2003
10.31

Kamato Hongo

Kamato Hongo, the world’s oldest woman (116 years) passed away today in Japan according to an MSNBC report.

It’s sad read this report because she seemed like such a neat woman (see my post from September 16, 2003 about her) who maintained such a state of joyfulness. She seemed so blessed too to have such a loving family. If only all elderly folks had families like hers…

2003
10.31

Austin geek culture?

David Nunez has an interesting story about the brewing culture among the high-tech folks in Austin which I think is kinda cool. I wondered if this cultural dynamic would leave after Austin’s high-tech bust but I’m glad to hear it hasn’t. If Austin could merge its social conscience, its artistic energy, and its techno-savvy populace, it could very well be mighty close to heaven on earth… but probably not. The last time I was there it was sad to see the big box shopping culture continue its onslaught on genuine Austin culture. — For that matter, I talked to a client a few weeks ago here at the law office I work for part time here in Oklahoma. In the course of her consultation she said she used to live in Austin which I said “wow, I loved Austin!” But she said, “oh no I hated it,” and then she went on to tell me of the negative experience she had living in the suburban hell of Williamson County… and that brought back a boatload of memories of my heinous year living in Williamson County. Central Austin of course isn’t ruined yet (and neither is San Marcos thank God) but the scurge is coming too quickly.That’s why I love Oklahoma. It’s too poor to get too popular. Too many ‘burbs here too but still isn’t not as bad as Austin has become in recent years.

2003
10.31

A record for me

Just have to note that for the next two days I am setting a new personal record for myself… the category: the most jobs held at the same time.

The number: FOUR

Hahaha, right now I’m working as (1)a minister for a rural church, (2) a para-legal for a law office that mostly does consumer bankruptcies, (3) a student representative for one of the big online legal research companies, and (4) computer lab monitor for OCU Law School.

Woohoo!

Thankfully job #1 will end after this Sunday that will make my schedule a bit more managable. Kinda crazy.

BTW, on a side note if any of my local readers would like to come hear me preach this Sunday on my last week, click here to get directions from OCU. (It’s at the church of Christ in Newcastle.)

The services start at 10:30 and last about an hour.

2003
10.28

Life

I haven’t posted a lot lately, mostly because I’ve been writing like crazy on my latest book protect but also because I don’t have much to say. Politics has me pretty down at the present moment and I just am choosing to ignore it to some degree. There’s just too much to be mad about and I almost feel like outspoken opposition to the current regime gives the system more legitimacy than it deserves. I guess it is just hard to stir up desire to change a system that you don’t really believe in anymore.On a happier note I am working towards preparing for a more rural autonomous life down the road. I have decided that I’m going to be doing some market gardening next year (maybe growing salad greens, herbs, and heirloom tomatoes to sell through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative). To prepare for that I’m setting up some florescent grow lights at my home so that I can grow my own plants from seed.

That’s all that’s worth saying for now. Law school sucks but that’s nothing new. It is getting close to finals time so I’ll be cranking soon on my outlines but at least that means I only have a month more of stupid classes to go to. After finals are over in early December I think I’m going to head out for awhile to be myself. Maybe head to the mountains and sleep in my truck if it’s not too cold by then.

Next Sunday will also be last Sunday preaching for awhile. I will miss doing that a lot but it will be relief on my schedule to not have to always be writing sermons all of the time.

2003
10.28

I just published Draft #3 of the Gospel Commentary project at GospelCommentary.com. You can download it for free in PDF format at the site.

2003
10.27

Alternet: The Prisoners of War, by Ian Urbina

    On April 16, 2003, George W. Bush visited the shop floor at the Boeing plant in St. Louis, Missouri. His 90-minute appearance drew several hundred men and women who help make the military’s $48 million F-18 Hornet fighters, 36 of which were deployed during the Iraq war. The purpose of Bush’s visit was twofold: to offer thanks to the blue-collar workers equipping US soldiers for their foreign adventures and to provide reassurance in an atmosphere of climbing unemployment.
    One week prior to Bush’s visit, the St. Louis plant announced layoffs for about 250 people. Already in 2003, Boeing had eliminated 5,000 positions nationwide, in addition to the 30,000 jobs the company cut in 2002. Bush’s so-called “Hardware in the Heartland” tour, which included stops across the industrial Midwest, was part of a post-war campaign strategy to capitalize on the US military prowess demonstrated in Iraq. “Sure, he talked about his domestic agenda,” a White House official told Time magazine concerning the Boeing appearance, “but there were F-18s in the background.”
    But the “Hardware in the Heartland” tour skipped a number of locales where thousands of hard-working men and women were contributing more than their share to the war effort. While the Boeing employees sat listening to Bush’s remarks, just 50 miles to the northeast 265 workers in the apparel factory in Greenville, Illinois were far from idle. Averaging more than 1,000 desert-tan camouflage shirts per day, 194,950 of which were bought in 2002 by the Department of Defense and worn by the US infantry in the Middle East, these workers were not allowed many breaks. Equally harried were the 300 workers at the Kevlar helmet factory in Beaumont, Texas, who fill 100 percent of the US military’s demand for battlefield headgear. A factory in Marion, Illinois also kept in rapid motion, soldering millions of dollars worth of cables for the Pentagon’s TOW and Patriot missiles. Presidential plaudits were not forthcoming for these workers – all of whom are inmates in federal prisons. . .

