Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Life Changes

I am returning to this blog, after a long hiatus. As many of you know - we attmepted to create a fancy new site,, which burned out (far too quickly) due to the general over-committedness of UChicago students. It was a great idea, but, shall we say, failed miserably in the execution (for which I was chiefly responsible).

En tout cas - I find I still have things I'd like to say, conversations I'd like to have on the subject of religion and politics. There are other, better, fancier forums (For example, my good friend, Matt Kuzma, helps run Faithful Democrats, a fantastic new forum for Christians trying to "make the country we love a more just and compassionate place"), and I hope to participate there as well.

But I am resurrecting this space to give myself a place to think things through. A bit of self-indulgence, but there you are. I'll comment, as time and space allow, on religious and moral issues from a liberal perspective. And I look forward to hearing from you again at my blog email: trleditor-at-yahoo-dot-com.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Changing of the Guard...Er, Site

Hey all-

I am pleased to announce that, as of today, we are moving to a brand new site:

In addition to the blog, we'll have articles, a discussion forum, links and a question of the week. Many thanks to all our regular readers.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

'The poor shall always be with you'

Bryant Meyers has an excellent piece at Sojourners on the ever-puzzling passage at Matthew 26:11 when Jesus explains that the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume (rather than giving to the poor) has done a beautiful thing, for "the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." Meyers writes that the statement, a reference to Deuteronomy 15:4-11, was really a rebuke to Jesus' disciples:
First, Jesus was making a point about worship. The only reason Jesus brought the poor into the conversation was in response to the self-righteous misreading of the devotion of a woman we are never to forget. Second, Jesus was being ironic. By referring to the passage from Deuteronomy, Jesus was reminding the disciples that the only reason there are poor in God's abundant creation is because of human sin and self-centeredness. The disciples did not care about the poor as much as they did about trying to make points at the expense of the woman.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Headlines and Postings

When I first viewed the headline for this column by Kristof (Raped Kidnapped and Silenced), I was afraid, afraid, afraid it was more on the Hillary Clinton smear campaign. But instead, it is an important article about Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman who ought to be made Pakistan's official Ambassador of Goodwill, but instead has been imprisoned by the Musharraf dictatorship. Readers interested in helping should visit the Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Women site.

With regard to the latest, ugliest smear against Bill and Hillary Clinton, I won't repeat the charges. I'll only note that the Drudge Report saw fit to make a banner headline out of them (with a blinking siren and everything), while the G8's move to bring debt relief to 18 of the poorest countries in the world doesn't even make the page. Only the Michael Jackson verdict was big enough to move the Clintons off the headline banner.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Debt Relief

The Group of 8 has agreed to $40 billion in debt relief to 18 of the world's poorest countries, including Burkina Faso. This move will allow the affected countries to keep some $1.5 Billion annually; money that formerly went to debt servicing. The debts cancelled include those to the World band, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. For those countries struggling to make debt payments, in addition to meeting the needs of their people, this is welcome relief.

At the same time, it does not include all poor countries (Nigeria and Indonesia, amongst others, did not make the cut) and much of the funds are coming out of current aid budgets:
Moreover, it does not include an even more ambitious British proposal, viewed negatively by Washington, to double about $50 billion in aid given annually by rich countries.
Which means, that while this plan is definitely a good step, it may simply signal the shifting around of aid funds. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amongst calls for strict monitoring of the deal, reminded the world of the necessity for further aid:
He also urged rich nations to boost aid and revise trade rules under which wealthy countries received farming subsidies, enabling them to produce cheaper goods that were being dumped in Africa and pricing African produce out of world markets.
"I hope that the heads of these different countries will be sensitive and say we are on the same side, we want to eradicate poverty, we want to ensure that trade conditions are equitable and we want to increase aid," he said.

Archbishop Tutu brings up an important point: unfair trade practices, protective tarrifs for American and French agriculture (amongst others), present grave obstacles for the development of poor nations. The reduction of those barriers must be central to any serious poverty-reduction effort, alongside and in addition to increased aid.

And a mea culpa from me: many thanks are due for the efforts of celebrities like Bono and the and groups:
Aid activists who have played crucial roles in marshalling popular support for debt forgiveness cheered yesterday's announcement while voicing determination to press for more. A group of celebrities, led by rock musicians Bob Geldof and Bono, is planning free concerts and rallies in the hope of spurring the G-8 to adopt the aid-doubling plan. is calling for 1% of the US government budget to be spent on foreign aid and poverty reduction, and I most heartily join them.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Question of the Week: Abortion and Religious Progressives

Slate's William Saletan has an article about NARAL's embrace of "responsibility" in it's latest campaign. My question is this: Is there a tenable theological stance for religious progressives in the favor of abortion rights? Or rather, positions, I should say, this being an inter-faith site... What kind theology, scripture or tradition gives a religious liberal their position on abortion?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Downing Street Memo: Take Action Now!

