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Friday, October 31, 2003

Update: I have just discovered three of my students in women's history plagiarized their midterm biography papers... Google caught all three in seconds. Lord, this is depressing. Plagiarizers, read first this and then this.
Two links today to two articles that deal with the perceived disconnect between contemporary feminism and real women's lives. From last Sunday's New York Times, here is Lisa Belkin's "The Opt-Out Revolution". According to Belkin, even the most privileged women in our society are finding careerism and individual accomplishment to be less than satisfying:

It's not just that the workplace has failed women. It is also that women are rejecting the workplace.

Belkin qualifies and nuances that statement, but the stories she compiles in this satisfying article tend to back it up. Here's another quotation:

There is nothing wrong with money or power. But they come at a high price. And lately when women talk about success they use words like satisfaction, balance and sanity.

And then this gem, from a woman who wrote to Belkin on why she had dropped out of the "rat race":

''Sometimes I worry that we're really just a little bit lazier (than high powered executive men),'' she says. ''But in my heart of hearts, I think it's really because we're smarter. Maybe evolution has endowed us with the ability to turn back our rheostat faster, to not always charge ahead after one all-consuming thing. To prefer a life not with one pot boiling but with a lot of pots simmering; to prefer the patchwork quilt, not the down comforter. (Emphasis Hugo's). Oh, God, would you listen to these domestic analogies? Are they really coming out of my mouth?''

Yes, they are. And I like hearing them.

Of course, Belkin's article has ignited a little firestorm of its own (sorry to use that image this week of all weeks): well-known feminist columnist Katha Pollitt, writing in the Nation and on CommonDreams, calls Belkin's piece "confused and myopic". It's an unfair charge, but Pollitt rightly zings Belkin for coming to conclusions about the failure of the entire feminist movement based largely upon the choices of upper-middle-class women whose husbands' salaries make "opting out" possible. Pollitt writes:

Women married to rich men have always been less committed to work than comparable women married to less rich men: They don't need the money, and being a rich man's wife is already a kind of job. Why look to them as honing the cutting edge of history? Social change is made by people who can't live with the status quo, not by the most protected and comfortable.

She has a point, though not one sufficient enough to discredit Belkin's larger thesis: those women who have experienced the greatest degree of economic and professional equality with men, are, in astonishing numbers, discovering that they are far more different from their brothers and their husbands than they had ever imagined. The next wave of feminism will have to recognize that.


Thursday, October 30, 2003

My dear former pastor, Scott Richardson (now dean of the cathedral in the diocese of San Diego), preached this sermon last Sunday. The excerpt I like:

...it is my firm belief that those who want to extend the blessings and responsibilities of (episcopal) leadership to Gene (Robinson, bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire), and to all whom he represents, are closer to the mind and heart of Jesus as he is revealed in the gospels and in the lived experience of the sacred assembly.

I am confused and troubled by those, at home and abroad, who are blind to the gifts of the Spirit that are abundantly evident in Gene’s life and ministry. Those who know him best, the people of his own diocese, clearly see and honor those gifts. Our General Convention thoroughly reviewed and affirmed their election. He is scheduled to be ordained next Sunday by our Presiding Bishop and others. I expect that the glory of God will be further revealed in this new ministry to which he has been called and that now lies before him.

And, as I passionately hold all of that to be true, I also confess my own blindness and ask for divine help. (Hugo's emphasis). I met with several conservative priests in this diocese last week to discuss the issue at hand. We worked to find the point of human connection beneath the current debate. One of them told me that he is frustrated by the fact that some with whom he disagrees refuse to see him as a caring person. He is labeled as hard-hearted, mean-spirited, or small-minded. That is not his experience of himself but many, he says, are blinded by positionality. They can’t see his true nature, his loving nature, because they only see the point of intense disagreement.

I told him that understood that, that I have been guilty of that sin from time to time, and that I would refrain from doing that to him in the future. I also said that I share a similar feeling every time traditionalists accuse the more liberal side of being unbiblical or untheological or unprayerful. The truth is, we too have arrived at our understanding through years of prayer, study, reflection, meditation, and conversation. It disturbs me when that goes unnoticed, when others stop seeing us as faithful and orthodox Christians and depict us instead as thin banners fluttering in the cultural winds. (Hugo's emphasis). Because I find that form of blindness so irritating, I am able to empathize with my conservative colleagues who disagree with me and who are distressed by this form or any form of dismissing invisibility.


Amen. Some of us liberals have some pretty thick and well textured flags to fly in that wind...

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In case you need the link, here is the site at which to donate to the Southern California American Red Cross.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would not make an absolute pledge not to raise taxes because of the possibility of a major emergency. Lo and behold, the emergency has arrived and Arnold may have the political cover he needs. Analysis here in the Los Angeles Times.

I am deeply saddened by the fires and the loss of homes and life. I quietly note, however, that the greatest damage was done to areas that are politically conservative, represented almost entirely by Republicans (like Elton Gallegly, David Dreier and Duncan Hunter). It certainly makes it easier to make the case for higher taxes, and this progressive would consider that a small silver lining to an otherwise terrible tragedy for so many of my fellow Southern Californians.

I am waiting to hear if the San Bernadino mountain camp to which we take our confirmation class every year is still standing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I've been asked by the Corner to blog a bit about this weekend's confirmation retreat at All Saints Episcopal Church.

It was a great success, at least on an interpersonal level. We have 26 kids (all ninth or tenth-graders, all but 7 are girls). They are ethnically and psychologically diverse, but all sweet people. The strengths of our confirmation program are impressive: we do team-building so well! We led them through a whole range of exercises designed to help them understand themselves and each other better, we played a variety of fun (and silly games), we told stories. We watched the film "Stand by Me", largely to prompt discussion about friendship and loyalty. The kids stayed up very late, and the chaperones gradually dropped off into well-deserved sleep.

We have also begun to teach them the history of the Episcopal Church. By the time they are confirmed in May, they will know the difference between a chasuble and an alb, between a chalice and a paten, between an archbishop and a primate. But we will only do a very, very little on their own relationship with Jesus. I do my best, always working in a little story here, a little Scripture there, always remembering that my job is to model that relationship as best I can. But for most of these kids, Jesus will remain a great ethical teacher and not much more. But for a few, if past patterns hold, this process will awaken a hunger for something deeper. I have been blessed to see that awakening happen more than once, even in this very liberal parish. That is a delight and a gift of grace.
I am off campus today, with little time to blog. Some folks have been playing to my own dormant (but not dead) political fantasies by suggesting I run for some local office (Pasadena city council, assembly, congress). The idea of running as an "Anabaptist pro-life Democrat" has appeal, though historically, those affiliated with Anabaptism were supposed to shun public service.

I was talking with the associate pastor at my (Mennonite) church this weekend, a young, passionate, gentle, dedicated left-wing activist. (He has worked with the Quakers and countless other groups, on issues ranging from homelessness to the environment to the Iraq war). He has often been approached by local progressives to run for public office -- that is, until he lets on that he is staunchly pro-life, and has no intention (unlike Kucinich) of changing his views. The local secular lefties then quickly scurry away, shaking their heads in bewilderment.

I know my views seem contradictory; to most, they are a novelty at best, annoyingly inconsistent at worst. But the idea that even an unsuccessful campaign might lead some people to embrace a consistent-life progressive ethic is compelling! So far I have the endorsements of my new friend John (a pentecostal in New Zealand) and two fervent McClintock Republicans from here in Southern California. I will be accepting further endorsements indefinitely.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I am a subscriber and supporter of Jim Wallis and the Sojourners community. I supported Wallis' fiery letter last week (I blogged on this below) rebuking General Boykin for his wedding together of his evangelical faith with the American war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now Sojourners is urging its supporters to write to Congress and the Department of Defense to call for Boykin's resignation. I'm not happy.

