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Archive for October, 2012

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

— Anglican Priest John Wesley,
founder of Methodist Movement
that evolved into Methodist Church

So your favorite blogger is heading early on this Saturday morning to Belize City to spend a couple days with fellow Methodists from the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and Americas Conference (click here).

The Belize City/Honduras District of the Caribbean/Americas Conference–which includes the Methodist Churches of Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and other island nations known for struggling through all kinds of tough challenges (poverty, hurricanes, etc.) –is having its big annual fundraiser wingding Saturday night. And then there are three special “harvest” worship services and celebrations Sunday at Belize City’s Ebenezer Methodist Church.

Belizeans have Halloween–I saw people in costumes in San Ignacio even today–but the churches have Harvest observances in lieu of it, like so many U.S. churches that play down the Halloween thing.

Anyway, your favorite blogger will be hosted by the district’s leader, who is also pastor of Ebenezer Methodist in the port city, and by a British missionary from the U.K. who has been in Belize for six years. So I look forward to this opportunity to connect and find a way for me to serve Belize with whatever gifts and talents I have that might help with the needs of a nation with needy people galore.

So I’m sure I’ll have postcard pictures from the Belize City outing to share.

In the meantime have a large weekend and grace and peace, yaw’ll.

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The Rev. Donald Messer and George McGovern in July at the Newseum in D.C.

The Rev. Donald Messer, who’s had had a long and distinguished career in our beloved United Methodist Church, remembers his years of friendship with the late Sen. George McGovern, a Methodist preacher’s son who attended seminary for a year before entry into politics.

Nixon and his band of haters were brutal in assassinating the character of McGovern, a World War II hero who inspired millions to join his impassioned and courageous opposition to the Vietnam War. But McGovern was one of the good guys and ended up admired and universally respected for his high-minded morality and principled, if often unpopular convictions.

Here is Rev. Messer’s wonderful remembrance from The United Methodist News Service (click here for the web site):

I deeply grieve the passing of a great humanitarian, statesman and long-time personal friend, former United States senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, George S. McGovern.

Right up until the final few days before he entered hospice care and died peacefully, McGovern seemed to triumph over aging and to defy death. Most nonagenarians prefer a slower pace, but at age 90, he continued writing books and traveling the country delivering speeches.

He penned an op-ed article for the Washington Post in late September and in early October performed a reading of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” at the South Dakota Symphony in Sioux Falls.

McGovern’s deepest personal and political passions were to end war and eliminate hunger.

He often acknowledged that he did not see much hope in eliminating humanity’s sinful proclivity for using violence but that he did believe that hunger could be ended in his lifetime. He was scandalized that the world had enough food for everyone, but that almost a billion people went to bed hungry every night.

At his 90th birthday party in Washington this past July, McGovern was hailed as a hero for his lifetime of pioneering legislation to feed the hungry of the world. Richard Leach, the president of World Food Program USA, proclaimed “no one on the planet” has had a more profound impact on ending hunger. McGovern was saluted by a bipartisan retinue of politicians who credited him with inspiring them to enter politics.

As a senator, McGovern wrote legislation to initiate the food stamp program, school lunch program and the supplemental food assistance to women and children (WIC). Later, as a U.N. ambassador, he recruited his former political rival-turned-friend, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas), to sponsor an international school lunch program to feed the hungry children in less economically developed nations. Both men were honored with the prestigious World Food Prize in 2008.

In 2005 it was my unique privilege to co-author the book, “Ending Hunger Now: A Challenge to Persons of Faith” with those two men. Though their political philosophies on most international and domestic issues differed drastically, they were united in their Wesleyan heritage that feeding the hungry was at the core of being a Christian. Both were deeply concerned the church was not doing enough to lobby and advocate for the poor and hungry.

A Gospel imperative

Born July 19, 1922, to a Methodist preacher’s family in South Dakota, McGovern spent one year as a seminarian at Garrett Theological Seminary before completing his Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. Deciding his calling was politics, not the ministry, McGovern, however, retained a deep sense of the Social Gospel throughout his political career. To him feeding the hungry was a Gospel imperative as well as integral to a civilized society.

I first met McGovern 50 years ago when I was a junior college student in India and he was President John F. Kennedy’s first Food for Peace Director. Living in southern India, I would daily encounter people begging for food and see children starving in the streets. McGovern’s visit to India was welcomed as it signaled food from America would soon be arriving.

A decade later, when at the age of 30, I became president of McGovern’s alma mater, Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., I was immediately engaged in one of the most controversial presidential campaigns in history. McGovern had captured the Democratic nomination with his anti-Vietnam war rhetoric and his grassroots appeal to include everyone in the primary process, not just the political bosses.

