Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joe Bageant: AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM?

Joe Bageant: AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM?

A trenchant and poignant look at America and our drift into cultural suicide.

Reminds me of Jeremiah who wrenchingly watched Israel slip-slide its way into disaster.

Israel had no better friend than it's prophets, a class of culture-critics grounded in Yahweh's vision of a just society, who went after king and priest - the principle spokespersons who fed pulp to the people to keep them complacent.

Anyway, thanks to Joe Bageant for this honest and penetrating piece.



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

War on Christmas?

Oh boy, here we go again.

Another season of the far-right declaring "there's a left-wing war against Christmas."

Well, I'm here today to say, THERE IS NO WAR AGAINST CHRISTMAS!


All this fuss about "keeping Christ in Christmas" is one of the goofiest things ever. I just wish these folks would fuss a bit more about keeping Christ in their social commitments. 


I'm utterly distressed that so many pulpits across the land are feeding the lamps on such poor fare, and equally distressed that political pundits of the right are adding fuel to the fire to further their own political ambitions.

For a delightful, but pointed, animated video about this, you'll enjoy: "The War on Christmas." While gently poking fun at all of it, it's a not-so-gentle reminder that the American church is riddle with unimaginable ignorance and a twisted sense of being right.

What can I say beyond this?

It's time for American Christians to grow up and realize they play in a sandbox with a lot of kids from all over the neighborhood, and everyone deserves to be respected. After all, do unto others what you would like them to do to you. Perhaps Christians, who clamor about "respect," might find a little more coming their way if they practiced respect for others.

So, I'm delighted to say to you, Happy Holidays. Whatever the holiday season may be for you, may it be good and filled with kindness.

Tom

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Boner in a Bottle: The Plusses and Pitfalls of ED Drugs | Sex & Relationships | AlterNet

A fine and humorous article on how the Big Pharms have transformed a medical condition into a life-style ... furthering the notion that life can be had in a bottle of little pills.

Boner in a Bottle: The Plusses and Pitfalls of ED Drugs | Sex & Relationships | AlterNet

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big Gov Needed

We need big gov, and whatever sins that may mean, in order to restrain big biz and its greater sins.

As far as I can tell, big biz, unrestrained, always moves in the same direction - toward total monopoly.

As we see with the lastest Comcast move to drive Netflix into a corner.

Sure, why not?

All's fair in love and war, right?

But where's the balance?

Can we rightly expect someone in Comcast to say, "Oh no, we can't do that to Netflix and all of their customers"?

No, I don't expect that of Comcast. What I expect is Comcast to do everything it can to promote itself, provide a product and make money.

That's what I expect of Comcast and big biz.

There is only one reliable source of balance in all of this, and that's big gov - big enough to say "No!" and big enough to set some boundaries, lest the drive to monopolize progresses to its inevitable conclusion of total market dominance.

And, please, don't buy the propaganda that big biz loves democracy. They don't. What they love is the freedom to pursue their goals of dominance without restraint. Talk to employees and you'll hear the same story: there is no democracy within the companies - there's a lot of cruelty and control, and folks can lose their jobs in a heartbeat if they raise the wrong question, not to mention questions of moral responsibility.

Without a doubt, there are lots of good people at the top, but I think the bigger the biz grows, the more the tail wags the dog, and even good people are swept up and swept away in vast systems driven by power and profits. There is little morality left by the time the elevator reaches the 50th floor.

Nor do I look for an abundance of morality in big gov, but history makes it amply clear that government, by the people, for the people and of the people, can alone stand up against the Wall Street juggernaut. 

It's a question of balance.

As big biz has grown larger in the last 40 years, and government has been dismantled along the way, the seeds were sown for the economic disaster now in place, here in the United States and across Europe. In spite of its better instincts, Europe bought, lock, stock and barrel, the US model of market-driven capitalism, allowing the tentacles of international corporations, quite literally nations unto themselves, to strangle the world. And in turn, kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  And when the goose was dead and their were no more eggs to be had, they paid a visit to the very governments they manipulated and to the peoples they harmed and asked for a handout.

Amazing.

All of this might have turned out very differently had government maintained its regulatory vigilance, but thanks to conservative efforts, government was weakened to the point of ineffectiveness.

Whatever the sins of big gov may be, the sins of big biz have to be collared by someone or something big enough to reign them in.

I don't know of another entity, other than government big enough, to handle the job of regulatory restraint.


Monday, November 22, 2010

In Yemen, a barefaced advocate for women's rights - latimes.com

Today's LA Times features the following:

In Yemen, a barefaced advocate for women's rights - latimes.com

The story of a courageous women leading the way for women's freedom.

It took the United States a long time to establish and ensure women's rights, though conservative Christians would have it all reversed, if given even half a chance.

