Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Call to action

"This is our tsunami," said Biloxi mayor A. J. Holloway.

In the New Orleans Superdome where the homeless were herded, the toilets overflow and the water rises to a meter outside; as food relief diminishes and the hospital electrical generators fail.

Remember the lesson of the tsunami. America showed its heartlessness to the world when Bush's contributions failed to match those of small countries in Europe. American volunteers flocked there in mass, only to be seen pounding their bibles and refusing food and shelter to anyone who didn't come to Bible Study.

Progressives can do better than this. Natural disasters demonstrate what we all know, progressive humanist and progressive Christian alike, that man doesn't live on his own but in the company of fellow human-beings for whom he has a responsibility. Tragedy strikes for obscure reasons, and tragedy, above all other incidents, ought to remind us of the constant peril in which each of us lives, of our need for one another to survive, of our duty to take up responsibility for the well-being of other human beings. Whatever our political philosophy, whether we think that overarching institutions or local fellowships ought to take responsibility, we all agree that responsibility ought to be taken.

Jesus said, "As you do unto the least of these you have done it unto me."

We all need to do a reexamination, facing this disaster, of how American cities rate in their responses. The New Orleans tragedy is demonstrating that we have utterly failed Jesus' commandment. Leaving the drowning city, we left behind the poor, the weak, the sick, and the incarcerated, to starve and drown among the toxic waters.

I put out a call for congregational action towards three groups that represent the least of our society. If we fail here, we demonstrate ourselves before the eyes of the world to truly have failed as a Christian nation, not even capable of caring for our own in their time of direst need:

- The poor and homeless who, left behind as their fellow-citizens have fled, have been starving in the Superdome while the structure was ripped apart. Think for a minute about those who try to plan ahead but can't, about the cramped shuttles leaving the city, about what it would be like not to have enough money for a bus ticket out when the warnings were sounded? You see doom coming, and you look around, and no one remains to help you. The city is evacuated and still you wait. Where were the churches that could have organized buses to transport the poor to safety?

- The prisoners evacuated today only after standing in rising water for hours. In advanced nations, we claim that our prisons are supposed to correct and not merely to torture. The man standing in rising water, thinking himself forgotten by his society for wrongs committed far in the past, abandoned, alone, and facing death in totally abysmal conditions -- how will he ever gain faith in society again? What could possibly reclaim him for society? Now, herding them into armored vans, transported to already crowded prisons in Texas, we sew the seeds of irredeemable anger and viciousness towards society. Church, activist, and state need to intervene to make reparations to the prisoners for the way they've been treated in this crisis.

- The sick and elderly who are in hospital, while the windows were blown out and the electric generators failed.

I am putting this out there as a wake-up call. The progressive churches of America aren't organized in a way that allows them to deal with disasters on a great scale. But we do have on our side the quick flow of information, the internet, the local networks of concerned activists, clergy, and lay people, and the growing realization in America that our government isn't able or willing to represent the poor and disenfranchised.

Share this message, I ask you, to your congregations, your ministers, your charities, and let some response be heard. The responsibility for right action in this tragedy rests entirely with progressives, Christian and humanist alike: the radical right has disowned the crisis, claiming that Florida deserved to be hit by a hurricane. Don't let their reaction of armored poison prevail as the formatted response. Theirs is a message that kills mercy, wastes the soul, and annihilates civil society.

We have a better answer than that. Let Christ's message, of putting others' needs before our own, ring through the churches of America. Let's show that progressive Christians can do better than this. The survival of a Christian message true to Jesus' teaching is at stake, in America. The survival of a civil society capable of healing the wounds of economic division is at stake.

Please visit and help us draft a solution:

Please say a litany for Katrina's victims offered by a friar in the Episcopal Brotherhood of St Gregory.

American newssources have tended to focus on political fingerpointing. For those concerned with keeping up with the actual effects of the disaster and counts of who's in greatest need, I highly recommend the Canadian press, which has done a remarkable job of cutting to the chase:
Canada TV on Katrina
The National Post on Katrina
Canadian blogger Jeff Wells has summarized their findings rather bitterly.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Mourning New Orleans

60-80% of homes in and around New Orleans will be destroyed. Not damaged, destroyed.

