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The Worth of Pain

I am not used to gut-kicks. This makes me a wimp, probably. Nonetheless I am trying to read the event; walking around it, allowing the emotions, listening to them, all the enlightened actions. "Of course it hurts," said Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence. "The trick is not minding." I'd say the trick is not letting the hurt be your boss. Damned good trick.

I had a contract gig as a copy editor for an academic journal at our university press. Hallelujah, what a fun time we had, the editors and I, it felt like a fruitful collaboration. I put in my time, pored over the articles, sent them to the editors, the editors sent them off to the production coordinator, I got paid. Ta-da!

Then an e-mail from the press' production coordinator for journals -- the proofreader had had to re-copy-edit all the pages I turned in, re-key the notes sections, basically re-do all my work -- apparently the "Chicago Style" I had learned is not THEIR "Chicago Style." But did they call me? No, not until the work was nearly done. "There was no time to call you," the production coordinator says.

Upset all around, the editors won't talk to me now, and the production coordinator is going out of town for a week so has no time to investigate what happened -- whether the proofreader had been sent original files, not the edited files. So basically, I'm the bad guy here, the one who put the press and the journal hundreds of dollars over budget.

I look back at my work history in light of this, and I would really like for this to be the last time an attempt to make money in a "normal" work situation blows up in my face.

I would really like my "non-normal" projects to start paying off. I don't want to do "normal" any more. I don't want a "job," I want what I love to do (writing fiction, mixing specialty butters) to be my income.

It's time.

LiveJournal makes me a sitcom star!

My LiveJournal Sitcom
yeshe_choden's cap (ABC, 5:00): yeshe_choden (Courtney Love) gets yiaya (Judd Nelson) drunk. Insanity ensues.
What's Your LiveJournal Sitcom? (by rfreebern)

Somehow, I think this actually happened ... :-D Yiayia's going to be after me for her residuals.


Virtual Vacation en Paris

Thanks to the inimitable James Wolcott and his blog, I have found a way to live (vicariously) en Paris for a few weeks.

Go here for the beginning of the apartment-sitting adventures of one Siobhan.


Big Rock. Good Legend.

Visit Making Light for a good post about a Big Rock in New Hampshire.

Then down in the Comment thread is this "legend" about the Big Rock that one reader jest made up his own se'f ... and it's so good it OUGHT to be a real legend about that Big Rock!

they say that daniel webster hid a special speech under that rock, a speech so round and ringing, so cogent and compelling, so grand and good, that it would win a man a presidential election.

and countless young politicians, burning to rule the land, came and tried to lift that boulder, yearning to get at that speech.

and those burning, yearning young politicians came to the rock and they grunted and groaned and strained and sprained. and they went off deflated, frustrated, and herniated, because none of them could lift the rock to get the speech.

until one day a young man came to new hampshire, slim as a rail, and lean as a pry-bar, and he too wanted to be president. 'you'll have to lift that rock,' they told him, 'and you're no weight-lifter, to look at you.'

but he went to that rock, and he gave it a speech. he never stooped, he never pried, he never dug nor grunted. he just stood tall and talked to it. and he talked about our nation, and he talked about our past, and he talked about our forests and our cities and our triumphs and our sins and the way we got to here and the way we'll move ahead to there.

and the rock raised up, and the speech stepped forth, and daniel webster's old moldy scroll said: "you don't need me. you have the speech you need to give to the world."

and they say that young man went on to become president, and from that day the fortunes of his country changed for the better.

Look UP

I am passing on this gem which a friend found on the Net:

It seems to me as if a lot of people are feeling unsettled, insecure,
troubled and scared about the changes that are happening all
around us. There is bad news coming from every angle and it gets
more and more difficult to stay upbeat and positive about life in the
face of such a constant barrage.

The temptation to go with the flow and join in with the
hand-wringers and the doomsayers is strong. It feels a bit like 'if
you can't beat them, join them' because, when your energy is low,
the line of least resistance looks very inviting!

If you ever start to feel like giving up hope and sinking into the
abyss of fear, look up. That simple physical act of raising your head
and your eyes to look at what's above you gives you an instant lift.
It also has a knock-on effect of causing your shoulders to drop and
your breastbone to lift. Dropping your shoulders helps you relax.
Raising your breastbone, raises your energy and your confidence..
And all of this immediately improves your posture. So now you're
standing, sitting or walking taller, looking the world in the eye.
Those of us who can keep our feet on the ground and our eyes on
the stars are vital to the future of the world right now. Without us,
the fear and darkness will take over and lead to all sorts of societal

So take a good deep breath and look up towards a better and
brighter future. It's there, on the other side of the fear, waiting for
us to come and claim it.

