08 June 2010

I've moooooved!

I've decided to consolidate and transition the blog into the rest of my website... so, please come visit me at my personal website to keep up with my blog.


13 April 2010

And then...

I took two minutes to look at Brooklyn Tweed and saw the Dylan scarf. AAAGH! I need to win the lottery...

Still on vacation from deep thoughts...

Despite the warmer temperatures, I'm still in a knitting mood - perhaps because I need something creative and fulfilling right now? ;-) At any rate, the yarn for the Shroom hat arrived on Friday - Spud and Chloe Outer in a lovely shade of green they call Bayou. I cast on Saturday night and finished Sunday afternoon:

I think my next project is going to be this wrap from Y2Knit; I got lucky with the weather last Friday and was able to wear my beret, but I think hat days are pretty much over now until November. I found some really lovely rose-colored yarn on clearance so I'll try a gauge swatch and see how things go.

07 April 2010

And now for something completely different...

Although I don't usually get the knitting itch in warm weather, this year appears to be different - I guess life stresses are increasing my need to do something creative and fulfilling. In any case, my local yarn shop put one of my favorite yarns, Araucania's Copihue, on clearance, and I grabbed a hefty stash of it. (And am tempted to get more - but that's another story.) I've been working on a cabled scarf, but decided on Friday night to pull out a beret pattern I found on Ravelry (I believe it's called the One-Day Beret Recipe) and see what I could do with that. It knitted up extremely quickly (about 5 hours in total?) and turned out thusly:

I'm extremely happy with it, although I suppose it could be a bit more slouchy. Of course, one of my work colleagues has fanned the flames by suggesting this would be a cute piece in black... which makes me think of the Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light I'd bought ages ago for another project, but which would probably work up beautifully for a beret. Hmm!

19 March 2010

TMI on TV?

I awoke this morning to find this link in my e-mail: Advertisers Ban the V-Word. Now, I have to say that I'm about as far from being a fan of ads for feminine hygiene products as you can get, BUT... why is it that erectile dysfunction is okay to mention but the V-word is not? It always amuses me when my mother-in-law visits from England because she complains about the huge number of pharmaceutical ads on TV, particularly the ones dealing with ED. I realize that this is how products get sold, but come on, folks - enough is enough. (Of course, I'm the first to admit that I could watch the Pledge ad with the swarms of black cats over and over...) An open society is great, but I don't need more specificity in these sorts of ads - and I definitely don't need disparate standards for ads dealing with men's and women's products. Sigh. This is why I went 5 years+ - happily, I might add - without access to any network or cable television. If not for Hubs' HGTV addiction and our mutual love of hockey, I might consider going back to that. :-(

24 February 2010

The Follies of Families: In the Margins (part 3)

A week ago my mother's sister passed away. As this is someone I had not seen in over twenty years, this was not a huge emotional hit in and of itself, but it prompted thoughts about my parents, especially given that the anniversary of my father's death was only two days before.

I know all families are dysfunctional to an extent, but I sometimes wonder at the level of dysfunction that resulted in my parents having eleven siblings between them and my really knowing only one of them well. When I was young I thought it was the coolest thing to have such a large family, but it's never panned out to be anything more than a genealogical fact of existence (with a couple of exceptions).

My dissatisfaction with this state of affairs no doubt stems from the fact that I have such a deep, acute longing for community, especially since my parents died five years ago. I crave that connection with people, that sharing of thoughts and emotions and ideas that is a real relationship. I lost a big support net and I haven't yet quite figured out how to replace it, save of course with my husband (who is fabulous - don't get me wrong!).

Where does one find community? I've looked in churches, often to no avail. Friends are hard to find and often, perhaps inevitably, slip into the ether as their - and my - life circumstances change. This hither-and-yon sort of life that I lead - working in one city and living in another 100 miles away - is not conducive to finding friends or community, I'm discovering. But I'm not sure what options I have... the bills must be paid, after all.

17 February 2010

In the Margins (part 2)...

"... prophets are God-intoxicated persons." 1

As I begin Lent this year, I'm pondering 'God-intoxicated persons.' I really like this phrase - but I'm also acutely aware that I am probably not as God-intoxicated as I should be. I was writing the other day about dark places. You might laugh, but the visual that comes to mind is that of the fruitcakes that my father used to make every year. Around Thanksgiving, he would bake the cake, and then he would faithfully marinate it until Christmas. (The year that he used moonshine to saturate it was particularly memorable...) By the end of December, that cake was soaked to its core with the liquor.

