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Quote of the Day

Monday, January 31, 2005

From DimeStoreGuru:

"But in any event I have come across a quote that is more to point. It is from Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, not between political parties either--but right through every human heart and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best hearts there remains an uprooted small corner of evil... It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."

Not the final word, but a good word...

Excerpts from this Reuters news story:

"A U.S. judge dealt a setback to the Bush administration and ruled on Monday that the Guantanamo Bay terrorism suspects can challenge their confinement and the procedures in their military tribunal review process are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green said the prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have constitutional protections under U.S. law.

"The court concludes that the petitioners have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the procedures implemented by the government to confirm that the petitioners are 'enemy combatants' subject to indefinite detention violate the petitioners' rights to due process of law," Green wrote....

Bush administration attorneys argued the prisoners have no constitutional rights and their lawsuits challenging the conditions of their confinement and seeking their release must be dismissed.

At issue in the ruling was the July 7, 2004, order by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz creating a military tribunal -- called the Combatant Status Review Tribunal -- to check the status of each Guantanamo detainee as an "enemy combatant."

The procedures used for the tribunals "are unconstitutional for failing to comport with the requirements of due process," Green concluded.
The main part of her ruling held the suspects can challenge their confinement and rejected the government's position that all the cases must be dismissed.

"Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over two hundred years," Green said.

"In sum, there can be no question that the Fifth Amendment right asserted by the Guantanamo detainees in this litigation -- the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law -- is one of the most fundamental rights recognized by the U.S. Constitution," she said.

Green also ruled that some of the suspects have brought valid claims under the Geneva Convention, the international treaty protecting the rights of prisoners of war.

A group of attorneys representing some of the suspects hailed the ruling. "Now it's time for this administration to act," they said in a statement. "Today's decision is a momentous victory for the rule of law, for human rights, and for our democracy."

Her ruling probably will not be the final word on the issue. A different federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19 dismissed the cases of seven Guantanamo prisoners on the grounds they had no recognizable constitutional rights and were subject to the military review process.

The cases could be appealed to the U.S. appeals court, and then ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Iraqi Vote II

Sunday, January 30, 2005
Against violent backdrop, Iraqis turn out to vote
Attacks on polling stations kill 44, including 9 suicide bombers
The Associated Press
Updated: 2:27 p.m. ET Jan. 30, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - More Iraqis than anticipated defied threats of violence and calls for a boycott to cast ballots Sunday in Iraq's first free election in a half-century. The violence continued unabated, however, with insurgent attacks on polling stations killing at least 44 people, including nine suicide bombers.

Optimism about the vote was tempered by low turnout among Sunni Muslims, which could undermine the new government and worsen tensions among the country’s ethnic, religious and cultural groups.

President George Bush, speaking on Sunday from the White House, said the Iraqis had made the election "a resounding success."

Iraqi Elections

Saturday, January 29, 2005
As the entire world waits to see the outcome of the Iraqi elections, please join me in praying that in any way possible, these elections succeed as a step towards this most violent part of the most violent part of the world finding its first steps towards self rule and eventually peace.

Baghdad blasts rock
historic Iraqi election
Explosions reported as polls
open in war-torn nation
An Iraqi woman receives ballot papers at a polling station in Baghdad on Sunday.
BREAKING NEWS
MSNBC staff and news service reports
Updated: 1:10 a.m. ET Jan. 30, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis voted Sunday in their country’s first free election in a half-century, as insurgents made good on threats of violence with bombs and mortar attacks in at least three cities. Casting his vote, President Ghazi al-Yawer called it Iraq’s first step “toward joining the free world.”

A suicide car bomber attacked an Iraqi checkpoint near a polling station in west Baghdad soon after voting began, killing a policeman, police sources said. Two Iraqi soldiers and two civilians were also wounded in the attack near the Zahraa school, used as a voting center.


Over 60 Religious Leaders to Congress: "We will View the Budget as a Moral Document"

Thursday, January 27, 2005
As I first saw pointed out on MainstreamBaptist Blog, the following open letter has some good guidence for how Christians should look at the upcoming Federal budget as well as our own individual State budgets....

"The Center for American Progress has posted a letter to congress that was signed by dozens of progressive religious leaders advising congress that we view the budget as a "moral document."

Here is the full letter:

Dear Member of Congress
January 25, 2005

We are leaders of America's religious community and citizens of this great country. Our faith traditions teach us that every person is created in God's image and that we are all part of God's family. We are called by God to care for each other, both individually and as a nation.

Because of these core beliefs, we feel called to speak out on the federal budget, which will be released on February 7th. Despite its complexity, the budget is essentially a moral document--the specific expression of the values of the nation.

As people of faith and responsible citizens, we must examine the budget closely to determine whether its provisions are fair and just. We must ask specific questions to discover whether the budget of President Bush promotes the common good.

1. Does the budget provide those in need with the assistance necessary to build self-reliant, purposeful lives?

2. Does the budget provide adequately for all of God's children, including the poor and sick, the old and very young?

3. Does the budget strengthen the foundations of our country in order to make us safer and more secure?

4. Does the budget protect God's creation, the environment?

5. Does the budget spread its burdens and rewards fairly, or are some groups given special unearned privilege, while others are excluded from America's bounty and opportunity?

6. Does the budget promote justice and equality by providing for basic human needs in health care, education, housing and other areas?When the budget is released, we will assess its provisions concerning health care, education, housing, the environment, foreign policy, national security and other issues. If the budget falls short in these areas, we will work to transform it into a document that reflects America's best moral values and who we are as children of God.

We invite you and the American people to join us in this important work.

Signed:

* Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
* Rev. Steven C. Baines, Senior Organizer for Religious Affairs, People for the American Way/PFAW Foundation, Washington, DC
* Rev. Chloe Breyer, St. Mary's Manhattanville, West Harlem, NY
* Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, Director, Faith Voices for the Common Good Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Oakland, CA
* Rev. Jim Burklo, author of "Open Christianity," Presbyterian minister in Sausalito, CA
* Simone Campbell, SSS, National Coordinator, NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, Washington, DC
* Rev. Theopholus Caviness, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH
* Charlie Clements, CEO and President, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Cambridge, MA
* Rev. Ann Marie Coleman, Co-Senior Minister, University Church---A Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ Congregation, Chicago, IL
* Rev. Daryl Coleman, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, AME Zion Church, Jackson, TN
* Dr. David R. Currie, Mainstream Baptist Network
* Dan Daley, Co-Director, Call to Action USA
* Rev. John E. Denaro, Episcopal Migration Ministries
* Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches, New York, NY
* Rev. Janet Ellinger, United Methodist Pastor, River Falls, WI
* Rev. Dr. James L Evans, Auburn First Baptist Church, Auburn, AL
* Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, The Riverside Church, New York, NY
* Rev. Paul B. Feuerstein, President/CEO, Barrier Free Living Inc.
* Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, The Interfaith Alliance, Washington, DC
* Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, Norwalk, CT
* Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins, Pastor, Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, Washington, DC
* Joseph C. Hough, Jr., President and Professor of Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
* James E. Hug, S.J., President, Center of Concern
* Dr. Mary E. Hunt, Co-director, WATER: Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, Silver Spring, MD
*Rev. Betty Hudson, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
* Vince Isner, Faithful America, New York, NY
* Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, Director, Washington office, Presbyterian Church (USA)
* Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, Temple Kol Tikvah, Los Angeles, CA
* Patricia de Jong, Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Berkeley
* Rob Keithan, Director, Washington office, Unitarian Universalist Association, Washington, DC
* Dr. Catherine Keller, Professor of Theology, Drew University, The Theological School, Madison, NJ
* Pam Kelly, Facilitator of the New Hampshire Faithful Democracy Network
* Dr. Nazir Khaja, Islamic Information Services, Los Angeles, CA
* Jung Ha Kim, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
* Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for a Free Choice, Washington, DC
* Rev. Peter Laarman, Executive Director, Progressive Christians Uniting, Pomona, CA
* Jackie Ladd, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Cambridge, MA
* Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun Magazine and Rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, San Francisco, CA
* Tat-siong Benny Liew, Chicago Theological Seminary
* Marie Lucey, OSF, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Silver Spring, MD
* Rabbi Jane Marder, Beth Am Congregation, Los Altos Hills, CA
* Rev. Timothy McDonald, Founder, African American Ministers Leadership Council and Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
* Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, New York, NY
* Robert Parham, Executive Director, Baptist Center for Ethics, Nashville, Tennessee
* Rev. Dr. Andrew Sung Park, Professor, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH
* Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, President, Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, CA
* Rev. Clarence Pemberton, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA
* Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Washington, DC
* Sister Catherine Pinkerton, Network: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
* Rev. Lois M. Powell, Minister and Team Leader of Human Rights, Justice for Women and Transformation Ministry Team Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, OH
* Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists
* Rev. George F. Regas, Founder, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, L.A.
* Rev. Meg Riley, Director, Advocacy and Witness, Unitarian Universalist Association, Washington, DC
* David Robinson, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA, Erie, PA
* Charlie Rooney, Catholics for the Common Good, Detroit, MI
* Rev. Dr. Jose D. Rodriguez, Director, Th.M./Ph.D. Programs of Study, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Chicago, IL
* Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles, CA
* Rev. Kenneth Samuel, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, Victory Church, Atlanta, GA
* Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, DC
* Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church, Portland , OR
* Rev. Paul H. Sherry, Coordinator, Mobilization to Overcome Poverty, National Council of Churches, Cleveland, OH
* Rev. Bill Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association, Washington, DC
* Rev. Dr. A. Knighton Stanley, Senior Minister, Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, DC
* Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss, Minister, River Road Unitarian Church, Bethesda, MD
* Rev. Leonard Charles Stovall, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, Camp Wisdom United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX
* Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, President, Chicago Theological Seminary
* Rev. Romal Tune, Assistant Pastor, Nineteenth St. Baptist Church and Director for African-American Ministers Programs, People for the American Way, Washington, DC
* Jim Wallis, Editor, Sojourners, Washington, DC
* Rev. Jeremy M. Warnick, Vicar Christ Episcopal Church, New Bern, North Carolina
* Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, Philadelphia, PA
* Rev. Dr. Daphne Wiggins, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Assistant Pastor, Union Baptist Church, Durham, NC
* Rev. Reginald Williams, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Assistant Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL
* Rev. Dr. Roland Womack, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, Progressive Baptist Church, Milwaukee, WI
* Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism, New York, NY

