Saturday, January 15, 2005

Nothing like a little pat on the back.

Finally got the relief kits we made for Christmas up to the Mennonite Central Committee office yesterday. The guy at the loading dock told me they'd be headed off to Indonesia pretty quickly.

Okay, enough. Keep giving to tsunami relief, folks. Relief kits are nice, but cold hard cash is where it's at.


Friday, January 14, 2005

More images from the Huygens probe

This is one of the first raw images from the European Space Agency's Huygens probe as it descended to Saturn's moon Titan on Friday. It was taken with the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer, one of two NASA instruments on the probe. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency

Story from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why do I have "How Great Thou Art?" running through my head?


Be on the lookout

For homofascists:


Religious News Roundup

Today is Friday, January 14,2005:  the feast day of Servant of God John the Gardener.  From the Saints of the Day write-up:

John was born of poor parents in Portugal. Orphaned early in life, he spent some years begging from door to door. After finding work in Spain as a shepherd, he shared the little he earned with those even more needy than himself.

One day two Franciscans encountered him on a journey. Engaging him in conversation, they took a liking to the simple man and invited him to come and work at their friary in Salamanca. He readily accepted and was assigned to the task of assisting the brother with gardening duties. A short time later John himself entered the Franciscan Order and lived a life of prayer and meditation, fasting constantly, spending the nights in prayer, still helping the poor. Because of his work in the garden and the flowers he produced for the altar, he became known as "the gardener."

Today's Categories:


God-fearing thugs

The FF staff (me, myself and I) have decided to rename our "Bad Men" category, based on this item from the New York Daily News.  Pungent-yet-questionable journalism at its finest.

Speaking of God-fearing thugs, check the parenting tips at the bottom of this page.

Slactivist feels the need to remind us of some basic principles:

I would just like to state for the record that I think torture is wrong.

And paramilitary death squads. I'm against them, thank you.

And also cannibalism. And the vivisection of small children. Bad Things, those. Oughtn't to be done. Although, unlike torture and death squads, these latter two are not yet, to my knowledge, being considered/recommended/implemented by my government.

And ... Jesus God! I can't stand this.

How in the name of all that is holy did I end up living in a country where I find myself having to say things like that?


I just ... gaah.

Which reminds us of Mrs. Pastor's favorite "Get Fuzzy" line:  "It's not like I never want to bite people...I just know it's wrong."  Would that everyone did.

The World Help plan to resettle Muslim orphans in a Christian orphanage near Jakarta is kaput.  And just when we were working up some good rant on the subject.

Tyndale Seminary and two others in Texas are fighting a Texas law that says they can't issue degrees without being accredited by the state.  Because, you know, being subject to the governing authorities just doesn't work for Christians anymore.

The saga of the Philadelphia 11 5 continues, as do the fundagelical cries of persecution.  Tip for y'all:  if you're not getting stomped by several burly cops with tasers and nightsticks, a comparison to Rodney King just doesn't work.

The Philly Inquirer (link above) has a picture of Repent America's Michael Marcavage looking pretty normal, but then Pam has this picture of Marcavage with none other than Roy Moore:

What is it with crazy believers and beards without mustaches?

And what is it with crazy believers spouting quotes like this (from the PhillyInq article above)?

"This homofascism has come to our doorstep; it's in America," said Ralph Ovadal, head of Wisconsin Christians United, in a recent radio program. "Christians need to wake up and realize how quickly the walls are closing in on their religious liberties, on their religious duties to preach the gospel."


Speaking Out

A fistful of links today from Christians advocating progressive worldviews: first, there's Progressive Christians Uniting on Social Security and why it should not be raped and pillaged; then there's the ecumenical group pushing the administration to kick-start the peace process.  The Friends Service Committee is witnessing against torture, and the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC is suing the state to stop the scheduled execution of a serial killer.  (Newsday, please!  We're not the Church of Christ!  Oh my, no...)

A group of clergy in Arizona marches to stop that state's DOMA; and our personal favorite, a Baptist minister writes on what he's learned about the Bible and Homosexuality.  Read it and smile.


Church & State

Some real wins on this front in the past week.  Besides the Dover (PA) school board not insisting that its teachers read statements on Intelligent Design in their classes, a federal judge in Atlanta has ordered Cobb County to remove stickers that deemed evolution "not a fact."  Damn those liberal justices and their understanding of science!

In another school case, the Frankenmuth, Michigan school board has rejected a Bible-study course as "not academically rigorous."

Another judge has ruled against a faith-based mentoring program in an Arizona prison.

On the other hand, we've heard that Monroe County, NY has its own faith-based initiative coordinator.  We weren't aware that counties needed such staff.  Oh, you mean they'll help local groups get federal funding?  What a surprise...

Plenty of people have commented on this interview, in which President Bush claims a "relationship with the Lord" as a pre-req for the presidency.

That's bad enough, but two other pieces were what really caught our eye.  The first is an egregious little piece of propaganda, even for the WaTimes:

The president said there is no reason to fear his conspicuous practice of his Methodist faith or his approval of religious expression in the public square.

Since when does he have a "conspicuous practice"?  The man seldom if ever attends church, and Lord knows he routinely ignores the counsels of the Methodist church.

