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A bigger circle in Baltimore and Burundi

May2

by: Brian McLaren on May 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

BaltimoreThere’s trouble today in two places I know and love: Baltimore and Burundi.

Baltimore

I spent over forty years of my life in Maryland, not far from Baltimore. During the last six or seven years of my work there as a pastor, I was blessed to have friends who worked in the neighborhoods of the city that are on TV this week. They regularly invited me to spend time with them and learn what life was like for them.

I recall a walk down some of those streets back in early 2009, just after the economic meltdown. I was spending the day with a pastor who loved the city and was showing me what he and his congregation were doing to make a difference.

“It’s ironic,” he said. “Everyone is in a panic because the national unemployment rate is around 9 percent. Let me tell you — the unemployment rate in this area has been around 18% as long as I’ve worked here.”

Then he added, “When unemployment for white folks hits 9 percent, it’s called a great recession and a national emergency. When unemployment for African Americans is 18 percent, it’s normal and no big deal.”

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The Invisible Hand — of God

May1

by: on May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

Portrait of Adam Smith from the National Galleries.

My husband Derrick often brings up Adam Smith when we are talking about economics, saying that Smith’s work is misrepresented to say that no one, especially government, should interfere with the markets. This morning I received Rev. Jim Burklo’s latest “musing” which talks about Smith’s work in a refreshing way based on a book by University of Southern California professor of tax law, Ed Kleinbard.

So, with Rev. Burklo’s permission…..

The Invisible Hand – of God by Rev. Jim Burklo

“When the happiness or misery of others depends in any respect upon our conduct, we dare not, as self-love might suggest to us, prefer the interest of one to the interest of many.” Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Book 3, Sec. 1, Chapter 3.

“(What) improves the circumstances of the greater part (of society) can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 8.


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Print Exclusive: Check out an article on the Hope Industry (for free!)

Apr30

by: Tikkun on April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

Content from our print issue is usually only available to subscribers, but right now we’re offering free access (for a limited time only!) to one article from our current issue on The Place of Hope in An Age of Climate Disaster. Click here to read the article, “Hope Requires Fighting the Hope Industry.

If you are already a subscriber, please share this article with your friends! And if you have not yet subscribed, we invite you to check out this critical and engaging article to see what you are missing.

Though hope is critical to any political or social activism, big energy, along with Republican climate change-deniers have created an illusory hope industry founded on American Exceptionalism. We cannot throw our hands up and leave the health of the planet (and humanity) to be secured by technology, capitalism, or future generations, writes Charles Derber. This piece offers real resistance to the hope industry based on diffuse justice movements’ shared goal of systemic transformation. Read his article now to learn how activists are joining together for unified environmental change.

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On Power and Violence (Baltimore, for example)

Apr30

by: Aryeh Cohen on April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

A black and white photograph of a black woman holding a sign that says "Unite Here!"

Credit: CreativeCommons / Dorret.

Watching, reading, and thinking about Baltimore, the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, and the current nonviolent and violent reactions to that killing, I keep going back to Hannah Arendt. Arendt, in her essay on violence, draws an important distinction between violence and power.

Politically speaking, it is not enough to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course its end is the disappearance of power. This implies that it is not correct to say that the opposite of violence is nonviolence: to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it. (Reflections on Violence)

The power that concerns Arendt is the power of political communities. Power is the result of people coming together for political ends. Or as Arendt says: “Power needs no justification as it is inherent in the very existence of political communities.” However, Arendt here adds a supremely important caveat: “What, however, it does need is legitimacy.” Power is dependent on legitimacy. This is why violence is the opposite of power. When the power of a political community is legitimate, when it is recognized as legitimate by those who form the community, then there is no need for the violence of domination. It is only when legitimacy disappears that violence takes center stage.

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Little Hope in Baltimore for the “2s,” “3s,” and “4s”

Apr29

by: on April 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Two Black pastors walk past two policemen in riot gear.

'For white people who cannot seem to understand reactions of a community to the death of one man, all you have to do is look in the mirror to determine your card,' writes Dr. Blumenfeld. Above, African American pastors cross paths with Baltimore police. Credit: CreativeCommons / Vladimir Badikov.

In virtually all the university courses I teach in the field of education, I conduct what invariably turns out to be a valuable and poignant activity for the pre-service teacher educator enrolled in the course. The simulation represents the ways in which our society, along a continuum of very high to very low, encourages and enhances to discourages and reduces the individual’s motivation to learn and succeed in life.

I begin by alerting students that we are going to engage in a class activity. I travel around the room placing a playing card face down on each student’s desk. (I always include a “Joker” card.) I tell them not to look at their cards. I then stand in front of the room and provide directions. I model by taking a remaining card from the deck, and without looking at it, I place it face outward upon my forehead.

