Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
What if, in this new year, we agreed to make these blogging resolutions?

1. In an effort to be more respectful, if I disagree with a commenters point, I'll quote it, restate it and ask if I am understanding correctly (ie, Bubba, you said, "X" and that sounds like to me Z. Is that what you mean...?)

2. When it's been pointed out that I have misunderstood another's position, I will promptly apologize for the misunderstanding, offering an explanation if helpful (ie, "My bad. It SOUNDED like to me that was what you were saying, can you understand how I got that impression...?")

3. I will refrain from making the assumption that if a statement SEEMS to be saying something to me, that my assumption is not the sum total of all possibilities. I will stick more to direct quotes and talk about what the commenter directly said, rather than discussing my summary of what it SEEMED like to me.

4. I will try to treat those I disagree with as my literal brother or uncle or some beloved family member with whom I have disagreements. ("What if this commenter is actually my crazy ol' Uncle Fervent? I really ought to be nice to him, even if he is a little loopy...")

5. I will try to recognize that if someone criticizes a position of mine, they're not necessarily criticizing me. IT'S OKAY TO DISAGREE. And if they are indeed criticizing me, I will strive to ignore the ad hom attack and deal with the criticism of a position, if there is one being criticized.

Wouldn't the blogosphere be a better place if we all practiced these sorts of niceties?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part V

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Marshall was saying...

I realize it is inconvenient, but [simplicity] as a lifestyle choice, especially for one so concerned for the poor, it makes absolutely no sense.

If it makes no sense to you, then I'd suggest you ought not embrace simplicity.

It makes perfect sense to me and many others. Why? The reasons are many. A few starters...

1. We have finite amount of potable water. The more demand for clean water, the more water prices increase, the less affordable water is to the poor. Possible conclusions?
a. Consume less water.
b. Use rainwater.
c. Build in ways that slow runoff (which leads to polluted waters and other problems)
d. Drive less (or not at all - driving contributes greatly to water pollution)
e. Advocate for less road building, more mass transit, bike lanes, sidewalks
f. Advocate AWAY from the personal auto solution and towards healthier solutions as policy matters.
g. Some of the same responses in section 2, below.

All of which I believe ultimately helps the poor.

2. We have a common world to share, it is not ours to exclusively pollute. Additionally, pollution tends to hurt the poor more (the poor are more likely to live in polluted settings, to suffer from asthma, cancers, etc) Possible conclusions?
a. Pollute less.
b. Drive less.
c. Live in smaller circles.
d. Shop locally (stuff shipped in from 1000 miles away comes with 1000 miles worth of pollution/toxins/costs).
e. Grow more of my own food.
f. Some of the same answers in section 1, above.

All of which I believe helps the poor.

3. Dependence upon foreign oil has many negative consequences, many of which directly and indirectly harm the poor. When we wage war in a foreign nation to defend "our" oil, it is often the poor who are killed as "collateral damage." When we wage wars of any type, it is often the poor of both nations sent as cannon fodder.

Possible solutions?
a. Many of the same already mentioned...
b. Drive less
c. Live in smaller circles
d. Consume less Stuff that is dependent upon foreign fuels for its production/transport
e. Shop locally
f. Advocate against policies that keep us tied to foreign oil and fossil fuels in general

etc. We have many global and local problems whose origins are found in our lifestyle choices. Simplifying our lifestyles could/would have many positive results for the world in general, and the poor specifically.


That is, it is incompatible with a real desire to help the poor as it limits one's ability to impact the greatest numbers.

Says you. I am wholly unconvinced that the answer to the problems of poverty is more charity (ie, Dan trying to make more money so he can give away as much money as possible to help the needy poor), which can be debillitating and less than helpful, at least at times.

As the saying goes (sort of):
Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and he eats for as long as he can fish.
Work to enable the man to have good health and clean water in which to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.

Teaching a man to fish does no good if his water is toxic sludge. If the man has cancer from air pollution, teaching him to fish does little good. If the man is in a wheelchair and unable to travel to the water, teaching him to fish does little good.

Charity has its place, to be sure. But more important to me is to work for systemic justice, part of which suggests to me simple living sorts of answers.


One could ask to Dan, what is more important? Living simply or helping the poor? One of these seems just talk.

You set up a false dichotomy. Who says we have to choose between living simply and helping the poor?

Only to the uninformed would simple living seem to be just talk. Our life choices have consequences for us and beyond us. Giving money to problems can be a good thing, but better still is working to end the problems and ending our part in contributing by our lifestyles to those problems.

Giving money to establish a job skill training program can be a very good thing and help some people.

Being an entrepreneur that creates good jobs and just working circumstances can be a very good thing and help some people.

AND, living in ways that don't contribute to pollution or people losing their way of life is ALSO a very good thing that helps, it seems to me, even more people.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!

My beloved wife and I received a Christmas present early this year. Our children went to the recording studio Monday along with their bandmates and recorded five songs for a new more professional EP. We were like kids on Christmas morning, waiting for them to get home, CD in hand, to hear them singing.

You can hear those new songs on their Beady myspace page (my personal favorites are Abbey's Song and When I'm Twenty).

With this simple, lovely gift from my beautiful children, with the possibility of a white Christmas here and many places around the US, with the hopes of a peaceful, pleasant new year - one perhaps with less needless strife over petty matters and with more strong stands on points that need them (and the wisdom to know the difference) - I wish everyone a Merry, Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays and a wondrous new year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part IV

Mary's Magnificat 1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
As I continue offering my thoughts on simple living, allow me to do a fairly quick review of the NT teachings of Jesus and the early church (RELATIVELY quick - there is a lot said in those few pages on this matter and I'm trying to get just a sampling, but it does go on a bit)...

From Luke 1, where poor teen-girl Mary - a Jewish gal in a land occupied by Rome and subject to Roman laws - has learned she will be the mother of the Messiah, she sang...

My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For God has had regard for the humble state of God's bondslave...


God has done mighty deeds with God's arm;
God has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
God has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.

And sent away the rich empty-handed.
God has given help to Israel God's servant...

