Saturday, July 01, 2006

People of the Lie: Hope for Healing Evil

I don't recall having heard of this book before, or, if I did, apparently I wasn't tuning in. But a commenter in this thread at Father Jake Stops the World just shared some quotes from the book, and I thought they would be appreciated here. Mike in Texas writes...

Are the good people in here familiar with M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie?

If not, I would highly recommend it, especially to those who are feeling battle weary. It is a book that literally changed my life. The book is a study of evil and an attempt to discern if evil might be a treatable condition. The book made me better able to identify how I am affected by the actions of those Peck refers to as "People of the Lie." Understanding how they operate and how they affect us makes it a lot easier to withstand and deal with what they do.

Please bear with me as a share some of Peck's thoughts.

Page 69: "The central defect of 'the evil' is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it. More often than not these people will be looked at as solid citizens. How can that be? How can they be evil and not designated as criminals? The key word is "designated". They are criminals in that they commit "crimes" against life and liveliness. But except in rare instances- such as in the case of Hitler when they might achieve extraordinary degrees of political power that remove them from ordinary restraints, their "crimes are so subtle and covert that they cannot clearly be designated as crimes. The theme of hiding and covertness will occur again and again throughout the rest of this book. It is the basis for the title "People of the Lie"."

Page 70 "Evil deeds do not make an evil person. Otherwise we would all be evil. If evil people cannot be defined by the illegality of their deeds or the magnitude of their sins, then how are we to define them? The answer is by the consistency of their sins. While usually subtle, their destructiveness is remarkably consistent. This is because those who have "crossed over the line" are characterized by their absolute refusal to tolerate the sense of their own sinfulness."

Page 72 "The poor in spirit do not commit evil. Evil is not committed by people who feel uncertain about their righteousness, who question their own motives, who worry about betraying themselves. The evil of this world is committed by the spiritual fat cats, by the Pharisees of our own day, the self-righteous who think they are without sin because they are unwilling to suffer the discomfort of significant self-examination. It is out of their failure to put themselves on trial that their evil arises. They are, in my experience remarkably greedy people."

Page 73 "A predominant characteristic of the behavior that I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection."

Page 74 "Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. The evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgment of one's own need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgment, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection. Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves."

Page 75 "Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them. They seem to live lives that are above reproach. The words "image", "appearance" and "outwardly" are crucial to understanding the morality of 'the evil'. While they lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their goodness is all on a level of pretense. It is in effect a lie. Actually the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. We lie only when we are attempting to cover up something we know to be illicit. At one and the same time 'the evil' are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness. We become evil by attempting to hide from ourselves. The wickedness of 'the evil' is not committed directly, but indirectly as a part of this cover-up process. Evil originates not in the absence of guilt but in the effort to escape it.

It often happens then that 'the evil' may be recognized by its very disguise. Because they are such experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the maliciousness of 'the evil'. The disguise is usually impenetrable."

Page 77 "They are not pain avoiders or lazy people in general. To the contrary, they are likely to exert themselves more than most in their continuing effort to obtain and maintain an image of respectability. They may willingly, even eagerly, undergo great hardships in their search for status. It is only one particular pain they cannot tolerate: the pain of their own conscience, the pain of realization of their own sinfulness and imperfection.

The evil are the last people to ever go to a psychotherapist. The evil hate the light- the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of truth that penetrates their deception. "

Page 78 "They are men and women of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way. There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others."

Page 104 "Those who are evil are masters of disguise; they are not apt to wittingly disclose their true colors - either to others or to themselves. It is not without reason that the serpent is renowned for his subtlety. We therefore cannot pass judgment on a person for a single act. Instead judgment must be made on the basis of a whole pattern of acts as well as their manner and style."

Page 121 "We are accustomed to feel pity and sympathy for those who are ill, but the emotions that 'the evil' invoke in us are anger and disgust, if not actual hate. It is the unwillingness to suffer emotional pain that usually lies at the very root of emotional illness. Those who fully experience depression, doubt, confusion and despair may be infinitely more healthy than those who are generally certain, complacent, and self-satisfied."

Page 124 "Think of the psychic energy required for the continued maintenance of the pretense so characteristic of 'the evil'! They perhaps direct at least as much energy into their devious rationalizations and destructive compensations as the healthies do into loving behavior. Why? What possesses them, drives them? Basically, it is fear. They are terrified that the pretense will break down and they will be exposed to the world and to themselves. They are continually frightened that they will come face to face with their own evil. Of all emotions, fear is the most painful. Regardless of how well they attempt to appear calm and collected in their daily dealings, 'the evil' live their lives in fear."

