Friday, June 30, 2006

Guitars and Tamborines Irritate the Pope.

So, Pope Benedict has demanded a return to traditional music in church. I say whatever helps you experience God is better than the alternative. I love the traditional Anglican music at my church, our Taize services are amazing, but I can also enjoy a good Bob Marley tune in church too. I agree with Cardinal Furno who says the use of modern music is a "sign of the vitality of the faith."

UPDATE: For those who want to buy Christian sheet music (both contemporary and more traditional hymns and such), you can purchase, download and print here.

Huey, Dewey and Louie.

What's wrong with Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Presbyterians develop new phrases to describe the Trinity. OK, if it works for you, use it.

Speaker, Word and Breath works for me.

Lil' Kim Coming Home.

I'm always curious to see how "celebrities" who have been incarcerated respond to their release from prison. What impact did incarceration have on them? Did it change their perception of the prison system in the country? Did it impact their behaviour? Think Martha. Well, another one is to be released Monday.

Up to 50 Million Poor May Lose Their Medical Benefits.

The Bush administration has done it again. Screw the poor. Compassionate conservatism indeed.
Critics fear that the provision will have the unintended consequence of harming several million U.S. citizens who, for a variety of reasons, will not be able to produce the necessary paperwork. They include mentally ill, mentally retarded and homeless people, as well as elderly men and women, especially African Americans born in an era when hospitals in the rural South barred black women from their maternity wards.

Not Yet King George.

Glenn Greenwald has a great analysis on the meaning of yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Senator Trent Lott (on Fox News) has an interesting and intelligent response:
"I have not read the entire opinion, nor the dissents. But preliminarily my opinion is they probably didn't even have jurisdiction."
Typical. Go on TV, make an ass of yourself before you know the details. See the video here.

Our Faith Our Vote -- Election 2006.

The United Church of Christ has a campaign designed to make liberal Christian issues count in the 2006 election (and beyond). Take a look and see what you think.

I welcome the voices of Christian values I cherish making their presence felt in the world of politics. God knows the religious right will be heard.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The End of 'Christianity."

Nevermind the Bricolage has a post worth reading regarding recent events within the Anglican communion. His bottom line:
"I truly think the days of universal ideas is over, and while I do think that Christian faith anywhere expressed will have similarities to where it is particularly expressed, those particularities will make for some very different incarnations of the faith. What I do believe is that God's grace is bigger than religion, any religion, including Christianity, and that culturally we are moving towards new understandings about the nature of faith and belief that will take us way beyond religious categorizations in the future--but then again, I know nothing."
Emphasis added.


This is too damn funny.

While we're talking about CA prisons...

let's not forget CA's Juvenile Justice System. Mother Jones has a worthwhile commentary by Ben Wyskida about our do nothing action figure governor on this issue. If you are not current on the system here is some background:
"With nine warehouse-style prisons, the Department of Juvenile Justice houses over 3,000 youth. About a fifth are in for "violent" crimes. The rest are in for misdemeanors ranging from shoplifting and petty theft to drug possession. All of them need help, and the DJJ has a constitutional state mandate to "rehabilitate" these wards.

The worst part: It doesn't work! With a 75 percent recidivism rate and a price tag of $82,000 per kid per year, California's is one of the nation's most expensive, least effective juvenile justice systems. Read that again: most expensive; least effective."
So what do we do? Ignore the real problem, continue to build more prisons so we can house them when they are adults and wash our hands. That's just GREAT! Here's one positive idea--Books Not Bars. And, don't miss the cartoon--Action Heros in Office.

Obligatory "Will Anglicans Split?" Post for the Day.

In The Guardian today, Andrew Brown has a follow-up to the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement earlier this week. If you've been paying attention to the reaction to all the Episcopal Church events the past few weeks, it's worth your attention. He asks:
"How did Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, manage to talk himself into a position where he is proposing changes in the church that would make his own views a disqualification for the job he holds?"
UPDATE: Dylan has an alternative explanation to Andrew Brown's hypothesis at

Barack Obama Speaks the Truth--the Left Rebels.

