Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hashima Bashir of Darfur

Tears of the Desert, a memoir by Dr. Hashima Bashir of Darfur, Sudan, will be released on September 10, 2008. Thank you to Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times columnist, for alerting us to her book in his column, "Tortured but Not Silenced," in the op-ed pages, August 31,

Kristof says that Bashir's book records the rape of dozens of schoolgirls aged 7-13 at a school near her medical clinic in Darfur, followed by her own repeated rape and beating for telling about this event.

She's now seeking asylum in Britain and applying for a US visa to publicize her book and cause. Kristof wonders whether Bush will facilitate this application or ignore her.

Palin Politics

Sarah Palin reminds me of Phyllis Schlafly--the Eagle Forum-style politics, the hair style... a younger, sexier reincarnation.

Palin as Alaska's governor has a legitimate political base and probably much more reasonable views on many issues. Calling her more aware than Schlafly, however, is not saying much.

Thank you to Grace Jones Moore, who alerted us at this morning's gathering for a Women-Church liturgy in Claremont, to Maureen Dowd's hilarious column in today's New York Times, "Vice in Go-go Boots?" (the most emailed item in the NYT today).

Read it at

[Thank you to Diane Steelsmith for finding me the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which reports that it's illegal to copy an article from a newspaper, journal, or another blog into one's own blog. Short quotations for comment or news reporting are not an infringement of the Copyright Act.

I originally pasted Dowd's column into this blog, but now I've cleaned up my act and will avoid reprinting copyrighted material.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

David M. Scholer, 1938-2008

Let it be known that one man on the evangelical side of the fence spent a lifetime working to give women access to Christian ministry.

David M. Scholer, professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena 1994-2008, joined a group called Evangelical Women's Caucus (EWC) in 1975 when this feminist group was just getting started.

For thirty-six years at four seminaries he taught "Women and Ministry in the New Testament and the Church Today," explaining that a careful reading of the gospels and letters of Paul demands full inclusion of women in church leadership. He personally mentored many women students and friends as they became pastors.

A Baptist, he worked against and publicly debated the idea that "women should be silent in the churches," still held by the Southern Baptist Convention.

When EWC took a stand for inclusion of gays and lesbians in 1986 and many members left to form Christians for Biblical Equality (, Dr. Scholer remained a member of EWC, later expanded to Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus ( He also shared his scholarship with CBE.

At a national conference in Claremont in 2004, EEWC Southern California honored Dr. Scholer for 32 years of service to biblical feminism. American Baptist Women in Ministry also awarded him a citation in 2001 for his many contributions.

The Los Angeles Times featured him in 2007, surviving colorectal cancer against all odds, but he finally succumbed last Sunday, August 20.

A service of worship to offer thanksgiving for his life was attended by 500 or more people in Pasadena today.

It began with the reading of Psalm 116 (which I will insert here in NRSV with a few changes in the direction of inclusive language):

I love YHWH, because you have heard my voice and my supplications.
Because you inclined your ear to me,
therefore I will call on you as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of YHWH:
"O YHWH, save my life!"
Gracious is YHWH, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
YHWH protects the simple;
when I was brought low, you saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for YHWH has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I walk before YHWH in the land of the living.
I kept my faith, even when I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."
I said in my consternation,
"Everyone is a liar."
What shall I return to you, YHWH,
for all your bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of YHWH,
I will pay my vows to you, YHWH,
in the presence of all your people.
Precious in the sight of YHWH
is the death of your faithful ones.
YHWH, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of YHWH.
I will pay my vows to YHWH
in the presence of all your people,
in the courts of the house of YHWH,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise YHWH!

These words read by the pastor sounded like David speaking from beyond the grave, saying "Now I walk before YHWH in the land of the living, though I was greatly afflicted, though the snares of death encompassed me."

Racial, denominational, and gender inclusiveness was notable in the service. Friends who spoke included a Franciscan brother, an African-American Baptist pastor, a female former student now earning a doctorate in New Testament, and Sharon Billings of EEWC.

Afterward the organ played a hymn more often heard in the Episcopal Church: "For all the saints, who from their labors rest / Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, / Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest, / Alleluia, alleluia."

Dr. Scholer's LAT obituary, "David M. Scholer, 70; Bible scholar advocated women in ministry, turned battle with cancer into testament of faith
" appeared on Aug. 28.

