13 Jul 2011

Why I Quit FDL, But Decided To Come Back (Sort Of)

Note: this diary contains numerous inaccuracies about the author’s relationship to FDL. He is not nor has he ever been an employee of FDL, and his views are his own. He says on his profile that he is an “Assistant Editor” at FDL.  This is not true. He has been

05 Jul 2011

Training The Next Greatest Generation… And Beyond

(An excerpt, slightly modified, from the sermon I preached last Sunday at Clarksville Presbyterian Church in Clarksville, VA. It is based on the sociological theories of Strauss and Howe as presented in their book Generations. Although the strict categories have since been called into question, their theory is still a

09 Jun 2011

It’s Time For The Circus To Leave Town

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption=""Circus: vuurspuger (1) by doenietzomoeilijk"]Circus: vuurspuger (1)[/caption]

I made the mistake of turning on CNN this morning. The two top stories were The Weiner Affair and the Congressional fight over the debt ceiling. What a circus! This is what passes for news at a time when we are engaged in three overt wars in the embattled Arab world (and who knows how many secret ones); when the economy is still in shambles; and when our public education system is being gutted before our very eyes.

Never mind the fact that Weiner’s indiscretion, from a purely moral point of view, is not nearly as questionable as the numerous affairs that have been admitted to many politicians who did not resign (including a current Republican presidential candidate). Never mind the fact that the real crimes being committed in Congress – the financial ones – are not even being mentioned. And never mind the fact that many of the people and companies who caused the financial crisis are now getting rich all over again while the innocents suffer.

Despite all that, our media and our Congress believe that a few ill-advised Twitter posts and the debt ceiling are our most pressing concerns. It’s like someone comes home to find that their house has been leveled by a tornado, but instead of worrying about how they are going to feed and find shelter for their family, they fuss about how to pay the credit card bill that is due in two weeks. And then they freak out about an offensive joke that their brother-in-law just posted on Facebook. Indeed, it has become one big circus.

When I was kid, back before animal rights was even a consideration, the circus was the most exciting event that came to town. There was so much to see and enjoy – the elephants and tigers, the acrobats and trapeze artists, the clowns and the funnel cakes. When that big tent went up next to the Civic Center, we all knew that we were in for a once-a-year treat.

Well – now, that the 2012 election is finally getting into gear, we are all preparing for the once-every-four-years political bonanza that will put the current media spectacles to shame. First, we’ll have a knock-down drag-out for the Republican nomination that promises to be bloody and unpredictable. Then, we’ll have the general election, where the attacks on Obama and his “socialism” will make 2008 look like, ummm, a tea party.

08 Jun 2011

Oppositionalism: The Greatest Threat To The People’s Welfare

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="locking horns by useless no more"]locking horns[/caption]

Yesterday, I went to the kindergarten graduation ceremony at the local public elementary school. One of the teachers, who happens to be a member of my church and a card-carrying Republican, spoke briefly of a new after-school program that she has helped initiate. It is designed for children who are in danger of not having the basic skills necessary to begin first grade – a type of program that is quite common around the nation, but that had been sorely lacking in this rural Virginia county.

I was choking back tears as this teacher called about two dozen children to the stage – most of them from desperately poor African American families – and presented them with hugs and certificates. Knowing that she also invests a considerable amount of her personal time making home visits and tutoring these students, it dawned on me what a significant difference she makes in the lives of young children who have an incredible number of obstacles thrown between themselves and academic success.

This remarkably dedicated kindergarten teacher reminds us of how incomplete and misleading the typical left vs. right dichotomy can be. It would be easy to consider her Republican voting record and her conservative views on issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control, and to conclude she has little in common with progressives such as myself. From this, it would be easy to assume that, like some Republicans, she takes a “blame the poor” attitude toward poverty issues and has little compassion for those who are suffering in this economic crisis. Because of such stereotyping, it would be easy to ignore the fact that she is dedicating her life to helping poor children in a woefully underfunded public school system.