As a pacifist, I can't possibly tell Caesar whom he should appoint to command his legions. From the pacifist standpoint, the problem with Boykin is not his theology (though we don't like it much), the problem is that he sees violence as an appropriate weapon in the great cosmic struggle against evil and death. No general in the US Army is going to feel any differently than Boykin does on the issue of force, is he? (Or her?)

The Sojourners appeal reads:

The kingdom of God does not endorse the principalities and powers of nation-states, armies, and the ideologies of empire; but rather calls them all into question. Tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that General Boykin does not speak for you, and that they should urge Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to remove him from his position in the Pentagon.

I agree with the first sentence. But because I agree with the first sentence, I cannot possibly tell the Pentagon what to do. I question the very need for a Pentagon; in pacifist theology as I understand it, one general is thus as good as another. I need help understanding the consistency of Sojo's position here.

My union, the California Teachers Association, has formally endorsed Howard Dean for the March 2004 primary. I'm not surprised. Though I am still leaning towards Dennis Kucinich myself (despite his waffling on the life issue), I would be reasonably content with Dean as the party's nominee.

I've long since given up the search for a perfect candidate, which for me would be a charismatic consistent-life ethic socialist, devoutly religious, with high personal integrity, committed to the environment and to peace-making as the cornerstone of American foreign policy. Some sort of fusion of Pope John Paul II, David Brower, and Tommy Sheridan would be nice.

Monday, October 27, 2003

There are good kinds of progress on the gender front, and then there are setbacks. The Chronicle reports a dramatic rise in female arrests over the past decade, up 14% since 1993 while arrests of men have fallen 6% over the same period. I have nothing to say about it, except it makes me sad.
Gratias deo ago, the commenting system seems to be working again.
Alas and alack, the comment system has crashed, erasing all of the give and take on my posts below. My apologies to the commenters, and if anyone can suggest a more reliable commenting system, please do so.

Here is the link to the famous John Howard Yoder essay, "What Would You Do: A Serious Answer to a Standard Question ." Here are some excerpts:

Sooner or later, in almost any serious discussion about peace and war, someone is sure to ask the standard question: "What would you do if a criminal, say, pulled a gun and threatened to kill your wife" (or daughter or sister or mother, whichever one the challenger decides to use). It's uncanny how many persons‑from seminary professors to draft board members‑see this question as a way to test the consistency of the pacifist's convictions that war is wrong...


And then this:

Especially is this emotional dimension of the question more visible when the discussion centers on one's duty to Protect someone else. Often the questioner will heighten this aspect of the argument by saying, "Perhaps as a Christian you do have the right to sacrifice your own welfare to be loving toward an attacker. But do you have the right to sacrifice the welfare of others for whom you are responsible?"

We must pierce through the screen of this apparent altruism and point out that it distorts the real nature of the argument. It is an altruistic form of egoism when I defend my wife or my child because they are precisely my own. This argument does not suggest that I would have the same responsibility to defend the wives and children of Vietnamese, for example, who are being attacked by my countrymen. It does not suggest any special concern for the wife or child of the attacker. The reason I should defend my wife and child in this argument is not that they are my neighbors, innocent threatened third parties, but because they are mine. Thus this becomes an act of selfishness; though covered over with the halo of service to others, it is still self‑oriented in its
structure.

Bingo. And one more:

The real temptation of good people like us is not the crude the crass, and the carnal. The really refined temptation, with which Jesus himself was tried, is that of egocentric altruism. It is being oneself the incarnation of a good and righteous cause for which others may rightly be made to suffer. It is stating one's self‑justification in the form of a duty to others. (Emphasis Hugo's).

I do not know what I would do if some insane or criminal person were to attack my wife or child, sister or mother. But I know that what I should do would be illuminated by what God my Father did when his "only begotten Son" was being threatened. Or by what Abraham, my father in the faith, was ready to sacrifice out of obedience; Abraham could ready himself to give up his son because he believed in the resurrection. It was "for the sake of the joy that was set before him" that Christ himself could "endure the cross."


If the commenting system works, folks, have it. But I am with Yoder, or, at least, I long to be.





Sunday, October 26, 2003

John F. and I have had several exchanges in the comments section below my previous posts on the subject of pacifism and Christian duty. John wrote:

Are we to stand by and watch, as our neighbour, for whom Christ died, is attacked by thugs, and do nothing? As Hubmaier wrote 'He who can help his neighbour by defending him, and does not, is as guilty of his blood as he who does not feed the hungry'. Are governments perfect? No. Do they sometimes have to tolerate a lesser evil to avoid a greater one? Yes. But are they any less God-ordained for all that? It is the civil power's job to wield the sword, and our duty to support it when the sword is wielded against evil. Jesus upheld the policeman's truncheon when he told the Roman soldiers to do justice, and not to accuse people falsely. He did not say 'Put away your sword, you heathen!'. We are to love our enemies, but sometimes, the most loving act can be a restraining one, like a clonk on the head, a straight-jacket, or a spanking.

First off, I dig the verb "clonk". But there is a difference between "doing nothing" and fighting the thug. It is a classic false choice to suggest there are only two options. One can place oneself in the middle, or countless other things...

Ushering in the Kingdom means trusting God so much that we are willing to be crucified rather than play by the rules of the powers and the principalities that govern this earth. Being "born again", to the Anabaptist tradition which I am learning to embrace, doesn't mean a guarantee of inner peace or economic prosperity. It means that once reborn, you are far more likely to get nailed to a cross than you were before. The real victory cannot be the military one; it is the triumph of resurrection. "The triumph of God comes through resurrection and not through effective sovereignty or assured survival." (Yoder, again). General Boykin's guns and bullets are useless against Satan, because they are Satan's tools. It may buy the USA more land and more freedom, but the USA is not the kingdom, it is not the promised land, and likely never will be.

Real pacifism is scary and tough. It has nothing to do with being passive (different Latin roots altogether). It is hard and painful and frequently ends badly. I have not faced the bullets that Jerry Boykin has faced. He may be a good and decent man, and a true believer. But I cannot help but conclude that he -- and those who fight beneath him -- are fighting for Caesar and his glory, and not for Jesus.
I don't know many Christians who envy Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Heralded as a liberal when he was chosen last year, he is caught in the ferocious tug of war between traditionalists and progressives on the subject of homosexuality. The Telegraph reports that despite his own personal support for same-sex unions, he is far more adamant about holding the Anglican Communion together -- and has even infuriated many of his lesbian and gay supporters recently. (Williams suddenly reversed himself and decided not to attend the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement's conference in Manchester this weekend). The Guardian story is here.

Gene Robinson, the man at the center of the firestorm, did address the Manchester conference by satellite, reporting (among other things) that he has been besieged with hate mail. Along those lines, an Episcopal priest whom I know well(and who attended this summer's general convention) reported that Gene Robinson was wearing then and continues to wear a bullet-proof vest. Very shocking and sad. As a supporter of Gene Robinson and of same-sex unions, I nonetheless repudiate any intemperate language or threats of violence directed by "my" side against our traditionalist brothers and sisters. I would hope that those who oppose Gene Robinson would be equally quick to condemn both verbal and physical violence by their own partisans.

His consecration (an event which many predict will split the communion) is still on for next Sunday in New Hampshire.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

It's a hazy, smoky morning here in Pasadena; the fires in Rancho Cucamonga and elsewhere have been dropping ash upon us for the better part of two days now. I am fortunate to be miles from any danger. I am praying for those whose homes are in danger and those brave men and women who are struggling to contain the blaze.

A few quick notes: I am grading papers for my Men and Masculinity class, and just discovered a blatant example of plagiarism; a student simply downloaded an entire article from the Internet. I am always enraged and disheartened by this sort of thing. I suppose I actually take it personally; the student seems to consider the subject of so little value that they don't bother to work, and perhaps, they think so little of me that they suspect they can get away with it. It was a depressing discovery. (Note to students: the Internet gives you many opportunities to plagiarize; it also makes it very easy for your profs to catch you. I caught this gal's plagiarism by typing in six key words into Google. Took me thirty seconds).

