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Friday, January 27, 2012

Goodbye Wells Fargo: My Letter to CEO John Stumpf

John Stumpf
CEO, Wells Fargo
420 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

Dear Mr. Stumpf,

I am writing to tell you that today (January 27, 2012) I withdrew all of my funds from the Wells Fargo bank in Alexandria, VA. I have kept my funds in that bank for the past six years, but now I am moving them to a bank that is local to our area and I will not bank with Wells Fargo again. There are a number of reasons why I am withdrawing our money, but to be concise, as a follower of Jesus, I find the business practices of Wells Fargo to be antithetical to my faith.

At the beginning of 2012, the United Methodist Church, to which I belong, divested from two private prison companies, Corrections Corporations of America and GEO Group. As United Methodists committed to ending the mass incarceration of people of color the Church decided that we could not continue to collude in the profit-making from mass incarceration by such corporations of GEO Group and CCA. These corporations and their enormous profits gained from mass incarceration has led to an explosion in the prison population to the point that although the United States represents 5% of the world’s population, we house over 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.

As a United Methodist, I am proud that my church is committed to reforming the criminal justice system so that it becomes system of healing for victims of crime and restoration for the accused. GEO Group and CCA do not share those values and because of the profits gained from the enormous stock holdings in GEO Group, neither does Wells Fargo.

As a United Methodist, I am proud that my church is dedicated to providing alternatives to incarceration for our youth instead of housing them with adults, which only increases the likelihood of recidivism. GEO Group specifically has benefited from housing juveniles with adults in such places as the Walnut Grove juvenile facility in Mississippi, where, as National Public Radio has recently reported, children as young as 13 were housed with 22 year old adults due largely to the lobbying of Mississippi’s state legislature by GEO Group to increase the age of inmates in juvenile facilities. As a result, physical and sexual abuse was rampant at Walnut Grove, and suggested changes were resisted because of added costs and little oversight.

I am withdrawing my funds from Wells Fargo because your bank places profits over the welfare of people and that is completely antithetical to my Christian faith. Wells Fargo currently owns 3,623,603 shares of stock in GEO Group, or 5.59% of the owned common stock. Wells Fargo is one of the top shareholders in this corporation that is one of the primary drivers of mass incarceration of people of color.

Further, in a country where millions of people are unemployed, where the gap between the rich and the poor is obscenely large, where the need for shared sacrifice by those in positions of power and affluence with those who are on the lower ends of the political and economic spectrum is most needed, that shared sacrifice is not found by you or the institution you run. According to the Twin Cities Daily Planet, “from 2008 to 2010, Wells Fargo paid an effective tax rate of -1.4 percent. The means the bank accepted more in federal tax subsidies – $17.9 billion over the three-year period – than it returned to the government in tax payments.” Even more, as recently as 2010, you earned over 17 million dollars in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in a century. I cannot, in good conscience and in obedience to my Christian faith, continue to support your institution by keeping my money in Wells Fargo. Enough is enough.

I encourage you to change these policies that are so inhumane and so destructive to so many people. I will share this letter with my friends and family and do all I can to urge them to withdraw their funds from any Wells Fargo bank until your policies have changed. I welcome your response, particularly if Wells Fargo decides to begin a process of restitution by first divesting from all stock in GEO Group and any other private prison companies. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Bill Mefford
3441 A-2 South Stafford Street
Arlington, VA 22206

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Being Friends is Hard

I recently saw War Horse, an engaging story told from the perspective of a horse in the early twentieth century, running throughout the first World War. The horse is cared for by both participants and nonparticipants in the war, as well as by members of both sides of the war. The loyalty of the horse to whoever cares for him shows that love is stronger than nationality or ideology – a message that many desperately need to take to heart in this election year. Steven Spielberg is indeed a master storyteller.

What struck me as I watched it and reflected on it afterwards was the intensity of the loyalty between the horse and those who cared for him, even if their relationship was only for a short time. Loyalty is a primary value for me with perhaps only honesty surpassing it (though one might argue that to have one is to have the other). The story takes the horse through a variety of contexts and while the story progressed naturally, all of the twists and turns the horse had to face were also quite unexpected. It certainly mirrored much of life and reminded me how fleeting and truly contextual friendships are.

