Current Affairs

I so wish I could dance in the streets over President-Elect Obama. I’ve read his book, The Audacity of Hope; I’ve listened to many of his speeches, watched the debates, listened to the way he answered viewer questions at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. What I have seen is a smart, principled, straightforward, thoughtful man.

I like him. I really like him, and the night he won  the election, I felt… happy. Almost entirely happy. This was the man who reminded me why I was once a Democrat. The newscast turned its camera to the laughter and dancing and tears and rejoicing at Martin Luther King’s own Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia, and I wept tears of my own.

But I didn’t vote for Obama. And the reason I didn’t was the FOCA, a law that threatens the few protections we have for the unborn.

I would love to believe that we are beginning a new conversation in this country, a conversation in which all voices are heard and respected. I think that too often we have behaved as though people who disagree with us were totally wrong, that they never had a point worth considering. In the matter of abortion, we have acted as though we could protect either the mother or the child, and we have rarely sought a third alternative, to protect both. I fervently wish to see that change.

But the FOCA would halt the conversation by muffling the voice of every American who feels that pictures like this do not represent emotional manipulation or religious bias, but simply the truth.

I’ve always tried to avoid politics on this blog, though on occasion I found issues that were too compelling. This is one of those occasions.

If you agree with me, I hope you will go to Fight FOCA and sign their petition.

‘Nuf said.


Related to the last post’s topic of time management, see this week’s podcast of Dick Staub’s Kindlings Muse.

“Who do you want to jott?”



“Remember: must have something left, both of time and self, once I’ve finished managing.”

“Got it.”

(Thanks to Rodolfo Clix for the picture.)

There it is, over at the British news site,, the news that loaded bookshelves can save you money on your energy bills, and help the environment as well:

In today’s environment-conscious world, they also have another valuable function. “Books are the original insulator. A shelf of books along an outside wall works well to prevent heat escaping,” says Joel Rickett. “If all the books were removed from the homes in Britain, our energy bills would rocket.”

Do you have enough books in your house? Are you sure?

(Thanks to Boing Boing for the tip, and to Soul pusher for the image.)

See that red button over in my sidebar? That will take you to The Literacy Site, a website dedicated to helping you find simple ways of helping children learn to read.

For a limited time every e-card you send out from the Literacy Site results in one book given to a child in need. Very simple (didn’t I tell you?) and very cool.

While you’re there, look around. You’ll find you can also help end world hunger, provide health care to children, fight breast cancer, protect the rain forests and help animals in distress.

In short you can make the world a better place.

And they’ve got lots of ways for you to do that. You can shop for goods and gifts made by artisans in impoverished areas. You can donate small bits of money to buy big gifts for people in need that will make real differences in their lives.

You can even just click a button every day that induces advertisers to support the site that supports the projects you care about.

Go ahead. Push the button. It will make you happy, I promise.

The Literacy Site
Madeleine L’EngleThe first book I read by Madeleine L’Engle was Walking on Water, a meditation on what it means to be a Christian and an Artist.

She made it possible for me to write.

She showed me how to tell the truth about my faith – my faith, life with God as I experience it, without regard to the way I think I should experience it. Madeleine taught me to think my own thoughts, and ask my own questions, and trust that God is big enough to handle both.

She taught me all about wonder. She taught me that writing is an act of faith.

Now she is gone. She was 88; I can hardly begrudge her going. This moment she is learning more about wonder than even she imagined, and that’s a good thing.

But I feel so sad to say good bye. So few of my heroes are alive. Now one less.

Over the next few days I’ll treat you to several of my favorite quotes from Madeleine. Today I’ll start with this one, from her YA novel, Ring of Endless Light.

So that you’ll understand what’s being said, here’s the set up: Vicky, the main character, is helping to study a pod of dolphins, who in this story are un-fallen creatures who know God intimately. She’s also grieving deeply, having recently suffered, in quick succession, the loss of a dear friend named Commander Rodney, of her beloved grandfather, and of a baby dolphin, whose mother she calls Ynid. In this passage she’s questioning a dolphin named Basil:

What I wanted to do was to ask Basil to give me all the answers to everything, as though he weren’t a dolphin but some kind of cosmic computer. And I knew that this was not only not realistic, it wasn’t fair. But I wondered…

I thought of Ynid and her grief at her dead baby, and I asked Basil, Is Ynid’s baby all right? (Is Commander Rodney all right? Is my grandfather all right? Am I? Is it all right?)

Basil pulled himself up out of the water and a series of sounds came from him, singing sounds.

