Tuesday, February 28, 2006

fat tuesday

So I know you Quakers out there may not know it, but today is Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras). I don't generally pay a whole lot of attention to the church calendar, but being in seminary with lots of other denominations I'm aware of a lot more--like I actually learned about epiphany this year...

In some ways Quaker lack of church literacy can be a positive thing and in some ways it's negative. It's negative in that it makes it hard to communicate as well with other denominations--we have very different traditions (traditions set against traditions at times), and until college I think I wasn't even aware of the idea of Lent. It's too bad in some ways because I think there's a richness in tradition that we tend to miss out on. It's kind of cool sometimes to think about generations upon generations of people practicing the same things, saying the same words, using the same symbols, organizing their lives around the same rhythm. This is about my only empathy with liturgy, because liturgy definitely has its own problems too--but done well it can be beautiful and meaningful.

Positives of not going by the church calendar are many...

First of all, since I hadn't heard of Lent until college it was more meaningful to me. When I learned about it, the first year I gave up sugar for Lent. That was a mistake! =) In my life at the time it was a true personal sacrifice... A couple years ago a F/friend and I decided to try fasting one day a week during Lent, and ended with fasting the three days leading up to Easter and going for a mini-retreat together to the Oregon coast, praying, centering, journaling, sleeping, being hungry...It really enforced that idea of waiting in the darkness of a time when it seems like there's no hope, and we got up and went down to the beach at sunrise on Easter and watched the sun rise in silence as we remembered the foundational hope and joy which Christianity is supposed to be about. Then we ate a celebratory breakfast, which tasted so good! It was an amazing experience, to feel like I was part of the story, embodied in it, that my very body was living out the story (not of death, but the story of how the disciples might have felt). It reminded me to in a physical way of the real presence and nearness of our embodied (incarnated) God, who chooses to be incarnated in us still. The time and space to prepare for this experience made a huge difference, compared to other years when I've just gone to church/meeting on Easter without taking that time to think about what it meant, and what it means to me, that we as Christians believe in an incarnated Lord who lived and died, and the hope that comes from new life. So I think that because I didn't know about Lent until later it gave it a freshness, so I could actually experience it as a new thing rather than just a tradition I was taught to do.

Second, I think Quakers are able to be more creative in many ways because we're not liturgical in the same way as some denominations. We're able to pay attention to the living, present Spirit, speaking to our condition, rather than a priest reading what someone decided a hundred or more years ago that should be read on this specific Sunday (and yes, in this case it is Sunday, not First Day). But silence can easily become another form of liturgy, as with Quaker Quietists in the 17th century, where the means becomes the end--rather than the end being hearing God and speaking and acting on what we hear, the end can be just silence, that nice feeling we get when we're at peace inside ourselves. This is a good starting point, but it's only the beginning. And it can become part of our liturgy not to do the physical sacraments--the not-doing is a tradition, a form, where we forget the point--that all of life is a sacrament, that we're in the presence of God at all times, not just at baptism or during communion (or others depending on your denomination). So by not being "liturgical" we still can fall into the same problems.

Third, the church calendar tends to be fairly human-created--it is human-created. At some point Christians decided it would be good to have a 40-day period of preparation for thinking about the life of Jesus and preparing to remember the powerand hope of Easter. Great! And they decided on a 4-week time (I think it's 4 weeks...) of preparation for Christmas, and other things in church calendar. Wonderful! And early followers of Jesus instituted physical sacraments in order to remember the life of Jesus. Good! I think times of preparation and ways to help us remember are so helpful. But at the same time, they often lead to distortions and abuses. They move from being human creations that connect us with God, ways to prepare ourselves and remember, to being things that are required by a church for our salvation.

And with Fat Tuesday and Lent, this comes into sharp relief. After Lent becoming a liturgical practice that was expected of all Europe, people figured they should have one last day of extravagance (and even immorality) before they repented and were absolved by their self-deprivation during Lent. Rather than a gift freely given, Lent became an obligation to fulfill, and whatever corners could be cut would be. It wasn't a matter of love and joy anymore, but fear of damnation. I don't think that's a good way to build a church, but that's just my Quakerism coming out again...

However, I think we as Quakers could definitely revision some liturgical practices, look at what in them is helpful and meaningful, and make some of them part of our yearly spiritual practice--not as an obligation, but as a remembrance,as a preparation, as a way to experience something we haven't before, as a way of connecting with so many who have gone before us and who have found meaning in these forms. Or, what if we created our own practices that were personally meaningful and provided the same helpful pieces in our spiritual journeys? I think we as Quakers could work on this whole physical-embodiment-as-symbolism stuff in better ways than we currently do, and we might surprise ourselves with what we learn!

That said, I'm going over to some friends' house tonight for a Fat Tuesday dinner! =) Our husbands are making us crepes...Mmmm! (I'm not sure why crepes, I guess because they're French?) Anyway, so that should be fun.

And I'm thinking about giving up meat for Lent. Ha! (In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a vegetarian already...)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"releasing" ministers

I grew up in a yearly meeting of mostly programmed meetings (EFI), although I went to an unprogrammed meeting as a kid (until I got to youth group age and the programmed meetings then have a lot more to offer, generally). Since middle school until this year I've been going to programmed meetings, although I tried to get to unprogrammed meetings when I could. Now my husband and I attend an unprogrammed meeting in New Jersey (FGC/FUM). So I guess that means I've been part of three branches of the American Quaker scene, all except Conservative Friends, which I'd like to experience eventually.

