Beware Mennonite Investors — MMA Praxis Mutual Funds invests in evil: Fox News, payday lenders, private prisons, and more

I currently have a very small amount of investments with the MMA Praxis mutual funds, but I don’t think I will for much longer.

For my non-Mennonite readers, I should say that MMA is rooted in the mutual aid tradition, the idea that members of the faith community should take care of each other. But like a lot of good ideas, it got institutionalized and then its values got diluted.

MMA today offers a bunch of different products – insurance, investments, credit union, etc. And the profits of MMA fund lots of good stuff. But I’ve found out some things that have made me question the whole company, in particular the investing strategy of the Praxis funds.

Continue reading Beware Mennonite Investors — MMA Praxis Mutual Funds invests in evil: Fox News, payday lenders, private prisons, and more

A quote worth thinking about

“It was not easy to persuade our poor white and black brother and sisters to rise up. We told them that rising up, standing up, whatever the consequences, would inspire future generations. Our courage, our bravery would be remembered and copied. That has been the Indian way for centuries, since the invasions. Fight and tell the story so that those who come after or their descendants will rise up once again. It may take a thousand years, but that is how we continue and eventually prevail.” – An Oklahoma Seminole Woman speaking about her remembrances of The Green Corn Rebellion, a failed revolution in Oklahoma in which the poor Indians, Blacks and Whites united in fighting against the oppression of the rural poor and against the draft of WWI

PRESS RELEASE: Travis Bishop and Leo Church held incommunicado at Fort Lewis Brig, Attorneys ask why?


September 17th, 2009 – Fort Lewis, WA – War resistor Travis Bishop is being held incommunicado, in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, and is even being denied his legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. Attorney Legrand Jones was denied access to Bishop, on the grounds that he is on an unnamed and unobtainable “watchlist,” which constitutes deprivation of counsel. Since his incarceration, Bishop’s condition is unclear due to being completely cut off from the public.

Fellow incarcerated soldier Leo Church has been able to reach his lawyer, but the call was monitored by a guard, violating his attorney-client privilege.

Both Bishop and Church have been prevented from adding any names to their respective “authorized contacts” lists (even for family members),which effectively cuts them off from almost all contact with the outside world. Mail and commissary funds sent by friends and supporters will likely be “returned to sender” due to this cruel and inhumane policy.

According to the lead attorney on the cases of Bishop and Church, James Branum, the actions of officials at Fort Lewis have violated his clients’ constitutional rights.

“Bishop and Church’s defense team and supporters are in the process of negotiating with Ft. Lewis officials to ensure transparency and that Bishop and Church’s legal rights are being met. The unusual circumstances of isolation of these soldiers is unquestionably illegal,” Branum said. “But if Fort Lewis doesn’t change its ways, we will be forced to go to court and demand justice.”

War resistor, and according to Amnesty International, prisoner of conscience, Travis Bishop arrived in Fort Lewis September 9th to serve a 12 month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. Bishop refused orders to Afghanistan based on religious reasons. He was stationed at Fort Hood, TX and was court marshaled by the Army for his beliefs.

He joined Leo Church, another Fort Hood soldier who went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) to prevent his wife and children from becoming homeless. Leo received 8 months jail time because he put the safety and welfare of his children over his obligation to the Army. Leo tried to get help from his unit, but was denied.

For additional information contact Seth Manzel at GI Voice or visit or (You can donate to their legal defense funds at these websites)

G.I. Voice is a place for service members and their families around Fort Lewis to gather and share information, as well as a resource for those facing problems with service. It is the parent organization for COFFEE STRONG, a GI coffee house located outside of Fort Lewis.

Contact:Seth Manzel, Executive Director
GI Voice

James M. Branum
Civilian Defense Attorney for Travis Bishop and Leo Church
405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769

Fred Phelps and his band of bigots is coming to OKC on Friday to spread his message of hate

UPDATE: The Counter-demonstration is cancelled. The synagogue has been advised by the ADL that the best response is to ignore the bigots. I’m not sure this is the right action, but it is their house of worship and will respect their decision.

