Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Celebrating Ramadan is The Most American Thing We Can Do


Over 1000 people attended the Ramadan Tent Project PDX Open Iftar 2017 at the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard over the Memorial Day Weekend.    I was able to attend the first night and hear the liberating speech of Aneelah Afzali as she dismantled stereotypes of women in Islam and provided the factual history of the liberating work of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on behalf of women.    She and the university students who organized this event are true American patriots.   They represent a voice of America and Islam that is courageous, compassionate, collaborative, and strong.    I could have listened to her speak all night.

Aneelah Afzali

This first night of Ramadan began with grief and shock as throughout the day we heard the news of the fatal stabbing on the MAX in Northeast Portland.   Two men had their throats slashed as they attempted to defend two young women who were being harassed.   A third man was sent to the hospital with injuries.  The reports were that the assailant had been saying anti-Muslim sentiments at the young women that accompanied a barrage of hateful comments in general.   The men stepped in to protect them and were attacked.

The Muslim community responded by raising funds for the families of these men, and as of this blog post over $450,000 has been raised under the banner "Muslims Unite for Portland Heroes."   The Portland Mercury has a list of other places raising funds for the surviving hero and the for the teenage girls who have been traumatized.


In addition to grief and shock I saw determination and hope at the Open Iftar.   Various politicians were there and some spoke and that is a good thing.   But the revolution needed in our country that will overcome hatred and bullying will be led by the young women and men who organized this event and the rest of us who follow their example.

The Ramadan Tent Project 2017 Team

They gave us a glimpse of what America is becoming by generously offering their beautiful tradition of fasting and service and an open table to everyone.    While I am a strong supporter of the separation of religion and state, still I would like Ramadan to be celebrated and acknowledged by our nation.   It is a celebration that embodies the best of our American values.


The Crescent Moon at Sunset 
I despair daily over America with its legacy of slavery, racism, genocide, imperialism, xenophobia, and selfishness.   This Open Iftar showed me that there is another star rising in our nation.   It is led by the radical hospitality that is embodied in the spirit of Ramadan and in these youth who are inviting us to be human beings.  
   

Hanan Al-Zubaidy Announcing the Call to Prayer

Hear interviews with organizers, Sadaf Assadi and Hanan Al-Zubaidy:

OPB Think Out Loud
Progressive Spirit (34:48)
Sprouts on Pacifica Radio Network

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ramadan Tent Project Portland!


Ramadan Tent Project 

You are invited to an open Iftar, Saturday, Sunday and Monday  evenings (May 27, 28, 29) at the Muslim Educational Trust.   It is a great opportunity to enjoy a meal (provided by the students) and experience an inter-faith celebration!   It is the Ramadan Tent Project Portland.  It begins at 7:30  pm each evening.  

Here is an interview I had with the two organizers Sadaf Assadi and Hanan Alzubaidy on the Pacifica Radio Network. 

They were also interviewed on OPB's Think Out Loud today.  Listen here.   