You can't really mistake the undercurrent of resentment against the wealthy and oppressive leaders in favor of an oppressed poor folk. For Mary, the poor Jewish folk having the situation set aright seems to be part and parcel of the coming Kingdom of God to follow the Messiah's coming. Fair enough?

Continuing, as Jesus began his ministry he said (in Luke 4)...

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
God 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."

Note: Many, if not most, biblical scholars (John Wesley, for instance) would say that this quote (Jesus is actually quoting from Isaiah here) at the end - "the year acceptable to the Lord" - is a reference to the Year of Jubilee, in which land was returned/redistributed back to original owners. The Jubilee year, established back in Leviticus, earlier in Jewish history, was, itself, an effort to keep wealth from accumulating too much in too few hands, or at least some would say so.

It was a way of trying to make sure that poverty did not continue from generation to generation, but rather, if hard times fell upon a family and if they were unable to set things aright, eventually they would receive their land back. A "do-over," if you will. Perhaps also, the point might be made that this was a way of reminding us that we don't "own" land, that we're merely temporary caretakers.

This Jubilee way of thinking - good news specifically to the poor - was very much part of what Jesus saw as his Kingdom of God teachings, it would seem.

Continuing, in Jesus' famous and seminal Sermon on the Mount as found in Luke 6...

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...

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...

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.

Dang! That's some tough teaching. Give to EVERYONE who asks of you? Don't demand that the thief return your stuff??!! Really?


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

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

Flipping over to Matthew, when John the Baptist was in prison and wondering if Jesus was "the One" Jesus said...

"Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM."

As at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, he again emphasizes that he is preaching the Good News specifically to the poor. This is evidence, in Jesus' and John's minds, that Jesus is of/from God.

And, in Matthew 19, Jesus said...

"Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven..."

It is "HARD for a RICH man to enter God's kingdom"??!! This is a tough teaching for we who are rich.

From Jesus' so-called "Model Prayer..."

Your kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors...

For if you forgive others for their transgressions [literally, debts], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

And from Matthew 6 (again, the Sermon on the Mount)...

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth.

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

...And why are you worried about clothing?

...Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'

For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Creator knows that you need all these things.

But seek first God's kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

According to Jesus, the unbelievers (Gentiles) are worried about seeking after food, shelter, nice clothing, financial security. But Jesus is telling us, "Don't worry about that stuff, seek first God's kingdom..." Seeking wealth, Jesus says, is NOT part of the Kingdom of God which Jesus is ushering in and teaching us to live into here and now. Security is NOT from having many barns (or banks? or savings accounts? or investments??) to store up stuff for the possible crises of the future. Security comes in joining Jesus' gang, his followers, in the community and realm of God, THIS is where we find our security.

Looking past the Gospels, Paul says in Timothy...

A bishop must be irreproachable... gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.

He must manage his own household well... not greedy for sordid gain...

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things...

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share

And James had this to say...

The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in his high standing, and the rich one in his lowliness, for he will pass away...

For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes. So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction...

My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes... have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you dishonored the poor person. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?

...If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

Because of ALL of this, I gather some fairly basic principles:

1. Wealth can be - and often is - a trap, a snare.
2. There was a certain prejudice against the rich and in favor of the poor in the words of NT writers - sometimes uncomfortably harsh words are used against the rich as if they're speaking of ALL rich, not merely misbehaving rich. As if the assumption is: If you're rich, you're quite likely oppressive, blinded, trapped, seduced, needing to be thrown down and sent away hungry!
3. We are NOT to be of the type who pursue wealth (See #2), the pursuit of wealth is not to be a goal of ours
4. We are to be content with what we have
5. We are to live simply, sharing freely what we have with those in need
6. It is clearly not impossible for wealthy folk to be in the church, but it is a consistent matter of concern and caution
7. There is a very direct, insistent and consistent tying of what we're doing specifically with and for the poor with being part of God's kingdom
8. Everything is God's and we're merely caretakers

This is what I gather from these (and other) teachings. Beyond that, this is what makes some amount of sense to me. You?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Breaking Health Reform News...

I'm interrupting my look at Simple Living questions to post some news on the Health Reform bill. It appears the part of the bill that mandated individuals purchase health insurance if they didn't get it from their employer may be unconstitutional. At least that's the decision a District Court judge reached recently. This is the part that I personally found perhaps most troubling in the health care bill and I'm not surprised that it's being challenged, perhaps successfully.

From CNN...

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson struck down the "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014. The Justice Department is expected to challenge the judge's findings in a federal appeals court.

Hudson's opinion contradicts court rulings finding the mandate constitutionally permissible.

"An individual's personal decision to purchase -- or decline purchase -- (of) health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach" of the U.S. Constitution," Hudson wrote. "No specifically constitutional authority exists to mandate the purchase of health insurance."

A federal judge in Virginia ruled in favor of the administration this month over the purchase requirement issue, mirroring conclusions reached by a judge in Michigan.

Virginia officials had argued that the Constitution's Commerce Clause does not give the government the authority to force Americans to purchase a commercial product -- like health insurance -- that they may not want or need. They equated such a requirement to a burdensome regulation of "inactivity."

Virginia is one of the few states in the country with a specific law saying residents cannot be forced to buy insurance.

"I am gratified we prevailed," said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican elected in 2009. "This won't be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part III

Beady Test
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Continuing to look at what leads me to think living a simple lifestyle is advisable, I'd like to turn for a minute to the (traditionally conservative) notion of Prudence.

In addressing some previous questions on simple living, the point was suggested...

...simple living as opposed to technological advancements, and the wealth creation that so often goes with it, does not improve lives for the most people.

To that point, I'd say that the commenter was making some presumptions that go too far.

The Amish (as an extreme example of people who seem to be opposed to technological advances) are not, in fact, utterly opposed to all technological advances. They are CAUTIOUS (in the extreme) of technological advances. They epitimoze (perhaps to absurd degree, perhaps not) the conservative value of Prudence.

They don't willy nilly accept technological CHANGES that come along and presume that because they have come along, they are an advancement. They keep such changes at arm's length and, when they are comfortable with the notion that it is indeed something that can be helpful WITHOUT having hidden costs to themselves or others, only then do they embrace the advancement.

