Political Rally Like No Other

During my recently ended, semi-intentional, two month, blog sabbatical I had the incredible experience of attending a tour event for the book “Jesus for President”. The event here in Raleigh was sponsored by the local Mennonites and the NC Council of Churches.

I could summarize the book, but that’s been done better than I am able, and that’s not the only one. I could summarize the evening, but my friend Meredith has done a super job of that already. I can try to give you a sense of what I have taken from the event.

Let me start out by saying that heaven will be abundantly stocked with stringed instruments and I am not talking harps. I had the pleasure of helping with setup the afternoon of the event. After helping to unload the WVO fueled bus, I made my way into the room where the event was going to take place and I saw the ‘praise band’ setting up. There before me is something I have never seen before. To be honest, I don’t know that I would’ve ever expected such a thing. A ‘praise band’ with a banjo player complete with overalls and a floppy hat. Now, if you don’t find that stinkin’ cool I’d be tempted to doubt you’ve prayed the right prayer.

This ‘praise band’ that I speak of were members of The Psalters. The Psalters are…

…a nomadic community of psalmists. Currently 8 people, 2 dogs, 1 robot, 2 ships. More than 100 psalters from 12 countries have been involved over the years. We are on the road after our First Love, the refugee King… for whom we pledge our only allegiance. It?s not only us… we?re just the banner wavers of a little army out here just beyond your city walls. You can come along if you?re a miserable wretch… but unfortunately there is not enough room for the generally good people. Don?t fret. You wouldn?t like this road… it?s dirty (and greasy). I must tell you this much however… i can?t see much of anything behind those gates of yours and there is not much of a breeze to feel… out here it hurts… outside the gates… but i can feel and i can see… a little better. outside there is a Pillar of Fire.

Now, I realize that this music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I so thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the evening. To give you a sense of their music, here is a little diddy called Dumpster Divers click to play. As you can hear they have a very earthy sound. At times their music sounds like right out of the 19th century American South such as with this tune called Dig It Up click to play. The simplicity of their music is what I think really hangs with me. It can be simple and pretty as with Agnus Dei click to play or it can be simple and haunting like All You Who Are Weary click to play. At other times their music has a definate Middle East flavor. This is nowhere as poignant than with their rendition of The Lords’ Prayer click to play… simply powerful. Their’s is the oatmeal of praise music, the stuff that sticks to your ribs.

Since it was a book event and not a concert, let me leave you with a quote from the back of the T-shirt I bought that evening.

Forget donkeys and elephants, long live the Slaughtered Lamb!

Dinner and a Movie

My daughter really likes watching movies with her dad.
My daughter really likes that her dad loves watching movies with her.

Recent my daughter and I watched the musical Rent. She has been talking about it for awhile so I put it on our online queue and when it came in we planned an evening. She made fajitas.

I am of the more traditional musical bent — Guys and Dolls, Hello Dolly… — you know what I mean. So, I was a bit suspect of Rent. To begin with, the story is not your typical musical fodder. It is a very gritty story about relationships; some breaking, some mending. It is about injustices; speaking out against, living with. It is about AIDS.

It is a well written story. I would have liked to have been taken deeper with some of the aspects, but it is a musical. There is a particular song of which one line went, “The opposite of war is not peace, it is creation.”

Imagine, if you will, Americans bringing peace to Iraq.
Imagine, if you will, Americans and Iraqis, together, creating…

Call To Repent – Misguided?

clipped from an email from Jim Wallis/Sojourner

Next week will mark five years since the United States invaded Iraq. We all lament the suffering and violence that continue after these five heartbreaking years.

To commemorate this anniversary, many Sojourners board members are joining with me to issue a statement calling on the U.S. church to repent for the war and to commit ourselves to a new path toward peace.

Would you join us in signing it? Just click here.

We all share in responsibility for a war that has been waged in our names and with our tax dollars. The fact that fewer U.S. soldiers have died in recent months doesn’t change the fact that this war should never have been waged. Our country should end this war, not try to “win” it, and we must help the Iraqi people build a safer and more peaceful country.

And so, in this season of Lent, I believe the time has come for us to repent for the Iraq war. But repentance means more than just being sorry. It means admitting that the course we have been on is wrong and committing to begin walking in a new direction – starting with an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Support for U.S. wars and foreign policy is still the area where Christians are most “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). We must commit to put our love for Christ ahead of obedience to a misguided government and ask our brothers and sisters to join us in working for peace.

That’s why we’ve put together a statement that issues a call to the U.S. church to lament and repent of the sin of this war. We’re planning to promote that call widely to Christian audiences of all theological and political stripes.

So far it’s been signed by friends like Brian McLaren, Mary Nelson, Richard Rohr, Barbara Williams Skinner, and Ron Sider. But we don’t just want prominent leaders to sign on – we want you.

If everyone receiving this e-mail signed the statement and recruited friends, family, and congregation members to do the same, we could show that millions of ordinary Christians are seeking a world in which our Lord “guides our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).

