Wednesday, January 30, 2008

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?

I recently watched the documentary Sir, No Sir!. It's about the GI anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. I don't think I've given serious thought to the idea that those who experience war would be the most qualified or passionate opponents. It didn't occur to me, even though now it's obvious. The GIs they interviewed said that the dichotomy between opponents of the war and soldiers just wasn't there. Most of the stories about hippies spitting on soldiers at airports and calling them baby-killers were totally fabricated, but now history has made us believe that it's the hippies' faults that so many Vietnam vets went crazy after they got back, not because combat is a trauma, not because it was policy to kill villages of civilians, not because a person could possibly see "the enemy" as human and they had to face the moral tempest that comes along with that. And, according to this movie, most of the GIs in Vietnam WERE opposed to the war, or at least the way it was executed. I'm not saying that it's the soldiers' own faults for going over there. I understand that no about of mental preparation could prepare a person for the kind of action Vietnam soldiers were forced to take, and even those who volunteered couldn't have foreseen the horrific things that actually went on there.

One of my friends at Hosea is going back into the military. I asked him why he would do it. The path he's taking guarantees that he'll see combat in the Middle East (for the second time). He said that it was so his father would look at him with respect. He's homeless right now, and he says he can't get a job. I asked him "What if you had to kill someone?" He said, "When it comes down to that, it's a choice between me and the other guy, and I'm going to be the one going home at the end of the day."

I can't help but believe that there are things going on in Iraq that are being suppressed. I don't believe that Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident, just like the My Lai massacre wasn't an isolated incident. I've learned this from interviews and speeches from former and AWOL soldiers. In March, a Winter Soldiers public investigation is taking place in Washington to expose the realities of the Iraq War. I hope that it doesn't just get shoved into a 3 inch blurb in the National News section.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Time: An all too common story

When did 24 hours get so short? Probably when I started working full-time. It's kind of distressing, really, how little time I feel like I have all of a sudden. In theory, I have Mondays and Tuesdays to myself after work, but the reality just isn't so. There are friends that want to hang out (and I want to see them, of course) and errands that need to be run and groceries that need to be purchased. Last year, when I worked part time, I spent nearly every afternoon with my grandparents. Now I'm lucky if I get to see them on Sundays for family dinner (which I haven't been bringing food to because I didn't have enough time to cook).

Some of my time is taken up by volunteering. It only works out to about 6 hours out of my total week, but it's dark by the time I'm done at this point in the year, so I feel like I should be done for the night. But honestly, I would feel like I was doing nothing for the world if I didn't spend those six hours giving my time and trying to get to know teens. I'm trying to start a love revolution here, and the days just keep getting shorter.

I'm finally starting to feel that American Way time crunch. Just how IS a person supposed to work full-time and still change the world in other ways? How are relationships supposed to function in an era of leaving one job to work another across town? How do families with young children even survive? I don't marvel at it; I think it's dysfunctional. But how do you argue with the way things are? I always thought that people who had to "pencil in" quiet time were complete basket cases whose lives were too busy. Now I put my schedule into my cell phone calendar. How can a person hear a still small voice above the sounds of other things demanding attention?

This is why I relished those 5-10 minutes of "open worship" at Friends Church. Once a week, I breathed. Usually, there was just enough time to break through feeling guilty for letting another week go by without a conscious attempt to listen to the Spirit before the sermon would begin. Maybe I should have gone to the Friends Meeting, where it's all open worship. Excuse me, I'm going to go breathe.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet?

