Sometimes, someone writes something so intruiging, so thought provoking, that I want to share it with others. Click on the highlighted links below to go to those pieces, and see if they intrigue you and make you think as well.
• My friend and fellow missionary, The Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, has written an eloquent piece on Episcopal News Service about what is going on in Egypt, where he is serves, particularly between the Muslims and Christians. Paul-Gordon, a mission partner with The Episcopal Church, is an author, Episcopal priest and interfaith advocate serving as the rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Cairo.
Paul-Gordon writes especially of how he is called to help facilitate dialogue and understanding between the two faiths and Egypt struggles to live into its new identity. He speaks, too, of how he helped the United Nations organize a recent meeting of the most influential religious leaders, Muslim and Christian. (Go here next.)
• Soujourners has come out with a way for all of us to get involved in working toward a moral budget in this country. Yes, we are indeed in a budget crisis, but we are not “broke.” Congress is far too ready to target the least among us, because the least among us have the least say in how things go in their lives. This is our chance to do something about it …
Pray, Fast, Take Action: For a Moral Budget
“Sojourners is calling for a month-long campaign of Prayer, Fasting, and Action in response to Congress’ proposed budget cuts targeting vulnerable people in the U.S. and around the world.
“Although they may seem intangible right now, these budget cuts are a real threat that we must meet with determination, commitment, and steadfastness.”
Read, as well, Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog to find out what is being done by those who are trying their utmost to care for the least of our sisters and brothers. Nothing is beyond our control; we can act, if we so desire.
• Sister Joan Chittester, writing for the National Catholic Reporter, muses on the uncomfortable parallels between the stand-off in Wisconsin and the crises in the Middle East. Sister Joan is a Benedictine Sister of Erie, a best-selling author and a well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women’s issues, and contemporary spirituality in the Church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East. Sister Joan’s most recent books include The Way We Were (Orbis) and Called to Question (Sheed & Ward), a First Place CPA 2005 award winner. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a resource for contemporary spirituality.
In her column today, she writes:
“It suddenly occurred to me that the uprisings in the Middle East and the uprising in Wisconsin were not two distinct situations. They were, in fact, derived from the very same problem and they are both leading in the same direction. By the time the public squares of the Arab world filled up in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Libya, one thing had become painfully clear: After years — decades, in some cases — of suppression, it was no longer possible to smother the cries of the people. After all, what else is there to lose once you find yourself at the mercy of a dictator, your ideas rejected, your needs ignored, your development stifled, your hopes dashed and dashed and dashed again? Why not revolt? Why care about losing your life to the dictator’s guns now that you have already lost it to his insane sense of autocracy? What really bothered me was that one group of people was rising up in countries we call dictatorships. The other group of people was rising up in what we call a democracy. Our democracy. And the Arabs were gaining more ground against dictators than the unions seemed to be gaining in a democracy that had won their rights for them years ago. How can that be?The two scenes — the Middle East and Wisconsin — have one thing in common. In both cases, each of the governments in question simply refuse to talk. They decline to negotiate. They rebuff attempts to compromise. They reject the need to listen. The answer they say is ‘No.’”
Sister Joan’s focus on how we communicate and how we treat each other as we communicate is an important piece for us to consider in our own work, our own lives. Do we take absolute stances? Or are we willing to see past our needs/desires/demands to those of others, and strive to find a place in the middle?
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• A friend of mine pointed me toward David Brooks’ latest column in The New York Times, this one on The New Humanism. Brooks writes about a different way of processing life, as it were. We are not divided human beings, with reason on one side and emotions on the other, canceling each other out. We are integrated human beings. And new research is showing this to be true. Brooks writes:
“This growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships.”
My friend rightly points out that what Brooks is talking about is relationship. We are created to live in loving relationships, and called to work always toward building the beloved community. These are not options in our lives. Relationships cannot be built upon reason alone; our emotions guide us, help us to reveal who we are as beloved children created in God’s image, and enable us to connect with God’s other beloved children. Numbers? Hard cold facts? They have their place, but they are not key to who we are, and are not key to community.
Read the whole column here and after you’ve pondered what he’s written, write a comment yourself.
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• Suzanne Jones, a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Madison, Wis., and spouse of The Rev. Andy Jones (rector of St. Andrew’s), has written a deeply thoughtful piece for Episcopal News Service on how we approach the big issues in our lives, and on what basis we make those decisions. She asks:
“Do we as human beings share a common set of beliefs, either through our religious faiths, secular morality, or simply a sense of decency, which says to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” Do we of the Christian faith believe that we are called to love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul, and to love one another as ourselves? Do we care about our neighbors, our planet, our children, or the legacy we leave to the next generation? Do we have a responsibility to help the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate our children, and help the sick? If we answer yes to these questions, because our baptismal covenant demands it, or our moral code defines it, or whatever we call that sensibility that raises us above animals and wild beasts, then our debate lies in how we carry out this mission.”
She looks at the political debate going on in Wisconsin right now, and asks further, “How do these two seemingly contradictory forces become reconciled? Is it possible both to love our neighbors and prosperity at once? … How do we as people of faith ensure that we are treating our brothers and sisters as we ourselves would want to be treated? How do we balance between a thriving economy and basic human rights? Providing humane and safe working conditions, an opportunity to earn a living and provide for one’s family, educate our children while keeping government small? Is it possible?”
These are good questions … and her insights are right on target. Together – if we want – we can make a difference.
Read the rest of her comments here.
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• Finding our “Royal Voice” | A new friend, Maria L. Evans, blogs at kirkepiscatoid.blogspot.com, and earlier this month also wrote about The King’s Speech. She makes some excellent points and is worth checking out.
Some of the telling and excellent questions she asks:
“When, in our lives, are we called to be Bertie? When are those moments when we must rise above our various “speech impediments” and speak with the honor and grace of the royal person that God has placed inside our stammering, stuttering selves? Likewise, when are we called to be Lionel? When are we called to go the extra mile so someone else can find the royal person inside themselves? When are we called to befriend someone in an unconventional way? How do we know when we are doing such things for the right reasons as opposed to dysfunctional ones?”
And her conclusion is brilliant in its clarity:
“Again, I think the answer lies in the movie. Bertie admits to Lionel early on that his thoughts do not stutter. In fact, he tells this to Lionel in a quite irritated tone of voice–the “Duh, you fool, everyone knows that,” tone of voice. My guess is that “non-stuttering” voice can also be interpreted as “the small still voice of God.” If we truly listen for the “small still voice,” we will discover it doesn’t falter. Lionel tells Bertie he can cure anyone who wants to be cured. Likewise, I believe God will speak to anyone who cares to listen. I find myself being reminded again and again of the Frederick Buechner quote that adorns my friend Elizabeth’s blog masthead: “Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.” “When we lay our secrets on the altar, we will often discover it results in a great improvement in our hearing and our speech. Not only will we hear the voice of the Almighty, we will speak more effectively, and hear the speech of the voices in our own community more clearly. In that, we can become royal voices heralding the Kingdom of God.”
Check out this column. Think about her questions. And listen for that “small still voice of God.”
Other recommendations on a variety of topics:
- Wise words on Haïti | New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on the situation in Haïti.
- Good news/bad news on missionaries | Titus Presler on the numbers of missionaries who serve The Episcopal Church around the world. In short: We need more, and we need to support them better.
- This is not fiscal conservatism. It’s just politics. | Jim Wallis on the God’s Politics blog: :Let’s be clear, when politicians attack the poor, it is not partisan to challenge them; it is a Christian responsibility.”