24 November 2008

You actually COULD "eat this book."

A couple weeks back, the winter Cokesbury catalog arrived in the mail. As I was perusing it over at Heather's house, I was caught by the new Green Bible from HarperCollins. The Bible is made of biodegradable, 100% post-consumer recycled material, soy ink, et cetera, and they went ahead and highlighted all the verses about the earth in green ink. According to the Bible's website, "With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth."

Fair enough.

But do we really need this? Well, Rich Cizik says "This is exactly what the church needs at this critical time." But he's probably wrong. After all, those verses were already in the Bible; the only person who would buy a Green Bible already knows that the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth. This seems to me like the Green Bible is much more about the half billion dollar Bible niche-marketing industry than it is about ecological theology.

So, I was making fun of the Green Bible pretty comfortably; then today I came across this interview with Duke Old Testament professor Ellen Davis, in which she explains why she is excited about the project. Now, she doesn't really offer up any different rationale for making a Bible like this, but I respect her judgment, so I'll probably hold my tongue a bit more.

All the same, here's a great point: The Green Bible may be a good gesture towards ecological responsibility. But rather than editing and publishing a "green" product, the true demonstration of a biblically based Christian recommitment to the earth would be to make "green" the entire Bible industry, or even all of Christian publishing. Here's hoping the Green Bible is just an inroad to bigger changes at HarperCollins, Zondervan, IVP, Abingdon, et al.

23 November 2008

Yes We Might!

With President-elect Obama bringing quite a few "old hands" into his cabinet, some are starting to wonder what Change looks like. Of particular note is Eric Holder, Obama's rumored choice for Attorney General. A guest column in Saturday's Times shines a light on Holder's role in Bill Clinton's pardoning of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, "one of the most unjustifiable pardons that an American president has ever granted." It is definitely worth the read, especially if you're like me and don't know anything about that pardon.

The larger question of whether Obama can concretely change America's economic fortunes or international standing will have to wait; it is premature to judge his administration based on these cabinet picks. The Holder thing seems unwise, but other choices are encouraging. If it's Gov. Napolitano for DHS, she might bring some sanity to immigration enforcement; Peter Orszag has to be one of the smartest people in Washington; Hillary Clinton is the right kind of high-profile, internationally respected individual to lead the State Department. Looks like we may also get Tom Daschle at Health & Human Services, and Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary. I still think Richardson should be the VP.  Or the Secretary of State.

Other names floating around include Howard Dean, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, and Tom Vilsack. That's a lot of high-profile Democrats. Whether having a star-studded cabinet is a good idea or not remains to be seen.

22 November 2008

Catch-up reading

Though I've got three weeks before I'm totally clear of this semester, I am thinking ahead to winter break, and looking forward to reading a couple good books: Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament; Michael Gorman, Reading Paul; Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew; Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition; Rainer Maria Rilke, Stories of God

(I am starting to wonder if I have lost all capacity to read things not pertaining to God or politics, and if that's bad.) In all likelihood, I won't make it through all of these books. But they're the ones on my shelf that I keep staring at, longingly, while I trudge through my final assignments. Speaking of which: if anyone wants to read a riveting 19-page paper about Howell Harris, the 18th century leader of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, just let me know.

16 November 2008

Welcome to the postracial America!

It is rarer than it should be that I feel convicted about the academic bubble in which I live my life. One stark reminder that I need to pay more attention to the world: major stories only manage to penetrate my conscience once they hit the New York Times or The New Yorker. That was the case with last week's female ordination and excommunication story.

Today comes another one. I'm just staggered that I hadn't heard about it until now. Arsonists burned down the future home of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, an African-American congregation in Springfield, Mass.,  on the night of November 4th. The building was still under construction, and therefore unoccupied, but it is just the kind of thing that takes your breath away. While we were all celebrating American progress...

