Thursday, September 25, 2008

Not Tomorrow Night John, I've got a Headache

Well, I guess it wouldn't be all bad if John McCain was too preoccupied to face Barak Obama the American Public tomorrow night. I'm not really in the mood for him either! But from the sounds of how things went today at the White House, I guess I better take pop some extra strength pain reliever and emotionally prepare myself for a hard night.

I just love this response to Sen. McCain's request to postpone the debate with Sen. Obama tomorrow night from a PhD candidate as re-posted on the Facebook page of my Carleton college professor cousin, Adriana Estill.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Dangerous Quaker Lobby

Over at the New Republic blog James Kirchick is angry that the "Quaker lobby" is meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad and isn't inviting the press. When Kirchick called the high-powered Quaker lobbyist, Mark Graham, and asked him if he was going to be pressing Ahamdinejad on Iran's nuclear intentions, Graham responded that the purpose of the meeting is to promote dialogue and understanding.

I thought this comment on the TNR blog was spot on:
It really should be a rule for anyone who runs a magazine: If one of your writers uses the phrase "the Quaker lobby" with a straight face, he must be fired. Immediately.

Of course, the Quakers have a long history of appeasement, going right back to the 1600s when they insisted on "dialogue" and "mutual coexistence" with the native Indians instead of just slaughtering them like civilized people. So you just can't trust those Quakers to deal with existential threats.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Free Ranging in Burnsville

Liberalchurch had a church picnic at Prairie Oaks Farm, a community co-op farm, yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed spending an afternoon on the farm where there are free range chickens (both broilers and layers) and turkeys. At least one person commented on the benefit of having chickens free ranging in the yard. On Keller Lake, we have have free ranging Canadian geese. Same effect.

So it was with a renewed interest that I read this report about an 11 year old boy making his plea to the Burnsville City Council to keep his small flock of free range chickens in their yard.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Going Off Message with Franklin Graham

Via GetReligion I saw this interview with Franklin Graham, the son of Billy who has taken over the reigns of the Graham evangelistic empire. Here are two questions and answers from the interview:

Q: While we're on the subject of comparisons ... What about your approach to Christian outreach, service and evangelism is different from your father's? What do YOU want people to focus on?

A: My style is different from that of my father, but the message is exactly the same. It's the gospel — the Good News that God loves sinners and that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and that he rose again from the dead. He is alive, and he is coming back someday; many people believe it will be soon. To come to God, we have to confess our sins, repent — turn from our sins — and by faith receive Christ into our hearts. If we are willing to do that, God will forgive us and cleanse us, and we can have a new beginning and the assurance of being with him in heaven one day.

Q: These days, evangelical Christians are becoming increasingly concerned about social issues other than so-called "wedge issues" (such as abortion and gay marriage). For example, many evangelicals are beginning to advocate good stewardship of the Earth and faith-based programs that address poverty and economic inequities. What is your view on the changing list of priorities?

A: The gospel is our priority. As a Christian, I am concerned about the Earth that God gave us. I want to do all I can to preserve and protect the resources that belong to each of us and to be good stewards of the things God has given. However, the No. 1 message is always the gospel. I believe Christians are making a great mistake by getting pulled off message. Should we be concerned about the environment, energy and other social issues? Absolutely, but the gospel is our No. 1 message because the gospel has the power to save. The Apostle Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Moral issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, are outlined very clearly in the Scriptures. These areas are not even for debate. However, I preach against all sin — not just some — and that Christ died for sinners and rose again so that we can have new life through him.

There is nothing surprising here about Graham's answers. Jesus came to save us so we can be with him and God in heaven. Everything else may be interesting, but if the primary focus of Christians is on anything else they are getting pulled "off message."

I think the primary focus of Christianity is or ought to be transformation, personal and social. Being involved in a Christian community ought to mean that you are attending a place where you are being transformed over time by the experience of being there. You are learning; you are being challenged to grow and re-orient your priorities; you are given opportunities to develop and share your gifts and in so doing to serve others. You are becoming a better person.

How would you know this is happening? If after being part of that community you feel compelled to care more for the environment, work more for peace and justice in the world (at home and/or in the world), be more welcoming of those who are different because they have a different religion or sexual orientation, then you would know that something good and powerful is happening. (Alternatively, for some who are activists by nature, the transformation might involve finding balance and learning to let go and find some personal peace.)

But the point is transformation that makes a difference here and now. That isn't "off message." That is the message. By your fruits you shall know them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Republican Convention-goer in the Spotlight

Here is Gabriel Schwartz of Denver being interviewed at the Republican National Convention. He was also interviewed by AP. Quite the celebrity. His advice for the next President: "bomb the hell" out of Iran.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press picks up the rest of the story:
He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed.

And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered.

When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings.

The thief's take stunned cops.

"It's very, very, very rare," Minneapolis Police Sgt. William Palmer said. "I can think of a couple of burglaries where we had that much stolen, but it's the first time I've heard of this kind of deal."