The continuing pressure on abortion rights has little to do with the fetus, but everything to do with taking away the rights of women to make family decisions. This anti-women prejudice is deeply embedded in Christianity, and only the light of reason has challenged it, and by the light of the reason, even the Bible reveals new insights into the remarkable place of women in God's story.

We must be ever-vigilant for human rights.

We cannot, for a moment, allow a compromise on freedom, at any point.

To this brave women in Yemen, hat's off, so to speak.

And may her courageous message be embraced around the world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Friend's Take on Obama

Dear Reader,

My friend, The Rev. Dr. Bob Dahl, Holland, Michigan, is a liberal, and sometimes a fighting liberal.

His disappointment in Obama is well articulated, and I thought it worth sharing with you.

Tom

-----------------------------

I'm listening to Barack Obama on 60 Minutes and I'm less depressed and more angry than ever.

Why?

I heard Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Representative from Ohio, on C-Span yesterday talk about how much he was inspired by the President's inaugural address and then he found himself waiting in vain for the charge ( read charge not change) from the White House.   It never came.

And that's the issue.  It never came.  The charge never came.  Critically important action to save the Republic economically came but the CHARGE never came.

What we got was really good stuff to keep us from falling off the face of the earth economically.  We got emergency action that was critically important across the world-wide economic spectrum.  Barack saved capitalism, as a New York Times columnist wrote, and he got the blame for spending too much.  Talk about irony.

We got health care for thirty-million more Americans.

We got student aid for strapped college students.

We got money coming back into the US coffers from big banks and Detroit auto companies.

We are getting a good return for our dollar.

This is all stuff to SHOUT about, to herald, for which to have pep rallies all over America.

But...

What I am watching on TV is a chastened president who is licking his wounds and talking about all the things he did wrong in his first two years in office and how much he has to learn.

We don't need a president who is inexperienced and has to learn on the job.  According to another journalist, Hillary Clinton warned us about that in the campaign when she asked us to vote for her over Obama.

What we need is "Give 'em hell" Harry Truman and not Casper Milquetoast.

What I want from Barack Obama, on one hand is not to copy Bill Clinton but on the other hand, is to tell "it like it is," that is, to tell the American public that they have been conned big time by the huge money people who have once again played on fear and exploited anxiety, that he is committed to nothing less than the truth, as far as he perceives and understands it, and that he will call it as he sees it as long as he is the President of the United States of America.

He will stop apologizing for things he has done, although he hasn't apologized for his policy in Afghanistan which is so utterly wrong. (I could only hope that he would come to his senses and stop the debacle in Afghanistan.)

He will start telling the American public without apology that he inherited, within the first few months of his administration, the most horrific effects of the previous Administration's eight year debacle on all fronts -- economic, educational, social, defense, etc. -- policies which, if not halted, would have plunged the world into economic chaos which could have resulted in such world-wide violence and anarchy the world could not possibly have conceived.

He will continue telling the American public that they need to hunker down, hang in there, keep voting for politicians that would vote for policies that would continue unemployment benefits, stop foreclosures by banks, and would continue to provide a safety net until the economy got going sufficiently to offer the jobless a job.

He will shout that corporate America started making a lot of money, a lot of profits, but refused to start hiring until after the outcome of the Nov. vote attempting to secure a coup by Republicans against Dems. -- all this while ironically the Dems bailed out corporate America.

He will stop just talking about the middle-class and he will draw our attention to the plight of the poor and how, even if we are not particularly altruistic and concerned about that plight, it ultimately calls for enlightened self-interest and highlights the long term negative affects for us all if we do not stop the downward plunge of people into poverty.

He will tell the military to stop the hypocrisy and eliminate the absurd "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that punishes gays, promotes homophobia and weakens the national defense by eliminating willing, capable people from defending their country.

He will continue to decry the rape of the environment, call for immediate action and propose specific ways to get us out of dependency on oil and coal, move us toward renewable resources for our future and challenge us each to live environmentally friendly and responsible lives.

Finally, he will forever swear off politics and prepare for his retirement after one term and be pleased that he lived with integrity and was the best possible president he could be.

He will tell the nation that he is eternally grateful to have served in the highest office in the land and he will thumb his nose at the stupid ass Republican politicians who have been bought by the super rich through lobbyists and who will proceed to plunge the nation and maybe the human race into oblivion.

Then he will think of all kinds of things to do besides the obligatory writing of his memoirs.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Coal Mining and "Avatar"

My first churches were in West Virginia, early 70s: Camp Creek and Ridgeview ... and we'll never forget the horrors of big mining, and the tortured lives and landscape left behind when there's no more coal. 


Until then, the beautiful hills of West Virginia are easy targets for the massive corporations headquartered in distant cities, on the 23rd floor of some glass-faced big-box building. The decisions are made by women and men who live in fine homes in expensive suburbs, send their children to private schools, enjoy the ambience and courtesies of country clubs and play tennis and golf whenever they want. 


