Obama v McCain: Is it a “worldview” thing?

We’ve just been treated to another round of Obama v McCain with Tom Brokaw as the referee. Nashville is a great place to hold a debate. You can basically play the candidates’ standard comebacks as the verses in a three-chord country song. “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be candidates. They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone, even with a nation they love.”

A Catholic priest in California sent in an interesting article by Christianity Today columnist Chris Hansen. Chris blogs at Out of Ur and is on the editorial staff of Leadership Journal (best known for their Church Laugh cartoons that make it into many Sunday bulletins). Below, Chris analyzes the Oxford, Mississippi, debate through the lens of McCain’s modernism and Obama’s postmodernism.

You can listen to every stump speech and read every position paper, but nothing compares to evaluating presidential candidates side-by-side during a debate. Their contrasting styles and views emerge in ways you hadn’t noticed during the long primary season. The candidates practice their lines and prepare their strategies, but the format allows for precious moments of spontaneity and even humor. The best candidates deftly address issues in ways that lodge them in the public consciousness….

The first debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama provided no such memorable moments. But it did highlight important distinctions between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Namely, McCain and Obama represent key differences between modern and postmodern cultures. Analyzing their debate through this lens reveals similarities to the church’s own debates about how to respond to shifting cultures.

For the rest of Chris Hansen’s take on the debates, go to The Hansen Report.

The third and final presidential debate will be held October 15 at Hofstra University on Long Island. It’ll be moderated by CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer. You can follow some of the local preparations at Blog Hamptons.

Also note that October 16, Hofstra U will host a blow out rock concert with Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen to benefit … (wait for it) …Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama. Apparently, all the cool bands that John McCain likes are suing him (Heart, Jackson Browne)..

The Hero’s Journey

Chris C., who works for Dow Jones, took this photo on his cell phone during his lunch hour on Tuesday, wandering in downtown New York City. I’ve added a quote below from Joseph Campbell on the making of modern heroes.

Street Art in NYC, October 2008
Street Art in NYC, October 2008

“Man is that alien presence with whom the forces of egoism must come to terms, through whom the ego is to be crucified and resurrected, and in whose image society is to be reformed. Man, understood however not as ‘I’ but as ‘Thou’: for the ideals and temporal institutions of no tribe, race, continent, social class, or century, can be the measure of the inexhaustible and multifariously wonderful divine existence that is the life in all of us.”–Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

‘O spiritual soul’ St. John of the Cross

“O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire obscured, thy will arid and constrained, and thy faculties incapable of any interior act, be not grieved at this, but look upon it rather as a great good, for God is delivering thee from thy self, taking the matter out of thy hands … The way of suffering is safer and also more profitable than that of rejoicing and of action. In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own weakness and imperfections.”–St. John of the Cross (noted in Dorothy Day’s diary for Friday, August 18, 1936).

Caveat Lector

“Let the Reader Beware”
a poetic disclaimer

To err is human. I am
Human. I made this blog.
This blog
May have errors. Beware.

I think, therefore I am.
I get paid to think,
Write, and otherwise
Labor by an employer.

That employer is distinct
And separate from this
Blog. I am, I think, solely
Responsible for

The content of my soul
And this blog. Beware.
My employer is blameless,
For what you find here.

Time marches on
And timed material herein
Will soon appear old.
Sorry. This is the way

The world works. Beware.
Hyperlinks are like shaking
hands. You do it automatically.
Sometimes, you wish

you hadn’t. Beware.
Except where otherwise
Noted, content on this
Blog is considered part

Of the Creative Commons
(attribution 3.0). You can
Use and adapt it, as long
As you cite it. Beware.

On occasion, the content
herein will possibly
offend. That’s not
My intent. Beware.

If legal action is
What you intend,
And money of mine
You hope to rake in. Beware.

All financial claims
Will be limited and
Defined. I won’t pay
You anything, except
Maybe a dime. Beware.

Thank you, dear reader,
For spending your time
Here at this blog in the
Internet bog. Enough,
I say of all this due care!
Read on, dear reader, read on!

By Rose Marie Berger

I’m very grateful to Heidi Thompson for designing and managing the guts of this Web site and to Hilary Doran for creating the artwork/logo. This blog is a personal endeavor and is in no way related to my employer.-RMB.

The First Lesson in Agriculture

In further thoughts on foodsheds, I once interviewed the wonderful farmer-poet Wendell Berry who said:

When you take away the subsistence economy, then your farm population is seriously exposed to the vagaries of the larger economy. As it used to be, the subsistence economy carried people through the hard times, and what you might call the housewife’s economy of cream and eggs often held these farms and their families together. The wives would go to town with eggs and cream once a week, buy groceries with the proceeds, and sometimes come home with money. Or they’d sell a few old hens, that sort of thing.

So that’s the first lesson to learn about agriculture, as far as I’m concerned: It needs a sound subsistence basis. People need to feed themselves, next they need to feed their own communities. That’s what we’re working for now. We want to develop a local food economy that local producers will supply and that the local consumers will support. It’s ridiculous that we should be importing food into this state while our farmers are suffering.

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Mapping the Food Shed

Living near 13th and Euclid Sts. in downtown Washington, D.C., means I buy my food from the Giant supermarket in all its pre-packaged glory. This summer I actually had a small pot of grape tomatoes that grew on my front walk. I’d pop one in my mouth on my way in and out of the house, trying to get to them before the little creepy-crawly guys.

After living in Columbia Heights for 22 years, I’m thrilled to see the influx of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture projects that are available for all economic levels (ie they take credit cards as well as WIC cards and food stamps).