I'm thinking that, ideally, God would saturate me just like that fruitcake, down to the deepest, darkest places in my soul. I think many of the mystics (e.g., John of the Cross, the early desert fathers) talk about this kind of immersion. However, I also think that becoming God-intoxicated would relegate one to the margins - can one be deeply in relationship with God and simultaneously immersed in the culture of the center? I also have to be willing to be saturated like that - and, if you've read many other postings here, you probably can guess that I have some fear of what God might be calling me to do if I really allowed myself to listen. As I get older, however, I'm finding that life without that saturation is incredibly dry and dissatisfying.

(to be continued)

1 Koonthanam, George. "Yahweh the Defender of the Dalits: A Reflection on Isaiah 3:12-15." Voices From the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World. Ed. R.S. Sugirtharajah. London: Orbis, 1995. 106.

11 February 2010

In the Margins (part 1)...

In the last few days I've been thinking a lot about margins - in culture, in religion, in ourselves. Last night I was skimming a chapter from R.S. Sugirtharajah's Still at the Margins, and I found this definition: "... margins are conceptualized 'as lived spaces of representation as potentially nurturing places of resistance, real-and-imagined, material-and-metaphorical meeting grounds for struggles over all forms of oppression wherever they are found.'"1

In thinking about this, I hadn't really connected it to this week's lectionary texts, but then I read this in Sunday's epistle: "We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2, NRSV) But it strikes me that we Christians are called to live on the margins - how often have we heard the phrase 'in the world but not of it'? In some ways I suppose that the church - if it's healthy - could be viewed as a 'nurturing place of resistance,' a place that strengthens us to go out and witness from the margins, rather than being sucked into the center.

For some reason, when I think of margins the images of dark alleys or shadows at the edge of my peripheral vision come to mind. Is this some kind of subconscious distrust of marginalization, grown from years of being told I need to fit in? Perhaps. But from what I've seen of the center, I'm not sure that the shadows aren't right in the middle. I don't often watch television, but when I do, I'm more than a little disturbed by what seems to appeal most to the masses - reality programs that show humans at their cruelest or their lowest point, soap operas (and I'm the first to admit that I used to be a fan) that thrive in the mudpits of humanity... the list goes on and on. Is this really the best of which we as a species are capable?

This is not to say that being at the margins makes any of us superior. For myself, I'm acutely - and daily - aware of my own dark places and the mudpits in my own soul. If I have to choose, though, I think I prefer the margins, the places where those of us who don't quite fit into the center can find a home. The shades of grey are most evident in the margins, and those, to me, are where the Spirit does so much work. Perhaps shadows are not so threatening after all, and perhaps I don't feel quite so much need anymore to fit in.

(to be continued)

1 Rivera, Mayra R. “Margins and the Changing Spatiality of Power.” Still at the Margins. Ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah. London: T&T Clark, 2008. 126. This particular passage quotes from Soja, Edward W. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996. 35.

10 February 2010

I-VAWA Reintroduced

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) has been reintroduced; you can read about it here and here. You can contact your congressperson via Amnesty USA.

08 February 2010

Another Chilling Nicholas Kristof Column (NY Times)

The World Capital of Killing, from Sunday's New York Times. Since this is a snow day, I also plan to peruse the Enough Project's Congo resources. One of the recommended comments on the accompanying blog caught my eye, pointing to the need for deeper thinking on violence in Africa relative to cultural, ethnic, and racial issues (e.g., why the West has done so little to stop the violence in Congo and elsewhere). Lots of food for thought on this snowy day.

05 February 2010

Interesting Perspective on Haiti Reconstruction

This is from the "From Poverty to Power" blog written by Duncan Green. I had actually been looking at Paul Collier's book The Bottom Billion earlier today but chose not to buy it just yet. I was listening to a conversation about Haiti not too long ago, in which it seemed that every third or fourth comment came back around to the corruption in Haiti's government. Not being thoroughly knowledgeable, I chose not to respond at the time, but from what I've read, it seems to me that the current Haitian government should not necessarily be lumped into that same generalization. It also seems to me rather presumptuous to make that generalization, especially now. I'm not sufficiently familiar with Paul Collier's thinking to know whether his 'effective and dedicated management' proposal is representative of a disdain for Haiti's current leaders - is it, does anyone know? Are we not even willing to give their government a chance, with proper support, to shoulder the load?