Do they have any understanding of the human toll taken by their decisions: to blow apart a mountain, render its beauty a pile of rubble, filling pristine mountain streams with mud and industrial runoff contaminated by all sorts of toxic elements, disrupting underground rivulets that once supplied good drinking water to the citizens of this region?


Do they have any idea?


Do they care?


As I read the fine article by Peter Slavin, of the LA Times, reporting from Peachtree, W.Va, comparisons came to mind of Massey Mining in W.Va with RDA, Resources Development Administration conducting mining on Pandora in the movie, "Avatar." Parker Selfridge, the company man on Pandora, would like to use diplomacy to remove the Na'vi, because diplomacy looks better for PR, but he's willing to use force as needed, because if there's one thing stockholders hate more than bad PR, it's a bad bottom line.


If you wanna see what's happening in W.Va, go see "Avatar," and then take a tour of the W.Va, but you'll have to look for the coal mining operations - they're hard to find, because they don't want to be found, carefully hiding themselves one-ridge away from the highways; but right now as I write, massive explosions are ripping mountains apart and driving people from their homes.


The people of West Virginia have long been abused by the coal interests of the nation. Check out the history of the United Mine Workers for the long and bloody story of union organization - to protect minors from unregulated hazards, to provide decent schools for their children, and offer medical care and retirement. 


Do what you can to learn about mountain-top removal mining techniques, and then write to your US legislators. 


There are better ways to mine coal, but, of course, they're more expensive. Until adequate public pressure is brought to bear upon the giant coal companies with adequate regulatory oversight, thousands of square miles of forest and streams and small towns will be wiped from the face of the earth.


Is this what we want?


I don't think so.


I just keep wondering about the big boys and girls in the faraway cities, on the 23rd floor of some marbled building, sitting around a mahogany table, making decisions to blow up a mountain. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whites Can Now Use the N-Word ...

At a poorly attended t-bag dipping in Beverly Hills masterminded by none other than wannabe celebrity Pat Boone, who seems mostly talented at hanging around the edges of fame without ever making it into the circle (see Steve Lopez in today's LA Times), all the typical shenanigans and usual suspects.

The poor man, who's been writing "love letters in the sand" for years, and is now in close competition to out-tan George Hamilton, brought in some A-list Losers: Saturday Night Live "star," Victoria Jackson who mounted the stage with ukelele in hand to sing, "There's a Communist Living in the White House," only to reveal that she knows nothing about Communism, not to mention the 200 benighted folks, old, white and "patriotic" cheering her on.

But she was upstaged by Boone's pal, "African American reverend and radio show host Jesse Lee Peterson, who said white Americans need to get over the fear of being called racists."

"As a result of your fear, we now have the worst president this country has ever experienced. Barack Obama is a liar; he is a racist," Peterson said to cheers. He also said white people shouldn't have any qualms about using the "N" word.

"Let me just say, to free you up, that word don't mean anything to black people because if it did, they would stop saying it and the word would fade a way. It's just another way of controlling white Americans, but get over your fear," Peterson said.

Every time I read something like this, I'm grateful, not for the junk they represent, but for their boldness in declaring it, revealing the depths of darkness in their twisted message, fueled by half-truths and racial hostility.

This is a movement of has-beens and wannabes pandering to one another, hitching their wagon to the dark star of America's worst instincts, to find a niche for themselves and, lo and behold, even make some coin for themselves. 

Thankfully, the waves of time will quickly wash away these sad "love letters in the sand."



Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Thoughts About Conservative Presbyterians

