Bill McKibben: Climate Change Won’t Wait

I’ve been pondering climate change issues for awhile: praying, educating folks on what’s happening, shoring up my spiritual foundations by reading things like Hiebert’s The Yawhist’s Lanscape: Nature and Religion in Early Israel, strategizing, and just doing some serious thinking.

On the one hand, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). I trust completely in the abiding love of God here on earth and in the life to come. What happens is what happens when it comes to breaking God’s fundamental earth covenant and the cycles of human life.

On the other hand, the role of the prophets is to continually make plain to the people where they have broken covenant with God, what they need to do to turn around, and what is promised them when they do.

When it comes to addressing global climate change, both hands are in motion. I need to act with all risk and passion of the prophets and all the joyful confidence of one who strives to walk humbly with God.

On February 17, 2013, God’s people are called again to carry a message to President Obama: Take meaningful action to reverse climate change now.

Below is an excerpt from Bill McKibben’s most recent oped in the LA TImes: Climate Change Won’t Wait:

… With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to physics’ timetable, it will be too late.

It’s not at all clear that President Obama understands this.

That’s why his administration is sometimes peeved when they don’t get the credit they think they deserve for tackling the issue in his first term in office. The measure they point to most often is the increase in average mileage for automobiles, which will slowly go into effect over the next decade.

That’s precisely the kind of gradual transformation that people — and politicians — like. But physics isn’t impressed. If we’re to slow the pace of climate change we need to cut emissions globally at a sensational rate, by something like 5% a year.

It’s not Obama’s fault that that’s not happening. He can’t force it to happen, especially with Congress so deeply in debt to the fossil fuel industry. But he should at least be doing absolutely everything he can on his own authority. That might include new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, for example. And he could refuse to grant the permit for the building of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. …

…The president must be pressed to do all he can — and more. But there’s another possibility we need to consider: Perhaps he’s simply not up to this task, and we’re going to have to do it for him, as best we can.

Those of us in the growing grass-roots climate movement are moving as fast and hard as we know how (though not, I fear, as fast as physics demands). Thousands of us will descend on Washington on Presidents Day weekend for the largest environmental demonstration in years. And young people from 190 nations will gather in Istanbul, Turkey, in June in an effort to shame the United Nations into action.

We also need you. Maybe if we move fast enough, even this all-too-patient president will get caught up in the draft. But we’re not waiting for him. We can’t.

George Kodhr: When ‘God’ Becomes a Word for Will to Power

Remembering the victims of violence, as well as the souls of the perpetrators …

“When the soul is invaded by the thirst for blood, faith gives way to ideology. The religious vocabulary is maintained but the words change their content. The hieratic society that empties the name of God of all content practices a horrible paganism. “God” becomes just a word used to express the will to power and the religious symbol becomes a sign of terror. In this way God can ultimately be transformed first into a concept, and then into an idol. Our faith in God at that point is based on this idolatrous foundation. It is now God who scatters death among our enemies, not us. Holiness gives way to heroism: the warrior is holy, salvation through combat on behalf of God. …

We do not sufficiently realize that murder springs from the heart, that no evil is external, and that violence is simply the forthright expression of the vanity of tribes who cannot recognize God’s face in the other. A Christian people, whose heart has been converted to the Holy Face and which lives the kenosis of the face of God, may in fidelity to the absolute never produce anything spectacular in this world, but simply transmit the words that have been said to it. Carrying the cross of Jesus in obedience to the commandment of love, it will bear witness, in the darkness of history, to the truth of Jesus, the eternal Passover.”–Metropolitan Archbishop George Khodr

Excerpted from Violence and the Gospel by Metropolitan Archbishop George (Khodr), Orthodox Archdiocese of  Byblos and Botris, Church of Antioch. This article was first given at a conference in Lyon of the Association of Christians Against Torture, and appeared in Supplément de la vie Spirituelle, Sept. 1987.

Clarification of Thought: New Gay Marriage Ruling in California

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker (AP Photo)

This week, in the nation’s first federal trial on same-sex marriage, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection (Judge Strikes California’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage, Proposition 8).

