October 30, 2005

A Confirmand's Faith Statement

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:03 pm

My fifteen year-old son was confirmed in our Lutheran church today, and I am a very proud father.

When I was confirmed many years ago, we had to memorize the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, the books of the Bible, and I don’t remember what else. When we were confirmed, the Pastor quizzed us in front of the whole congregation, having us recite one of these from memory. This has long been the traditional coming-of-age trial for Lutheran confirmands — worrying about what you’ll be asked to recite and whether you’ll be able to remember it. Looking back on it, I don’t really know how that demonstrated that we were ready to become full-fledged members of the priesthood of all believers.

Fortunately for my son, things have changed, at least in our church. The confirmands were asked to write a faith statement, their own personal credo. In a dinner with parents and godparents Saturday night, the confirmands read their faith statements, and our Pastor read excerpts to the congregation as his sermon today. Each of the statements was unique, personal and touching in their own way. This is a much more meaningful way to demonstrate to the congregation that they are ready to assume the rights and responsibilities of adulthood in the church’s eyes.

My son has given me permission to post his faith statement in full. My wife and I provided no input to this whatsoever, and my son wouldn’t even let us see it until he was done. I have edited it lightly for grammar and spelling, but otherwise these words are all his.

October 29, 2005

Just Send Me A Check

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:19 pm

My blog is worth $69,438.42.
How much is your blog worth?

On Raising the Minimum Wage

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:44 pm

A commenter to my last post raised an important objection to raising the minimum wage: its impact on unemployment and job growth for low-skilled workers. Our motivation for raising the minimum wage may be to help those less fortunate, but if the actual effect is to put them out of work, we haven’t done them any favors. Our efforts must be judged not only by our intent, but by their outcome.

Both the left and the right have ideological beliefs on this topic. Liberals want to believe that corporate America could easily afford to pay higher wages, and that raising the minimum wage would have no affect on unemployment or job growth. On the other hand, conservatives want to believe that an unfettered labor market will maximize employment, and an artificial minimum wage puts people out of work.

Readers of this blog will know that I don’t have much patience for ideologies. Instead of falling back on these assertions from the left or right, what is the effect of the minimum wage on employment out in the real world?

October 25, 2005

Wal-Mart Taken Over by Liberals?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:27 pm

Lee Scott, the CEO of discount retailer and evil empire Wal-Mart, has come out in favor of an increase in the minimum wage:

Scott told Wal-Mart directors and executives in a speech Monday that he believes “it is time for Congress to take a look at the minimum wage and other legislation that can help working families.”

“The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times,” Scott said. “We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks.”

And yesterday Wal-Mart announced cheaper health insurance for employees:

The Onion: What Idiot Wrote These 10 Commandments?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:49 am

The Onion, the great satirical spin-off from Harvard, has an opinion piece on the Ten Commandments.

You keep hearing about these Ten Commandments on television, all the religious fundamentalist types saying, “Let’s put them up in the courthouse, let’s hang them up in the schools, etc., etc.” They seem pretty determined to make the Ten Commandments the law of the land, so I figured, as a responsible citizen, I should bone up on them.

sarcasm warningI cracked the wife’s Bible the other night and let me tell you, after all the hoopla about these 10 magical rules, I expected a lot better.

Take the first commandment, for example. It says you shouldn’t believe in any gods besides God. No gods besides the one, eh? Okay, I can agree with that. […]

Then it goes on more about God. “Don’t believe in any other gods,” it says. “Don’t worship graven images of God, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

One tip I would give this writer is to lay off the God stuff. Or at least dial it back a little bit. And you’re not impressing anybody with the Dr. Seuss language.

After all that jazz about God, the author just keeps on going: “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” is the next one. What is it with this guy and God? I’m beginning to think he’s one of these church types. Where’s the stuff we can use? Where’s “No pushing”? Or “Bag your leaves so they don’t blow around in your neighbor’s yard?” And don’t even get me started on right-of-way. Didn’t they have real problems back in Bible days?

I know, it’s perhaps a little bit blasphemous (although I suppose there’s no such thing as a “little bit blasphemous” — either it is or it isn’t). But hey, God has a sense of humor — just look at the platypus.

