This could be good news:
If even Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the most right-wing member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, has reached the conclusion that the siege on the Gaza Strip should be lifted, we can only wonder: What is actually delaying Netanyahu? After all, lifting the siege would be an easy and wise move on the part of Israel.
In a Jan. 19 speech at the conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Bennett harshly criticized Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and accused them of a “conceptual freeze.” Bennett presented the Gaza Strip as an example and said, “After all, you won’t suspect that I’m a lefty, God forbid, but are we doing the right thing in Gaza? Wouldn’t it be better to reconcile with reality and disengage from our responsibility for the Gazans, open new paths in their lives with proper security oversight?”
For those I'm not connected with on Facebook, here is the collection of most of the photos I took in Israel - Palestine. The captions are not quite as detailed as what was posted on Facebook but I hope you find these interesting.
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Today found us in Tel Aviv where we visited The Yitzhak Rabin Center, a museum that commemorates the life of the assassinated prime minister of Israel. Rabin was killed by an ultra-Orthodox Jew upset over Rabin's efforts to forge a peace with the Palestinians. There have been no major movements towards peace in the twenty years since Rabin's death. Still, his life offers us hope. He was a military leader who came to understand that diplomacy could be a powerful weapon in protecting Israel and in giving the Palestinian people their own state and the human rights all deserve.
I still recall the peace rally where Rabin was shot and stayed up in the middle of the night to watch the memorial proceedings. Rabin has long been a hero of mine. President Clinton, then in office, came to deliver the eulogy. He said then:
Your prime minister was a martyr for peace, but he was a victim of hate. Surely, we must learn from his martyrdom that if people cannot let go of the hatred of their enemies, they risk sowing the seeds of hatred among themselves. I ask you, the people of Israel, on behalf of my nation that knows its own long litany of loss, from Abraham Lincoln to President Kennedy to Martin Luther King, do not let that happen to you. In the Knesset, in your homes, in your places of worship, stay the righteous course. As Moses said to the children of Israel when he knew he would not cross over into the promised land, "Be strong and of good courage. Fear not, for God will go with you. He will not fail you, He will not forsake you."
Ultimately, Israel turned away from Rabin's policies, during a time of increased terror attacks carried out by radical Palestinians as determined as the Jew who killed Rabin to derail the peace process, and the age of Benjamin Netanyahu was born.
Today brought us to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Mount of Beatitudes. This place holds special meaning in the Christian tradition. Jesus sought disciples, prayed and taught here according to the Christian New Testament. Here is where we come to know the collection of sayings that are called the "Sermon on The Mount." This sermon offers us the heart of Christian theology.
Our group from Chicago Theological Seminary sat atop of the Mount of Beatitudes, read the sermon and reflected on the words in the context of our trip to Israel - Palestine. How can we be peacemakers, we asked?
Dr. Ken Stone, CTS's academic dean, noted the passage "Blessed are the meek" and suggested that part of what we should take away from this trip is a sense of humility. The situation in Israel - Palestine does not lend itself to easy answers. Those that claim to know "the truth" or "the way" forward may cause more trouble and difficulty. That doesn't mean we stop seeking peace. We just engage that process recognizing the complexities and that as Americans we have the potential to offer both hope and to contribute to the chaos.
5When Jesus* saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today - The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday in the United States - brought us to Aida, a Palestinian refugee camp. There is no question in my mind that Dr. King would weep at the way Palestinians are treated. Some will blame the failure of Palestinian leadership for the refugee crisis here - and there is truth in that their leadership has not always made wise decisions - but no group of people should live in the hopeless poverty we saw today. So what exactly are these camps? The United Nations explains:
Nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
A Palestine refugee camp is defined as a plot of land placed at the disposal of UNRWA by the host government to accommodate Palestine refugees and set up facilities to cater to their needs. Areas not designated as such and are not recognized as camps. However, UNRWA also maintains schools, health centres and distribution centres in areas outside the recognized camps where Palestine refugees are concentrated, such as Yarmouk, near Damascus.
The plots of land on which the recognized camps were set up are either state land or, in most cases, land leased by the host government from local landowners. This means that the refugees in camps do not 'own' the land on which their shelters were built, but have the right to 'use' the land for a residence.
Socioeconomic conditions in the camps are generally poor, with high population density, cramped living conditions and inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers.
Israelis have built giant walls cutting off refugee camps from other communities. They are like prisons. It is difficult to travel in or out if you are Palestinian. Freedom of movement does not exist. Most of the resistance to these living conditions take the form on non-violent action but there have been periods where violence has erupted. It would seem a silly hope for violence and terror not to thrive in conditions such as these. Still, many people, like those we met today at the Alrowwad for Cultural Arts, are seeking means of non-violent creative resistance.
There are no easy answers to how to solve the Israeli - Palestinian question but there is no question these camps violate basic human rights.
I'm not able to post about all our different activities and visits with different people / groups but if you want more visit my Twitter account. You'll find links to some of the organizations we've heard from that I might not have blogged about. Check out the hashtag #CTSStudyTour for posts from others on the trip as well.
We've heard much about Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories since arriving - an issue always in the news - and today we visited such a place outside of Bethlehem. Thus far the Israeli Jews we have encountered have expressed great frustration with the current government here and both concern and compassion for the Palestinians. Several times it has been said that Israel will never be safe or truly free until the Palestinians are. How to get there and what does that look like - one state, two states, some other unknown option - is the question everyone has failed to answer.
The settler we talked with didn't express much concern for the Palestinians, a group he suggested was fictional. Although he also expressed pride in some social and medical services his settlement provides for Palestinians. This encounter was disheartening for me to say the least. His insistence that the settlement he resides in is in Israeli territory and not Palestinian - and that it was legal despite international which is clear such settlements are illegal - made for a frustrating and emotional meeting. A return to the 1967 borders - which President Obama has insisted on - would never be possible if this settler had his way and that is why such settlements are being built: to prevent peace. The policies of Benjamin Netanyahu put the future of both Palestine and Israel at risk.
President Obama has asked this of Israel:
“[M]y assessment, which is shared by a number of Israeli observers, I think, is there comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices. Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”
I did share with the settler there is one area of agreement I have with him: that the Palestinians lack effective leadership. We have heard this from Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Yet it is hard to build effective leadership when you are under siege.
