Saturday, April 26, 2008

On the Right Path?

Biker Dudes
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
His position is not perfect but he's at least saying some of the right things. I saw one commercial for Obama this week where he noted that he's not taking money from the oil industry so as not to be indebted to them (unlike some current and past administrations).

Also, while campaigning in Indiana this week and talking about reducing or ending a gas tax, Obama said:

Obama spoke out against halting a tax on gasoline during the summer months, a move supported by Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, saying it may not bring down prices and would deplete a fund used for building highways.

"The only way we're going to lower gas prices over the long term is if we start using less oil."

Can I get a witness?!

Of course, it won't "lower gas prices over the long term," but it is the right conclusion. We must start using less - much less - oil.

Clinton and McCain? They're in support of reducing gas taxes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What Will We Leave Behind?

Racoon Track
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
(CNN) -- Those battling global warming by promoting biofuels may unintentionally be adding to skyrocketing world food prices, creating what one expert calls "a silent tsunami" in developing nations.

The rising prices are "threatening to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger," Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Program, said on the agency's Web site Tuesday.


(CNN) The national average for regular unleaded is $3.53 and rising daily. Last year at this time, it was $2.86 per gallon. According to AAA, 24 states and the District of Columbia are averaging at or above $3.50 a gallon for regular unleaded. The state with the lowest gas is in New Jersey, at $3.34 per gallon.

Green says Americans should expect the price to increase another 25 cents over the next month and continue to climb over the summer months.

"A national average approaching $4 a gallon should not be ruled out by consumers later this year," he said.


Given the reality of rising gas prices, given the reality that we've based our global economy largely on cheap and abundant oil AND given the reality that a result of that bit of foolishness is that "more than 100 million people on every continent" are in danger of starvation, riots and who-knows-what, given ALL of that, what are the appropriate political responses?

The appropriate personal responses?

These decisions are upon us, now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Temptations of Wealth and Stuff

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
In an ongoing conversation earlier, the question was asked of me:

"What specific temptations do you think the wealthy have?"

It's a good and fair question. Here then, is an attempt to answer. I invite others to add to the list.

A caveat: When I say wealthy, I'm talking about me and all of us in the top ten percent of world wealth - not just the Gates and Bushes and Clintons of the world.

Given that, it must give us pause when we read Jesus' words: "Woe to you who are rich now..."

Temptations for We Wealthy Types:

1. The temptation to do what it takes to stay rich. (This general temptation covers nearly countless lesser, specific temptations - the temptation to wage war to protect your stuff, the temptation to not want to pay your fair share, the temptation to enact numerous unjust policies that benefit the wealthy at the cost of the poor, the marginalized, the earth or future generations. I'd suggest adding about 1000 for this generalization if you want to talk specifics.)

2. The temptation to rely on your wealth and not God and your brothers and sisters.

3. The temptation to turn a blind eye to flaws in the system that are keeping you rich, failing to see how it negatively impacts others.

4. The temptation to look down on the poor, "After all, if I pulled myself up by myself, why shouldn't they??"

5. The temptation to think that you pulled yourself up by yourself.

6. The temptation to forget that this is GOD's world and GOD's stuff. Not ours.

7. The temptation to try to explain away why verses like, "Woe to the rich," and "Is it not the rich who exploit you," etc, DON'T apply to you.

8. The temptation to seek answers in patriarchal, horizontal, Us/Them sorts of solutions ("What can I do to help the poor wretches?") rather than communal, vertical, side-by-side solutions ("How can we improve our lot, brothers and sisters? How can I help?")

9. The temptation to not even understand the difference between the two above.

10. The temptation to want to see your wealth grow.


Friday, April 18, 2008

The Bible and Economics

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I've already posted samplings from the 12th chapter of Luke, which was chock full of wealth and poverty issues.

Here are some more passages from Luke, from the 4th and 6th chapters.


[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

~Luke 4: 16-21

While he was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.

Some Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?"

Jesus said to them in reply, "Have you not read what David did when he and those (who were) with him were hungry? (How) he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions."

Then he said to them, "The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath."

~Luke 6: 1-5

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

"But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.

Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked...

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command?

I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.

~Luke 6 : 20-35; 46, 47

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That Dog Won't Hunt

Howie on the Tracks
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I find it laughable to find Clinton or McCain trying to brand Obama as an elitist.

These two millionaires - longterm millionaires - suggesting that Obama is out of touch with regular people, is just a bit laughable.

