Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oh Travis!

There is an aphorism in legal circles that goes somethng like this... "if your mouth is moving, you better be telling the truth." I would bet that journalists have one that goes something like, "if your fingers are typing, you better have some facts."

Once again, Travis Armstrong of the News Press here in Santa Barbara shows his utter contempt for both truth and facts. In today's editorials he blasts the clergy for doing nothing about gangs while being involved in areas they have no business such as housing and interferring with a free press. (Of course he forgets the responsibility of a free press to be unbiased). He implies unfairness by the clergy and blasts a church for hosting an event that was "anti-free press" all the while knowing that he and other representatives from the News Press were invited to be there and present and refused to come.

To the gang situation... first off, I am guilty. I have not done everything I could. To that degree you are right Travis. Still, I doubt you would find any section in our communty that does more for families than the faith community with more results. A pediatrician friend once told me of a study that showed that the single most important indicator for whether an African American male would end up in jail was whether or not his mother attended church. It wasn't economic status, educational status, or even whether the mother was a single mom. Just being at church made the largest difference. And the faith community does so much more from youth programs, to feeding programs, to educational support, to mentoring, to foster parenting, to adoption, to (dare I say it) housing. You can't tell me that working 3 jobs to pay the rent helps a family or that making absent parents because they drive 60 miles each way to and from work while their teenage kids are at home unsupervised helps diminish gang problems.

FWIW, the clergy association and the Interfaith Initiative co-sponsored a worship service last night - From Grief to Hope, a Community Response to Gang Violence, to confess our complicity, call for repentance, build community, and finally offer hope and commitment to making a difference in young people's lives. We ended with a simple action where the attendees where asked to write the name of a young person whose life they would work to make better during the coming year.

Personally, I am trying to figure out how I can free up some more time to mentor a few more young people. Perhaps you can join me Travis? Maybe put your life where your fingers are and get down and dirty interacting with a few at risk kids? And before you write again, call 5 faith communities at random from the telephone book and ask what they are doing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Yes Billy Jean

given that my finger is not back to normal yet, I tortured myself by watching someone whose fingers are pretty amazing

Friday, March 23, 2007

Believing Women

Last night the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara sponsored an event called Believing Women. Six women - a Roman Catholic, a Baptist (progressive), a Sunni, A Shia, an Orthodox Jew, and a Reformed Jew - each shared their experience of their faith as a woman. The youngest, the Orthodox Jewish woman, was a college student, the Reformed and the Roman Catholic were grandmothers and the other two were grad students. It was fascinating as they shared their journeys and even more so as they talked about the constriction of their roles (my term, not theirs) by some of the traditions. Likewise the tensions between ancient traditions and future hopes was very interesting. The Roman Catholic woman spoke with hope of a time when women could be priests and priests could marry if they desired. The Sunni and the Orthodox Jew spoke of the distinct differences between men and women while the Baptist and the Shia talked about the impetus for social change in their faiths. Following the main panel, the audience broke into small groups led by women of a wide variety of faith traditions where more individual stories were shared, the panel presentation was discussed, and questions were framed. The larger group then regathered and questions were posed to the panel. We ended with informal discussion and food.

Perhaps the most interesting piece about the evening had nothing to do with the people up front... the attendance. It was smaller than any of the other IFI events have been although that wasn't unexpected as there were a number of conflicts in the broader community that would attract pretty much the same crowd as an IFI event including George Regas speaking at the Capps Center at the university. No... the most interesting piece was that the crowd was just a bit over 10% men. And a significant proportion of them were board members of the IFI. The question is why? Were the progressive men of faith all at other events? Did they not care what the women had to say? Are they more interested in hard facts and action than personal stories? Wherever they were, they missed a significant event that stretched all of us who were present.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I bought my first computer a looonnngggg time ago - for those of you who know that ancient history, it was a Kaypro 2 like the one in the photo. The computer had 64K of memory, used 5 1/4 inch single sided double density floppies, and had this awful green CRT screen that only displayed text. The operating system was CPM which pre-dated even DOS. I've never had enough disposable cash to be a real tech-head but I've had a bunch of computers since then, as often as not, trailing edge technology. (I even had a TRS80 notebook that came stock with 8K of memory and no drive of any kind!!!)
Well, this week I took the leap and bought a new laptop. For years, I went with desktops because you got more for your money and could easily update them. My desktop at home has no parts left from the original computer except the case. This time, I was seduced by the lure of a sexy laptop with 2 G of memory, a big hard drive, and Vista home premium. So far the computer seems to be fine although I had nothing but trouble wth Easy Transfer. All I can say is that it wasn't easy, wasn't quick, and in the end, didn't work very well. Oh well. I'll be trying to move data for a while...
I am really looking forward to sitting at the local coffee shop and blogging in public. Of course, that means I won't have any excuse to not provide you good readers with fresh content.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

the finger

As I sit here on St Paddy's day, for some reason it feels appropriate to give an update on the finger just in case any of you care. Actually, it doesn't matter whether you care. It helps me so here it is.