The story is particularly jarring to me since it happened in Massachusetts. This is a state whose very name epitomizes liberal values. 62 percent of the state (and 59 percent of the white people) voted for Obama. It will always be important for Americans (and especially Northeasterners like me) to remember that racism wasn't invented in the South and overcome in the North. Another good reinforcement of this point comes in the form of the new documentary, Traces of the Trade (which Liz has been somehow involved with, when she's not farming). I haven't seen it yet, though I know the Anglican House of Studies here at school watched it a few weeks ago and I heard positive reviews. It tells the story of a prominent Rhode Island family who made their money trading rum for slaves in the late 18th century.

15 November 2008

A high-profile excommunication

I missed this during the week, but the Vatican has notified Fr. Roy Bourgeois that he is to be excommunicated for participating in the ordination service of a Roman Catholic woman. This is a big deal: Bourgeois is a huge figure in the American peace movement. He's the founder of SOA Watch, an organization committed to shedding light on the military assistance that the United States gives to repressive governments. The Church will be excommunicating a man who has given his entire life to honor the memory of the six Jesuit priests killed by SOA graduates in El Salvador in 1989.

The excommunication is also significant because it is part of a bigger issue: the increasingly vocal mobilization called "Womenpriests". Sojourners ran an article in 2006 about the ordination of 8 Roman Catholic women on a riverboat in Pittsburgh (so as not to be "in" any certain diocese). The Times article says that Janice Sevre-Duszynska, the individual in whose ordination Fr. Roy participated, is the 35th American woman to be ordained in this movement. 

Rose Marie Berger hasn't written anything about Fr. Roy yet, either on her blog or at God's Politics, but we might expect something soon.

06 November 2008

Letter from Peter Storey

This letter circulated around the Divinity School on Monday. Always good to hear a word from Bishop Storey. (And it's a good reminder of how partisan you can be when you are retired and not American!)

Dear Friends in the United States,

Warmest greetings to you on this momentous evening. You have been much in our minds and on our hearts over these past few months as we have avidly followed the progress of your Presidential election campaign. As we've said before, what happens in your election profoundly affects us all.

And what a campaign! I recall a dinner table conversation in Atlanta way back in May, 2007, in the home of good friends Jim and Fentress Waits. Those around the table were talking with a deep sense of interest and hope about an exciting young Senator named Barack Obama. Back then, the possibility of Obama's even gaining the nomination of his own party appeared so remote that it seemed more the stuff of dreams than reality.

Yet here you are, on the eve of an even more 'impossible' breakthrough tomorrow! Think of it: the nation whose original sin was to to buy and sell Africans like chattels, that legislated them less than human, could well elect an African-American tomorrow to be its First Citizen! I wonder if the people of the USA have fully realized what a liberating moment this could be? For African Americans, who hold their breath, not yet quite believing what might be possible tomorrow, this may be a step beyond even what Martin Luther King Jr saw from the mountain-top, but it is also more than that: it will be a day of liberation for all Americans: whether deeply conscious, as so many thoughtful people are, of this great burden of historic guilt, or defiantly denialist as too many on the shrill right wing remain. All - the good, the bad and the ugly - will take a giant step toward liberation from one of US history's most burdensome shackles.

I say this because that is the experience we discovered the day Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as the first black President of South Africa. Millions of his exploited compatriots danced with obvious joy at their new freedom, but less expected and perhaps more amazing was the sense of liberation that came upon their erstwhile oppressors. White South Africans testified in large numbers to a new lightness of being, as if some invisible, dragging weight, was gone, and something new could be born.

Now I know that the USA is not South Africa, and your story is not identical with ours, but there are enough echoes for me to assure you that if the voters of America break this barrier tomorrow, you will experience what I'm talking about!