I'm reposting this rant about a Holman Bible ad by my friend Karlene because it's kind of incredible that anyone would think this is okay. And her husband thought it would be a good idea to jack up the Google count on Holman Bibles with it. Read on.
Holman Bibles for the Poor

Once in awhile something comes along that is truly appalling. Today’s rant is inspired by a full-page magazine ad for Holman Bible Outreach International. The middle third of the page is a photograph of an obviously impoverished, partially clothed, very young child, standing barefoot in a gutter, poking at the garbage on the ground with a plastic fork. The big headline at the top of the page reads, “We publish BIBLES for people who can’t afford SHOES” (emphasis theirs).

wow. Where do I start? What is this little child going to do with a Bible? He or she is too young to read and probably will never get an education. Do they expect people who can’t afford shoes to be excited about getting a book they can’t read? Maybe they could find some string and tie the bibles to their feet? They can’t eat bibles, and this child is obviously hungry. They can’t seek shelter in a bible, though it’s obvious this child has no place to live. There is an adult sleeping on the sidewalk in the background. How do people who read and study and translate the bible come to the conclusion that all those verses in the bible about God’s concern for the poor mean the poor need bibles?? Do they honestly think that, lacking food, clothing, shelter, and education, that what the desperately poor of the world really need most are bibles??

The small print says in part, “From the streets of Bangkok to the back roads of rural America, people are hungering for the bread of life. And we’re bringing it to them with bibles and scripture portions…”

I looked up Matthew 25 in the Holman Standard Version online. The words of Jesus there do NOT say, ‘When I was hungry, you published me a bible. When I was thirsty, you published me a bible. When I was naked, you published me a bible. When I was sick, you published me a bible.’

I was startled to see this ad in Creation Care magazine - an excellent publication for Christians who care about the environment that was gifted to us from a friend. The Holman ad seems very out-of-place here. Even if I did not already dislike the Holman translation because of its history on the gender translation issue, this ad alone would ensure I never purchased one.

It seems that there is a wonderful awakening beginning to emerge from N. American churches who used to be ignorant and apathetic to the plight of the poor, but who are beginning to come alive with a passionate, active response to global and local poverty. I pray that this is not a passing fad, but a renewal that will grow and spread among God’s people. And I honestly pray that the well-intentioned folks behind this Holman ad will adopt a more holistic understanding of what it means to bring the bread of life to the world’s impoverished people.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Money money money by the pound

At church meeting yesterday, we went through a checklist of "survival skills" for living in poverty, middle class, or upper class. There were things like "I know what to do if I can't pay my bills" or "I know about credit rates and annuity" or "I know where to sign my child up for scouts." I realize how little I know about life in ALL of those categories. I know next to nothing about money, and I'm not sure that I need to. I just pay my bills out of my checking account, auto-pay my student loan and keep a certain amount of money in my savings account. My dad wants me to get invested in a mutual fund, but I keep stalling because money in many different places freaks me out.

I really want to live in a house with a bunch of people and be able to offer spare rooms to homeless people that I know, but I can't do that when I rent because it's generally not allowed. So someday I'll have to look into buying a house. I don't know the first thing about buying a house. I don't have any credit because I've never had a credit card, so I don't think I can get a house loan. How does a person even buy a $100k-$200k house? Do they take out a loan and cut a hugeass check or pay in installments? What the hell is a mortgage?

Loving Absolutely

I just watched the movie "Rize," a documentary about clowning and krumping, styles of hip-hop dance. Even if you're not a fan of hip-hop, you really should watch this movie. It made me think about God and love. A lot.

The style was created in South Central LA, where broken families, drugs, gangs, and violence are an everyday reality. What really got to me is the way the leaders of the clown groups and krump groups took on younger dancers as their own families when they had none to love and care for them. One clown, Tommy the Clown, would get on their cases about hanging around gangs, getting into drugs, or even not doing their homework, and they respected him enough to follow through with it. He also wouldn't let them dance with him if they didn't keep themselves in line. It was all so positive and meaningful and no doubt has really saved lives from gang violence and drug addiction. And it's something I admire, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

