Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mandela and Baby Jakes

So good to hear the reflections of my friend Xana McCauley on the passing of Nelson Mandela and of the boxer Baby Jake Matlala in South Africa:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recipe for Christmas Zest

If your Christmas spirit lacks zest, add a dash of Judaism.

1.  Listen to the prayer Jesus taught sung in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.  It's on the CD Scriptures by Covita Moroney from Renewal Records, cut three.

2.  Learn to count to ten in Hebrew, thinking especially about the number one, ahat or ehad.  Reflect on Jesus' words to Martha: "Only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:42).

3.  Memorize the Shemah, the most important prayer in Judaism, which begins, Shemah Israel: YHWH ehad (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Listen to it sung on the album above, cut two.

4.  Watch the sunrise looking east toward Jerusalem.

5.  Visit Bethlehem--online if not in person.  Reflect on the Hebrew meaning of the town's name Beit Lechem (House of Bread because it is in a grain-growing area).

6.  Visit Nazareth--online if not in person.  Remember that Jesus was originally called a natzrati, which is still the Hebrew word today for a Christian.  Practice saying, "Ani Natzrati"--"I'm a Christian."

7.  Learn to gamble for chocolate coins using a dreidel.  Learn why the letters gimmel, nun, heh, and shin are on the dreidel. (Gadol nes haiyah sham - "A great miracle occurred there.")

8.  Visit the Holocaust Museum nearest you.  There are currently 41 in the US and more in 24 other countries.

9.  Ask a Jewish friend to help you find someone who observes the Shabbat meal on Friday evening and would let you attend.  Participate in lighting the candles and welcoming in the Shabbat (day of rest and remembering the presence of God).

10.  Memorize Psalm 27:4 and listen to it sung in Hebrew: "One thing have I asked of YHWH, that will I seek after: that I may live in the house of YHWH all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of YHWH and to seek in God's temple."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Front Pages: Mandela

There's one thing everyone on earth agrees on: Mandela's importance.

Here's a compilation of front pages today from around the world as noted on the website of The Week, a British weekly news magazine:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mandela: 1918-2013

What a lifetime--born in rural Transkei in 1918, herding sheep as a child, fighting against racial oppression, imprisoned 27 years, dying in a world filled with cell phones and Twitter feeds.

A map of South Africa showing the state of Transkei on the southeastern coast:

I was moved to watch President Obama's tribute to him this morning.  The depth of Obama's feeling for his friend and role model was apparent.

He chose these words of Mandela to remember: "I'm not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."

Concluding, he paraphrased the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., to describe Mandela as "a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."

In his death we all continue to learn from the retrospective accounts of his life. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Taj Mahony

I have never visited Ex-Archbishop Roger Mahony's fancy new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, and I never will.

It opened in 2002 while Mahony was still covering up the names and specific criminal acts of priests accused of sexual abuse of children.

Not until January of 2013 did a court order force the archdiocese to make public "thousands of pages of priest personnel files" that had forced Mahony to settle litigation in 2008 with a payoff of $720 million to 500 persons who had been abused as children.

That cathedral reeks with Mahony's pride and echoes with the whispers of church officials trying to silence adults pursuing justice for their stolen childhoods.

Thank you to Harriet Ryan, Ashley Powers, and Victoria Kim for putting together a powerful retrospective on the ambition and cover-up of Mahony as archbishop.

One anecdote stood out to me, when Mahony was meeting with wealthy parishioners from La Canada/Flintridge to raise money for the $720 million settlement.

One woman challenged him to resign for being in essence a CEO who had mismanaged his business causing a loss of three-quarters of a billion dollars.

It's about accountability, another woman said.
Mahony slammed his hand on the table, scattering his charts.  You self-righteous... he began.  Keep your money, he told them.

That's what journalism is about--research and interviews that report the truth about and behind current events.

In 2013 Mahony enjoyed traveling to Rome for the conclave to choose a new pope, despite calls for him to stay home instead as penance for his role in covering up child sexual abuse.  

During the nearly nine years I taught at a Catholic college in Los Angeles, Mahony was the leader of the church in Los Angeles.  He spoke up for immigrant rights but clamped down against any suggestion that women should be allowed to become priests.  

In 2000 he and other California bishops joined with the Mormon Church to raise financial support and votes for Proposition 8, the effort to enshrine marriage as "only between a man and a woman."

That hypocrisy--defining marriage and priesthood while protecting child abuse by priests--was part of my decision to leave my job as a tenured professor at Mount St. Mary's College.  

Another part was American bishops' plan to enforce Ex corde ecclesiae, "The Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II on Catholic Universities."  The goal was to preserve the heart of the Roman Catholic Church by firing professors and college presidents who did not toe the Church's line on social issues.

I was not going to continue taking a paycheck while professors in theology and religious studies had to ask Archbishop Mahony for a mandatum--permission to continue teaching, perhaps granted only to those who did not speak out on contraception, abortion, married priests, women priests, and other issues.

I sent Mahony a letter explaining my reasons for resignation.  

He never answered, too busy with his new cathedral and with fending off police investigations of priests who had abused children.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Getting Frank about Fistula

I played Half the Sky for the first time today on Facebook. 

I met a cheerful Indian cartoon woman whose daughter has pneumonia.  After going through several steps of decision-making with her, I ended up getting her daughter to the doctor for medical care--in virtual reality, not real life.

But the path included making a $10 donation to a charity for women, so perhaps somewhere in the world some woman was helped.

The various options include watching short explanations of nonprofit organizations.