Though McGovern was a decorated World War II veteran, he was labeled a wild liberal “peacenik.” He was accused of supporting “abortion, acid, and amnesty” for those who had evaded the military draft and fled to Canada. Reporters flocked to the campus seeking to differentiate McGovern’s personal character from his political caricature.

Incumbent President Richard Nixon defeated him in a landslide, winning 49 of the 50 states. But a few years later, McGovern was vindicated, when both President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were forced to resign because of corruption. McGovern was re-elected to the Senate by conservative South Dakota and Republican President Gerald Ford invited him to the White House for consultations, appointing him to serve in the United States delegation at the United Nations.

Despite humiliating defeat, and being the target of many a political commentary over the years, McGovern never lost his wry wit, intellectual fervor or moral compassion. Rooted in his Christian faith, he spoke prophetically against war, not only in Vietnam, but also Iraq and Afghanistan. He championed programs for the poor and the marginalized. He forgave his political enemies, even honoring former President and Mrs. Nixon by attending their funerals. He was awarded America’s highest honor, the Medal of Freedom, by President Bill Clinton.

Still active at 90

At age 90, even as his body became frail, McGovern’s mind was still alert and active. In the past few years, he published several books, most recently, “What It Means to Be a Democrat” (Blue Rider Press, 2011) and a biography called “Abraham Lincoln” (Times Books, 2008). At a signing of the Lincoln book, he was greeted by an overflow audience at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, Calif.

He traveled to Kenya and Uganda just two years ago. But, last year, after an exhausting three-city speaking tour of Germany, his doctors urged him to eliminate his international travels.

Last December, he was hospitalized after falling near the George and Eleanor McGovern Library at Dakota Wesleyan. He remained hopeful to the end that he would regain strength to renew a vigorous schedule that most 50- year-olds would find too demanding.

In a visit just two weeks ago, he expressed to me his appreciation and encouragement for the work we have been doing together on issues of world hunger and global AIDS through the Dakota Wesleyan University McGovern Center. He was thrilled that current students and faculty were carrying on his legacy of feeding the hungry, fighting disease and tackling poverty.

McGovern resisted retirement at his 90th birthday party. Instead, he proclaimed his hope that the “good Lord will extend my years beyond one hundred. I do intend to complain loudly to St. Peter if I am called above (or raise the devil, if I’m called below) before we end hunger in America. I also expect to see us reach well past ‘the end of the beginning’ of our victory over world hunger.”

His wish of living to 100 and his dream of ending world hunger did not come to fruition. But I’m confident that he faced death without fear.

He often recalled an audience with Pope John XXIII, recounting with quiet satisfaction how the Pope grasped his hand and said, “Mr. McGovern, when you go to meet your Maker and he asks, ‘Did you feed the hungry?’ You can say, ‘I did.’”

*Messer, a United Methodist pastor and executive director, Center for the Church and Global AIDS, Centennial, Colo., is co-chair of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee and co-author with George McGovern and Bob Dole of “Ending Hunger Now: A Challenge to Persons of Faith” (Fortress, 2005).

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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HOW TO GET A HERNIA

Starting with the then very young Doobie Brothers, and them so young, Michael McDonald’s hair had not done that abrupt conversion to silver hair that made him even more “adorable” to the women of the world while other guys were trying to dye the silver out of their hair.

And speaking of young guys hiding their grey hair.

The Dead said to just let it be.

Take it from that great theologian Paul’s Mum and just let it all be. . . .

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MISS IDA: A fearless Christian and freedom-fighting, muckraking reporter who constantly risked her own life to oppose discrimination and lynching at a time when American white boys carried on their lynching reign of terror.


Other than my heroes who put their Christian faith into actual, radical practice (Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Wesley, Mother Theresa, MLK Jr. and others I’ve cited here often), my heroes have always been fearless journalists who fought what the bible describes as “the good fight” for that old-time, biblical social justice.

I’m referring to the fearless journalists of old–the crusaders–who make today’s mostly milquetoast scribes look lame.

And they make the “fair and balanced” Republican Party Propaganda tools (you, Fox News) who want to drag us back to the not-so-glorious, male-dominated, lily-white controlled, paranoid 1950s look like the chronic liars and incompetents that they are.

And please, don’t email me saying something like, “What about MSNBC propagandist librul socialists, Paul McKay, smarty-poop-pants Paul McKay????????

Because I verily hate Fox News by no means says that I’m a fan of MSNBC.

How anybody can abide a yahoo blowhard and bitter-heart like Ed Schultz, or a man with a past as ugly and shady as the incorrigible “Rev.” (?) Al Sharpton’s–or how anybody can abide SCREAMING AND SLOBBERING CHRIS MATTHEWS for more than two minutes–is beyond me.

Those sober and serious reporters and pundits of NBC’s better days, Huntley and Brinkley, have got to be rolling over in their NBC graves.