Obama has noted that it's just in the last few years that he and his wife have finished paying off their college debt. Obama is the product of a single parent home, who was a community organizer (ie, didn't make ANY money) before he became a lawyer before he became a state senator before he became a senator.

It is only since becoming a US senator and, at the same time, having his huge best seller, The Audacity of Hope that Obama has trickled past that millionaire mark. Elitist? Out of touch? Hardly.

"I wasn't born into a lot of money. I didn't have a trust fund. I wasn't born into fame and fortune. I was raised by a single mother with the help of my grandparents," Obama has said. "My mother had to use food stamps at one point."

It's one of the reasons I am supportive of him - he is less removed from the daily plight of We, The People than most presidential candidates are these days.

I'm thinking that this is another non-charge that just won't stick.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pay Attention!

Confederate Grave
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
(CNN) -- Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday.

"This is the world's big story," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend," he said on CNN's "American Morning," in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. "There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.
"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers…

"In just two months," Zoellick said in his speech, "rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family."

The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.


We really must pay attention, and learn, and repent and turn around.

That, or continue down the road we’re on and eventually, get where we might not want to be.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Old Testament and Atrocities

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I know we’ve done this before here, but let me offer up a bit more on the Old Testament and war and atrocities…

IF we want to accept the OT as a literally perfectly correct interpretation of what God does and does not do, we have to concede that God sometimes:

1. Had Israel kill her enemies, decapitate them and hang their decapitated heads facing the sun as a warning not to abandon Israel’s God and to appease an angry God, thereby avoiding a God-sent plague. Numbers 25
2. Has the earth open and swallow whole families and homes (children included) as a punishment for worshiping other gods. Numbers 16
3. If a leader makes a bad choice (in this case, David conducted a census) and angers God, then God might give that leader a choice of three awful things that will happen to God’s people and the leader must choose their form of destruction (in this case, David has to choose between three years of famine, three months of deadly attacks by their enemies or three days of the Lord smiting Israelis (who had nothing to do with David’s offense! In this case, God wipes out 70,000 Israelis for David’s “sin.”) 1 Chronicles 21
4. Threatens to run through “the enemies” with a sword and notes that “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.” Isaiah 13
5. Had Israel “utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city.” Deuteronomy 3
6. Commands people to “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” Numbers 31

And on and on it goes. Now certainly, these are the exceptions in the Bible which repeatedly tells us to love our enemies and to have no part in oppressive actions towards the innocent especially. Still, there are a disturbing number of acts recorded where the Bible gives the indication that it is GOD ordering the actions. Actions that we all agree today are atrocious. War crimes. Terrorism. Rape.

Now for the person who wants to take these passages literally, they are faced with saying that sometimes God has ordered atrocities. Period. I’ve seen them try to get around it by saying, “welllll, if GOD ordered it, it can’t be an atrocity, can it?” or “wellll, God has God’s reasons that we may not know. It is God’s to make this call, not us.”

Let me be clear about what I think: IF you think God orders (or has ordered in the past) these sorts of actions, then you believe in an atrocious god. One that commits or commands atrocities. That the actions happen by a god’s word does not make it less an atrocity.

If a person who says he is a Muslim who worships the One True God says that his God has commanded him to cut off the enemy’s head, we would rightly note that this fella is not worshiping the one true God. Why? Because such actions are just wrong. Our very spirits shout out against such actions – we don’t even need any biblical evidence that cutting off the head of an innocent enemy is wrong, we just know it innately.

Now, I don’t think that God is atrocious. I think those OT passages that have God committing or commanding acts that are elsewhere condemned in the Bible (and indeed, are condemned by our own conscience – I think that it is within our own reasoning and soul that SOME acts are just wrong – killing children, kidnapping girls/young women to make them your wives – some actions are just wrong. Period.) need to be understood as a representation of God as the author understood God. NOT as a perfect understanding of God to be taken literally.

Clearly, I think, God is not in the atrocity business. I find it amazing that some would defend such actions. How can you do so?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Been Camping

Tent Girls
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
And so, whilst the world rages around us all, I took a couple of days off to go camping with my girl and her pals. Spring is aching to burst through all around us and we were there to soak it in.

Quite literally, actually, given how much rain we've had here lately and how thoroughly soaked the ground is. Still, our campsite was dry and our spirits warm.

We camped at our friends' farm across the river in Southern Indiana, just up from their pond. The spring peepers serenaded us to sleep and the whippoorwill awoke us in the morning (about 3 in the morning, that is).

