Sunday, May 30, 2010

Music that Gets Us Through: Ancient to Anodyne

Ancient Curse - Peter Bjorn & John
And Can It Be - Over the Rhine
And It Feels Like Old Times - Joy Electric
And So It Goes - Daniel Amos
And We Worship You - Fred Hammond

Andersonville - Vigilantes of Love
Angel - Jimi Hendrix
Angel Band - The Stanley Brothers
Angel with an Attitude - The Ditty Bops

Angels Tuck You in - Daniel Amos
Angels with Dirty Faces - Los Lobos
Angeltread - Sixpence None the Richer
Anger - Marvin Gaye
Animals Are Cut in Two - Half-Handed Cloud

Anodyne - Uncle Tupelo

This was a weird one in that the vids I was sure I'd find (UT, 6pence, Los Lobos) I couldn't and yet I found some unexpected nice ones (the two animated projects, including the art class's rendition of 1/2HC). I'm excited because the next version will feature some of my favorite artists, including two songs (4 versions in all) of Mark Heard's.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My County Sin Rankings

County Sin Rankings

Looks like Cook County, Illinois (home of despotic families the Daleys, the Mells, the Strogers) isn't too heavy on the heavy with only about a quarter of adults being obese (ONLY? Must be all the skinny post-college hipsters...). Drop out rate has us ranking poorly in terms of drop-out percentage with 39% not graduating within four years (a very small percentage of Chicago Public School students -VERY small- actually graduate college w/in five years from completing high school. But then again, I'm one of those). Income inequality is fairly high...

And so on.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weapons of Our Warfare: Brains! (and Walking Miles)

We fight callousness. We fight brutality, inhumanity, apathy, antipathy, enmity. The atomic substructure of what we fight, however, is selfishness. Selfishness is basically known by its deficiencies. It lives in its own closet because it cannot overflow, it cannot protect, it cannot share - it lacks the power to do so. Fundamentally, though, it lacks empathy.

Lacking empathy is to look at the world through jaundiced and severely limited lenses. Blinders, really. The selfish can only take in what one considers important to himself. Which means that everything else must either fit into that particular grid of Self, or be manipulated until it does. This, as Fred Clark at Slacktivist has pointed out so well recently, leads to wanton stupidity. And then it only gets nastier from there. There's a growing list of people who get their kicks (if not their livelihood) by actually opposing empathy. Being anti-empathy (as many of the Beck/Palin/Republican leadership/Ayn Rand/Tea Party crowd actually boast) means to shut off the world in order to further advance one's own agenda. In this arena, 'common sense' is idealized, but not practiced. Not only is the sense not common, it's nonsensical. Logic takes a leap for self-perpetuating means.

And this is anti-Biblical, anti-Christ. Jesus declared outright that followers of God must follow the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord their God with all their might, strength and mind." To be willfully stupid (or even ignorant) is to sin against God. When linking that to the second commandment, "which is like unto the first," the case against anti-empathy becomes even more clear: "You shall love your neighbor* as yourself."

Consider the meme, now being popularized by erstwhile politician and Republican senatorial hopeful Rand (Yes. as in Ayn) Paul (as in, Ron, his father. Who named him after the worst. novelist. ever.**), that private property rights trump Civil Rights. Rand is being particularly effusive/stubborn/stupid here. But then again, private property (largely owned by a few white males) rights have largely been hardly-veiled code for practiced white supremacy. Much like the ubiquitous "States Rights" parroted by the Republican Party since the founding of the Southern Strategy.

But even beyond that, this claim that private business owners have a right to prejudicially exclude anyone they want to from their open business is ludicrous - sheer stupidity.

In the US, we tend to emphasize private over public. Private property, private lives, privacy. But even in the most private of locations, there is protocol for the public good. In private residence alcohol consumption by minors is forbidden (not that it doesn't happen), as is murder. But of course there is leeway as to what is allowed and what isn't depending on the degree of privatization.

"I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that accepts me."

A household or club can refuse membership or even entry based on pretty much any old standard that it chooses. Don't want to play golf with women? Or to be hit on by low-class guys in sneakers? Don't want homosexuals joining your church? Don't want mouth-breathers in your house? Only want white, non-Hispanic, Protestant males wearing your bed sheets - I mean, basketball uniforms?

Right or wrong, entrepreneurs and stake-holders have the opportunity to decide who passes the velvet ropes in a club setting. The truth of the matter is, although the club may be social, it's not necessarily public. One hopes that all clubs would be ethical and fair in their treatment of all - but clubs exist as a sort of safe-house, a place to mingle with like-minded fellers/ladies. Society needs clubs of one sort or another. As much as I believe that Jesus himself was all about inclusion, even he had clubs within his own clubs (his standards were notably different than most anybody else's and that's, I believe, a point we need to imitate).

A restaurant, store, porn shop, magic supply store, etc., however, has no such rights. Within law and reason (ie, it's pretty darn irresponsible to let people lacking shirts and shoes near your meats; but also, they can't sell alcohol, tobacco nor even firearms to minors) they must accept everybody who is able to do business with them. Because even though they are a privately-owned entity they serve the public.