Human Rights Watch has noted how difficult the situation is here even for children:
(Jerusalem) – Israeli security forces have used unnecessary force to arrest or detain Palestinian children as young as 11. Security forces have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts.
Human Rights Watch interviewed four boys, ages 11, 12, and 15, from different neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and a 14-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy from elsewhere in the West Bank, whom Israeli forces arrested or detained in separate incidents for allegedly throwing rocks from March to December 2014. They and their parents gave accounts of abuses during arrest and interrogation that caused the children pain, fear, and ongoing anxiety. Human Rights Watch has seen photos and marks on the body of one of the children, consistent with the accounts he and his parents had given; the children’s accounts were also consistent with each other.
Denying basic human rights to children isn't Jewish.
With each new settlement, the chances for peace diminish further.
And the news doesn't get much better politically:
Sometime very soon, the U.S. Senate will pass a bill that requires the government to treat the West Bank as part of Israel. Not only that, it will obligate the administration to pressure other countries to do the same. These provisions have provoked no serious opposition as the bill has worked its way through the congressional maze. Instead, Democratic lawmakers raise their hands to do the work of the GOP-Likud axis, in what may be a bizarre act of penance for their own courage in supporting the Iran deal last summer.
The bill's own language says it's aimed at fighting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. In reality, it may actually encourage boycotts of Israel. The bill says it's meant to preserve the “sustainability of peace” between Israel and the Palestinians. In reality, it helps the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a two-state agreement impossible.
J Street - the pro-Jewish, pro-peace organization, is asking President Obama to examine what executive actions he might be able to take to promote peace in this action alert:
In your final State of the Union you made it clear that you will "not let up" in advancing your priorities.
Achieving a two-state solution has been one of your priorities since day one. And though a final accord will likely not be reached during your last year in office, I am asking you to "not let up" on that goal. There are concrete steps you can take immediately to make life better for Israelis and Palestinians, and to preserve hopes for peace.
I join J Street in calling on you to conduct a review of potential executive actions available to you including (but not limited to): giving force to US opposition to settlements; putting forth US parameters to guide future negotiations; promoting economic development and coexistence programming that move the conflict closer to eventual resolution, working from the ground up.
I signed the letter and invite you to do the same.
Ambassador (ret.) Ilan Baruch is currently the policy advisor for MK Zehava Galon, Chairperson of MERETZ and a peace activist. He resigned from the MFA on grounds of principle, after 36 years of diplomatic career. It included overseas postings in Asia, Europe and Africa. Head-quarter postings: founder/director of the Palestinian Autonomy department, head - coordination of the Multilateral Peace Process and head - Middle East division for economic cooperation. Baruch was a team member of the Israeli delegation to the Oslo Peace negotiations, and participated in various negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt on economic agreements. His last posting was Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, as well as Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Since his early retirement, Baruch is devoting his time and experience to projects in public diplomacy, is running a weekly program in the "All for Peace" radio, and contributes political analysis in different media outlets.
...I am concerned with the far left, as seen in universities within the European Union who have called for the divestment from Israel. This is similar to the movement that was taken by many universities calling for divestment from South Africa. This serves to feed the "citadel Israel" mentality which leads to isolationism. This is not good for us, this is not good for the Palestinians and it is not good for anyone interested in the peace process...
The intensity of our trip kicked up a notch with a Friday morning visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum here in Jerusalem. So striking was the historical memory of how Jews fleeing persecution were turned away and how the world then watched in silence - with knowledge - as the Holocaust began. It took years for the United States and other powers to intervene. Can we not see the parallels in the cries of refugee voices from Syria fleeing ISIL and the civil war there? Donald Trump is our modern Father Charles Coughlin - or perhaps worse.
On Thursday, we heard from Rabbi Arik Ascherman with Rabbis for Human Rights about the Jewish imperative to fight for human rights not just for Jews but for Muslims and Christians, along with all others. Yet the state of Israel is not protecting the human rights of Palestinians. Many Israelis disagree with current policy toward Palestinians, of course, but the situation here is untenable.
We also visited the national cemetery of Israel on Thursday where, among other, Yitzhak Rabin is buried. Prime Minister Rabin, while seeking to implement a new peace accord with the Palestinians, was killed by an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Israel has never been the same. Both the Israelis and Palestinians lack leadership with popular support that can compromise and seek peace. This is a terrible period. You hear over and over from people on different sides of the conflict a high level of fear and yet amazingly there are still people who have hope in the future. We felt a spirit of hope during a Shabbat service at Kol Haneshama Congregation on Friday night and again at a Shabbat dinner organized by Jewish friends of Chicago Theological Seminary living here in Jerusalem.
Tonight we'll have a discussion about the BDS movement - a movement I have voiced my concerns over.
Then we'll move into the Palestinian Authority for a few days. That will include discussions with Israeli settlers and Palestinian refugees. The intensity of our trip can only climb from here.
Chicago Theological Seminary students are posting reflections of our trip to Israel - Palestine on the CTS Journeys Blog. Read them here.
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Our CTS study group visited with the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem yesterday and heard a powerful presentation on interfaith peacebuilding. Peace - despite all the evidence - can be a reality in Israel - Palestine.
Leaving Bethlehem, our bus ran into a cloud of tear gas. We didn't know what precipitated the use of the gas until this morning when we learned a 21-year old Palestinian was killed in a clash with Israeli police close to where we had been meeting. A protest against the occupation of Palestine had erupted and the man killed is said to have been throwing rocks. How that could become a capital offense is a question I cannot answer.
Most of yesterday and a good bit of today was again spent visiting different ruins (we heard an interesting talk about the politics of archeology in this area) and had the chance to swim in the Dead Sea today. Floating in the water was odd. Learning about the environmental dangers facing the Dead Sea, along with other issues concerning the environment and water rights, was dishearting. A visit and dinner tonight to The Auja Eco-Center, located in a small Palestinian village outside of Jerusalem, offered a lot of insight into the problems faced by the region - problems that aren't just related to the environment but also human rights as many Palestinians are denied access to water.
Like the visit to the Holy Land Trust, however, the visit to the Auja Eco-Center offered hope for people of different faith traditions and nationalities coming together to solve common problems and search for peace.
