One shoe off

October 19, 2007

Finding Allies, Part I

So I had a job interview on Wednesday (prayers and well wishes welcome) and one of the questions they asked was “What does building collaborative relationships mean to you?” I gave what I thought was a decent answer, and they seemed o.k. with it as well, but it was kind of a fluffy answer, one that didn’t really deal with the difficulties inherent in the whole “Building collaborative relationships” thing.

Last week for TEC 300 we talked with Rev. Tim Ahrens of We Believe Ohio, a diverse group of faith leaders committed to social justice issues. That got me thinking about finding allies and building collaborative relationships. Then, a few days later I saw on the news that CONLAMIC, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, had filed suit against the state of Oklahoma to stop the implementation of H-1804 (the Oklahoma Citizen and Taxpayer Protection act of 2007, which I’ve blogged about on here before). (By the way, the CONLAMIC Web site is mostly in Spanish. You can find an English translation of the press release about the suit here. (also of note — the news release is dated the 4th. I don’t think the T.V. weasels — as we not so affectionaltey called them back when I worked for a paper — carried it until the 10th? maye the 12th?)

After I heard the story, I rushed to log on to the CONLAMIC Web site. I was excited, as I usually am, to learn about Christian social justice organizations. So imagine my dismay when I clicked on their platform, that their top three points — their key priorities — read like something off of the Focus on the Family Web site. 1. A constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights. 2. Reinstating prayer in schools and 3. Opposing gay marriage and civil unions, and any attempt to “legitimize” relationships between same-gender partners.

Grr. Everything I despise about evangelical politics. Their other points — health care access for all, access to public education, respect for the rights of all immigrants, documented or not — were ones I agreed with.

Can I be an ally of these people with whom I share so many values, but with whom I am in conflict on several key issues? Is it too coldly utilitarian to collaborate with people on one issue and one issue only, when you disagree virulently on so many other things?

I think of something Jesus said. (Surprise, surprise). Some of his disciples come to him after seeing another exorcist casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They tried to stop him, they said, “Because he does not follow with us.”

Once again, we have evidence that Jesus doesn’t care much about affiliations. Jesus says, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50).

Jesus is often disturbingly utilitarian in the gospels. Disturbing to me, at least, because although utilitarianism has always appealed to my need for simple solutions, it’s always struck me as the least nuanced of going about life. I like to think of Jesus as more nuanced, I guess. Probably because I like to think of myself as nuanced. The gospel evidence is, of course, quite to the contrary (cursing the fig tree, anybody?)

So what do we do as progressive, justice-oriented Christians? Can we collaborate towards a common goal with those with whom we disagree on so much? Those with whom we not only disagree, but whose beliefs we find reprehensible. Who are, indeed, “against us” on several issues? Can I find common ground with CONLAMIC as they oppose this unjust, racist, evil law? Even though I find other of their views to be unjust, homophobic and yes, evil?

Beggars can’t be choosers, especially in the Bible Belt, and I fear that, for now, my answer is going to have to be “yes.” In the fight for justice right here in Oklahoma, I’m going to have to find common ground with those who think that my identity as a lesbian is morally reprehensible. It seems that I may have no other choice if I am to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

(More to come, by the way.)

September 14, 2007

State of the Nation

Filed under: media,politics,State of the nation — Liz @ 9:36 am

1. We’re dumb and fat. I’m a fan of Mike Gravel, I see his point, I’m inclined to agree with him. North Americans ARE fat. That’s the first thing many foreign visitors notice when they arrive. And I’m inclined to agree that people are pretty dumb, as well (else why would we continue to eat the crap that’s killing us, for example). There is a very strong anti-intellectual current running through the U.S. psyche. Not to mention that we’ve become accustomed to accepting information in sound bites without taking the time to question it. This is not entirely our fault … there are very smart, very wealthy people out there trying their best to tell us what to think, buy and yes, eat.

