Oregon voters will consider a ballot measure legalizing the sale and regulation of marijuana. Taxes from the sale of marijuana would be directed to fund public education, mental health and addiction services, and public safety. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has made no pronouncement on this emerging public policy issue and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon has yet to release their fall ballot measure guide. As a minister in the United Church of Christ in Oregon, however, I will vote yes on the November measure and encourage other people of faith to consider doing likewise. My vote is predicated on a theological principle that public policy should reflect the common good. The illegalization of marijuana, a drug that is in some ways medically considered to be less harmful then alcohol, has tragically forced many people needlessly into the criminal justice system. It is worth noting that those charged with drug offenses are disproportionally people of color. African-Americans are four times more likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana use even though usage is the same, according to federal data. This has further institutionalized the sin of racism in our society. Like many young people, I smoked marijuana, but unlike youth of color there was little chance that I would have ever faced legal consequences for my actions. My “yes” vote is not without reservations. There is growing medical evidence that smoke from marijuana is dangerous. I am concerned that marijuana use is often idolized in public culture – the same is true for alcohol, however – and thus some seem to promote use among young people under 21. My hope is that with further public education and drug treatment funds that Oregon can do more to reduce unhealthy drug use among young people. Regardless of my concerns, this issue should be treated as a treatment issue and not a law enforcement issue. Obviously, people of good faith will come to different conclusions on this issue. I’ll vote Yes on 91 with the hope that the legalization and regulation of marijuana will reduce crime and violence now associated with the black market linked with the drug, will provide new funding for treatment, and will undermine the systemic racism that fuels our dysfunctional criminal justice system. All of this would benefit the common good of Oregon.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the official views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ, or any local congregation.
What is genocide? I agree that the term has fallen victim to "verbal inflation." Both Hamas and Israel have been accused of war crimes - attacking civilian populations - but to accuse Israel of genocide is a misuse of the term. Rwanda was a genocide by legal standards. President Obama is taking steps in Iraq to prevent a possible genocide by the ISIS against Christians and others. I argue the world community has a "responsibility to protect" in the event of genocide. Even limited military action in Rwanda, such as destroying radio and other communication facilities, could have saved lives. We've said: Never again! We ought to mean that. I hope very much the humanitarian aid and limited air campaign does accomplish the mission without drawing the U.S. back into a long term effort in Iraq. It is worth noting that Christians lived in peace in Iraq before the U.S. Invasion there. At the same time, we need to do everything possible to push the Israeli government into a new peace accord. President Obama is in my prayers, as always, as he seeks to navigate these waters. My prayers are also with all those facing or fleeing violence...whatever the legal definition.
Parents across Portland are expressing concern regarding the arrival of “The Good News Club” – a fundamentalist Christian organization that works to recruit young children in city parks and public schools. The Constitution may afford this group the right to operate outside of regular school hours but parents have every right to be wary. The message being spread by ‘The Good News Club” is a far right understanding of the Christian faith outside the mainstream of even many traditional conservative evangelical churches. Faith as understood by their organizers is fear based and centered on sin. Children as young as five are told they are doomed to a life of eternal hell without accepting the theology of “The Good News Club.” They present this as a universal understanding of the Christian faith but that is not the case. Most Christians would reject this type of thinking and tactics out of hand. As a seminary educated clergy member in the United Church of Christ, I see the tactics used by “The Good News Club” as a form of coercion similar to a cult. Parents who send their children to clubs that operate on fear should be prepared to see their children suffer from mental health issues. God affirmed the goodness of Creation. Yes, sin is an important concept that Christians wrestle with. What we don’t do is wield fear of sin as a weapon to convert children who do not have the cognitive abilities to determine on their own what is right and wrong. Responsibile churches teach children about God's love, the need for all of us to be good community members, and the responibility we have to respect everyone regardless of their religion. Before the Portland Public Schools allow “The Good News Club” to use school facilities or to promote their activities on campus it would seem appropriate to allow mental health professionals to further investigate the activities of this group. Learn more at Protect Portland Children.
It is with great sadness that I note the death of Sister Mary Kay Lampert, my friend and long-time colleague. After several difficult bouts with cancer, Mary Kay passed away on July 1 and a funeral was held July 11. At the time of her death, we were out of town and I only learned the news today. Sister Mary Kay and I first worked together at Baloney Joe’s, a multi-service center for men experiencing homelessness, and later shared the job of coordinating the activities of Burnside Advocates Group (BAG). We last had the chance to visit in March. Mary Kay was a teacher for many years at Central Catholic High School, and also taught both at Marylhurst University and the University of Portland. She volunteered for years at Our House, a facility serving those with AIDS, and often invited people to join her for lunch at a gay bar across the street from the agency. Sister Mary Kay believed that women should be ordained – I was proud to invite her to preach on the mission of the church when I served Parkrose Community United Church of Christ – and was a strong supporter of unions. My sadness is tempered only by the knowledge that she is with God and that she lived a life fully present with God – working to build the Kingdom and advancing the needs of the least of these here on earth. I will miss my friend and partner of over twenty-five years deeply but know that she joins that great cloud of witnesses that loves us through space and time. Gifts in her honor can be made to the Sisters of the Holy Names Retirement Fund, P.O. Box 411, Marylhurst, OR 97036. Please pray for her family and friends, particularly Sister Rosemary Anne Parker.
This is what the city of Portland has come to: an attempt to erase Mark Kruger's Nazi past from history. Capt. Kruger must see this as a victory. But his worship of SS troops might be erased from a city file as part of some bizarre move after he harassed a female colleague - another incident he has not been held fully accountable for - but Portlanders will remember this police officer who dressed as a Nazi and built a shrine in honor of Hitler's most fearsome troops. We won't forget. And our trust of the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland City Council will be further diminished because of this day. The U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Portland Police, which found a pattern of civil rights abuses by Portland officers, didn't go far enough. There is a cancer in our bureau and no effective civilian control of this entity whose employees can get away with literally anything.
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.