Monday, October 30, 2006

Alex P. Keaton returns to Columbus

Demetrius and I first moved to Columbus (to attend graduate school) at around the time the 80s sitcom Family Ties was wrapping up its seven year run. I remember our new neighbors telling us that the show supposedly took place in Columbus, Ohio, and that local stores like Lazarus (now Macy's) made sure that the characters could be seen carrying shopping bags bearing their names and logos. That little factoid had slipped my mind until I read at Pho's Akron Pages that Michael would be coming to Columbus today for an event with Sherrod Brown. Thanks to my incredibly patient husband being willing to come with me (I *hate* trying to parallel park), I was not only able to attend the event, but this time I've actually got pictures.

Actually, the reason I asked Demetrius to come along was because of the event's timing. When I first RSVP'd via Sherrod Brown's campaign site, it looked like the event would be from 11 to 12, so I was just planning to go to the event on my own once D came back from dropping Daughter in Ohio off at school. Then I got a reminder about the event saying that it was at 10 to 11, and it made a lot more sense to just go together after dropping Daughter off at school.

We arrived at about quarter to 10 at the building housing Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. We found a parking meter with a two hour time limit, but that seemed like it would be plenty of time. Nearly an hour and a half later, it was clear that it was *not* enough time, as Michael J. Fox and Sherrod Brown had not yet taken the stage. Demetrius had to run out to move the car and pump more money into the meter, thankfully getting back just as the program began. I was actually concerned that he might not be allowed back in, as the event was packed, with plenty of people who had been unable to find seats in the auditorium standing near the door. There were also bits of commotion from time to time as people in wheelchairs tried to get situated in the audience.

Turns out there was a section in the back of the auditorium that was labeled as reserved seating for people with disabilities.

But camera from the news had set up there.

One of the women sitting behind us said that the law building had been constructed before current accessibility standards were put in place. Professor Colker, who is a specialist in disability law, had used money from an award she won to pay for that seating area, and that she'd be furious to see what happened today.

There was also this guy wearing a shirt with the word REPUBLICAN in large letters on the front, who was clearly amused by the situation, and we wondered if and where he was planning to blog about it.

Once the program finally got under way, it moved along very quickly. We heard first from Dr. Wendy Macklin about the need for new sources of stem cells for research. She explained that stem cells come from the inner cell mass of blastocysts which are about 150 cell embryos, generated in in vitro fertilization clinics. Of the many embryos generated in these clinics, some will result in pregnancies, but many won't. Those that are not used sit in liquid nitrogen for sometimes years. In the past, these have been used to generate cell lines. We can use cells that were generated as cell lines before August of 2001. Initially there were about 22 cell lines, and of those, only a small number are usable, and those have been grown on mouse feeder cells in a variety of ways. Those are not likely to be useful for tranplantation in any way. Dr. Macklin said that even though getting new lines of stem cells would be unlikely to lead to a cure for any given disease immediately, it would be a huge boon to this area of research. For just one example, it would allow us to investigate how to "tweak" cells in the nervous system in other parts of the body that have been degenerating from a particular disease.

There were a number of people on the stage who were suffering from some type of disease or disability that could potentially benefit from stem cell research. Only one of them was scheduled to speak, but Sherrod Brown made a point of acknowledging the children by name. That was a nice gesture because, as tired as I had been getting of sitting and waiting for this event to begin, I could only imagine how restless the children were getting by the time things finally started.

After Wendy Macklin, we heard from Tanner Barton, an 11 year old boy from central Ohio talked about juvenile diabetes and how it affects his daily life. He's in 6th grade and is a competetive gymnast and swimmer. He went on to detail what is involved in constantly checking and maintaining the right blood sugar/insulin balance. The constant need for monitoring sometimes disrupted his practices and made him wary about sleeping away from home. He also related a recent experience that made him realize that he must be sure to get up early on days when he has an exam--so that he can have enough time between breakfast and exam time for his blood sugar to reach the optimal level.

Finally, it was Michael J. Fox's turn to take the stage. He started by saying that we need people like Sherrod Brown in Washington, so that science can reclaim its place in American society. It's part of what makes us great, along with our love and compassion for our citizens, and the desire to do the best thing for them. He thanked Tanner for sharing his experience with diabetes and said that it must be important for a guy his age to tell people what his life was like. Fox said, "Guess what? That doesn't change." At 45, you still want to share what your experience is like--it's a natural instinct. Michael congratulated Tanner on the beautiful job he did speaking about living with diabetes, adding, "I will use you as an inspiration."

Michael said that "this is kind of a coming home for me in a weird way", because Columbus is the home of Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties. He commented that he was recently asked what his character (a conservative teen who admired Ronald Reagan) would think of him campaigning for stem cell research. Michael quipped, "First of all, he'd be happy I'm wearing a tie..." and added that he thinks Alex would say it's the right thing to do. Sherrod Brown voting for the stem cell research enhancement act--to expand federal funding of stem cell reasearch--was the right thing to do--but Mike DeWine voted against it. He said, "A vote for Sherrod Brown is a vote for hope of a better quality of life for millions of Americans." Michael noted, as he has recently on television, that he is supporting candidates who support all stem cell research (regardless of party) Limiting this research is short-sighted, and Michael said that he has every confidence that research will improve the lives of people suffering from numerous diseases. The majority of the House and the Senate, and over 70% of Americans supported expanding funding for stem cell research, but Mike DeWine sided with President Bush in voting against potentially life-saving research. Sherrod Brown will stand on the side of hope, supporting stem cell research in the Senate as he has in the House of Representatives.

He went on to comment on the Limbaugh flap. "This past week I had a little run-in with some less-than-compassionate conservatives. I guess I'm not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away--or maybe I'm just supposed to go away." But he said that he's not going to go away, and neither are the millions of Americans and their families who live with debilitating diseases. We're going to make the diseases go away with the support of people like Sherrod Brown.

Michael J. Fox: I'm asking you to stand up for America's continued leadership in health, science, and medicine, and what is right for the hundreds of millions of Americans who have or are touched by debilitating diseases. Bush and DeWine's policies have been a rejection of the promising future of medical science. "Well, forgive me for this, but it's time we 'get back to our future'!"

This was greeted with laughter and applause for Michael, who received at least two standing ovations during his brief appearance on state. He ended by asking those in attendance to please vote for Sherrod Brown for Senate.

It was a very moving experience to see Michael J. Fox speaking to a packed auditorium about this difficult issue. It also made me have some rather uncharitable thoughts about Rush Limbaugh needing a visit from the Karma Fairy. Heck, *I* don't want to be seen in public if I'm feeling under the weather and not happy with the way I look. I can scarcely imagine the courage it would take to appear on camera, on stage, while not having the level of control over my nervous system that most of us take for granted. Especially someone who has been in show business--I would think that makes one more image conscious than the average person.

Michael J. Fox certainly *could* have chosen to live a private life with his family and friends, far from television cameras, not subjecting himself to the mockery and asinine speculations of the likes of Rush Limbaugh. There is no guarantee that expanded stem cell research would benefit him personally. I admire his courage in speaking out so publicly on this issue, and doubt I could ever be nearly that courageous myself, were I in his situation.

