Monday, July 30, 2007

Social Change For Real

If you poke around the internet, a bookstore, or even your church bulletin looking for social justice activities, what you'll really find, most of the time, is charity activities. I've written about this a lot -and not just here- but you might look here for a pretty typical Andrea-rant on the subject: Needy Among Them. As with so many undertakings, the prevailing belief seems to be that people want the quick "feel good" project. And sometimes we unapologetically do.

These projects tend to go like this: you donate money, you call your elected officials, or you do a quick little trip to the food pantry with your extra food (or whatever). I do these things, and they need to be done. But I can't pretend to myself that they change the world.

To do that we need to think a little more globally. We need to examine and reflect upon the society we have. We need to challenge it where it's not meeting people's needs or the needs of the planet. And then we need to fundamentally change ourselves and our own actions. And then, at long last, we need to model these changes for other people to see. It wears me out a little to notice that most writers and organizers believe that people only want the easy route.

Get yourself on a board of a non-profit. Challenge committees/groups you're already in to adopt non-hierarchical models of governance. Make sure there are leaders of those groups coming up behind you. Mentor people from "the community of need" to assume leadership roles within the organizations. Challenge sexist and racist and homophobic language. Community supported agriculture? Use some new technology that without a doubt I don't understand to build community, to report news, to offer alternative perspectives, to exert some control over what we hear about and how we hear about it?

The thing is, we have to look at everything. What is the next right thing that I can do to make the world better? The questioning ought never stop. The people who write "1000 Easy Activities for Social Change" do important work. But even they underestimate us.

So what are you doing today? Why that? I really want to know.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Churches in the Proper Sense

Oh, honestly. I spend a lot of time in dinner party conversations encouraging people to refrain from making judgments about the Catholic church based on what they hear on NPR. That's still good advice, I suppose. But this time, the news is as bad as it seems in the popular press.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which the current Pope used to head) released a document called "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church." A fairly woeful title, it must be said. It's a short document; you can slog through it yourself with very little trouble. But the short version is that the Congregation (with, of course, the approval of the Pope) claims a unique legitimacy for the Catholic Church and its eastern brethren who share in apostolic succession. The churches born of the Reformation aren't, so the claim goes, churches in the proper sense but merely ecclesial communities.

According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense.

This news, of course, has been received with varying emotions -none of them good- from the so-called ecclesial communities. I've seen offense, pain, disdain, a smidge of outrage -and I understand all of them. As important as it is to remind the Pope that his word is not Holy Writ on this subject, there are two more important points, it seems to me.

The first is, though the document of course does not deny that Christ is working redemptively in Protestant churches, it is claiming that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is the defining issue of the church. That is an issue worthy of division, it seems to me - one of the essential claims of the Reformation itself. Martin Luther and John Calvin both claimed that the first mark of the true Church is, rather, the preaching of the Gospel. The Reformers indicted the Roman Catholic Church for, in part, failing in this task and thus failing to be a true Church. The Catholic church returned the favor, defining the church in terms of the papacy and magisterial authority.

So, this could turn into a theological bit of playground hair-pulling. "You're not a true church! Well, neither are you!!!" Or, if Protestants behave better than the Vatican has, it could serve to convince the Protestant churches that their mission is, in fact, fundamentally different from that of the Catholic Church. The Vatican might inadvertantly have re-energized Protestants in their mission in the world.

Secondly, even if we Catholics take a deep breath and agree, arguendo, with the document, it doesn't follow that the primacy of the Pope is the only important thing for "churchiness". In fact, the claim of the document is somewhat broader. Its claim is that the sacramental priesthood is the essential. (It's just that the sacramental priesthood requires apostolic succession, which in turn requires bishops who can trace their authority, through the pope, back to the apostles. Hence papal primacy.)

OK, now I'm not just chagrined at the papal judgements of other religions. Now I'm worried about my own. I am very much not inclined to put priests at the center of any definition of church. According to Lumen Gentium all Catholic lay people share in the ministry of Christ. Catholic lay men and women, by their baptismal and confirmational character, are empowered to be priests, prophets and kings and so to share in the Church’s ministry of sanctification, teaching and governing. Lumen Gentium states that, in collaboration with their bishops and clergy, “the faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ, are placed in the People of God, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world”. (31)

The aftermath of the sexual abuse scandal has been a return to clericalism, and I would suggest that this trend turns its back on an important part of our tradition. Sadly, it seems to me that this new document is a step towards formalizing that trend. It's hard for me to believe that it's going to take us anywhere good. It puts the institution (the institution of the priesthood and the trappings of the church, I mean) above the importance of the message it exists to serve. I'm thinking that we should spend a little more time worrying about whether or not we are a church in the proper sense, and less about other institutions' merits.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Make Some Noise

I find myself a little tired of the Friday Random Ten. I may still do it from time to time. Today, however, is one of the few days I have carved out of the insanity that is my life to attend the Blogher conference. It just seems wrong to post a random selection of my raunchy music when there are all these people here thinking about ways to use technology to make the world better. This much idealism in one place! It almost makes me feel like a realist -and that takes some doing!

