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Month: August 2006

arctic national wildlife refuge under siege

arctic national wildlife refuge under siege

Once again the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is under threat. Some people just don’t understand “No!” No, it is not worth it to us to add a few more gallons to our oil reserves if it means the sacrifice of this precious piece of wilderness.

a tank full of gas: $60
drilling a new oil well: $5 million
preserving the home of the caribou, the black bear, the moose, the Dall mountain sheep, the Gwich’in Indian: priceless

In the words of the our own government (from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website):

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established to preserve unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values; to conserve caribou herds, polar bears, grizzly bears, muskox, dall sheep, wolves, snow geese, peregrine falcons, other migratory birds, dolly varden, and grayling; to fulfill international treaty obligations; to provide opportunities for continued subsistence uses; and to ensure necessary water quality and quantity.

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making sense, moving forward

making sense, moving forward

We live in a world that is so different from the world of the generations that have preceded us. The pace of change is dizzying. The amount of accessible — unavoidably accessible! — information is overwhelming. We bear the burden of knowing too much, almost more than we can bear to know. It is not only the problems of family and community and region that weigh on our hearts, but the problems of a whole world: famine and disease and natural disaster, war and oppression and unabashed genocide, injustice and mistrust and entrenched hatred. We know so much about the world and about the people who fill it, so much more about so many more people, so many people so different from us as we are so different from them — different traditions, different dreams, different perceptions, different values, different beliefs.

How do we make sense of this world? How do we stretch minds and hearts to “fit” all the information, all the people, in a way that allows us to move forward with eyes and ears still open? As believers, how do we reconcile ourselves and our faith to diverging and even openly hostile points of view?

Some do it by holding tightly to received traditions, by clinging to a clearly defined spiritual calculus that distinguishes between those who are right and those who are wrong, by subscribing to a parochial religious worldview that leaves most of humanity on the outside. In the face of a world full of questions, these folks survive by adopting a faith full of ready answers.

Others do it by redefining “truth” and “righteousness” and “salvation:” what matters is what is true for you, what is right is what allows us to co-exist, salvation is avoidance of conflict. In the face of a world full of questions, these folks survive by believing there really aren’t any answers.

But is there a third option? Is there a way for believers other than strict fundamentalism or uncritical pluralism? Can we make sense of this world without ignoring the majority of the facts? Can we move forward without abandoning our loyalty to a personal God? We need a third way, because the church is being torn apart, dangerously polarized, torn apart by people who are scared, scared of losing their faith, scared of losing their lives, polarized by people scared of obsolescence, scared of irrelevance, scared of being marginalized, scared of losing their souls.

I believe there is a third way. The first two ways have one important feature in common: fear … fear of losing, fear of criticism, fear of being wrong, fear of being irrelevant, fear of the daunting and dizzying and befuddling and overwhelming world in which we live! And the natural response to fear is … fight or flight! Taking control of a situation that is out of control by removing myself or by arming myself. “Solving” the threatening situation by taking a unilateral course of action. But, as believers, when we act unilaterally, when we “take control” — one way or another, we leave God out. We discover a third way when we let God in, when we listen — really listen — to God, instead of deciding for ourselves what we must do to survive and to “protect” the faith!

Perfect love drives out fear.

Love is the third way! Loving God with all your soul and all your mind and all your strength … and loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

God is not a cipher! God is not whatever we think God is or whatever we want God to be! God is a particular being, with a distinctive character and distinctive intentions. It is possible for us to be right about what we think we know of God, and it is possble for us to be utterly wrong about what we think we know of God! We must seek God, listen to God, wait for God, not pretend we already know exactly what God wants, or that we can never know what God wants. Our task is not to use God, as a war club or a slogan, but to love God.

In the same way, your neighbor is not a cipher, but a person, a person who deserves to be loved. Your primary task is not to defeat your neighbor, protect yourself from your neighbor, convert your neighbor, enlighten your neighbor, but to love your neighbor. Love your neighbor!

Don’t be scared! Love God and trust God to love you. In the face of a world full of questions, you don’t have to have all the answers … but you know there are answers!

You don’t have to fight or run away. You can move forward, with confidence in God, with hope for the future, with readiness to love your neighbor who is so very different from you, but equally loved by God. As believers, we take our cue from God, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, a God of love, a God of mercy, a God of grace. We love, we show mercy, we extend grace.

We don’t need to take control. We leave that to God. We know our job …

a sensible ruling

a sensible ruling

An excerpt from the decision handed down by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor declaring the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional:

“Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending those values and ideas which set this Nation apart. … It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of … those liberties … which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”

our nation’s greatness?

our nation’s greatness?

From an article by R. Jeffrey Smith in the Washington Post, August 9, 2006: The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments …

“People have gotten worried, thinking that it’s quite likely they might be under a microscope,” said a U.S. official. Foreigners are using accusations of unlawful U.S. behavior as a way to rein in American power, the official said, and the amendments are partly meant to fend this off.

They should be under a microscope! Power secured at the expense of human dignity is a corrupting, degrading power. Our nation’s greatness (what greatness there is) is its legacy of putting right before might, of showing the world another way, a way of respect for the rule of law and of respect for human rights, for the rights of all human beings.

When self-preservation and self-aggrandizement and consolidation of power become our top priorities, we are not great at all, but a poor and miserable nation, with nothing of value to offer the rest of the world. The welfare of humanity as a whole demands that we be scrutinized and that our power be reined in.

It is our duty as citizens of this nation to take the lead, to be aware of what our government is doing, and to let our leaders know in no uncertain terms what sort of greatness we want!

a shameful co-incidence

a shameful co-incidence

… the Senate defeated a motion to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour (though it voted for a pay increase for senators.) (From the August 8, 2006 edition of The Christian Century. Read the rest of the editorial …)

Put what spin on this you may, offer whatever reasoned argument you may, and this still stinks! There is no justification for allowing the working poor to get poorer, when there is something that can be done, something that is simple to do and effective in addressing the need.

hiking buddies

hiking buddies

Stony enjoying the view from the top of Penobscot Mountain in Acadia National Park …

dog on mountain summit

Stony and his hiking companion after returning to the Jordan Pond House …

man and dog with backpack

I was hopeful that Stony would prove to be a good hiking companion … and he more than exceeded my expectations! We hiked Blue Hill, Burnt Head and White Head on Monhegan Island, and Penobscot Mountain in Acadia overlooking Jordan Pond. The latter involved some rather steep climbing. I carried Stony’s backpack for him on the way up, but he carried it back down and led the way down at a brisk pace. Not bad for a six-month-old!