The relationship between science and faith has sometimes been a challenging one. Historically this has led to difficult moments of social division.
Today the United Church of Christ has launched an effort to heal that divide through a Pastoral Letter, advertising campaign and new web site designed to bring together those who find truth both in faith and science.
Barack Obama beat Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton tonight in South Carolina. Bill Clinton overshadowed his wife and made the race a referendum on his presidency. My home state did a good job today in saying the future is more important than reliving Bill Clinton’s past. It was a negative campaign. Ugly. The Clinton team acted like they went to the Lee Atwater School of Politics. But hope in America beat back the “politics of personal destruction.” We need a president with Senator Obama’s experience, values and positions. Thank you to the Palmetto State!
Sunday will be the fifth anniversary of when I loaded up my Saturn wagon with my two dogs (Hugo and Hazel) and two cats (Freedom and Erik Brockley), hitched on a U-Haul, and made the drive from Portland, Oregon to St. Louis, Missouri so that I could attend Eden Theological Seminary. Liz joined me three months later after all of our affairs had been tied up in the Rose City.
The drive itself was memorable. How can a drive with two dogs and two cats packed into one car not be an adventure? We traveled through days of minus 16 temperatures and the animals had to be smuggled into and out of motels across America that only allowed one medium sized pet per room (Hugo is 118 pounds). My humble apologies to any hotel clerks I might have misled during my travels.
Here’s the part of the story I really love telling though: a few days before leaving my then boss, The Rev. Dr. Arvin Luchs, told me to be open for signs from God during my three years in St. Louis.
Just leaving Portland and driving through the Columbia River Gorge, animals and U-Haul in tow and Liz left temporarily behind, I prayed out loud and said a sign that what I was doing was right – leaving Portland, attending seminary, preparing for the ordained ministry – would be most welcomed.
Minutes later a van from Eden Theological Seminary drove up beside me, passed alongside, and then moved in front of me. I followed it out of Oregon and east toward Eden. It turns out the van had been in Oregon for part of a nationwide youth event that Eden had been sponsoring and was coincidently returning the same day I was leaving.
Can you imagine how stunned I was to be led out of Oregon by a van from Eden (even if the driver had no idea that was what they were doing)? Funny enough, I have a hard time theologically accepting that God would ever give me such a direct sign but what do I know. God is God, after all.
Three years later when we left Eden and returned to Portland we flew (minus one still missed cat but plus two beautiful baby girls…not to mention a degree). We're thankful for our Missouri adventure but still glad to be home in rain soaked Oregon.
Just Out, Portland's gay and lesbian newspaper, today called me a "relentless supporter of the queer
community." That's high praise. I've joined with non-profits and churches to fight every anti-gay ballot measure since 1988. As a minister, I can think of no better work than standing up and advocating for those the Religious Right wish to exclude from the community. Even worse, the Religious Right has sought to take away and limit basic civil rights for gay and lesbian people. I make my stand with those Christians - are there are many of us - who believe that God is "well pleased" with all God's children. The Kingdom of God is meant for us all.
provocative, entertaining documentary
the Bible Tells Me So"
reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture.
First Congregational UCC is able to show this film through
arrangements with Progressive Christians Uniting.
A free will
offering will be taken to benefit PCU and there will be a time for discussion
following the film.
shares the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American
families – including those of former House Majority
Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson
– and tells how insightful people of faith handle the realization
of having a gay child.
As many of you know, Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten recently announced his resignation from the Portland City Council. A friend and colleague for many years, Erik has been unparalleled in his advocacy for affordable housing and efforts to end homelessness.
State Representative Chip Shields and others have suggested that I run for Erik’s seat but after going back and forth and talking with many people I’ve concluded that a race for public office isn’t where I believe I can best be of service.
Portland has my heart and for over twenty years I’ve worked on issues important to the life of this community but I continue to believe that the problems we face are as spiritual as they are political. We read in Scripture about a question addressed to Jesus:
‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Mathew 26:40 NRSV)
We don’t always love our neighbors in this city. Evidence of that can be found in the growing numbers of homeless children in Portland or in the unbalanced way we allocate resources. Our wealthiest neighborhoods receive more attention than our poorest neighbors. We ought to all be thriving in a place with so many resources but many of us struggle with finding basic shelter and even food.
In the Book of Isaiah, found in the Hebrew Scriptures, a vision of what God’s Kingdom should look like is offered. It is a place where:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9 NRSV)
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often quoted from this passage when he preached about how the church should live out God’s mission. This is the world we are supposed to help create: a world in which even the most helpless child is safe. As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, I have the opportunity and responsibility to raise issues that concern the “least of these” in our community and to promote causes and ideas that shake up the established order in favor of what King called the “Beloved Community.”