They could get a big crowd.  You can help them purchase food by donating here

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Inequality for All

We continue our Tuesday evening study/discussion group, "The Church Beyond Its Walls" with the film Inequality For All featuring former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.   During Sunday's sermon, Yahweh Goes Camping, I broached the topic of inequality and its corrective through the Jubilee Year in Leviticus 25:
I offer a challenge to those of us with modern sensibilities. In Leviticus 25 we learn about the Year of Jubilee or in the Contemporary English Version, the Year of Celebration. Leviticus 25:10: 
“This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families.” 
This is radical. This rule makes Bernie Sanders look like a neo-con. Every fifty years we start over. All the money the wealthy made and the land they possessed gets redistributed. Imagine that. Written in to the constitution is redistribution of wealth so that you won’t end up with a wealthy few controlling the lives of the many.
Here is a statistic that should boil our blood:
With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.
I really don't like Yahweh much. He thinks too highly of himself, is petty, jealous, abusive, and kind of weird. He likes the smell of cooked meat and to be surrounded by nice things.  But, he does kick butt. If Yahweh were real, I bet he'd kick some billionaire butt.
Leviticus 25 that describes this Year of Jubilee is the climax of the Book of Leviticus. The book leads up to this. This is what it is really about. Yahweh says in 25:23: 
"No land may be permanently bought or sold. It all belongs to me—it isn’t your land, and you only live there for a little while." 
Petty, angry, jealous Yahweh said that. It is the most radical verse in the Bible. It is the most radical statement ever made. None of our economists or jurists or legislators or executors or professors or bureaucrats or smart people in general have ever come up with anything as radical as Leviticus chapter 25. 
If you want to be holy as Yahweh is holy, if you want to love your neighbor as yourself, if you want to live sustainably and survive in the land that Yahweh is renting to you, then every 50 years, redistribute. Start over and don’t cheat. 
This rule is not based on charity or voluntarily giving up the wealth. This is the law written into the constitution itself. Justice is not charity. If we are to live justly on Earth, justice must be established by force of law. If this isn’t happening, then it is time for revolution.... 
Inequality in which 400 billionaires own over half the nation’s wealth is not inevitable. It is not part of the human condition. It is not the result of the wealthy working harder than the rest of the population. It is theft at a grand scale. Every day in our country whatever protections we have left are being whittled away by these monsters who are in power and who have been gaining power for a long time. Until we begin to name this theft for what it is, we will never change it.
Where have you gone, warrior Yahweh?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth

Tonight at 7 pm we will watch the film, 9/11: Explosive Evidence Experts Speak Out.   I have determined that AE911Truth is doing solid work and does not chase after "conspiracy theories."  They focus on the science of the destruction of the three skyscrapers on 9/11.   They don't speculate on other issues surrounding that day but instead they present the evidence and the best scientific descriptions of that evidence.   They do seek one thing:  an independent investigation of 9/11.
Our mission is to research, compile, and disseminate scientific evidence relative to the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers, calling for a truly open and independent investigation and supporting others in the pursuit of justice.



Beyond Misinformation: What Science Says About The Destruction of World Trace Center Buildings 1, 2 and 7 is a helpful book that accompanies the film.  Everyone who attends tonight will get a photocopy of the pdf.  

Last week I offered my own personal journey through 9/11 and tonight I let the film speak for itself and invite whatever discussion arises.   If you think enough doubt is raised with the film to at least question the official narrative of what happened on 9/11, you will be interested in signing this petition from the 911Truth Action Project either on-line or I will have paper petitions available tonight as well.  It reads:
I hereby petition for, and demand, an independent, comprehensive investigation, satisfying all standards specified by the 9/11 Truth Action Project, including subpoena power, testimony under oath, and study of all relevant evidence, leading to transparency and accountability for the crimes of September 11, 2001 and justice for its victims. My name, city, and state will be publicly presented to Congress at www.911TAP.org. My other information will remain private and not released to third parties.
I have signed the above statement. If you are an architect or engineer, the AE911Truth welcomes your support.

Invite friends and neighbors.

Tonight, Tuesday May 23rd.  Room 7.  7-8:30 pm.








Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How I Became A Truther

I have been a "truther" since I read David Ray Griffin's book, Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 that was published by my denomination's publishing house, Westminster John Knox Press. At first, some took what he had written seriously.  A study guide was created for helping church people digest it.

