May 16, 2013
A week ago my spouse Jeanne and I boarded a bus with about 20 Jews and headed into Cedar Rapids, Iowa to stand in solidarity with the immigrant workers whose lives were disrupted in May 2008 when the kosher meat-packing plant, Agriprocessors, was raided in Postville.
It was a 4-1/2 hour bus ride each way, with a 30-minute march and a 90-minute worship service before turning around and heading back home. On the way down, we watched on the bus' video system the documentary abUSed: The Postville Raid. Toward the end of the video there were a few minutes of footage that included information of how one Jewish organization from Minnesota got involved and navigated the important work of standing with the immigrant families while also laboring with the rabbis behind Agriprocessors' illegal hiring of immigrants and children.
During the nine hours of travel, there were conversations about additional Jewish involvement with the people and workers of Postville since the raid; the history of Quakerism (with those who were sitting near Jeanne and me); learning about White privilege; talking about oppression based on social class; and sharing stories of our own ancestry, of how our families and European ancestors made their way to the United States and under what conditions.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Since May 2011, my interaction with people of faith beyond my Quaker community has grown rapidly, mostly due to the work to prevent amending the state's constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. I've experienced much joy in the new connections. Seeing humble and active religious people engaged in meaningful, hands-on social justice work makes me realize how much more we as progressive Quakers could be doing.
As Friends, we often tell ourselves--and one another--that we must wait to be led by the Spirit before acting. But what I'm continuing to awaken to is that the intention to wait for such a leading has a harmful impact on entire communities that are suffering at the hands of oppressive bureaucratic systems--systems that are founded on unexamined privileged based on skin color, social class status, sexual orientation, etc.
More than once I have been reminded by White people engaged in social justice work, by people of color, by working-class people, that it is part of the privilege that White, well-educated, well-off people have, to take time--lots of time--to sit and think, talk about, thresh, plan, discuss, and minute what we believe and what we might do.
We call all of that activity part of our work to witness to equality and justice; I worry that our brothers and sisters of color would call it empty, less than helpful, and an example of a system that favors people like ourselves who have the luxury of time rather than working in solidarity with the communities who have a day-to-day urgency for action. For all the time that we take to "wait to be led," African Americans are being stopped and frisked without justification, Muslims are being unfairly profiled for terrorism, and young students who are perceived to be gay are being bullied to the point of suicide, with few adults intervening on their behalf.
So it is that recently, I have begun questioning certain elements of our Quaker faith. Some of our best-known stories are lifted up to demonstrate the importance of waiting to be led. It certainly appears that way when we learn about John Woolman, Lucretia Mott, and Bayard Rustin. But these days, can we know if they were compelled by the Spirit all at once to take a stand against an oppressive system? or were they simply living their lives, taking up the Cross, and acting out of conscience and the promptings of the Inward Teacher on a day-to-day basis?
Perhaps the Way was simply open to them, similar to how it has been for me, to speak up, raise questions, and get involved. The Way was open and they simply stepped onto the Path and tested each step as they went.
I tell you, Friends, my life has been Opened because of the new connections I have made, because of the stories I have heard from people whose lives are so very different from most of our own. I no longer view my upbringing as I once did; I no longer view Quakerism as I once did.
I hope to write a companion post to this one, going into details about how our own practices as Friends might be perpetuating oppression and unknowingly reinforcing White privilege.
May 16, 2013 08:56 AM
May 14, 2013
From a post by Jamie Todd Rubin, “Going Paperless: How Penultimate and Evernote Have Replaced My Pocket Notebook,” I’ve learned the concept of the “Commonplace Book,” which he attributes it to Jefferson:
The notion for the “commonplace book” comes from Thomas Jefferson, who used just such a book to capture pretty much anything: passages from books he was reading, notes, sketches, you name it.
Wikipedia takes it further back in its entry on Commonplace books. The name comes from the latin locus communis and the form got its start in a new form of fifteen-century bound journal:
Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.
I really like this idea. I’ve been thinking a lot about workflows recently (and listening to way too many geek podcasts on my commute). I’ve been muddling my way toward something like this. I’m currently using Evernote to log a lot of my life but there’s scraps of interesting tidbits that have no home. An example from half an hour ago: I was listening to Pandora the train when along came an unfamiliar song I wanted to remember for later. A Commonplace book would be a natural place to record this information (First Aid Kit’s Lion’s Roar if you must know, think Bonnie Raitt steps out with Townes van Zandt for a secret assignation at a Stockholm open mic night.)
Of course, being a twenty-first century digital native, my workflow would be electronic. What I imagine is a single Evernote page that holds a month’s worth of the bits that come along. I have something similar with a log, a single file with one line entries (lots of Ifttt automations like logged Foursquare check-ins, along with notes-to-self of milestones like issues sent to press, etc.). I’ll start setting this up.
The post A modern-day Commonplace Book? appeared first on Quaker Ranter.
May 14, 2013 11:42 PM
I really should blog here more. I really should. I spend a lot of my time these days sharing other people’s ideas. Most recently, on Friends Journal you can see my interview with Jon Watts (co-conducted with Megan Kietzman-Nicklin). The three of us talked on and on for quite some time; it was only an inflexible train schedule that ended my participation.
The favorite part of talking with Jon is his enthusiasm and his talent for keeping his sights set on the long picture (my favorite question was asking why he started with a Quaker figure so obscure even I had to look him up). It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of deadlines and to-do lists and to start to forget why we’re doing this work as professional Quakers. There is a reality behind the word counts. As Friends, we are sharing the good news of 350+ years of spiritual adventuring: observations, struggles, and imperfect-but-genuine attempts to follow Inward Light of the Gospels.
My nine year old son Theo is blogging as a class assignment. I think they’ve been supposed to be writing there for awhile but he’s really only gotten the bug in the last few weeks. It’s a full-on WordPress site, but with certain restrictions (most notably, posts only become public after the classroom teacher has had a chance to review and vet them). It’s certain ironic to see one of my kids blogging more than me!
Enough blogging for today. Time to put the rest of the awake kids to bed. I’m going to try to have more regular small posts so as to get back into the blogging habit. In the meantime, I’m always active on my Tumblr site (which shows up as the sidebar to the right). It’s the bucket for my internet curations–videos and links I find interesting, and my own pictures and miscellanea.
The post Bits and pieces, remembering blogging appeared first on Quaker Ranter.
May 14, 2013 01:13 AM
April 30, 2013
George Jones died this last week. Many country music singers said George was the one they admired most. But back in the early 1980s he wrote a song about all the singers he looked up to, called "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?"
Who's gonna fill their shoes?
Who's gonna stand up tall?
Who's gonna play the Opry and the Wabash Cannonball?