Along with serious Mr. Cronkite and totally fearless Murrow, who must roll over in their CBS graves over how far Fox News has lowered broadcast journalism standards.
* * *
Ida B. Wells-Barnett may be one of the greatest and most fearless historical figures you never heard of–one who makes today’s mild-mannered but quite competent journalists like Candy Crowley, who Fox News set out to crucify for the (eek!) capital offense of citing a simple fact in an effort to push Romney and Obama out of a little pissing match so that they could move on and get back to a real debate–look like journalism sophomores.

Wells-Barnett was a woman who was crucified all her life by the Fox News types and hate-filled white boys and Pharisees of her era–and they’re always, always with us.

She was a real American hero, journalism div., in my book. And I try to frequently lift up genuinely heroic Americans here occasionally.

Click here for her all-too-neglected history.

And thanks for a fine job in a tough debate, Candy.

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Click here and read this article about A flap over the use of the word (Lands!!! Forgive me, God, for repeating it!!!) VAGINA by Christian author/speaker Rachel Held Evans, one of the best evangelical writers and speakers in this not-very serious Christian nation.

Then read my 2 cents worth about the controversy below.

Then order Rachel’s latest book.

DARE NOT USE THE “V” WORD IN A CHRISTIAN BOOK WRITTEN FOR FULL-GROWN ADULT READERS WHO WILL BE TERRIBLY OFFENDED BY THE USE OF SUCH A CLINICAL AND HARMLESS WORD USED IN A HARMLESS CONTEXT BY A SKILLED WRITER.


And here’s my 2 cents, speaking as a, uh, male man . . . .

It’s a staggering thing that in the Year of our Lord 2012, the very word “vagina” can ignite the hair of so many evangelical Christians.

Make that silly, shallow-minded evangelical Christians like the censors at LifeWay and “right-minded” Christians like John Piper–they who make the Pharisees in the Gospels look like the keepers of God’s grace and lovers of the very Christ that they sent to the cross in their hatred of him.

Anyway, thought I’d put the word VAGINA in caps here so that some Christian perhaps will get silly and make a fuss about the word being used in this blog (the blog, of course, that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly [probably!] alienating whole towns, nations cities and states).

If someone makes such a fuss I’ll get more views and followers here at the Cult of the Jitterbug Blog, and I will become as famous as Rachel, who will become more famous and pick up scores of new readers of her great books and her fabulous blog as a result of evangelicals being upset by her passing use of the (Yikes!) “V” word.

Order her book(s) and have her come speak at your church–she’s way smarter and deeper in her faith than that those Puritans who get disturbed by words like . . . .

the “V” word.

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WHY ARE THESE GOD-LOVING MEN SMILING? SEE COMMENTARY FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC WRITER AND YOURS TRULY BELOW.

What follows is a commentary from one of this Protestant clergyman’s favorite Christian magazines, the fiercely independent and smart “National Catholic Reporter.”

I love that the author Stephen Zunes spares neither Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, for their culpability in one of the most disastrous and immoral follies in American history.

Nor does he let that great Nobel Peace Price winner Obama (excuse me while I gag over what the once great Nobel Peace Prize has become since the war criminal Henry Kissinger won it) off the hook.

Note that the Vatican, and the ultra-conservative American Bishops, were adamantly opposed to the invasion of Iraq, as were my own United Methodist Church (once in a while I’m actually proud of the church I’ve committed my life to!) and all the other mainline Protestant churches and enlightened faith traditions.

And now we have the possibility of warmongers Romney and Ryan and the “neo conservatives” hot for more war and bombing, as if one more war and a little more bombing will make the world right.

If American history has taught us anything, it is that the emotionalism that drives men (and women like those liberal heroes Hillary and Diane Feinstein) to making unjust wars has devastating ripple effects on our own American people and our own nation’s future, every time.

We can only hope and pray that political leaders and pundits who fan the flames of war will listen to the churches and the prophetic clergy of other faith traditions before rushing us into another war.

But I wouldn’t bet on them listening to Christian leaders of peace and justice any time soon.

Pray for peace, genuine Christian and other religious peacemakers and people of moral high-mindedness.

And keep up the good fight for God’s will for peace on earth, good will to all. . . .
———-

VIEWPOINT
By Stephen Zunes
Reprinted in National Catholic Reporter

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the fateful vote by Congress to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The Bush administration, which was ultimately responsible for the illegal and unnecessary war, is no longer in office. However, there are leading members of Congress — as well as prominent Obama administration officials who were in Congress at the time — who also share responsibility for the war because of their vote to authorize it. The Democratic Party controlled the Senate at the time and could have stopped it. Yet despite strong pressure from their anti-war constituents, a sizable number of their representatives in Congress chose to support Bush instead.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops came out strongly against the war, yet the majority of Catholic members of Congress voted in favor. Similarly, virtually every mainline Protestant denomination also went on record in opposition, but the majority of Protestant members of Congress similarly voted their approval.

