Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Crack Babies and Apartheid Schooling

I thought you might be interested in some links I have discovered while working on my dissertation. This one, "Crack Babies: Black Children Defy Stereotypes, Face Bias" from the March 2001 Chicago Reporter links to an article I cut out back in 2001 and have used in several of my classes. It reports about racial bias in testing babies for drug and alcohol syndrome.

I think babies should be tested and appropriate steps taken for their health, but why do we test all the babies in hospitals located in black communities and almost none of the white babies even though drug and especially alcohol usage is nearly the same for blacks and whites?

I also discovered a summary version of the book I read last month by Jonathan Kozol. The book is The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. This article from Harpers Magazine, September 2005 is entitled Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Gloria in Profundis

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all--
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

--G. K. Chesterton

Experiencing the Peace and Joy of Christmas

I was in the grocery store yesterday when a woman rushed up to me and asked in a frenzy if I knew where the hand lotion was. I said I didn't but it must be right around there somewhere. She looked exasperated and said she had looked everywhere and felt like killing herself!

"Oh, don't do that!" I said.

"I just wish it was Monday", she sighed as she rushed down the aisle in search of hand lotion.

"What a sad way to experience Christmas!" I thought.

Tomorrow is Monday. The rush is over. Let peace rule! Please save me from that kind of tyranny!

We had a nice day, went to church, ate turkey with stuffing, rice, yams, jello, corn meal muffins, watched "Crash" and "Anger Management" and played Monopoly. I am blessed with peace!

Thank you Jesus for bringing peace into my life and my family, and thank you that some day you will reign in peace on this earth!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Conservative Christians vs the Religious Right

Loved this article in Next Wave by Kevin Powell.

Bono on Poverty

"Once you see not only the problem, but the solution, there's no escape. You see it, you can't look away from it. I want it to feel like an adventure, not a burden. I don't mean just for me, I mean for the movement. This is an extraordinary thing, an uplifting thing. This is not, 'Oh my God, all the poor starving Africans with flies around their faces.' They are very noble, royal people, full of easy laughter and very innovative. This is about us, too. It's about who are we? What are our values? Do we have any? It's exciting."

- Bono ­ Interview with Rolling Stone, November 2005


Today in the Tribune, John Kass wrote about taking his ten year old twin sons to see "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". He said the theater was packed with kids who were mesmerized by the movie and that despite what the critics are saying, kids love it. Teri and I saw it Wednesday night. While I thought they could have done a better job with the death of Aslan scene (I just remember the book moving me more emotionally than the movie did), I thought it was great.

One of the scenes that Kass describes got to me as well. "It happened when Aslan the lion spoke quietly on the hillside with Edmund, the boy who loved Turkish Delights, and who, through fear and selfishness had betrayed his family, and was redeemed. You could see Edmund talking with Aslan, but you couldn't hear dialogue. That's when my sons, sitting on either side of me, squeezed my hands."

Redemption, forgiveness, a second chance, being gazed at lovingly and spoken to gently in spite of my rebellion, that's incredibly powerful!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"The word compassion is derived from the Latin words 'pati' and 'cum' which put together mean 'to suffer with'. Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human." --Henri Nouwen

What is a blog then?

From Going Home: A "Change This" Manifesto by Robert Paterson
It is... a generative space in which we can give birth to our lost voice. As we find our voice,we begin to wake up. We start to become human again. How does the blog awaken us? This open space invites us to speak in public. Hesitant, at first we speak the old way. But now and then the occasional real voice pops out. As it does, others notice and drop by and encourage us. Encouraged, we use our real voice more often. More people drop by and encourage us. Our voice is so strong that it can be heard around the entire globe. We are amazed to find others far away who can hear us and who have the same tone. Community begins to form.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scriptural Proof Texting

I just read an interesting article on The Ooze by Frank Viola entitled, "THE BIBLE IS NOT A JIGSAW PUZZLE: A New Approach to the New Testament".

He says we Christians have been taught to approach the Bible in one of seven ways.
You look for verses that tell you what God commands you to do.

You look for verses that inspire you. Upon finding such verses, you either highlight, memorize, meditate upon, or put them on your refrigerator door.

You look for verses that tell you what God has promised so that you can confess it in faith and thereby obligate the Lord to do what you want.

You look for verses that you can quote to scare the devil out of his wits or resist him in the hour of temptation.

You look for verses that will prove your particular doctrine so that you can slice-and-dice your theological sparring partner into Biblical ribbons. (Because of the proof-texting method, a vast wasteland of Christianity behaves as if the mere citation of some random, de-contextualized verse of Scripture ends all discussion on virtually all subjects.)

You look for verses in the Bible to control and/or correct others.

