Wednesday, November 29, 2006

While Iraq Burns

There was a great editorial in NY Times on the 27th by Bob Herbert that you can read here

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iraq again

I've been watching with more and more despair of late as the news just gets worse in Iraq. Even hawks like Henry Kissinger have come to the conclusion that we cannot "win" there while at the same time more and more are fearing that if we leave, we will see a firestorm overtake the Middle East. That of course leaves a wonderful option... continue to send young men and women to die or be maimed with no reasonable goal in mind. And none of it needed to happen!

I think the situation underscores my belief that our leaders are approaching the current world with a mindset that has its roots in a past long since gone. Warfare does not look like it did during WWII. In a time when one independent terrorist cell can turn the world upside down, it is silly to think that a large army or airforce can go in, do its thing, and force an enemy to sign a peace treaty and then see it kept. It just doesn't work that way anymore. Putting huge resources into the military will not make us more secure in this day and age. Supporting tyrants like Saddam will only come back to bite us. We must work for a more stable and egalitarian economy around the world so everyday people have something to preserve. We must work to understand those with whom we disagree and we must learn to appreciate their perspectives even when we do not agree. We must learn to talk, talk, talk, and then talk some more. And we must learn to build large and far-ranging alliances. The world must want to be our friend rather than fear being our enemy.

More than ever before, we need a national Peace College to train leaders to make peace and we need to place at least equal the resources there that we put into our military academies.

Santa Barbara housing fantasy

Once again, Santa Barbara gets the nod as one of the least affordable places to get housing in the US. Even with Santa Maria (the place 60 miles away where people go to find affordable housing here) included in the data, we're #5 on the least affordable list.

And the folk who already own property here somehow think that is a healthy situation?!?!?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

a prayer

Last week I attended a CE event with Brian McLaren (hopefully I'll get a chance to blog a little about it - it was a very good way to spend a day). He shared a prayer written by a Serbian bishop named Nikolai Velimirovic who died at Dachau.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.
Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does,
so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary,
having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.
They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.
They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself
They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.
They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself
They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me: so that my fleeing to You may have no return;
so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;
ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.
Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows,
that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.
One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.
Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.
A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.
But a son blesses them, for he understands.
For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.
Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.
Bless my enemies, O Lord.
Even I bless them and do not curse them.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the darkness within

I've been thinking a lot about Ted Haggard. My first thoughts were of profound sadness for him and even more so for his family. And then came his letter to his congregation and it has been stewing for me since then. I have to say that I pity the man. Let me make a few statements that I think are central to the questions raised by this event.

1. Ted Haggard is gay. Whether he was born that way or became that way is irrelevant. He would argue with that statement but it seems clear to me that it is who he is. Yes I know he is married and has children but this was not a simple sexual indiscretion. As one of my straight conservative Christian friends said, "If he was going to sin, he could have chosen one that is more fun." I think that is the crux of the issue. There wasn't one that was more fun for him. There wasn't a temptation to sleep with women. That was an obligation or even a mark of commitment to his wife... but men... were a different story, so much so that he risked his career, his family, and in his understanding, his relationship with God. The things he did may have been contrary to everything he believed, but not to who he is. His lie was and is his marriage.

2. When he speaks of something dirty within himself, he is telling the truth, but it isn't his homosexuality, it is his self-loathing.

3. The suffering that he has inflicted on his wife and family is a direct result of his not being able to accept who he is. It is unnecessary. Had he been honest with himself and with them, he would be involved in a lifelong commitment to another man and this pain would never have happened.

4. His sin was his breaking of a covenant with a woman who loved him, not the fact that he is gay.

5. No doubt, he will try to get "cured" of his homosexuality and his wife may even stay with him. Still, even if he never engages in homosexual activity again, his nature will not change and the self-loathing will be there every day for the rest of his life.

6. A gay man, actively involved in homosexual activities can do significant ministry.

So where do we go with this? I hope it serves as a wake-up call to conservatives to rethink their understanding of the issue. I believe that the scriptures do not preclude the possibility of homosexual love and sexual involvement with the same kinds of criteria that are there for heterosexual love and sexual involvement - fidelity, appropriateness to the depth of the relationship, the degree to which the activity humanizes the partners, ability to live with the possible consequences (these criteria roughly come from James Nelson's wonderful book Embodiment).