My post below on General Boykin and his militant faith has sparked some interesting responses from a couple of cyberfriends. One of the reasons I left the Episcopal Church for the Mennonites was because I felt called to authentic pacifism. It was only after September 11, 2001, that I began to pray and study the issue of pacifism more seriously. I came to read the work of Stanley Hauerwas and the marvelous John Howard Yoder, particularly the latter's Politics of Jesus. Here, Yoder points out that most Just War adherents fail to embrace the fullness of their own doctrine.
If General Boykin's remarks were accurate representations of his thought, he has put himself well beyond Just War tradition.

I am not naturally a pacifist. As Hauerwas says of himself, "I am an innately violent person trying to become a peaceful man". But I continue to discern the pacifism of the Mennonites as being more consistent with Christ's call than the Just War tradition as practiced by Protestants and Catholics alike.

With that, I am off for an overnight retreat with my youth group.


Friday, October 24, 2003

An article in today's Chronicle points out that Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be required to participate in the state's sexual harassment prevention training, a mandatory program for all non-elected employees. I've led a few such trainings myself, including one for Presbyterian seminarians at Fuller. It would be a very important gesture on our governor-elect's part if he did go through the program; it would send an important message about the value of sexual harassment prevention, and would be a major step towards healing Arnold's rift with women's groups.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Okay, one more short blog. Check out Jim Wallis' beautiful letter to America's Christian general, William Boykin. My favorite bit:

General, your theology bears no resemblance to biblical teaching. You utterly confuse the body of Christ with the American nation. The kingdom of God doesn't endorse the principalities and powers of nation-states, armies, and the ideologies of empire; but rather calls them all into question. You even miss the third verse of "Onward Christian Soldiers," which reminds us, "Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane, But the Church of Jesus, constant will remain." And let's not misinterpret the famous first verse, "Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before." The cross, General, not the Special Forces.


Amen, brother Jim. Back to grading.

So, last night my youth group at All Saints Church discussed the ongoing controversy with Gene Robinson, homosexuality, and the Anglican Communion. We had perhaps 20 kids, mostly freshmen and sophomores, more girls than boys. These kids were raised in a very liberal environment; their church has been blessing same-sex unions since 1991 (they can't remember a time when it didn't). They are almost universally eager to proclaim their tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians, but they are also cruelly dismissive of those whose views on homosexuality might be different from their own. What was particularly galling was that without exception, these kids thought that the Bible's teaching on sexuality was irrelevant to their lives as Christian young people. (Being a good liberal church, All Saints does not require much Bible study at all of its youth.) They are mystified as to why the Anglican Communion might split, but are also happy to say "good riddance" to traditionalists and conservatives whom they regard as little more than bigots.

I am only a volunteer youth minister, not a developer of programming. I love these kids, each and every precious one of them. In my heart, I am with them in accepting homosexuality. But I see clearly that their generous liberalism is superficial and often hypocritical, and that liberalism comes from the church culture in which they have been raised. They make the classic mistake of confusing authentic Christian love with absolute non-judgment. Like their secular counterparts, they regard judging the private behavior of others to be the most serious of all sins. They fail to see -- because they have not been taught to see -- that real love is not just accepting people as they are, but also transforming them into the people they were truly meant to be. For them, the only proof texts in the Bible that matter are those about unconditional love. The idea that this two-thousand year old document might have relevance for people's decision making about sexuality is preposterous to them.

Why do I continue to work with kids in a church where the attitude towards tradition and faith is often so dismissive? Because I love them, and because in a quiet way, I like to imagine that I can change their minds about what an "evangelical" is. (By the standards of many, I am no conservative; by the standards of this church, I am indeed one step from being a fundamentalist!) I do speak to my kids, gently and calmly, about my own reliance on Scripture and my own relationship with Christ. I have earned their affection and respect, I think. And perhaps, just perhaps, seeds that I am planting now will flourish in years to come. One likes to think so, anyway.

That's it for today's blogging. I have a lecture on birth control at 8:50; on the rise of the Roman Republic at 10:25, and on Napoleon at 1:00. I also have midterms to grade.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

To my dismay, I have to agree with this assessment of my beloved Los Angeles from today's Times:

Daniel Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable, an L.A. think tank, said strikers in Los Angeles "have always had a hard time getting people to care about their cause. This has always been a nonunion town. We all have a powerful sense of disengagement from the collective identity as being part of Los Angeles. One of the challenges we face as a region is to find a common destiny."

That makes it a city of intensely private people.

"This is a quintessentially capitalist city, an individualist city," Pepperdine's Kotkin said. "It drives social ideologues bonkers. There's an element in academe and the media who wants the world to become a political drama, something on a big stage. But in L.A., the stage is the tri-tip cooking on the grill in the backyard, it's your close friends coming over for Thanksgiving. It's a city of villages
."

It makes this social ideologue grumpy. And I am still going to Gelson's.
I've been making my way through a splendid new book: Eve's Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body, by Lilian Calles Barger. I teach women's history at my college (the only man to do so, I note immodestly), and have long focused on body image issues. One of the most popular texts I use is Joan Jacob Brumberg's The Body Project which is nothing short of a masterpiece.

But until Eve's Revenge (published just this year) no one had written about the contemporary female body from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Here are three gems:

"In our current social context the discussion of sex and gender, for example, has become individualized, cut off from relationship. Personal desire has taken preeminence over any constraining social or communal ethic, like fidelity and chastity,, leading to a sexuality that seems to erupt out of nowhere as an autonomous drive. Disregarding the body's meaning within the context of community and commitment, the expression of desire becomes a monologue instead of the nuanced dialogue that is needed for relationship with another person."

Oh, that is so good. But wait, there's more, sterner stuff:

"Abortion, like all sexually related issues, is not simply a wonan's personal option. It erodes the interconnectedness of community by attacking a powerful symbol of women's compassion, the womb... At the same time that emancipation of women and the earth from male domination is promoted, women become agents of an internalized subordination: acted out in and against their own bodies. We have become the most recent colonizers of our own bodies." (Emphasis is Hugo's).

Wow. One more:

"Constantly bombarded by images of extraordinary beauty, men may find that the false ideal gets in the way of appreciating a flesh and blood woman... What does this unobtainable beauty do to the romantic aspirations of men who must settle for the ordinary? What happens when what it means to be 'the beloved' is no longer articulated with words but communicated by explicit images? Unlike the past, when the plainest woman could see herself in love poetry and romance novels, an image-laden culture leaves little room for the romantic imagination. By emptying beauty of its ability to point us toward the good and its role in opening us to the transcendent, mass-media culture ironically manages to be antibeauty." (Emphasis mine).

I am working up a course for next semester on Western Culture and the Female Body -- Eve's Revenge is likely to be an assigned text. I can already anticipate some riproaringly good reactions from my radically secularized students.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

One of the things that drives liberal Episcopalians nuts is when female priests and bishops take conservative stands on sexual ethics. Since the ordination of female priests is such a recent (and still controversial) development in the Anglican Communion, there is a widespread presumption that women clergy will be theological liberals. Not so. I have learned thanks to Dr. Peter Toon (a very traditional English cleric) that the Right Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Edmonton (Canada) takes quite a strong line against homosexuality.

In a pastoral letter issued this past Sunday, Matthews writes:

As many of you are aware I have repeatedly said that the teaching and position of the Anglican Church of Canada is clear. We do not accept the blessing of same-sex unions and the General Synod canon on marriage does not permit same-sex marriage.

But she issued a ringing call for reflection and for understanding across theological and sexual divides:

I am asking the membership of the Diocese to engage in repentance and prayer. I call for repentance because I believe emotions are running so high that we have lost the ability to listen to one another, and quite possibly also to the Holy Spirit. Repentance means recognizing that in every position in the debate there is a desire to win so others may lose. Indeed, I am convinced we have worked ourselves into a situation where there are only losers, with enormous pain on all sides. This does not give glory to God nor does it further the work of the Kingdom. (The emphasis is Hugo's).