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Baltimore Riots Against Police Violence –Tikkun and the Baptist Response

Apr29

by: on April 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

We endorse the statement below from the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Police violence, particularly though not only against African Americans, requires immediate and forceful response at every level of our society. People should be protesting in the streets of our country wherever an ethical consciousness has not yet been snuffed out by cynicism, surplus powerlessness, indifference, or inability to focus due to mind-destroying absorption in the distractions that abound in cyberspace, the media, and the entertainments of contemporary American society.

At the very least, everyone should be writing to all of their elected officials from President Obama to the local city councils and state legislators asking for new laws that require an independent prosecutor in every city and for every state (to be chosen by a panel of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights leaders and lawyers) to investigate every incident of alleged police violence and charged with the ability to directly bring to trial those for whom there is strong reason to believe that they violated the civil and/or human rights of those assaulted, , to penalize through pay reductions every police officer in the district

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An Answer to Pam: A United Front Between Jews and Muslims

Apr28

by: Lubna Qureshi on April 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

An Islamophobic bus ad that reads Muslims are savages.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is continually allowed to run such repulsive ads as the one above. But free speech, when based on religious hatred, is detrimental to the morals of a society as a whole. Credit: CreativeCommons / OneCitizenSpeaking.com.

A recent ruling by a federal judge permitted the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) to display hateful advertisements on New York subway cars and buses. The tasteless ads relate the killing of Jews to Islamic teachings. This is nothing new for the AFDI. Since its inception in 2010, the AFDI has taken it upon itself to promote hateful advertisement by maligning the religious teachings of Islam under the flag of free speech. Pamela Geller, the self-proclaimed Islamophobe, organized the ad campaign. However, Geller fails to comprehend the long term consequences of the hate messages that may incite more anger and detestation in an already turbulent landscape. Although AFDI claims to exercise its right to free speech, it fails to realize the responsibilities that come with practicing the first amendment. The neglect of such responsibilities may be more harmful than even imagined.

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Marriage Equality Not Left to States or Democratic Popular Vote

Apr28

by: on April 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

As the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this summer whether to legalize marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout the nation, I have often heard it said that this issue should be left up to the individual states to decide in legislative house or in the voting booth by the people. As the argument goes, this is a states-rights issue, and the national government should not intrude by imposing its will on the states. In addition, numerous other objections abound by a number of conservative politicians and theologians.

Many conservative and political individuals and organizations oppose marriage for same-sex couples for the stated reason that, according to them, so-call “Judeo-Christian” tradition – a term I reject since it obscures the major differences between these two monotheistic religions — dictates that God has ordained marriage between one man and one woman, and this has been the case throughout millennia. They also argue that children need both a mother and father to develop normal and healthy lives.

For the sake of discussion, however, I would like to refute some of the theocratic and political claims of so-called “God’s law” and the alleged consistency in the foundation of marriage. I argue that the institution of marriage throughout time and culture has always been and continues to evolve, transition, and undergo redefinition.

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Social Justice Warriors, Unite!

Apr27

by: Reid Madden on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

“Why is ‘Social Justice’ a toxic phrase in common conversation?”

My roommate recently showed me something online, but what he said got me thinking. He told me “social justice warriors probably hate this.”

What does that phrase even mean, “social justice warriors?” I decided to look up what it meant on Urban Dictionary – admittedly not the best source for information, but this is what I found: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow and not well-thought-out way.” These people do not “necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.” They do it to be popular.

So how do these people make social justice look bad? After all, protesters all over the world use the Internet to organize and rally support. Social media was a huge force in the Arab Spring protests that eventually toppled regimes. Using these networks at home has created huge firestorms around net neutrality, which recently forced the FCC to adopt net neutral protocols. Using mass media has always been in the toolbox for enacting social reforms. Social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr. are regarded as heroes. Universities from Miami University to Merrimack College to my own, Hamline University, offer majors in Social Justice, training the next generation of reformers.

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Interfaith Service and Vigil Protest Laws Criminalizing Homelessness

Apr27

by: Lydia Gans on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Berkeley City Council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It’s not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within three feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they’re not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building.

Voices of protest are being heard. Members of the interfaith coalition of more than 40 congregations, including Buddhists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, are speaking out against the city’s criminalization of homelessness. On April 9 they held a protest ‘in solidarity with homeless people’ at the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Starting at 5 o’clock with a meal and an interfaith service it concluded with a sleep-out at the Plaza until 6:30 Friday morning.

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