Politics

Guatemala to require DNA tests prior to adoption

Since I first heard about the Guatemalan infant market here on YAR (thank you Tom Dunn), it only makes sense to post a link to this news story. It looks like the Guatemalan government is trying to crack down on the human rights abuses.

New York Times article

This one is a straightforward hard news story: (more…)

So about this rich guy I know

I’ll be the first to admit it’s a strange feeling to log onto www.time.com and read a story involving someone I know.

Time story

It’s even stranger to get to the end, do a little more searching for what is being said about this person elsewhere online, and come out feeling quite conflicted about the whole thing.

Examiner story

Machetera story

For those who are reading this post before going back and reading the links, I should clarify what I mean by “know.” I am currently spending five months doing volunteer work at the Stansberry Children’s Home and Daycare in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and one of the people on the board of directors of Stansberry is Ron Larsen, a US-born cattle rancher who is fighting with the government to keep the thousands of acres of ranch. I can’t say I know him well, but I have met him a couple of times and engaged in run-of-the-mill chit-chat about who we both are and what we’re doing in Bolivia. (more…)

Jeremiah Wright and Black Liberation Theology

I was surprised to see that there was little discussion about the Jeremiah Wright controversy on this blog; perhaps because it is being discussed in every other forum available.

At any rate, if nothing else, the whole charade has produced a number of interesting responses; I was particularly struck by the series that NPR did on black liberation theology. I think it was a thoughtful way to approach the Jeremiah Wright scandal: they asked the question “where is he coming from?”, and set out to find the answer. If you are interested, I have linked below a number of radio pieces on black liberation theology, particularly interesting is the interview with James Cone, a founding thinker in the black liberation theology movement.

Black Liberation Theology, in its Founder’s Words

The Roots of Black Liberation Theology***

Religious Scholars Discuss Liberation Theology

Understanding Rev. Jeremiah Wright

And here is a great video of a Catholic priest who was stopped on the street by a Fox News team to question him about why he was having Rev. Wright speak at his parish. This priest then goes on to basically own the Fox News reporter and give one of the better interviews I’ve ever seen on Fox News.

Fox News Owned by Catholic Priest
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Advocacy Groups are Dumb.

*This article was originally posted on Christarchy.com. The “Ostrich-thing” makes more sense if you visit me there.*

Advocacy groups are dumb. There. I said it. You don’t have to agree with me, especially if you are part of an advocacy group. But someone had to say it and seeing as I’m the only one around here to take notice I had to speak up. (more…)

Colombia, Ecuador and Chavez

Chavez escalates border tensionsFor the last few days, I’ve been wanting to write something about the news from the region Charletta and I recently left. Today my teammates in Colombia released Border Tensions: A Prayer Request. This statement puts things a lot better then I could have. It also notes some details that I hadn’t heard, such as the claim by the Ecuadorian government that FARC commander Reyes was in “advanced stages of negotiations” with the Ecuadorian government for further hostage releases when he was killed.

I have to admit that I didn’t really shed any tears when I heard about the death of Reyes. Under his leadership the FARC has massacred indigenous people, farmers and North American activists and committed many terrorist acts. They’ve built a drug trafficking empire and lost any credibility as a positive force for change in the region. They’ve become a criminal enterprise acting with a thin veneer of ideology and in the process caused untold damage to Colombia’s authentic movements for social change. But the CPT release is a good reminder that this bombing represents a continued shift on the part of the Colombian government “to deal with the national conflict in a military framework rather than building on civil and diplomatic attempts.”

