Monday, July 30, 2007

time away

Matt and I are heading south for a short camping trip and then to visit my brother Christopher in L.A. who is wrapping up his summer of work with the Catholic Worker House near Skid Row (yes, that's my bro up a tree).

Matt's not as fond of camping as I am, so keep us both in your prayers. On the way back up to SF next weekend we're going to a Rufus Wainwright concert.

In addition to soaking up the beauty of the California Coast, I hope to finish reading Mark Scandrette's Soul Graffiti and the last two Harry Potter books. Matt's re-reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and a Doctor Who comic book. What are you reading this summer?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

colorful day

The morning started with helping (along with a few others from Grace Cathedral) Precita Eyes set-up for their Urban Youth Arts Festival. Fortunately, this all happened in Precita Park which is close to our apartment so Matt walked me there after a latte from Nervous Dog.

I've been so inspired by Precita Eyes' incredible work since moving to SF. In the midst of all the people setting up and the youth gathering around eager to spray paint, I met Susan Cervantes. Susan founded Precita Eyes over 30 years ago. What a tremendous witness for care, creativity, community, and collaboration. I'm looking forward to learning more from Precita Eyes and from Susan.

Afterward, I had a great conversation over a tasty enchilada with Niall, a fellow pilgrim from the South Africa Pilgrimage for Peace. Then I quickly headed to Leslie's in Oakland for a conversation about the emergent church movement with a group of Bay Area Episcopalians. On the way home I got to hear Tom's story of how he was led to the Christian faith, his experience of the emerging church at a place called Home in Oxford and his planetary move to work here in SF on video games.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Angelic Troublemakers on Episcopal Cafe

My most recent post is up at Episcopal Cafe. Please check it out, leave a comment and tell us about the Angelic Troublemakers you are inspired by.

“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”
Bayard Rustin

Thursday, July 19, 2007

every day do something that won't compute

This afternoon after a walk and two really good conversations about urban life and ecology --- I started thinking about planting an urban garden and lines from Wendell Berry's "The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" started popping into my head. Here's the poem/manifesto in full.

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

wood-headness kills

Below is an important piece by retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern. During seminary I was fortunate to take classes led by Ray at the Servant Leadership School in Washington, DC an organization rooted in the ecumenical Church of the Savior.

Published on Thursday, July 19, 2007 by
Bush’s Wooden-Headedness Kills
by Ray McGovern

President George W. Bush is convinced, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that he is on the right course in the war in Iraq and the struggle against terrorism. He says he will not change his mind. Thus, we are at an historic moment; and we would be well advised to see what light historians might shed on our current predicament in Iraq and the basic (but unanswered) question as to why so many people resort to terrorism against us.

Historian Barbara Tuchman addressed the kind of situation we face at this juncture in our country’s history in her best-selling book, “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.” (Had she lived, she surely would have updated the book to take Iraq into account).

Tuchman wrote:

“Wooden-headedness…plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.”

Tuchman referred in this context to 16th century Philip II of Spain as the Nobel-laureate (so to speak) woodenhead of all time: “No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.” Comparisons, I know, can be invidious, but Philip amassed too much power and drained state revenues by failed adventures overseas, leading to Spain’s decline. Sadly, Tuchman, who died in 1989, cannot opine as to whether history will see George W. Bush as having displaced Philip as supreme woodenhead. Bush would have a good shot at it, it seems to me.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

In her book, Tuchman emphasized that courtiers can reinforce the ruler’s certitude, as was the case with Philip, and is the now the case with George. And if the courtiers are really good at it, they are awarded the Medal of Freedom-as was the case with former CIA director George Tenet, former Army General Tommy Franks, and former U.S. proconsul in Baghdad Paul Bremer-each of whom richly deserved a Heck of a job, Brownie-type salute. As Tuchman pointed out:

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it…Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better…not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information “cognitive dissonance,” an academic disguise for “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Bush’s genius is that he knows this instinctively-without having to take Tuchman’s book to read in Crawford. And, by all signs, he likes it that way. That is why he has assembled a truly amazing array of sycophants around him, whose only pedigree is loyalty to George W. Bush.

