March 16, 2005

After the Minimum Wage Defeat, the Next Battle is the EITC

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 3:37 am

Last week the Senate rejected two bills to raise the minimum wage (only one of which was a sincere attempt to do so.) Several PCBN bloggers have posted on this topic, particularly The Big Lowitzki (here and here) and Faithful Progressive (here and here).

Its reasonable to ask whether raising the minimum wage is such a good idea. While our hearts may be in the right place, we must use our heads to ensure we don’t harm those we’re trying to help. Conservatives argue that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment among the lowest skilled workers. From an American Prospect article:

“I do not support raising the minimum wage, and the reason is as follows,” said New Hampshire Republican John Sununu, “When the minimum wage is raised, workers are priced out of the market. That is the economic reality that seems, at least so far, to be missing from this discussion.”

…Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch had a story this week about Wangsgard’s, a grocery story in Ogden, Utah, that illustrated the point Sununu was making: “Philip Child, the president and owner,” he said, “informs me that a minimum-wage increase would force him to reduce jobs.

The reason for this affect seems fairly basic. When prices go up, demand goes down. In this case, the minimum wage is the price for unskilled labor, so raising the minimum wage would reduce demand for unskilled workers. Right?
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March 15, 2005

Sojourners Call to Action

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:12 am

I just received the following via emails from both Sojourners and Call to Renewal this morning:

As Christians committed to social justice and the common good, we believe that budgets are moral documents. Apparently, Congress didn’t get the memo.

The House and Senate Budget Committees approved budgets last week that make dramatic cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, and countless other low-income programs while extending tax cuts and (unbelievably) proposing new ones for the wealthiest Americans. This week, the budgets will be discussed and voted on by the full House and Senate, with all members of Congress being able to participate.

Your response to our “The Budget is a Moral Document” campaign has been overwhelming. Almost 20,000 of you have sent e-mails to Congress in the past month, and staff on Capitol Hill report they have never seen this much constituent response about the budget. As people of faith, we must now ramp up our efforts and send one clear message to Congress: Don’t pass a morally bankrupt budget!

Click here to take action!

This budget is taking from the least of these to give to those that want for nothing. Please speak out against this assault on the poor. From John 21:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

Update: This is old news, but bears repeating, so it occurred to me I should mention it again here. The ELCA, along the with Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and UCC, issued a statement last week opposing the Bush budget on moral and religious grounds.

We urge the members of our churches, of other churches and other faiths, and all whose conscience compels them to do justice to join us in opposing this budget. Write to your representatives. Write to your local newspaper. Join the organizations working to obtain justice for the 36 million Americans living below the poverty line, the 45 million without health insurance and the unknown millions struggling to keep their families from slipping into these ever increasing ranks. Together, let us pledge ourselves to creating a nation in which economic policies are infused with the spirit of the man who began his public ministry almost 2,000 years ago by proclaiming that God had anointed him “to bring good news to the poor.”

March 14, 2005

The Science and Christianity Showcase

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:21 am

Catez at Allthings2all has put together The Science and Christianity Showcase, a collection of posts submitted by scientists and Christian bloggers. Just scanning the posts Catez has gathered, this showcase represents a rich anthology on the topic. (I’m flattered to have my past post, Why Science Can’t Prove (or Disprove) God, included in her collection.)

A “table of contents”:

  • The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Reality
  • Working with the Right Blueprint
  • Compatibility – Is It Possible?
  • Science and the Fall
  • Ethical Questions
  • Sharing the Knowledge

This kind of blog anthologizing is a new (at least to me) innovation in the blogosphere, and would seem to make the blogosphere more accessible and valuable to those not willing to scan a hundred blogs to find the handful of posts of interest. I expect we’ll see more of these popping up on diverse topics around the ‘sphere in the future.

March 13, 2005

Bill Moyers: Let's Get Jesus Back

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:58 pm

Bill Moyers is not only an outstanding journalist, but a long-time Christian voice in an industry not particularly known for its grasp of religious issues. Now via Beth Quick via Deep Calls to Deep, Bill Moyers adds his voice to what is becoming a chorus decrying the take-over of the Christian faith by the right. Excerpts from his recent essay, Let’s Get Jesus Back:

And they hijacked Jesus. The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, “The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” The very Jesus who told 5000 hungry people that all of you will be fed, not just some of you. The very Jesus who challenged the religious orthodoxy of the day by feeding the hungry on the Sabbath, who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast, who said the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, raised the status of women, and treated even the tax collector like a child of God. The very Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple. This Jesus has been hijacked and turned from a champion of the disposed into a guardian of the privileged. Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist…sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don’t work, and punitive public policies.