It's coming along. Last Tuesday I saw the therapist (not covered by my ridiculously expensive insurance) who gave some exercises and an appliancy thing that I wear about 4 times a day for about 10 minutes each. She did some measurements and looked at things, was very gentle and seemed optimistic that it would work out fine.

So each day I do the painful exercises, put on the appliance thing (which doesn't hurt until I take it off and I have it on right now), and play some guitar. It is getting better, moving further, and hurting less. I even have this strange little hope that because of the attention and exercises that when I'm done, I'll actually have better Independence of my fingers and play better than before. Wouldn't that be cool!

In the meantime,
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand

great fun

I hate those e-mails that go round and round. generally, if I get something that is obviously a forward of one of those, I delete it without even looking at it. Somehow I looked at this one and it was so much fun I'm putting it here:

Some people build swimming pools in their back yards. But outdoor pools in Alaska just won't work.

Since this particular family lives on the outskirts of Anchorage, they decided to build a sturdy, colorful playground for their 3 and 4 year old sons, with smooth-stone gravel all around it to avoid knee scrapes and other injuries.

They finished building it on Saturday evening, and the following morning, as the Mom was about to wake up the boys and have them go out to play in their new play center, this is what she saw from the upstairs window:

I guess the boys stayed inside...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

oops - retraction

after publishing the entry on torture below I actually read the list of signatories... the board of the NAE did not sign. Individual leaders of the NAE did. They signed as individuals and not necessarily as representatives of the NAE.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Back in college - the days when serious photographers didn't take pictures, they made photographs and they all had little black and white darkrooms in their bathrooms - Cheryl and I got interested in photography, took a class, bought a good camera, had a darkroom, bought an Ansel Adams photograph... It has been 20+ years since we've used the darkroom equipment... but I still love looking at great photos.

George Lange makes some wonderful photographs... and this is a link to a flipbook to some of his photos. Just wonderful!


In general, I'm not a fan of the National Association of Evangelicals. For too long, they have been closely identified with a neocon political agenda and have reflected a theology a lot more narrow than mine, especially regarding women's rights and GLBT issues. That said, even though many or most of them might not consider me an "evangelical," it is term that were it not for the above associations and a few others, I could use to describe my own theological position.

All that said, the board of the NAE has taken a wonderful and courageous step. They signed The Evangelical Declaration against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror . While I don't agree with some of the references to abortion in the document, I am thrilled with an application of theology and moral argument to the issue of torture from a conservative Christian point of view. Bottom line for the document is that there are no circumstances that allow for torture and that as conservative followers of Jesus, the signatories stand against any abridgment of human rights in the name of a war on "terror." (quotes are present in the document)

I'm sure the board will catch a lot of heat for signing but there is no question that signing the document is a first step that Jesus would have taken and to which any evangelical is called.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I have to admit that I am pro-union... always have been. I grew up in a blue collar home in Pittsburgh and knew from a very young age that if it hadn't been for the unions of the steel-workers, blue collar life in Pittsburgh would have been very very different.

I know that there have been union misdeeds and corruption through the years but that doesn't outweigh the important gains that unions have procured for working people. So, my basic orientation to unions is that I'm for them until there is a really good reason to be against them.

The local paper in Santa Barbara - the News Press - has made the news over the last months as management has fought against the news staff, firing many and watching others resign. When the reporters tried to form a union, the gloves came off. The News Press filled four objections in court and claiming that the union used unfair organizing tactics. Yesterday, the judge ruled against all four objections and now the News Press is officially a union shop. The News Press has 14 days to appeal.

Here's the interesting piece... I heard the story last night on the local television news. There is an associated press article traveling around. The story is all over the web... here, here,and here are examples. Yet, if the News Press reported the ruling, I can't find it either in today's paper nor on their website. This is a paper that has been yelling that the union was stopping them from balanced reporting and running full page anti-union advertisements! And when a judge rules in favor of the union, against the paper, nothing appears in print?

