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Archive for February, 2010

This past week, I saw something very interesting in the news. A group of Palestinians were dressed up as Avatars to non-violently protest a wall the Israeli government is planning to put up in their territory. Ironically, it worked and Israel adapted their plans and changed the location of the wall.

This creativity is something that should be applauded. We have to find a new way to deal with the issues of discrimination and injustice, rather than the same old tactics of war, violence, and fear. Peacemaking not only takes patience and dedication, it also takes creativity and imagination. Gandhi and Dr. King are great examples of this. Their work not only took great courage, but it also took the ability to see problems and solutions in completely different and radical ways. Jesus was the one who taught us this creative way of dealing with injustice, by loving our enemies and turning the other cheek (which contrary to popular opinion does not mean to simply cower down and let injustice win, but rather stand up in a non-violent way to the hand of injustice and oppression).

I pray that we learn to evolve beyond the same old means of violence, revenge, war, and escalating attacks. We only have to look at the 20th century to see where escalating violence and war leads to. As we progress technologically, lets also take a time to evolve and progress as a world community. There will be injustice, but if we can learn to confront that with a creative and peaceful, yet firm spirit, something beautiful can happen. This is a lesson the Palestinian people, Israeli government, and the entire world community need to start practicing.

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“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Those were the words of Martin Luther King. Written almost 50 years ago, but more relevant than ever. Recently, President Obama has stated that in order to reduce our debt there is going to be a freeze of spending on all domestic programs, but not on military programs. It is beyond my comprehension why there still needs to be military bases in Japan, England, Germany, and Italy almost 70 years after World War II. Perhaps to continue to maintain Superpower status; however, it is not a good use of our resources and funds.

In a country as wealthy as the U.S., it is amazing that people still cannot receive affordable health care, pay reasonable charges for public universities, or have their basic needs met. With all our technology, we do not have the money to become a greener and less ecologically destructive nation. However, we can still billions upon billions every year on military spending and war. I think we need the words of Dr. King to be spoken to our hearts today. The way we spend our money reflects on us as a nation, morally, ethically, and spiritually.

While I greatly support President Obama, this is an area I have to disagree with him. It is time to stand up for the progressive ideals that made his message of change so unique. One of the best ways to do this is to decrease our unneeded excessive military spending and re-invest that money into social uplift that can start to make the society a more just place. If we don’t start doing this, there is not going to be a great and healthful society for the military to protect.

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I went to a small town about 4 ½ hours away this past weekend called Monteverde. It was started by a group of American Quakers who fled from the United States in the 1950’s to escape persecution for their pacifist views. Raquel and I decided to go to their small meeting, and we experienced a service that was quite different from what we had been a part of before. Essentially, after the singing, there is simply a time of meditation where people eventually decide to speak up when they feel led.

During the course of the meditation, I really felt the need to stand up and tell the group why I was there and why I was inspired by their example and their history. I felt a little awkward at first, since it was my first time in a Quaker meeting, but I soon saw the open hearted posture they presented to me. I told them that I was a history teacher and through my study of the group, I had become deeply inspired. When studying Christianity throughout History, it is easy to often come away discouraged and disheartened. It often seemed that the Christian groups, both Protestant and Catholic, were often the most violent, intolerant, and prevented the most social good. However, then you come across groups such as the Quakers and Anabaptists who suffered persecution and even death for their refusal to fight, for their love for all humanity, and for their refusal to allow their religion to be used as a tool for coercion and oppression. While other Protestant and Catholic groups were oppressing and even killing the indigenous people, the Quakers were reaching out in love. While Protestant and Catholic groups were finding ways to justify their slavery and oppression of the poor, groups such as the Quakers and Anabaptists were fighting for justice.

I told the group that though I was not a Quaker, they had deeply inspired me. They helped show me what the Christian faith is possible of and how it can be used as a positive and social transforming force in the world. Why Catholic monks copying the scriptures and Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther may have helped preserve the faith, groups such as the Quakers and Anabaptists helped preserve the essence of the faith-which is even more vital. The question that is presented for our current society is….who is going to be part of the group who is going to be willing to show that radical sacrifice, grace, and love? I pray to God that I can be counted among that group.

