Archive for March, 2011

The Dale And Ed Show, Or How To Reveal The Desperation Of Your Contempt For Liberals

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Dale Courtney’s widely-read blog, Right-Mind, very rarely contains anything actually written by Dale.

I find this puzzling, as virtually every word of Prevailing Winds is mine, and I wonder if Dale is unsure enough of his own convictions that he hides behind the work of others. That’s sad, and so I was hopeful, when I saw this March 26 post, that he had perhaps taken the enormous risk of actually developing and sharing an original thought or two for his eager audience of “Libertarian Christians” and other right-wing, anti-government zealots. I don’t find Dale to be a terribly original or principled thinker, and I didn’t think he’d write anything of real interest to me, but I was hoping that he was departing, however briefly, from the re-posting of virtual reams of articles from other sources.

Alas, such was not the case. He’s once again relied on other sources to convey his thoughts — this time, “Mister Ed,” who I presume is the prolific New Saint Andrews librarian Ed Iverson. But Dale’s apparent inability to write on his own blog is not, in this case, the most egregious thing in the post. What stinks is his printing of Mister Ed’s snarky analysis of what he sees, based on what he says he didn’t see at Friendship Square last Friday, as the Left’s spinelessness and hypocrisy. Ol’ Ed hoots with glee that he was witness to — by not witnessing anything — yet another example of the moral vacuity of Moscow’s liberals. Here’s what he wrote, and what Dale hurriedly slammed onto Right-Mind:

“Only Silence in Friendship Square.

As I was leaving my office yesterday afternoon in this bluest dot in the reddest state in the union, I observed something worthy of note. There was no anti-war protest on Main Street. This is something new. The Friday afternoon gathering of old hippies and inexperienced college kids reuniting for a couple of hours of bonhomie is a well-regarded institution in this university town where Thoreau’s lecture on civil disobedience is holy writ. I can scarcely recall a Friday when the faithful did not congregate. Maybe that Friday when global warming dumped 18 inches of the white stuff at low temperatures? Lots of folks didn’t move that day.

Yesterday was a pleasant day in the neighborhood, perfect for the assembly of the faithful. More importantly, there is a new hot war going on. Where was the righteous anger over the killing? Where were the stentorian speeches directed against the evil military industrial complex? Where were the cars with drivers too busy to attend the service but honking their support in passing? It was remarkably quiet.

So Libya is their war? I am relieved to learn that war is OK. When a leftist Democrat orders the F-16s out to do what they do best, it is righteous. When the war is run by a community organizer it sanctifies the killing, when the secretary of state is the smartest woman in the nation, we don’t have to protest the loss of life of even one soldier. When the funny kid with big ears grows up he knows what it is like to have been bullied and he would never engage in international bullying. That only happens when Texas oilmen enthrall (sic) to the House of Saud occupy the Whitehouse (sic). I am left with no other conclusion. There was only silence in Friendship Square.” 03-26-2011 16:31 by Mister Ed to Right Mind

Addressing Ed’s vituperative description of the President and his obvious contempt for the Secretary of State would take an entire column; suffice to say that his rant is redolent with the stench of rotten, filthy fruit — a display only slightly less disturbing in its hatefulness as his vicious analysis of the (non)activity in Friendship Square. For now, that’s what I’ll address.

First, though, some context. Since November, 2001, a group of a about a dozen diehard peace activists — the folks described by Ed as “old hippies and inexperienced college kids” — have met at Moscow’s Friendship Square, right in the heart of downtown and adjacent to NSA, every Friday at 5 p.m. They have information tables, signs and banners, and a consistent, principled stand against war, the military industrial complex, a bloated military budget, and violence in all forms. I know several of them, and I know them to be decent, intelligent and passionate people who abhor and condemn the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and grieve that war exists at all.

But last Friday, just after President Obama announced the beginning of air strikes against Libya, Mister Ed says he left his NSA office to find Friendship Square empty, bereft of protesters and thus full to overflowing of leftist hypocrisy of the starkest kind. It delighted Ed, who concluded, as any classically-trained pedagogue would, that the apparent absence of anti-war protesters in Friendship Square shortly after military intervention ordered by a Democratic president was a clear case of cowardice and hypocrisy — that the protesters balked and caved, deciding that a “war” initiated by Obama, their putative hero, was a war they simply couldn’t protest.

Bush and Cheney wars, bad; Obama and Biden wars, good. That, according to the perspicacious pedagogue, is how the immoral, imbecilic Left thinks.

And wouldn’t that be convenient! Wouldn’t that just put the final nail in the ready coffin prepared for simpering, sentimental liberalism? He looked out on Friendship Square and saw, he says, no protesters. Not a one, he gloats, and so there you have it: Moscow’s peace activists are just as he thought — hypocritical beyond belief, and shallow beyond measure.