I chose Fistula Foundation and learned the following:

Fistula Foundation works to end the suffering caused by obstetric fistula, a devastating childbirth injury that occurs when a woman’s labor becomes obstructed and she does not have access to medical help. Without emergency intervention, such as a C-section, a woman often loses her baby and is left with obstetric fistula, which renders her incontinent and uncontrollably leaking wastes – an injury that can only be repaired through surgery.
With access to a $450 fistula repair surgery that Fistula Foundation works to provide, a woman’s life is transformed; she no longer has to suffer the shame and embarrassment caused by her incontinence and can resume living a healthy and productive life.
- See more at:

I also invited all my FB friends to do this game.  Try it out yourself!

Games for Change

I heard a new term today: the gaming generation.

For these kids, there's been a new Facebook game invented: "Half the Sky."  

It's part of an effort to help women in developing countries by educating people in places like the US through online games.

My sister-in-law Kelly Arthur and her son Braeden got to say a few words this morning on National Public Radio about how they like the game.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women World-Wide is a book by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof that has turned into a movement.  I first encountered it as an exhibit at the Skirball Center on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles.

Laura Sydell reported on the games-for-change phenomemon for All Tech Considered.

I never tried to do Farmville on FB, but I'm going to try to do Half the Sky, joining the 1.1 million people already playing it.  

As Braeden explained, playing the game can trigger donations ($450,000 so far).  

Things have changed so much since I sat in second grade studying My Weekly Reader and learning about national and world news.  Now kids can jump right in to work for change. 

Here's a link to get started:

Learning To Kill

Itzcoatl Ocampo joined the Marine Corps at age 18 "with the hope of learning to kill.",0,3412408.story?dssReturn#axzz2m4thekxa

The Marine Corps disappointed him: "during a six-month tour in Iraq he drove a water truck and never saw combat," according to LA Times writers Adolfo Flores and Hailey Branson-Potts.

After leaving the Marines, Ocampo became a free-lance killer two years ago in Orange County, according to charges for which he was arrested. 

He was charged with killing the older brother of a friend, the friend's mother, and four homeless men.  His goal was to kill sixteen people, according to prosecutors.

Instead, he ended up in jail  and was found shaking and vomiting on Wednesday afternoon.

He died in a hospital on Thanksgiving Day, yesterday, only 25 years old.  Eating the household cleanser Ajax may have been his cause of death, according to reports today.,0,278031.story#axzz2m6DIMxy4

Earlier he had complained of headaches and hearing voices and also had tics.

His sad face appears in today's Los Angeles Times.

What factors led to his desire to kill and to this sad end?  Was he abused in his childhood?

Did he ever play those shoot-and-kill video games?  

How strange that our nation provides free training in how to shoot and use weapons.  

Then while being held in prison, he is given enough Ajax that he can save it up and kill himself.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A bed could not be found in any psych ward for Gus Deeds, son of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds.

Three days later Gus stabbed his father and took his own life with a gun.

Do we need any more reminders that we as a nation have not devoted enough funding and attention to mental health care?  That guns are too easily accessible to the mentally ill?

We're not far from Dec. 14, the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. 

December 5 will mark eight months since Pastor Rick Warren's son took his own life.

Today's Boston Globe

My brother-in-law is in Boston today, where The Boston Globe is selling commemorative reprints of the front page of November 22, 1963.

50 Years of the Unexpected

I never imagined that President John Kennedy would be shot and killed.

My father had worked for the Kennedy campaign in 1960 in Boulder County, Colorado--mainly because he was unemployed at the time, and it gave him something to do.

Yet there I was, a sophomore at East Bakersfield High School on November 22, 1963, standing outside near the journalism classroom, when the announcement came over the loudspeaker.

I never imagined that I would marry someone whose mother had grown up next door to Jacqueline Bouvier in East Hampton on Long Island.  Jackie was seven years younger than Rosamond; horse-riding and participating in horseback competitions were central to their lives. 

A picture of Jackie Kennedy, First Lady of the United States. 

Rizz never imagined that she would outlive Jackie, but Jackie died not yet 65 years old and Rizz is now 91.

I never imagined that my life would stretch out much longer than either Jack or Jackie's.  He had only 46 years on this wild, rotating planet, and I've now had nearly 66 years.

Jackie died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1994.  Both she and Rizz had smoked cigarettes in the 1950s, but Rizz had managed to quit.

One more day I never imagined: 

Rizz and I had visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in the early 1990s.

We entered the elevator to leave and found only one person already there, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Rizz and Jackie recognized each other and exchanged greetings.  Their style of dress was similar--light coats in dark colors, pumps and purses, the uniform of Upper Eastside ladies.

I listened in awe, trying to be invisible.

And then a few years later, Jackie died.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Take that, you freebooters!

Take that, you freebooters!

Thanks to Megan Buerger of The Wall Street Journal for reporting on the ignominious history of the word filibuster.

Here's more proof that the Senate was right to bust the filibuster today.

Word for Pirates Morphed Into ‘Filibuster’

The word 'filibuster' originally referred to 18th century pirates, or 'freebooters' who pillaged colonies in the Spanish West Indies, before it took on its legislative meaning.