Are you ready?

What HBO decided America should NOT see

Great concert at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday, but dastardly HBO blacked out the opening prayer by the The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, who is a gay man.

He was supposed to be the "antidote" to Rick Warren's appearance at the Inauguration, and HBO just couldn't see the point of putting him in front of 750,000,000 viewers.

So here's his prayer, posted at http://www.nhepiscopal.org/

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Wondering How to Help

... when severe poverty is its own kind of traumatic stress, syndrome included.

Situation: "Eve," a new commenter on a news blog thread where I often join in the conversation, remarked that she had been blackballed in her field because she stood up as a whistleblower. She hadn't been able to get another job, despite her PhD, and now suffers deteriorating health with no money or access to health care. I and other commenters jumped in with suggestions and supportive noises. I offered that with the experience in patient advocacy she had mentioned, she could certainly start her own business and not worry about asking anyone for a job, seek SBA loans, etc. Anyone who's done community work knows this "help, fix it" reaction.

Well, "Eve" blasted back that she was homeless and destitute and no one in the city wanted to talk to her or help her because she spoke truth to power and was older and sick and eating out of dumpsters, so suggesting starting a business was idiotic and and and and and.

I apologized, as did other commenters, and a couple of us said, Try Salvation Army, or women's shelters. I added, "None of those details were in your earlier post, so no one knew."

To which she came back,

The reason you (interested commenters) didn't know about my situation (and you only know a miniscule slice) is that you didn't ASK or engage with me (or any other person who has whistle-blown or who cannot find employment). You generalized based on not much more than your own preconceived views.

Everyone who has responded to my comments has done so here and publicly without any regard for my (and others like me) feelings, privacy, dignity or inherent worth - or lack thereof. No one has expressed the slightest interest and concern for me (generalize to anyone in your immediate observable area)outside this public venue for entertainment.


I did not need you to point out religious dogma-run faith based coercive "help", and I prefer no shelter to taking a child's place when there isn't enough to go around. Actually, I don't prefer shelters for displaced people at all.

Your idle listing of generic "help" is simply dehumanizing, Democratic jargon-laden drivel. I use myself as an exemplar, but this is in no way a problem affecting me alone.

No offense intended.

You don't know because you aren't in the least bit curious or genuinely concerned. You keep these problems at the longest and safest distance possible to keep them abstract and not real. That's a natural response.

If you really care and are committed to making a difference, then start in real life with offering genuine, real and tangible support in your immediate area. Meet face to face with someone who you observe to be isolated. Buy a cup of coffee without making them reveal their destitution and thus humiliating themselves as you have done to me. Network on their behalf - take them with you and introduce them to your colleagues, business friends and social buddies. And if you are in a position to do so, hire someone who has been cut off from the usual hiring routes (failing credit checks, not having references from the usual supervisor hierarchy, etc.).

Outside that, acknowledge that you really don't care enough to translate intention into action, and that by remaining passive, you contribute to the suffering and status quo.

All of you have missed a key point: the desire for self-sustainability and dignity. I haven't (and won't) ask you for anything, because I don't desire handouts. I need a way back into the system in which I have been forcibly removed.

And once I'm back in, I don't want to have to interact with anyone not on my terms.

If that angers you, it reflects your disdain that I'm not groveling and grateful for the dregs which you deem I should receive, regardless of need, want or desire. It reflects your view that I'm inherently unworthy.

Of course no one else has tried to address her again in the comment thread.

It made me even sadder for her than before, but another part of me said, "Eve" snapped long ago. She is one of those who refuses all help, hates the world for trying to help, and for not helping.

I mean, a great way to continue in your desperate state is to spit venom at people who try to help you.

So there really is nothing anyone can do for her.

But it makes me face again the madness of poverty. The madness is pride, the ego's terror, fear of losing stuff, reputation, place, stuff. I had to face all of that and admit that, yes, I was homeless. But I took stock of my resources and options, made some brutal choices, and redefined myself as a housesitter. And I went for it, with a smile, enthusiasm, and gratitude for every kindness that was shown to me. I went out of my way to show kindness to other people, too, no matter whether they were in any position to be helpful to me.

I rejected anger about my siutation. It was what it was, and that was all that it was. There was no need for me to be anything but grateful for where and how I found myself.

That was not easy. Nor romantic. It was often extremely difficult. But when I looked at the alternative -- impotent rage over not having stuff -- I said my Thank You mantra to the Sacred and the Angels, and just kept going.

