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Quotes of the Day

Thursday, March 31, 2005
"Rest in Peace."

-- Quote from Democratic community site DailyKos, on the death of Terri Schiavo

MR. RUSSERT: Reverend Jim Wallis, how do you see the Democrats, the Republicans, both of which you have written about, in terms of faith and spirituality and religion, approaching the Schiavo case?

JIM WALLIS: "I think the conversation about life is a good conversation. But then let's talk, as the Catholics do, about a consistent ethic of life. Today a silent tsunami will take the lives of 30,000 children because of hunger. Lives are lost in Iraq. On death row innocent people are executed... I think a consistent ethic of life is a good moral guide for politics and it cuts both ways, cuts Republican and Democratic. Religion should be able to critique left and right, not be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan."

-- Transcript Excerpt from last weekend's Meet the Press

Prevention First

From Matthew Yglesias...It's good to see that practical wisdom and political benefit do sometimes go together:

"AND A GOOD IDEA. In case you were wondering whether the Prevention First Amendment gambit is a good political strategy, you really ought to take a look at the other Democracy Corps polling analysis (pdf)...

It's all about white Catholic public opinion and it reveals...that if a candidate "Believes in a woman's right to choose but believes all sides should come together around common goal of preventing and reducing the number of abortions, with more sex ed, including abstinence, access to contraception and more adoption," an overwhelming 74 percent of white Catholics will be more likely to vote for him.

The net 52-point advantage thereby gained is way, way, way bigger than the edge obtained by a Democrat who "is pro-life on abortion" (+24), "is Catholic and pro-life on abortion" (a smaller +20, oddly), or "is Catholic and pro-choice on abortion" (+3).

Still, the big message here is that the prevention first approach, though dismissed by pro-life activists as a kind of fraud, is a very potent political strategy and not something Democrats should drop after the initial flurry of activity. "

Iraq and WMDs: Not Exactly News, but Important...

From the intro to the 600 page report on Iraq, WMD and Intelligence Failutes...an MSNBC article gives a bit more color, stating that while these were "simply wrong" judgements and not due to White House pressure, “It is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”

The entire report can be found here. Below are excerpts:

"We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure. Its principal causes were the Intelligence Community's inability to collect good information about Iraq's WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather, and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions, rather than good evidence. "

What is scary is how broken this machine still seems to be.

"As you asked, we looked as well beyond Iraq in our review of the Intelligence Community's capabilities. We conducted case studies of our intelligence agencies' recent performance assessing the risk of WMD in Libya and Afghanistan, and our current capabilities with respect to several of the world's most dangerous state and non-state proliferation threats. Out of this more comprehensive review, we report both bad news and good news. The bad news is that we still know disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries. The good news is that we have had some solid intelligence successes-thanks largely to innovative and multi-agency collection techniques."

Is it just me, or does the bad news of that "good news/bad news" statement enough to keep one up at night?

No Let Up

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Social security privatization: the more people see of this, the less they want it. We need to keep the pressure on, and keep this trend going...No let up. Here is an update from Talkingpointsmemo:

"This Post article says conservative intellectuals are jumping off the phase-out bandwagon. This one says it's losing support among the young. This one says economists and economic strategists say the numbers don't add up. This one says retirees are giving the thumbs down to privatization..."

Progressive Values

The Center for American Progress, a good democratic think tank, is trying to do some really worthwhile work with this initative for Progressive values and faith.
This type of thinking and cross-polination is so important, and merits our attention and support...

"The Faith and Progressive Policy initiative of the Center for American Progress is a multi-year project that seeks to complement and further the work of the religious community on public policy issues.

The project aims to inform policy debates on issues such as poverty, civil liberties, civil rights, education, the economy, foreign policy, national security, health care, and the environment by promoting the consideration of the key religious tenets of social justice, equality, fairness, and compassion.

The Faith and Progressive Policy project will educate the American public and the media about core values shared by progressive Americans of all faiths while simultaneously defending the separation of church and state and respecting secular society. The initiative will focus on a broad range of concerns that implicate the central teachings of many faiths and are important to all progressive Americans. It will also challenge the notion that public discussion of religion is limited to complex issues such as human reproduction and sexuality."

Jim Wallis gave a keynote address you can find here...

And some worthwhile whitepapers and research are here...

"I Believe"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
From the blog Cheaper than Therapy this confession is great, read the whole thing. The ones that jumped out at me included:

  • I believe the Bible says exactly what God wanted it to say. No more. No less.
  • I believe that what we usually think is the point when we read the Bible is usually not the point.
  • I think apologetics is overrated.
  • I think apologizing is underrated.
  • I believe the kingdom of God is greatly misunderstood.
  • I believe Christ is the hope for the world (not democracy, capitalism or the USA).
  • I believe most seeker sensitive "come and we will give you a free gift and practical message" churches practice a shallow form of Christianity.
  • I believe the Anabaptists were on to something.
    I believe George W. Bush is a Christian.
  • I believe Bill Clinton is a Christian.
  • I believe the 24 second shot clock is the single greatest sports innovation in the past half century.
  • I believe that teaching my children to be kind, compassionate followers of Jesus is the single best thing I can do for them.
  • I believe that spending an inordinate amount of time with my family is better that making much money for my family.
  • I believe that Belgian Trappist Monks make the best beer in the world (and to the Glory of God).
  • I believe that Jesus Christ and the disciples drank alcohol. And so did the Pilgrims, Puritans and Martin Luther.
  • I believe certainty is overrated.
  • I believe fidelity is underrated.
  • I believe security is overrated.
  • I believe that fear is dangerous to the Christian faith.
  • I believe American Foreign policy had something to do with 9-11.
  • I believe the terrorists hate us for our relationship with Israel and presence in their Holy Land of Saudi Arabia more than they do for our freedom.
  • I believe Christ's freedom and America's freedom have nothing to do with each other.
  • I believe Patriotism and Nationalism are idolatry.
  • I believe the United States is a very good place to live and a wonderful country.
  • I believe that other countries are good places to live and wonderful countries.
  • I believe that my theology and worldview cannot fit on a bumper sticker.
  • I believe that the church's duty is to protect and stand for the rights of everyone.
  • I believe the church should speak for those that are unable to speak for themselves.
  • I believe there is hope for my denomination.
  • I believe that Christians should renounce violence and embrace peace-making as a way of life.
  • I believe everyone preaches against situational ethics, but everyone practices situational ethics.
  • I believe I am wrong more often than I am right.

You Don't Get What You Don't Work For

Another good testament of faith and politics, this time from Mara Vanderslice, the former head of Religious outreach for the Dean and Kerry campaigns, I love her point of view on what the Democratic party needs to do, to give the religous communities a full "seat at the table" in the party. And I think that at a grassroots level we should begin making this happen. "You don't get what you don't work for."

Photo of MARA VANDERSLICE"I mean, when I started we didn't have any lists to start with; it was the first time that a Democratic presidential campaign had hired someone to do this. And so by the end of the campaign we had close to 5,000 people participating and volunteering for us. We had more than 100 letters to the editor published all around the country, of Christians and Catholics and Muslims saying, you know, "My values, my deep religious faith leads me to vote for Kerry and Edwards."

So really, we think it was a tremendous beginning, and I hope the Democrats will continue to understand the energy that's out there in the faith community, to find a place at the table in this party.

The real goal of our programs was to provide a space in the campaign for people whose faith calls them to justice: to love mercy; to promote the common good; to never forget the least among us -- those Jesus called us to serve, those who are sick and poor, those in prison. People in the faith community have so long been told that only one party represents their religious and moral values. But what we were finding is that there are thousands of people, maybe millions of people in the country [who] believe that the values the Democratic Party espouses [are] much more in line with biblical and Gospel teachings.

I think it was very new in many ways for Democratic political operatives, and because of the newness, I think, it was slow going. You know, we've always done a great job of reaching out into the African-American church communities, and administrations -- White Houses -- have always had liaisons with the faith community. But in a political campaign it was a new thing, and so there was some timidity around the language, around how to proceed. It was very new. But again, I think the effort was a tremendous beginning, and we barely scratched the surface.

But I hope, if we've been able to show anything, we've shown that there's a current out there, there's a longing, a hungering for people to find their religious and moral voice as Democrats.

I just only can hope that we've cracked open that door now, and soon the party will see we need to let [in] the whole flood of these religious people that want a place at the table in the Democratic Party. They're longing for candidates to speak to them with authenticity, to speak out of moral principle and values that they can relate to.

We have so much to offer the country with our policies, but we need to stop talking about them just as policies. We need to ground them in the moral principles that the people are looking for.

If there's anything I can say to the Democrats moving forward, [it's that] we've just barely scratched the surface this time; there's so much energy out there for people in the religious community to have a space at the table.