At church today, we went through a chart that compared the "rules of the game" for poverty, middle class, and rich culture. One of the first things listed was "possessions." Under "poverty" possessions meant people, relationships. I definitely saw that in this movie. When there was no security for life or money, the clown groups and families cared for each other like it held their cells together. Will I ever be able to understand or fulfill that for others? My middle-class family was pretty unaffectionate. My parents emphasized independence. As a result, it takes me a long time to feel like I can depend on someone or like I want them to depend on me. I don't want to resign to the idea that I'll never love like the family I had didn't. If the love of God is in my heart, than the love of people can surely be in there as well. If God has the power to change lives of drug dealers into hip-hop clowns, God can change an icy teachers' daughter into someone who loves like breathing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sustainable living

I went to hear some speakers at Friends Church talk about simple and sustainable living as inspired by John Woolman's Journal. First they did a skit of John Woolman meeting with a Southern slave owner and talking about respect for God's creation, and explored how it was inconceivable to someone who was so used to/dependent on that lifestyle. Then they did a skit of "Joan Woolwoman" meeting someone new at Yearly Meeting and talking about changing how you buy your food (non-locally produced food creating pollution and certain imported goods produced through slavery). It got me thinking about some ways that I want to feel spiritually at peace by changing my lifestyle.

I figure I'm solely responsible for global warming with all the frivolous driving that I do by myself. Really, who needs to go to Fred Meyers at 10:30 at night for tweezers? I just moved to a place where I can walk to work, which is fantastic, but I still have to drive 2-3 days a week because of time constraints on where I have to be right after work. I think I could attempt to force flexibility into at least one of those days. There's also a busline close to my house, and I want to commit to riding on Thursdays when I have weekly activities that I could easily get to by bus.

I just moved, and in moving, rediscovered how much JUNK I have that I don't use. I need a garage sale real bad. Some friends recently said that they need to do the same, so I hope we can do it together when the weather gets nice. It causes me a lot of anxiety to know that I have lots of stuff and some people have nothing. My best friend from high school has reduced his possessions to a backpack of stuff and I'm extremely jealous. He's not even a Christian, much less a Quaker! I've got a long way to go.

My eating/buying habits
I have a moral crisis every time I go to the grocery store. Is it local? Is it organic? Can I afford it? Do I just really really really want some chocolate right now? I've stopped eating candy for the most part because I found out how bad it was for me, but there's a bigger picture than just the chemicals that get into my body through my food. There's the environment and workers of the world to think about. Am I making my food and clothing purchases in love of myself or in respect of others and God's creation? I think I should. I also want to start growing my own herbs for cooking and tea. Yum.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Voting: Christian duty or not at all?

With the 2008 election ramping up, I've been thinking about voting. There are some circles of Christians who feel that voting in any election is confirming your citizenship in that country instead of in the kingdom of God. It's something to think about. For a while now, I've tried to think of myself as a citizen of the world, with all people as my comrades. When we studied the beginnings of communism in my Western civ class, Marx and the others thought it was a bad idea to think of communism as a nationalist movement, but that instead communists should think of all other communists as citizens of the same government. (I rue this day in which I have summoned the name of Marx in a blog post!) This closet socialist likes that idea. (Is the FBI going to come knocking soon?)

When I vote in an American election, am I isolating Christian brothers and sisters in other countries? Do I make a bad Christian anarchist because I submit to this government? Am I not putting my faith in God and his people to be independent hands of Christ? On the other hand, if I don't vote, am I doing a disservice to the people that could be helped in America by government programs on account of my vote? Going further, is it my Christian duty to encourage people to vote a certain way because it will serve poor people or foster children or elders, which I believe Christ would have done?

Jesus didn't live in a society where most of the people he talked with would have had the option of voting. He just said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's. Is this democracy thing something that Christians are supposed to get involved in? I've tried to stay informed on political events. In 2004, I started to be a talk radio junkie, and I still am. But should I be? In 2004, a friend called out her fellow Christians and said that if we put the effort that we spent on politics into serving Christ, how much the world could change. That's been bugging me.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Post

A new post for a new blog.