I am in quite a different situation now. Still not rich, or with all the conventional stuff of a middle-aged, college-educated life, but still grateful. And still with a kindness-service reflex.

I just wish I didn't have to walk away from "Eve."

Maybe she prefers that I do.

Obama Talks About His Spirituality

An interview from 2004.


Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani

Tuesday November 11, 2008

The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. The column she wrote about the interview has been quoted and misquoted many times over, but she'd never before published the full transcript in a major publication.
Because of how controversial that interview became, Falsani has graciously allowed us to print the full conversation here.

Falsani is one of the most gifted interviews on matters of Faith, and has recently published an outstanding memoir called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. To get a free download of the audio book, click here.
* * *

At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter (I am now its religion columnist) at the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee joint at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, to interview him exclusively about his spirituality. Our conversation took place a few days after he'd clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won. We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the Sun-Times called "The God Factor," that eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (FSG, March 2006.) Because of the staggering interest in now President-Elect Obama's faith and spiritual predilections, I thought it might be helpful to share that interivew, uncut and in its entirety, here.

--Cathleen Falsani

Interview with State Sen. Barack Obama

3:30 p.m., Saturday March 27
Café Baci, 330 S. Michigan Avenue
Me: decaf
He: alone, on time, grabs a Naked juice protein shake

What do you believe?
I am a Christian.
So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.
On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences.
I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10.
My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.
And I'd say, probably, intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.
(A patron stops and says, "Congratulations," shakes his hand. "Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.")
So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.
And so, part of my project in life was probably to spend the first 40 years of my life figuring out what I did believe - I'm 42 now - and it's not that I had it all completely worked out, but I'm spending a lot of time now trying to apply what I believe and trying to live up to those values.

Have you always been a Christian?

I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian.
Any particular flavor?
My grandparents who were from small towns in Kansas. My grandmother was Methodist. My grandfather was Baptist. This was at a time when I think the Methodists felt slightly superior to the Baptists. And by the time I was born, they were, I think, my grandparents had joined a Universalist church.
So, my mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve. We'd go to church for Easter. She wasn't a church lady.
As I said, we moved to Indonesia. She remarried an Indonesian who wasn't particularly, he wasn't a practicing Muslim. I went to a Catholic school in a Muslim country. So I was studying the Bible and catechisms by day, and at night you'd hear the prayer call.
So I don't think as a child we were, or I had a structured religious education. But my mother was deeply spiritual person, and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world's religions, and talk to me about them. And I think always, her view always was that underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs about how you treat other people and how you aspire to act, not just for yourself but also for the greater good.
And, so that, I think, was what I carried with me through college. I probably didn't get started getting active in church activities until I moved to Chicago.
The way I came to Chicago in 1985 was that I was interested in community organizing and I was inspired by the Civil Rights movement. And the idea that ordinary people could do extraordinary things. And there was a group of churches out on the South Side of Chicago that had come together to form an organization to try to deal with the devastation of steel plants that had closed. And didn't have much money, but felt that if they formed an organization and hired somebody to organize them to work on issues that affected their community, that it would strengthen the church and also strengthen the community.
So they hired me, for $13,000 a year. The princely sum. And I drove out here and I didn't know anybody and started working with both the ministers and the lay people in these churches on issues like creating job training programs, or afterschool programs for youth, or making sure that city services were fairly allocated to underserved communites.
This would be in Roseland, West Pullman, Altgeld Gardens, far South Side working class and lower income communities.
And it was in those places where I think what had been more of an intellectual view of religion deepened because I'd be spending an enormous amount of time with church ladies, sort of surrogate mothers and fathers and everybody I was working with was 50 or 55 or 60, and here I was a 23-year-old kid running around.
I became much more familiar with the ongoing tradition of the historic black church and it's importance in the community.
And the power of that culture to give people strength in very difficult circumstances, and the power of that church to give people courage against great odds. And it moved me deeply.
So that, one of the churches I met, or one of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.