I think the Democratic Party should create a faith and values center. They should have full-time staff that will cultivate these relationships for the long term. I think we learned that people connect with candidates when they speak personally from their faith and from the principles that ground their vision and their leadership. I think we've learned that there's so much out there waiting for us that we haven't even tapped into yet. But it won't be enough for Democrats just to wear the clothing of faith. There needs to be a long-term engagement with the religious community and an investment in building infrastructure, in building the grassroots, in reaching out to religious leaders and to religious people.

I also believe that the Democratic Party -- we really need to engage in a more thoughtful debate on the abortion issue in this country. I can't tell you how many times I had conversations with people of deep faith [who] said, "I support you [and] everything you are doing on every other issue except for this one." It is such a painful and divisive issue in this country, and we have, therefore, avoided it, I think, to a large extent. I don't think that does service for us. I believe that we need to work across our differences to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies. There are a million and a half abortions every year in this country, and no one can feel that's a good place for us to be. But we need to support the programs that we know reduce the need for abortions.

I had heard that [the Republicans] had at least 10 staff people in many of the key battleground states, paid staff people working on reaching out to the religious community. So they have made a tremendous effort to do this over many years. If the Democrats want to regain that ground -- I believe that we can -- we need to make similar efforts to do so.

I was inspired every day I was there by the people at the grassroots who would say, "Thank you so much for being there. Thank you for being a voice on the phone that I can call to and say, 'People in my church are praying for me because I'm voting for John Kerry.'" Those stories out there of people that have been hungering to have a place as Christians at the table in this party -- that was enough to keep me through all the challenges that we faced.

You don't get what you don't work for, and we really proved when we made an effort that people in the faith community would come to our side and come to see that, you know, our vision of promoting the common good -- that we share their values.

I think the biggest thing I'd like [to say] to encourage everyone is, this needs to be a long-term effort if we're thinking about Senate races, midterm elections, even the next presidential cycle; we need to start building this outreach on the ground now.

Photo of MARA VANDERSLICE I've never been more on fire for the work that I'm doing. I hope that I'll find a way to continue to pioneer this path for the Democrats. I'd love to be involved in continuing to build up the voices of faith in the party and providing the training and infrastructure on the ground to state parties, to future candidates, to reach out to these constituencies, because I just believe that the religious community can be the conscience and the soul of the Democratic Party, and the more we bring that back in, I believe, the stronger our party will be, the better we'll be able to represent our positive vision for the future, and I think it'll help us start winning elections again. So I'm very excited to continue this work.

To me, my decision to follow Jesus Christ has to impact every single part of my life, including how I want to act in the public sphere and the kind of government policies I want to see and the kinds of community and country I want to live in.

So, to me, there can be nothing more honorable than trying to live out that care and concern for those whom Jesus spent time with and loved and cared for. And I just believe that the Democratic Party knows and has the vision and the way forward to move to help the poor and the vulnerable and to promote the common good. For me, there is a real, direct connection between being a Christian, between my values and my political engagement."

Bull Moose on Creation Care and the Dems

"The Republican Party has long betrayed the legacy of T.R. and prudent environmentalism. A party that worships at the altar of the almighty dollar cannot defend God's creation. However, can the donkey reach out to those whose public involvement is inspired by their faith.?

One Democrat, in particular, shows the way - Joe Lieberman. For instance, consider how Senator Lieberman framed his opposition to drilling in ANWAR,

"Why does it matter so much to me? Sure it relates to our national energy policy. Does it develop enough oil to really matter to price or availability? No. Can we drill our way out of our energy dependence on foreign oil? No. We've got to think and innovate and entrepreneur-ize our way out of it. But honestly for me this all began at the beginning with the Bible and with the instruction that God gave to Adam and Eve that they should both work and guard the Garden of Eden, which is to say that they should not only develop and cultivate it, but also protect it. We are here for a short time. The Psalms tell us that the earth is the Lord and the fullness thereof. We've got a responsibility to protect the beauty of nature that has been given to us. Some places, for the generation that will follow us, to work and to guard."

And the Moose says, "Amen."

A Statement of Faith and Politics

I stumbled accross this excellent posting from Pastor Bob at the Vanguard church blog:

"For the record, here’s where I stand politically:
After being a political conservative most of my adult life, I began to feel quite uneasy with many of the things the conservative politicos were saying. I had assumed, as an evangelical, that in order to be a good Christian, one must rally around the conservative movement all the way across the board—I was “conservative” when it came to biblical interpretation (holding to orthodox views about Jesus, sin and God’s provision of salvation, miracles, etc.), and everyone I was around in my church were convinced that evangelicals must also be conservatives when it comes to political policies (especially economic policy and foreign policy) as well.

But when I began to realize that there really was not a whole lot of compassion for the poor in conservative economic policy (in spite of the rhetoric otherwise), I began to have my doubts. Also, the idea that the USA must be “hawks” rather than “doves” in the world when it comes to international affairs disturbed my Christian sensibilities as well.

Let me be clear: In every election until 2004, I voted mostly Republican. In 2004, I felt I had to shift away from this simplistic way of seeing issues and begin to seek if there is a better way.

Therefore, I voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and voted against him in 2004. Why? Mainly two reasons: His Foreign Policy did not line up with what my Christian conscience was telling me was ethical, and his economic policies disturbed me as well.

So, as one who is in process—having understood the arguments from the “inside” from the Religious Right, and now seeking to hear other voices from the Left and from Moderates, I feel that I am free!

I no longer have to “tow the party line,” and I can be critical of the Right, while still being critical of the Left. On this blog, it may sound like I come down hard against the Right a lot, but that is only because I am convinced that American Evangelicalism has becoming syncretistic: We have conflated economic and social conservatism with biblical Christianity to the point that we think they are one-and-the-same.

Of course, the Christian Left does the same with liberal ideas…
But here’s the rub for me: In evangelicalism (of which I claim to be a member), political conservatism has ruled the day for the last 2 decades (the time I have been an adult). It is time for my generation (and the generation to come) to re-evaluate this in light of the Bible."

Happy Easter to All

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter to all...

"The bodily resurrection of Jesus isn't a take-it-or-leave-it thing, as though some Christians are welcome to believe it and others are welcome not to believe it. Take it away, and the whole picture is totally different. Take it away, and Karl Marx was probably right to accuse Christianity of ignoring the problems of the material world. Take it away, and Sigmund Freud was probably right to say that Christianity is a wish-fulfillment religion. Take it away, and Friedrich Nietzsche was probably right to say that Christianity is a religion for wimps. Put it back, and you have a faith that can take on the postmodern world that looks to Marx, Freud and Nietzsche as its prophets; you can beat them at their own game with the Easter news that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Those who celebrate the mighty resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, have an awesome and nonnegotiable responsibility. When we say "Alleluia! Christ is risen!" we are saying that Jesus is Lord of the world, and that the present would-be lords of the world are not. When we sing, in the old hymn, that "Judah's Lion burst his chains and crushed the serpent's head," are we ready to put that victory into practice? Are we ready to speak up for, and to take action on behalf of, those even in our own local community, let alone farther afield, who are quietly being crushed by uncaring and unjust systems?
Are we ready to speak up for the truth of the gospel over the
dinner table and in the coffee bar and in the council chamber?

-N. T. Wright, "Grave matters," Christianity Today, April 6, 1998."

Quote of the Day

Thursday, March 24, 2005
"The case is full of great ironies. A large part of Terri's hospice costs are paid by Medicaid, a program that the administration and conservatives in Congress would sharply reduce. Some of her other expenses have been covered by the million-dollar proceeds of a malpractice suit - the kind of suit that President Bush has fought to scale back."

- NPR commentator Daniel Schorr

More Ways for Bush to Defend Disabled Rights

From American Progress as found by Heart, Soul and Humor....

"President Bush said that he intervened in the Terri Schiavo case because he believes in "defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities." Unfortunately, the president's words don't match his policies. As the Schiavo case is being considered by the federal courts, President Bush has an opportunity to show his commitment to "defending life" by reconsidering his record on assisting the vulnerable.

Eliminating health care for the poor.
President Bush and right-wing congressional leaders recently sought to significantly cut funding for Medicaid and the related State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Bush's 2006 budget slashes funding for the programs – which provide vital health coverage to 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 children – by more than $20 billion over five years. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) said of Bush's proposed Medicaid cuts:

"[P]eople need to remember that to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

Leaving the disabled on the street.
President Bush's statement about the intervention in the Schiavo case implies that he is somehow a champion for the well-being of the disabled. Not quite. The president's recent budget proposes "to stop financing the construction of new housing for the mentally ill and physically handicapped," according to the New York Times. The program has existed for three decades.