And then there's this bit:

"What we are going to do in the second term is to make sure that the grant money is available for faith communities to bid on, to make sure these faith-based offices are staffed and open," Mr. Bush said. "But the key thing is, is that we do have the capacity to allow faith programs to access enormous sums of social service money, which I think is important."

Wonder if he's been talking to the folks over in Monroe County?


This 'n' That

We mentioned a week or two back that poorer states actually outrank wealthy ones in terms of charitable giving.  We were relying on a PBS report at the time, but now we've stumbled across the primary source.  You suck, New Hampshire!

Here's some reaction to the ELCA's release of its study on the church and homosexuality.  Repulsive toad Albert Mohler has his usual reaction here.

What wonders God hath wrought, and various space agencies hath brought near:

That's purple haze around Titan, y'all.  Dude.  Purple haze...

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that is possible to be a progressive, growing church.  Baptist, yet!  On the other hand, preachers might want to be careful what they say about heaven, especially if they've got heart problems.

A follow-up on our story from Monday on a shrimp boil in Monroe, Wisconsin:

You get the craziest stuff on Yahoo or Google news bulletins sometimes.  We've learned about manhole piracy in Faith, North Carolina this week, and Lord alone knows how we got this one.  However it was, we think it's a good reminder:  Montana's too damn cold!

Pam's yukking it up over this story about a guy in Reading, PA who tried to hold an indoor pig roast.  You laugh, Pam.  You don't have to work up there.

That's okay, though.  We'll forgive you.  After all, who else would find a story about the Pentagon's attempts to develop a "homo bomb"?

We thought that's what "Queer Eye" was for?


Martin Luther King: Liberal Patriot

This next Monday, we'll hear repeatedly excerpts from the last five minutes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. Some conservative talking heads will espouse the theory that Dr. King would have been against affirmative action, playing the sound bite, "I have a dream my four little children will one day be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Broadcasters will show bumpers and station ID's of Dr. King superimposed in front of the American flag, or standing in front of the Lincoln memorial.

Dr. King's patriotism was real, and I am not criticizing showing Dr. King as a great American hero. He was. However, Dr. King was a patriotic, American liberal, and before Monday's media fest I think it's appropriate that we examine exactly what Dr. King's views on America were.

There is absolutely no doubt that Dr. King loved this country. In the middle of some of his most moving speeches, he would recite sections of the Declaration of Independence, stating with reverence the original, stated intent of the Founding Fathers that all men are created equal, with inalienable rights given to them not by the government but by the creator. In the middle of the last section of the "I Have A Dream" speech, Dr. King spontaneously spoke the following verses, hoping that all of Gods children would be able to sing them in unison:

"My country `tis of these, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

But his love of this country was tempered by the knowledge that we don't always hold true to our beliefs. In his sermon, The American Dream, he illustrates this dichotomy:

"Now ever since the founding fathers of our nation dreamed this dream in all of its magnificence--to use a big word that the psychiatrists use--America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself. On the one hand we have proudly professed the great principles of democracy, but on the other hand we have sadly practiced the very opposite of those principles."

Dr. King had his realization of American schizophrenia early on in life, due to his experience growing up in the segregated South. When he was in his junior at Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High School, King won an oratorical contest sponsored by the black Elks. His speech was on the topic of "The Negro and the Constitution", and he plainly makes his case for ending institutionalized racism and poverty in American society:

"So, with their right hand they raise to high places the great who have dark skins, and with their left, they slap us down to keep us in "our places." "Yes, America you have stripped me of my garments, you have robbed me of my precious endowment.

We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance. We cannot have a healthy nation with one tenth of the people ill-nourished, sick, harboring germs of disease which recognize no color lines--obey no Jim Crow laws. We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime. We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule. We cannot come to full prosperity with one great group so ill-delayed that it cannot buy goods. So as we gird ourselves to defend democracy from foreign attack, let us see to it that increasingly at home we give fair play and free opportunity for all people."

King felt that America had a special role to play on the world stage because of its Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence whose words not only recognized the inherent rights in all people, but were drafted specifically to protect those rights against forces - both governmental and private - that wished to abrogate those rights. His love of our country was based in these documents, in what he called "the promise of America". That's why he fought so unrelentingly to end segregation in this country; he felt that the greatest threat to our nation would come from within, from this hypocrisy of our words preaching equality while our actions fell far short of supporting this ideal.

King's ideal of American equality did not stop at race: he was also concerned about the vast economic inequalities in our country. As he stated in his sermon, "Paul's Letter to American Christians", where he envisions the Apostle Paul writing a letter to modern American followers of Christ:

"I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity.

The misuse of Capitalism can also lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept. You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe "enough and to spare" for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth."