It’s easy for Ed to decry the beliefs of those in his community who regularly, for nearly a decade, have demonstrated against war. It’s easy for him, as he dissects and denounces the principles and integrity that motivate them, to render judgment against people unable to defend themselves. And it’s certainly easy for Dale to jump up and down and applaud as he proffers Ed’s verdict to his readers, who, lacking any knowledge of the protester’s actual beliefs and lacking, as well, any personal acquaintance with them, no doubt are satisfied that Judge Ed has spoken, and spoken the truth. Ed speaks, Dale posts, and the matter is settled. Independent analysis not needed; bearing false witness, unheeded.

But here’s the truth. I wasn’t downtown at 5:00 Friday, so I don’t know if anyone was there to protest or not, and you’ll have to forgive me if I’m unwilling to take Mister Ed’s word for it. I have a dear friend who is a regular at the Friday evening gatherings. She was in Spokane Friday; another activist was recovering from surgery, another battling a cold. She says she would be surprised if, for the first time since November, 2001, no one showed up at the Square to protest the air strikes against Libya — an example of U.S. military force that, she said, brought her and several other Palouse-area peace activists to tears. Sally, who loves the Lord Jesus, tells me that the loosely-knit group is nonetheless bound together in its grief and dismay over Obama’s actions, and she says neither she nor they would “give him a pass, just because he has a (D) by his name.”

They’ll be there Friday, just as they always have been, protesting against this military action with the same fervor as they’ve condemned the unmitigated horror that is the Iraq War, and the inestimable tragedy that is the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Friendship Square won’t be empty this coming Friday.

The question is, will Mister Ed and his buddy Dale be there as well, and will they take back their sinful, careless, and malicious portrayal of men and women — their neighbors, some of them their sisters and brothers in Christ — who simply long for, and work for, a day when war is long forgotten as a way to resolve conflict? My past experiences with Dale tell me it’s not likely; it’s more fun to mock as cowards, perhaps even demonize as hypocrites, those you dislike. Taking the time to try to understand them simply isn’t as fun, I suppose.

Dale, if you’re reading this, I pray that you’ll do the right thing on Right-Mind and remove the post — or write another that acknowledges that Ed was hasty, to put it mildly, in his judgment. You’ve sinned by maligning people you neither know nor care to know. And Ed — you have a couple of hundred young Christian students who ought to be able to look up to you. As you continue to look down on Moscow’s liberals, might you consider, if only for a moment, the example of folly and malice you’ve provided them?

Happy Birthday, Jeannie! And Feliz Cumpleanos, Kathy!

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

After my October trip to Little Rock for an all-women family reunion, I wrote about the delight — the “gift unparalleled” — the Lord has given me in my cousin Jeannie, my eldest aunt’s daughter who, up ’til last summer, was simply a cousin I’d seen a few times, talked with once, I think, at my grandmother’s funeral, and honestly never got to know during our every-other-summer visits to Arkansas. Mostly out of curiosity, I had left her a phone message as we were all firming up our reunion plans, and I really didn’t have any expectations other than, I hoped, not having to ask other cousins who she was at the reunion.

But our first conversation was a revelation: She’s brilliant, kind, funny, and utterly charming, down to earth in a way keeping with the archetypical South, if not always within our family. She is a committed Christian, a feminist, a thinker, and she represents a great gift to me — a sister in the Lord Jesus, a new friend, and a re-discovered cousin, all in one utterly delightful package. Not seeking the Returns Counter with this one, believe me.

Jeannie turns 64 today; I wish she were doing so with her younger Idaho cousin to celebrate with her. But I’m there in spirit, and because I know she’s a Prevailing Winds reader, I’d like to wish her a birthday full of blessings and a year replete with the joy of knowing Jesus. I love you, Jean, and even if it’s YOUR birthday, this year, I got the gift.

My “anam cara” — that’s “soul friend” in Gaelic — also has a birthday this week, and I’d like to offer her two things: One, a tilde, the “~” mark, over the “n” in my Spanish “Happy Birthday;” without it, and you’ll have to trust me on this, the absence of the “~” is significant. But Kathy, who lives in the “way back part” of Washington, doesn’t love me for my text-formatting abilities, and so I know she’ll forgive me, knowing, as she does, my heart on this and on pretty much everything else.

It’s because of that — her knowing my heart, and sharing with me in hers a profound love for Christ Jesus — that she is so precious to me. Next to my husband, I can’t imagine that anyone knows me better. Astonishingly, there are years of evidence in our friendship that the more she knows me, the more she likes me, and that has been a gift to me of immeasurable value, even as it seems starkly unlikely to many of you. But in all seriousness, I am so happy to enjoy her friendship, and as I reflect this week on the wisdom, laughter, and kindnesses she’s shared with me, I thank my God that way back in the foreign-to-me “back east” a few decades ago, this incredible woman was born.