Exposing children to toxic mercury.
Mercury is known to directly harm the nervous systems of children causing birth defects and other maladies. Currently, 600,000 babies born in the U.S. every year may be exposed to excessive levels of mercury. Yet, the Bush administration recently issued rules which would allow some power plants to "increase [mercury] pollution, while others turn a profit selling unused pollution allowances," according to AP. The new "cap-and-trade" policy rolls back a plan created by the EPA in 2000 which "would have mandated curtailing emissions at every plant by the maximum amount possible, which proponents said could bring a 90% reduction in three years using existing technology," according to the LA Times. "

A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
From the US Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty:

"Pope John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the U.S. Catholic Bishops have made it clear that our society has other ways to protect itself from those who commit terrible crimes and ought to forgo the use of the death penalty. Time and time again, Pope John Paul has urged clemency and the end of capital punishment.

At this moment the U.S. Bishops renew the call for measures to restrain, restrict and end the use of the death penalty in the United States. We support many of the recommendations articulated by the Commission, as well as legislation such as the Innocence Protection Act that promote greater fairness and stronger safeguards in capital cases. We have other means to protect society and we have an obligation to protect the innocent. There is no way to reverse an execution after new evidence comes to light.

The report that at least 100 people have now been found to be innocent of the crimes that put them on death row are 100 reasons to turn away from capital punishment. The 101st reason is not what was done to them, but what is being done to the rest of us. The increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us, increases disrespect for human life, and offers the tragic illusion that we can teach that killing is wrong by killing. It's time to "Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)"

"It's Not About Terri Schiavo"

Monday, March 21, 2005
As pointed out by Jesus Politics:

"It isn’t about Terri Schiavo, it’s about tossing a bone to poor Christian voters who voted Republican this November but haven't gotten a thing for those votes so far, except a slap around the face with another brass knuckle budget and tougher treatment for poor folks who go bankrupt. It’s about performing compassion when this congress is really only-and-all about profits. And it’s about obscuring the corruption and fraud on which Delay’s power is built, and hoping poor voters will forget that once they’ve cast their votes, the GOP doesn’t care about them anymore. Their first order of business is well, business.

It isn’t about what DeLay calls “a culture life." When he was governor of Texas, George Bush signed into effect a law that grants hospitals the right to cut off life support in cases that are even more controversial than Schiavo's. Under Texas law, hospitals can cease to feed a patient whose prognosis is so poor that further care would be futile if that patient has no way to pay his or her medical expenses. A baby was pulled of life support under that legislation this past week, against his mother’s wishes. It was ok with the National Right to Life committee in 1999 and it was ok with Governor George W. Bush. What changed? Only political expediency."

Latest Evangelical Political Polling

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Latest polls of evangelical Christians and political affiliation from Religion and Ethics Newseekly...note that among black evangelicals 84% are democrats...and even among white evangelicals 23% self-identify as democrats...

About 69% of white evangelicals say they are Republicans or lean Republican, while 84% of African-American evangelicals identify themselves as Democrats or lean Democrat. Roughly one-in-five likely white evangelical voters, 23% say they are Democrats or lean Democrat.

"We Didn't Know What We Were Doing"

From the New Democratic Network blog:

"We Didn't Know What We Were Doing
As we wrote Wednesday in a memo about Republican economics, the 21st century Republican Party has been relentlessly pursuing a perilous fiscal strategy of reduce, borrow and spend - unwarranted tax reductions, reckless borrowing, and more spending. Faced with the inexorable and unpleasant consequences of their strategy – historic, growing and dangerous deficits – Republicans have begun to understand that their strategy is no longer tenable. Their answer of course: cut spending from programs for the middle class and poor (see EJ Dionne’s strong piece today).

As Bush said yesterday: The House budget “closely follows my budget proposal and reflects our shared commitment to be wise with the people's money and restrain spending in Washington.”

And so yesterday the House of Representatives voted to cut as much as $20 billion from Medicaid, the primary program offering health care to poor Americans (earlier in the week the House granted the President’s emergency supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan at $81.4 billion for this single year).

But the Senate also did two additional, and remarkable things. First, again facing our worsening fiscal crisis, the Senate voted to nearly double the tax cuts, largely for wealthy people, to $134 billion. The final amount was ten times the $14 billion of the “fiscally responsible” cuts in Medicaid proposed by the Senate Republicans, clearly offsetting any of the deficit reduction “gained” by the Medicaid cuts, and sending a loud and clear signal to the world that America has lost its fiscal mind.

The second act was courageous and unexpected. 52 Senators, including 7 Republicans, voted to restore the $14 billion in Medicaid cuts, rebuking the President and the leadership of both Houses. As some like to say, they called “bulls---” on the out of control Republican fiscal strategy, and showed there are elements even in the Republican Party who understand how dangerous and, now at times, immoral their leadership has become.

And this leads us to the quote at the top of the piece, "We didn't know what we were doing." It comes from seasoned budget warrior, Republican Pete Domenici. And he is exactly right. Drunk with power and a simplistic and dangerous fiscal approach, the Washington Republicans have become a fiscal and moral wrecking ball. Their strategy of reduce, borrow and spend must be stopped at all costs, and a more serious approach to managing the economy of the most powerful nation on Earth found with great haste.

I applaud the work of Senator Harry Reid this week as he delivered through Bill Nelson's Social Security amendment and then the Smith-Bingaman amendment yesterday on Medicaid, two well orchestrated, bi-partisan rebukes to a wild and dangerous fiscal approach that is endangering the national security and prosperity of the United States."

You Start Where the Smart People Are

From the blog Electablog:

"The other day I heard an interview with Pat Roberston in which he was warning his followers (and anyone else who would listen) not to give any money or support to secular universities which have become cesspools of communism, homosexuality and evil behavior (and I think he was looking at things beyond your basic beer bonging parties).

Of course, if you're looking for a place to park a few bucks and you dig education, you can always drop a few coins on his own Christian University.

While were on the topic, try to guess the name of their newest professor.

When you want to move society away from reality-based intellectual thought, the best place to start is where the smart people are. "

Quote of the Day

Thursday, March 17, 2005
From the blog Except for These Chains:

"The future of the church’s prophetic tradition will not lie in the marginalizing of scripture and the treating of it as irrelevant. As Wallis has written, “the best response to fundamentalism is to take faith more seriously than fundamentalism does.” Thus it is, the counter to bad theology is not a retreat from theology but is in fact good, biblical, theology. The counter to the misuse of scripture and bad hermeneutics by the proof-texters and dispensationalists and religious opportunists is not to reject the scriptures or to irrelevantize them, but is better, more serious, hermeneutics. The solution to the misguiding of the church by materialistic, nationalistic, militaristic, exclusivistic theology, is to preach the message of Jesus and the prophets in full and in earnest."

The Harris Poll - Party Affiliation and Political Philosophy Show Little Change

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Latest polling: So moderates and liberals combined are by far the majority of the nation (combined at 59%), and self-identified democrats are 34% of the country versus 31% Republican.

"Democrats retain very small lead over Republicans, and conservatives outnumber liberals by 2-to-1, but still trail moderates.

U.S. adults are still almost equally divided between Democrats (34%) and Republicans (31%), with the Democrats maintaining a very small advantage. One quarter of all adults consider themselves Independents.

These are some of the results of Harris Poll surveys of a total of 10,012 U.S. adults conducted by telephone by Harris Interactive® between January and December 2004.

The Harris Poll® also found that conservatives continue to outnumber liberals by 36 to 18 percent but that the largest number of people think of themselves as moderates (41%). The remarkable thing about these numbers is how little they have changed over the past 30 to 40 years. Harris Interactive data over four decades show that the average numbers of moderates have remained at 40 or 41 percent, and that conservatives have only varied between 32 and 38 percent, while liberals have remained at a steady 18 percent since the 1970s."

Tell Congress "Don't Pass a Morally Bankrupt Budget"

From Sojorners:

"As Christians committed to social justice and the common good, we believe that budgets are moral documents. Apparently, Congress didn't get the memo.

The House and Senate Budget Committees approved budgets last week that make dramatic cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, and countless other low-income programs while extending tax cuts and (unbelievably) proposing new ones for the wealthiest Americans. This week, the budgets will be discussed and voted on by the full House and Senate, with all members of Congress being able to participate.

Your response to our "The Budget is a Moral Document" campaign has been overwhelming. Almost 20,000 of you have sent e-mails to Congress in the past month, and staff on Capitol Hill report they have never seen this much constituent response about the budget. As people of faith, we must now ramp up our efforts and send one clear message to Congress: Don't pass a morally bankrupt budget!

Click here to take action!"