Did you actually go up for an altar call?
Yes. Absolutely.
It was a daytime service, during a daytime service. And it was a powerful moment. Because, it was powerful for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it not only gave shape to my faith, but I think, also, allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith.
How long ago?
16, 17 years ago. 1987 or 88
So you got yourself born again?
Yeah, although I don't, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.
I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.
I think that, particularly as somebody who's now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.
Do you still attend Trinity?
Yep. Every week. 11 oclock service.
Ever been there? Good service.
I actually wrote a book called Dreams from My Father, it's kind of a meditation on race. There's a whole chapter on the church in that, and my first visits to Trinity.
Do you pray often?
Uh, yeah, I guess I do.
Its' not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.
One of the interesting things about being in public life is there are constantly these pressures being placed on you from different sides. To be effective, you have to be able to listen to a variety of points of view, synthesize viewpoints. You also have to know when to be just a strong advocate, and push back against certain people or views that you think aren't right or don't serve your constituents.
And so, the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having internally. I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I'm on track and where I think I'm off track.
It's interesting particularly now after this election, comes with it a lot of celebrity. And I always think of politics as having two sides. There's a vanity aspect to politics, and then there's a substantive part of politics. Now you need some sizzle with the steak to be effective, but I think it's easy to get swept up in the vanity side of it, the desire to be liked and recognized and important. It's important for me throughout the day to measure and to take stock and to say, now, am I doing this because I think it's advantageous to me politically, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this to get my name in the papers or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.
Checking for altruism?
Yeah. I mean, something like it.
Looking for, ... It's interesting, the most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever.
What's that power? Is it the holy spirit? God?
Well, I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and an audience.
That's something you learn watching ministers, quite a bit. What they call the Holy Spirit. They want the Holy Spirit to come down before they're preaching, right? Not to try to intellectualize it but what I see is there are moments that happen within a sermon where the minister gets out of his ego and is speaking from a deeper source. And it's powerful.
There are also times when you can see the ego getting in the way. Where the minister is performing and clearly straining for applause or an Amen. And those are distinct moments. I think those former moments are sacred.
Who's Jesus to you?
(He laughs nervously)
Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.
And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.
Is Jesus someone who you feel you have a regular connection with now, a personal connection with in your life?
Yeah. Yes. I think some of the things I talked about earlier are addressed through, are channeled through my Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Have you read the bible?
I read it not as regularly as I would like. These days I don't have much time for reading or reflection, period.
Do you try to take some time for whatever, meditation prayer reading?
I'll be honest with you, I used to all the time, in a fairly disciplined way. But during the course of this campaign, I don't. And I probably need to and would like to, but that's where that internal monologue, or dialogue I think supplants my opportunity to read and reflect in a structured way these days.
It's much more sort of as I'm going through the day trying to take stock and take a moment here and a moment there to take stock, why am I here, how does this connect with a larger sense of purpose.
Do you have people in your life that you look to for guidance?
Well, my pastor [Jeremiah Wright] is certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for.
I have a number of friends who are ministers. Reverend Meeks is a close friend and colleague of mine in the state Senate. Father Michael Pfleger is a dear friend, and somebody I interact with closely.
Those two will keep you on your toes.
And theyr'e good friends. Because both of them are in the public eye, there are ways we can all reflect on what's happening to each of us in ways that are useful.
I think they can help me, they can appreciate certain specific challenges that I go through as a public figure.
Jack Ryan [Obama's Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race at the time] said talking about your faith is fraught with peril for a public figure.
Which is why you generally will not see me spending a lot of time talking about it on the stump.
Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I'm a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root in this country.
As I said before, in my own public policy, I'm very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics.
Now, that's different form a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it's perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.
A standard line in my stump speech during this campaign is that my politics are informed by a belief that we're all connected. That if there's a child on the South Side of Chicago that can't read, that makes a difference in my life even if it's not my own child. If there's a senior citizen in downstate Illinois that's struggling to pay for their medicine and having to chose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer even if it's not my grandparent. And if there's an Arab American family that's being rounded up by John Ashcroft without the benefit of due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same. I think sometimes Democrats have made the mistake of shying away from a conversation about values for fear that they sacrifice the important value of tolerance. And I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive.
Do you think it's wrong for people to want to know about a civic leader's spirituality?
I don't' think it's wrong. I think that political leaders are subject to all sorts of vetting by the public, and this can be a component of that.
I think that I am disturbed by, let me put it this way: I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God's mandate.
I think there is this tendency that I don't think is healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism, or dialogue with people who disagree with them.
The conversation stopper, when you say you're a Christian and leave it at that.
Where do you move forward with that?
This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.
You don't believe that?
I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.
I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.
That's just not part of my religious makeup.
Part of the reason I think it's always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Oftentimes that's by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest common denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.
Do you ever have people who know you're a Christian question a particular stance you take on an issue, how can you be a Christian and ...
Like the right to choose.
I haven't been challenged in those direct ways. And to that extent, I give the public a lot of credit. I'm always stuck by how much common sense the American people have. They get confused sometimes, watch Fox News or listen to talk radio. That's dangerous sometimes. But generally, Americans are tolerant and I think recognize that faith is a personal thing, and they may feel very strongly about an issue like abortion or gay marriage, but if they discuss it with me as an elected official they will discuss it with me in those terms and not say, as 'you call yourself a Christian.' I cannot recall that ever happening.
Do you get questions about your faith?
Obviously as an African American politician rooted in the African American community, I spend a lot of time in the black church. I have no qualms in those settings in participating fully in those services and celebrating my God in that wonderful community that is the black church.
(he pauses)
But I also try to be . . . Rarely in those settings do people come up to me and say, what are your beliefs. They are going to presume, and rightly so. Although they may presume a set of doctrines that I subscribe to that I don't necessarily subscribe to.
But I don't think that's unique to me. I think that each of us when we walk into our church or mosque or synagogue are interpreting that experience in different ways, are reading scriptures in different ways and are arriving at our own understanding at different ways and in different phases.
I don't know a healthy congregation or an effective minister who doesn't recognize that.
If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe in Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn't have to keep coming to church, would they?
Do you believe in heaven?
Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?
A place spiritually you go to after you die?
What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.
When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I've been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they're kind people and that they're honest people, and they're curious people, that's a little piece of heaven.
Do you believe in sin?
What is sin?
Being out of alignment with my values.
What happens if you have sin in your life?
I think it's the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment.
Where do you find spiritual inspiration? Music, nature, literature, people, a conduit you plug into?
There are so many.
Nothing is more powerful than the black church experience. A good choir and a good sermon in the black church, it's pretty hard not to be moved and be transported.
I can be transported by watching a good performance of Hamlet, or reading Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, or listening to Miles Davis.
Is there something that you go back to as a touchstone, a book, a particular piece of music, a place ...
As I said before, in my own sort of mental library, the Civil Rights movement has a powerful hold on me. It's a point in time where I think heaven and earth meet. Because it's a moment in which a collective faith transforms everything. So when I read Gandhi or I read King or I read certain passages of Abraham Lincoln and I think about those times where people's values are tested, I think those inspire me.
What are you doing when you feel the most centered, the most aligned spiritually?
I think I already described it. It's when I'm being true to myself. And that can happen in me making a speech or it can happen in me playing with my kids, or it can happen in a small interaction with a security guard in a building when I'm recognizing them and exchanging a good word.
Is there someone you would look to as an example of how not to do it?
Bin Laden.
(grins broadly)
... An example of a role model, who combined everything you said you want to do in your life, and your faith?
I think Gandhi is a great example of a profoundly spiritual man who acted and risked everything on behalf of those values but never slipped into intolerance or dogma. He seemed to always maintain an air of doubt about him.
I think Dr. King, and Lincoln. Those three are good examples for me of people who applied their faith to a larger canvas without allowing that faith to metastasize into something that is hurtful.
Can we go back to that morning service in 1987 or 88 -- when you have a moment that you can go back to that as an epiphany...
It wasn't an epiphany.
It was much more of a gradual process for me. I know there are some people who fall out. Which is wonderful. God bless them. For me it was probably because there is a certain self-consciousness that I possess as somebody with probably too much book learning, and also a very polyglot background.
It wasn't like a moment where you finally got it? It was a symbol of that decision?
Exactly. I think it was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me.

