Thursday, December 27, 2012

Going to Nogales

Tucson/Nogales Trip - 5 days ahead

"Don't go across by yourself," says Louise.  "You could get kidnapped.  Sold into sex slavery."

I didn't think going to Nogales was such a big deal.  After all, I've been to India, Paraguay, and the neighborhood in Los Angeles near Florence and Normandie where the 1992 riots started.

But Louise tells me that Arlynne's co-worker's brother was kidnapped from Nogales and forced to work for a drug cartel.  Two years later his body was dumped on the front lawn of his house.

She puts me in touch with friends from Green Valley -Sahuarita Samaritans, Mike Casey and Shura Wallin. 

Mike plugs me into a 6-day a week search schedule, where teams of four volunteers drive around back roads near the border to offer water, food, and medical aid to people trying to cross the Sonoran Desert into the US.

Shura conducts a weekly trip to Nogales to introduce people to El Comedor, the place where newly deported people can eat and figure out where to do from there.  It's run by nuns and Jesuits.  I will miss the trip, always on Tuesdays, but she offers to take me on Thursday. 

I wonder why she's willing to make an extra trip for one stray tourist, but I accept gratefully. 

My usual pattern of traveling first, then learning about the area after I arrive, has been made worse in this case by the Christmas rush and by a case of bronchitis that veered close to pneumonia, but I hope that by next Tuesday I can drive to Tucson.

Finally getting on the internet, I learn that the major groups helping immigrants are:

No More Deaths


Tucson Samaritans and Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans

It turns out I should have been making reservations for these border trips 2-3 months ago.  It's like taking a trek in the Himalayas or getting a campsite and hike into the Grand Canyon.  You don't just show up and do it yourself--you reserve to go with a group way ahead of time.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The little children in Newtown, Connecticut, were betrayed. 

We loved and cared for them, but we allowed terrible weapons to be owned by their neighbors.

We allowed a mentally ill 20-year-old to gain access to the weapons.  We left his mother to cope on her own with the illness that drove him out of a public high school. 

Where were the support systems for him and for her?  Why were there no visits from social workers, mental health professionals? 

Why were this mother and son so isolated?

We are only as wealthy as the poorest family in our city.  When painful poverty lives next door, whether it's economic poverty or emotional poverty, the wealthy live in danger. 

We are only as healthy as the sickest among us because their illness will infect us all, whether it's tuberculosis or schizophrenia. 

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child.  Newtown was such a village, but one of its childlren was suffering in silence, too sick to cry for help.  

Instead he struck out at the happiness around him.  Like Grendel in the 8th-century epic Beowulf, he felt tormented by the joyful music that came from the great hall where the feast was taking place. 

He killed the innocent whom he perceived as tormentors.  He killed himself.  Thank God he killed his mother--no mother wants to hear the kind of news that would have come had she lived.

When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?

For starters, we need to ban assault rifles like the one used in this crime, which has no relation to the "well-regulated militia" envisioned by the framers of the Constitution in the second amendment.

Automatic weapons similar to the AK-47 are being sold legally today.  That's a crime--I mean, it's a crime that owning these weapons is not a crime. 

Retiring Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is calling for a ban on assault rifles.  Let's work together and make this happen.  Chris Murphy, the new Democratic senator from Connecticut, is also calling for change in gun laws.

Meanwhile, paintball versions of the AK-47 are being advertised and sold on the internet.  That's sick.

Shop for AK 47 on Google 

Tippmann X7 Phenom Mechanical AK47 Paintball Scenario Marker Gun  $449.00 - Ultimate Paintball 

Rap4 T68 Splitfire AK47 Dual Feed - Wood/Black  $425.00 - Ultimate Paintball

Free Shipping on Orders over $99    Shop Now & Get Cashback on Every Purchase

Shop by price   Up to $200 $200 – $350 Over $350

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Power, Patriarchy, and the Big P

I have to laugh with delight when I see six thousand years of rule by men brought closer to its end by the men themselves.

Gender politics--you've gotta love it.

Today's pillars of patriarchy are falling not so much because women are gaining political power but by their own hand--or other organ. 

Ex-General Petraeus and soon-to-be ex-General John Allen ascended to power in part because they possessed that all-important prerequisite--a penis.

Now they are falling from power because of that same little waggle.

The Roman Catholic Church, which holds out against women becoming priests, has lost tremendous amounts of prestige and money because of the child sexual abuse scandal.  Again, prerequisite to priesthood: a penis.  Downfall?  Same organ.

Petraeus and Allen will go down in history as joining the ranks of Samson (who literally fell for Delilah) and Holofernes, who was beheaded by Judith after getting drunk with her (pick up a Catholic Bible and look at the Book of Judith). 

Hoist by their own petard, so to speak.

Gerda Lerner chronicles the rise of male rule in her book The Creation of Patriarchy (Oxford, 1986).  This happened about the same time as the rise of cities and urban culture, which brought wealth and poverty, rulers and slavery, and other hallmarks of civilization. 

In the last one hundred years, women have been gaining a little ground.  We have the right to vote, a few presidents and premiers and members of parliaments and senates around the world.  We run some businesses, we are taking back God from the men in our churches, temples, and mosques.

But men themselves are ceding power at a much faster rate than we can win it through the ballot box.

It's like global warming: when the glaciers start to melt, the rate of climate change increases dramatically.

When the men who have commanded our respect and our armies start to fall--by their own foolishness--we will never have the same awe for those who replace them. 
We will learn that they are indeed frail humans like the man who proclaimed himself Wizard of Oz.

We will no longer give them the same tremendous power to wage war, drop bombs, launch drones, and kill  in the name of the USA. 

We will take back our nation.  We will demand that our leaders act with more humility on the world stage, and we will move toward making sure that at least half of those leaders are women..

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kathy's Spirit Leaving

Listening to Leonard Cohen last Monday night was profound, especially in the context of my uncle dying the day before and my friend Kathy on the threshold of death.