I'm almost positive that Mr. Limbaugh couldn't.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Samhain: A space for remembrance

Another post about Samhain from Street Prophets, this one by Alexandra Lynch.

Samhain is one of the single most misunderstood holidays in the Wiccan calendar by outsiders. It is simultaneously many Witches' favorite. It is certainly one of the key holidays for us. So what's going on here?

Click here for the rest.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

David Korten, Part 3

The day of reckoning for our reckless ways is now at hand, as we face the mounting forces of a perfect economic storm, born of a convergence of peak oil, climate change, and a meltdown of the U.S. dollar. Peak oil of course occurs when global oil production peaks and begins its inexorable decline, in the face of continued rising global demand, sending prices soaring. Now, some experts believe that peak oil occurred last year in 2005, others believe it will not occur for another 10, 20, or even 35 years. Fortune Magazine correctly notes that the difference in those estimates is irrelevant. The era of peak oil is over, and we must act immediately to end our dependence on oil.

(the next section is a Power Point, but fortunately Korten does describe it in words as well) As he said the parts I've boldfaced, he clicked a big red X over the image to which he was referring.

Here are some of the implications for the ways in which our life will change. Long haul transport and global supply chains, foundations of the global economy--relics of a dying era.

Auto-dependent suburbia, strip malls, shopping centers, and box stores like WalMart located in the middle of nowhere--candidates for "going out of business" sales.

Oil-dependent industrial agriculture: destined to run out of gas.

Now take a look at this, do you see any oil dependence? These, of course, are the oil guzzling planes, ships, and ground vehicles we depend on to secure our access to cheap oil. Increasingly unaffordable, and, as we've seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, wholly ineffective against current military threats.

As oil prices inexorably rise, much of our existing capital stocks will be reduced to stranded assets, including much of the supporting capital of our sprawling and unsustainable suburbs.

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David Korten on how we measure wealth

This is a continuation of my transcript of David Korten's talk in Columbus on October 14. Part 1 can be seen here.

David Korten: Modern societies have, for more than 50 years, defined progress in terms of economic growth, and we've been highly successful at growing our economies. Since 1950, global economic output has increased by some seven times, and made a great deal of money for a few people.

Now, there's another side to this story. The Living Planet Index is a measure of the health of the world's fresh water, ocean, and forest ecosystems. That's the life support system of the planet--and arguably the foundation of all real wealth. Think about it, if there's no life support system, there's no life. And if there's no life, the whole concept of wealth loses its meaning. Now this index, as you can see, has declined by 37% in the past 30 years.

We see here the divergence, showing the indicators we use to convince ourselves that we are making progress and getting wealthier, and the true index showing that as a species we are collectively getting rapidly poorer. This difference, of course, creates massive distortion in our public policies.

Now, the good news in this, at least from the perspective of the planet, is that the species responsible for this devastation will be gone long before the index reaches zero.

Now consider, as we are depleting this planet, that 85% of what remains of our planet's life support system, is currently expropriated by the more fortunate 20% among us, to support often extravagent and wasteful lifestyles. Meanwhile, the poorest 20% struggle for survival on slightly more than 1%, and the middle 60% get by on 14%.

One of the many lessons that I learned in my years abroad is that much of what we call development is actually a process of expropriating the land and water resources on which the bottom 85% depend for their livelihoods, in order to make way for the dams, mines, shrimp farms, agricultural estates, golf courses, suburban sprawl, and shopping centers that primarily benefit the top 20%. Now to put this in simple language, conventional economic growth indicators in fact measure the rate at which productive resources of the poor are being transferred to the rich, and converted to garbage.

Now, it's an extraordinary thing that we measure our progress, not by our well-being, but by the throughput in our economic system, which is basically the rate at which we are throwing things away.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006


Interesting post--this is one of the faith traditions I recognize that I don't know as much about as I should.

How I came to paganism (and how did you? :-) by Morgan

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Friday, October 20, 2006

David Korten in Columbus, October 14, 2006

This is the beginning of my transcription of David Korten's remarks at the Earth Charter Summit that took place in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, October 14.

David Korten: It is such a joy to be here in Ohio with such a great group of people --I've just been meeting extraordinary activists everywhere I go. And, I hope you'll excuse me if I just take a moment here to go shake hands with Granny D (laughter and applause). Granny D is such an inspiration, when I was facing my 65th birthday and thinking, "Well, you know, this is kind of a transition. I guess the rest of my life I should be starting to think about winding down and passing on the responsibilities." (Laughter) And Granny D of course is an extraordinary example of what we should all be doing with our elder years. She's a great inspiration.

Now, I'm also fascinated by your politics here. Dennis Kucinich is one of my heroes--one of the most visionary politicians of our time. (Applause). And of course I note that you cover the range, to a candidate for governor who really should be in the penitentiary. Anyhow, hopefully he will find his way to the appropriate outcome.

This is a very special weekend here, I'm sure you know this is one of four sets of activities by different initiatives. And of course the Earth Charter and the Earth Charter Summit is what brings together the visionary framework for all of the rest of our work. And I'm so pleased that the Earth Charter folks here in Columbus are framing the issue in terms of creating earth community, because that, to me, is really the way to frame the Earth Charter. That it presents the principles for the earth community that we must bring forth. And that gives the substance and the lead-in to action.

And then of course the other initiatives, CIRCA, which is focussed on ending corporate colonization--that is one essential step on the path to earth community. Then Simply Living, which working on, "Okay, how do we implement it in the way we live, the way we organize our living space? The way we organize our economies."

The key to this is positive. As was mentioned in the introduction, one of the things I've come to is resistance alone is a losing strategy. Ultimately, to win we must come forward to create the positive.

And then of course the fourth, and absolutely foundational element of this quadrangle is the Voting Rights Revival Conference. And of course Ohio here reminded us all that, among all the democratic reforms we need, it starts with counting the votes. Absolutely foundational. So, I congratulate you all on your work, and thank you for the invitation. I hope my comments today will help put the work you're doing in a deeper historical, cultural, and to some extent spiritual context.

Now, the underlying message of the Great Turning is quite straightforward. We humans have come to the end of a long and deeply destructive era. It is time to turn this world around for our own sake, and for the sake of our children for generations to come.

There's good news and bad news, and it comes in the same package. The news is "business as usual is over". Peak oil, climate change, the collapsing U.S. dollar, and spreading social disinigration born of the marginalization of the majority of humanity are coming together in a constellation of forces desined to fundamentally change every aspect of modern life.

Now, whether this convergence of forces plays out as an epic human opportunity or the final human tragedy, will depend on the stories by which we understand what's happening, and undrestand the choices that it is ours to make. And I'm going to be talking about those choices.