Click here to read and sign the statement lamenting and repenting of the Iraq war.

I hope you’ll join us in committing to pray and work for peace.


Jim Wallis and the rest of the team at Sojourners

P.S. We’re planning to publicize this statement widely, including placing advertisements in Christian media – can you make a donation to help get the word out?

This is certainly an interesting effort by Jim Wallis and Sojourners. Oddly enough it helps me in my process to first come to grips with, and then to repent for some of my past sin, but in a way perhaps not intended.

I am very much a product of the religious right movement of the 80’s. Much of that is from what I am now repenting. Perhaps that is causing me to be hypersensitive to the methods of the religious right, especially when I see characteristics of these methods in use by groups with whom I would today be inclined to support. Such is my reaction to Wallis’ proposal.

I find calling on the U.S. church to repent a bit hollow. The parts of the U.S. church that have actively joined in the drum beating are hardly poised to repent and I do not buy his argument that the rest of us, by paying taxes, are implicated in the sins of the U.S. Government. If that were true then would not thorough repentance include no longer paying those taxes? Wallis also goes on to claim that, “[s]upport for U.S. wars and foreign policy is still the area where Christians are most “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).” This seems like yet another straw man argument by Wallis. Not having data to suggest differently, I still choose to believe that unbridled consumerism is much more deserving of his claim.

I mentioned about my process of coming to grips with and repenting for sins of my past. It is ideas and reactions such as what Jim Wallis is promoting that prompt me to look even deeper into an Anabaptist worldview/theology/history. Over the past few years I find myself moving more in the direction of disengagement with the system(s) of this world. Initially, I was of the thought that this was simply an overreaction to my past — an overcompensation of the pendulum if you will. But, I am finding it more and more difficult to reconcile faith in government with Christ’s heart and call to us his followers. I am increasingly seeing governmental solutions as at best a poor return on investment of a Christ follower’s time/resources and at worst a devilish distraction.

For now I am viewing this as more of a rant and less of a life statement, but I am not sensing the pendulum’s return swing anytime soon…

Yes, We Can

There is something about this that strikes me as so very different than other political messages out there today. Might this be a peek at the new nationalism? While this is not a political ad in the purist sense, it is certainly very creative and I must say that I am impressed with the positive sense I am left with after viewing it… for what it’s worth.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality.

Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can repair this world.

Yes we can.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea —

Yes. We. Can.

Celebrities featured include: Jesse Dylan, Will.i.am, Common, Scarlett Johansson, Tatyana Ali, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Kate Walsh, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Adam Rodriquez, Kelly Hu, Adam Rodriquez, Amber Valetta, Eric Balfour, Aisha Tyler, Nicole Scherzinger and Nick Cannon

Global Flatulance

Stumbled upon some interesting reading regarding greenhouse gasses and global warming. We have heard a great deal about CO2’s impact on global warming, but there seem to be other culprits as well. One of which, methane, is particularly concerning.

This piece suggests we are “Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes”. I read this and considered that it is also fairly accepted as common knowledge that reducing red meat from our diets can have very positive health results. All of this may be very true, but I do so like a good hunk of meat — the rarer the better… cut off it’s horns, blow its nose and bring it out. Did I mention that a coworker found himself in the hospital last Wednesday evening after having a heart attack? Yep, only a couple years older than I. Can you sense that it has me thinking?

So, here I sit noodling over the impact that changing my diet would have on my personal health and I am now aware of the possible ancillary benefit it could have on the planet itself. Should I need any more motivation?

Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together. Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources. In fact, the effect of our methane emissions may be compounded as methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands?the primary natural source of methane.

With methane emissions causing nearly half of the planet?s human-induced warming, methane reduction must be a priority. Methane is produced by a number of sources, including coal mining and landfills?but the number one source worldwide is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. About 85% of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of livestock, and while a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is enormous. An additional 15% of animal agricultural methane emissions are released from the massive ?lagoons? used to store untreated farm animal waste, and already a target of environmentalists? for their role as the number one source of water pollution in the U.S.

The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan), , , we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today.

Poet’s Head into the Heavens

In preparing for leading our Sunday School class tomorrow morning (chapter 9 of Brian McLaren’s a Generous Or+hodoxy – Why Am I Mystical/Poetic), I read this quote from G.K.Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I have read this several times before, but this evening was as though for the first time.

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess players do…Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine…He was damned by John Calvin…Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits… The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason…Materialists and madmen never have doubts… Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have the mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.” I like that bit right there.

Not Quiting My Day Job

I guess this makes me a published author. No, I’m not planning any sudden career changes.

While it is exciting to have something I wrote actually published, what is more exciting is what I wrote about. The event I covered in the article was quite powerful. These were ‘average’ people; average people who are putting action to their faith. I am better for having hung out with them for the day and I am hopeful that our paths will meet in the future.