So many of his songs speak to death and the ends of relationships.  Here is "Alexandra Leaving" as I heard some of the words that night.

Say goodbye to Kathy's spirit leaving.

Then say goodbye to Kathy's presence lost.

Even though she sleeps and breathes and dreams before you;

Even though you want to wake her with a kiss.

Do not say this moment cannot happen;

Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for this to happen,

Go firmly to the window. Drink it in.

Remember music: Kathy's happy laughing.

Your years together tangible again.

And you who shared her days and years of living,

With gratitude and wonder and with dance –

Say goodbye to Kathy's spirit leaving;

Kathy's presence with us now enhanced.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Malala: UN GLobal Day of Action

The UN has declared today a Global Day of Action for girls' education.

Today marks one month since Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head with other classmates for being an activist for girls' education in Pakistan.

A campaign is underway to nominate her for the next Nobel Prize for Peace.

She is recovering at a hospital in England, and the Taliban's attack on her has only brought the world's attention to the need for equal access to education for girls in the world today. 

"The latest Unesco figures show that 61 million children worldwide are not in school - 32 million of whom are girls - and that Pakistan has the second largest number of girls out of school in the world," reports London's Daily Mail.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kathy 1943-2012

Kathy's moon is a smile hanging in the pre-dawn sky above a gauze of thin rose-colored clouds.

It's a waning moon, inching toward the sun, which has not yet risen here in Santa Monica.

She died yesterday, while the other side of Earth was turned toward this moon.  Today is the first sunrise for which her spirit is not present, witnessing it from a North American, earthly perspective.

Who knows where her spirit resides now? "Rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham--oh, rock-a my soul."

Anyway, her shrunken body lies in a morgue, awaiting cremation, that final fire after all the radiation and chemotherapy.

Yesterday it was still possible for me to rise before dawn, visit her in the hospital, hold her hand, and kiss her short curly hair, that monk-like style chosen by the chemo, not by her.

Rain fell from a heavily overcast sky yesterday for the first time in six months.  The hot Santa Ana winds and bright sun that have paralyzed our November weather were banished.  The sky turned sober in observance of Kathy's passing.

Because I had walked from my car in the chilly darkness, my hands were cold and I tried to warm one under my arm before taking her hand, but it turned out that her hand was colder than mine.  Five days of breathing on a respirator, sedated by propyfol, had taken their toll. 

Visiting her in the ICU last Friday, I'd been shocked by how deep each breath was, almost a gasp, her chest working hard to inhale.  I didn't realize she was "on a respirator."  I didn't know what that looked like--the only clue was the clear mask in front of her mouth, hooked to oxygen tubes.  Did something force her to inhale so mightily?  I don't know.

"Baruch Atah Adonai," I prayed with her.  "Melech ha Olam--Malcha ha Olam."  (Blessed are you, Lord, King of the Universe... Queen of the Universe.)

Taking out Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (1978), I read from the Yom Kippur memorial service, the only thing I could find that seemed appropriate.

Our days are like grass.
We shoot up like flowers that fade and die
as the chill wind passes over them,
yet Your love for those who revere You is everlasting.
YHWH, Your righteousness extends to all generations.  
                            (from Psalm 90)
YWHW, I yearn only to be near You,
though at times I seem remote.
YHWH, I cannot find the way unaided:
teach me the faithful service You would have me do,
show me Your ways, guide me, lead me,
release me from the prison of unknowing
while I can still make amends.
Do not despise my lowly state.
Before I grow so weak, so heavy with mortality
that I bend and fall,
and my bones, brittle with age,
become food for moth and worm,
be my help, O be my help!
Where my forebears went, there go I.
Yes, I know it.
Their resting-place is mine.

I know it.
Like them I am a stranger passing through this life.
Since the womb of earth is my allotted portion,
and since I've chased the wind from the beginning of my days,
when will I come to set my house in order?
The passions You Yourself have made a part of me
have kept me rapt within the passing scene,
and how, enslaved to passion as I've been,
a prey to fierce and fiery hungers,
how, I ask, could I have served You as I needed to?
But now the time has come to ask:
why all this ambition, why the quest for high estate,
when tomorrow I must die?
Why this expense of spirit,
when tomorrow I mourn the passing time?
These days and nights combine to bring me to the end:
they scatter my thought to the winds,
they return my frame to the dust.
What now can I say in my defense?
What brave words remain to shield me from my truth?
My nature has pursued me, possessed me, driven and flayed me,
a doubtful friend from childhood on.
What then do I really have besides Your presence?
Stripped of my pretensions, naked at the last, here I stand,
and only your goodness can clothe and shelter me.
For nothing now remains but this:
YHWH, I yearn only to be near You!

I closed the book, kissed Kathy's curly hair again, and left.

Today, Friday, again I awake at 4:45 am.  The crescent moon shines in my window--Kathy's moon, but today if she sees it at all, it's from a different perspective.  Perhaps it's an opal on a necklace adorning Earth.

Anyway, I can't go to visit her today.  I can't touch her, speak to her.  She never learned that President Obama was re-elected, news that would have made her shriek with delight.

Today I'm alone with the crescent moon and the predawn sky  No use going to the hospital or to her home.

I can't visit her, but perhaps she can visit me. 

Two weeks ago she was wondering fearfully about death and about afterward. 

Today she has crossed that line--fear is gone and she knows things I cannot know.

Or perhaps she knows nothing--perhaps she has entered that grand "OMMMM," the cloud of unknowing where we are close to the Creative Energy that flashed the cosmos into being, but our minds are not filled with ideas and facts.

Perhaps her state of mind is closer to Nothingness.  Perhaps her spirit holds that great Nothingness that is the goal of all meditation. 

I believe that her Spirit lives on in some way I can't understand.  Jesus said, "In my house are many rooms" (John 14:2). 

How funny that my favorite agnostic now knows. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drinking, Driving, and Tweeting

John woke up this morning to news of a head-on car crash near his neighborhood at 4 am.  Wrong-way driver.

