Friday 31 October 2008

How can you be "Pro-life" and still support Senator Obama for President?

Martin Sheen is a lifelong Roman Catholic, political and social activist, and actor. As an activist, his faith has led him to participate in numerous campaigns to make the world a more just and compassionate place and to stand up for "the least of these" in our society. As an actor, he is perhaps best known for his portrayal of President Jed Bartlet on The West Wing. He has been married to his wife, Janet, since 1961, and has four children and five grandchildren.

Douglas W. Kmiec holds the endowed chair in Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University. Prior to that, he was dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He also served as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Kmiec is author of the new book, Can A Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama. He has worked with the Matthew 25 Network to launch an information website for Pro-Life supporters of Senator Obama. Visit to learn more.

I imagine most of us who are thoughtful about our faith and politics get hit with the abortion issue at some time or another in our discussions with others and it is indeed a difficult issue to approach.

President Jimmy Carter himself did not/does not agree with abortion. However, during his presidency he did not feel that he should impose his personal and religious beliefs on a law that had already been decided. Therefore, WIC was formed - and the statistics clearly show that the rate of abortions decreased. Sen. Obama's position in support of women's issues would have the same effect - decreasing the rate of abortion. Here is What Obama Will Do


Friday 24 October 2008

Get your free "check-up" done here!

It's online: "CheckUp!"

Obama/McCain: having a funny "debate!"

The 2008 Al Smith Memorial Dinner in NYC the evening of Oct 16 turned into a"roast" contest between Obama and McCain. If you think of it as the last "debate" it was probably the best one.

I laughed hard at both when I watched their speeches, broadcast everywhere, especially on YouTube, and I'm sharing it here in case you missed it before, like I did, being here in Australia and all...)

McCain stayed in "funny mode" all the way through, but Obama got serious over the last two minutes and made some excellent remarks at the end, not wasting the opportunity, referring to the scriptural obligation to "do justice" on behalf of those less fortunate than ourselves.

(If you want to skip the speeches before John McCain starts out, followed by Obama, skip ahead to about the 6:30 minute mark.)


Sunday 12 October 2008

Now that two Catholic nuns have been officially branded as terrorists...

For many, it's an exceedingly difficult task: how does one go about integrating their faith with values like peacemaking, justice, global concern, non-violence, respect for diversity, and building HOPE in a climate of intense insecurity -- when fear-mongering and nationalism "take over", steadily advancing the creep toward fascism?

This agenda justifies having more than one column on such a challenging topic, but I've decided to really get minds and hearts engaged by first posting some fairly provocative material about what is happening around us currently, in real time:

So, read here about the response of two Catholic nuns who recently found out they were put on the "terrorist" list!

This news from just yesterday is another among an increasing number of examples illustrating how this checklist for "How To Create a Fascist State" is now almost fully implemented by the Bush Administration. (This is the "blueprint" -- first invented by Mussolini with inspiration from Lenin, then elaborated on by Hitler, then adopted by Stalin who studied Hitler.)

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law

Step #10 is just around the corner, once they implement martial law in America, which will be "easy peasy" to pull off since:

1) On October 1, 2008 President Bush redeployed a 3,000+ member brigade of soldiers from an infantry division, relocating them from Iraq to the streets of America, totally unaccountable to Congress or to any State governor but under his own total control as his personal army, ready to quell any "unrest" or "outbreaks" that could erupt. (That was the specific rationale given.) This is the FIRST time since 1807, when a bright line was drawn between military and civilian policing of domestic affairs.

2) Last week Congress was hoodwinked into giving President Bush a $100 BILLION in a "discretionary fund" to be spent any way he likes with NO Congressional oversight. (It was slipped into the "fine print" of the huge $700 billion bail out bill.) You can find this discussed here, 9:30 minutes into
this very intense interview of Naomi Wolf.

So, who are the real terrorists in America? Not these nuns, that's for sure!
Here's a very short but well-written clip exposing just how the American people are being manipulated and "prepared" to wholly accept step # 10.

Naomi Wolf's recommendation? Impeachment of Bush and Cheney is not enough. Prosecuting (and jailing) them for crimes committed is the only rational solution, and time is rapidly running out for any courageous district attorney to do so -- since they are the only ones with the authority left to do such an "outrageous" thing!

Since these are unprecedented times, with events unfolding rapidly in "biblical" proportions, what do you think the prophet Amos or Jeremiah would recommend, and how would they communicate it, if they were observing these developments today?


Lest you be "put off" by Naomi Wolf's comment that the constitution establishes "no God" she is referring to the American people's Bill of Rights establishing complete freedom of religion.

Also, in James Pense's video, I think his sarcastic comment about those who just want to exhale and say "Thank you, Jesus" can be taken into the same context as Jesus' own words, found in Matthew 7:22-23: "Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' "

Watch this rather humorous clarification of where Pence is at, from a religous/spiritual point of view, and the challenge we have in communicating with others seeking to be faithful to their religious convictions as they choose who to vote for (and if they are going to vote) in this 2008 US election. He entitled this sketch: "Deacon Billy Bob's Gospel Truth Emails!"

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is within you.” 1 Peter 3:15

To be continued...

