Monday, October 31, 2011

Against Tebowing

I do not know Tim Tebow, so I don’t know if I like him as a person. I do *not* like the cultural icon he has become. And still, I believe that “tebowing,” making fun of his praying during football games, is a form of relgious intolerance.

It has been apparent to most football fans, since he graduated from the University of Florida, that Mr. Tebow lacked the skills to be a success in the National Football League. However, a fairly large number of people supported him because of his Christian beliefs–and his willingness to demonstrate those beliefs, at football games and in Super Bowl commercials. With the same fervor that some fundamentalists deny the scientific facts about evolution, some Tebow fans deny the evidence that their favorite quarterback is not talented enough for the NFL.

Some people have begun tebowing–getting down on one knee, in at least the semblance of prayer–in all kinds of places. Many of those are in solidarity; but some are definitively not. After he sacked Tebow in the game last Sunday, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch mocked Tebow by taking a knee himself.

I hope Tebow never circumcises another child; I hope he retires gracefully from the NFL soon–and I hope that people stop mocking his beliefs.

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

why Occupy

1. What were your intial thoughts about Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Gary?

As OWS continues to pick up momentum, I am more and more optimistic that we can make a real impact on the culture of our nation and our world. It is equally important to Occupy our local areas, like Gary, to keep the spotlight on economic inequalities at every level. If the Occupy movement can be successful at engaging the racial component of economic injustice, then we’ll be taking a huge step forward in our human evolution.

2. How would you like to see Occupy Gary, and Occupy in general grow?

Even more than the threat of violence, the 1% has used the “divide and conquer” strategy to keep poor whites and people of color from organizing together. I would most like to see us growing in understanding, as much as numbers. As core groups of people work across traditional lines of race and class, in hundreds of cities in our nation, we will undermine the the philophical foundations for the whole consumerist culture, creating space for a new conversation about creating a more just society. We need to have enough people showing up that we appear to be viable and strong, to the people driving by and the politicans across the street. Then, as more and more people see diverse groups of people demonstrating together, all over the country, those old divisions will appear less and less valid.

3. Are there specific demands and issues you’d like to see Occupy take, especially at the local level?

“Tax the 1%” is probably the most easily expressed of the many issues OWS is addressing. Most of these changes need to occur at the national level, and then ripple outward to our regions, cities and towns. It’s really more of a philosophical change, to take seriously the widening wealth gap. We need to address that at every level. I’m new to the Region, and do not know any specifics about how this might unfold in Gary or the rest of northwest Indiana.

4. What, in your view, needs to happen to bring in more people of color, especially youth?

I cannot speak for others. If it were me, I would want to see real solidarity, real appreciation for *my* lived experience, before I would risk my time and energy. We should be asking youth of color what they need–and then taking their answers to heart.

5. Would you call this a ‘movement’?

--questions asked by Sam Love

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hinojosa Ware Lecturer

Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa has been named the Ware Lecturer for the 2012 General Assembly.

Her NPR bio reads:

For 25 years, Maria Hinojosa has helped tell America’s untold stories and brought to light unsung heroes in America and abroad. She is the anchor and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA.

In April 2010, Hinojosa launched The Futuro Media Group with the mission to produce multi-platform, community-based journalism that respects and celebrates the cultural richness of the American experience. In addition, Hinojosa is the anchor of the Emmy-award winning talk show Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One from WGBH/La Plaza.

Hinojosa has reported hundreds of important stories—including the immigrant work camps in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, teen girl victims of sexual harassment on the job, and Emmy-award winning stories of the poor in Alabama—previously as a senior correspondent for PBS’ Now and currently as a contributing correspondent on PBS’ Need to Know.

Throughout her career Hinojosa has helped define the conversation about our times and our society with one of the most authentic voices in broadcast. As a reporter for NPR, Hinojosa told groundbreaking stories about youth and violence and immigrant communities. During her eight years as a CNN correspondent Hinojosa took viewers into communities that had never been shown on television. Her investigative journalism presses the powerful for the truth while giving voice to lives and stories that illuminate the world we live in.

Hinojosa has won top honors in American journalism including two Emmys, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged, and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club for best documentary for her groundbreaking Child Brides: Stolen Lives. In 2009, Hinojosa was honored with an AWRT Gracie Award for Individual Achievement as Best TV Correspondent. Three times over the past decade, Hinojosa has been named one of the 100 Most Influential Latinos in the United States by Hispanic Business magazine. She has received the Ruben Salazar Communications Award from the National Council of La Raza and was inducted into the “She Made It” Hall of Fame at the Paley Center/Museum of Television and Radio in a program that honors women trail blazers in the media.