The use of prison labor for military supply purposes is wrong on my many levels. First, the use of prison labor is nothing less than slavery. (if you don’t believe me, read the US Constitution, Amendment XIII that forbids “slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”) Voluntary prison labor where the prisoners are a paid a fair salary is one thing, but making prisoners work for peanuts against their will is something else. And when one considers the fact that the prison population is not representative of the general population in its ethnic makeup, then it sure looks like a sneaky way to revive the antebellum dream of keeping the dark-skinned folks in their place.

Secondly, prison labor creates an unfair competive situation for military contractors. Since prison industries can bid so much lower than private industry, it forces private industry to slash worker wages to have a chance at getting the contracts.

2003
10.24

Art

Here are a few websites of artists that I dig…

  • Outside the Lines — The portfolio of Scott Cummins I really dig this guy’s fantastic watercolors (here’s one of my favorites and his very cool pumpkin carvings (his pumpkins are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before).
  • Christopher Fitzgerald – he is involved with Hope Arts, a ministry of my old church Hope Chapel of Austin, TX
  • Murals by Tim Burger – He now has some of his more recent work posted. — If I’m ever rich (an unlikely possibility) I’m going to hire him to paint my house in murals.
  • 2003
    10.24

    Last night I watched the film This is what Democracy Looks like (a documentary produced from footage shot by over 100 journalists at the 1999 Seattle WTO protests) and am still reeling from the experience. I can’t even begin to describe the roller coaster of emotions one experiences wehn watching it.What I will say is this… the movie shows both one of the most beautiful pictures of humanity that I have ever seen, but also one of the most ugly pictures of humanity. It gave me such hope to see so many willing to lay down their lives for global justice, students, union members, anarchist grandmothers, and so many others, facing arrest, facing horrendous abuse, facing discouragement and fear, and yet refusing to give up.

    It also though discourages me very much. I have tried in recent times especially to resist the dehumanization of those that I disagree with, but it so hard to not do that when seeing this film, particularly in the terribly potent images of police power abused.

    At one point a police spokesman is saying on the evening news “we’re not using tear gas,” we’re acting in a controlled way, etc, but then you see the lies in this next shot. You see cops firing tear gas into crowds, you see the hyper-aggressiveness of this police in the face of passive resistance in the protesters. You see people being beaten for no reason.

    But it goes beyond just flared tempers in a moment, but rather a complete institutional decision to destroy freedom as we know it, as the city of Seattle declares an effective complete suspension of free speech for a 25 block area (where you could be arrested for simply walking down the street with a button opposing the WTO) and by mayoral decree the possession of gas masks in the city of Seattle is outlawed.

    But even more disturbing than the many cases of police brutality and institutionalized oppression was how easily the movement was divided. The media played factions of the movement against each other, turning labor against students, and focusing on the violent acts of a very, very few (a few broken windows downtown at a Starbucks) to discredit the peaceful acts of 30,000+. What was sad though was how this disunity and media manipulation was so easily masterminded and how damaging this was to the cause.

    I don’t even know where to begin in trying to see the big picture. I guess the positive was that the protests gave courage to the WTO delegates from the Third World to refuse to give into the demands of Western Imperialism and the talks did in fact break down (much as they did more recently at the meetings in Cancun). Yet at the same time, it is so hard to even respect the democratic process when you see it circumvented by the police, media, and government in such a drastic way. In general, the police (at least as depicted in this film) were shown to not only be threatening, but rather to be militarized. They were dressed in full combat gear and acted in such inhumane and inhuman ways that you can’t help but feel that there is no hope and that on another day it wouldn’t just be beatings and tear gas and CS spray in people’s faces, but next time it will be killings of those who dare to speak against corporate power.

    I don’t like to be afraid of my own government, and I certainly do not want to see the legal system in this light but I don’t know how one cannot see things like this. In the end though, I guess to cite Thoreau, maybe the only place for a righteous man or woman in times like those, is in jail or on the receiving end of a police beating.

