IS IT BEER O’CLOCK YET?

Image result for beer and bible, images

 

Once upon a time, there was a small business owner named Becca.  She loved to brew craft beer and found a small but solid market for it in her town.   She opened a microbrewery called “Beer O’Clock.”

Business grew steadily, and Becca hired three employees.  Her business philosophy was simple:  she provided a desired, quality product, and paid her employees a modest wage along with shares in the business.  The beer was excellent, and out-of-towners began traveling to the village just to sample Beer O’Clock’s wares.  Other community businesses saw their profits rise as well.

Becca’s employees got a raise.  Eventually Becca was able to match her employees’ contributions to a Health Savings Account.  One year later, she was able to pay them a living wage.

Then a woman named Sheila opened a supermarket down the road.  Sheila eyed Becca’s successful niche, and began offering gourmet beer cheaply.  Sheila’s profits grew sharply as her beer undercut Becca’s hand-brewed small-batch products.  Sheila was pleased, and added more specialty items.  The other village businesses saw their profits evaporate as the supermarket’s increased. No one sat with Sheila at Rotary.

They sat with Becca.

Sheila hired more employees at a higher base rate than Becca could offer, and promised regular raises.  But the raises never materialized, even though Sheila’s profits soared.  There was no profit-sharing plan, and no benefits were provided.

Sheila was an outspoken advocate of an unregulated economy based on “enlightened self-interest.”  She believed that God’s “invisible hand” guided the market and no other regulation was needed.

She thought it politic to show up in church, but fidgeted when the preacher read James 5: 1-4:

“Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” 

The preacher followed it with a reading from Acts 4, ending with the words “they shared everything they had.”  Sheila quietly walked out.  This was not her kind of God.

But the preacher’s words inspired Becca.   She believed that God was a tireless advocate for the vulnerable, and right now, that was her.  She knew her employees shared her fears for the microbrewery, though no one was talking.  Becca called a meeting and shared the situation honestly with them. One left to work at the supermarket, and the other two continued working with Becca.

They watched movies like this one:

 

Together, they decided that the “invisible hand” guiding the market was greed, not God. They believed that self-interest was human, but truly enlightened self-interest recognized the fundamental interconnectedness between people.  They understood that Becca’s assets included the goodwill of the community as well as the unrivaled quality of her product.   Together, they brainstormed competitive strategies.

One of the employees approached a retired farmer.  The farmer agreed to farm an acre of hops for Becca in return for a small fee, and a seasonal sampling of her fine products.  The other employee loved to bake, and the microbrewery contracted with her to offer gourmet pretzels along with the beer.    Business boomed, especially when the brewery began offering fresh pizza featuring a tasty crust flavored with recycled hops.

Meanwhile, Sheila analyzed her market. Her gourmet beer offerings were underperforming relative to Becca’s.  She dropped the line and, to generate community goodwill, contracted with local businesses for high-quality specialty items.

Becca sat with her at Rotary.

Sheila began stopping by “Beer O’Clock” on her way home, to drink beer and debate best business practices with Becca and her employees.  Sheila later offered to buy Becca out.  However, Becca and her employees respectfully declined, citing irreconcilable differences in business philosophy.

The story has no ending – yet.  It is for us to write.

We all have choices.   We choose how to spend our money and how to run our businesses.  Too many of us have chosen cheap goods and high profits over each other’s well-being.  I believe we’ll regret that, because it’s not sustainable.  It’s also not what Jesus taught, and it’s not what his followers should do.

“What shall we do then?” the crowd asked.  He answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” –Luke 3:11

I think it’s Beer O’Clock time.

 

 

 

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We Have To Talk

In America, fear has replaced trust in God.  The most potent symbol of that is our mandatory gun worship.  Our money says “In God We Trust,” but “In Fear We Trust” is our true motto.

We can no longer even have a conversation about gun control because the pro-gun people will shut it down. In truth, some Americans are so afraid of each other that they think they need a gun. And not just one gun, lots of them.

And what is worse, they are so afraid, that any attempt to discuss gun violence is met with violent, hate-filled rejection.

In the small village of Constantine, Michigan, a village council member decided to open a conversation about gun violence.  Village President Pat Weiss had read a December 2015 NYT editorial decrying gun violence, and felt the issue deserved a wider hearing.  Alarmed by the growing risk of dying by gunshot, she worked hard to make those conversations happen.

Her timing was perfect, because nearby Kalamazoo was reeling from a mass shooting of its own.  On Feb. 20th, 2016, a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage that killed 6 people and left 2 others critically injured.  Gene Kopf, father of one of the victims of that killing spree, attended the final Constantine village meeting to talk about the need to address gun violence.

