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.


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).  http://www.eewc.com/BookReviews/crazy-for-god/

Milt Hankins.  "Politics Indeed Makes for Strange Bedfellows." Herald-Dispatch, October 25, 2012.  http://www.herald-dispatch.com/opinions/x535102674/Politics-indeed-makes-for-strange-bedfellows

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.  http://www.lung.org/#

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, www.eewc.com.

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.