Thus, they use (sparingly) gas motors for cutting wood (obviously a technological change over cutting by hand), telephone booths, accept rides from others, ride the bus, etc... That is, they DO embrace some technology, but only cautiously and only when they feel confident that it's going to be a net benefit (or at least that's my undestanding of the Amish and technology.

This is what I'm speaking of... Slowing down the pace of our acceptance of each new technological option that comes along and weigh its net value. Live deliberate lives, thoughtful lives, sustainable lives, keeping an eye out for the impacts beyond just the immediate.

The commenter made the statement about being opposed to technological advances and the wealth creation that so often goes along with it. I think what the simple life advocates would suggest is that we presume too much too quickly too often. DOES positive net wealth creation come along with many/most/all technological "advance?" I don't think we can assume that this is true, not at all.

IF I can create a brand new Widget (TM) for $1 and can create a demand for that Widget and sell it for $10, then I have "created wealth" and the world is a better place! Hallelujah! That is the simplistic way of looking at it. The more prudent, cautious way of looking at it is to ask questions...

1. What IS a Widget?
2. Does it add anything to my life?
3. If I have happily lived without a Widget thus far, what reasonable "demand" for that Widget is there?
4. What are the costs of that Widget? Not JUST the cost to produce it, but did creating the Widget produce pollution? Waste? Has that waste and pollution been cleaned up? Who paid to clean it up? Were there any other associated negatives (ie, did it not only produce pollution, but TOXIC pollution, which increased the risk of cancer or other illness - and who's going to pay for that?)
5. Is the Widget replacing some OTHER item(s)/technologies? What are the costs associated with those losses?
6. Is the Widget causing less tangible - but no less real - costs? Does it cut into family time? Does it cause us to exercise less? To worry more?

You get the idea, I hope.

Simple living is deliberate living, conscious and conscientious living. It is not chasing after every new Thing that comes along, but recognizing that our confidence, our happiness, our lives do not consist of Things and more Things, but in God, in our relationships, in our family, in our community. This is where our contentment lies and thus, why do I NEED more Things?

Sometimes, there may be a very good answer to the question of "should I get this new Thing?" For instance, someone might like a mandolin or a flute so they can learn to play it (free entertainment, worthwhile education) and play with my family and friends (strengthening the family and community units, creating a better world) and thus, it may well be worth the cost.

Having decided that, I could buy a mandolin for $100, used, or I could buy a very fancy cool mandolin for $10,000 - what choice do I make...? Was the "cheap" mandolin made in China by child laborers in unjust circumstances (and thus, came at a much greater cost than the $100)? Was the $10,000 mandolin made with a rare wood that came from an endangered forest (and thus, perhaps came at a greater cost than even the $10,000)?

Deliberate living. Prudent living.

Does that mean I am paralyzed into fearfully buying nothing unable to know all the possible repercussions? No, clearly not. I'm just suggesting something more reasonable and prudent than beginning with the presumption that all the stuff I can buy is going to make the world and my life better.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part II

Wonderworks Girls
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Continuing looking at the question, Why Simplicity, I'd like us to consider the justice aspect of great diversity in wealth and poverty. I'd like us to consider Dr. Martin Luther King's words on this matter today...

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just."

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." 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.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood...

Powerful (even dangerous) words, those, but well worth consideration.

As Christians and decent people the world over are concerned about living just lives, we owe it to ourselves to at least ask the questions: Is this way of life just? Is this disparity of wealth just? Does it lead to war? To environmental and societal destruction? Is there a corallary between the great wealth of one nation and the great poverty of another?

Having answered these questions, what "revolution of values," as Dr. King calls it, do we need? What changes in our values and lives ought to follow? Or do we do nothing and continue as the wealthy elite of the world with a clean conscience?

This final clarification for today: Just because King or I might believe we need a revolution of values, a restructuring of the social order, is not to say we are calling for Marxist communism. It is, rather (at least in my estimation), just what it is: A call for a revolution of values, a questioning of how and how much we consume, a consideration of the poor and marginalized recognizing our great wealth. Perhaps an old time revival, to put it in religious parlance. That is not, to be clear, a call for Marxism. At least not for me and mine.

Just trying to nip that misunderstanding in the bud.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part I

Sunset Fence
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I've pondered a while how best to answer the questions: Why simplicity? How does living simply solve any problems? Help the poor? Help the environment?

These are, I think, reasonable questions worthy of an answer. The problems I have in answering it are probably mostly my own limitations: Limitations of brain power, understanding, ability to communicate and simply time.

I have reached my positions on this general area of thought as a result of much reading, listening and observation. Reading especially from the Bible, from Wendell Berry and other "secular"(ish) authors/thinkers of his ilk (Edward Abbey, Gene Logsdon, Bill McKibben, etc), as well as anabaptist and other progressive Christian voices, as well as the voices of native peoples and the poor. How does one condense all of this wisdom down to a blog-sized bite?

Bit by bit, I guess. So, to that end, I will try to offer in the coming days some excerpts from others and my own thoughts to address the question: Why Simplicity?

I have tried this once before, but that attempt was a pretty simplistic one. This time, I will endeavor to spend a little more time and thought on it.

First off, I think we might ought to consider problems of scale. Big, Global, Multinational Corporate solutions to problems cause their own problems and these problems are hard to deal with. Sometimes, impossible, at least it seems. Here are some of Wendell Berry's thoughts on this...

The large agribusiness corporations that were mainly national in 1977 are now global, and are replacing the world’s agricultural diversity, which was useful primarily to farmers and local consumers, with bioengineered and patented monocultures that are merely profitable to corporations. The purpose of this now global economy, as Vandana Shiva has rightly said, is to replace “food democracy” with a worldwide “food dictatorship...”

I believe that this contest between industrialism and agrarianism now defines the most fundamental human difference, for it divides not just two nearly opposite concepts of agriculture and land use, but also two nearly opposite ways of understanding ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our world...

Industrialism prescribes an economy that is placeless and displacing. It does not distinguish one place from another. It applies its methods and technologies indiscriminately in the American East and the American West, in the United States and in India. It thus continues the economy of colonialism. The shift of colonial power from European monarchy to global corporation is perhaps the dominant theme of modern history. All along, it has been the same story of the gathering of an exploitive economic power into the hands of a few people who are alien to the places and the people they exploit. Such an economy is bound to destroy locally adapted agrarian economies everywhere it goes, simply because it is too ignorant not to do so...