And that is precisely why we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), in our first Memorandum for the President (Feb. 5, 2003), closed with this admonition:

“After watching Secretary Powell today [giving his speech at the U.N.], we are convinced that you would be better served if you widened the discussion beyond violations of Resolution 1441, and beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Our views, and those of others-like Scott Ritter, who knew more about what had happened to Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” than virtually anyone-made no dent in the wooden head. Not that the president really believed there were such weapons there. If he did, he was badly misled by Vice President Dick Cheney, who was well aware that the “evidence,” such as it was, was bogus. Senior White House officials told my former colleagues at CIA eight months before the war that they needed to focus on “regime change,” not WMD. And the White House did not wish to hear any more about WMD from CIA’s super-source-the Iraqi foreign minister, whom CIA operations officers had “turned” to work in place for the U.S. rather than Saddam.

The Attack on Iraq and Terrorism

In the same 5 Feb. 03 Memorandum, we strongly warned the president (as did many others) of the consequences, should he order our troops to invade Iraq:

“It is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centers for terrorists into the indefinite future. Far from eliminating the threat it would enhance it exponentially.”

We cited a CIA study done the previous fall that pointed out:

“The forces fueling hatred of the U.S. and fueling al-Qa’ida recruiting are not being addressed…the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist.”

And we noted that that CIA report cited a 2002 Gallup poll of almost 10,000 Muslims in nine countries in which respondents described the United States as “ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased.” We hoped against hope that someone could break through the coterie around President George W. Bush and give him a chance to hear why “they hate us.” Someone, for example, from the U.S. Defense Science Board, a panel established to provide independent advice to the secretary of defense, which on Sept. 23, 2004 completed on an unclassified study on “Strategic Communication.” With little risk to their day-jobs, that distinguished board directly contradicted the line taken by the president:

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy…”

It is hard to guess whether such straight talk might make a dent in presidential wood. The pity is that the palace guard around him headed by centurion-in-chief Cheney can, and does, keep such information from getting through. Even if the president were to read the New York Times, as many of us still do, he would have had to wait two months for the “paper of record” to put this story on the record and, even then, he would have been shortchanged.

Times writer Thom Shanker, to his credit, wrote a story on the findings of the Defense Science Board panel on Nov. 24, 2004 (better two months late than never). Shanker, too, cited the paragraph immediately above, but only the first and last sentences survived. To someone’s discredit, the offending middle sentence was surgically removed before the paper went to press.

NIE Ducks Key Issues

The latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) titled “The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland,” is a disappointment, at least judging from its declassified Key Judgments that were made public on July 17. The judgments caused a stir by describing a “persistent and evolving terrorist threat” and pointing out that al-Qa’ida has secured safe haven in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And then came the “mushroom-cloud” warning:

“al-Qa’ida will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability.”

Now that I’ve got your attention, I must tell you there is in the Key Judgments absolutely no hint as to how likely it might be that al-Qa’ida will be able to acquire such material. The message seems to be simply: Be afraid. Let us “assess” and “judge,” but don’t ask us about sources or provenance.

The Unaddressed Why of It All

Worse still, the Key Judgments throw no light at all on why al-Qa’ida or other terrorist groups would want to use such weapons against the U.S. With this key element missing, the paper reads like a long police bulletin: Be alert; heightened threat; terrorists want to do bad things to us. We don’t know if they can; but “we assess” they will try to do very bad things…and don’t ask us why. They’re evildoers; is that not enough for you?

The estimate bears the earmarks of having been drafted originally by law enforcement agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, whose portfolio include terrorist threats to the U.S., and the FBI. There are pitfalls here. There is a tendency to inflate the threat, when one has a parochial interest in building up one’s capacity to deal with it

In the past, the Pentagon would routinely magnify external threats by writing what we disdainfully called “budgetary intelligence” to justify burgeoning budgets. There is more than a whiff of that in the Key Judgments. The National Intelligence Council, which has purview over NIEs, is supposed to monitor this. But there is no sign in the Key Judgments that judicious restraint has been applied.

