Archive for April, 2009

Obama’s First 100 Days – My Grade: B-

https://i0.wp.com/blog.reybango.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/barack-obama-bw1.pngSo CNN is running this 100 Day Report Card of the Obama administration dealie that showed up in my Facebook. I compulsorily graded Mr. President & was done with it. But 40 FB wall comments later, I thought I’d explain my grade a little bit, in a hopefully less-incendiary, more policy-based, space. (Facebook walls can be brutal when you have lots of friends who are conservatives, and lots who are progressives!)

Overall, I think Obama is doing a great job in overall leadership & visionary categories. He came down to earth a bit in progressives’ hearts & minds with his cabinet choices – they seemed rather Clintonian. Like many Slow Food enthusiasts, I was initially disappointed in his Ag Secretary choice, Tom Vilsack, but I have hope that he might be different on organic/local food policy than his predecessors & former Monsanto cronies. (Though I am disappointed in his pro-ethanol stance)

That said, Obama’s charting his own course with sweeping reform & the stimulus package. I have a lot of empathy with him on the stimulus package, as it’s almost a lose-lose proposal – conservatives shriek socialism, and actual socialists, labor movement folks, and other progressives fret about it being pro-big-corporations. I can understand both fears, but lets face it: in the wake of the previous administrations’ war-debt fest, what’s left to do?

The Stimulus Plan, like the New Deal, is ambitious, flawed, & probably will work. I also appreciate Obama’s presence in global relations & his reconciling tone – it’s not cowardice to be friendly with former & current national ‘enemies;’ one might even say it’s a Christian virtue of quiet strength. Oh, and I LOVE that the Obamas have a pesticide-free garden on the White House lawn. It’s only symbolic, but symbols are important – we desperately need a food system overhaul in America. Oh, and I applaud the administration for setting an Iraq withdrawal, better ecological standards, and working on a light rail.

Now for what I don’t like: While I appreciate the pragmatism (& believe the good intentions) of the abortion-reduction strategy, many of Obama’s moves have been huge concessions to the pro-choice camp, even when they’ve been (in my opinion) politically unnecessary – like with embryonic stem cell research. Even Al Gore is now pointing to the viability of skin stem cells for the same breakthroughs that embryonics promised. I think this is an opportunity for the new administration to step up to the post-partisan plate.

Secondly, I’m just not sure overall if Obama’s going to make good on his promises to reverse harmful Bush administration trends toward less transparency and greater executive power – his policies on rendition, wire tapping, etc., are pretty fuzzy. I wish the new Congress would just repeal the Patriot Act.

Finally, while I think that Obama’s a kinder & gentler hawk than the Bush-Cheney crew, he’s still hawkish. I wish he’d seriously consider nonviolent alternatives to full-scale war in Afghanistan. (See Rethinking Afghanistan)

So that’s it. Here are some websites, from progressive *and* Libertarian sources, that outline some of my praises/concerns:

Huffington Post

Paul Raushenbush

American Prospect

AlterNet

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2 Days in 2 Ways – Get Leonard Sweet’s ‘So Beautiful’ for Free!

https://i0.wp.com/www.wdavidphillips.com/wp-content/uploads/sobeautiful_lensweet.jpgLeonard Sweet. He got many of us thinking about the postmodern cultural-spiritual shift in the 1990s with provocative titles like Quantum Spirituality, SoulTsunami and AquaChurch. These titles were like books on crack, seemingly taking a cue from the then-popular VH1 Pop-Up Video, with ADD-appropriate sprinkles of information overlaid on more conventional text. By the early, he was introducing proto-emergent ideas of faithful Christian engagement with postmodernity, including books like A Is For Abductive with Brian McLaren. By the mid-2000s, Sweet’s books took on a more contemplative (though no less provocative) tone beginning with Out of the Question…and Into The Mystery. With Sweet’s latest offering, he deepens his commitments to a culturally-responsive and biblically-savvy ecclesiology.

For two more days only, you can download So Beautiful in its entirety absolutely free from Christian Audio – just go here and enter the coupon code ‘APR2009.Tell them Mike Morrell sent you in the Order Comments! If you’ve never ordered anything from ChristianAudio’s quality audio library before, you’ll need to create an account here. It’s quick.