The team’s statement also mentions the “saber-rattling by neighbors in the region”. I’d like to look at that saber rattling a little more closely. Specifically, the war-mongering coming from the party that was not directly involved in the incident, Chavez. In the fall of 2006 I went to Venezuela on my honeymoon and wrote four posts here (1, 2, 3, 4) documenting some of the reactions we heard to Chavez from people we met along the way. At the time we saw that there were a lot of good things going on in Venezuela, but it was also clear that Chavez’s leadership was problematic. While we were there he made his famous Bush-is-the-devil speech that boosted Chomsky to #1 on Amazon. It was a stunt that brought up conflicted response for me. While it was great to have Chomsky get some exposure, Chavez was clearly setting a polarizing and divisive course for himself and his country. (more…)

Bush appointees plan Nuremburg of our time (but rigged)

So you may have read in the news a few weeks ago that US seeks the death penalty as six detained in Guantánamo are charged over 9/11. Though the process has been abominable, at least the decision to hold a trial (as opposed to indefinite detention) seems like a step in the right direction: away from the war on terror and toward a criminal justice response to terrorism. I wrote last year about Britain taking a step in the same direction.

Unfortunately, The Nation has an article today that suggests guilty verdicts in these trials may be a foregone conclusion. Here’s an excerpt from their article describing an interview with Col. Morris Davis , former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions:

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes–the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. “[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time,” recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.'”

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An Anarchist and Healthcare

I’m an anarchist. I’m a Christian. I’m a lot of things. I don’t find the need to have an opinion about everything as lots of Americans do. On some issues I’m opinion-less. But some things strike me as odd.

This up-coming election has brought up, once again, universal healthcare. I’m a capitalist and opposed to big government. But I also know “wrong” when I see it. (more…)

United States: the last best hope of earth

Bush hands the mic to McCainI just read John McCain’s victory speech after today’s primaries. This passage caught my eye:

They will paint a picture of the world in which America’s mistakes are a greater threat to our security than the malevolent intentions of an enemy that despises us and our ideals; a world that can be made safer and more peaceful by placating our implacable foes and breaking faith with allies and the millions of people in this world for whom America, and the global progress of our ideals, has long been “the last, best hope of earth.”

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“Covenantal Christians”: Beyond Evangelical and Liberal

For years, I’ve had discussions about the term “Evangelical” with other Christians who see peace and justice as a core part of the gospel. I always argue that the term is too far gone and they argue that we should reclaim it. That it is theologically accurate and the best word to describe who we are.

At the same time, I’ve never been very comfortable with the label “Liberal” either. Coming of age with Clinton bombing countries right and left (7 or 8 depending on how you count) in the name of liberalism probably had something to do with it.

This week over on Revolution in Jesusland, Zack Exley used the term Covenantal Christians to describe a category that I instinctively identify with. (more…)

Political Assimilation

We’ve had quite a few flabbergasted mentions over the months of the shocking recognition that so many Mennonites vote Republican, wondering helplessly what to do about their ignorant collusion with oppression, and Tim mentioned in his post on Gregory Boyd the converse fear that the new generation of Mennonites and their teachers (at least) have similarly sold out to a left-wing political program and forsaken the gospel for social activism. Both fears, I admit, seem to me deeply right. Whether by overlooking the horrors of war and sidestepping the political example of our crucified Lord, or by flattening salvation to a social phenomenon and forgetting that the truth of Christ transcends every political concern, Mennonites of all political stripes have given up the principle of nonconformity that’s necessary for the church to be the church.

That’s my contention: that the problem across the board is that we’ve lost the principle of nonconformity. And more specifically, we’ve forgotten that nonconformity is a theological principal. It’s not that we refuse to conform to this or that bad policy, but that we refuse to conform to the world, this fallen, deathly, blasphemous, and violent world, this world whose goodness has been disfigured by sin. And we are joined instead not to justice or righteousness or fairness in the abstract, but to Jesus Christ: ‘joined’ as an apprentice to her master, ‘joined’ as a child to her mother, ‘joined’ as any person to her own spirit and power. Being so joined to God passes judgment on every political program, certainly, because it reshapes the notion of the political itself. No political agenda is untouched by the good news of Jesus’ resurrection–because Jesus is resurrected as Lord–and every form of praise and discipleship becomes a political act. Judgment on so-called conservatives: by ‘conserving’ what remains wrapped up in the powers of violence, you serve the prince of darkness rather than the prince of peace. Judgment on so-called radicals: by preaching justice rather than Jesus,* you cut the world off from the root of true life and condemn it to self-destruction, meaninglessness, and hell.

