Thursday, September 29, 2005
We talk about being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. But which image are we speaking of? Is it the image of a son so submitted to the will of His father that he was willing to become a helpless infant in the hands of strangers? Or is it the bruised and battered Jesus, spit on, despised and rejected of men? What about the victorious Jesus, returning on a white horse? How about the image of Jesus kneeling in agonized prayer in the garden asking, “Father if..,” Can we choose which Jesus we become? I suspect that just as all of these images and so many others are all parts of the whole, we have to experience all of these aspects of Jesus as parts of our whole experience of being transformed into His image and likeness. And when I go through my “garden” experiences in the process of transformation, I am so glad that the Bible doesn’t try to clean up the story for the more “sensitive viewing audience.” I’m glad that it records that Jesus whispered an “if”. I’m glad that it tells the truth that there were moments when Jesus didn’t want to be the clay.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
I would like to ask the question, " What constitutes a civilized society?" It seems to me that all too often in American culture we equate "civilization" with technology. I have heard other cultures dismissed as backward because of their lack of material possessions and comforts such as electricity and automobiles. But what about other factors, such as the way we care for one another? Our children? Our elders? What about issues of human rights, education, healthcare, and employment? Shouldn't a society be measured by these factors as well? What about the way that we resolve conflict and interact with other nations/cultures?
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I am reluctant even as I write this. I have been turning it over and over in my mind, asking myself what my story actually is. I am a White woman, living in the inner-city, in love with children, dedicated to serving them. I don't want to be here. I want to be on a little farm somewhere as close as you can possibly get to nowhere. I want to get up in the morning and hear my sheep bleating and walk down the rows of my garden inspecting my pea vines while sipping my morning coffee. But here I am in the middle of the city. Starving for some real grass, real trees, and stars that fill the night sky. Sometimes I want to walk away. But every morning I go into work and I greet the most beautiful little faces one could ever hope to encounter. They range in color from the palest beige to the deepest mahogany. To win their devotion all one has to do is really listen to what they have to say. I go home at night and their faces and their stories haunt my dreams and my waking hours. My greatest temptation is not money, or addictive substances, or sex. My greatest struggle is my desire to live for self. I know that I could go off and live a peaceful and happy life. I'm very easily satisfied. A good book, a good cup of tea, and I am set. My ambitions for myself are so mundane. But my ambitions for my children...they are boundless. I want my children to have all the choices in life that I have surrendered. I want them to not only see the stars that are now vacant from our skies, but to reach them. I want them to have opportunities and resources that other children take for granted. I want them to be free. Free in the sense that nothing can hold them back from their destinies.
That's what drives me, for the most part. That is what makes me tick... the path I took to get to this point was a treacherous one. Much of the time it still seems that way. I have known hunger,sexism, rape, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse, the death of a loved one, loss of job, neglect, divorce, abandonment. . . I guess that was my path to Prophetic Christianity. Funny how suffering can make you sensitive to the pain of others. And I would also guess that my reluctance to share my story stems from the sentiment that I don't want to be thought of as a victim.
As far as my educational goals...I want to finish my degree and work in education in some capacity, if not teaching. Then I want to pursue a Master's in Theology. Lord willing...
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Well, its here. The annual Chicago Celtic Fest. My family and I (which consist of my two sons and I) go to this every year. It is one of our little traditions that we refuse to give up for anything or anyone. Being of Scotch Irish descent, its rare that we do get a chance to celebrate that part of our heritage. So today I am going to take a break from trying to solve the problems of the world and kick back and do my best to have one hell of a great time with my kids. Hope you find the time and the excuse to do the same with your family this weekend. If Hurricane Katrina has taught us nothing else, it is that tomorrow is promised to no one. Love those around you. Forgive those who have hurt you. Give more than is comfortable. Care at the risk of having your heart broken. Change your mind. Admit you were wrong. Try something new. Get out of your rut. And while you're doing it, say a prayer for Angevoix and hers, and I'll say one for you and yours.
How about it?
Friday, September 16, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
Prophetic Christianity, Isaiah Style
"Your coins are all counterfeits. Your wine is watered down. Your leaders are turncoats who keep company with crooks. They sell themselves to the highest bidder and grab anything not nailed down. They never stand up for the homeless, never stick up for the defenseless. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don't have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.
"Come. Sit down. Let's argue this out." This is God's Message: "If your sins are blood-red, they'll be snow-white. If they're red like crimson, they'll be like wool. If you'll willingly obey, you'll feast like kings. But if you're willful and stubborn, you'll die like dogs." That's right. God says so.
From Isaiah 1, The Message
Thursday, September 15, 2005
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I just returned from a parish council meeting and I am hoppin mad. Our church has been so successful in helping Katrina victims that the Red Cross and Salvation Army were referring victims to us. We had someone offer to donate 20 downtown apartments to us rent free for five months...downtown luxury apartments. We asked three downtown churches if they would be willing to open up their arms and commit to being family for these people. ALL THREE SAID NO! INCLUDING THE CARDINAL'S CHURCH!