So my advice to Ted Haggard... look in the mirror and see who you are and then run to the nearest MCC Church and hear a gospel of the love of God and of welcome. Or run to an AWAB church or some other congregation that preaches the radical inclusive grace of God. Do some serious therapy and come to terms with who you are and give thanks to God for who you are. Then comes the really difficult work - deciding what to do with a promise that you made to your wife, based on a lie.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

a little disappointed

Anyone who knows me would think that I'd be thrilled with the results of last week's elections. The Democrats won... big time. And it was clear that Karl Rove and hence GW didn't expect it. Had they expected it, Rumsfeld would have been canned two days before the election. They actually believed that no change was needed.

So why am I a little disappointed? Actually, it is stronger than that. I'm unhappy that we have only one choice when it comes to foreign policy. Both Democrats and Republicans are standing on a "we're as tough as they are" platform. It is a platform fueled by fear and greed as the military industrial complex continues to rape the poor. (After all, it was Eisenhower who said that every dollar spent on the military is a dollar taken from the poor.) While the dems may be a little quicker to end the debacle in Iraq, neither is really showing any imagination of better ways to live in the world than by caring an M16. Both are caught up in trying to show that they have as much testosterone as the other.

I'd like to see some party that has peace as a central component of its platform. I'd still like to see a party that worked to stop the global arms business (growing by leaps and bounds these days... did you know that our sales to Pakistan have grow incredibly in the last 2 years and that one of their largest customers in the resale of those arms is Iran?) I'd like to see a peace college formed for the training of diplomats who can avoid wars rather than just war colleges to train those to wage them. I'd like to see a party that includes worker's rights as part of the negotiations in its trade deals. I'd like to see the swords turned into plowshares and the spears to pruning hooks. When one of the current or a new party spoke those kinds of ideas, then I'd be happy, even if they lost. Right now, nobody is even raising the possibility that there can be another way.

And as the bumper sticker says... "When Jesus said 'love your enemies' he probably meant we shouldn't kill them."

Say What!?!?!?

As a musicians, my ears are really important to me (wish I'd thought of that when I was young) and I try to take care of them so as not to lose any more pitches than are already gone.

A musicians forum I frequent has a thread about a pitch/musical phrase hearing "test" that took me there to take the test. I scored 86.1. I'm not sure how that really effects one's music but it is interesting to do.

Find the test here.

How'd you do?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Yesterday, Cheryl and I drove south to Ventura for a few errands on our day off. There is a lengthy section of the drive that goes right along the ocean. It was a glorious day with Santa Ana winds making everything as clear as it could be. The Channel Islands looked as if they were close enough to touch. As I was driving I glanced out and saw a spout of water about 50 yards out to sea. It was much too big to be a splash from a diving bird so I watched as carefully as I could while driving down the highway at 65+ mph... and then I saw its back come up out of the water - a whale! This really is a wondrous place to live.

Monday, November 06, 2006



'nuff said.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Run Barak, Run!

A few weeks ago, Barak Obama announced that he was considering a run for the presidency in 2008. About 24 hours later, the comments began - "great candidate!" "Too inexperienced, he should do another term in the senate and then run" "sure loser" etc.

I don't know whether he could win, but I sure hope he runs. And I hope he wins. Perhaps Obama does not have extensive governmental experience but it is a bit disingenuous to have that be a critique from the Republicans. After all, their last candidate had only the experience of a few failed businesses and then the governorship of Texas... a position that I understand is by the state's constitution one of the weakest governorships of them all. That candidate, in spite of being from a family of privilege didn't even have a passport and hadn't even had the cultural curiosity to ever travel outside of the US except to Mexico. Talk about a lack of experience.

Obama has the experience of living with his feet in many cultures from Kenya to Harvard, poor sections of Chicago to the halls of power in DC, black and white. He is intelligent, thoughtful, charismatic, mature, has integrity, and from what I have seen so far, seems to embody what I would characterize as the best of the American experiment. And hey, he has a sense of humor. The photo came from his official website! He knows how to think through complicated issues and work to get things done. What more experience could he need?

So why not wait and run after another term in the Senate. Surely the experience would help him, right? While the experience may be helpful, the getting of it would not. When was the last time a senator was elected president? There is a reason for that. Being in the senate does nothing but put targets on a person. Bills always involve compromise and compromise always looks weak in a 30 second TV ad. Bills change as they work their way through the legislative process so reasonable people may be for a bill at one point and against it at another... which looks like flip-flopping. Riders that are not good get added to good bills and a legislator may vote in favor because the good outweighs the bad... and then is portrayed as supporting whatever riders were attached. Conversely, good riders may get attached to bad bills that everyone knows will pass and so the senator votes for that bill to get the rider enacted. You get the picture. If Obama wants to run for president, he should do it now. I for one hope he does... run Obama, run!