Senator Barack Obama spoke yesterday at a Sojourners conference and has received a lot of flack from political blogs on the left. You can read the text here. Those of us who are liberal Christians need to pay attention to what Sen. Obama says if we are to impact the politics of this country and reclaim Christianity and the positive message Jesus proclaimed, rather than the bigoted expressions of the religious right that dominate our political discourse disguised as "Christian."

Here is a taste of Obama's speech:
"For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith."
And, then there is this quote:
"...if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway."
There is more and well worth your time and thought.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Jesus of the Week.

No.J2K1203--thanks to Jesus of the Week.

New Cast Proposed for Production of King Lear.

Imagine this production of King Lear. Episcopalians following recent events in our church could probably write the reviews in advance.

Nevermind the Bricolage.

Stumbled upon this site, nevermind the bricolage. Explore it at your leisure for a unique perspective. It's a site by Barry Taylor who leads the Saturday, "Good Evening" service at All Saints Beverly Hills. Barry provides an amazing perspective on contemporary culture and the Gospel. I never leave without something striking a cord and making me think about my faith in a new way.

The LA Times Agrees.

More money is not the answer to CA's prison overcrowding issue. An editorial in today's paper takes aim at Schwarzenegger's proposal:
"Though ostensibly aimed at overcrowding, it doesn't even propose genuine solutions to that problem, such as reforms in sentencing laws and a major boost in rehabilitation programs. If the Legislature, which met in special session Tuesday night to discuss the governor's proposals, wants to set things right, a radical shift in approach is required."
And, this story confirms the impact overcrowding has on even a small effort at rehabilitation.

A Cry for Help.

Both Michael Hampson in The Guardian and Mad Priest make similar points. Any split in the Anglican Communion provides opportunities for liberals to spread the inclusive message of the Gospels. Maybe I could be a missionary to the darkest reaches of London. Wouldn't that be tough duty?

I especially like the last paragraph of Michael Hampson's article:
"The US liberals are not campaigning to destroy the church. Their church - unlike our own - is a church of the people. The ordinary scripture-reading people of the US church call their own clergy and elect their own bishops. Some of them are women. Some of them are gay. These are the people the churchgoing faithful have chosen. Long may they be faithful to their soundly biblical, soundly Christian principles."

GLBT Episcopalians Tell Their Stories.

If you haven't seen this, watch Voices of Witness. Gay and lesbian Episcopalians tell the stories of their faith. What a witness to the message of God's inclusive love in the world, and testament to the power of living lives in service and love to all of God's creation. Stay to the end and hear Bishop Desmond Tutu share his thoughts. Religious Left Blog has transcribed some of this and is working on more.

If these aren't stories of strong Christian families, what are they? Who can say these relationships are second class? Do these relationships destroy heterosexual marriage? I don't think so.

NOTE: It's about 45 minutes long but well worth your time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dualing Headlines.

"Leader of Anglicans Urges Coexistence" according to an AP Story or "Gay clergy ultimatum set to split Anglicans" (The Times of London). Two views of the same document from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

What is Her Vision for the Future of The Episcopal Church?

The Presiding Bishop-elect of The Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefforts Schori will be on the Diane Rehm Show on Thursday at 7AM PDT (10AM EDT). I am not sure if her show is carried on any local (LA) station, but I enjoy listening to it from time to time while traveling. You can listen to it live here or check back afterwards and listen to an archived version. I'm eager to hear what she has to say.

Another Perspective on Get on The Bus.

If you've read the post below on Sunday's Get on The Bus trip to CMC you may enjoy another viewpoint. Posted below are some thoughts from one of our Mother's Day volunteers. (Thanks Heather H. for letting me post your wonderful testimony.)
When I signed up as a volunteer for the Get on the Bus trip a few months back I had NO idea what I was really signing up for, and certainly NEVER thought I’d be standing up here today. I thought I would just do something NICE & DIFFERENT to honor my mother. Do something that would make her proud. I thought it would be a great way to kick-start mother’s day weekend. And it was. But it was so much more than I could have imagined.