Tony on Christians, Marriage and the "Defense of Marriage" Act

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Excerpts from the Other Journal interview with Tony Campolo. Good stuff:

"TOJ: How are we as Christians to responsibly enter into the current debate over homosexuality in the Church?

TC: It's a very interesting thing, and here is my response to it. I don't believe that the government should be involved in establishing marriages for gay and lesbian people. Let me just say, I don't think they ought to be establishing marriages for heterosexual people. All relationships established by the state should be civil unions. In Europe, you get married twice. You go down to the city hall, and you have a civil union in the court. That's the government's responsibility. Then if you're a Christian you go down to the church and have it blessed and have the spiritual ceremony. That's a marriage, and what you do in the city hall is a civil union. All marriages should be civil unions. Marriages should only take place in churches.

The reality is that when I perform a wedding, I have to end it, according to law, with these words, listen to the words: “By the authority invested in me by the state of Pennsylvania, I declare you husband and wife.” What right does a minister have to give up the authority of God and the authority of the church and become a civil servant at such a sacred event? Marriage is a sacred event, and I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but it should take place in a church and the government should only establish civil unions for both homosexuals and heterosexuals so that homosexuals and heterosexuals have the identical rights.

I don't know that there are many Evangelicals who are denying gay couples their basic human rights, but they don't want the word “marriage” tied to it, and I agree with that. I don't think the government should be giving the title “marriage” to unions. That is the responsibility of the church. Let the government perform civil unions for both homosexual couples and heterosexual couples, and let the church perform marriages, and we'll get out of this bind that we're in.

TOJ: So do you think that President Bush is doing the wrong thing by trying to amend the constitution?

TC: Well, I think that what he called the “Defense of Marriage Act” is ridiculous because I've got news for you-- it's not the gays that are getting divorced, it's the heterosexuals.

If you want a defense of marriage bill, you will begin to put some restrictions on who can get divorces and how they get divorces. The problem with American families right now is not that the homosexuals want to get married, it's that the heterosexuals are getting divorced. It's about time that we faced up to the facts.

It's a superficial, pious hypocrisy when the heterosexual divorced people in churches stand up and say, “We don't want gays to get married.” I don't want them to get married either, but I've got to tell you, the Bible doesn't say anything about homosexual marriages...well, I shouldn't say that. Jesus doesn't say anything about homosexual marriages. He does say some very specific things about people that are divorced and who get remarried. I want to know why we can be so hard on people who are coming into relationships that Jesus never even mentions and so kind to people that are in marital relationships that Jesus specifically condemns.

Let me just say, if you want to put together a defense of marriage act, then let it be a defense of marriage act. But you're not defending marriage by going after 1% of the population, which is what the homosexual community consists of. You defend marriage by going after the 50% of marriages that take place in this country that end in divorce.

What are we doing to protect the institution of marriage? Answer: nothing. And to say that this bill is going to protect marriage is the ultimate hypocrisy. Why don't you call it what it is? Say, “We want a bill that puts homosexuals into a box.” Say a “confining homosexual bill.” Don't call it defense of marriage; that's a euphemism because if we were defending marriage, we would go after divorce and separation."

Tolerance, Dobson and SpongeBob

Pator Dan at DailyKos points out:

"By now, we've all heard about James Dobson's objection Sponge Bob's appearance in a video promoting tolerance for, among other things, different sexual orientations. (Give the man his due: he was not implying that SB was gay.)

Jesus Politics fills in some of the details here:

Here is the tolerance pledge at the We Are Family Foundation:

"Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination. To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."

At first I thought this an issue of choosing the wrong battles, but having read this I now feel it is a basic mis-understanding of love, tolerance and respect that I think may run deeper in the Church than we'd like to believe.

More on this after I think about it a bit more.

Here is the United Church of Christ's reaction:

"While Dobson's silly accusation makes headlines, it's also one more concrete example of how religion is misused over and over to promote intolerance over inclusion," Thomas said. "This is why we believe it is so important that the UCC speak the Gospel in an accent not often heard in our culture, because far too many experience the cross only as judgment, never as embrace."

Culture of Life Part III

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

That is more like it. Hillary Clinton in a recent speech, reframing the abortion issue as reported in the NY Times, excerpted below...and the whole speech can be read on Senator Clinton's website:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the opposing sides in the divisive debate over abortion should find "common ground" to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions, which she called a "sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of "religious and moral values" on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved," Mrs. Clinton said.

She called on abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigners to form a broad alliance to support sexual education - including abstinence counseling - family planning, and morning-after emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault as ways to reduce unintended pregnancies.

"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."

Mrs. Clinton said. "I don't think this debate should be about ideology - it should be about facts, and evidence. We have to deal with the choices that young people make, not just the choices we wish they would make."

Mrs. Clinton's remarks drew some gasps and head-shaking from those gathered here when she offered a string of statistics and data that, her aides said, were meant to show that preventing unwanted pregnancies could be a unifying issue for supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

Several audience members inhaled sharply, for instance, when Mrs. Clinton said that 7 percent of American women who do not use contraception make up 53 percent of all unintended pregnancies.

Mrs. Clinton supported a proposed ban on late-term abortions as long as it included an exception to protect the health of the mother; in turn, she has opposed such a ban when it lacked that exception.

She has also supported some state parental notification laws under which a teenager must involve at least one parent in the decision - but only when there is an exception in the laws that allows the judge to bypass the law and let the teenager obtain an abortion on her own - a process known as "judicial bypass," which Mrs. Clinton has also supported before."

NewDonkey also noticed, and commented:

"True, some abortion rights ultras will denounce Clinton's position as a "move to the right" or a "compromise with the enemy," but let's be clear that she did not change her position on abortion rights one iota. "

Playing into Bin Laden's Hands...