If you are a preacher, you look for verses that "preach" well for next Sunday morning's sermon.
Viola raises concerns about he calls the “cut-and-paste” approach to Bible study. It is the common practice of coming to the NT with scissors and glue, clipping and then pasting disjointed sentences (verses) together from Books that were written decades apart.

"This 'cut-and-paste' approach has spawned all sorts of spiritual hazards," claims Viola. "One of them being the popular practice of lashing verses together to build floatable doctrines. Another is that of 'proof-texting' to win theological arguments. (A vast majority of Western Christianity behaves as if the mere citation of some random and de-contexualized verse ends all discussion on virtually all subjects.)"

"The Medievals called this 'cut-and-paste' method 'a string-of-pearls'. You take one text, find some remote metaphorical connection with another text, and voilá, an ironclad doctrine is born! But this is a pathetic approach to understanding the Bible. While it is great for reading one’s own biases into the text, it is horrible for understanding the intent of the biblical authors."

Viola purports we need an new approach to Scripture that teaches the big picture, the story, the context, the chronology of the writings, the historical context.
Thanks to Scot McKnight's blog for linking me to Rusty Peterman's blog who thanked John Siburt's blog for turning him on to a list that appears on Leadership Network. The list [see below] is part of a 28-page report which sets forth ten paradigm shifts for a church intending to have maximum impact on its community. Here's the link to the report in pdf.

The ten paradigm shifts include a shift:

1) From building walls to building bridges.
2) From measuring attendance to measuring impact.
3) From encouraging the saints to attend the service to equipping saints for works of service.
4) From “serve us” to service—from inward focus to outward focus.
5) From duplication of human services and ministries to partnering with existing services and ministries.
6) From fellowship to functional unity.
7) From condemning the city to blessing the city and praying for it.
8) From being a minister in a congregation to being a minister in a parish.
9) From anecdote and speculation to valid information.
10) From teacher to learner.

Disguised In Despised Humanity

Why do you come to me disguised
In what slips past my blinded eyes
Sealed up with fantasy and dream,
When You in thirst beg as You stream
Urine stench in clothes unkempt and I
Press coins in palsied hands that die
For bottles holding drunken hope
And days You only stagger and grope.

Toothless and fat, You stay unseen
In hungry widows searching streets
For sales of sex in order to eat
And feed children without any heat
Or a chance to escape their pain
In blanket-less attics that drain
And double in pangs of hunger
Your body now trapped down under.

Ordained to choose both rich & poor,
You even at times chose to endure
Unholy plights of prodigal
Sons who squander the regal
Father’s inheritance in time,
Yet without crusts or slightest rime
You found ways for me, your brother,
Who kept every law yet smothers,
To recognize You in God’s time.

Gus Wilhelmy
December 18, 2005

"Copyright December, 2005"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Our Criminal Justice System

My friend, Terry Truax, partner with Jenner and Block in Chicago and a member of the Breakthrough board, sent me an email with these interesting facts about our criminal justice system from a book by Steve Bogira, Courtroom 302, A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse.
1. In 2003, 19,299 inmates were processed through the Cook County jail into the state penitentary system (up from 15,529 in 1997). The largest portion of the newly sentenced prisoners are drug offenders.

2. 80% of those sentenced are African American, again, mostly involving drug cases. Most of the people prosecuting the cases, defending the cases, and running the system are white.

3. The jail population at the Cook County jail is 11,000, mostly because of drug cases.

4. A felony conviction basically disqualifies you from most jobs, and eliminates you from CHA housing.
It seems to me we need to be asking the question, "why". As I have become familiar with neighborhoods like East Garfield Park in Chicago, which has one of the highest percentages of formerly incarcerated drug offenders, I have learned that drug trafficking has become the economic base for many in the community. Without adequate education, employment training and opportunities, drug dealing is paying the rents. Solutions are complicated and involve radical social transformation as well as personal redemption and hope.

Time to Protest?

At this link to the 12.16.05 Sojourners email newsletter, Christa Mazzone writes about why she got arrested this advent season. At the CCDA conference in November, Jim Wallis urged the attendees to join him on the steps of the Capital building in Washington, DC on December 14th to protest the federal budget. I wasn't able to go, but many people I know did. Near the bottom of the sojourner's newsletter is a video link of the event. It is very moving.