I think Fred Phelps’ insanity is growing, as apparently he now only hates gay people and US soldiers, but is now a vicious anti-Semite too. I gotta say his announcement of his Rosh Hashanah protest is a new low (WARNING: This is a link to Fred Phelps hate website)

Here’s an announcement I received from the OKC Peace House of a response planned for this event. I hope to be there and I hope you’ll consider being there for the support action for Emanuel Synagogue too:

“Rev” Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka will picket Oklahoma City’s Emanuel Synagogue this Friday evening (Sept. 18th) as congregants gather to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the most holy time of the year for the Jewish Community. (Westboro has been protesting Jewish communities this summer, possibly because gay rabbis are being ordained in both orthodox and progressive Jewish traditions.)

The Interfaith Alliance and Peace House invite participation in a silent vigil of solidarity and support for Synagogue members as they enter the Synagogue for worship. Rabbi Abby Jacobson welcomes us in the spirit of support for her congregants.

This is NOT a media event, but an expression of support for Synagogue members.

WHEN: 7:20pm to 8:20pm, this Friday, Sept. 18th
WHERE: east end of parking lot of Emanuel Synagogue, NW 46th Street and Francis Av. (block east of Western Ave.) Please park on 46th or Francis to keep the lot open for congregants. Signs of support are welcome, as “We’re with you tonight” or “Love Overcomes”.)

DO NOT engage or communicate to the Westboro protestors, whose permit is for the 47th Street (north side) sidewalk at 7:30 pm … those doors will be locked,
and congregants and friends will use only the south side (46th Street side) of the Synagogue. We are gathering ONLY to show support for Synagogue congregants,
and NOT to protest or engage the Westboro protestors.

– – – Jeff Hamilton, The Interfaith Alliance, and Nathaniel Batchelder, The Peace House

P.S. Do not even approach Westboro members, who finance their operation by suing anyone who touches them.

Earlier on Friday, Westboro will picket the Hillel Foundation in Norman, where O.U. students plan a “Diversity Celebration” inside …. then the Jewish Federation in OKC, which will be locked and empty …. then Temple B’Nai Israel which will also be locked and empty. … then Emanuel Synagogue.

Photos from today’s Health Care Reform Rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Oklahoma Health Care Reform Rally

For the most part I was very proud to be there. My only qualm was that there was a sizable number in the crowd who thinks Obama can do no wrong (the “Change Oklahoma” folks mostly). I have a hard time stomaching that belief. He has already broken so many promises (the biggie being not closing down Gitmo within year one of his presidency) that is hard to take him seriously at all anymore. Unless something changes, he’ll throw the public option under the bus too.

But otherwise the rally was a beautiful thing. So proud to see so many march in the rain for justice.

Also I want to give a special shoutout to State Rep. Anastasia Pittman (my Democratic party opponent when I ran in ’06) and State Senator Connie Johnson. I so appreciated their speeches, but especially Connie’s because she said straight up that part of the problem with health care in this country is the WARS and that the wars are draining us dry, not just in the fighting of the wars but also in the rampant corporate profiteering. She is right. If we would end the wars, we could easily afford quality universal health care.

Also I was proud of the folks from my church (Joy Mennonite) who made the walk. About 1/3 of those present for the potluck lunch joined in the march, which was quite encouraging.

ALERT: Information about sending books to Travis Bishop and Leo Church

ALERT: Please do not send books to Travis Bishop or Leo Church in the brig. The brig has a jacked up policy and will send books back if they are ordered from the outside. People must be on Travis or Leo’s “list” to send him money orders. Then the guys can order books via mail, IF, the prison approves their book choices. (very fishy to me, it seems like a good way to slow down the process of getting good books into prisoners)

I will coordinate with their supporters, a way for folks to send donations to someone on the approved list, who can then send a money order to Travis or Leo. As soon as this is live, check at or for details.

