Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Kwanzaa - a statement from the Obamas


Michelle and I send warm wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. This is a joyous time of year when African Americans and all Americans come together to celebrate our blessings and the richness of our cultural traditions. This is also a time of reflection and renewal as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of another. The Kwanzaa message tells us that we should recall the lessons of the past even as we seize the promise of tomorrow.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa -- Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith -- express the values that have inspired us as individuals and families; communities and country. These same principles have sustained us as a nation during our darkest hours and provided hope for better days to come. Michelle and I know the challenges facing many African American families and families in all communities at this time, but we also know the spirit of perseverance and hope that is ever-present in the community. It is in this spirit that our family extends our prayers and best wishes during this season and for the New Year to come.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Women & Slavery

The following article comes from Christians for Biblical Equality, reminding us that there is no greater confidence than ignorance. Christians have hurled Scripture-grenades at one another for some centuries now - every since the Protestant Reformation and it's sola scriptura principle emerged, as if one verse or two might settle the matter. Anyway, the following note is terrific. Read and ponder.

The great error of history
"So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them"(Genesis 1:27, TNIV).

A noted church historian once observed that the great error of history is presumption—presuming that one has grasped the necessary facts related to a person, a group or situation when in reality one is largely uninformed. Perhaps you can recall a time in your own life when presumption led you into deep waters. I certainly can.

Some of the deepest waters in American history are the result of acting on presumptions rather than facts. Consider the presumption that created and legitimized American slavery. Slavery in the US was based on the mistaken belief that Africans as an ethnic group were inferior. In his towering book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, historian Mark Noll said that “so seriously fixed in the minds of white Americans, including most abolitionists, was the certainty of black racial inferiority that it overwhelmed biblical testimony about race, even though most Protestant Americans claimed that Scripture was in fact their supreme authority in adjudicating such matters” (Noll p. 73).

There were, however, some who cried out for the facts concerning race. Noll highlights one missionary working in Africa who said that nowhere in his experience had he observed evidence of the “native inferiority” of Africans “which many good and learned [people] suppose to exist.” According to this missionary, the deplorable ignorance ascribed to African culture was created by the slave trade (Noll p. 118)!

Like slavery, the presumptions made about women from nearly every philosophical and religious tradition have had deep roots. They have muddied our biblical clarity regarding gender and have led to the oppression and marginalization of women.

Presumptions are also responsible for the ignorance ascribed to the female gender. Conscious that if you control for opportunity you also control for ability, missionaries likePandita Ramabai and others led the way to educate andempower women. They believed that women are equally created in God's image and equally gifted by God, and therefore equally capable of extraordinary service. Like those who opposed the presumed inferiority of Africans, so too missionaries like William Carey, Mary Slessor, Amanda Smith, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon, Gladys Aylward and Katherine Bushnell challenged the gender prejudice that furthered the gross mistreatment of women around the globe.

May we always allow God's Spirit to challenge our presumptions and enable us to interpret Scripture consistently. May we honor every human being as created in God's image.
In Jesus,
Mimi Haddad

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News Stand

Opinion journalism has exploded with the rise of cable TV and the blogosphere. What seems to be disappearing in the fog of opinion is accountability journalism.

Now, I understand clearly that pure “objectivity” doesn’t exist, and every effort to report anything will reflect the touch of the reporter. History is replete with even the biggest and the best news organizations being influenced by owners who have a political bias.

However, the large newspapers and news-gathering associations like Associated Press had a bevy of talented investigators and sleuths who knew how to dig around the bins of a state capital, nose around city hall and ferret out information from the local precinct captain.

And they were generally held accountable by editors who were hard-hitting and demanding, not only about style, but content and accuracy.

Though flawed, it was a remarkable means by which Americans would receive the news and have a chance to ponder their own point of view in light of information, mostly factual in nature.

Hannah Arendt noted: “Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed.”

It’s the “guarantee” that seems in jeopardy these days. When in a heartbeat, an emotional display will influence millions with pat phrases and appropriate appeals to whatever the ideology of the day might be, that , upon closer examination, is as empty of content as last night’s cereal bowl.

I regret that our nations news industry is on the ropes, and no one cries out, “hold the presses” for breaking news – it’s all done now digitally.

I’m part of that revolution. I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper for some years now. But every time I buy one, for breakfast at the local diner, I’m amazed – so much news in so little space; so much that I would otherwise not immediately find on my Google Homepage.

I’m thinking of subscribing to a local newspaper, just because I want to see the print news media remain a player in the flow of factual information, the essential element in freedom of opinion.

Perhaps we all need to pony up for the news – because the old adage may well hold true: we get what we pay for. And if it costs nothing, well, maybe, that’s what it's worth.

I don’t know for sure. But maybe if we want to maintain the flow of factual information so that reasoned opinion can be independently formed, we might have to put a little more into the kitty.

Thanks to the Christian Century, December 1, 2009, p.7

Afghanistan and Obama

Posted by my good friend and colleague: The Rev. Bob Orr ...

Kathie and I sat and listened to our President speak at West Point Tuesday evening on our nation's plans for Afghanistan.  While I don't want to see more of our country's treasure come home in coffins, it all comes down to this:  Do you believe those who want to do us harm are still in that part of the world and do they pose a national security risk to the United States?  The President took his time to do a complete strategy review and listened to all the key people involved, civilian and military.  Obviously he's convinced that the terrorists continue to desire to attack us and will use any means to do so. So the war expands. Our nation's efforts to keep militant, corrupted Islam at bay will continue throughout our lifetime. So I support the President.  I'm happy that for the first time, our country has an exit strategy, and 2011 will put pressure on the corrupt government in Afghanistan to get their act together. President Obama has two wars on his hands and an anemic economy at home.  We have so many problems within our borders that to be expending so much energy and resources beyond our borders is tragic but necessary. It may mean Obama will be a one term President though I hope not. He's the best and the brightest we've seen in a long while. Pray for our President, our Congress and our country.  The world seems engulfed in darkness.  We need more light and this is the season of Light coming into our dark lives.  Lord, how we need it!