So, even if the president and Cheney wished to know what actually fuels all this terrorism, they would receive little if any help from this estimate.

Help Needed

And since 9/11, the Michael (Heck-of-a-Job-Brownie) Browns have proliferated in the national security apparatus almost as quickly as lapel flag-pins.

Ms. Fran Townsend, the young woman with the portfolio for terrorism at the National Security Council seems ill suited to the job. She confessed to being frustrated at al-Qa’ida’s success in rebuilding its infrastructure and links to affiliates and the fact that Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants have found safe haven, as the estimate makes clear.

And she was far from comfortable responding to journalists’ questions, as can be seen from her answer to this one:

Q. The president was warned before the war that this was actually going to help al-Qa’ida gain influence…Isn’t that something the president ignored?

A. But you’re assuming this is a zero-sum game, which is what I don’t understand. The fact is, we are harassing them in Afghanistan. We’re harassing them in Iraq. We’re harassing them in other ways non-militarily around the world. And the answer is, every time you poke the hornet’s nest, they are bound to come back and push back on you. That doesn’t suggest to me that we shouldn’t be doing it.

Is this what passes for a strategic plan to counter terrorists? If so, it certainly highlights the need for adult supervision in the White House….and for creating the capability to prepare honest, sophisticated estimates, which in turn can enable policies of some vision and imagination.

But all this matters little, if wooden-headedness continues to prevail with the president and Cheney. As long as they are permitted to preside over keystone-cops law enforcement operations, with an occasional military surge here and there, the men and women in our armed forces, and the rest of us, will be in greater danger.

In the end, though, wood is not difficult to drill through with the proper tools.

Thanks to the prescience and courage of those who crafted our Constitution, a wood-tool is available. It is a precision tool that, with some courage, can be employed almost immediately. It is called impeachment, the orderly political process the Founders left to us for use when the president and/or vice president or other high official needs to be removed to save the Republic.

Let the members of Congress, who enjoy calling one another “distinguished,” distinguish themselves by rising to the occasion. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us at another such juncture, that there is such a thing as too late. Too-late has already come to more than 3,600 young men and women in our armed forces, as well as thousands now missing limbs and other once functional parts of their bodies and minds. Not to mention the carnage visited on hundreds of thousands more whose only sin is that they are Iraqis.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared/briefed the President’s Daily Brief. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

This article appeared originally on .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Please pray for our elected leaders tonight as they seek an end to the war in Iraq.

Below is a message from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.


PLEASE Take the time to call your Senator AND an Episcopal Senator

Earlier today (July 17), the Senate began debate on an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill which would begin troop redeployment from Iraq within 120 days. The Republicans plan to filibuster the amendment to prevent a vote, so Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to keep the Senate in session all day and night Tuesday (July 17). He hopes to force an up or down vote on the Levin-Reed amendment to redeploy most troops out of Iraq by April 30, 2008.

The pressure of the anti-war movement has brought us this far, we must make sure our demands are not lost in the 'drama' of the Senate all-nighter on Iraq. While we think that we'll be in a better position politically if the Levin-Reed amendment passes, the more important part of our message is our demand for an immediate and complete withdrawal of all troops and contractors, and the closing of all U.S. bases.
We hope you can take action today to help keep the pressure in the Senate. Please forward this message widely and activate phone tress or other mechanisms to get people in motion today and tonight. It is important that every member of the Senate hear from us!

Call your Senators with this message:For Episcopal Senators click here
* Bring all U.S. troops and military contractors home from Iraq on a firm, immediate timeline!
* Tell Republicans to allow the Levin-Reed amendment to come to a vote.
* Tell Democrats and Republicans to support the Levin-Reed amendment as a step in the right direction. Emphasize that their work is NOT done. The Levin-Reed Amendment does Not end the occupation and it leaves too many troops and all military contractors behind in Iraq.
Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121 - Thank you so much, these calls are important!