A Little Late on Ye Olde Lectionary..., or the Chicken Exit

My brain is a bit slow to process this week... :-) At any rate, included in last week's lectionary readings was a passage from the beginning of Jeremiah (1:4-10), in which Jeremiah is called but protests that he is too young, inexperienced, etc., to fulfill his vocation. Every time I read this particular passage (and others like it in Scripture), it's like an itch deep inside - you know, the guilty kind. I've been giving God a similar line for more than 20 years now (and many others - I seem to be remarkably good at coming up with new excuses).

My problem, though, is that God doesn't seem to want to take no for an answer. Back and forth, around and around we go, and still no resolution. Called to be lay? Called to be ordained? We are all called to do something, I truly believe, but I can't help but feel that guilty itch that says I should be doing something more, something different. However, like Jeremiah, I keep saying to myself that I'm too [insert excuse - introverted, shy, socially inept, incapable of doing X - you get the picture] for God to really want. Every time I get close to taking the leap, I step back from the ledge. Unlike Isaiah (in this week's lectionary - Isaiah 6:1-8), I can't seem to bring myself to say, "Here am I - send me!"

04 February 2010

Hitting Where You're At...

As I wrote the other day, I'm wrestling with issues of economy and theological ethics. I don't think my brain has completely surfaced yet since last week! At any rate, one of the questions with which I'm struggling was posed in a discussion group:

"In what ways is the Christian concept of modesty of lifestyle dangerous to our economy that depends upon ever increasing growth?"

I've been thinking about this question in various ways for weeks... how do my (tiny and insignificant) economic choices impact others? If I choose to buy fair trade coffee rather than a cheaper brand, does that really make much difference? Should I support the economy by buying more stuff that I don't really need?

This op-ed from the New York Times addresses this issue. You may have heard about the new book by a family who sold their house and downsized, giving the proceeds to charity, and discovered they actually preferred the downsized way of life. This also comes back to the question posed above, though - is living modestly the way to go? The economic impact of my living more simply cannot match that of this family's... but perhaps it's not about how much I do but simply that I do it. My individual choices won't have much of an impact globally, but if more of us make those choices, the impact will grow.

I also wonder whether there's a bit of Western-centric thinking underlying the discussion question. Why should the American economy (since that's where I live) be the focus of growth? If we reallocate the growth of wealth and empower developing nations to build their wealth, rather than developing countries continuing to hold them down, is the global economy not still growing? If we change our farm subsidy laws here in the US, for example, and thus allow other nations a shot at access to global markets, might this not have a positive impact?

03 February 2010

Great article...

Orphaned, Raped and Ignored (from the New York Times, by Nicholas Kristof)

Debt Relief or No?

In a recent post on Aid Watch, the writer argues that debt relief (or cancellation, which he contends are two different things) is not what those most interested in Haiti's long-term recovery should be advocating for. He writes, "Instead of fixating on dropping the debt, why don’t activists and politicians campaign to hold public and private donors accountable for avoiding the mistakes of past disaster relief efforts?"

Not being an economist or policy analyst, I can't adequately address the issue of whether debt relief makes economic sense. However, what I do find myself a little uncomfortable with is the sense that we either can do one thing or the other, but not both. I get the point that advocacy resources are limited, but I don't think that advocacy efforts need to stop or start at debt relief either. Why not a multipronged approach as opposed to an either/or mindset? If debt relief/cancellation can be of help to Haiti's long-term recovery (and I'm not yet convinced that it cannot), remaining vigilant about successful disaster relief is also important. Advocating for markets that are more open not only to Haitian products but to those of other developing countries is crucial.

The more I read and the more I learn, the more I get the sense that all these issues - hunger, economic injustice, etc. - are tangled together in an extremely complicated web that is very difficult to unravel. If I seem confused, it's because I am! But I think that all of us who care about justice owe it to Haiti and to the rest of the developing world to learn (even if it means making mistakes) and to educate ourselves in order to be the most effective advocates we can be.