Let’s get Jesus back.

The Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight-hour workday. Let’s get back the Jesus who caused Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop. The Jesus who called a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor—ten years before the New Deal. The Jesus in whose name Dorothy Day challenged the Church to march alongside auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. The Jesus in whose name E.B. McKinney and Owen Whitfield challenged a Mississippi system that kept sharecroppers in servitude and debt. The Jesus in whose name a Presbyterian minister named Eugene Carson Blake was arrested for protesting racial injustice in Baltimore. The Jesus who led Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.

And for those of you keeping count, yes, this one also gets added to the “I am a Christian Too” meme collection.

A Christian Infiltrates Public Radio!

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:26 am

As anyone that has read this blog for any period of time can attest, I am an avid NPR listener. I pledge and everything. So this item in The Revealer, written by Linda Anderson who works for the International Bible Society and volunteers for her local NPR station, caught my eye.

The phone interview for volunteering at KRCC was going really well, when the station manager, Mario, asked: “And where am I calling you?”

“IBS,” I answered, giving him the acronymic (and therefore less-obvious) name of my nonprofit Christian employer.

“Huh,” he mused aloud, “the only IBS I know is the International Bible Society.”

“Uh, yeah. That’s where I work.”

“Do you know why I don’t believe in God?” he asked, hardly pausing.

His story about why he didn’t believe in God was pretty familiar: bad church, bad churchgoers, bad church history.

I confessed that I, too, had a hard time with Christian hypocrisy (who doesn’t?) and the church’s tendency to ignore social justice issues. I submitted that following Christ unfortunately comes at the expense of associating myself with two thousand years of human failures in his name.

Mario was curious to see if his community could sustain a strange element like me. “We’re an inclusive environment, a diverse community.” If I was interested in being part of that community, I was welcome. “But you know who won’t like this?” he asked rhetorically, “The cool people. I can’t wait.” Click.

I haven’t introduced myself to the KRCC staff as Lisa the Christian. And I thought that was okay until my second outing. Adam, another DJ, and I were standing in the street, leaning against my car after his shift. It was dark and I watched his confusion evolve in the strobe light of the passing cars.

A: So, where do you work?

L: A Christian non-profit.

A: —- (shocked)

L: Uh, I am a Christian.

A: (in a slightly too loud, relieved tone) Oh, you’re shitting me.

L: No, really. I’m a Christian.

(awkward pause)

A: Are you very Christian?

L: What do you mean?

A: Are you a FUNDAMENTALIST?

L: What do you mean by “fundamentalist?”

A: Do you hate homosexuals?

L: Adam, you know I don’t hate homosexuals. Half of the people we work with are homosexual.

Adam mumbled something about his grandmother and dinner and excused himself. So we didn’t have a chance to discuss the why or how of my belief or the way words failed us when their sub-culturally charged definitions broke down.

…I was left wondering which Christian prototype — the televangelist, the culturally insensitive spinster missionary — Adam had ascribed to me. He did have our previous relationship to look back to, but judging by his reaction to my coming out, he thought that his earlier impressions (ostensibly of my being interesting or thoughtful) and my profession of faith to be incompatible.

Adam could have dismissed me immediately if I had been Christian in a way that he recognized. He might not have wasted his time befriending me. He already knew that he didn’t like those people. But when the label came too late in our friendship, Adam felt deceived by me in some way.

This is the cost we pay for allowing Christianity to be defined by the Christian right. How many thousands, millions even, of unchurched in the US are repulsed by the image of the Christian right, and are therefore beyond the reach of the Gospel? How many ex-Christians have fled the church because of the Christian right, not knowing that there is another Christianity governed by grace instead of law?

An Addition to the "I am a Christian Too" Meme Collection

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:09 am

The meme of this blog from the beginning has been that the Christian right, inspite of the presumption by the secular world to the contrary, does not speak for the moral values of most Christians. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that I seem to be collecting accounts of Christians articulating this meme. First, there is my original post regarding my raison d’blog. Then, I’ve posted links to similar accounts from John Sugg, Dr. Robin Meyers, and Jennifer Barnett Reed. (My posts are here and here.)

Now comes a great addition to the “I am a Christian too” meme collection. From Yale student Beth Hinson (hat tip to Jesus Politics).