One thing for sure, reading The Layman (hyper-conservative scream sheet) is akin to watching a hurricane from aloft – it spins and spins and spins some more, round and around a singular eye – the ordination of LGBT persons.
With this agenda, the Presbyterian Coalition comes out now in opposition to three amendments: 
- 10-A, which aims to focus and sharpen our Ordination Standards with wonderfully traditional language.
-10-1, a proposed new Form of Government.
-10-2, the Belhar Confession, a remarkable document coming out of the struggle of South African Christians to find a way through and beyond the horrors of Apartheid.
There’s nothing imaginative about a hurricane, and there’s nothing imaginative in the response of the Coalition to the three amendments – though predictably predicable: in their eyes, all three amendments will be used to promote the ordination of “homosexuals.”
Which is to say, the current G-6.106b was never intended to promote either fidelity within marriage or chastity in singleness, but was a cleverly worded phrase to slam the door on the ordination LGBT persons in a same-gender relationship, or who, for reasons of faith and conscience, will not take a vow of celibacy.
But like all hurricanes, this one, too, is losing its strength.
How often can one say no? How long can one bar the door?
Perhaps that’s the fear behind their rejection of Belhar – a reminder that justice prevails ultimately, and though the road to justice is full of landmines and barbed wire obstacles crafted by the guardians of the old order, the new thing God is doing to further the cause of justice in God’s world gains headway and strength from the opponents standing in its way.
In the same issue, it’s noted that the Colonial Church near Kansas City has voted overwhelmingly to leave the PCUSA and seek affiliation with the EPC.
And to that decision, I can only add my blessing and peace. 
Our history is full of separations for all kinds of reasons – Presbyterians share this in common with the whole of Christendom.
Splits happen in bowling, and they happen in the church, too.
Until such time as the Millennium is upon us, we will struggle with our frailties, doing the best we can to honor the LORD Jesus Christ.
I honor the LORD by working for the ordination of LGBT persons, marriage equality and the right of our clergy to officiate at LGBT weddings.
While some would call me apostate, I think it’s time for us to quit such name-calling and simply get on with our respective visions, in separate churches, if need be, allowing for a gracious separation.
Perhaps we can yet work out some kind of a local option for Presbyteries and/or congregations, and I’d be willing to live with some such arrangement.
But as much as the Coalition fears the ordination of “homosexuals,” I long for the day when we will be able to ordain whomever the LORD calls to ministry, trusting our Presbyteries with the time-honored task of guiding and examining those within its boundaries, determining their suitability for ministry.
Enough, okay?
Let’s work out a peace treaty of some sort where we can all following the dictates of our conscience and faith, interpreting the Scriptures and Confessions as the Spirit leads.
And if we cannot craft a peace treaty, then let’s declare an armistice, a cessation of hostilities, and let’s all go home to our families.
There’s been enough blood shed on both sides! 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Joe Millier and Colonel Quaritch

Just read about Alaska's Joe Miller, a deluded man in quest of America's early 19th Century, trying desperately to live out his rugged rural fantasies on 20 acres with eight children, the youngest of whom attend a "CHRISTIAN" school where his wife teaches.

He seeks to return America to a time when "men were free and life was good." Goodness, he's been reading too many "Man's Life" magazines from the 50s.

Miller himself, a native of Salinas, KS, where his father owned a "CHRISTIAN" book store, has a remarkable educational and military record - further proof that intelligence and knowledge do not necessarily lead to wisdom and maturity, but can, as it did in Nazi Germany, lead to the most bizarre dreams of a time when "every German was free, and life was good."

He'd be right at home in any post-nuclear holocaust story, with a bandoleer strapped around his chest, a cigar stuffed at the side of his mouth, a giant Panga machete in hand, ready to slash his way to victory and freedom.

With his West Point credentials, his record as a tank commander in the first Gulf War, and his Yale Law Schools education, apparently we can take the boy out of a Salinas christian book store, but we can't take that twisted upside down world out of the boy.

It isn't any longer about states' rights, for a nutcase like Miller, it's about dismantling the United States; Balkanizing us - transforming us into 50 little nations, each carving out life for themselves, every man for himself - and, yes, it would be a "man's" world.

Having just seen "Avatar" for the umpteenth time, I'm struke by the similarity of looks and style between Miller and Colonel ("A recon gyrene in an Avatar body ... that's a potent mix! Gives me the goosebumps!") Quaritch.

"Shut your pie hole!"


Miller wants to phase out Social Security and Medicare

Brothers hatched in some secret Utah lab owned by Donald Rumsfeld and Mike Huckabee?

These are not nice people. Quaritch destroys everything around him while sipping a cup of coffee and  offering to cover the first round of drinks if they get home in time. Miller lives in a fantasy world no less than the silver-screen world of Quaritch.

But when the movie ends, so does Quaritch.

But Miller is real, and his vision is a doomsday scenario, fed by neo-con philosophy and whacky christian imagery pulled selectively from the Book of Revelation and fired by fundamentalist preaching.

Miller is still a tank commander, and that's okay for the tank. But it's not okay for the nation, nor for Alaska. Just hope that the good folks in that fair state will be able sort things out and send Miller back to Salinas to run his daddy's "christian" book store.

Or join ranks with the kooks at Dove World Outreach who want to burn a few Qurans. 

As Robin once said:

"Holy atomic pile, Batman!"



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Remembering Little Rock

 Remember Little Rock?

Most Americans are too young to recall those fateful days when a President and the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division made the law of the land a reality for all of its citizens, a 1954 Supreme Court decision declaring that “separate but equal schools” was unconstitutional. 

When federal troops formed a ring around nine African-American students and marched them into Little Rock’s Central High School, guarding them and providing for their safety.

One of those escorted students, Jefferson Thomas, died Sunday, September 5, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio.

Hard to imagine what America was like on October 3, 1957, with the need for soldiers to clear the way in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

As one friend of Mr. Thomas said, with whom he often played basketball on a neighborhood court, “You’re okay to play basketball with, but you’re not smart enough to sit in the same classroom with me.”