Page 129 "Evil people would be distinguished by these traits:

a) Consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle

b) Excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

c) Pronounced concern with a public image and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of lifestyle but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.

D) intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophreniclike disturbance of thinking at times of stress."

Page 130 "But there is another vital reason to correctly name evil: the healing of its victims. The fact of the matter is that evil is one of the most difficult things to cope with."

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Saturday Comics

And my favorite for today: Cut And Run IV

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Open Thread

Thank you, Catreona, for setting up this Alachua Watch blog.

Today I was at a bookstore and found this book about "totally useless web sites". Here are some amusing links I found in the book...

Traffic Cone Preservation Society

PawSense: Catproof Your Computer

Eric Conveys an Emotion

Adopt a Useless Blob

Not found in the book, but a few more links to round things out...

Roadside America: Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions

Animal Jokes

How Many Dogs Does it Take To Change a Lightbulb?

Golden Retriever: The sun is shining. The day is young. We've got our whole lives ahead of us. And you're inside worrying about a stupid, burned-out light bulb?

Border Collie: Just one. Not only that, but I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.

Dachshund: I can't reach the stupid lamp!

German Shepherd: No. You told me to sit. Virtual Fireworks

Must go to bed now, but this post just *needs* a picture, and for a while I just wasn't finding anything. So I was going to fall back on old reliable Cute Overload. But then I realized, you know what they're missing? Pudus.

There, much better. 'Night, all!

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Torture Awareness Month Wrap-up

Today, June 30, is the last day of Torture Awareness Month. I don't have a post prepared, but I didn't want to end the month without revisiting the topic. So I'm just going to share a few links and then open the discussion for anyone who would like to comment.

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Amnesty International Denounce Torture Lobby Week

Bloggers Against Torture

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Excerpts from Katharine Jefferts Schori's NPR interview

Selected excerpts from Katharine Jefferts Schori's interview with Diane Rehm on NPR today.

It's a girl!

(Click the image above for a new t-shirt design Demetrius made today.)

Diane Rehm: This seems an extremely tumultuous time for the Episcopal church. What do you regard as your immediate challenges once you are elevated to the post of Presiding Bishop in November?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: When I am installed in November, my sense is that the church's primary focus needs to be on mission. We have finished this past General Convention with a great advantage of having identified our priorities for the coming years, and the first of those is justice and peace work, to be framed by the Millennium Development Goals, and I look forward to calling the whole church to continue to work on those goals.
Diane Rehm asks about KJS's career change from oceanography to the priesthood.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, when people ask about that, I say that I'm still fishing, I'm still working "in the depths". I struggled with that transition for a good while. I think that some of the skills that I learned as an oceanographer, especially having to do with looking carefully at the world around me, and a scientific approach to the wonders of creation have been a blessing in my work in the church.

You know, I come to a situation usually without a preconceived notion of what ought to result, I'm willing to make a hypothesis and test it, and gather data, and make the best informed decision that I can.
Diane Rehm asks KJS+ to explain her previously stated views that unity and inclusiveness are important to this church.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The Anglican tradition, of which the Episcopal church is the American expression, has always valued comprehensiveness. We come with a variety of strands of belief and emphasis, and we are only a healthy body when we can incorporate the best of all of those strands. If we focus completely on one of those strands, we lose the diversity that makes us healthy. And, one of the perspectives of a biologist is to look at the natural world and see that--you know, if a farmer tries to grow only corn in a field, tries only to grow one crop, one quickly discovers that it takes massive inputs of fertilizer, of nutrients, of insecticides, and then you might get a crop. But the natural world flourishes when there is a diversity of creatures in the environment.
...the House of Bishops and, certainly, by extension, the General Convention, is not unlike what happens in the Pacific Ocean every year. Humpback whales sing songs--you've probably heard recordings of them. Indeed! When they come together--they come together a couple of times a year, one of the places is off the Hawaiian islands. They come together for a time, and while they are together, they learn a new song. Each of their individual songs changes, and they begin to sing a common tune. When they go home again, they teach that song to their neighbors in their home localities, and over the coming months, that song changes again. And the next time they come back together, they learn a new song together.

And to me that was an image of what the church in its legislative gatherings might imitate. What can we learn from each other? How can we come to sing a common song?