Hard not to feel that in Iraq, we haven't been playing right into Bin Laden's best hopes. As the Reuter's news piece says:

"President Bush on Tuesday asked for more than $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, shattering initial cost estimates and pushing the total for both conflicts to nearly $300 billion so far.

The money -- which the White House acknowledged would push the federal deficit to a record $427 billion -- will be used in part to repair and replace equipment for U.S. troops and to equip three new Army brigades."

When I look back at the October 2004 Bin Laden tape, where he says:

"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah...We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat...[it is] easy for us to provoke and bait this administration...

...Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs... As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars. ...[As for Bush] the darkness of black gold blurred his vision and insight, and he gave priority to private interests over the public interests of America.

So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future."



Quote of the Day

Monday, January 24, 2005
"'God hates sin,' some emphasize. But God hates sin like the parent of a leukemia victim hates cancer."

- Frederica Mathewes-Green

A "Culture of Life" Part II

Also these excerpts from Thomas Gumbleton, the Auxilary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit on the true definition of "A Culture of Life":

"When Bush travels the country, he often says that he stands "for a culture of life in which every person counts and every being matters." These words resonate deeply with Catholics. But is Bush's agenda really the Catholic agenda? Does he really stand for a "culture of life" that recognizes and celebrates the worth of every human being?

The United States Catholic Bishops have written that "any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care." Applying this agenda as the guide, it is clear that the president's words have not translated into action.

War: In a "culture of life," we are called to be peacemakers. Bush, however, chose to pursue a war over the moral objections of hundreds of religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II, the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the leaders of the president's own Methodist Church. The report released on Oct. 6 by chief weapons searcher Charles Duelfer definitively proves that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. The evidence is now clear that the Bush administration misled the American people into the war in Iraq.

Capital punishment: In a "culture of life," we are called to be merciful. As the governor of Texas, however, Bush approved the execution of 152 people. In one infamous incident, he publicly mocked a woman as she awaited execution on death row. The president's attorney general has ordered a federal prosecutor to seek the death penalty despite the prosecutor's own recommendation of a life sentence in at least 12 cases. In other words, current U.S. policy is that some human life does not matter.

Human dignity:In a "culture of life," we are called to care for the least among us, including human life in the womb. One proven way to reduce abortions is to reduce the numbers of people living in poverty. Unfortunately, under Bush, statistics show that the abortion rate has gone up. Since he took office, the number of Americans living in poverty has risen by 4.3 million, to a total of 35.9 million. I see these real people and hear their stories at the doorstep of St. Leo's every day. One of every three people living in poverty is a child. During the Bush presidency, the number of Americans without health insurance has risen by 5.2 million. Our economy has lost over 1 million jobs, and the wages that our families depend on have become stagnant. Meanwhile, the richest 1 percent received a tax break 70 times greater than the tax cut for the middle class.

How are Catholics to deal with this split between rhetoric and reality? Ours must be a prophetic voice. We must call on Bush to account for a deeply troubling record. And we must also challenge Democrats to embrace the entire culture of life, not just a selective economic and social agenda. The sad reality of American political life is that no candidate or party embraces and advances a "culture of life" in the fullest sense of the term.

BISHOP THOMAS J. GUMBLETON is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor at St. Leo Parish in Detroit.

A True "Culture of Life" Part I

Although abortion is a clear "wedge issue" that I Democrats have missed the point on and in many accounts this mistake has cost us deeply as a party and a nation.

Whereas many of Chritian community is Pro-life to the point that support of any termination of pregnancy at any stage is unacceptable, this is not true of all. Many would not support outlawing abortion, but perhaps limiting it only after certain points in fetal development, such as when brain activity first begins, or after the point of viablity. And others are accross the board on the issue.

However, I believe most in the Christian community are tired of an endless deadlocked battle between Pro-life and Pro-choice that never gets any results, or helps anyone.

This is the key. Democrats can begin showing a way past this deadlock. And Christians in the party should be among the first to light this way, caring more about helping people than in whatever benefits we see from keeping a political wedge in place unmoved.

As Greg Boyd the Senior Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul put things:

"The way the issue is framed in the arena of contemporary politics is a function of various groups trying to gain power over each other, and there’s no reason for the disciple of Jesus to accept the limited and divisive options that arise from this conflict. Jesus never allowed himself to be defined by the conflicts of his day, and neither should we."

I think the key "re-frameing" of this issue is mentioned below as written in the Loyal Opposition blog. The point that Democrats could take even without doing any harm to their official Pro-Choice party stance is this:

"We don't have an abortion problem in this country, we have an unwanted pregnancy problem. Abortion is one desperate solution to this problem.

Federal overturning of Roe would do nothing to help with this true problem, and would arguablely not even substatially reduce the abortion rate in this nation.

And looking at it from this vantage point, every abortion that occurs is a sign of a failure, and what can we all do to work to lower that unwanted pregnancy failure rate, that will then lower the abortion rate?"

At least that is my take, love to hear what others think...

As you think about it, check out excerpts the blog, the Loyal Opposition:

"As liberal, practicing Catholics, with kids in Catholic school, my wife, who teaches in a Catholic high school, and I routinely walk through the abortion issue minefield.

We believe in working to promote the “culture of life” that Catholic Church leaders have laid out, including reducing the incidence of abortion -- 324 abortions for every 1,000 live births in this country is a heart-wrenching tragedy. But, we also know that outlawing abortion and using inflamatory rhetoric and scare tactics is not the answer.

It does not promise to substantially reduce abortion and the danger to the mothers who would have unsafe abortions is unacceptable.

If we are going to bring people together on the issue, we have to return to Bill Clinton's mantra, “safe, legal and rare,” and the Democratic Party has to put more emphasis on making the “rare” part a reality."

"Clinton encapsulated the broad consensus in this country on the issue. Most people in this country believe abortion should be "safe, legal and rare.” This calmed things down and turned the focus of the debate onto results. What did the conservatives do? Trotted out the hideous image of a “partial-birth abortion.” What's the lesson there? Pro-lifers have a vested interest in dividing the country on this issue. We can't fall into that trap."


Mark Daniels: The Inaugural Address...Was It a Christian Statement?

Sunday, January 23, 2005
Mark Daniels also relooks at the theology and world view in Bush's Inaugural speech. Here are excerpts:

"...was the address a Christian statement? That is, was it the statement of a Christian person, reflecting a Christian understanding of the world?...

I think one has to conclude that, as is true of the statements of any political figure who represents a pluralistic society and who wants to maintain popular support for his agenda, the Inaugural Address was, spiritually speaking, a mish-mash, reflective as much of Enlightenment notions as Christian ones.

This fact hit me full force when I heard the President say yesterday:

'There is only one force that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and the tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.'

Really?

From a Christian perspective, this assertion is suspect at many levels.

For one thing, we should ask, by what standard will the "force of human freedom" wield its power? The framers of the Constitution knew that free peoples are as capable of despotism as kings. If "freedom" is given as an ultimate value, how will those who exercise it decide the manner in which they will use it?

In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis talks about the danger of elevating any virtue, however laudable, to a position of ultimacy. He writes:

'The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials 'for the sake of humanity', and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.'

Is "the force of freedom" as an ultimate value any less susceptible to manipulation and the justification of tyranny than is love? Clearly, it isn't.

As a Christian, I believe, have observed, and have experienced, that only the God made plain to us all through Jesus Christ can really break our tyrannies.

It was the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ that propelled the work of those who sued for an end to slavery in Great Britain and the United States.

It was the Gospel of Jesus Christ that sustained Martin Luther King, Jr. in the US and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa as they faced down injustice.

This same Gospel lay behind the Oxford Movement which resulted in the transforming power of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps.

This Gospel inspired the reforming work of Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, and John Calvin.

It also incited the work of John Wesley, setting people free of sin and often, the slavery of alcoholism, to live with God's approval and power working in their lives.

In the end, for whatever other virtues the Inaugural Address may have had, it was not a particularly Christian statement.

While I understand the need for a President to mobilize a nation behind a particular program, I would prefer Presidents to reflect a more humble and realistic understanding of what governments, no matter how virtuous their leaders, can accomplish. No government and no set of political principles can transform a human life, society, or world.