Blessings to Jefferson Thomas’ family and friends as they grieve his passing. He lived a positive life, contributing to the well-being of his nation. Let us give thanks for men and women like him, and millions more, of all races and creeds, who carry on, just wanting a chance at life.

We are a great nation, and greater still when every citizen is given opportunity.

That fateful day in Little Rock, we learned something about freedom, and we learn still, for the road to freedom never quite ends, and at every twist and turn of time, we learn again the great lessons of our Constitution and what it means to be a real American.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Koch Brothers and Prop 23

Have given a million bucks to support Prop 23 ... the dismantling of California's effort on greenhouse gases, telling us that we have to do this to create jobs. Yeah sure ... what an unmitigated lie.

I wrote this for Digg earlier today:


Read and weep in the LA Times ... and then vote No on Prop 23 ... what makes anyone think that, either in the short-haul, or the the long-run, pillaging the environment to suit the interests of big biz will solve anything? When will Americans realize that big biz, driven by Wall Street and its lusts for insane profits and further entitlement, cares not a whit about the people. That you and I are only pawns in their game for self-aggrandizement. Big biz is a legion of false gods demanding our allegiance and promising rewards, which, of course, are never fulfilled. Giant corporations are hideous places in which to work, stripping the soul of consciousness, demanding the surrender of the conscience to corporate goals, holding all employees captive through a contrived system of medical insurance. These international giants are a law unto themselves, devouring the world as quickly as they can. And after years of GOP foolishness, that Americans would even give a moment's thought to the GOP agenda is mind-boggling. But never underestimate the power of the idol; the power of falsehood. Go ahead and read Revelation 13 for an insight into how this all works. 

By the way, just who are these Koch Boys ...?

Check out this note from the New Yorker - enough to chill your blood.

These are the kind of people who glad and quickly raised their hands in salute and shouted Heil Hitler because they knew that Hitler would play into their hands and plans for the domination of Germany's economy and Germany's dreams of world-domination (read Neo-cons).

But in time, their vanity and their lust filled the cup of wrath that was soon to be poured out upon Germany and the entire world.

Perhaps I exaggerate ... but, then, folks thought Barth and Bonhoeffer were exaggerating, too, when they decried Germany's drift into hyper-nationalism, the hatred of aliens, and the the steady manipulation of the church into a more accommodating mode, by blessing the church with power in exchange for its loyalty.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Presbyterians Today and the "Confessing Church"

Reading a bit about Karl Barth and the situation in Germany, 1933, the term, "Confessing Church" tells a remarkable story of how some refused to erase the boundaries between church and state.

To read about the Confessing Church stirs my heart, and I wonder, "Would I have had the courage to stand, as Barth did, or would I have found ways to quietly compromise my status while telling myself that I was yet a man of integrity?"
The term, "Confessing Church" ought not to be ripped from its historical context in Germany, 1933, and co-opted to serve some smaller purpose.

Every time I read of the "Confessing Church" organization in the Presbyterian Church, my soul is shaken - that some would take virtually a holy-ground moment in time and claim it for their own to describe an in-house theological debate. Yes, a debate of genuine importance with long-lasting implications about the church and its life. But to call this group the "Confessing Church" is to misconstrue history.

The real Confessing Church stood its ground against the false gods of National Socialism. 

If there are any comparisons possible to the Confessing Church, it would be those who today protest the casual and careless mingling of church aims and national interests - the most current example of which is Glenn Beck and other lesser lights, who appeal to some of the very worst instincts in our national character.
Instincts found in every nation, and when times are troubled, such instincts rise to the surface, as they did in Germany after WW1, and by the time Hitler came along, he masterfully tapped into them and filled the cup of wrath that was poured out on Germany and the world. 

I respect my sisters and brothers on the issues, but I continue to regret their co-opting the title, "Confessing Church." 

Friday, August 27, 2010

"German Nationalism" in Our Nation

Karl Barth
Writing in April, 1961, Karl Barth recalls the powerful days of the late 20s in Germany:


"I also saw and heard the so-called 'German nationals' of the time - in my memory the most undesirable of all God's creatures whom I have ever met. They had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, and torpedoed absolutely every attempt to achieve the best that was possible on that basis. With their inflammatory speeches they probably made the greatest contribution towards filling to the uttermost a cup of wrath which was then poured out on the german nation over the next two decades." 

As I read Barth's description of the "German nationals," my mind quickly jumped to the likes of Beck and Palin and Robertson and Colson and Dobson and Franklin Graham (trying belatedly to get on the bandwagon of hate) and Hanity and O'Rilley.

They are taking us down a dark road, and filling the cup of wrath, as Barth noted.

