Archive for June, 2008

Obama’s Biblical View

I have a lot to say about all that has gone down with James Dobson and Barack Obama, but I will get to my thoughts in the next couple of days.

I do want to pass on a post from La Shawn Barber’s blog. The post is not so much about Dobson and Obama –  it does give a good rundown of what has occurred. La Shawn write more about how John Kerry  and now Barack Obama have used the Bible as a leverage point in order to court those of faith. It also points out how an incomplete understanding of the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament is dangerous and leads to an incomplete understanding of God.

Check her blog out and make some comments and look back here for some of my thoughts on the issue.

The Story of Stuff

I got this link from my friend Ruhshan Fernando who is a social work professor at my Alma Mater, Taylor University.

This link is to a challenging video about how we live life and how we use all the “stuff we have”. I was humbled and convicted. Let me know what your reactions are. Here is a teaser, just to give you a taste.

Let’s Dance Together

I heard a fascinating NPR piece about an integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi. The Charleston high school has had segregated proms since it was forced to integrate. This year, with influence and financial backing from Morgan Freeman and the right school board, the school put on an “integrated prom”. I know that segregation still occurs, but I didn’t realize that we could have such explicit and unbridled remnants of Jim Crow segregation in a government institution

Although the school had an integrated prom there were still parents who decided that they wanted a “White” prom. In an interview a White student was at a meeting for the White prom, where she heard a mother say, “I don’t want any of those niggers rubbing up against my daughter” (what a historically loaded statement).

What I found most stimulating about this piece is the attitude of the students. Some of the children that attended the prom had to go against their parents wishes. And most students really didn’t think much about the fact that they were going to be prom with people of a different race. They went to school with them and played sports with them, what was the difference?

However, there was an interesting element in the comments of the  White students. Now, this was by no means a statistically representative sample, but the White students that were interviewed didn’t voice that they had felt any regret for having a segregated prom or that there was something wrong with a segregated prom.

At first, I assumed that this was a “White privilege” issue. The parents driving the segregated prom were the White parents and White students were not the ones being systematically excluded, Black students were. White students wanted to have an integrated prom because it just made sense because everything else at school was integrated. Conversely, the Black students benefited from the prom because it was a method of regaining their personhood and their worth.

I still believe this to be true, but it also seemed the Black students that were interviewed had fallen in into the “that is just the way it is attitude”. They accepted segregation because that was the context that they understood and even though there were negative ramifications, they were buried underneath the normalcy of segregation.

The change that occurred was not because individuals stood up and said that something was wrong (the Whites were indifferent and the Blacks were entrenched), but because there was a systematic, institutional change. We often – especially in the evangelical Christian world – underestimate the value of institutional change. We concentrate so much on individual reconciliation. But individual reconciliation can be prohibited by the way the system is set up.

Reconciliation is two sided. This integrated prom at Charleston High School will not, by itself, spark reconciliation in the city as a whole. But changing the system gives individuals the opportunity to personally reconcile with one another. These to elements together are what cause real change.
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Re-Urbanizing Suburbia

This is an interesting New York Times article about restructuring suburbs to be more urban. It is interesting that after 60 some years of suburban development society has realized that maybe the sprawl of suburbia isn’t the best for community, civic engagement, or the economy.

At a conference in Nassau County – Near NY City – suburbanites and organizers discusses the recent failures and shortcomings of suburbia.

Why young people flee the suburbs was the underlying question of the day. But there has never been much mystery about it: There is nowhere to live; not enough to do; and not enough young adults around to improvise the kind of neighborhood scene born every few years in the big city.

Planners have been promoting the idea of suburban downtown life for decades, not just for the young, but also for retirees and workers of all ages. Corporate employers in the suburbs have long lamented the scarcity of affordable rental housing for workers. The environmental advantages of living and working in the same zip code are obvious.

But recent shocks over gas prices, global warming and the tenuous hold many people have on their mortgaged homes seem to have brought new urgency to the idea — at least among professional worriers about the suburbs.

The article refers mainly to downtowns, which is a little disappointing. It is somewhat tragic that when people think of urban they think of downtown. I am a huge prominent of, as the article says, “Cool Downtowns”, but usually downtown developments fail when the purpose is to make it attractive rather than livable. It is great to have trendy shops, sports arenas, festivals, etc. But those things don’t bring people to stay in the city, but rather just to patronize the city.

Most developers are worried about capital rather than community. Its not that they want people to actually live downtown and be able to get all they need, it is that they want people to go downtown and spend their money.

Urban living is more about how neighborhoods are formed rather than having a downtown.

Downtown is the central business, civic, social, recreational, commercial and domestic hub of the entire city, but not the focus. Developers and city officials should be pursing towards a renewal of the traditional neighborhood, in which neighboring homes are able to be walked to – rather than being divided by a pointless cul-de-sac, manmade lake, curvy roads or random green space (to list a few), groceries and daily items are able to be accessible by foot or a short bike ride, churches and other religious institutions are local and are concerned for the wellbeing of their neighborhood first then their city, their state, their country and the world.

The article also presented this interesting point about what suburbanites desire.

“People in the suburbs like the way things are in the suburbs . . . — the big malls, the strip malls, the three-car garages, the three cars that go inside them.”

These comments are unfortunately true, although they are driven more by consumerist tendencies than cosmopolitan ones. Many suburbanites are comfortable with what they have. They don’t really see the negative ramifications their lifestyle has on community, and even on themselves. In the first comment the thing that perhaps stands out the most is the implicit dependency on cars. Anything that would divorce someone from the perceived independence of the car is evil. Suburbanites, and society as a whole, have forgotten that cars reduce our interactions to stoplights and parking lots.

Additionally, we have forgotten that the suburban design which has developed from our rampant car culture has resulted in a dependency on the automobile. In suburbia one really cannot go anywhere without driving. Ironically, in the American search for independence we have learned that humans are naturally dependent beings. Unfortunately, instead of being in community we have become dependent on cars. Instead of being in relationship with or neighbors we rely on our cars. Instead of going next door to borrow some sugar or another small item we decide to go to drive to the store and buy it. Cars have created an integrated dependency, and have farther pushed us away from being citizens towards being consumers (compare how often we are referred to as consumers compared to citizens).

I love the fact that people are realizing that suburban design does not actually produce all that it offers. But I hope that we realize that the point of urbanism is not to create a greater consumer culture, but to create an honest, genuine, and human dependent community.

Confronting our Racial Volcanoes

This is a humbling and and contemplative blog entry by Michael O. Emerson, writer of numerous books on race and religion including , Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, (A Landmark book in understanding the racial divides so prominent in the evangelical world – if you haven’t at least skimmed it, ya need to), United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race, Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations , and People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States.

The Blog entry is a guest entry that Emerson graciously wrote for my friend Ed. Gilbreath. Check it out and contribute to the conversation.

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