Latest Poll: Oposition to Bush Privatization Plan Grows

Monday, March 14, 2005
From today's ABCnews/Washington post poll... The american people continue to see the Bush social security privatization push for what it is, and the more they learn about it, the worse they think of it. 58% of those surveyed grow more inclined to oppose the Presidents plan the more they hear of it. And overall approval of the administration's handling of Social Security is down 3% since January.

We need to keep a full and strong front against this weakening of this covenant with our elderly....

"Barely a third of the public approves of the way President Bush is dealing with Social Security and a majority says the more they hear about Bush's plan to reform the giant retirement system, the less they like it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Bush's overall job approval rating stood at 50 percent, unchanged from last month and nearly exactly where it was a year ago. Currently, 48 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president.

But on Social Security, the president's popularity continues to decline. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they approved of the way Bush is handling Social Security, down three points since January and the lowest level of support for Bush on this issue ever recorded in Post-ABC polls.

Bush has made Social Security reform the cornerstone of his domestic policy agenda. But his efforts to win public support for his proposals to change the system appear to be having just the opposite effect, according to the poll.

Nearly six in 10--58 percent--say they are more inclined to oppose administration's reform plans as they learn more about it. Only a third say they are more receptive to Bush's proposals as more details become available."

Let's Get Jesus Back

Sunday, March 13, 2005
A number of blogs including "I am a Christian, Too" have posted their favorite excerpts from this excellent Bill Moyers speech....Here are mine...

"And they hijacked Jesus.

The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, “The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” The very Jesus who told 5000 hungry people that all of you will be fed, not just some of you. The very Jesus who challenged the religious orthodoxy of the day by feeding the hungry on the Sabbath, who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast, who said the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, raised the status of women, and treated even the tax collector like a child of God. The very Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple. This Jesus has been hijacked and turned from a champion of the disposed into a guardian of the privileged. Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist….sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don’t work, and punitive public policies.

Let’s get Jesus back.

The Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight hour work day. Let’s get back the Jesus who caused Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop. The Jesus who called a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor – ten years before the New Deal.

The Jesus in whose name Dorothy Day challenged the Church to march alongside auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. The Jesus in whose name E.B. McKinney and Owen Whitfield challenged a Mississippi system that kept sharecroppers in servitude and debt. The Jesus in whose name a Presbyterian minister named Eugene Carson Blake - “Ike’s Pastor” - was arrested for protesting racial injustice in Baltimore. The Jesus who led Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.

That Jesus has been scourged by his own followers, dragged through the streets by pious crowds, and crucified on a cross of privilege.

To see whose side God is on go to Deuteronomy to read: “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor…Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do…” Go to the Psalms and read: “For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy…From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” Throughout our sacred text it is the widow and the orphan, the poor and the stranger who are blessed in the eyes of the Lord; it is kindness, relief and mercy that prove the power of faith – and justice that measures the worth of state. Poverty and justice are religious issues. Kings are judged on how the poor fare under their rule; prophets speak to the gap between the rich and the poor as a reason for God’s judgment. And Jesus moves among the disinherited.

Let’s get Jesus back.

Let’s recover the faith that takes on the corruption of power. A faith that challenges complacency at both parties. If you’re a Democrat, you’re called to shake them up. If you’re a Republican, you’re called to shame them. Jesus drove the money changers from the temple of Jerusalem. We must drive them from the temples of democracy.

But let’s do it in love.

Let us love our neighbor, but let’s not allow him to poison our well -- from ignorance or intent. Let us love our enemy, even as we resist his aggression. We cannot defeat the terrorists if we become like them. We cannot stand up to the religious right if we imitate them.

What I’m talking about will be hard, devoid of sentiment and practical as nails. But love is practice, not piety.

“None are good but all are sacred.” I want to think this is what the founders meant when they included the not-so-self-evident assertion that “all men are created equal.” They were probing toward that spiritual truth that is the heart of our hope for this country. They saw America as a great promise – and it is. But America is a broken promise, and is it our calling to do what we can to fix it—to get America back on the track. St. Augustine shows us how: “One loving soul sets another on fire.”

Mobilize, sign up -- and get on with it."

DNC Chair Answers Democrats

Saturday, March 12, 2005

DNC Chairmain Dean directly answered questions to democrats, here was his answer to mine:

"You mentioned -- and I applaud -- the importance of religious outreach by the Democratic party. My question: how you plan to do this outreach, and how can this outreach extend to a distributed grassroots of religious people?
Tim C. Culver City, CA

Yes, we plan to reach out to religious groups -- first by acknowledging their relevance and importance. And, second of all -- pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans when they talk about moral values.

We should learn how to talk about moral values. After all, If this election had been decided on moral values, Democrats would have won. It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our democracy is a moral value. It is a moral value to make sure that we do not leave our own debts to be paid by the next generation. Honesty is a moral value."

Call to Civic Responsiblity, Highlight Reel

Friday, March 11, 2005
Looking over the full NAE "Call to Civic Responsiblity," there are things in there I defintely do not personally agree with that they call for, and several things that I would have included that they didn't, but overall I am very impressed.

My personal highlight reel from the NAE Evangelical Call document:

"We know that we must wait for God to bring about the fullness of the kingdom at Christ’s return. But in this interim, the Lord calls the church to speak prophetically to society and work for the renewal and reform of its structures. The Lord also calls the church to practice the righteous deeds of the kingdom and point to the kingdom by the wholeness and integrity of the church’s common life."

"This example will require us to demonstrate God’s love for all, by crossing racial, ethnic, economic, and national boundaries. It will also often involve following Jesus’ example by suffering and living sacrificially for others."

"As Christian citizens, we believe it is our calling to help government live up to its divine mandate to render justice (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). From the teachings of the Bible and our experience of salvation, we Christians bring a unique vision to our participation in the political order and a conviction that changed people and transformed communities are possible. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are compelled outward in service to God and neighbor.

Jesus calls us as his followers to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our goal in civic engagement is to bless our neighbors by making good laws. Because we have been called to do justice to our neighbors, we foster a free press, participate in open debate, vote, and hold public office. When Christians do justice, it speaks loudly about God. And it can show those who are not believers how the Christian vision can contribute to the common good and help alleviate the ills of society."

"Christians must approach political engagement with humility and with earnest prayer for divine guidance and wisdom. Because power structures are often entrenched, perfect solutions are unobtainable. Because cultural changes produce problems that are often not amenable to legislative solutions, we must not expect political activity to achieve more than it can. Because social systems are complex and our knowledge is incomplete, we cannot predict all the effects of laws, policies, and regulations. As a result, we must match our high ideals with careful social analysis and critical reflection on our experience in order to avoid supporting policies that produce unintended and unfortunate consequences.

We will differ with other Christians and with non-Christians over the best policies. Thus we must practice humility and cooperation to achieve modest and attainable goals for the good of society. We must take care to employ the language of civility and to avoid denigrating those with whom we disagree."

"We seek justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable
Jesus summed up God’s law by commanding us to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:35-40). By deed and parable, he taught us that anyone in need is our neighbor (Luke 10:29-37). Because all people are created in the image of God, we owe each other help in time of need.

God identifies with the poor (Ps. 146:5-9), and says that those who “are kind to the poor lend to the Lord” (Prov. 19:17), while those who oppress the poor “show contempt for their Maker” (Prov. 14:31). Jesus said that those who do not care for the needy and the imprisoned will depart eternally from the living God (Matt. 25:31-46). The vulnerable may include not only the poor, but women, children, the aged, persons with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, minorities, the persecuted, and prisoners. God measures societies by how they treat the people at the bottom.

God’s prophets call his people to create just and righteous societies (Isa. 10:1-4, 58:3-12; Jer. 5:26-29, 22:13-19; Amos 2:6-7; Amos 4:1-3, 5:10-15). The prophetic teaching insists on both a fair legal system (which does not favor either the rich or the poor) and a fair economic system (which does not tolerate perpetual poverty). Though the Bible does not call for economic equality, it condemns gross disparities in opportunity and outcome that cause suffering and perpetuate poverty, and it calls us to work toward equality of opportunity."

"We work to protect human rights
Governments should be constitutionally obligated to protect basic human rights. Documents like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights are attempts to articulate the kind of treatment that every person deserves from the government under which they live. Insofar as a person has a human right, that person should be able to appeal to an executive, legislative, or judicial authority to enforce or adjudicate that right.

We believe that American foreign policy should reward those countries that respect human rights and should not reward (and prudently employ certain sanctions against) those countries that abuse or deny such rights. We urge the United States to increase its commitments to developing democracy and civil society in former colonial lands, Muslim nations, and countries emerging from Communism.

"We seek peace and work to restrain violence
Jesus and the prophets looked forward to the time when God’s reign would bring about just and peaceful societies in which people would enjoy the fruits of their labor without interference from foreign oppressors or unjust rulers. But from the beginning, Christians have recognized that God did not call them to bring in God’s kingdom by force. While all Christians have agreed that governments should protect and restore just and peaceful social orders, we have long differed on when governments may use force and whether we may participate in government-authorized force to defend our homelands, rescue others from attack, or liberate other people from oppression.