Who's gonna give their heart and soul to get to me and you?
Lord, I wonder, who's gonna fill their shoes?
Last week I thought a lot about leadership. I found a 35 year old report on leadership in the Religious Society of Friends that could have been written last month. Same issues have been going on for at least that long. Lack of trust, lack of shared vision, need for divine guidance and human accountability, unclear relationships between individuals, monthly meetings/churches and larger institutions...
Some of the solutions the report suggested would still be functional. One of the problems with not having enough leadership is that good solutions don’t get implemented.
I've been thinking about that this week, and about the legacy of Rufus Jones, and about Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In
, and the idolatry of heroes, and the right balance of a well-lived life.
So Rufus Jones (1863-1948) is one of my heroes. He did so many things in his lifetime. He helped Friends and others to reconcile modern science and religious faith, to remember that Christian faith requires us to be active in the world, not just pious in a sterile meetinghouse, and he worked for peace and reconciliation within the Religious Society of Friends and in the wider world. That story you've heard about the Quakers who went to Germany to try to convince the Gestapo to let the Jews go? Yeah, Rufus Jones was one of them. And he was a great storyteller.
He also tried to rewrite Quaker history to show a direct connection to the mystical tradition in Europe that was not justified. He spoke every. single. time. and at great length in meeting for worship at Haverford College, for which he was mocked by students. In the last week, I've heard people criticize both his emphasis on mysticism without conversion of life and his emphasis on works over the transcendent. And I've heard he was a terrible driver. A man of giant gifts, giant vision and giant mistakes. That's okay, he is still one of my heroes. I think it's a form of idolatry to expect that our heroes must be perfect in every way. But who could possibly fill his shoes?
When I wrote a post in 2010 about all the imminent turnover in Quaker organizations
, I wondered, "Will all these institutions survive this once in a lifetime mass shift in leadership? How many will move in new and vibrant directions? Are there too many openings at one time? Are there enough younger Friends who are ready, willing and able to take on new responsibilities? To take on the hard work and hard choices? To commit?" And then I responded, "I continue to reflect on these questions and where I might feel called to serve. I think that some of us need to step up to the plate." As I look around almost three years later, of the 20 or so organizations I can think of that changed leaders, all of them found adequate applicants. About a quarter of them chose people younger than 50, and almost half chose women. I've met most of them and I have confidence that they are willing to take on hard work and move in new and vibrant directions. But I can tell you that none of those people feels adequate to fill Rufus Jones's shoes.
Rufus Jones wrote something like 57 books and gave thousands of speeches all over the world. [Including these two that I love: The Vital Cell, 1941
, and What Will Get Us Ready? 1944
] I can barely write a blogpost once a month. But before I get too caught up in comparing myself to him, I have to remind myself that he had a wife, and a housekeeper, and a driver, and probably a series of typists to help him out. He wasn't cleaning his own bathroom. He probably never changed a diaper. Times have changed and there are limits to how much he can serve as a role model for me
Still, this brings me to considering how I am stepping up to the plate in my world. If you haven't heard one of Sheryl Sandberg's talks or read her book, you can go to her new website, www.LeanIn.org
. She is encouraging women to take professional risks, to push for a seat at the table at work and for equality at home, to not give up on their careers just because it's so damn hard when your kids are little. It's controversial, as important conversations are. For me, it helps to articulate it that I have leaned in hard this last couple of years. And I have been supported at home, and in my meetings, and by many Friends. But is it enough? Am I doing enough? Or doing it well enough?
I like to think that I am not aiming to be as famous or influential as Rufus Jones, but I am working on being as faithful to the calling I have, to live up to the Light that I have been given. Leaning in hard can still look undramatic and unheroic
. I suspect that Rufus Jones did aim to be dramatic and heroic and that's one of the things that annoyed people. How is that different from singers giving their heart and soul to get to me and you?
Is it wrong to have ambition to be faithful on a large scale?
Well, at meeting on Sunday, I asked God that question. (One of the things I forever appreciate about unprogrammed Quaker meetings is the opportunity to bring my inarticulate mess
to God in prayer. I don't have it all figured out, and that's okay. I can just hold my swirling questions in the Light. And sometimes there's an answer. Not a booming voice from beyond the ceiling, but a quiet knowing of something new.) And the answer went like this, "So what are you doing for those who will come after you?" Huh? I'm the one who is looking for role models, and instead I'm being asked to be one. Not by any actual younger people, mind you, just by God. Darn. Now what?
Rufus Jones, for all his foibles, was strongly committed to encouraging and supporting younger generations, and they loved him for it. The two speeches I cited above were both given to Young Adult Friends, at their invitation, when he was about 80 years old. Perhaps I can aspire to be like him in this regard and let go of the temptation to try to be like him in other ways.
I can still give my heart and soul for the Religious Society of Friends. Thy will, Lord, not mine.
April 30, 2013 01:00 PM
April 24, 2013
20-21 Fourth Month 2013
During my years among Friends, I often have shied away from topics that are explicitly Bible-focused or Christ-centered, given my Jewish upbringing and the more recent baggage I have accumulated about how "right-wing Christians" have co-opted Christianity in recent years.
But it has been Conservative and Conservative-leaning Friends whose comfort with Scripture--and how they use it to guide or affirm their spiritual lives--that has made me curious to understand more deeply why they value the Bible as much as they do.
A few months ago, I saw that Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)'s Midyear Meeting session was going to focus on the Bible. Then when I saw that the session's usual three-segment format was going to break the topic into "The Bible among Friends," "What the Bible has to say about sin," and "What the Bible has to say about love," I felt my heart soften, and Way seemed to open for me to attend.
The evening before the Midyear session was to begin, I joined a group of local Friends and a few early arrivals for supper at a nearby restaurant. Some of these Friends I've known now for six or seven years, and their kindness, friendship, and spiritual hospitality is something I treasure.
At the meal was also the presenter for the sessions, Doug Bennett, past president of Earlham College. First things first, I greeted my friends with warm hugs, broad smiles, and hearty handshakes. Then I looked over to Doug, and introduced myself. He smiled when he heard my name: "Are you the Liz Opp who blogs?!" he asked excitedly. I was humbled to think that after such a long lapse of my own activity online, my name and blog are still recognized by some beyond my local Quaker community...
And when I said that a presentation on the Bible was not something I ever would have thought I would attend, Doug chuckled and nodded, adding that it wasn't a presentation he ever would have thought he would give!
I settled in that night with a good feeling, being among these fFriends again.
On Seventh Day, Doug started off addressing the gathered Friends by saying he was no scholar or expert about Scripture; that he had little or no knowledge of ancient Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew; that he didn't have a clear understanding of just what he was to share over the course of the weekend, so he would be taking some of his cues from us.