    But maybe the greater challenge is to stay cheerful through it all. That is what I still have to learn, to not respond to hatred and injustice with hatred. My friend Mark from the Green Party always says, “you can’t hate the haters” and he is right. I need to learn to be able to see past the gas masks and tactical gear of the police even in place like Seattle, and see the human underneath, the person who is a victim of a horrible system that is using them to hurt others. I need to learn to love even the police who are beating innocent people and to pray for those who are doing bad things. I am not there yet but I sure want to be.

    2003
    10.24

    Via a Catholic social justice listserve that I monitor I found out about this powerful statement from the Pope on his challenge to Catholic Bishops on social justice concerns. This particular excerpt from the Pastores Gregis is particularly powerful:

      The Bishop, promoter of justice and peace67. Within this missionary context, the Synod Fathers described the Bishop as a prophet of justice. The war of the powerful against the weak has, today more than ever before, created profound divisions between rich and poor. The poor are legion! Within an unjust economic system marked by significant structural inequities, the situation of the marginalized is daily becoming worse. Today, in many parts of the world, people are starving, while in other places there is opulence. It is above all the poor, the young and refugees who are the victims of these dramatic cases of inequality. In addition, women in many places are demeaned in their dignity as persons, victims of a hedonistic and materialistic culture.

      In the face of, and often in the midst of these situations of injustice which inevitably open the door to conflicts and death, the Bishop is the defender of human rights, the rights of human beings made in the image and likeness of God. He proclaims the Church’s moral teaching by defending life from conception to its natural end. He likewise proclaims the Church’s social teaching, based on the Gospel, and he shows profound concern for the defence of all who are poor, raising his voice on behalf of the voiceless in order to defend their rights. The Church’s social teaching is able to offer hope even in the worst of situations, because, if there is no hope for the poor, there will be no hope for anyone, not even for the so-called rich.

      The Bishops vigorously condemned terrorism and genocide, and raised their voice on behalf of those who cry out because of injustice, those who are being persecuted and those who are unemployed, as well as children who are being abused in various and increasingly serious ways. Like holy Church herself, which is in the world the sacrament of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race,278 the Bishop is the defender and the father of the poor, concerned for justice and human rights, and one who brings hope.279

      The words of the Synod Fathers, and my own, were explicit and forceful. ”During this Synod, we could not close our eyes to many other collective tragedies… A drastic moral change is needed… Some endemic evils, when they are too long ignored, can produce despair in entire populations. How can we keep silent when confronted by the enduring drama of hunger and extreme poverty, in an age where humanity, more than ever, has the capacity for a just sharing of resources? We must also express our solidarity with the flood of refugees and immigrants, who, because of war, political oppression or economic discrimination, are forced to flee their homeland in search of employment or in the hope of finding peace. The ravages of malaria, the spread of AIDS, illiteracy, the hopelessness of so many children and youth abandoned to life on the streets, the exploitation of women, pornography, intolerance and the unacceptable exploitation of religion for violent purposes, drug trafficking and the sale of arms: the list is not exhaustive! Still, in the midst of all this distress, the humble take new heart. The Lord looks at them and strengthens them. ‘Because they rob the afflicted, and the needy sigh, now I will arise,’ says the Lord” (Ps 12:5).280

      The dramatic picture just painted can only evoke an urgent appeal for peace and a commitment to building peace. The hotbeds of conflict inherited from the past century and from the whole past millennium continue to smoulder. Numerous local conflicts are creating profound wounds between different cultures and nationalities. And how can we fail to mention forms of religious fundamentalism, a constant enemy of dialogue and peace? In many areas the world resembles a powder-keg ready to explode and shower immense suffering upon the human family.

      In this situation the Church continues to proclaim the peace of Christ who in the Sermon on the Mount proclaimed blessed those who are peacemakers (cf. Mt 5:9). Peace is everyone’s responsibility, a responsibility which passes through the thousand little acts which make up everyday life. It awaits its prophets and builders, who should be found especially in the ecclesial communities of which the Bishop is the pastor. Following the example of Jesus, who came to announce freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord (cf. Lk 4:16-21), the Bishop will be ever ready to show that, as the Church’s social teaching makes clear, Christian hope is deeply linked to zeal for the integral promotion of individuals and society.

      In the midst of tragically frequent situations of armed conflict, the Bishop, even as he exhorts people to assert their rights, must always remind them that Christians are obliged in all cases to reject vengeance and to be prepared to forgive and to love their enemies.281 There can be no justice without forgiveness. Hard as it may be to accept, for any sensible person the matter seems obvious: true peace is possible only through forgiveness.282

      Interreligious dialogue, especially on behalf of world peace

      68. As I have insisted on various occasions, dialogue between the religions must be put at the service of peace between peoples. The different religious traditions possess the resources needed to overcome divisions and to build reciprocal friendship and respect. The Synod appealed to Bishops to promote meetings with the representatives of the world’s peoples, in order to reflect carefully on the conflicts and wars which are tearing our world apart, and to identify the paths which can be taken towards a common commitment of justice, concord and peace.