They said they didn't have the resources... Now please keep in mind that our church is located in a low income community and that the downtown churches are some of the wealthiest in the city.
I would just like to know what the hell we are about.
Sunday September 11, 2005
What we saw unfold in the days after the hurricane was the most naked manifestation of conservative social policy towards the poor, where the message for decades has been: 'You are on your own'. Well, they really were on their own for five days in that Superdome, and it was Darwinism in action - the survival of the fittest. People said: 'It looks like something out of the Third World.' Well, New Orleans was Third World long before the hurricane.
It's not just Katrina, it's povertina. People were quick to call them refugees because they looked as if they were from another country. They are. Exiles in America. Their humanity had been rendered invisible so they were never given high priority when the well-to-do got out and the helicopters came for the few. Almost everyone stuck on rooftops, in the shelters, and dying by the side of the road was poor black.
In the end George Bush has to take responsibility. When [the rapper] Kanye West said the President does not care about black people, he was right, although the effects of his policies are different from what goes on in his soul. You have to distinguish between a racist intent and the racist consequences of his policies. Bush is still a 'frat boy', making jokes and trying to please everyone while the Neanderthals behind him push him more to the right.
Poverty has increased for the last four or five years. A million more Americans became poor last year, even as the super-wealthy became much richer. So where is the trickle-down, the equality of opportunity? Healthcare and education and the social safety net being ripped away - and that flawed structure was nowhere more evident than in a place such as New Orleans, 68 per cent black. The average adult income in some parishes of the city is under $8,000 (£4,350) a year. The average national income is $33,000, though for African-Americans it is about $24,000. It has one of the highest city murder rates in the US. From slave ships to the Superdome was not that big a journey.
New Orleans has always been a city that lived on the edge. The white blues man himself, Tennessee Williams, had it down in A Streetcar Named Desire - with Elysian Fields and cemeteries and the quest for paradise. When you live so close to death, behind the levees, you live more intensely, sexually, gastronomically, psychologically. Louis Armstrong came out of that unbelievable cultural breakthrough unprecedented in the history of American civilisation. The rural blues, the urban jazz. It is the tragi-comic lyricism that gives you the courage to get through the darkest storm.
Charlie Parker would have killed somebody if he had not blown his horn. The history of black people in America is one of unbelievable resilience in the face of crushing white supremacist powers.
This kind of dignity in your struggle cuts both ways, though, because it does not mobilise a collective uprising against the elites. That was the Black Panther movement. You probably need both. There would have been no Panthers without jazz. If I had been of Martin Luther King's generation I would never have gone to Harvard or Princeton.
They shot brother Martin dead like a dog in 1968 when the mobilisation of the black poor was just getting started. At least one of his surviving legacies was the quadrupling in the size of the black middle class. But Oprah [Winfrey] the billionaire and the black judges and chief executives and movie stars do not mean equality, or even equality of opportunity yet. Black faces in high places does not mean racism is over. Condoleezza Rice has sold her soul.
Now the black bourgeoisie have an even heavier obligation to fight for the 33 per cent of black children living in poverty - and to alleviate the spiritual crisis of hopelessness among young black men.
Bush talks about God, but he has forgotten the point of prophetic Christianity is compassion and justice for those who have least. Hip-hop has the anger that comes out of post-industrial, free-market America, but it lacks the progressiveness that produces organisations that will threaten the status quo. There has not been a giant since King, someone prepared to die and create an insurgency where many are prepared to die to upset the corporate elite. The Democrats are spineless.
There is the danger of nihilism and in the Superdome around the fourth day, there it was - husbands held at gunpoint while their wives were raped, someone stomped to death, people throwing themselves off the mezzanine floor, dozens of bodies.
It was a war of all against all - 'you're on your own' - in the centre of the American empire. But now that the aid is pouring in, vital as it is, do not confuse charity with justice. I'm not asking for a revolution, I am asking for reform. A Marshall Plan for the South could be the first step.
· Dr Cornel West is professor of African American studies and religion at Princeton University. His great grandfather was a slave. He is a rap artist and appeared as Counsellor West in Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions.
Interview by Joanna Walters, in Princeton, New Jersey
Monday, September 12, 2005
Sunday, September 11, 2005
This Sunday I ended up having dinner with a group which included two married couples I had not had a chance to get to know. They were very familiar with New Orleans. some at the table had family there, some deeply affected by the hurricane. We had a very interesting discussion about the French Quarter, etc...
but towards the end of our meal the discussion turned to Mississippi. It just so happened that one of the women, Bertie was raised in Money, Mississippi. If you don't know, Money is the location of the infamous Emmett Till murder. In fact Bertie had seen Emmett Till playing checkers on the porch of the store which was the site of the alleged wolf whistle.