I am struck that Toon -- whose Prayer Book Society opposes women priests and bishops with almost the same intensity that it opposes same-sex unions and openly gay clergy -- would choose to quote a woman bishop. Then again, maybe he just knows Mark 9:40.
When I first started taking gender studies courses, back in the 1980s, it was axiomatic that most of the differences between men and women were cultural constructs. "Freud was wrong", my prof intoned, "biology is not destiny." But in the past decade, we have witnessed a dizzying array of studies that suggest that biology has a great deal more to do with our sexuality and our self-concept than we had imagined. Here's some coverage of the latest study from UCLA, about the hardwiring of our brains.

The longer I teach, the more I tend towards the "nature" side of the "nature vs. nurture" debate...

Monday, October 20, 2003

One last blog on a busy day: Here is some goodness on atonement and sin from the delightful Frederica Mathewes-Green. The best part of her article, however, is this marvelous bit about the interconnectedness of one's private choices with the well-being of the entire community:

The radio humorist Garrison Keillor... (tells) a story about a man considering adultery, who contemplated how one act of betrayal can unbalance an entire community: “I saw that we all depend on each other. I saw that although I thought my sins could be secret, that they would be no more secret than an earthquake. All these houses and all these families, my infidelity will somehow shake them. It will pollute the drinking water. It will make noxious gases come out of the ventilators in the elementary school. When we scream in senseless anger, blocks away a little girl we do not know spills a bowl of gravy all over a white tablecloth.”



And more Anglican thoughts: Here is Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, on moral leadership:

I don't believe that the moral contribution that can be made by any spiritual leader is ever a matter of simply handing down something like the 10 commandments.

It's a matter of trying to understand more deeply what sort of moral choices others are having to face, assisting with all the resource that I can bring to that and of course trying to live with the decisions that they make.

I think it's something of a fallacy to suppose that moral leadership is always saying, "This is right, this is wrong," because that may be very satisfying but it may not necessarily change anything or move anything forward.


He's a good man, that Welshman.

The very fine website Anglicans Online has an excellent editorial in the aftermath of the primates meeting (on the endlessly divisive subject of homosexuality and Scripture) in London last week. It may be time, they feel, for the Communion to go:

In this complex and connected world, it may be that the genius of Anglicanism no longer has a place. If that is so, we should prefer an honourable death — a willingness to let the communion go, to grieve the 'parting of friends' — and not look at the means by which to resuscitate a corpse.

We want the communion to survive, make no mistake about it. But permanent life support is no way to live.


We need to not make idols out of "communions" and "denominations". Just substitute in those two words for "man" in this psalm.

Before I left for vacation, the Angry Clam asked me if I, as a college professor, would be willing to strike. In the ten years that I have been at Pasadena City College, our chapter of the California Teachers Association has never walked out. We've often, however, worked without a contract, and there has in recent years been an enduring sentiment of mistrust between the union and the administration.

I have been adamant about not crossing the grocery workers' picket lines. (I have indeed, to my knowledge, never crossed a picket line in my life). But speaking for myself alone, I would not hold my students' academic careers hostage while I picketed for higher pay or better benefits. I would happily "strike" from doing committee work for the college, and would enthusiastically boycott department meetings if called for. I would even be willing to meet some of my classes off campus. I can't speak for other professionals in positions of responsibility (sheriff's deputies and air traffic controllers and so forth), but I can say that I am not willing to punish my students for the myriad shortcomings of the administration of my college. I might wear a black armband, I might even walk a picket line when my classes weren't in session, but I would not voluntarily interrupt my students' academic progress.

It's easy for me to say that, of course. I am tenured, childless, and quite well-paid in salary and benefits. I know full well that many of my only slightly senior teaching colleagues are pulling down six-digit salaries. (That is quite easy around here if you teach overload and summer classes). But the real exploited workers here are the adjunct professors, the so-called "freeway flyers" who make only a fraction of what we privileged few make. If they were to go on strike, I would try to figure out a way to both honor their picket line and to take care of my students.
I am back, and we had a wonderful, happy weekend in Miami. The Loews Hotel was elegant and chic, the water of the Atlantic brilliantly clear and warm, the people friendly and open. (Hugo did things he doesn't often do: made a valiant attempt to dance to salsa music at this South Beach nightspot, and made an equally valiant effort to finish this very fine cigar.) Many of my prejudices about Miami have been completely swept away, I am happy to report. (No, I am not in any danger of becoming a fan of South Florida sports teams). It was in any case the perfect romantic getaway, and I highly recommend a visit for those who haven't been to this cosmopolitan, steamy, sensual, and unique city.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I won't be blogging again until Monday. My gal and I are off tonight to Miami Beach, for a weekend at the Loews celebrating our one-year anniversary as a couple. I've never been to Florida, and grew up with an antipathy towards its sports teams (particularly the loathsome and arrogant Miami Hurricanes). Perhaps a weekend on South Beach will change my mind...
The Anglican Communion News Service has issued a statement by the primates from London. It looks like a solid "win" for the conservatives, but it stops short of an outright threat to knock the American church out of the Communion:

As Primates, it is not for us to pass judgement on the constitutional processes of another province. We recognise the sensitive balance between provincial autonomy and the expression of critical opinion by others on the internal actions of a province. Nevertheless, many Primates have pointed to the grave difficulties that this election has raised and will continue to raise. In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop.

If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).


This seems to me to be a clear statement that the Anglican Communion would like Gene Robinson to fall on his sword for the good of church unity. If he decided to resign before consecration, one gets the sense that the primates think a crisis would be avoided. But that would -- all sides agree -- be only a temporary solution. Robinson will be consecrated in early November, and we shall see. But I think the conservatives got almost everything they wanted, and my fellow liberals will be unable to claim that a few right-wingers in this country have engineered the whole thing. More will be revealed.
The grocery strike continues to receive strong support, and may widen to include sympathy actions from other unions:

On Wednesday, union leaders representing actors, longshore workers, janitors, teachers, hotel housekeepers and others pledged to bolster the strikers' resolve with a series of rallies, help on picket lines and mass demonstrations.

"We're facing negotiations on the very same issue," said John P. Connolly, national president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, one of at least 50 union leaders at the strategy session at the county labor federation offices near downtown Los Angeles.

"One way to make sure that we are successful is to support the UFCW in their fight now," he said.


Several professors from my college union have gone out to walk the picket lines in solidarity with the grocery union; my contribution was two dozen Noah's bagels, cream cheese, and sodas. It was gratefully received by some very kind but tired folks in my Vons parking lot!
By the middle of the day California time, we should have news from the meeting of Anglican primates in London. (Rumor from one source says the gathered primates have even been deprived of cell phones so they cannot communicate with the outside world). As one who is tremendously fond of consensus, the first reports sound promising; I suspect hard-liners on both sides will be frustrated.

I worship at Pasadena Mennonite Church, and have for well over a year now. But I was once on the vestry at All Saints Episcopal Church here in Pasadena, and I remain heavily involved with the latter community's high school youth program. Next Wednesday night, we will be leading the high schoolers through a discussion entitled "It's Not About Sex: Homosexuality and our Episcopal Church". All Saints is a very liberal community on sexual issues, and that openness and acceptance is something most of our young people take for granted. Part of me is actually hoping that the American Episcopal church is heavily sanctioned by the Anglican primates, if only because it would drive the point home to our teenagers that taking a stand for something they (we) believe in (like same-sex unions) can come with a very high cost! Obviously, the program next week will present the liberal slant -- but it will also give the kids time to ask questions. I'll report how it goes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A couple new blogs to recommend:

http://stormwindca.blogspot.com/
http://mithras.blogs.com (Warning -- vulgar language and links to other sites I would not choose to visit myself, but some good commentary)
Josh Claybourn (solid midwestern conservatism)


The Times has a story in its business section this morning: "Stores' Personal Touch Fortifies Picket Lines". What I found so heartening was that even folks who disagree with the union's position in the grocery strike are refraining from crossing picket lines, not out of fear, but out of a desire to honor personal relationships they have formed with union members. Here's an example:

Sharon Brady said she didn't support unions in general. The United Food and Commercial Workers union struck Vons late Saturday after failing to reach a contract agreement, triggering an employer lockout the next day by Kroger Co.'s Ralphs chain and Albertsons Inc.