Read the full article by Elaine Woo at

Pro-Choice in Mexico

Thank you to Letha Dawson Scanzoni for sending me this news item on a pro-choice victory in Mexico City (el Distrito Federal) from the Christian Science Monitor, August 29.

"Mexico's Supreme Court upholds abortion law" by Sara Miller Liana at

Summary: "The controversial case has been watched closely by the rest of the country, and may push other states to liberalize their own abortion laws."

"In a strong reaffirmation of one of the hemisphere's most lenient abortion laws, Mexico's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld legal abortion in the nation's capital," the article begins.

"To affirm that there is an absolute constitutional protection of life in gestation would lead to the violation of the fundamental rights of women," said Justice Sergio Valls.

This case has been watched closely by the rest of the country, notes the reporter, Both supporters and opponents say they believe this law will push other states to liberalize their own abortion laws.

It allows doctors to terminate pregnancy in the first three months under any conditions, but physicians who are morally opposed abortion are not required to perform the procedure.

In the rest of Mexico, abortions in the first trimester are currently only permitted in certain cases, including rape or if the mother's life is in danger.
Since taking effect, some 12,000 women have terminated their pregnancies in public hospitals in Mexico City, according to city statistics. Twenty percent of them are residents from outside the capital.

Conservative Mexican President Felipe Calderón is not directly involved in the case. But his government, via the nation's attorney general's office and the National Human Rights ombudsman, challenged the Mexico City decision – saying that health laws should not be the domain of the local assembly.

The justices voted 8 to 3 to uphold the April ruling. To do so, eight of 11 justices would have needed to vote in favor of its unconstitutionality.
Of course, antiabortion groups were outraged.

The law has sparked outcry in the second-largest Catholic country in the world.
"This is very grave for our country," says Jorge Serrano Limón, the head of Provida, an antiabortion group that has been protesting abortion outside public institutions this week. "We are creating a culture of death. We have failed as a society."
Mexico City's law is one of the most liberal laws in Latin America. "This is going to promote abortion in other states. Instead of 12,000 deaths in a year, we'll see 25,000," he says.

And because a fifth of the women who have received abortions in Mexico City since the law passed have come from outside the capital, he says this is an imposition of the personal interests of judges and legislators.

Mejía says that the opponents' argument that the judges and local assembly have imposed their will on the population is a political argument.
Instead, she says, the law is intended to equalize Mexican society overall. "The reality is, women who have resources have the possibility to have abortions. Women who are poor don't have that possibility. That was one of the major points the assembly made when discussing this," she says. "It is a social justice issue."

Find this article at:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Just Smashing

Sheesh! Why are women always asked to choose between making progress against racism and making progress for women? It happened in the 19th century, in the Civil Rights movement, and it's happening again now.

By choosing Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, McCain not only appeases right-wing interests but takes a big step in the direction of change, stealing the battle cry of the Democratic Party.

He's gambling that some women who were excited about the historic candidacy of Hilary Clinton will vote for a McCain-Palin ticket, and he may be right.

Any feminist worth her salt will stick with Obama-Biden in order to end the war in Iraq and its drain on the economy, as well as to protect the Supreme Court against appointment of a justice who might further weaken Roe v. Wade.

But McCain's choice of Palin guarantees that women will have a consolation prize if the Republicans win. At the possible cost of our reproductive rights, we will at least have a woman vice president--and if this 72-year-old cancer survivor encounters any health problems, we may even get our first woman president as a result of this choice.

For a long time I've wanted women to break that last political glass ceiling and take on the vice presidency and presidency of the US, but this is not the way I want that to happen.

In October and November of 1984, I stood on a street corner in Daly City, near San Francisco, seven months pregnant, waving a sign for Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. They lost, and my country took only baby steps toward women's equality for 24 years until this year when women again have had a serious chance for top leadership in our nation.

Now we have the amazing spectacle of right-wing men defending the vice-presidential candidacy of this woman of slim experience. Hey, let's enjoy it.

They think they can control this self-described soccer-mom like a puppet. She's an NRA member and strongly against women's right to make reproductive choices.

She doesn't know about the life and early death of Martha Pueblo. She doesn't see young women, men and children killed in gun violence at the rate of 1,165 in one year (2000), the way we see lives lost in Los Angeles County.

She hasn't faced the agony of Maria Riveros in Paraguay, trying to help her 16-year-old daughter with a pregnancy she didn't want, watching her life in peril as a result of an abortion done at home without access to full medical care.

