crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
Last Saturday I rode my bicycle out to First Church of the Brethren for meetings. along Van Buren Street. As I biked away from the loop, west along Van Buren St., commercial properties gave way to the brand new condos where young urban professionals have recently arrived from the suburbs. As I went farther west I began to see a mix of older, more run down housing mixed with blocks full of brand new condos, a combination typical of neighborhoods in transition driven by property speculation and developers. I was reminded of the abrupt halt that the economic crisis has brought to the gentrification process. For some this has meant a major loss of invested capital, for others it has meant welcome breathing space on the brink of being pushed out of their homes due to rising rent costs and property taxes.
Just after the last block of new condos, I noticed remnants of an apparently under construction playground abandoned amidst dead tree branches and litter:
March 27, 2009
City, Community, Economics, poverty
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This is part of a discussion on the PNMC Peace And Justice Forum:
I think it is time for the church to reconsider its politics.. I’m not advocating that we all try to get elected or take over the government necessarily. But I do think we might be entering a 1930’s scenario where if we think things have been bad for the middle-class and poor through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I know I’m going to hear it from those who like to keep Jesus out of politics (and I do still harbor many healthy anabaptist political hesitations myself) but I’m becoming equally angry with a church that seems more interested in building new administrative centers and benefiting from our MMA retirement portfolios (well, up until 6mo. ago at least), but seems less interested in walking the neighborhood, asking how people are doing and searching for real ways to bring hope and healing to those who know first hand what it feels like to search for scraps beneath the “master’s” table. I’ve recently been inspired by reading about church leaders of the 1930s who searched for ways to move beyond insular spiritualism to both care for the poor AND passionately advocate for significant social change. I wonder if the coming revolt might need some committed nonviolent Mennonites who can help keep it nonviolent.
I think, Matt, that you’re barking up the wrong tree. I feel I can say this as a person who is deeply involved in my communities here in Portland. I personally think that the governments and corporations and banks are so full of their own self interest, especially in maintaining whatever status quo there is, that the system itself is unreliable. I believe that if we as Christians took over the system, then we would do no better than those who hold it now (or previously). Part of the problem is the structure of the system itself, whether that be the U.S. government, capitalism, the banking system, or modern labor being controlled by large corporations. What is needed is a complete breakdown of the systems– which we will get when Jesus returns. (more…)
March 17, 2009
Change, Economics, Ethics, Love, poverty, The Bible, Wealth
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I wrote this for a group of hard core youth who were into anarchy:
Injustice reigns in the earth. Capitalism is corrupt, only granting freedom to the wealthy, while the poor get ground in the dust. The 200 wealthiest people in the world, all heads of corporations, control 40% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 20% of the world live on 1% of the world’s wealth. The 40 wealthiest Western nations have 85% of the world’s wealth.
Perhaps such disparity in the world today wouldn’t be so bad if the governments and corporations of the world were concerned with justice in the world and providing equity for the poor. Instead, the wealthy of the world use their economic power as the whip on the backs of the oppressed.
The developing countries of the world are required to pay a huge amount of interest on loans, and so unable to pay back the loans, and thus their people starve. On the other hand, the United States has a trillion-dollar debt that they can refuse to pay, if they want. The corporations of the West use Chinese labor to do the menial tasks that the workers of the West find demeaning or that don’t pay enough. Then the Chinese oppress their people, telling them where to work, how to worship, where to live and how many children to have. The world corporations are creating oppression as well in Vietnam, Mexico, Haiti, Bangladesh, Singapore, and multitudes of other developing nations. And all this, while not discouraging them to cease the oppression of ethnic, religious and political minorities. (more…)
February 17, 2009
Economics, Leadership, liberation theology, Love, Nonviolence, poverty, Privilege
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“I haven’t been entirely truthful with you…” says the young, well-dressed, middle-eastern man. The camera focuses in on the pained expressions on those he is speaking to in that shaky, fast cutaway style of those Jason Bourne flicks. Intense, dramatic music plays in the background. The editors let this cliff-hanger like suspense build for, well, seemingly forever. I guess, in reality, 10 seconds.