Without news, studying in my rooms in Pembroke, having no thoughts at all of hurricanes or the Atlantic or North America, for days I'd been thinking about my grandmother's apartment in Louisiana, a place where I haven't been for a decade at least -- revisiting all the rooms, running my hands over every surface, trying to recall the city, the low oak branches slung with spanish moss, the farmhouses of my aunts, the empty dirty streets of the busted downtown.

I read James's entry, and then lay down for a couple of minutes, till I found the City of New Orleans, a frowning statue of white marble, and we sat at the bottom of the ocean together, looking up at the sunlight filtered through grimy water, looking around for what might have been a place, for all the seedy motels, for all the homeless people in the poor hospital, for the garden district, the streetcars, the avenues lit up with lamps.

And I felt suddenly angry at the rest of America; why couldn't *it* wash into the ocean? If only the Hamptons and the houses of the Murdochs and movie stars would wash into the sea. It would be glorious, like a de Mille disaster. It would scare the American people into self-examination and reform. If a tornado swept Dallas away it'd do the city good. But New Orleans, waiting for it, expecting it all these years. So I kissed the belly of the City of New Orleans and felt how red-hot it was with steam and venom and salt and spew, and I went outside to smoke half a pack of cigarettes and drink a full glass of whiskey in honor of my dead grandmother.

Outside the Japanese students and the work-study Brits were playing croquet, and the sun was bright, and I could only imagine that the whole of this place was paper thin, and melting away on the wind.

My grandmother would've put down the bourbon and cigarettes and gone out to drive ambulances through the swamp for the next several weeks. I want to be there too, driving an ambulance through the flooded swamp.

And I saw all of the people leaving New Orleans, and I thought about all the people who had passed through, I thought of Johnny Cash and Lucinda Williams and William Faulkner and my ex and the dirty motel and the trailer park underworld we shared there, and the New Englander friends who visited the South in their convertible on a lark, and the church camp kids giggling over mardi gras as they winged their way past the brothels, and I thought about that city as a soul, or an angel, holding onto everything morbid and hateful and contradictory in America. Going under water like the first angel to blow the first trumpet of the apocalypse of global warming. But I hate that it had to be *her*.

I love her for her sense of doom. I love her for her exaggerated passions. I love her when she's mistaken by the outside world for a cutesy tourist attraction but stays trigger-happy and murderous and fucked up on drugs. She's the contradiction of twentieth-century America in one go: the evangelical preacher in the midst of social diseases for which he has no cure. I'm cradling that city in my mind.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

J is on sabbatical

J needs to study, and won't be blogging again until after September 7.

In the meantime, please visit CrossLeft for daily political, churchy commentary, plug into StreamingChristianity for the latest progressive news, or join the heated discussion at SocialRedemption.

(don't forget to buy your tickets to Washington, DC for the Oct 13-17 Values Conference!)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

UGH! The Christian Left has no PR.

Okay, so here is my question. Why wasn't the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) covered by Episcopal News Source? I have only found one mention of it at all and it was during a 'Weeks Ahead' update.

Other than that there was no coverage at all.

Why is this? This was a gathering of 1300 Episcopalians from around the world, a gathering of youth. that only happens once every 3 years and there was no mention. Is it not considered important enough?

-- Episcopal Princess: Why No News?

Dude. Mainline Protestants are well-educated, coherent, sophisticated lovers of institutions. We can do better than this.

We have two enemies: institutionalization of the media, who are sadly mistaken in thinking the Religious Right is the mainstream in America; and our own reluctance to talk big.

So shoot us. We're modest. We don't go around telling other people that they need to convert to River Valley Church of Me or tiny devils with pointed sticks will torture them for thousands of years.

But we *do* believe, need I remind you, gentle reader, in the conversion of the world. We believe in a better future. And we ought to figure out how to use the media better to create it.

Oh Com'on. It's funny.

The 14 Commandments of the Religious Left By Rush Limbaugh

Thou shalt have no other God except thyself; after all, it's thy self-esteem that counts. If thou doth not love thyself, who will?

Thou shalt not make any graven image out of any substances which cannot be recycled.

Honor thy mother. If she is dysfunctional, it is thy father's fault.

Ship of Fools: Gadgets for God

At last... Christian underwear which proclaims loud and clear that you are a virgin and intend to remain so. Why not show it to a special friend?