Also, if you prefer print, I still have a limited allotment of So Beautiful Update: We are now out of hard copies, but you can still choose two awesome titles from this month’s ViralBlogger offerings for review. If you’re already an Ooze Viral Blogger, you may select it! If you’re not, go here to check out the rights & responsibilities herein. If you’re up for applying, go here.

I hope that this book gets read far & wide. The Good Doctor Sweet presents an extraordinary look at life as it was intended to be lived, sharing hidden treasures of God’s design for God’s people in three interwoven elements that form the heart, soul and calling of the apprenticed-to-Jesus life. In the spirit of radical inquiry – from radix, going to the root –So Beautiful unearths God’s deep-rooted dreams for the beloved community after his own heart.

Read a sample chapter!

Check out ze book trailer:

God Is Not A White Man

…I don’t know if you’ve heard this one or not; a gem from the Michael Gungor Band.

HT: Me pal Seth Irby

Abu Ghraib Crucifixion

Photographs from Abu GhraibI know this is a little late – such a reflection would have been more ‘appropriate’ a few weeks ago, during Lent. No matter. It’s worth thinking about today.

“This year I am reading the crucifixion story through the lens of an unknown photographer’s camera. One of my responsibilities…at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Church has been to choose visual images to project during the scripture readings. For me, these kinds of juxtapositions are a form of Bible study that can break open the text in new ways. I searched for images to pair with Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. Certainly there were many traditional paintings to choose from. One particularly jarring representation is Matthais Grunwald’s Crucifixion, which shows Christ with lacerated skin and lips already blue from asphyxiation.

However, I found myself drawn to a more recent time and place: Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison where U.S. military personnel tortured and shamed prisoners in 2004. One of the most widely disseminated photographs from this ghastly chapter of the Iraq War is a fuzzy snapshot of a man with a pointed black hood, balancing on a box in a black cape. Wires attach to his extended palms and he has reportedly been told he will be electrocuted if he falls off the box.Could this man’s experience teach me something about the story at the center of my faith? Does Jesus’ crucifixion speak to what happened at Abu Ghraib?”

Read Jennifer Halteman Schrock’s full reflection here. This is a striking photograph, and one that belies an even more striking reality. It reminds me that the systems that crucified Jesus are still active in our day and age – and even in the name of our government. The moment the story of Jesus’ crucifixion becomes too unreal, we should try getting involved in the life of someone here and now who’s caught in a cycle of violence. We might discover Christ afresh.

In a similar vein, my friend Brian offers a three part reflection on ‘Three Crises of Peace.’ Here they are:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

If you pray or have quiet ‘centering’ time with God, please consider within this holding for a moment both your own pain and the pain of those around you before God. Let the love and ‘down & within’ power of Abba, Son & Spirit encircle you and embrace the pain & violence you’re taking the time to bring before God’s throne. Watch as God transfigures this energy, and gives you gifts of peace, as well as empowerment…in the form of an idea perhaps, of how you can be that change; an answer to your wordless prayer. It’s in this way that we can begin to bring healing to a wounded cosmos, emanating God’s victory here & now.

Selah!

Texas Talking Secession – Really??

So apparently the Right is having some kind of ‘tea party‘ today, protesting excessive spending and big government. (Really? Where were you these past 8 years??)

So, um, Fox anchor Glenn Beck, a key organizer of this tea party, is also urging states’ secession from the union. Think states would be too crazy to try such a thing? Think again! Texas – or a faction within her – comes through for us in the form of Governor Rick Perry a few days ago:

[Concise version here.]

Forgive me if I feel like the SNL ‘Seth and Amy’ Really…Really?? skits – but really, arch-conservative friends? For eight years you stand silently by while your man is in office, eroding our freedoms through the Patriot Act, expanding executive and governmental powers exponentially, never saying no to a spending bill, particularly those involving his trillions-of-dollars Iraq war? You just sit that one out? Really?

And so now, when a new administration inherits this moral and economic mess, and wants to invest (what I’ll admit is an incomprehensible amount of) money into restoring some of our core infrastructures, creating green jobs, and keeping things from spiraling out of control, now you find your voice and principled fortitude? Really??

Ideals and Means

I love socio-political ideals, and I think variety is the spice of life. I’m not trying to pooh-pooh your ideas, but I am asking you, my libertarian friends: Is this the right way to go about introducing your ideas, in a way that will further polarize a tired nation? Is this good timing? Secession – really? Let’s examine this along conservative lines…is it good for national security for our enemies to see us a divided states of America, right when we’re over-invested in an exorbitant overseas war and riding an economic maelstrom? Is secession going to help the economy? Is it going to help your poor neighbors? Are you looking for civil war? What on earth could be motivating you, right now?