Do you have a song in mind?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Ahh! "The glory of God is evidenced in human beings fully alive, and that means all human beings, and that means alive in all the facets of their being.
Katharine Jefferts Schori: There are only 9 provinces of the 38 that don't ordain women at all. Several of the others are in process to ordain women to all orders of ministry. But the reality is that women are leaders as baptized persons everywhere in the communion, and they always have been.

Diane Rehm: I thought it was interesting to hear that Bishop Desmond Tutu shouted "Whoopee!" when he learned of your selection. He went on to say, "When you think we used to say 'What? A woman doctor?!' 'What? A woman engineer?!' 'What? A woman prime minister?!' And now we have, for the first time, a woman Presiding Bishop Elect of the Episcopal Church.

(Editor's note: Bishop Desmond Tutu is one of my favorite human beings in the world)
One of the interesting pieces of Christian history is that there's very good evidence that in the early church, women did exercise ordained leadership. And when the church began to be enculturated under Constantine, that possibility was removed. Women were slowly excluded from public leaderhip in the church. So we're returning to our roots, in some sense.

More selected excerpts from this interview at my Religious Left Blog.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Charlie update for 6/29

Here is what happened. The State (with Alachua-resident in tow - who is the State Attorney's Public Information Officer - but happens to be right smack dab in the middle of EVERYTHING to do with this case, in my view, highly inappropriately) sought the judge to rescind my ROR (release on my own recognisance) for the crime of felony wiretapping for which I was arrested but have to YET be charged with - and asked for a "substantial" bond.

When it was clear that the judge was not going that direction - for PR purposes - the State prosecutor got up and said that they were not looking for the judge to "deny me my liberty"! They were not? Then why did they ask for that in their formal motion? And in their opening statements at the Court?

THe judge did not revoke my release - but did amend the restrictions on my liberty.

Get this: I am not allowed into the city of Alachua (where I am living) until the case against me (which has not been charged - so this is indefinite) has been resolved.

And by the way - PayPal has "mysteriously" turned off my account for recieving money - again "coincidentally" the day that money is expected to come in and a national story is going out.

This is extremely troubling - and I hope that people will contact PayPal about this. This is an unacceptable business practice. And they will not tell me WHO is contacting them - to cause these problems.

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The Democratic Reunion

A new e-mail from Howard.

I have results and big announcement for you today.

I wanted you to be the first to get the results of the fundraising drive. Over the last two weeks, over 11,000 people stood up to be counted by donating to support the 50-state strategy. The average donation was about $48 and you raised over $500,000 in less than two weeks.

But here's the most important statistic of this fundraising drive: of the more than 11,000 people donating to the Democratic Party in the last 2 weeks, 67% of them did so for the first time.

We're putting people back in control of the political process. Your voice has been heard loud and clear: we need a 50-state strategy to fight everywhere, and with your leadership in your own community we will.

Which brings me to the big announcement. On July 29th we will kick off the last 100 days until the election with the first annual Democratic Reunion.

The Democratic Reunion will be a series of events across the country, in every single state, that will bring people back into the political process and remind everyone who wants change that we're all in this fight together for the last 100 days.

Your local Democratic Reunion event can be a social event like a picnic, a voter contact event like a canvass, or a campaign event with local candidates. The only requirement is that you come together with your neighbors on July 29th and kick off 100 days of work to build your local network and win this November.

Plan your own Democratic Reunion event now using our web site. It's easy, fun and you'll be provided with the materials you need to be successful. If you've never done anything like this before, now is the time to start. Plan your event now:

Many state and local Democratic Parties have already started planning their Democratic Reunion events, and exciting things are happening.

In Washington, the state party will focus their local events on grassroots organizing to get the word out about Democratic candidates. In Arizona, there are already 25 local organizing events across the state that will build local energy for candidates up and down the ballot on Election Day.

In some states, local county parties will be holding picnics to introduce their candidates. In others, state parties will be organizing door-to-door canvasses in targeted neighborhoods. But remember -- if there's no event near you, you have the power (and responsibility) to create your own.

Search for an event near you here:

The outcome of this election comes down to one question: Do Americans want a fundamental change in direction, or do they want the same failed Republican policies? You and I both know that the Democratic Party is the only party that's committed to real change.

That's why we need to continue the work we started with the National Organizing Kickoff and strengthen the new relationships we formed during The 50-State Canvass if we're going to take our country back.