Participants on the trip have been invited to offer morning reflections. My turn came today and I spoke from the top of Masada. What I focused on was a common theme we've heard from Jewish, Christian and Muslim peace activists: the power of hope.
In the background, you can hear Israeli fighter jets flying overhead.
No blog post today - which is a shame because so many interesting things occurred / were seen...said - but I'm too tired to write anything coherent. Not that being incoherent has ever stopped me from writing before. I did post pictures on my personal Facebook page. I have a morning reflection to share with our group that I'll post tomorrow AM.
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"Narrative" was the word for today.
Even beginning the process of a blog post seems like an impossible task on this first full day of our Israel - Palestine tour with the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Most of us began the day at the Mt. of Olives where we walked down to the Garden of Gethsemane. On the Mt. of Olives are the ancient and still in use Jewish burial grounds. Across a small valley, you can see the Muslim burial grounds and not far from there are Christian burial grounds. The Mt. of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane had such strong connections to Jesus' hopes and concerns for humanity. Being there was a powerful experience.
More powerful for me was visiting the Ophel excavations where the Jewish temple stood during the time of Jesus and which Scripture records his visiting.
The Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, was another powerful moment. There I joined those in our group and hundreds of others in offering prayers. It is not often that I experience moments where my emotions overcome me, but praying at the Western Wall was one of those times. I felt a spiritual sense of connectedness to both my Christian faith and the Jewish tradition from which it comes in a way that was unexpectedly moving.
What was remarkably obvious as you watched different tour groups wander around the city was that each was being told a different story - a different narrative - about Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. Some of the stories dealt with theology. Some of these stories dealt with history. How one heard and understood those stories shape understandings about God and people. These different narratives are what make war and hatred possible. At the same time, these stories have helped move people toward peace and that possibility exists still.
You feel this sense of duality here. Christians are a small part of the population of Israel, but Jews and Muslims live side by side in a land that has changed hands countless times over the course of history. Today, of course, Jews control the country. Arab citizens have second class status, as evidenced just today in an Israeli newspaper editorial, and Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank face even worse conditions. There will be more to discuss about that tomorrow and over the next two weeks.
Let me close on the surreal note that not long ago the radio station where we were eating dinner switched programming and began a David Bowie marathon. Some voices really do cross cultural and language barraiers.
Our group arrived safely if not exhausted in Tel Aviv this afternoon from Chicago and then made our way to Jerusalem where the plan had been to watch the sunset from the Haas-Sherover Promenade.
This is said to be the place where Abraham first saw Mount Moriah. However, delayed planes and buses meant we arrived after sunset. Still, the view was spectacular.
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.
We'll save a discussion of the historicity of this passage from Genesis for another time.
From here we could see the lights of East Jerusalem and the Old City. From below you could hear a beautiful symphony of voices as the Muslim call to prayer came from Mosques across Jerusalem. I had heard the call to prayer before in Southern India but it was nothing like this. The sung call rang out in all directions. In the United States, efforts by Muslims to allow the call to prayer to be offered publically have often been met with hostility - even threats of violence and outcries from Christian fundamentalists at places in Duke University in North Carolina.
It was a beautiful and meaningful start to our trip. After 20 hours of travel, we went to our hotel for dinner, conversation about the days ahead, and - for me at least - bed.
Flying now over the Atlantic and saw this action alert via J Street on Twitter, the pro-Jewish, pro-peace organization based in DC:
@jstreetdotorg: In @theprospect, @GershomG challenges US Congress on legislation that defends settlements https://t.co/hsOkcEgCib https://t.co/89nHFMKFjx
After a weeklong manhunt, the man suspected of fatally shooting three Israelis in Tel Aviv was killed Friday by special police forces that surrounded his hiding place in the Wadi Ara area in northern Israel, authorities say.And what does a teen from New Jersey have to do with the conflict in Israel - Palestine? She was called into the principle's office after tweeting that "Israel is a terrorist force." This certainly seems like an overreaction on the part of the school which has suggested she has engaged in "bullying." The tweeter in question is an "Israeli Jew," according to The Washington Post.
The Pacific University Center for Peace and Spirituality brought The Abraham Fund to Oregon this past fall to learn how Israeli Jews and Arabs (Muslim and Christian) could live in peace. The Abraham Fund develops relationship building projects within Israel. After all, it is harder to hate and kill those you learn and attend social occasions with. Breaking down barriers between individuals is a key to peace-making.
So this story caught my eye on the eve of my trip to Israel and Palestine:
JERUSALEM – How have Tel Aviv’s young liberals responded to a decision by Israel’s conservative, right-wing education minister to ban from the official reading list a novel about forbidden love between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim?
They've made a video of Israelis and Palestinians kissing each other...
The provocative clip was made in response to an Israeli Education Ministry decision to disqualify Dorit Rabinyan’s book “Borderline” from a list of recommended reading for an advanced high school literature course. Yet to be released in English, "Borderline" is the story of an Israeli Jewish woman and a Palestinian Muslim man who meet in New York, fall in love and then part ways. She returns to Tel Aviv and he to Ramallah.
The Education Ministry said it banned the book from its literature list to maintain the “identity and heritage of students in every sector.” Ministry officials were worried that the “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity,” reported Israeli daily Haaretz, which broke the story a week ago.
Liberal Jewish lawmakers in Israel are among those protesting the book ban, reports The Washington Post.
Taking care of last minute details. Responding to emails. Packing. Such has been my day. Early Friday morning I leave to Chicago and from there on to Israel and Palestine.
PBS Frontline offered something of a gift for my pre-trip viewing in the form of a documentary on Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel whose terms of office have crossed over with the presidencies of Clinton, Bush and Obama (with an absence from office caused by one of many scandals).
For those that want to see peace between Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu is the great villain. He has, without questioned, undermined peace efforts undertaken not just by Clinton and Obama but also by George W. Bush. Unfortunately, during his tenure, the Palestinian government has remained weak (in part because of Israeli policies but also because of a lack of strong leadership within the Palestinian Authority that could take on Hamas, the Iranian-backed terrorist group).
His efforts to derail the Iran Deal between the Iranian government and the world community - keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon - crossed many lines. Along with other U.S. religious leaders, I was briefed by the White House on that deal and believe firmly that it provides a path away from direct war with Iran and a period of extended safety for Israel and Iran's other neighbors.
