Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Stranger Misses the Mark in Last Week's Edition

Here's a note I wrote yesterday to editors at The Stranger, one of Seattle's alternative newspapers:

Dear Editor,

Last week your usually well-written paper came off as, well, a little disappointing.  Many of us in the religion field look forward to The Stranger's irreverent wit and biting satire. I couldn't believe how funny the "Burning Plastic" edition was (in a very crude way). The "Back to School Bible," though, mistakenly tried to ride the coattails of the unfunny "Rev. Buddy" column, and left this reader disappointed.

Satire requires knowledge of its subject in order to succeed.  To lob dirt bombs at fundamentalist Christians is easy -- we can all recite the absurdities -- but it's way too easy to be truly funny.  I hope you'll try some day to learn about Seattle's progressive religious community, which has long since moved past the silly scruples of conservatism and deserves some teasing on its own right.

Seattle has a long tradition of progressive religion, so it's not fair that someone like Rev. Buddy should get all the ribbing.  Yes, he exists, darnit.  But he's very rare in Seattle.  If next year you tried a "Back to School with the Liberal Bible," it might take more work to research, but you might succeed better at spearing the actual religious community of our area.  The extra work would be worth it, and we religious progressives need the chastening that your smart satire can provide.  Until then, it's a little disappointing that Seattle's Christian community is being painted with one big Stranger brush.

In short, please abuse us a little, too.  We'll benefit from it, and you'll look smarter and funnier as a result.

Friday, September 16, 2005

National Council of Churches President Speaks Openly About Bush's Hurricane Response

Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President of the National Council of Churches USA and Christian Methodist Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana and Mississippi, has issued the following response to President Bush's address to the nation:

September 15, 2005 -- It is commendable for President Bush to apologize for the mistakes made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We welcome his pledge to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We celebrate his promise to address the injustices that were so profoundly exposed by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of New Orleans.

Both his apology and his promises will help us move forward as a nation. Yet, as his sisters and brothers in faith, we feel it is our duty to remind the President that an apology and promises will only go so far. Now, as a nation, we must acknowledge that this crisis has only exposed what lies just beneath the surface of prosperity and progress in this country. In America, we have a past that haunts us on every level of our existence. We now see all too clearly that a person's race and class can often determine whether or not you are left behind in the Super Dome or escorted to safety.

As we look beyond the President's welcome candor, we must now look to our government and to the private sector for a long-term change in behavior that recognizes and corrects the glaring inequities of American society in housing, jobs and wages, health care and education -- the list is long and growing. Disaster relief and rescue must go beyond the flooded streets of New Orleans and reach into the desperate lives of the millions in poverty across our land -- a disproportionate number of whom are African American.

Today, we stand on the threshold of what is a great opportunity. It is an opportunity to become the America that we have always dreamed of being. It is an opportunity to become the America that Martin Luther King, Jr. so vividly portrayed in his "I Have A Dream" speech more than 40 years ago. It is an opportunity to stop making empty promises, to practice what we preach, to walk what we talk. It is way beyond overdue that America treats all its citizens as full participants in the economic and educational and cultural mainstream. We may have come to America on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now.

In our rush to repair the levees and restore the neighborhoods of the Gulf Coast, let us not continue the injustices -- and yes, the sins of omission and commission -- of the past. Let us not continue to allow children to be left behind by under-funded school systems and inadequate healthcare. Let us not continue to allow poor people to live in neighborhoods that are environmental hazards. Let us not continue to allow honest, hardworking people to work for less than livable wages.

The Book of Nehemiah (2:18) records that the people of Israel, seeing that Jerusalem was destroyed, said, "Let us rise up and build. Then they set their hands to this good work." As the Bishop of the Fourth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church presiding over Mississippi and Louisiana and as the President of the National Council of Churches USA, I say to you: Let us rise up and build! How we respond as a nation to this crisis can be the beginning of a new era of progress, prosperity and promise for a new America that will be true to its spiritual and ethical values and worthy of its leadership among the nations.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hurricane Mercy and Meanness

This is submitted by Larry Lehnerz of The Source:

More than forty members of Carol Marshall’s family lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina devastated their homes.  They are now scattered across neighboring states.  Marshall, who lives in Mount Lake Terrace has remained in communication with the family and reports all are thankfully safe.

Though the family is doing well, they have experienced moments of amazing mercy and inexplicable meanness.

“As the waters started rising in New Orleans, my father who is 85 years old, five of my eight sisters, together with their children fled to Georgia and out of harms way,” says Marshall.  

“My brother who is a truck driver and on the road most of the time allowed seven family members to dwell in his house until they find work and reestablish themselves,” she says.

Members of the family received small vouchers from the Red Cross.

“My sister was shopping for shoes when she burst into tears,” says Marshall of one poignant moment.  “She realized, I have nothing.  I’m literally starting from the ground up.”

At a Wall Mart, while some family members shopped for necessities, others found a bench at the front of the store.  A woman in a wheel chair approached and asked if they were by any chance from New Orleans.  When they said yes, the woman told them that she didn’t have much, but she wanted to help.  She then handed Marshall’s sister $200 and offered a blessing, telling her that more good would come their way.

A few moments later, the cell phone call brought news that another family member had been found safe.

“We considered it a spiritual moment,” says Marshall.  “Instead of being sad about everyone losing their homes, we all felt elated.”

But it hasn’t been all good news for Marshall’s kin.  

“There are some who are insensitive to the drama my family and all the survivors are going through,” says Marshall.

The following eviction noticed received in the past few days by Marshall’s brother speaks for itself.

“Since you feel that you need to provide shelter for your friends from New Orleans then you must move to a new location.  Please use the rest of this month to relocate.  If you are thinking about a thirty day notice - that only applies when you are not violating the lease.  Please feel free to use me as a reference.  Thank you.”  It was signed by the landlord.

Though stunned by the insensitivity, Marshall considers this just another bump in the road for her family.

“We’ve been blessed,” says Marshall.  “Thank the Lord we all survived.”

Monday, September 05, 2005

Congregations to be Invited to Become Sanctuaries for Hurricane Survivors

This coming week the Church Council will help coordinate sanctuary homes for hurricane survivors.  We’ll work in conjunction with the State of Washington, King County, and the Red Cross to match churches and individuals with families needing shelter from Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf States.  Watch this blog and the Church Council website for more details.