When the police released names of the 18-yr-old victim and the wrong-way driver, a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian looked for possible information on Facebook, Twitter, and other internet sites. 

Jamie Butow found a huge number of Tweets.  People had tweeted before and after the accident, speaking freely about their alcohol use and vowing not to drink and drive in the future.

Someone had tweeted about free alcohol at his house, and people came. 

The victim's friend had boasted about "whenever Breana and I play drinking games together...," we win.

On this night, however, everyone lost.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bagley's Editorial Cartoons

Yesterday I was up at Inspiration Point on Hwy. 2, altitude 7,350 ft., looking out over Los Angeles. 

There I got into a conversation with a woman who told me about her latest favorite political cartoon by Pat Bagley in The Salt Lake Tribune.  It refers to Richard Mourdock's idea that God has ordained any pregnancy that occurs as a result of rape.

I looked through some of his other work, and now I'm a fan too.

Here's a good one about Taliban being terrified of "a girl with a book."

Pass it along--Bagley is a cartoonist to follow! 

To sisterhood--brief words exchanged with a stranger as we await with trepidation the election on Nov. 6.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Billy Graham and the Mormons

Newsflash for all evangelical Christians: we like Mormons now.

Just last week Billy Graham (now 93 years old) met with Mitt Romney and decided he's a pretty good guy, even if he is a Mormon. 

Graham then ordered that the Mormon church no longer be listed as a cult on the website of his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.,0,7781678.story

Never mind that the Church of the Latter Day Saints doesn't see Jesus as fully divine, part of the Trinity. Jesus is just one of a number of God's children, including Satan. 

Never mind that they believe that God the Father "has flesh and bones" (and a penis).  And of course, there are multiple universes, each with their own god.  Our God lives on a planet called Kolab.

Men have to be married to reach the highest level of heaven.

Women can't get to heaven unless they are married--and to a Mormon.  (Despite what Jesus said in Mark 12:25, your marriage continues in heaven.)

Forget all this, folks.  The important thing is that Mormons "share our values."

If you thought those values were maybe the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, or  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27), you are wrong.

Our shared values, according to Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, are:
* opposition to abortion,
* opposition to same-sex marriage,
* support for religious freedom (including the right of religious institutions to refuse to provide contraceptive services to their employees),
* support for school vouchers, and
* limited government (except in the case of women wanting to make their own reproductive choices). 

Thank you to Amanda Baugh, my colleague at California State University, Northridge, for reporting the Graham website's switch in her lecture this week on the role of Mormons in the 2012 presidential election.

Thanks also to Mary J. O'Donnell, who analyzed religion in the election and made an interesting distinction between "political religious organizations" and "religious political organizations." 

She reminded us that many evangelicals used to believe in staying away from politics and not even voting; after all, we are citizens of heaven just passing through this world.

But starting in the late 1970s some politicians discovered that they could win a lot of votes if they convinced conservative Christians to throw faith, patriotism, politics, and moral values all into one bag.  These people became a powerful voting block, the famous "Religious Right." 

Enlisting these 3-4 million voters was "like finding oil," O'Connelly observed.

The churches and other religious organizations turned political and said it was God's will to vote and to try to get the US government to legislate, make judicial decisions, and make executive decisions according to the "Christian" values listed above. 

A certain number of right-wing political organizations turned religious.  Ronald Reagan discovered the word "God" and inserted it into his speeches far more than any previous president, including Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist and born-again Christian. 

Evangelical Christians, who prior to 1980 had felt that divorce was their main Christian value, suddenly were told they should vote for a divorced and remarried man for president.  He shared their values, despite ignoring the fairly clear teaching on divorce by Jesus, who said nothing about abortion and gay marriage.

When a political organization wants your vote, it can get very religious.  But check out what it is selling as "religion." 

Its "religion" just might not have much to do with anything Jesus ever said or did.

For further reading:

Randall Balmer. Thy Kingdom Come, An Evangelical's Lament: How the Religious Rgiht Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. New York: Basic Books, 2006.

Frank Schaeffer.  Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Rgiht, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.  New York: Carroll & Graf, 2007.

Anne Eggebroten. Review of Crazy for God with an accompanying essay "Crazy for Abortion" about Schaeffer's campaign to make abortion a Christian issue.  Christian Feminism Today 32, 1 (Spring 2008).

Milt Hankins.  "Politics Indeed Makes for Strange Bedfellows." Herald-Dispatch, October 25, 2012.

Milt Hankins is a Baptist pastor in West Virginia who can't believe that some evangelicals are now planning to pass over a member of the United Church of Christ to vote for a Mormon:  Here's an excerpt of his column in yesterday's newspaper in Huntington, West Virginia.

Why would evangelical Christians vote for someone who believes that God lives on a planet called Kolab, and that men can become Gods, and that God is an exalted man?
How could any evangelical, African-American Christian vote for a man who was a bishop and stake president in the Mormon Church, which until 1954, believed that "Negroes" were ineligible for the Mormon priesthood. The commonly-held belief was that if they were good enough, black people could enter heaven to be slaves for white people.
Is it possible that evangelical Christians, who insist on electing people of like beliefs, can support someone whose religion teaches that "Jesus and Satan were spirit brothers?"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pat Reif

Pat Reif was a professor of philosophy at Immaculate Heart College, a feminist, and an activist.

Born May 6, 1929, she became a sister with the Immaculate Heart of Mary community in Los Angeles.

She earned two doctoral degrees (in philosphy and theology) and in the 1980s had an awakening to feminism as a result of hearing lectures by Nelle Morton and Anne McGrew Bennett. 

In 1984 she founded the M.A. Program in Feminist Spirituality at the Immaculate Heart College Center.

She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died early in the morning of March 24, 2002, Palm Sunday, at the age of 72 yrs.

Obituaries appeared in Time Magazine as well as the Los Angeles Times.

A memorial lecture series in her honor was begun at Claremont Graduate University, also sponsored by the Immaculate Heart Community.