Anyway, I've struggled for years with the question of releasing people to be pastors of "churches." In many ways it seems like this goes against all Quaker ideals, and yet, if done well I think releasing people to minister can be completely consistent with Quakerism. Since I'm in seminary right now I'm thinking a lot about whether I could be a pastor.

This summer I'm going to be a "pastor" whether I like it or not, because we have to do a pastoral field education experience for seminary. I think I'll actually like it, though! In fact I'm really excited about it. I will be preaching three times in three months, which seems like a manageable amount (I give a "sermon" every day right here, don't I? It shouldn't be that hard to speak them...), and I'll be doing other things like helping the meeting form a young adult group, getting them connected with Habitat for Humanity, working on assessing their leadership development and helping them discern how to go about that in a more effective manner, and who knows what else. These are things I'm really excited and passionate about: I think it's so important to develop good leaders and help people feel supported by the meeting in their gifts and talents, and I love doing young adult ministries, and I'm excited to help them get connected with a social justice organization that does great things and where various members' skills can be utilized. I'm even excited to preach, to be given the trust and honor of listening to God and sharing what I hear with others.

But I wonder if I could be a "real" pastor or not. In this case I'm just assisting the pastor, I don't have to do things I don't want to or that I'm not as good at, I don't have to take responsibility for things that don't go so well... And above all I don't have to feel the need to come up with something to preach about each week that will be inspiring and inspired.

I think I could be a pastor of an unprogrammed meeting. That would be the best of both worlds! I would love to be released by an unprogrammed meeting to work on leadership development and community building and social justice stuff that the meeting could be involved in, and to bring words as I felt led (as anyone else could).

I wish there were meetings that were like that, where they were okay with releasing people to do the organizational/pastoral stuff, but not have all the expectations of a "normal" church on the pastor's shoulders. As I'm attending the unprogrammed meeting here I love going to meeting and attending various workshop-type-things, but in a lot of ways things seem really disjointed and disorganized. I would be the same way if I was volunteering my time, so I don't slight them for doing the best they can. And yet, I've been going to this meeting for six months, and every week there are people I've never seen before who ask us if we're visitors (because they don't come often enough to have seen us before, I guess), or worse, people who we've seen before and even had discussions with over post-meeting cookies and coffee, who ask us if we're new. I don't think this would happen so much if there were small groups, if we built houses together for Habitat for Humanity, if we went on retreats together, if we just hung out together sometimes to get to know each other.

There are some groups who do semi-programmed worship and have pastors, and I think I could even do that. But it seems sad to me that people aren't released by unprogrammed meetings to do help the meeting build community and intentionally listen to God as a group more effectively. There are people with these kind of skills and passions, and I don't think either side of Friends is doing an incredibly good job of fostering them. Either the pastor is expected to do too much (and the rest of the community assumes they're off the hook and don't have to listen to God themselves), or volunteers are expected to do too much and can't be the kind of community that I think Quakers want to be about.

I'm so grateful that some people are willing to release pastors, however. I think it was different in John Woolman's time--he could wander around and stay with Friends, be a traveling minister who people would take care of and then go back home to his shop and open it back up, or perhaps people took care of his shop or tailoring business while he was gone. It seems like that society was set up more for traveling ministers to be able to survive. Now we need money...we need jobs, and we can't always travel all the time. Some people can be traveling ministers and I would love to see that tradition revived. But we can communicate with each other better now without actually sending someone around to different meetings, and it seems like what we need more now is people who can help us be better communities.

Communities, I think, are inclusive of anyone who wants to be part of them, they attend to the needs of their members but also look from the wealth of joy and love and resources within them to meet the needs of those outside of their immediate community. This kind of community can happen without someone who's paid to work on it and intentionally think about how to help it happen, but it's more difficult, and generally would need to be someone who wasn't working another job. But is this really fair? It seems to me like it's more fair to give someone what they need to live on in exchange for the hard work they are doing. It seems to me that's what the early Friends did anyway, it just wasn't in the form of money, but instead in the form of a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and care when they were sick.

We as Friends have great potential, and I think our practice of listening to God in silence has the potential of raising up incredible leaders if we work to encourage those leaders and give them avenues to use their leadership skills. It's amazing looking back over the history of the United States and how many amazing women and men were in positions of great leadership in the important social reforms of the last several centuries. What are we doing now to encourage those kinds of leadership skills and to create space for those skills to come out and be used for the benefit of our meetings and our world?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

pacification or pacifism?

Today I was reading what some people wrote during the antislavery movement (Jarena Lee, David Walker's "Appeal"), about the rights of all people to equality and freedom, no matter the person's race or gender. Amen, I say! That's what our country is supposedly about. That's what we have as our basic credo. But many people also believed this in the nineteenth century when there was slavery and when women were supposed to stay in their own "sphere."

It's interesting to me as I reflect on the changes the United States has gone through since then, how little has really changed. Maybe I'm looking at this too cynically (belieing my post from a few days ago about being mainly optimistic...), but perhaps I'm just being realistic...

Anyway, it seems like the country has done as little as it can to change while pacifying those who felt wronged just enough so there's not enough catalyst for further uprisings. Yes, all races are equal in the sight of our laws, but are all people treated equally? Of course not. And yes, women agitated and eventually gained the right to vote and to be educated, etc., but the United States, beacon of equality to the world, has not yet passed an equal rights amendment for women--so it is still true in the good ol' US of A that "all men are created equal," but not necessarily all women.