Your Democratic Reunion can be a day to contact 100 voters, or a day to organize the group you will work with to contact 100 voters before Election Day.

No matter what your event looks like, the purpose will be the same. Democrats will come together and focus on our common mission: building this Party at the local level and leveraging people power to win in November.

The past two weeks have seen an incredible showing of support for the idea of a 50-state strategy. Now is your opportunity to be a part of it on the ground where you live.

Thank you,

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Thread... thread!

Oh, and as a Public Service Announcement:
Don't forget to cancel your credit cards before you die

UPDATE: Al Gore coming up on The Daily Show.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Latest From Charlie

06.26.06 - 12:21 pm
Just an alert - it turns out that the City's set up of having me thrown out of the meeting - was used to try and have me thrown back in jail.

The State Attorney - who HAS evidence in his possession that the original arrest made against me was based on perjured statements by the police commissioner - and has had an eyewitness state that he lied - and thus knows that I did not commit the crime I was arrested for - and who has not charged me with that crime - has refused to officially drop the charges against me.

They are trying to corner me into a position where I will "deal" so as to not bring charges against the City and Clovis Watson.

I will make no deals. So they are threatening now to have me thrown in jail over that meeting - so that they can leverage me further.

This is getting to the point of absurdity already.
Just an update.

06.26.06 - 8:36 pm
Hello everyone,

I am putting the call out to everyone I know who is also familiar with what is going on with Charlie Grapski and the fight against corruption in the City of Alachua. Charlie has learned that the Mayor of Alachua, Jean Calderwood has filed another sworn complaint against him stemming from the last City Commission Meeting. In that meeting Charlie tried repeatedly to use procedural rules to point out and correct several unlawful actions by the City Commission in a previous meeting. Charlie was forcibly removed from the building by the Chief of Police and another officer. Today, Charlie has found out that someone in the State Attorney's office is trying to get Charlie's bond (from his unlawful arrest) revoked which would make it possible for him to be arrested again and held in jail for some time.

And so I am asking that everyone:

1. Write letters to the Gainesville Sun and call other media outlets.

2. Contact the State Attorney's office (352-374-3670) and ask them why charges against Charlie have not been dropped and why it is that powerful people in the City of Alachua are able to file complaints Charlie Grapski even while he has not been allowed to file any complaints against them.

3. Get the word out to the online community that Charlie is being threatened with arrest and incarceration. That they are putting the screws on him to get him to drop his investigation and legal actions against the City of Alachua. He needs money to pay his legal expenses and to continue his legal actions against them.

Thanks for your help and support,
John Prosser

06.27.06 - 10:39 am
Hey all, just checking in. We have a hearing on Thursday morning - the State Attorney, who has refused to accept any charges to investigate against City officials in Alachua, and who has not charged me with a single crime - but - having the sole witness testify the day I was arrested that Watson LIED to have me arrested, and having the actual evidence in his possession (my recorder) proving that he lied and that he consented to being recorded - has not filed a "no information" - has kept this thing alive and encouraged the City officials to continue down this path.

I find this negligent on his part. I have strong suspicions that this is a result, however, of persons WITHIN his department - particularly his Public Relations person, Spencer Mann, who has actually been intimately involved with this matter from the start (why?).

He is from Alachua and is deeply connected with the players in this matter.
As such they are accepting any and every complaint - no matter how baseless - by City officials against me.

Not to try me - but to try and put me into a position where I will make a "deal" - and let the City and its officials off the hook - if they promise not to prosecute me.

Good luck to them on that. I want these individuals prosecuted, and I want that City cleaned up.

The State Attorney has referred to that as "political" (rather than legal) - and says he won't get involved in that. He already is - but this is also a cop-out.

Violations of the law - criminal activities - by public officials are CRIMES not political actions. This is the reason we have such rampant political corruption in this nation - because our system has fundamentally broken down as the judicial branch and related law enforcement refuse to play their "check and balance" role.

So on Thursday morning - although I have not been charged with a crime, and although the State Attorney has evidence of my innocence and the guilt of those bringing forth the charges - the State Attorney will be seeking to have me thrown back in jail.
This is harassment pure and simple. But I have no intention of caving in to their tactics.

Just an update.

ShadowTeatimetim | 06.27.06 - 11:17 am
Would it help if we started contacting your attorney General and complaining?