I have some truly strong, wonderful women in my life, and these two, with birthdays so close together, really ought to meet sometime. But until then, I’m just glad I’ve met them. They’ve helped me to see how lavish our Lord is when he gives gifts.

Winding Up Women’s History Month (Oh, Must We?)

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Indeed, we must.

I can almost see the eyes rolling . . . “Women’s History Month?” Who cares, and why bother?

My response, of course, would be to kindly remind my eye-rolling, shrugging readers that Men’s History occupies the entirety of the Western sociohistorical record, as well as the other eleven months of the calendar — history, as it is, being written by the victors. So let’s enjoy the last few days of Women’s History Month with your mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and the mothers of the Church, and praise our Lord Jesus for the life and ministry of a woman I have deeply admired for decades, Sojourner Truth.

As has been the case at times, I am indebted to Christians For Biblical Equality’s Arise e-zine for some of this biographical information; this is from the March 23, 2011 edition. Born in 1797, Sojourner Truth a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as such was known as an abolitionist, suffragist, and social reformer. This was at a time when preaching the Good News of reconciliation to God through Christ Jesus entailed, if not required, working for justice, calling for a Biblical equality that abolishes divisions in church, society, and home based on race, class, and gender, and condemning, both from the pulpit and in the preacher’s personal life, any forms of bigotry indulged in by the Church. Sadly, those days, echoed later in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, appear to be long gone as the Church embraces as elders and statesmen those who apply a ludicrous pretzel logic in expounding on and embracing all manner of injustice, indifference, and ineptitude in announcing the Good News.

But, I digress . . .

Continuing, from Arise, CBE’s e-zine:

“Sojourner Truth, or Isabella, was born a slave and remembered hearing her mother cry long into the night as she mourned the loss of her children who had been sold away. Isabella’s mother reminded her remaining children, ‘Oh, my children, there is a God who hears and sees you. He lives in the sky and when you are beaten or cruelly treated or fall into any trouble you must ask Him to help because he always hears you.’

“Isabella was sold away from her parents, and ‘married’ to a slave on her plantation at the age of seventeen. After giving birth to five children, Isabella decided to run away, convinced that God affirmed freedom for the slave. She hired herself out as a house servant to a Quaker couple, and for the first time, she earned money for her labor. She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth because,

‘My name was Isabella, but when I left the house of bondage, I left everything behind. I wasn’t goin’ to keep nothin’ of Egypt on me, an’ so I went to the Lord an’ asked him to give me a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins, an’ being a sign unto them. Afterward I told the Lord I wanted another name, ’cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth because I was to declare the truth to the people.’”

(A question for my freedom-loving Christian Libertarian readers: Would you defend the slave’s heartfelt appeal for liberty, freedom, and self-determination at least as much as you decry government intervention into your private property rights? Or would you deny her her right to seek freedom by clinging to a couple of Scriptural passages that counsel the slave to accept her condition, even when Isabella’s state was nothing like that of the Hebraic or Roman slavery of the first-century world but, instead, a violent and wretchedly permanent, race-based, life sentence nurtured by the manstealing condemned in that same Scriptures? I’m just asking, seeing that your embrace of liberty appears so all-consuming of late).

Her commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ required that she align herself on the side of Biblical justice, and she was renown for her stirring defense of women’s rights and her stark condemnation of slavery. She addressed the wrongfulness of patriarchy in the name of Christ by answering a critic with this now-famous passage, again borrowed from Arise:

“‘I born my children and seen most of them sold to slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me — and aren’t I a woman? Then that little man in black there, he say women can’t have as much rights as man, ’cause Christ weren’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with him.’

“Lest you think this uneducated woman was not theologically astute, this same reasoning was used by Karl Barth in which he argued that there is a subtle judgment on men in the birth of Christ, who was conceived without their involvement.” (CBE Arise, March 23, 2011)

This woman fought for righteousness in the trenches, preaching the Word of God without fear, without hesitation, and, sadly, without the support of the larger Christian Church in America, whose gender-, race- and class-based embrace of comfort and conformity to the culture inured them from both the desperation of the suffering as well as from the desperation of their own moral vacuity. She is a hero of mine, along with Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and countless more women and men whose names you’ve never heard of, but who molded society and the Church more into the image of the God of reconciliation and righteousness while shattering sinful barriers that strangled and suffocated the marginalized and lost.