The industrial “solution” for such systems is to increase the scale of work and trade. It brings Big Ideas, Big Money, and Big Technology into small rural communities, economies, and ecosystems—the brought-in industry and the experts being invariably alien to and contemptuous of the places to which they are brought in. There is never any question of propriety, of adapting the thought or the purpose or the technology to the place. The result is that problems correctable on a small scale are replaced by large-scale problems for which there are no large-scale corrections. Meanwhile, the large-scale enterprise has reduced or destroyed the possibility of small-scale corrections...

In any consideration of agrarianism, this issue of limitation is critical. Agrarian farmers see, accept, and live within their limits. They understand and agree to the proposition that there is “this much and no more...” This is the understanding that induces thrift, family coherence, neighborliness, local economies. Within accepted limits, these become necessities...

This is exactly opposite to the industrial idea that abundance comes from the violation of limits by personal mobility, extractive machinery, long-distance transport, and scientific or technological breakthroughs. If we use up the good possibilities in this place, we will import goods from some other place, or we will go to some other place. If nature releases her wealth too slowly, we will take it by force. If we make the world too toxic for honeybees, some compound brain, Monsanto perhaps, will invent tiny robots that will fly about pollinating flowers and making honey...

This is from an excellent article at Orion and is well worth reading in full. You can find it here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sabbath Economics

Mikaela's Elephant
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below or clicking right here.

I began looking at the book of Psalms last year and am still wading through it. Looking today at chapters 74 - 86...

Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name...

~Psalm 74:19-21

God presides in the great assembly; God renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken."

~Psalm 82:1-5

Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long.

~Psalm 86:1-3

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sunset Grass

Sunset Grass
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Although winter is upon me
And the grass is turning brown
The flowers, drying and turning to dust
The earth, settling down for the long winter's death,

I can still find color and warmth and life
If I try

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Right Wing Cuts?

Outside-ish Art 3
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
So, how come the GOP hasn't solved the world of debt and trouble the Bush administration left us yet? They won the election last week, right? How long do they NEED??

Just kidding.

Looking at what direction Congress might take, I have seen some shots fired at public broadcasting already.

"Washington is borrowing 37 cents of every dollar it spends from our kids and grandkids. Given that, I think it's reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers' money to support a left-wing radio network — and in the wake of Juan Williams' firing, it's clearer than ever that's what NPR is."

"We need to face facts — our government is broke," Boehner added.
With a $13.6 trillion national debt, and the Obama Administration proposing to raise it by approximately $1.06 trillion every year for the next ten years, ALG's Wilson is emphatic about getting the nation's balance sheet in order.  He believes public broadcasting is the right place to start.

"If Congress cannot cut public broadcasting when we must balance the budget, it cannot cut anything," Wilson said...

I've said it before and will say it again: They'd be more believable about wanting smaller gov't if they were talking about across the board cuts and not ones they perceive to be "liberal" programs. When a conservative/libertarian comes out supporting slashing our bloated military budget (~$1 trillion a year), NASA, auto and oil industry funding, roadbuilding funding, things of this nature, THEN I will believe that they are genuinely concerned about gov't spending in public broadcasting (~$30 million a year).

Until then, it's hard to take them seriously.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Whatever happens with the elections...

Pond Reflection
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Don't worry. It won't do no good, no how.

There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.

Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to God than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference?

Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think God'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving.

People who don't know God and the way God works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how God works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.


Monday, October 25, 2010


Lower Signpost
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
As many of you know (or have experienced yourselves), many blogs who self-identify as more conservative will ban or screen the comments of many whom they consider "too liberal." And it's their blog, they can do as they want no matter how cowardly or lacking in intellectual honesty that might seem to others of us. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure they do so because they don't want to "pollute" their website with what they consider heretical comments from people they reject as wolves in sheep's clothing.

Their blog, their rules.

Nonetheless, sometimes I find myself wanting to respond to such folk and that's what I'm doing today. I'll leave names out to protect their privacy and just address their comments which I find problematic.

So, this person recently wrote a blog about "progressives" and what's wrong with their thinking. They said...

the progressive mindset is that the way to do it is to move away from what we are doing to something new, and the conservative mindset is to do what we are doing better...

What, exactly, is "progressive"? Well, the term refers to the idea of continual improvement. The concept is one of making things better. That, of course, is somewhat misleading when it comes to "conservative" versus "liberal" because the conservative notion is that by moving back we can make things better -- progress. The idea there is that by returning to what works, things will get better. "Progressive", then, can be misleading on its own.

And therein lies the problem, at least for me. Today's progressives have in mind the idea of "progress", of moving forward to make things better, as if movement alone is good.

The problem is, of course, that "progressives" don't want to move away from anything we're currently doing to something different for the sake of doing something different. Progressives don't want to "move forward" and just blindly trust that "moving forward" will result in a moral good.

"Progressives" want to see something that works. If an old Salvation Army program works and helps, then of course progressives support this. If a new school based Family Resource Center helps, then we support that.

Progressives (not unlike good conservatives) want to see something that works in the real world. I would not denigrate a conservative program or agenda simply because it is conservative, IF it was being effective. Heck, I probably wouldn't denigrate it even if it wasn't being effective, as long as it wasn't doing harm and was a private effort.

So, if some conservatives want to have, for instance, a prison ministry program and the result is convicts having some peace of mind and some comfort in their time of trial, then God bless whoever has done that work. I don't care if they're "conservatives" trying to save the prisoner's souls or if they're "progressives" trying to decrease recidivism. Good on folk trying to make a positive difference.

In the real world, if we set politics aside (and quit making goofy assumptions about what "those evil conservatives" or "those socialist progressives" think), we could agree on a lot, since we all have some similar starting points. We ALL want to see children warm and fed, what can we agree to work on to help meet that common goal?