Anyone who reads this blog knows how opposed I am to Christians forcing Christ or specifically Christian values down the throats of society at large. We live in a pluralistic society and we must acknowledge that fact. Furthermore, it is absolutely contrary to the will of God for Christians to force their beliefs on others. Followers of Jesus are called to share their the hope of Jesus Christ in gentle ways.

So, I didn't expect the President to make some overtly Christian declaration of public policy.

But I am more than a little disappointed that the President assigned a place of preeminence to a value which, unless subordinated to Jesus Christ, will render monsters of us all."

Bush Team's First Term and the Environment

Saturday, January 22, 2005
The Natural Resources Defence Council issued a report today on the Bush adminstration's first term record on caring for the environment...in Biblical terms how good of a "steward" of "creation" the Bush team have been... From the exec summary:

"After four years in office, the George W. Bush administration has compiled an environmental record that is taking our nation in a new and dangerous direction. Last year alone, Bush administration agencies made more than 150 actions that weakened our environmental laws. Over the course of the first term, this administration led the most thorough and destructive campaign against America's environmental safeguards in the past 40 years.

Even more troubling than the vastness of the onslaught is the fundamental nature of the policy changes. These changes do not merely call for updating regulations. They represent radical alterations to our core environmental laws."

You can read the entire report here.

"The Salvador Option" is Not an Option!

From sojo.net -- You can write your Senator and Congresspersons here to speak out against US backed "death squads" in Iraq:

"The Salvador Option" is Not an Option!

Newsweek recently reported that the Pentagon is considering a new plan for Iraq, known as "The Salvador Option," modeled on U.S. support of paramilitary "death squads" in Central America in the 1980s. In El Salvador and Guatemala alone such groups assassinated or "disappeared" well over 150,000 civilians.

The invasion of Iraq was sold to the American public as a necessary means to stop terrorism and to promote democracy. Two years later, the United States is on the verge of initiating death squads. Urge your elected officials to oppose "The Salvador Option."


Nothing New Here

Yesterday we looked at some of the religious allusions in the Bush speech. What did the political allusions to "end tyranny around the world" really mean?

When Bush stated that "today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world," and that "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors." Did that "speaking anew" really mean anything concretely or practically new in how the US deals with autocracies around the world?


No, according to White House officials. They say Bush's speech represents "no significant shift" in US foriegn policy.


And for someone who said, "I don't do nuance," somehow, he's gotten pretty good at it, with White House officials saying that the speech was "carefully and specfically nuanced," and "carefully written" to avoid tieing the president down to anything "inflexible" relating to ending tyranny around the globe.

From the Washington Post:

"White House officials said yesterday that President Bush's soaring inaugural address, in which he declared the goal of ending tyranny around the world, represents no significant shift in U.S. foreign policy but instead was meant as a crystallization and clarification of policies he is pursuing in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Nor, they say, will it lead to any quick shift in strategy for dealing with countries such as Russia, China, Egypt and Pakistan, allies in the fight against terrorism whose records on human rights and democracy fall well short of the values Bush said would become the basis of relations with all countries.

Bush advisers said the speech was the rhetorical institutionalization of the Bush doctrine and reflected the president's deepest convictions about the purposes behind his foreign policies. But they said it was carefully written not to tie him to an inflexible or unrealistic application of his goal of ending tyranny."

White House officials argued that some observers have read more into the speech than is there. "The speech was carefully and purposely nuanced," said presidential speechwriter and policy adviser Michael J. Gerson. "We are dealing with a generational struggle. It's not the work of a year or two."

DNC Western Caucus

Everyone should follow the DNC Western regional caucus forum today. The current canidates for DNC chairman will be basically pitching themselves to 1/4th of the DNC...

A number of blogs are covering it, but so far, to me, The Swing State Project is the most complete...

Here is a good list of who is in the running. You should check them all out.
And as I said before, this is too important for average democrats who care about the party not to get involved in....and there are ways such as letter writing to make your voice heard to DNC Voters.

Since I last posted on the topic, I have had a chance to meet and hear Simon Rosenberg in person at a breakfast meeting in LA. Which confirmed and cemented what I had earlier thought from reading and net research I'd done. I was also influenced further by this endorsment from Shawn Landres at the
Religion and Society blog...

"An unusual endorsement: I have given a great deal of thought to whether or not to make this endorsement public in this forum. However, given my post-election posts...I think that the current election for chairman of the Democratic National Committee really does matter for the future of religion in American politics, because religion does not start and stop with a single political party.

My friend and former boss Simon Rosenberg, the founder of the New Democrat Network, is running for Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He has the experience and the vision that the party needs. As I learned a little more than twelve years ago when we first worked together, Simon gets it. He understands that a field operation cannot succeed if there is no message -- and he understands that a message is a castle in the clouds without a field operation to win on the ground.

In his reactions to the "faith-based voters" panic that took place after the November elections, Simon has stressed that the Democratic Party has to do a better job of communicating with religious voters because it has to do a better job of communicating with all voters.

What impresses me is the notion that while lots of other folks (myself included, to a certain extent) were overplaying Democrats' failure to connect with religious voters, he refused to let it distract from the larger issue of how the party was communicating with (a) America as a whole and (b) the range of key subgroups -- Hispanics, African-Americans, married women, and religious voters.

His idea is not only that Democrats should not let any single piece of the puzzle get mistaken for the whole thing -- but also that the puzzle can't be complete without all the pieces. As I understand his approach, Simon is as committed to listening to religious voters as he is to learning to speak their language.

Most importantly, Simon is one of the most decent human beings I have had the pleasure to know: he is in this business for all the right reasons.

To my Republican readers who may be disappointed to see me make this kind of endorsement, I want to say that with Simon Rosenberg at the head of the Democratic Party, I believe you can expect an honorable opponent who will lift the level of debate in America over the things that matter most to all of us: faith, family, community, prosperity, safety, opportunity.

The body politic is at its healthiest when its political parties are led by people of honor and vision for the good of the nation.

As I noted shortly after the election and The New York Times is just now reporting, 2008 is wide open. It's up to us, Democrats and Republicans alike, to ensure that the vital conversation over our nation's future moves us forward rather than back."

God's Politics: NY Times Bestseller

Friday, January 21, 2005
From Sojourners...God's Politics has made it to number 11 on the NY Times bestseller list:

"We're pleased to announce that because of your efforts, God's Politics is now officially #11 on The New York Times best-seller list which will be printed on Sunday, January 30!

Together, we're impacting the national dialogue at a critical time. As the Bush inauguration comes and goes, we are encouraged by the strong response to this message of progressive faith, and the potential of a movement that will address all our moral values."

Jubilee

Slacktavist looks over many of the Biblical allusions and God-speak from Thursday's inagural speech:

"Jubilee: In his Inaugural address yesterday, President Bush recited Michael Gerson's reference to Isaac Norris' quotation of Leviticus 25:10: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

Norris was the "Pensylvania" assemblyman who chose this verse of scripture for the bell cast to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the colony's charter. Leviticus 25 outlines the laws for the Year of Jubilee, which was to follow every seventh Sabbath Year. We still use the word "Jubilee" to refer to a 50th anniversary celebration, but Jubilee originally meant much more than that.

Leviticus 25 is MBNA's least favorite passage. In the year of Jubilee, all debts were to be forgiven, all captives were to be freed, and the poor and propertyless were to be restored to their ancestral lands. In the agricultural society of ancient Israel, this meant that the poor and disenfranchised were to be restored their share of ownership of the means of production -- although that phrase, while accurate, may strike some as too provocative.

There's a good bit more to Leviticus 25 that's worth remembering:

"If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit."

That passage, from verses 35-36, is not inscribed on any famous bells, so it's not likely to be recited during any presidential speeches. That may be a good thing, since the phrase "help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident" nowadays is open to misinterpretation. It's an invocation of the solemn and ancient laws of hospitality, not an indication that it's okay to indefinitely detain the poor without due process.

There's another conspicuous bit of scriptural allusion in the president's speech: "... we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free."