      The Synod Fathers strongly emphasized the importance of interreligious dialogue for peace, and asked the Bishops to commit themselves to engage in this important activity in their respective Dioceses. New paths to peace can be blazed by defending religious freedom, which the Second Vatican Council discussed in the Decree Dignitatis Humanae, and by working for the education of the younger generation and the proper use of the communications media.283

      The horizons of interreligious dialogue, however, are surely wider, and so the Synod Fathers stated once more that such dialogue belongs to the new evangelization, especially in these times when people belonging to different religions are increasingly living together in the same areas, in the same cities and their daily workplaces. Interreligious dialogue thus has a place in the daily life of many Christian families; for this reason too the Bishops, as teachers of the faith and shepherds of the People of God, must give it proper attention.

      When Christians live side-by-side with persons of other religions, they have a particular obligation to testify to the oneness and universality of the saving mystery of Jesus Christ and to the consequent necessity of the Church as the means of salvation for all humanity. ”This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another’ ”.284 It is clear, then, that interreligious dialogue can never be a substitute for the proclamation and propagation of the faith, which constitute the primary goal of the Church’s preaching, catechesis and mission.

      A frank and unambiguous affirmation that human salvation depends on the redemption accomplished by Christ is not an obstacle to dialogue with other religions. In the context of our profession of Christian hope, it cannot be forgotten that it is precisely this hope which is the basis of interreligious dialogue. As the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate states: ”All nations are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the whole face of the earth. They also have one final end, God, whose providence, manifest goodness and plan of salvation extend to all, until the elect be gathered together in the holy city which the glory of God will illuminate and where the peoples will walk in his light”.285

      Civil, social and economic life

      69. The pastoral activity of the Bishop cannot fail to manifest particular concern for the demands of love and justice arising from the social and economic situation of the poor, the abandoned and the mistreated. In every poor person believers see a special image of Jesus. Their presence within the ecclesial and civil communities is a litmus test of the authenticity of our Christian faith.

      I would also like to mention briefly the complex phenomenon of globalization, which is one of the features of our world today. Certainly there exists a ”globalization” of the economy, finances and culture which is expanding as a result of the rapid progress of information technology. As I have observed on other occasions, this phenomenon calls for careful discernment in order to identify its positive and negative aspects and their consequences for the Church and the whole human race. Bishops can make an important contribution to this discernment by insisting on the urgent need for a globalization in charity, without marginalization. In this regard, the Synod Fathers spoke of the duty of promoting a ”globalization of charity” and considered issues associated with the cancellation of foreign debt, which compromises the economies of entire peoples, holding back their social and political progress.286

      Without entering into the details of this serious problem, I would only repeat several fundamental points already indicated elsewhere. The Church’s vision in this area has three essential and concomitant points of reference: the dignity of the human person, solidarity and subsidiarity. It follows that ”the globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good”.287 When globalization is joined to the dynamism of solidarity, it is no longer a source of marginalization. Indeed, the globalization of solidarity is a direct consequence of that universal charity which is the heart of the Gospel.

      Respect for the environment and the protection of creation

      70. The Synod Fathers also addressed the ethical dimension of the ecological question.288 In the deepest sense, a call for the globalization of solidarity also involves the urgent question of the protection of creation and the earth’s resources. The ”crying out of all creation” spoken of by the Apostle (cf. Rom 8:22) seems today to occur in a reversal of perspectives, since it is no longer a matter of an eschatological tension which awaits the revelation of the sons of God (cf. Rom 8:19), but rather of a paroxysm of death which strives to grip humanity itself in order to destroy it.

      Here in fact we encounter the ecological question in its most insidious and perverse form. In effect, ”the most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution. Often, the interests of production prevail over the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples. In these cases, pollution or environmental destruction is the result of an unnatural and reductive vision which at times leads to a genuine contempt for man”.289

      Clearly, what is called for is not simply a physical ecology, concerned with protecting the habitat of the various living beings, but a human ecology, capable of protecting the radical good of life in all its manifestations and of leaving behind for future generations an environment which conforms as closely as possible to the Creator’s plan. There is a need for an ecological conversion, to which Bishops themselves can contribute by their teaching about the correct relationship of human beings with nature. Seen in the light of the doctrine of God the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, this relationship is one of ”stewardship:” human beings are set at the centre of creation as stewards of the Creator.

    2003
    10.24

    Quote of the Day

    Do the best you can wherever you are, and be kind.– Scott & Helen Nearing, pioneers of the modern homesteading movement and author of the book The Good Life