In 2012 the Pat Reif Memorial Lecture was given by Rita Nakashima Brock on October 23 in Claremont.

Garden to Garden

We think Christianity is all about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, but Rita told us that early Christians stressed the resurrected Messiah and the restoration of Earth to beauty and peace.

Rita Nakashima Brock spoke on "Saving Paradise: Moral Conscience, Beauty, and the Glory of Humanity" on Tuesday evening at Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California.

She began with theGarden of Eden, the loss of that garden, and Jesus' restoration of the possibility of paradise on earth.

There is no visual depiction of a dead Jesus until 960 AD, she said, presenting many slides of early churches that show Jesus in glory and power, fully clothed, rather than in abject naked suffering. 

Early frescos in church naves also show paradise as in this world with the rivers mentioned in Genesis, including the Tigris, Euphrates, and two others. 

"The resurrection opened the door for us," she said.  "This life is blest by God as a beautiful place."

She traced changes in theology that changed the emphasis of the eucharist from a joyous feast of celebration to a feast focused on Jesus' suffering.

Changes in theology started by the marriage of Christianity to the Roman Empire were also her topic.  When Charles Martel held back Muslims from advancing into central Europe, he found it useful to make Christianity an arm of Empire.  Interacting with Saxons on his northern border, his grandson Charlemagne instituted a death penalty for not getting baptized (rebaptized). 

"Before that shedding human blood was sin; it broke your soul and required penance and rehabilitation," she said.  Afterward, however, empire led to holy wars against Muslims and others, sanctifying violence.

Our purpose should be "to alleviate suffering, not to sanctify it," she argued, using Rachel Fulton's From Passion to Compassion. 

Rita puts her concern about war and its effects into action.  At Brite Divnity School in Fort Worth, Texas, she and others are founding a center for repairing of effects of war on today's soldiers.

This center works for the repair of "moral injury" as contrasted to PTSD.  In contrast to the illness caused by traumatic stress, people who emerge from war with their psyches intact can still have moral injury as a result of killing someone or handling human remains or experiencing other guilt related to being in war.

See her newest book, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Big Guy in the Sky

So this guy Mourdock said in a debate last night that in cases of rape that cause pregnancy, no abortion should be allowed because the pregnancy "is something that God intended to happen."

Let's guess: could Mourdock's God possibly be male?

He thinks all "life is a gift from God"  Only if the woman's life is in danger should abortion be a legal option.

In the case of rape with resulting pregnancy, a woman is only attacked, physically violated, and forced to put her life on hold for nine months.  Therefore, she doesn't deserve a safe and legal way out.  Only if she's on the edge of death does she get the abortion. 

Mourdock clarified today that he doesn't think God intends rape. 

He thought we thought he meant that?  He's gets crazier by the minute.

The offense is his statement that the fertilized egg is enshrined with God's love/will/intention/protection from the first second onward--and that it should be protected by the US government. 

There are some women who can pull it together to complete a pregnancy begun in rape and love the child.  There are others who will put the child up for adoption (good luck, baby). 

But to tell all women what they have to do in a difficult situation like this?

Give me a break.  A nine-month interruption to a woman's life should be law--no morning-after pill, no simple suction procedure in the first few weeks?
He wants protecting life to include protecting a few cells that could multiply to produce a human being?

He wants government to make this decision for women who are raped and become pregnant?

Last night when asked why God put the serpent in the Garden of Eden, feminist theologian Rita Nakashima Brock speaking in Claremont, CA, said that God's omnipotence is overrated.  Rather than trying to explain why God put that snake there, it's better to think that evil occurs but is not part of God's plan.

"The problem is thinking that God is somehow omnipotent," she said. 

That's the problem here, too.  Saying that God intends every pregnancy that occurs--even by rape, even by incest, even by two teens who have no idea what they are doing--that makes God too all-powerful. 

We know God doesn't intend crimes, but neither does God intend human mistakes. 

God can make good come out of some of them, says Paul:  "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God..." (Romans 8:28).

But God does not intend every event that happens on earth.  I get sick, and God intends it?  I fall down and break a dish, and God intends it?  Pul-eeze. 

Perhaps Mr. Mourdock agrees that if I drop a carton of eggs, God does not intend that. 

Perhaps he only thinks that God's intention extends to fertilized eggs in my womb.  God is very pro-life.

You know, I grant that God likes life in all its infinite variety of forms and shapes and modes of being.

But God has a lot on her plate: every fiber of her being vibrates with the deaths occurring in Syria this week, with the suicides among US soldiers, with women who die in childbirth, with children who are hungry and abused. 

You just can't convince me that the Creator of the heavens and the earth cares so deeply about every embryo and ferilized human egg that She/He wants the US government to get involved and override the prayerful, weeping choices made by women who are raped.

Anybody who claims that the will of God and government should override the decision of a woman who has been raped must be worshipping some other god I don't know about.

It sounds like a male god: the Father, whom they have made in their own image. 

Last I heard, the worship of a false god is called idolatry.

May the voters of Indiana throw out this idolatrous would-be Senator and elect Joe Donnelly, who in his anti-abortion views at least makes exceptions for women who are raped. 

Gospel according to Mourdock

In case you were wondering, God has opinions about fertilized eggs.

According to a guy who wants to be a US senator from Indiana, God's will kicks in a few moments after a rape when the sperm reaches the egg of a woman whose body happens to be ovulating during that attack.

Fertilization--- boom!  It's God's will that the woman carry that egg for 9 months as it becomes an embryo, a fetus, a near-term baby, and a newborn child. 

What she does with it next doesn't matter.  Give the baby away?  Raise it for 20 years?  Ask her parents to raise it?

Thanks, Richard Mourdick, for sharing.  Dicks of the world, unite!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Counting and Waiting

I parked my car and stared at the electronic billboard: 335,993 smoking deaths this year and counting. 

I took a photo.  Then the 3 changed to a 4.  The 4 changed to a 5.

My friend Kathy is standing in line to join the 335,995--or is it 6 now?  That was last week, so the number is now probably 338,000 or more, maybe 400,000.