On a crowded planet, peace, sustainability, justice, and equity, are inseparably linked. The time to choose a different path is now at hand, because empire has reached the limits of exploitation that people and planet will tolerate. If we continue with business as usual, future generations will likely look back and refer to our time as "The Great Unraveling". A time of environmental and social collapse. Fortunately, it is within our means to move beyond empire--to give birth to a new era of earth community, based on a more mature understanding of our responsibility to one another, and to earth.

Buddhist spiritual teacher Joanna Macy suggests that if we are successful in navigating this transition, future generations may speak of this as the time of The Great Turning. The time when humanity turned from the way of domination and embraced the way of partnership.

Now, over the millennia, the primary insitutional form of empire has morphed from the imperial city-states of ancient time, to the imperial nation-states of the modern era, and more recently to the imperial global coporations of our immediate time. What remains constant, however, is the underlying pattern of domination and exclusion.

Now, from time to time, someone will ask me, "Why are you so obsessed about coroporations? Aren't they just communities of people?" Well, I think most of you here have been studying this issue just a little deeper--you probably wouldn't ask that question. Because, what we know, is that there are many highly thoughful, ethical people who work at corporations, but they are all, including the CEO, employees of the institution. They are paid to serve the institution at its pleasure, required by law to leave their values at the door, and subject to instant dismissal at a moment's notice. These are not qualities we normally associate with community.

We're talking here about an institution of enormous power, governed by absentee owners and accountable managers, in the business of converting the life energy of people and nature into money for the short-term financial gain of already wealthy shareholders and managers, without regard to the human or natural consequences. In other words, the publicly traded Limited Liability Corporation is a gigantic pool of money with an artificial legal personality, required by law to behave like a sociopath. PR images aside, it is a destroyer of community, and a powerful engine of wealth concentration in a world in desperate need of community and equity.

(More to come)

David Korten is the author of The Great Turning: from Empire to Earth Community and When Corporations Rule the World.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Great Unraveling vs. The Great Turning

Some of you may remember me posting about The Great Turning in the past couple years, and linking to Joanna Macy's web site. Today, as I mentioned here, I attended an Earth Charter Summit, where the featured speaker, David Korten was discussing his recent book entitled The Great Turning: from Empire to Earth Community. (He is also the author of When Corporations Rule the World.)

The event took place at an SGI Community Center, which is worship center for people who practice Nichiren Buddhism in the Columbus area. I didn't know that before I got there--figured it was just another community rec center when I first walked in. But all the bowls and cushions tipped me off that there might be some Buddhist practice going on there.

It will probably take me a while to get this written up, but I can at least give some highlights now. We started by watching two films, A Quiet Revolution and Another Way of Seeing Things.

Before the David Korten spoke, awards were given--they called them "Recognition with Gratitude". Cindy and Art Strauss, who attend my church, were recognized for their work with Simply Living. I don't see Art at church much because he has had various health problems, but he was a regular at peace rallies a couple years ago, and always brought handouts to help educate people about various issues. I think it was Art who first introduced me to Jim Hightower's writing via the Hightower Lowdown. Art is now in a wheel chair, having broken his hip--I wasn't aware of that until today. So Cindy wheeled him up to the front of the room, and he accepted the plaque with tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice, saying that he didn't deserve it, but that it belonged to everyone who had worked with them.

Art and Cindy are some of the people whose example reminds me that I have no business being "too tired" to keep plugging along, trying to help make the world a better place. Another such person would be Granny D. She was there today as well--attending the event because she was in town to speak at the Voting Rights Revival Conference this evening. And since she is currently reading David Korten's book, she wanted to hear him speak.

I will have to write up David's talk a little later, but much of the basic premise can be found in this article in Yes Magazine.

By what name will future generations know our time?

Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth’s capacity to sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet’s resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population? Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and Earth?

Click here to read more.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Marcus Owens responds to the "war on religion" canard

I think that we need to maintain a balance between church and state, in the United States and here in Ohio. In fact it was a president of the United States from Ohio, and a Republican at that, named Ulysses S. Grant, that in his State of the Union Address in 1875 warned of the dangers of wealthy churches. Wealthy churches with power, wealthy churches that would sap the resources from government, and pleaded with Congress to make sure that church and state were kept separate and distinct. Those are the words of the President of the United States in 1875.

The issues that we are hearing here today have been with this country since its beginning. You see on the program the words from Thomas Jefferson, as he struggled with what the right balance should be between religion and politics and state. I think it is important, as you think about the state of religion, the state of faith in this country, that you think about the reality of events, and not be carried away by those who would scare, who would intimidate, who would try to cause fear that somehow the government is trying to crush religion.

Indeed, today's New York Times has a front page story about the benefits that religions, that churches, that houses of faith have received in this country. They note that since 1989, there have been over 200 special exceptions, exclusions, and deductions created to support religious activity of all sorts, not just worship services but religious activity that gets into social services, that gets into land use planning. The churches, the houses of worship, have been given special dispensation under our laws--more than any other form of organized activity in this country. It's not accurate to say that there is a war on religion in this country. Quite the reverse.

But I think free speech, true free speech is threatened. It's under threat because of systems of belief that do not admire freedom of speech. That would tell you what you can read, and when you can read it. Who you would marry, who you would lie down at night with, behind the doors of your own house. That's not government's place to dictate that sort of thing.

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Opening remarks by Marcus Owens

More from the Ohio church/politics forum.

Marcus Owens: (Regarding Jay Sekulow) Many years ago we found ourselves on opposite sides of a church case. An organization called the Church at Pierce Creek in upstate New York took out a full page advertisement on the eve of the presidential election, announcing that if one voted for Bill Clinton for president, you would go to hell--or words to that effect. And they solicited charitable contributions to pay for that advertisement. This wasn't a religious service, this was a full page advertisement in USA Today. Mr. Sekulow and I kind of squared off at a distance. I was director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service, he was counsel for Church at Pierce Creek. When the dust settled, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said there was no violation of the First Amendment in what the Internal Revenue Service had done. Indeed they noted that there was no factual issue here--there had been campaign intervention. This wasn't a statement of core religious faith, it was simply campaign politics.

Now, the case of All Saints Church has been brought up here--I do represent All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena California. And I can tell you on the Sunday before the presidential election in 2004, George Regas was doing exactly what a pastor, what the head of a congregation should do, and that is to attempt to reconcile religious belief with the events of the day, so that the members of the congregation could understand, could make their own decisions. Could see how they might apply ethical standards, standards of morality, and standards of moral behavior in the world in which we live. George Regas was very upset about the war in Iraq. That church has a tradition of being against killing. It has a social justice ministry that cares for the poor and those that are otherwise unable to care for themselves. He was *not* telling people how to vote, in terms of which candidate to vote for. He was telling people that they needed to check their system of values against the positions and the issues of the day, of their government.

The Internal Revenue Service, in their audit, said that it was the inference of his words, that he dared to criticize the policies of the Bush administration, and therefore that constituted campaign intervention. It was not a full page advertisement instructing people how to vote. It was not an electonic mail message sent on Easter Sunday evening to the congregation, transmitting a political video prepared by one political campaign against the other. This was core religious worship services and the government was taking the position that they had the right to censor, to probe the real meaning behind those words.