It’s important to understand that this was only a conversation. There was never a question about banning guns or even remotely challenging the right of the citizens of rural Constantine to bear arms.  And yet, Ms. Weiss was verbally attacked and threatened in a series of angry meetings for daring to suggest that gun violence is a problem around here:

http://woodtv.com/2016/04/18/constantine-residents-spurn-nyt-editorial-on-gun-control/

In the end, the debate was shut down.  And after Ms. Weiss’ experience, it is highly unlikely anyone else in Constantine will have the courage to try again.

How did so many of us ever get so mean about this?

Maybe it was when the National Rifle Association, not content with selling guns to hunters, began marketing them to women and children.

Or was it when some of us decided to blithely ignore the obvious correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of shooting deaths?

I think the tipping point occurred when our ultimate security become invested in a weapon, instead of fair laws and peaceful neighborhoods where we cared for, and about, each other.

Ultimately I don’t think it’s about guns at all.  I think it’s about the fear that has somehow replaced America’s trust in God and each other.  And that’s the scariest thing of all.  Because when fear becomes the higher power we worship, then weapons become sacred and death becomes our bitter offering.

Please, stop worshiping the wrong God, America. Disarm.  Australia did, and saw the risk of dying by gunshot in their country fall by over 50%.

It has to be possible for America to stop worshiping fear.   We have to talk about that.

Can’t Drink the Oil

I found this article and it’s far better than anything I could write.  As we prepare to celebrate thanksgiving, I can’t think of a better tribute to the Native Americans who made it all possible, than to draw attention to their heroic efforts to protect their lands and the water that sustains us all.    Please read this, and support their efforts to secure a sustainable future for everyone.
Thank you.

The Standing Rock Resistance Is Unprecedented (It’s Also Centuries Old)

 

Tonya Stands recovers from being pepper sprayed by police after swimming across a creek with other protesters hoping to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, near Cannon Ball, N.D., on November 2.  (photo taken by John L. Mone/AP)

As resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D., concludes its seventh month, two narratives have emerged:

  1. We have never seen anything like this before.
  2. This has been happening for hundreds of years.

Both are true. The scope of the resistance at Standing Rock exceeds just about every protest in Native American history. But that history itself, of indigenous people fighting to protect not just their land, but the land, is centuries old.

Over the weekend, the situation at Standing Rock grew more contentious. On Sunday night, Morton County police sprayed the crowd of about 400 people with tear gas and water as temperatures dipped below freezing.

Through the years, details of such protests change — sometimes the foe is the U.S. government; sometimes a large corporation; sometimes, as in the case of the pipeline, a combination of the two. Still, the broad strokes of each land infringement and each resistance stay essentially the same.

In that tradition, the tribes gathered at Standing Rock today are trying to stop a natural gas pipeline operator from bulldozing what they say are sacred sites to construct an 1,172-mile oil pipeline. The tribes also want to protect the Missouri River, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Reservation, from a potential pipeline leak. (Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline, says on its website that it emphasizes safety and that, “in many instances we exceed government safety standards to ensure a long-term, safe and reliable pipeline.”)

“It’s historic, really. I don’t think anything like this has ever happened in documented history,” said Ruth Hopkins, a reporter from Indian Country Today.

Protesters have a standoff with police during a demonstration against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Mandan, N.D., on Nov. 15.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

But there are historical preludes, and you don’t have to look too far back to find them. In 2015, when the Keystone XL pipeline was being debated, numerous Native American tribes and the Indigenous Environmental Network  organized against it. The pipeline would have stretched 1,179 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The Rosebud Sioux, a tribe in South Dakota, called the proposed pipeline an “act of war” and set up an encampment where the pipeline was to be constructed. Also joining in were the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Omaha, Dene, Ho-chunk, and Creek Nations, whose lands the pipeline would have traversed.

President Obama vetoed Keystone XL. But even at the time, A. Gay Kingman, the executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, warned that the reprieve would be temporary. “Wopila [thank you] to all our relatives who stood strong to oppose the KXL,” Kingman said in a statement after the veto. “But keep the coalitions together, because there are more pipelines proposed, and we must protect our Mother Earth for our future generations.”

In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux have been able to attract support from hundreds of tribes all over the country, not just in places that would be directly affected. The tribes aren’t just leaning on long-held beliefs about the importance of the natural world. They’re also using long-held resistance strategies. Like the encampment itself.

“If you don’t know very much about Native American people, you wouldn’t understand that this is something that’s kind of natural to us,” said Hopkins, who is enrolled in the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Nation and was born on the Standing Rock Reservation. “When we have ceremonies, we do camps like this. It’s something that we’ve always known how to do, going back to pre-colonial times.”

In the late 1800s more than 10,000 members of the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes set up camp to resist the U.S. Army’s attempt to displace them in search of gold. That camp took form at the Little Bighorn River in Montana. After the soldiers attacked the camp in June of 1876, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, widely known as (Gen. George) Custer’s Last Stand, erupted. In defeating the Army, the tribes won a huge land rights victory for Native Americans.