Thursday 9 October 2008

The Micah Challenge

The Micah Challenge

This is a moment in history of unique potential,
when the stated intentions of world leaders
echo something of the mind of the Biblical prophets
and the teachings of Jesus concerning the poor, and
when we have the means to dramatically reduce poverty.

We commit ourselves, as followers of Jesus,
to work together for the holistic transformation of our communities,
to pursue justice, be passionate about kindness
and to walk humbly with God.

We call on international and national decision-makers
of both rich and poor nations, to fulfil their public promise
to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015.

We call on Christians everywhere to be agents of hope
for and with the poor, and to work with others
to hold our national and global leaders accountable
in securing a more just and merciful world.


It would be nice if all my friends reading this back in the States already knew about "Micah Challenge", a global movement of Christians that I am learning a lot about. It aims to strengthen engagement with the poor by integrating social justice as an essential aspect of faith; I don't know about you, but I must confess I didn't know diddly about Micah Challenge until I moved here to Australia. I don't know how I missed it before...

Micah Challenge seeks to encourage the leaders of all nations to fulfil their commitments to the Millennium development goals set in the year 2000 - in particular, to cut absolute poverty in half by 2015. If every person chooses to act withjustice and kindness, walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8), just imagine the impact it would have! Here is a succinct portrayal of the core values as well as the global problems Micah Challenge seeks to address by living them out.

Senior leaders from Christian groups from four continents (mostly in the Southern Regions) recently called upon US Christians to "use theircitizenship responsibly" and speak out in protest against the failure of UNand US leaders to make progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and tostem the global food crisis. You can read a copy of that letter here. It was sent to the Presidentialcandidates, as well. (Jim Wallis from Sojourners wrote recently at his blog, God's Politics, concerning these efforts.)

Are you all aware how this weekend there are coordinated events all across the GLOBE in this campaign against poverty? Our congregation is co-hosting (with the Wesley Uniting Church) the Australian national conference of Micah Challenge, with the theme: "Voices for Justice." Interesting activities abound.

Rev. Joel Edwards, a Jamaican and currently the International Director of Micah Challenge will be here with us, speaking Sunday morning at our congregation and at Wesley Uniting on Sunday evening. He's a very effective. And I imagine there will be some good music, too, by groups such as these, connected to the Micah Challenge.

Then, next Monday morning, hundreds of conference attendees from around this country will gather on the steps of Parliament to personally deliver thousands of hand-written letters that have been gathered urging members of Parliament and the Prime Minister to do better approaching the MilleniumDevelopment goals and take more significant actions to reduce extreme poverty.

This should be interesting, because Micah Challenge is only one of dozens and dozens of organizations uniting to form the largest anti-poverty movement in history. It's all part of a much larger 'Global Call to Action Against Poverty' involving more than 80 countries. (In Australia, the movement is called "MAKE POVERTY HISTORY.") It is a coalition of more than 60 aid agencies, community groups and religious organisations working to hold all these nations accountable to their original commitment to achieve the MDGs.

So, what is happening in your community in this regard? Anything?

Hoffnung. espoir. esperanza. Hope!

Tuesday 7 October 2008

BrassCheck TV Didn't Share the Whole Story Today!

(I tried to send BrassCheck TV the following messge today, but it will likely never be read, per their "policy", as explained by their autoresponder. So, I'm posting this copy, hoping others among their readership might gain a fuller picture and have some false assumptions allayed, if directed here.)

Dear friends at BrassCheck TV:

Re: "Who runs your country?" - the episode you sent out today (07 Oct 2008)

I'm an American with progressive political leanings, but now living in the capital city of Australia. I am generally sympathetic to your cause, and you did ask some great questions today!

BUT, you do a great disservice to Australians - and Americans who may now have the wrong impression - by not explaining that the citizens of Australia actually KICKED OUT Prime Minister John Howard last year - precisely for being George W's "puppet!" Stuff like this confirms why the Aussies finally got real tired of Howard's antics.

Please, help remind your readers there has been a major "Regime Change" here, as well -- that this is OLD news and not current reality -- at least not in Australia! We will never see or hear the likes of this coming from the mouth of Australia's current Prime Minister, Labor Party's Kevin Rudd -- a man of much greater character and integrity and definitely NOT a puppet of the Bush Administration. He went to America and told Bush where to get off, and took the Australian troops right out of Iraq ASAP when he came into office, as he promised during his campaign.

I also lived in Canada for three years, long enough to foster some awareness of Canadian politics. As YouTube's description said, that was Steven Harper giving the Canadian speech, and he is indeed their current Prime Minister -- BUT NOT when he offered up that speech when the Liberal Party was still in power!

It was in 2002, when Harper succeeded Stockwell Day as leader of the Canadian Alliance and returned to Parliament as Leader of the Opposition. Then, in 2003, he reached an agreement with Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay for the merger of their two parties to form the Conservative Party of Canada. Steven Harper did not become Canada's Prime Minister until 2004 -- the year AFTER his speech was delivered as part of "the Opposition."