And I would argue that the First Amendment, whether it's freedom of religion or freedom of speech, stands between the government and those words. I believe also that it is extraordinarily important for people of faith, for institutions of faith, to try to set out value systems to provide the ethical framework for members of the congregation to make very important judgements. If they don't do that, they're failing in their mission.

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Barry Lynn on Politics and the Pulpit

More from last Sunday's forum. Barry Lynn is the Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the author of Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom.

The issue in Ohio is the same one we're seeing all over the country, and I'm going to phrase this question in three ways.

Will churches deliberately or unwittingly let their sanctuaries become soapboxes for selected candidates for public office?

Will the churchgoers know incense from the altar or cigar smoke from the partisan political activity in the basement when they walk into a church?

Will the church advocate the civic responsiblity of voting, or advance the candidacies of certain people they want to see elected?

The rubber really will hit the road in the next few weeks, and here is what I hope will *not* happen in Ohio or around the country. Churches should not be opening their doors to meetings of, say, the Fairfield County Republican Party unless it is willing to do precisely the same for the Fairfield County Democratic Party. Churches should not a Democratic senate candidate to "say a few words" in their churches before election day unless they invite the Republican candidate to do exactly the same thing. And perhaps most importantly, churches should not distribute or allow to be distributed in houses of worship, any so-called "voter guides" that are obviously created to support one candidate over all others.

This year, a number of entitities have announced plans to put out these voter guides--the Christian Coalition, created by Pat Robertson, announced its intention to do so just this past week. And Focus on the Family has promised to have its State Policy Councils--Phil's group is one--to prepare and distribute guides in eight targeted states, which just happen to hold the key to whether the Senate is primarily Democratic or Republican after the election.

And here's my prediction based on the past practice of these groups. If you cannot tell for whom you are supposed to vote, after looking at, say, a Christian Coalition guide, then you obviously need new glasses. (Laughter).

How can voter guides be in violation of the IRS regulations? The first clue is that they're on a very narrow range of issues, not like the League of Women Voters. The second might be that they allegedly cull candidate positions from newspapers and other public sources, and then reduce these very complicated issues just to whether a candidate favors or opposes a position--one word answers to complex questions.

Based on these past practices, a lot of these voter guides, produced by the so-called "religious right", frankly are going to make all Republicans look like they are next in line for elevation to sainthood, and make every Democrat appear to be the next candidate for becoming a wax figurine in the House of Horrors museum in New Jersey. That's what they're intended to do. Those characterizations can be made using a variety of techniques.

A 2004 guide from Focus on the Family had language that used phrases like "partial birth abortion". Ladies and gentlemen, that is not a medical term, that is a political slogan of the right. When it appears in a document, it makes it very clear where the producer of that document wants people to stand. And I hope that when third party advocates of groups that are not member of your church come to your church and ask to distribute these voter guides, you look at them very carefully, whether they come from left, right, or center. Because pimping for any party or politician has no business occurring in the chapel, in the narthex, or even in the parking lot of any church in the United States of America.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

There's more

There is more to write up from Sunday's event, but I'm just not getting a sense of there being much interest. I'll probably write more eventually, because I'm compulsive that way. But now I probably need to donate more of my attention to ways to bring in some income, so that I can help "put food on my family".

Quick note--there's a campaign to raise the minimum wage in Ohio. It seems to enjoy popluar support, and my husband made a couple bumper stickers in support of that amendment, by request.

So, in the face of the popular support for this amendment, opponents have decided to take the "personal privacy" angle and try to scare people into voting against it. Nice. Their claims are debunked here by the way.

So, when my husband *finally* gets a real offer of animation work (which has been really sparse this season)--something for *television*, no less, guess who it's for?

Naturally, the opposition to Issue 2.

Damn. We *really* need the money. But how many people would we be "throwing under the bus" if he took that project? And, as much of our time and energy as we have been devoting to working to make the world a better place, even for "the least of these" would be undone? Well anyway, he did say no to the project.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Russell Johnson on the "war against people of faith"

More from Sunday's forum

How can anyone say there's no war against people of faith when our children for 200 years could pray, read the bible, learn their alphabet?
...Our friends over here on our left have opposed the singing of Silent Night in schools, have opposed the Pledge of Allegiance that has been a part of our country for several decades. If there's no waging of war, go down the street and read Luke 2 during the month of December in school, and see if there's not a war against people of faith.

Our children are being muzzled. In Pennsylvania last week, there were children praying in school. And they needed to pray. I think children in Ohio deserve the chance to pray in their schools as well. We need to be able to to have academic freedom. If we teach a secular dogma called evolution, we should also be able to teach intelligent design. If we can read People Magazine, we should be able to read the Bible.

Reverend Barry Lynn and his friends Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Ted Strickland--they all have some things in common that take us further to the left than Ohio really lives. And I sense, candidly, the selective enforcement--Marcus Owens, if there's freedom of speech that's good for All Saints Church in, and I hope you win in California, please come and represent us, because it's good for Ohio too. (Applause) If it's good for the left coast, it's good for Ohio.

And I'll say, candidly, to our friend Eric Williams, please, we should never have to give up our citizenship. I believe that you have the right to say and do in your church whatever you want to in regard to those things. And I want you to have the freedom of speech. Please do not pretend that from Columbus, Ohio, you should be dictating to what we're saying in Fairfield Church in Lancaster, Ohio. I don't agree with you about a lot of things. I want to say you're a good guy, and we've shared the pulpit at different places and radio shows and things.

But, a lot of our folks on the religious left do not believe that the Bible is really true, do not believe in a bodily resurrection, do not believe in the tradition of marriage as I understand it, and they have that right to say that from their pulpit if they wish. And I will never ask the IRS to deprive you of your 501c3 because you disagree with me. I sense that the IRS is not here to somehow monitor what's going on at your pulpit or my pulpit. And I believe that just because we disagree on things, don't use the IRS to try to bully me. If you can't win in elections, if you can't win in the court of public opinion..."we'll go to the court and gather some sharp lawyers who can represent us well, and they'll craft something to try to take conservative Christians to court to intimidate them. And let's find one church that we can beat to a bloody pulp in a courtroom, and we'll make an example and intimidate churches all over the state to be quiet about life and marriage."

We will not be bullied and we will not be silenced, and we will shine. (Applause and cheers)

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Remarks by Barry Lynn in Columbus

I bring you greetings from the forces of darkness. (Laughter.) See, everybody can agree with that.!

Of course people and institutions of faith have made tremendous contributions to American history and American progress from the beginning of our history. But as with any other institution, some of these contributions have been good, as in the abolition of slavery. Some have been bad, as in claiming that the verse from the book of Genesis "and God separated the light from the darkness" justified schools segregated by race. And some very silly interventions, such as opposing daylight savings time because it was an interference with "God's time". (Laughter) It's true!

But at their best, these institutions have done two very important things. One, they have regularly alerted the public to vitally important moral and ethical issues that we need to deal with as a nation. And second, like the prophets in the Christian Old Testament, they have called upon leaders to work for justice, from Columbus, Ohio to Darfur.