I don’t have much of a dog in this fight…I grew up basically libertarian, and these days have anarchist leanings. I appreciate certain underlying tenets of both the Republican and Democratic parties, and I’m as unsure as you of current government responses to our macro-economic problems. But I do think that the Obama administration spending is principled spending, I do think they have a plan, even if it’s not something I’d align with every jot-and-tittle on.

When I was a kid – and before I married a beautiful black woman – I romanticized the South’s side in the Civil War. (I was a fundamentalist homeschooled kid in the ’80s, after all! Civil War re-enactors were common in my churches and homeschool groups) The battle for states’ rights, local vs. impersonal; these all seemed like worthy fights. Now, as both a follower of Jesus and an anarchist wannabe, I have a different set of values – though there are some continuities. I’ll address the continuities first: I do favor decentralized, locally-organized community. I think it’s the most sustainable way to self-organize and live – for food production, economics, et al. In one sense, Texas’s taunts and threats could be seen as a stepping-stone to just such an anarchist dream – but I doubt it. The belligerent attitudes I saw on display in the Governor’s video show me that if Texas were to secede, it would be a “Mini-Me” version of everything they’re projecting onto the Federal government. Texas rule would be at least as autocratic and top-down as they’re claiming the Feds are being. Now, for the part of me that’s inspired and empowered by Jesus: I don’t have a dog in this fight because I won’t fight. Nonviolent direct action, yes. But violence – physical, verbal, or threatened – no. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword – it wasn’t just Tupac who said that.

Let me put all my cards on the table: I hope that, 100 years from now, statehood is a thing of the past. I hope that the United States of America goes the way of the dinosaur. I hope the same for China, Russia, Brazil, Cuba…you get the picture. And I plan to work for this goal – respectfully and nonviolently – in my lifetime, in my 2009. But my methods cannot be incongruent with my goals. I want to see generative local communities working together in whatever interdependent relationships with other local communities that they wish. I don’t want revolution – revolution is too costly, and the ROI sucks. I want to see an evolution, which begins with a transformation in consciousness – a transformation that, I believe, is rooted in the renewing of our minds in the mind of God in Christ. Others who are not apprentices of Jesus will see this transformation practiced in different ways – I welcome them as neighbors and friends. So for me, consciousness change + local action change + global meme change = the change we seek. I don’t place faith in secession or the status quo to be what we’re looking for – it will only perpetuate cycles of violence, regime change, and decline.

North American Union or Divided Nation-States of America?

Here’s what I see happening: For years now, many on the far right and in anti-globalization quarters alike have feared the formation of a proposed North American Union, a Canada-US-Mexico trifecta that would institute a common currency and eliminate borders, paving the way for a continental monolith. I think that fear of potentially negative dimensions of this scenario have created an anxiety-fueled counter-scenario in the ‘foresight imaginations’ of many. As I’ve learned in futures studies, images of the future are powerful social indicators, containing in themselves the seeds of a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s look at this counter-scenario a little bit, from the fringes to the halls of power other than our own.

John Petersen of The Arlington Institute talks about intra-national division in an interview with EnlightenNext about 1980s research on

remote viewing exercises. They asked twenty-five hundred people to envision the United States in the year 2030. About eighty-five percent of them reported the same thing: It’s a place with no government, divided politically into four quadrants, and everyone is living in small communities, some of which are very defensive and full of guns and others where people cooperate and work together. Then Stephan Schwartz, a man who was involved in the U.S. government’s remote viewing program developed during the Cold War to psychically spy on the Soviet Union, reported a very similar thing. In his remote viewing exercises, he asked thousands of people what North America would look like in the year 2050, and they said: “There’s no government; it’s split into four; there are these small communities.”

