You’re Right, Congress. Corporations Need More Control

In the ancient hallways of bad ideas that litter our history, SOPA/PIPA has to rank up there as one of the worst ideas since people started thinking. This expands government’s control to censor the internet and violates free speech. And since lobbyists from major corporations and industries essentially control Congress, these two bills give those with the deepest pockets the ability to control what we can or cannot see on the internet.

In a nutshell, these bills will enable corporations to effectively shut down websites that they believe are infringing their copyrights and trademarks. All they have to do is file notice (not prove to a court, but simply file notice) that their copyright has been infringed to a service provider, such as the one which registers their web address on the internet, and that entity has 5 days to take action to end service to the site.

There is plenty more information out about these two bills. Some good ones can be found hereherehere, and here. Check them out! Also, my friend Frank has a great commentary on it here.

If you want to see what the world looks like 20 years down the road if these bills get passed… read George Orwell’s 1984.

That may seem like hyperbole, and usually hyperbole is a good bet with me… but not this time.

Please, please, please contact your local representative and tell him/her that this is the exact antithesis to the 1st Amendment. The government’s goal should be to end piracy, not free speech.

That’s my rant for today. Necessary.

Also, did anyone else see that Mitt Romney called his $374,000 from speaking fees “not a lot of money”. Hope you enjoy your 1% of the vote.

Cheers,
Eric

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Shane Claiborne’s Devotion for Wall Street

Shane Claiborne had a great piece for the Huffington Post yesterday. I haven’t really written anything here on the Occupy Wall Street stuff, mainly because I just don’t know what to think about it. Clearly there’s a problem with the distribution of wealth in this country, but I’m just not sure that these protests will amount to much. Then again, people probably thought Dr. King’s marches wouldn’t do much either. I’m caught on it. I’m not sure what to think, but I do think that this piece from Shane is incredibly important as we reflect on these last few weeks of the Occupy Wall Street movements. Check out the full text below.

A reporter recently asked me, “As a Christian leader, does your faith have anything to say about Wall Street?” I said, “How much time do you have?” My faith has a lot to say about Wall Street.
Theologian Karl Barth said, “We have to read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” For too long we Christians have used our faith as a ticket out of this world rather than fuel to engage it.

In his parables, Jesus wasn’t offering pie-in-the-sky theology… he was talking about the real stuff of earth. He talks about wages, debt, widows and orphans, unjust business owners and bad politicians. In fact Woody Guthrie breaks it all down in his song “Jesus Christ”. The song ends with Woody singing, “This song was written in New York City… If Jesus were to preach what he preached in Galilee, they would lay him in his grave again.”

The more I read the Gospels, the more they seem to confront the very patterns of the world we live in. At one point Mary, pregnant with Jesus cries out: “God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly… God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty…” You can’t help but think if she were alive in contemporary America some folks would try to accuse the Virgin Mother of being Marxist or promoting class warfare. But all through Scripture we see this – over 2000 verses about how God cares for the poor and most vulnerable.

What would Jesus say about Wall Street?

It doesn’t get much better than Luke chapter 12. Jesus begins by saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And then, as per usual, he tells a story. The story is about a “rich man” whose business makes it big. He has so much stuff he doesn’t know where to put it all. So he decides, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones… and I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'” But Jesus says God looks down and is not happy. God says to the rich man, “You fool! This very night you will die — and what will happen to all your stuff?” And Jesus ends the teaching by saying this is how things will be for folks who store up stuff for themselves.

It does make you wonder what to do about 401k’s and pensions. But it seems pretty clear that Jesus isn’t a big fan of stockpiling stuff in barns and banks, especially when folks are dying of starvation and preventable diseases.

One of the constant threads of Scripture is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Nothing more, nothing less. Underneath this admonition is the assumption that the more we store up for tomorrow the less people will have for today. And in a world where 1% of the world owns half the world’s stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed. Lots of folks are beginning to say, “Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.”

Maybe God’s dream is for us to live simply so that others may simply live. Maybe God’s dream is for the bankers to empty their banks and barns so folks have enough food for today.
Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.

What did you think of this? Did any image or wording stick out to you? What’s your take on the Occupy movements?

Cheers,
Eric

9.11.11 – A Reflection

I was a 15-year old kid sitting in Mrs. Giedt’s  science class. Our class heard that a plane had hit a skyscraper in Manhattan. I thought, “What kind of pilot doesn’t see a skyscraper right in front of him?”

I was innocent. I thought the pilot had just screwed up. So we turned the television on in the classroom. And about 30 seconds later, the second plane hit. And I was confused. I didn’t know what had happened or what this meant. Somebody in my class said we were at war, but this wasn’t what war was to me.