The peaceful settling of disputes is a gift of common grace. We urge governments to pursue thoroughly nonviolent paths to peace before resorting to military force. We believe that if governments are going to use military force, they must use it in the service of peace and not merely in their national interest. Military force must be guided by the classical just-war principles, which are designed to restrain violence by establishing the right conditions for and right conduct in fighting a war. In an age of nuclear and biological terrorism, such principles are more important than ever.

We urge followers of Jesus to engage in practical peacemaking locally, nationally, and internationally. As followers of Jesus, we should, in our civic capacity, work to reduce conflict by promoting international understanding and engaging in non-violent conflict resolution.

We labor to protect God’s creation
As we embrace our responsibility to care for God’s earth, we reaffirm the important truth that we worship only the Creator and not the creation. God gave the care of his earth and its species to our first parents. That responsibility has passed into our hands. We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part. We are not the owners of creation, but its stewards, summoned by God to “watch over and care for it” (Gen. 2:15). This implies the principle of sustainability: our uses of the Earth must be designed to conserve and renew the Earth rather than to deplete or destroy it.

"The Bible teaches us that God is not only redeeming his people, but is also restoring the whole creation (Rom. 8:18-23). Just as we show our love for the Savior by reaching out to the lost, we believe that we show our love for the Creator by caring for his creation.

Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation. This involves both the urgent need to relieve human suffering caused by bad environmental practice. Because natural systems are extremely complex, human actions can have unexpected side effects. We must therefore approach our stewardship of creation with humility and caution.

Human beings have responsibility for creation in a variety of ways. We urge Christians shape their personal lives in creation-friendly ways: practicing effective recycling, conserving resources, and experiencing the joy of contact with nature. We urge government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats."

Our Commitment
"We urge all Christians to take their civic responsibility seriously even when they are not fulltime political activists so that they might more adequately call those in government to their task. We also encourage our children to consider vocations in public service.

We call churches and transdenominational agencies to cultivate an understanding of civic responsibility and public justice among their members. Seminaries and Christian colleges have a special responsibility to imbue future leaders with a sense of civic responsibility.

We call all Christians to a renewed political engagement that aims to protect the vulnerable and poor, to guard the sanctity of human life, to further racial reconciliation and justice, to renew the family, to care for creation, and to promote justice, freedom, and peace for all.

Above all, we commit ourselves to regular prayer for those who govern, that God may prosper their efforts to nurture life, justice, freedom, and peace."

Evangelicals Open Debate On Widening Policy Questions

This is a good thing, as the NAE now has as much or more influence as the older National Council of Churches ever had. Here is excerpts from the the London paper, The Day:

"Evangelicals Open Debate On Widening Policy Questions

The National Association of Evangelicals, with 30 million members in 45,000 churches, opened a debate on Thursday on a document intended to expand the political platform of evangelicals beyond the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage.

The authors of the paper, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” said they reached a consensus between liberals and conservatives by adopting public policy goals, but not prescribing strategies to achieve them. At a luncheon held by the association on Thursday on Capitol Hill, however, some evangelical leaders voiced concern that the new platform could dilute the focus of the evangelical movement by taking on too many issues. The document urges evangelicals to address issues like racial injustice, religious freedom, poverty in the United States and abroad, human rights, environmentalism and advancing peace through nonviolent conflict resolution.

The “Evangelical Call” is an effort to bridge some of the fault lines running through the evangelical world, between Republicans and Democrats, between those who welcome political involvement and those who shun it and between those who say social problems are a result of personal sin and those who say they are a result of systemic inequity.

“Evangelicals have sometimes been accused of having a one- or two-item political agenda,” said the Rev. Ronald J. Sider, who helped draft the document and is the president of Evangelicals for Social Action, a group affiliated with the liberal wing. “This document makes it very clear that a vast body of evangelicals today reject a one-issue approach.”

Barbara Williams-Skinner, president of the Skinner Leadership Institute, a Christian training center in Tracy's Landing, Md., criticized evangelicals who decide their votes using abortion and same-sex marriage as a litmus test.

“The litmus test is the Gospel, the whole of it,” said Williams-Skinner, an African-American who told the group that she is a Democrat who opposes abortion.
Williams-Skinner was the sole speaker to draw a standing ovation.

Critics indicated that the new smorgasbord approach could hit resistance.

Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family, an influential ministry based in Colorado Springs, stood up at the luncheon and warned the other leaders, “Do not make this about global warming. The issues of marriage, the issues of pro-life are the issues that define us to this day.”

Bob Casey, Democrats and Abortion

Excerpts from this MSNBC article on the Democrats allowing and even supporting pro-life democratic candidates, specifically focusing on Bob Casey in the senate race against 2 term Republican Rick Santorum.

"Now as the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Schumer’s job is to chip away at the Republican majority of 55. Schumer has scored a big success by persuading Pennsylvania state Treasurer Bob Casey, a foe of abortion rights, to be the Democratic candidate against two-term Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a leader of the anti-abortion movement.

Casey has wide name recognition among Pennsylvania voters, elected three times statewide as auditor general and treasurer, as well as being the son of former Gov. Bob Casey.

Democratic senators voiced mixed opinions this week about Schumer’s strategy of recruiting anti-Roe candidates. “It’s been my strategy for a long time, as a pro-life Democrat and as a member of Democrats for Life,” said Nelson, who is running for re-election next year. “So I would welcome others who feel similarly.”

Referring to Casey and Langevin, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., also up for re-election in 2006, said Tuesday that Democratic leaders “weren’t recruiting them because they are anti-choice. They are anti-choice, but that is not why people have been talking to them. They are very strong, terrific public servants, and it’s very clear that they can win.”

Staunchly anti-abortion in his views, he said in 1992, “The special interests controlling the party are absolutely intolerant of any view on abortion other than their own most extreme view” and contended that “by rejecting abortion on demand, we can move our party back to the mainstream.”

The younger Casey said Wednesday his father “would be very encouraged by the fact that the party is more embracing of a broader point of view, on a number of fronts, including abortion. That’s one of the messages he wanted to deliver in 1992.”

Sojourners Vigils to Mark 2nd Year of Iraq War

"Sojourners has issued an urgent call to action to honor the lives lost in war, and to advance the imperative for peace. Since March 19, 2003, more than 1,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqis. U.S. citizens have also suffered on the domestic front, as crucial domestic programs that benefit low-income families have been threatened and the already-ballooning national deficit has swelled to compensate for the cost of war. Sojourners calls on readers to gather together in prayer and remembrance, and advocate for lasting peace and security in the region.

Search below to find a vigil that has been organized in your area!

»Sign up to host a vigil
»Search for a vigil in your area

If a vigil has not yet been registered near you, click here to organize one anytime over the weekend of March 18."

AP News - Personal Accounts Tank in Polls, GOP Says

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
From AP News:

"The heart of President Bush's plan for Social Security, allowing younger workers to create personal accounts in exchange for a lower guaranteed government benefit, is among the least popular elements with the public, Republican pollsters told House GOP leaders Tuesday.

According to the memo, Americans of all age groups "were most resistant to proposals that involved cutting or reducing benefits or raising Social Security payroll taxes.

"When forced to choose a course of action, a majority ... chose raising the age of early retirement, and there was also support for further reducing starting benefits for early retirement."

Despite the general resistance to higher taxes, there is very strong support for exposing higher levels of income to the existing levy, the pollsters wrote.

Asked what they liked least, 31 percent of the participants in the sessions mentioned that the government would be responsible for keeping track of the accounts. Another 24 percent "least liked the fact that workers would be required to accept a lower traditional benefit in return for participation," a key element of Bush's plan.

The findings surfaced on the eve of a House Ways and Means Committee hearing into Social Security's finances and as the administration pushes ahead with an aggressive campaign to raise public support for changes."

From the Call to Renewal: Budgets are Moral Documents

Budgets are moral documents that reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization, city, state, or nation. They tell us what is most important and valued to those making the budget. Examining budget priorities is a moral and religious concern.

On February 7, President Bush put forth his 2006 Budget Proposal. Despite the fact that 36 million Americans currently live in poverty and 45 billion Americans live without health insurance, the President's budget proposes a 16% reduction over 5 years in domestic programs and a $45 billion net reduction in Medicaid over the next 10 years. At the same time, the President's budget asks for $2.45 trillion over 10 years to extend existing tax cuts and approve more cuts!

Call to Renewal hopes that you will partner with us to take prophetic action against a budget, which asks that the cost of the deficit be borne by the poor. We look forward to taking action with you to ensure that our nation’s budget reflects our values of compassion, fairness and security for all American families.