Don't start with the assumption that it's "us vs them" and you won't find so much to disagree with. That would be my suggestion. Also, you don't come across as stupid for making asinine suggestions about strawman boogermen who mostly don't exist in the real world.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Our conservative friend, Craig, made some comments about some of my comments at another blog. This is a blog that picks and chooses which of my comments to post and so, I have been left unable to address Craig's questions/comments. So, I've brought them over here.

I do so because Craig holds a misunderstanding of my positions and so, this is my attempt to clarify. These comments were generally on the topic of grace and when ought we be more confronting of Christians with whom we disagree and when we should "live and let live" on disagreements.

Craig said...

This is not the first time I have seen Dan play the "what if someone doesn't know something is a sin" card.

No "card" intended to be played. Just a reasonable question. The question (in my understanding) is "What if we have researched a behavior, we've prayerfully and carefully sought God's will, reading the Bible, taking into consideration others' view points and tradition and being open to the leading of God, and, at the end of that, we have decided that this behavior is NOT sinful?

What, then, if we discover upon "Judgment Day" that this action actually WAS a sin? Are we doomed because we were sincerely mistaken on a sin?"

My position has been that we are saved by God's grace. If, therefore, we are mistaken on a point, then we are STILL saved by God's grace. If we "lose" our salvation by being mistaken about a sin, then it is not grace which saves us, but works.

So it seems to me to be an entirely reasonable question and, further, I believe I come down on the side of Christian orthodoxy. I don't believe you, Craig, come down against grace on this point, do you?


Well, one of the scriptures for this morning was from Ecclesiastes 12, where we find this.

"...Fear God and keep His commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man. "

My question is this, why would the prophet (who is presumably speaking for God) command people to do something that (if we accept Dan's premise) is impossible?

We OUGHT to strive to keep God's commandments, as best we understand them. BUT, we won't always perfectly understand everything.

Do you think, Craig, that the Bible teaches we will and do have a "perfect understanding" on each and every action/potential sin? That would seem to be an extraordinary position to hold.


How can we "keep His commandments", if there is doubt or ambiguity aver what those commandments are?

As best we can, by God's grace, right?


It does seem that God has made His commands pretty clear, and that we are called to obey them. I guess where it gets cloudy is when we interpose our interpretation (think Jewish law) over God's commands. I still don't think God would command us to do obey a command that cannot be discerned as in Dan's example.

We all do. Those things that we think we understand about God, we think are pretty clear. But from one person to the next, in the details, we don't always agree.


Dan has argued in the past that simply not knowing whether something is a sin is sufficient for one to not be accountable for the sin. I think most of the rest of us would disagree...

Dan has argued that when, due to our own human shortcomings, we don't always know the "sin nature" of each and every action and we sin unaware, that God's grace covers our lack of perfect understanding.

Is it the case that you think we will have perfect understanding?

Do you not think that God's grace covers our lack of perfect understanding?

Craig quoted me and continued...

"That's my point - we ALL have many many opinions about what is and isn't greedy, what is and isn't sexually appropriate, what is and isn't sin."

This isn't the best example of Dan's contention, but it makes my point. As long as our opinion of what is sin is the controlling factor then one can do what one wishes. Even if one has arrived at that position by study of scripture and prayer. My counter to that would be God defines sin, and God will judge us based on His definition, not ours. So even if we "don't know" that lying is a sin, we still sin when we lie.

1. ? Our opinion of what is sin IS the controlling factor (for us) in what we do. IF we study, pray and contemplate over an action and prayerfully/carefully reach the conclusion that X is a sin, that dictates to us (in our better moments) how we should behave.

If our opinion isn't the controlling factor in how you behave, what is?

2. Before you say, "The Bible," first acknowledge that if you read a passage and reach THE OPINION that it condemns behavior X, you are still talking about your opinion of biblical teaching. Yes, yes, God is who we believers look to in order to try to find God's will, but we ultimately are relying upon our opinions, our thoughts about what is and isn't right.

3. I don't know that that's the best way to put it, "God defines sin." Sin is. It's that which breaks relationships, it's the missing of the mark, it's the rejection of God's way in favor of our way. But perhaps that's just semantics.

4. Yes, yes, of course if we lie without knowing that lying is a sin, it remains a sin. I never said otherwise.

All I have said is that IF we sin in ignorance, then God's grace covers our ignorance.

Do you disagree?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cross posted at my church blog

Karen Preaching
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Excerpts from a recent sermon at Jeff St by our dear sister, Karen...

...My professor and friend Roberta Bondi says: when it comes to prayer, the most important thing is to show up. But it's not as easy as it might sound, is it? Many of us would much prefer to have a shiny, cleaned-up version of our selves to present to God (and other church types).

The challenge then, is indeed, to show up as we are, to try to be as real as we can, as honest as we can be about who we are and be those true selves before God, however, whoever, we understand God to be – being as honest as we can there, too. There's a whole lot of ambiguity therein, requiring all manner of muddling, I think.

One thing I love about this church is that it is a place that gives us permission to show up and muddle through together with brothers and sisters, which is what we are doing this morning.

I chose the Prodigal Son as our gospel reading today, because it was already on my mind...

You know what prodigal really means, right? It means “excessive, lavish, extravagant”. And we attach this adjective with derision to the lost son. But the most prodigal character in this story is not that younger brother, you know, but, rather, the father.

If the son breaks the norms of society in acting prodigally, the father shatters those norms by his own prodigal behavior: his extravagant forgiveness, his lavish love, his excessive grace.. His son who has shamed him and the entire family should be dead to him. His honor, that commodity which was all-important socially, had been offended.

But the father who should have been nursing his wounded pride, was, instead, waiting and watching for the return of his son – like a Mama who cannot forget her baby... So when his boy finally did show up on the horizon, though he was still a long way off, Jesus says, this father spotted his son – even with that cataract in his left eye he knew his boy's walk, and, abandoning all pretense of dignity, he ran, yes ran (which dignified men did NOT do) he ran like a crazy old woman, kicking up enough dust to get his pristine white jellaba dirty, he RAN to meet his son and wrapped him in his arms.

By the time we get to the end of the story, we are not surprised to find that the Father's lavish, extravagant, embarassingly motherly prodigal love extends to his other son as well – the one who feels no need for grace, who doesn't realize that he needs forgiveness in his life, who doesn't realize how much is broken and unwell in his soul or in his family because he has worked so blastedly hard to keep things together on the farm that, by God, things better be in order or there'll be hell to pay in the morning. We see that the father does not condemn the older son for his hardness of heart any more than he condemned the younger one for his wantonness.