Those of us who get pigeonholed into easy categories of left/right and Democrat/Republican often fail to see the common bonds we share with our so-called political enemies. We cannot allow differences on a handful of “hot-button” issues to be exploited by those with political agendas and ambitions. If people of good will and legitimate concern for the common welfare continue to beat up one another based on these outdated categories, more sinister forces that have no concern for the people or no particular stake in partisan politics will further consolidate their power.

03 Jun 2011

Putting Away Childish Things (And Divisive Rhetoric)

Like many Americans, the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona last January gave me pause – pause enough that I lost my taste for blogging for more than four months. But my distaste had less to do with the speculation over the alleged motives of the shooter and more to do with my own reaction to the news.

On that Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on a sermon, and my wife entered the room to tell me that a U.S Representative had been shot at a political rally. My exact words were this: “Well, I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. I blame Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.” And then I turned back to my laptop and resumed my work.

About twenty minutes later, I decided to take a break from the sermon, and I logged onto Facebook. I had actually forgotten about the news from Arizona that should have been downright shocking, but I was soon reminded by the animated chatter scrolling by on my news feed. Almost immediately, I engaged in a heated debate with a conservative friend about whether the shooting could be blamed on the heated rhetoric that had been boiling over from the right since the health care debate started.

25 May 2011

Is Backyard Gardening A Viable Year-Round Source of Food?

Back in January, I took a break from blogging, and it ended up being several months instead of several weeks. But the the time has allowed me to reevaluate my priorities as a writer, and I have heard the call to focus on issues of poverty and the environment, since the two are intricately related. Specifically, I have renewed my interest in local food, and I would like to introduce a program I will be starting this summer. It is called “Extremely Local Food,” and the purpose is to raise awareness of backyard gardening as a viable and reliable source of year-round food. There will also be a companion program on community gardening.

In my experience as a Presbyterian minister in small towns and rural areas of the South, I have learned that progressives and traditional conservatives share an interesting culutral value: the importance of growing and sharing food as a means of building community, preserving the land, and ensuring the welfare of all. In today’s hyper-partisan political climate, these two groups are driven apart by rhetoric and wedge issues, but there is ample space for common ground if the pundits and politicians can be tuned out for a few minutes.

With that goal in mind, I am holding an event the last week of July that should appeal to concerned citizens across the political spectrum. For those seven days, I will eat nothing but produce from my backyard garden, except for a little salad dressing. It will begin with a Sunday evening “Garden Party” for my local friends, and continue throughout the week on various Internet forums. I encourage anyone who is interested in local food issues, or who has concerns about the trend, to join the discussion.

For starters, please check out the Facebook page:


Happy gardening and happy summer eating!

31 Jan 2011

UnCommon Ground – Searching For The Soul Of Populism

I recently went to Redstate.com looking to battle the typical right-wing rhetoric, and I did that. But in the process, I found a few comments that revealed something deeper, something that connects progressives to even the most rabid of our conservative antagonists.

26 Jan 2011

Who Will Speak For The Poor?

Judging by last night’s speeches, nobody. Almost two hours of blather about deficits, energy, deficits, technology, deficits, education, deficits, competing in the global marketplace, deficits, why America is so great, and oh, did I mention deficits? In all of that, there was not a single mention of the millions of Americans who are suffering greatly in the face of persistent unemployment and poverty.

17 Jan 2011

Talking Like A Christian

I’ve posted an excerpt from the sermon I preached yesterday entitled “Talking Like A Christian.” It was preached as much to myself as to anyone else.

11 Jan 2011

What Scares Me About The Arizona Shooting

The actual reasons for Saturday’s shootings are irrelevant for all of us who aren’t directly affected. For our nation as a whole, it doesn’t matter why Loughner made the decision to open fire on a US Congresswoman and the crowd gathered to hear her speak. What matters is the reaction that the shooting has sparked and will continue to spark.