I will speak here mostly about women, because that is my experience, and I wouldn't want to try to speak for other "minorities." In most ways women are now treated equally: we can go to the same schools and do most of the same jobs. We can even preach in many denominations, we can work outside the home, we don't have to have children or be attached to a man. These are good steps in the right direction. But at the same time, we are not always paid equally for an equal job, there are unfair laws (eg men can get Viagra paid for by their insurance but it won't pay for birth control!), and women are generally not expected to be as intelligent or able as men by society as a whole.

So it seems to me that what our society has changed a few laws and customs, but mainly kept the same rules of the game. If women and other "minorities" can play the white man's game, they're welcome to try--if they want to try to think in the same ways, use the same competitive tactics and speak the same language of logic and linearality (is that a word? It is now because I don't have to play their game... =), if we can do all that then sure, more power to us. But if we try to change the rules we're not allowed to play.

But the laws have changed just enough to pacify us. And in this case I'm not talking about pacifism, where we're actively nonviolent, showing the injustice of the system, but this is pacification which keeps us passive. I, as an American woman, am allowed to do pretty much whatever I want to. I might not get paid well for it, and there might be groups out there who will treat me the same as anyone else, so I probably won't rise up and demand equal rights. But we aren't treated equally. And in all likelihood it is probably worse for other races than for me, as a white woman.

What is our role as Quakers in all of this? We worked hard to get rid of the major problems--we didn't allow slavery or complete subjugation of women. But it seems like we quit before the whole battles were won. We called well enough good. But there's still suffering and inequality going on! What are we going to do about it?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the trinity

This week we're talking about the Trinity in systematic theology. I'm learning a lot about the theoretical concept of the "three who is one who is three...", and it's really interesting, but in some ways my Quaker practicality steps in and wonders, "Why do we spend so much time worrying about what we can never understand?"

Several things about the Trinity cause me not a small amount of wariness. First, it's not in the Bible, so it's really a made-up concept, one which humans hold as something that one has to believe in order to be an "orthodox" Christian. This is based on the creeds, which as a Quaker I didn't pay much attention to until this year. Now I have a much greater understanding as to why Quakers have traditionally stood against creeds! It seems like the church councils (Nicea, Constantinople, etc.) created these creeds, and now we have to decide whether we're "in" or "out," what the exact wording means, whether we can tweak the words so we can stay "in" or whether we have to leave the Christian community. I don't see this as helpful. To me it makes more sense to get to know people, learn what they believe, see if the Spirit is working in them, and by that know whether they are "Christians" or not. Words don't make us Christians, and they don't make God what we think God is.

Then there's the subordination part of the Trinitarian doctrine. My professor says you can believe that Jesus and the Spirit are subordinate to the Father without being "subordinationist," that is, making the second and third persons of the Trinity not equally God. This is tri-theism, a heresy the church rejected. The other side of this heresy is modalism, where you believe in one God who has these different faces at different times--so when he became human in Jesus he no longer existed outside of Jesus' humanity, and now that the Spirit is our access to God, the other two persons don't exist. Obviously this doesn't make sense.

And of course there's the problem of language. All three persons have been traditionally imaged as male, and although the Spirit is more of an amorphous non-gendered being in most people's minds, if pressed people would usually still refer to the Spirit as "he." If you ask people they would say God isn't male, but still, many Christians tend to think of "masculine" traits as more godly, and "feminine" traits as less valuable. This is not helpful in (at least) two ways: 1) it makes women and the attributes they are supposed to have seem less valuable while men are seen as made "more" in the image of God, and 2) it means that God cannot encompass all traits and be both what we think of as "feminine" and "masculine" in positive ways. It also makes it difficult for both genders to relate to God: how can I love a God who is male and doesn't understand what it's like to be female? How can (heterosexual) men envision being passionately in love with a God who is male?

I understand that when the doctrine of the Trinity was created, they needed to be able to express how Jesus could be God, and whether or not the Spirit was God. OK, we've established these things (at least people know that they are part of Christian doctrine). So let's get on with life! Why do we need to hold so tenaciously to this doctrine if more intelligent ways of thinking about God come to light? How do we know there are only three persons? If God is beyond our numbering system, how can we say for sure that God is one God in three and only three parts? It seems to me like these are our own stipulations, not God's.

But the thing that I have learned that was most helpful was from the Cappadocians of the fourth century, and the feminist interpreter of them, Catherine M. LaCugna in "Freeing Theology." She sees their Trinitarian theology (which became the foundation of both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) as entirely relational. She speaks about this painting as a good way of thinking of God's relational character. It shows the three "men" of "messengers of God" that come to visit Abraham & Sarah, who provide them great hospitality. Abraham & Sarah's house is in the background, and in the middle of the table is a Eucharistic cup, symbolizing communion between the three persons. The circle is open, symbolizing the inclusivity of the Trinity's relationship: it is complete in itself but invites people in to share that communion, to return the hospitality, as Abraham and Sarah do.