In a statement released today, Gabriel Nathan Schwartz, 29, of Denver, put the figure at much less.

"It's embarrassing to admit that I was a target of a crime. I was drugged and had about $50,000 of personal items stolen, not the inflated number that the media is reporting from an inaccurate police report," he said.

"As a single man, I was flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman who introduced herself to me. I used poor judgment."

Contacted by the Denver Post Monday, Schwartz declined to speak on the record. In the statement released today, Schwartz said he would decline further interview requests.

The haul included a $30,000 watch, a $20,000 ring, a necklace valued at $5,000, earrings priced at $4,000 and a Prada belt valued at $1,000, police said.

Schwartz is a single attorney and a fixture in Colorado Republican politics. He was one of the state's delegates to the convention this month in St. Paul.

Reached by phone at his law office Monday, Schwartz said that because the case still was under investigation, "I think at this point, I don't want to make a comment on it."

Our Socialist Government

How bad is the financial meltdown on Wall Street? It's so bad that that bastion of free-market capitalism, the Wall Street Journal, takes a pass on commenting on the US government takeover of the insurance giant American International Group, Inc. (AIG) This follows the government takeover a little more than a week ago of the two largest mortgage lenders in the country, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The federal government has essentially taken control of the housing industry in the country and taken a big chunk of control of the insurance industry. This was done by a Republican administration, largely applauded by Wall Street, and there is silence from the WSJ. Things must be bad.

But there is a lesson here too. For all the conservative bashing of government, these conservatives go to sleep at night knowing that if there really is a financial meltdown, there is only one institution with the size and resources to bail them out - the very government they so loathe. They count on it.

It is for this very reason that we the tax-payers who support with our taxes this lender of last resort have every right to demand regulation and accountability from these financial institutions. Because if they do fail we are on the hook.

The upside of this emergency takeover in the financial markets is that come January a new President, possibly a progressive President, is going to have "extraordinary leverage" over the national economy. It won't take legislation to make it happen because the government is already running these industries. Some socially responsible, positive change could come out of this. Assuming we aren't in a depression by then.

A Catholic Supports Obama, Denied Communion

Doug Kmiec is a conservative Reagan administration official and leading pro-life legal scholar. Despite his strong anti-abortion views, he recently endorsed Barack Obama on the grounds that Obama cared more about the full range of "life" issues - including poverty and human rights - and because Kmiec believes that Obama's "abortion reduction" agenda will have more impact on abortion in the short run than the traditional battles against Roe v. Wade. Kmiec has a new book out Can a Catholic Support Him? Beliefnet (the Kmiec bio comes from there) has an excerpt in which he talks about the day he attended church and discovered that he was to be the subject of the day's homily. Despite his great shock he went up afterwards for communion:

It was time for Communion. Notwithstanding the indictment of the homily, I did not think of myself as unworthy of receipt of the sacrament--at least no more so then pre-Obama endorsement. Communion in the Catholic tradition is indeed sacred. We believe the bread and the wind is transformed--transubstantiated--into the body and blood of Christ. I have often watched my parish priest focus his gaze with reverence upon the bread and the wine during the offertory to gain some appreciation for the significance of the divine person whose presence on can scarcely grasp....

But I was not to receive the Eucharist that evening. The couples who stood in line before my wife and myself received the body of Christ in their hands or on their tongues and returned to their seats. My wife received. My hand outstretched, the priest shook his head from side to side. Was that a no? It was Judgment Day, and I hadn't made it. LSAT Insufficient. Inadequate GPA. Do not pass GO...go directly to Hell...

From the back of the Communion line someone shouted out, "Are you judging this man, Father?" I was grateful for the intervention. Will the Last Day be like this? One friend making an appeal for another? The response was cold: "He has judged himself and been found unworthy."

With no further appeal possible and with my wife exiting in confusion, tears, and offended embarrassment, I returned to my place along. My place? Did I have a place any longer? Was I expected to leave? The double significance of losing the body of Christ--of not having ingested and no longer standing among "the body"--was suddenly all I could think of. Condemned for announcing to the world that I intended to vote for a man who I thought lived the Beatitudes. A black man; a caring man; a talented man. A man different from conservative self and yet calling me to find the best of that self. A man who, in so many ways, asks to care for the least advantaged as he seeks the public responsibility to carry with him, as if it was his own burden the plight of the marginalized and unemployed worker, the uninsured, the widowed mother grieving over a son lost in Iraq. Their hurts, far worse than mine. It was wrong to be damned; to be excluded from the grace of the sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all I could think was the old Tolstoy folk wisdom "God knows the truth, but waits."

The priest was later officially admonished for this action and sent Boltz a letter of apology.

Christian Musician Comes Out

Ray Boltz is a Christian musician who has come out at 55 as a gay man. I know nothing about him and nothing about Christian popular music. But today I have learned that Boltz had a 20 year career as a Christian artist and sold 4.5 million LPs, cassettes and CDs. The Christianity Today blog reports on it here. In the Washington Blade he tells some of his story:
Ray Boltz was tired of living a lie.