His humility seemed genuine, and I appreciated that. I saw a few other Friends nodding in appreciation, too.
In each of the segments of his presentation that I was able to attend--I was with the children during the final one on First Day morning--Doug began by sharing some of his own thoughts, then allowed Friends to ask questions, make observations, and otherwise add to the discussion. Doug closed the first two parts by asking Friends to write on an index card one or two "honest sentences" in response to a question he posed. I include those questions below.
(Overall, I'd say Doug raised more questions than he offered clear answers.)
Questions from Part 1: The Bible among Friends
Should we think of the Bible as having authority among us? Why or why not?
How should we make use of this important Book?
To what extent do we as Friends talk with one another about Scripture; or if we don't, why not?
What does the Inward Light have to do with the Bible?
Doug didn't just give us questions to consider, he also shared with us some of his own thoughts that he's wrestled with or wondered about:
Since the New Testament wasn't available all the time, what parts of Scripture did folks wrestle with way back then?
The issues of slavery, the role of women in the Church, and homosexuality [sic*] are part of this book's unpleasant history that we need to be honest about. The Bible has been the source of division, wars, and religious schisms.
The Bible can pull us apart, so why do we need the Bible if there's an indwelling of the Spirit?
Doug answered that last question by offering us this:
Because it's the best source for learning about Jesus that we have. And because the Hebrew Scriptures are the only source that Jesus considers and uses as teaching texts.Part 2: What does the Bible have to say about sin?
Doug started us off by reading some of the things that Friends wrote down regarding the authority of Scripture, and then began Part 2 by offering this:
There is a reciprocal relationship (my word) between the concept that "The Light Within helps me make sense of Scripture"
and the concept that "Scripture helps me make sense of the Light Within."
Doug also suggested that Friends generally are more tolerant about our views on the authority of Scripture than we are about how sin is defined and what behaviors are considered to be sins. He suggested we only have to look at recent developments
within Indiana Yearly Meeting
and the issue of homosexuality [sic].
We then reviewed together a few of the "lists of sins" that are enumerated in the Bible, such as Exodus 20
, Proverbs 6:16-19
, Galatians 5:19-21
, and Galatians 3:5-6
During the discussion portion of that part, a respected Friend stood and offered a story of an interaction he had had with a rabbi quite some time ago. The rabbi pointed out that Exodus 20 itself isn't about enumerating sins against God: it's about how to live in community.
By telling the truth; by honoring our parents; by not killing or stealing...
On a related note about Exodus 20, for my time with the children at Midyear Meeting, I was preparing to tell them the Godly Play story that's based on how God gave the Ten Commandments to the people. It's a story called The Ten Best Ways To Live
These are the questions that Doug lifted up, for Part 2: What does the Bible have to say about sin?
What makes something a sin?
Should we rely on the lists of sins that are in the Bible? Or are there some general characteristics of sins that help make sense of why they are sins?
Does the Bible tell us all we need to know about sin?
Since I wasn't present for the final section, I am offering here what was on Doug's handout, and then will wrap up with additional remarks and thoughts I was able to capture.
Part 3: Scripture references and questions on What does the Bible have to say about Love?
Scripture:Matthew 22:34-401 Corinthians 13
What does loving your God "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" have to do with loving your neighbor as yourself"?Other remarks
How do we know that "loving your neighbor as yourself" means in specific circumstances? Should we always do what our neighbor wants us to do? If not, what makes an act loving?
Does the Bible tell us all we need to know about love?
Earlier in the weekend, Doug spoke on a long tangent about the nature of divine inspiration. He ultimately asked--and this is my Most Meager Attempt To Paraphrase--"Is that which inspired a beloved Friend of mine who offered precious vocal ministry the same thing which inspired people to write long ago what is now known as Scripture? Did such inspired writing emerge from a community gathered in worship?"
Our experience with the Bible today is that it was already codified into a whole, into a "closed book," which we received without question and without understanding that it arose out of a context of community... There are layers of inspiration out of which the Bible emerges, but the initial
power of divine inspiration that was available back then simply isn't believed to be available today.
...To which I say: Friends don't believe this! Doug and I (and other Friends) seem to unite with the belief that the original inspiration of the Bible--the Living Spirit--is
still available to us today.
Doug brought up an important excerpt from Robert Barclay's third proposition
of his Apology,
reminding us not to mistake Scripture as the Source; that Scripture only points to the Source; that the Spirit is the primary rule of faith.
Doug compared the Bible to "starter yeast" for Friends: It helps connect us back to the original
inspiration, the inspiration of the Divine.
Doug also ties in Woolman and his ministry and witness to abolish slavery. "Woolman doesn't argue with the existing verses in Scripture that were used to justify enslaving human beings," Doug offers. "Instead, Woolman looks for a deeper message of Providence that would point to how slavery wasn't Gospel Order."
Hmmm, yes: much of our work for social change in which we rail against religiously conservative brothers and sisters who rely on individual verses of Scripture will hear from us the larger arc, narrative, and theme of the Bible, lifting up concepts like love, redemption, liberation, and reconciliation.
To close this blog post, I'm including below what I wrote and submitted on the index cards in response to the questions Doug asked:
From Part 1, about the Bible among Friends:
Q. Should we think of the Bible as having authority among us? How should we make use of it?
My A. The Bible has authority for me when someone with whom I have a meaningful relationship tells me how the Bible--or a part of it--has spoken to her or his condition. It's a relational authority, not a creedal one.
From Part 2, about what the Bible says about sin:
Q. What makes something a sin?
My A. Anything that breaks a relationship--with God, with oneself, with another person, with a community (or with the earth--added later)... especially after a person/individual tells us that our "good intentions" are harmful or are part of a harmful system and we don't look at it critically from that person's perspective, or we don't change our behavior, knowing it is causing harm.
*In 2011, I stopped using the word "homosexuality." To me, that word is loaded with history of a time when members of the dominant group regularly pathologized and stigmatized an oppressed minority group of people.
April 24, 2013 11:01 AM
April 12, 2013
4.05 km 13302.09 feet 2.52 mi
3539.00 seconds 58.98 minutes 0.98 hours 2.56 mi/hr
Not a bicycle ride, this time. No bicycles allowed on the White Plains
Greenway, sadly. I'm putting it here to record that I
walked it. Only the southern half is on the railbed. The northern half is
fenced off, so the trail is routed just a bit to the west of the railbed.
[Tags hiking walking
April 12, 2013 05:38 AM
4.04 km 13259.50 feet 2.51 mi
1337.00 seconds 22.28 minutes 0.37 hours 6.76 mi/hr
Only about a mile long, this trail dead-ends at the south where the
abandoned railroad (which only went into Stillwater) meets the existing
railroad. It's nicely paved, with new bridges constructed where the old
railroad bridges were removed.