God's essence is to be in relationship, and without someone to relate to God would cease to exist. This doesn't mean that God needs humans, but that God needs to be in some way more than one in God's self. I really like this idea--that the whole essence of the divine is love for other through and alongside and inside love for self--that they are so inextricably linked as to be the same. We are called to "love God and love our neighbor as ourself," and in God these three are the same thing although we as humans need to separate them out in our minds. This is a dynamic trio, full of movement and action, a love that is not just a passive feeling but an active being.

So to me, if it's helpful to believe in a Trinity, fine. But at the same time, we need to come up with more helpful ways to communicate these "persons" that are not only masculine metaphors, we need to remember that it's about relationship of love, and that our love requires action in the world. If the Trinity idea calls you to that, so be it. If not, it is just another dead doctrine.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

one more reason to be a vegetarian...

I became a vegetarian in July after thinking about it for a long time. The main reasons for me are:

1. I wouldn't want to kill animals myself in order to eat them, and I don't want to eat something that I would feel morally incapable of supplying for myself.

2. Animals are mass-produced for slaughter and not treated well while they are alive, and not killed humanely.

3. Animals take a huge amount of space and resources to be produced, slaughtered and brought to stores, from the space, time and resources it takes to grow the food they eat to the animals themselves. Many fossil fuels are wasted in this process, especially in shipping (of course this last could be said for many fruits and veggies too).

But here's a new reason: the Grist, an online environmental magazine, wrote this article today about poultry production. Apparently large poultry corporations are buying cheap land in the rural south, paying people incredibly low wages to raise the chickens, and sidestepping many environmental and health concerns for the people of the areas around these new chicken farms.

So now not only is vegetarianism an animal rights issue, but also a human rights one. I knew this before, but this just brings it to the fore again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

lord of war

Last night we watched "Lord of War," the new (at least new to the video store) movie with Nicholas Cage. It's about the illegal small arms trade, and how the biggest dealers are the top five UN countries. Great...

The movie's really well done and even has a documentary-type thing as one of the DVD features if you want to learn more about the reality of the arms trade. We were pretty depressed by the end of the movie, with a grim understanding of another thing that sucks about this world we live in.

There was a mention of Quakers, which we laughed at really hard--Cage's character says, "After ten minutes there were more guns on that aircraft than on a plane full of Quakers!" (or something to that effect).

So the movie got me thinking about my outlook on life. I was making fun of myself the other day to a northeasterner (I think here they have more of a pessimistic attitude than most northwesterners), and I called myself an "eternal optimist." I think that's true of me--and still I think I'm pretty realistic, too. These are hard things to balance!

I believe that there are tons of things wrong with the world, and sometimes I get so loaded down with it all that I wonder how I'll even continue going on with life as usual--like after watching "Hotel Rwanda" last year, or when the Iraq war started even though there were so many people protesting and it seemed like the whole nation was against the idea of going to war... I see all these things and they hurt my soul so deeply that I can hardly go on and I wonder how a little group of peace-loving Quakers can ever do anything to affect change.

And yet, we're a small group of people, and we're known all over the world for the work we've done for justice and peace--real peace, not just lack of violence.

I have to believe that still there is hope, even though we can't change the world completely, we can change it for good. "The Kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus said, and scholars are realizing that the way he said that meant that it's here already, continually effecting the world--and the Kingdom of God is us. It's us working for truth and justice and peace and equality and discernment and listening to God, as Quakers have traditionally stood for.

Yes, it's so hard and frustrating and sad and heart-wrenching that so much evil exists in this world. It's hard to imagine how a good God could "let" all this happen. But y'know what, I'm a stubbornly-realistic-eternal-optimist, and I think there is good in this God and in the humans God brought into existence, and we can do something to continue influencing this world for good.

Who's the "lord of war"? Well, God's in control as we fight the Lamb's War, and although I don't think God likes war, somehow good is prevailing and the Kingdom is coming and is here as we act for justice and peace.

A song by David Wilcox sums up this idea incredibly well--he has a way of doing that! It's called (Love Will) Show the Way, and you should definitely go read it...right now...what are you waiting for??? =)

Monday, February 20, 2006

honest quakers

"Honesty is the best policy," but what if it goes against polity?

What if what we are called to say and do is different from what church tradition, or the understanding of orthodoxy, says is the "way of God"? What if church tradition is wrong? Or what if overuse has made it obsolete? How do we create renewal in a church without breaking away from it? How do we call people back to faithfulness when it is so much more comfortable for a church to stay in its own ruts, creating and sustaining its own direction, forgetting to listen to God?

How do we gain the courage to allow ourselves to listen fully to God--which entails a listening with follow-through? How do we give ourselves and our churches permission to act on radical things they hear from God?

Early Quakers acted on honesty and were known for it--they were some of the first to institute standard pricing; they were known for speaking the truth, letting their "yes" be "yes"; they spoke out against injustice when they saw it and did not continue to live by that injustice until it was eradicated--they created other ways to live. They refused to wear clothes dyed by slaves. They refused to own slaves. They refused to join wars or pay for them or in other ways be involved, except to help the injured from both sides.

Where is our honesty now? We say we disagree with overuse of fossil fuels--and yet we still use them in our cars and to heat our homes (check out biodiesel). We say we disagree with the use of individuals in other countries not being paid a fair wage for the products they make for us, and yet we bargain shop, looking for the best deals, the cheapest product (help work for Fair Trade). We say we believe in the equality of all people, and yet an equal rights amendment for women has been routinely set aside since 1923, and women in the United States receive less money for the same jobs as men (read about it here). Individual rights are routinely disallowed in our country as basic freedoms are taken away through wiretapping, discriminatory searches at airports, and inability of individuals to obtain rights to become citizens.