Before we begin to lay the incendiary charges of racism, however, it is especially essential in this day and age to define what is meant by this word. This is especially true due to the fact that when most people (especially most White Americans) hear the word 'racist,' they only think of one,outdated mode of racism and understandably get upset (especially if they believe in the false claim of 'color blindness'). These handy-dandy definitions given to me by a Mr. Bob Hunter - of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and a man who has seen the original segregated lunch counters first-hand - are a must-read and help to make a common language:

Old fashion racism -- Pre 1950 racism that was measurable by simply asking people if they disliked another group -- say a white person about black people. This racism was straightforward and unashamed in identifying itself. This racism became virtually unidentifiable after 1940-50, many think because of the holocaust and the Civil Rights movement. Racism was shamed underground

Modern Racism -- this was a scale psychologist used to get at anti black sentiment that no longer would or could be expressed through direct anti black statements. It was developed in the 70's. This is the scale used in the Tea Party study. it is not without controversy, though it has correlated with real world findings. For example it does seem to consistently score Republicans as higher, but then there have been only 3 black congressmen since 1935 -- is that related? BUT there is also a kind of racism that score liberals higher -- see below. Those falling into the modern racism category are very unaware of their racism and are angered by racial discussions that they are sure are related to other things. The racism is well hidden.

Aversive racism -- this is a kind of racism measurable only if the person is not made aware of race in a situation. Aversive "racist" are very afraid of being racists. Unlike the modern racism, they admit racism and fear being racist. But they overreact to it. When made aware of a racial dynamic they will over compensate. But in situation where they are oblivious they will score poorly on racial scales. Liberals are more likely to fall into this category of behavior. This behavior has come to be know popularly as PC ism.

Internalized racism -- most studies show that minority people do NOT hold to anti white sentiments so much as they feel negative feelings about themselves. Internalized racism may be one of the factors making racial dialog hard. for example most whites and many blacks may think that black reactions are based on a backlash toward whites. But often the deeper issues is that in a culture that has a lot of anti black sentiment -- it is hard for black people to not get infected by that sentiment as well. In hard discussions it is usually assumed that black people need to learn to accept whites, but in reality it is usually about self acceptance. Strategies to impress black people to learn to love whites are often counter productive. A better strategy is for black people to recover personal dignity lost in a racist culture.

Structural racism -- This is not a individual racism, but racism that is carried through structures. Our institutions, practices, cultural sensibilities can all have been established in an era of racism, but their continued practice also continues the discriminatory practices long after the worst of the racist may be dead or moved on. This category of racism is most often overlooked by people in the majority culture who have a greater privilege to be seen as individuals. It is often what minority people are referring to when they name racism. it may be referred to as the "man", or the "system". One problem with popular Christianity is that it has not spent much time exploring the concept of structural sin, therefore it has no Biblical categories to understand and deal with structural issues of race -- or anything else. this has made Christians more susceptible to indifference in the face of structures of racism.

The type of racism that Rand Paul and similar thinkers are dealing with isn't one of the more-or-less hidden racisms. It's beyond structural. It's a shameful version of old-fashioned racism. And whether or not they acknowledge that doesn't change the fact that they are okay with excluding minorities from public places. It only means that they are too willfully stupid to accept the fact that they are racist.

*In case anybody at any time raises an objection that one's neighbor is just like him (especially in the era of gated communities and otherwise segregated, redlined housing), consider the story Jesus used to counter that mental image, the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans and Jews did not get along (much like, well, take your pick...) and were known to preach about the animal-ness of each other and pray against the others' health. To a righteous Jew of the time, a story with a Samaritan hero (or vice versa) would be sort of like a White Supremacist hearing about the great deeds of a handsome, intelligent and empathetic Black president. At the end of his story, Jesus asks the smart lawyer who the good guy was and the lawyer couldn't directly answer him, he couldn't confer a cultural identification because that would just blow his freakin' mind, to think that The Hated Other is a good person. He might as well have said, "That one."

**I retract that statement. Apparently, his name is Randal. It's his wife that gave him the nickname Rand. And he stuck with it because he's a really big fan of the. worst. novelist. ever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The slop

Today's excerpt is from The Thunder of Angels and stars one E.D. Nixon, the prominent figure behind the Montgomery bus boycotts that acted as the lightning rod -- along with Brown V Board of Ed and many smaller, lesser known struggles with lesser-known figures -- for the Civil Rights struggle.

Stretching his long legs out from his lean body, Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., the federal district judge who first ruled, in 1956, on Alabama laws requiring segregation of races on public transportation, said, "To me, it was a matter of the US Constitution. I believed then, and I believe now: the local laws requiring segregation of races on any public conveyance were unconstitutional... The US Constitution is very clear on that."...

[Virginia Durr, a large white woman with a large voice, came from the kitchen.] Her voice a bit screechy and loud, she said, "But Frank, if it was so clear, why did so many people interpret it so differently for so long?"