Working in Washington DC is a constant reminder how important friendships really are because this is the most superficial place I have ever lived or worked. Turnover at many organizations is a constant reality and having worked here for six years now makes me an old-timer (not to mention that my age helps with this fact) within the coalitions on most of the issues I work on. One of the most difficult aspects of my job for me – even more than the silly politics that keeps DC so dysfunctional – has been the frailty of the friendships. Too often, they are simply utilitarian in nature and they last only as long as one can help the other and when the help is no longer needed or offered, the “friendship” is over.

I cannot name the number of people who I have worked alongside on a particular issue and with whom we pledged to “stay in touch.” Within months or even weeks after their soon departure for a higher or more important position in another organization, I almost never hear from them again. This often happens even after I repeatedly reach out to them to see how they are doing and to see if they want to catch up. I have discovered that being hated is not as hard as being ignored by someone you thought was really a friend.

I am not naïve. I know that most friendships are contextually limited. I also know that friendships are gifts and those gifts carry us through both the challenges and celebrations in life. Friendships are perhaps the most important gift we are given by other people. Lifelong friendships are very few, but even I am surprised at how few in number they are, and it seems that number grows smaller as I grow older. Sad, but true.

I have lost friendships due to my own stubbornness, due to changes in ethical values, due to a rise in economic or social status, or even due to just changes in geographical location. And when you take strong stands on controversial issues, friendships are even harder to maintain. I know it is hard to be my friend to be perfectly frank.

But I have to admit that it is sad to reflect and think of past friendships and how those friendships have fallen away, or simply deteriorated altogether. I think my standards are too high at times, my expectations too much. I have been told as much anyway.

But I do value the friendships I have. I value loyalty and I pray I practice loyalty the way the horse did in this movie. One thing this movie showed that I do hold as absolute: that the power of love is greater than the powers of war, hatred, and violence. Friendship can and does last and it is worth all of the work that it sometimes requires. And, at the end of the day, you can take all of the promotions and awards, all of the important positions that we are supposed to clamor after, and we are left with the simple truth that friendships are what get us through the day.

I remember the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the words written in the back of Jimmy Stewart’s book by Clarence, his angel at the end of the film. You remember what he wrote? “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” Damn straight Clarence.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Authentic Hope

This is a sermon by Stephanie Nasworthy on the impact of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Luke 6:27-33 from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount:

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

Authentic Hope

When faced with what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the "triple evils," poverty, injustice, and war, most people feel overwhelmed, enraged, and disheartened. But, when we feel a palpable sense of Jesus' love in our life, we have the hope and energy to take action.

This task, writing an inspiring message around the life, work, and words of one of contemporary Christianity’s great heroes, has been an honor and a challenge for me. I struggled with trying to avoid sentimentality and warm fuzziness. I struggled with the fact that I am a young middle-class white girl commenting on a small slice of history in a small slice of the world. I struggled with what to include and what to leave out. My Bible and I fought it out on what verses should inform us today. I asked God to give me a clear vision on what to share. I prayed in the shower about it. I thought about it while driving. I fell asleep at night thinking, you weren’t even alive when all of this happened! I bounced ideas off of my husband. Finally, I just sat down in front of my computer and wrote the words authentic hope at the top of the page, and BOOM! I had it.

Peter Gomes, a minister and the writer of the book The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, calls hope “much more than mere optimism. Hope is the stuff that gets us through and beyond when the worst that can happen happens.” He says hope nourished by suffering and grounded in God “works where nothing else does.”

Here are some lines on hope by Emily Dikinson:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. had authentic hope. The kind of genuine hope that comes from the good news of Jesus.

My understanding of the good news of Jesus, in a nutshell, is that we humans are all broken and have a deep desire to be known by God and by each other. Our brokenness binds us. Our suffering ties us together. Our humanness is shared, connected. Jesus, who was God, our Creator, in human form on earth, came to teach us an alternative way of thinking and living. He was fulfilling a prophecy, but not in the expected way. Jesus asks, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Jesus didn’t overthrow authority by force. He ruffled some feathers, yes, but mostly He made friends with the underdogs and left us with words on loving one another. He was killed as a sacrifice for our sins and came back to life. With Jesus, I am able to stand blameless before God on the day I die. My authentic hope comes from knowing that I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus, a doubter, a believer, a questioner, a seeker; I am not separated from God because of what Jesus did.

And you can have that hope with me. Maybe you already do.