King didn't flinch when discussing the need for drastic income redistribution in our country. Neither did he veer in his criticism of America's increasing militarism. His indictment of American involvement in an unjust war in Vietnam was unswerving. He stated in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech:

"This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

As we blog, write letters to the editor and make the occasional call into a radio talk show this week, let us keep the real Dr. King in mind; the Dr. King who was a patriot, a liberal and who lived and breathed the politics of reality. But let us also keep in mind the idealism of Dr. King, so our comments aren't scarred by pessimism in the potential of our country. Let us keep in mind the promise of America that Dr. King so eloquently spoke of in his sermon, "The American Dream":

And I tell you this morning, my friends, the reason we got to solve this problem here in America: Because God somehow called America to do a special job for mankind and the world. (Yes, sir, Make it plain) Never before in the history of the world have so many racial groups and so many national backgrounds assembled together in one nation. And somehow if we can't solve the problem in America the world can't solve the problem, because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large. And God set us out with all of the opportunities. (Make it plain) He set us between two great oceans; (Yes, sir) made it possible for us to live with some of the great natural resources of the world. And there he gave us through the minds of our forefathers a great creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (Yes, sir) are created equal."

No amount of nay-saying or cynical manipulation of our countrymen and women can deny us the optimism of this promise of America. Let us remember Dr. King by pledging to work unceasingly to make this promise a reality.


Get active

A lot of people were motivated to become active politically this year. I was one of those so moved. There's a lot of building from the grassroots going on with our newly created activists.

But one area where we need to make certain we get involved is our churches. I urge people of good faith to volunteer for church committees, particularly if you are concerned about social justices issues.

It's not always easy. I was on the family committee at my old church. We met regularly and developed quite a few good ideas to draw families together in affordable and wholesome ways. But a handful of the members decided the church would subsidize their tickets to see a Nativity play in Pennsylvania.

The church would pay for half of the tickets, the bus rental fees, and the meals. Those attending would pay about $55 per ticket.

Two of us on the committee seemed shock by the expenditure. We pointed out that even with the church paying half of the expenses, the price was beyond what a family of four could afford.

Those who could afford to go probably didn't need the church subsidizing their tickets. Those who couldn't afford to go would be helping to pay for the tickets of those who did go through their tithes. We pointed to less costly options that would allow the entire church family to afford to go on an outing together. Then we discovered the trip's advocates didn't intend for the church to subsidize just their tickets, but also the tickets of their friends and neighbors.

I pointed out that the cost of the one trip exceeded the entire annual budget of the church's soup kitchen and food bank. That drew an angry response. Then I did something that still troubles me months later: I said nothing further about it.

It did not matter. The committee chair stopped telling me when the meetings were. I took the hint and stopped asking.

In November we left the church for several reasons and have found a new church. If volunteers are sought for committee service, I intend to raise my hand.



Thursday, January 13, 2005

Saying Goodbye--PD's Sermon for Sunday

I Corinthians 1:1-9 January 16, 2004

Well, so we have a greeting as the text for my last sermon. Typical.

But appropriate, too: my departure, with any luck, will signal the arrival of your new pastor in the near future. I hope that when you meet her on the 5th and 6th of February, everything will go well, she'll turn out to be just as sweet as sweet can be, she'll be a match, and everything will work out just dandy.

If it doesn't, don't call me, because I'm outta here. I gotta go on to the next place. Like Paul, I have a calling to be faithful to, by the will of God, as does your new pastor. We're called, and we go.

And like Paul, I wish you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

For you, too, are sanctified in Christ Jesus, meaning you are set aside for his purposes. And you, too, are called to be saints, which means not quasi-angels, but leaders in the faith. For that purpose, you were brought together to be the church of God, the people of God, and how I could not wish every good for you?

Indeed, like Paul, I give thanks to God for you. Now, let's be honest here: our time together hasn't always been easy. We've had our ups and downs. But who ever said that you should be grateful to God for only the things you enjoy all the time? No, I give thanks to God for you "because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus." In you God does good things, and it is only proper to give God thanks for them.

Oh? Did you want examples? Well, the choir sings, and the ladies bake pies, and we go down to help at PAL, and you contribute $500 to tsunami relief, and you do the FISH program, and you take care of one another, and...Again, how could you not be grateful for all that?

Just remember: "in every way you have been enriched in [Christ Jesus,] in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you."

Paul's reminding the Corinthians here that spiritual gifts are, well, gifts after all. So: don't let it go to your head when I compliment you. What I'm really saying is that God has given you, out of free and abundant grace, all the things that you need to be good representatives of God. It is for those gifts that I am grateful—I am grateful that God has given them to you—not that they make you such good people, though they do. But it's not about you, and it's not about me; it's about what God is doing in the world through Christ.

By that standard, all the good times and all the bad times and all the in-between times we shared together pales a bit. Not that those times didn't mean anything, or weren't important, but that they're not the real story. You and I take part in a much larger story, I think you know that.

And I think you know that that story continues. We've shared a chapter in it, and now it's time for the next chapter. As you move into your next chapter, and I into mine, remember that God will make sure that you "are not lacking in any spiritual gift," and

he will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day
of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the
fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

By him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Remember that, and the rest is cake.

Farewell, then, and thank you for our time together. I wish you all the best, all God's gifts; I will continue to pray for you and for your congregation that God might continue to strengthen and enrich you, and I ask that you would do the same for Jennifer and me. Amen.


Lutherans Wimp Out on Homosexuality

They had the opportunity to lift restrictions on same-sex marriage and ordination of gays and lesbians, but chose not to, for the most part.

Instead, a report released today by the ELCA Studies on Sexuality task force recommended no changes in written policy.