"Well, Virginia," Judge Johnson said, bending slightly to spit his tobacco. "They either chose not to read the text or to look in another direction. They didn't attack it straight on."

"Nobody cared," E.D. Nixon growled in his guttural baritone.

"What'd you say, Mr. Nixon?" Virginia asked, plopping the salad onto the table.

"I said, 'Nobody cared.' They didn't want to care, until we made 'em. We pushed their face into the slop jar, and only then did they see that it was sour and rancid and ought to be emptied."

Several people gazed questioningly into Nixon's face.

In his old gravel-rumbling voice, he said, "Folks will take what's given to 'em, even if it's slop-jar food, until they have to face the fact that they're eatin' feces. When they become aware of that fact, they're alarmed -- even shocked. Andy when you tell 'em, 'If you don't throw it away and demand something good and nourishing and wholesome, you ain't ever gonna get it.' then -- sometimes -- they act. That's what happened to the black folks through the years. they'd been treated like dirt so long they got to thinking it was all right. You've got to feel the hurt deep down before you respond. You've got to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you don't, you'll turn around and run away from the struggle. But if you see the light and it gets brighter and brighter -- and you know that pretty soon you might come out in Jericho, or some place just as fine -- then you'll keep trudging toward that goal. All we ever did was open their eyes where they could see the light. Then we kept tellin' 'em over and over, it's right out there -- just over yonder hill. just keep on climbin' and pretty soon you'll get there."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Music that Gets Us Through: Numbers and !

"10" - LA Symphony (Check it! My first name's John/ Middle name's "In it!")
The 10th Song - Adam Again (Song should be reflective Christ's Supper music for every church once a year)
12 Days of Christmas - Relient K (funz!)
15 Step - Radiohead

1610 Days of Summer - Mitch Hedberg ("Dogs are forever in the push-up position.")
187 on the Dancefloor - LA Symphony
1999 - Prince (Prince doesn't allow his music on Youtube. Stupid decision since there's a new generation that doesn't realize how cool and wonderful he truly is. Now he's just known as "That d-bag who won't allow his music on Youtube." O well, one of the best party tunes of the ever.)
2 Become 1 - Bill Mallonee (I didn't know he did Spice Girls covers? Jocelyn starting dancing when this song came on. Good sign.)
2 Step - Pigeon John
2/4 - Havalina Rail Co.
2nd Space Song - Starflyer 59
3 MC's & 1 DJ (Live Video Version) - Beastie Boys
3.14 - Havalina Rail Co.
3rd Stream - Jake Shimabukuro
4 Horsemen - Clash
409 - The Beach Boys
5/4 - Gorrillaz

6th And Alverado - Pigeon John (For those keeping score, that's four Pigeon John songs if you include his roles in the LA Symph tracks. Oddly enough, the beat for this song is cribbed from the song above. Coincidence? Think not.)
911 is a Joke - Public Enemy (Get up! Get up! Get, get, get down!) (Also: Sorry, it's true.)
99.9 F - Suzanne Vega ("You seem to me like a man on the verge of burning")

!!!!!!! - The Roots

I found the Hedberg album somewhere for free. I forget where. Sorry that was no help.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

ReMix: Weapons of Our Warfare: Faith

Still fighting the good fight.

I'm foolish enough to believe in a sense that I was saved (and maybe even buried a bit) by Calvinism. While watching others succumb to the pressures of being anything they wanted to be, I was free to believe in my own depravity - that no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn't amount to anything that God didn't design for me from before the beginning of time.

Of course, with age comes an appreciation that not everything is so black and white, so clearly delineated between evil and good, between obvious sin and definite salvation (and often the things you assumed to be obviously good turned out to be nebulously nefarious).

Just as human nature is neither completely good nor bad (nor, and this is central to this entire series, is any one human completely good or evil - although it may appear that some have fully lost their humanity), so the issue of faith is not the same one that I grew up on, nor that Martin Luther was so sure it was. Luther and some of his Reformation brothers reacted to the excesses of the Catholic Church of the time by considering faith as the antithesis of works. Solo fide*, they argued. You need nothing else to be in God's good graces.

I would argue that although that my be true as far as receiving grace, being a citizen of God's Kingdom (or a Christ-follower, however you want to pose it) encompasses work. And hard work. Fact of the matter is that faith and works are inseparable.

Lemme post an example from another prominent reformer, the OTHER Martin Luther:

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?"

King ponders for a few moments what it would be like to spend time in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, in the Renaissance, at the forefront of the Reformation, during the Emancipation, and by the side of FDR. But then:

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy."

Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around... But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee -- the cry is always the same: "We want to be free."

And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that wegrapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed...

I can remember -- I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph [Abernathy] has said, so often, scratching where they didn't itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God's world.

And that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people... We are saying that we are God's children. And that we are God's children, we don't have to live like we are forced to live.

Faith is hope with legs. Biblical book of Hebrews (via Eugene Peterson's The Message translation) tells us, "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see."