Of course, like so many of you, we are anxious as well as excited. Having seen how deep are the currents of fear and prejudice that still run across the length and breadth of the United States, we too hold our breath. Be assured that the hopes of the vast majority of the people of the wider world go with Senator Barack Obama. There is no question about this. I doubt that even 5 percent of South Africans of any race group have any desire to see anyone of George W Bush's party near the White House. However, we have seen how easily US elections can be stolen and we are praying, as so many of you are, that tomorrow, the American people will march to the polls in greater numbers than ever before, determined to expunge eight of the most shameful years in US history. President Bush has brought America's reputation so low, that from our point of view, another such blow from the US electorate would be almost impossible to understand. Eight years of arrogance and ignorance have been done deep harm in the rest of the world and to the image of a great nation. Surely they will be declared as enough by the people of the US?

But let us be hopeful! Just as tomorrow offers the opportunity for a great sense of historic liberation in the US, so it also offers a chance to radically alter the world's current perception of America, and to open the door to new possibilities of healing and transformation for US foreign relations. If Obama is announced as your President-elect, there will be great rejoicing all around the globe. We will see new hope of the might of the United States being bent to works of justice and compassion and cooperation. We will see new possibilities for the poor of the earth: for the first time, Americans will have elected someone who knows what it is like to be on the outside as well as in the circle, who has actually worked among the poor, who has lived , however briefly, outside the American bubble, and who has the blood of the world's most oppressed continent in his veins. Everyone of these factors speak of change.

You will recall that the day following September 11, 2001, France's most famous newspaper ran the headline: 'Today, we are all Americans!' Well, please know that around the world there are so many people whose hopes ride on what you will do tomorrow, that I guess we wish we were all Americans! What a privilege it will be to vote in this election!

Our prayers are with you.

Warm regards,

Peter Storey

05 November 2008

Post-election potpourri

Some have noted how the McCain we saw concede last night reminded us of the old, moderate, actual-maverick we knew before this campaign began. I wish that guy could've beaten Bush in the 2000 Republican primary. Think how differently things might've transpired.

Though I wish the Bush presidency had never happened, you've also got to wonder whether Obama could've ascended so quickly if people weren't so dissatisfied. This is just a serious consideration of what someone else already pointed out in jest.

Speaking of the 2000 election, get this: the way things look right now, Ralph Nader might actually have won enough votes to span the difference between McCain and Obama in the very tight Missouri race.

Ted Stevens possibly WON? A week after he was convicted on seven felony counts? And Stevens isn't the only 84 year-old who was reelected to the Senate. This was a good year for very old Senators not named McCain.

In my home district, NJ-07, the Republican won with no incumbent in the race. He defeated Democrat Linda Stender, who also lost when she challenged for the seat in 2006. Stender pulled 48% of the vote in '06 and only 41% this year. I'm not sure where to look to do this research, but I am curious: could she be the only Democrat to fare worse in a congressional race in 2008 than she did in 2006? What happened there? I guess a rising tide doesn't always raise all the ships.

On a celebratory note, here's a bunch of videos of people dancing in the streets in DC, and a couple newspaper covers from historically significant cities.

04 November 2008

My prediction

Electoral Votes: Obama 344, McCain 194. I think Obama will take Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and even North Carolina, but I don't think he will win Ohio or Indiana. Even though he's polling higher in Ohio than he is in NC. I'm just going with the gut here.

Though 344 to 194 seems like an unbelievable landslide when compared to 2000 and 2004, remember that Bill Clinton won 366 EVs in '92 and 376 in '96. Bush won 420 EVs against Dukakis in '88. And Reagan won every state but Minnesota in 1984.

I'm going to miss this kind of stuff.

Without the campaigns, where will I find joy in my life?

Here's a final "gotcha!" aimed at the liberal mainstream media, who had been pestering the McCain-Palin campaign for Sarah Palin's medical records ever since the Convention. The campaign was happy to provide Palin's medical information to the public ... forty-five minutes before Election Day. Now, the health records aren't that big of a deal to me, especially when we're talking about a 44 year-old candidate. That's why I find this such an amusing move by the Republicans, and that's why I'll be just a little sad to see the 2008 presidential election draw to a close.