Dr. King said in a sermon, “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”

When he was in seminary, Dr. King became interested in Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience.” In that essay on the abolition of slavery and nonviolent resistance, Thoreau writes, "For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever." Thoreau emphasizes each and every person’s responsibility to speak out against injustice. He says, “There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them… (who) sit down with their hands in their pockets and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing…”

I don’t want to sit down with my hands in my pockets. I get the sense that most of you don’t want to do that either. I learned about a simple action plan from one of my public health heroes, Paul Farmer. Farmer is a medical doctor that started the non-profit Partners-in-Health. They regularly provide free health care to people all over the world that would otherwise have little-to-no care access. I visited their flagship medical center, Zanmi Lasante, in Haiti and I met Dr. Famer when I was a teenager. I met him before I even knew who he was. I asked him a question that had been bugging me – “How do I make a difference?” He told me to speak out against things that are unfair. He said, “The work I do here fulfills me because people are so hopeful when they have suffered for so long. That doesn’t make sense, does it?” Hearing his answer and the trip were absolutely life-changing experiences. I encourage you to check out the Partners-in-Health website and/or read one of Farmer’s many books, Pathologies of Power. He is a real peacemaker, like Dr. King. Anyway, in this simple action plan, Latin American liberation theologians answer the how-do-I-make-a-difference question with three steps: Observe, Judge, Act. So you observe an injustice, then alone, or in a group, judge or figure out how to make at least one change that honors God, and then act.

Civil rights activists observed and experienced injustice, spoke out against it, and worked toward reform. In a 1963 television interview, Martin Luther King, Jr. discussed one of his influences, Gandhi. King became fascinated with the man after attending a talk by a Howard University professor on Gandhi’s nonviolent methods. Dr. King said, “And at that point, I became deeply influenced by Gandhi, never realizing that I would live in a situation where it would be useful and meaningful.”

I’d like to read for you now, an excerpt from a statement called “The Meaning of the King Holiday” by Coretta Scott King, his widow and founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans.

The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.

On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.

My husband and I were recently going through the 100 questions and answers on the test for American naturalization with our friend, who will be applying soon for her passport. We asked her, “What’s on that test anyway?” She pulled up the document online and quizzed us. Two of the questions (with answers) are as follows: Q: What movement tried to end racial discrimination? A: The civil rights movement. Q: What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do? Acceptable A’s: Fought for civil rights or worked for equality for all Americans. I like the idea that to be a citizen of this country, you have to learn about MLK, Jr. and civil rights. He didn’t exactly follow the rules. He ruffled some feathers.

Now let me be clear. I do not compare Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jesus. I, like many of you, am enthused by Dr. King’s words and actions as a Christian. Was he perfect? No. Was he without doubt or fear? No way. He regularly pointed out that he was reluctant to be considered the leader of this movement. Many, many people worked (and still work) tirelessly toward equality. But he openly embraced his role as a minister of the gospel and a tool for social change through nonviolent resistance.

Soon my daughter will be asked by her educators or her parents, “What was the social change that came about through nonviolent methods in the 1960s?” “Civil rights,” she’ll say, “for all people, regardless of skin pigment and hair texture!” (I hope she says that. That’s a good answer, right?)

I was drawn to this fellowship because of your stance against violence. I am drawn in to the fellowship because you care about social justice issues and human rights and are unapologetically Christian. I feel deeply loved and appreciated by some of you.

In summary: Jesus gives us authentic hope and we are supposed to love our enemies. That’s a tall order! It’s hard work. It’s messy. And as a woman, I am keenly aware that we are not all treated equally, that there is a lot of work to do. But let’s try to do that work. Let’s try together to Observe, Judge, and Act.

I leave you with words from Dr. King’s last sermon, given the night before he was assassinated. "It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I Did Not Attend the Gathering of Evangelical Leaders in Houston This Weekend

I decided not to attend the meeting of evangelical leaders from this past weekend in the western suburbs of Houston. The meeting was designed to galvanize evangelical support behind one Republican Presidential candidate and I declined to attend for two major reasons.

First and foremost, I did not attend with the other 150 evangelical leaders to this secret meeting because, as a Christian dedicated to faithfully living out the commands of Scripture, the voices that are most in need of being heard most likely were not invited: the poor, the oppressed, the undocumented, the marginalized. I decided not to attend unless they too were also invited.

As evangelical leaders gather to decide which candidate to throw their support behind I can only hope that the predominant reason for deciding on a candidate had to do with a serious discussion of which policies would benefit the poor, the marginalized and the undocumented. Since one of the most pervasive themes in all of Scripture has to do with caring for and defending the poor and marginalized, and since the poor in Scripture are, for the most part, not distinguished between “deserving” and “undeserving,” then the role of Christians in public engagement must be that of looking at public policy first with the eyes to see if that policy benefits the poor and marginalized.