Christian faith isn't sitting around and intellectually agreeing or disagreeing with some sort of random (and weird) "fact." Nor is it arguing with someone who agrees with different "facts" than you do. It also isn't fancy feelings. And it certainly isn't about self-determinism.

True faith, like true religion, according to Jesus' brother, the respected Elder James works it out:
Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department."

... You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

It's good to have hope - to have a reason to press forward in our battles - but then we must act on our hope. Saying that "I believe that the homeless should be taken care of" will not take care of the homeless. Enacted faith says that, "I believe things can change for the better. And these are ways in which I have acted in that hope."

Faith is also - contrary to modern, Western thought - communal. The one in faith does not walk alone, but shares the burden of the struggle with others who do not always have the same perspective, but can add extra input and aid to a more well-rounded perspective. The result, if properly executed, is rewarding, refreshing, reinvesting, redeeming, creative, creating, and invigorating.

So is our beautiful but messy, hard but shared work resting squarely in faith.

*Remarkably, but not so much for me, I originally wrote, Solo Fido. That, I'm afraid, is more of a pet-land controversy...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ReMix: Weapons of Our Warfare: Hope

Hope is in many ways the anti-sarcasm*. Whereas sarcasm calls out, hope speaks into. Whereas sarcasm cuts and explodes, hope seeks to heal and mend. Sarcasm divides and shines a harsh light on the nastiness, hope unites and shines a light on the path towards a better tomorrow.

Yet, the two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, sarcasm works best when it's enveloped in hope - hope steels sarcasm against the aggressive tides of cynicism.

If sarcasm is a means of contention, hope allows us to contest with a vision to ultimately restore.

The late great educator Howard Zinn says it better than I could hope to. And with a wee bit more mileage under him, I think his words are more trustworthy as well:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Hope is an integral weapon in our battles. We should never just hope that we will win, however, but that we may win over and, indeed, not just change our enemies into bitter, mortal enemies, but to change both themselves and ourselves into better, moral people (this of course is getting into the fourth WoOW, Love).

Hope gives us both inspiration and direction. Hope is knowing that the sun will indeed rise even while we are in the midst of the darkest hours. The American Civil Rights process, South Africa's Anti-Apartheid movement, Poland's Solidarity - these were all envisioned, emboldened and sustained by the deep calls of hope. Hope against hope got young men and old women up day after day after bloody day and bludgeoned night after heart-breaking night to fight off the shackles of their enslavement, to believe that their battered and broken bodies were the ransom for their freedom and their children's - and children's children's - freedom. Hope kept them from cracking like glass under the strain and giving up, resigning to the world's typical predicaments - that, "What was will always be," that, "It's just the way it is, some things will never change."

Yet, because of their courage - both buoyed and pressed forward by hope - the world is a slightly better place.

It will be hope that springs us forward and yet keeps us grounded in the hard, day-by-day task of ending child abduction and the sex trade, that will allow us to end all forms of slavery, that will allow nations like the US to welcome the immigrant without fear of losing its own identity worrying about its survival. It is hope that gives us the dream to change the way we live, change the way we eat, change the way treat each other (yes, from the same 2Pac song. What?). Hope will change our penal system to a rehabilitation one, our incarceration system to an education system. It is hope that will allow us to see the day when each person is treated with dignity, respect, and honor on the streets and in the boardrooms and throughout the systems of systems - regardless of their sex, sexual preference, color of skin, ethnicity, or religion. It will be hope that will allow us to see freedom, or at the least its borders.
Because we dream of a free, democratic Iran.

*Sarcasm is one of the WoOWs that I did discuss, previous to originally writing this post. However, that post is no longer up and I'm doing reconstructive surgery on a previous version of it. That's taking a bit longer than I'd hoped. In the meantime, I thought that comparing hope to sarcasm would still make sense and not take a lot of contextual clues to get at. Unless...

No, just kidding.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ReMix: Weapons of Our Warfare*

This phrase, "weapons of our warfare" is ripped from the New Testament passage of St. Paul in I Corinthians 10. The immediate context is that the author feels that he's being ripped, betrayed and gossiped about. But he calls on his friends at this church to not get into such 'worldly' ways of fighting. I like how the Message puts verses 3-6:

The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

I read some of the most inane comments by fellow Christians in the span of a week. Here's a sampling:

Unless you are an absolute pacifist, ie you will not raise a hand to defend yourself or your loved ones, being merely "anti-war" is nothing but moral cowardice.
If you, (generically speaking), are a true pacifist I can respect that, but that is a choice one must make for themselves. I don't believe it is right or fair to impose pacifisim on others.
But if you believe *something* is worth fighting for then the argument is merely about *what* is worth fighting for. Assuming the morally superior tone in such an argument is nothing but vanity.

Nobody likes war.