There are more lawsuits yet to be decided in this mess and a community forum planned by the clergy association that will give both sides the opportunity to speak their opinions.

Amazing Grace

I finally saw the film Amazing Grace this past weekend. We took some members of the youth group to see it. While the film wasn't as good as I hoped, there were a few pieces that really struck me. William Wilburforce worked for
years and failed again and again and again at abolishing the slave trade. Yet, he stuck with it.
It seems to me that were he engaged in this activism today, we would label him a failure and move on to the next rising star. We asked the kids whether they would hang in there and keep battling for a cause after failing it for so many years. They gave a great answer - "it depends on the cause." So the question comes back to me... what causes are important enough that I'm willing to be a failure again and again but must not abandon no matter what?

Friday, March 09, 2007

moral issues

I've been very involved in housing as a moral/spiritual issue here in Santa Barbara. Virtually every time I speak to this end the local paper blasts me in an editorial and asks whether the environment is not also a moral issue. The question has always seemed a silly one to me. Of course, creation care is a moral/spiritual issue. Of course, Christians must be involved in caring for the earth, combating global warming, and conserving the wondrous diversity of plant and animal life on our planet. To place housing for people in opposition to caring for the creation is just silly. A holistic gospel requires that we look at... the whole enchilada.

Well, it seems that there is a group of evangelical leaders who in a letter express their believe that caring for creation and combating global warming is diverting attention from the "great moral issues of our time... notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children." In his blog, Jim Wallis asks whether these are the only great moral issues or

Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right - climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths - then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?

So what are the moral issues of the day? One difference between the lists has to do with the actor... in the Dobson et al list, moral issues are only those things done by individuals - abortion, sexual activity - and not those things done by cultures, countries, or companies. For the News Press editorial staff, the only moral issues are those that impinge on the comfort of the haves. For Jesus, I fear the list is a lot bigger and less comfortable than either of those.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

American Baptists in the Southwest

This past weekend was the annual mission conference and the first meeting of the new association of American Baptists in the Southwest. It was an important event for me and for Cambridge Drive Community Church as we try to discern God's yearnings for us in the coming days. When the ABCPSW withdrew from the American Baptist national body, that left those of us who wanted to remain in the national body homeless. So a new association is being formed here which will receive services from the Los Angeles city society. There is also the option of joining with another region that is further away. The proximity of LA is a strong incentive to be part of the new association so we're looking carefully... and that led me to attend the meetings Friday and Saturday.

Tony Campolo spoke and while I'd heard some of the stories before Tony is always encouraging and challenging. Workshops with some of our ABC missionaries where very good. The piece that struck me most was the make-up of the attendees. As one would hope, the Los Angeles region of the denomination is extremely diverse. This was reflected in the crowd. I doubt that any racial or ethnic group made up more than 50%. There were Anglos, Asians, African Americans, Latinos from a variety of different cultures all together in worship. In one of the sessions, we sang the song below and as I looked around, tears came to my eyes. Take a listen...

Friday, March 02, 2007

It's offensive

About a week ago, Barak Obama said in a speech that lives had been wasted in Iraq. Immediately he was attacked by some folk on the right and some parents who had lost children in Iraq. Barak back-pedaled. Then two days ago, John McCain made a similar remark and while the right wing media did not attack him, the Democratic leadership did, saying that his remark was offensive.

It seems to me that "offensive" is an accurate term but the context was wrong. Something is offensive here but it wasn't either remark. What is offensive is that the lives of young men and women have been given for nothing - wasted. Bush's war is not making the world more secure. It did not make life better for the Iraqi people. And there was no connection to Al Qaida in the Iraqi government nor were there weapons of mass destruction threatening anyone. Obama should not have back-pedaled. He should have stood up and condemned the war, thanked those young people who were and are willing to sacrifice, offered sympathy to those who have lost loved ones, and continued to say that the war is unnecessary and wrong├é… therefore, any lives lost are wasted. Any sacrifice made was in vain. The Democrats should not have attacked McCain, they should have used it as an opportunity to solidify a position against the war when even a hawk like McCain is saying that it is not working.

I understand why parents and spouses of those who gave their lives would be upset. How can they face the possibility that their loved ones died for nothing? Those of us who are against this war must be sensitive to their losses. Still, we must not allow that sensitivity to stop us from standing up against the possibility of even more young men and women giving their lives for this debacle. More deaths do not make those losses meaningful, that only increases the waste.