So, in that spirit, here are ten "change the world" songs. Add yours if you like. I'm always open to new music.
  • Those Three are on my Mind; Kim Harris and the Magpies
  • To Everyone in All the World; Cathy Fink
  • Well May the World Go; Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie
  • The Women Gather; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • The Farmer is the Woman; John McCutcheon
  • We Are the Ones; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • He Was my Brother; Simon & Garfunkel
  • Flags of Freedom; Neil Young
  • Direct Action; Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips
  • The Day They Closed the Factory; Harry Chapin

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

The background, me lovelies.....

I'm running around trying to get in doctor and dentist apppointments with the practitioners who actually know me and my convoluted ways. That's thing one in this story. The second thing is that we don't have a television, so dentists' waiting rooms are frequently where I catch up on television. I hear people talk about it, of course, but I rarely actually see the images for myself.

A few days ago was the dentist appointment, and surely that ought to be horrible enough. But apparently there is no justice. The television was on in the waiting room, and it was set to FOX News. I've heard. I thought I was prepared. Oh my God in heaven. I was so very not prepared.

The show was on domestic violence -a subject I happen to know something about. I'm predisposed to be irritated, I suppose, because it makes me mad when an important issue is treated as sound bites and truisms. So, I'll admit to having a little chip on my shoulder as the segment began. In spite of that, I have to admit that the story itself wasn't terrible. It was typical of a kind of family violence. It was told in a straightforward way.

There was only one huge ideological gaffe in the story itself. It didn't mention shelters and safe houses. Weirdly, I almost didn't notice; I'm just so comfortable with the existence of shelters that I assumed everyone knew about them. I came around to noticing the ommision during the banter between the show hosts.

This is where things got ugly. These guys clearly didn't know about shelters either -wondering whether or not women leaving abusive situations should just "run into the woods". Now seriously... how can you put together a show on domestic violence and not get far enough into the research to discover that there are shelters?

Hang on for more.... Because women in abusive situations have no options, they believe (and I concede that their options have been woefully and illegally curtailed), women need to be really careful whom they date. Well, thanks for the heads-up there, fellas. But how might we be that careful? Any diving into the research will tell you that in the dating phase, abusive men are often charming, polite, gentle, -not changing until after marriage or a more permanent commitment. And even if we could know, this is starting to sound just a little like blaming the victim. "She wasn't careful enough in her dating choices. How very sad."

OK, the hosts didn't go quite that far, but they skated closer with the next comment. I didn't get an exact quote, but it had something to do with the men being psychotic and therefore not fully responsible for their behavior. So, if a woman isn't careful enough and accidentally ends up with one of these psychotic guys who hurts her, we can't really expect him to take responsibility. So, who does? Yeah.... I got that message.

Mercifully (and who ever thought I would write this sentence???), I was called back for my appointment and the television show went on without me. I'm blissfully back to my "no TV" life and am oh so grateful to live in ignorance of its programming.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WIP-It Wednesday!

My brain is rebelling a little bit. I can't quite think how to link my knitting to the alleged purpose of this blog -figuring out how to make the world a better place. Yet, I do want to keep in touch with my local knitting buddies, and I know for a certain truth that I can not maintain two blogs.

"WIP" is knitter-talk for Works In Progress. So I've decided to do WIP-It Wednesdays, with updates of my knitting. Perhaps a link between knitting and building a better world (aside from the obvious charity knitting) will become clear. Stranger things have happened. In any case, I hope my knitter friends respond and tell me what they're knitting. Otherwise -and until I connect with Philadelphia knitters- I might end up losing touch with reality and making crocheted ripple afghans out of Wal-Mart acrylic, or some other crime against humanity.

All I have at this point are projects that look unremarkable to say the least. Before the day is over, I will locate the camera and its attendant cords and upload pictures. But the short version is this.

I have the Bed of Roses shawl -so close to done that I'm in the "must start new project" danger zone. It is destined to become a wall hanging (not that I've figured out the details of that operation) in our new house. The goal:

I also have just started the Irish Diamond lace shawl from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book. The goal:

And I have the lace cardigan from the most recent Knitters magazine on the needles, but barely started. This cardigan starts in the middle (althought not with a provisional cast-on) and works up. Then you go back and work down for the rest of the sweater. For the life of me, I can't figure out why. However, I started this sweater the night before Dave came home. My daughter and some friends decided that we needed a bachelorette party that night. Since I didn't have one when the time might have been more appropriate, we went for it. So, the short version is that I was a little tipsy when I cast on for this sweater. Therefore, I -uncharacteristically, to say the least- decided to follow the directions, on the off chance that there was a reason for them. I still don't see any such reason, but I'll keep you posted. I can't find an on-line picture of the finished sweater, although I'm sure at least one exists. I'll keep at it.