Brady doesn't agree with the union's tactics. But as a friend of Fisher (an employee) and other supermarket employees, she said she would honor supermarket picket lines. Brady stocked up on groceries in advance of the strike and will go to stores not involved in the dispute until it is settled, "no matter how long it goes on," she said.


Even here in Southern California, there is tangible evidence of the bonds of loyalty and friendship trumping self-interest. Hurrah for the UFCW, and hurrah for Sharon Brady. After school today, I am taking bagels and cream cheese (to be bought at Gelson's) to the strikers at my local Vons on the corner of Orange Grove and Fair Oaks here in Pasadena.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Jack Rogers, evangelical pastor and local Pasadenan, as well as former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has a marvelous piece out on the web entitled How I Changed my Mind on Homosexuality. What I particularly appreciate is that he points out that most conservative approaches to Scripture and homosexuality make their case more on the basis of natural law than on the Bible itself. It's a vigorous and winsome polemic, and worth the several minutes it will take. Here's my fav excerpt:

My reading of Scripture, my understanding of the good news of the Gospel, my experience as an evangelical Christian all lead me to believe that Jesus' saving act is for all believers (emphasis Rogers). We need to be open to see the image of God reflected in all those whom God has created and chosen. All those who reflect God's love are worthy of consideration for leadership in Christ's church.

I know what my evangelical friends are saying about now. If we are just loving, does that mean anything goes? What about promiscuity? Where are the boundaries!? I agree that we need boundaries. The problem is, the boundaries have been drawn in the wrong place. We have put a fence around homosexuals. It is true that marriage is in trouble in America. But homosexuals didn't cause that problem and restricting sexual behavior between Christian committed gay couples won't solve the problem.

We as a denomination need to invest our money and our energies in supporting traditional marriage and family life. And we need to be clear that promiscuity in any arena, homosexual or heterosexual, is destructive both personally and to our community.

So what do we do now? As a church, our first responsibility is to provide for LGBT persons a "moral equivalent" to marriage. We need to create liturgies that recognize and bless people who sincerely seek to commit themselves to another responsible person in a covenant of love and shared life.

My boy Dennis Kucinich has finally made his formal announcement of his intention to run for president. Positioning himself to the left of all but Sharpton and Moseley Braun, Kucinich is clearly the candidate with the most solid progressive credentials. Unlike Howard Dean, Dennis is a "movement" guy with huge credibility among the left. Can he win the nomination? Of course not. Is he worth supporting in order to remind the party of its left-leaning base? Absolutely.

As I've pointed out before, until 2002 Dennis Kucinich was solidly pro-life. He and his fellow Ohio Democrat, Marcy Kaptur, were heroes to the "consistent-life ethic" left (we need all the heroes we can get). But after Katha Pollitt in The Nation (a magazine I support and to which I subscribe) excoriated him for his anti-abortion views, Dennis underwent a remarkable and convenient -- not to mention disappointing -- conversion. He's still the man for me, but largely by default.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has proved that the Republicans can elect fiscal conservatives and social liberals. When will we be able to see the Democratic equivalent: a social conservative on the life issues, and a proud progressive on economic ones? I ain't holding my lonely breath.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Spooky's comment below sends me to an interesting study of the effectiveness of teaching evaluations, such as the one at RatemyProfessors. One prime conclusion: the easier the teacher, the higher the evaluations. I must say, I did dumb down my material before I was tenured to keep my evaluations high -- I give far, far more legitimate Cs and failing grades than I once did. I did not give undeserved As -- I wanted to protect that grade -- but I gave lotsa Bs that should have been Cs...

Any students reading this who long for a return to those days, sorry.
Let me start a totally different controversy. My favorite young Christian couple on the 'net are Sam and Bethany Torode. Both gifted, winsome writers, they are parents in their early twenties who have grasped truths that have long eluded their elders. Here's a classic essay (though less than a year old) from Bethany, entitled Why College Women Aren't Ready to Marry. It's a great quick read. Here is the choice excerpt:

The reason I hear most often for why young women aren’t ready for marriage is that we need an extended period of independence to “discover ourselves.” When I was married, at age 19, several friends and relatives voiced their sincere concerns about my readiness. They wondered: Did I really know who I was?

At the time, I shrugged off such concerns — Of course I know who I am! What’s that supposed to mean? Now that I’ve been married for a couple years, I can see that I’ve learned a great deal about who I am — because of marriage, not in spite of it.

I don’t think we can “discover ourselves” alone. We most clearly realize who we are as individuals by living in community with others.


Bingo. I've given this essay to my college students, and had quite a store of reactions...



The consensus seems to be that the real "bad boy" in the grocery strike is Wal-Mart, the huge behemoth based out of Bentonville, Arkansas. Because Wal-Mart now sells groceries, and is viciously anti-union, it can undercut the prices charged by traditional supermarkets. Here's a site worth visiting: WalMartWatch, which seems to have some excellent background info on the extent of the damage that WalMart inflicts on workers and on communities.

Hey, conservatives, what about protecting communities and small businesses? What is so glorious about having small stores close down in city centers so that the masses can buy from these huge, identical, depressing big-box stores?

Another one of Hugo's heroes is the farmer/philosopher/poet/Christian/activist Wendell Berry. He has been a staunch advocate of "communal conservatism", and I found here a fine summary of his "Rules for a Local Economy". Some of what he suggests is highly relevant to the debate about the grocery stores, unions, and WalMart. I like his rule #5 a lot.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

The grocery workers are indeed on strike, and it is a strike that I honor. (Picked up some nice merlot and plenty of diet Coke at Gelson's, which is both unionized and not the subject of a labor action).

I read many conservative bloggers daily, and just today caught up with Howard Owens. If Pope John Paul II leaves me wanting to become a social conservative, Howard reminds me that I will never want to be an economic one. Here's what he wrote Friday about the strike and picket lines:

So will I cross a picket line during this strike? Yes. But not because of any sympathies with the business owners. I'll cross because just like the chains, and just like the workers, I have my own economic interests to look after first. I'll shop where I think I can get the lowest prices with the least hassle. And the thing the employees must realize is that if a year from now, that means driving 20 minutes south to shop at a Wal-Mart supermarket and save $100 to a $150 a month on my grocery bill, because Wal-Mart doesn't pay union wages, then I'll do it. My only obligation in this dispute is to my own pocket book. I imagine many other consumers feel the same way. Obviously, the chains understand that, but I don't think the unions do.

The ideology of "enlightened self-interest" rears its base and ugly head! As Christians, and perhaps even just as decent people, our obligation is never just to our own pocketbooks. It is to justice, and justice is sometimes (ask those of us who try not to buy sweatshop garments) darn expensive. Do all conservatives exalt self-interest as Howard does?

Can you make the case to me that I am wrong for being willing to pay more in order that the mother of three who bags my groceries doesn't have to choose between a mammogram and feeding her own kids? I respect Howard's candor, but it makes me very, very, very angry.
John, my Kiwi commenter, brings to my attention the comments of Susan Russell, an acquaintance of mine and new president of IntegrityUSA, the organization of GLBTQ Episcopalians. Describing the conservative gathering this past week in Dallas, Russell wrote:

This is a gathering which reeks of white privilege wringing its hands in concern over "the global south" while it spends an estimated half million dollars funding what amounts to a self serving protest rally. Imagine what could be done with that amount of money IN the global south battling AIDS, malaria and starvation.