Officially, that means that the church will take no position on whether or not local clergy can bless same-sex relationships; but pastors are reminded that marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples are not recognized by the national church. (To be fair, this is the policy for even the left-leaning UCC. There are commitment ceremonies, but they're only called "marriages" in areas where that's legal.)

The other hot button issue before the task force was the place of gays and lesbians in "rostered ministry." The commission recommended no changes at this time, which means that both single heterosexuals and all homosexual clergy will be expected to be celibate. But the task force proposed a "local option" whereby Lutheran synods and conferences could decline to apply sanctions to such pastors.

At the same time, the task force threw a bone to conservative groups within the denomination. From the ELCA's press release:

The third recommendation's commentary pointed out that ELCA congregations are
"not forced to accept" any minister. The church strives to match the gifts of a
minister with the needs of a particular community of faith, it said, and those
doing that work should be trusted to do it with respect for the consciences of
those favoring and those opposing the church's policies.

This is a reminder to conservative congregations that they cannot be required to call a gay pastor.

Overall, it seems like the task force was trying to find a middle way between strongly polarized groups within the church. Their report stresses the need for continued dialog and mutual respect, but it's unclear if those pleas will be heeded.

After several steps in a review process, the group's recommendations will be voted on in a "churchwide assembly, which meets every other year; the next assembly will be Aug. 8-14 in Orlando, Fla." Both sides of the debate seem prepared to advocate strongly for their points of view.

No strong condemnation from this quarter; the task force's charge was to find answers the entire denomination could live with, and that's what they've tried to do.

But it is sad to know that they had the opportunity to take a real step forward--and passed.


MLK on Nonviolence: How to Reform our Elections

This is part of an ongoing diary series I'm writing this week, looking forward to the King Holiday on January 17th.

Yesterday, I covered the Six Priniciples of Kingian Nonviolence, which explain how to assume nonviolent attitude. Today's diary on the Six Steps of Kingian nonviolence explains the "how's" of nonviolence. Effective application of Kingian nonviolence involves much more than holding a protest just for the sake of protesting. Nonviolence also does not preclude other efforts to resolve conflict, including introducing legislation, diplomacy or negotiation and power brokering. As Dr. King wrote in his book, "Why We Can't Wait":

"Direct action is not a substitute for work in the courts and halls of government.  Bringing about passage of a new and broad law by a city council, state legislature or the Congress, or pleading cases before the courts of the land, does not eliminate the necessity for bringing about mass dramatization of injustice in the front of a city hall.  Indeed, direct action and legal action complement one another; when skillfully employed, each becomes more effective."

One of the greatest lessons Dr. King has to teach to the modern left today is that effective social change occurs when the grassroots works with politicians of good will and organizations dedicated to challenging unjust laws. The largest problem with the left right now is that these efforts are fragmented, and there is no one concerted focus on one issue that involves celebrities, politicians and common, everyday people who want to speak out against injustice.

For instance, we have the opportunity to put pressure on our government - even on a Republican dominated Congress and Executive Branch - to enact true election reform, but we must understand that this needs to be done in concert with politicians, celebrities and journalists of good will. Democratic politicians must also realize that they cannot pass any effective legislation for positive social change right now without involving the liberal and progressive grassroots, which is ready and able to use direct action to put pressure on the Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Six Steps of Kingian Nonviolence show exactly how this can be done. They are as follows:

Information gathering and research to get the facts straight

Education of adversaries and the public about the facts of the dispute

Personal Commitment to nonviolent attitudes and action

Negotiation with adversary in a spirit of goodwill to correct injustice

Nonviolent direct action, such as marches, boycotts, mass demonstrations, picketing, sit-ins etc. to help persuade or compel adversary to work toward dispute-resolution

Reconciliation of adversaries in a win-win outcome in establishing a sense of community

Let's take the issue of election reform, and see how to apply Dr. King's method of nonviolence in order to affect the passage of legislation that would fix our broken elections system.

Information gathering and research to get the facts straight

This is a vital first step in any effective social change action. You have to have all of the facts on hand, and you also need to know what your opponent's issues are, where he is coming from and why. It does no good to analyze your opponent through the lens of partisanship. Partisanship dehumanizes your opponent, and does not allow you to analyze a situation with logic and objectivity.

Let's now use our example of election reform. In this first step, we need to sit down and understand all of the facts surrounding the disenfranchisement of voters during the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections. We need to be able to prove based on facts and logic that large segments of the American populace were disenfranchised, either because they were poor, minorities or elderly. We also need to understand the current laws on the books protecting voting rights, and understand recent court decisions involving equal protection under the law.

We also need to understand this issue from the Republican point-of-view. We need to be able to articulate their arguments against election reform, understand the legal and ethical basis of these arguments, and be sensitive to the reaction many Republicans have when the subject of election reform is brought up: that this is a liberal/progressive smokescreen issue whose only purpose is to discredit the legitimacy of George W. Bush. We don't have to agree with these folks, but we do have to understand their position and separate our feelings of hurt and mistrust from our analysis of them.