At the time, Germany was hungry for their words, the self-affirmation of nationalism and they were ready to purify their nation. And many an American is equally ready and willing to attach their souls to the wagon of national pride and power.

Nationalism, then or now, is all the same. It's vocabulary, always limited. And the results, always the same.

Nationalism is an enemy of God, even as it seeks to co-opt God for its own purposes.

But God refuses, and so nationalism must settle for lesser gods - the only gods willing to slum around in the swill of nationalism.

Yet the living God is present, not with blessing, however, but with judgment.

A judgment that will not restrain the hand, but allows it to proceed - because some things have to work their sad and sorry way through a culture determined to go that way.

But enough of this rambling ... 

I think Barth's memories of the "German nationals" ought to send a chill down our spine.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Islamophobic Pulpit? Oostburg, Wisconsin

In the most recent issue of Time, Pastor Wayne DeVour, First Reformed Church of Oostburg, Wisconsin is quoted, and if the quote is accurate (and I hope it isn't), it reflects the sad state of affairs for this man's ministry and casts doubt on the integrity of his pulpit.

Let there be no doubt - American pulpits across the land are evidently churning out junk right now about Islam and President Obama. I suspect pastors of more sane and truthful understanding are as bewildered by this as I am.

Pastor DeVour likely received a solid Reformed education and would have learned something of church and world history, and to say something as reported, he either has to have forgotten everything he learned or is simply lying to the congregation.

Here's a copy of my email sent to Pastor DeVour today. If you agree, please copy and send a note to him at: wdevrou@frcoostburg.org


Dear Pastor DeVrou,

Just read your comment in Time about Islam ... "The political objective of Islam is to dominate the world with its teachings ... and to have domination of all other religions militarily."

I surely hope this ISN'T what you said.

But if you did, I'm deeply saddened that a man of the Reformed (Calvin) cloth would perpetrate the lies and ill-will currently being directed toward Muslims in America.

Surely you know the history of the Crusades and how the West has consistently sought to dominate the Middle East, and how Europe and America have sought to "dominate" the Middle East militarily and religiously via our missionaries, many of whom were nothing more than cultural emissaries of Western values.

Surely you know about the Ottoman Empire's rule of the Middle East for a 1000 years - a rule generous toward Jews and Christians, and Islamic Rule of Spain produced centuries of peace and learning. Of course, Islam spread militarily, but so did Christianity. Christianity and then Islam, religions with a high level of missionary zeal, have always had a partnership with the sword, so your comment, if that's what you said, is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

I'm a '69 grad of Western Seminary, a '66 grad of Calvin College ... I presume you're a Western grad, too.

I hope Time's quote was inaccurate, and I hope that your pulpit proclaims the truth in these matters.

Faithfully in Christ,

Tom Eggebeen, Interim Pastor
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Los Angeles

God is found upon many, many, paths, God be praised, but not every path leads to God. Greed and cruelty lead only to dust.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Judge Walker, Prop 8 and the Judiciary


I’m seriously disappointed that the 9th District Court panel has continued the stay on marriage quality, though I am not surprised. I think the court foresees an appeal process all the way to the Supreme Court, and the possibility of a reversal on Judge Walker’s decision, which would put thousands of new marriages into limbo, I suppose.

I suppose.

Though who can measure the pain of love denied.

And though I believe marriage equality will prevail, like racial equality and gender equality have prevailed, in the meantime, it’s an uneasy time for LGBT persons around the nation.

By way of note, when Judge Walker issued his decision, there was a great hue and cry from the Prop 8 people, and who can blame them. They castigated Walker in every way they could, expressing their disapproval of a judge whose singular opinion would fly in the face of the people.

Now, however, I heard a Prop 8 supporter suggest that the panel of judges who ruled on sustaining the stay are “hearing the people.”

I don’t know about you, but these comments strike me as unusual.

Judges don’t pay much attention to the people, do they?

Not if they’re good. Not if they’re honest.

They pay a lot of attention to the law. That’s what we want, isn’t it? That’s why we have three branches of government. That’s what makes us Republic.

If the courts had listened to the people, would America’s schools have been desegregated? Or California’s use of restrictive housing covenants been declared unconstitutional?

Had the President listened to the people,  and the powerful interests of the South, would there have been an Emancipation Proclamation?

If Congress has listened to the people, would there ever been the great Civil Rights legislation of the Sixties?

The genius of the American Republic – that’s what it’s all about. And whatever our moral or religious proclivities might be, there’s no doubt, we win some and we lose some. But however it shakes itself out, we entrust ourselves to one of the most ingenious systems of government ever defined.
 
And the next time, you’re grateful for a win, remember, it’s the law that wins, not you.

And the next time you lose, remember, it’s the law that still wins.

Let us pray that Justice be blind! Always!

And deaf, as well.