Ship of Fools: Gadgets for God

Join the Progressive Christian Movement: Streaming Christianity! Get yours now!!

Hey! Take a look at my nifty sidebar over there -------->

Yeah, that's right. Scroll down a little. See all those extremely elegant links to progressive Christian news stories, clergy bloggers, and new websites? See how many of them there are in the last 24 hrs?

Sort of makes you feel like progressive Christianity is an actual movement, doesn't it?

This is the first fruit of SocialRedemption / CrossLeft's work -- we're trying to get the progressive Christian movement in touch with itself.

The feed aggregates some 200 independent bloggers, Christian columnists, and news sources filtered for news of Christian politics, all with a progressive bias.

"Let Justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" Amos 5:25

- Don't you think it would be nice to read Christian progressive reactions to the news every day?

- Wouldn't you like to share it with everyone you know?

- What if your own writing could be part of it?

Good news! Progressive Christianity is an energetic, active movement transforming the world, and you *can* plug in! What you can do:

1) bookmark this address:

2) if you're technologically sophisticated, you can use that address to read news stories from this address daily on your feed aggregator, handheld device, or mobile phone

3) We encourage those of you with websites to syndicate the newsreel. Does your church have a webpage? Why not create a “news” page where visitors can get tuned in to progressive Christian reactions to the news as it happens?

Sophisticated scripts are available. You add them to your blog template or website html, and voila! Regularly updated, Streaming Christianity. Just ask.

In return, we ask you to post the banner below, linking your guests to

4) If your website already produces regular content — in the form of articles, weekly sermons, blogs, or discussion forums — make sure that other people can read it by having us plug you in to Streaming Christianity.

First you will need to make sure that the content is produced in the form of an RSS feed (talk to your IT person or go to the FAQ section of your blog host). They you can send your rss address to us, and we’ll plug you in!

In return, we ask you to post this banner linking your guests to

The design sophistication and powerful bandwidth necessary to provide this service is due entirely to the magnificent generosity of that most excellent, well-designed, and easy-to-use service Feed DigestFeedDigest. I highly recommend them -- super guys.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

As you do unto the least of them

Residents of a Westmont public housing complex for seniors said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that they were coerced and harassed by management into practicing Christianity and pressured to attend Bible study classes.

-- A Lie a Day: Forced into Faith?

Yes. Okay, so:

37 Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'

40 And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

And so sayeth the Lord to the religious fundamentalist:

Yea, I was hungry and you did dangle food before me and beat me until I promised to agree with your political opinions.

I was poor of spirit and you did taunt me.

I needed lodging and you did kick me out.

I was thinking my own ideas and you did abuse me for it.

Get thee behind me, Bigot.

Berkeley religious activists get The Nation's attention

Critical to Lerner's agenda is to challenge what he calls 'religio-phobia' on the left.

Perhaps with that in mind, once the conference ended, he sent Tikkun's readers an email blast that urged them to call The Nation and other progressive media outlets which he said had failed to cover the Berkeley event, showed hostility to the religious left and had (once again) turned their backs on Tikkun and the politics of spirituality.

-- Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing in Common Dreams, "Religion and the Left"

To make the state a cloister?

Republican mayoral candidate Charlie Winburn began the work of energizing his 'base' 16 years ago.As the new pastor of a small church then known as Ridge Acres Christian Center, Winburn wrote a religious tract titled 'Ruling and Reigning in the '90s.'

In a 250-word passage on the political system, he said it was the job of Christians to 'elect only born-again Christians to public office.

-- The Cincinnati Enquirer, Religion embroils mayoral contest

Budget Cuts: Right-Wing Politics in Economic Garb - The Daily Californian

Budget Cuts: Right-Wing Politics in Economic Garb - The Daily Californian: "Last year, labor studies programs at UC were targeted for elimination by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger"

Interfaith in an era of political divisions

Voice of America news is a fundamentalist, Republican-biased newswire I subscribe to for the sake of earnestly reckoning with my preferences for inter-party dialogue.

I take it as a beacon of hope that, influenced by the inter-faith work of the last two decades by Bishop Swing of California and Pope John Paul II, they too are turning to a message of interfaith work.

Pray to God that the internicene battles between Christian and Muslim, Muslim and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Fundamentalist and Progressive, may be assuaged by this great ministry of love.