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This past Saturday, Raquel and I decided to go to the beach, and we soon learned it was really hot. When we walked on the sand, our feet were burning. The car seemed to have trouble starting because it was so warm. When we drove away from the beach, sweat was pouring down our faces. Based on this evidence, I believe that we are most likely entering the last couple of years on earth. Perhaps the earth is drifting closer to the sun or the molten lava is somehow rising up from the core. I know that “scientists” would say this is unfounded, but after all who are they. I have experienced the heat, and I know that what I say is real.

Sound ridiculous? Well, it is about as ridiculous as people making a conclusion that because there is a giant blizzard- Climate Change is debunked. However, that is the type of non-scientific, ridiculous reasoning you will hear on conservative outlets-such as Fox News. They almost seem happy and giddy, because this blizzard seems to confirm their doubts about global warming. Though it should be obvious that there is a political and financial reason that many conservatives choose to ignore and deny the findings and beliefs of the overwhelming majority of scientists, it is almost comical that people buy into these types of reasoning and it is scary how easily people can choose to deny scientific evidence to support a certain political ideology.

For the sake of our world, let’s look at the facts instead finding some obscure and highly subjective reasoning to base the health of the environment. Unless we choose to take a more objective and scientific approach, we will watch with complete “happy denial” as the world we love is slowly demolished.

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In August, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, made a very unfortunate statement by calling the liberal activists F***ing Retards. His statement was very inappropriate not only for the strong language but for the use of retard which has become a negative slur towards the mentally handicapped.

Sarah Palin has a down-syndrome son, and so when Rahm Emanuel made the statement she was angry. However, instead of calling for something rational- such as an apology, she said he needed to resign. Perhaps, the public was not too surprised. The Sarah Palin has the tendency to try to exaggerate things. However, what was really telling was when in response to Rahm Emmanuel’s comments, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh stated,

“Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards. I mean these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are looney tunes. And I’m not going to apologize for it, I’m just quoting Emanuel. It’s in the news. I think their big news is he’s out there calling Obama’s number one supporters f’ing retards. So now there’s going to be a meeting. There’s going to be a retard summit at the White House. Much like the beer summit between Obama and Gates and that cop in Cambridge.”

However, to this….Palin said nothing. While Rahm Emanuel’s comments were in a closed door session, Limbaugh’s were on the air for everyone to hear. However, Sarah defended Limbaugh’s statements saying it was “satire”. The hypocrisy makes your stomach churn. It also makes you start questioning the “outrage” of Sarah Palin..it starts to seem like simply a political tactic to attack the Obama administration.

However, this issue extends far beyond Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Rahm Emanuel, to the values of our whole society. People have become so polarized that any real outrage and values seem to be politically calculated. Many Democrats were “outraged” by the wars of Bush, but don’t seem to be nearly as outraged when Obama increases war spending. Republicans are “outraged” by the debt that the current administration is causing, but seemed to say nothing when Bush took the country from a surplus to a deficit, much of it due to tax cuts for the rich.

In our personal lives, we love to be “outraged” against something bad our “enemy” does, but excuse it in ourselves and our friends. When our enemy comes into work stressed they are just being a jerk, when our friend comes into work stressed they have been going through a rough time. When our enemy says something hurtful it reveals their inner hatred, when we do it…we are just having a bad day.

Unless we can actually learn to have a real genuine concern and consistency in our views and ideas, we are going to lose any credibility in what we stand for. When our views and ideas simply become calculated political and personal positioning, people soon realize that the ideas we stand for our secondary and our personal aspirations are first. This is not just what Sarah Palin does, this is something that you and I do every single day. Unless we realize that in ourselves, even our outrage towards Palin’s hypocrisy seems to be nothing but politics. However, when we realize it within ourselves, we can start to at least begin the process of change. Perhaps, our feigned and politically or personally-expedient outrage can be transformed into real concern and action.

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In August, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, made a very unfortunate statement by calling the liberal activists F***ing Retards. His statement was very inappropriate not only for the strong language but for the use of retard which has become a negative slur towards the mentally handicapped.