TAKE ACTION:

Make your voice heard that “Budgets are Moral Documents!”

Jesus Talks With a Gay Man

A retelling of John 4, from Ragamuffin Ramblings blog:

"Jesus Talks With A Gay Man
- (John 4:1-33, 39-42 - more or less...)

1 In late July, the Metro Chicago Synod heard that Jesus was attracting more first-time visitors and baptizing more adults than any other ELCA pastor in the city, 2 although in fact it was not really Jesus who had baptized them, but his irregularly-commisioned staff of unordained lay ministers. 3 Now when Jesus learned of this, he left the seminary community in Hyde Park and went back once more toward the ELCA headquarters on Higgins Road.

4 Now to get there, he had to go through an area just north of downtown called Boystown. 5 So he came to a part of Boystown called Northhalsted, not far from the plot of ground where Emperor Mayor Daley had ordained that the Chicago Cubs should play baseball. 6 Cub's Stadium was near there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey on the Red Line, sat down at a sidewalk café table outside the bar called Hydrate. It was just about lunch-time, and though the rainbow flags were fluttering in the breeze and the music inside the bar was pumping, there weren't many people around (because it's often hot and miserable outside, at mid-day in late July, in Chicago).

7 A waiter came to the table, wearing a bright pink "His+His" t-shirt and a "Silence=Death" armband, and raised one eyebrow at the man seated at the table in front of him in the "Come Follow Me" t-shirt. Jesus said to him, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (All the lay ministers had gone down the street to pick up Subway sandwiches for the rest of the journey.)

9 The gay man said to him, "Hey...you tell me. After all, you appear to be a straight Christian, and I'm a gay man. Let's face it - we don't get many religious folks in Boystown, let alone places like this. And I'm not only a gay man, but I'm a Muslim gay man. So where does a guy like you get off asking someone like me for a drink?" (For Christians do not associate with gays, nor with Muslims if they can help it.)

10 Jesus answered him, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

11 "Hey, mister," the gay man said, "I'm the waiter here. I don't see you with an order pad or a serving tray, and it's tough for customers to even get close to our fountain-drink station, let alone our bar. So how are you going to get anything for me to drink, let alone 'living water'? Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you somehow greater than the folks who own this place, who let us drink have free water and soda (and snitch the occasional mixed drink) whenever we want?"

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks your water, or your soda, or your beer will get thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

15 The gay man said to him, "Yeah? Mister...you know what, I have no idea who you really are, or even what the heck you're talking about. But you're the first Christian man in 20 years that hasn't spit on me, or called me 'an abomination' to my face. Somehow, I think I want some of what you're offering. Give me some of this water you keep talking about, so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to get something to drink."

16 Jesus told the man, "OK - just call your wife and come back here, and we'll talk."

17 "Who are you kidding?" the gay man said. "Don't you know where you are? You're in Boystown, for cryin' out loud. I don't have a wife, or a girlfriend. Heck, right now I don't even have a boyfriend," he replied.

Jesus said to her, "You're right when you say you have no boyfriend. The fact is, you've had five boyfriends, and the guy you're living with now isn't even your boyfriend. He's just a guy you picked up in the club - some guy who doesn't even know your real last name."

19 Whoah, buddy," the gay man said, "that's pretty intense! How'd you know that about me?" Jesus was silent. "OK...I get it. Maybe you're one of those folks who can see right through people - maybe one of those guys with 'second sight.' Maybe you're one of those folks who 'have the Spirit,' like those televangelists say. 20 I don't know anything about that. My family - my people (the ones who are observant, anyway) - think that you have to pray five times a day to Allah to get that kind of power. The rest of the people I know don't even bother with that spiritual mumbo-jumbo...they just think you have to work out a lot, look good, live fast, die hard and leave a good-looking corpse. And all the Christians I've met think that I have to pray their way, and start living life their way, or I'm 'going to hell.' Either way, my day-to-day life is so empty, I'm not convinced that I'm not already in hell. What's a guy supposed to believe?"

21 Jesus said, "Believe me, my friend, a time is coming when you won't worship God in Mecca, or in the gym, or in the club, or in a church sanctuary. 22 You and your friends worship what you think you know, but do not know. Christians worship what they do know, for salvation is promised in Scripture. 23 Yet a time is coming - and has now come - when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

25 The gay man said, "I know that the church folks say that their Savior is coming. Maybe when he finally gets here, he will explain everything to us."

26 Then Jesus declared, "Then wait no longer. I'm the one they're waiting for."

The Irregularly-Commissioned Lay Ministers Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then the lay ministers returned and were more than a little surprised to find Jesus apparently talking with a gay man - one who appeared to be Middle-Eastern in origin, to boot. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with him?"

28 Then, leaving his tray and his order pad behind at the table, the gay man went back to the bar, and even next door to the gym and to the other clubs, and said to the people, 29 "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted. Could this possibly be 'the Christ' all those religious folks keep talking about?" 30 People came out of the gym, and out of the bars and clubs, and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile the lay ministers (the ones who considered themselves Jesus' disciples) kept saying, "Hey, padré, you may walk on water, but come on - even Michael Jordan's gotta eat something." 32 But Jesus said to them, "I have a source of energy that you know nothing about."

33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Did someone slip him some Mrs. Field's cookies while we weren't looking?"
....
Many Gays and Lesbians Believe


39 Many of the gays and lesbians who gathered from all around Boystown believed in Jesus because of what the waiter said: "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted." 40 So when the people of that area - gay men, lesbians, bisexuals (even people in civil unions from Vermont and Episcopalians visiting from New Hampshire) came to him, they urged Jesus to stay with them. So rather than continuing the ride out to Higgins Road, the irregularly consecrated lay ministers found some rooms at a nearby bed-&-breakfast, and he stayed in Boystown - amidst the people with whom most Christians would not associate - for two days. 41 And because of what Jesus spoke to the men and women there, many more became believers.

42 The people who heard Jesus said to the gay man who first encountered him, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

Think Progress: Minimum Wage

Over 80% of Americans support a raise in the minimum wage, and only 6% oppose it. Its purchasing power has fallen every year since 1997, and it is worth less today than it has been worth in all but two of the last 48 years.

And yet, yesterday the Senate rejected two proposals to raise the minimum wage (which is a ghastly $5.15 an hour and has not been raised since 1996). By this point an increase is so overdue it hardly seems worth fighting over raising wages a dollar - which is why some people have turned to working for a living wage.

19th Century Evangelicals: Personal Faith and Social Action

Learning from our past:

"Nevertheless, from the age of John Wesley to the present, there has been an unbroken chain of persons who have belied the division between evangelistic vital piety and social transformation—people such as Charles Finney, Frances Willard, Mary McLeod Bethune, Toyohiko Kagawa, E. Stanley Jones, Howard Thurman, Clarence Jordan, Orlando Costas, and many others—all of whom have insisted that both a fervent faith and social action are necessary for a true commitment to the gospel.

Contrary to the compartmentalization in much of Western society, they did not separate their lives into distinct sacred and secular spheres; rather, their social justice advocacy and religious devotion were conceived of in a comprehensive way.

They experienced a growing, vibrant relationship with Christ and they interpreted that experience with an activistic theology. In spite of cultural pressures to polarize their spirituality, they maintained a holistic vision, and thus they offer to us outstanding examples of Christian integration."

Democrats Raise $3.4M in Three Weeks

The crucial work of re-building and reforming the Democratic party is going on now. We will win or loose in the mid-terms in 06 and the Whitehouse in 08 based on how well we organize NOW.

Also, on the democrats.com site, you can submit your own question directly to Chairman Dean and they are blogging the responses, a good chance to get your own voice into the conversation.

This fund raising number is a good start. And mostly due to the response of the grassroots small donors. Be sure to jump in where you can, and help with the movement...


"The Democratic National Committee raised $3.4 million in three weeks — more than double the amount raised during the same time in 2001 after President Bush was first elected, the new Democratic chairman said Monday.

Chairman Howard Dean is working to keep Democrats competitive with a national Republican Party that had a 6-1 cash advantage at the beginning of February. In January, the GOP raised $10.5 million.

Dean was elected DNC chairman Feb. 12 by party members hoping he would bring the fund-raising skills that he exhibited during his presidential campaign.

"We're just delighted the fund raising is going better than we had dared to hope," Dean said Monday in a phone interview. "We haven't put out an Internet solicitation yet."

Dean said he expects to begin soliciting money through the Internet "sooner rather than later" and said the party will depend heavily on its base of small donors.

The former Vermont governor also has been helping state parties raise money. He made an appearance at a Mississippi fund-raiser March 1 that brought in $90,000 and one in Kansas that netted $45,000."