I know, we'll follow the train of thought that says lets give to those that don't work, not only that we will reward them for not working!... Is [Lt. Gov Andre Bauer] wrong to want drug testing for recipients of assistance? No. I support helping those who need a hand up. But I am not in support of that hand as a way of life.... and you should not force those that earned to give up what they worked for... What I have been given, I also should not be forced to give up. If my family did well, and wished to pass that on to me, why should I be forced to give that up, or my family be forced to give their earnings up to someone else?

Let's just chop off [potential terrorists'] heads like they did to our guys.

Etc., etc., ad infinitum and on. And on.

And it gets weary. A year of fighting (in admittedly little ways, mostly electronically with those who disagree. Lot of good that did, eh?) for health care reform, pointing out that most Western countries are doing it much more effectively and cheaper than us and still offering universal health care. And then hearing lie upon lie delivered not just by the monied interests and their political allies, but by otherwise fine, outstanding people.

I say, and deliberately so, "otherwise" because in this sense they are not fine, loving, generous, considerate, or in any manner outstanding. While one is fighting against the poor, against the afflicted, against the downtrodden, against the minority voices, against immigrants, then one has made a conscious - if temporary - decision to not be good, to not be moral, and it affects the person's own personhood - at least for that moment. It's one thing to declare that solutions are much more complex than what we could possibly hope for (True. But who contends this?). But to come up with so many reasons Why things can't be done when it's obvious that it is the only Right thing to do strikes me as not just being particularly obstructionist, but as fighting for the literally Wrong side.**

In Surprised by Hope, New Testament scholar, author, professor, and pastor NT Wright likens the arguments that align themselves against social justice (in his case, Third World debt remission) to those offered against the end of the slave trade in Britain. I would add that, in the US, the same can be said for those opposed to abolition, the civil rights movement, and now health care reform (not to mention financial equity, unjust wars, pro-immigrant immigration reform, etc.).

It's against these types of arguments that I banged my head hard against this desk. And, much like a lady, it was once, twice, three times. I felt so cynical. And it was tearing me apart.

After getting me some sleep, I was able to look in a more even-keeled way. No longer in vigilante mode, I started to regain my composure. I was ready for a more 'Christian' approach.

I won't say it's a discovery of mine, but I'm beginning to see four different yet beneficial ways to confront enemies and combat the lies. These four are not mutually exclusive, nor are they in any manner exhaustive (indeed, the choices here are awfully selective). The other posts this week will introduce these weapons. And I'd like to hear your thoughts on them.

*I generally steer away from war metaphors/speech. But the point I wanted to make here is a reference to the New Testament passage saying that, "the weapons of our warfare are not of this world." Which tells me a few things: 1) It's not about violence; 2) the things of God v. the things of 'this world' are always presented as life-transforming v. life-ending (or conforming, which hits me as meaning an end-run on free life); 3) the language of war was used as a means of undermining the contemporary war/imperialism culture. Unfortunately, the subversion has been co-opted by the empire...

**I do recognize that many conservatives/moderates/liberals/etc/whatever will have different opinions on how to fix the problems. My contention is not with those that hold different perspectives on what is best for all. My problem is with those who feel that it's not our responsibility to try to fix the problems - after all, it's working for them...

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Greatest Weapon of Our Warfare; Evangelicals and the Grandest Marker

There's no Law against Love*.

Love is the binding, is the act of God that so defines God that the Bible equates God with Love. If, in fact, we want to know what Love is, we need to know who God is. God is Love.

However, then what is missing is an identification of what Love really means. However, again, if the Bible is Story, then it's story should be indicative - we find God and Love by reading the stories of God acting as Love in the Bible.