April 12, 2013 04:03 AM
April 02, 2013
We knew that, but how fast? And why haven’t we had a hottest year since 2010? How much has temperature changed? NASA has a number of graphs for the US and the world. This one shows more of a temperature increase in the northern hemisphere, where there is more land. This trend is somewhat easier [...]
April 02, 2013 03:41 AM
March 23, 2013
Over on Twitter feed came a tweet (h/t revrevwine):
To translate, SEO is “search engine optimization,” the often-huckersterish art of tricking Google to display your website higher than your competitors in search results. “Usability” is the catch-all term for making your website easy to navigate and inviting to visitors. Companies with deep pockets often want to spend a lot of money on SEO, when most of the time the most viable long-term solution to ranking high with search engines is to provide visitors with good reasons to visit your site. What if we applied these principles to our churches and meetinghouses and swapped the terms?
Outreach gets people to your meetinghouse /
Hospitality keeps people returning.
A lot of Quaker meetinghouses have pretty good “natural SEO.” Here in the U.S. East Coast, they’re often near a major road in the middle of town. If they’re lucky there are a few historical markers of notable Quakers and if they are really lucky there’s a highly-respected Friends school nearby. All these meetings really have to do is put a nice sign out front and table a few town events every year. The rest is covered. Although we do get the occasional “aren’t you all Amish?” comments, we have a much wider reputation that our numbers would necessarily warrant. We rank pretty high.
But what are the lessons of hospitality we could work on? Do we provide places where spiritual seekers can both grow personally and engage in the important questions of the faith in the modern world? Are we invitational, bringing people into our homes and into our lives for shared meals and conversations?
In my freelance days when I was hired to work on SEO I ran through a series of statistical reports and redesigned some underperforming pages, but then turned my attention to the client’s content. It was in this realm that my greatest quantifiable successes occurred. At the heart of the content work was asking how could the site could more fully engage with first-time visitors. The “usability considerations” on the Wikipedia page on usability could be easily adapted as queries:
Who are the users, what do they know, what can they learn? What do users want or need to do? What is the users’ general background? What is the users’ context for working? What must be left to the machine? Can users easily accomplish intended tasks at their desired speed? How much training do users need? What documentation or other supporting materials are available to help the user?
I’d love to see Friends consider this more. FGC’s “New Meetings Toolbox” has a section on welcoming newcomers. But I’d love to hear more stories about how we’re working on the “usability” of our spiritual communities.
The post Outreach gets people to your meetinghouse / Hospitality keeps people returning. appeared first on Quaker Ranter.
March 23, 2013 10:23 PM
On March 22nd, I joined the fast against mountaintop coal mining called by the Earth Quaker Action Team.
“Old Zinc Factory; Palmerton” by road_less_trvled on Flickr (creative commons license)
When I was growing up we’d make the trip from Philadelphia to my grandmother’s house a couple of times a year. As we headed north, the highway threaded across farm fields and through rock cuts in the hills. About an hour in, we’d start noticing the thin blue band on the horizon. It would slowly get larger and larger until Blue Mountain loomed in front of us and we whooshed into Lehigh Tunnel.
My Nana lived on the other side of that mountain. On this side the mountainside was red. The forests that carpeted the rest of the thousand-mile ridge had been ripped up by the decades of chemicals pouring out if the smokestacks of the giant zinc processing factories that bookended the town of Palmerton.
When conversation turned to adult matters, I’d wander to the back porch and count the dirt bike trails going up the barren mountain. When I tired of that I’d play in the stones of my grandmother’s backyard. Even grass didn’t grow in this town. Ambitious homeowners would sometimes make rock gardens for the space in front of each house that had been designed for marigolds, but most of the town had gotten used to the absence of green. When the EPA finally got around to declaring the mountain a superfund site we all snorted dismissively. My grandmother was actually offended, having long ago convinced herself that the factory effusions must be healthy.
The Palmerton factories were funded by New York bankers. Princeton University got multiple multimillion-dollar bequests in the wills of the founders of the zinc company. I’m sure there are still a few residual trust funds paying out dividends.
Today we have Philadelphia and Pittsburgh bankers orchestrating the removal of the mountaintops in West Virginia. As our technology has improved so has our capacity for ill-considered mass destruction of our natural surroundings.
All living creatures have an impact on their surroundings. My comforts rely on the coal, oil, and natural gas that are brought into our cities and towns. But I do know we can do better. I’m optimistic enough to can find ways to live together on this Earth that don’t break our mountains or poison our neighbors.
Photo: “Old Zinc Factory; Palmerton” by road_less_trvled on Flickr (creative commons license)
The post Why I’m fasting with @eqat against mountaintop mining appeared first on Quaker Ranter.
March 23, 2013 03:44 PM
March 19, 2013
Ten years ago today, U.S. forces began the “shock and awe” bombardment on Baghdad, the first shots of the second Iraq War. President Bush said troops needed to go in to disable Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program, but as we now know that program did not exist. Many of us suspected as much at the time. The flimsy pieces of evidence held up by the Bush Administration didn’t pass the smell test but a lot of mainstream reporters went for it and supported the war.
Now those journalists are looking back. One is Andrew Sullivan, most widely known as the former editor of New Republic and now the publisher of the independent online magazine The Dish. I find his recent “Never Forget That They Were All Wrong” thread profoundly frustrating. I’m glad he’s taking the time to double-guess himself, but the whole premise of the thread continues the dismissive attitude toward activists. Starting in 1995 I ran a website that acted as a publishing platform for much of the established peace movement. Yes, we were a collection of antiwar activists, but that doesn’t mean we were unable to use logic and apply critical thinking when the official assurances didn’t add up. I wrote weekly posts challenging New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the smoke-and-mirror shows of two administrations over a ten-year period. My essays were occasionally picked up by the national media—when they needed a counterpoint to pro-war editorials—but in general my pieces and those of the pacifist groups I published were dismissed.
When U.S. troops finally did invade Iraq in 2003, they encountered an Iraqi military that was almost completely incapacitated by years of U.N. sanctions. The much-hyped Republican Guard had tanks that had too many broken parts to run. Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological programs had been shut down over a decade earlier. The real lesson that we should take from the Iraq War was that the nonviolent methods of United Nations sanctions had worked. This isn’t a surprise for what we might call pragmatic pacifists. There’s a growing body of research arguing that nonviolent methods are often more effective than armed interventions (see for example, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, reviewed in the March Friends Journal (subscription required).