31 January 2010

Haiti: Don't Forget

If the news cycle operates in this case as it often does, Haiti will remain on the newscasters' radar for several more weeks, and then it will be gradually replaced by newer, 'hotter' stories. It's incumbent upon all of us, I think, not to forget even when we are no longer reminded on a daily basis.

Even when the immediate medical needs have been met, and the survivors have been fed, the work will have just barely begun. The process of reconstruction and rebuilding will be huge. I heard yesterday on CNN that it will take four years simply to restore Haiti to the place it was an hour before the earthquake - and I think we've all become acutely aware that Haiti needed a lot of work even then.

I don't often watch the television show "The Doctors", but I did watch Friday's episode, in which the doctors traveled to Haiti to offer their assistance. What I found particularly disturbing was their description of the border crossing from the Dominican Republic into Haiti. In an instant, they went from paved roads and well-constructed buildings to a dusty path and shacks. That disparity between two areas on the same island, with some semblance of a common history, speaks volumes to the task that was already facing Haiti some weeks ago and now is even more critically important.

Empowering Haiti not only to restore itself to the point it was before the earthquake but also to move beyond that is the task that we need to keep on the front burner even when the daily television images fade. Cancelling Haiti's debt is an important first step, but I think we also need to provide ongoing support so that Haiti can pull itself out. This requires some care and caution, I think, as doing it for Haiti will not solve the problems that the country faces. If the Haitian people are able to do it themselves, albeit with whatever help they need from the rest of the world, they will build not only a country but faith in their own capacities and strengths.

30 January 2010

Ethical Economy?

Over the last two days, I attended the Trinity Institute on Building an Ethical Economy via the partner site at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Lancaster, PA. Needless to say, my brain is still sorting through the vast amounts of information, and I will probably be working it through via this blog for some time to come, but I thought I would at least start with some general comments.

This opportunity came at an ideal time for me... for some time now, I've been thinking a lot about the economy, economic justice, and poverty (as you can see from this blog!), and I was excited to hear what people such as Rowan Williams had to say. The speaker who particularly surprised me was Sir Partha Dasgupta, an economist from Cambridge University. I took one economics class each in undergraduate and graduate school, did poorly in both, and assumed that economics was my intellectual Waterloo. Because of my interest in the intersection between theology, policy, and justice, I always thought that economics was important for me to understand, but I have always wondered if I ever would. At any rate, I found Sir Partha both fascinating and relatively easy to understand... AND made me hungry for more. (I've already ordered his book, Economics: A Very Short Introduction, on Half.com, LOL.)

I found the Archbishop's comments equally intriguing and inspiring. One of the remarks I underlined in my notes from Thursday's talk was this: "No one is exempt from damage or incapable of gift within the human community." I thought that was really insightful and a place for a lot of reflection (on my own part, at any rate) to start. It's very easy to think of our lives as somewhat separate from, say, the lives of people in sub-Saharan Africa, but we are all interrelated in a larger way than we perhaps can fathom.

More to come as I process all this information... :-)

24 January 2010

The Year of the Lord's Favor

Last night at church, we had a discussion of this week's lectionary reading from Luke, specifically the phrase about "the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:14-21 is the gospel for this week.) During my hair appointment yesterday morning (while my hair was turning into rather something different than I had planned or hoped for, but that's a completely different story), I was reading from the book Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty about Bono's efforts concerning debt relief. I wrote here a few days about the need for debt relief for Haiti, but both these readings brought that need into sharper focus for me.

Haiti owes over $1 billion in debt. If it is required to continue paying that debt, that means millions of dollars every year that can't go towards rebuilding Haiti's infrastructure, providing education for their children, ensuring that Haitians have access to healthcare, help Haitians to become self-sufficient and even profitable in their chosen work... the list goes on and on. In today's gospel, Jesus quotes from Isaiah as follows: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV) Without the year of the Lord's favor (which carries implications of the Hebrew Bible notion of Jubilee), how can Haiti be set free?

It's difficult to look around and see how much I have, in juxtaposition with how little so many have in other parts of the world. The fact that 1 billion people - 1/5 of the world's population - live in chronic hunger should bother all of us seeking to live out our faith. Do we really need all that we have and all that we buy? Are we putting our treasure in the right place? Does the constant pull of consumerism jibe with the gospel call? If not, how do I get off the consumer treadmill and start working for the year of the Lord's favor?