The word “filibuster” originally referred to 18th century pirates, or “freebooters,” who pillaged colonies in the Spanish West Indies.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word’s roots to the Dutch term “vrijbuiter” and the Spanish term “filibustero,” both of which relate to looting. The treasure was, of course, booty.
It was more than a hundred years before filibuster took on political connotations. The term doesn’t appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution and didn’t surface on the Senate floor until the late 19th century, when it was used to condemn legislators who talked so extensively that they obstructed progress.
Senate rules allow for unlimited debate, but filibusters gradually became notorious as a result of one strange feature: The legislator doesn’t have to actually speak about the matter at hand.
Before 1900, filibusters were a rare occurrence. At the beginning of the 20th century, filibusters increased and attempts to block them weren’t often effective.
But according to the publication Foreign Affairs, 65% of all Senate filibusters in history have been waged in recent times, since 1975.
The modern definition can be foggy—technically, it can depend on the exact intent of the stalling senator, often a tricky thing to determine. But generally, filibusters are understood to be a roadblocking move by the minority to derail a bill or a nomination.
Write to Megan Buerger at

Will the real bullies please stand up?

Hooray for Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats who threw off the shackles of the Republican filibuster today.

True, it's only President Obama's judicial nominations that have been freed.

Republicans in the House and Senate can still block immigration reform, gun control, preschool education, helpful tweaks to the Affordable Care Act, and anything else they take a fancy to oppose.

But in one small area of the Senate, work can go ahead.  Nominees for judge in the D.C. Court of Appeals can receive a vote, up or down.  Yay.

I heard Sen. Rand Paul on CNN this morning complaining that Harry Reid was acting like a bully by changing the rules so that a mere 51 votes can pass these nominations.

Excuse me, did you say BULLY?

Trying to defund Obamacare after it was passed by both houses is not bullying?

Refusing to act on immigration, a year after the Senate passed legislation, is not bullying?

Insisting on the right to carry automatic weapons and long magazines of bullets, even after children were killed at Sandy Hook, is not bullying?

It's high time the real bullies were identified and stopped.

In Harry Reid's sober comments this morning, it was clear that President Obama and his team have had enough.  They are finally standing up and saying "No more!"

Reid's contrast between use of the filibuster in the past and use during Obama's presidency was shocking.

I am so grateful for the rule change.  I've been listening to Republican House leaders block this year's last efforts to try to get some kind of immigration reform passed, and yesterday for the first time in years I felt deep partisan anger spread through my body.

Clearly the President and Democrats in Congress have concluded that any legislation they try to pass will continue to be blocked.  Efforts to compromise and win non-partisan support for any action are over.

To get anything done at all, the Dems will have to go it alone.

Stop whining, John McCain and Rand Paul.  This is the kind of game you insist on playing.  You are the real bullies.

Toni, Maya, Jhumpa, James, and E.L.

It's "the Oscars of the book world."

Last night in New York City the 2013 winners of the National Book Awards were announced at a gala banquet.

Best novel was taken by James McBride for his novel about a slave in the John Brown rebellion just before the Civil War.

Jhumpa Lahiri was a finalist for her new novel The Lowland.

"Easy reading is damn hard writing," said Maya Angelou in a speech after being presented with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.  

I can relate to that comment.

Angelou is now 85 and gets about in a wheelchair.  I had the privilege of hearing her speak  in 2009.

E. L. Doctorow also got an award and spoke of reading a book as "the essence of interactivity," even though "It's written in silence and read in silence." 

If you haven't read him yet, try "A House on the Plains," which is available in The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction.  If you like Alfred Hitchcock, you'll like this story.

Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, presented the award to Maya Angelou. 

 Wish I could have been there!  These great writers won't be with us much longer.  Morrison and Doctorow are 82.  

Happy Birthday, Joyce!

Thank you to Mary Hunt for sharing this scene of Joyce Ride's 90th birthday on the Water Voices blog.  It's fun to see Gloria Steinem in the photo.

Joyce is a truly generous soul and the mother of astronaut Sally Ride, who died in 2012.

Ministry to persons in prison is Joyce's passion.  She came to the 2004 EEWC conference in Claremont to present on this topic.

More and more of my friends are entering their 90s.  

In 2012 I attended three 90th birthday parties: Rizz Arthur Dean (my mother-in-law) in Locust Valley, NY; Virginia Johnson (an EEWC friend) in Benecia, CA; and Ada Marie Grell (a PEO sister) in Santa Monica.

 I'm in my 60s and hope someday to become a nonagenarian!.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arminda's Questions

When Eddie was shot down, he had his cell phone on him.

The Santa Monica Police Department confiscated the phone as part of the evidence needed for their case.

They promised to return the phone when it was no longer needed, and then decided that instead they would give Arminda a CD of all the photos, names, and text messages on his phone.

She would treasure this as a record of the last days of his life, but she never received the promised CD.  

Now that the trial is over and the killer is convicted, could someone please return the cell phone or give her the promised CD?


Arminda received a phone call with news of the conviction of Jose Zapien before an announcement was made to the public.  

The father of the other young man killed in 2006, Miguel Martin, did not receive any phone call or notice.  He found out about the conviction by visiting Arminda at her workplace.

How can we improve police contact with the families of crime victims, years afterward when a trial is finally conducted and a verdict reached?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Spreading Hate

Where do you buy a license to hate?

Even Pope Francis says, "If a gay person is seeking God, who am I to judge?"

This note to a person waiting tables in New Jersey tops my list of mean things done to other people.

The author of the note didn't mind giving his/her order to the waiter, and being served by her--but on moral grounds can't tip?

High grounds--and very slippery.

A Thousand Words

The death of 14-year-old Elawnza Peebles did not make headlines.  After all, these shootings occur so often in Los Angeles.  Innocent bystanders being shot as gangs fight with each other is not news.