I could not agree more. BUT... anyone on any side who insists on seeing the debate on human sexuality as the "great battleground of our time" is engaged in "white privilege". Only those folks who aren't starving, who aren't in danger of having Islamic sharia imposed upon them, who aren't at risk from malaria and corruption and hopelessness, only they can see homosexuality as so danged important. Suppose we followed Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury? He has made it clear he is sympathetic to gay and lesbians, and has even made some noises about approving of same-sex unions. But he values the work of the church and the Great Commission more -- and he see the injustice of denying gays and lesbians full inclusion in the life of the church as a far smaller injustice than splitting the church so it cannot do the work of Christ.

Those who stand up for Scripture are not necessarily standing up only for "white privilege". Those who stand for Gene Robinson and gay and lesbian rights within the church are not necessarily apostates, hostile to the church. Tone down the apocalyptic rhetoric, for the love of God!

I would love to see gays and lesbians ordained as ministers. I have been to same-sex unions and wept with joy for friends whom I loved. But do I think their struggle is anywhere near as crucial as preaching the Great Commission? As feeding the hungry and curing the sick? Heck no. And if it means waiting a generation or two on progress in order to hold the church together, I would be willing to do it. As a straight man, that is easy for me to say. But as a divorced man who belongs to a denomination conflicted about remarriage, I know that there are more important things than my right to marry whomever I want in the church.

I've ranted far longer than usual; my apologies. I am continuing to recover nicely from giardia; and now, I am off to church.
A student at the RatemyProfessors site queried me about my enthusiasm for teaching. In August, I marked ten years at Pasadena City College. I've grown and learned a lot as a faculty member, but one thing I have not forgotten: no matter how many times I tell the same story (be it about Gilgamesh or Louis XIV, about Julius Caesar or Bismarck), I always remember the kids are hearing it for the first time. I try and focus on their eyes and on their ears, not on how many times I have recited the same lines... it seems to work.
This heartened me: a story in this morning's Bee about Arnold and Maria's zealous devotion to their children. It is refreshing to see how well protected their four kids were during the recall election, and I admire their prioritization of family. This may just be PR, but I liked this:

They are openly loving and affectionate toward their children but also are strong disciplinarians who constantly stress the importance of hard work and helping others, said Wanda McDaniel Ruddy, a public relations executive for Giorgio Armani in Los Angeles and one of Shriver's closest friends.

The older children do chores, including laundry, cleaning their rooms and clearing their plates from the table, and all of them write their own thank you notes, acknowledging gifts, said Ruddy.


Any parents who insist their kids write thank-you notes are heroes in my book.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

The current issue of The Mennonite magazine has a brief article on the tensions between "quietist" and "activist" Mennonites. The former do believe that the state has the right to use violence; the latter do not. It's a classic debate in pacifist communities, and one with which my church is well familiar. But here is the bit I liked:

Activist Mennonites often expect the nation to behave in ways reserved for those communities transformed into the likeness of Christ. Quietist Mennonites, on the other hand, often assume that state-sanctioned violence is God’s preferred strategy for intervening in human history and maintaining order. Both approaches show symptoms of American exceptionalism—the myth that America is a unique nation with a special calling that sets it apart from other nations. Neither emphasis adequately accounts for the sin and futility intrinsic to the unprecedented power concentrated in American political and economic structures. (The bold is mine).

I like that phrase, "sin and futility". I am going to use it in class someday soon.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Here is the statement issued yesterday by traditionalist Episcopalians meeting in Dallas. I may not be an Episcopalian anymore, but I would happily sign on to paragraph 1, paragraph 3, the second sentence of paragraph 5, and clauses c and d of paragraph 7. I know you are all gripped to know that.

Now it is on to London!
Barring a last-minute settlement, Southern California grocery workers are due to strike tomorrow. (I've never crossed a picket line in my life, and I won't start. I urge my LA-area readers to shop at Gelson's, which has already reached a satisfactory deal with its employees).

The article linked above on the strike notes that other powerful unions are getting involved:

We're going to try to marry the tactics of some of the more militant unions with the considerable resources of the UFCW (united food and commercial workers)," said Miguel Contreras, the top executive with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

"We need to make sure the workers here are victorious," he said. "This is all about trying to protect middle-class jobs."


That is key. A healthy society is one in which middle-class stability is open to those who do not necessarily have college degrees; unionized grocery workers are among the few who have achieved some small degree of comfort and stability. It will be quite a blow if the grocery workers lose. I brace myself now for the apoplexy of my beloved right-wing readership (admittedly, a small but delightful group!)

I am supplying my diet Coke habit at Gelson's today.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I discovered today that I am now the most-frequently rated professor at Pasadena City College according to Rate My Professors.Com. I'm not entirely sure it's an unmitigated honor, however. These websites seem to have proliferated in recent years, though I only learned of them when my campus newspaper ran a story about it last year. I wish I could say I didn't care, but self-absorption is surely a universal human flaw, and I can't help but sneaking a peek from time to time. (And I confess, blushing, that I love reading about my colleagues. I have refrained from the temptation to "join in" and rate them myself, but it has not been easy).

I imagine some enterprising soul will expand this so that we start rating our friends and neighbors and colleagues regardless of occupation. Perhaps it has already happened...
Conservative Episcopalians continue to meet in Dallas. One leader of the conservative wing of the church is Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh. In a speech delivered yesterday, he called on the Anglican Communion to rebuke the American church for elevating a gay man to the office of bishop:

"This is not Anglicanism and this is not Christianity - either catholic or reformed – and the Primates will say so."

But then, acknowledging the huge and bitter divisions that still exist among traditionalists over the ordination of women (something the Episcopal Church has only done since the 70s, and something many Anglicans still vehemently oppose on scriptural grounds) Duncan takes a different tack. Urging unity among those who disagree about female priests, he says:

"The decision to ordain women into the historic three-fold ministry has been a source of great controversy and division among us, and remains so. Experiences of joy and possibility have often stood alongside feelings of pain and betrayal. We are only one generation into a several generation process of reception. Yet in ECUSA we have never really entered into an honest process of reception. In what is ahead we must allow this process to be lived out among us. Force and repression of conscience are part of the sad story that brings us to this day of intervention. We need to make godly provision for one another. We need to develop understandings of how our two integrities can proceed alongside one another, until our Good Lord eventually makes this matter plain to our children and grandchildren. There will be awkwardnesses as we shape our common life – just as there have been in this conference – but we will get better at it, and we can find a way to honor one another and to protect one another, if we will to. Nigeria does not ordain women. Uganda ordains women. I suspect our wider Communion can help us. Happily this is not a "Western" issue, but rather a communion-wide discernment in which we are all called to listen carefully."

It's great stuff. But oh, oh, how I wish he could apply the very words I have highlighted in bold to the very issue that undergirds the conference at which he speaks: homosexuality. I love the phrase "two integrities" to refer to two contradictory positions that are both faithful to the Gospel! And I am going to use it in precisely the way that Bishop Duncan and his colleagues would rather I not: I want the Christian church (in the broadest sense of church) to recognize "two integrities" on the issue of same-sex sexuality.

Here are John Burton's thoughts on the election (be patient, it may take some time to load; we lefties have old servers). I like this bit:

That the fiasco for the Democrats was not the result of some broad shift to the right by the electorate is shown by the vote on Proposition 54. This initiative, sponsored by right-wing forces in California, would have banned the state from collecting data on race and ethnicity. It was overwhelmingly defeated, 63 percent to 37 percent.

Rather, the vote reflected the anger and frustration of workers and middle-class people over the policies of the Davis administration and the failure of the Democrats to provide any answer to worsening social conditions and growing economic insecurity. Davis, a model of the so-called “centrist” Democrat, embodies the rightward shift of the party as a whole over the past quarter century.


I thought I'd post a link to an old Christianity Today discussion on homosexuality. All the participants are evangelical theologians, all conservatives to one degree or another. What I appreciate here is the absolute insistence upon civility, upon kindness, upon charity. Richard Mouw, the marvelous philosopher/president of the finest evangelical seminary in America, Fuller, recounts the following story:

The leaders of an evangelical group on a university campus came to me and said, "We've had very uncivil dialogue with the gay/lesbian groups on campus because we ran ads in the university newspaper stating our position against homosexual practice; they countered with their protest against us, and it's been nasty. How could we have avoided that?"