I am a feminist because I am a Christian; as I’ve said before, if I were convinced that the Word of God required and endorsed patriarchy and other social divisions, my submission to my Lord and Savior would require that I enthusiastically jettison any of my beliefs that conflicted with his Word. But I am convinced; I passionately believe — and not because it feels good, or even right, but because of my study of the Word — that the biggest victory Satan has wrought at the expense of the Body of Christ is our being blinded to the truth of Biblical righteousness, Biblical equality, Biblical justice, and Biblical reconciliation. We’re crippled because of it.

To me, it’s a matter, really, of which side you’re on — culture or the Church, enjoying the spoils of patriocentric victory or renouncing un-Godly gain and privilege, ignoring the continued marginalized status of those on the outside and embracing the comfort of being on the inside or defending the poor by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them against their oppressors . . . That sort of thing. And as for me and our household, we believe we side with those mothers and fathers of the faith, like Sojourner Truth, because they were on the side of the One who is all Truth.

Why I Am Reluctantly Pro-Choice

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Well, that got your attention, I bet.

And I don’t like to start out that way, but Thomas Banks’ comments, and my response to them, introduced a subject I haven’t written much about for the last year or so. Abortion is, indeed, a minefield, and as I forge through it, I am as comfortable proclaiming myself to be pro-life as I am confident that I am a reluctant member of the pro-choice crowd.

It’s not my intention to make your head spin, much less to make you angry. But this is an issue I’ve given a lot of thought to, particularly as I make my way through one of the many books I’m reading, “The Church And Abortion — A Catholic Dissent” by George Dennis O’Brien, a professor and former dean at Princeton and the University of Rochester. He is avowedly pro-life, believing, as I do, that abortion is the taking of a human life. But he also argues that the Church’s stance toward abortion, abortion legislation, and women who have had or who are considering abortion has resulted in grievous damage both to the witness of the Gospel and to American culture. I agree.

I recognize that many of you will respond immediately that legalized abortion has resulted in “grievous damage” to unborn children, and I agree there, too. I believe that human life begins at conception, even as I recognize that the Church fathers have not always agreed, teaching that at some point in mid-pregnancy, a “quickening” occurs in the fetus that imbues her or him with a soul and, thus, full personhood. I’m not qualified to comment on when, if, or how that happens; it’s enough for me that the fertilized egg, left unmolested, will result in a baby born some nine months later. That that baby is fully human to me while in utero is not, I recognize, a belief shared by good and decent people who are thus opposed to anti-abortion legislation.

And disagreeing with me on the personhood of the fetus does not strip someone of their status as “good and decent,” because while I fervently believe what I believe, I know that it is not an obvious call — it is difficult, if not impossible, for some people to believe that a first-trimester fetus is a person. People who hate African Americans are not and never can be “good and decent;” the personhood of the Black man or woman is utterly and unequivocally clear, and hatred toward them is sin of the vilest sort. I have never met one pro-choice person who hates anyone, and they don’t “hate” the unborn. They’re simply not convinced that the unborn fetus is truly a person.

I disagree — but I don’t believe their intentions are murderous, and when “murderer” is applied to a woman seeking or having had an abortion, I get more than a little angry. Intention, both in law and in the heart, is the difference between “murder” and other forms of life-taking, and none of the many women I know who have chosen to terminate their pregnancies did so with the intention of “murdering” the unborn child. That language is unnecessarily hateful, terribly unhelpful, and utterly without compassion or common sense. I won’t be a part of any movement that addresses women that way, nor will I lend my support to crisis pregnancy centers that apply undue and unjust pressure on “sinful” women to give up their children. I know there are examples of pregnant women being told by CPC’s that they can “redeem” their sinful sexual experiences by giving their child to a Christian couple, resulting in the presumed salvation of the baby. That is an offense to the Gospel, and to the extent that women are coerced and unduly pressured to “choose life” by giving up their babies, it is a disservice to mothers undergoing tremendous stress.

I don’t owe my readers more of my autobiography than I care to offer, but I do owe you integrity, and so I’ll say again what I’ve said before: I have not had an abortion, and I would say so if I had. Jeff and I have been blessed with two beautiful, wonderful, and unplanned — “spontaneous” is a better word — sons, and I cannot imagine my life without them. Being their mom is the best thing, after finding Christ, that’s ever happened to me, and my surprise pregnancies brought nothing but utter joy into our hearts. But between the two pregnancies, I also experienced a spontaneous abortion — a miscarriage — when I was just a couple of months pregnant. I didn’t know I was pregnant; I was undergoing a serious cancer scare and frankly was more concerned about that than I was about losing a pregnancy I didn’t know I was experiencing.