Rather, the father invites them both into the joy of relationship with him as his beloved children, bound together by a healing, “wholing” flow of grace.

The sparse language of the two sons in the parable makes the words they say telling. The younger son believes he is not worthy to be a son, and so will ask to simply be a servant/a slave – doulos (same word in Greek).

The older son spitefully reminds his father that he has worked like a slave for him all these years which ought to be worth something. But the father makes it plain to both of them that he does not want slaves, worthy or unworthy of their keep. He wants his own beloved children, just as they are, to show up, to come back to him, to join him in the circle of love and joy that is their true birthright as family...

To choose sonship, daughtership, our heritage of belovedness, is to let ourselves be caught up in the flow of God's prodigal love, to go with the flow, and trust it to keep flowing. And in the life of Jesus, we are invited to trust that the flow of grace will indeed keep on saving us from ourselves, that nothing will stop it – not even bony death.

For God is not some remote man upstairs who might quietly slip away and abandon us, but the Mother/Father who doesn't just promise to show up if we'll show up, but runs to meet us at every turn. In life, in death, and beyond death. Our loving God pours out forgiveness and grace upon our every breath, our every atom of being. God washes us with saving grace, and promises to hold us in love for eternity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


fall Leaves 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I sometimes practice walking
without making noise
through a leaf-carpeted ground
and find I cannot.

I cannot walk silently.
Quiet but not silent,
soft but not missing,
and I wonder if that's enough.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My New Hero

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
My new hero is Chris Armstrong. Armstrong is the college kid who has been targeted for harassment by an Assistant District Attorney in Michigan. Turns out this jerk, named Shirvell (my new favorite creep) doesn't approve of Armstrong being the student body president at his alma mater because Armstrong is gay and is pushing "a radical gay agenda." Whatever that is.

And, with that excuse, Shirvell has gone on a one-man crusade against this college kid. He's established a "Chris Armstrong Watch" blog, where he rants against this young man, calling his a racist and a liar. He's posted swastikas on photos of Armstrong, suggesting he's a Nazi. He's protested outside student council meetings and outside Armstrong's residence!!

Armstrong, for his part, appears to have dealt with this creep with as much dignity as possible, ignoring him for the most part, it sounds like.

Armstrong spoke about this on CNN last night...

Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan's first openly gay student body president, said the recent rash of headlines about gay teens who have committed suicide led him to break his silence about his own hurtful experience of being targeted online and in high school.

"It's hard not to say something," Armstrong told CNN's Anderson Cooper on "AC360" Wednesday night.

Shirvell is a disgrace and I can only wonder how long before his life self-destructs.

God be with you, Chris Armstrong.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Bible and Economics

Fiery Martin 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below or clicking right here.

I began looking at the book of Psalms last year and am still wading through it. The last batch I quoted excerpts from was Psalms 39 - 49.

Continuing walking through the book of Psalms, after chapter 49, we have many chapters that deal with prayers about "the enemy/enemies" who have beset the Psalmist or Israel, but these don't identify the "sins" of the enemies specifically, although given the times and the context of much of the Psalmists' complaints, you have to wonder if economic oppression might be amongst them. Nonetheless, skipping past those, we start up again in chapter 62 (still in the midst of passages complaining about ill treatment from the enemy) and looking through chapter 73...

Lowborn men are but a breath,

 the highborn are but a lie;

 if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;

 together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion

 or take pride in stolen goods;

 though your riches increase, 

do not set your heart on them.

Psalm 62: 9, 10

You care for the land and water it;

 you enrich it abundantly. 

The streams of God are filled with water

 to provide the people with grain,

 for so you have ordained it.

Psalm 65: 9

You gave abundant showers, O God;

 you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Your people settled in it,

 and from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor.

Psalm 68:9, 10

In the midst of more complaints about the enemy, the psalmist says...

The poor will see and be glad —

 you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The LORD hears the needy

 and does not despise his captive people.

Psalm 69: 32, 33

Yet I am poor and needy;

 come quickly to me, O God.

 You are my help and my deliverer;

 O LORD, do not delay.

Psalm 70: 5

Then, in chapter 72, the Psalmist prays for the king to be good and just, saying...

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
He will judge your people in righteousness,

 your afflicted ones with justice.
The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,

 the hills the fruit of righteousness.
He will defend the afflicted among the people

 and save the children of the needy; 

he will crush the oppressor...
In his days the righteous will flourish;

 prosperity will abound till the moon is no more.
All kings will bow down to him

 and all nations will serve him.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,

 the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy

 and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,

 for precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live!

 May gold from Sheba be given him.

 May people ever pray for him

 and bless him all day long.
Let grain abound throughout the land;

 on the tops of the hills may it sway.

 Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon;

 let it thrive like the grass of the field.

Psalm 72: 1-4, 7, 11-16

...and although the Psalmist, in the passage above, is nominally speaking of a prayed for Just and Good King, it sounds more like he's speaking about the Kingdom of God, where "grain abounds" and freedom from oppression and violence is the norm for the poor and marginalized folk of the earth.

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

 I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant

 when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;

 their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;

 they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;

 they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

 the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;

 in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

 and their tongues take possession of the earth...

This is what the wicked are like —

 always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Psalm 73: 1-9, 12

While I get accused sometimes of using language that sounds like "class warfare," clearly, I'm not the first to use such language (if it were true)...

Monday, September 13, 2010


Donna And Cowboy
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I'll admit I have a prejudice against remaking classic movies. If a movie was done magnificently in the first place, why do a remake? Hello, Vince Vaugh, I love you man, but Psycho again? What was the point?

And who would dare to remake Casablanca? The Wizard of Oz? The Muppet Movie?!

Why mess with a classic?

Add to that blasphemy, the notion of casting someone in a role who is so completely DIFFERENT from the original star, what can come of that but EVIL?? Can you imagine Pauly Shore in Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia?? Jean Claude Van Damme as lovable George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life?? With his lovely sweet wife played by Angeline Jolie??? To Sir, With Love with Chris Rock in Sidney Poitier's role???!!!