October 23, 2005

Justification by Political Beliefs?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 7:48 pm

A couple posts ago, I said we mustn’t demonize conservative Christians even as they demonize us. I thought I’d share a few of the most egregious examples of the demonization of progressive Christians by conservatives. I realize that these are not representative of the attitudes of most conservative Christians, but this animus is definitely out there.

First, from a comment to a post on Crawford Update, Cindy Sheehan’s blog, a couple months ago after someone ran over the crosses she had set up commemorating soldiers killed in Iraq (hat tip to Green Knight):

And the crosses? Who’s that supposed to fool?….


Cindy is NOWHERE near Jesus. She is possessed by the demons from the left. There is no such thing as a liberal christian, can’t happen.


October 22, 2005

Ideology Leading to Incompetence

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:05 am

Update [10-23-05]: Monday’s New Yorker has an article on Brent Scowcroft’s disdain for Bush 43’s policies wrt Iraq. It’s not online yet, but you can find some excerpts here. (For once I seem to be ahead of the curve instead of a few days behind!)

Update [10-22-05]: Thanks to Wildwest for the pointer to this article in Common Dreams on, interestingly enough, neo-con ideology and Iraq.

Last night we watched the movie version of the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” on DVD. (I think there are two potential reactions to the movie: if you’ve read the books, it’s a let-down, and if you haven’t, it’s, um, odd.) One line from the movie (that doesn’t appear in the books) is spoken by Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy, when Ford Prefect asks him about his extra head: “well, apparently you can’t be President with a whole brain”.

October 20, 2005

On Reconciliation

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 6:21 am

Ah, yes…to reconcile or not to reconcile? A tough question indeed.

While writing the previous post, I wrestled with the paragraph headlined “we must not demonize conservative Christians”. The headline of that graf is entirely of my own making — those words were not uttered at the conference. And perhaps this was not a theme throughout the Via Media conference. I only remember for sure one speaker that spoke of this — John Danforth — and he is the one speaker that has prompted some controversy among attendees.

It turns out that an article by the Episcopal News Service on Danforth’s talk has caused some concern. From a post at CrossLeft by Jo Guldi, an organizer of the event:

What the Episcopalian News Service did *not* convey in their much-quoted article was the firm rebuttal that the Senator received. As a panelist at the table that replied, and as the organizer of the conference panel to which the Senator was invited, I am appalled by the Episcopal News Service’s “tweaking” of the evening’s story to its own ends.

October 19, 2005

What I Learned in Washington DC

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 7:30 pm

So what was said at the Path to Action conference? Instead of a blow-by-blow account of each of the speeches and panels, I’m going to step back and reflect on the big themes running through the conference.

The current state of politics and Christianity in the US is an historic anomaly
American Christians have far more often been activists for change than defenders of the status quo. Christians were in the vanguard of the struggles for abolition of slavery, child labor laws, anti-trust laws, women’s suffrage, the Department of Labor, anti-imperialism, civil rights and human rights. Somehow we’ve fallen asleep since the civil rights movement.

Pluralism does not require our silence
Christians do not have a monopoly on morality. There are clear, moral voices among Jews, Muslims, Pagans, agnostics and atheists in the US, and they deserve our respect and our partnership. The separation of church and state safeguards the health of the church as much as the health of the state. But we need not stop speaking of how our moral convictions are borne out of our religious faith. The secular left needs to become more comfortable with the religious left, and recognize that they don’t have to share our faith to agree with our politics.

October 16, 2005

Some New Friends

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:16 pm

At the Path to Action conference I enjoyed meeting some people I already knew well from the blogosphere, and others whose blogs I wasn’t aware of but will be adding to my regular blog reading:

Jo Guldi, activist, conference organizer, and hallway recruiter-of-panelists

Kety Esquivel, organizer of the progressive Christian site CrossLeft and its new webzine

Helen Thompson, aka Gallycat

Salty Vicar

Sarah Dylan, aka Sarah Laughed

Public Theologian and Christian Alliance for Progress co-founder Rev. Tim Simpson

I also had the pleasure of meeting many other speakers and attendees, including quite a few from the All Saints contingent. Thank you all for making the conference so enjoyable and enriching!

Update: I knew I’d forget someone! Apologies to Br. Karekin, aka PunkMonkSF.

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