For me, miscarriage did not come with feelings of great trauma, but I know that the loss of a fetus is devastating to women, and I grieve for those friends of mine whose worlds were shaken by the unforeseen, natural, termination of their pregnancies. I held in my arms my dear friend’s deceased son, stillborn at six months, perfectly formed, beautiful, and now, I believe, with the Lord Jesus. His stillborn delivery saved the life, though, of a woman I love dearly — and almost lost. I don’t take lightly the ending, spontaneous or volitional, of a pregnancy, but the near-death of my friend would have been a far worse tragedy. I find it hard to relate to people who would respond to that contention with the sober logic of the legal philosopher, rather than with an understanding wrought of relationship, loss, and gratitude. If that appears to be proof of a feminized, feminist, and excessively feminine and silly ethic, I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the God of mercy, as well as on the Scriptures’ testimony of a God neither fundamentalist nor Pharisee.

I fear the intrusion of the State in the most intimate of women’s experiences. I fear that first-trimester miscarriages, if abortion is made illegal, would result in a possible criminal investigation to determine if the termination of the pregnancy was “spontaneous” — natural — or volitional. At the risk of being too graphic, I believe that an obvious, if poorly-considered, result of criminalized abortion would result in the grossest kind of violation of privacy as police somehow determine if the tissue was expelled spontaneously or by an act of volition — an abortion — by the mother. I trust you can imagine the inappropriateness, not to mention the ineptitude, of a cop examining evidence of a miscarriage in the bathroom of a grieving woman.

And that leads to another question I don’t think the anti-choice movement has considered: Whom would we be prosecuting? There are some grotesque logical conclusions here. If the mother sought an abortion from her doctor, would we really apply the same kinds of law and punishment that we would for someone who seeks to hire a hit man to kill someone else? Really? Do we hate desperate women that much? Or would we charge the doctor with murder, ignoring his or her professional and considered contention that an abortion was medically necessary? Do we really believe that the ugliness of so-called “partial-birth” abortion, as described by the pro-life faithful, is a sign of rampant baby-hating on the part of a medical profession intent on the gluttonous and gleeful slaughter of the unborn? Is not the ugliness of the procedure evidence, at least to the thoughtful, of its occasional, tragic necessity? I don’t know any doctors like that, and you don’t, either.

The reality is that while society ought to do everything humanely — and not just humanly — possible to encourage mothers to bring their babies to term and raise them with the kind of support every parent and every child needs, women and their doctors, guided by their faith and the best practices of medicine, must be allowed to retain their reproductive choice. I would like abortion to be rare — and safe, at least, for the mother. In this I stand with my feminist foremothers like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull, whose condemnation of abortion never focused on women, but on the patriarchal, oppressive, and coercive culture surrounding them — a culture today that, tragically, shows little concern for women and children until it encounters them in an unplanned pregnancy.

I’ll close with a quote by Susan B. Anthony, about whom, by the way, you really ought to know more. She was a passionate believer and tireless worker for the suffrage of women that many of our Christian patriarchs would like to strip away. Her words here, I think, define the issue well:

“Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”

I pray the Church would show more care for women and children already born before it battles for the lives of the unborn. A commitment to the abolishment of those societal factors — sexism, racism, and classism — that can drive women to consider ending their pregnancies, factors not privileged but condemned in the Scriptures (Galatians 3:28), would go a long way toward reaching women with the Gospel and bringing about a marked decrease in abortion.

Wow. Even Her Poetry Picks Are Political . . .

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

It’s true. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, generally, although I’m delighted that my son is a poet — and a very talented one. I, on the other hand, don’t write poetry and I don’t particularly seek it out, unless song lyrics count, in which case my tastes run more toward Dylan’s “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.”

So it’s no surprise, then, that I’d spark on this bit o’ rhyme from financial analyst and poet — now, there are two vocations you rarely find together — Michael Silverstein, as published in The Progressive Populist’s April 1 edition.

First, though, a word of explanation and then a hearty “Amen!” As The Progressive Populist explains in a paragraph introducing Silverstein’s satirical analysis of Washington, D.C.’s, political contempt for the poor, the newspaper notes that “tax breaks to the rich and richest enacted last year will cost the Treasury an average of $85 billion a year — roughly the same amount that will be taken away from the poor and poorest in the form of benefit cuts . . . ” (The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2011)

This ought to outrage Christians, for whom care for the poor is one of the firstfruits of faith in Christ Jesus (James 1:27). It doesn’t. Instead, the Religious Right has aligned itself with the powerful, the proud, the preening, and the prosperous who inveigh against blue collar workers, teachers, and government employees for what they insist is a culture of entitlement. This they do while raking in profits, benefits, bonuses and breaks that can only be described as obscene. The richest in this country receive far more aid, in the form of tax cuts, than do the poor — including the elderly, the sick, children, and the unemployed.