"Catholicism is a language. Judaism is a language. Islam is a language. They have to be respected. They bring something unique and important, but they have to meet in a way in which they can converse with each other as if there was a kind of a spiritual Esperanto.

And I can speak to my peers and speak a common language, at the same time recognizing that the particular language has to be respected.

So I have to overcome the either-or notion and speak in term of the both-and notion."

-- Rabbi Schulweis, quoted in VOA News - Religious Leaders Should Reconcile, Not Divide

Telepathy in the age of wireless

Those tiny displays on our mobile will be expanded and morphed with our regular vision, possibly via transparent LCD displays built into glasses or even contact lens-like screens.

Augmented reality will be a radical shift for society to deal with.

Imagine getting hacked or stung by a virus in this medium--it means more than just corrupted information; an alternate reality could invade your world.

-- Envisioning a wireless future | Perspectives | CNET

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Response to Anglican Nigeria: leave gay marriage alone

It's time for Rowan William to call out Africa on the West's experience. We in the West understand from our experience in the 80s what happens when a society faces AIDS by using its gay population as the sacrificial lamb: it doesn't cure AIDS, it doesn't help the orphans, it doesn't end homosexuality, but it creates severe personal, family, and community rifts, generations of repression and denial and self-hatred, the cure for which will take a general social reckoning on a scale perhaps beyond the church's power.

The shifting geography of terrorism targets

This follows other recent reporting suggesting that terrorists
may be planning to attack residential housing compounds in Saudi

The travel warning said terrorist groups had previously targeted
housing compounds, but other potential targets included embassies,

clubs, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, schools, airports,
tourist areas and oil installations.

Australia warns of attacks in Saudi Arabia - National -

The Midland Alliance: Liberation Theology goes Bush

Arguably, the greatest achievement of progressive theology in the twentieth century is the doctrine and history of Liberation Theology. Christians have acted in the name of human rights as challengers to fascist regimes in Nazi Germany and dictatorial South America.

But in this latest twist, Liberation Theology has learned to use American politics to its own ends. Donning the title "Midland Alliance", the coalition of human rights workers emphasizes its connections to oil money, Bush politics, and the status quo -- any cover necessary -- in order to effect a radical counter to human rights abuses abroad.

MIDLAND, Tex., Aug. 8 - Tens of thousands of fans of all ages gathered over the weekend for the annual three-day Rock the Desert Christian music festival screamed for hit bands like Mercy Me and Pillar and kicked Hacky Sacks by a creek renamed the Jordan River and a small pond called the Dead Sea.

Between the Prayer Tent and an abstinence-promotion booth, however, worshipful revelers also stumbled into a more sobering pavilion, the North Korea Genocide Exhibit.

Christian Groups Press Bush About North Korea - New York Times

Internet as Military Front

The original al Qaeda are hiding in the mountains, not a technologically very well-equipped place.

Iraq is an urban combat zone. Technology is a big part of that.

I don't know how to distinguish the Internet now from the military campaign in general in Iraq

Susan Glasser and Steve Coll, The Web as Weapon, The Washington Post

ID theft solution: human chips | | CNET

Serious cases of identity theft seem to occur on a daily basis, the most recent being the discovery of a major ring whose crimes affected as many as 50 banks worldwide.

'The data collected includes credit card details, Social Security numbers, usernames, passwords, instant-messaging chat sessions and search terms,' according to Sunbelt Software, the security company that exposed the operation.

Concerns over such breaches have given new vigor to the debate over the ultimate in identity security, a notion once reserved only for science fiction: microchips implanted in the human body.

ID theft solution: human chips | | CNET

Postcard from England: They're playing croquet on the lawn outside my room

Originally uploaded by toadfish.

Economies of Time

'Conspicuous industriousness' is fancy talk for chasing your own tail. This is the habit of rushing around frantically and feeling quite noble even when you go nowhere fast.

Equipped with cell phones, beepers, and handheld computers, the 'conspicuously industrious' blur the line between home and office by working anytime, anywhere.

Always on call, they make a perverse case for the argument that work isn't a part of life, but rather that life is a part of work.

They embody the new twenty-first century ideal--'I work, therefore I am.'

Joann Davis on how we're too busy 'running the rat race' to nurture our souls --

What if a man gain all this and lose his own soul?