I knew I would be escorting a child to visit their mother for a few hours in prison. I thought I’d meet them at the bus and we’d go, and then we’d come back. What I didn’t know was the PROCESS, the build-up to that day, all the details that go into making the visit possible. When I was handed the paperwork for the child I would be escorting, I was shocked to read that Andrea (her family call her Miesha) hadn’t seen her mother in 3 years. She’s only 16 years old. 3 years in a child’s life, especially a TEENAGER’S life, is a long time.

Like me, Miesha had lost her father a few years ago. There had been no one else to take care of him, so Miesha missed her first year of high school to nurse him and care for him, ALONE. She was 14 years old. After meeting Miesha, her foster mom, her siblings and cousins who ALL live in a small, tight house in South/East LA, I would have done ANYTHING, whatever it took, to make sure she and her brother, Andre, got on the bus to see their mother. ... I became fiercely protective and determined for these children to make sure their visit with their mother would actually happen. Unfortunately it didn’t. Their foster-mother called me while I was en-route to pick-them up at 5am that Friday to tell me they weren’t going. I never found out the reason, but I spoke to Miesha yesterday and she asked me if I’d take her sometime over the summer to see her mother. I hope I can.

However, I did get on the bus. I thought maybe I could visit with Miesha’s mother anyway, but was told that wasn’t possible. Sadly, I heard them call the prison to tell the mother that her children were not on the bus and there would be no visit that day. Happily, this was not the case for the 14 other children (ages 3 to 17) that arrived sleepily that morning. With gift-bags of goodies, toys, t-shirts, Mother’s Day cards and breakfast on the bus, we headed out on the freeway to Chowchilla to the Valley State Prison for Women 4 hours North. The kids ate and slept, played games, listened to their music, and some stared out the windows at the sunrise. They were excited, anxious, impatient and happy. But not one of them was scared. That was just me! The reality that we were headed for one of the largest women’s prison in the world, a pentagon-shaped prison housing 3700 inmates, began to dawn on me.

We arrived and my first impression was of a finely landscaped & manicured concentration camp. Despite the roses lining the entrance, this most definitely felt like a prison - barbed wire, guard tower, high-voltage fences, holding pens and ginormous “War of the Worlds” style search-lights. But the parade of children through the security checkpoints was an awesome distraction. This was a very happy day for them. Even the prison-guards look forward to their arrival. I was amazed to watch them engage the kids – joke with them, let them hold their batons, play with their keys, reassure them it wouldn’t be long before they saw their moms. I had been told that the kids would only get a couple of hours to visit their mothers. We were there a little more than 3 HOURS – a blissful long family reunion for mother and child.

There are happy images of this long, glorious day that I will always remember: a young inmate doing cartwheels on the grass with her daughter; a pregnant inmate pushing her wheel-chaired grandmother up to the vending machines; the inmates constantly touching and holding their children; the inmate who needed help using the microwave to pop her son’s popcorn; the 2 little boys who’d just met that day, with their arms around each other, consoling the other after they’d said goodbye to their mothers; the smiles of the kids on our bus when they received their teddy bears and letters from their moms on the way home.

In that huge visiting hall of the prison, in the hot San Joaquin Valley, I stood to the side and witnessed Love, with a capital “L” – what I believe is the most powerful force in the world. I was seeing – in a prison - what Paul described to the Corinthians – that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” I was seeing these mothers, these convicted criminals, through the resilient eyes of their children, who didn’t care what their mothers had done to be taken away from them. And for a few hours, I was seeing and feeling God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Ironically, this day was the Feast of St. Pancras – St. Pancras is the patron Saint of Children. How appropriate that it turned out to be a day to honor the children as well.