I just finished reading the entire Bible which I do every year. This time as I listened to the book of Revelation on CD, I was gripped by the strong language about the "merchants of the earth" in chapter 18. Watching the video of people I know, like and trust, being led away in handcuffs by police officers as they sing hymns and recite the Lord's Prayer in peaceful advocacy for the poor juxtaposed against Revelation 18 was, to me, a powerful message.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Financial consequences of illiteracy

A December 15th post on the CNN web site says that a federal study shows that about one in 20 adults in the U.S. is not literate in English, meaning 11 million people lack the skills to handle many everyday tasks. The consequence of reading deficiency is felt directly in the pocket book. "Adults with ability to perform challenging and complex reading tasks made an average yearly salary of $50,700 in 2003. That is $28,000 more than those who lacked basic skills."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Seeking the Kingdom in Calcutta

I enjoyed reading this Advent Reflection from April Folkertsma at The Other Journal as she reflected on her work on the streets of Calcutta.
"Not only did Simeon see the Kingdom, but he also took it into his arms and held it. I imagine Simeon holding that baby like I would hold one, cuddling it up close to my neck, kissing its forehead, and believing that I’d never seen such a beautiful baby. I wasn’t holding a soft cuddly baby, though. I was living in a city with sweltering heat, fighting a parasite, and attempting to ignore the dirt, when I hear a whisper to seek the Kingdom and I wonder how to do it. How does a white woman like me look past the leers of men who grab me on the street in order to find the Kingdom? How does a privileged white woman like myself forget her affluence long enough to sit on a Calcutta sidewalk with a street woman and find the Kingdom? How does an educated privileged white woman like me lose all she thinks she knows in order to hold the hand of an elderly demented abandoned woman in order to find the Kingdom?... I guess I thought the Kingdom would shine more brightly, smell better, and be less crowded. In the Kingdom I thought people wouldn’t let their children sleep on the street because they owned a mansion just over the hilltop... I did not find and hold the Kingdom by fulfilling a Christian duty. I found and held and belonged to the Kingdom by becoming a part of it, by entering into it. Simeon didn’t only hold and cuddle a promised Messiah, the Kingdom of God. He held the One who became just like us. That One lost His home, His father, His safety until He was nothing but a man."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Homeless" by Oreon K. Trickey

I walk out the door 
And blend into the sidewalk
Hardly noticeable near the curb
A shadow
A stain
From last week’s spill

My thirty days are up
Didn’t work the program
Couldn’t make progress
My only goal now
gotta keep it pumpin’

I am the
Steam rising from the manhole covers:
Heat generated from waste
moving swiftly under the streets

"Justice" in the EFCA Statement of Faith

The Evangelical Free Church of America is considering a draft of a revised statement of faith that includes as one of it's ten statements the following:
"God's gospel calls us to Christ-like living and witness to the world-- We believe that God's justifying grace in the gospel must not be separated from its sactifying power and purpose. He calls us to love the Lord our God will all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves, acting with compassion toward the poor and needy, seeking justice for everyone... Since the age to come has already dawned in Christ, we are called to take the light of Christ to the world, bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed to every nation, people and language."
I am very encouraged to see this reference to "compassion toward the poor and needy, seeking justice for everyone, bearing witness in word and deed." This is great progress in calling the Free Church toward outward focus that is not just foreign missions, but love for our neighbors. Great!

For those of you who care, this new statement also drops some of the "dispensational" language about Christ's second coming. It takes out the words "premillennial and immenent" in reference to His coming and simply says, "We believe in the personal and glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when He will espablish His kingdom fully and exercise his role as judge of all. This coming of Christ, for which we must be constantly prepared, is our blessed hope."

If you are a Free church member, get to the annual conference in June of 2007 (it will be introduced at the 2006 conference) and vote this one in!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Neediest Overlooked in Charitable Giving

ABC Primetime did a segment tonight about charitable giving. In short, high end donors and celebrities are giving more money to universities and symphonies and less to shelters and soup kitchens. Harvard has $22 billion in assets while giving to charities that work with the poor has been decreasing for three years in a row. "Nobody wants to be seen at the local homeless shelter, but they would like to be seen at the Symphony Hall", says Trent Stamp, who runs a non-profit Web site called the Charity Navigator, which evaluates and tracks where America's charitable contributions go.

"If you're working with citizens in this country who are not eating tonight, to me, that's a much more worthwhile cause than people who like to hear a symphony," comments Stamp. As for this winter, he says, "I think it's going to be a very cold and very hungry winter for our most vulnerable citizens."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

To Be of Use -- by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shadows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. ...

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again. ...

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident. ...

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
"The love of our neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self, where we mope and mow, striking sparks, and rubbing phosphorescences out of the walls, and blowing our own breath in our own nostrils, instead of issuing to the fair sunlight of God, the sweet winds of the universe."
                         - George MacDonald 
Source: George MacDonald: An Anthology, edited by C.S. Lewis.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Greed and Good

I am working on my dissertation today and was researching economic disparity when I found a book by Sam Pizzigati called Greed and Good. You can read the entire 659 page book online at the link. Of course, I didn't read the entire book today but I was drawn to his chapter on a "maximum wage". That makes sense to me. With a runaway economy in America that is leaving most of the world destitute, why wouldn't we instititute a maximum wage? FDR wanted to cap wages at $25,000. Can you imagine what a different world we would have today? Sounds to me like it would be more in keeping with the Scriptural teaching of Jubilee Economics than what we are seeing today. What do you think?