Letting the fundamentalists have it their own way?

At the heart of the rifts over gay marriage in the Anglican communion and Methodist church is a problem about community structure. What do you do when another party of the church disagrees with the creeds you say or the way you live? How often do you disagree? How much should the church as a single body have in agreement? How do you share ideas about new phenomena (and sexuality as a political identity is certainly new with the nineteenth century), while still leaving open room to grow in dialogue?

The traditional church had ways of coping with disparate levels of integration and learning, or people from different traditions: this is the Catholic principle of subsidiary -- that each local church has its own governing structure, and that a bishop in England had a lot of say over what his people believed, while a bishop in Africa could believe something else. Only when the mass of believers were in concert over a principle could the church in general adopt it.

As a way of handling different geographies, it worked splendidly. A kind of 5th-century proto-federalism.

The church isn't necessarily as good at promoting learning over time, for either individuals or nations. Do we assume that all those learning about God will end up with the same picture in the end, in which case the answer is to beat them to study harder until they agree with you? Or do we assume that they may start learning in a different direction and enrich or surpass one's own knowledge, in which case the answer is to throw endless resources at every individual until they reach their own truth (if they reach their own truth)?

In a sense, these are larger issues for democracies, not just the church. And the way our democracies in the West have handled them since the Enlightenment is through the free market of ideas in the public sphere. You may be a gun-toting fundamentalist redneck, whilst I am free to be a vegan tree-huger, and which ever side gets more converts at the end of the day can have the state.

But this system isn't necessarily very good at promoting loving relationships between members of the same community, nor at encouraging each side to hear the other's ideas, nor at promoting the best truth for the whole polis. What it tends to reward is the most evangelical, the most convert-based, media-active religion. We might see that as meeting people where they are, or we might see it as a kind of wanton demagoguery.

What would a Godly church do, faced with a kind of market in which the louder extremists always win? How would it seek to cushion its most earnest believers against being seduced by extremisms that serve not God but publicity? How would it encourage extremists to dialogue with each other?

Well, these are the issues that the Anglican communion is having issues with about homosexuality. This is one of the reasons that the African church's extremist stance -- no homosexual marriage anywhere or we leave -- is being countenanced by Canterbury. Canterbury thinks that they need to keep the family in dialogue. Rightly, they assume that Africa is willing to leave on a trigger, while peaceable leftist tree-huggers in America will maintain dialogue no matter what.

One solution is more extremism: that the Left needs to articulate loudly why being a Christian requires you to endorse gay marriage. More extremism could be seen to be good for the exchange of ideas. Between extremisms, the free market of ideas will let truth win out.

The other solution is a concerted campaign by moderates to ostracize extremist viewpoints of both right and left, and to re-endorse a form of psychological subsidiary for the church as a whole, allowing each individual to be more tribal or more democratic, more publicity-biased or more historically-informed, as he or she is prone to be: all the while insisting on a Christian message of understanding, reconciliation, and compassion appropriate for any of these vantage-points.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Akinola, Nigerian primate, doesn't know when to shut up

Yet another event passes in the relentless unfolding of our pitiful domestic drama. Rowan Williams tries to hoe the middle ground, gay clergy act according to their individual conscience, and Africa pitches a fit.

Kick Africa out of the Anglican communion already. There ain't no excuse for this uncivil, hate-filled, despotic behavior from a Christian bishop.

The bishops also came under fire from Anglicanism's leading conservative, Archbishop Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria. He said the Church of England was effectively introducing gay marriages and issued a warning that it could face similar punishment to that of liberal Americans and Canadians, who are threatened with expulsion from the worldwide Church for extending homosexual rights.

Telegraph | News | Gay clergy to defy bishops over no-sex 'marriages'

Wired News: Riding With the Urban Mappers

France had it years ago: storefront photos of any address in Paris. The ground floor view popped up as you looked for your hairdresser in the yellow pages.

At last, America has it as well. Students of vernacular architecture, tune in!

Wired News: Riding With the Urban Mappers

Detective novels take on the world

Charming ladies from Botswana solve crimes

Detective novels take on the world |

Grassroots Evangelicals

Times change. Grassroots and pomo *were* once the domain of liberals and leftists. We felt secure, no matter what the polls said, because of two pieces of knowledge:

1) the Left, not the Right, was teaching children, ministering to prisons, and building communities. We nurtured children, we organized sex education programs, we enthused sixteen-year-olds to save the earth through recycling programs. We were everywhere, and we understood the future.