And what it reminded me of was Grandfather standing by Commander Rodney’s open grave and saying those terrible words and then crying out, full of joy, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Then Basil was gone, flashing through sea and sky, to disappear at the horizon.

Thank you, Madeleine. I’ll miss you. Alleluia, alleluia!

Years ago – when I was much younger – I asked a black friend if the Civil Rights Movement had been a success. Were things better now, or was there still more to be done? Did things still happen that ought not to happen?

The conversation didn’t go well. My friend got angry with me – no, incensed with me – not for asking, but for having to ask. And I don’t really blame her. I should have reserved my question for a black friend who had known me long enough to trust my intention, and to forgive my ignorance. But the plain truth was, I didn’t have a black friend who had known me that long.

Still, at the end of all her yelling, I knew for certain that to her mind, there was most definitely more to be done. As to the particulars, we never got around to those, and I was too scared of her wrath to risk asking again.

Now I have my answer.

What still happens? All of it. All of the bigotry and arrogance and malice is alive and well and right now it threatens to ruin the lives of six black boys in Jena, Louisiana.

This story distresses me, but what makes it worse is the minimal coverage the news media has given this throwback to a time we’d all like to think is dead and buried, a time when bigots held their heads high, confident that they were among kindred hearts, confident that even those who disapproved their actions would not disapprove so strongly as to actively oppose them.

Tell me, did you know this was happening? I didn’t, until someone sent me an e-mail. I’ll print the text of that e-mail here, to give you the particulars:

Dear friend,-

I just learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening today in Jena, Louisiana. I signed onto‘s campaign for justice in Jena, and wanted to invite you to do the same.

Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the “white tree” on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a “prank,” more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town’s police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, “I can be your best friend or your worst enemy… I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen.”

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It’s a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in “their place.” But it’s happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press. Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please join me:

The noose-hanging incident and the DA’s visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were later arrested for the theft of the gun.

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students “nigger.” After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal’s parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court
prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years. Theo Shaw’s trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.


Please care enough about this to oppose it. Please click on the link and send the e-mails to the governor of Louisiana, and to the District Attorney involved in this case. Please sign the petition, and please, if you can, send money to the Jena Six Defense Fund at P.O. Box 2798, Jena, Louisiana, 71342.

The conversation continues. One man is homeless, the other is a minister among the homeless who asks himself at what point his helping ceases to help.

Generally in an exchange like this, one of two things will happen: someone will get angry and leave, or else he will cower and agree to everything the other says–but not really.

Either way, the discussion’s over before its begun.

I’d hoped this would be a discussion, and not a boxing match, and these two are doing a great job.

So here they are again.

(And by the way, if you’d like all of the Kevin and Taylor posts on one page, just click here.)

Croppedbanner22Dear Kevin,

I am humbled. You are right. As I look at Jesus, I see that I haven’t even begun to love. We both agree that dependency is not the problem but a symptom of a deeper problem—a lack of love. I think the place where we disagree is concerning what love is.

You state that nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus instructing us to use “tough love.” I see tough love all over the place. Jesus tells a person who wants to go bury his father that he must let the dead bury the dead. He tells his disciples to take up a cross, of all things. He calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers. He tells the woman caught in adultery that he does not condemn her, but then he clearly instructs her to go and sin no more. He tells another person to sell everything he has. These things sound pretty tough to me. To continue in the broken leg analogy, we have an example of how Jesus addresses a man who has been lame for thirty-eight years in John 5:1ff. He doesn’t say, “You poor thing.” He doesn’t attack the system of uncaring people who won’t put him in the water at the right time, which is the way the man himself sees the problem. He simply asks, “Do you want to be healed?” Then Jesus tells him to get up and walk. Don’t you think that a strong word is sometimes a part of love?

Don’t misunderstand me. As someone who works with homeless people every week, I don’t think anyone will come to change by having someone simply tell them they need to try harder. As in the story of the prodigal son, in the end the father has to let the son go his own way and can only welcome him home when he returns. But I do sometimes see an unrelenting superficial mercy that can be cruel. In my version of the story, bringing the boy food in bed every day when he could and should be exercising his hurt leg is cruel.

You point this out yourself as you look at my version of the story. You said that “we are perhaps witnessing a situation of the doctor suffering from a case of co-dependency, where the doctor is actually facilitating the unhealthiness of the boy, so as to fulfill his own needs…” Isn’t this a situation where the doctor is “enabling” the boy? If a doctor could do so, and you have pointed out that systems are composed of people, couldn’t a whole system be enabling? If so, how could you refer to the idea of enabling as a “myth”? That was the comment that upset me in your original interview.