Communion v communion.

While you are checking out the Superman post below, at, be sure to read Terry Mattingly's take on the recent happenings in The Episcopal Church.

UPDATE: Here's an analysis of the current situation and the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement today.

ONE MORE UPDATE: From In A Godward Direction an interesting perspective on the AC's statement.

Jesus Christ Superman.

I have to admit, I am a sucker for Superman. I can remember reading Superman comics as a child. I am looking forward to seeing the new movie. Daniel Pulliam at has an interesting post on the religious themes in the new movie.

UPDATE: David has another more recent post with some additional thoughts on the movie. He quotes Manohla Dargis of The New York Times:
Every era gets the superhero it deserves, or at least the one filmmakers think we want. For Mr. Singer that means a Superman who fights his foes in a scene that visually echoes the garden betrayal in “The Passion of the Christ” and even hangs in the air much as Jesus did on the cross.

More Money for More Prisons.

Now, our CA governor wants to build more prisons to solve the overcrowding problems in state prisons. This is not really the right answer. We must do more to lower the recidivism rate, provide alternatives to current sentencing laws and establish stronger family and community ties to prevent crime in the first place. There is a lot more to say on this subject. What do you think?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Thought For Today.

Today's Daily Words of the Buddha:

"Look not to the faults of others, nor to their omissions and commissions. But rather look to your own acts, to what you have done and left undone. "
Dhammapada 50

Making a Difference in the Life of a Child.

As mentioned earlier, the GOTB trip to San Luis Obisbo happened yesterday. By way of background, this seven year old program has been taking kids to see their incarcerated mothers each Mother's Day. For the first time, this year we took a bus of LA children to see their dads. Volunteers who sponsor families and make the trip have had their lives changed in many ways by their participation.

The day started early when several All Saints' volunteers arrived at 5:30 AM to finish the set up for registration. Families arrived beginning at 6 AM and we boarded the bus, departing the LA Catholic Archdiocese office at 6:45, for a 4 hour trip along the coast to the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obisbo (if you follow the link be sure to check out the design capacity v. current inmate count). What do you do at the beginning of a 4 hour ride with 20 kids and their mothers? Sleep. Each person was given a blanket and sleep is indeed what most did. We had prepared a breakfast bag and each person could eat breakfast at their leisure along the way.

With about 90 minutes to go before our arrival at the prison, each child was given a Father's Day card to complete. Volunteers, who had been working with the families to get the paperwork needed for the visit, were onboard to work with the kids and support the overall effort. One brief much needed coffee stop later we arrived at CMC about 10:45 and were met by local volunteers who had picked up Subway sandwiches for all to eat before entering the prison. Since the event took place on a regular visiting day we couldn't have a special lunch inside the prison as we normally do on the GOTB Mother's Day events.

A group of volunteers, along with two families were taken in to the East facility (level 3 and 4 inmates) and the rest of the volunteers took the remaining families to the West facility (level 1 and 2). I entered with the group at East and, while the entry process can be a frustrating experience, thanks to the lieutenant responsible for the day the guards had been alerted and the process was painless. Except for one boy who had worn pants too close in color to the pants the inmates wear, we had no clothing issues at the East facility. This one child was taken to Friends Outside to change to tan pants. His brother, a 15 year old with size 18 feet, was allowed to enter wearing his, usually forbidden, flip flops. It was clear to those in authority that we wouldn't be able to find size 18 shoes that he could wear.

Once inside the real fun begins for all of us. To see these kids greeted by the dads and to be present during these reunions is both life affirming and heartbreaking. In one case, a 10 year old saw her father for the first time.

In another, four kids played Scrabble as their parents, obviously involved in a serious mother-father conversation, talked intensely at a nearby table. When the parents concluded their private talk the kids all joined their parents to enjoy the rest of the day. (The father is scheduled to be released in 2033. The oldest child will be 42 when her father comes home.)