2) To us belonged an understanding of language, culture, and sociology far beyond what they could muster. Whatever else happened, the least of us could whoop the ass of the greatest of them in a real philosophical argument. We were smart, and education would vanquish ignorance in the last battle.

No more.

The Lausanne Committee on World Evangelicalism (the same people who brought you the Consultation on Spiritual Warfare that equated choosing the right side in Bosnia with combatting Satan in New Age practice and drug culture) is moving into grassroots.
In 1984, Sheriff Leo Samaniego allowed prison ministries in El Paso, Texas, and the result was startling. The city with the third highest violent crime rate in the nation became the second safest major city in the U.S.

Christian News - The Christian Post | Top Christian Leaders Gather to Transform America at Grass-Roots

2) The same Lausanne Committee on World Evangelicalism started moving in the direction of postmodernism about five years ago. They can cite Derrida and Rorty. They know Bonhoeffer and Barth forwards and backwards.

Evangelicals realize that they can't convert sophisticated college Freshmen, concerned about their place in the world and the future of the planet, based on the Bible alone. So they set out to master the terms in which the war was being fought.

Check out these sumptuously crafted websites:

These sites are extremely gentle, although a quick google search brings up fragments of older online discussions now deleted where the evangelical editors told liberal discussants to "fuck off."

Read further, and you can find the gentle editors (who urge their readers to read widely and understand Derrida) slamming relativist theologians who have failed to condemn masturbation.

* * *

I probably write with too much suspicion. But the religion to which I was raised was a theology of individuals coaxed to love God and serve their neighbors above all things. It was equally a religion suspicious of all regimes of control.

If I learned one thing from my years of studying Derrida and Rorty, it was this: all institutions create controlled environments for discussion, but some try to quash the will by subliminal and disciplinary actions as well; among the most effective terms for subduing the spirit is disciplining the body.

Evangelicals who engage postmodernism only to discipline those who aren't like them? I have great suspicions about their Christianity.

* * *

Another and more benign view from Texas Baptists sees this body discipline as it is: the institutional attempt to regulate the individual conscience into a position of submission before the collective, as opposed to treating the entire person as an identity capable of great love, whose particular actions in any instance are less the point than their internal love of God and external acts towards their neighbors.

I am intrigued by those who deal with homosexuality with basically the only criterion or filter for seeing other people is that of sexuality. What does that say?
-- Bill Tillman, writing with Christians for Change

Rev. Tillman's position is well taken from the theological point of view. Yet he glosses over the historical issue at hand.

Around 1890 Americans and Europeans started thinking of their bodies in new ways. It was by then an irreversible process, the result of hundreds of years of innovation in medicine, gender relations, and political relations, and it produced, in a great flurry of self-awareness, the new disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Each of these disciplines was interested in the relationship between the individual and his/her body as the product of social forces.

We are the product of our collective history. The individual in 2005 can no more will him/herself out of a definitively sexual, bodily identity than he can will himself out of a capitalist economy. Many Christians write as if the choice to opt out of one's sexual identity were as simple as switching off MTV: what we must acknowledge is that one can only indeed drown the sexual and bodily in oneself if one can erase the last hundred years of history, the influence of psychology, the subject-matter of a hundred novels, and all the self-understanding that has gone with it.

In that working-out of a hundred years is the germ of a new understanding of sexual ethics. It's discussed ad nauseum in R-rated movies, R&B lyrics, women's magazines, and psychologist's sitting-rooms. It comes down to this great question: if one has a lover, if one has an "alternative" (read minority) sexuality -- if for whatever reason, Christian or not, one finds oneself or one's friends in such a position -- what is the kindest way to act? The answers handled are complicated. They rarely have to do with dropping communication entirely. More often, the ethical solutions that emerge sound familiar to traditional values: good gay relationships depend on openness and trust. Good premarital lovers don't cheat on each other. Good adulterers eventually seek honesty with their wives and husbands, and try to look after their children.