We say we are against war, and yet Quakers are so comfortable living lives of luxury that we're not willing to do what it takes to be allowed to not pay taxes that support the military. We are no longer willing to go to jail for our beliefs. We are definitely not willing to live at the kind of "simple" level it would take to not be elligible to pay taxes so we wouldn't be supporting the military. We aren't even willing to support with our lives and money groups who are working for nonviolent resolution of conflicts around the world. (There are individual exceptions, of course--check out this story of a Quaker working on war tax resistance. And here is a group working on the Peace Tax Fund.)

Where is the fire in our Quakerism? Where is the joy of life that is so evident in the early Quakers' lives, the complete abandon to the will and love of God, and love of neighbor? Who are we as Friends now?

I include myself in this, because although I try to live up to the standards of the early Friends I utterly fail. I need a community--and so do you--if we're to pull this thing off. And to do so we may have to jump out of these comfortable boxes we've created for ourselves of orthodoxy, of fitting in, of being loved by society and remembered well. Yes, we are thought of well now because of our history. But at the time Quakers were hated because their policies worked against the ways of the world, and for justice and equality. Right now the world loves us because they can hail the good things we did in the past as we sit basking in their flattery, not wanting to lose the esteem we have in worldly eyes by doing anything that might ruffle feathers.

Who are we now as Quakers? And who are we called to be? Are you willing to step out and live into our heritage? Are you willing to let your fear be broken down, let yourself be hated by the world, even do things which your Quaker community might see as amiss, in order to follow God? How can we create communities who will take these steps of faith together?

Honesty is the best policy, so there's my piece of honesty. Shall we listen together?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

quakers on the edge

today i read some letters by sarah grimke (that's her in the picture), a 19th century quaker who, along with her sister Angelina, started speaking out against slavery and got in trouble for speaking in public as women. so sarah started writing (and speaking) about the equality of the sexes. she bases her arguments on the bible, and the intro for the text i read said she wrote the first feminist treatise on equality in america. you can read more about them and some of sarah's letters here.

it makes me proud that we have such a great heritage as quakers--that all semester when we've talked about progressive groups in church history we've talked about quakers. it's great that our forebears were willing to step out of line, speak up, leave their comfortable lives and speak and act for justice.

but i wonder, what are we doing NOW that will be positive church hisory in the future? how are we as quakers standing up for anything? where's our prophetic voice for change now? the world certainly isn't perfect yet! the lamb's war is still going on, as the early quakers liked to call it. and yet it often seems like we're sitting around congratulating ourselves about a few great battles that we won and letting everything fall down around our ears as we fight amongst ourselves now.

so what is it that God is calling quakers to be about here and now? i hope we can continue to listen to the Spirit together. feel free to post your ideas...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

vagina monologues

tonight we went to see "the vagina monologues," a play of monologues and dialogue based on interviews done with thousands of women around the world, talking about their vaginas and womanhood, sexuality, relationships with others, and abuse. the women's center at my school organized it with women from campus as the actresses. it was very well done, poignant, funny, uncomfortable, interesting, sad, beautiful.

it was cool seeing my fellow seminarians come out of their shells, change into actresses instead of formal, straight-laced-seeming, rather hard and quiet women making their way in the man's world of religious studies and pastoring. cool to see all the passion bursting forth and being loved and respected by themselves and the rest of the seminary community.

"the vagina monologues" are presented all over the world each year on (or around) valentine's day to bring awareness to women's experience, especially to work to stop abuse of women and girls. their website is www.vday.org. A portion of the proceeds from seeing the show goes to vday, which supports "grassroots, national, and international organizations and programs that work to stop violence against women and girls." the beneficiary for this year's v-day money is a group of women who were "comfort women" during world war II, coopted by the japanese military. it's a really sad story, and you can read it on their website.

then each place that puts on the production chooses another local group to give the rest of the funds to that aims at the same goals, our production is supporting woman space, inc.

if you hear about one of these productions being put on in your area i would recommend you attend. it's important to think about issues of physical abuse against so many women (as many as 1 in 3 worldwide!), as well as the general abuse that has occurred from the repression of women's sexuality in our culture for so long.

narrative & voice

our dear friends here at school had the incredibly bright idea of hosting an evening of oral interpretation of literature, where everyone comes to their house in the evening, brings a "theological beverage of choice" (meaning whatever they want to drink that may help them wax eloquent now and then...) and a scarf (to look scholarly and literary), and we read j.d. salinger's "franny & zooey." excellent. (they read the first half a few weeks ago but we couldn't be there.) (i think at least half of this post so far is in parentheses [but that makes it more fun, doesn't it? {or am i just a nerd like that?}])

anyway, so there were about 15 people in their little apartment living room, the lights were low, there was a podium with a reading lamp and a stool, and we took turns (by drawing names from a bowl) reading out loud to each other this story. it's amazing to me how oral tradition has been part of so many cultures before us--it's a part of the very fabric of our beings, i think--and yet we don't do it anymore. when was the last time you sat around reading out loud or intentionally telling a story to other people you don't know very well? (or people you do know well, for that matter!) in this culture we watch a lot of movies and tv, which are stories, but they don't often engage the imagination in the same way. you don't get to know the people you're with when you're watching a movie. there's no sense of intimacy or sharing any piece of yourself or having to be vulnerable. but with reading aloud you share an experience, you share part of yourself, your very voice, that which communicates who you are to the world, as you communicate another's text in your own interpretation.

storytelling is an art that's really pretty much lost on our culture. so it was cool to have the experience of coming together with people and enjoying the kind of community that's built from simply being together and sharing experiences on a dark winter's evening.