Those interventions, though, do not come without risk, because some actions can dilute the very independence of our religious institutions or the integrity of our political system. A secular political process undergirded by our secular constitution. Throughout today's conversation, I hope we can separate and keep in mind the idea that the political process in America really has two parts. One is a debate over values and issues. And the second part of the political process is direct partisan battling over who ought to be elected to one public office or another. And in general, it is that electoral phase that gets people into more contentious problems.

Ralph Reed was once one of the most powerful citizens in America, as he comandeered the organization of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Once when he was asked why he was not more critical of the administration of the first George Bush, he responded that when you are sitting in the dining car of a train, you don't blow up the railroad. In other words, retaining power and privilege might be used to justify silence in the midst of a world where you would otherwise have criticized or condemned even the most powerful leaders.

And I think that there's already evidence that some of the religious groups receiving federal funding through this administration's so-called faith-based initiatives have softened or terminated their criticism of *this* Bush White House. When Cesaer pays for your microphone, the tendency is for you to praise, not condemn Cesaer. This is to say that when religious organizations today get too cozy with kings or presidents, or the resources of those kings and presidents, there's an accomodationist tendency. When a church receives something from the government, it is more likely to give something back in return--one thing is the endorsement of that candidate who helps them. This can turn a church into a cog in a party's political machine, ending the very independence of the church and the integrity of secular governance.

A peculiar thing happened in North Carolina about a year and a half ago. The pastor of the East Waynesville Baptist Church had told his parishioners before the 2004 election to vote for George Bush. But then he later learned that 7 congregants--you might call them "backsliders" had actually voted for John Kerry. And the pastor orchestrated their ousting from the church. When that story became national news, the congregation decided to hold a meeting to reconsider the situation. The congregation voted to invite back the 7 evictees, and then on the same night, voted to fire the pastor.

See, that's just a more extreme example of what happens to the body of the church when political partisanship becomes a touchstone of righteousness. I happen to believe that Martin Luther King had it right. He spoke in churches, temples, and synogogues almost every day of his adult life about justice, but never once did he endorse a candidate from the pulpit, because he thought other institutions were those appropriate for that task.

And that's the division our tax code has today. It is a good one. I'd like to see it retained for the sake of the church *and* the integrity of the state.

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Opening remarks by Eric Williams

Here are the opening remarks of Rev. Eric Williams from the forum I attended earlier.
I was raised in Ohio--a small town in northwestern Ohio. From a middle class family. I would describe my life as really middle of the road--very little cultural or religious diversity. My neighbors looked and sounded and believed much like me. Farmers. Republicans. Presbyterians. Republicans. Methodists. Republicans. Lutherans. Republicans. The Baptists and the Roman Catholics, well, they had to go down river to worship. (Laughter)

Today, I look at my neighbors, and I see great diversity. I listen to my neighbors and I hear them talk about their faith using many different names for God. The religions of my neighbors today include Christianity, Secularism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Atheism, Hinduism, Unitarian Universalism, Paganism, Spiritualism, Native American religion, Bahai, New Age, Sikhism, Scientology, Humanism, Deism, Taoism, and many other faiths. (Applause) As a Christian, I do not seek to diminish or discredit my neighbor's religion. Instead, I heed the words of the great prophet Joshua, "Now, if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

As I recognize significant and central differences in my neighbor's religions, I seek to respect and honor my neighbors in and through those differences, as Jesus advised his disciples when he said "Whoever is not against me, is for me."

I'm also a citizen of the church, raised in the American Lutheran church, rooted in the American expression of the great Protestant reformation and inspired by Martin Luther. Inspired by Martin Luther's invitation to dissent, when in 1517 he posted on the church door 95 theses, seeking to reform the political and theological abuses of the church. Inspired by Martin Luther's courage in the face of intolerance and threat, when he said, "Here I stand--I can do no other." Inspired by Martin Luther's recover of "sola scriptura"--that is, God's word being open to all believers. Inspired by Martin Luther's embrace of the Gospel of God's unconditional, unfailing love, for each and every person, despite our failures of faith and love. Inspired by one voice of faith, calling other voices of faith, to seek religious forum (?) and religious liberty.

This led to the English Reformation. Pilgrims and Puritans seeking relief and freedom from the established church of England. Many fled from the intolerance and persecution. They traveled to Amsterdam and eventually to these shores. In 1620, Reverend John Robinson sent the first pilgims to America with these words, "And if God should reveal anything to you, be as ready to receive it. For there is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word."

Pilgrims and Puritans sought religious liberty in this new land, but they did not extend that liberty to others. Instead, they established state churches. They required state orthodoxy. They governed religious and civic life, really as Protestant theocracies. Reverend Roger Williams was a Christian minister who immigrated to the Massachusetts colony in 1630. And five years later he was banished from there. Why? Because he was a passionate champion for religious liberty. He argued for the separation of church and state. He wrote, "When the church has opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God has ever broken down that wall itself, and removed the candlestick, and made his garden the wildrness that it is this day. Therefore, if God will ever please to restore his garden and paradise again, it must be walled in from the world."

James Madison was a member of the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention. He was an outspoken advocate of religious liberty. Madison, like his senior colleague, Thomas Jefferson, feared that a small group of powerful churches could join together and seek special favors from the government. That religion would seek the power of the state to coerce religious belief and civic behavior. At the same time, Madison favored what he called a "multiplicity of religions". The free expression of a great diversity of religious beliefs and practices would guard against any government favoritism. The power, the intent of the words of that First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" is echoed in the cry for religious liberty and the call for separation of church and state.

Jimmy Carter was the first president I voted for--oops! I just outed myself, didn't I? I voted for an Evangelical president! (laughter) And in his book, Our Endangered Values, Carter wrote, "Thomas Jefferson, in the original days of our country said that he was fearful that the church might influence the state to take away human liberty." Roger Williams, who created the first Baptist church in our country, was afraid that the church might be corrupted by the state. These two concerns led to the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of any official state church, and in the same sentence, prohibits the passage of any laws that might interfere with religious freedom. Separation is specified in the law. But, for a religious person, there is nothing wrong with bringing these two together, because you can't divorce religous beliefs from public service. At the same time, of course, in public office you cannot impose your own religious beliefs on others.

In conclusion, I am forever a Buckeye. And as a religious leader, I find myself in the middle of the road, responding to a great cultural and religious diversity that informs our religious life, that enriches my religious experience. I find hope and courage in my expectation that there is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word. I am convinced that the free expression of our nation's great diversity of religious beliefs and practices, can and will guard against any governmental favoritism, or prohibition. In religious faith, in patriotic fervor, I continue to call for the separation of church and state, and cry out for religious liberty and justice for all.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Forum on church and state in Ohio's electoral politics

Here's a link describing the event. Russell Johnson, of the Ohio Restoration Project was the first to speak.

...The people of these shores export hope. Medicine, food. 90% of the bibles and missionaries--cites family members who traveled to other countries to spead the good news.