This photo, however, moves his death from the world of statistics to the closeness of heart-wrenching loss.

The caption:

"Tears stream down the face of 10-year-old James Dotson of Bellflower at a candlelight vigil for his cousin Elawnza Peebles, 14, who was fatally shot Friday near Kansas Avenue and 46th Street in L.A.'s Vermont Square.  A police detective said Elawnza was not a gang member and had recently moved to the area."

Thank you to the Los Angeles Times for choosing this photo for the daily feature, 1,000 Words.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Justice for Eddie Lopez

A young gang member was convicted Tuesday in the murder of Eddie Lopez in 2006 in Santa Monica, as well as the murder of Miguel Martin later that year, two days after Christmas.,0,47319.story#axzz2kbbvlKEl

Eddie remains on my mind because he attended the same schools as my daughters: John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School.  

He was only 15 years old, a popular student and outstanding right fielder on a SMHS baseball team when he was gunned down.  Jose Zapien is the convicted killer, now 25 years old but then only 18.

Eddie's life was taken on Pico Blvd. at 26th Street, two blocks from Virginia Avenue Park where Miguel was shot.  I drive past these locations, a mile from my home, daily.

I see Eddie's mother, Arminda Lopez, when I go to the local grocery store where she works.  

Each time I see her, I am riveted: she lives every day with the loss of her son.  She goes to work and smiles at the customers.  How does she do it?

This past weekend she mentioned hoping for a conviction.  "There's plenty of evidence that it's him," she said. "But some people are saying that the real killer is in Mexico."

I was amazed that for seven years the case has been unresolved.  To me, Eddie's death is an event in the past.

For her, however, it's not over.  She has accepted the loss of her son but still has had to follow the case in court and worry about whether Eddie's killer will go free.

As of today, she has one less uncertainty: Zapien faces multiple life sentences without parole.

Knowing Arminda and caring about Eddie reminds me of the shallowness of my life and my problems.  There I am, rushing down the cereal aisle, pressured to get back home and get papers graded before tomorrow's classes, when suddenly a wider perspective opens before me.

Arminda.  Eddie.  Gang warfare right here in Santa Monica.  

Economic privilege is the underpinning of every moment of my life.  The neighborhood has been safe for my daughters, probably because they are white and female and well-off and did not hang out at the park.  

For those born male and Mexican-American or Salvadoran-American, the area is not so safe.  

What factors drew Jose Zapien into the gang life?  

I don't know, but one thing is sure: he did not grow up surrounded by books and toys, driven to soccer games, taken to the pediatrician and orthodontist every few weeks. 

Thank you to LA Times reporter Robert J. Lopez for writing up this report from the statement issued by the Santa Monica Police Department.  As far as news in Los Angeles today, this conviction is just a footnote.  In the lives of many, however, it is huge.

Here's the Santa Monica Daily Press report:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Name Change Issue

In the 1960s, I never questioned whether women should take their husbands' names in marrying.

In 1970, however, I read a newspaper article about women keeping their birth names, and I decided instantly that I would never change my name to that of a husband.

In 2012 my daughter Ellen married, and she decided to take her husband's surname.  

It seems she hadn't really appreciated the surname Eggebroten that I in my feminist ardor had bestowed on her.  

John had agreed to giving each daughter both his surname and mine: Rosamond Arthur Eggebroten, Ellen A.E., and Marie A.E.  No hyphen.  

But the middle surname got slighted over the years by teachers, schools, and friends.  Ellen was known as Ellen Eggebroten, and she was more than happy to gain a more elegant surname: Michel.

In today's LA Times, another millennial explains her decision to add her husband's surname to her own.,0,7533204.story#axzz2klRVD5MH

Read it.  Each generation, each person has her own reasons for deciding how to represent her identity.

It's all about choice.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kystallnacht--Nov. 9

I never heard of Krystallnacht when I was growing up in Boulder, Colorado, in the 1950s.  

My Weekly Reader told me about efforts to end segregation in the South; I knew about slavery and the Civil War.

We scrambled under our desks for "Civil Air Defense drills," so I knew about the Cold War.  My father had fought in World War II and still put on his Army uniform once a month and went to do something with the National Guard.  

We had lived in Tokyo for three years before I started kindergarten, so I was vaguely aware of the Korean War.  I had heard about Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.  When we kids were jumping off a bed, we'd throw our arms up and shout banzai as if we were fierce warriors.

But I never heard about Krystallnacht, the night of November 9, 1938, when a thousand synagogues and seven thousand Jewish businesses were destroyed in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, followed by rounding up 30,000 Jews and sending them to concentration camps.  This event marked the beginning of Nazi genocide on a large scale.

Thank you to Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, an international Jewish nonprofit that has protected refugees since its founding in 1881, for his eye-opening op-ed piece in the New York Times today:,0,7964340.story#axzz2kJ3GkEZw

This year marks the 75th anniversary of this horror, leading us into a string of 75th anniversaries to come in the next seven years.

I first heard about Krystallnacht in the 1990s or first decade of the 21st century by watching a television documentary, perhaps marking fifty years since the violence.

What a well-kept secret.   Why didn't I learn about it in high school in the 1960s?  

When I visited Berlin in 1967, the German family I stayed with was reluctant to talk about World War II.  I wanted to see that famous landmark, the Berlin Wall, but my hosts were not keen to take me.