  • Love is incarnate. Love shares with us and travels with us in our journeys. When God became flesh as the person of Jesus (dirty roads, dirty toes, sweaty, bleeding, laughing, weeping, the whole nine yards), he not only saw fit to come from heaven down to earth, but to suffer along with us - which he continues to do - as a real, historical, flesh and blood homeless man.
  • Love is sacrificial. A scary word, that. In his book, Following Jesus, NT Wright acknowledges that we use the word for things it really shouldn't be meant for: sending young men out to fight old men's wars, denying a wife's career, dreams, and gifts so that her husband is fully supported in his, etc. But that would be missing a major component of love - loving others AS loving self. Meaning that other-love is neither shadowed nor dwarfed by self-love; rather they are intricately connected. Sacrificial love says, "I see that there is a higher purpose, a better goal here and I will go through this difficulty, I will give up this smaller desire for the larger prize."
  • Love is patient.
  • Love is kind. Not always nice. But it is kind. Nice is an approach; nice doesn't want to ruffle people's feathers and isn't ready for a fight. Sometimes, as one of our contemporary poets put it, you got to be cruel to be kind. But in the right measure.
  • Love gives sight for the blind. Love doesn't keep the healing to itself. It can't help but to share what it has (and, conversely, it doesn't complain about *having to share,* but does so freely) and its power is healing.
  • Love wept.
  • Love forgets and refreshes. Its mercies are new every morning.
  • Love shares. Creation, in fact, is the sharing of love - a necessary outpouring. The same can be said for procreation, or at least human procreation.
  • Love pursues. Ultimately, love will.
  • Love thinks. Love isn't haphazard, nor is it intellectually lazy. When the bible says that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our mind, it means that. To not use rationality, to not think things through, to be stubbornly stupid is a sin against God and wanton misuse of the capacities that God gave us.
  • Love questions the way things are. Get that? Love is not satisfied! Love never says, "Well, that's the way the world works and it's been like that for eons so why change now?" Love asks why are there starving people dying while others are excessively fed? Love asks why someone's livelihood necessitates someone's death? Love asks, Why must we enslave our fellow men and work our children's bones to the ground? Love asks, Is this really the way things should or ought to be - or just the way of the world?
  • Love rejoices when good things happen and sorrows wherever there is injustice. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Love does not conform but transforms.
  • Love always protects. Even though love is expecting a day when the lion will lay down with the lamb and is working towards it, it is no fool. Love operates in the real world and as such guards what it holds dear, usually the vulnerable and the weak.
  • Love always succeeds. What is so significant here is that we must understand that love is the ultimate winner. We may stumble, we will struggle, we fall; but love shall succeed.
  • Love always hopes.
  • Love always trusts.
  • Love always perseveres.
  • Love is the greatest of those that last. Those that last would be faith, hope, and love, by the way.
If the Christian God is Love, and if the Christian person were to - by definition - follow the examples and teachings and way of the Christ, who is the incarnate God, ie., Love in the Flesh; and if the Christian is to be inhabited by the Holy Spirit, who is - to be short - God in Action, ie., Acting Love; and if Christians are to demonstrate that we are following Christ, that we are reborn in the likeness of Jesus, are to show our fruits - it would follow that those fruits are the fruits of the Spirit and that those same fruits of the Spirit are the demonstrations of Love being lived:
  1. love,
  2. joy,
  3. peace,
  4. patience,
  5. kindness,
  6. goodness,
  7. faithfulness,
  8. gentleness and
  9. self-control.
There is no law against these things.

And these are some of the hardest things to convince my body and spirit and mind to do.

*I found there's 763 verses with the word "love" in the Bible.

I'm not much of a numbers guy. I also don't put much into how the Bible is broken up into verses. It's a nice reference tool and all, but none of the authors wrote expecting their fine recordings to get torn apart and ripped out of context and used as proof-texts for weird theology (cf,
Left Behind) or as self-help references.

Really, since many of those verses are about misplaced love (screwed-up, "worldly" priorities), and since quantity =/= quality or importance, you can't really put much value in that number.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thoughts for a lazy Sunday: If for a meme

From Gabriel Garcia Marquez, via old blogging friend and current fb friend Alisa:

If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.

I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.

I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.

I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.

If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.

My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.

With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals...My God, if I only had a scrap of life...

I wouldn't let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.

I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.

I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old--not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men....

I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.

I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father's finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.

I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.

In a sense, although I know that these sound a bit graduation-ceremony-y for me, they still resonate; there's something fundamentally true about them. Even (particularly) these lines: "Everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope," and, "I would awaken when the others sleep."

Does this piece strike you as well? What are your impressions?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

House Keeping

I finally have that Love post coming around the corner. This was supposed to be the culmination of two other series: Evangelicals and the Law and Weapons of Our Warfare. I was thinking that maybe I should polish up all of the old posts first in order to lead up to the Grande Finale!!LOL!!n00b

But, alas, one of my old posts somehow reverted back to a prehistoric, unpublishable (even for my blogging) state. And now I have to re-write most of it as well as punch up the others (and that E&tL was a beast in the first place, so that may need more work). So, I was thinking I'd just sort of reverse-engineer (without the engineering) re:mixes on these not-quite-ancient posts.

If I can get to those, however, before I go on a little trip with the little princess to see my side of the old jasdye tree (My grandmother just had a stroke. And they're six hundred miles away, so add that to the guilt complex about my child not knowing her paternal grandfolks as it were...). I have a few other half-written posts just dying to be completed and published, so hopefully I won't let any of my two fans down. (Hey, gotta take advantage of these writing seasons while I gots them, no?)

Also, Stevie Wonder's 60th birthday was a couple days ago. Happy birthday, from Sesame Street.
I think that's a slightly slimmer, younger Questlove pounding the skins, right?

# Shoot. Not sure about getting around to those other re-edits. But I had to re-edit my Ethnic Studies post. As much as I loved putting that sucker together on a wing and a prayer, nobody should ever find out that I actually published that mess. Please, forgive. Better, please forget.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Alpha Male to Amy

Alpha Male - Mars Ill (I have to admit that I prefer the remix version on Backwaterprophets to the original. But, period, how many songs, rap or otherwise, address male chauvinism - especially from a male - in such a direct way?)
Always on My Mind - Pet Shop Boys and Willie Nelson (Not together, necessarily.)
Always Active - CookBook & Uno Mas (ft. DJ Activ8)
Am I in Sync? - Steve Taylor (fortunately, the novelty desynched synthesizer works with the outdated cheesy new wave here) (also, the homemade video is just more proof that ST fans are always nerds)
Am I too Late? - Old 97's
Amame - Juanes
Amazing - The Choir

Amazing Grace / Nearer My Lord to Thee - Ladysmith Black Mambazo (There are no words to describe what a sad cliche these powerful songs have become to my ears. "Hey, I can do gospel! I can pretend to be soulful or spiritual!" It's sad. But then, there's versions like this wonderful South African gospel choir's rendition. Or, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama's "House of the Rising Son" version. They reinstate hope.)