Education of adversaries and the public about the facts of the dispute

This is where you "PR" your side of the issue. You contact commentators, journalists of good will and celebrities who have the public's ear, and inform them of the facts surrounding your issue and the logic of your argument. Press conferences, blogging, letters to the editor, contacting elected representatives (even Republican ones) are all a part of this process. NOTE: traditional forms of blogging are NOT a direct action: they are a part of this education process. Mass email and telephone campaigns can serve as a form of direct action if their point is to put pressure on one's opponent, but they also tend to reside in this area of adversary education.

Returning to the issue of election reform, this step would comprise of folks calling their local radio talk shows, sending letters to the editor of local and national newspapers, and emailing journalists of goodwill and asking them to cover this issue. It's also important to reach out to celebrities and commentators to keep this issue alive and talked about. Most importantly, it is important to email all of your elected representatives - even the Republican ones - and tell them how important this issue is to you and why. This should not be done in place of direct action, but rather as a supplement to it so that when you take to the streets folks understand why you're doing so.

Personal Commitment to nonviolent attitudes and action

In this step, you review the Six Principles of Kingian nonviolence and commit yourself spiritually to following them. In our example of election reform, this would include refraining from calling Republicans "Rethugs" or similar names; it would mean cutting down on the partisan attacks and showing respect to George W. Bush as our elected President, as hard as that can be. Part of "getting your nonviolence on" is ensuring that petty attacks and language don't detract from the facts surrounding your case. You're basically ensuring that your opponent has no other talking points than those attempting to refute the facts and logic of your position.

Negotiation with adversary in a spirit of goodwill to correct injustice

This is the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that occurs prior to any direct action. It's important to attempt to negotiate with your adversary before putting pressure on them: it shows that you are attempting to work with them in the spirit of goodwill, and not just grandstand for the sake of grandstanding.

In the area of election reform, this would be when politicians propose legislation, organizations like the ACLU follow up with members of Congress to lobby for legislation, and when various celebrities get involved to help reach compromise on the issue. If the legislation gets stalled and the opponent only shows a passing lip service to resolving the conflict, then you proceed to the next step: direct action.

Nonviolent direct action, such as marches, boycotts, mass demonstrations, picketing, sit-ins etc. to help persuade or compel adversary to work toward dispute-resolution.

We all know what this is. What's important to note is that this step comes next-to-last in the application of Kingian nonviolence. There's a very good reason for this: Dr. King saw immediate results when he could frame the issue, attempt negotiation and then apply pressure when the negotiations failed. He was not immediately successful when people protested just for the sake of protesting because they were upset. The example he gives is the Albany movement, where desegregation was successfully fought by the local white authorities. Even so, there is a long-term benefit to simply taking to the streets, as Dr. King writes about the lessons learned from Albany in "Why We Can't Wait":

"When we planned our strategy for Birmingham months later, we spent many hours assessing Albany and trying to learn from its errors. Our appraisals not only helped to make our subsequent tactics more effective, but revealed that Albany was far from an unqualified failure. Though lunch counters remained segregated, thousands of Negroes were added to the voting-registration rolls. In the gubernatorial elections that followed our summer there, a moderate candidate confronted a rabid segregationist. By reason of the expanded Negro vote, the moderate defeated the segregationist in the city of Albany, which in turn contributed to his victory in the state. As a result, Georgia elected its first governor pledged to respect and enforce the law equally."

Even with these benefits, however, the stated goal of the Albany movement was desegregation of lunch counters and public places, and that immediate goal was not realized because the direct action happened in a vacuum, without the other steps of Kingian nonviolence preceding it.

Reconciliation of adversaries in a win-win outcome in establishing a sense of community

This is the benefit of nonviolence: because you have treated your opponent well, and you haven't dehumanized him or called him names; you can now allow your opponent to save face after applying pressure on him to change the injustice he is perpetuating by his actions and policies. Nonviolence leads to a true and lasting peace, where your opponent not only recognizes the error of his ways, but also can see his self-interest in supporting your position. This doesn't happen for every single adversary, and it may not happen immediately. But it is much easier and quicker to reconcile with your adversary if you have treated him with respect, than if you had not.

In our example of election reform, the best possible reconciliation would be for Republican members of Congress to see that an unequal system adversely affects them just as much as it affects Democrats, and that it is in everyone's interest for people to have confidence when they vote that it is not a meaningless and empty act. Cynicism does not breed productive democracies; and this country will be a better country when all people feel they have true representation. Reconciliation in this example would be a bi-partisan effort to reform our elections systems.

I have attempted in this diary to outline as briefly as I could the application of Kingian nonviolence to election reform.  There are some areas I have left out, notably a discussion of Dr. King's views on what he termed the "Triple Evils" in analyzing issues (see There are many books I could suggest to folks who are interested in learning more about Dr. King's method of applying nonviolence for social change; the two that immediately come to mind are Dr. King's book, "Why We Can't Wait", and "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.", by Dr. Clayborne Carson of Stanford University, which goes into more detail on the Albany movement.

I hope this leads to a constructive dialogue about what we can do as a community to address the issue of election reform. As the King Holiday approaches, I cannot see a more fitting tribute to Dr. King that a discussion of protecting the right to vote for all Americans, which was such a major hallmark of the civil rights movement.