20 January 2010

What Is Haiti Owed? (from The Nation)

What Is Haiti Owed?

I saw this yesterday but only now am able to post the link. The damage done by Haiti's never-ending external debt is truly sad. Haiti is now some $1 billion in debt, and any resources that it uses to pay that debt down quite obviously cannot be used to rebuild and recover. Isn't it time for a Jubilee Year in Haiti?

FYI you can sign a petition over at One.org encouraging debt forgiveness for Haiti.

16 January 2010

Kouchner on Rebuilding Haiti

Bernard Kouchner writes in this morning's Washington Post that we "must do everything in their power to rebuild this island nation and help restore its strength and energy." He proposes an international conference to start the process of rebuilding.

I'm not experienced in foreign policy or development, and so it's quite likely that I'm way off base, but one thing I would want to see in this process is empowerment rather than enabling. It's a fine line, I realize, but whatever rebuilding process occurs should involve Haiti deciding their own path, with support, rather than big international powers figuring out Haiti's path for them. Certainly countries such as France, the US, and Canada have vast resources and expertise to offer Haiti, but I think that unless Haitians take the primary role and accomplish a great deal of the rebuilding themselves, unless they can feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in their own work (supported as needed by the rest of the world), I worry that problems might arise somewhere down the road. It's far easier to dismiss things that we don't accomplish ourselves than to throw away our own hard work.

15 January 2010

From the UCC Stillspeaking Devotional..

From today's special Haiti edition of the Stillspeaking Devotional: "Lord, it's not just beyond-our-control, "natural evil" that's happened this week. The brick-hard truth is that the Haitian earthquake has been so devastating because it has been piled on top of years of poverty and corruption, exploitation and indifference." (Anthony B. Robinson) Amen. Now our task is not only to lift up the suffering, but also to empower them to rise out of the ashes and build something new and better. Are we in the rest of the world up to that task?

The Inevitable Encounter With Theodicy

Jarrod McKenna posted some interesting thoughts about Pat Robertson's recent claims regarding Haiti. What interested me most, however, was a string of comments on his blog wrestling with the issue of theodicy, or the question of why evil happens in our world.

My mother, who certainly lived through some hard times in the course of her eventful life with my father, struggled with this question from the time I was very young (if not before). I remember her reading Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People, but I don't know that she ever came to any solid conclusions. Nor have I, even with two degrees in theology.

Living through the deaths of both my parents within the space of three months didn't give me answers to the question, "Why me (or them)?" One could equally ask, "Why not me or them?" What did become abundantly clear to me was that, even in the darkest hour, God is there. We may not get the answers or results that we want, but God is nevertheless there and can walk with us through the darkest valley (to paraphrase Psalm 23).

Sometimes I think that concomitant with faith is the expectation that we will be shielded from pain or suffering. However, at least in my experience that's a highly unrealistic hope. With or without faith, we live in a world that does have cancer, that does have shifting tectonic plates, that does contain evil. God may not protect us from those things, but God can support us and help us to endure whatever we do encounter. Does it feel at times as though we are cursed, as though God has abandoned us? Yes. Christian mystics have often written of the feeling of abandonment. But that is our perception, not God's. God does not abandon, and God certainly does not curse with earthquakes or other natural disasters.

I remember being asked when I was interviewing for a field ed position in a hospital about my own position on theodicy. I had to respond that I didn't really know. More than a decade later, I still don't know. I only know that God is there in the dark and in the light, and can do remarkable things even in the most painful of times.

13 January 2010

Proposition 8 Court Case

Here is a summary of the first day of the court case. I'd like to read the actual statements for myself, but one thing that strikes me from the summary is the assertion by the defense that allowing same-sex marriages "ha(s) led to 'real societal harm,' including lower marriage rates, higher rates of divorce, and more children raised outside of wedlock." I'm not sure whether one can directly attribute these outcomes to same-sex marriages - what of other factors in culture, society, the economy, etc.?

And here is an article from the New York Times about Theodore Olson's involvement. Many of us no doubt remember him from Bush v. Gore; his participation puts a rather different spin on things.

08 January 2010

Yet Another Example of Corporate Greed Gone Wild...