Of course, this suggestion seems sectarian to the right and absolutist to the left. But this is precisely what I mean: nonconformity to the world. We must constantly and seriously consider in what ways our commitment to Christ pronounces judgment on every political commitment–for Christ alone is Lord.

* This is no better, of course, than preaching Jesus rather than justice–as if the two could truly be split. But it must be admitted that the radical ‘program’ often quite explicitly renounces actually preaching Jesus, thinking justice a near enough equivalent.

Gregory Boyd: “Mennonites: they’re in trouble”

A friend just sent me It turns out I’m a Mennonite! from the blog of Greg Boyd, a prominent dissenter in the mega-church movement. In July 2006 he was profiled in the New York Times after he lost 20% of the membership of his mega-church after refusing to endorse conservative political causes. He is author The Myth of a Christian Nation.

This past weekend Boyd was at Hesston College for a conference and found a connection with the Mennonite tradition. He says, “…on a deep level, it kind of felt like coming home.” In many ways his reflections echoes the stories told in Coming Home: Stories of British and Irish Anabaptists in which people from many different Christian traditions share how they connected with Anabaptism. I worked with many of these folks while in England and it was incredible to see the impact the Anabaptist tradition had on their lives. Boyd’s post has that same energy. It’s an energy that I see as critical to the future of Anabaptism, rather than be as part of the Mennonite church or an Anabaptist movement of people from many different denominations (as in the UK).

The difference between Boyd’s story and those of my friends in England is that Boyd also immediately discovered some of the shortcomings of the Mennonite tradition. I remember vividly the disbelief from British friends when I told them that more than half of Mennonites voted for Bush. This made no sense to them based on what they’d discovered as Anabaptist core convictions. Boyd put it this way:

But there was another very interesting thing I learned about the Mennonites: they’re in trouble. I heard this from a number of people, including John Roth. One man literally wept as he told me how he’s been grieved seeing Mennonites abandon their core vision of the Kingdom and core convictions over the last several decades. They’re losing their counter-cultural emphasis and becoming “Americanized” and “mainstreamed” (as various people told me). Consequently, many Mennonite leaders are getting involved in partisan politics in a way that goes against the Mennonite tradition. While Evangelicals tend to be co-opted by Right Wing politics, these leaders are being co-opted by Left Wing politics. They’re basically defining Kingdom social activism as supporting radical democratic policies. Yet, three fourths of Mennonites are Republican. Hence there’s growing tensions between the leadership and the body of the Mennonites.

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Violent Video Game as Church Recruiting Tool

I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.

I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th

But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “

HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?

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Situation in Burma at Critical point

Photo by Worak, licensed under Creative Commons
Attribution ShareAlike License version 2.0:All day today I’ve been meaning to sit down and right something meaningful about the escalating situation in Burma which seems ripe for change or extensive repression. Turns out someone with far more experience has done a great job of laying out the history of the situation there and a useful perspective on what’s happening:

Excerpt from Burma on the March by Gene Stoltzfus (founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams):

Buddhist teachings and values are deeply ingrained in Burmese society and when monks lead, an unwritten message is sent to the nation. The arrest of monks creates a shocking dissonance in the minds of the Buddhist population. In the practice of Buddhism in Burma, people frequently leave the routine of their lives for a few weeks to become monks. With saffron robes, shaved heads and begging bowls they examine their lives, perhaps in the hope of gaining merit, more spiritually centered living, or to move along in their own personal cycle of karma. Some of the monks walking in the demonstrations now are almost certainly people who have only recently joined the monastery for a brief break.

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Update on Cynicism and Hope Conference

A few months ago I wrote here about ideas coming together for a conference on the theme of Cynicism and Hope. I’m pleased to announce that we’ve now got an exciting slate of speakers and workshop leaders put together. If you’re interested in coming, we’ve even got an on-line registration form if you’re ready to sign up.

Today I had a piece published on the God’s Politics blog talking a bit more about the history of the gathering. (more…)