These are deep matters of theology. They are the public theology of our age. In their best form, these reflections are imbued with an ethic of humility, service, and compassion. In less coherent forms, they devolve into paeons to rebellion and self-pitying lyrics of indulgence. But even such counterculture is but the symptom of our age.

At the point that one acknowledges that one is living in an age where most people think about sex a lot, one has two choices. One can set sail for some small island without inhabitants, with some dozen other believers in one's fictitious world, there to rewrite history and forget the past together.

Or one can acknowledge that history is a disease that we all suffer from together, and the one symptom of our disease now is an awkward failure to understand our own sexualities or those of our neighbors, and that the response Christ taught to all those awkwardnesses was the same: to serve one's neighbor, with love and gentleness; to give them one's cloak, to listen, to teach, to learn. Not to discipline. Not to throw stones.

"Secularism = Jihad"

Johnson leads the Ohio Restoration Project, an emergent network of nearly 1,000 'Patriot Pastors' from conservative churches across the state. Each has pledged to register 300 'values voters,' adding hundreds of thousands of like-minded citizens to the electorate who 'would be salt and light for America.' - Shaping politics from the pulpits

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In Outer Suburbs, Lighting Up the Night

In Outer Suburbs, Lighting Up the Night: "Astronomers led the fight against light pollution in the 1980s, encountering opposition from businessmen worried about the cost of replacing fixtures and citizens concerned that darkness threatens public safety."

Perception of security shapes landscapes, always.

What else does it shape? What about attention spans, sleep patterns, community interaction?

If the streets are alit at night, do people gather there? As rebel teenagers in Dallas, Texas, we used to take long walks through suburban street, parking lot, and park, playing complicated games of hide-and-seek.

There was something morbid and unhealthy about the colors our faces took in each of the different residential districts' lights -- sulfur yellow and black and white; unhealthy greenish fluorescent glows. It was sort of seductive, and sort of frightening.

The 'rebranding' of the war on terror

The 'rebranding' of the war on terror | "Bush team wants to play down military aspects and focus on the 'struggle against violent extremism.'"

What's the difference between a terrorist and a violent extremist?

Do rioters count as violent extremists?

Do G-8 protesters?

Playing with your eyes

Amid all the recent chatter about 'intelligent design' and speculation over Roe vs. Wade's fate in the Supreme Court, bloggers say, it's not surprising that a photo like this--regardless of its authenticity--is making the rounds."

A baby's foot or Photoshop? | | CNET

Problem and Solution

Rich Liberals Vow to Fund Think Tanks: "As alliance officials see it, many liberal groups are designed to protect an agenda that was enacted by past Democratic majorities -- as opposed to generating new ideas and communication strategies to win support from voters who do not belong to labor or other traditionally Democratic constituencies."

Two new ideas of pre-eminence spring to mind:
- Progressive use of new media
- the gathering storm of a progressive religious vision

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite goes Christ

You too can use Napoleon Dynamite as a Bible study.

Christian themes: Friendship, family.

The Third American Civil War

According to historian Michael Kazin, the Second American Civil War that pitted North against South happened in the 1960's, as civil rights and states' rights went head to head.

But in these days of migrant careers, libertarians are thinking of moving to New Hampshire, liberals to California or Canada, and Evangelicals to South Carolina. Each hopes to make a semi-Mormon pilgrimage to a new holy land where they can live according to their own ideals. Once they get there, they intend to change state law.

It *could* all be paradaisical if we imagine infinitely mobile citizens who can simply strike out and live in the state that suits them best. Then the colonies could indeed look a seventeenth-century map of the colonies -- Puritans here, Catholics there, Spaniards somewhere else, each according to the native teachings of their tradition.

But this is an age when information and belief are still more mobile than individuals. One *could* find oneself, a black man in South Carolina, reading wistfully about civil rights, yet without the financial means to leave your state.

Woe to anyone who isn't mobile who gets left in South Carolina, New Hampshire, or California. Woe in particular to the ethnic minority, the misfit teenager, or the Jew somehow stuck in South Carolina. And woe to America should the other states -- moderate or liberal -- then try to intervene in the name of pluralism, civil society, and civil rights.