I read The Diary of Anne Frank several times, starting in the 1950s, but no one ever told me that Anne's family made many attempts to get visas to join her uncles in Boston while the US refused.  There was no right to seek asylum until the UN passed the Refugee Convention in 1951.

The arbiters of our culture pick and choose as much of history as they think we can stomach--or perhaps as much as they can bear to view.  

Even Elie Wiesel could not write Night until ten years after being released from a concentration camp.  

Now that we are safely 75 years beyond Krystallnacht, this horror is getting some attention, and stolen art treasures are being returned to the descendants of those who lost them.,0,4039020.story#axzz2kJ3GkEZw

Hallelujah--a broken Hallelujah.

One way to learn about the continuing impact of Krystallnacht is to read the short story by Irene Dische titled "Die Juden" ("The Jewess").  It takes place in 1980 as an American of Jewish heritage travels to Berlin to claim his inheritance, now being returned by the German government.

It's in International Women's Stories ed. Kate Figes (Penguin, 1996).

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Least We Can Do

My daughter sent me a link to one of the many organizations working for immigration reform in the US.

Reform Immigration for America:

This website does not ask for money.  It just asks you to send an email to three key Republicans in the House of Representatiaves: Kevin McCarthy, Eric Cantor,and John Boehner.

I did it--I sent my letter.  You can do it too.  In fact, the website provides a letter for you, which you can edit or rewrite as I did.

Here's my letter:

I've lived in California for 52 years, and I passionately support immigration reform--including the path to citizenship.

Please allow it to come to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives!  It's the decent thing to do.  A majority of the citizens in California support comprehensive immigration reform, as do many other persons in every state.  

I lived in Bakersfield CA during my formative years and graduated from East Bakersfield High School in 1966, first in my class, graduated from Stanford University in 1970, and earned a doctorate to teach English literature, which I have done for most of my life.

I urge you, as a leader in the Republican party and the House of Representatives, to honor our nation's values of family, dignity and justice. This bill will permit reunion of families that are now unable to see each other over holidays or even when a parent is dying.  People who have lived here 20 years need to have family visitation rights.  As it is, when they return to Mexico or El Salvador or some other country to visit a dying parent, they cannot return to care for their children, except by trying to cross the border illegally at the risk of their lives.

I've visited both Tijuana, BC, and Nogales, AZ & Sonora.  I know.  I have talked with two women who returned to visit a dying parent and then could not get back across the border to take care of their children.

See my article on these women posted on a Christian feminist website:

See also my report on my visit to Nogales.  Take a few days and fly to Tucson yourself.  Drive down to Nogales and spend an hour at the soup kitchen for recent deportees "El Comedor," sponsored by the Catholic church.;postID=3261627817225865994;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=93;src=postname

Our current immigration system is inhumane.  It also wastes money.  You have the power to enact lasting reform that benefits our economy and keeps families together.

The American people deserve and demand a vote on citizenship. 

Representative McCarthy, you are the Majority Whip.  You can make this happen.  I call on you to lead the Republican party to act now, and pass immigration reform with a fair path to citizenship this year.

Representative Boehner, you are a family man.  Please care about the families of those who plant and harvest the food your family eats.

Representative Cantor, you are the leader.  Please lead.  This will help your party in the 2016 elections.  

Anne Eggebroten

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I never know what to expect when I walk in the door of my church on Sunday morning. 
I-Joen Beer, Sue Mallory, Thomas Beer, Dr. Anderson.

Today it was the pastor of a megachurch in the Washington, D.C., area speaking on Gracism: The Art of Inclusion (which is also the title of his 2007 book published by InterVarsity Press).

I'd never heard of Dr. David Anderson, but I quickly realized he is a talented public speaker and a profoundly committed Christian with insights I need.

For instance, he coined the word gracism--"what you get when you put God in front of racism."  He defined racism, then defined grace, and then said the answer to racism is grace.

He described founding a church that now includes 4000 members from 52 nations.  He wrote the book on Multicultural Ministry--literally.  His wife is Korean.  

He's on his way to a Mosaic Conference--"a Christian experience for international students" with conferences on the East and West coasts.

Sue Mallory, a member of Brentwood Presbyterian Church and long-term friend of David invited him to come early to the west coast and visit our church this morning.

Praise the Lord!  Or Lady.  

An Unpredictable Pope

These days I almost pity the religious right in the US.  They can't even rely on the Pope any more.

Previous popes could be depended on to issue solemn edicts against abortion, contraception, and homosexuality.  Pope Francis says the Church should "stop being obsessed" with those issues.

Fighting against a godless society, the right enjoyed a series of Popes who saw the world the same way they did: atheists and Communists vs. the Kingdom of God, a world order quite comfortable with capitalism.  

Pope Francis not only shrugs off the fight against gays with "Who am I to judge?"  He met in September with a well-known atheist journalist and downplayed the idea of saving the world through gaining converts.

Sylvia Poggiolio, correspondent from Rome for National Public Radio, gave a hilarious report on the radio today about Vatican Pope-handlers scrambling to keep up with Francis:

The journalist met the pope in the small hotel on Vatican grounds that Francis has chosen as his modest residence, forsaking the palatial papal apartment. And Francis made some sensational statements, including: "Proselytism is solemn nonsense" and "The world's most serious afflictions today are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old."