Monday, July 16, 2007

hiking, swimming, eating and singing

This afternoon Matt and I went for a hike near Mount Tamalpias in Marin. Afterwards, we went for a quick dip in the Pacific and then had dinner at a little restaurant/pub. The coolest thing about the pub in addition to great food and beer was that they kept playing our favorite music, starting with Gillian Welch, followed by Nick Drake, and then to our complete surprise the Magnetic Fields.

Friday, July 13, 2007

affordable housing in the Mission

Today as I walked home from the BART Station along Mission Street I saw a large gathering at the intersection of Mission and Cesar Chavez. Standing with colorful signs this enthusiastic, diverse crowd of immigrants, senior citizens, youth and young people sought to highlight the need for real affordable housing in SF. The demonstration was organized by the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and a variety of other groups including Queers for Peace and Justice.

For more information about these efforts to encourage affordable housing and locally owned businesses on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Mission Street click here.

Here's a recent opinion piece in the Guardian by the Executive Director of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

In a few weeks the faith communities of San Francisco will be standing together with the Bay Area Organizing Committee to stand up in support of affordable housing, health care and fair paying jobs for working people and families in SF.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

episcopalians via media

There are two inspiring posts over at Episcopal Cafe's "The Lead" blog. One is about former Tennis Star now Episcopal Nun Andrea Jaeger, the other is an interview with Anglican/Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu by Brad Pitt in the July issue of Vanity Fair. Check them both out here.

Monday, July 09, 2007

God & Country

A new friend of mine sent this to me yesterday. Very important, moving piece by University of Virginia professor Charles Marsh. Share widely.

God and Country
By Charles Marsh
The Boston Globe
Sunday 08 July 2007

What it means to be a Christian after George W. Bush.

If God's on our side, He'll stop the next war.
- Bob Dylan

Early one Sunday morning in the spring of 2003, in the quiet hours before services would begin at the evangelical church where I worship in Charlottesville, Virginia, I opened files compiled by my research assistant and read the statements drafted by Christians around the world in opposition to the American invasion of Iraq.

The experience was profoundly moving and shaming: From Pentecostals in Brazil to the Christian Councils of Ghana, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East to the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, from Pope John Paul II to the The Waldensian Reformed Church of Italy and the Christian Conference of Asia, the voices of our brothers and sisters in the global ecumenical church spoke in unison.

Why did American evangelicals not pause for a moment in the rush to war to consider the near-unanimous disapproval of the global Christian community? The worldwide Christian opposition seems to me the most neglected story related to the religious debate about Iraq: Despite approval for the president's decision to go to war by 87 percent of white evangelicals in April 2003, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll, almost every Christian leader in the world (and almost every nonevangelical leader in the United States) voiced opposition to the war.

In their enthusiastic support of the White House's decision to invade Iraq, evangelicals in the United States practiced an ecumenical isolationism that mirrored the prevailing political trend. Rush Limbaugh may have pleased his "dittoheads" in mocking the dissenting pastors, archbishops, bishops, and church leaders who stuck their noses into our nation's foreign policy, but the people in the United States who call themselves Christian must organize their priorities and values on a different standard than partisan loyalty.

These past six years have been transformative in the religious history of the United States. It is arguably the passing of the evangelical moment - if not the end of evangelicalism's cultural and political relevance, then certainly the loss of its theological credibility. Conservative evangelical elites, in exchange for political access and power, have ransacked the faith and trivialized its convictions. It is as though these Christians consider themselves to be recipients of a special revelation, as if God has whispered eternal secrets in their ears and summoned them to world-historic leadership in the present and future.