That phrase -- "the captives are set free" -- has to be read as such an allusion, since, coming from the architect of Gitmo and the global Gulags, it is certainly not meant to be taken literally. It's a resonant biblical phrase that echoes several passages, many of which also deal with the idea of Jubilee and the "year of God's favor."

The most obvious reference for this phrase is from Isaiah 61, a passage that Jesus himself read as a kind of inaugural proclamation:

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

That's from the King James Version, the preferred translation for formal events like an inaugural address because of its lovely formal language -- and because it conveniently refers to "the meek" where every other translation refers to "the poor."

Our new attorney general would, of course, point out that passages such as this one from Isaiah now seem "quaint and obsolete." The president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has the authority to refuse to "proclaim liberty to the captives," just as he has the unlimited authority to set aside any other directive, be it prophetic or constitutional."

A Good Question

A good question posted on Dailykos blog:

"A talented voice would help greatly in returning evangelical Christians to the more (lowercase) christian party. Jim Wallis is a man for which I have a lot of respect, but he just isn't that engaging of a speaker. We need a young Billy Graham.

As a secular Jew whose interest in Christianity is based on appreciation rather than faith, I'm not that plugged in. Do those of you who are know of anyone out there who could be the voice I'm talking about? It doesn't have to be only one, obviously, but I'm talking about someone with the kind of talent that only comes here and there. A folksy accent wouldn't hurt either..."

Any ideas?

Wikipedia and Writing Our Own Stories

If you aren't familiar with Wikipedia.org I'd recommend checking it out. I'd suggest that it is a great starting point for research in general. It is literally "free content" experiment of sorts, an online Encylopedia of almost everything, open to additions and editing by anyone. In theory, the group edits out errors over time, and leaves with more and better knowledge over time.

And I'll admit, when I first discovered it -- I assumed that it would be riddled with errors.
To the contrary, I've found it a great resource, and although I always fact check it, but it has proven very valuable to me. And if you see things that are not factual, you can correct them yourself.

And I think it a good resource for progressive Christians both to use for research and also to document our various stories, confessions and statements of faith and politics.

A starting point to see what is already there would be: the bios for Tony Compolo, Ron Sider and Jim Wallis.

Over 200 Evangelical Leaders Write Open Letter to Bush on Poverty and his 2nd Term

From the Evangelicals for Social Action mailing list:

"On Monday, January 17, scores of prominent evangelical leaders honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by sending to President Bush a letter urging him to strengthen and expand his efforts to overcome hunger and poverty in his second term....
ESA played the leading role in developing the letter to President Bush - copied below - seeking signatures, and getting it to the president."

"January 17, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write as evangelical leaders to urge a strengthened, expanded emphasis on overcoming hunger and poverty both here and abroad in the next four years. Precisely the commitment to moral values (including the sanctity of human life) that shapes all our political activity compels us to insist that as a nation we must do more to end starvation and hunger and strengthen the capacity of poor people to create wealth and care for their families.

We are grateful for your faith-based initiative and the way this approach is strengthening the ability of faith-based organizations to bring their unique gifts and passion to the task of overcoming social brokenness and poverty. We are also grateful for the way your administration has expanded the American contribution to economic development and the battle against AIDS in Africa and other developing countries through the Millennium Challenge Account and the AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Initiative. Thank you also for your moral leadership in the fight against human trafficking, your commitment to rebuild the U.S. refugee program, and your sustained efforts to end decades of war in Sudan.

Tragically, however, both at home and abroad, the number of people in poverty remains unacceptably high.

In 2000, virtually every nation on the planet approved the Millennium Development Goals that included a commitment to halve global poverty by 2015. But adequate funds to meet these goals are not being given, and the U.S. ranks absolutely last (as a percentage of GNP) among all developed nations in its governmental assistance to overcome global poverty. Our nation has fallen far short of the increases in health and development assistance that you proposed. The richest nation in history can and must grasp the opportunity to lead.

Poverty in our own nation has increased in the last several years and millions more working poor lack health insurance.

We agree with you that there is a poverty of the soul and a poverty of the wallet and that government should not try to solve the first. We pledge to you to strengthen the armies of compassion in order to do more through our faith-based organizations to overcome the poverty of the soul.

But our faith-based social service agencies cannot by themselves solve the problem of poverty of the wallet. As you have often said, government can and should help solve this problem. Tragically, millions of Americans today work full time and still fall below the poverty level. The moral values that shape our lives tell us this is wrong. We believe our rich nation should agree that everyone who works full time responsibly will be able to earn enough to rise above the poverty level and enjoy health insurance.

We know there will be powerful pressures, from some places, as you and the Congress work to reduce deficit spending, to cut even effective programs for poor people. We pray that you will not allow this to happen. We pray that God will give you the strength to act like the righteous king in Ps. 72:12-13 and “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help, take pity on the weak and the needy, and save the needy from death.”

We call on you, Mr. President, to declare, in your Inaugural or State of the Union address, that it is the policy of your administration to make the necessary improvements in the next four years so that all Americans who work full time responsibly will be able to escape poverty and enjoy health insurance.

This policy would strengthen the family, discourage divorce, reduce out-of-wedlock births and strengthen moral values in our nation. If the Bible teaches us anything clearly on this issue, it is, as the recent declaration of the National Association of Evangelicals said, that “God measures societies by how they treat the people at the bottom.”

A dramatic reduction in poverty, both here and abroad, would honor our Lord who called us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. It would also be a wonderful legacy for you to leave with the American people and indeed the world. Such an outcome is clearly within the reach of the richest nation in history. The moral values you share with us demand no less.

We request the opportunity to meet with you and your administration to discuss ways that we can help you strengthen your administration’s efforts to overcome hunger and poverty.