A report on the interview with Eugenio Scalfari is available from Scott Neuman on an NPR blog "The Two-Way":

In the conversation with Scalfari, Pope Francis revealed how much a professor, both Communist and female, had influenced him in his days as a university student:

He said that in his youth, he was influenced by a university professor "who was a fervent communist."
"She often read Communist Party texts to me and gave them to me to read. So I also got to know that very materialistic conception," he said. The woman, he said, "was later arrested, tortured and killed by the dictatorship then ruling in Argentina."
This woman is a martyr, and Francis expects to see her in heaven.  Consider his comments last May, also reported in the same NPR blog:

  In a radio address in May, the pope shocked many by calling atheists "precious allies" and advising them to "do good: we will meet one another there."

Footnotes: Matthew 25 and Jesus' words to the thief on the cross.

Francis is behaving more and more like Jesus, and that of course is scandalous.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hooray for Sticking It Out

Most Presbyterians support the new policy of ordaining persons who are in long-term, faithful same-sex relationships.  That's why the proposal got passed in General Assembly in 2010 and then ratified by 178 presbyteries.

Some have little patience with the conservatives who are now jumping ship, who feel that they are "forced out" of the PC(USA).

After all, these liberals stayed in the denomination for over thirty years while gay ordination was being debated, from 1979 to 2010.  They put up with all the stressful exchange of diatribes.

But the other side, as soon as things don't go their way, are gone?

Living in disagreement with your denomination is something liberals have done.  

Hooray for those conservatives who have chosen to stay and tough it out for a while in a denomination where theirs is a minority point of view.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Meeting BRC

Bruce Reyes-Chow, former moderator of the PC(USA) spoke at the spiritual retreat of Brentwood Presbyterian Church last weekend.  
Bruce Reyes-Chow with Carolyn Thacker, planner of the retreat

Mostly he focused on how members of churches, families, and workplaces can get along better by learning about various personality types, using tools such as the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs personality testing.  

Very cool--but when you have with you the man who led the whole PC(USA) with 2 million members from 2008 to 2010, you might want to discuss church politics at a national level.  

I found the right moment and started asking questions, mainly around the split over gay ordination.

In 2010 the General Assembly voted to allow LGBT pastors, and the vote was ratified by a majority of the 173 presbyteries in the denomination.  This issue had been hotly debated in the church since 1979. 

I'd heard rumors of some conservative churches leaving the PC(USA).  My question: how's that going?  Is it having a big impact?

Bruce explained that some of these more conservative churches are forming ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. 

In 2011 these churches formed the Fellowship of Presbyterians, and many want to stay in the PC(USA) while also participating in this support group of like-minded churches.  Having one foot in each camp would preserve affiliation to the denomination but also allow conservatives to get together and support each other.

Most importantly, they could declare their loyalty to a more conservative view of Scripture and social issues.

Churches that decide to leave and join ECO, however, face problems over deciding who owns the church buildings and whether pastors can get their PC(USA) retirement. 

First Presbyterian Church of Bakersfield was given permission to keep all of its two-square block property in downtown Bakersfield when it left the denomination about eight years ago.  It joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).  

Menlo Park Presbyterian in the San Francisco Bay area might vote to leave the PC(USA) next year.  If this church decides to leave, who will own the actual church buildings?

"If a large group from MPC decides to stay in the PC(USA) and continue as a congregation," he answered.  "the Presbytery will have to decide what happens with the buildings.  Who will get what--where does everyone meet?  Who gets to keep the name? It's all very complex."

BRC with Carolyn Thacker and Jodie Hah
Those who want to stay in the PC(USA) came up with the idea of  "non-geographic presbyteries."  

As it is, any one church is a member of a presbytery, and several presbyteries form a synod.  There are 16 synods in the PC(USA).  

The conservative churches are currently scattered around the country in various synods and presbyteries.  They wanted to have their own non-geographic presbyteries and maybe even a synod.  That way they could do their own thing in good conscience within the PC(USA).  They could still own their church buildings, and their pastors could still be part of the larger PC(USA) retirement system.  They could stay completely away from the whole gay pastor thing.  

But the General Assembly voted no on these non-geographic presbyteries.  If you're in southern California, you can't conduct business with 20 churches from the western US and side-step the governmental structure to which the churches in your state or metropolitan area belong.  

You're either in or out.  You can't have your cake and eat it too--or in this case, your church buildings and retirement while still maintaining your separation from those who are ordaining gays and who may even take a vote in favor of same-sex marriage. 

From a conservative point of view, these churches were "forced to leave."   In some cases a pastor remains in the PC(USA) after the members who pay his salary leave; he needs his retirement.  

Bruce Reyes-Chow said he never took a position on the issue of non-geographic presbyteries.  If he had, he probably would have voted against it.

More interesting to him is the issue of whether a group of people meeting together online can be a church within the PC(USA).   There are even people who want to share communion (partaking of bread and wine in memory of Jesus) online.  Bruce hasn't decided where he comes down on that one.

Bruce traced the roots of the current division in the PC(USA) to mistakes in the past: "The reunion was not done very well in 1983."  

That was the year the northern Presbyterians and southern Presbyterians finally got together as one denomination.  For a history of everything that went down prior to 1983, follow this link:

He also said he understands the difficulties of more liberal and more conservative churches all being governed by one presbytery.  

"Much as we need our presbyteries," he observed, "overall, they just function poorly."  

Presbyteries assist individual churches having financial trouble or trouble with decisions about hiring and firing of pastors and personnel, sexual misconduct, and other issues.  Some things that could be handled in committees end up being brought to the floor at meetings of the presbytery.

I'm a member of Brentwood Presbyterian Church on the border between Santa Monica and Los Angeles.  BPC is an open, welcoming, inclusive church; we affirm our gay members.