So I will continue to advocate for an end to the war in Iraq, for economic justice, for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians into our civil life and religious institutions, for just immigration policies, and for new policies designed to protect our environment…God’s own creation.
Working with others in the faith community and those on the front lines of the fight to end homelessness, I plan to issue invitations soon to those running for Mayor and the City Council to attend a forum to discuss poverty in this city. Together we should demand that all candidates for public office make serious commitments to addressing poverty and homelessness.
Finally, my interim ministry at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ continues to be challenging. I was originally asked to serve for one year but it became apparent quite quickly that the church faced serious difficulties which required a longer interim period. Over the last sixteen months the church has voted to become “Open And Affirming,” made difficult but responsible financial decisions, cut the projected budget deficit in half, and engaged in a strategic planning process that will be voted on in February. The people of Parkrose Community United Church of Christ are working hard! My commitment now is to stay with this church until mid-2009. After that, I hope to serve another UCC congregation that shares our denomination’s commitment to Gospel-centered justice.
Thank you for your interest in the city council race and for your love of Portland.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, who is campaigning today in South Carolina with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, just raised the specter of Barack Obama’s past drug use. He also compared Mr. Obama to Sidney Poitier, the black actor, in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
At a rally here for Mrs. Clinton at Columbia College, Mr. Johnson was defending recent comments that Mrs. Clinton made regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She did not mean to take any credit away from him, Mr. Johnson said, when she said that it took President Johnson to sign the civil rights legislation he fought for.
Asked what Senator Clinton thought of a surrogate making a drug reference at one of her campaign events, Clinton Spokesman Jay Carson said “I don’t think that’s what he was referring to and her record on this issue is clear. She has made crystal clear to supporters and staff alike that no one should engage in negative personal campaigning.”
Senator Obama has been open and upfront about mistakes as a teenager (contrast that with a couple of other recent White House occupants...WJC, GWB). In doing so he has been a remodel for young people who have responded both to his openness and positive vision.
Unethical behavior plagued the Clinton years in the White House. America might have had universal health care if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Clinton insistence that the effort be secret and hidden from public view. She covered up repeatedly for her husband’s ethical lapses. Conservatives opposed to progressive values were able to exploit these personal weaknesses and paralyzed the government. Then she went to the senate and voted for George W. Bush’s war in Iraq.
All during the 90s the Clinton’s decried the “politics of personal destruction” but now Hillary Clinton seems more than willing to engage in such politics. All of this should make voters stop and wonder whether or not Hillary Clinton has the moral fitness to occupy the White House.
The Beaverton Valley Times has a story today on our weekend efforts to draw attention to homelessness in Washington County, Oregon:
It was right around the time a group of citizens began an all-night camp-out to raise awareness of homelessness in Washington County that the rain began to fall.
The drops came ever so lightly at first, but as Saturday night turned to Sunday morning, the amount of precipitation – combined with low temperatures and light wind – made the Out in the Cold Camp Out exactly as the name implied: cold.
Occasional raindrops, however, didn’t stop those who gathered outside Cedar Hills United Church of Christ from staging the event to help get the word out on the need for affordable housing in Washington County. Of the 20 to 30 people who showed up for the candlelight vigil at 7 p.m., nine of them stayed the night.
“Homelessness is not just an urban problem. It doesn’t matter where you live; poverty is growing, homelessness is growing,” said homeless advocate Chuck Currie, a minister at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ. Currie said he planned on sleeping in his car during the camp-out, much in the way so many others in the area do every night.
Figures from January 2007 showed that the county’s population includes at least 1,261 homeless people. Eric Canon, a Forest Grove resident and chairman of the Washington County Interfaith Committee on Homelessness speculates that the number is much larger – between 2,000 and 5,000.
County officials say only 12 out of every 100 people who knock on the doors of family shelters in the county are allowed in, with the other 88 being put on a waiting list or sent back out into the elements.
Bundled in hats, scarves and bulky coats against Saturday night's damp cold, the group, members and supporters of the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness, formed a semi-circle, sheltered by the porch roof at the entrance of Cedar Hills United Church of Christ.
Before them, a row of reporters and cameramen from local newspapers and Portland television stations completed the arc.
The press was welcome. The purpose of the gathering, as expressed by committee, was to "shine light" on a too easily overlooked condition confronting at least 2,000 Washington County homeless residents: only 110 shelter beds available for families and none for needy singles, coupled with a growing gap in local affordable housing options.