I think God's given 5% of the world's people 40% of the world's natural resources, and as a country we have a great opportunity to share hope with the rest of the globe.

Our nation's founding documents were woven with principles from God's word. For 175 to 200 years, our children could sing Silent Night, could read the Bible. I think if Johnny can read People Magazine every day, he should be able, with academic freedom, to read his Bible every day if he chooses. Families with faith have been building blocks to a great nation. God raised up our country with the technology and the timing and the resources to make a global difference.

During the past 50 years, there has been a secular bigotry of unheralded proportions against people of faith. And epic strides against people of faith have been made in almost every state. From our country's classrooms to our court houses, from Christmas carols to graduation celebrations, from the pledge of allegiance to our state motto...the forces of darkness, I think have opposed every public expression of allegiance to God. I don't mind at all atheists having their perspective, and they certainly have that freedom. But they should never silence people of faith, and the arteries of our culture, I think have been infected with the toxin of dogmatic secularism which have sought to deny America's Godly heritage.

Will our children be able to say the pledge of allegiance as "one nation under God?"

Is the Biblical definition of marriage going to be exchanged for political correctness?

Will public schools become more antagonistic towards taxpayers of faith?

Can anything be done to stop the harvesting of body parts of unborn children through partial birth abortion?

Will tax-funded universities continue their secular jihad against professors of faith and freedom of speech?

Will Bible-believing ministers be prosecuted under "hate crimes" for teaching the conviction of biblical truth

Should public schools practice academic freedom in teaching all theories of origin, including intelligent design? I think that Americans, and particularly in Ohio, there has been a strident crisis of faith between those from the left and the right. I certainly disagree with brother Eric Williams on several things. The religious left has been very involved in government for fifty years. In fact, if you look downtown in Washington, D.C., many of the religious left own some of the most expensive real estate in Ameria, right across the street from the Capitol, because they've been politically involved for over 50 years. The religious left has enabled the secular left in taking away many of our basic rights.

For 40 years, liberal politicians, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton have been using liberal pulpits to promote left-of-center world views. When conservative believers began to take seriously the stewardship of our citizenship, and to vote accordingly, the media began to make ridiculous claims like "the integrity of the United States Congress weighs in the balance, the Constitution weighs in the balance". Many of the left feel as if conservatives, if they're demonized enough, the tide of public opinion will turn against them. I think it's an attempt to intimidate and to smear the right for doing what the left has been doing for 50 years--being politically and civically involved. I sense it's time for the right *and* the left to be involved. And civil discourse like today, I think is a great opportunity for us to sit down and talk together and shake hands and work with these folks, even if we disagree, we can share ideas. And I think the religious right is saying, conservatives are saying, we don't want to be muzzled behind stained glass windows, we want to be a part of making a difference.

I sense today that we have an opportunity. The hinges of history *are* moving on our watch and the stewardship of our citizenship is crucial to this hour. The hinges of history are moving in a way that I think there's going to be increasing numbers of Baptists and Catholics and Pentocostals and Methodists who are welding together to say yes to marriage in Ohio, and 62% came out, voted yes. In 11 states, 67 out of 71 newspapers came out against marriage amendments. The average vote of the people who voted was 70% in favor of the traditional definition of marriage. I think it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. It's not enough to make pious observations and diagnose the culture. I think the sacred trust of freedom to be involved has been purchased with a high price, and many of our sons and daughters have volunteered to be a part of helping others share in the American dream.

I think it's time for us to stand, to pray, to serve, and engage. The Ohio Restoration Project seeks three things. Pray for the culture, serve the culture, and engage the culture. Get informed, get involved, get registered, and go vote. We do not endorse candidates. We do encourage people to stand for those who *are* standing for life and marriage, which are dear to our heart. We're glad to be a part of this today, and we look forward to the discussions that follow.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rev. Eric Williams on the role of churches in public policy

Rev. Eric Williams' remarks to the forum on religion in the public square, which took place at First Friday this month at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbus.
If you go to the web site of the United Church of Christ, you'll find that they have a whole web site on issues of justice and advocacy. And that web site opens with this statement:

Throughout its history from early engagement in the movement to abolish slavery to modern campaigns for civil rights and social justice, the United Church of Christ in every setting of the church has been engaged in ministries of compassion, advocacy and reconciliation. While there is a deep respect in the UCC for the right of every individual member to form her or his own views on these issues, there has always been a recognizable passion across our church to "make things right" - as a testament to our faith in God, our hope for God's future, our love for God's creation. In this way we seek to apply the commandment of Jesus Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We turn to Proverbs 31 and read, "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute, defend the rights of the poor and the needy". Isaiah says in Chapter 58, "Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke? If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your bloom be like the noonday."

In my study of scriptures, two central themes can be found concerning justice. The first is God's all-encompassing love, all-encompassing concern, God's mercy for all human beings, and the second is like it: our responsibility to love God's earth. Our responsibility to care for God's people. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, God instructed them to care for it. In the story of Cain and Abel, God sent the clear message that we are *indeed* our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper.

In the tradition of the Exodus from Egypt, we learn from God's compassionate response to misery. To oppression. To slavery. God's law not only calls for individual piety, but it also calls for a communal responsibililty for the well being of all. God never asks us to love only those whom we're intimately familiar with, but instead, God calls us to that more difficult kind of love.

Over and over, the Law instructs Israelites to remember, who? The stranger. The foreigner, the orphan, the widow, the most vulnerable to hunger and poverty. It ties this instruction to that great Exodus event. Look at Deuteronomy: "When you gather your crops and fail to bring in some of the grain that you have cut, *do not* go back for it. It is left for the foreigners, the orphans, the widows. When you have gathered your grapes, do *not* go back over the vines a second time. The grapes that are left are for the foreigners, the orphans, the widows. Never forget, that *you were slaves* in Egypt, and that is why I have given you this command.

And there are other laws, and other prophets who speak out, insisting on justice for everyone. Amos is an example. Amos denounced those who trampled on the needy, who destroyed the poor in order to gain more wealth. He railed against those who lived in luxury while the poor were being *crushed*. The prophets main judgements were leveled against idolotry, and against social injustice.

This living God insists on personal morality, *and* on social justice. The Psalms invite us to celebrate God's justice. God always keeps promises. God judges in favor of the oppressed, and gives food to the hungry. Happy are those who are concerned for the poor--the Lord will help them when they are in trouble. And we find in the Wisdom literature, if you refuse to listen to the cry of the poor, your own cry will not be heard. Speak out for those who cannot speak--for the rights of all the destitute. Defend the rights of the poor and the needy. We find in scripture, concern for the poor, concern for the hungry, concern for vulnerable people is pervasive. It flows directly from the revelation of God to the rescue that God wrought, to those enslaved people.