On the train ride back to Yale from Boston in the morning hours of Nov. 3, 2004, my best friend looked at me through eyes tearing with frustration and said, “Your people did this.” She turned her head to the aisle and spent our trip upset and without words.

I am a Christian. I also grew up in the American South. “My people”–both Christians and Southerners, according to my friend and many Yale students–are changing our nation with a conservative agenda.

That agenda is not mine. Many Christians, like myself, strongly believe in separation of church and state; are Democrats and pro-choice; support women in ministry as preachers and teachers; and believe that God loves all people, regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.

It is possible for Christians to represent such God-like views and not be radical judgmentalists. It is possible for Christians to be loving, kind, conversational and respectful of persons of different faiths.

Despite my vote in the presidential election, my identity as a Christian became associated with Christian conservatism more than ever after Nov. 2. “My people” appear to be part of the Christian right because voices from the Christian left are often stifled or silenced.

The presence of the Christian right in the national debate has had the effect of lumping all Christians into an unequal affiliation, and thus a public misrepresentation, of Christianity.

Critics rarely acknowledge the many Christians who fight private battles against the upsurge of Christian conservatism and frequently find their integrity challenged. These tests have occurred at a frightening pace over the past two decades.

In my view, this new political Christian right is seriously wrong, because its view of God is so narrow that few are included except its own.

We must better articulate the more moderate side of Christianity as it exists today in the South and Middle America in order to counteract the popular assumption that the entire region is sold on the radical Rightist principles.

The Christian Conservative movement has duped more mainstream and liberal Christians into silence, because we have been fearful about questions we cannot answer concerning the radicals who tout our faith but do not share our ideals.

However, we must now stand firm and be unafraid to say, “I profess a different Christianity from the Christianity professed by the Christian Right.” Otherwise, individuals our age who find it difficult to sometimes hold onto any faith will begin to lose faith in Faith itself, and our generation’s predicament will be what was my own: not knowing whose side the church is really on. Our faith must be converted to God and not conquered by man.

March 11, 2005

Friday Night Dog Blogging

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:19 pm

Being at heart a lover of tradition, I am carrying on the time-honored blogger tradition of Friday night cat blogging. Except that we don’t have a cat. So instead, meet Ziggy.

Ziggy

March 10, 2005

Blogophilia

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:34 pm

What I’m reading in the blogs:

Father Jake provides a post with a link to a wonderful, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting story from a gay Christian. Read this when you have a few minutes uninterrupted and in a quiet place.

On the same topic, from Tim at Talking Donkeys, a contemporary retelling of the gospel verse from the lectionary a couple Sundays ago: Jesus Talks with a Gay Man

From Lutheran Chik, a cautionary tale for us progressive Christians that have all the answers unlike those poor sinners, the conservatives.

Dr. Bruce Prescott at Mainstream Baptist has a post regarding ongoing efforts to undo the Establishment Clause, including a link to a speech he gave last fall warning against the “theocratic agenda” of the Christian right.

Vaughn at Icthus has a post about the conservative Evangelical critiques of postmodernism. Given my recent post (and comments) on the Emergent church, its clear I’m still learning what PoMo is, but if Al Mohler is against it, then I’m for it. 😉

Bono Speaks on Poverty, AIDS in Africa

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:30 pm

Update: Our Common Interest, the report of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, was released today. Here is an article from the Guardian, the full text of the report (pdf), and the Guardian’s summary.

Mike at Waving or Drowning has a post on Bono’s speech at TED, the Technology Entertainment Design conference, on February 24th. I guess a high-tech hologram was involved, but the message was much more down-to-earth. Bono spoke about hunger and disease in Africa, and what we can and should do about it. The full video is here, and is worth a look. Here are Mike’s transcriptions with my additions:
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March 8, 2005

Emerging into Post-Modern, -Protestant, -Liberal, -Conservative Christianity

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:48 pm

Due to a busy schedule lately, I haven’t made much progress reading A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren, but that’s no reflection on the book — I’m finding it very thought-provoking. Here’s my second post with reactions to the book (here is my first) .

At one point in the book, McLaren starts describing everything as post-something: post-modern, post-protestant, post-liberal, post-conservative, post-evangelical. I’m not very familiar with post-modernism, but I always thought the label was a bit of a dodge. Post-modern doesn’t tell us what it is, only what it follows, what it isn’t. If we can’t describe what it is except to say that its after modern, then it must not be anything very meaningful.
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