Saturday 30 May 2009

President's Obama's Faith, Moral Vision, and Public Policy - How Do They "Mix?"

I find this to be VERY interesting stuff to listen to, absorb, and reflect on:

Obama's theologian: Reinhold Neibuhr

Obama on Neibuhr: "I take away … the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

Obama's Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships c/o Joshua DuBois (Age 26)

As DuBois tells it (echoing President Obama's recent commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame) a critical part of his challenge in this area is to foster new kinds of conversation and encounter across dividing lines on this issue. And it is fascinating to hear him talk about how such conversations were already part of his experience during the presidential campaign. He describes encounters with diverse gatherings across the country which persuaded him that new dialogue on painful issues — especially abortion — is possible.

Joshua DuBois faces controversy ahead, too, as he is well aware. The constitutionality of federal funding to non-profits that discriminate in hiring raises concerns. So does the potential for religious proselytizing funded by federal dollars. The Obama administration has pledged to consider such constitutional concerns on a case by case basis, a process that has not yet begun.

Joshua DuBois' mission is to be an office "for all Americans," as he likes to say - religious and non-religious. In this office, it seems, President Obama plans to build on the insistence in his inaugural address that the U.S. is a nation of "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers."

For those willing to take the time, here is a link to the podcast where Krista Tippet from "Speaking of Faith" interviews DuBois, but it's the entire 80-minute UNedited version of their very enlightening dialogue. Not a minute of it was boring!

Also worth listening to, was a small group "salon" conversation held the morning after the DuBois event. There was a sense of both the tension and promise in this charge which reflects the changing face of religious and spiritual life in contemporary U.S. culture and in public life.


Monday 25 May 2009

The Ant and the Contact Lens: Inspirational True Story

Brenda was almost halfway to the top of the tremendous granite cliff. She was standing on a ledge where she was taking a breather during this, her first rock climb. As she rested there, the safety rope snapped against her eye and knocked out her contact lens . 'Great', she thought. 'Here I am on a rock ledge, hundreds of feet from the bottom and hundreds of feet to the top of this cliff, and now my sight is blurry..'

She looked and looked, hoping that somehow it had landed on the ledge. But it just wasn't there.

She felt the panic rising in her, so she began praying. She prayed for calm, and she prayed that she may find her contact lens.

When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but it was not to be found. Although she was calm now that she was at the top, she was saddened because she could not clearly see across the range of mountains.. She thought of the bible verse 'The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.'

She thought, 'Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me.'

Later, when they had hiked down the trail to the bottom of the cliff they met another party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, 'Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?'

Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across a twig on the face of the rock, carrying it!

The story doesn't end there. Brenda's father is a cartoonist. When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he drew a cartoon of an ant lugging that contact lens with the caption:

'Lord, I don't know why You want me to carry this thing. I can't eat it, and it's awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I'll carry it for You.'

I think it would do all of us some good to say, 'God, I don't know why You want me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it's awfully heavy. But, if You want me to carry it, I will.'

God doesn't call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)

The source of this version of the story is Elisabeth Elliot's 1995 book, "Keep a Quiet Heart", where it appeared in a chapter entitled, “Lost and Found.”

Elliot attributes the story to a first-person account sent to her by Brenda Foltz of Princeton, Minnesota, who maintained she wrote it based upon an event that occurred during her first rock-climbing experience. I researched this a bit more for myself and found Brenda's own original version reprinted in Elizabeth Elliot's May-June 1994 newsletter which can be examined here online.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Cheney, Nuremberg and Aggressive War: The Day The Smirking Stopped

I hope you all take the opportunity to read this devastating diary clearly demonstrating the link between what got revealed at the Nuremburg trials and what Dick Cheney is trying to obfuscate and wiggle out of now regarding torture."

..."and then they showed that awful film, and it just spoiled everything."
- Hermann Goering at Nuremberg


Friday 8 May 2009


With regard to Mother's Day, honoring the mothers in our lives is all good, of course, but I personally much prefer Julia Ward Howe's original idea behind it -- a day when mothers would take action to prevent war! (Or didn't you realize that?!)

We could and should extend that to the effort to truly support motherhood the world over. Perhaps Steve Jones and his "MOTHERS DAY SONG" captures all these sentiments best.



My children are hungry, they’re sick with the heat
While I pick the crops for others to eat

And you take my money, you think I don’t see
You use it to fire on women like me

My children go ragged, their bodies are bare
While I make the clothes for others to wear

And you take my money, you think I don’t see
You use it to fire on women like me

I live in a dump, my landlord’s no good
While I clean the houses in a rich neighborhood

And you take my money, you think I don’t see
You use it to fire on women like me

I wanted my children to have a good skill
But they go in your army and you teach them to kill

Yes you take my children, you think I don’t see
You teach them to fire on women like me.

Rifles and guns won’t win any wars
Unless you’ve got something that’s worth fighting for

Yes you take my children, you think I don’t see
You teach them to fire on women like me.

And you take my money, you think I don’t see
You use it to fire on women like me.