Netanyahu thought otherwise and whereas support for Israel had always been bi-partisan, Netanyahu used his ties with the GOP in America to make Israel a partisan issue. That is unhealthy for both our nations and the Palestinian people.
You can now watch the entire Frontline episode - Netanyahu At War - online for free.
It will be of great interest to me to hear directly from Israeli citizens their views on Netanyahu today, months after a highly contested and ugly election.
"Harney County Sheriff David Ward on Sunday afternoon said a group of militants that seized an eastern Oregon wildlife refuge is trying to overthrow the local and federal governments," reports The Oregonian.
This event should come as no surprise but it will for many. GOP presidential candidates, congressional leaders and right-wing activists have been trying to fan the flames of fear about Islamic terrorists - making all Muslims suspect - while ignoring the growing reality of domestic terrorist groups.
Terrorism experts noted last summer:
Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.
In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.
Ammon Bundy, the out-of-state militia leader who came to Oregon to begin this siege, did so because the "Lord was not pleased" with an on-going criminal case involving ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands. The national media would be calling this a case of radical Islamic terrorism if just one Muslim were involved in this crisis. There would be calls for drone strikes to end the siege, internment camps and the closure of Mosques (the last two ideas have actually been advanced by leading GOP presidential candidates this election cycle). Few are saying the obvious: these militia groups are Christian fundamentalists with strong ties to the GOP. Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon Bundy, has himself been involved with an armed standoff with federal law enforcement.
Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon Bundy, has himself been involved with an armed standoff with federal law enforcement. Ted Cruz came to Cliven Bundy's defense in that episode, saying, "we have seen our liberty under assault" since President Obama came to office and that Bundy's armed standoff with the federal government was simply "the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on." The Bundy's have cited their
The Bundy's have cited their Mormon beliefs as justification for their actions.
On Monday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued this statement:
While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. We are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can - and should - be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land.
There is nothing Christian about any attempt to overthrow the American government with violent means. Christians have and should seek justice by the use of non-violent social change.
As a United Church of Christ minister in Oregon, I applaud the leadership of federal, state and local officials who are offering a restrained response to the siege in Burns. Too often non-violent protests, fighting for changes in our economic system that allow for growing inequity or those calling for racial justice, have not been shown the same restraint - even as these other protests have been largely, and appropriately, non-violent.
What is happening now is, in reality, a culmination of the support too many in the GOP - as it moves further and further into the fringes of right-wing ideology - and from some Christian fundamentalists, have given to anti-government groups. All political leaders and Christians should condemn what is happening in Burns.
At some point, the siege in Burns will end. If it ends with dead law enforcement officers or militia members, the blood will be on the hands not of the government but of those that give legitimacy to these anti-government groups that seek to undermine American principles of pluralism and justice for all.
In January, I'll be joining a group of students, faculty and clergy associated with Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) on an interfaith study tour of Israel and Palestine. The tour is sponsored by CTS's Center for Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Studies. My participation is being sponsored by the Pacific University Center for Peace and Spirituality, which I direct, the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Pacific University, and a generous financial gift to Pacific. Some of you reading will know that I earned by Doctor of Ministry degree at CTS. It will be nice to reunite with colleagues and friends from Chicago for this trip. The outcome professionally will be a new course proposal on Israel-Palestine to be taught at Pacific.
My intention will be to blog about the trip here.
Among the books I've been reading in preparation for the trip are:
Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War (Susan Thistlethwaite, ed.) is among a list of other recommended books and journals.
Where will we travel? The trip itinerary is packed with visits, tours, lectures and community building opportunities across Israel and Palestine.
For me, the goal is to learn and build new relationships. The conflict in Israel - Palestine is complex and the human rights situation a crisis. It worries me that these complexities are turned into black and white issues. As I have stated before, I believe strongly that the two-state solution remains the only viable possibility for peace - a point President Obama restated this week - and I reject the notion that Israel is an "Apartheid" state or that Palestine is simply a terrorist haven that is ungovernable.
As I have written before, I believe that interfaith peacemaking can make a difference - I'll lift up the work of The Abraham Fund as one example (a group we brought to Pacific this fall) - in building relationships that help create peace:
As we prepare for this trip, I invite your prayers and good wishes for a safe and productive January. It will be a time to have assumptions challenged, I'm certain, and I look forward to meeting and learning from Jews, Muslims, and Christians across Israel and Palestine.
Two historic events collided this past week: Hurricane Patricia, the most dangerous hurricane in recorded history hit Mexico, and diplomats from around the world gathered in Bonn for UN climate talks meant to produce a new accord to be signed this December in Paris.
Faith leaders, with one eye on Hurricane Patricia and another on Bonn, have been worried about both.
ACT Alliance is "a global network of churches and faith-based NGOs, working with development and relief, in 140 countries around the world." In emergencies, ACT Alliance partners with groups like Church World Service to provide critical aid. Mattias Söderberg, the head of the ACT Alliance's delegation to the Bonn talks, said Friday in a press statement:
"Everybody knows that these negotiations are serious; they are not only about our own future, but also about the lives of poor and vulnerable people who are affected by climate change already today. I am deeply concerned about the slow progress and I urge negotiators to make a final effort to change their approach. All parties need to leave their comfort zones and start to look for agreeable solutions, which can foster a fair and ambitious agreement in Paris."
"There is no agreement about climate finance, the major questions of who should provide the finance, how much, and to who remain unanswered. The poor and vulnerable community remain confident that these questions will be answered in their favour, considering the fact that they are already affected by the impacts of climate change."
We know that hurricanes occur in nature. They are not new. Hurricanes, even very powerful storms, have occurred long before the impact of climate change was felt across the globe. What is new is the size and intensity of the storms faced today. The Washington Post reports:
While one storm is only one storm and can never substitute for a comprehensive statistical analysis, the fact remains that the link between warm seas and strong storms -- the theoretical reason for believing hurricanes will worsen due to climate change -- is starkly apparent in this case...
"As ocean temperatures continue to warm as a result of human-caused climate change, we expect hurricanes to intensify, and we expect to cross new thresholds. Hurricane Patricia and her unprecedented 200 mile-per-hour sustained winds appears to be one of them now, unfortunately," adds Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Penn State University.