That we will continue to have good judges – women and men invested with a profound love and respect for the laws of the land and the foundation of all our law – The Constitution. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good News in CA

Thank God we live in a Republic rather than a Democracy ... a Republic in which elected and/or appointed officials are empowered to make decisions for us.

As in the case of fair housing in CA, early 60s, the courts determined that restrictive housing covenants were unconstitutional, despite the fact that 65% of California voters wanted to retain them in Prop 14.
I think, too, about Civil Rights and Women's Suffrage ... it was the leadership of the courts that helped us break free of the past and shed the chains of structural racism and discrimination. Yes, both yet exist in practice and attitude for many Americans, but without official approval. That's a huge step to take, and today in CA, another huge step was taken for civil right and Marriage Equality.

And it looks like the legal arguments are in place - whatever perspective some may personally hold on LGBT persons and practices, there can no longer be a constitutional prohibition on their marriage and the rights that pertain thereto.

For a detailed examination on why the proponents of Prop 8 feared a trial such as has just been concluded, check out the following article at HuffingtonPost. In a nutshell, the "legal arguments" against Marriage Equality simply do not stand up in an American Court of Law.

I have many friends who oppose Marriage Equality and ordination for practicing LGBT persons, and though I cannot agree with them, I cannot deny either their feelings or opinions.  Yet they are beginning to realize that moral and theological arguments against Marriage Equality cannot be translated into civil law.

As for me, I long for the day when I will be able to officiate at all weddings. That day is coming, I believe, and it will be a good day for all of us.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Palmer Raids - a Lesson from History

Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer, in the full swing of America's Red Scare, forecast the imminent revolt of left-wing radicals who would, "on a certain day…rise up and destroy the government at one fell swoop." 


Though Congress was reluctant to grant him the requested funding, he proceeded to raid suspected organizations, making labor unions a particular target. As part of his effort, he got an injunction against a planned strike against the coal industry by the United Mine Workers.


August 1, 1919, he appointed a 24-year old to oversee and develop a new division in the Justice Department, The General Intelligence Division. Oh, by the way, the 24-year old was one J. Edgar Hoover.


With a new Secretary of Labor appointed by President Wilson, Palmer's methods came under scrutiny, including a predicted "radical uprising" on May Day, 1920. But when said event failed to materialize, his support wained.


To read more of this fascinating, and frightening, time in America, check out the Wikipedia article under Palmer Raids and on Palmer himself, a Quaker and a one-time progressive. 


As I read about the Palmer Raids, I found myself thinking of what's happening in Arizona and the suggestion of some politicians to rewrite the 14th Amendment.


Call it xenophobia ... call it whatever you want ... I call it sick!


Palmer quickly moved outside the law, and though the law eventually caught up with him and undid his ferocious work, Palmer, with his appointment of Hoover, insured that a dark stain of xenophobia would have a secure place in the American heart.


Like those who followed him, Fr. Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy, Palmer cried wolf again and again, fueling hatred and suspicion across the land, accusing Congress of failing to defend the Constitution against enemies within.


A tried and true technique, to be honed to perfection by Adolf Hitler.


A tried and true technique embraced by today's radical conservatives.


In tumultuous times, fear-mongers and hyper-patriots gain the ear of millions. 


In the end, they will have run their cycle; those who drink deeply at the wells of fear and hatred always do themselves in, becoming increasingly ridiculous in their claims and proposals, driving away most of their adherents. 


Radical conservatives can and will damage America's heart, but saner voices will prevail.  

Lessons from history.











Wednesday, August 4, 2010

News from Holland - MI, that is

A good friend writes the following from Holland, Michigan:


Update.  I don't have to send a letter to Western Theological Seminary urging them to rebuke one of their large donors Mr. Jack DeWitt for his reprehensible ad in the Holland Sentinel.  The ad. was an anti-gay diatribe.
Request Foods, I'm sure due to pressure from Campbell's Food, had a retraction in the paper this morning.  They repudiate the ad.  It wasn't Request Foods; it was the primary investor in the company who used the company name instead of his own.  While Request Foods isn't naming the person everyone knows it is Jack DeWitt.
Good letters continue to appear in the paper opposing the advertisement.
There is still hope for Holland.
Additionally, Pete Hoekstra, US Congressperson from Holland, running for Republican nomination for governor LOST!  The Republicans chose a social moderate and fiscal conservative instead.  Who woulda thunk?  Two rightwingers split the vote allowing the moderate to win.
Also, the local right wing candidate who is the regional director of the Family Research Council, cosponsor of the dreadful advertisement, lost in his bid to take Hoekstra's congressional seat.
It's a good day in Holland.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Does Sin Render Truth Indiscernible?

