vendredi, mars 21, 2008

Good Friday meditation

As I looked at the veiled cross in the dim church tonight, I reflected on how little control we can grab over much of what matters to us most. The kind of parents we have. How long they are here. Whether we have children or not. Whether we are in New York working construction in a crane that was supposed to have been inspected-but was not.

If we thought about how vulnerable we are, of course, we probably couldn't get through our days. At the same time, it is helpful, on a day such as Good Friday, to be reminded.

So many of the sad events that occur around the world could be prevented if we acknowledged our desperate need for help-and if we took the responsibility for our neighbors health. We are called to this again and again by Jesus. Why is it so challenging? If a man had inspected the crane, instead of pretending he had, seven people would probably still be alive.

Jesus had to hang upon a cross to give us a visual example of what happens when we walk away from our responsibility. Who in your life has helped you carry your own cross?
Who has inspired you to help a neighbor or person you have never met make the unbearable a bit more bearable?

Is Wright wrong?

Listening to Public Radio this morning, I heard Juan Williams and Dr. Peter Paris chatting with Marti Moss-Coane. She's the host of 91FM's "Radio Times." A commentator for NPR, Williams also works for Fox-and, like most of their staff, trends conservative. I've always been impressed by him. Paris is a professor emeritus of Christian Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary (my seminary).

The topic was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial remarks on race in a sermon that has been getting much play online (where would we be without YouTube). Wright, natch, was one of Barack Obama's mentors, and the recently retired head of the church the Obama's attend in Chicago.

There were many points in the debate between Willams and Paris when it seems that they were speaking a totally different language. Wright had been wronged. No, Wright was wrong. Wright was a prophet. Black people, who had overcome so much, didn't need to feel sorry for themselves. The controversy illustrated a generational difference-no, it didn't.

I was impressed that this kind of debate was happening within the African-American community. Then I wondered what the heck it means to talk about community in this way-is there a common denominator here beyond skin color?

One thing does seem clear to me, both from the reading I've done and from the experiences I've had. Many black Americans watch what they say around whites. I wonder what I would say if a black person said he or she thought AIDS was put in the drinking water to kill black people.

If Obama's speech reopened this conversation, it could only be good. Maybe some of us in the "white community" need to be a little less defensive-and open to hearing what we may not want to hear. After that, it may be more possible to move on to a real, honest, positive dialogue.

mercredi, mars 19, 2008

Sex in the (Capital) city

Barely had Eliot Spitzer shut the door of his Fifth Avenue apartment to meditate on his sins than the new Governor of New York, David Paterson, admitted to prior extramarital affairs.

Give us a break, guys. No wonder Bill Clinton and Rudy Guiliani figured they could reinvent themselves in the Empire State.

Imagine what it would be like if they got to together to trade tall tales.

On Monday I pondered the idea that New York attracts outsize characters. I now wonder if the they are outsize in more ways than one.

I've linked an article on the adulterous behavior of birds and beetles to this post in case you want to know more about the biology of adultery- as we've heard before, faithfulness is rare among most animal species, including ours. At the same time, however, unfaithfulness is often also met with condemnation, not to mention a push into the dung ball.

I'm sure New Yorkers are more than ready to move on to other affairs. Of state.

mardi, mars 18, 2008

Article from February IJ

Be passionate about religion coverage
Intelligencer Journal

By Elizabeth
If you are a citizen who votes their conscience and their faith, you may justifiably feel misunderstood and often ignored by the mainstream media — whatever your brand of belief.
Not that the "religious" or "values" voters are being ignored in this election season — far from it.
Because it is almost a truism in our political life that faith plays a large part in decisions made in the voting booth, religious voters, particularly Christians, are being courted by the major presidential candidates with Scripture references and personal anecdotes.
That seems logical in a country in which, in a 2006 Gallup poll, 84 percent of respondents said religion was either very important or fairly important in their own lives.
But attempts to apply a mirror to the roiling American religious scene, to take the pulse of the American electorate are hampered, both by strained media resources and by a tendency in the media to split voters into mutually opposing camps.
Take the media descriptions of those who describe themselves as "evangelical."
Are they conservative lions like Focus on the Family's James Dobson, a go-to voice on the right wing of the Republican Party?
Do they have a lot in common with best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren, traditionalist in his theology but also a prominent spokesman in the battle against AIDS?
Or do they sound like the D.C.-based author and anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis or Palmer Seminary scholar Ron Sider, long a friendly critic of conservative Christianity?
A recent poll commissioned by the social justice advocacy group Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that majorities of both Republican and Democratic evangelical voters favor addressing social problems that include not only abortion and same-sex marriage but poverty, HIV/AIDS and the environment.
Thanks in part to the effort of thoughtful writers like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, reporting on this subset of American believers is more sensitive and less stereotyped — but there's still a lot of work to be done.
And let's not even talk about mainstream Protestants, Catholics, Jews or liberals — let alone Muslims.
A 2007 report by the left-leaning press watchdog group Media Matters analyzed how often conservative and "progressive" religious leaders were interviewed in newspapers and on television. The group found that, over a two-year period from 2004 to 2006, conservatives were quoted 2.8 more times often than their colleagues to the left.
On many social issues with religious implications, abortion among them, Americans show a penchant for nuance that defeats easy categorization.
Although one element of frustratingly superficial reporting is a natural tendency for reporters to seek opposing points of view and create "news drama," there are many other factors shaping religion coverage well beyond an individual writer's control.
One is the economic conundrums facing many print newspapers as buyouts and hemorrhaging advertising revenues impel management to shut down religion sections and let religion reporters go.
Another is the fact that, for better or for worse (and it can be argued both ways), many religion writers have no formal religious training.
After a career on the business or the fashion beat, they must scramble to get up to speed on thousands of years of religious tradition and a religious landscape that is constantly evolving.
American denominations have historically been sensitive to changes in culture.
The advent of electronic media has allowed for increased and more democratic dialogue about religion.
But the town-square atmosphere of many blogs has made it even easier for unfounded rumors, like those about Democratic candidate Barack Obama's secret Muslim faith, to spread like pesky weeds.
So what can you do to hold our media accountable for greater accuracy and more in-depth reporting of the values you hold dear?
Be persistent. Send letters to the editor, write to your columnists and reporters and let them know that you are paying attention to how they cover religion.
Be passionate.
Such a complex and personal topic deserves the best coverage a newspaper can give it.
Most of all be well informed. As the old Syms (department store) slogan put it "An educated consumer is our best customer."

lundi, mars 17, 2008

I was in Brooklyn over the weekend, spending a few lovely hours today with the book appraiser. Triple-teaming him, we were able to go through what my sister's friend thinks may have been 2-3,000 books (hard to imagine, but possible). The book appraiser is a professor with an absolute lust for most things printed.

If my sister's boyfriend hadn't kept him on task, he said he would have spent a few weeks in dad's dusty, increasingly empty study. Amazing. Of course, to him all of those books were enticing, not scary.

Although he didn't come from there, he fits right into New York-a smart man who reinvented himself in a city if you aren't eccentric, you don't fit in.

The experience of taking apart Dad's house, deconstructing his life's passions, has been sad and challenging. Not that you can reduce a person's life to the books accumulated for so many years.

However, there are a couple of benefits. The work of the appraisals has revealed what a fascinating town New York can be-and the complicated and very idiosyncratic men and women who live there.

Let's not even mention those who were actually born in New York-and somehow escaped and roam the burbs!