For people of faith, this is yet another rally cry for action to combat climate change. Faith leaders have issued a statement to those preparing the Paris accord noting that: "Our religious convictions and cosmological narratives tell us that this earth and the whole universe are gifts that we have received from the spring of life, from God. It is our obligation to respect, protect and sustain these gifts by all means."
Increasingly, the fight to address climate change takes on a sense of urgency as we reach milestones where repair of the environment might be past our ability to control. If this occurs, we fail God and sentence our children and their descendants to a future of hardship that is difficult to imagine.
Standing in our way are those that still deny the science of climate change. "A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon," wrote Pope Francis. Those that deny this solid consensus put the future in jeopardy, often for partisan political reasons, and must be called out by faith leaders for their sin of blocking progress on addressing this great moral issue that impacts all life, God's creation. Religious leaders must also do more to call their communities to take action on climate change. We are all complicit in allowing the present age to unfold as it has.
God is calling us now to restore the natural balance of creation that allows existence.
Pacific University's Center for Peace and Spirituality invites the public to a reception and forum with leaders of The Abraham Fund Initiatives of Israel, an entity that promotes coexistence and equality among Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens.
The events will take place on Thursday, Oct. 29, in rooms 223 and 224 of Jefferson Hall on the university's Forest Grove Campus, with the reception beginning at 6 p.m. and the forum commencing at 7. Admission is free, but seating is limited on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Abraham Fund Initiatives work to "promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens. Named after the common ancestor of both Jews and Arabs,The Abraham Fund works toward a prosperous, secure and just society by promoting policies based on innovative social models, conducting large-scale initiatives, advocacy and public education.”
Co-executive directors Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Rass will be joined Center for Peace and Spirituality director Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie and Dr. Raymond Haija, a member of The Abraham Fund’s U.S. board of directors.
“This summit will provide an opportunity for the Pacific community to begin an important conversation about the on-going crisis in Israel and will look at effective peace-building models,” Rev. Dr. Currie said. “Not every issue will be addressed and we will not solve the issue of peace in the Middle East. We will meet two important Jewish and Muslim leaders working toward that end.”
Pacific University's Center of Peace and Spirituality provides students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful study, reflection and action based on the recognition that inter- and intra-personal peace are inherently connected and that concerns for personal spirituality are intimately related to concerns for one's social, historical, cultural and natural environment.
For more information, please contact Rev. Dr. Currie at email@example.com or call 503-352-2032.
Joint Statement on Umpqua Tragedy from Oregon Faith Leaders Jan Elfers (Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon) and Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie (Pacific University Center for Peace & Spirituality)
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and the Pacific University Center for Peace and Spirituality join Oregonians and Americans in grief and shock over the mass shooting today at Umqua Community College (UCC). We are in contact with colleagues in ministry in the Roseburg area to see what assistance is needed.
“All of our faith traditions abhor violence, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon has joined the National Council of Churches in calling for action to prevent gun violence,” said Jan Elfers, interim executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.“Our prayers go out to all those who lives have been impacted by this terrible tragedy; to the victim’s families and friends, and to the entire Roseburg community. We are grateful to those who responded to the emergency and undoubtedly prevented the loss of even more lives.”
A Resolution and Call to Action by the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A.
“Mass shootings like this happen too often and Oregon has not been immune,” said Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University. “Today we offer our prayers for those killed and injured. We also lift up the families of those impacted. Still, we must also work to take steps that reduce gun violence this day so that there are no more days like this.”
Dr. Currie is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is a statewide association of Christian denominations, congregations, ecumenical organizations and interfaith partners working together to improve the lives of Oregonians through community ministry programs, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, environmental ministry and public policy advocacy.
Pacific University’s Center for Peace and Spirituality provides students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful study, reflection and action based on the recognition that inter- and intra-personal peace are inherently connected and that concerns for personal spirituality are intimately related to concerns for one's social, historical, cultural and natural environment.
Founded in 1849, Pacific University offers more than 84 areas of study within its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Optometry, Education, Health Professions and Business.
Views and opinions expressed by Ms. Elfers and Rev. Dr. Currie do not necessarily reflect the position of Pacific University.
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The Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University, has been invited to attend the arrival ceremony for Pope Francis at the White House on Wednesday, September 23.
Pope Francis, making his first trip to the United States since becoming the world leader of the Catholic Church, will address the the US Congress before visiting Philadelphia and New York City.
Dr. Currie, a long-time advocate for social justice, was invited by the White House earlier this month to join President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in welcoming Pope Francis to the US.
“It is obviously a great honor to be able to attend this historic event,” said Dr. Currie, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. “I have enormous respect for Pope Francis, his welcoming inclusion of all, and his work to bring about peace, economic equality and support for the environment. It is a special gift to be able to represent Pacific University at this gathering."
Prior to the ceremony, Currie will present, "The Unity and Disunity of the Church Universal," on Sunday, September 20 at Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland (2941 NE Ainsworth). The service begins at 10 a.m., and his sermon will focus on Pope Francis' visit to the US and where people of faith from different traditions can find common ground.
Pacific University’s Center for Peace and Spirituality provides students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful study, reflection and action based on the recognition that inter- and intra-personal peace are inherently connected and that concerns for personal spirituality are intimately related to concerns for one's social, historical, cultural and natural environment.
Founded in 1849, Pacific University offers more than 84 areas of study within its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Optometry, Education, Health Professions and Business.
Sarah Palin wants a cabinet position in any future Donald Trump administration. Specifically, she'd like to be secretary of the Department of Energy. The former half-term Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate said this week:
"I think a lot about the Department of Energy, because energy is my baby, oil and gas and minerals, those things that God has dumped on this part of the earth for mankind's use instead of us relying on unfriendly foreign nations, for us to import their ... resources."
Palin has long argued that the world's resources are a gift from God to be plundered. Climate change? Palin doesn't believe that humans could impact the climate. When world leaders gathered in Copenhagen in December 2009 to discuss ways to better protect the environment Palin famously tweeted:
Copenhgen=arrogance of man2think we can change nature's ways.MUST b good stewards of God's earth,but arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) December 19, 2009
This puts Palin at odds with the scientific community, Pope Francis, the World Council of Churches, the World Jewish Congress, the National Association of Evangelicals in the United States, and Islamic scholars across the globe. All argue that humanity has a role - no, an obligation - to protect the environment and to do everything possible to reverse the impact of human caused climate change. Pope Francis recently wrote:
"We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man 'dominion' over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to 'till and keep' the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). 'Tilling' refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while 'keeping' means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature."