In February, 2011, she found out that her persistent cough was stage 4 lung cancer.  Her doctor had tried antibiotics, thinking she had an infection; then antihistamines, thinking it might be allergies.  He finally did an x-ray.

With chemotherapy and radiation, Kathy has survived a long time for someone with non small-cell lung cancer, but she is now getting weaker.  The cells have invaded her brain, which is typical for this type of cancer.

Kathy never smoked.  The billboard says "smoking deaths" because 80% of lung cancer patients have smoked or been exposed to second-hand smoke.

It's air pollution that must have caused the mutation to cancer in one or more of the cells in Kathy's lungs.

We live in Los Angeles, after all, surrounded by freeways choked with cars in the morning and afternoon rush hours.  We're close to the Santa Monica airport and LAX.  All these engines spew irritants into the air, and not all the pollution immediately blows east, as those of us who live in West Los Angeles would like.

I realized that while I was parked taking photos, my car engine was still running.  We are perpetrators and victims and survivors all at once.   

Kathy and I met during several years of community meetings called the Violence Prevention Coalition.  There we were, trying to end the shootings at teen parties and between rival gangs, while all along the exhaust from cars and planes was attacking our lungs. 

Kathy was the unlucky one who got cancer from this violence to her cells; I'm still breathing and jogging and driving my car around.

Over the last year and a half, Kathy's initial shock has changed to anger mixed with grief and fear of dying

I noticed something new, however, during my last visit--a kind of acceptance

"I can't control it," she says.  At night this thing attacking her seems like "a ghost in the room, walking about."

She's losing the ability to walk without falling as well as control her bodily functions; she even loses clarity of thought sometimes.

She's in and out of depression and anger; she's often frustrated by waiting two hours or seven hours at the hospital for blood transfusions and chemotherapy infusions. 

But she also has humor about the falling and the craziness of being tended by a caregiver.

She has gratitude for the man who loves her and for her little dog. 

She's thankful for the immediate bond she felt with Rafie, her home health attendant, who laughs with her while disentangling her from tripping over the bedside commode.  

"What a gift!" Kathy says, telling me that Rafie is her intellectual equal as well as a kind soul.

Two other qualities stood out during my long talk with Kathy a few days ago: wonder and wisdom.

She wonders what it will be like to die, and she wonders what there might be afterward.  As an agnostic, she makes no claims to know.  We've talked about this a few times in the last year and a half, but now, standing on the threshold, she's luminous with wonder in a way that I am not.

All in all, she seems to be growing wise.  She's been forced into a kind of Gandhi-like daily life, giving up one thing after another: driving, meetings, work, ambitions, goals.

"But there's still ice cream," she laughs. "And Andy's spaghetti."

When I ask, she explains that he starts with a marinara sauce and adds all kinds of wonderful vegetables.

There's surprise too: "We wanted to get out of the house and drove to San Bernardino," she tells me.  "That was good, but it occurred to me that even there, I still had cancer."  Doing a geographic changed the mood but not the facts.

I got back in my car to continue driving east on Santa Monica Blvd. toward the Century City mall.

The billboard was still changing numbers, however, and my thoughts were still on Kathy and on one of my daughters, who has been smoking since she was a teen.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Prez at La Paz

President Barack Obama, the nation's most famous community organizer, honoring Cesar Chavez, the founder and organizer of the United Farmworkers union--what could be more beautiful?

This exciting moment--the dedication of Cesar's home and UFW center as a national historical monument--came today.

Here's the story in The Bakersfield Californian, as edited by my husband, John Arthur.

The president flew into Bakersfield's airport and went by motorcade to Keene (on Hwy. 58 in the Tehachapi Mountains), where farmworkers' headquarters has been since 1971. 

One of John's college friends, Larry Tramulto, was an organizer working with Cesar for twenty years.  I lived in Bakersfield for five years and graduated from East Bakersfield High School.  John is living and working there now as editor of the paper, after leaving the LA Times. 

There are many discouraging hotpoints in the world today--Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Israel vs. Palestine and Iran--but here is a moment of hope: 

an African-American president of the US and former community organizer
pays tribute to a Mexican-American organizer of farmworkers. 

Yes, it's in the President's best interest to make this trip as he campaigns for re-election--but no matter what happens in November, this moment of racial and political harmony took place. 

The 1% may own most of the economic resources, but there was still room for these two poor young men to have a vision and make a mark.

La Paz is the name given by Cesar to the community there--actually Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz. 

Our Lady, Queen of Peace.  Women appear in the dedication today too: Helen Chavez (widow of Cesar), Dolores Huerta, and the mother of Jesus.

Peace, paz, shalom, salaam to everyone.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Old Boys Club lets Hildegard in


The Roman Catholic Church has finally decided to honor Hildegard of Bingen (born 1098, died 1179 CE) as a Doctor of the Church.

It only took nine centuries for the old boys club to let her join. 

As of today, October 7, 2012, she is officially a learned one and teacher (doctor in that sense--not a medical doctor, though she made contributions to medicine as well as to theology, art, music, and politics).

Thank you to Letha Dawson Scanzoni for calling this to my attention via the EEWC-CFT website,

Letha recommends this blog discussion on the National Catholic Reporter website:

Hildegard was the abbess of a double monastery--one for women and another for priests and men to assist the nuns.  For example, they needed men to celebrate Mass--women were not allowed to be priests.

What I like best about Hildegard are two things:

1) She defended her deciison to bury a perhaps-wayward monk in the churchground of her monastery, though the local bishop wanted him moved out.

2)  She corresponded with popes, trying to get them to live up to the message and example of Jesus.  There was a lot of papal corruption in the 12th century. 

This is one giant step forward for womankind.  Perhaps the RCC will let women join their most exclusive club--the priesthood--one of these years.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

EEWC: A Gold Mine of Friends

I had the pleasure of visiting Virginia and Suzannah at their home in Cedar Crest near Pompton Plains, NJ, last weekend because I was in New York for my mother-in-law's 90th birthday party. 