You say that you find the portrayal of the Unc character to be unrealistic. Fair enough, and I believe readers will have to decide that question on their own. But in my experience through the years, I have seen people be grateful, kind, humorous, and sometimes mean-spirited in their response to people who help out. You sound so harsh in your judgment of poor Unc. At least he is honest. Sort of.

Taylor Field

Dear Taylor,

The real beauty of having open and respectful dialog is that we learn and grow from the experience. For example, your questioning of my idea that “enabling is a myth” is helping me to develop a better explanation of what I mean by that.

Again, I believe the idea of “enabling” the homeless came about by people looking for an excuse to withhold assistance to the homeless -as justification for not fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to help the poor and needy – an exercise in perpetuating selfishness. They declare that, by providing assistance to homeless people, they are actually extending, if not causing, homelessness – beyond what a person would naturally experience without this assistance. But I don’t agree with that notion. And perhaps now I have a better way of explaining it.

What causes a person to become homeless takes place, or is in place, before they become homeless. A person does not become homeless the moment he loses his employment. (Neither does he leave homelessness the moment he regains employment). And, a person does not become homeless because he lacks food, or clothing, or access to a rescue mission type shelter. So, it just doesn’t make sense to think that giving a person food, or clothing, or access to a rescue mission type shelter, will make him homeless.

Take your average citizen who has a job and place of his own to live – perhaps consider yourself – and say that beginning today someone starts providing you with all the food and clothing you need, and he pays your mortgage, and your utility bills, and gives you all the furniture you need, and provides you with transportation, and whatever you lose or break he replaces for you. Is this going to cause you to become homeless? No, it won’t.

Homelessness is fueled by something completely different than material things, or the lack thereof. So the giving of such things does not add fuel to it. The source of fuel for homelessness comes from within the homeless person, developed by negative life experiences and situations in the person’s life. Well, I guess there is a way of perpetuating homelessness. And, that would be by perpetuating the negative experiences and situations which initiated the person’s original homelessness.

Now about the definition of Love, and how to manifest it. We have experiences of tough love in the Bible, but they are in the Old Testament. One form of tough love was to have a woman stoned to death if she was caught in adultery. Being that God is Love, and the Bible is God’s word, we should have no problem with this. Well, things have changed since then, and it was Jesus who changed them. Yes, Jesus forgives us of our sins, but additionally he gives us a way out of our sinful situations. Though we do fulfill the law, we are no longer under the law, being that we are under the Grace given to us by the Christ, Jesus. In the situations that you put forth as “tough love” I only see Grace. In each example there was some “law” required. The law required that the adulteress to be stoned to death, but Jesus released her from that. In the story in John 5:1, the law required that a person be the first to enter the pool after the waters had been stirred, so to receive the healing. But again, Jesus released the man of that requirement and so was healed.

In Old Testament times, people were compelled to fulfill the law for fear of the punishment. They did what was right because they had to. Today, given the Grace of Christ Jesus, we no longer fulfill the law because we have to, but because we want to. It is the intentions of your heart that are judged by God. Do you put yourself, your needs and desires, ahead of other people?

Today, people set all sorts of requirements on poor and homeless people, (even some truly unattainable), before acquiescing to Jesus’ commandments to help them. And, these people must change their ways if they expect God’s blessing and the end of homelessness. But, in
today’s world, what people claim to be God’s blessings is just the product of their own selfishness, and I believe He will eventually exact a price for it.

In our story of the injured little boy, if we give him the same love and forgiveness, free of charge, that we have received from Christ Jesus, then that boy – that is, all the homeless people we are talking about – will have the desire necessary to get up out of bed and move on with life. They will do it because they want to, because through our much giving, they have received the motivation to continue living. But, if we attempt to force the boy to get up, much in the same manner that most rescue missions force homeless people to read the Bible, and force them to pray to God, and force them to worship, we will be as unsuccessful as those homeless service providers.

You created Unc as a means to justify your claim that people enable homelessness by providing them with assistance. But I tell you the truth, the concept of “enabling” is just as fictitious, just as erroneous as is Unc. Unc does not exist in real life. And to suggest so does a disservice to people who happen to be homeless.


P.S. Have you ever known of a healthy, happy, and loved child
spend one second more in bed than necessary? And I do mean to emphasize
the “healthy, happy, and loved” part.

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