Respectfully,

Robert Andringa, President, Council For Christian Colleges and Universities
Paul Armes, President, Wayland Baptist University
Todd Bassett, National Commander, The Salvation Army
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Esdras Betancourt, Director of Hispanic Ministries, Church of God
David Black, President, Eastern University
Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director, CRWRC
William Brown, President, Cedarville University
George Brushaber, President, Bethel College & Seminary
Gaylen Byker, President, Calvin College
Jerry Cain, President, Judson College
Galen Carey, Director, Advocacy and Policy, World Relief
R.Judson Carlberg, President, Gordon College
Joel Carpenter, Provost, Calvin College
John Castellani, President, Teen Challenge International USA
Daniel Chamberlain, President, Houghton College
Richard Chamiec-Case, Director, N. American Assoc. of Christians In Social Work
Richard Cizik, V.P. of Governmental Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals
Dennis Clements, Chairman, Reaching Indians Ministries International
John Derry, President, Hope International University
Dave Donaldson, President, We Care America
Larry Donnithorne, President, Colorado Christian University
G. Dowden, President, Huntington College
James Edwards, President, Anderson University
Bill Emery, Chairman, Virginia Round Table
Bernard Evans, President, Elim Fellowship
E.Lebron Fairbanks, President, Mount Vernon Nazarene University
Frederick Finks, President, Ashland Theological Seminary
Paul Fleischmann, President, National Network of Youth Ministries
Stan Gaede, President, Westmont College
Wayne Gordon, Chairman, Christian Community Dev. Assoc.
William Hamel, President, Evangelical Free Church of America
Doug Hodo, President, Houston Baptist University
Dennis Hollinger, President, Evangelical School of Theology
William Hossier, President, Missionary Church Inc
Clyde Hughes, General Overseer, International Pentecostal Church of Christ
William Ipema, Vice President, Leadership Foundations of America
Bruce Jackson, Director, Christian Community Health Fellowship
Bryce Jessup, President, Jessup University
Glen Kehrein, Executive Director, Circle Urban Ministries
J.Nelson Kraybill, President, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Steven Livesay, President, Bryan College
Larry Lloyd, President, Crichton College
Joel MacCollam, Chief Executive World Emergency Relief
Ronald Manahan, President, Grace College & Theological Seminary
Jim Mannoia, President, Greenville College
Josh McDowell, Author/Speaker, Josh McDowell Ministry
David Moberg, Publisher, W Publishing
Chuck Moore, President, Northern Seminary
Bruce Murphy, President, Northwestern College
George W. Murray, President, Columbia International University
David Neff, Editor, Christianity Today Magazine
Larry Nikkel, President, Tabor College
Michael Nyenhuis, President, MAP International
Glenn R. Palmberg, President, Evangelical Covenant Church
John E. Phelan, Jr, President, North Park Theological Seminary
William Robinson, President, Whitworth College
Andrew Ryskamp, Executive Director, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
Scott Sabin, Executive Director, Floresta USA
Donald Sharp, Pastor, Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church of Chicago
Amy Sherman, Director, Faith In Communities
Ronald Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Michael Sigman, Bishop, Evangelical Congregational Church
Barry St. Clair, President, Reach Out Youth Solutions
Richard E. Stearns, President, World Vision
Loren Swartzendruber, President, Eastern Mennonite University
Pat Taylor, President, Southwest Baptist University
Steve Timmermans, President, Trinity Christian College
Joseph Tkach, President/General Pastor, Worldwide Church of God
Thomas Trask, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God
Bill Vermillion, General Superintendent, Evangelical Churches of N. America
Jon Wallace, President, Azusa Pacific University
Jim Wallis, Convenor, Call To Renewal
Craig Williford, President, Denver Seminary
James Wolff, Pastor, Lawndale Christian Reformed Church
Tim Ziemer, Executive Director, World Relief
Jason McGaughey
Rev. Delvin A. Roper, Retired United Methodist Pastor
Chad Allen, Editor, Baker Books
Virginia Mulhern
Carl Jordan, Retired teacher
Lois Jordan, Retired teacher
Ursula Kaplowitz
Matt Rindge, Writer
James R. Monroe, Pastor
Jonathan Ferguson, Ministry Coordinator
Victoria Fitoon, Counselor
Dr. CG White, Pastor
Roger Eberly, Pastor
John Stonecypher, Pastor
Dale A. Painter
Kathryn A. Painter
Paul Faber, Dean
Jacinta Faber, member, St. Andrews Episcopal
Mary Anne Poe, Director of Social Work
Laurie Gruenbeck
Joe Carson, President, Affil. of Christian Engineers
Matt Campbell
Wendy Campbell
Linda Messamore
Phil Landers, Rev.
Deborah McFatter, Evangelical Lutheran Church
Larry McFatter, Evangelical Lutheran Church
Deborah Abello, Director I, Migrant Education Region 23
Jo Kadlecek, Writer
Jennifer Fair
Nathan D. Wilson, Rev.
Becky Horst, Director of CALL
Rev. Gene Beerens, Vice Chair, Reentry Roundtable of Kent
Becky Johnson, Pastor
Leroy & Kari Huizenga
James Huff, professor
Todd M. Muller, After School Director
Rodney Steward-Wilcox, Rev.
Michael Finely, author
Daphne Krabill Hollinger, agricultural intern
Marc Averill
David Lynn Smith, M.D.
Erma Mae Perkins
Susan Gilbert Zencka, Rev., PCUSA
Wendy Tobias
Jill Shook, Pasadena/Altadena Congregations
Stan Franco, Deacon
David Wetzell, Bethel Student
Brian Heller
Heidi Muller, Youth worker
Walter Shurden, professor
Allison Caylor, Karl Road Baptist Church
Claude Good, Coordinator, Franconia Mennonite Conf
Thomas Litteer, Rev.
Kristin Stults
Elliot Hui
Walt Miller, Pastor-retired
Paul Hanneman, Program Director, Urban Ministry Center
Katherine L. Vandegrift
Robert Henderson, Pastor, Presbyterian
Jim Henderlite, Deacon
Ted Lucas, M.D.
Freda B. Schlaman
Patrick Cicero
Helena Cicero
Faithe Zercher, Director Adult Services
Boyd Holliday, Pastor, Methodist
George Patterson II
Joseph F. Gamarano Jr.
A. C. Cuppy, Rev.
Luisa Hansel, Rev.
Patrick Cabello Hansel, Rev.
Willis Sutter, Past-President, IL Mennonite Conference
Laura A. Starrett, M.D.
Richard P. Starrett, M.D.
Ken Burkholder
Stephen Valder, M.D.
Odette Valder, M.D.
Anniegrace Bassage
Lance W. Jobe, M.D.
Scott Meier
Christine M. Corneille
Kyle Small, Covenant Church
Richard Lamb
Mary Fox
Cecil Prescod
Denise Ribera Luxton, Riverside Church
Edith Johnson
Jim Johnson
Maxwell Carroll
Mike Wallens, Chaplain
Jim Bender, Deputy Director
Walter Shurden, Professor
Fredric E. Spalding, Pastor
Niles R. Sharif, Lawyer
Kenneth Hunn, Rev.
James Moore, Baptist General Conference Minnesota
Curt Dodson, Rev.
Lynn I Thrush, Pastor
Judy Harmon, Lay Church Leader
Robert Harmon, Dr.
Greg Jackson, M.D.
Scot F Martin
Peter A. Dearstyne
Michel Hostetter, Rep Eastern Mennonite Missions - Chile
Paul Burks, Rev., United Methodist Minister-retired
Steve Sharp, Upper School Director, The Kings Academy
Phil Olson, Pastor, Presbyterian
Sarita Dinnocente
James E Wolff, Lawndale Christian Reformed Church
G Peter Schrek, Prof. of Pastoral Care&Counseling, EBTS
Audrey Benjamin
Andrew Benjamin
Donald L Sharp, Pastor, Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church of Chicago
Kevin Waters, Lay Pastor, Pleasant Plain, OH
Brian Vosburg
William Calhoun
George Alcser, Professor Mary Grove College
Mike Etheridge
Janette Plunkett, Consultant
Pat Francis-Lyon "

Bush's First Term by the Numbers

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Very direct posting at the Numeralist blog:

"By the Numbers:
The U.S. After 4 Years of Bush

Poverty Rate
2000: 11.3% or 31.6 million Americans
2003: 12.5% or 35.9 million Americans

Stock market
Dow Jones Industrial Average
1/19/01: 10,587.59
1/19/05: 10,539.97

NASDAQ
1/19/01: 2,770.38
1/19/05: 2,073.59

S&P 500
1/19/01: 1,342.54
1/19/05: 1,184.63

Value of the Dollar
1/19/01: 1 Dollar = 1.06 Euros
1/19/05: 1 Dollar = 0.77 Euros

Budget2000 budget surplus $236.4 billion
2004 budget deficit $412.6 billion
That's a shift of $649 billion and doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

Cost of the war in Iraq
$150.8 billion

American Casualties in Iraq
Deaths: 1,369
Wounded: 10,252

The Debt
End of 2000: $5.7 trillion
Today: $7.6 trillion

That's a 4 year increase of 33%."

I So Get This...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I so hear what Bob is saying at this post at I am a Christian Too Blog...here are some excerpts:

"I am a Christian, I voted based on moral values, and I voted for John Kerry. Most of my friends and family are Christian, and many of them do not support Bush. The divide that extends through the electorate also extends through Christianity..."

So how has Christianity in the US become identified with conservative politics? It is because the Christian right is vocal, and the rest of us are not...we allow the most vocal Christians to define our faith....I have come to believe that this is a problem, not for us, but for the unchurched.

I have to wonder how many people in the US have decided that Christianity is not for them because they don’t agree with the politics of the Christian right?

How many people have closed their minds to the gospel because of their mistaken impression that Christ commands us to be in favor of the death penalty and mandatory jail terms?

How many Americans have decided that, since evolution and the Big Bang are clearly true, a religion that claims they are false must be wrong?

How many have decided that, if Christians are so wrong about their conservative politics, they cannot possibly be believed about their religion?"

...What has finally led me to start down this path is the example of Martin Luther... if Luther could risk everything for the sake of God’s truth, then I can at least buy a domain name and blog a thesis or two here and there.

So, I humbly nail my theses on the server of my web hosting service provider.

Those of us that share the Christian faith but not the conservative politics of the far right must speak up. We must let Americans know that Christ doesn’t ask us to throw out our brains but to pick up our cross. We need to let the world know that we are Christians too."