Palin's views on the environment might not be in line with the thinking of world religious leaders but she does share a common philosophy with Donald Trump and nearly all the GOP contenders for president. Trump believes that climate change is a hoax.
Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee - I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2013
People of faith, regardless of politics, need to be at the forefront of a world-wide movement that makes action on climate change not just politically possible but political suicide for those who would oppose such action. This is not about partisanship or party. We can and should applaud President Obama's overall climate change proposals, which move us in the right direction, but oppose President Obama when he takes such counter productive steps as allowing drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Too many Democrats are timid on this issue while too many Republicans deny there is an issue to be concerned about.
We fail God if we do not respond to the crisis of climate change. After all, we created this crisis. The gift of creation is at stake. We leave for those who are younger a world in peril that will only become more dangerous and fractured over time without corrective action. All the people of the Earth have a responsibility to be - to borrow a term from the Hebrew Scriptures - restorers of the breach.
God did not "dump" the wonders of this planet on us to be exploited.
People of faith have a special responsibility here because we are charged by God to be stewards of creation and thus far we have failed to live out our responsibilities. Our sins will most certainly be visited on our children and their children. Still, action taken now to repent of those sins by doing whatever is necessary to restore the earth to the balance which God created would be a gift for future generations that would prove our worth as a species.
As for Palin:
"I think a lot about the Department of Energy. And if I were head of that, I'd get rid of it. And I'd let the states start having more control over the lands that are within their boundaries and the people who are affected by the developments within their states."
No one with her philosophy should be allowed during these times to hold public office. The world is literally at risk.
Some are predicting that over 400 clergy and religious leaders will resign their positions this Sunday after their names appeared on the Ashley Madison list. As many of you know, this website facilitated affairs.
Many will be understandably frustrated and hurt by the news that their pastor appeared on this list. This will be particularly true for those clergy who have preached monogamy and who have attacked gay marriage as an assault on traditional marriages. Clearly, this will be seen as hypocrisy and unfitting for those serving churches.
So what do we do and where do we go from here? As a minister and as a husband, I believe that the marriage relationship is one that is a kin to a covenantal relationship. We are to be supportive of one another and in the words of Scripture we are to be subject to one another.
Still, clergy are human and prone to human error. That does not mean, however, that all clergy are having affairs or misusing their positions for financial gain or other purposes that are in conflict with their call to ministry.
The real tragedy is the hypocrisy that so many clergy engage in. Clergy often present themselves as somehow more perfect or more holy than the average parishioner. This is a terrible mistake. We are all flawed.
President Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, was openly mocked decades ago when he declared that he had sinned in his heart. But it was a deeply honest answer from a Christian struggling with his faith and trying to be the best husband that he could be. In retrospect, I hope that people see his openness as a demonstration of what it means to be an authentic Christian.
We need more of this from our church leaders. We need to be able to admit that we are not perfect people and that our lives are a journey and that none of us has reached perfection. We need to be humble and to embrace our flawed humanity as we seek through our faith and experience to better ourselves.
It is also a mistake, if not a sin, to point other people (such as gays and lesbians) and suggest that they are a threat to the institution of marriage. Straight people have been messing up the institution of marriage as we now understand it for as long as it has been around.
Ultimately, families and individual churches will have to wrestle with how to respond if their church pastor is found to be on this list. My sincere hope is that whenever possible we seek to offer appropriate forgiveness and to look for ways to bring reconciliation to broken relationships.
Spouses should be given the space to determine what that best means for them under these difficult circumstances. Yes, sometimes that will mean separation or divorce and there is nothing unChristian about responding in such away. We can never know all the dynamics involved in a marriage that is not our own. Nor should we judge if a couple decides to stay together and repair the breach that has been broken.
As for the rest of us, we should not take glee in the Ashley Madison leak. We shoud seriously contemplate the words uttered by Jesus that are recorded in Matthew 7:3 (NRSV):
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"
Who among us can say that we have not stumbled or fallen in one way or another over the course of our lives?
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A Prayer For Students, Teachers, Staff and Parents At The Start of A New School Year (click to enlarge)
Read more: http://goo.gl/Ad5uXJ
Ferguson and Faith, the new book from Leah Gunning Francis, takes us through the tragic death of Michael Brown in Missouri and how the faith community responded.
For me, it is a story of hope. A common frustration that many of us who are Christian share is that our churches and leaders are absent when they are most needed. We concern ourselves with issues such as divorce and personal morality but ignore larger social issues such as racial injustice.
Ferguson and Faith documents how interfaith leaders in the larger St. Louis community responded with courage, wisdom and a prophetic voice to the death of Brown and the protests that followed.
Francis tells the different stories of individual clergy and protest leaders in their own words. The interviews are compelling and emotionally charged. You read firsthand how people who never expected to find themselves in leadership roles at the front lines of a new and emerging civil rights struggle learned by walking through the fires how to engage difficult issues and to fight for systemic changes in our society.
Many of those profiled are people who are colleagues and friends to me from my days at Eden Theological Seminary, where I earned my Master of Divinity degree in 2005. It comes as no surprise to me that clergy such as Starkey Wilson, Nelson Pierce, Traci Blackmon, Heather Arcovitch and Deb Krause, Eden's academic dean, became such important voices in the days, weeks and months after Michael Brown's death. They each responded to the call to ministry with courage and humility. That much and more comes out very clearly in this book. Those of us in other communities can learn from their example.
One of the concluding chapters notes that "There is a Ferguson Near You." We know that here in Portland, Oregon as over the years we have struggled with the deaths of unarmed and mostly African-American citizens who have died at the hands of Portland Police. The US Department of Justice investigation of the Ferguson police department, in fact, uses tools that were developed first here in Portland after it was determined that police in our city engaged in a pattern of discrimination against people with mental illnesses. Where the DOJ in Portland failed wasn't recognizing that almost all of those killed were African-American and that the issue of race was linked with police shootings. We know this is true in many other communities. So yes, there is work for all of us to do across the nation.
My hope is that church members and students across the country will read the stories and hear the accounts of the faith leaders and young activists who demanded that racial injustices be addressed in Ferguson when others told them to go home and be quiet. Silence, as Francis illustrates so well, is not an option in these times.