During a trip to the vending machine for the obligatory microwave popcorn, I overheard this dad and his 16 year old daughter talking about her plans to go to college and then to law school. She wanted to go to school out of state but he was trying to convince her to go to UCLA so she would be closer to her family. You could read the fatherly pride on this dad's face from across the room. He had a lot to be proud of since his children are amazingly intelligent, polite, thoughtful and fun. The oldest, this 16 year old girl, asked me for addresses for various people who had been involved in the day so she could write thank you notes. How many 16 year old girls, regardless of their situation, would think to do this today?

I could go on with stories like these but I won't. Let me just say that these events are days that will live with me forever. Anyone who rides the bus and experiences the kids and their parents sees how important it is to keep relationships in tact between children and their parent who is in prison. All children deserve strong lifelong relationships with their parents regardless of where the parents reside. Almost all incarcerated woman and men will one day be released into society and those leaving with intact families tend to return to prison at a much lower rate than those released with no family ties.

On the way home we stopped at Nativity of Our Lady parish a mile or so from CMC. Waiting there were church volunteers who had gathered the teddy bears that were given to each child (from their dad) along with a correspondence kit to encourage them to stay in touch with their fathers. After a brief "event" we were all given our box dinner (prepared by a local parishioner's restaurant) and loaded back on the bus for the ride home. We watched a movie, ate, laughed, cried and reflected on a day that greatly impacted all who participated.

It is so wonderful to be a part of this effort, making a difference in the life of a child. How better to spend a Sunday than to live Matthew 25:34-40.

A Picture Instead of a Thousand Words. (More words and photos to follow.)

Lovely & Redemptive v. Ugly & Retributive. What Would You Choose?

Randall Balmer, author of a new book I can't wait to read, "Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelicals Lament," claims that the religious right has "taken something that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly and retributive." Can't wait to read this one.

You'd think those of us with a progressive, positive message would be able to reclaim evangelism from the religious right. Doesn't our message build up and isn't that what our world longs for?

If you are in LA you can hear him at All Saints' Beverly Hills on July 16 at 10:15. (Unfortunately, I will be in Austin and miss this.)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Get On The Bus -- San Luis Obisbo.

I had fully intended to provide a detailed post, including photos, today but it was a long (wonderful) day and having not slept Saturday night (nervous energy) the old fart is tired. More when the brain and body are revitalized.

As we get on the bus,

here's a photo from the Mother's Day trip to wet your appetite for more. Keep us in your prayers. Especially pray for the children.

And, now on to important work.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:34-40
The Message

"The Normal Heart"

Here's an interesting story from the NY Times to counter my feelings about the "Natural Family" story below, Gay Brother Straight Brother: It Could Be A Play.

Change doesn't happen overnight, it often happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. And, change is happening.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

'Natural Family'

I wanted to start out with a positive post, fully expecting tomorrow to be a blessed day as we (a group of All Saints' Beverly Hills parishioners) take 22 kids to see their fathers at the CA Men's Colony, a state prison in San Luis Obisbo, but I can't help calling your attention to this story in the June 25, Los Angeles Times. (My Get on The Bus post will be up late tomorrow night or first thing Monday morning, with photos.)

To quote a friend, "just when you think the religious fundamentalists have reached the peak of their idiocy, along comes the City Council of Kanab, Utah." Now we have a government declaring what God ordains and that we all need a "full quiver of children." Will they now be regulating working mothers, what about a professional couple with no kids, and God forbid two gay men or lesbians have a family--but then why would they be in Kanab, Utah.

You can read it for yourself and react. What's next?

Hello. Welcome to my world.

Well here goes. Not sure what this will be but I suspect this blog will end up being a bit eclectic with information about what's happening in the world, my home town (LA), my church--The Episcopal Church, and my own little world. So, if you happen to stumble onto this blog, let me know what you think (I value all opinions--although some are wrong) and point me in the direction of other interesting places to visit and reading.