H&M and Wal-Mart destroy and trash unsold goods

How irresponsible, given the number of people who could have used those items. It reminds me of children who trash a toy rather than letting someone else play with it...

07 January 2010

Potential Food Shortage in Somalia

UN Halts Food Aid to Southern Somalia After Attacks

What Are They Thinking?

Pennsylvania House Passes Table Games Legislation

Most of you probably are not aware of the budget saga that gripped Pennsylvania in 2009, or of the fact that we were the last state to pass a budget. What probably was not mentioned even if you did hear about it was that a significant portion of the budget was to be provided by revenue from table games, which at that point were not legal in Pennsylvania.

Apart from the ethical issue of whether gambling should be legal, what utterly irks me is how a supposedly responsible government (although I wonder about this too, given how long it took the PA legislature to pass a budget in the first place) can predicate numerous jobs and services on table games. Is this governing at its best? Absolutely not. For the past several days, all we've heard here is that if table games legislation did not pass, nearly 1,000 state workers would be laid off. This is the best we can do for our state's employees? Make gambling legislation the make-or-break for their livelihoods?

The budget has already impacted services throughout the state. Early on in the budget impasse, the State Library of Pennsylvania slashed their hours from 6 days a week to three, none of which included evening hours. The last time I visited, the lights were off in the stacks, which meant that if you didn't have a flashlight, you wouldn't be able to find a book. In recent weeks, various counties have cut library hours. Other services are no doubt affected as well.

The economic situation dictates tough choices; we're all acutely aware of that. Basing any portion of a state budget on gambling legislation passing was irresponsible in the extreme, however.

Just my two cents. Excluding the three percent that will have to go to the state, of course. :-(

06 January 2010

Corporate Agribusiness Helps Scuttle Climate Justice | Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy

Corporate Agribusiness Helps Scuttle Climate Justice | Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy

Until I started reading Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, I was shamefully ignorant about the possible ramifications of American food subsidies and agricultural policies for those in other parts of the world. (Yet another duh moment in a long line of duh moments.) Needless to say, I'm paying much more attention now. Who knew that farm policy could be so interesting or so relevant to theological thinking?

30 December 2009

Complicity, Justice, and Mercy

I've been thinking a lot lately about complicity... what it is, where it starts, where it ends. Part of this stems from a lectionary discussion a few weeks ago about individual versus collective responsibility. It's also inspired by the two books I've been reading this week whilst on vacation: A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide and Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. (FYI, the movie version of Shake Hands With the Devil is magnificent.)

Specifically, I've been musing about where my responsibility (and that of every citizen) begins and ends. In the context of my faith, I firmly believe that nonaction - not speaking out against injustice, not doing my utmost to live uprightly and justly in my everyday dealings - is not an option. One of my favorite verses is from Micah: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8, NRSV) The NIV actually translates this slightly differently: to love mercy. To me, mercy is a vastly different - and stronger - word than kindness. (Without checking commentaries, I can't really say which is the most accurate translation.) The dictionary definition of "kindness" is "friendly feeling or liking" while "mercy" is translated as "compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power."

It's fairly simple to feel friendly. It's much more challenging to be compassionate to others (including one's enemies), but this, I believe, is what we're called to do, both as individuals and as a society. Continuing to use our dictionary, we find that compassion is "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." (emphasis mine) In other words, friendly feeling is not enough - action, alleviation are required. And if we do not take action, are we not, in some ways, complicit with suffering?

We may feel that action is outside our abilities. Not all of us can fly to Africa, for example, to feed the hungry. We may also be financially strapped and unable to donate money to help. All of us, however, have a voice and a vote. We all can write a letter to a congressperson, or to the editor of a newspaper. We all can educate ourselves on the issues that face us and especially those who lack a voice in their government or culture, and use that knowledge to educate our friends and families. There are many different ways for us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Some of them take more courage than others - this is where I, an introvert in the extreme, am particularly struggling. But we all have the power to do something, to resist being complicit in the suffering of others and rather to be complicit in something else, something far more powerful and wonderful: justice, mercy, and humility.

27 December 2009

Blood Diamonds Are Back - By Gregory Campbell | Foreign Policy

Blood Diamonds Are Back - By Gregory Campbell | Foreign Policy

An interesting article on the continuing failure of the UN and others to successfully police conflict diamonds. FYI, check out HR 4128, the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, currently before the House Armed Services committee.