Hinojosa is author of two books including a motherhood memoir, Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son.

Born in Mexico City, Hinojosa was raised in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York.

(most recently, she presented Lost in Detention)

--original post, with links, at So May We Be.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red State bloody, pointed

Director Kevin Smith name-checks “Unitarians” in his latest (last?!) movie, “Red State.” A violent fundamentalist preacher shouts that his flock must fear God, because God is *not* a loving God, not like those Unitarians believe.

This film is much darker, and much bloodier, than Mr. Smith’s earlier “Dogma.” For example, the extremist preacher includes the torture and murder of gay and “licentious” men in his “worship” services; and a surprising number of people are killed, usually in bloody ways. That said, the movie is often wickedly funny, and includes a rant about the Patriot Act and the tragically fractured state of our current U.S. politics. A large part of my recommendation hinges on the fact that I agree with this rant. Folks who disagree probably would not like the film (but probably wouldn’t be caught dead at a Kevin Smith film in the first place).

Because the film has so many surprises, I don’t want to write much about the plot. There are over-sexed boys, and a Waco-type shootout, and a great deal of profanity. Religious exttremists are skewered without much sympathy–and there is a moment where we see a simple authentic faith ritual that, for me, kept the film as anti-extremist but not anti-religion.

I would recommend the film as a feature for young adults to watch and discuss, with a caveat up front about the violence. I could imagine showing it to some teenagers, but the language and violence (and a little nudity) should be considered. Perhaps families would be more successful than a youth group.

Mr. Smith calls this a “horror” film, making yet another point about politics. It is probably more accurately described as a thriller. I will watch it again, and I look forward to discussing it with my (thriller-embracing, blood-desensitized, leftie) friends. I found the overall tone of the film to be slightly hopeful. I look forward to hearing what others think.

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

freedom means "from debt"

Ancient peoples found it necessary to forgive debts periodically, to prevent society from being torn apart.

As David Graeber writes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years:

“Mesopotamian city-states were dominated by vast Temples: gigantic, complex industrial institutions often staffed by thousands – including everyone from shepherds and barge-pullers to spinners and weavers to dancing girls and clerical administrators, [and these Temples owned many of the assets of the city-state]. …

We don’t know precisely when and how interest-bearing loans originated, since they appear to predate writing. Most likely, Temple administrators invented the idea as a way of financing the caravan trade. This trade was crucial because while the river valley of ancient Mesopotamia was extraordinarily fertile and produced huge surpluses of grain and other foodstuffs, and supported enormous numbers of livestock, which in turn supported a vast wool and leather industry, it was almost completely lacking in anything else. Stone, wood, metal, even the silver used as money, all had to be imported. From quite early times, then, Temple administrators developed the habit of advancing goods to local merchants – some of them private, others themselves Temple functionaries – who would then go off and sell it overseas. Interest was just a way for the Temples to take their share of the resulting profits.

However, once established, the principle seems to have quickly spread. Before long, we find not only commercial loans, but also consumer loans – usury in the classical sense of the term. By C2400 BC it already appears to have been common practice on the part of local officials, or wealthy merchants, to advance loans to peasants who were in financial trouble on collateral and begin to appropriate their possessions if they were unable to pay. It usually started with grain, sheep, goats, and furniture, then moved on to fields and houses, or, alternately or ultimately, family members. Servants, if any, went quickly, followed by children, wives, and in some extreme occasions, even the borrower himself. These would be reduced to debt-peons: not quite slaves, but very close to that, forced into perpetual service in the lender’s household – or, sometimes, in the Temples or Palaces themselves. In theory, of course, any of them could be redeemed whenever the borrower repaid the money, but for obvious reasons, the more a peasant’s resources were stripped away from him, the harder that became.

The effects were such that they often threatened to rip society apart. If for any reason there was a bad harvest, large proportions of the peasantry would fall into debt peonage; families would be broken up. Before long, lands lay abandoned as indebted farmers fled their homes for fear of repossession and joined semi-nomadic bands on the desert fringes of urban civilization. Faced with the potential for complete social breakdown, Sumerian and later Babylonian kings periodically announced general amnesties: ‘clean slates,’ as economic historian Michael Hudson refers to them. Such decrees would typically declare all outstanding consumer debt null and void (commercial debts were not affected), return all land to its original owners, and allow all debt-peons to return to their families. Before long, it became more or less a regular habit for kings to make such a declaration on first assuming power, and many were forced to repeat it periodically over the course of their reigns.