To the right is the open door of their home, with campaign photos for President Obama on it.

For more photos of Cedar Crest, see this link:

(For personal photos, see those from my visit to their home a year and a half ago.)

This weekend I'm with Sharon Billings (former EEWC coordinator) and five other friends met through EEWC (Karen Torjeson, Barbra Graber, Joanne Feldmeth, Jeanne Sales, and Lois Lorentzen).  We toured Point Reyes National Seashore today.

Two weeks ago I attended a 70th birthday party for Elizabeth Nordquist, where saw Libbie Patterson and Karen Berns.  Elizabeth and Libbie planned our 1978 conference in Pasadena.  

EEWC--Christian Feminism Today has been such a rich source of friendships for me!

I remember in the fall of 1970, in my first year or two of eager feminism, moving to Berkeley to start graduate school and realizing that I had almost no female friends.  My friends in undergraduate years had been either roommates or men, many from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Determined to begin some new friendships with women, I asked a woman in my classes if she would like to be friends, but she was married and working full-time as well as starting a doctoral program, so it didn't work out.

Today, forty years later, I look back on a life-time rich with women friends, thanks in great part to the women I met through EEWC.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Part of the 47%

I'm part of the 47%, and I pay taxes.

I vote too.,0,3321729.story

Fifty days from the Nov. 6 election, and Mitt Romney is looking worse and worse. 

Michael Moore tweets not to worry, that Romney is self-destructing. 

I'm worrying, however.

With Israel trying to build support for an attack on Iran, China and Japan tension rising, and continuing violent demonstrations against the US in Muslim countries around the globe in the wake of the footage of this anti-Islam film, a Romney presidency could get us in real trouble.

We're still dealing with the mess George W left behind. 

President Obama is having trouble managing all this, and he doesn't have the trigger-happy advisers that Romney would bring in. 

Arrest Warrants

In Egypt it's illegal to defame either Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

Religious freedom is all about "the right of a community, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and values," reports David Kirkpatrick in today's New York Times.

The makers of the incendiary anti-Muslim film are Coptic Christians, and some of them may still hold citizenship in Egypt.

So Egypt has taken action by issuing arrest warrents for six Coptic Chrisitians involved with the film, and the anti-Islam pastor in Florida as well.

It's a small world after all.

In Egypt this kind of offense is punishable by death, and I've lost count of the number of deaths so far from riots in which this film was a contributing factor.

World War I was started by the assassination of an Austro-Hungarian prince in Sarajevo.

Perhaps the third will be started by hatemongers posting a You Tube video.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Losers United

So it's not just two crazies and an ex-con, unaffiliated with a local church, that made the anti-Muslim film.

Turns out there's a Coptic Christian preacher that they're all linked to.  He's the one preaching the hatred expressed in the film.,0,1378473.story

Mubarak's government kicked this priest out of Egypt.  He fled to Australia; ten years ago he moved to Orange County in southern CA, where he has no church, just a website for "Father Zakariah."

Is he actually an ordained priest?  What is his standing in the Coptic Christian church? 

Why are our freedoms so broad and our protections so few that any loser can get a megaphone to provoke riots and deaths on another continent?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Glow Jesus' Light

So the three stooges behind this anti-Muslim film are not even your run-of-the-mill right-wing religious extremists.

Thank God! Allah akbar!

They're 1) a con man who's spent time in federal prison and just got out last summer, 2) the owner of a media group who travels around talking about the "Islamicization of America," and 3) another full-time anti-Islamic activist using the media group for his weekly satellite tv show. 

Two of the three are Egyptians, ethnically Coptic Christian, probably deranged by years of violence being a 10% minority there. 

I'm relieved that the con man drifts into a worship service infrequently.  I don't count him as anyone who loves and follows Jesus.  Therefore, I don't have to figure out how a "real Christian" could do this. 

I put the other two hate-mongers in a box labeled "crazy" and don't expect any serious Christianity out of them either, so I've handled my cognitive dissonance for the day.

The stated mission of  "Media for Christ" is to "glow Jesus' light" to the world, reports the LA Times... "working to spread the gospel.",0,6397127.story

With a gospel like that, who needs Christianity?

These modern-day Crusaders think they're fighting Islam, but they're putting Coptic Christians in danger, inflaming hatred, and causing deaths.

What would Jesus do?

I don't know, but his words to these folks were not gentle: "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels..." (Matthew 25:41). 

Learning from a Sikh

Taking a moment for tolerance, a hundred or so students and professors at California State Northridge listened to a lecture on "Who are the Silks, and why are they being targeted?"

Dr. Gurinder Singh Mann, professor at UC Santa Barbara, spoke with spectacular photos and maps from Sikh history.

What I learned: Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, though its home is in the Punjab area now dividied between Pakistan and India.  (It's not part of Hinduism.)

It's the world's 5th largest religious group (25 million people) and began around five hundred years ago. 

Its three central beliefs are:
--divine immanence  (God present in all beings and all bits of creation)
--humans making a social commitment
--humans living in purity.

Also interesting: the current Prime Minister of India and the Commander in Chief of the Indian Army are both Sikhs, though this group is a small minority in India. 

I was moved by the gentle voice and presence of Dr. Mann. He's the opposite of macho.

In fact, I felt that meeting him was probably like meeting Mahatma Gandhi, if I had ever had the opportunity to do that.

A gentle man. 

In a week when religious hatred and violence dominates the news, I'm grateful for an interlude of peace and unity in listening to the voice of history. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This week's Pieta

I carried in my newspaper this morning to find the photo of Christopher Stevens, either dead or dying, on the front page.

I thought newspapers had more respect for the dead, especially a US ambassador. Was JFK shown like this? Would the LA Times display a similar photo of Hilary Clinton or President Obama?

The news is bad enough without having to face this distressing photo: the UC Berkeley student who joined the Peace Corps and led the US effort in Libya now come to this bloody end. 