"...with you in the lead role, Dr. Rice, we went into Iraq"

In what may only really offer more press time to publicly cirtique Gonzales and Rice, Senate dems managed to stall things till after the inauguration. As one democrat put it: "A little bit of debate never hurt anybody."

Well, I hope American's hear the debate. I for one am proud of my California senator Barbara Boxer's agressive take on Rice yesterday, and I've blogged before on my thoughts on Gonazales.

Kerry also did very well with a set of strong, strong statements but somehow it mostly made me wish that he was able to define things with that much clarity early and persistantly during the campaign
.

Check out this section of Senator Boxer's session with Dr. Rice that I think is very worth attention:

"Well, with you in the lead role, Dr. Rice, we went into Iraq. I want to read you a paragraph that best expresses my views, and ask my staff if they would hold this up — and I believe the views of millions of Californians and Americans.

It was written by one of the world's experts on terrorism, Peter Bergen, five months ago. He wrote:

"What we have done in Iraq is what Bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure Bin Laden has long predicted was the U.S. long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam [Hussein], whom Bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and [Shiite] fundamentalist fervor in Iraq and have now provoked a defensive jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terror."

This conclusion was reiterated last Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank, which released a report saying that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of … terrorists…

...Now, you rolled out the idea, and then you had to convince the people, as you made your case with the president. And I personally believe — this is my personal view — that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth…"

An Intergenerational Covenant

As usual, really solid commentary -- this time on social security from Slacktavist...

Also, relatedly but seperately -- over 150 bloggers -- including this one -- so far have joined an effort fight to protect Social Security from the Bush administration's "reform."

But first, check out James' article from Slactivist:


"Slate's Chris Suellentrop joins the chorus of those claiming that Social Security is a "welfare" program. He does so explicitly:

Liberals, for their part, aren't bereft of philosophy. They support Social Security because it's redistributive. In other words, it's welfare for old people. The politically correct term for this is "social insurance."

Suellentrop doesn't seem to understand what Social Security is or how it works. Consider what a "redistributive" program of "welfare for old people" might actually look like. A "welfare" program would be need-based and means-tested. It would not be sending monthly payments to, for example, current Social-Security recipient Warren Buffett, but only to those who required such financial assistance.

A "redistributive" program would be based on some kind of progressive tax, taking money from the haves to assist the have-nots. This progressive tax shouldn't kick in until some fairly high income threshhold. This is almost exactly the opposite of how Social Security is funded.

The payroll tax (the largest tax burden for 7 out of 10 Americans) is a regressive flat tax that has no minimum threshhold, but does have a maximum cap -- currently $87,900. This is not a "redistributive" program.

This contract requires from each of us a duty and in return makes to each of us a promise. The duty is that while each of us is able to work, we will contribute a portion of our wages to ensure the financial security of those who are no longer able to work. The promise is that once each of us, nearly inevitably, reaches the point where we are no longer able to work, that we too will receive such support from future Americans.

I like this system. It is not the only imaginable system, nor does it have a unique claim to moral superiority over every other imaginable system.

But it does work (see, for example, this CBPP study from 1999, which shows that nearly half of America's elderly would be in poverty without Social Security). And I would argue it is a more moral approach than, for example, setting the elderly adrift on ice floes or embracing some form of social Darwinism."

ICTHUS: PCBN Aggregator is up and running

The Progressive Christian Blog Aggregator is now live...Be sure to thank Vince and Chris, and join in the discussion:

"PCBN Aggregator is up and running

PCBN website is getting updated! I posted this in a comment to my earlier post here. Check it out:

Big thanks to Chris Walton for his help on this. If you notice, everyone on the blogroll is now listed on the PCBN site and if you are a registered user, you should see your feed in the aggregator. Next on the agenda will be to get the forums up and running. This way we can begin some of our conversations. I would encourage you to leave your comments underneath mine if you have suggestions for this site.

Kind regards to all of you.
--
Vaughn Thompson
PCBN Coordinator"

That was close...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
That was close. Glad we didn't elect a President who would flip flop on moral promises to the nation....Oh, wait. Nevermind:

If you remember Bush's election promise to push this wedge issue:

Flip: (July 2004) Presidential radio address:

"...the Defense of Marriage requires a constitutional amendment. An amendment to the Constitution is never to be undertaken lightly. The amendment process has addressed many serious matters of national concern. And the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance.... Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife."

Now that the election is over:

Flop: (Jan 2005)
"The Post: Do you plan to expend any political capital to aggressively lobby senators for a gay marriage amendment?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think that the situation in the last session -- well, first of all, I do believe it's necessary; many in the Senate didn't, because they believe DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] will -- is in place, but -- they know DOMA is in place, and they're waiting to see whether or not DOMA will withstand a constitutional challenge.

The Post: Do you plan on trying to -- using the White House, using the bully pulpit, and trying to --

THE PRESIDENT: The point is, is that senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I'd take their admonition seriously.

The Post: But until that changes, you want it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate. Do you see what I'm saying?

The Post: Right."

Right after Bush won in November, I made a non-trivial bet with a friend that 4 years from then Bush will have done nothing substatial to reduce the abortion rate in the US, and that there would not be even an attempt at a Gay Marriage constitutional ban.

I think I'm half way there.

As Carlos at Jesus Politics points out -- an excellent post from Bull Moose:

"In a rare extemporaneous moment, the President revealed what he really thinks about the religious right's objectives. Commenting on the prospects for the gay marriage constitutional amendment in his second term, W. told the Washington Post -

"On the domestic front, Bush said he would not lobby the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage...

"The president said there is no reason to press for the amendment because so many senators are convinced that the Defense of Marriage Act -- which says states that outlaw same-sex unions do not have to recognize such marriages conducted outside their borders -- is sufficient."

Sensing that the President's remarks would likely spur outrage among the religious right groups which labored for W's re-election, Administration flacks were attempting to pull back their bosses comments.

"Yesterday morning, the day after the interview, White House spokesman Scott McClellan called to say the president wished to clarify his position, saying Bush was "willing to spend political capital" but believes it will be virtually impossible to overcome Senate resistance until the courts render a verdict on DOMA."

What the President initially stated likely reveals what he really believes - that the last thing he wants is to spend precious and perhaps diminishing political capital on is a distasteful fight over gay marriage. After years of observation, the Moose has concluded that the Republican establishment does not share the passion of the religious right about divisive cultural issues.

The dirty little secret of the Republican Party is that behind closed doors the establishment has contempt for the religious right. And the GOP illuminati certainly do not leave their homes in the morning with a passion to prevent Jim from marrying John or to save a fetus from an abortionist. For instance, many have loved ones who are gay, or they may be gay themselves. The powers that be in the GOP are far more concerned about eliminating the estate tax for multimillionaires than halting the death of the unborn. Here is a thought experiment - if you really believe that the sacred institution of marriage is in dire jeopardy, would you make private social security accounts your top priority?

The GOP big wigs pay obeisance to the religious right because they provide the foot soldiers for their campaigns. The Republican establishment cynically manipulates the cultural issues because they recognize that a party that is dedicated to redistributing wealth upward has little chance of majority status. Once elected, Republicans reward the religious right with some crumbs while the real goodies are handed out to their wealthy donors and their corporate cronies.

Perhaps some day it will dawn on the rank and file of social conservatives that they are being manipulated to serve another agenda by the hierarchy of the Republican Party. Until then, as both the New Donkey and Matt Yglesias have also pointed out, the GOP will take them for suckers."

Martin's Day

Monday, January 17, 2005

I've been reading a lot of Martin Luther King's writings and sermons and especially today though I should highlight two passages from two different sermons. One much more personal but both deeply moving to me. We have so much still to learn from from Martin. Had he not been killed he would be 76 this month.

Here is the first quote on what we might call today a holistic view of the Gospel:


"And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man. Not merely his soul, but his body. It’s all right to talk about heaven. I talk about it because I believe firmly in immortality. But you’ve got to talk about the earth. It’s all right to talk about long white robes over yonder, but I want a suit and some shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about the streets flowing with milk and honey in heaven, but I want some food to eat down here. It’s even all right to talk about the new Jerusalem. But one day we must begin to talk about the new Chicago, the new Atlanta, the new New York, the new America.