What disastrous ideas!

And yet, I say all of that to say this:

I can't wait to see the new remake of True Grit!

With hippie dippie Jeff "the Dude" Bridges playing the role immortalized by John "the Duke" Wayne!! Can't you just imagine uber-patriot John Wayne hurling and whirling in his grave at the very thought of a commie like Bridges stepping into his boots?

And to top it all off, to be directed by the Coen Brothers!

On one hand, I LOVE True Grit. I love John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn as well as the other characters - and not just Glen Campbell's pretty "Texican" La Boeuf and Kim Darby's spunky Mattie Ross, but an amazing Robert Duvalle as "Lucky" Ned Pepper (to be played by BARRY Pepper in the new movie, I hear), Dennis Hopper and Strother Martin. AND the perfectly cast John Fiedler as the Lawyer, J. Nobel Daggett. Perhaps it's just some old movie sentimentalism, but I thought John Wayne richly deserved that Oscar.

And having the Coen Brothers doing a movie that seems so far removed from their typical wacky or gruesome genres, that just doesn't seem like a logical fit. And speaking of illogical fits, Bridges? As Marshall Rooster Cogburn?? A man with "true grit?"

None of it seems to make sense and it seems like the type of movie I'd typically eschew.

BUT, I do love me some Coen Brothers, and I love me some Coen Brothers working with Jeff Bridges, and I love me some True Grit. I'm thinking that they can pull off the seemingly impossible and make something interesting, compelling and humorous out of their magic hats.

What do you think? Is this a disaster waiting to happen or possible big screen magic? Could it really be a whole new classic movie which honors and adds to the original classic?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Farmer's Ghost...

Queen Anne
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Sorry I've been away. Life, as it is wont to do, has been busy. Here's an early poem of mine (written right at ten years ago, after years of reading Wendell Berry had warped my mind) suitable for this time of the year...

The last farmer's ghost

Haunting empty fields
of overgrown weeds,
walking the rows where corn once grew
he moans and mourns the
lost season,
the hallow ground, now laying
fallow ground.
He died and no one was there to bury him
and so he haunts and walks
as he always has
this earth only dear to him

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dear Glenn

Signals of Oddity 10
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Jim Wallis reaches out to Glenn Beck once again, asking for reason and conversation. Excerpts..

Dear Glenn,

I think we got off on the wrong foot. I listened to your speech last Saturday and heard a lot of things that we agree on. In fact, I have used some of the same language of our need to turn to God, and the values of "faith, hope, and charity" (love). What I would like to find out, and others would too, is what you mean by that language. Until last weekend, you have consistently described yourself primarily as an entertainer, and the public has known you as a talk show host.

But last Saturday, you sounded more like an evangelist or revivalist on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I know we disagree significantly on many issues of public policy, but you said that people can disagree on politics and still agree on basic values and try to come together. Maybe we should test that.

Instead of my being up on your blackboard and a regular target of your show's rhetoric, why don't we finally have that civil dialogue I invited you to months ago? Your speech on the Mall suggested and even promised a change of heart on your part, so why don’t we talk? Here are a few things I think we could talk about.

First, I’ve been asked by people in the media if it matters that you are a Mormon. I unequivocally answer, no, it does not. We don’t want more anti-Mormon bigotry any more than we want the anti-Muslim bigotry now rising up across the country. By the way, you should speak to that (against it).

On Saturday you talked about the fact that our nation has some scars in our past. I think one of those scars is the historical persecution and bigotry that many Mormons have faced, as well as Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. But, as you said, instead of dwelling on the bad things of the past, we need to learn from them and look to the future. The best way to do that is to make sure we all stand for religious liberty and tolerance, and are careful not to denigrate anybody else’s faith tradition, experience, or language.

If you are ever in need of an evangelical Christian to speak out against anti-Mormon sentiment directed at you or others, I am here to help.

In an interview the day after your rally you said that you would like to "amend" your statement in which you accused President Obama of being a racist and said he had a deep hatred in his heart for white people. I commend you for that. But a simple and straightforward apology would have been better. All of us say things we shouldn’t sometimes, but you have consistently mischaracterized the President’s faith. You also said in that interview that you would like to have a conversation about it. I’d like to do that.

I also think it would be a good thing to stop attacking people and churches you label as "social justice Christians," not just because I’m tired of being on your blackboard, but because I think you genuinely don’t understand the concept and how central it is to biblical faith, and how essential to the whole gospel. I am sure there are those who have misused the term, just as there are those who will co-opt any good label that exists. If "social justice" were truly code for Communism or Marxism or Nazism, as you have suggested, I would be right beside you in condemning it.

In his opening sermon at Nazareth, Jesus gave his own mission statement when he declared, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." Those were his very words, Glenn, including the stuff about releasing captives and freeing the oppressed—language you have been pretty critical of..

I thought you might be changing your own mind a bit when I heard you lifting up the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and associating yourself with him on the 47th anniversary of his eloquent "I Have a Dream" speech, given from the very place you stood on Saturday. I was encouraged by that because Dr. King was the archetypal social justice Christian and the primary teacher for many of us on the social implications of biblical faith. His personal faith led him to fight for racial and economic justice -- social justice.

I hope you read many of his words before you spoke on the anniversary of his great speech, because we can't claim the mantle of King without also embracing his message. You seemed to affirm King's assertion that racism was not simply a private moral issue but one that required response through federal action and legislation. I'd like to talk with you about the rest of King's dream. If King was right about racism, could he have also been right about poverty and war? I didn't hear much about King's words on either of those issues in your speech on Saturday.

Before, I thought you were just another cable news talk show host. But now, you are using the language of a spiritual and even a religious leader. You acted as though you now want people to look to you for that kind of spiritual leadership.

But to invoke the name of God and the vocation of a spiritual leader has consequences. It brings with it a whole new level of responsibility and accountability. It will require a more civil and even humble tone than you are used to. It will likely mean saying some different things and, certainly, saying many things differently than you have in the past.