One thing, however, is clear: Any hope for renewal depends on the willingness to reach out to our brothers and sisters abroad. We must reshape the way we live in the global Christian community and form a deeper link to the human family and to life. To do this, we must begin by learning to be quieter, and by reaffirming the simple fact that our faith transcends political loyalty or nationhood.

In a German concentration camp in 1944, the theologian, pastor, and Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer pondered the future of the church in Germany as it lay in the ruins of its fatal allegiance to Hitler.
"The time of words is over," he wrote. "Our being a Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action."
Bonhoeffer, who had actively opposed the Nazis since the passage of the Aryan Laws of 1933 and was executed in April 1945, believed that the church had so compromised its witness to Jesus Christ that it was now incapable of "taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world." The misuse of the language of faith had humiliated the Word; any hope for renewal would need to begin with the humble recognition that God was most certainly tired of all our talk.
It is time to give Bonhoeffer's meditations a new hearing. With many other Christians in the United States and many more abroad, I have watched with horror in recent years as the name of Jesus has been used to serve national ambitions and justify war. Forgetting the difference between discipleship and partisanship, and with complete indifference to the wisdom and insights of the Christian tradition, we have recast the faith according to our cultural preferences and baptized our prejudices, along with our will-to-power, in the shallow waters of civic piety.
By the time American troops began bombing Baghdad before sunrise on March 20, 2003, the collective effort of the evangelical elites had sanctified the president's decision and encouraged the laity to believe that the war was God's will for the nation. Evangelicals preached for the war, prayed for the war, sang for the war, and offered God's blessings on the war.
Sometime after Operation Iraqi Freedom began, I made a remarkable discovery. I had gone to one of my local Christian bookstores to find a Bible for my goddaughter. On a whim, I also decided to look for a Holy Spirit lapel pin, in the symbolic shape of a dove, the kind that had always been easy to find in the display case in the front. Many people in my church and in the places where I traveled had been wearing the American flag on their lapel for months now. It seemed like a pretty good time for Christians to put the Spirit back on.
But the doves were nowhere in sight. In the place near the front where I once would have found them, I was greeted instead by a full assortment of patriotic accessories - red-white-and-blue ties, bandanas, buttons, handkerchiefs, "I support our troops" ribbons, "God Bless America" gear, and an extraordinary cross and flag button with the two images interlocked. I felt slightly panicked by the new arrangement. I asked the clerk behind the counter where the doves had gone. The man's response was jarring, although the remark might well be remembered as an apt theological summation of our present religious age. "They're in the back with the other discounted items," he said, nodding in that direction.
I have thought of this visit to the local Christian bookstore many times in the past several years. I remember the outrage I felt when I saw a photograph in Time magazine during the 2004 presidential election of Christian Coalition activists in Ohio. Two men, both white, and both identified as Coalition members, are holding two crosses aloft. The crosses upon closer inspection appear to be made of balloons twisted together. Across the beam-section of one of the crosses was the "Bush-Cheney" logo, and alongside the president's name was the image of an American flag. In the second cross, the president's name appeared in full at the places where Jesus's hands were nailed.