This means that we need a candidate, regardless of party affiliation, whose main concern is truly getting people back to work, specifically those who are low-skilled workers, with full worker protections. This means that we must look for someone whose primary concern is for securing affordable housing for the homeless, protecting full health care for those who cannot afford it, providing a pathway to legal status for those who are undocumented, reuniting families for those who have been separated through deportations and a backlog in the family visa system, and protecting the vulnerable in an economy that does little to ensure that they have access to opportunities for success.

I think, mistakenly, someone must have forgotten to send out the invites to the poor to attend. Someone must have chosen a ranch in the western suburbs of Houston by mistake as well, as there would be little chance for the poor or homeless to attend.

Since I decided not to attend, I do not know if these were the main subjects of concern in coming to a decision of who to support, but I know that if there was any discussion of the importance of Scripture in this process then any faithfulness to Scripture would have necessitated the inclusion of this discussion.

But, like I said, I chose not to attend.

Oh, and the second reason why I did not attend the gathering of 150 evangelical leaders this weekend to a ranch in the western suburbs of Houston? I am not an evangelical leader and I wasn’t invited.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Romney is Right, Let's Stop Class Warfare

In rare rhetorical flare, Mitt Romney slammed President Obama for stoking a “resentment of success” rather than “desire to succeed” after he won the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday. This goes with the prevalent conservative talking point that especially Republicans make every time someone has the temerity and common sense to point out that the gap between the rich and the poor only continues to widen at an accelerated rate. To hear the mega-rich accuse others of class warfare is comical, but also dangerous. It is dangerous because when someone is accused of engaging in something as seemingly nefarious as “class warfare” we take the spotlight off of the abuse of the poor that comes from unregulated and uncontrolled greed in the financial sectors. Simply because political pundits and ordinary people like you and me honestly point out that there is far too much wealth concentrated in the hands of way too few people, we are accused of betraying our country. Again, it would be laughable if it wasn’t also very real.

I also find it quite intriguing that Romney and others call honest criticism a form of “warfare.” Are Republicans that sensitive that to name the simple fact that the affluent of this country have control of an absurd amount of wealth means that you are engaged in warfare? In addition, thanks largely to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that has taken the lid off of the amount of money that can be used in political campaigns, now that concentration of wealth is granted permanent political power as the affluent can flood political campaigns with money. I find it offensive in the extreme that warfare – something the Republicans needlessly led this country into twice in the past ten years – is being used to describe appropriate social and political critique.

So, let’s talk about what really is class warfare.

Warfare must be inherently violent right? Romney’s bruised ego doesn’t count. Instead, when people are forced out of their homes by banks who refuse to refinance their loans or even better yet, give them a break on their mortgage, and then folks must choose between buying groceries or necessary medications and paying a large bank funds it honestly does not need – isn’t that violence to their health or the health of their family?

Isn’t it a form of warfare to treat those who are incarcerated as units for sale in the marketplace as is done through private prisons – places where profit margins are made at the expense of human rights and public safety? Isn’t it a form of violence to make corporate profits more important than creating a justice system that brings healing to victims and restoration to the accused? Allowing those in prison to be warehoused with virtually no legal redress from abuse by prison officials and others in prison – isn’t that violent? Isn’t that what we do in warfare?

Isn’t it violence that while no one at Goldman Sachs, or AIG or any of the financial institutions have ever been charged with a single crime after bringing this country and much of the world to financial ruin, while the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis who was very likely innocent? Isn’t it violent that we can say with a straight face that it is better to be white, rich and guilty than poor, black and innocent in this country’s criminal justice system? Isn’t the denial of a fair justice system a real form of warfare?

While the Republicans pout and complain and equate “envy,” “resentment,” and “criticism” with warfare, can we please try and remember who are the real victims of class warfare? These are the people who have little or no hope of upward mobility because there is a stranglehold on the wealth and political power in this country. We do not need any more radical devotion to an ideology of supposed “free enterprise,” which is nothing more than a greater concern for the welfare of the extremely affluent and well-connected over the welfare of the poor and working classes. The real warfare in regards to class has been and is being committed against the poor in this country and across the world every day. And Mitt Romney either knows this to be true or is in the deepest form of denial possible. His defense of the status quo is sickening. His belief that he is a victim of class warfare is absolutely nauseating.