This is the Fox network, the network that, when drama doesn’t exist enough for the producers, they go ahead and make it up. Young married couples on an island with a bunch of hot singles. The screaming, shrieking Gordon Ramsey. The Fox network, God bless ’em, takes decent ideas for shows and makes the dramatic effect linger like a sky-diver in mid-air. Then they find talent to pump that drama up. It’s all really unnecessary. The material is good, let it be.
But here we are. “I haven’t been entirely truthful with you…” “…” “…” “…” “…” “I’m really a multi-millionaire.” SHA-BANG! And, lo-and-behold, the victims of what Fox believes to be a cruel joke could give two shits. Who would? The lying millionaire has been a part of their lives for six whole days. (more…)
December 12, 2008
activism, Church, Community, Contemplation, Corporations, Dumb Stuff., Economics, God, poverty, Privilege, Stewardship, Television
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I just want to say at the onset, that I am not really an evangelist about not voting. But I am tired of people telling me that I am immoral or unpatriotic for not voting. And given that some have spoken of the presidential election on this site, I figure I can give my “third way” point of view:
1. The system of choosing leaders requires the leaders to boast about themselves, to be self serving. But Jesus tells us to have our leaders be humble, to serve others, not themselves.
2. The only people who gain the highest offices are those of the rich elite. We do not live in a democracy, where the people have a voice, but a plutocracy, where only the wealthy have a real vote to change the country.
3. Voting is the least effective of all political action. Our ideas would be heard much more by the world if we act out the life of Jesus, or if we write people in the government, than if we vote.
4. There is not a single candidate that is concerned about the issues Jesus is concerned about. Not one has a platform about loving our enemies. Not one has a platform about giving to the poor. Not one is concerned about living out a radical life-transforming faith in God. Although some talk about health issues, no one is really concerned about healing the sick. (more…)
November 1, 2008
activism, Change, Nonviolence, Politics, poverty, war, Wealth
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I have found a few interesting articles that have come out from person of color perspectives on aspects of Christian “progressivism” or “monasticism”.
Here’s one by Chanequa Walker-Barnes on New Monasticism and White Privelege
Here’s one by Anthony Smith at Emergent Village on the tendency for “not voting” in progressive circles
Here are responses by Brian McClaren and David Fitch.
Then there’s this piece by Tim Wise on how white privelege is manifesting itself in the US presidential election.
October 3, 2008
Current Events, Language, Polemics, poverty, Power, President, Privilege, Race
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I just received a post from a man in Pennsylvania who is responding to an essay on “Dehumanization of the Homeless” on the Mennonite Poverty Forum. (This post is edited some, so if you want to read the full post in its context, please go to: http://groups.google.com/group/mennonite-poverty-forum/browse_thread/thread/b4a61d17a32cbe4a)
How would you respond to this? What does this say about Mennonites in general?
Here in my area the Mennonites control my county in all legal aspects and purposely made an ordinance so the poor can no longer eat out of garbage bins at the backs of stores so the food that is edible but past date is left to rot while people go hungry.
Mennonites will never join or become part of your group At least the Mennonites from Lancaster County, PA They are part OF the problem you speak of and work their best to extract every ounce of flesh from the homeless and those who have next to nothing I know I have eaten with the homeless as I am near homeless myself due to physical illness and have seen the inhumanity and how the mennonites and amish treat those in need.
The only people in my area that do a THING for the homeless are the Catholics and that is mostly lip service and a free bowl of cereal but at least that is something!
In my area there is a saying: If you need a helping hand DONT ask an Amish person or a Mennonite and I know (more…)
October 1, 2008
Bias, Bigotry, City, Love, poverty, Privilege, Tolerance
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I’m participating in AMBS’s conversation on technology and worship. I have to put together a paper. Below are my initial reflections as I work towards something of substance. I would appreciate any critical engagement. Am I going in a helpful direction? Should I turn around while I still can? Thanks.