Further, the Liberal Party "splash screen" on YouTube's movie makes it appear to unknowing Americans like an indictment of the Liberal Party in Canada, instead of a piece being sponsored by them! (It's also worth explaining that the Liberal Party in Australia means the opposite from what it means in Canada. Here it's the party of political conservatives: the party of John Howard, the first speechmaker!)

This tells the story of a recent ad sponsored by the Canadian Liberal Party, which reveals this link between Bush, Howard, and Harper. You could have simply said that, and cited your source.

Don't get me wrong - I'm quite happy you picked up on this story about plagiarism and "parroting" Bush. However, even though I think your basic point was worth making from a historical point of view, please - do your homework by adding in a phrase or two of "context" in order to avoid spreading false impressions to your base readership about current reality. Can you send out a postscript?

Americans don't know nearly enough about Australia (nor Canada, their own neighbor to the north) as it is, and good progressive Canadians and Australians who see this piece will certainly be sensitive to these issues -- so why risk alienating them, as well?

Take care,
Clair Hochstetler
(A US citizen from the state of Indiana, recently moved to Canberra)

Monday 6 October 2008

History Comes Alive Again: What Would FDR Do If He Were President?

There was one time in our history when the US government closed the doors to every bank in the nation for a very short time -- it was called a "bank holiday." It happened when Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) first took office in 1933 - and this was his very first act as President.

By 1933, over $140 billion in depositors' money had gone up in smoke because of banking failures (over 9,000 altogether during the 30's) and there was a run on banks throughout the country that threatened to bring the whole system down.

This was in an era when you could buy a luxury car for less than $1,000 and a mansion for $20,000.

One of our problems is that the only people who actually lived through the reality of this time and were adults when it happened are 90 years and older - which is probably why we are repeating it again.

FDR, as President, explained it all to the American people during his first "Fireside Chat" seventy-five years ago, and it was a chat only 13 minutes long!

There are three striking features about this talk:

1. It's coherent and detailed.

2. The government at the time seemed to have the capacity to rapidly evaluate the soundness of banks throughout the nation.

3. The currency sent to replenish bank supply was, according to FDR, backed by sound assets.

Today there are idiots in the White House who can't string sentences together that make sense; the government not only can't seem to examine banks, it doesn't seem to feel any responsibility to do so; and in our contemporary "Version 2008" - our administration has a penchant for creating new money based on assets we already know are garbage!

So, by this standard, it stands to reason that we are actually in WORSE shape than back in the 1930s -- we are at the mercy of rattled and confused "financiers" who are likely to continue to pull numbers (like 700 Billion) out of hats. Not only that it will be over three more months until the next administration takes charge! They really could/should take notes from FDR's first masterful Fireside Chat:

Here is the link to Part 2 (only 6.5 minutes long)

-Clair (Adapted from what I found at BrassCheck TV)

Friday 3 October 2008

Are "The Foundations" Shaking?

Australians are always closely following what is happening in the US and the rest of the world, but even moreso during this global economic crisis, and they are wondering how hard the dog is going to wag the tail here!

However, in the midst of all these tangible stressors and challenges -- I found some very Good News to share with you all today!


Are “The Foundations Shaking”?
By Bishop Michael J. Coyner

Given the vote by Congress to turn down the economic bailout (or rescue plan or whatever it is called), and given the sudden drop of the stock market on Monday, many writers are predicting doom and gloom. Some reporters and economic experts are saying that “the foundations are shaking” – and of course that kind of talk only adds to our sense of demise. The “blame game” provides yet another whole layer of depressing news, and we ordinary citizens are left to wonder if it is all falling apart when politicians are all blaming one another for this failure.

I realize that we are in tough times, and I certainly don’t want to downplay the painful economics that many are feeling. It may well be that we in the U.S. deserve what we are experiencing right now, because we have enjoyed several decades of prosperity which have led many of us into unhealthy patterns of greed and a sense of entitlement.

However, I have real doubts that the “foundations of the world” are shaking. Let me lift up some foundations that seem to be still in place:

1. I noticed that the sun rose again this morning, and the patterns of nature and creation still seem to be in place.

2. I can see that photosynthesis is still operating as plants continue to grow and produce a harvest.

3. When I slipped off my chair at a meeting, I noticed that the law of gravity is still working quite well, and it is good to know that we can depend upon this force to keep us from flying off into space.

4. I am still able to love and to be loved by my spouse, my family, my close friends, and by God. I am grateful that this foundational power is not damaged by the ups and downs of the Dow.

5. Every Sunday when I preach in a different church around Indiana, I discover a congregation of people whose faith is intact and often vibrant. Certainly many of our churches share in the same economic issues that face our nation, but in church after church I still find people whose faith is strong and unshaken.

I could name other “foundations” and I am sure you can, too, but my point is quite simple: Don’t panic, don’t assume that the whole world is falling apart, hold fast to your faith and your good sense about life, and don’t let the bad news out of Washington shake your foundations. The foundations of the world belong to God, not to Wall Street, not to the politicians, and not to the economists. As Scripture says (Psalm 104:1-5)...

Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.

He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner heads the Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church.

The source on the net is here.


Prophetic Warning?

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies...

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks]... will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

—Thomas Jefferson