For a while the US kept the public from seeing even the coffins of soliders returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, but this photo invades my house?

I feel incited to riot by this photo--it invites revenge.

It's also a modern Pieta--his body being held and dragged calls to mind those sculptures of Mary holding Jesus' body.

Please, give me a little more distance before I have to view this.

Holy, holy, holy.    In my Book of Common Prayer there's no rite for the blessing of a newly-made martyr.

#     #     #     #

Note on Sept. 15: Link to LA Times report of readers complaining about this photo.,0,5870567.story

Lies, Sex, & Violence

I'm feeling very discouraged by news that the clumsy film causing protests in Egypt, Yemen, Iran, and other nations was invented by crack-pot Christians who produced it, lied to the actors about its content, dubbed in extremist lines, and claimed it was done by an Israeli.,0,3754075.story

Steve Klein, the "script consultant," said they hoped it would "somehow open up the eyes" of Muslim extremists (interviewed on CNN today).   

What a way to win converts--insult their prophet, Mohammad. 

"The Southern Poverty Law Center has an extensive file on Klein that goes back decades," reports the LA Times. 

Apparently the central character, Mohammad, was only named "George" in the script.  Reports say he is portrayed as a womanizer and pedophile.  No wonder Muslims are protesting. 

Four people died in protests in Yemen today.

I care about Coptic Christians, just 10% of the population in Egypt and often under attack, but they are only more imperiled by the making of a film like this.

The BBC interviewed someone whose name I didn't catch, who said the extremists on both sides "have a symbiotic relationship."  Each fires the other up and provides publicity.

As a person who spends hours in the classroom trying to help students understand religious issues in the news, I am dismayed by the mountain of ignorance and hatred in the hearts of these filmmakers. 

Lines from "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" echo in my mind: When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn? 

You'd think the filmmakers might have wondered if they were obeying God's will when they started having to use deceit to get the film made.   Now it turns out the main guy behind the film is an ex-con, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka "Sam Basile").

Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them."  

"Strange fruit" in Yemen, like Billie Holliday's song recorded in 1939 about lynching.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Elizabeth Warren & the Bible

So what do we make of Elizabeth Warren quoting Jesus in her speech at the Democratic convention last Wednesday night?

It was a stirring moment in a great speech.  I didn't hear anyone else in either convention quoting the Bible, but I missed quite a few speeches. 

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me," she said (Matthew 25:40).

"The passage teaches about God in each of us, that we are bound to each other and we are called to act, not to sit, not to wait, but to act all of us together," she explained, contrasting Democratic support for programs like the Affordable Care Act vs. Republican opposition.

"The Republican vision is clear -- ``I got mine. The rest of you are on your own."' she had said earlier.  See the full transcript:

Her views at greater length were presented by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne in his blog after he interviewed her in August.

My only question: why was she quoting the King James translation, published in 1611?

She identified as a Methodist and a Sunday school teacher in the speech,  Most Methodists I know are not wedded to the KJV, and most Sunday school teachers use a version kids can understand. 

Did she choose the KJV because the most conservative Christians think the Bible was handed to us by King James and carved on stone tablets? 

In other words, the Bible doesn't sound like the Bible to most people unless it's in Shakespearean English?

Or is she just not familiar enough with the Bible in all of its modern translations to quote one of them?

"Brethren?"  I mean, really!  What Bible has she been reading for the last twenty years?

Sisters, we need to send her a copy of The Inclusive Bible--or at least the "New" RSV, done in 1989. 

In any case, she's a courageous and intelligent woman running for senator in Massachusetts.

Warren has an impressive record in setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, passed by Congress and signed into law in 2010.

Her possible nomination as the agency's permanent director "was strongly opposed by financial institutions which had criticized Warren as overly aggressive in pursuing regulations, and by the Republican members of Congress," reports Wikipedia. 

Republicans later blocked the appointment of Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, crippling the agency's functioning for a while.

As she summarized it in her speech, "I had an idea for the consumer protection agency to stop the rip offs.  Now the big banks did not like this, and they marshalled one of the biggest lobbying forces on earth to destroy the agency before it ever saw the light of day." 

"By the way, just a few weeks ago that little agency caught one of the biggest credit card companies cheating its customers," she continued. 

What a committed fighter!  We need Elizabeth Warren in the Senate--let's do all we can to support her.

Here's her website for donations:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In Memoriam

In memoriam:

Jaime's little sister

Paul's daughter

Mary's sister

Benita's daughter

Chris's son

my grandfather

and now one more

Requiem eternam donat eis.


Comfort of silky ears

soft fur over a beating heart

warm body to hug

canine kisses

fierce protection

how many suicides

has a dog prevented?

What can you do?

What can you do?

Hug her every night

and say something?

Please wait for dawn.

I love you.

Please accept

another dealing of cards

another hand to play.


Our assignment:
thirty thousand dawns
more or less
but some of us go AWOL

The moon
this morning
half a degree
away from Jupiter
The ancient cry:

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life
And thou no life at all? 
     --King Lear, V.3.354-55.

O my darling,
you could not wait for one more dawn?

You could not give the Creator
one more chance
to paint the sky
to make the day
less painful?

The news came last night: their 14-year-old daughter took her own life at home early Thursday morning while the family was sleeping.

The child's mother and aunt both elders at my church.

The child under treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts.

In September, the time of return to school and pressure and peer groups.

Fourteen years and she cuts the slender shoot of her life.  I who am greedy for years cannot fathom it.

How do you argue with suicide?

How do you not?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beach Therapy

At 7:30 pm when Ann Romney’s speech was over, I herded the dogs into the car and drove off seeking open space, sunset sky, transcendence.

I found myself driving into the beach parking lot, planning to walk Stormy and Mocha and recover from the upsetting bits and pieces of the Republican convention I’d heard on radio and television.

We immediately encountered two chihuahuas, Bodhi and Shiva, and their owner, Susan.

Someone was performing on the sidewalk with a guitar and microphone; the sun had just set, turning the western sky pink and orange.