In Sumeria, these were called ‘declarations of freedom.’ – and it is significant that the Sumerian word amargi, the first recorded word for ‘freedom’ in any known human language, literally means ‘return to mother’ – since this is what freed debt-peons were finally allowed to do. …

Nehemiah was a Jew born in Babylon, a former cup-bearer to the Persian emperor. In 444 BC, he managed to talk the Great King into appointing him governor of his native Judaea. He also received permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar more than two centuries earlier. In the course of rebuilding, sacred texts were recovered and restored; in a sense, this was the moment of the creation of what we now consider Judaism.

The problem was that Nehemiah quickly found himself confronted with a social crisis. All around him, impoverished peasants were unable to pay their taxes; creditors were carrying off the children of the poor. His first response was to issue a classic Babylonian- style ‘clean slate’ edict – having himself been born in Babylon, he was clearly familiar with the general principle. All non-commercial debts were to be forgiven. Maximum interest rates were set. At the same time, though, Nehemiah managed to locate, revise, and reissue much older Jewish laws, now preserved in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus, which in certain ways went even further, by institutionalizing the principle. The most famous of these is the Law of Jubilee: a law that stipulated that all debts would be automatically cancelled ‘in the Sabbath year’ (that is, after seven years had passed), and that all who languished in bondage owing to such debts would be released.

‘Freedom,’ in the Bible, as in Mesopotamia, came to refer above all to release from the effects of debt.”

(thanks to Delancey Place for the excerpt)

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lost in Detention

The controversial “Secure Communitites” immigration enforcement program is losing support from law enforcement, as it fails to deliver on its promises–and creates a backlash from the immigrant communities affected. Worse, PBS’ Frontline discovers evidence of physical and sexual abuse of detainees in ICE detention facilities.

“Last year, the Obama administration set new records for detaining and deporting immigrants who were inside the country illegally. The government plans to best those numbers in 2011, removing more than 400,000 people. In partnership with American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, FRONTLINE correspondent Maria Hinojosa takes a penetrating look at Obama’s vastly expanded immigration net, explores the controversial Secure Communities enforcement program and goes inside the hidden world of immigration detention in Lost in Detention, airing Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings),” according to the PBS press release.

It continues, “FRONTLINE discovers that the program has lost support among political leaders in the state and some in law enforcement. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Sheriff Mark Curran, a Republican from Lake County, Ill., were both supporters of the program when ICE began operating it in the state in 2009. But they say the program has not delivered what it promised and has instead created more problems for the state, and a backlash among immigrants.

‘When I deal with the Latino community throughout Lake County,’ Curran says, ‘there is fear that’s running through these communities. They know all about Secure Communities. They know the horror stories of their uncle or their brother that committed the most ticky-tack of offenses and got incarcerated as a result and is now being deported.’”

And: “During a yearlong investigation, FRONTLINE uncovered a troubling picture of abuse inside immigration detention facilities, including more than a dozen allegations of sexual abuse at Willacy, as well as alleged cases of beatings, racism and management cover-ups. Dr. Twana Cooks-Allen, former mental health coordinator at Willacy, told Hinojosa that the detainees she saw inside were not the border-crossers who she expected. ‘They were people who had been established, who had children here, who had businesses, who had attended school.’”

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Coming Out Day sermon excerpt

I do not mean to imply that all people who oppose same-sex marriage—or who oppose homosexuality in general—are liars or hateful. Many of them may be good people, trying to live according to their beliefs.

The ones who are not lying, not deliberately confusing and inflaming things, usually base their beliefs on one of four reasons. Many people who oppose same-sex marriage cite a biblical injunction against it as the reason for their opposition. Others say that a child needs parents of both sexes as role models, to develop in the most healthy way possible. Still others cite nature, claiming that the natural form of love and sex is one male and one female, so that should be the normative, legally acceptable form. Finally, the last common reason used by opponents of same-sex marriage is an appeal to history: if marriage has always been between one woman and one man, then it should continue to be so.

I do not think that any of these four reasons are legitimate, but are actually misunderstandings.