I also take vicarious pleasure in the new generations of “dumpster divers” with whom I am acquainted. Ryan is especially an expert at reclaiming delicious food from the trash at Trader Joe’s. (See The Tao of Dumpster Diving by Ryan Beiler.) He’s trained several other teams as well. The Harris Teeter that’s opened up in the next neighborhood over looks like it will be a great gleaning site.

All this reminds me of an exercise I’d love to explore one of these days…mapping my food shed. This is all part of the ongoing “practice of permanence” that I’m playing at as a faith discipline (see monastic “vow of stability”). Below is an excerpt that lays out the basic food shed idea:

The term “foodshed” is similar to the concept of a watershed: while watersheds outline the flow of water supplying a particular area, foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular area. Your foodshed encompasses the farm, your table and everything in between.

The modern US foodshed includes the entire world. Much of our food traverses the globe to reach our dinner table. In fact, food can often travel back and forth thousands of miles to different processing plants before it eventually reaches you.

Here’s a good section from StopWaste.org in the San Francisco area also on mapping foodsheds:

Start exploring your own local food supply. Who is still growing food in the area? What about neighboring counties? What is it like to be a farmer? What are they growing? Where does their farm produce go? How long have they been farming? How do they care for the soil? How do they decide what to grow? Who does the farmwork? How are they treated? What about food products, such as yeast or roasted coffee beans, or value-added products, such as salsa, jams, tamales, or bread? Who are the local producers of food and food products? Are there any you can support? What does your local food shed need? What is missing?

Foodsheds are particularly useful in describing and promoting local food systems. When we look at our agricultural system in terms of the origins and pathways of our food items, then it becomes easier to expand these pathways and focus them at the local level.

Autumn is a wonderful time to do a little food mapping. Figure out the genealogy of your main meals. You’ll get a whole new perspective on who’s coming for dinner..

On Not Being a Consensus-Leader

On January 14, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King took time out of his busy speaking schedule to travel to the Santa Rita prison to meet with and offer his support to anti-war activist and singer Joan Baez, her mother Joan Bridges Baez, her sister Mimi Farina, and others imprisoned for blocking the Oakland draft induction center. In an impromptu press conference outside the jail, King reflected on civil disobedience and the nature and cost of prophetic leadership.

“Henry David Thoreau said in his essay on civil disobedience that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. I do not plan to cooperate with evil at any point. …

“I’m not a consensus-leader. I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion. Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but he is a molder of consensus.

“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position  that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”–Dr. Martin Luther King (January 14, 1968, in front of the jail in Santa Rita, California)

Listen to the whole podcast here.

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In Harmony With God

In Harmony With God

by Rose Marie Berger

When Jesus uses it, ‘perfect’ means to be in harmony with God. To be in harmony with that dynamic change that God made part of life. Life changes. So perfection is learning to be in relationship with the changes in life. To be human we have to undergo changes. The focus is not so much on physical change as it is on spiritual change. When we choose to move closer to God, when we deepen our love and we spend more time in those kinds of thin spaces, we get a deeper sense that God loves us. But we could also choose the opposite. We could choose to move away from God. We could choose to control a kind of static world, and we could live in such a way that we resist growth at every step. Because God’s love is without limits and because we are made in God’s own image, we can never, in our human love, reach the limit of our ability to love.

Source: Radical Grace, Vol. 19, No. 2, the Center for Action and Contemplation

Add your thoughts at inward/outward..

Mark Up the Bail-Out Budget Yourself

Congress is moving rapidly to enact a gigantic taxpayer bailout of the financial sector, with a potential cost of $700 billion or more than $2000 per American citizen. The folks at PublicMarkup.org believe, as Justice Brandeis said, that “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” and that all legislation ought to be open to public comment and consideration in real-time, not just after the fact.

So, as a public service, they’ve posted for public comment the 44-page proposal currently in front of Congress from Senator Chris Dodd (Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs) and the eight-page text of the “Legislative Proposal from Treasury Department for Authority to Buy Mortgage-Related Assets.”

Section 8 of the Treasury Department documents states: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Isn’t it this lack of oversight and “just trust me” attitude that got us into this mess? “Budgets are moral documents” as we say at Sojourners, repeating the Hebrew prophets..

Cracking the Architecture of Despair

I had a wonderful time Tuesday night at the Servant Leadership School in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Thanks to Tim Kumfer, I was able to debut material from my upcoming book Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood. It’s due out in May 2009 from Apprentice House press at Loyola College in Baltimore.

I appreciated the response from the audience who asked the essential question of our day – and maybe any day: How do we maintain hope in times of despair?

Since we were talking about urban architecture and how it influences the soul of a community, I answered citing Mark 13:1-2 as an example. And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” and Jesus replied, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”

When we survey the “great buildings” around us – which we might understand to be the overarching architecture of despair – we hear Jesus saying: See this mighty facade meant to intimidate you and make you feel small and helpless? I say to you: Not one pebble of despair will remain because I will destabilize these monuments to might by cracking their foundations with hope.

Hope is a decision we have to make every day. Just like they say in A.A., you’ve just got to be hopeful for the next 24 hours. We are surrounded by a world that is addicted to despair. The addiction is to hopelessness, and therefore helplessness. But we can decide to resist that addiction by being intentional about choosing to live in hope. We make that decision every day, one day at a time.

One thing that helps us choose hope is by breaking down the architecture of despair into its component parts. Learn the details of the stories inside that architecture. In every way and in all places, the actual human stories within the facades will reveal – yes, terror, yes, great injustice – and also, always, human ingenuity, compassion, love, acts of kindness, an irrational acts of hope that crack the foundations of the architecture of despair..