What is so obscene about Romney and many other Republicans (and yes, some Democrats as well), is that they complain about others calling them names or leveling real and needed criticism at them and call it “class warfare,” all the while they continue to draw immense benefits from economic and political systems in collusion with one another, destroying the lives of the poor. We should not be surprised though. It is a debate trick, a rhetorical ploy to get the heat off of them and at the very least, change the conversation. In other words, it is politics.

This is exactly like President Bush claiming he believes in a “culture of life” all the while he steered the world into two needless and deadly wars and after he had been, up to that time, the deadliest capital punishment Governor in this nation’s history (now surpassed by another supposed pro-lifer, Rick Perry).

Just take what you are and turn it upside down and make a lie your reality. Thus, President Bush is a culture-of-life President. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney do not torture and are not war criminals. President Obama does not tear apart families through his immigration policies. All statements made by those people and all patently false.

According to this creative mode of reality-making the rich in this country deserve their wealth and the poor can either work their way out of poverty or they deserve their place in the world – no matter how miserable that place may be. That, my friends, is the real class warfare and we will do good to keep pointing it out as loud and long as we can. We can keep speaking up about the abuse caused by an obscene concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the poor. Just know that as you point out the truth, you too will be called the most heinous of names. You will be called “socialist,” “traitor,” “class warrior,” etc. But go ahead and call me all the names you want to. Unlike Mr. Romney, I don’t bruise easily.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some Much Needed Good News (and yes, direct action works)

Last year was probably the hardest year for me since I started working in Washington DC. Political leadership in DC is at an all-time low. Republicans are more committed to defeating President Obama than they are to finding solutions to major problems and I am not sure what exactly Democrats are committed too at all anymore. Advocating for issues of justice right now is kind of like playing Pick Up Stix with your butt cheeks. It ain’t happening.

Over the last few years we have seen President Obama’s administration deport more immigrants – and break up more immigrant families in the process – than any other President in history that I know of. Mass incarceration of people of color continues at an accelerated rate due largely to the continued privatization of prisons. Legislation that would provide for a thorough study of the criminal justice system has been stymied, as has legislation that would bring legal status to immigrant children, all due to the politics of stalemate. Don’t give one damn inch to the other side of the political aisle and call it a victory even while preventable suffering continues unabated.

Further, we also discovered that the United Methodist Church owned close to one million dollars in stock in Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, both companies that run private prisons, a booming business with the emphasis on incarceration in the criminal justice system and detention of immigrants as the only way to respond to the presence of undocumented immigrants. As a result, while many United Methodists have been fighting to lessen the number of people incarcerated by a prison system that is the largest in the world, our church has been profiting by the continuing emphasis on incarceration as a means of justice, rather than healing for victims of crime and accountability and restoration for those accused of crime.

On top of all of this is the fact that this year, after several years of fighting to prove his innocence, the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis. I cannot describe how devastating that was – to be part of a struggle that truly was righteous and just and to see it fail and a very likely innocent man killed by his state.

I ended 2011 thinking it is definitely better to be white, rich and guilty than poor, black and innocent. I ended 2011 thinking the United States is more committed to deporting immigrants and breaking up families than welcoming them and growing stronger through their presence with us. I ended 2011 thinking working for justice is more than just difficult, it seems pretty damn near impossible. Man, I ended 2011 feeling low.

So, I was more than a little surprised that out of nowhere, I heard this week that the United Methodist Board of Pensions, the board that controls the investments of the United Methodist Church, decided not only to divest from CCA and GEO Group, but to permanently put into place a screen that will not allow us to invest into any corporation in the future that has gross revenues of 10% or more from private prisons.

Praise God, this is tremendous news! And the thing I keep telling folks is that this was done simply because it was the right thing to do. It didn’t require a General Conference resolution. It was just the right thing to do. The Church should not profit from mass incarceration. Period.

And the reason why this was done was because of ordinary United Methodists. Ordinary United Methodists signed a petition that said we should not profit from mass incarceration. Many folks additionally sent emails because you were outraged. We achieved divestment because we want to be a part of a church that is transforming the world, not profiting from the increasing injustice in the world. I know signing a petition has, in many ways, become banal. We have grown so jaded and cynical. Signing petitions, sending emails, making calls, joining coalitions, going to meetings, recruiting our friends, family and fellow church members to join us in all of this – all of this has seemed fruitless and a waste of time to many of us.