Pundits and talk show hosts say things that divide, create conflict, and get good ratings. They appeal more to fear than to hope. But spiritual leaders try to avoid vitriol and bombastic language, and to rather seek to find common ground and bring people together to find real solutions to real problems. So let's talk about that too.

You said your rally day was the start of the nation turning to God. Many people in this country have already done that and, in fact, try to do it every day. But maybe it was the start of Glenn Beck becoming a different kind of public voice than you have been before. I hope so. And one good way to demonstrate that is to agree to an honest and civil conversation with somebody you have often attacked. How about it, Glenn?

Will a welcoming answer be forthcoming, do you think?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Normalcy: Never Again

Mikaela Reyna
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
("Normalcy: Never Again" is the actual title of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, I'm told. He gave this speech 47 years ago, on August 28, 1963. I was five months old.)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, 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."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Which Musical Are You?

Grizzly Dan and Solly 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
So, following a bit more "churchy" discussion at church tonight, the topic moved to the less spiritual, "If you could be any role in a musical, who would you be and from which musical?"

My first answer right off the top of my head was Curly, from Oklahoma, as that is one of my favorite musicals. But then, as the discussion continued, I kept thinking, "Yeah! That's who I wanna be!"

I bounced over to Danny from Grease and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (I LOVE him in that!) and, finally, Kermit the Frog, from The Muppet Movie...

No, make that Gonzo! (I love I'm Going to Go Back There Some Day.)

For my church friends who might happen here, some of the other answers were:

Roger - Don Quixote
Brady - Maria's friend (whose name I forget) from West Side Story
Susan T - Maria from Sound of Music (or any Julie Andrews roles)
Susan B - Eva Peron from Evita

Tracy and Molly also offered opinions, but I'm forgetting them.

How about it, anyone? Who would you be?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pharisee Heresy

Peeking Cat 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Hey, gang! It's group participation time!

I was wondering if folk would like to put down what they know, have heard, have read, or just randomly think about the problem with being Pharisaical.

We all know that, in most places these days, to accuse someone of being a Pharisee is not a compliment. "Being a pharisee" has come to be known as being hypocritical or being judgmental or, something. And that's what I'm wanting you to share with me - What is the "sin of being a Pharisee?"

First off, the disclaimers: I understand from various readings and sermons over the years that the Pharisees aren't quite the bad guys we tend to make them out to be, at least not at their best.

In Jesus' day, the Jewish people were a subjected people, second class citizens under the thumb of the Roman empire and in danger of being assimilated and losing their religion. The Pharisees were a "back to the fundamentals" group who wanted to help the Jewish folk be true to their best ideals. It is my understanding that they tended to be simple living advocates, who shunned the excesses of materialism and that they were often quite good people who just wanted to be true to their God.

Nonetheless, we know that they took it overboard and became wrongly judgmental, sometimes hypocritical. But of course, we know that being "judgmental" is not a wrong in itself - we OUGHT to be discerning and make judgments on matters. Or not?

So, tell me what you think: Where did the Pharisees go wrong? What was/is their sin?


Monday, August 9, 2010

A Prayer for Peace

With the uproar about the Islamic Center being built in NYC, and with the remembrance of Peace Sunday and the horrors of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I offer a small prayer for peace...

The song is "Jerusalem," written by Steve Earle and sung here by Donna and Dan, with Jordan accompanying us on mandolin.

I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bewarr the Boogetymen!

kmw Ghosties 1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Stupidest things I've read today...

About the plan to build a Muslim center near Ground Zero...

When Christians and Jews or any other non Islamic religion can have some kind freedom of worship then I will support the ground zero mosque, until then, it is our sacred ground.

Okay, this is just weird on so many levels...

1. Whose "sacred ground?"

2. Sacred ground, how? Is this person thinking that God has somehow sanctified the site where the Twin Towers fell, making it a special area for some Christians only (ie, Christians who agree with him)?

3. I'm thinking this person knows this, but we HAVE freedom of worship, which is why the drive to stop this Islamic center is so wrong - it's contrary to our basic values as a people.

4. Is this person suggesting that, if Christians can't freely worship in Muslim countries, then we won't allow Muslims to freely worship here?? Again, contrary to our values and laws.

Aside from this fella: On what possible bases are people opposing an Islamic center near Ground Zero? During the Bush years, they kept assuring us that we weren't in a war against Muslims. With these type of people, that seems to be exactly what they're saying.

What gives?

(And the fella who provided this quote is just one of many stupid things I've read on this topic, he's not alone. I leave him unnamed to protect the silly.)

The second dumb thing (series of comments, actually) I've read today is about the Gay Marriage ban being overturned over in California Land (and, by the way, a tentative YEAYYY! for folk interested in supporting justice and marriage, whether gay or straight-ish). Hold on to your hats...

* It's about a concerted effort to undermine marriage as a whole...

* don't expect all the homosexuals to go home then and be happy, no, that will be just the beginning. The schools, read, your children, will be the next target, judicial decree in hand, then your church should your pastor finally grow a spine and decide that appeasing God's enemy to win their favor is not where it's at, and so be deemed by the enemies of God to be evil and therefore outlawed...

* Having a gay judge rule on such a matter is also irrational. He should have recused himself....

*If she loves her cat and her cat does not protest, how can they possibly deny her under her right to life and liberty and the fundamental right to marry the right to marry her cat?...

Stupid, stupider, stupidest and stupidester.

Fear-mongering is alive and sick, unfortunately.

I'll let the goofy statements stand on their own, but for this: I wonder if these folk who think that gay judges can't reasonably sit on a case involving gender orientation, do they also think that STRAIGHT judges "can't possibly be unbiased," and therefore ought to recuse themselves? If so, who shall adjudicate this case?

Does this mean that black judges can't preside over cases with ramifications for black people? That male judges can't preside over cases involving men?

Where does the stupidity of that suggestion end?

Fear-mongering and stupidity notwithstanding, tentative congratulations (tentatively) to California and those everywhere interested in justice.

UPDATE: Okay, so I've just got to post this additional "professional-scale" stupid comment about the proposed Islamic center in NYC, from Sarah Palin, who apparently tweeted...

“Peace-seeking Muslims, please understand. Ground Zero Mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Please reject it in the interest of healing.”

And the stupidity rolls on...