PCUSA staff weren't quite sure how to approach the book.  Chris Iosso provided a rather odd review in Presbyterian Outlook in which he tries to distance himself from Griffin "However my own suspicions work against the book's argument" but offers no "suspicions" and essentially praised Griffin's scholarship.    As it turned out, after pressure from conservatives the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation apologized for publishing it, ceased its connection with the book, and "departed" those responsible for publishing it.  (From 9/11 and Nationalist Faith, lecture by Professor Griffin):
Godshall, moreover, did not merely censure my book and Westminster John Knox for publishing it. The two men at the press who made the decision to publish it were soon to depart. 
According to the story in the Louisville-Courier Journal, “Godshall said no one would be disciplined for approving the book” and that “the board would continue to defend the editorial independence of the corporation.” 
In fact, however, Godshall began micromanaging, so Davis Perkins, who was already angry at Godshall for having apologized for the publication of my book, resigned as president and publisher of Westminster John Knox to take another position. One week later, Jack Keller, the vice president for publication, was fired. 
What is the message? While Jack Keller was vice president for publishing at WJK, it had published several books by me. One of them, God, Power, and Evil, rejects the traditional doctrine of omnipotence. It even specifically criticizes this doctrine as held by John Calvin, the founding theologian of the Presbyterian Church. Another book explicitly denies that God can interrupt the world’s normal causal relations, which means that there can be no miracles as traditionally understood and no infallibly inspired scriptures. But no one was fired for publishing these books. No one screamed that by publishing these books, the press was implying that the Presbyterian Church accepted these ideas. 
So what is the message to publishers at church presses? It is that they can publish books that are highly critical of traditional Christian doctrines without losing their jobs. But they had better not publish anything that challenges the idea that America is fundamentally good, the exceptional nation, because this is the one religious belief that cannot be challenged.
Here we are ten years after its publication and sixteen years after the events of 9/11. Does uncovering the truth and demanding a full investigation into 9/11 still matter?    I believe it does because of all the death and destruction that has happened (and continues to happen) because of 9/11.  Most importantly for me it matters because truth matters.   Tonight I continue our Tuesday night series, "The Church's Role Beyond Its Walls."

I tell my own story of how I became suspicious of the government's official conspiracy theory and why I think it is important for Americans to take action and demand an independent investigation.   Next week we will watch the film by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, "9/11: Explosive Evidence--Experts Speak Out."

Here is the description of what will happen tonight and next week on the website:
The Church’s Role Beyond Its Walls, Tuesdays from 7-8:30 pm, Room 7 
May 16 - John’s personal journey through 9/11 tying together 9/11, The Myth of Redemptive Violence, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, and Resource Depletion, especially Peak Oil. 
May 23 - (Film) “9/11: Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out” by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. www.ae911truth.org We will keep options open regarding the remaining Tuesdays if there is interest in discussing these topics further or other topics. John will continue discussions and films for those who are interested. We will decide that on May 23rd.

Childcare is provided.  The public is invited.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Church's Role Beyond Its Walls

"The Church's Role Beyond Its Walls" is the title of a series of educational events at Southminster beginning tonight and every Tuesday through June.   We have started the Tuesday night sessions that are open to the larger community since November.  We have had forums on houselessness and dismantling racism as well as forums on how to respond to the new political situation especially on behalf of those most vulnerable.   We spent several weeks reviewing the history of the Civil Rights movement by watching Eyes on the Prize.  Now we are moving into another phase.

The Tuesday night gatherings called "Building the Beloved Community" are for empowerment and community building as well as education.   The evening runs from seven to eight-thirty.   Some of the topics may include:

  • Sanctuary Churches as a safe place for undocumented workers.
  • Protecting the Right to Free Speech (particularly the right to protest).
  • Freedom of Religion (i.e. discuss ban Muslims from entering the U.S.)
  • A Humane Guest Worker Program
  • Medical Fairness and Care for All A Moral Budget as opposed to a Militarized Budget.
  • Education Fairness (should college be free?)
  • Worker Fairness and the right to unionize.

There is plenty to talk about.  I am going to kick off the series with three presentations entitled "Ethics As Worlds End" on my personal theological/political journey through exploring 9/11, peak oil, and the end of religion.    I suggest that two powerful myths that guide Americans are "The Myth of Redemptive Violence" and "The Myth of American Exceptionalism."   I will try to describe what these myths are and how they operate in our culture toward destructive ends, ultimately our demise.

The task of theology (and thus the role of the church beyond its walls) is to give words and stories to the myths that guide us and to offer counter-myths, myths of resistance and myths of hope.    I think this is what Jesus did when he offered his parables of the kingdom of God in opposition to the kingdom of "this world" (i.e. Caesar).

Some of the thinkers I will draw from are the late Walter Wink (myth of redemptive violence)Stephen Walt (myth of American exceptionalism), and David Ray Griffin, (American exceptionalism and nationalist faith).

This is my personal story.  What I mean by that is that I will present what I think I know and let others draw their own conclusions.  I won't argue about or resist other views.  My ultimate goal is to keep a conversation going about the crucial importance of critical thinking about who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going.

Join us?

Every Tuesday night from May 2 through June 20.    We meet in Room 7 at Southminster.  Seven p.m.  Everyone is welcome.