Here is the trick though. Direct action works. It really does. When you sign petitions, send emails, make calls, join coalitions, attend meetings, and recruit our friends, family and fellow church members to join us, we are making a public witness to what we believe – that God’s love and justice is greater than any force in the world. When we engage in the actions of justice and righteousness – yes, even the smallest of those actions – we are engaging in acts of worship. We are putting our faith into action. We are making our beliefs real. We are witnessing to the world that any injustice, any act of oppression against God’s poor and vulnerable, is absolutely not acceptable and will be addressed and resolved by the author of all that is righteous and just. Prophetic action draws us to our sovereign and ever-creative God. We are, for all that we doubt at times, truly transforming the world.

I have to tell you, I needed this one. My tank was low. I was getting too jaded. But God showed up. I really believe that. God showed up, and now we are members of a church that publicly has witnessed to the fact that we need to end mass incarceration, not profit from it. We have witnessed to the fact that our investments speak of who we are to the world. And now who we are can be true and pure. We are followers of Jesus, committed to following him, loving the poor and vulnerable and bringing about Kingdom justice throughout the world.

Man, I can live with that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What I Will and Will NOT Miss from 2011

What I will miss from 2011 is the build up to the 2011 Cleveland Brown football season.
What I won’t miss from 2011 is the 2011 Cleveland Brown football season.

What I will miss from 2011 is the tremendous work being done by so many to end mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system – to bring healing to victims and restoration for those accused of committing crime.
What I won’t miss from 2011 are the media-created-sensational court cases like the Casey Anthony case that do nothing to show the deep-rooted problems of a criminal justice system that is inherently racist and classist and only leave people with the belief that our court system lets too many people off without punishment.

What I will miss from 2011 are the great books I read: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, The Man Who Sold the World by William Kleinknecht, The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby, We are Not Afraid by Seth Cagin & Philip Dray, The Bystander by Nick Bryant, Lift Up Thy Voice by Mark Perry, Columbine by Dave Cullen, Texas Tough by Robert Perkinson, Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson, Invisible Hands by Kim Phillips-Fein, White Like Me by Tim Wise, The Other Eighties by Bradford Martin, Freedom Walk by Mary Stanton, House of War by James Carroll, Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges, and Black Boy by Richard Wright
What I won’t miss are the very bad books I read this year (and no, I will not name them, but yes, there were very few, thank goodness)

What I will miss are the great movies of 2011: Moneyball, The Ides of March, Cedar Rapids, Beginners, Warrior, 50/50, The Descendants, War Horse
What I won’t miss are the bad movies of 2011: The Adjustment Bureau, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Debt, In Time (and let’s face it, I chose not to see the really horrible ones)

Who I will miss include Václav Havel, 75, Czech playwright and politician, President of Czechoslovakia, Joe Frazier, Geraldine Ferraro, Betty Ford, Sidney Lumet, Sherwood Schwartz, Clarence Clemons
Who I won’t miss include Kim Jong-il, Muammar al-Qaddafi, and Osama bin Laden, though I also will not miss the celebrations that came with their deaths.

What I will miss is the Republican Presidential race – I don’t want it to ever end – especially Bachmann, Perry and please bring back Herman Cain!
What I won’t miss is "leadership" by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. He is the worst Speaker of the House ever – THE WORST!

What I will miss is Troy Davis and the amazing people who fought to save his life.
What I won’t miss is the ease with which the United States puts people to death and the incredible pain that I, and so many others felt, at the murder of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia

What I will miss (better said, what I will remember with great appreciation) is GBCS hiring Joe Kim to focus specifically on children’s issues, including human trafficking, making it a priority for United Methodists to rally around.
What I won’t miss are Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine and all of the others who abuse children – words cannot articulate the rage many of us share for those who abuse children.

What I will miss are the successes in the movement for GLBT equality, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (and Hate Crimes from years before).
What I will not miss is the same focus on GLBT issues by the Obama Administration and many others as other issues like immigration and poverty. It is time to step up on these issues as well.

What I will miss from 2011 is the NBA lockout.
What I won’t miss from 2011 is the start of the NBA season.

What I am especially thankful for in looking back are the many people who read and commented on my blog. We didn’t always agree, but I always respected what was said and after reading your comments, being challenged by the things that were shared. I hope you will keep reading and we can continue to journey together. I will be the first to say that I am not always right, but I will always be honest in what I share here.

I hope together we can learn more in 2012 how to continue “thinking prophetically, acting missionally, and loving radically.”

Happy New Year!!