“It’s so peaceful here,” she sighed.

“Really—after watching the Republican convention,” I answered.

“I was watching it too ,” she said. “Ann Romney—‘I love women!’”

“I love women too,” I said. “But it sounded so weird coming from her.”

We took the dogs’ leashes off, and they chased in huge circles on the lawn. Politics faded as daylight dimmed and the almost-full moon moved through translucent clouds. Our recovery was complete.

Here is a sampling of the upsetting remarks we needed to recover from:

Rick Santorum after describing his severely handicapped newborn, Bella: “All men—all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with life and liberty.” His repetition of “all men” was such a nonsequitur. I think he meant that the newborn was created equal, but it sounded like men were really equal. Women were absent.

Ted Cruse, running for the Senate seat from which Kay Hutchinson has resigned: “Our rights come not from government but from God.” Not mentioned: “To secure these rights, governments are instituted.”

Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina: “Ann Romney is a strong woman of faith, a wife, a mother, a patriot.” Period. That sounded to me like a message to women: be those four things.

Ann Romney: “Women sigh a little bit harder than men.” (She hasn’t heard my husband sigh.)

“It’s the moms who really hold this country together. You know it’s true, don’t you!” Oh really? What an essentialist statement—one gender holds this country together; the other doesn’t?

“I love you women!” Awkward moment—Miss America proclaiming her love for other women. As in, “Men may put women down—some women too—but I don’t?” Definitely not as in “I’m attracted to women.”

“No one will work harder, care more, or move heaven & earth more to make this country a better place like Mitt Romney.” I don’t know about that—in a contest for working hard, caring and moving heaven & earth, Barack Obama has to score pretty high.

“Give and it shall be given unto you.” A Bible quote, good. (How did it fit in? Who is giving what? I missed the connection between the Romneys and Jesus’ words, except that Mitt helps the poor in his church.

“I make you this solemn commitment: this man will not fail.” When you make solemn promises, don’t you do them on your own behalf? How do you make them for someone else? And how do you promise not failing? No one can promise that because so many factors are outside our control—especially as President of the US.

Repeated four times: “this man I met at a high school dance….”

And in closing: “It’s been forty years since that tall, kind of charming man asked me to dance…. You can trust Mitt, just as he took me home safely from that dance…” Kind of charming? What does that mean? And was it a blizzard that night? Or was it Al Qaeda, or just his own hormones?

The camera switches to Connie Rice, looking very sober at this point, as if to say “Really, Ann? This is why he should become President?” A few seconds later after the speech ends, she is smiling and clapping.

Bill Plante: “There is Governor Romney joining his wife on the stage.” Looking as plastic as ever—(sorry).

Bob Schieffer: “Wow—that was a speech! A fine speech.”

Another guy: “One heck of a speech.”

Really, guys? It was a strange speech.

Governor Chris Christie began his keynote: “Tonight we’re going to choose respect over love, as my mother taught me.” Huh? What does that mean? We’re going to respect Romney, even if we don’t love him?

I turned off the television and rushed out of the house, seeking peace and quiet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thank you, Todd Akin!

On my birthday, August 19, all I did was go to church and climb up the slopes of one of my favorite Colorado fourteeners, Mt. Sneffels. 

But in St. Louis, Congressman Todd Akin was being interviewed by a Fox affiliate and handing me a memorable birthday present: anti-abortion remarks so offensive that he is no longer a serious challenge to the Democratic Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill.

Woo-hoo!  Thank you, Todd. You may have tipped the balance to keep the Senate's Democratic majority in the elections this fall.  You may even have affected the presidential race.

You also gave me the opportunity to tout my evangelical Christian pro-choice book:  Abortion--My Choice, God's Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories (Pasadena, CA: New Paradigm, 1994).  It's available on Amazon, everybody.

I take the Bible seriously as the Word of God and point out in the book that nothing in the Bible opposes abortion.  Fifteen Christian women who have chosen abortion in difficult circumstances share their prayerful decision-making process in the face of rape, incest, health issues, and other crises.

I want to shout another thank-you to reporter John Eligon of the New York Times who researched Akin's religious connections and quotes a friend of Akin's as saying they both are "'far to the right' of people like Rush Limbaugh."

The phrase "Christian conservatives" has become so widely used in the last twenty years that the public now thinks that all Christians are conservative--or that all evangelicals are politically conservative as well as conservative in their approach to the Bible.

Not so.  There are Christian liberals and evangelical progressives, both of whom support legal access to abortion for women who feel they cannot continue an unexpected, unplanned pregnancy. 

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is the most prominent organization trying to counter the myth that all Christians are anti-abortion.

In addition, check out my book, the website of Sojourners Magazine, and the pages of The Other Side, a distinguished evangelical publication that ceased publication about ten years ago. 

Visit the website of Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus--Christian Feminism Today,, and its quarterly publication.  These media are all produced by evangelical Christians whose politics are progressive to left.  EEWC-CFT is an inclusive organization (i.e. gay friendly).  There are many churches that advertize themselves as "inclusive" or "welcoming." 

Eligon points out that Todd Akin holds an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary in Missouri, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America, a group that split off from the southern Presbyterians in 1973 when they merged with the northern Presbyterians.  The PCA has about 350,000 members, compared to 1,952,000 in the PCUSA. 

Christians make up about 77% of the population in the US, and evangelicals are estimated at 30-35%.  But Todd Aiken's variety of "Christian conservatives" is a minority among the evangelicals--those who do home-schooling only, who oppose contraception and abortion, who think wives should be "in submission" to their husbands, and who oppose the increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians, claiming that all this is biblical.  

Do we want someone from this very small sub-group to be one of two senators representing Missouri?  Do we want his vote among the 100 senators making decisions for the 314 million citizens of the USA?

Thank you, Todd Akin, for exposing yourself and your views in time for the people of Missouri to make an informed choice.  You're also giving all Americans a chance to know what they're voting for this coming November 6.