What if the U.S. had acknowledge there was no compelling evidence of WMDs and had simply ratcheted up the sanctions and let Iraq stew for another couple of years? Eventually a coup or Arab Spring would probably have rolled around. Imagine it. No insurgency. No Abu Ghraib. Maybe we’d even have an ally in Baghdad. The situations in places like Tehran, Damascus, Islamabad, and Ramallah would probably be fundamentally different right now. Antiwar activists were right in 2003. Why should journalists like Andrew Sullivan assume that this was an anomaly?
The post Iraq Ten Years Later: Some of Us Weren’t Wrong appeared first on Quaker Ranter.
March 19, 2013 09:08 PM
March 08, 2013
I've been entertaining myself today with a single handed game of "I'm going to Grandma's house and I'm taking a..." Did you play that when you were a kid? Or with your own kids?
Well, I'm going to the Friends World Committee Section of the Americas Meeting of Representatives next week, and I'm taking
I hope to find some Opportunities when I get there
a QUNO report
Are you coming? What are you bringing?
If you're not coming, what are you carrying with you wherever you are?
March 08, 2013 10:25 PM
March 05, 2013
“What do you think of this?” It was probably the twentieth time my brother or I had asked this question in the last hour. Our mother had downsized to a one-bedroom apartment in an Alzheimer’s unit just six days earlier. Visiting her there she admitted she couldn’t even remember her old apartment. We were cleaning it out.
Almost forgotten history. by martin_kelley, on Flickr
The object of the question this time was an antique teapot. White china with a blue design. It wasn’t in great shape. The top was cracked and missing the handle that would let you take it off the lid without burning fingers. It had a folksy charm, but as a teapot it was neither practical nor astonishingly attractive, and neither of us really wanted it. It was headed for the oversized trash bin outside her room.
I turned it over in my hands. There, on the bottom, was a strip of dried out and cracked masking tape. On it, barely legible and in the kind of cursive script that is no longer taught, were the words “Recovered from ruins of fire 6/29/23 at 7. 1067 Hazard Rd.”
We scratched our heads. We didn’t know where Hazard Road might be (Google later revealed it’s in the blink-and-you-miss-it railroad stop of Hazard, Pennsylvania, a crossroads only technically within the boundary of our mother’s home town of Palmerton). The date would place the fire seven years before her birth.
We can only guess to fill in the details. A catastrophic fire must have taken out the family home. Imagine the grim solace of pulling out a family heirloom. Perhaps some grandparent had brought it carefully packed in a small suitcase on the journey to America. Or perhaps not. We’ll probably never know. Our mother wasn’t the only one losing her memory. We were too. We were losing the family memory of a generation that had lived, loved, and made it through a tragedy one mid-summer day.
I stood there and looked at the teapot once again. It had survived a fire ninety years ago. I would give it a reprieve from our snap judgement and the dump. Stripped of all meaning save three inches of masking tape, it now sits on the top shelf of my cupboard.
Cross-posted from my Tumblr
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March 05, 2013 01:40 AM
March 04, 2013
Part of my continued absence from the Quaker blogosphere is that my worship community is in need of healing. Like other, more established Quaker meetings, the community can be fragmented when one or more Friends interpret something that's happened as a betrayal, while other Friends interpret "the same something" as acceptable, not problematic, or something that doesn't warrant attention at all.
The sense of betrayal or the experience of sudden disillusionment can be the result of the meeting's taking a stance on practical matters, like how to prioritize its funds--"We should give money to non-profits that are doing important work" vs. "We need to spend money on maintaining the building so we can continue doing important work."
But more often, the feeling of being let down--hard--is the result of some spiritual matter gone awry, especially when it relates to the condition or the implicit sense of covenant community, such as when to set a limit with a visitor who speaks frequently during worship against an historically oppressed group--"We affirm GLBTQ people and we need to prevent this Friend from attending worship because she is saying hurtful and hateful things against them, making our community unsafe" vs. "We affirm that there is that of God in everyone, so how can we obstruct that person from worshiping among us?" is an example I witnessed personally quite a few years ago.
Such conflict and potential schism seem to be the result of two conflicting principles or practices. If we are not careful, we may end up knowingly or not, unintentionally or not, taking sides.
What is more helpful, I have found, is to be disciplined, patient, and even willing--or, just as important, willing to be willing--to live into the discomfort of being caught in the pull between the two.
We must be humble enough to recognize when we don't know and can't know what is needed...
My experience has been that when a critical mass of Friends in the worship community encourage one another to "be cool in [their] own mind" and to "wait in the Light," a third way eventually presents itself. Or sometimes just naming the tension and making explicit the two (or more) things that are vying for our "vote" also makes the tension and conflict easier to bear.
But still, we are human, and not everyone has the capacity to bear that tension and conflict for long. Sometimes, Friends have to step away from the community, maybe for a short break, maybe forever.
Quite some time ago, Friends General Conference published a pamphlet initially titled The Wounded Meeting. It has since been retitled Dealing with Difficult Behavior in Meeting for Worship, more accurately reflecting the pamphlet's content.
That pamphlet was one attempt to provide ideas and options on how meetings might address disruptive behavior--though specifically behavior that might arise during worship. Of course, things happen outside of Meeting for Worship too, and the need for reconciliation and healing is sometimes the result of something that impacts and tears the fabric of the community and the connection among Friends.
Not only that, but also the community has its immediate response to the initial situation, and then there might be a decision made because of that initial response that others then, in turn, respond to. It's like dominoes that topple one on top of another, and we might often feel helpless or horrified as things go from bad to worse. All the more reason to go as slowly as possible...
A recent pamphlet, Matthew 18: Wisdom for Living in Community, looks at the process that is outlined in Matthew 18, puts it in Quaker context, and applies Jesus' advice more broadly than just to what might occur in worship. I've begun reading it and am struck by a number of passages, as well as how frequently authors Connie McPeak Green and Marty Grundy refer to the need for humility, a willingness to be vulnerable.
When there's a tear in our community's social and spiritual fabric, we have to address it. Sometimes addressing it means having 1-to-1 conversations; or a called session; or a set of new policies or explicitly stated expectations; or a meeting for worship for healing; or a combination of all these things; or something else entirely. Some Friends don't want to see new limits put into place; other Friends need those new limits in order to re-establish trust.
And sometimes, we are given Grace and we find our way through the eye of the needle. (I realize I'm mixing metaphors; so be it.)
The work of healing and repairing relationships is messy. It's painful. But when done with much care, it also helps us grow in our capacity to love one another. Connie McPeak Green's and Marty Grundy's pamphlet speaks to this.
Here are a few things that I currently have in my personal Toolbox for Healing, given my own experiences. Some of these might overlap with the Matthew 18 pamphlet, I suppose:
1. Accept the feelings I have, and acknowledge the feelings that others have, too. We can have different feelings at the same time, and no single feeling is more right or better than any other.