The Rev. Mary Sue Evers, leader of the Cedar Hills congregation, led the group in testimony and prayer before 11 participants moved apart to spend the rest of the night in the parking lot. "We can talk about a hand out, talk about a hand up, but at some point you have to ask, what policies, economic structures are there that keep so many people homeless," Evers said.
The Rev. Chuck Currie, of Parkrose United Church of Christ, attended to show solidarity with the suburban activists. Currie, who began working on homeless issues in 1986 as a volunteer at Baloney Joe's shelter then operating in Portland, said, "We often forget that there's a suburban component to homelessness. We always ask people to look downtown."
After extinguishing their candles, most hunkered down to spend the night sleeping in their parked cars. A tent just outside the church doors sheltered others, and Lois O'Halloran and her husband set out to sleep inside large cardboard boxes on a tarp spread under an open canopy.
One of the signs displayed at the site read, "Cardboard should not be an option for affordable housing."
Former Governor Mike Huckabee was the winner of the Republican caucus vote in Iowa this past week. What kind of future for America does this candidate for the presidency envision? People for the American way reports:
Mike Huckabee’s rise from second-tier candidate to front-runner in Iowa started after he was the top-ranking candidate to appear at the “Values Voter Debate” organized by a group of lesser-known Religious Right leaders on September 17. The event was a near parody of itself, from the opening choir singing “Why Should God Bless America?” to the parade of far-right activists seeking pledges from the candidates. Huckabee, who was right at home, assured participants that he is one of them, professing that “the language of Zion” is a “native tongue” not a “second language” to him, and making a populist critique of the more established GOP candidates.
Huckabee’s performance confirmed for the Religious Right audience that he shares their views on a range of issues. On marriage, he said he would lead an effort to pass a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as “one man, one woman, for life.” On abortion, he needled the missing candidates and said “on this issue, our culture rises or falls.” He backed the Iraq war, calling it a “theological war” against people “whose religious fanaticism will not be satisfied until every last one of us is dead, until our culture, our society, is completely obliterated from the face of the earth.”
In the yes or no segment of the debate, Huckabee pledged himself to a long far-right wish-list, including:
support for ousted Alabama Chief Judge Roy Moore’s court-stripping bill to keep federal courts from meddling with public officials who use their office to promote religion;
vetoes of hate crimes legislation, ENDA (anti-discrimination law), and the fairness doctrine;
stripping schools of federal funding for exposing children to “homosexual propaganda”;
repealing IRS restrictions on churches endorsing candidates;
bringing back Bush’s social security privatization plan; imposing a ban on federal funding for any U.S. group that performs or advocates for abortion;
boosting federal abstinence spending to match contraceptive funding.
That's a pretty radical agenda and one far removed from where I'm hoping America moves, As a ordinated minister myself, I resent that he uses his religion to divide people instead of seeking to bring reconciliation to a broken and divided nation.
Please join out "Out in the Cold" Camp Out on Jan 5th at 7PM at Cedar Hills UCC. Most of us can "choose" to be out in the cold for a night. People dealing with homelessness are not so lucky. Experience what it's like. Spend the night out in the cold to dramatize the plight of our neighbors who are out in the cold. Call Eric for details at (503) 357-3282.
I want to be there to show support for the idea that our urban and suburban neighborhoods face a common problem - a lack of affordable housing for those Jesus would have called the "least of these in society - and it will take local, state and national efforts to end homelessness in America.
The resignation of Portland City Commission Erik Sten represents an opportunity for city voters to reshape the Portland City Council. My advice: we don’t need an Erik Sten clone but look for a replacement that shares Sten’s values and priorities. Portland needs someone on the council who will be a champion of those who are homeless and living in poverty. We also need someone committed to the issues faced by eastside Portland. Today I told KATU that that’s the kind of candidate I’d be looking for in this unexpected and important special election. I jokingly told KATU that if no one raised the important issues in this City Council race that I might step in and do it myself. Of course, I will not be a candidate but I’ll be pushing as always to keep progressive ideas and values on the agenda in Portland. You don’t need to be in politics to do that.
Note to Nick Fish (also interviewed on KATU): you ought to be willing to put the "poorest of the poor" at the top of your agenda if you are going to run for the council. There are a lot of people fighting for the middle class (rightfully so) but poverty and the issues connected with it deserve a voice in Portland politics.
Erik Sten’s announcement that he will leave City Hall in April represents the loss of a progressive and pragmatic voice on the City Council. Erik alone on the council has shown a passion for addressing issues of homelessness and poverty. He can count many accomplishments on his watch and his voice will be missed.
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of Pacific University, 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.