Why not start with Karl Barth? In his essay, “Church and Culture” (in Theology and Church, London: SCM, 1962), Barth disallows any uncritical approval of culture, nor does take a consistent stand against culture. As usual, Barth makes things complicated. On the one side of the dialectic, Barth takes up the ax of John the Baptist: “Christian preaching…has met every culture, however supposedly rich and mature, with ultimate sharp skepticism” (quoted in T.J. Gorringe, Furthering Humanity: A Theology of Culture, p. 18). But later in that same essay Barth has no patience for a spiritualism that ignores our cultural milieu. There is no room, Barth writes, “for a basic blindness to the possibility that culture may be revelatory, that it can be filled with promise.” The seeds of God’s kingdom proliferate throughout the world. Barth pursues the same line of thinking in Church Dogmatics IV/3, where he claims that if “all things are created in and through Jesus” (Colossians 1:16-17), then, as Prof. Peter Dula puts it, “there is nowhere, not even the mouth of an ass, that we cannot expect to find words reflecting the light of the Word” (Peter Dula, “A Theology of Interfaith Bridge Building,” p. 164 in Borders and Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World). Barth goes on to call these diverse worldly witnesses to God’s kingdom “secular parables” (CD IV/3, p. 115). The earth and human culture resound with echoes of the one Word of God which speaks into existence the kingdom of God. Therefore we must pay attention to the places we inhabit, the cultures that permeate us. “The Church,” he writes, “will be alert for the signs which, perhaps in many cultural achievements, announce that the kingdom approaches” (20). The kingdom does come. The question Barth poses to the church is whether she is ready to receive it, however strange it may appear.
It’s a strange possibility to consider how the pieces of culture called ‘technology’ may display God’s kingdom, if only parabolically. Barth won’t let us rule out an abstract category like “technology” without serious engagement in particular technological machineries–he calls them “cultural achievements.” Nor will he take up every new sophisticated invention as a chance for the kingdom to make headway. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism.
In The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture (Zondervan, 2005), pastor Shane Hipps critically considers the place of technologies in worship. He carefully steers clear of many church leaders who welcome any and every form of technology as the panacea for dying churches. Blindly welcoming technology into church life turns worship into another capitalist commodity. We then become one show among many where Christians can find “new experiences to consume” (15). In Modernity, writes Hipps, “churches heeded consumer demands and sough to reinvent church. They either had to compete in the consumer marketplace on the consumer’s terms or face extinction. In the spirit of modernity, these churches reincarnated themselves as highly competent vendors of religious programs and services” (99). But the answer, according to Hipps, is not a reactionary turn against all forms of technology. “I’m not arguing for some Luddite strategy of literally destroying media” (65). Instead, we carefully and communally discern how modern technologies can aid us as we embody the good news of Christ. In Hipps’ words, “We learn to understand the power of our technologies to shape us, thereby regaining power over them” (122). (more…)
August 26, 2008
Church, communication, Consumerism, culture, Economics, Media, poverty, Wealth
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In the Wilamette Valley, which includes both Portland and Salem, there are approximately 2000 churches. Some have only twenty members, some have thousands. Given the reputation of Oregon to be an “unchurched” area, there are a huge number of self-sustaining churches.
In the Wilamette Valley, according to the best estimates, there are 2000 homeless people every night. This number fluxuates and there are a lot of varieties of homeless people, but the number is a fair estimate.
Is this coincidence?
If this is correct, then if each church, on average, just ministered to and assisted just one– ONE– homeless person, then the whole outlook of poverty and homelessness would change for the whole Wilamette Valley– for all of Portland and Salem.
I wonder if this statistic could be replicated throughout the United States? If every church in the U.S. would take poverty seriously and just take one one– just one– homeless person per congregation, then the whole landscape of poverty in the nation would change.
And the nation might actually recognize that the church is here to create a positive impact, and not just to suck resources into the personal egos of religious ideologies.