2. Seek pieces of the Truth that exist in the stories and experiences of the person(s) who see things differently from how I do. This is different from seeking common ground. We all have a need to be validated for what we experience, and it's a gift I can give to the person with whom I'm laboring if I can put aside my own desire to be "right" and affirm the piece of Truth that exists in the other person's perspective, perception, and experience.
3. Allow for multiple truths to co-exist, even when my logical mind tells me they can't. Lean into the cognitive dissonance that these multiple, co-existing truths evoke.
4. Worship often, and hold the community, myself, and the other people involved in the Light, especially those with whom I disagree.
5. Stay connected as best I can, even though it's hard. Send a brief message that says, at the very least, "I care about what's happened and I'm not in a place yet to talk about it."
6. Ask the people who are hurting what they think might help... and then be ready to provide at least the smallest, most significant portion of it in order to rebuild trust. This may require some negotiating, if a request is clearly unreasonable. But I need to be low enough to let go of my assumption that I know what is or isn't unreasonable.
7. Ask God to show how I have been unhelpful or have unknowingly carried out harm to others in the situation. Ask God to show me those items in the most gentle way possible. Connie and Marty in their pamphlet take a long look at the phrase "stumbling block" that appears in some translations of Matthew 18.
8. Discipline myself from gossiping, casting blame, sharing someone else's version of what happened. Discipline myself to let the Spirit exercise my own self by saying less and by listening inwardly more.
What's in your own toolbox or that of your spiritual community? What tools have you discarded? What tools do you draw on regularly?
How has your meeting or worship community successfully navigated a potential division or rift? What stories of the Way opening can you share?
PS. EARLIER RELATED POSTS in The Good Raised Up
:Treasuring one another through difficultyQualities of a Quaker worship community
March 04, 2013 11:36 AM
February 22, 2013
“If you just thought for yourself, you’d agree with me and all my friends.” How often have you and I and the kitchen sink heard that? Dan Kahan, one of the cultural cognition people, discusses the downsides of original thinking: People need to (and do) accept as known by science much much much more than [...]
February 22, 2013 08:19 PM
February 18, 2013
As I have said before, my paid work for Quakers at the very broad level and my responsibilities to my family at home are more than enough to fill my every waking minute. I already feel like I’m not keeping up.
But every so often, a concern arises in my heart and mind that doesn’t fit neatly into one of those buckets. Issues at my monthly meeting, in my yearly meeting, in my kids’ school. Things that have been laid upon my heart to care about but that I really don’t have time for.
Except that we all have time for the things that really matter. As Thomas Kelly says, even very busy lovers find time to write long letters to each other, because they care. I used to say, “If I have time to complain about it, I have time to do something about it.”
So we have to make choices. Every minute I spend on one thing is time away from another and this is true for everyone. I prioritize sleep. I make time to go to some but not all of my kids’ athletic games. I am not serving on any committees or teaching First Day School at my monthly meeting. So on the whole I have a reasonable balance.
And then come these special moments. I don’t know whether to call them temptations or distractions or openings. I am specifically not giving examples here because they are too personal and too much involving other people to get into in this space. I guess I can say they variously involve sex, money and God, but not all three at once, for which I am grateful.
So anyway, the point is that I’ve been trying to sort out what is really mine to do, and what I just need to let go of. Like I said last year, courage, serenity, wisdom, and the discipline to make myself stick to a decision and not keep fretting in the middle of the night over things that I decided are not mine to work on.
And the spark for putting this into a blogpost was an insight that came to me in worship this morning. A 100 year old Friend spoke about how grateful she is that 90 years ago, a Sunday school teacher made her memorize certain passages from the Bible. She still remembers the Beatitudes, for example. She was recently reminded of these because a couple of months ago she was temporarily blind after a surgery but she still had these verses, and some poetry she also memorized over the years. She is so grateful now even though at the time she wondered what good it would do.
So my new yardstick, among the others I have been using, is to consider what I’m going to care about 90 years from now. Ok, maybe 50 years is all the horizon I need to worry about. In any case, I need to ask not just what has the most heat and Light in it right now, but what will I care about later? What will I regret? What will my grandchildren care about? What does God care about? What will I be held accountable for in the long run?
This is helping me sort through the recent concerns with more clarity. And I hope that this reminder, like so many things that I’ve heard before but needed to hear again, will help me sleep better in the coming months.
February 18, 2013 05:21 PM
February 07, 2013
Post-Evangelical Blogging for Dummies: Harnessing the Zeitgeist for Fun and Prophet :
The Hipster Conservative writes the definitive guide. This is a bit close for comfort but we’re supposed to be able to laugh at ourselves, right?
Explain the personal conflict you experience between your evangelical roots and what you now truly believe is a devastating challenge to those formerly-held beliefs. Suggest that instead of being so quick to oppose the issue, Christians should extend “grace” (don’t define) and a “generous response.” Above all, they should “re-evaluate” their views in light of this challenge. Remember: “Questioning” is a one-way street.
Via my wife Julie (of course)
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February 07, 2013 07:36 PM
“When I came here to learn more about the wider Christian world, I realized that people are interested in learning more about Quakers and what we have to offer other denominations.”
— Greg Woods: The Uniqueness of Quakerism http://bit.ly/14Gd5zK
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February 07, 2013 07:20 PM
February 06, 2013
The End of the Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It:
I think about what constantly-flowing information means for blogging. In some ways this is Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. But what if someone started a stand-alone blog that wasn’t a series of posts, but rather a continuous stream of blurbs, almost like chat. For example: “I just heard…” or “Microsoft launching this is stupid, here’s why…” — things like that. More like an always-on live blog, I guess.
It’s sort of strange to me that blogs are still based around the idea of fully-formed articles of old. This works well for some content, but I don’t see why it has to be that way for all content. The real-time communication aspect of the web should be utilized more, especially in a mobile world.
People aren’t going to want to sit on one page all day, especially if there’s nothing new coming in for a bit. But push notifications could alleviate this as could Twitter as a notification layer. And with multiple people on “shift” doing updates, there could always be fresh content, coming in real time.
Just thinking out loud here.
Good out loud thinking from MG about where blogging’s going. I’ve realized for while now that I’m much more likely to use Twitter and Tumblr to share small snippets that aren’t worth a fully-formed post. What I’ve also realized is that I’m more likely to add commentary to that link share (as I’m doing now) so that it effectively becomes a blog post.
Because of this I’m seriously considering archiving my almost ten year old blog (carefully preserving comment threads if at a possible) and installing my Tumblr on the QuakerRanter.org domain.
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February 06, 2013 11:00 PM
Timeline Photos | Facebook
An Indian woman, a Japanese woman, and a Syrian woman, all training to be doctors at Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, 1880s.