Native American women demonstrate in 1973 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where roughly 200 American Indians occupied the town of Wounded Knee for the rights of indigenous people.

AFP/Getty Images

There was also Wounded Knee, a protest that was part of the American Indian Movement. During the 1973 demonstration, about 200 people occupied the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota — the site of an 1890 massacre in which U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of Native Americans. Protestersturned Wounded Knee into what one former AIM leader called “an armed camp” in order to protest corruption in tribal leadership and draw attention to the U.S. government’s failure to honor treaties.

Over the course of the 1973 occupation, two Sioux men were killed and hundreds more arrested. But the resistance, which lasted 71 days, underscored Native American civil rights issues in a way that many see reflected today in Standing Rock.

If Native American resistance is an old story, that’s because the systemic violation of indigenous land rights is an old story. And if history is any precedent, the resistance won’t end at Standing Rock.

“There are no rights being violated here that haven’t been violated before.” said Kim Tallbear, a professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, who for years worked on tribal issues as an environmental planner for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Those violations, she said, have taken two forms: long-term disregard for indigenous land rights and a “bureaucratic disregard for consultation with indigenous people.”

When she sees images of police using pepper spray and water cannons or security guards unleashing dogs on Standing Rock protesters, Tallbear said, she isn’t shocked. “I’m, like, oh yeah, they did that in the 19th century, they did that in the 16th century,” she said. “This is not new. … The contemporary tactics used against indigenous people might look a little bit more complex or savvy, but to me, I can read it all as part of a longstanding colonial project.”

“Maybe for non-Natives who thought that the West was won, and the Indian Wars were over, and Native people were mostly dead and gone and isn’t that too bad – now, they’re like, ‘Oh wait a minute, they’re still there? And they’re still fighting the same things they were 150 years ago?’

“Yeah, we are.”

To Walk in Freedom, Walk in Peace

Image result for muslim women protest

As a Christian theologian and an ardent champion of women’s rights, it used to bother me when I saw traditionally garbed Muslim women walking behind their menfolk.

The teachings of my own faith have too often been used to justify the oppression of women, so I saw this as yet another religiously sanctioned form of women’s enforced submission to men.

But this is America 2016, where a Muslim woman attending a university famed for its tolerance can be threatened with a fiery death unless she removes her hijab.

So maybe it’s not about submission.  Maybe it’s about the freedom to walk in peace.

Since Donald Trump won the presidential election after a campaign noteworthy for savage misogyny and racist rhetoric, there has been a surge of hate crimes against women and minorities.  Muslim women in particular are targeted, easily recognizable when they choose to wear the hijab as a sign of their devotion to God. Muslim men can be targeted as well.

After 9/11 some Americans associate all Muslims with the rise of Islamic terrorism.  However as of 2015, there were only about 25,000 militants in the Islamic State – in contrast to the approximately 3.3 million Muslims living peacefully in America!

Do the math.  Clearly the vast majority of Muslims would rather be about the business of living than killing in the name of their God.  In the face of ever-increasing Islamophobia, some Muslims have courageously spoken out against those who would torture and kill in the name of Allah:

If only Christians would do the same.

A terrifying article in Newsweek  speaks of American terrorists who hide among us, the “right-wing militants who, since 2002, have killed more people in the United States than jihadis have.”  They target minorities and non-Christians, and are predominantly white males who claim a Christian identity.

How sickening.

They have obviously managed to miss the entire point of Jesus’ teachings:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)

If we decline to judge all Christians based on these terrorists, how can we judge all Muslims based on violent extremists claiming a Muslim identity?

There is a symbol some of us are wearing now to indicate we do not hate, that we are safe people whom others can walk with, if they feel unsafe or would like to share their stories and be heard.  It’s a safety pin.

It’s not a perfect symbol; some have decried it as too little, too late.  Others think it’s uber-embarrassing at best, and patronizing at worst.  But I like it.

Because just as the safety pin holds things together, so can the “perfect love that casts out fear,” gather us together and make us ALL safe.

True, hate can unite us.  So can walking the path of peace and love.  One destroys, the other frees.  Muslims know this too, for it is written into their holy book:

“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them harshly, they say words of peace…” – Surah 25:6

Maybe Muslim Americans could teach the rest of us the ways of peace.

God knows we are not a free people until all of us  walk in peace.

Gendercide

Crime:  being female.  Punishment: death

In the United States 1,600 women were murdered by men in 2013.  There is no reason to think that statistic has changed, because our entire culture believes, deep down, that women are intrinsically worth less than men.

Buttressed by bible statements ripped out of context and horrifying rhetoric from those we elect to high office, many Americans – both male and female – feel that it is right to privilege men over women, and to overlook violence inflicted upon women’s bodies, minds, and spirits.  As a theologian, this breaks my heart. As an American, I feel terribly, terribly ashamed.