Of course, those Christians who choose to worship God by hating the government he has ordained, and who refuse to recognize the common good that government can achieve among those pesky “least of these” that Jesus was always yammering about, can always take comfort in their noxious injection of pro-corporation, anti-poor “Libertarianism” into the Christian faith. One poem isn’t going to change their minds; only the Holy Spirit can do that. But I think this is worth thinking about, and what it lacks in poetic beauty and form, it more than makes up for in its pointed indictment of the real “entitlement class” in the U.S. –

“There’s a clear need now for sacrifice
To advance a greater good;
It’s not a pleasant prospect
But this need’s well understood.

The poor will make this sacrifice,
They’ll feel its pain and cuss;
while the rich assure each other
That this greater good . . . is us.”

Thomas’ Comments — A Response

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Ahhhh, the best-laid plans of mice, moms, and bloggers. But I want to address the very thoughtful points made by Thomas Banks about my personal statement of faith.

Here are his comments:

“A couple of questions:

1) It appears that you believe the manifold injustice in the world to be economic in nature, viz, the oppression of the poor by the rich, and Christians too often enlisting themselves conveniently on the side of wealth/power for its own sake. Certainly one could multiply instances of either, I agree.

But do you think that economic justice stands in straits more desperate than, say, sexual justice? Certainly our culture broadly endorses any number of sexual practices for which one can find no warrant, and plenty of condemnation in the either scriptures or the fathers.

For example, suppose a believing employee of the Salvation Army
were to see a homeless man on the street, and, passing by him, a woman who looked to be about six months pregnant walking towards an abortion clinic? Now it’s obvious that both cases demand the love and witness of the Christian who encounters them, but isn’t the woman (even more to the point, her child) in a more desperate case? I think the answer must be a definite yes.”

I copied Thomas’ words from the comments section, and if I’ve missed something I hope he’ll let me know. And I appreciate his point: Economic justice is as important as he and I agree, but so is sexual righteousness — which I might term “sexual justice,” and which I think is sometimes linked to problems of patriarchy and socio-economic injustice.

The example above compels me to agree that the situation the woman is suffering through, and the threat to her unborn child, is more immediately a cause for concern than that of the homeless man. Where I flinch in agreeing with Thomas here is that too often the focus on the immediacy of the woman’s situation and the poisoned, patriarchal sexual ethic the right wing has promulgated in Christ’s name results in the horror of “Christians” screaming at women in abortion clinics and flinging at them photos of dismembered fetuses.

That’s not a Christian ANYTHING — and certainly not a reasonable, compassionate response to the possibility of either her sexual victimization, her possible ambivalence about the abortion, her economic and emotional needs, and the threat to the life of the baby within. And my experience, with which Thomas is free to disagree, is that the people who victimize women at abortion clinics are not also devoting the rest of their time to ministering to the homeless.

So if we believe that there is the possibility that the woman is suffering in some way — and if we necessarily recognize that she may be just fine without our intervention, thanks — how should followers of Christ approach her? My thoughts here are that they first ought to stop, think, pray, and then pray some more, asking the Lord for discernment, wisdom, grace, and sensitivity. If the words “murdering babies” occur to them, they ought to leave, and leave quickly.

And here, frankly, I wish they would be women; men simply cannot understand the shock and fear some pregnancies bring to women, nor will they ever grasp the myriad situations that may compel a woman to consider ending her pregnancy. That doesn’t mean that men cannot or should not move to prevent injustice or violence, but that they are burdened with a heavy combination of empirical ignorance and insensitivity. Addressing the woman’s situation may result in great damage, and that would be, in this case, a woman made terrified and alienated by a follower of Christ who still chooses to end her pregnancy. As long as abortion is legal in the United States, and I’m deeply concerned about it’s being criminalized, she can choose to end the life of her baby. If we are correct that the unborn child is imbued with a soul, having been created in the image of God, then we can take some comfort in his or her destiny, and in the likelihood, perhaps, of the woman’s not finding the Gospel repugnant.

So what would I do? After praying, I would go up to the woman and ask if she’s OK. I’d read her face, her voice, and listen — really listen — if she chooses to speak to me. I’d ask her what she needs, what she wants, and what I can do for her. I would also, humbly, recognize that she doesn’t have to give me the time of day. If she wants my help, I would do whatever I could for her. But if she wants to be left alone, I’d give her my number and tell her that if she ever needs help with anything, I’d try to do what I could.

And then I’d go see how I could help the chronically homeless man.

Thomas, and others, let me know what you think, and thanks for your comments.

Words From St. Teresa

Friday, March 18th, 2011

“The important thing,” she said, “is not to think much, but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”
St. Teresa of Avila

Really, what other comment is necessary?