I said, "It would have been wonderful if before you ran the ads, you contacted them and said, 'We're planning to issue a statement but we want you to see it first and even to talk to you about it if you're willing. We want to do this in a way that states our convictions but doesn't stir up anger for you.' " They never thought of that. Simply reaching out and saying, "Can we talk?" would be a wonderful gesture.


I have a doctorate in church history, not theology. (Anyone wanting to know about the military inclinations of the bishops of Durham in the fourteenth century, drop me a line). I know there are some excellent cases to be made both for and against a scriptural condemnation of same-sex sexuality. I remain conflicted myself on the subject. But I sure as heck am not conflicted on the fact that we need to talk with those with whom we disagree, and keep talking, and keep talking, and keep talking. And better still, keep listening, keep listening, keep listening.

Believers like to say "God hates divorce". Let's see this month if we -- liberal and conservative -- mean it when it comes to tearing apart the Anglican Communion, and, for that matter, countless other denominations.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A conservative Anglican I admire (and to whom I link), Kendall Harmon, has gone too far today. He writes:

"The Episcopal church is now a church where people are officially led away from Christ."

I think the traditionalists have a right to be anguished and angry over changes in teaching regarding homosexuality. But merely because the church has moved on that one issue, it does not mean that it is officially leading folks away from Christ. It's a nice bumper-sticker slogan. Meat and potatoes for some conservatives. One could even say homosexuality is a salvation issue (though when I meet Jesus, I don't anticipate one of His first questions for me will be how I felt about the subject). But to say that it is now the church's official policy to lead people away from a saving relationship with Jesus is rhetorical overkill, painful to read, and cruelly inaccurate.
And it does look like as if the recall failed in Los Angeles County, though that result may change as absentees are counted. If it holds, that too is a small morsel of consolation. John Burton is 11th in the county, but will have to settle for finishing just behind Mary Carey.
Let me start the morning by saying that the Emmylou Harris concert last night at Royce Hall (UCLA) was sublime. Her voice is still the voice of angels, and she was the one who let us know the election results by saying, just before launching into her encore: "I still love California, no matter who your governor is".

I am, of course, disappointed in the outcome of the recall. I am especially disappointed that more people voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger than voted against the recall. That surprised me. Clearly, a lot of folks turned away from minor candidates (and even from McClintock) in the final hours. (The Secretary of State's updated list is here).

But I rejoice in the success of John C. Burton, the splendid socialist for whom I voted! I would never, ever, have dared hope for a 13th place finish, but that is where he stands at this hour of the morning, just behind Bill Simon but ahead of such notables as Dan Feinstein, Georgy Russell, Angelyne, Audie Bock and Brooke Adams. It is unlikely he will get to the 10,000 vote threshhold, but it is a happy augury this morning that a socialist finished in the top 10% of candidates on the ballot. Calloo callay.

And the margin of defeat for Proposition 54 was also a pleasant surprise.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I'm off for the day. I must share one more thing. Yesterday, I got a get-well card from my running buddy Mark. I am 36 years old and yesterday was the first time in my life I got a get-well card from another man to whom I was not related. It made me indescribably happy; it is such a rare and unusual thing for one man to do for another. I was blown away. And deeply pleased.
I'm taking down my recall poll; only 35 folks bothered to vote (I rigged it to prevent double voting). McClintock led with 11 votes...

I am predicting the following outcome:

Recall passes 53.8% to 46.2% (hey, let's have fun with precision)

Schwarzenegger 38.9%
Bustamante 33.7%
McClintock 18.0%
Camejo 4.1%
All others: 5.3%

Order of finish, 5-12 (the Christian in me likes to do things in dozens)

5. Arianna Huffington (absentees cast before she dropped)
6. Garrett Gruener (only other candidate with serious money, though he now endorses Bustamante)
7. Heather Peters (best campaign of the small-time Republicans)
8. Georgy Russell (great internet presence)
9. Peter Ueberroth (some Republicans still think he was the best)
10. Mary Carey (because of all the fringe/porn candidates, most likely to pick up votes from disaffected males)
11. Ned Roscoe, the Smokers Party guy
12. Dan Feinstein (the name, the campaign, the blog)

I further predict John C. Burton, my candidate, will finish safely in the top 30, say at #28.

If I were a gambler, I would have formed a pool to see who can guess the number of votes that the candidate who finishes LAST will receive. I think less than 10 votes wins it...





It's recall day. I have nothing to blog on that subject that is not being blogged about at 1,324,477 other sites. We'll all know more tomorrow, and I commend to you once again the virtues of the little-known John C. Burton. If he gets more than 10,000 votes statewide, I shall be very pleased. We might have a shot. I'll keep you all updated.

John from New Zealand and the Angry Clam have feistily and delightfully responded to my post immediately below on the crisis in Anglicanism. In fairness to John, I realize that all too often when liberals in the church talk about "listening", they really mean "listen to OUR stories of pain and exclusion". But I also know that many liberals consider any sound opposition to homosexuality on biblical grounds to be homophobia, plain and simple. When liberals use words like "intolerant" and "homophobe" to describe people who are struggling to hold on to a pure and authentic Christian vision for sexuality, they do great harm. As a theological liberal on sexuality issues, I grieve that. I pledge again never to confuse traditionalism with bigotry.

Perhaps churches need to schism occasionally. (Can schism be a verb?) But they need to do so with sadness and gravity, not in flashes of anger. What I want to see is the kind of profound listening that happens between two married people who love each other with every fibre of their being but who seem to be stuck on some insoluble dilemma in their marriage. We've all seen marriages survive against what seemed like stupendous odds; can that not happen for the Anglican Communion?

And if it does happen that there is schism, then I pray that folks don't fight it out in the secular courts. To both sides, I commend 1 Corinthians 6:6-7:

"... one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?"

To both sides, I ask the last two questions.

Monday, October 06, 2003

The primates of the Anglican Communion (and for y'all outside the faith, that term does not refer to simians) are meeting in London next week to consider an emergency response to the Episcopal Church USA's decision this summer to recognize a gay bishop. Traditionalists are threatening to walk, but the remarkable Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is determined to find a solution. I like this distinction he makes between hope and optimism:

Commenting on the outcome of the primates' meeting, Dr Williams said: "I would rather say I'm hopeful than that I'm optimistic. Optimistic means taking for granted the best outcome. Hopeful means you never know what God is going to do with us when we are together. I pray for a solution which will hold us together."

I've mentioned that one of my heroes is the evangelical minister Tony Campolo. He and his wife publicly disagree about homosexuality, and have lovingly debated each other on the subject in public. I love their witness. If a devoted married couple can travel around publicly disagreeing on this subject whilst living together in love and forbearance, than surely the Anglican Communion can do so as well.

The Campolos say: “We understand that this is a sensitive issue, not only because fundamental ideas are being challenged, but the identity of a group of people is also at stake. This conversation has to take place in the context of people who are committed to each other, and respect each others’ opinions.”

Can the Anglicans listen in love as the Campolos do? We'll see.




Georgy Russell has issued a press release detailing her treatment at the Schwarzenegger rally. Her account matches those of others I have heard, and even allowing for exaggeration, is disturbing. A witness e-mail is attached.

Georgy writes: "Some of Arnold's supporters apparently do not hesitate when it comes to using violence to accomplish their goals. It's not surprising that they support and defend a candidate who has manifested poor judgment and aggressive behavior most of his adult life. The behavior exhibited by Arnold's supporters is not simply an aberration, it is an MO that has its roots at the top..."


I wish to continue my Monday by celebrating a splendid victory on Saturday for the best soccer (real football) team in the world, Celtic of Glasgow, over the wicked and sinister forces of darkness, Glasgow Rangers.