Oh, by the way, speaking of what you think, I just discovered that I had set the comment process such that I was supposed to go online to accept them. Sorry to those of you who commented and didn't see your comments posted. I wondered where everyone was, but was quite happy in my own little world of letting off steam! Try again, OK?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

When your church is a refuge for drug addicts, prostitutes and the homeless, perfect-life theology becomes worthless. At this link, Anne Dannerolle, of the Lighthouse Project of Hull Community Church in the UK tells how real life is painful and messy but still has room for hope. She put into words my own experience upon starting Breakthrough as a ministry to street people out of a church in Chicago. Knowing people on the margins has similarly changed my reading of Scripture and my concept of theology.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Victims of Prostitution Protest "The Players' Ball" today at 5PM

"The Player's Ball" is an annual celebration in Chicagoland honoring pimps. The "No. 1 International Pimp of the year" award is given to the man who has made the most amount of money prostituting women. This year's "Player's Ball" is at the Mariella Banquet Hall in Maywood.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is joining State Representative Karen Yarbrough, the Mayor of Maywood, and survivors of prostitution at a press conference to protest this event. The survivors will testify to the abuse that they face at the hands of pimps whose actions and lifestyles are being honored and celebrated at this yearly Chicagoland event. The Mayor and Rep. Yarbrough will call for a boycott of Mariella banquet hall.

When: Saturday,December 3rd, 2005, 5pm
Where: Mariella Banquet Hall (outside)
124 S. 5th Ave.
Maywood, IL
Who: State Representative Karen Yarbrough, the Mayor of Maywood, women victimized by prostitution and trafficking, community leaders and activists.
Why: The pimps in attendance at the Players Ball are alleged to be those who profit from and commit sex trafficking, physical and sexual assault of adults and minors, kidnapping, money laundering, tax evasion, and racketeering. The Players Ball honors these behaviors and practices and allows criminals to operate flagrantly and arrogantly in our community.

Survivors of prostitution will expose the crimes that these "players" commit against women and children to earn profits. The survivors will also push for passage of the Predator Accountability Act in Illinois that gives victims of trafficking and pimping the right to sue their abusers for monetary compensation for the abuse they endured and of the Federal End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act of 2005.

What causes poverty?

Deuteronomy 15:4 reads, “there should not be any poor among you”. This seems to be contradicted by a statement a few verses later which says, "there will always be poor people in the land” (v11).

Looking back into verse five we see the reason for poverty in the rest of the verse "There should not be any poor among you... if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.” And in verse eleven “There will always be poor people in the land, therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

Obedience to God's commands to be generous and openhanded toward our brothers and the poor and needy is the solution to the problem of poverty. Our individual contributions matter, but we must also join together to hold our communities and governments accountable for practices enforced and legislations passed that oppress the poor.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
                                  Proverbs 31:8-9
CEO pay in the U.S. is now 400+ times that of the average company employee, up from a meager 40X as recently as 1980. According to the USA Today, CEO salaries and bonuses surged 15% in a year when salaries for rank-and-file workers averaged 3.2% gains.

The Chicago Tribune reported on November 17th that incomes in Illinois are sinking. Median household incomes in Illinois have dropped 12 percent since 1999. Nearly one in five Illinois manufacturing jobs disappeared between 2001 and 2003. In the Chicago region nearly one in three working people is employed in a low wage service job, earning an average of $21,000 per year, less than what Alex Rodriguez makes in a single Yankees game.

Rodriguez pulls in $16,492.58 per inning; $37,145.65 per at bat; and $276,699.03 per Yankee win!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Budget Bill

The Senate's Budget Bill to clean up the Katrina mess essentially makes the poor pay for it by reducing support for needed social programs. To learn more about this bill go to this web site.

See the Sojourners articles about this budget.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fifty years after Rosa Parks...

50 years ago today the late Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white man. The incident sparked the famous bus boycott and it's credited as one of most important moments in the long fight to eliminate laws that enforced racial discrimination. The end of legal segregation has not solved the problem. Half a century later, racial separation persists, at school, at church, on the job and in the communities where we live. Most of us live in communities where the people around us look the same as we do. The most segregated region in America is the Midwest. At this link you can listen to an interview with Georgetown University law professor, Sheryll Cashin, author of The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class are Undermining the American Dream.

I just finished Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol. Kozol visited 60 schools in 11 states over a five-year period and finds, despite the promise of Brown v. Board of Education, many schools serving black and Hispanic children are spiraling backward to the pre-Brown era. These schools lack the basics: clean classrooms, hallways and restrooms; up-to-date books in good condition; and appropriate laboratory supplies. Kozol argues that school segregation is still the rule for poor minorities and he believes a new civil rights movement will be necessary to eradicate it.
“’He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.”
                     --Jeremiah 22:16