We should not debate the reality of racism and it's impact on our nation anymore than we should be debate the reality of climate change. This is settled science. Racism is well documented in sociological studies and in the findings of the Department of Justice as they look at practices undertaken by police bureaus across the country. We know that our system is not fair and is in places quite broken.
All who have argued in the aftermath of Ferguson that "Black Lives Matter" should read this book, learn from the stories that it tells, and look for opportunities in all of our different communities to address racial injustices. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes that have been made in the past. The civil rights struggle did not end with the Voting Rights Act of the 1960s. Ferguson and Portland both remind us that there is a great need to address racism so that all of our people are more free. It is heartening to read in the pages of this book how faith leaders in the Ferguson area have boldly proclaimed that this is not the world that God has intended for us and that we can and must do better.
A real treat for me this month was preaching on Sunday at Ainsworth United Church of Christ, my home congregation here in Portland. A four-way covenantal agreement between myself, the church, the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ and Pacific University allows my work at the university to be possible.
"Ainsworth is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, open & affirming, Just Peace and accessible church. We celebrate that God is still speaking in our world today and that God’s extravagant welcome and love is for everyone. We hope that your journey of faith will lead you to us and that you experience God’s love through us." Those words have meaning.
It seemed appropriate the Sunday following the 4th of July - on a blistering hot Sunday - to consider the role of church and state. Conservative voices often say it is the role of the church to address social ills but churches like Ainsworth UCC, that help address the AIDS crisis, cannot do it alone. What does Jesus teach us?
Mark 12:13-17 was our focus text for the service. You can download a podcast of the sermon here:
(some browsers - like Firefox or Google Chrome - will allow you to simply click on the link and listen...otherwise click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose “Save Target As” and save to your desktop or other folder – once downloaded click on the file to listen).
My name is Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie. I am a resident of NE Portland and serve as a minister in the United Church of Christ, currently in the capacity of the Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University.
I can share with you this morning theological concerns to projects such as this one under consideration. Like the Audubon Society of Portland, I believe this project is inconsistent with Portland’s Climate Change Action Plan.
In 2005, I joined over 1,000 religious leaders across the United States in signing a document called “God’s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States.” We declared:
The second step is to pursue a new journey together, with courage and joy. By God’s grace, all things are made new. We can share in that renewal by clinging to God’s trustworthy promise to restore and fulfill all that God creates and by walking, with God’s help, a path different from our present course. To that end, we affirm our faith, propose a set of guiding norms, and call on our churches to rededicate themselves to this mission. We firmly believe that addressing the degradation of God’s sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time comparable to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the worldwide movement to achieve equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass destruction in a post-Hiroshima world.
In that spirit, I urge you to reject the proposal before you.
* as prepared for delivery
My latest oped in The Oregonian:
"Why do we still have a homelessness crisis after all these years? Part of it is political. Part of it is spiritual. We've never invested the resources needed to build affordable housing. The entire Metro region — Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties — needs a permanent source of funding to build affordable housing. The majority of those who are homeless are families with children and the working poor who cannot afford the high cost of housing. We need more drug treatment. We need more mental health counseling. But we need housing first.
We also need to recognize the common humanity we all share. Until then — until we acknowledge that we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper — we will never find the political will to end homelessness. We'll simply go on trying to manage and hide it."
It wasn't long ago that I shared that I'd passed my oral defense and had completed all the requirements for the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree at Chicago Theological Seminary. This weekend eight members of our family traveled to Chicago for the Commencement.
As noted, my D.Min. work focused on researching, developing and evaluating models to teach progressive clergy how to engage in theologically grounded social action that employees social media as a vehicle for organizing.
It is vital that Christians address important social issues - such as climate change and economic inequality - using a theological framework. Otherwise, we allow conservative fundamentalists to shape the debate over the future of Christianity. Hopefully, my work will contribute to this cause in some small way.
Chicago Theological Seminary is a unique institution. The vision of the seminary is to "be an international force in the development of religious leadership to transform society toward greater justice and mercy."
Already CTS is offering a free online class on Just Peacemaking that offers an alternative to the theology of Just War.
My time working with the faculty, staff and students has been rewarding. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with the CTS family in January 2016 when I join a planned CTS-sponsored interfaith study tour of Israel and Palestine.
The Pacific University Center for Peace and Spirituality (CPAS) has released an Annual Report for the 2014-2015 academic year.
As one of Pacific’s newer centers, CPAS has had a year of tremendous growth: sponsoring forums on racial inequality, hosting Pacific’s first-ever interfaith worship service, co-sponsoring a social justice retreat for students, launching new social media accounts, and bringing nationally known speakers, such as Sister Simone Campbell, to Woodburn and Forest Grove.
“We hope this report provides a glimpse into what has been an exciting year for us,” say Rev. Chuck Currie, CPAS director and university chaplain. “CPAS has been fortunate to have found strong support from President Lesley Hallick, diverse faculty and staff, students, and community members.”
Lars Larson is a Washington State resident who hosts a Portland-based radio show that focuses on how much he dislikes Oregon. You can often see him on FOX News.
Long ago, before turning to talk radio, he was a television reporter who interviewed me numerous times, and I would sometimes go on his radio show in the early days until his rhetoric became so extreme it was clear going on The Lars Larson Show only provided legitimacy to someone who didn't deserve it (I have, however, offered to debate him on the issues facing my state in a neutral setting).
That doesn't stop him from talking about me on air or sending random Tweets to me (he follows my account but I don't bother to follow his).
Still, I came across one of his tweets this weekend that stuck me as odd:
in good journalism, you mention personal characteristics (race, sex pref, gender or religion) when it matters in the story.— Lars Larson (@LarsLarsonShow) April 8, 2015
What was the context of this tweet? I'm not entirely sure. But I do know that Larson doesn't just mention personal characteristics when it matters to a story and I tweeted so:
.@LarsLarsonShow You gave up journalism long ago - about the time you decided it was okay to call Barney Frank "Barney Fag" on air.— Rev. Chuck Currie (@RevChuckCurrie) April 19, 2015
As you might imagine, that made Lars a bit upset:
@RevChuckCurrie a lie...but from rev chuckle nothing new— Lars Larson (@LarsLarsonShow) April 19, 2015
But here's the rub: I'm right.