Like Bonhoeffer, I fear that the gospel has been humiliated in our time. But if this has happened, it is not because the message - the good news that God loves us unconditionally in Jesus Christ, that we are freed and forgiven in God's amazing grace - has changed. Nor is it due to the machinations of secularists, or because the post-Enlightenment world has dispensed with the hypothesis of God. The Christian faith has not only endured modernity and post-modernity, but flourished in its new settings.
The gospel has been humiliated because too many American Christians have decided that there are more important things to talk about. We would rather talk about our country, our values, our troops, and our way of life; and although we might think we are paying tribute to God when we speak of these other things, we are only flattering ourselves.
If only holiness were measured by the volume of our incessant chatter, we would be universally praised as the most holy nation on earth. But in our fretful, theatrical piety, we have come to mistake noisiness for holiness, and we have presumed to know, with a clarity and certitude that not even the angels dared claim, the divine will for the world. We have organized our needs with the confidence that God is on our side, now and always, whether we feed the poor or corral them into ghettos.
To a nation filled with intense religious fervor, the Hebrew prophet Amos said: You are not the holy people you imagine yourselves to be. Though the land is filled with festivals and assemblies, with songs and melodies, and with so much pious talk, these are not sounds and sights that are pleasing to the Lord. "Take away from me the noise of your congregations," Amos says, "you who have turned justice into poison."
Psalm 46 tells us, "Be still and know that I am God." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his classic work on Christian community, "Life Together," spoke of a silence "before the Word." He affirmed the wisdom of the Psalmist, and spoke of a listening silence that brings "clarification, purification, and concentration upon the essential thing."
After all the talk and the noise, it is time for Christians in the United States to enter a season of quietness, being still, and learning to wait on God (perhaps for the first time).
Bonhoeffer wrote "Life Together" during the years he directed an illegal seminary in the North German village of Finkenwalde. The school's mission was training pastors in the Confessing Church, a reform movement that opposed the nazified German Evangelical Church. Bonhoeffer had served in the Abwehr, the Nazi counterintelligence agency, as a double agent - helping Jewish families escape to Switzerland and organizing a coup attempt against the Nazi regime - and he participated in several assassination attempts on Hitler. For Bonhoeffer, being still in a time of enormous historical and ecclesial crisis was no invitation to idleness or indifference; rather, it was a call to discernment and responsible action.

Indeed, there are times when silence is an admonition fraught with danger. Martin Luther King Jr. warned of the "appalling silence of the good people" and those who turned their faces from suffering and oppression. But Dr. King also knew that careful and respectful speech was born of honest discernment of God's moral demands for the present age - a discernment that begins in humility and quiet introspection.
I came of age in the American South in the 1960s, and the moral values shared by most families in the churches of my childhood were deeply interwoven with our culture's hold on white supremacy. The vigilant and quite often neurotic defense we made of the Southern Way of Life blinded us not only to the sufferings of African-Americans - the victims of our collective self-righteousness - but also to our spiritual arrogance and group pride. We believed that our conception of Christianity and our cherished family values were the most wholesome and pure the world had ever known. Inside this serene delusion, we presumed ourselves to be paragons of virtue, although we rarely lifted a finger to help anyone but our own.
It was unsettling to learn, sometime in my adolescence, that the moral values I inherited as a white Southerner were not the marks of true Christian piety.
When Jesus spoke of the family, he had in mind the new community of God. "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he said one day upon hearing that his family was asking for him. "Here are my mother and my brothers!" Jesus said, pointing to the people gathered around him, who marveled at his words. "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Jesus knew that loyalty to the Kingdom of Heaven would often require the renunciation of family traditions, habits, culture, and custom.
Today, in the national debate on faith and politics, there are signs of hope as an emerging generation of Christian leaders holds out the promise of a more comprehensively just and moral account of faith than the narrow agendas of the Christian right. In particular, the success of Sojourners magazine editor Jim Wallis's 2005 book, "God's Politics," introduced many Americans to a vibrant culture of progressive Christianity ready to exert its growing influence over national politics and mobilize the churches around global poverty and AIDS relief.
And there are other encouraging signs: Criticisms of torture and detention practices of the US military by prominent Christian conservatives have been symbolically powerful moments. The emerging environmental consciousness among an increasing number of evangelical leaders and laity signals a more holistic social mission.
Even so, as welcome as these developments are, no explicitly partisan movement - left or right - to reclaim the soul of politics can reckon successfully with the grave effects of the Christian saturation of the American public square. Unless conditioned by clear and public confession of our support of the immoral and catastrophic war in Iraq, and our complicity in the humiliation of the Word, these efforts will lack coherence and a vital center.
Franklin Graham, the evangelist (and son of Billy Graham), boasted that the American invasion of Iraq opens up exciting new opportunities for missions to non-Christian Arabs. This is not what the Hebrew or Christian prophets meant by righteousness and discipleship. In fact, the grotesque notion that preemptive war and the destruction of innocent life pave the way for the preaching of the Christian message strikes me as a mockery and a betrayal.
But if Franklin Graham speaks truthfully of the Christian faith and its mission in the world - as many evangelicals seem to believe - then we should have none of it. Rather, we should join the ranks of righteous unbelievers and big-hearted humanists who rage against cruelty and oppression with the intensity of people who live fully in this world. I am certain that it would be better for Christians to stand in solidarity with compassionate atheists and agnostics, firmly resolved against injustice and cruelty, than to sing "Amazing Grace" with the heroic masses who cannot tell the difference between the cross and the flag.

