how "respectable" politicians, pundits and professors play the game: When invoking a grand and glorious aspect of our past, then history is all-important. We are told how crucial it is for people to know history, and there is much hand-wringing about the younger generations' lack of knowledge about, and respect for, that history.

In the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who "settled" the country -- and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.

But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable -- such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States -- suddenly the value of history drops precipitously, and one is asked, "Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?"

This is the mark of a well-disciplined intellectual class -- one that can extol the importance of knowing history for contemporary citizenship and, at the same time, argue that we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about history.

Our past does not just lie in our past, but it is a part of our national character, and as long as we can spin it so that we are a benevolent and graceful people, then we can continue atrocious acts of imperialism and genocide throughout the world (what is The War on Terror if not a small-scale act of genocide being perpetuated against Muslims and Arabs?).

Jensen further:
This off-and-on engagement with history isn't of mere academic interest; as the dominant imperial power of the moment, U.S. elites have a clear stake in the contemporary propaganda value of that history. Obscuring bitter truths about historical crimes helps perpetuate the fantasy of American benevolence, which makes it easier to sell contemporary imperial adventures -- such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- as another benevolent action.
Very simply and close to home, how can we continue to live as if nothing horrible actually happened between the White structure of the US and the various indigenous tribes and nations? If we can come to grips with this, maybe then "illegal" immigration won't be such a bother*. To further this: how can we now go about and trivialize their histories by naming professional and collegiate sports teams after them? We profit from their misery and then offer that somehow we are "honoring them"? Imagine Henry Ford had killed my great-grandparents and all of their brothers, sisters, and cousins some eighty years ago because they were standing in the way of progress. And now his company wants to introduce the Dye brand of luxury cars?

If the Native tribes say that we are dishonoring them, than we should probably listen to them. If not, we are triply dishonoring them, first by the initial act of dishonor, then by not listening to them, and third by being racist enough to not consider their opinions about themselves as being even equal to our opinions of them.

But then again, isn't that what White Supremacy is? We know what's best? Our views of history are better than what actually happened? Is Rush Limbaugh now the Official Spokesperson for White History, then?

*As it is, many White opponents to immigration contend somehow that the European settlers had broken no laws in emigrating to what is now the US. I guess the universe doesn't have laws? Let alone, the Bible that they were supposed to follow? But this absurdity and logic FAIL demonstrates the reality that laws benefit those who write them. If only those Injuns had lernt to read and write some laws, then...