Too sad for words

From the nausea, via RubDMC

One American soldier is wounded while aiding a fatally injured comrade.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

MLK on Nonviolence: Six Principles

In preparation for the King Holiday on January 17, I am writing a series of diaries dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., his philosophies and his stances on various issues. As one of the main - if not THE main - proponents of nonviolence in this country, I feel that any series on Dr. King should cover how he viewed nonviolence. In this diary I will attempt to explain the Six Principles of Kingian Nonviolence; in subsequent diaries I hope to delve into the Six Steps of Kingian Nonviolence, and write an overview of Dr. King's philosophical work, My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.

It is prudent for me at this point to give my own disclaimer: I am not a purist when it comes to the application of nonviolence. This is where I differ from many proponents of nonviolence, including Dr. King. I tend to feel that there are situations where nonviolence may not be a viable alternative, because the use of violence has become so overwhelming that it is too late to resolve a conflict nonviolently. This, however, is my personal opinion, and is not - to my recollection - the way Dr. King viewed nonviolence.

In my discussion of Kingian nonviolence, I will not only attempt to portray to the best of my efforts Dr. King's own views on the viability of the use of nonviolence to resolve conflicts; I also hope to show to those who may be skeptical on the idea of using nonviolence that it is a very practical and pragmatic way to peacefully end conflicts, both on a personal, and on a national and international, level.

The Six Principles

The Six Principles are a good place to start when discussing Kingian nonviolence, as they are universal themes that are used to instruct people on how to get their nonviolence on. Dr. King himself said of the practice of nonviolence:

"Living through the actual experience of the protest, nonviolence became more than a method to which I gave intellectual assent; it became a commitment to a way of life."

Dexter King, in his book "Growing Up King", recalls his father observing his sons and their friends playing with toy guns:

"The indoctrination of children who are being exposed to violent instruments of war - he didn't want to see it happen to his sons, his nephews, or anybody, but it was hard if not impossible to stop it, even within the borders of his own home in the society in which we came up. He knew this; it weighed on him."

Mr. King goes onto describe how his father came outside to talk with him and his brother and their friends about their toy guns, and why he felt it was wrong for them to be playing with them:

"You don't want another human being's death on your conscience," my father said. "You want to have life. I'd rather you play a musical instrument, debate, or even fight...but not with these..."

Dr. King's commitment to nonviolence transcended the political. He felt everyone could practice nonviolence as long as they were committed to it, and the Six Principles are the beginning of understanding how to adopt a nonviolence attitude.

The Six Principles are taken from Dr. King's first book, "Stride Toward Freedom", and are as follows:

  1. Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage

  2. Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary

  3. Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer

  4. A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it

  5. A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence

  6. Faith that justice will prevail

Let's break down each of these components and examine them:

Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage

Nonviolence doesn't require one to be a doormat, and it doesn't mean you just passively let people walk all over you. Nonviolence demands that you stand up for your rights and the rights of those who are being oppressed. It is not passive, but an active resistance to evil actions.

Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary

There is a component to using violence that requires one to dehumanize their adversary, to a greater or lesser degree, in order to justify the acts of violence one plans to commit against them. In our own history, this can be seen in calling the Vietnamese "gooks", looking at African Americans as subhuman in order to justify enslaving them, or...labeling countries as members of the "Axis of Evil" or simply referring to Al Qaeda and the members of the Iraqi insurgency as "the evildoers". Such dehumanization is not necessary in the application of nonviolence: indeed, one of the main benefits of using nonviolence for conflict resolution is that your are seeking to win your adversary over to your point of view, so that when the dust settles you can live together with your adversary in peace.

Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer

Nonviolence holds that all people are truly created equal. We are children of God, and as such we need to love and respect each other through our shared humanity. As Dr. King explained in his essay, "Nonviolence and Racial Justice":

"When we speak of loving those who oppose us we refer to neither eros nor philia; we speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word agape. Agape means nothing sentimental or basically affectionate; it means understanding, redeeming good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of men. When we love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does."

Therefore, nonviolence is not concerned about "defeating evil-doers"; it is concerned with ending the evil actions of our fellow human beings and children of God. Again, it does not seek to dehumanize the opponent but rather constantly reaches out to him with compassion while still resisting the evil that he does.

A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it

Dr. King embraced the concept of redemptive suffering in his sermon, "Eulogy for the Four Martyred Children", given after the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which resulted in the murder of four little girls:

"God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. (Oh yes) And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force (Yeah) that will bring new light to this dark city. (Yeah) The holy Scripture says, "A little child shall lead them." (Oh yeah) The death of these little children may lead our whole Southland (Yeah) from the low road of man's inhumanity to man to the high road of peace and brotherhood. (Yeah, Yes) These tragic deaths may lead our nation to substitute an aristocracy of character for an aristocracy of color. The spilled blood of these innocent girls may cause the whole citizenry of Birmingham (Yeah) to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future. Indeed this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience. (Yeah)"

By accepting all of your adversary's hatred and violence with love and compassion combined with an obstinate refusal to back down, you are constantly pricking your opponent's conscience. Using violence provides your opponent with a justification to retaliate with violence. Using nonviolence deprives your opponent of this justification, and reveals both to him and to the rest of the world the brutality - and wrongness - of your opponent's actions and position.