War was tanks and troops invading things. War wasn’t this. I remember the newscaster covering it talking about the terrorists responsible for this event and the girl sitting next to me at the lab table leaned over and asked me what a terrorist was. It’s crazy to look back and think about how our vocabulary has changed since then.

I definitely feel like it made me grow up faster. It, at least, shook me to a point where I had the thought that we’re not as safe as I had thought. Granted, growing up in Fargo, there wasn’t much for terrorists to attack, but that wasn’t even crossing my mind when the smoke was billowing out of both towers.

The most prevalent response in my high school was completely militant. We have an imperative to kill those who killed us. But I never bought into that. There had to be a different way to move forward that didn’t involve getting hostile with anyone who had a problem with America. I had an inclination things were a bit more complicated than that. And I still do. But I haven’t put my finger on it yet.

And maybe that’s the toughest part about the whole thing. It’s all so fluid. One of the things trauma theorists talk about is that when a traumatic event is actually happening, stimuli is coming in too fast for our brain to react. The part of our brain that acts as a timestamp on events is overrun. The events physically preclude comprehension. So then what happens is that when we try to move on, the events are still free to appear to us as if they’re a present reality.

So there is some aspect of us that can never feel completely safe. When that innocence gives way to the traumatic reality of the world as it is, there’s something that’s completely lost. And all we’re left to do is trying to help restore, not as a way of erasing the trauma of the events of 9/11, but as a way of moving forward so we can help positively contribute to a world that was broken right in front of our very eyes.

What’s your recollection of September 11th, 2001? Where were you? How are you feeling about it 10 years later?

Cheers,
Eric

Serving a God of Death

I had just gotten back to Minneapolis when I was told I should turn on the television because Obama was set to make a big announcement. So I turned it on and at the bottom of the screen, I was told the breaking news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

And I felt like I was going to puke.

Then I hopped on Facebook and Twitter and saw some tacky nationalistic and religious platitudes. And I wanted to throw up more.

I think identity plays a big role in this. If Bin Laden was “our” enemy, who exactly is the “we”? It’s not communities of faith. It’s not Christians. It’s not the church. It’s the United States of America. One part of my identity is that I’m American. So one part of me sees Bin Laden as an enemy and is thankful that he will not be able to cause any more destruction.

But then there is another part of me that could never see death as something to be celebrated (at least as belligerently as it was last night), no matter who it is that has died. When we attempt to redeem death by inflicting more death, we’re not bringing about the kingdom of God. We’re participating in what J.R. Daniel Kirk calls an “economy of death”.  Death only begets more death. This is not the vision of the kingdom of God. In fact, it stands in diametric opposition to the Kingdom of God.

Our way out of this, our salvation, will never come by a smoking gun. It will never come by anger or vengeance. But only when we are ready to do as Jesus commands in Matthew: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

We’re all in the same boat trying to make sense of the same things. So instead of dancing on the graves of murderers, why don’t we look forward for the life that’s found in the God who calls us out of judgment and darkness and into an abundance in the Kingdom of Life that is to come.

Cheers,
Eric

How (Not) To Speak of an Earthquake

I’ve forgotten long ago why we keep giving him credence in American public discourse, but Glenn Beck spoke up again. This time, in his ignorance, he said that the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis were works of God. On his radio show this past Monday, Beck said:

“I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes — well I’m not not saying that either! What God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this — whether you call it Gaia* or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.'”

Really? Is this really an accurate portrayal of the God we serve? When we act with the agency given to us by God, we are then punished for how we do it? Do we really believe that this is how God lives and moves in the world? God won’t save a mother from cancer, or a nation from hunger… but will cause an earthquake that irreparably destroys the life and livelihood of entire communities?

I have to imagine there’s a better way. And I have Skye Jethani to thank for helping articulate it. In a recent response, he says:

“Is the Japanese earthquake and tsunami an ‘opportunity for the church’ as some have said? Yes, but not the selfish sort of opportunity. It is an opportunity for the church to weep and repair; to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who need his healing presence.”

For me, these two quotes represent the difference between brokenness and redemption. It’s the difference between “I know why this happened and God did it.” and “I don’t know why this happened, but God can redeem it.”

There’s no way we could ever know why suffering happens. But there is a way we can respond to it. Right now the Japanese people don’t need our judgment and condemnation. They need our love and service.

Livingsocial.com is giving you the chance to donate $5 to the American Red Cross and they will match it.

Cheers,
Eric

* Beck grossly misuses the name Gaia in his rant. Gaia is an ancient Greek goddess who represents Mother Earth. It has no associations in Asian or Japanese mythology. Just because it sounds Asian, doesn’t mean it is.

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