06.27.06 - 11:23 am
Yes - it would help to contact the State Attorney's office - and speak directly to Bill Cervone (do not speak with Spencer Mann - he is their PR person - but he is an Alachua resident with deep connections to the political corruption there - and it is my belief that he is a KEY to what is going on here. I believe the FDLE as well as the Attorney General should open an investigation into the activities and role of Spencer Mann in the State Attorney's office).

So I think it would also be good to contact the Attorney General Charlie Crist. After all - he is running for governor (So is Spencer Mann and Clovis Watson's benefactor - Rod Smith - by the way. An Alachua resident - and one deeply connected to much of this corruption, unfortunately for many, as he is running as a Democrat. But corruption in America knows no party affiliation it did not operate under).

06.27.06 - 12:17 pm
Tim - that would be great - we have racketeering and other crimes going on down here I believe.
Also - got your message - will call you.

06.27.06 - 3:09 pm
Bill pronounces his name sir-vone.
Alachua is pronounced two ways - depending on where you are from.
The County is a-lach-u-uh.
Many in the City pronounce the city as a-lach-u-ay

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Grammatically Speaking: Subjunctive v. Conditional

In recent years, I have noticed an increasing tendency among people of all ages, geographical regions, and socio-economic levels to speak (and write) ungrammatically. Moreover, when I have ventured to make this observation and to address some of the more common errors, I have been call judgmental and an elitist, and asked with hostility who I thought I was, and where I got off dictating how other people should speak and write.

And this, on a listserv for writers!

It is therefore with some trepidation that I broach the subject of grammar. However, grammar is the life's blood of communication. Whether writing to our Congresscritter or to the media, phone banking, canvassing, or engaging friends, family and coworkers, good grammar and diction (word choice) are essential for effective communication.

One particularly widespread error affects me like the proverbial fingernails on a blackboard. This error substitutes the Conditional for the subjunctive, to whit:

I wish he would have run.
If she would have come...

The correct formulation is:

I wish he had run.
If she had come...

It is not necessary to understand the arcana of verb mood to use it correctly. Just remember that hypothetical statements and statements of wish or desire, such as those using "if" and "I wish," use the subjunctive. Except for the verb "to be," the forms of the past and present subjunctive are indistinguishable from those of the past and present Indicative. So, in most situations, if you simply use the past or present form, you'll have it.

The verb "can" is a bit tricky. It's simple past tense, "could," looks identical to the form used in many conditional constructions. But, don't be fooled or confused.

I wish you could come.

is equivalent to

I wish you were able to come.

and is thus subjunctive.

As activists, we are communicators. To communicate effectively, to exploit the versatility and flexibility of the English language, we must understand and follow its rules.

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Floppy noodle open thread

The picture above is from this Wikipedia article.

What? I just thought, for a change, that instead of posting a cute kitty cat or bunny rabbit from Cute Overload, I'd go instead with a picture of some limp, floppy noodles. (Well, the floppiest I could find, anyway.)

No reason.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

MViMV Guest Blog

Tonight - June 26th-- Our guest bloggers will be The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck. Blog directly with the filmmakers that made a documentary so moving and powerful it caused Tom DeLay to scurry away in defeat.

Please join us at at 8 PM EDT.

If you attend DemocracyFest (San Diego, CA, July 14-16), you'll have an opportunity to view the film and see Robert Greenwald, from Brave New Films, as he introduces The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress.

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Open Thread

Thank you to jc for the new bumper sticker, in response to a request from a commenter at Father Jake Stops the World.

It's especially fitting as General Convention passed a resolution in support of the teaching of evolution.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

The UN Millennium Campaign

One of the outcomes of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this past week was that the convention affirmed the UN Millennium Development Goals. These goals have been championed by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, the group that hosted the U2Charist I attended last week . You can read Bishop Curry's sermon at that event here. Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori went on record as supporting these goals in her candidate interview...

The Presiding Bishop has an ability to call this whole church to claim the wonderful richnesses of God's creations, the gifts of all human beings, whatever color they are, whatever language they speak, whatever country they live in, to build that reign of God. The next Presiding Bishop has an ability to hold out the vision of the Millennium Development Goals as a concrete image of what Isaiah's dream looks like. What it means to feed people--to feed the one third of the world's population who don't have enough to eat every day, to insure that girls and boys around the world have access to education, that mothers have adequate prenatal health care so that healthy children are born, that there's clean water, that there is adequate sanitation, that there are structures put in place to promote ongoing productive development around the globe.