Sarah Palin has a down-syndrome son, and so when Rahm Emanuel made the statement she was angry. However, instead of calling for something rational- such as an apology, she said he needed to resign. Perhaps, the public was not too surprised. The Sarah Palin has the tendency to try to exaggerate things. However, what was really telling was when in response to Rahm Emmanuel’s comments, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh stated,

“Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards. I mean these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are looney tunes. And I’m not going to apologize for it, I’m just quoting Emanuel. It’s in the news. I think their big news is he’s out there calling Obama’s number one supporters f’ing retards. So now there’s going to be a meeting. There’s going to be a retard summit at the White House. Much like the beer summit between Obama and Gates and that cop in Cambridge.”

However, to this….Palin said nothing. While Rahm Emanuel’s comments were in a closed door session, Limbaugh’s were on the air for everyone to hear. However, Sarah defended Limbaugh’s statements saying it was “satire”. The hypocrisy makes your stomach churn. It also makes you start questioning the “outrage” of Sarah Palin..it starts to seem like simply a political tactic to attack the Obama administration.

However, this issue extends far beyond Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Rahm Emanuel, to the values of our whole society. People have become so polarized that any real outrage and values seem to be politically calculated. Many Democrats were “outraged” by the wars of Bush, but don’t seem to be nearly as outraged when Obama increases war spending. Republicans are “outraged” by the debt that the current administration is causing, but seemed to say nothing when Bush took the country from a surplus to a deficit, much of it due to tax cuts for the rich.

In our personal lives, we love to be “outraged” against something bad our “enemy” does, but excuse it in ourselves and our friends. When our enemy comes into work stressed they are just being a jerk, when our friend comes into work stressed they have been going through a rough time. When our enemy says something hurtful it reveals their inner hatred, when we do it…we are just having a bad day.

Unless we can actually learn to have a real genuine concern and consistency in our views and ideas, we are going to lose any credibility in what we stand for. When our views and ideas simply become calculated political and personal positioning, people soon realize that the ideas we stand for our secondary and our personal aspirations are first. This is not just what Sarah Palin does, this is something that you and I do every single day. Unless we realize that in ourselves, even our outrage towards Palin’s hypocrisy seems to be nothing but politics. However, when we realize it within ourselves, we can start to at least begin the process of change. Perhaps, our feigned and politically or personally-expedient outrage can be transformed into real concern and action.

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When you pray do you really feel like it is going to be answered? When you want something in life do you really think it is going to happen? Sometimes, it seems we fall onto either extreme of the whole issue of prayer and belief. We over-emphasize the sovereignty of God and so prayer essentially loses any faith or belief in change, and often becomes fatalistic acceptance. Prayer or belief is not really used for change, but to simply accept the inevitable outcome. Or we use prayer and belief as a last ditch effort for an issue that we don’t think will truly work out. God…I know I am in a terrible situation…but if you could, help me. However, we don’t really believe anything is going to change, and most of the time we end up being right about our beliefs.

I have been reading the book by Nic Sheff called Tweak, which is a memoir about a young man who became addicted to many drugs, but the one which had the greatest pull on him was meth. It presents the heartbreaking story of dealing with addiction, recovery, and relapse. I had previously read the book, Beautiful Boy, which is the view from the father’s perspective. Both books are quite powerful, and I would recommend them highly.

Anyways, in the book, Sheff claims to be an Atheist, but as the book goes on he starts to turn to the “God he doesn’t believe in” as he tries to find the strength to deal with his recovery. He talks about how his mentor has taught him to pray. He states,

“Spencer has told me to always pray in the affirmative, as though the prayer has already been answered. I should say, “Thank you God, for helping me be kind and patient”. As opposed to, “Please God, help me be patient”. Affirmative prayer reinforces that you have already received the guidance; therefore you are able to focus on the solution. Saying that I need help just reinforces the problem- helping me wallow in it”

I thought this was a really interesting way to look at prayer. Jesus said that if you ask for anything in faith, it will be given to you. Perhaps, part of this is about focus- away from the problem and towards the solution. The people who do the most with their lives are not those who focus on avoiding their problems, but on the solutions that can make their lives better. They truly believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Those who are the people who actually end up seeing change and “mountains move” in their lives. Though you may not always receive the answer you want if you have faith, you rarely will have the life you want if you don’t believe that it is possible for you to change.

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