For example, the bible verses most commonly used to declare opposition to homosexuality are Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Both of these do say something like “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” However, Leviticus chapter 20, verse 9 says “All who curse father or mother shall be put to death”; and other passages from Leviticus outlaw beard trimming [19:27], tattoos [19:28], the eating of pork or shellfish [11:7, 11:10], and the wearing of two fibers at once [19:19].

If everyone who used these bible verses to decry homosexuality would also want to outlaw pork and tattoos, I would at least feel they were being consistent. And we haven’t even gotten to Exodus 21:7, which begins “when a man sells his daughter as a slave…”

Virtually nobody believes in selling daughters into slavery, and few seriously want to put rebellious teenagers to death. If they are going to pick and choose which verses to take literally and which to ignore, then I submit we ignore the ones about lying with men as with women.

As for children needing two parents of opposite sex, well, I know some children who were raised by same-sex couples who are wonderful human beings; and I know quite a few who were raised by opposite-sex couples who are…not so wonderful. And we know lots of single parents who are making it work, too, so this objection simply does not hold water, either.

Besides, marriage is about more than just having or raising children. People who cannot, or who can no longer, have children, should be allowed to be married.

When people say that homosexuality is not “natural,” I refer them to any one of many articles or books that show that homosexuality has been observed in 1500 different species of animals, and well-documented in over 500. Petter Bockman states, “No species has been found in which homosexual behavior has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all, such as sea urchins.”

And within the human community, homosexuality is known to occur in virtually every culture we know. Bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender behaviors are *entirely* natural.

Which leaves us only the historical argument—which is again, easily demolished.

The ancient Greeks and Romans both had forms of socially-sanctioned, same-sex relationships. James Davidson’s recent book, “Greeks and Greek Love,” details how the Greeks formed mentoring relationships between older and younger men—yes, there was often romance and sex, *and* the Greeks were just as cautious as we are that the younger men were still “old enough,” that is, older than 18. Men in their late twenties would mentor men who were in their late teens. Most of these relationships ended after a few years, but some were long-term partnerships.

Similar mentoring relationships occurred in ancient Asia, as well.

The first recorded mention of a same-sex marriage in the west occurred in the early Roman Empire, where Cicero records it in passing, as if it were commonplace. Other historians mention numerous gay weddings, and the practice seemed entirely common until Christianity became the official religion of the empire.

During the Middle Ages, there are many accounts of same-sex partnerships. These were not called marriages, but rather “enbrotherments,” and they offered most of the benefits of today’s civil unions.

Finally, the historical argument brings us back to the Hebrew Bible, where we find not one, not two, but three accounts of same-sex relationships. (see Religious Tolerance .org)

In the book of Ruth, after their men have died in a famine, Ruth tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, [Ruth 1:16] “where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” In the King James translation, it says that Ruth *clave* to Naomi, [Ruth 1:14] using the same word that is used in the description of heterosexual marriage in Genesis: [2:24] “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

The books of first and second Samuel describe a relationship between David-—who was to become King David-—and a man named Jonathan. I Samuel, chapter 18, verses 3 and 4 state, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David.” I must admit, many conservative theologians disagree with my interpretation, but I think it is pretty clear: Jonathan loved David as himself, and then he got naked with him.

Later, Jonathan’s father finds out, and threatens to kill David, so David has to leave. The book describes their parting: [1 Samuel 20:41 “David got up…and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with is face to the ground. Then they kissed one another and wept with one another, until David exceeded.” I will leave you to translate what that means, but I will say, it is evidently so dangerous that some modern translators deliberately mis-translate it as “they sadly shook hands.”

Finally, in the book of Daniel, Daniel has a relationship with a man named Ashpenaz, who was the chief of the court officials of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. Chapter 1, verse 9 in the King James translation states, “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with [Ashpenaz.]” Again, some translators use “compassion” for “tender love,” but in the original Hebrew, the words are chesed and v’rachamim.“Chesed” is translated as “mercy,” and “v’rachamim” can mean either “mercy” or “physical love.” It would be silly to say that Ashpenaz showed Daniel mercy and mercy; I think it is clear that Ashpenaz showed Daniel mercy and physical love.

I think that arguments against same-sex relationships are rationalizations, which amount to little more than “I do not like this, so I want it outlawed for all people.”

The good news is, that more and more people are seeing those reasons as the rationalizations they are, and more and more states and nations are granting same-sex rights.

–from Love Leads Gaily Forward, A service celebrated at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse on 11 October 2009; by Rev. Chip Roush

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)