To be that kind of energy and engine in making those Millennium Development Goals come to reality. I think that's the centerpiece of what the next Presiding Bishop has to call us to.
These are the Millennium Development Goals

1. Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.

I've added a Millenium Developement Campaign banner to the sidebar at Faithful Ohio. They come with different celebrities on them--the one I chose has Jane Goodall. Click here to get a banner for your own web site or blog.

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Gore continues to "show us the funny"

Cup 'o Joe, in his post, A Terrifying Message from Al Gore, pointed me to this clever ad for An Inconvenient Truth--featuring Bender, the rude robot from Futurama.

"Hello, I'm Al Gore, and I'm here to scare you about global warming. If we don't take immediate action, our planet, Earth, will become a deadly smog ball that chokes out all human life."

"Good! More beer for the robots!"

2D Al Gore goes on about the risks to the Earth, including noxious gasses...

...and then says "It's all in my movie."
Bender: You're in a movie? What do you play? A burned out cop? A streetwise pimp...?
Gore: (deadpan) Yes, I play a streetwise pimp with a hybrid pimpmobile.
Bender: Boooring!

Gore: It's not boring! I'm trying to save us all from certain death!
Bender: "Save us all from certain death." Less talk, more action!"
Gore: You want action? Here's some action!

Voiceover: An Inconvenient Truth. The movie that will make you feel like you should probably do something!

Gore: And don't forget to recycle!

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Identity Crisis

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh - though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Philippians 3:1-9
I was presented with an interesting conundrum this week while watching the World Cup - should I root for the African team or the American team when the two teams played each other? It was a question of identity - as an African-American where does my first loyalty lie: Africa or America? If there is a division of interests then with which group of people do I cast my lot? When it comes down to brass tax who am I and why am I here?

It reminds me of the 1992 Vice Presidential debate where James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate, opened the debate with the humorous quip, "Who am I? Why am I here?" It was humorous because he was not a politician, relatively unknown, and yet he was in the political spotlight. The question, however, is actually quite profound, and we need to ask ourselves, "Who are we? Why are we here?" This question drives philosophers to think and minstrels to sing - each inquiring about that one thing: "Who are we and why are we here?" Africans throughout the diaspora who are separated from the land of our ancestors have struggled to sing the Lord's songs in a strange land, and we struggle for an identity, for collective self-esteem. We need to answer the question, "Who are we and why are we here." To answer that question we must look to God. David inquired of God, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" Who are we and why are we here?

The apostle Paul may have been the most conflicted Christian to walk the face of the planet in regards to competing interests. He was a Christian. He was a Jew. He was a Roman citizen. He was certainly conflicted when viewed by outsiders, but Paul made it clear who he was and why he was here. Although he was among the most pious of Jews - circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee thoroughly trained by Gamaliel; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless - he considered it all a heaping pile of fecal material compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, compared to the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. It isn't that Paul renounced his Roman citizenship - he had no problem invoking his citizenship to get a hearing before Caesar. It isn't that he renounced his Jewish heritage - he spends a few chapters detailing to the Gentiles how God has not forsaken the Jews. However, when the rubber hits the road, his loyalty and indeed his very identity is found in Jesus Christ. Paul made that point very clear: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ."

Who am I?

On the question of identity I prioritize according to the permanence of the trait. I am a citizen of the United States of America - born and raised - but I could become a citizen of another country. There is nothing that compels me to be an American other than the fact that I was born here, love of country notwithstanding. I am a Black man, and no matter what else I do I will die a Black man. As the cliche says, "All you got to do is stay Black and die" - a saying that emphasizes the permanence of our ethnicity. Even Michael Jackson, after all of his surgeries, even though many Blacks don't want to claim him, is still a Black man, Vitiligo and all. My ethnicity is irrevocable, so it takes priority over my nationality which is indeed mutable. However, my Christianity trumps all of that - if there is a conflict between the cause of Christ and interests of the United States of America then I will side with Jesus Christ every time. If there is a conflict between the cause of Christ and the interests of Black folk then I will side with Jesus Christ every time. If there is a conflict between the cause of Christ and my very family then I will side with Jesus Christ every time, for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his very soul?

Who am I?

I appreciate my American citizenship and I honor my African heritage, but I am a child of the King. I am a disciple of the Christ. I am a wild olive shoot that has been grafted in among the others and now shares in the nourishing sap from the olive root, the true vine, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.

Who are you?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to live and move and have your being in Him,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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