Judge Walker’s ruling is very important for further study. I found his legal brief to be extremely cogent. Whether you are “for” or “against” gay marriage, it is worth the read to gain deeper understanding in what the state’s interest is in marriage – and how that interest has changed over time.

If you are involved in faith-based political organizing, I would also highly recommend reading the brief. There were more than 1700 religious organizations allied in support of Proposition 8 and the judge makes very clear that their arguments were insufficient when it came to the law. There is much in the case that’s instructive on what is the proper role of religion in society and what is not. It explores the narrow area where church meets state.

If you want to know why gay people want to get “married,” rather than just getting “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions,” the testimonies of the witnesses are very compelling.

If you think that “loving the sinner and hating sin” has no negative repercussions, then read the section on how religion is a leading indicator in hate crimes against gays and suicide by gays.

Below I’m including a series of excerpts that I found worthy of further study. As many continue to weigh, test, study, and form our consciences on this issue, reading this ruling will aid in what deeper clarification of thought. (You can read the original ruling here or scroll to the very bottom.) Let me know what you think.

Religious Beliefs and the State
“The state’s interest in an enactment must of course be secular in nature. The state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without an accompanying secular purpose.” – U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, on unconstitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 (4 August 2010)

State’s Interest in Marriage
“The court posed to proponent’s counsel the assumption that “the state’s interest in marriage is procreative” and inquired how permitting same-sex marriage impairs or adversely affects that interest. [Doc. 228 at 21.] Counsel replied that the inquiry was “not the legally relevant question,” [ID]but when pressed for an answer, counsel replied: “Your honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.” [ID at 23.]

Continue reading “Clarification of Thought: New Gay Marriage Ruling in California”

True ‘Family Values’ Means Loving Your Gay Kids, Say Latino Catholics

Migdalia Santiago: "My daughter is lesbian. I learned this when she was 13. I am Catholic."

The Christian Right has maintained a strong anti-gay plank in their “family values” platform. However, many Christians believe that true “family values” are rooted in the family as a model of Christian community.

Christian families are kinship groups where the basics of Christian virtues and life are taught to the young and exemplified by the elders  — including sacrificial love, deep prayer and study, charity and justice  within and beyond the family, and a bottomless well of mercy and forgiveness.

Latinos are known for holding the family at the core of culture and values. The Public Religion Research Institute’s July 21, 2010, report on Religion and Same-Sex Marriage in California indicates how “family values” are defined among Latino Catholics and Protestants in California when it comes to gays,  gay marriage, and justice.

Here’s what the statistics show:

*57% of Latino Catholics would vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage compared to 22% of Latino Protestants

*Latino Catholics “say they trust the parents of gay and lesbian children more than their own clergy as a source of information about homosexuality.”

*According to the Pew Forum, an estimated 31% of California’s population is Catholic. And of that between 40-50% is Latino.

Joe Palacios, adjunct professor of sociology at Georgetown University, reflects on this trend in On Faith:

Family First: Latino Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of high Latino single-parent households (estimated 33% of all U.S. Latino households; 36% of all Latino Children in California live in single-parent households). Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow “traditional family values” as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family. It is not surprising that Catholics in general and Latino Catholics in particular, as the Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children. Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.

Catholic Communal versus Protestant Individual Faith: Catholicism is a communal faith that highlights the life cycle process through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and marriage. Families experience their moral lives through communal participation in the sacraments, as well as the Latino community’s cultural observances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, etc. Protestant Latinos, on the other hand, have a faith that is individually driven through faith conversion (“accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”) that often separates a person from the Catholic sacramental life cycle process and the social fabric of the Catholic-based cultural celebrations. Fundamentalist Protestantism sees such Catholic cultural practices as contrary to a pure Christian faith. The study illustrates this communal-individual faith difference by noting that Latino Protestants (37%) lean toward a style of religious social engagement prioritizing “personal morality and faith” over a Catholic (59%) orientation that prioritizes “justice and action.”

Latino Catholic Tolerance versus Protestant Fundamentalist Judgment: Catholics allow complexity and ambiguity in moral decision-making since Catholicism is neither fundamentalist nor literalist regarding the Bible. Rather, Catholics can weigh factors such as the Bible, church teaching, and social reality affecting decision-making. Latino Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights– as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops. Further, as noted in the study, Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or gay issues in sermons except when forced to by the bishops as happened during the Prop 8 campaign.