A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence

Nonviolence requires an absolute refusal to hate your adversary or dehumanize him in any way. It requires an unrelenting commitment to never use violence, even when violence is inflicted upon you or your loved ones. Imagine nonviolence as playing a game of one-sided chicken, with your adversary constantly egging you on to commit acts of violence in retaliation to the violence he has used against you. In refusing to give into his demand that you use violence, you are winning the fight to stop his evil actions and save him from himself.

Faith that justice will prevail

"There have been moments when roaring waters of disappointment poured upon us in staggering torrents. We can remember days when unfavorable court decisions came upon us like tidal waves, leaving us treading in the deep and confused waters of despair. But amid all of this we have kept going with the faith that as we struggle, God struggles with us, and that the arc of the moral universe, although long, is bending toward justice. We have lived under the agony and darkness of Good Friday with the conviction that one day the heightening glow of Easter would emerge on the horizon. We have seen truth crucified and goodness buried, but we have kept going with the conviction that truth crushed to earth will rise again". - Martin Luther King, Statement on Ending the Bus Boycott

Nonviolence requires optimism that good will triumph over evil. This optimism is not exclusive to one religion, or indeed to any religion. "We shall overcome" is not simply a catch-phrase in nonviolence; it is a statement of belief that in spite of all of the difficulties and suffering, in the end there will be a just resolution to the conflict, resulting in a lasting peace.

In this week before the King Holiday, in the midst of the United States engaging in a multi-front "war on terror", it is timely to reflect on Dr. King's messages of nonviolence and peace, and especially on his insistence that nonviolence is not passive idealism, but a practical and pragmatic way that humans can resolve their differences.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

No blogging tomorrow,

unless it's late at night. I'm on the road: meeting at the Conference Office, then working out of Mrs. Pastor's office in the afternoon.

This announcement will have to tide you over:

The Big Sticks (Gil Smart- lead vocals/guitar; Greg Smart - bass/vocals; Kevin Shaub - lead guitar; Vinnie Celline - drums) will be playing 2 gigs in January, the first THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, Jan. 14, at the J&B Hotel in Quarryville from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.; the second on Saturday, Jan. 22 at the Hot Z Pizza in Landisville, from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

And once again, you are cordially invited to come on out, drink a lot of beer, stamp your feet and just in general have a grand old time. And we'll try to do the same.

Mrs.? What're we doing Friday night?


Monday, January 10, 2005

Toad tell truth!

Bill Griffith nails it as usual:


Religious News Roundup--January 10, 2005

Today is Monday, January 10, 2005: there's a new moon tonight...and...not much else going on.  If you're in Monroe, Wisconsin tomorrow, you can stop by St. John's UCC Mississipi Shrimp Boil:

Cost is $10 for adults and $7 for children 10 and under. The meal will be served family style. All proceeds from the dinner will benefit the programs of Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Miss.

FF's dad served this church very briefly as an interim minister of visitation.  We are given to understand that the eats down Monroe way are pretty good, and the beer second-to-none.

Today's categories:



Chuck Currie (and other sources) report that the Dalit caste is being denied relief aid in hard-hit areas.

The Philly Inquirer picks up on a story we noticed on Friday:  some Christian aid groups are using the relief drive to proselytize.

Christianity Today is back with another hyper-inclusive list of links to stories about the tsunami, including the unfortunate news that some orphans have indeed been kidnapped in the wake of the disaster.


Torture, etc.

Salon has a story on an under-reported part of Alberto Gonzalez's record:  

When Alberto Gonzales briefed George W. Bush on the cases of Texas death row inmates up for clemency, his memos were so shabby they seemed intended solely to make it easy for Bush to send prisoners to their deaths.

Newsweek has a truly disturbing look at the "Salvador Option."  Jesus' General expands on the story here.  How any person possessed of common decency, much less moral judgment, could consider such an operation is beyond us.


Catholic News

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Amy Welborn) offers a fascinating summary of a long-brewing dispute between a Polish Catholic congregation and the local archdiocese.  The church members have transferred control of its assets to a lay board to prevent it from being shut down.  This may be precedent-setting.  Developing, as Drudge says.

The Pope has released his annual New Year's message, weighing in on a variety of topics.  His attack on same-sex marriage is no big surprise, but apparently part of the message is a warning that poverty undermines global security.  There seems to be an emerging consensus that this is a major issue, but it remains to be seen if the Bush administration will do anything about it.

We're not holding our breath, particularly after reading a story like this.  Gee, the Bush administration lied about its Iraq policy?  Who woulda thunkit?


Church & State

This item from Bartholomew's Notes on Religion isn't strictly a Church/State issue, but interesting nonetheless.

The Philly Inquirer tracks John Street preaching in local prisons.

A Michigan school board will consider tonight adding a class on the Bible to the curriculum.  Some local parents are worried that the course goes too far in promoting religion.


Atheists/Secular Humanists/Freethinkers

The school board hearing seems as good a transition as any into passing on some stories on our, er, ah, well, our friends?

In any case, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is considering an appeal to a recent court decision upholding a move by LaCrosse, Wisconsin to avoid church-state issues by donating land around a Ten Commandments monument to a private group.