American Music - Violent Femmes
American Patrol - Glenn Miller Orchestra
Ammunition - Switchfoot
Amsterdam - Peter Bjorn & John (Wow. The crowds in the live versions are a big part of the reason I rarely go out to catch an act. Morons.)
Amy's Song - Switchfoot (For those keeping score at home: That's three Switchfoot songs b/t Al-Am, one of which I skipped over b/c it didn't quite grab me.)

GOOD Deeds Film Club

As miserable poke as I can be about national politics (and it can be pretty danged miserable - cf, here, here, here, or here), I'm having a lot of fun talking to diverse friends from diverse backgrounds and political identities thinking about real solutions to real problems (such as food, housing, immigration).*

I also love art. Or, Art. Whoever, whichever. My Christian theology allows that I find hope in creation, and that when people - who are themselves created in God's image - engage in creation, we are engaging with God in his work. Just as when we engage in finding truth, or in loving acts, we engage and work with God in these redemptive acts.

In an effort to combine these ideas of community, collaboration, idea-sharing, earnest communication, breaking of bread, creativity and art, I thought to start up a film club to look for beauty and inspiration from movies (some popular, as this month's Wall*E. Others not as well-known, even by me), to gather together and converse about the themes, the beauty, the good, the lovely, the worthwhile-ness of the film in question together and to bring about different perspectives in the problems that the films address, but also possible ways to contact and wrestle with those same problems in post-partisan ways.

This would require a bit of learning how to listen. And formulating and expressing complete thoughts. And involving complete participation. So, hopefully I can get the ball rolling (some trial and error and patience from wonderful friends might be needed. But hopefully not much, right?) and then others can spread these wings.

From the information page:

You'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. - Phil 4:8-9

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25

This is a film club that explores how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds.

For that purpose, we plan on meeting once a month to host a conversation on good films. These films will be selected to be both of high quality and able to involve us in thinking of how to create a better world - how to bring the Kingdom of God crashing to earth, so to speak.

Screenings of the movies to discuss will be held the week before - locations to be disclosed.

Since the focus of this film club is to spur one another on to see, dwell on, and engage with and in good works, the film club itself will be non-partisan. We will keep politicians and pundits out of the fray and discussion as much as humanly possible. We have in mind more fundamental things than the bickering, talking points, and endless debate of our local and national capitols.

Topics we *will* discuss, however, include (but are not limited to):
Conspicuous consumption
Modern slavery
Women's rights
Immigrant voices
The dispossessed and marginalized
Creation care

If you want more info (and *who* wouldn't), ask me in the comments or just shoot an email. Tonight's the first night, btw, and these are some of the topics we may cover on, from Wall*E:

Objective (as distraction?)

Love and transformation


Consumerist thought

The representation of Auto-Pilot

Music and dance.
hope with purpose and creation/nature as signifier of hope
*I should add that I am becoming more and more convinced that the real problem doesn't lie at the feet of the Glenn Beck fearmonger types. They may exacerbate the problem with a small but vocal minority, but the problem is lack of activity by the vast majority of the population. That's where they need to no longer just be entertained but engaged to do Good Deeds.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Forget solidarity, we need individualitism

By the time I get to Arizona, cont...

All classes are canceled that:
  1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
  2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
  3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
  4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Let's address these point by point, eh?

Most people wouldn't have a problem with the first point. It makes sense. I'm sure that there are all sorts of Pottery/Bomb-Building classes happening in middle schools throughout the state. They need to be abolished post-haste, before pimply twelve year-olds take down our elected officials with their pencils and flowers.

But the truth of the matter shines when this is connected to the state's other recent laws, designed to move out the Latino population (whether citizens or "illegals"): A bad, short-sighted ploy by Republicans to ensure their supremacy. In the words of The Answer Sheet,
[State Superintendent of Public Education] Horne has wanted to limit [a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson] since he learned several years ago that Hispanic civil right activist Dolores Herta told Tucson high school students that “Republicans hate Latinos.”

This act, of course, dispels such silly rumors...

The second point gets into more clowdy territory, though. Particularly when dealing with modes of ethnic identity, to study the history and culture of one particular ethnic group could leave those not in that group feeling left out or even hurt by accusations. However, bad stuff happened. Winners got the spoils and tend to still receive the spoils as a result. Those same winners get to write the history in such a way where it seems inevitable that they would be the natural winners and that the losers, of course, would lose. Losers, otoh, don't have a history, amirite? At least that's what I was taught...