An Apology To Thomas Banks, Faithful Correspondent

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

In editing my last post and skimming through the blog, I realize that I have not responded to a very thoughtful comment posted in response to my personal statement of faith by a gentleman who identifies himself as Thomas Banks.

He deserved a response and should’ve gotten one immediately for remarks both gracious and insightful. Unfortunately, traveling and being . . uhhhh . . . “traveled to”
. . . has kept me distracted. Thomas, you’re up tomorrow, and please forgive me for having neglected to respond to your comments. I’ll reprint your questions and respond to them, with thanks for your interest in where the Prevailing Winds blow.

Please, Lord, Cut The Microphone . . .

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

While praying for the people devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I have to admit that I’m also asking the Lord to rid the airwaves and print media of evangelical Christians who say stupid things about God smiting Japan because of its purportedly rampant Buddhism.

Or Shintoism. Or something he doesn’t like . . .

Many of us believe that God’s anger at sin was poured out on the cross of Jesus Christ, but even the few who cling to the image of Angry-God-With-Thunderbolt have to acknowledge that if he is hitting Haiti, New Orleans, Indonesia and now Japan with hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis because of their sin, his aim is more than a little off.

I would contend that the locus of institutionalized sin today is not in Haiti, where Christian churches have prospered for decades, nor in Indonesia, whose people are so poor that purposing to offend the Creator they depend on for sustenance likely isn’t on the agenda. If the Almighty intended to rip into New Orleans for its debauchery, he missed by miles, destroying instead the predominately Black and very Christian areas of the city and barely touching the intersection of Sodom and Gomorrah. And I think Japan is no more, nor any less, sinful than other nations; it’s certainly not the bastion of devout Buddhism the pundits-for-Jesus suggest.

A sinful world, and perhaps a sinful world in its last days, is subject to horrific natural disasters. One would hope that it would not be afflicted yet more by the bellicose pronouncements of those who appear to know less about the character of God than they do meteorology. The only weather stuff they know is “windfall,” as in “financial” — the kind of thing that happens when the frightened faithful catch wind of how others are suffering and then take their stand for the Lord by supporting those who pile on.

When a natural disaster strikes the headquarters of one of these brave Gospel ministers, I won’t declare that it’s straight from God, retribution for careless speech and hateful hearts. The thing is, I don’t think they’ll think to do that, either.

When Blessing Comes Carrying a Suitcase

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Just after I promised to not have these long gaps between posts, we made a kinda-sorta spur-of-the-moment trip to Snohomish, Washington, to visit our son, who’s student teaching, bless his heart, in the government schools for which both he and I are profoundly grateful. We spent some time with family and friends, headed back last Tuesday, and I got ready for a long-anticipated visit from my dear friend and sister in Christ, Lupita Rocha Quintana.

Lupita is my age and is the past director of the Evangelical Methodist Church’s seminary “Instituto Biblica Vida y Verdad,” or “Life and Truth Bible Institute.” Until this past summer, she had also worked as a missionary in Spain, ministering to immigrants, mostly from Central America, in Cartagena, Spain. Serving the Lord Jesus in Spain had been her dream for as long as I’ve known her — almost 12 years now — and she and her ministry flourished there as she and a married couple led Bible studies, evangelized, and established a network of house churches. But her late father’s illness called her back to her hometown of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and she took care of him round the clock until his death shortly before the New Year.

You may have heard of Ciudad Juarez. It is, in short, the most dangerous city in the world, and particularly for women. Lupita, who pastors a small church called “Good News Temple” through the EMC, lives with another Christian woman in the tiny, teetering house her father built on a patch of dead soil in a vibrant colonia in the hills above downtown Juarez, and she is at risk every minute of every day as she ministers in a city saturated with violence and choking on distress and fear. It’s not just the drug lords who are dying — it’s people who have the misfortune of walking by a crime scene and whose sudden status as possible witnesses renders them immediately a threat and thus summarily executed. Church services, funerals, birthday parties, weddings, and family dinners are regularly sprayed with machine gun fire because of the suspected attendance of a drug-market rival — or the possible presence of terror-stricken witnesses who’ve somehow escaped immediate assassination before. Police are powerless in their terror or beholden to the bad guys in their corruption, and the presence of the Federales has evidently caused things only to escalate.

And in a nation of 32 states and numerous cities of a million or more, some sixty percent — six out of ten — of orphans in Mexico are from Juarez. I’ve never met a child who’s lost both mom and dad to violence. I’m guessing you haven’t either.