Also if you plan to write these guys on a regular basis, please email me your name and contact info (with VISITOR’S LIST in the subject line), so I can send Travis and Leo your info, so that they can then add you to their lists. (I will be writing each of them on Friday of each week)

My recipe for homemade salsa (a work in progress)

Approximate recipe for the homemade salsa I made yesterday…

Saute 1/4 of a big sweet yellow onion, a bit of garlic and some italian herb mix in olive oil until the onions start to carmelize. Then slowly add maybe 8 or 10 Hatch Green Chiles (cut up …into small chunks, with the seeds and inner flesh removed). Continue to saute the mix for a good while until the peppers start to soften and slightly change color.

Then cut 5 or 6 big homegrown tomatoes (I used some I got from a a guy selling out of the back of his pickup truck last week in Tennessee… gorgeous deep red tomatoes) into small chunks. If you want to be fancy remove the peels but I’m not fancy so I didn’t do that. Continue to saute the mixture. Then throw in maybe 2 tablespoons or so of balsamic vinegar, and the juice of a lime (at first this seems to be too much, but after the second or third day the limeyness settles down). I also added a chopped up jalepeno for extra heat but I won’t next time. The hatch chiles were plenty hot enough.

Continue to simmer the mixture on the stove top for a good while. After that let it cool down for a bit and then spoon into containers. I put some aside for fresh use but the rest I froze.

Changes for next time — I’ll skip the jalepeno and I’ll roast the hatch chiles first. I think I’ll also add some cilantro to the mix. And either use a food processor or chop everything up smaller. I like the salsa being chunky but it was a bit too chunky for my taste.

Part 2 – My decision to be both a Quaker and a Mennonite

This is a continuation of an earlier blog post from August 27th.

Since, I wrote part 1 of this post, I am now officially accepted as a member of the Oklahoma City Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (wow, that’s a mouthful), while continuing to be a member and minister at Joy Mennonite Church. I had my clearness committee two weeks ago and I was accepted as a member yesterday at our monthly business meeting.

I feel very happy about this but also feel a great deal of responsibility. To really be a friend means to seek to find that of God in everyone, and to believe that God can speak at any time and in any circumstance. I want to believe that, but at times I have had a hard time believing it. Sometime I think God is sleeping, that he doesn’t care about the horrible things happening in the world. I know this isn’t true intellectually, but at times I believe it emotionally.

All of that is to say that I found have a quote that I think will be my motto for awhile (taken from Here it is…

Becoming a Quaker brings with it no halo, no plaque for perfection, no passport for heaven. It is more like a learner’s permit for the lifelong journey toward truth and fulfillment -a journey made more meaningful and easier by the companionship of other seekers.

OK, I promised in part 1 that I would later “discuss my decision to change colleges and study at the Institute for Christian Studies (now Austin Graduate School of Theology), my experiences in a non-denominational cell-based charismatic church, my return to the COC’s and my year as a COC minister, my decision to become a Mennonite, and my more recent experiences. I’ll also talk about my “conversions” to embracing the peace teachings of Jesus and to a Universalist theology,” but I’m afraid that will have to wait a bit longer. Today doesn’t seem like the right day to write about all of that. I need some more time to mull things over.

Reprinted: "Part 1- My decision to be both a Quaker and a Mennonite"

This post is one that is currently off-line thanks to the recent website problems, but since I want to write part 2 of the post, I thought I would go ahead and reprint the post again.

Part 1- My decision to be both a Quaker and a Mennonite
Thursday, August 27, 2009

I wanted to update my regular readers on a change in my personal life.

I’m in the process of becoming a dual-member of the Oklahoma City Friends Meeting (the Quakers), while maintaining my membership and ministry work at Joy Mennonite Church.

It’s hard to begin in explaining this decision, but the short version is that both faith traditions speak to me and I feel a great deal of kinship and connection with both communities. I spent a lot of time praying and thinking about this decision, and spoke to several friends about the decision, and I am now at peace with my decision to embrace both faith traditions. (for those who don’t know, I became a Mennonite I think in 2003, and I’ve been attending the OKC friends meeting since the spring of this year)

Continue reading Reprinted: "Part 1- My decision to be both a Quaker and a Mennonite"