He’d gotten to a point nearly three years before where he couldn’t continue down the road his life had gone.

His 33-year marriage to ex-wife Carol was, he says, largely a happy one. It produced four children — three daughters and a son who are now between 22 and 32 — but family life and going through the motions of being straight had grown so wearying to Boltz, he was in a serious depression, had been in therapy for years, was on Prozac and other anti-depressants and had been, for a time, suicidal.

“I thought I hid it really well,” he says. “I didn’t know people could see what I was going through, the darkness and the struggle. After I came out to my family, one of my daughters said she was afraid to walk in my bedroom because she was afraid she’d find me — that I’d done something to myself. And I didn’t even know they’d picked it up.”

The Boltz family remembers Dec. 26, 2004 for two reasons: the tsunami in the Indian Ocean but also the tsunami that their husband and father unleashed when he told them what had been bothering him for so many years.

He hadn’t planned a major announcement — but sitting around the kitchen table at his daughter’s house, Boltz’s son, Philip, asked him what was wrong.

“I thought, ‘Well, I can just do what I always do and hide the truth or I can take a risk and be honest,’” Boltz says. “That day, with the tsunami, has become very symbolic in our family.”

Nobody was sure, at the time, what the ramifications of the revelation would be, least of all Ray.

“It’s hard to say I came out because I didn’t have all the answers. I just admitted what I was struggling with and what I was feeling. It’s hard to go, ‘This is the point where I accepted my sexuality and who I was,’ but I came out to them and shared with them what I’d been going through.”

Continuing to pretend, Boltz says, was no longer an option.

“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.’”

His family’s reaction took time.

“I don’t want to downplay it like it was just, ‘Oh, well that’s OK.’ It was a very tough time for them too, but the bottom line was they loved me and they still love me … it’s been an amazing journey of acceptance on their part … I was offered support and love from each member of my family, including my wife.”
I also came upon this amusing blog post that suggested that Bolz's "falling away" is confirmation that premillenialist theology is unfolding before our very eyes. On the contrary, Ray Boltz has finally listened to the gentle nudging of God to be true to who he really is and he is now on the path towards spiritual healing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Word for Webster's Dictionary

A friend of mine from India, Jiraij, who I met online last year because we are alumni of the same small liberal arts college in Wooster, Ohio wrote to me this morning that he has created a new word for the English language. I thought I would share it with you so that you too can start incorporating it into your daily language.

palistic adj. Rising above one's station in life on a premise of extremist mediocrity without vision or aspiration to a greater good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Honoring Yourself

I've not done a very good job of nurturing myself over the past decade or so. Recently I've tried to make a portion of my life more "about me". I guess this is not a bad thing after having grown up as an only child. We are often labeled selfish and I've definitely gone overboard in proving that this is an untrue generalization.

Here's some affirmation and advice from which I will share and try to follow myself.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Clear Contrasts

I've not posted for quite awhile. Not sure why. I feel a bout of ambivalence and malaise setting in. Perhaps it's just the fall weather and I'm headed into hibernation season...anyway my apologies to readers that we have been silent at liberalpastor in burnsville blog.

As you know we live in Minnesota which we can now affectionately refer to as "the police state". A number of us from Liberalchurch in Burnsville went to Harriet Island in St. Paul on Thursday for the Peace Island Picnic. Harriet Island is across the Mississippi River from where the Republican National Convention was being held. It was a music-filled and friend-filled protest-without-a-march-event that was organized by a former U.S Senate candidate from MN and others. I will post separately a photo of the giant peace sign that was formed by those attending in the late afternoon along with a photo of some of us at Liberalchurch who had a table with information from the COB peace task force and the Mennonite Committee on war and conscience objection.

Well, the U.S. Presidential campaigns are now set in character and tone. The characters couldn't be more diverse and polarized from my prospective. In tone, both parties seem to be using the same message -- "change".

Yes, we need a change. Now, if only the U.S. voters will look past the rhetoric and get into what kinds of POLICIES these candidates are proposing to create change from our status quo.

I think perhaps the most disheartening moment for me this past week was when my 4th grader told me that several girls were asking her who her parents were going to vote for for President this year. When she gave her reply one little girl said to her, "Well if he's elected then the war will end and terrorists will return to the United States and we will have lock downs at our school all the time. "Just when you think that there is hope for the next generation you realize that by age 10 they have already been indoctrinated by their parents.

When I was 10 it was 1968. H.H.H. was running against R.M.N. There were 3 of us girls who were "gradeschool dems". One of us took the nickname Hubert, another Horatio, and I was Humphrey. We spent the last month of the election referring to each other by our nicknames.

As a parent, I try to do my best to impart my moral and ethical values to my children without taking away their own decision-making powers. However, upon hearing this story from my 9 year old (who turns 10 next month) I told her that she needs to find 2 other "gradeschool dems" in her 4th grade class and one of them can be nicknamed Barak, she should proudly take the middle name Hussein, and another little girl can be Obama. I know that there might be several girls who would be ready for this--not sure my daughter is however!