Time to Take Away Sudan's Credit Card | Foreign Policy

Time to Take Away Sudan's Credit Card | Foreign Policy

Having just started reading Samantha Power's A Problem From Hell, I am already acutely conscious that the US can do more to prevent genocide. Here is an opportunity for Western nations to take a stand.

22 December 2009

21 December 2009

Is It Really Reform?


Sitting here wondering if this is really reform or whether the emperor is imagining his new clothes again...

20 December 2009

Congress Moves on the 2009 Tribal Law and Order Act

Congress Moves on the 2009 Tribal Law and Order Act

Hopefully this legislation, if passed, will improve Native tribes' ability to police themselves and successfully prosecute such crimes as rape and abuse.

19 December 2009

Another Duh Moment in a Long Line...

I had yet another 'duh' moment (in a lifelong string of them, to be fair) this week. I downloaded the book "Enough" by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman for listening in the car, and in listening to the preface, they said, "In the United States, ethanol-fuel makers were
devouring about 30 percent of the nation’s corn crop by 2009, roughly double
the amount they used in 2006. Many farmers reduced their plantings of
some crops, such as soybeans, wheat, peas, and lentils, to grow more corn for
cars instead. Biofuel companies are now competitors of the hungry." (Enough, p. xv)

Biofuel has been something of a media darling in recent months, with a lot of people seizing onto the concept of less environmentally harmful fuel for their cars. However, I now understand that this is a bit of a catch-22 - fewer emissions certainly helps the environment, which in turn can perhaps help to combat weather events such as droughts and floods caused by global warming, but in creating biofuel (which is presumably more economically lucrative for farmers), food supplies are taken away from the hungry.

Because I have only 'read' a small portion of the book, I'm not sure how, or even if, the authors suggest that this problem be resolved. I certainly haven't figured it out. But it seems to me that we haven't had much of a conversation about this problem and that we need to think it through. Where does my responsibility lie, as a citizen of the world and as a follower of Christ? How can I help to resolve this? All good questions, for which I have no answers as yet.

18 December 2009

Brings Back Memories...

A few minutes ago, a flock of geese flew over the house. It immediately made me think of my parents' home in Missouri, where they annually hosted hundreds of wintering geese on their private lake. To me, there's nothing quite like the sound of honking geese or the sight of them in flight (this is a video from Iowa that I found on YouTube):

Magnificat: Or, Subversion Doesn't Happen in a Vacuum

I've been trying to return to the discipline of thinking through each week's lectionary texts - no difficult feat this week, since the Magnificat is one of my favorite texts in Scripture. As previously discussed here, I've been thinking a lot about commercialism and Christmas, and how many people are hungry. In Mary's song, though, that is turned upside down: "He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:53, NRSV)

I found this blog posting from the Ekklesia Project to be of particular interest. The author, Jenny Williams, writes: "We should challenge injustice in large, systemic ways. But I wonder if this Sunday is a time to instead give credit to the small acts of subversion that we really don’t see as subversive at all, or that come from places or people who do not see themselves as subversive." It occurs to me that we can all find ways to be subversive and countercultural in our own lives, ways that when put together can make a profound difference in the world around us. By daily making choices to give a little more whilst taking a little less, to stay closer to home rather than driving far away, to share our time and ourselves with each other, what could we change?

On my way home last night, I was listening to John Mayer's song "Waiting for the World to Change":

"Now we see everything that's going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change?" (lyrics from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnmayer/waitingontheworldtochange.html)

These are certainly sentiments with which I sympathize; who hasn't felt like this at times, especially when the world seems like a dark, drab place full of corruption and spite? But this, to me, seems a bit like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. If we give up and do nothing, if we simply wait for others to take up the burden and make changes, very little will actually get done. We are the hands and feet that God can use to make a difference, whether small or profound. We are the ones who can help to feed the hungry by sharing out of our own abundance, by advocating for policies that benefit the poor and not just the rich, and by constantly remaining vigilant against corruption and injustice. The world will not change on its own - we must change it. And in doing this, our souls too can magnify God. Mary's task was to bear a Son. What task has God given to you and me to complete?