As a Christian, what about Jesus? The justice ethic of Jesus is built on the Hebrew scripture, and yet we as Christians, our understanding of liberation emerges from that divine act of salvation in Christ. In life, in death, in resurrection, because the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world conquered sin and death, we're forgiven. We're reconciled to God, we're born anew, we're now imitators of God. We're called to act in ways--in sacrificial ways, in loving ways for others. The example of Jesus for Christians is our guide and our inspiration. Jesus had a special sense of mission to the poor, for the oppressed. In him and *for* them, the messianic promises were being fulfilled. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," Jesus quoted from Isaiah, "because he has annointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God's favor.

The scriptures clearly, in my thinking, depict Jesus over and over again reaching out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid. The poor, women, Samaritans, lepers, children, prostitutes, tax collectors. Jesus was also eager to accept people who were well-placed, but he made it clear that *all*, regardless of social position, needed to repent. And for this reason, he invited that rich young lawyer to sell all his possessions, and give the proceeds to the poor. Clearly, in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in the Gospels, it is the intention of God that *all* people need to be welcome to the table. And it is the responsibility of you and me and all of us together, to care for those who are most vulnerable. Those who are most kept from the table. And this intention flows from the very heart of God. The God, the Living One who reaches out and loved all of us. To those who are rich, to those who are poor, to those who are in between.

It's been my experience that churches are already doing an awful lot to take care of needy people directly through charity work. One estimate says that religious congregations give over 7 billion dollars a year, give easily 1/7 of their total income to people in need, *but*, Christians devote much less effort to influencing what the government does. God requires both charity and justice. And justice can often be achieved only through government. The view that nations as well as individuals will be judged by the way that they treat their weakest, their most vulnerable among them, is embedded in the witness of the prophets of Isaiah, of Amos. "How terrible it will be for those who write unfair laws," writes Isaiah, "and those who write laws that make life hard for people. They are not fair to the poor. They rob my people of their rights. They allow people to steal from widows and to take from orphans what really belongs to them."

We know that Jesus often criticized, and sometimes even disobeyed the law, when those laws got in the way of helping people. He healed people on the Sabbath, even though all work was prohibited on the Sabbath. In Jesus' day, religion and government were intermixed, and so Jesus was challenging the law of the land. And this threat that Jesus posed to both government and to religion, I think led to his crucifixion.

Government is not the only or always the best instrument to deal with injustice, but, it is one of the institutions--institutions created by God. Created by God as part of God's way, God's will, God's providence, if you will, to the welfare of all people. And because we live in a democracy, in a nation with a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, I believe, from my perspective, that we have a special privilege, and a responsibility, to use the power of our citizenship and our faith, to promote justice for all.

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What is the purpose of civil government?

From a forum I attended last night. There were four speakers. I really appreciated hearing Eric Williams, who spoke first, and was one of the main people behind the IRS complaint that was filed against two major churches that were practically endorsing Ken Blackwell. I'm hoping to write up some of what he said next.

There were also two other speakers, both Evangelicals. Everyone was supposed to give a 10 minutes opening statement. Lankford's statement was almost 20 minutes, so it's taking a long time to get through it. But I do think it's important to try to understand the motivation here. I've done a diary at Kos addressing Lankford's view of history, government, and why Evangelicals feel forced to respond to the events that are unfolding. In this post, though, I'm just including what he said is the role of civil government. Obviously, my view of "what the civil government's job is" is quite different from his.

Let me give you a little different way to think of politics and government. I support what is called Christian public policy, and a fair question is, "What the heck is that?" Now we have some people who claim that there is no such thing as Christian public policy. Christian public policy, in my understanding, is public policy that glorifies God, and advances the kingdom of God. Now, obviously, there's lots of leeway for interpreting what exactly that means--what kind of public policy *would* glorify God, what sort of public policy *would* advance the kingdom of God, but that's our starting point. And I think a biblical understanding of government begins with the recognition that God ordained four types of government. And part of the problem we have is that we only talk about one of the four.

God ordained individual government--you are individually sovereign. You personally have rights and authority and responsibility, you will personally answer for your life before God. You deserve respect and dignity as an individual sovereign government. God ordained family government. Families have real authority, real responsibility, and should be respected as a government. That's a Genesis ordaination (sp?) government. Third, we have the church. The church is ordained as a *real* government. There's a lot of conversation today about whether the church should be tax exempt. I think biblically and historically, the church shouldn't *need* to be tax exempt, because the church is tax *immune*. That is, the church is a separate, sovereign government, that is immune from other taxes, because it's a *different government*. You shouldn't be able to tax the church--it's distinct from the civil government, and it was recognized that way in American government until 1954 when they changed the IRS code.

And then finally you have the civil government. Now, the key principle to understand is that Christians, or at least Christians who think like I do, Evangelical Christians who believe in Christian public policy--we don't hate big government because we're against government. We don't like big government because it encroaches on the responsibility of individuals and families and churches. You see, we all call for the government to do something about the problems facing us. And I hear all the time, "You know, the government ought to do something about that." And I always answer "You know, you are exactly right, the government should do something about that", but the question we don't often ask is, "which government?" Should the individual be responsible for that, should the family be responsible for that, should the church be responsible for that, or the civil government be responsible for that? Now, I personally believe that individuals, families, and churches are *absolutely* responsible for helping the poor. I *don't* believe that one of the primary responsibilities of the *civil* government is caring for the poor.

I have a quick question for you--here's a quiz. When were poor people invented?...Okay, second question, does God hate the poor? Obviously not--he made so many of them. When was the first federal welfare program in America? Roosevelt, 1933, Social Security. Didn't we have any poor people in the colonies? Poor people in the states? All of a sudden, we had federal welfare programs--why? Because we believed that responsibility for poor people was with individuals, families, and churches, and sometimes local governments would get together and help poor people, and that's where that responsibility rested. So, we seek stronger individuals, stronger families, and stronger churches, and a civil government that's fully empowered to do what it's supposed to do, but not to encroach on the other three legitimate governments. And so that's what I try to promote.

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The view from the Christian Right

Demetrius and I attended First Friday at the local Unitarian Universalist church last night. On the first Friday of every month, there is a potluck followed by several choices of speakers, discussions, and activities. The main forum this evening was about the appropriateness of churches being involved in matters of public policy. There were four speakers, and what you see below are some of the remarks from Gary Lankford, president of the Ohio Restoration Project. He kept emphasizing that we need to really listen to each other, and learn to disagree, without being disagreeable. That quickly becomes difficult, for me, anyway. Part of his talk below...

The reason I'm here instead of at a high school football game on a Friday night, is because I think community forums are important, and I think we're in danger in our society of losing our ability to disagree without being disagreeable. I've heard three very different perspectives, and I agree with all three of you on some points, and disagress vigorously with some of you on other points, but I'm happy to say that I consider you brothers in Christ, and hope we can find some point of commonality. Not only within the Body of Christ, but with other Americans who don't count themselves as part of our faith tradition. So, what I'd like to offer tonight is something that I've learned in dialog with what I call "liberals of good will". You know, there's a tendency in America to polarize and to demonize people who think differently than we do. I've heard lots of angry rhetoric on both sides, and yet when I sit down and talk with real people who disagree with me vigorously, I find that once we get through the initial friction, we're able to talk about some things and work on some things, and accomplish a little something, at least relationally, and find some points of commonality. And that's what I want--to help share with you some of the things that I'm learning, and maybe help you understand what it's like on the Evangelical side of the aisle.