Words can hardly convey the suffocating fear and numbness that settles in daily as Juarez’ two million residents somehow make peace with the fact that they live in a war zone not of their making. I can understand the words Lupita uses to describe what life in Ciudad Juarez is like; I speak Spanish well, and she paints a clear picture of the never-ending chaos, danger, and fear that accompanies every person in the city during their daily lives. But I can’t comprehend the things she says; I can’t put my mind, my imagination, in that place. I wonder at times if I can fully discharge my compassion toward that place. There are, I think, things we can only know by experiencing them, even as the terror they invoke assures us that we won’t, then, end up understanding because we won’t end up going. It’s a luxury I have — a responsibility to my children and my husband to not be stupid by visiting a battlefield. I feel both faithful and relieved to say this. And Lupita, whose commitment to her congregation is only through July, could also decide to leave — to shed the filthy burden of fear that she and everyone else there carries.

I was in Juarez with her four years ago, and I remember a town darkened by suspicion and fear, a town where this Irish-looking woman attracted attention not at all welcome and, at times, more than a little disturbing. I’ve been to her house and to the church she serves, and I’ve walked the two miles or so from her colonia to the center of town, trying to figure out if the close quarters of the bus would’ve somehow been safer than the naked exposure of walking with another woman. The murders of some 3- to 400 women in Juarez over the past five years or so have gotten lost in the furor and disbelief of the explosion of drug violence in the city. There is no one in Juarez who is safe, immune somehow from the random violence every morning brings, but women are prey in ways that men in Juarez won’t experience. Someone there is determined to kill lots and lots of women, and he is succeeding tremendously.

Lupita says not one person in her congregation of a couple dozen has escaped the violent loss of a family member, and yet the Lord has protected these sisters and brothers so far — none from “Buenas Nuevas” have been harmed in the half-decade during which the city has become a war zone. My dear friend, a single 50-year-old living alone much of the time in a house that’s already been stripped by burglars looking for copper in electrical wires and scrap metal to be sold for their families’ food, leaves her house every day to serve the men and women and children the Lord has entrusted to her, visiting them in their homes, discipling them and assuring them that the Lord has protected them so far, but never promising what she simply can’t — that they will survive the next day or week or year, because in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, people who claim Jesus as Lord are dying all around them.

I mentioned earlier that Lupita’s contract with the denomination ends in July. I am a selfish woman; I want her to leave then, to go somewhere else and serve, to leave this cesspool of violence and never look back. I don’t want to lose her. I can’t even begin to think of bearing a loss that great, and in my worst moments, I don’t feel terribly comforted by the assurance I have that if she becomes a victim, either of bad men or madmen, she will be, immediately, in the presence of the Lord Jesus. I believe, Lord. Help me — not in my disbelief, but in my fear-driven selfishness.

Because Lupita is going to continue serving her flock after this July and probably after the next. She’s leaving my home in a few hours to return to the most dangerous place on this Earth, and she says she just doesn’t feel that her Savior wants her to leave Buenas Nuevas. Lupita has no will of her own. She lives only to worship and serve her Lord, and she acknowledges that she’s afraid much of the time. She’s not a Stepford evangelical, devoted to her faith and yet utterly without personality or humanity, virtue or flaws, the kind of automatron-for-Jesus whose fervor nurtures in you a fervent desire of your own to hear her curse when she drops an ice-cream cone. That’s not Lupita. She’s a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, a servant; she’s an aunt, a sister, and one of my two or three dearest friends. Her bravery comes not by living in Juarez — there are a couple of million brave souls there now — but because she doesn’t have to be there. She is a slave of Christ Jesus’ entirely free to take off after her commitment on paper is fulfilled, and no one would fault her for it.

We don’t see many martyrs in our lives, and we probably, really, would rather not. It makes it hard to bitch about the mess our kitchen remodel has caused us.

And so she stays in Juarez, confident only that her Savior will do what he knows best, and that is to bring her safely to Heaven, whether a victim of violence or a wizened old woman whose candle simply went out. This could be the last time I see her this side of eternity; it makes me cry. She cries, too, and I don’t doubt that the mist in her eyes comes from the terror of leaving Moscow for Juarez. Would you? Would you choose, in fear and trembling, to walk through a minefield every day to deliver the Gospel of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation to a city held hostage — literally — by evil?

I . . . haven’t. Lupita has, and while she takes with her our prayers daily for her protection, she leaves me with a view of courage, a fragrance of purpose and passion, I have not known before this visit. I am not condemned for not going to Juarez. Neither are you. But Lupita has been called to, and she is obedient.

Yeah, it’s not “obedience” unless it’s about the hard stuff. I just wish that her obedience didn’t have to involve such a treacherous road to such a horrible place. I ask your prayers for my friend and your sister. And I’ll keep you posted, you know, if there’s ever any news.

Mercy, Lord.