While some of these House and Senate members have subsequently admitted to having made a “mistake” in voting for the authorization, most knew full well beforehand about the likely absence of the dangerous weapons and weapons systems the Bush administration alleged the Iraqi regime had somehow procured, and about the disastrous consequences from a U.S. invasion. In scores of policy reports, newspaper articles, academic journals and other sources, the tragic results of war and a refutation of falsehoods being put forward by the Bush administration to justify it were available to every member of the House and Senate.

Large numbers of scholars of the Middle East, Middle Eastern political leaders, former State Department and intelligence officials and others alerted members of Congress to the fact that a U.S. invasion would likely result in a bloody insurgency, a rise in Islamist extremism and terrorism, increased sectarian and ethnic conflict, and related problems. Few people familiar with Iraq were at all surprised that the U.S. invasion resulted in such tragedy.

The 2002 vote authorizing the invasion was not like the vote on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing military action in Vietnam, in which Congress had no time for hearings or debate and where members naively believed they were simply authorizing limited short-term retaliatory strikes in response to a specific series of alleged incidents. Congress had many months to investigate and debate the administration’s claims regarding the alleged Iraqi threat as well as the likely implications of the war, which they knew entailed a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation and a subsequent military occupation of an indefinite period.

Indeed, despite being the most critical foreign policy legislation of a generation, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden provided only two days of hearings and refused to allow virtually any opponents of the war to testify.

There was never any credible evidence that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons, offensive delivery systems, a nuclear program, or ties to al-Qaida. Indeed, former U.N. weapons inspectors and scores of other independent strategic analysts shared with congressional offices an abundance of evidence suggested that the Bush administration was lying about so-called “weapons of mass destruction,” Iraqi links to al-Qaida and other rationalizations for the war.

Virtually all of Iraq’s known stockpiles of chemical and biological agents had been accounted for and the shelf life of the small amount of materiel that had not (which, as it ends up, had also been destroyed) had long since expired and was therefore no longer of weapons grade. There was no evidence that Iraq had any delivery systems for such weapons, either. The strict international embargo, in effect since 1990, against imports of any additional materials needed for the manufacture of WMDs, combined with Iraq’s inability to manufacture such weapons or delivery systems themselves without detection, made any claims that Iraq possessed “significant chemical and biological weapons capability” transparently false to anyone who cared to investigate the matter.

Until public opinion came out decisively against the war in 2005, most pro-war members of Congress — including Democratic Sens. John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein and Joe Biden — continued to defend the vote even after acknowledging the absence of WMDs or al-Qaida ties, thereby effectively admitting that their vote was not about defending the United States against a foreign threat, but ultimately about oil and empire.

Given the tragic consequences of the war, one would have thought it would have seriously damaged their political careers. Instead, many of them were rewarded.

Though only a minority of congressional Democrats voted to authorize the war in 2002 and a large majority of Democrats nationally opposed the invasion, the Democratic Party chose two unrepentant war supporters — Kerry and Edwards — as their 2004 nominees for president and vice president.

Four years later, Sen. Barack Obama defeated pro-war challengers for both the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election on his promise to not just end the Iraq War, but to “end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.” However, he ended up choosing supporters of the Iraq War for most of his administration’s key foreign policy and national security positions, including secretary of state, secretary of defense, secretary of Homeland Security, chief of staff, and vice president.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats who voted to authorize the war hold such key positions as Senate majority leader, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, assistant House minority leader, and ranking members of key House committees. Similarly, Republicans who backed the invasion not only head the important House committees but also make up the entire Republican leadership in both houses.

The willingness of both Democratic and Republican voters to continue to re-elect those who, in that fateful vote 10 years ago, made possible the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq sends a dangerous message that members of Congress need not worry about the political consequences of authorizing an illegal and immoral war.

[Stephen Zunes is professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.]

This story appeared in the Oct 12-25, 2012 print issue under the headline: The Iraq War authorization: 10 years later .

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RING THE BELL

Sadly, the holy dove that is the Holy Spirit “she will be cut again” as governments rush into war after war–and all the while saying their prayers out loud.

The theology in this song from the ultra-talented poet, novelist, lyricist, composer, singer, performer and former Buddhist monk Leonard Cohen runs about as deep and wide as the theology in any song you’ll ever hear.

And certainly deeper than most of the snap-crackle-pop of the “contemporary worship service songs” you’ll hear in so many Christian churches, and all those “mega churches” with their shopping centers and bowling alleys wrapped around the sanctuaries.

More on Cohen and his life here.

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