And any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men (Well) and is not concerned about the slums that cripple the souls—the economic conditions that stagnate the soul (Yes) and the city governments that may damn the soul—is a dry, dead, do-nothing religion (Yes, Amen) in need of new blood."

And from another sermon, this very personal story:

"But I never will forget one night very late. It was around midnight. And you can have some strange experiences at midnight. (Yes, sir) I had been out meeting with the steering committee all that night. And I came home, and my wife was in the bed and I immediately crawled into bed to get some rest to get up early the next morning to try to keep things going. And immediately the telephone started ringing and I picked it up. On the other end was an ugly voice.

That voice said to me, in substance, "Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house." (Lord Jesus)

I’d heard these things before, but for some reason that night it got to me. I turned over and I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep. (Yes) I was frustrated, bewildered.

And then I got up and went back to the kitchen and I started warming some coffee, thinking that coffee would give me a little relief. And then I started thinking about many things. I pulled back on the theology and philosophy that I had just studied in the universities, trying to give philosophical and theological reasons for the existence and the reality of sin and evil, but the answer didn’t quite come there.

I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born about a month earlier. We have four children now, but we only had one then. She was the darling of my life. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. And I sat at that table thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute. (Go ahead)

And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife who was over there asleep. (Yes) And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer; I was weak. (Yes)

Something said to me, you can’t call on Daddy now, he’s up in Atlanta a hundred and seventy-five miles away. (Yes) You can’t even call on Mama now. (My Lord) You’ve got to call on that something in that person that your Daddy used to tell you about. (Yes) That power that can make a way out of no way. (Yes)

And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me and I had to know God for myself. (Yes, sir) And I bowed down over that cup of coffee—I never will forget it. (Yes, sir) And oh yes, I prayed a prayer and I prayed out loud that night. (Yes)

I said, "Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. (Yes) I think I’m right; I think the cause that we represent is right. (Yes) But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now; I’m faltering; I’m losing my courage. (Yes) And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak." (Yes) I wanted tomorrow morning to be able to go before the executive board with a smile on my face.

And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, (Yes) "Martin Luther, (Yes) stand up for righteousness, (Yes) stand up for justice, (Yes) stand up for truth. (Yes) And lo I will be with you, (Yes) even until the end of the world."

And I’ll tell you, I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunder roll. I felt sin- breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, (Never) never to leave me alone."

As threatened an bomb was detonated on Dr. King's front porch 3 days later. No one in his family was killed, and King later said: "My religious experience a few nights before gave me the strength to face it."

Bush, Iraq and Cheap Grace

Sunday, January 16, 2005
As originally pointed out in Talking Points memo...Josh's take was that this was "bringing 'cheap grace' out of the seminaries and into the white house"...then he links to a Bonhoffer quote from The Cost of Discipleship that includes..."Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance."

When I hear Bush make statements like this, I can easily get depressed. We just won't learn, even from something as clearly off-course as the Bush adminstrations judgements on Iraq turned out to be. I had hoped that perhaps after the elections there would be more room for political "repentance." Nope.

My prayer is for the Christian church -- both the politically conservative and politically progressive -- to hold this president and every adminstration to follow accountable and for more than just a moment.


"President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

'We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. 'The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.'"

The Myth of America as a Christian Nation

Saturday, January 15, 2005
From evangelical Pastor and author Brian Mclaren:

"...Somehow we Christians, especially evangelicals, convinced ourselves of the myth that America used to be a Christian nation -- "our" nation -- and some bad people took it away from us.

Let me just ask: When was it a Christian nation? When we were killing, culturally imprisoning, and stealing the lands of millions of native peoples in a New World version of the holocaust? When we were importing and exporting millions of slaves?

I believe the Christian nation myth is untrue, but more than that, it is pernicious for what it does to us. The myth turns us into victims (Those bad buys took away our country!) aggressors (We're going to take it back, so watch out!) and defenders (Quick, circle the wagons!).

As aggressive, defensive victims, we hardly carry the posture of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and save the lost, who had compasion on the nameless crowds. "

Cornel West Talk: Prophetic Christian Witness

I'm just starting to read Cornel West's "Democracy Matters," as I'm still seeking out progressive voices from the African American Christian community. I confess as a white Christian, black Christian authors have not been prominent in my past church settings -- progressive black authors non-existant. But as I mentioned in an earlier posting, I suspect that there is a lot of good thinking and writing by this community of mostly politically progressive orthodox Christians that white churches are missing. Please post any recommendations.

For starters, here are excerpts from a Cornel West speech given around the last Democratic convention:


"I speak as a Christian, which puts me in solidarity on a very abstract level with 80% of American citizens.

[laughter]

But my kind of prophetic Christian witness makes it difficult for me to stay in many of the churches because I am suffocated by the narrow conceptions of what it is to be prophetic in a Christian church. But I am clear about the Jewish creation of the prophetic, which is the courage, the care and struggle for justice.

Of Micah and Josiah and Amos and a host of others. That again cuts across party, it cuts across nations, it cuts across sex, race, gender and sexual orientation. It sets a high standard.

And justice has to do with what? How do we keep track of the least of these? The most vulnerable? Those who are marginalized? Those who are demeaned? Those Malcolm X used to call “are catching hell, the most hell”. Decrepit schools. Inadequate health care. Unavailable child care. Not enough jobs with a living wage.

We can go on and, on and on. We need not so much a policy, what we need is a democratic awakening that accents a vision...."

American Christians: More Rich and Giving Less

From Christianity Today article on the Church, Materialism and the Poor. In the US, Christians as a whole seem to be getting richer and giving less -- both to their church and to the poor...

Here are excerpts:


"John and Sylvia Ronsvalle have been carefully analyzing the giving patterns of American Christians for well over a decade. Their annual The State of Christian Giving is the most accurate report for learning how much Christians in the richest nation in human history actually give. In their most recent edition, they provide detailed information about per-member giving patterns of U.S. church members from 1968 to 2001. Over those thirty-plus years, of course, the average income of U.S. Christians has increased enormously. But that did not carry over into their giving. The report showed that the richer we become, the less we give in proportion to our incomes.

In 1968, the average church member gave 3.1 percent of their income—less than a third of a tithe. That figure dropped every year through 1990 and then recovered slightly to 2.66 percent—about one quarter of a tithe.

Even more interesting is what has happened to evangelical giving... In 1968 the eight evangelical denominations gave considerably more than the seven mainline denominations. While the mainline denominational members gave 3.3 percent of their income, evangelicals gave 6.15 percent. While this is significantly more, the evangelicals on average still gave less than two-thirds of a tithe. By 1985 mainline folk had dropped their giving to 2.85 percent of their income and evangelicals to 4.74 percent. By 2001, mainline members had recovered slightly to 3.17 percent, but evangelical giving kept dropping and was at a mere 4.27 percent.15

As we got richer and richer, evangelicals chose to spend more and more on themselves and give a smaller and smaller percentage to the church. Today, on average, evangelicals in the U.S. give about two-fifths of a tithe.

One can see a related problem in another area. Examine the public agenda of prominent evangelical political movements and coalitions. Virtually never does justice for the poor appear as an area of significant concern and effort.

American Christians live in the richest nation on earth and enjoy an average household income of $42,409.17 The World Bank reports that 1.2 billion of the world's poorest people try to survive on just one dollar a day. At least one billion people have never heard the gospel. The Ronsvalles point out that if American Christians just tithed, they would have another $143 billion available to empower the poor and spread the gospel.

18 Studies by the United Nations suggest that just an additional $70–$80 billion a year would be enough to provide access to essential services like basic health care and education for all the poor of the earth.19 If they did no more than tithe, American Christians would have the private dollars to foot this entire bill and still have $60–$70 billion more to do evangelism around the world.

As evangelicals we claim to embrace the Bible as our final authority. One of the most common themes in the Scriptures is that God and his faithful people have a special concern for the poor. Why this blatant contradiction between belief and practice?"