Anti-Gang Efforts and the Bush Budget

Monday, March 07, 2005

As noticed by the blog "Heart, Soul & Humor:

"Double-Talk on Helping Anti-Gang Efforts

"Taking on gang life will be one part of a broader outreach to at-risk youth, which involves parents and pastors, coaches and community leaders, in programs ranging from literacy to sports."
- President Bush's State of the Union promise to focus on ending gang activity,
2/2/05

VERSUS

"Law enforcers say Bush budget cuts would hamper anti-gang efforts…[b]ecause it proposed to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to state and local programs that help troubled kids and anti-gang efforts."
- Knight Ridder,
3/2/05"

Permanent Jump Start

I can't stop reading or pointing users to Slacktivist's site. Here is the latest:

"Permanent jump-start

The Washington Post's Jim Vandehei reports today that "Tax Cuts Lose Spot on GOP Agenda":

Bush's call for Congress to make permanent all the tax cuts enacted in his first term faces increasingly strong resistance among some Republicans concerned about rising deficits. The chairmen of the Senate Budget and Finance committees said in interviews last week that Republicans might wait until next year, or later, to consider the Bush plan ...

President Bush has described his tax-cuts from 2001 and from 2003 as efforts "to jump-start the economic recovery." And now, Bush, says, that jump-start must be made permanent in order to keep the engine running. Or something like that.

It doesn't seem like Bush understands the idea of a "jump-start."

Here is one of many handy online tutorials on "How to Jump-Start a Battery." It ends, as all such instructions do, by saying:

"You're on your way ... but not before you remove the cables. Cables should be removed in reverse order that you put them on."

Picture what it would mean to disregard this final step. Picture the "permanent jump-start" -- two cars, perilously close, racing down the highway with their hoods up and black and red cables stretching between their engines. A "permanent jump-start" is not only unnecessary, but foolish and dangerous.

And yet, this image has become the central metaphor and argument the president offers for extending, and making permanent, his tax-cuts. The presentation of such a strange, contradictory image is, in Orwell's phrase, "a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying."

And if the president isn't interested in what he is saying, why should we be?"

On Social Security: Fun With Numbers

Good article on the Motley Fool Investment Site on Social Security -- They give a well written essay on the problem, and make a persuasive argument that privatization is not the solution. Here is an excerpt:

"This is a situation that promises to collapse – the math says so. The solution isn't privatization, which will create larger government programs, but rather in a final, honest discussion of what insurance is supposed to do. It protects against disaster.

For you wealthy retirees and near-retirees who believe that I'm suggesting that you're not going to get back what you paid in, BINGO. That's exactly what I am suggesting.

Social Security should return to its real function -- an insurance policy under which anyone whose average income or net assets are higher than some defined level would be ineligible. The timing and terms of this change could be phased in over time. Social Security was meant as a straight collectivist social program, and it would at least remain solvent as such. Such a recognition would be far superior to a situation where the government controls wide swaths of the stock market.

We could also change the definition of retirement age to recognize the longer life expectancy for Americans. But rather than simply name an arbitrary age, we could index it: The date on which you could begin to receive Social Security benefits would be set at, say, 11 years less than the average life expectancy.

Something has to give. We do not yet have a crisis in Social Security, but the math is very, very simple. If we believe as a society that the protection of the weakest is a noble pursuit, then we have to consider changes to the system that guarantee that we can offer such protection.

The only real excuse not to do this would be that we'd prefer not to deal with it, and just leave the job of cleaning it up to our children."

More getting political news via Internet

The net's increasing role in influencing political thought is highlighted in the latest Pew surveys:

"Reliance on the Internet for political news during last year's presidential campaign grew sixfold from 1996, while the influence of newspapers dropped sharply, according to a study issued yesterday.

Eighteen percent of American adults cited the Internet as one of their two main sources of news about the presidential races, compared with 3 percent in 1996. The reliance on television grew slightly, to 78 percent from 72 percent.

Meanwhile, the influence of newspapers dropped to 39 percent last year, from 60 percent in 1996, according to the telephone-based survey from the Pew Research Center for The People and the Press and the Pew Internet and American Life Project."

The Washington Monthly

Sunday, March 06, 2005
Excerpts from Amy Sullivan on Press and "Values":

"I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS....Yesterday's Washington Post headline on a story about Judge Terrence Boyle's confirmation hearing first caught my eye, then utterly confused me, and finally reminded me that I wanted to write about my latest pet peeve: the seemingly reckless way in which terms like 'values' and 'religion' and 'morals' are being tossed about in the press.

The inaccurate and/or indiscriminate use of concepts and terms like "values" and "religion" without context is fast becoming my biggest pet peeve, and if I have to become a one-woman officiating squad, then so be it. A few weeks ago, Time magazine managed to raise my blood pressure with these parting sentences in an article about Democratic efforts to reach religious voters: "But the biggest risk for the party is to come off as insincere. Religious voters might like the music, but they're unlikely to be seduced by it as long as Democrats stick to their core positions." [my emphasis]

Yes, because Lord knows "religious voters" couldn't possibly agree with any Democratic core positions. Good grief. You've heard me say it before, but apparently it needs repeating: A good many people are Democrats not despite their faith but precisely because of their faith. I don't want to read "religious" when what you mean is "right-wing." I don't want to read "evangelical" when what you mean is "conservative evangelical." And I don't want to read "moral values" when what you're really referring to are hot-button, right-wing sexual morality issues. The conflation of those terms with those specific definitions is NOT a neutral decision; it's part of a very conscious strategy. It's understandable that some news outlets have been taken in by the spin. Repeating the spin, however, is irresponsible."

Moral Bankruptcy

Excellent posting on Slacktavist:

"Moral bankruptcy (cont'd.)

Kevin Drum offers a rundown of the proposed Democratic amendments to the Senate version of the bankruptcy bill -- all of which got shot down by the Republican majority. They're things like improved disclosure of credit card fees, efforts to prevent seniors from losing their homes or to protect veterans from the most punitive measures of the bill.

None of these amendments would have lessened the bill's purported effect of preventing bankruptcy "abuse," so Kevin asks a pertinent question: "If stopping abuse were truly your primary goal, why would you vote against amendments like these?"

Jonathan Chait opts for the simplest, most obvious answer: because the bill has nothing to do with stopping bankruptcy "abuse" -- it's really just a means of helping the credit card banks to confiscate even more of the income and assets of their "customers." Here's Chait's summary of the bill, in an L.A. Times piece titled "When Democrats Join the Dark Side":

This is one of those abysmal pieces of legislation that exists only because businesses with a vested interest in it have lobbied hard for its passage and that would have no chance of success if more than a tiny fraction of the public were aware of its existence.

Bankruptcy filings have risen slightly in recent years. Credit card companies argue that it's because people are gaming the system, going on irresponsible spending binges and then using bankruptcy to stick their creditors with the bill.

The more likely explanation is that the rise in health insurance costs has driven more people into bankruptcy. A recent Harvard study found that half of Americans who declared bankruptcy did so because of illness or medical bills. Regardless of why you go bankrupt, though, the new bill would make it easier for creditors to seize your assets. Nice, huh?

This isn't to say there aren't abuses in the bankruptcy system. There are. The bill simply does nothing to stop them.

I would imagine that many Republicans don't like Chait's title. If you are a Republican, and you don't like people referring to your party as "the Dark Side" -- as in the evil side, as in the Bad Guys -- then your next step is simple: stop supporting evil legislation like this predatory bankruptcy bill. That's a lot easier than trying to defend whorish little favors for donors like this, especially when the effect of this bill will be real, serious harm and hardship for many Republican constituents.

Is "evil" too strong a word? Consider another failed amendment to the bill. The title of this AP report (via Dr. Alterman) puts it plainly: "Senate refuses to limit interest rates at 30%."

30 percent! That's not even a cap, that's a stratosphere. Yet supporters of this bill thought that was too restrictive for the credit card industry. Peter G. Gosselin has more details in another L.A. Times article:

Debate about the bill continued Thursday, with the Republican-controlled Senate refusing to limit consumer interest rates to 30 percent. The vote was a bipartisan 74 to 24 to kill a proposed amendment by Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.). Senate passage of the bill is expected next week.

Pop quiz: Name all the major religions, cultures and/or civilizations that have condoned the charging of 30 percent or greater interest on loans.

Give up? Me too. Yet here we have 74 U.S. senators disagreeing with, well, all of human history and embracing blatant, egregious usury. Is "evil" too strong a word? Here's a case study from Gosselin's article which, by the way, is titled "Credit Card Firms Won as Users Lost: They ... make money even on people who went bankrupt."

In Cleveland, a municipal court judge tossed out a case that Discover Bank brought against one of its cardholders after examining the woman's credit card bill.