Cool vintage picture of doctors in train from Philadelphia’s woman’s medical college.
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February 06, 2013 10:42 PM
“Mainline denominations can seem to “enforce” a scripted liturgy that “must be finished” and surely the stripped down way in which Quakers—even programmed ones—worship might seem like a breath of fresh air to introverts who love to reflect and refocus on God’s Presence.”
— James Tower: Is Quakerism “Worship for Introverts?” http://bit.ly/YajMEU
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February 06, 2013 03:34 PM
First Month 2013
The first conversation I had was with Carol (not her real name), the neighbor who lives behind us, across the alley. It was May 2011, a week before that year’s NYM annual sessions.
Carol and I always greeted each other when we’d see the other working in the backyard or setting out recycling bins.
“Hey, Liz, how are you doing?” she asked me this particular spring morning. “Honestly, not very well,” I told her. It was only a day or two after the Minnesota legislature had moved onto the November 2012 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.* Carol had known Jeanne and me as a couple for two years, ever since she moved into the neighborhood.
“Oh no, what’s wrong?” she asked. I explained that Jeanne and I had been at the Capitol all week, protesting against the amendment. Because of our friendship, Carol was able to affirm my hurt and then shared her own perspective: “You know that I really like both of you; you’ve been great block club captains. You also know that I’m a conservative Christian and that I work in the arts, so of course I know a lot of other gay and lesbian artists. I’m really conflicted about gay marriage…”
That conversation was one of about 200 that I would have over the next 18 months; one of nearly 1,000 conversations that Minnesota Quakers would engage in; and one of about a million conversations statewide. For 18 months between May 2011-November 2012, Minnesota became one of the first testing grounds that would avoid rhetoric and legal debates focusing on discrimination and “civil rights” for GLBTQ people. Instead, a coalition that included national and statewide partners, faith communities and businesses, would develop and rely on a research-based strategy that required one-on-one conversations about “what does marriage mean to you?” and about the gay and lesbian people, and the same-sex couples, we know personally.
During a phone bank with Minnesotans United for All Families, I engage a voter: “You mentioned that you and your wife have been married for nearly 25 years. That’s great. And when you think back to that day when one of you proposed to the other, what do you remember about why you wanted to get married?” After hearing his answer, I gently moved into the next part of the phone script: “Do you know any gay or lesbian people, or people in same-sex relationships?” (“Yes, my son has gay friends…”) “Do you think gay and lesbian people, like your son’s friends, may one day fall in love like you did, and want to get married for similar reasons that you just mentioned?” During the 18 months between when the Republican-led legislature moved the marriage amendment onto the ballot in May 2011 and the time when Minnesotans voted on the amendment this past November, communities of faith across the state, including Quakers, took an active role in the work to defeat the proposed amendment. Pro-LGBTQ Minnesota clergy, including a Catholic priest and a Lutheran bishop, had letters to the editor printed in major newspapers; clergy held press conferences affirming that their religious communities supported marriage for same-sex couples as a matter of faith and belief; and many rabbis and pastors actively preached from their respective pulpits about how God’s love for God’s people is an ever-inclusive and ever-expansive love—a Love that strives for justice. I was preparing to speak with a group called Grandmothers for Peace. They had asked me to talk about how the proposed marriage amendment was unjust, discriminatory, and an infringement of civil rights. But such messages ran directly counter to what research was showing to be effective in changing people’s hearts and minds. I prayed for a way to speak respectfully to these elders who had been involved in justice work and social change movements far longer than the few months I had been involved with Minnesotans United. When it was my turn to speak, I asked the Grandmothers—with a few Grandfathers participating too—how many of them had done any baking for their family and grandkids. Many indicated they had—cakes, cookies, bread—and I asked them, “Well, how many times would any of you use a recipe that you had already baked with, where over and over again, the result had been disastrous rather than delicious? And what if you had tried that recipe two, three, or four times, never getting it the way you wanted it to turn out? Would you ever go back to using that recipe again?” I continued: So if we know that the recipe for talking about this sort of proposed amendment has been based on talking about discrimination, equal rights, and the purpose of the Constitution; and if we know that this recipe has already turned out a disastrous result more than 30 times, why in the world would we draw on the same old recipe in Minnesota and hope that this time the recipe would turn out okay?
Grandmothers for Peace, along with tens of thousands of other Minnesotans, were ready to learn about and try out the newest “test recipe” that would allow us to be the first state in the U.S. to defeat a proposed amendment that would have singled out a certain group of people from all others in order to limit their freedom to marry the person they love.
Even Scripture was renewed for some, not as an old tool for beating one group down, but as a vehicle for bringing new Light to lift all of us up. In my own experience, I was opened to verses like Genesis 2:18, around the concept of a “helpmeet”–that God didn’t pair a man, Adam, with a woman, Eve; but rather that God created “suitable helpers” for one another, because it is not good for any of us to be alone. For our GLBTQ members and attenders, a suitable helper has to do with love, commitment, and responsibility; not exclusively about differences in body parts or even gender identity.
Quakers of course participated in the statewide work all along, too. Meetings across Minnesota sent Friends to participate in phone banks; invited trained presenters to speak with them; or participated in interfaith groups that had gathered to learn how to transcend the unspoken rule of “Minnesota nice” and engage in conversations that would ultimately set tens of thousands of conflicted and undecided voters on a journey of deeper consideration of the issues that impact loving, committed same-sex couples.
Another phone-caller’s story was shared online: “I was on the phone with an older Catholic woman. It was really important for her to be faithful to the Catholic Church, but she also saw the suffering that her gay and lesbian friends were going through. I told her that she could leave the question on the ballot blank. By doing that, she’d be able to say she didn’t go against the teachings of the church, and the blank vote would help her friends because it would be counted among the No votes. The woman ended the call by saying, ‘I think God may have sent you to me, because I really didn’t know what to do, and you’ve given me something to think about.’”
Members of the Marriage Equality Committee (MEC) of Twin Cities Friends Meeting (TCFM) became active in the interfaith group that was formed in St. Paul. Other Friends sat on the interfaith roundtable sponsored by OutFront Minnesota—a roundtable that had been convened from about 2004-2008 as the Faith Family Fairness Alliance. As time went by, dozens of Minnesota Friends became visibly engaged in the work of the Vote NOcampaign; many others held their own conversations privately, put up Vote NO lawn signs, wore Vote NO t-shirts, gave money to the campaign, and much more.