Bertie told us that back in those days there was no where for them to use the bathroom, so they had to go down under a bridge to relieve themselves. One day her fifteen year old cousin was doing just that. He stood up to pull up his pants and had the very unfortunate luck of doing so while a White woman was walking past. The next thing he knew he was up against the wall of the store with a barrage of pistols held to his head. He spent 15 years in prison for being a 15 year old kid with no where to use the bathroom. You know, I've read about this stuff all of my life, but somehow every time I hear a first hand account such as this one it affects me totally differently. It cuts me to the quick. I can't explain it. Its not a textbook anymore. It isn't a book I checked out of the library. Its sitting there in front of me in flesh and blood detail.
Bertie also told us about how a black man walking down the street wasn't allowed to look at a white woman's underwear hanging out to dry on the clothes line. Another African American woman at the table talked about how just being able to navigate going out the door everyday was a matter of survival. Another young woman sitting at the table told of a young White man from Mississippi who did not know it was illegal to kill a Black person until he was grown and joined the service. Bertie said that she had never gone to church or school with a White person while she lived there. In fact she had never even been to the movies until she moved.
You know I hear from my family and others that they support the "war on terror" because they don't want to be afraid to walk out of their doors. They say it as if it is a new thing in America. Far from it. It's a new thing for White America.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
"Those who would like the God of scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask."
--The Problem of Pain
During the past week I have heard many theories about Hurricane Katrina and the reason for her devastation, especially regarding her toll in human life. I have heard that it was the judgment of God on New Orleans for the wickedness of the city. I have heard as well that people who were listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit would have known to get out of there. The fact that the infamous/famous Bourbon street was largely untouched and that the first business to reopen in New Orleans was a bar on said street sets the first "theory" tumbling. And from what I understand, the issue in most cases wasn't knowing to get out, but was rather having the means to do so. I really hope that we aren't still positing that one's financial resources are a direct indication of their spirituality. Will the body of Christ please grow up?
What is it about us that struggles so hard to make sense of tragedy? Our reaction to catastrophe is similar, I think, to the one we have when we hear that someone in excellent condition had a heart attack, or someone who always ate healthy was diagnosed with cancer. The young Bible college student dies in a car crash, while her lascivious, selfish neighbor lives on to his 90th birthday. The responsible young couple can't conceive, while the abusive negligent parent has six children and is expecting the seventh. The man who is kind, caring and doting is married to the selfish woman who can't be grateful because nothing is ever enough. The honors student is shot in a drive by. The fiance dies three days before his wedding. Things aren't supposed to happen that way. It causes us to do a mental and emotional double take. It throws all of our theories to the wind. It upsets us.We question ourselves. We question each other. And if we are honest, we question God.
I've found the programs, such as Good Morning America, who promise to answer " all of our questions" to be amusing, in a little bit of a sick way. Sorry Charlie... I don't think so. It would be impossible for you to answer my questions because at this point I don't even know how to formulate a question out of what I am feeling. All I know is that I walk around with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach and end up crying for no apparent reason while doing something innocuous, like ironing. Not only do I not know what to ask, I don't know what to say. Everything seems to have a hollow ring to it. I don't know what to think, or how to even feel about it. I feel guilty for going about my life as usual and indulging even the smallest pleasure. And to be really honest...right now I'm even having trouble knowing what to pray....shhhhhh.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Dear Dr. King,
What made you become a reformer and leader?
Was it courage?
Was it power?
What was your real dream?
What made you tell the truth?
White people said you lied,
but you didn't.
You told every Black person your real dream!
For all the things you did in your life you are blessed.
Kyle, age 7
Monday, September 05, 2005
Sunday, September 04, 2005
How are you feeling? While watching the news for the past couple of days, I have seen a lot of footage of you. You have held press conferences, made the best possible use of your photo ops, surveyed the damage in the wake of Katrina, and "comforted" the victims that you met along the way. I have a few questions I would like to ask you.
I want to know, how did it feel surveying the damage, death, chaos, and destruction left by Katrina, knowing that you had cut the funding to reinforce the levees of New Orleans, in order to fund the war in Iraq? A levee upgrade that would have spared the city of most of the damage would only cost about 2.5 billion dollars. You are spending 100 billion a year in Iraq. Was it really worth it to ignore the desperate pleas of New Orleans officials and put the city in harms way for 2.5 billion dollars? Your 1% tax break for the wealthiest people of this nation alone would have netted 37 billion dollars. I realize of course that you didn't foresee Katrina, you couldn't have known she was coming, just as you didn't foresee the Iraq war taking more that a few weeks and a handful of troops. I mean that must be the reason you chose to ignore the advice of the most knowledgeable people in Washington who told you that the war in Iraq would not be the cake walk Rumsfeld was telling you it would be... But it was necessary after all wasn't it? We had to go and get those Weapons of Mass destruction. You know, the ones that Saddam Hussein said he didn't have and the U.N. inspectors found no evidence of. But never you mind about that. We all know he would of had 'em if he could've.