As well they should: first of all, FFRF is based in Madison, as we've noted before.  While they pursue cases around the country, this is their backyard, so to speak.  And how could they resist, frankly, when Jerry Falwell is crowing about the decision:

I, for one, am praying that common sense also holds sway at the Supreme Court regarding the critical Ten Commandments case.  The annals of our nation's history are bursting with a host of examples showing that religion was a central focus of our Founders.  Please join me in praying that the High Court will once and for all demonstrate to the radical secularists that public religious expression has a fundamental place in our society, just as it has through our history.

Al Mohler goes off on a similar rant here.

But not all is grim:  the NYT notes an uptick in the "faithless" here (and demonstrates that they have a hard time with what to call themselves, too), and Reuters sees some similar raising of the humanist/atheist profile around the globe.

On the other hand, Newt Gingrich is touring Washington in search of God markers, and may be considering a run for president in 2008.  That's enough to give even the staunchest of believers pause.  As if we didn't have enough southern panderers with Roy Moore.


Religion & Homosexuality

Speaking of Al Mohler, he rides the rant-pony again here, this time on the subject of the Christian school in Dallas that ejected a student for hosting a website for gay teens.  Uh, Al?  You might want to take your head out of the gutter and take another look at those posts?

Better news:  a coalition of Religious Right groups has dropped a lawsuit against a lesbian couple seeking to marry in Florida; Mel White and Soulforce are going to Colorado Springs at the end of April to confront James Dobson; and the CoE bishop of Lincoln, England has commissioned a service to recognize "same-sex friendships."  As the article notes, it isn't a marriage ceremony, and it's still going to cause quite a bit of controversy, but it is a step in the right direction.

On Thursday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will release the results "of a three-year study on sexuality that examined whether their denomination should change its stance on the ordination of homosexuals and blessing of same-sex unions."  Stay tuned.


Tales of the Shut-Ins

Being somewhat desperate for filler and not having any suitable "This 'n' That" material, the staff at FF has decided to revive its occasional series "Tales of the Shut-Ins".

Today's installment concerns one Irene Bauer, a member of RNR's first congregation who died a couple of years back at the age of 107 or 109 (we can never remember which).

Mrs. Bauer was almost an eighth wonder of the world:  she worked fulltime until she was 75, pushed her MS-afflicted daughter around in a wheelchair well past her 100th birthday, and lived alone until a few months before her death.

She was also the source of more great stories than anyone we ever met.  A few examples:  during World War II, she worked at a local munitions plant, and somehow got caught on a runaway train that looped around and around the factory.  And by "caught," we really mean "was hanging on to the top of for dear life."  

She was well into her 90s before her neighbors convinced her to stop hanging out her second- and third-story windows to clean them.  They may have been influenced by the time she drank a little too much of her "medicine" before bedtime and fell down the stairs.  One member of the congregation gave this blunt advice when we first went to visit her:  "Don't drink the iced tea!"  When we knew her, she could still keep track of all the cards played in a bridge game, and tucked into slices of pizza--crust first--with gusto.

Our personal favorite, however, comes from when Mrs. Bauer was about 105 or so.  She would take the bus down to Lancaster's Central Market, and then take a cab home.  One day the cab didn't show up, and we offered to give her a lift.  Our firm instructions were for her to wait until we could help her up into the cab of our pickup truck.  But by the time we could get around to that side to give her an arm, she was already up and in.

So we took her home, and once again told her to wait for help before she got out.  (We were not going to be responsible for the death of the congregation's oldest and best-loved member.)

But before we even got to the door, she was out of the truck and three steps up her front porch, instructing us to carry her bag of bananas and sweet buns from the market.  Lord have mercy, we thought:  she's going to bury us.

So here's to you, Mrs. Bauer.  Hope you're in a place where the iced tea is as strong as you like it, the bridge is played all day, and the pizza is good and chewy.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Brothers and Sisters,

I bid you pray for our community, the world, and for all those in need.

Within our community:

  • For those who are unemployed or underemployed, or who are concerned about making ends meet;

  • For those who have lost their mother to death, and for all those whose mothers are still alive, that they cherish their relationships;

  • For those struggle to quit smoking;

  • For those who are tired, frustrated, or feel slighted in their interactions.

In the world:

  • For the Palestinian nation, that they may capitalize on the election of a new president by finding long-delayed peace, prosperity, and justice in their land;

  • For Iraqi civilians killed mistakenly in violence, and for US and allied service men and women who are injured or killed in a needless war;

  • For the families of the victims of senseless crimes, that they may find some measure of peace in their grief;

  • For the town of Graniteville, SC, struggling to recover after a devasting train crash spilled chlorine gas, killing 9, injuring 58, and displacing hundreds;

  • For those affected by intense storms on the West Coast and around the country;

  • For those affected by the Tsunami, especially the Dalit caste of India, who are denied aid due to discrimination;

  • For all those who suffer in Darfur, the Central African Republic, Congo, Iran, and all places where war and natural disaster have been overshadowed by newer calamity.

For all those in need:

  • For those who grieve;

  • For those who hunger or thirst;

  • For those who have inadequate clothing or shelter;

  • For those who lack the moral insight to reject torture and death squads;

  • For those struggling with cancer or other major illness, and their families;

  • For all children, that they may be safe.

For all these and more we pray, trusting in goodness, justice, and the mystery of renewal.  Amen.