Faith-based activities included wearing and distributing buttons that read “I’m a Minnesotan of faith voting NO on the marriage amendment”; having houses of worship, including TCFM, display large orange signs that declared “People of Faith Vote NO on limiting the freedom to marry”; and having churches, meetings, and synagogues speak with fellow worshipers to be sure they knew not only what the wording of the proposed amendment was and why it was important to vote No. In the case of TCFM, the MEC also did the work of reaching out to every single worshiper personally; to explain that the meeting had minuted its support for marriage equality; and to have a conversation about the proposed amendment and about the GLBTQ people we knew in the meeting.
The ripples of MEC’s Spirit-led work also reached NYM-affiliated meetings in 2011 as well as the gathered body of Northern Yearly Meeting in 2012, where the work was taken further and deeper into NYM’s Meetings for Worship for Business during the annual session.
It’s now about three months after the historic results from the November 2012 election. The affirmation of civil marriage for same-sex couples took place in the states of Washington, Maine, and Maryland, in addition to the defeat of Minnesota’s proposed anti-LGBTQ marriage amendment.
After all that, Jeanne and I don’t know how our neighbor Carol voted, but we were able to talk with her several times during the year-and-a-half, accompanying her on her own journey of wrestling with how to be faithful to her religious beliefs while also affirming the love she saw among her friends and neighbors.
Lots of Friends label me an activist now. But I like to think of myself as someone who simply decided to get involved. That’s a lot of what engaging in social change movements is about, really: inviting one another on a journey and into a new type of conversation. When we do that, we can interrupt our own and others’ automatic thinking that we’ve been socialized to accept without question. We can begin to listen more deeply to what God is telling us and begin to live out a new order, growing closer to God and to the Light within all of God’s beloved children.
*Like many other states, Minnesota has in place a “Defense of Marriage Act” [DOMA] statute that since 1997 has prevented loving, committed same-sex couples from being able to marry legally.
UPDATE Second Month 2013: Currently, a re-configured Minnesotans United for All Families is working with the Minnesota legislature to present a bill that, if approved, would provide marriage for all loving committed couples, regardless of the gender of each partner.
February 06, 2013 09:55 AM
And it’s going viral so who am I to judge: Sleeping Baby Gangnum Style
The post And it’s going viral so who am I to judge: Sleeping Baby… appeared first on Quaker Ranter.
February 06, 2013 04:33 AM
Surely you haven’t had enough Gangnam yet.
February 06, 2013 04:33 AM
“The economy of God is not centered on little rectangles of plastic, little pieces of paper or small chunks of round metal which bear the images and impressions of our “Caesars”, but on that which bears the image of God.”
— Extroverted Quaker: God’s Economy http://bit.ly/VS18mN
February 06, 2013 12:10 AM
February 05, 2013
Nostra Maxima Culpa:
Andrew Sullivan, andrewsullivan.com
[Re-posted from earlier today.]Alex Gibney’s new documentary on the child-rape epidemic in the Catholic Church that raged for decades (and maybe centuries), Mea Maxima Culpa, debuted tonight on HBO. I’ve watched it twice. It is both an…
Andrew Sullivan on the priest abuse cover-up:
“Jesus must always be with the victims. He is the victim. When a priest rapes a child, Jesus is raped. When an archbishop covers up the crime, Jesus is raped.”
February 05, 2013 01:03 PM
Cub scouts down 25% in last decade:
One piece of context behind possible changes is the freefall in membership over the last decade:
Since 2000, the number of young people involved in scouting has fallen by close to 19 percent, according to the Boy Scouts of America’s most recent figures, from 2011. The number of boys in the youngest cohort of membership, the Cub Scouts, was down more than 25 percent, marking an even more alarming portent for the future.
Our kids are in cub scouts but it’s been really hard to find a stable den in our area. Locally, I see any evidence that the instability has come about because of the LGBTQ ban. The decline seems more the result of disorganization and inability to compete effectively against other available youth programming like soccer and softball leagues.
February 05, 2013 03:40 AM
February 03, 2013
One of the local stores in town often has fresh bakery items for sale near the front of the store (where else would they be?!). When I'm down in the dumps and need to go shopping, if I end up at the co-op, I inevitably buy one of their chocolate chip cookies and one of their chocolate-espresso-with-white-chocolate-chips cookies. Somehow I feel better when I give myself permission to have a treat.
These past few weeks, I've gotten quite a few treats.
There are tough and tender times going on in my life, both at home and where I worship. I'm currently serving as clerk of Laughing Waters Friends Preparative Meeting, and out of respect for our process, I won't share what's going on, other than to say I've had nudges to remind Friends at various times that we are called to love God and love one another, including during difficulty.
At home, God has nudged me to remember these two commandments and to follow my own advice. And when I'm not paying attention, when I'm caught up in self-righteousness, God knows how to get my attention.
In recent months, we've been participating in a local program for homeless youth, which means we have a teenager/young adult living with us. We are getting to know each other in fits and starts. For every few days that go by smoothly, there is at least half a day when our home-life is turned topsy-turvy and we have a house meeting to clarify some ground rules ("no taking food into your room"), set limits ("no having friends over past 9:00 on a week night"), or make requests ("please tell us when you want something from the grocery store"; "please invite me to go grocery shopping with you"). There are fun times, too. Often our house meetings and other evenings end with us taking turns reading to each other some Maya Angelou or e.e. cummings or Hafiz.
One night when we as a household were getting ready to sit down together and watch--well, indulge in watching the show Scandal, I realized there were a few key household items that were needed before the weekend, and it seemed to me that I was the only one who cared that we didn't have them.
I grumpily put on my boots, hat, coat, and mittens and headed out to the store just 15 minutes before the show was going to start.
I made a lot of green lights that night, and felt hopeful about missing just a few minutes of the episode. But I was also crabby that no one volunteered to go with me, that I was doing this one errand on my own because keeping my word was more important to me than watching 60 minutes of a TV drama about lust, power, and presidential politics.
I decided I was going to treat myself to those cookies. I deserved them... and I wasn't in any mood to share.
I tucked the two cookies I had taken from the self-serve counter into a parchment sleeve and had the cashier ring them up, along with the fragrance-free products and packets of dried blueberries. As I always do, I kept the cookies out of the tote bag I had brought so I could snack on them on the way home--and righteously so.
I climbed into the car, which I had parked just 4 minutes earlier particularly close to the icy curb. From the driver's seat, I placed the tote onto the passenger seat... and watched as the cookies' sleeve silently slipped out in slow motion from my clumsy mittened hand...
...landing gently with its papery mouth open and facing toward the floor...
...and watched as the tasty discs, one by delicious one, emerged briefly into sight, and then silently slid off the seat and into the small slot between it and the passenger door, lost from sight and leaving me salivating and seething.
Love one another, I hear God say. Love one another, including those whom ye are closest to, even when grumpy.
February 03, 2013 11:05 AM