Charles Marsh is professor of religion and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia. This essay is adapted from his new book, "Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity" (Oxford).

Friday, July 06, 2007

Here comes... LIVE EARTH

I'm getting excited about LIVE EARTH a 24 hour music festival which starts tomorrow. LIVE EARTH will bring together more than 150 music artists and 2 billion people to inspire a global movement to "Answer the Call" and combat the climate crisis. Earlier this year while in South Africa I was surprised to learn how much serious harm to life this crisis has already caused -- famine, violence, and drought are just a few examples. Efforts like LIVE EARTH will hopefully put this issue higher on our list of priorities.

On a related but slightly lighter note, last week after a hike in Marin we listened to a funny story on NPR about one of the bands that will be performing as part of LIVE EARTH on the continent of Antarctica. Here's the story.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Meeting "Abbess" Karen & praying with Ian

I'm having a ball today getting to know in person a friend made through the blogosphere, new monastic "Abbess" Karen Ward from Church of the Apostles, Seattle. We had a great conversation this morning, celebrated Eucharist together and then enjoyed lunch with fellow staff at the Cathedral. I look forward to learning more from this deep, committed person and her flourishing faith communities in Seattle. Karen is in town to spend time with the Episcopal/Anglican Franciscan Sisters at the Community of St. Francis, they are Mission/Noe Valley neighbors.

Karen a month or so ago encouraged me to connect with Ian Mobsby when he and Aaron (another member of the Moot) were visiting the Bay Area. Ian is back in the UK now, experiencing the challenges of terrorism, below is a portion of his most recent post on the Moot blog. Moving, courageous, compassionate, reconciling, faithful and strong are words that emerge for me after reading it.

Since then we have had the near-bombs, and today I was caught up in a bomb scare whilst innocently going out to buy a shirt for a date. It was very frightening. They cleared the street because of a suspicious and large bag near lots of very glass-filled buildings. We hit the deck under the direction of the police to see Forensic police with their white overalls and jackets and projective clothing. I was un-nerved. The city has felt very anxious for a week. I was upset by the angry crowd shouting comments such as "Islamist bastards" resentment was just below the surface and connected with all sorts of racist demonisation. Yes, I was profoundly shocked by the report of the security guard at Glasgow who starkly talked of the man half dead in his failed attempt to mass-kill who beat off the police thumping himself shouting "Allah Allah". Yes, I have been profoundly shocked and angered by this. But this is not Islamophobia. It reflects the increasing breakdown of relationality in our culture - which is increasingly being replaced by competition, and competition between competing groups and communities.

Our common humanity is being attacked by a culture overly defined by competition - by market forces, so that we as Christians, need to follow the New Commandment the key understanding of the Kingdom of God. That it is a call to love, to self-giving love, to seek the Christ in all peoples in all cultures, to seek the peace that comes from breaking down stereotypes, loving anger into peace and reconciliation, and to remember our call to live a vision that transcends media manipulation and simplistic solutions. We start - as in Christ - in our common humanity - to bring transformation and renewed humanity. So rather than getting angry after the scare which reminded me of my own vulnerability or mortality - have felt deep sadness - for a world that is increasingly fanatical - and fanatical for a reason. And we all have a part to play in promoting and living in a way that reduces competition and brings value... So I am trying to live this way - even in threatening and anxious times.