Read Palacios’ whole column here. Read the whole Public Religion Research Institute report with more valuable data on religious views correlated to gay/lesbian issues. Including this:

A significant number of Californians who initially say they  support civil unions but not same-sex marriage say they would support same-sex marriage if the law addresses either of two basic concerns about religious marriages:

*With a religious liberty reassurance that the law would guarantee that no congregation would be forced to conduct same-sex marriages against its beliefs, support for same-sex marriage increases 12 points, from initial support of 42% to a solid majority at 54%.

*With a civil marriage reassurance that the law would only provide for ‘civil marriages like you get at city hall,’ support increases 19 points, from 42% to about 6-in-10 (61%).

Also read Why Would More Latino Catholics Be For Same-Sex Marriage Than Protestants? by Candace Chellew-Hodge

And for an excellent discussion on the Bible and gay marriage, see earlier post The Good Book and Gay Marriage.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to High School: “Jennifer’s Body”

jennifers-bodyJennifer’s Body (“She’s evil … and not just high school evil.”) is a new horror/slasher flick written by Diablo Cody (Juno and The United States of Tara — who also happens to be Catholic). It’s got all the blood, gore, cannibalism, revenge on teenage hormones, that we’ve come to expect from the genre. But don’t take that as a recommendation.

If you are a closet fan of American horror/thriller films and what they uncover about our social psyche, I suggest reading Jennifer’s Body and Why I Like Buffy’s Body Better by W. Scott Poole. He’s an associate professor in history at the College of Charleston and has written several books dealing with American religion, race, and popular culture. His latest is Satan in America: The Devil We Know.

According to to Poole, the dialogue in Jennifer’s Body is slick and ironic, but falls short of overturning the tables of misogyny in the genre. Even though writer Cody says she wanted to subvert the genre by inserting a sort of feminist “Trojan Horse” into the script. (See NYT‘s review by Michelle Orange.) However, J’s B is nothing compared to Joss Whedon’s 7-season TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I’m a huge fan. See my article Damnation Will Not Be Televised.)

I’m always glad to find smart interpretations of Buffy’s mythic themes, feminism, and deep religious narrative. Here’s an excerpt from Poole’s review comparing Buffy with Jennifer’s Body:

Religion often goes to the horror movies, taking with it a raft of cultural baggage. In 1968, Rosemary’s Baby incorporated the Devil, anxieties over feminism, and the controversy over birth control. A few years later, The Exorcist served up an unsettling combination of religious conservatism, the perceived dangers of single-parent families, and the power of adolescent sexuality. Jennifer’s Body is the latest offering in this genre. …

I prefer to see powerful religious and cultural paradigms more thoroughly subverted than this. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer—in which another high school cheerleader is revealed as “the Chosen One” who slays monsters rather than becoming one—provides a good example.

Buffy’s seven seasons did more than simply reverse the formula that makes women the predators rather than the prey. Whedon and his writers and directors created a truly nuanced and complex hero, an archetypal figure in the same sense that Beowulf and Achilles represents the heroic. Rather than perform a parody of female identity (or simple revenge fantasy), Buffy instead embodied both the limitations of human ability and the struggles against darkness that are the price of transcendence.

The Mosque in Morgantown: Finding Our Religion within American Pluralism

Asra Nomani (center) and family
Asra Nomani (center) and family

In March, I had lunch with Asra Nomani at Sticky Fingers, the vegan bakery across from the Sojourners office. Nomani, former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam, mentioned the culmination of a two-year film project she’d been working on that PBS would be airing as part of the “America at a Crossroads” series. The Mosque in Morgantown premiers Monday, June 15, 2009, at 10 p.m. EST. (Check your local listings.)

I first came across Asra Nomani in 2003. There was a small article in The Washington Post about a woman who was fighting for women’s rights in her mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia. I was intrigued by a Muslim woman — born into an Indian Muslim family and raised in the United States — not only returning to the heart of her religion but doing it in a way that produced the kind of radical call to freedom true faith engenders. I was intrigued that she claimed Sojourner Truth, the ex-slave who adamantly defended the rights of women in the church and in society, as one of her inspirations.