Resentment is in the eye of the beholder, of course. White supremacists (like those who drafted the "Papers Please" Law and see also this) are always going to feel resentful of other cultures, especially when these other cultures (whether they be Black, Jewish, Arabian, Eastern European, Latino, Latin American, East African) possess pride in their history, food, clothes, holidays, customs, etc. Which is why white supremacists have an abiding NEED to show up to Cinco de Mayo festivities as gangs with their US flag t-shirts.

The third point is fairly explicit, though. As is the fourth point. And the fifth if you count the fact that the state is also grading and forbidding teachers who have "strong accents."

The point is: White Americanism is the de facto ethnic group. To argue that a history class tailors to one particular ethnic group is to miss the point: all study of history comes from a particular cultural viewpoint. All of it is tied into identity. There is no such thing as a purely individualized individual.

Pure make believe.

And there never was outside of romance novels and horrible fan fiction either*. No one person lives in a vacuum. We all have family, expectations, music, perceptions, learning procedures, foods, language, etc., etc. that come from others, that bleed through our pores whether or not we want to acknowledge it.

Kind of like xenophobia.

And if we were xenophobic, we'd have to wave goodbye to humanity, including this. And I'm not willing to settle for that.

*I know what you're thinking. "Aren't those two the same?" Short answer: no! Your treatise on a secret love affair between Princess Leia and a time-traveling Spock remains unpublished while Danielle Steel is, inexplicably, still selling through major distributors. Sucks, but such is reality.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Salserina 2009

The Poor and the Fat and Our Responsibility

This bit of news may not shock most aware people, but poor people are fat.

This, of course, has more to do with poor communities large having grocery store deserts, or the pricing of healthy v. cheap foods as well as education and lifestyle choices, than with any perceived laziness of the poor.

I wish there were easy solutions, but I think Jamie Oliver and his Slow Cooking Revolution may be on to something (and now he's talking to the fattest of Christian denominations, the Southern Baptists). In any case, it's going to be more costly - both in the long run but also immediately - to continue doing what we're doing now than to actually address and fix these problems now.

Obesity, heart and health problems, sluggishness, children with diabetes: These things are more costly than making sure children and adults eat at least one healthy meal a day.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Immigrants cause crime?

Blame Lou Dobbs. Or nativism. Or Dan Stein and his inexplicably mainstreamed hate-policy group, FAIR. Or the 24/7 news culture that somehow leaves us less informed and more afraid than ever before.

But these reports - shooting up everywhere, throwing impossible-to-verify data on the ground in retaliation against migrants - defy any and all logic whatsoever. Not just logic, but experience, and research to boot. I won't spend all day trying to gut the lying numbers, since they do not add up to reality and any quick research will point out that Dobbs and his racist friends* can't admit - they're lying racists who use irrational fear to bring people on the fence to their side. Well, some people on some fences...

It says something fundamentally ugly, however, about American tribal culture that we can so easily believe such unfounded, irrational and perverted lies about our fellow humans simply because THEY (immigrants) are not US (Real Americans).

This is my observation living amongst many cultures: It's not the migrant populations who tend towards violence.** Rather, it's those populations who have tried and failed to assimilate to American cultural norms - those who have looked deep into the heart of domestic imperialism - those who have seen the hard work, toil, sweat, and dropped blood of their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins go for naught, but in fact repaid in viciousness, exploitation, burned crosses and ambush parties. These - the second and third and further generational Americans - are those who tend to resort to violence. They've learned from the United States what it means to be ugly.

And sometimes, sadly, they give in to the hopelessness.

Rather than hurting our migrant neighbors by repeating, reposting, accepting, or - often worse - ignoring those who tend to link violent crime with immigrants, we need to offer them and their children a path to hope.***

After all, isn't that what being an American is supposed to be all about?

*To counter the charges of xenophobia, Dobbs' supporters point to the fact that he has a Latina wife. But then I could make an illustration about the different meanings of "love" using goats, but I think I'd rather not...

**Actually, undocumented immigrants tend to become the victims of these crimes rather than perpetrators because their victimizers know that they are in constant fear of deportation and that the police often have their hands tied by laws that, in effect, do not favor much of their population.

In fact, we should also offer the Dobbses hope too, for as long as they continue to buy into the vicious lies, they continue to not only imprison the new Americans and darker-skinned people, but also themselves. One of us be chained, mofos, we ALL be chained.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Illegal Laws

A law that specifically says, “Do not steal,” but in practice leaves mass quantities of people with no option but to do so is immoral.

A law that claims to enforce order but instead wreaks havoc and chaos on families needs to be rescinded.

A law that is proposed to be against discrimination but is applied against minorities is bigoted.

A law that purports to promote safety but leaves its people ignorant and afraid is a law that promotes terrorism.

A law that criminalizes entire populations makes enemies between the police and those they seek to serve and protect - and therefore opposes its own law enforcement.

A law that does not allow for love is a law that is against Love and, therefore, against God’s greatest Law. Therefore, it is that law that is illegal.