Just a few hurried thoughts:


Certainly, all are guilty of such things, but to suggest that there is no difference in the values popular people hold is to close our eyes to a simple reality: values are always incarnate in specific people, and if given a public platform, those values are trumpeted, and folks are influenced, and no all values are created equal. After all, Al Capone had his values, too.

To suggest that we're all alike in our sin is true enough, sort of, but akin to suggesting that Hitler and Churchill were both men of strong opinion, and leave it at that. Or both sinners, which they were.

But it's the content of their opinion that counts. Surely, Paul was a sinner, too, and he makes that clear, but we still listen to him; though Paul's a sinner, we don't discount what he said.

Those who use immigrants and the poor to further their own agenda are failing the American People. Having listened to Rush and Glenn for a long time, I grow increasingly convinced that these men pose a serious threat to our nation's soul. 

It took a long time for Germans to see who Hitler really was, but folks like Barth and Bonhoeffer, early on, saw it, and they saw it because they were infused with the gospel of the Kingdom of God (see the Barmen Declaration).

This morning, in Barth's biography, one of the most chilling photos I've ever seen: the lead pastor of the German Reich (Yup, they had all kinds of pastors lining up) at the head of a procession to dedicate and install Nazi flags in a German Church.

I ask you: what are Rush Limbaugh's values, or Glenn Beck? Can we actually name them?

And compare them to the Apostle Paul, or Jeremiah. Is there no difference? Does sincerity alone guarantee truth? Doesn't truth have a content?

Why would any of us choose to listen to a Billy Graham and not a Joe McCarthy or Father Coughlin? What's the difference. They're all sincere; they all believe fervently. They're all sinners, too boot. So, what's the difference? Is there no means to measure anything? Then, indeed, the inmates of the asylum have taken it over!

FB 7.28.10

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spend, Spend, Spend - Make Sense?

Turn on radio, read an article, scan the internet - the prevailing word of wisdom: we gotta spend more money. The American Consumer (sounds hideous, doesn't it?) has to dig in and get going - spend, spend, spend!

An economy built upon mindless spending and ceaseless consumption is just plain silly, and destructive of the soul, the family and the environment.

"We work in order to spend and we spend in order to work, and the more we spend the faster we must work" (Miroslav Volf, "Against the Tide," p.12) Like a squirrel in it's own spinning cage - going nowhere fast.

First, such a pace is destructive of the soul, as it transforms us into a consumer - like a toilet or a garbage disposal or some flesh-eating bacteria. A mindless, bloated, gobbling machine never satisfied and always yearning for the happiness that's just a purchase away.

Second, it's destructive of the family, as Mom and Dad spend more hours at work, fill the house with toys for the children that are played with once and then thrown into the closet, only to be sold in next summer's garage sale for 25 cents. Children watch Mom and Dad sell their souls to the company store; they learn how to use credit cards; they look at their playmates enviously or imperiously, depending upon the status of their possessions; they are distanced from the natural world of hikes and kites and butterflies; they are overweight and physically out of shape; the family doesn't know its neighbors, and no one has the time for a picnic.

Third, we're pillaging the environment to make junk to put under the next Christmas tree - plastic comes from oil, and once it's plastic, it's plastic forever, mostly to end up in landfills. Our homes are piles of stuff with a roof over it all, and we build storage units to hold more of our stuff. And when we divorce, or die, we fight over the stuff.

And in order to have more stuff, it has to be cheap, so we outsource the jobs, destroy the middle class, rely on credit and buy more junk.

Enough!

How about an economy built upon savings, careful and thoughtful purchases of well-built items made here in the US?

How about consuming less and spending more time with one another?

How about being satisfied with the things we have and basing our life not upon what we have but who we are?

How about working fewer hours and taking more time to stroll through the nearby woods?

How about more vacation time? And it doesn't have to be a stellar cruise on a billion-dollar ship, or a madcap escapade at some Dizzy World that'll take every dollar we've got and leave us tired and cranky, but a couple of weeks in the mountains in a small cottage.

How about filling up the American banks with our savings, so that the American banks and government don't have to borrow from the world?

How about slowing things down and recovering the manufacturing sector of America, with TVs and washing machines that are more expensive and better built to last.

A slower economy with lower unemployment.

A soul satisfied with less things in order to have more of life.

A society less inclined toward violence and war.

Smaller inequity gaps.

Families that truly know one another and know their neighbors, too.

Wall Street reigned in.

The American Consumer transformed into the American Giver, the American Worker, the American Guardian of the Environment.

When George Bush stood in the rubble of 9/11 and told us to go out and shop, I realized just how sick we've become, and sick it is.

An economy built upon mindless spending is too fragile to maintain and can only collapse again and again.

We need a robust economy, not based upon spending, but savings and investments and real jobs.

We need to take a good long look at ourselves and no longer see ourselves as consumers but builders.

We had it once - the Greatest Generation understood those values.

We can lay claim to them again.