Have you heard about the Downing Street Memo? If you haven’t, I wouldn’t be surprised. This recently declassified British document basically says that the British government knew that Bush and Co. were altering intelligence, playing up the danger Iraq posed, and otherwise misleading the American people into the war. And all this was happening a year before the invasion!

Not surprisingly this document has not gotten much coverage in the American media.

Personally, I am shocked at the allegations that this document raises (even though I am not surprised). With so much of the dialogue in the religious community over this war bouncing back and forth on what makes a “just war” or if the war actually was necessary for our national security, this document shows that, in fact, the war in Iraq is far from a just war. It shows that the President knowingly misled the American people into this war.

I urge you all to take action! This link will take you to where you can sign a letter to the President urging him to respond to the allegations the memo raises. Also, be sure to follow the links to write to your Senators and Representatives. Be sure in your letters to write that you are a person of faith. The message that religious folk are demanding accountability is important, as many politicians probably fear backlash on this from the Religious Right. This is a link to write to media outlets and demand more media attention of the memo.

The war in Iraq is a painful subject. Hundreds of Americans are dying. No one knows for sure how many Iraqi civilians have been killed. Billions of tax dollars are going to the war, when much needed domestic programs and international aid programs are going under-funded. The more accountability we can get now, the less painful and less difficult the process will be in the future.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A needed relief

I have to say that I find this article to be very heartening. It’s a really big step in the right direction. Debt relief is one of the easiest things that we can do to really combat global poverty. And now that Bush and Blair (who have a good record of doing things together no matter what the rest of the world thinks) are backing a major debt relief plan at the G8, there’s a chance for real change across the first world.

I do harbor some suspicions of the line: “African countries that are ‘on the path to reform’." I worry that this will turn into a set of conditions similar to the conditions that US AIDS relief money has attached to it. Conditions that make much needed money hard to get, and that makes countries abandon good programs.

And then there’s also the possibility that Bush will end up not funding this, ala his AIDS relief programs or No Child Left Behind.

These two reservations tell us what we need to do in reaction to this. We need to let Bush know that we support him in this action and that we intend to hold him to his commitment for this debt relief. We need to bring the Religious Right in on this part of the action. Fighting poverty is something that can bring together people from all sides of the political spectrum and allow us to build some great bridges.

We also need to make sure that “on the path to reform” doesn’t end up meaning “on the path to pro-US governments that may or may not be fully democratic” or “on the path to governments that uphold good evangelical values in their law.”

This also gives us a tremendous opportunity to shed some light on other issues facing Africa and the developing world. Problems of violence, poverty, disease, poor education, and human rights violations. These are problems that because of racism and classism, Americans often in the sidelines of the media and our minds. We can not let this opportunity pass to raise awareness and make change.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fighting poverty... with celebrities!

I'm not sure how effective campaigns like these are:

Yes, it's worthwhile to get some attention on the issues (and poverty and AIDS will always deserve more attention that they are getting at any given time). But do people really see beyond Brad Pitt's face to the issue? I'm skeptical, but hopeful - if such a state is linguistically possible.

Occupation and Torture

Naomi Klein has a thought-provoking piece about the occupation of Iraq and its enforcement through torture. The money quote:

... there is no nice, humanitarian way to occupy a nation against the will of its people. Those who support such an occupation don't have the right to morally separate themselves from the brutality it requires.
Now, as then, there are only two ways to govern: with consent or with fear.
I'm not sure if I agree with her or not. Surely there must be a way to limit the brutality? To govern with grudging toleration instead of fear, and in the absence of consent. Obviously, occupation against the will of the people will involve some tragedies, some injustices - but couldn't it be designed in a way that would encourage a move towards consent, and later departure? Couldn't an administration be designed that was tough, but consistent and fair? Something that would nurture self-determination and lead to eventual self-rule?

Klein writes:
Unwanted regimes, whether domestic dictatorships or foreign occupations, rely on torture precisely because they are unwanted.
If the goal of the US occupation is not merely hang onto power, but rather to create a sustainable democracy, shouldn't our actions strive to make us wanted?

Governance without consent is, in itself, an unjust act - though it may serve to defend other values or protect justice in the long run. What I don't accept is that torture is an essential component thereof. Klein's argument is rather like that of Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men, who declares:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.
But the nature of democracy entitles us to question precisely those actions. Demands it, in fact. Because the soldiers in question are acting in our name.