July 23, 2008
activism, Economics, Love, poverty
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Pam Wilson of Operation Mercy wrote an insightful article about the proverb,
“Catch a man a fish you feed him a meal,
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Besides the fact that the proverb is sexist, it holds many false assumptions of how the poor should be helped. I have always had a problem with the proverb because it assumes that one should ignore the immediate need. But Ms. Wilson has a better overall approach.
June 19, 2008
activism, culture, Economics, Education, Ethics, Food, Gender, Love, poverty, Privilege, Race, Tradition
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Not everyone can or wants to go to every conference. This is a summary of a recent conference. I think sharing the info that we learn at conferences is important.
The “Everything Must Change” tour came to Goshen College on May 9-10. This seminar was lead by renowned evangelical leader in the emerging Christian church movement, Brian McLaren. His focus for the event was addressing the following questions: “What are the world’s top global crises?” and “What does the message of Jesus say to those crises?”
Early on in the seminar, McLaren related a story in which he was leading youth worship as a young adult. He asked the youth to help him create a list of the major concerns at their churches. Issues such as whether or not to have guitars as part of worship music were brought up. He then asked the youth to help him create a list of the issues that they considered the most pressing global concerns, and issues like nuclear disarmament and famine came up. A startling difference was apparent between the two lists. Just like he suggested in the narrative of his story, McLaren instigated a call for a breaking down of the secular/sacred divide and for the Church to be deeply involved in the issues on the second list, the global list. Those of us who attended the seminar were treated to and challenged by a multi-dimensional, mixed media approach to exploring how to understand and deal with interconnected global crisis issues of planet, poverty, and peacemaking. The fourth major crisis McLaren introduced was “purpose”. He explained the latter concept in his assertion that “the biggest problem in the world is the way that we think about the biggest problems in the world.” (more…)
June 2, 2008
activism, Books, Church, City, culture, Current Events, Education, Emerging Church, Environment, Evangelism, Faith, Foreign Policy, Global Church, God, Group Identity, Peace & Peacemaking, poverty, Stewardship, Theology, war, Young Folks
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Ekklesia reports that the campaign “Faith in Action” begun by World
Vision is recommending that churches cancel some worship services for
the purpose of serving the poor.
Is this really the best response?
Should we cancel church services in order to serve the poor? If we do
this, in my opinion, then we are perpetuating the cycle of the poor.
The major problem of the poor is the seperation, isolation and
dehumanization that takes place when the middle class connect with the
poor. As long as we react to the poor with pity (often labeled
“compassion”) and with service from one’s arm’s length, then the cycle
of poverty will continue. As long as we see the poor as the “other”
that we have to reach out to, then we will never see the poor as
“us.” If we do not see the poor as “us” then the divide between the
ruling middle class and the poor will never be breached. (more…)
May 22, 2008
Church, Ethics, poverty, Tolerance
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I don’t really like calling people names like “stupid” but the title was too much too resist. My apologies.
I was discussing the gentrification of Baltimore recently online. I understand concerns about urban gentrification and I partly agree with them. I can certainly understand wanting to keep neighborhoods in the hands of neighbors, not gianormous corporations and urban planning bureaucrats trying to utilize Eminent Domain to kick people out of their homes.
Part of our discussion centered, and others I’ve had, with the systematic racism of Baltimore in particular. It got me thinking about racism more, a topic which most of you know I could really care less about. (more…)
May 13, 2008
activism, Bias, Bigotry, City, Dumb Stuff., Economics, Group Identity, Hate, Illegal, Immigration, Polarization, poverty, Privilege, Race
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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.
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.
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…)
May 4, 2008
Bias, City, Consumerism, Corporations, Current Events, Economics, Education, Exclusion, Group Identity, Indigenous, International Relations, Media, Politics, poverty, Power, Privilege, Wealth
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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 (more…)
April 24, 2008
Current Events, Exclusion, History, LGBTQ, liberation theology, Politics, poverty, Power, Privilege, Race, The Bible, Theology, Urban Ministry
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