According to court papers, Ruth M. Owens, a 53-year-old disabled woman, paid the company $3,492 over six years on a $1,963 debt only to find that late fees and finance charges had more than doubled the size of her remaining balance to $5,564. ...

Judge Robert Triozzi ruled that Owens didn't have to pay, saying she had "clearly been the victim of [Discover's] unreasonable, unconscionable and unjust business practices."

Now 74 senators have sided against Judge Triozzi. They want to make it easier for Discover and MBNA and all their ilk to continue these "unreasonable, unconscionable and unjust business practices." They want to make sure that these creditors will not only be able to collect $10,000 on a $1,963 loan, but also be able to repossess the disabled debtor's house.

Evil is not too strong a word."

"Don't Mess with Moses!"

Friday, March 04, 2005
Great posting on the BullMoose blog:

"Fifth Commandment


The Moose warns the elephant that he shouldn't violate the tablets that were delivered at Mt. Sinai.

The GOP may be on the losing side of a social issue - social security. The efforts of the Republican front organization USA Next to link AARP with gay marriage and treason are pathetic and amusing. It truly smacks of desperation because it appears that the Bushies are having a hard time selling privatization - sorry, personal accounts.

It is ironic that the Republicans are trying to employ social wedge issues to sell social security. That is because social security may be the ultimate government "values" program. It essentially honors the injunction in Deuteronomy 5:16 -"Ka'bed et avicha v'et ee'mecha" - "honor thy mother and father" by ensuring them a safety net. Forget about actuarial statements, you can look it up in the Decalogue.

Now, it is said that Jesus may save, but Moses invests. Because the Moose is an Old Testament type he is all for private investment. But it makes sense, moral sense, that government guarantee that the most revered in our society - the old - have a basic defined benefit. In contrast, the forces of Mammon are seeking to gut the program as was evidenced by the youthful chants of "social security must go" at the recent Santorum town hall meeting.

Rabbi Moose intones that this is truly an anti-Biblical world view.

The Moose has long believed that the GOP has benefited as the custodian of order and tradition. In the case of social security, the elephant is threatening to transform a program that has ably upheld tradition - the protection of the aged.

The President is seeking to inject market-based risk taking into the social security system. That is interesting because when W. took risks when he was in the private sector, and ventures went south, there was always a Texas sugar daddy to bail him out. Needless to say, most Americans do not enjoy that luxury of birth.

So, the Moose warns Republicans - Don't mess with Moses!"

CNN: Fact Checking the President's Social Security Push

A very good "fact checking" of Bush's push for his privatization plan for Social Security from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/03/04/social.security.factcheck/

Worth your time...

A Promise To My Grandfather

A very moving post from the Daily Kos site, I completely understand the feelings, and am shamed by the stinging truth of how "Christians" and "Moral People" have played such a part in history. May we be able to admit our collective past and present sins as a Church and repent. May we learn from Jesus how to be voices of "love and hope," not "hatred and bigotry." Here are excerpts:

"Last year at my grandfather's funeral, I made a promise to both him and myself that I would fight to the very end to prevent the evil that he had to endure in his life from happening again. Everyday when I look into the blue eyes of my daughter, the same blue eyes my grandfather had, I am reminded of that promise and know that it is not only a promise to him, but to her as well.

In the fall of 1943, after being captured by the Nazis in the Ukraine, my grandfather was sent to Auschwitz. At first, he was just one of many Soviet POWs held at the camp, but it was later discovered that he was Jewish, so he was removed from the Soviet soldiers and placed with the other European Jews. My grandfather never knew why he survived while others parished, but there was never a day that passed after liberation in 1945 that he thanked God for that gift of life.

My grandfather was able to get to England and then on to America to restart his life. He raised 5 children and later cherished his 22 grandchildren. He loved to work in his garden, even on the hottest of days. As a child, I always wondered why he wore long shirts even on those August days when it would easily be 100 degrees (even in the shade). When I was 9, I caught my grandfather shaving in the bathroom and that is when I saw it: His Camp Number - 58877241.

Not knowing any better, I asked him why he got such a "stupid tattoo". He told me that he really didn't want to get it and quickly tried to cover it with a towel. I followed him asking him, "Why don't you get it removed then?" He stop dead in the hallway and without turning around said "So I don't forget." We never discussed it again.

When he died last summer, I told myself that he was finally at peace. As I stood over his coffin with my wife, I reached down and took his arm in mine. I unbuttoned his sleeve and rolled it up. I looked at the number again - 58877241. My wife looked at me and asked "Why are you doing that?" All I could say was "So I don't forget." Right then I made my promise to him - Never again.

Now when I see the hate and bigotry that comes out of those that call them "Christians" or "Moral People", I know that this is how it began seven decades ago in Europe. It was too late, when people finally woke up, millions had been carted away in cattle cars to their deaths.

I don't want to see that here or anywhere else. I do not want there to be cattle cars filled with people that these hate mongers scream out against. I do not want to see gays, liberals, Mexicans, hippies, Hollywood Actors, or anyone else have to be tattooed with a number. No more 58877241s.

This summer, my family and I will be traveling to Auschwitz, so my children understand what there grandfather went through. I want my daughter to know why I see him in her eyes. And then everytime I look in her eyes I will see hope and love and not 58877241."

Recent Polling on Social Security

Thursday, March 03, 2005

From Talking Points Memo:

"The recent CNN/USAToday poll found that the percentage of Americans who believe that major changes are needed "in the next year or two" was 38%. A month earlier that number was 49%.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released a couple weeks ago showed that over the previous two months number of Americans who believe in "making some adjustments [to Social Security] but leaving the Social Security system basically as is" went from 39% in December, to 44% in January, to 50% in mid-February.

What the polls do show is a rapidly increasingly awareness of the debate itself, which makes sense given the amount of news coverage. But as the recent Pew poll shows awareness of the debate correlates strongly with opposition.

In other words, the more folks know about the president's plan, the less they like it.

The simple truth is that the president isn't just losing the debate on private accounts and phase-out. He's also losing it on the underlying question of whether or not fundemental changes are necessary and whether the need for change is urgent."

Outsourcing Evil

From the Christian organization Prison Fellowship. Standing out from many other conservative organizations, Prison Fellowship wrote this excellent commentary on torture and "extrordinary rendition" of prisoners where the US hands over suspects to states that support torture:

Outsourcing Evil
Torture and the Two Cities

Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.

Maher Arar immigrated to Canada from Syria when he was a teenager, in part to escape the brutal regime of dictator Hafiz al-Asad. Thus, it was a nasty shock to him when Arar heard American agents say that he was on his way to Syria to be handed over to the authorities there. Why and how this happens to Arar and others like him should trouble every Christian.
Arar was detained at JFK airport on his way home from Tunisia because his name appeared on a "Watch List" of suspected terrorists. After questioning Arar for thirteen days, American officials handed him over to the CIA's "Special Removal Unit."

According to a recent New Yorker article, this unit "extradites" suspected terrorists to countries, such as Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, whose laws don't prohibit torture. This governmentally sanctioned "outsourcing" of what our laws prohibit even has a name: "extraordinary rendition."

In Arar's case, "extraordinary rendition" meant having his hands repeatedly whipped "with two-inch-thick electrical cables." Then, a year later, he was released. No charges were ever filed.

"Extraordinary rendition" isn't the only instance in our war against terrorism of what the UN Convention Against Torture, which we signed, calls "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment."
Reports out of Guantanamo Bay and Iraq include allegations of detainees shackled to the floor in fetal positions for more than twenty-four hours at a time with no food and water. "Prolonged exposure to extremes of heat, cold, and noise," growling dogs, and even sexual provocation have been used to break detainees' wills.

The most controversial "approved" interrogation method is called "waterboarding." The "victim is strapped to a board and lowered into a vat of water until he believes that drowning is imminent."

The justification for "extraordinary rendition" and "aggressive interrogation" is utilitarian. As one expert told Mayer, these tactics "can save hundreds of lives."

But Dan Coleman, a former FBI counter-terrorism expert, disagrees. He says there's "no value" in the information obtained this way. People will say anything to stop the pain and humiliation.
Even if these tactics sometimes work, that doesn't make it right. For every detainee who provides useful information, there's a Maher Arar who knows nothing.

Even if there's a good reason to believe that a detainee knows something, that can't justify such a violation of humanity dignity. The war against terrorism is, in significant part, a war of ideas and values. We fight, not only to defend ourselves, but also to uphold our values.
Torture dehumanizes, and it is not consistent with the values of a nation that says it holds truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights-life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

With a nation at war, extraordinary steps have been taken. Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the Civil War. President Franklin Roosevelt sent thousands of Japanese into internment camps in World War II. But even those were not as extreme as deliberately degrading human beings with torture. That's beyond the pale, and when we do it, the terrorists win because they weaken us morally."