Saturday, November 22, 2008

Adding new ways to worship to the church

Our Session last week voted to add an "alternative worship service" to the church in the future. We are still very much in the midst of planning what this new service will look like, and gathering the musicians and artists necessary to do some of the creative things we are discussing. In the mean time, my kids found this on YouTube, and definitely have mixed feelings about what a "new" kind of worship could look like. This gives a new definition to "trying too hard to be hip." Have fun...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Israel doesn't know what to do with non-violent resistance to the Occupation.

A few of those who were picking olives with us – including a London reporter for Al Arabia – went to the weekly non-violent protest in the village of Bil'in, just North of Ramallah. I visited this place a couple of years ago and met with Abdullah and others in the village who welcome the Israelis and internationals who come to help stand against the theft of their land.

The "Security Barrier" runs up next to the village, stealing the village's olive orchards in order to build an illegal multi-story settlement on their land. The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that they should have access to their olive groves – where many of their trees have been destroyed – through a gate in the fence. But over the last year, the non-violent protests of the closed access to their groves has been met by increasingly violent responses from the IDF. A Nobel Peace prize winner from Ireland was hit with a rubber bullet there a while back. Not one suicide bomber has come from this region of the West Bank, but the IDF continue to argue for the placement of the fence well inside the Internationally recognized line. Here is footage from October 31st at Bil'in:

Of course, many of the Jews who come to Israel from abroad don't fully understand what is happening in the Occupied Territories. They are happy to be free and away from the Anti-Semitism expressed in Russia, Eastern Europe, or Ethiopia. But some of those who buy homes in the West Bank are not told that the homes they are buying are on land owned by Palestinians. Many of them get "buyer's remorse" after learning that their homes or condos are built on another's property, but they are stuck in mortgages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even if they would like to get to do the right thing, they cannot afford to do so. As the New York Times reports, things are changing. Please visit:

The other issue for Palestinians who try to protect their rights in the courts is that Israel does not have established borders or a constitution that guarantees Arabs any rights – even marital rights, if they wish to marry someone who lives in the West Bank. The tragedy is extended to those cases when a family or village is able to get a decision in their favor from the Israeli Supreme Court, if the Military decides that a specific checkpoint or region is essential to Israel's "security" then they are free to ignore the Supreme Court and build a concrete wall between a Palestinian village such as Um Salomona and the villager's olive and almond groves. Isn't it time for human rights in Israel-Palestine?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

American Religious Fascism

When did the United States cease being a Constitutional, representative Democracy? The moment states started allowing the tyranny of the majority to supersede our constitutional freedoms and civil rights.

• It happened when the issue of slavery wasn't made a part of the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of the humanity of every resident in the colonies.

• It happened again with the Chinese Exclusion Act.

• It happened again when the Latter-Day Saints were stripped of their religious freedoms expressed in the practice of polygamy.

• It happened again with the internment of Japanese-American's during World War II.

• It happened again when interracial couples were not allowed to marry who they choose.

• It happened again as women were not guaranteed the same rights as men in society and the same pay as men in the workplace when the Equal Rights Amendment wasn't ratified.

• It happened again as the U.S. ignored their humanitarian responsibility on the Mexican border in deference to an "enforcement only" approach to the immigration issue it created with the creation of NAFTA.

•And it happened again this week when religious conservatives misrepresented a California State Supreme Court decision that recognized the constitutional right of all couples to marry who they choose, and voted for a citizen proposition to attempt to write discrimination into the Californian Constitution.

Living in a Constitutional Democracy is supposed to ensure that the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" trumps any majority vote to curtail such rights. But there is a group of Americans who aren't interested in life under the law. It is not that they are not law abiding citizens, but they wish to impose their religious and cultural norms on the rest of American society - wishing to recreate America as a "Christian nation." These folks are fundamentalist Calvinists that ascribe to a form of Christian Dominionism that seeks a Christian Fundamentalist Theocracy rather than the secular system the founding fathers and mothers provided for us.

Umberto Eco writes, "In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view––one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Facisim, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People....
Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and point our finger at any of its new instances––every day, in every part of the world."
(Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt, as printed in "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," by Chris Hedges.)

When any part of society gets targeted, even in the name of "family values," a little bit more of our civil liberties protected by the bill of rights gets eroded away. What eventually happens, as in the case of Prop 8 in California, is that heterosexual privilege gets instituted as a cultural norm that allows other kinds of discrimination against Gays, Lesbians, Bi-Sexuals, Transgender and Intersex persons, and the Queer and Questioning. Then the differences between the rights of those with Civil Unions and those who are Married become more pronounced. A targeted class of people must pay lawyers hundreds of dollars to enact as many of the rights that Civil Union do not provide – such as inheritance rights. Meanwhile, the favored class of people can get a quickie marriage in Las Vegas as easily as setting up a haircut. Separate and unequal indeed.

Yes, heterosexual marriage is in crisis, but denying marriage to all loving couples will not fix it. Instead, Prop 8 is blatant discrimination, it is still unconstitutional, and it is morally wrong. The California Supreme Court recognized marriage as a right everyone has always had, yet hadn't been officially made available to every citizen. It is time for every American to demand that we return to a Constitutional Democracy and correct this egregious wrong perpetrated by the tyranny of a slim majority.