A few years ago BPC held a blessing service for two of our women members who have built a family of four over the years.  Spies from neighboring Bel Air Presbyterian Church attended that service in order to gather evidence against BPC.  It's still against PC(USA) law to perform a same-sex wedding, so details of the service such as the flower girls were of interest to Bel Air. 

Aside from politics, I made a new friend last weekend.  It was a pleasure to spend time with Bruce Reyes-Chow.  

We both have three daughters and both refer to our kids in non-gender terms when possible: "middle child," "the kids," etc.  He added his wife's surname to his name.  I kept my own name after marriage and my kids' surnames are all Arthur Eggebroten, in that order, no hyphen.  I lived in the San Francisco area for twenty years, and he has lived there a long time.

Differences: he's 44 and Filipino-American.  I'm 65 and Euro-American.  

Furthermore, as I learned in the last few days, I'm an Enneagram type 5, and he's a 3.

Alice McHugh, Mike Beck, Linda Matthies, Carolyn Thacker, Alice Baklayan in front row; Bruce Reyes-Chow, Jodie Hahn, and Patricia Hughes in back row.
For more information on issues in the Presbyterian Church (USA), see: 

Presbyterian Politics

Divorces can be messy, and there are a lot of divorces currently underway in the Presbyterian Church, aka the PC(USA).  

Some of the bigger and more conservative churches are leaving the denomination.

The issues? 

  • Whether persons in same-sex relationships can be ordained as pastors (approved in 2012).
  • Whether same-sex marriages can be allowed (still up for debate).
  • Whether the PC(USA) holds to Scripture 
  • Whether the PC(USA) even holds to the "core theological beliefs" of Christianity.

According to those who are leaving, the answer to all the issues above is NO.

Therefore, they founded a new denomination last year: ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

This past Sunday the Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas voted to leave the PC(USA) and join ECO.  

Many hearts are grieving as a result, including that of Joseph Clifford, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, which in 1924 sent a group of 84 Christians to organize a new church for the Highland Park area of Dallas.

Here's a link to Clifford's statement posted today on the First Pres Dallas website:

Clifford points out that pastors in the PC(USA) take a vow to serve "in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions."

In response to the Highland folks' disagreement with the PC(USA) "over the authority of Scripture and salvation through Jesus Christ alone," Clifford quotes from a 2002 General Assembly document titled "Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ."  It's worth reading--look at the link above.  

That document says, "No one is saved apart from God's gracious redemption in Jesus Christ. Yet we do not presume to limit the sovereign freedom of God..." by saying that everyone else on the planet is going to hell. It cites I Timothy 2:4: "God... desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth."

That's "salvation through Jesus Christ alone" but admitting that God holds a wild card.

Then Clifford offers a rebuttal to the departing group's claim that the PC(USA) doesn't hold to the authority of Scripture, citing the Confession of 1967:

The Scriptures are "not a witness among others, but the witness without parallel."  Nevertheless, the church "has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding."

For the PC(USA) that study of the Scriptures and their historical setting has led to a modification in our view of long-term, faithful same-sex relationships.  For the ECO folks, that amounts to not accepting the authority of Scripture.

That is, not accepting the authority of their view of Scripture.  

There has been a lot of scholarship on the Bible and homosexuality--books and books discussing the 4-5 mentions of the topic and setting them in context, biblically and historically.  

My favorite: What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and David G. Myers (NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005).  

One of the groups rooting for churches to leave the PC(USA) is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which left in 1981 over another controversial issue: whether women can be pastors.  There are many books written on that subject too, and fortunately it's no longer an issue for most people.  Except the EPC folks--and the Roman Catholics and the Southern Baptists and the Missouri Synod Lutherans, etc.

Menlo Park Presbyterian Church is one of those considering leaving the PC(USA).  Members were going to take a vote on November 3 over whether to leave the PC(USA), but that vote has now been postponed to January.  

Pastors are sometimes caught in a tough place; their employment and retirement can be affected.  That's hard for some who are close to retirement.

Divorces, grieving, and the holidays approaching... sigh.

Some of us have divisions over these issues within our own families and will not be sitting around the same table on Thanksgiving Day.  It's sad.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Azusa and Adam and I

Congratulations to Dr. H. Adam Ackley for the courage he has shown in his decision to come out as a man after teaching theology for 15 years under the name and gender of Heather Ann Clements.

It's not easy to enter a classroom with good cheer and high energy, day after day, year after year, and teach at the college level.  How much harder to do it while struggling with one's gender identity.  

I was deeply moved when I watched his sermon "Come As You Are: God's Good News for All People," in which he comes out as transgender to friends in his Christian community, a Church of the Brethren.

Ever the professor, he explains that he chose the name "Adam" because it appears in Genesis, where it means "creature made from the dust of the earth."  In the Hebrew, he explains, ha-adam (the earth creature) is made from ha-adamah (the earth) in Gen. 2:7.

The beauty for him of taking "ha-adam" as his name is that the term specifically includes both male and female (Gen. 1:27).  He follows Phyllis Trible's brilliant insight that before the creature is put to sleep to create male and female, it has no gender.  Eventually Adam becomes the first name of the male in the Genesis story.

Thus Dr. Ackley's choice of the first name Adam evokes the complex interaction of Holy Scripture and personal gender identity in his life.

I also want to thank Dr. Julia Stronks, lawyer and political science professor at Whitworth College, for her careful analysis of the legal and religious dimensions of Azusa Pacific University's response to Dr. Ackley's transgender status.