(going back to my topic from the other day about the popularity of blogs, i think maybe this is a key part of the reason--we're storytellers by nature, with no one with whom to share our stories...a sad and lonely society caught up in our pretense of perfection. but our humanity has its way of leaking through in the most unexpected places, even the technological world of the internet. hmm...)

photos courtesy of our new friend nolan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

wait, i thought democracy was letting people elect whomever they want...

so the new york times ran this article yesterday about how the governments of the united states and israel want to destabilize the palestinian government so that they'll have to call for new elections in order to get rid of hamas.
or t
ok, so i'm not all for hamas--they don't have an extremely good track record thus far, although they do build hospitals and schools and stuff in palestinian territories, which is more than can be said for israel. they're terrorists, yes, but so are we, and definitely so is israel, if we're trying to destabilize their government!

our current administration (gotta love 'em) puts a lot of emphasis on bringing democracy to the middle east. if a group is democratically elected, shouldn't we at least give them the chance to show that they're going to work through good government policies to have their needs met rather than terrorism before we shut them down? it is not democracy if we say, "you can have democratic elections, as long as you vote for the right people. otherwise we'll make you try again."

to me this seems to break down the whole idea of democracy! if hamas really does want to change their ways, don't htey have to get into governmental power? and if this power is taken from them when they have won it fairly, won't they just go back to terrorism, and probably be stronger than before because now people see that democracy isn't going to work?

it's infuriating!

privacy & independence

last night after writing my blog entry i wasted some time by doing a search on blogs with "cherice" in them (that being my name, in case you hadn't noticed), just to see who else was out there blogging with my name. there are a few people, and it's weird to see pics of other cherices because i've never met anyone else with my name, spelled exactly the same.

at any rate, it was interesting to see what these random other people talked about--these people with whom i don't know if i have anything in common besides our shared name, the fact that we write in english, are presumably female and have blogs. most of them were things like, "so this is the random thing i did today..."

it got me thinking about blogging in general. isn't it weird? i mean, here we are in independent america (or other western-english-speaking-countries), where (at least in america) what we value about our society as a whole is our independence. it's our only national holiday, really. we generally like the fact that we don't need anyone else, we can get by on our own thank you very much, we lead our own lives in our own space, never really interacting with people outside of our circles (and we call this independence, which is kind of ironic but that's another topic for another day perhaps...)

but now there are blogs. i can search and find people with my same name, and hear the mundane details of their lives. it's almost like reading their journal. i'll never meet them, and if i did it would be kind of weird to say, "oh yeah, i know all about you. on february 13 you hung out with..." and so forth, because in our culture part of our value of independence is the right to privacy.

why is it that the internet seems so public and so impersonal? i guess because it's so vast--not many people are going to look for your blog if they don't know you, and so what if they read it?

and yet, it seems like some blogs are a kind of desperate shout-out to the world--like people are yelling, "someone notice me! someone care that this is what i did today!"

in our culture where we isolate ourselves in the name of independence, i think we've lost a great deal. maybe blogging will help us collectively realize our need for interdependence...or maybe it'll just be another band-aid to make us not notice our need for relationship.


yesterday i couldn't go to meeting because it snowed here (a lot!) and i didn't have a car because my husband was gone for the weekend. so instead i decided i'd spend some time centering on my own. i try to spend at least a few minutes a day centering in silence anyway, but figured i'd do a little longer than my usual time, if not the whole quaker hour.

it was interesting leading up to this time--i slept in, which was nice, then got up and decided i needed to eat first, because i'd eat before going to meeting anyway...then i decided i needed to do some housework or i wouldn't get it done...and i found all sorts of things to distract myself that otherwise i wouldn't have been interested in doing. i think it's funny how the things i talk about liking the most are the things that i often find hardest to do. (i like academics, but to actually sit down and do homework isn't my favorite thing. i like to learn to communicate better, i like to write, i like to exercise...the list goes on--but most of them are hard for me to actually just do.)

anyway, i eventually realized what i was doing and decided it was now or never. so i sat down on the futon with a blanket, lit some candles, and worked on centering. still it's so easy to get distracted! my cat, charlotte, wanted to cuddle but she kept moving around. people in our apartment building had music on, were talking in the halls, stamping their feet as they came in to get the snow off, etc. my mind wandered and i thought about what i needed to do later in the afternoon.

and then for a while there was nothing, really. the music faded, i didn't hear anyone talking, charlotte sat a little ways away, and i remember nothing from that time. after a while (i don't know how long because i didn't check the clock at the beginning) i came back to awareness. i felt calmer and more peaceful, centered (as quakers like to say). nothing special happened during that time, no flashes of insight, no new depth of emotion or anything, but a definite sense that whatever had happened in that time had happened with God, at a level i can't even sense.

maybe i avoid this kind of thing because it could be kind of scary. what's going on when i'm not aware of myself? am i asleep? am i in a trance? who's in control? and yet, in good spaces like that there's a deep sense of trust--i don't have to worry, it's a good place to be even though i don't understand and can't explain it.

my theology teacher said the other day that when people go into a space of "nothingness" it's the hebrew "tohu-va-vohu," the emptiness and void of genesis 1, the chaos out of which God created the universe. he thinks the space of nothingness is the absence of God.

perhaps he's correct. maybe there's a "nothing" that really is nothing. but maybe there's also a space where i can't understand, where i can't sense with any of my five senses what's going on, where it seems like nothing, but really it's an opening into the vast peace that passes understanding which is what we can only indefinitely term "God."