Weird? You bet. (Especially strange that the US hires both remote viewers and Peterson himself on occasion – hey, Minority Report isn’t the only place where precogs work – welcome to real life in the 21st century!) And speaking of those Russians, leading Russian political analyst and professor Igor Panarin has said since 1998 that the US will divide into separate parts. Last fall, he said he saw the signs of this happening in 2009…

six parts altogether. The first one is the Pacific Ocean coast of the USA. I can give you an example: 53% of San Francisco’s population is Chinese. The Governor of Washington state was an ethnic Chinese; its capital, Seattle, is called the gate of the Chinese emigration to the USA. It is obvious that the Pacific Ocean coast has been gradually influenced by China. The second part in the south is definitely the Mexicans. In some areas, Spanish has become the official language already. Then comes Texas which has been openly fighting for independence. The Atlantic coast has a totally different ethnos and mentality. It could be split into two parts as well. And we are left with two central depressive areas. May I remind you that five central states where the Indians live had announced their independence. It was perceived as a joke or a kind of a political show. But the fact remains the same. Canada is making a strong influence in the North. By the way, Russia may require returning Alaska, as it had been rented out… [Full interview here; HT Brittian Bullock]

What a fascinating psychographic, rooted in the unconcious minds of probably millions across the past several decades and now reaching a tipping point. My point is not to comment on the ultimate validity of such visions, but to say that we (I’m speaking to my tribe of foresight practicioners primarily and fellow USAmerican inhabitants secondarily) need to take these scenarios seriously, flesh them out vividly, explore their implications and then act, concsciously and creatively. And I hope that people of faith could embody life-giving practices in this coming shift, becoming leaves on the Tree of Life ‘for the healing of the nations.’

Theodicy of Excercise – Or, Where is God When It Hurts?

Eastertide themes! Upper-body madness! I get all heavy and theological while getting lighter & ROMical. Music is from Isaac Everett‘s ‘Rotation.’

A complete index of ROM Fitness Challange posts can be found here.

Highly Recommended Companion to ‘The Shack’: Finding God in The Shack by Randal Rauser

https://i1.wp.com/www.theooze.com/blog/uploaded_images/finding-god-rauser-770580.jpgAs some of you know, I am a back-cover endorser on the runaway-bestseller The Shack. I said

Finally! A guy-meets-God novel that has literary integrity and spiritual daring. The Shack cuts through the clichés of both religion and bad writing to reveal something compelling and beautiful about life’s integral dance with the Divine. This story reads like a prayer–like the best kind of prayer, filled with sweat and wonder and transparency and surprise. When I read it, I felt like I was fellowshipping with God. If you read one work of fiction this year, let this be it.

I stand whole-heartedly behind my endorsement. And yet even I have been surprised by the wide range of impassioned responses the book has received, ranging from people receiving it as a literally-true story straight from the mouth of God on the one hand, or a witch’s brew of New Age heresy on the other. The Internet is filled with armchair speculation on the literary and spiritual merits of The Shack – much of it rather un-inspiring.

So imagine my delight when I found out that Authentic Media was publishing Finding God in The Shack, an interrogative-yet-playful tome by theologian and author Randal Rauser. Rauser takes readers on a fascinating journey through the pages of the story that has ignited the church’s interest in theodicy (”the problem of evil”) and the Trinity, a doctrine that has long been locked away in seminary classrooms. “As a theologian, it is wonderful-if a bit humbling-to witness the Trinity now emerging as a topic of lively conversations at the local coffee shop, and all because of a novel,” Rauser says. “But while those conversations have not typically lacked for enthusiasm and conviction, many of them would benefit from some deeper background as to the theological issues at stake.”

As Rauser explores the intricacies of the plot, he addresses many of the book’s complex and controversial issues. In the process, he takes a stab at why God the Father is revealed as an African-American woman, defends the book’s theology of the Trinity against charges of heresy, and considers its provocative denial of a Trinitarian hierarchy (with a nod toward the eastern Cappadocian Mothers & Fathers). At its heart The Shack is a response to evil, and Rauser offers an honest and illuminating discussion of the book’s explanation for why God allows evil, how the atoning work of Christ offers new hope to a suffering world, and ultimately how this hope extends to all of creation.

If you’ve been inspired, challenged, or even threatened by Young’s novel, you owe it to yourself to read Finding God in The Shack. You’ll find that it’s like inviting an insightful, even-handed conversation partner across your table. As Rauser puts it:

“It is true that The Shack asks some hard questions and occasionally takes positions with which we might well disagree. But surely the answer is not found in shielding people from the conversation, but rather in leading them through it,” Rauser states. “After all, it is through wrestling with new ideas that one learns to deal with the nuance and complexity that characterize an intellectually mature faith. The Shack will not answer all our questions, nor does it aspire to. But we can be thankful that it has started a great conversation.”


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    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

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    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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