I've learned from dialoguing with my liberal friends that they really do have a very different perception of what's going on in America, and the conflict in the religious conversation going on, so I'm going to share some of those things with you if I could.

For over 300 years in America, it was widely assumed that to be in public office, you needed to be a Christian--or at least a Unitarian or a Deist. And that distinction, though important, wasn't critical, because even Deists in ages past were much more biblical in their worldview and their understanding of scripture than many of today's Evangelical office-holders. It was a different culture, and we had a broad, Christian cultural consensus as the backdrop for the public discourse and the public debate. You know, one of the great achievements of American Christianity is religious tolerance. Religious tolerance was a new thing in the world, and not practiced very many places, and not practiced for very long anywhere.

Now when the colonists first came to America, they came for religious freedom from Catholicism. They were not very tolerant of other Protestants. Eventually they progressed to where they were tolerant of other Protestants. Some more time went by, and they finally accepted and tolerated Catholics. Some more time went by, and they finally tolerated Jews, and Hindus and Buddhists and other faith traditions--nonwestern religions. And finally America accepted Atheists and Secularists. And one of the historical ironies, once the Atheists and Secularists were accepted, they decided now would be a good time to kick Christians out of the public square.

And that's how the Evangelical side of the aisle feels now--we feel unwelcome in the public square. We feel like there's a deliberate, organized attempt to quiet us, and reduce our political influence, and reduce our ability to talk and debate in the public square. And this often comes as a great surprise to my liberal friends. Because they tend to think of the "Christian right" for lack of a better term, as being a powerful oppressive influence in society--something that must be fought. When my liberal friends say "Speak truth to power", they mean, "Speak against those angry religious right people that are ruining America." And yet we have a very different experience, and a very different perspective of what's going on in America.

There was this broad Christian consensus in America, and in the 1930s, the Secularists began to organize in a very purposeful way, and they made astounding progress for a country with the kind of religious tradition and cultural tradition that America had. And by 20 or 30 or 40 years later, they were pre-eminent in the universities, in the medias, in the mainline churches, and in government. In fact, it was in the 1950s that William F. Buckley wrote a famous book called God and Man at Yale.  Yet Ivy League schools all over America had started as Christian seminaries, and by the 1950s, Christians weren't welcome there any more. Certainly not on faculty--they were ghetto-ized and minimized in universities in the Ivy League, and later, in the mainstream university experience. In fact, at most universities, outspoken Evangelicals are outnumbered by liberal people, 10-1 to 16-1, depending on what university you're in. That's a pretty significant victory for people on the left side of the aisle.

There were also some very significant Supreme Court decisions that came in the 1960s and 70s, and I want you to think about this for a second. These were all landmark decisions that marked major shifts in American culture and American experience. They all happened for the very first time in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1961, we had Torcaso vs. Watkins, where for the first time they outlawed religious tests for public office. 1961. In 1962 they outlawed any kind of school prayer in American schools, led in any way by teachers or faculty or staff. Here was the prayer that they outlawed in 1962: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country." That was deemed a violation of the separation of church and state.  Did you catch that? "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country."

In 1963, the Court found Bible reading over the school intercom unconstitutional. You couldn't read Bible verses in the morning announcements. In 1971, they devised a new test to determine what was "excessive entanglement" in church-state issues, called the Kurtzman test. Here are the three new definitions. The government action must have a secular purpose, or it's not allowed. Its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or advance religion--if it inhibits or advances religion, it's not allowed. And three, there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion. Now if you follow church-state court cases at all in the last 35 years, you'll find that the Lemon v. Kurtzman case settle nothing at all. Every Supreme Court had a totally different idea of what each of those three points meant in practical usage.

Then you have 1972, Roe vs. Wade, where all the state laws regarding abortion were overturned, and the Supreme Court decided there was now a constitutional right to abortion. After 200 years, now there was a constitutional right. It was a pretty significant change.

And 1977, the court found that the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools was unconstitutional.  And they referred to the Lemon-Kurtzman decision in a 5-4 ruling,  saying that even though the ten commandments were posted in schools since they were started, in the early 1800s, it was now unconstitutional.

So what you find is that by the 1960s, the liberal church became politically active. They became politically active in the war on poverty, in the civil rights movement, and in the anti-war movement. Now the conservatives were dragged reluctantly into politics in the late 70s and early 80s, back with the Moral Majority people and the Pat Robertson people, Christian Coalition and all that stuff. And I say reluctantly, because they're still reluctant. And I know they're reluctant because I'm still dragging them into the public square--they still don't want to be there. Most Evangelicals just want to be left alone. They feel like they're responding to an aggressive, hostile culture that won't let them be.

Now again, if you count yourself as a liberal, I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm just sharing with you what the experience is in my faith community, and the people that I talk to, the people I know that are politically motivated, and why they're motivated. The people I know don't have any desire to lead a theocracy. They don't have any desire to oppress women, or minorities, or any other group. That's not the motivation of churchgoing people. They feel like they have to respond to some of the things going on politically and culturally.

And the rhetoric has been even worse in the last five or ten years. In the last several years, people in my faith community have been accused of, here's a headline from Harper's Magazine, "The Christian Right's War on America". That's a cover story, "The Christian Right's War on America". Now we've been called the "American Taliban". We heard on national tv by that great philosopher Rosie O'Donnell, that radical Christianity is just as dangerous as radical Islam. Now, most people in my faith community have trouble not taking that personally. There are no people among radical Christians that are bombing innocent civilians. Our churches don't get together and organize bombing raids, so that seems like an unfair criticism of people in my community.

We're often called extremists and hatemongers. Bigoted. Anti-tolerant. Homophobic. Mysogynist. In fact, we feel like we're the only group that you can criticize without fear of retribution. Now again, I share this with you, because, when I share this with liberals, they are very surprised that that's our experience. They don't think that's true at all. And again, one of the reasons I support community forums is it's very easy for us to talk in our own little echo chambers, and never talk to anybody that thinks significantly differently from we do, and we never learn to have any sort of dialog.

One of my favorite cultural moments was hearing Julia Roberts being interviewed on The Tonight Show. She was absolutely convinced that the Republicans had stolen the presidential election--the first George Bush election. Not because that was an illegitimate claim--her proof was, "I know they stole the election. I don't know a single person that voted for George Bush! They must have stolen it." And that's all too typical of us. We don't know a single person who voted for the other guy, so there must be fraud involved! I hope we can get past that.

There's more, but I'm still working on it. I really appreciated hearing Eric Williams, who spoke first, and was one of the main people behind the IRS complaint that was filed against two major churches that were practically endorsing Ken Blackwell. I'm hoping to write up some of what he said next.

There were also two other speakers, both Evangelicals. Everyone was supposed to give a 10 minutes opening statement. Lankford's statment was almost 20 minutes.

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