Monday, February 13, 2006

the secret is...

i'm still on this messianic secret thing, but now i pretty much finished my paper (except for editing). but writing about the messianic secret reminded me of something i read by john d. caputo in "more radical hermeneutics." he's a philosopher i really like (not that i know a lot of them), and i especially like his book "on religion." but that's beside the point...

in "more radical hermeneutics" he starts out by talking about how the secret of life is that there is no secret--no one knows THE answer, no one knows what they're doing, no one has a more direct line of access to whatever deity might be out there than anyone else.

instead, the secret is "that we do not 'Know' ourselves or one another, that we do not 'Know' the world or God.... That, if anything, is who we are, the ones who do not know who they are, and whose lives are impassioned by the passion of that non-knowing."

i like this way of looking at life--it allows us to be the fallible, not-so-intelligent creatures that we often are, to admit that we don't know what's going on or who we are, and to passionately seek after what might be, with any luck, a glimmer of the truth. it also puts us all on an equal playing field: no one knows what's true in some sense, and yet, all of us have the potential of finding truth as we passionately seek after it, in the midst of mystery and paradox and beautiful confusion. i think this makes life and faith so much more fun and joy-filled. we're not just seeking after some dogma, making sure that we say the magic formulas or know the right behaviors. instead we're on this wild, breathtaking journey towards the ultimate, not knowing where we're going or what it will look like when we get there, just trusting that it will be good in a deeper sense than we can ever dream.

this, i think, is the secretless secret of the kingdom of God which mark tantalizingly whispers in his gospel, calling us to keep looking, keep searching, keep asking questions, don't give up hope. on the same theme, read the words to david wilcox's song "out of the question" (and buy his cd if you like--it's worth it!).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

messianic secret?

today i've been working on a short paper about the book of mark, and thinking about why in the world he would make it seem like the kingdom of God and believing in jesus is so hush-hush! most of the time when he shows jesus healing someone he tells them not to tell anyone. and he tells parables, according to mark, so that people won't understand.

is mark doing this to explain why the jews didn't recognize jesus as the messiah? is he doing this, like the gnostics liked to think, because there is some sort of secret which was only imparted to a few people? did he write this way to dare people to look for the truth behind the parables?

it is this last that i think is true--when reading through mark lately for my class i've been struck by how curious it makes me, how i want to sit around thinking about what the parables mean (because they're not explained), how i wonder who this jesus really was and why he wouldn't want people to know him as the christ.

i think maybe mark presents it this way because he wants people to have to wrestle with discovering the truth, to think hard, to let their ears and eyes be opened with those of the blind and deaf, to be able to see and hear the truth hidden in the "good news" of jesus. what is the good news? what does it mean that God called him the son of God, that he called himself the son of man, that his apostles called him the christ, that demons called him son of God, that people called him teacher but didn't understand his teaching...

tantalizing, isn't it? (or maybe i'm just a nerd! =)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

hurricanes & the gulf coast

i started this blog a few days after returning from a trip to the mississippi gulf coast to do some hurricane relief work, but i think i needed the time to process what i'd experienced before i could write about it. (sometimes writing is the processing...sometimes something internal needs to happen before it can come out in text.)

anyway, i went with a group from my school and we stayed in gulf port, mississippi, just outside of biloxi. it's an area which hasn't gotten much media coverage but was hit incredibly hard by the late-summer hurricanes nonetheless. biloxi is actually on a kind of peninsula, so it was hit from three sides by 20-foot walls of water, causing flooding and an incredible amount of damage. biloxi is also the second biggest center for casino town in the usa, only after last vegas. so there were these huge casino barges just off shore, and with the wave created by the hurricane they were swept inland and took out whatever was in front of them. their steel hulls still sit on piles of wreckage, which is what the picture at the front of this post depicts. ocean water came into the center of the city at a level of about 12 feet.

i think what struck me most about going to biloxi was that we were there five months after katrina hit, and still there was trash and people's belongings strewn through the trees. there were still houses which have not been cleaned out yet. in biloxi we saw no homes which did not look as if they had been affected by the hurricanes, although about 5 had been rebuilt. (casinos had also been rebuilt.)

another thing which we learned was that insurance companies are refusing to pay up for the loss of people's houses. most homeowners in biloxi had hurricane insurance, but did not have flood insurance (because the area had not flooded for about 100 years, and then not badly). but the insurnace companies are considering most of the damage to have been caused by the "flood." this makes me so angry!!! how can anyone with a conscience do this to people? yes, perhaps much of the damage was caused by a flood, but the flood would never have happened if not in concurrence with the hurricane!

well, we seminarians don't have a lot of actual skills where labor comes in, but we could pick up trash, pull up floors, clear debris and cut up fallen trees, and this we did. but there's still so much to do.