I saw you talking to a woman who was telling you she had "lost everything." You responded, " I understand!" Really Mr. President? Really? I was very surprised to hear that. I hadn't realized that you had ever experienced the loss of everything. I mean, I am a single mother who has been living on an excruciatingly low income for many years now. Even I don't understand what it feels like to lose everything. Nor do I understand what it feels like to be hungry for more than a day or two, to give birth under a viaduct and watch my twin babies die, or to ride out a storm in a superdome fearing that the roof would be torn to shreds at any moment. And I don't know at all what it feels like to go thirsty for more than even a few minutes. I have lost loved ones, but not in a matter of seconds, and never because I was too impoverished to get them out of harms way.
We are paying outrageous prices at the gas pump Mr. President. They were already high because of the war, but as I said, I know you never expected the war to take so very long, (even though you had been told otherwise by the advisors you fired). And now, because of the oil refineries that are shut down because of Katrina, our gas prices are soaring even higher. But I know that you didn't expect Katrina either. (even though you had been warned about the effects of a hurricane of her magnitude by New Orleans officials) My friend has to ride his bike to work everyday now because he can't afford the gas prices. Do you understand about that as well? I know your family is oil rich, and you must feel the effects of the rising oil prices, although I guess in a much different way than the average American citizen who doesn't actually own the oil.
It's too bad it took so long to get the National Guard into New Orleans. They are spread so very thin with so many of them in Iraq. From what I understand they are dying in disproportionate numbers due to the fact that the National Guard was never intended to serve in combat overseas and is ill trained and ill equipped to do so. But again...you never foresaw it coming to this.
I am praying for you Mr. President. You have a real mess on your hands. I guess even the most powerful man in the world has his limits of control.
P.S. I am a Christian, and even though many of my Christian friends and family said you were the ONLY choice for a Christian because of your stand on abortion and Gay rights, I didn't vote for you. Can you tell me, Mr. President, what progress you have actually made on those two issues?
Friday, September 02, 2005
I am an Asian boy and I like to read the news. But every time I look, it's one religion making war with another religion. There's "holy ground" filled with land mines and missile silos. The world is torn apart by prejudice that may lead to World War. Even in the United States, the land of the free, there is hate and segregation. If we had multiple ministers of peace like you the world would be a lot better place. I hope the world doesn't fall apart and instead joins hands in peaceful unity.
We're all hopeful,
John, age 11
Excerpt from "Dear Dr. King Letters from Today's Children to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Thursday, September 01, 2005
"Despite the challenges presented by the widespread trivialization and dilution of the Christian Gospel, I remain committed to its fundamental claim: To follow Jesus [or to agree, even as an atheist, with the ethics of the Gospels,] is to love your way through the darkness of the world. This love appears absurd -- in fact pure folly in the face of much of the world’s misery -- and yet it yields indescribable levels of sorrow and joy, sadness and ecstasy. To be a Christian is to look at the world through the lens of the cross and thereby to keep one’s focus on human suffering and struggle."
The Cornel West Reader, p. 355
However I am a little perplexed as to how it is you are so dedicated to so many noble efforts and still have so much time to articulate such a plethora of liberalism on so many issues.
Your hyperbolical positions are amusing and sometimes downright laughable.
I hope you continue to pour forth your tirade, since most often those of such a bent as yours shade their attacks with some little nuance of logic. But you are a stereotypical transparent democrat whose emotional ideological mores have consumed their intellectual foundations.
Again I'm sure you're so busy serving the poor and beggarly elements of your community that you will in all probability not even have time to respond to this comment.
Furthermore, I'm sure your ego will not allow this comment to be posted for it would bring into question the viability of your honesty, and reveal the real you."
No, Dr. Durt, You couldn't be more wrong. You're very articulate and have an exceptional vocabulary, and I am so grateful for your post. You see one of the problems that I face and one of the reasons that I post is that there are so many people who no longer believe that racism exist, nor that there is a need for a prophetic voice to cry out about the injustices of our society, and the callousness of our behavior towards those that you describe as "beggarly" and "Too ignorant to find their way in this complex world." You have proven my point for me better than I could have ever hoped to.
Peace to you,
Dear Dr. King, Maybe if you were here today you would be happy,
Maybe not. There is no segregation,
but there is racism and hate.
I must live with much racism in my family,
and our world. I cannot
understand why people
cannot let go of their weapons and, instead
hold each other's hands.
You had a dream that turned into a nightmare
and you lost your life.
Hailey, age 11