Here is what Media Matters reported:
On the October 31 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Lars Larson played a spoof "Barney Frank for President" advertisement, in which a person said: "Hi, everybody. I'm Barney Frank and I'm running for president of the United States. Why? Well, because Nancy Pelosi pissed me off. Harry Reid pissed me off, and so did ol' Barack. Ol' Barack himself pissed me off too. I'm pissed at the Repubicans and the Democraps, and I'm going to run as an independent sort of fellow." The ad concludes: "Now remember, this Erection Day -- Election Day, vote for Barney Frank for President. I'm Barney Fag -- uh, Frank and I approve this massage -- message."
Just don't call Lars Larson a journalist. He is a longtime crusader against equality for all Americans. Larson is a talk show host. A Tea Party activist. Someone who calls gay people "fag." But nothing close to an ethical journalist.
It appears that Hillary Clinton is ready to enter the 2016 presidential race on Sunday. Many will remember that I supported Barack Obama during the 2008 election. I did so because I believed he was the right choice for a unique moment in our history and I've never regretted that decision. That doesn't mean I've agreed with his every position. Hillary Clinton has the opportunity in 2016 to carry on the work of the economic recovery and peace building that began in 2009. She was a key figure as Secretary of State in bringing combat operations to an end in Iraq and has been a important backer of a negotiated settlement with Iran vs. another war in the Middle East. Few people in modern history have promoted human rights for women and girls with more vigor. She was an early voice for equality for gays and lesbians. Like with Barack Obama, I know there will be times I disagree with her. Still, I share her overall vision for a more prosperous America for all and look forward to a more detailed economic agenda as the race progresses. She has been willing to wade into the difficult and painful issues of race and police accountability while other candidates have ducked. A United Methodist influenced from an early age by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Clinton understands the need for racial reconciliation. A Clinton candidacy will bring experience and substance to a race thus far filled with rhetoric meant not to unite Americans but to divide us. A Hillary Clinton candidacy will be good for America.
The Honorable Senator Ron Wyden
Sent via email
Dear Senator Wyden:
We are writing to both congratulate you on being named the winner of the 2015 Vollum Ecumenical Humanitarian Award from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) and to personally take this opportunity to urge you to oppose S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.
Both of us have been deeply honored in the past to have our ministries recognized by EMO. Rev. Lore was given the 2013 Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Award for Justice and Rev. Currie was given the 2003 Vollum Ecumenical Humanitarian Award. We agree you are deeply deserving of your award for opposing torture and standing up for human rights.
As for Iran, we strongly agree with J Street, which has stated:
“With the critical details of a comprehensive agreement yet to be worked out, it is more important than ever that Congress not take actions that will undermine America's negotiators at the table. There must also be no question that, if a final agreement ultimately cannot be reached, the United States is not to blame. We therefore continue to oppose new sanctions legislation currently before the Senate, and remain committed to working with Senators and Members of Congress toward legislation that provides for robust and responsible Congressional oversight of Iranian compliance with any agreement reached.
The diplomatic path being pursued by the United States and its international partners remains better than all the other alternative approaches to dealing with Iran. Military action would delay but not completely destroy the Iranian program, while dragging the United States and Israel into a costly and bloody war.”
S.615 would undermine President Obama’s diplomacy. We have already seen U.S. Senator Tom Cotton publically argue for a bombing campaign against Iran, despite wisdom from current and former military advisors to both political parties who state such action would fail and provoke a larger conflict.
The National Council of Churches “has long advocated for engagement with the Iranian Government, especially with regard to the nuclear question, as engagement is the best means to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation.” We concur.
How members of the Senate vote on this issue may determine whether or not we go to war with Iran – a war that is avoidable if diplomacy is given every chance, as the president has asked.
As clergy in Oregon deeply committed to peace, we urge you to publically oppose S.615 in the strongest possible terms.
Rev. Kate Lore
Minister for Social Justice
First Unitarian Church, Portland
Rev. Chuck Currie
Director, Center for Peace and Spirituality
Pacific University | Oregon
I successfully completed my oral defense last week and have now completed all the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Ministry (DMin) from Chicago Theological Seminary. The DMin is an "advanced professional degree designed to prepare religious leaders for specialized ministerial practice as leaders and teachers" that can be obtained after completing the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree and at least three years of active ministry. I was fortunate to earn my M.Div. at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis in 2006.
There are a lot of people to thank but I'll start with three: Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, Liz Smith Currie and Judy Bright, my mother who lived to see me start this process. I dedicated my DMin thesis to her.
My DMin work focused on researching, developing and evaluating models to teach progressive clergy how to engage in theologically grounded social action that employees social media as a vehicle for organizing.
We look forward to returning to Chicago for the commencement.
Last fall, I drew attention to the Tweets of the former head of the South Carolina GOP who called for the mass executions of Ebola victims. Now that same lawyer is under investigation for domestic violence.
Todd Kincannon, a Columbia attorney and former executive director of the S.C. Republican Party, has been accused of threatening his wife and refusing to let her out of his car Thursday night, according to a report from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. He has not been arrested or charged with any crimes, according to a sheriff’s department spokesman.
From the sheriff's report:
Ashley (Kincannon) continued to tell me she called her mother for help and attempted to call 9-1-1 with an open line in order for the dispatcher to hear James. While driving, James saw a police vehicle and ‘freaked out.’ James threatened he would drive the car into a concrete barrier if the cops became involved. In addition, James also threatened to kill himself if Ashely left. Ashely continued to tell me James has made several threats in the past to kill himself, her, and her family. Furthermore, Ashely said she has past incidents of domestic violence and threats of homicide/suicide recorded. I saw no visible injuries to Ashely, she provided me with a written statement, and was issued a victim’s pamphlet. It should be noted Ashely was trembling as she wrote her statement.
This is a story that will not end well. Kincannon blames his behavior on cough medicine but there would seem much more wrong with this individual.
There is good news: Twitter has deleted his accounts (twice) where he had active followings.
It also appears the S.C. Commission of Lawyer Conduct, S.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Kincannon. He has no business holding a law license. Kincannon sued to stop the investigation but the suit was dismissed.
Please pray for his wife and that Kincannon himself is saved from himself before he does more damage.
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