Christian Exodus urges relocation to the South : Corvallis Gazette-Times :. Archives

Friday, August 05, 2005

The 2004 Catholic Voter Guide - A Service of the Catholic Voting Project

The 2004 Catholic Voter Guide - A Service of the Catholic Voting Project

A role-model of a good, clear, what-are-the-issues site. The Catholic Voter broke up every issue under discussion in the last election, and ranked Bush and Kerry as they fared against the Bishops.


Care For the Earth

In the words of Pope John Paul II, care for the Earth and for the environment is a "moral issue." We support policies that protect the land, water, and the air we share. Reasonable and effective initiatives are required for energy conservation and the development of alternate, renewable, and clean-energy resources. We encourage citizens and public officials to seriously address global climate change, focusing on prudence, the common good, and the option for the poor, particularly its impact on developing nations. The United States should lead the developed nations in contributing to the sustainable development of poorer nations and greater justice in sharing the burden of environmental neglect and recovery.

Bush: Withdrew the U.S. from the Kyoto Treaty, which supported further study of global warming and called for reductions of emissions that contribute to global warming. Supports rolling back the Clean Air Act requirements for older power plants. Supported drilling for oil in the Artic refuge. Supports lifting responsibilities from oil, gas and chemical companies in cleaning up polluted areas. This will save companies $29B. Proposed the Healthy Forests initiative which allows companies to log more forests.

Kerry: Voted to strengthen enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Supports reducing automobile emissions by increasing the production of renewable energy like wind and solar power. Opposes limiting the Clean Water Act. Opposes the Healthy Forests iniative which would allow companies to log more forests. Endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters.

All this leads one to wonder how the Bishops' actual concerns got so little press during the election. How are progressive concerns getting swept under the media whitewash?

Earnest, moderate, evenly-weighed sites like this one are only the first step in convincing the electorate that the Christian vote is a serious responsibility, and that Fox News isn't an authority on what Christianity entails.

The next steps will be about coordinating this kind of display with a sophisticated agenda shown by grass-rights groups, coherent publicity in the media, and sense-making, Christian political messages from the candidates themselves.

The "Divine Internet"

"Rudraksh." Bollywood, 2004.

Psychics, faith healers, Tibetan wise men, Apple Computers, and scientists from the University of California battle against demons last discussed in the Ramayana and buried for years over the struggle over the future of the world.

The demons control tv and radio and spread rioting over every continent.

Out of Body Experience is discussed as plugging into the "divine internet".

Our hero is the bodyguard at a rave club.

The evil demons are Indians who participate in faux-Victorian/goth Europeanized aesthetics (wearing crosses, black leather, long flowing white dresses, etc).


Link: Preview Rudraksh

Monday, August 01, 2005

Recruiting warriors through play

Paul Virilio anticipated this years ago. New technology always offers new means of cultural control:
On July 4, 2002, the US Army released its first video game, "America's Army." Entirely funded by US taxpayers, the game is ditributed for free over the internet and is given away at Army recruiting stations and events. In just a couple of years, the game has proven to be quite popular. The Army claims that there are roughly four million registered users playing the game, making it one of the top video games in the world.

catholicworker: Hegemony's Joystick, by Matt Vogel

Want streaming progressive Christianity on your blog or website? add this fun script.

just replace the square brackets with carats:

[iframe src="" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="NO" width="150" height="600" align="center"] [/iframe]

If God had a face, what would it look like?

Real Face Of Jesus: December 2002 Cover Story

What if God was one of us;
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus,
Trying to make his way home?

Christian love affairs

Expressed biblically, the kind of commitment I have in mind here is a couples’ mutual commitment to build each other up, unfailingly and truthfully, as a way of honoring God in the other. It is a commitment to build each other up as persons of sacred worth, created in God’s own image as bearers of a shared calling to love and work with the well-being of all God’s creatures uppermost in mind.

Methodist theologian LeRoy Howe of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, writing in his weekly column, Howe About: LoveThat Outlasts Marriage

Highway landscapes and crime

Do highways create crime?

Retailers say rings of habitual shoplifters are proliferating nationwide, but particularly in urban areas such as Washington, where retailers and malls are packed close together and there is easy access to highways.

Retail Gangs: A New Breed of Thieves, in the Washington Post

Places where no one goes, where one can disappear quickly -- natural realms of danger, crime, and fantasy.

Link: "Shopping" (1994) in IMDB

Link: NYT on tow trucks prowling parking lots