So far this year at the farm, I've spotted bluebirds, blue jays, robins, eastern towhee, brown thrashers, sparrows of all sorts, crows, an owl of uncertain pedigree, carolina chickadees, nuthatch, tufted titmouse (titmice?) and downy woodpeckers. I've heard the whippoorwill and perhaps other birds that I can't yet identify by song.

The grass is bright green and the trees are budding. The forsythia is in bloom, as are the early wildflowers.

They're calling for sleet/snow possibly next week, but I don't think spring can be stopped so easily.

Many thanks to our farm friends. May the children all rise up and call you blessed. You can find more photos of the farm over at the Jeff Street blog.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Least of These...

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A retelling of Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats, roughly verbatim but with some more modern imagery thrown in for good measure...

And on that day, all the nations shall be gathered before God. And God shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.

And indeed God shall set the sheep on the right, but the goats on the left.

Then the Creator shall say to those on the right:

“Come, blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was from a foreign land, and you took Me in; I was your enemy and you befriended Me; I had my clothes torn from me, and you clothed Me; I was wounded, and you tended Me; I was in a prison camp, and you came to Me. I was oppressed, and you sought to relieve My oppression with Justice.”

Then the righteous shall answer, saying:

“Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You? Or thirsty, and give You drink? When did we see You a foreigner, and take You in? Or naked, and clothed You? Or when did we see You sick, or in a prison camp, and came to You?”

And the Creator shall answer and say to them:

“Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these in My family, you have done it to Me.”

Then God also shall say to those on the left:

“Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire and hatred!”

“For I was starving, and you did not feed me; I was thirsty, and you blew up our water companies; I was from a foreign land and you mistrusted and jailed Me; I was clothed, but you dropped bombs that shredded both body and clothes; I was well, but you invaded My land, poisoned My water and My food. You caused My sons to die from dysentery! I was whole, and your weapons of mass destruction blew off My arm and crippled My daughter!”

Then they will also answer, saying:

“Lord, when did we cause You all this misery and destruction and did not minister to You? Surely there is some mistake, here?”

Then God shall answer them, saying:

“Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. Inasmuch as you waged war against the Iraqis, you did it to Me! Inasmuch as you poisoned the land of the Colombians, you did it to Me! Inasmuch as you stole money from peacemaking and educational efforts, spending your wealth instead on weapons and bombs, you stole from Me!”

And these shall inherit the world they created – much to their dismay! For those who live by the sword die by the sword, and those who reap the wind will sow the whirlwind.

But the righteous departed into a life of everlasting Peace and Justice, for thus is the world they worked towards, by God's good grace.

With apologies to King James

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Poor People's Campaign

Catch a Falling Child
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
From CNN:

Most Americans think of King as the "I Have a Dream" preacher at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. But the man who made his final trip to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 had become radical, scholars and activists say. King was gambling his legacy on a final crusade that was so revolutionary, it alarmed many of his closest advisers. Some became concerned about his emotional stability.

King called his crusade the Poor People's Campaign. He planned to march on Washington with a multiracial army of poor people who would build shantytowns at the Lincoln Memorial -- and paralyze the nation's capital if they had to.

The campaign's goal: force the federal government to withdraw funding for the Vietnam War and commit instead to abolishing poverty.

What King was saying by this time was even more provocative than what he planned. In his final presidential address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he said the movement should address "the question of restructuring the whole of American society."

He called for a guaranteed annual wage for all able-bodied people, he urged the nationalization of some industries, and he told people to "question the capitalistic economy..."

The Poor People's Campaign has faded from historical memory. It remains the most overlooked part of King's legacy, Wilkins said.

It remains in the shadows because King rewrote the traditional civil rights script, Wilkins said. As long as he fed Americans images of bigoted Southern sheriffs clubbing demonstrators, people could remain comfortable. But the Poor People's Campaign gave Americans a new cast of villains: themselves. Americans didn't want to look at the face of poverty, but King was going to force them, he said.

"When the movement was just about the South, you weren't rattling the status quo," Wilkins said. 'You were doing things that made Northerners feel morally superior to the South."


And, as an aside, I'll remind us that this was the man who was spied upon by his own gov't, who actively were looking for ways to undermine him? Keep this in mind when tempted to condemn preachers such as Reverend Wright for not trusting the US government.

Having said that, I'll also note that the latest polls show Obama with a double digit lead over Hillary nationally amongst likely Democrat voters. I think the People have listened to the Wright criticisms and made up their mind that it's not a significant issue (or perhaps it IS a significant reason to vote FOR Obama).