Monday, November 21, 2005

The Hills are Alive


If you have eight spare minutes and are interested in nature, African cultures, life, emergent mysteries, and what we learn from the world around us, listen to this audio journal I recorded in Uganda.

The Hills are Alive
Greg Taylor

The flute you'll hear in the introduction is a homemade pipe with holes, played by a cattle herder in Eastern Uganda, picked up on tape one day while I walked in a village.

The book I refer to in the audio, The Soul of the White Ant, by Eugène N. Marais, is fascinating and was research for my novel, High Places.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Budgets are Moral Documents

I want you to know about this news from Washington D.C. and the statement from Sojourners/Renewal and Jim Wallis:
Note to readers: Early this morning, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a budget proposal (217-215) that, if enacted, would make severe cuts to our nation's most vital anti-poverty programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and child care. The margin was small because of your prayers, phone calls, e-mails, and letters to the editor. Thank you. In the coming weeks, the budget will face a House-Senate negotiation, followed by separate votes in each chamber. We will continue to raise our voices to demand justice for the poorest among us.

Jim Wallis says "Woe to you legislators of infamous laws....."
in response to the narrow passage of the House Budget Reconciliation Bill.

Washington, D.C. (Friday, November 18, 2005) Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and Convener of Call to Renewal, made the following statement today on the narrow passage of the House Budget Reconciliation Bill.

STATEMENT BY JIM WALLIS:

The prophet Isaiah said: "Woe to you legislators of infamous laws ... who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan." Today, I repeat those words. When our legislators put ideology over principle, it is time to sound the trumpets of justice and tell the truth.

It is a moral disgrace to take food from the mouths of hungry children to increase the luxuries of those feasting at a table overflowing with plenty. This is not what America is about, not what the season of Thanksgiving is about, not what loving our neighbor is about, and not what family values are about. There is no moral path our legislators can take to defend a reckless, mean-spirited budget reconciliation bill that diminishes our compassion, as Jesus said, "for the least of these." It is morally unconscionable to hide behind arguments for fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. It is dishonest to stake proud claims to deficit reduction when tax cuts for the wealthy that increase the deficit are the next order of business. It is one more example of an absence of morality in our current political leadership.

Budgets are moral documents that reflect what we care about. Budget and tax bills that increase the deficit put our children's futures in jeopardy - and they hurt the vulnerable right now. The choice to cut supports that help people make it day to day in order to pay for tax cuts for those with plenty goes against everything our religious and moral principles teach us. It says that leaders don't care about people in need. It is a blatant reversal of biblical values - and symbolizes the death of compassionate conservatism.

The faith community is outraged and is drawing a line in the sand against immoral national priorities. It is time to draw that line more forcefully and more visibly.

I applaud those House members who have stood up for better budget priorities and fought hard all year to keep issues of basic fairness at the forefront of this debate. And I thank those on both sides of the aisle who stood up and did the right thing in voting against this bill, despite pressure from the House leadership. These strong voices provide some hope for getting beyond an ideology that disregards the role of government for the common good.

--Jim Wallis

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The thing I lack

I link because I lack the incredible faith that this community has, and I want to learn more, blend it with my life experience in Uganda, poverty in America, my own prosperity.

I link to Bruderhof Communities because it challenges me, my assumptions about the world, poverty, politics, faith, Christ.

In this article, Dan Hallock, a writer who in the late 1980s, an Ivy League graduate with a promising career, traded the fast track in the New York suburbs for a life of voluntary propertylessness, replies to readers who called an earlier article, Paris is burning. What can we do? Hallock lives at Woodcrest Bruderhof with his wife Emily.

The Thing You Lack: Jesus's Words to the Well-Heeled

Thursday, November 10, 2005

American culture through eyes of an African

Podcast related to this post:
Being Light Even On Dark Days
Greg Taylor, Garnett Church of Christ

American culture seen through the eyes of others is interesting. People in other countries see issues, life, family, politics, religion so much differently than we do. And an opportunity to see life through the eyes of a person from another culture, particularly during certain celebrations such as funerals, weddings, holidays, and other rituals, allows us to interact with the person, ask questions, challenge our assumptions about what's real, true, right.

It was my family's pleasure to host a Ugandan friend recently. His name is James Okumu. He was with us four days, and one of those was Halloween. Of course he was fascinated by the event of Halloween. I didn't tell him that Americans spend 6.9 billion dollars on Halloween. It's the second largest commercial holiday of the year. I did explain Halloween's roots to James as I did in earlier posts. He was gracious and decided he'd see for himself and then give his opinion.

We did two things together with our children and James. First, Oct 30 we went to a Fall Festival at Garnett Church of Christ. We had 700 at the event, with more than half of those people who were from the community, not members of our church. James saw a chaotic mass of people playing games, begging candy, decorations that were all foreign to him, but his observation was that this is a great way to invite the community and begin sharing our lives and Christ with them. James ate an American hot dog. He was doing here what I'd done in his village years ago: observing, eating, listening, participating.

Second, we went trick or treating. James asked about a plastic witch that had run into a tree, ghost figurines in someone's yard. I told him they are done humorously, that these are not intended to be witches who curse, etc. I did tell him, however, that there is a presence in America of darker, more Satanic practices, but much of this children's part of the holiday is not connected directly to that. Instead, the community opens their doors, and we enjoy laughs and scares. James enjoyed seeing the children run up to the doors, observed that homes and people in America are very private but that it's good we are opening up our doors on this night. He's right: we are very isolated, so why not be out meeting our neighbors on this night? My kids ribbed me, but I was keeping a list of neighbors I met during the evening. I met and have names of a dozen new neighbors.

James was very kind and positive overall. But seeing the event through his eyes helped me further think through the sermon I preached the Sunday James was here, October 30, 2005. How do we determine whether to participate in cultural events such as Halloween that are questionable? How do we discern biblical principles? What are practical ways we can participate?

Download and hear this Podcast:
Being Light Even On Dark Days
Greg Taylor, Garnett Church of Christ

Then tell me what you think and what you did for Halloween.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Part 2

Here's the basic flow of Halloween's orgins:

2000 years ago -> harvest festival -> Line between living and dead is blurred and spirits roam the earth -> spirits inhabit mediums, fate is divined, dancing, sacrifice -> Church starts All Saints Day to offset these pagan rituals and honor martyrs and saints -> rituals continue anyway side by side -> Hallowsmas and Halloween (night before All Saints) -> Christians continue to displace the pagan and spiritual side with community events -> children began going around begging food and money and eventually became "trick or treating" -> churches start trunk or treats (do inner city churches use this term? or would it be a good idea to advertise that people are downtown getting candy from trunks of cars? -> Fall festivals ->

I met a dozen neighbors along the way as we trick or treated. Halloween is the best day of the year to meet neighbors you don't yet know and begin getting acquainted. People are anxious to see childen in their costumes and many are excited to have people come to their door. Enjoyed watching our children trick or treat and have a great time.

Our friend, James Okumu, has been visiting from Uganda this weekend. I knew we'd have some explaining to do about Halloween. He went with us trick or treating . . . I'll tell you later about some of his observations.