Pictures of the much less exciting actuality are forthcoming -unless the camera is already in a box. But I don't think it is.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


OK, I'm here. Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Two things have happened while I've been quiet.

One -Dave is home. It's so good to have him home I can't even tell you. Of course, it's also true that, were this a date, I'd have to tell you it's going very badly. We're awkward with each other and a little prickly and a lot uncertain. It'll be okay -as long as he remembers to wipe his toothpaste dribbles out of the bathroom sink. No.... what I meant was.... it'll be okay. I'm just grateful to be able to hear another person breathing and working and puttering around the house. THAT's golden.

And the other thing is that I got my Ravelry invitation, at long last. It's a social networking geek-fest for knitters. Oh my GOD! It's still in beta, but the creators have done just a fabulous job of thinking through what the technology can do for knitters and crocheters and other fiber geeks. If you ever looked at a piece of yarn and wondered what you might be able to do with it, go get yourself on the invitation list. I'm in love.

Thing the third.... My local knitting buddies have asked that I start a blog (clearly they don't know that I HAVE a blog) re: my knitting projects while I'm away in Pennsylvania. So, brace yourself for slightly more knitting than I've let myself get away with in the past. You social justice types might just get converted to knitting. The knitters might read a bit more about my leftie politics -and with any luck, like me nonetheless

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Writ Large

Remember, back in the old days, when rights were cherished and protected? You younger readers may have to struggle a bit, but you don't just have to trust us. You can read about the days when the U.S. Constitution was protected by our elected officials. Now I'd be pleased if I thought the President had read it at all.

In part, it says this:
The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.

The writ of habeas corpus is a civil proceeding by which a court inquires as to the legitimacy of a prisoner's custody. Typically, habeas corpus proceedings determine if the court which imposed sentence on the defendant had the jurisdiction and the authority to do so, or whether the defendant's sentence has expired. Habeas corpus is also used to challenge other types of custody, such as pretrial detention or detention by the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement pursuant to a deportation proceeding.

It's been suspended, I need hardly tell you, and the Executive Branch will argue that our state of national emergency demands it. The consequence for the inmates at Guantanamo Bay is that they are, for the most part, detained indefinitely, without charges. But that's them, you say? Surely, they're the bad guys. Hang on; it gets worse.

On January 17, 2007, Attorney General Gonzales asserted in Senate testimony that while habeas corpus is "one of our most cherished rights," the United States Constitution does not expressly guarantee habeas rights to United States residents or citizens. It's actually in Article One, Section 9. Is it TOO much to hope that the Attorney General could locate a copy of the Constitution? It's not exactly out of print. It's just fallen into disuse, that's all. But if his interpretation is upheld -or unchallenged- the suspension of the writ could extend to U.S. citizens. A small slice of comfort here is that the Supreme Court did affirm the habeas rights of citizens, even if they have been declared to be enemy combatants.

A bill, provisionally called the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, S. 185, passed the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, June 7, 2007. Arlen Specter joined the Democrats in supporting the bill, which the Committee passed on a vote of 11 to 8, without debate. The bill would restore the right for Guantanamo captives to access the U.S. court system under the principle of habeas corpus. A version of the bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1416) as well. Moreover, on June 29, 2007 the Supreme Court agreed to hear outstanding habeas corpus, opening up the possibility that they might overturn some or all of the Military Commissions Act.

So, you might consider chatting with your elected officials about this. This is the first time that Congress has considered an up or down vote on restoring the writ of habeus corpus. If you want to see a sample letter, try this one: Act for Change.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Prostrations for Peace

I'm back -literally and metaphorically. I'm finished, as far as can be known, with travels until we move in August. So I'm back home. And I'm back, in the sense that I'm going to go looking for my blogging voice and see if I can get back to working to create a world of justice and peace. In my own little ways, you understand.

So, in that spirit, here's an event you might be interested in: Prostrations for peace. I heard about it through Franklin, whose blog you really should be reading. If you don't want to follow the links, the idea is this. On Sunday the 15th, like-minded souls are going to gather at North Shore Pier in Chicago, starting at 5:00 in the morning and staying straight on until sunset -or for as long as you like. For whatever time we're there, we'll meditatively confront the suffering "we the people" have caused with our various wars around the globe. People will meditate, prostrate, practice yoga, pray... whatever spiritual practice soothes and offers succor to the world.

My plan is to meditate, pray, and practice yoga. Prostrations are probably beyond my temperamental abilities. So now I'm musing on what kind of yoga practice might be appropriate. I'm leaning towards some sort of heart-opening practice, but the details are not yet clear to me. I imagine that the details don't matter very much, either ;) The point is, we're gathering and in our own ways looking for a spiritual dimension to the important work of ending war in general and these particular wars.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Memory Bracelet

Rachel has a March of Dimes memory bracelet here: Rachel Grace. If you want to make a donation that will benefit other babies born too soon, please do so.