I also wish to note that we saw a superb film last night, My Life Without Me. Rich, complex, morally challenging and beautifully acted. Best film I've seen in a while.

And I conclude this set of notes by sharing that I will not be glued to a television set tomorrow night at 8:00PM as results come in from the election; instead, my girl and I will be at the Emmylou Harris concert at UCLA. When I am sworn in as president, Emmylou will play my inaugural ball. After seeing her tomorrow night, I am confident I will be prepared to cope with what I fear will be sad and mournful news from up and down our state...
If your own intestinal fortitude is up today, you may wish to visit the Giardia Club, a site that caters to what ails me. They get most of the symptoms right, except they leave out the projectile vomiting. But please, don't visit unless you want detailed descriptions of gastrointestinal distress.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Pathetic Earthlings reports from an Arnold rally in Pleasanton yesterday; he recounts a pleasant meeting with Georgy Russell. Disturbingly, Georgy was manhandled by some Schwarzenegger supporters:

"in making her way through the crowd, a few people roughed her up -- scratching her arms, marking up her t-shirt with a pen, and generally making asses of themselves."

Georgy has run a fine campaign, earning a thoughtful article in Friday's Sacramento Bee. She did not end up with my vote, but she has established herself as an interesting and intelligent progressive voice for the under-30 crowd. She surely deserved better than what happened to her in Pleasanton yesterday. Given that Georgy is a young petite female, and that the roughing up took place at a Schwarzenegger rally, it reinforces the most unpleasant perceptions about Arnold and his testosterone-crazed supporters.
Still sick, but getting better.

The race to recall Davis is tightening, I am heartened to learn, though the gap is still large. The latest NBC poll shows the recall leading 54-41, which is well down from the polls of last week. Perhaps the sheer number of allegations against Arnold are starting to stick.

The tracking polls by the Davis campaign are more promising, with the race a dead heat. The same article linked in the last sentence suggests that the Davis campaign chose to hold off on raising the sexual harassment charges against Arnold because voters apparently "just didn't care that much about Schwarzenegger's womanizing past." Chalk another one up for the legacy of Bill Clinton, I suppose.

In any case, the key for me is this -- making sure that the "no" votes on the recall exceed Arnold's total. (This still seems likely in most polls). It will help to strengthen the Democratic legislature in the tussle for legitimacy with the new governor.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Still very weak from this darned giardia. Next time, antibiotics BEFORE going to Colombia.

One thing I look forward to on Saturday mornings is the Los Angeles Times religion section. Thus, when I finally arose today, I was very disappointed to discover that the two-page spread on religious news has disappeared, replaced by a feeble half-page section entitled "Beliefs".

That annoys me. "Religion" refers to the collective and the communal; "beliefs" to the purely personal. I want to read about what the Presbyterians are up to (fragmenting, usually), or about the latest from Reform Judaism. I like catching up with the Southern Baptist Convention, or the Hare Krishnas, or the Assemblies of God, or even the Unitarians. We need regular and thoughtful reporting on how ancient faiths are lived out in community, especially here in Southern California.

It may be a small loss to some, but it is a big one to me.
One more reason to be irked with the Times.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Okay, one blog. Dan Weintraub reports today that opponents of California's new domestic partnership law are collecting signatures for a referendum on the March ballot to overturn it.

I think there are excellent scriptural and cultural arguments to be made that marriage as an institution should be reserved for a man and a woman. But I see no scripture on the subject of domestic partnerships, and think that most Californians are capable of making the distinction. The right sees the granting of DPs as the first step towards marriage for gays and lesbians; so too does the left. But there is much to suggest that at least for now, until we have had far more time for conversation with each other, domestic partnerships is a good place to stop. I know it seems an inadequate solution to the Human Rights Campaign, and far too extreme a step to the Family Research Council. But it may be just the right space for our culture and our society to stop for a while.
I am still quite sick, and have been put back on a stronger course of anti-biotics. Word is that severe cases of giardia can linger for months. It is not a great cross to bear, but it is annoying, especially as it wreaks havoc with teaching and running schedules. It also leaves me with little desire to blog.

I must say that the allegations about Arnold's admiration for Adolf Hitler have infuriated me. Not with Arnold, but with the timing. I don't want Schwarzenegger to be governor, not by any stretch of the imagination, but remarks about Hitler made more than a quarter century ago are hardly relevant. Look, if this sort of smear campaign turns off solid progressives like me, I can only imagine the impact on other voters.

Off to rest.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I am glad that Arnold did not hesitate to address the sexual harassment allegations against him. But it was certainly not a comprehensive apology. Schwarzenegger decried the story today as "trash politics" -- but truth cannot be trash. Trash requires no apology whatsoever.

Leaving aside the timing of the article (which has right-leaning bloggers congratulating themselves for having predicted this tactic), the recency of some of the charges (as late as 1995) is disturbing. Folks change; our president is an outstanding example. But the fact that Arnold was still behaving "badly" after a decade of marriage and fatherhood is far more troubling than anything he did in the 1970s. We all deserve 2nd, 3rd, and 76th chances -- but I wish that there was more evidence that Arnold is radically different today than he was as a young man.

Will this hurt? Doubt it. The social conservatives are already (for the most part) with McClintock; the moderates who back Arnold might choose to believe that the timing of the story is just a Democrat dirty trick. But everyone said that the timing of the Bush DUI story just before the 2000 election would have no effect; it is now widely agreed that the DUI story DID cost Bush some votes, and some say it even cost him the popular vote. We shall see.
A reader (whose comment is found below my previous post) was deeply offended by the Landover Church parody site I trumpeted here yesterday. I have read through the Landover and Bowers sites in more detail, and confess to still finding them hilarious. But I also recognize that much of that humor is biting, and some of it borders on the mean-spirited.

One of the goals for this blog was that it would be absolutely free of the nastiness that characterizes so much of our political and religious discourse in this country. I am blessed to have good friends who are conservative Republicans and good friends active in the Green Party. Far too few folks out there have had the experiences I have had: volunteering for Planned Parenthood AND Operation Rescue; worshipping at strict Calvinist churches like John Macarthur's Grace Community and at liberal Episcopal churches like All Saints Pasadena. I have worked hard at seeing kindness, grace and goodness -- at seeing Christ himself -- at work in all of these folks and in all of these places. I treasure the diverse perspectives I have heard from my friends from all faiths and political identities. I have learned to avoid the use of hot-button epithets (like using "fundamentalist" in a pejorative manner).

I grieve that my link to the Landover site was offensive to others, and though blogging etiquette dictates that I never delete a post, I do regret that I did place that link yesterday.

Civility and kindness requires a great deal of self-restraint and reflection. The blogosphere is not always conducive to either.

I am home sick again, still battling the tenacious giardia bug...

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Christians -- and others -- must check out this hilarious parody site: Landover Baptist Church ("Where the Worthwhile Worship; Unsaved Welcome!") Absolutely hysterical. Hat tip once again to The Corner.

Make sure you also visit Betty Bowers, "America's Best Christian". Look for her organization for women who stay home: Bringing Integrity To Christian Homemakers (BITCH)...

I am close to tears as I scroll through...
The Chronicle has a story this morning about the strong and growing opposition of Christian conservatives to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition will air anti-Arnold spots later this week, and Mike Spence, of the California Republican Assembly, is quoted thus:

... there is some notion that GOP rebels will vote "no" on the recall if it appears to be a Schwarzenegger rout.

"I've heard more and more of that," he said. Some conservative voters, he said, are "thinking why elect a Republican who might raise taxes and declare war on conservatives?"


Of course, some swing voters (the soccer moms?) might feel better knowing that the Christian right opposed Schwarzenegger... this may help Arnold more than hurt.

Obviously, my beliefs break with Christian conservatives on issues like homosexuality, but I honor men and women of faith who will not sacrifice bedrock principle for the sake of victory. I am more and more comfortable with my decision not to hold my nose and vote for Bustamante; I hope my brethren on the right have the same level of conviction next Tuesday.




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