Cathleen Falsani is author of Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace.

Post Election Outbreath

YAY, Barack Obama!

Sign seen in Philadelphia, I think:

"Rosa had to sit so Martin could walk,
Martin had to walk so Barack could run,
Barack had to run so our children can fly."

INDIANA of all places on earth, turned BLUE! Obama 50%, McCain 49%!

And on the passage of Proposition 8 in CA, not so fast, bub:

from http://www.groupnewsblog.net/2008/11/proposition-h8-passes.html

It appears that in their haste to draft something that they felt would be bulletproof, i.e. a constitutional amendment, the Christiopaths, as they are wont to do, operated under a belief that the law was what they wanted to it to be, and not exactly what it was.

The first challenges will come from the more than 18,000 couples (my cousin, the brilliant attorney and his beautiful husband among them) who were married in that brief, shining moment of sensible equality that existed from May to the present time.

Part of their challenge to keep their marriages legal will involve exposing the way that the drafters of Prop 8 disregarded California law in their rush to deny equal rights to our fellow citizens.

To be amended the California Constitution says that a draft of the amendments must pass the State Assembly and the State Senate by a 2/3rds majority, then be ratified by the people in a general election.

Since they had failed twice to get their odious dream through the state legislature, they decided that they would jump the process and take it straight to the people, winning there, only by a very small margin.

This ain't over folks. Not by a long shot.

So glad I'm already broke

... and already used to it.



cat Max

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