The Mosque in Morgantown is the story of Asra and her mother, Sajida, who in 2003 entered their mosque in Morgantown by the front door and prayed in the same room with men. This was counter to the rising practice in many mosques, in which women are forced to pray behind partitions. In June 2004, five women from around the country joined the Nomanis to pray in Morgantown’s mosque.

Not only did Nomani forcibly integrate the mosque, she “nailed” (taped, actually) her “99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds, and Doors in the Muslim World” and an Islamic Bill of Rights for Women on the mosque door. She stood firmly in the tradition of Martin Luther, who pounded his 95 Theses into the church door in Wittenberg, and Martin Luther King Jr., who posted the demands of the open-housing campaign on then-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s office door in 1966.

The Mosque in Morgantown takes the viewer inside a religious community that’s in the midst of a simmering battle between progressives and traditionalists. We see how Nomani’s prophetic tactics of direct action alienate the moderates and horrify the traditionalists. We see the struggle for power that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever served on a parish council or vestry. We see the creative responses that emerge from the community as it is forced to deal with change.

Nomani is driven to fight the “slippery slope” of extremism that she perceives to be taking over the leadership of the mosque her father founded. It’s clear to the viewer that Nomani, who was a close friend of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, must take clear and decisive action against religious extremism in her home community because she’s seen where such extremism can lead.

At the same time, members of her community take great offense at being lumped in with violent extremists just because they take a traditionalist view of their faith. Other community members don’t like her tactics. They prefer a moderate, more measured, course. “The American experience,” says moderate mosque member Ihtishaam Quazi, “works against the idea of a slippery slope that Asra is so afraid of.”

Unfortunately, as we’ve learned from the murder of Dr. George Tiller by religious militant extremist Scott Roeder and the murder at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by militant religious extremist James W. von Brunn — both of whom claim to be Christians — the “American experience” and the vibrant flame of a pluralistic democracy must be guarded with eternal vigilance.

Watch The Mosque in Morgantown on PBS and find out more here.

This post first appeared on GodsPolitics.com. For more about Asra Nomani, see “Men Only?” by Rose Marie Berger and “Living Out Loud,” by Laurna Strickwerda. To read Nomani’s articles in Sojourners, see “A Faith of Their Own,” “The Islamic Reformation Has Begun,” and “The Struggle for the Soul of Islam.”

Cesar Vallejo’s “God”

vallejo1While proofing a 1989 article in Sojourners by Daniel Berrigan, I came across this poem by Cesar Vallejo. Berrigan referenced it in relation to Isaiah 49.

Vallejo was a Peruvian poet. He was born in 1892 and published his first collection of poems – Los Heraldos Negros – in 1918. This translation of “Dios” is by Robert Bly.

God
by César Vallejo

I feel that God is traveling
so much in me, with the dusk and the sea.
With him we go along together. It is getting dark.
With him we get dark. All orphans . . .

But I feel God. And it even seems
that he sets aside some good color for me.
He is kind and sad, like those that care for the sick;
he whispers with sweet contempt like a lover’s:
his heart must give him great pain.

Oh, my God, I’ve only just come to you,
today I love so much in this twilight; today
that in the false balance of some breasts
I weigh and weep for a frail Creation.

And you, what do you weep for . . . you, in love
with such an immense and whirling breast. . . .
I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;
because you never smile; because your heart
must all the time give you great pain.

Military Empire Requires Religious Blessing

“What will be God’s if all things are Caesar’s?”–Tertullian (160–220 AD), De Idolatria

“In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evil—they are too often caught up in complicated webs of political power, economic interests, cultural clashes, and nationalist dreams. The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience. But God has not given the responsibility for overcoming evil to a nation-state, much less to a superpower with enormous wealth and particular national interests. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.”–Jim Wallis, Dangerous Religion (Sojourners, September-October 2003)

Contact the GI Hotline if you are or someone you know:

*is in the U.S. military and wants to get out

*is considering joining the U.S. military

*is being pursued by an army recruiter.

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