Listen to this young woman’s story, if you can bear to. Also note her punishment for daring to speak out against her abuser:

 

To me, the failure of her friends to support her and of her school to protect her, was almost as horrifying as her abuse.  Women who break the silence to tell their stories, face this reality every day.

Some have called the systemic evils that afflict women and girls a “War on Women,” but there is a key difference between war and what is happening to women now:

War is between two armed parties.  You don’t get to call it war, if one of the sides is totally unarmed.  In that case, it’s called genocide.

Sometimes the violence begins even earlier. The intentional abortion of a female fetus in order to ‘try for a boy,’ is widespread in China due to a strong cultural preference for boys.  Coupled with China’s “one child” policy, this attitude is fatal to one out of 6 females.  Girls are routinely aborted, abandoned at birth, or simply killed.  1.1 million female lives are lost in this way every year.

It’s not only China.  In India, one girl is aborted every minute, simply because she is a girl.  This, in spite of laws that make sex-selective abortion illegal.  But laws mean little unless they are enforced, and an estimated 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population due to gendercide.

Call it war or gendercide, it must stop.  And it CAN be stopped.  Really.

In 1990, South Korea’s record of gendercide was almost as dismal as China’s.  However, by 2007 their male-to-female ratios at birth had normalized. South Korea remains the only country in modern history to achieve this – and they did it in less than 20 years!

This incredible change was driven by strictly enforced laws against sex-selective abortions and infanticide.  The government also eliminated its one-child policy, focusing instead on better family planning, maternal and child health care, and a public awareness campaign anticipating the shortage of brides.

These reforms were not undertaken for noble purposes; women there are still heavily devalued relative to men. But the reforms were a nod to the reality that faces everyone:  women are needed.  When women die, we all die.

Reforms are possible. With the results of the last election boding ill for respect and dignity for women and girls, it is now more important than ever to work for change in America.

So please, speak out against domestic violence.  Legislate for change.  (Oh yes, you can).  Work at this as though all humanity depends upon it.

Because it does.

LOVE, NATURALLY

 

St. Paul was brilliant.  He was also wrong.

Paul, fiery 1st century evangelist and follower of Jesus, was wrong about same-gender relationships.  It’s no sin to be wrong – the sin belongs to those who use Paul’s 1st century words to abuse others today.

Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) opened a meeting with prayer just weeks before the Orlando massacre.    He used the words of Paul to suggest that gays were worthy of death.  I believe that Paul would see this as a tragic misuse of his writing.

As a devoted follower of Jesus, Paul endured beatings and imprisonment.  He knew what it was like, to be tortured for the sake of an outlaw love.

I think if Paul knew that his words had been used to justify beatings, imprisonments and murder of LGBTQ persons, he’d be horrified.

He’d say that using scripture to justify hatred is unnatural, because this too is written in the bible:

“Whoever fails to love, does not know God, because God is love.”  I John 4:7-8

So what prompted his troubling words about same-gender sex?

Paul had a burning passion for two things:  the natural order of the cosmos, which he believed revealed God’s power and nature to all, and Jesus Christ, the God-man who exemplified its perfection.

Paul condemned anything that seemed to violate God’s natural order as he understood it:

Assertive women.  Runaway slaves.  Same gender sexual relationships

Paul was a man of his time who enjoined silence upon women, endorsed slavery, and had never seen a committed, loving marriage between same-gender persons.  What he did see of 1st century same-gender sexual relations, was ugly.

Pedophilia.  Rape.  Forced prostitution.  Sexual trafficking.

Paul saw, correctly, that these things violated God’s good order.  He issued a harsh condemnation of them – inadvertently furnishing hate-filled homophobes with material centuries later.

Paul was a seer.  But what he couldn’t see, was the beauty of the natural order reflected in the lives of LGBTQ people, struggling to live as God created them.

What Paul couldn’t see, was the horrifying perversion of God’s good order that happens whenever religion-driven leaders torture LGBTQ youth to “make them straight,” as in this harrowing account:

 

But Paul did see God’s beauty reflected in Jesus – an unmarried 33 year old rabbi who regularly transgressed boundaries to reach out to ‘uppity women’ , Roman oppressors, and sex workers, as well as the ‘religious right’ of his time.

What Paul didn’t get to see because he never actually hung out with Jesus, was that Jesus welcomed physical affection from his friends. When a troubled Jesus predicted his own betrayal at the hands of one of his followers, the ‘man whom Jesus loved’ leaned back comfortingly against his chest (John 13:25).

Paul missed that.

However as Paul himself said, “For now we see through a glass darkly.”(I Cor. 13:12)  He used the vision he had, for as long as he lived.

Maybe we can see a little more clearly now. God’s natural order is love, not hate – always.

And only love can save us now.