But the populist in me wants to resist writing off the U.S. as hopelessly dumb. In one of his essays, Noam Chomsky points out that, if you listen to sports talk radio shows, the people who call in by and large show a very sophisticated understanding of strategy, statistics and the minutae of their favorite sport. They question and criticize the “authorities” on the sport — i.e. coaches, referees, analysts … with no qualms whatsoever. People offer confident, sophisticated analysis of athletics. The trick is helping them see that they can also offer confident, sophisticated analysis of arenas with much greater stakes.

2. Our loneliness goes as deep as our genes. Actually, that’s not what the article SAYS, but the headlines that many outlets chose for the story makes it sound as though scientists have found a “lonely gene” (akin to the “breast cancer gene” or a “gay gene”). Actually, it’s even more poignant. Loneliness has profound biological effects, even going so far as to effect us on a genetic level. Lonely people die sooner, and it may not be just because they lack resources.

Like most news reports of medical/scientific studies, this one leaves much to be desired where details are concerned. (And what the Washington Post article doesn’t tell you is that the study only looked at 14 people.)

Still, the idea that loneliness is “killing us softly” not just in a vague way but at a very specific genetic level is compelling. It’s always nice to get biological arguments for your basic theological tenets, in any case. One of mine is that human being, being in the image of God, require community.

Not that I’m one to mix science and religion … as we all know, that leads to things like this:

3. I have a new favorite online hangout since I came the Oklahoma: the Web site of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. Bob Waldrop, the author, fascinates¬† me to no end. Read his “Woe to the rich (immigration version)” (* I LOVE that there is room for more than one version of his “woe to the rich” I also love his argument that laws that hurt the poor and the oppressed are pro-abortion. I’m not turning in my pro-choice credentials any time soon, but I find it a brilliant leap of logic. And an accurate one, as well. It’s a wonder it hasn’t occurred to anyone else yet … wait a minute, I guess it’s not a wonder).¬† Also, a very good example of public theology from a Catholic Worker perspective (remember, they’ve been at it A LOT longer than many of us).

Click around Bob’s site some more. He’s doing great things with local food, has some great pieces about various social issues and a really good bread recipe.

September 12, 2007

The day after ….

Filed under: 9/11,blogging,journalism,media,writing — Liz @ 1:53 pm

Sept. 12, 2001 was a turning point in my life.

Sept 12, 2oo1 was the day that my first issue of The Bison came out. I’d been roped into editing the paper by some well-intentioned professors who thought that, in the absence of a journalism major who could do the job, an English major who could write well would be a suitable substitute. I came on board two days before the second issue of the semester. One day before the paper came out, Sept. 11 happened and I fell head over heels in love with newsprint.

We put the paper to bed that Tuesday and I went over to my parents’ house. They were sitting in the living room watching the news. They had gone out a bought a t.v. that day.

My first-ever editorial ran Wednesday. I remember referencing Don DeLillo’s Mao II. By some immense irony we had discussed the novel — which among other things talks about how terrorism shapes current reality in the same way fiction once did — in class the day before the attacks. I remember saying something about not letting fear take us over. I like to remember myself making some kind of statement calling for a response that didn’t involve war, but I haven’t read that piece in years (I don’t even know if I have it in my files anymore) so I’m not sure if I did or not. (Maybe I’ll take a drive down to Shawnee and visit the archives and pull that issue out.)

Why does this all come to mind now? Is it because I’m back in Oklahoma again, like I was in 2001? Is it because I’m writing again — and will be on a regular basis, the way I was during my tenure as editor? Is it simply because the days of the week coincide? Because we once again had a Tuesday, Sept. 11? And a Wednesday, Sept. 12?

I think that recalling that column is a suitable prologue to this blog. Looking back through the lens of what I have done since then, the columns I wrote as editor of the Bison were my first attempts at theological reflection. At a university where so many people lived according to a theological framework which was rapidly losing relevance for me, I needed a venue to try out all my new thoughts. Without fail I impressed my professors and bored my peers. On occasion I angered the administration, but not nearly as much as I wish I had. Regardless, “99.44” (as my column was called) saved my life that year.

(Editor’s note: Big fancy prize if you figure out what “99.44” refers to).

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