In discussing whether APU has the legal right to fire Dr. Ackley, she writes, "Clarity in a contract is important." 

So is charity in a Christian institution.

As Paul said, "Though [a Christian university] speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, [it is] become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1).

I once applied to teach in the English department at Azusa Pacific, and things progressed as far as a job interview in which I was informed that APU had recently fired two professors in connection with same-sex issues. 

"Would it bother you to teach here in light of that information?" the interviewers asked. 

"Oh no," I lied.  "I could live with that and teach here.  I don't agree with the decision to fire them, but I would not feel it necessary to take on an issue that occurred before I arrived."

As it turned out, APU decided not to hire me, and I decided to confess that it actually would bother me and that I needed to withdraw my application.  Our letters crossed in the mail.   

If APU couldn't even hire a married woman like me in 2001 because of my views on homosexuality, I'm not surprised that they quickly dismissed Dr. Ackley in 2013.

Their decision lacked charity.  Their self-justifying words might as well be smashing cymbals.  

As Dr. Stronks noted in her analysis on the EEWC website, "We see through a glass darkly" (1Cor. 13:12).

APU reveals this truth through its actions.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Holy Pope!

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus.

After reading excerpts from the interview with Pope Francis published today in America, the Jesuit journal, I am moved by the holiness of this man.

Veni, sancte Spiritus.  Sustain him.  Give him a long life.  He's already 74 years old--long live the Pope.  May he reach 94.  

This pope has all the right answers on many questions.

When asked, "Who are you?" he replies, "I am a sinner."  We haven't heard those words from a pope in a long time.  

When asked last month whether he approved of homosexuality, he said, "Who am I to judge?"

Like Jesus, he bends to write on the ground and refuses to throw any stones (John 8).  

Today he added, "Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?  We must always consider the person."

I hear Jesus's voice speaking these words--answering a question with another question, opening the questioner to a wider perspective.

"God is in every person's life.  Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else--God is in this person's life.  You can, you must try to seek God in every human life."

His answer to "What should be the role of women in the church?" is wanting, but it is also humble:  "We must therefore investigate further...We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman... The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women... [in] the authority of the church...."

Pope Francis is an essentialist: "...a woman has a different makeup than a man."  And why wouldn't he be? He says, "I am a son of the Church," and the Church has strictly separated its sons from its daughters for ten centuries and more.  

Nevertheless, he is willing to learn.  In six months he has opened up for discussion policies that have been long been protected as inviolable.  

Today he said that the church needs to spend less time fighting abortion, gay marriage, and contraception--more time serving the poor and marginalized.

The Roman Catholic Church is a train moving through a long dark tunnel, and today we have turned a corner.  We can now see a pinprick of light far ahead of us. 

For several years I've been predicting that Rome will bless the ordination of women by 2050, but today I'm thinking maybe I need to move up that date.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bearing Fruit

"In God's garden of grace, even a broken tree bears fruit," says Rick Warren in an interview tonight on CNN.

He and his wife Kay walk where parents fear to tread, down a path of grief after the death of their son Matthew as a result of mental illness.

I was moved by their words in this interview.

I too have lived with the fear of losing a child and perhaps come close to it.

There are many televangelists and charismatic pastors of mega churches, some of whom like Jim Bakker and Ted Haggard are known for their hypocrisy.

Rick Warren, however, is a genuine man of God.

"Beware of false prophets," said Jesus.  "You will know them by their fruits.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:15-20).

I give thanks and praise to God for the life and witness of Rick and Kay Warren as they move with grace through this tragedy and use it to help others.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Being Baptist, Single, and Pregnant

Ayaanah Gibson was starting her first year of college in South Carolina at Benedict College--private and affiliated with the American Baptist Church.

But she gave birth in her dorm room over Labor Day weekend, alone and apparently too scared to go to a hospital.,0,7329633.story

Ayaanah died after losing consciousness, probably from loss of blood.  The baby may have been stillborn.

Her crime?  Being female and having intercourse.

The baby's father is no doubt alive and well, perhaps unknown.

Last December, probably about the same time she was filing her college applications, she made a mistake.

This tragedy is a modern replay of the biblical scene recorded in the Gospel according to John, chapter 8: religious leaders planning to stone a woman in Jesus presence.

In this case those who would stone her were present only in spirit: family? friends? her church back home in Sacramento? the college administration, which might cancel a scholarship or kick her out of the dormitory?

We don't know the details, but we do know that it was not safe for her to be female and pregnant as a student entering college.

Apparently she wouldn't give up her dream of going to college, and she did not give up the pregnancy during the first trimester.

Two lives were lost.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thawing at the Frozen Vatican

Hooray for Pope Francis!  Traditions frozen for a thousand years or more are being taken out of storage and reexamined.

Last month it was the Pope speaking candidly on same-sex issues within the Vatican.

This week Archbishop Pietro Paolin, second in command to the Pope, is announcing that the requirement of celibacy for priests should be open for discussion.

Since 1074 CE, priests in the Roman Catholic Church have not been allowed to marry.  Orthodox priests and Protestant priests and pastors do marry.  

Pope Gregory VII felt it was important that priests "escape from the clutches of their wives."  Just a touch of misogyny there.

Catholics are still not allowed to discuss whether women can be priests, whether use of birth control is okay, whether same sex relationships can be blessed by the church, etc.

But a flexibility on marriage of priests in 2013 heralds flexibility on other issues in the years to come--and by around 2050, we will see women ordained as priests with the blessing of Rome.