Palin and her husband have a different life experience. They recently conceived a Downs syndrome child and chose to carry him to full term and deal with his disability--though many couples would have ended that pregnancy after early blood tests.

I have to admire their personal choice, even while I reject their desire to impose that choice on other couples and single women.

Will the Democrats win? If not, will McCain and Palin govern as mavericks and make at least a few choices not aligned with their right-wing supporters?

All we can do is work hard and keep our courage up.

But at least, even if the vote turns out to be very close, even if a Democratic victory is stolen as in 2000, we'll have a consolation prize--a smashing of that many-cracked next-to-last ceiling.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Anthrax & Abortion

Suspected anthrax killer Bruce E. Ivins may have had "pro-life" motives, according to the lead story in today's Los Angeles Times.

Irvins, a Catholic whose two children attended parochial school in Frederick [Md.], described himself in a 2002 e-mail to a colleague as "pro-life... consistent with a Christian."

Two of the intended recipients of anthrax-tainted letters--then Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.)--are Catholics who favor abortion rights.

~~"FBI says evidence points uniquely to Bruce Ivins in anthrax case,", Aug. 7, 2008 by David Willman and David G. Savage,

If harm to those who protect women's legal access to abortion was indeed a motive, it was not the first time the "pro-life" stance has been used to deliver death.

The major previous murders in the cause of life include:

1998 -- 2 deaths: Robert Sanderson, a clinic security guard killed in a bombing in Birmingham, Al., and Dr. Barnett Slepian, shot in his home in Amherst, N.Y.

1994 -- 4 deaths: 1) Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, shot in Pensacola, Fl., and 2) Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols, receptionists shot at two clinics in Brookline, Mass.

1993 -- 1 death: Dr. David Gunn, shot in Pensacola, Fl.

For further details on abortion-related violence, see the National Abortion Federation and the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mexican Mafia?

Juan Abel Escalante guarded some of the most dangerous inmates in the LA County jails, the LA Times reports today.

Leaders of the Mexican Mafia and other notorious gangs are housed in the single-man cells where Escalante worked.

Deputies live with the knowledge that inmates may attempt to send out an order to have a particular officer killed.

"Law and Order" is more than a television show. It's a daily war in Los Angeles and other major cities of the world.

Meanwhile a young widow makes daily decisions about how to reshape her life and raise her children.

See also:
"Sheriff's deputy who was shot dead guarded highly dangerous inmates," Aug. 4, 2008,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The War in Los Angeles

More evidence today that there's a war going on in Los Angeles as serious as any in Baghdad, Karachi, or Tijuana.

LA County Sheriff Deputy Juan Abel Escalante was shot and killed at 5:40 am as he left for work in the Cypress Park neighborhood of East Los Angeles on Saturday, August 2.

He was a responsible, serious young man, married and the father of three young children. After returning from military service, he had been a sheriff for just 2 1/2 years.

The LA Times describes "a fragile lull in gang violence in recent years" in his neighborhood, which ended in January with more shooting. In February a shooting a few blocks from his home "touched off a fierce gun battle between gang members and police in neighboring Glassell Park," followed in June by "a massive gang raid" conducted by police and federal agents a mile north of the home where Escalante and his family lived with his parents.

He and his wife were about to buy a home in suburban Pomona.

She ran out to the street screaming, "My husband! My husband!" She's now a widow with three children and no way to move out of the neighborhood.

Escalante was the oldest son of parents who had immigrated to Los Angeles from the state of Yucatan in Mexico.

Why was he targeted? Was it his work at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles? Or was he simply picked off as one of the enemy--a deputy sheriff?

"If someone here knew he was a sheriff, it's kind of like a trophy to kill one of them," a neighbor said.

He was not wearing a uniform when he left for work that morning--he kept a low-profile in the community about what type of work he did.

In March 2006 another LA County deputy, Maria Cecilia Rosa, was killed on an early morning in Long Beach as she left for work.

Underneath the glamour of Hollywood and wealth of "The Hills," a war continues over control of LA streets and drug trade.

In nearby Tijuana, Mexico, police appear to be losing their battle to keep the streets safe. Officers have been shot in their cars and in their homes.

In Baghdad and Karachi, killings abound; government is unable to assert authority.

Perhaps this is a hallmark of the 21st century: increasing failure of organized government in the face of growing power of gangs and warlords.

See also:
"Deputy shot dead outside his Cypress Park home," August 3, 2008,