we worked with presbyterian disaster assistance, and they seem to be a fairly organized group. i would suggest contacting them if you feel any sort of desire to go help out in the gulf area. they have camps with "pods," which are plastic tent-type things with cots in them. they are mainly on the sites of presbyterian churches, i believe. they organize work projects for each group and organize food preparation and such for volunteers. here is their website (and a picture of the pods is on the webpage): http://www.pcusa.org/katrina/

presbyterian disaster assistance has committed to being there on the gulf for at least the next 5 years to assist with rebuilding, but of course to do this they need volunteers. the people we met in mississippi were really grateful that we were there, and i think it's a great way to show our solidarity with others who are in desperate need. of course we shouldn't just go somewhere else to help people, but it's good if we start in our own communities--but i think it's hopeful for people in mississippi to know that people all over the country still care and remember their plight. so if this starts you thinking about doing something yourself, i say go for it!

Saturday, February 04, 2006


i did a search on blogger for other posts in the last day that have the word "quaker" and i found some interesting stuff (and a bunch of stuff about quaker oats weight loss programs or something...)

anyway, one blog talked about taking a quiz on beliefnet.com where you answer 20 questions about what you believe and it guesses what religion you are. so apparently 100% of my answers matched up with baha'i, 96% liberal quaker, and 88% orthodox quaker. interesting, eh? i don't know much about baha'i, but i'll do some research for interest's sake. some of the questions were hard to answer, but it was an entertaining exercise.

prophetic voice against conquest

i read today about the spanish conquest of the americas. it got me thinking about colonization and what part in this system i've played and what i can do about it.

the spanish had an interesting perspective on colonization, because as they came over to take land and get various resources to take back to spain, their main professed goal was making the natives become christians. they had this idea of messianic providentialism (which i suppose was the precursor to manifest destiny in the english colonies), that the reason spain had discovered the americas was as God's reward to them for their faithfulness, and also an act of grace toward the "indians" to rid the americas of the evils of the tribal religions.

many, like cortes, thought it was a good idea to wage war against the native people so that they would have to be subjected to the spanish, who could then force them to become christians or die, or become slaves. here's a quote from him: "Bringing these savages as slaves, to work in the gold mines, would produce to your Majesty and the Spanish people benefits, and it might even happen that thanks to such a familiarity with us some might even be redeemed." (quoted in Must Christianity be Violent? ed. by Kenneth R. Chase & Alan Jacobs, p. 45.)

there were also some franciscan & dominican missionaries who came over and became angry with the way their compatriots were treating the native people. the most famous was bartolome de las casas, who became quite a prophetic voice for those native to the americas. he wrote a letter saying, "1. All conquests are unjust and tyrannical; 2. we have illegally usurped the kingdoms of the Indies; 3. all [slaves] are bad per se; 4. those who possess them and those who distribute them are in mortal sin; 5. the king has no more right to justify the conquests and [slaves] than the Ottoman Turk to make war against Christians; 6. all fortunes made in the Indies are iniquitous; 7. if the guilty do not make restitution, they will not be saved; 8. the Indian nations have the right, which will be theirs till doomsday, to make us just war and erase us from the face of the earth." (Ibid, p. 47-48.) although i don't agree with him about the just war part, if i did believe in just war i think the native americans have about as much right to it as anyone could.

so it's great that there were people speaking out prophetically about the evils of the conquest of the americas...but i'm white, living here in the united states, speaking english. i didn't actually take part in destroying the native americans as individuals and societies, but i live here, profiting from that destruction. is las casas correct that we are complicit in it unless we pay back everything that we have profited by these unjust actions? and at this point, how in the world would it be possible to pay it back? (of course the united states as a nation would never do this, but how would i even go about doing this personally? i don't know!)

add to that the fact that we are in the process of a new conquest of the middle east... i don't agree with that conquest and i've made that fact clear through writing my congress people and talking about what i believe and living on little enough income that i don't owe federal taxes so i'm not contributing monetarily to the war effort, but i still live here. i still live a fairly normal american life, and my vote is truly with my complacency.

another conquest based on bringing "christianity" in its political form to another country is not something i want to be part of. but how do i do anything about it? not alone, that's for sure--but how can we work together to keep our nation from making the same mistake again? how do we speak out with prophetic voices and organize for effective action?

Friday, February 03, 2006

this quaker's theology

i think it is possible that this systematic theology class might be the death of me. almost every time i leave class i have an angry knot in my stomach from disagreeing so vehemently with the theology presented that i just want to rant about it for about an hour afterwards. this is probably hazardous to my health!

what's the problem, you ask? good question. this blog is an attempt to try to find voice to articulate exactly what it is about this form of theology that bothers me so much.

what it mainly boils down to is that i am realizing just how spirit-oriented quaker theology is. i mean, i knew we believe in the leading of the spirit and that the spirit is a really important piece of our theology as a whole. (it may be the only thing quakers agree on--whether you think the spirit is that of the God of jesus christ or of yourself or just a vague spirit with no specific name.) and we think of "church" and "God" in a spiritual sense, not a dogmatic or objective sense. i have known these things. and yet, to be presented with such a completely different idea boggles my mind.

i grew up in evangelical quaker circles, and although those in my yearly meeting are not your typical "evangelicals" a la george w and such, i always thought there was a fairly strong emphasis on jesus as the "Word of God," of the bible as explaining God's interaction with the world so we need it so we can recognize what's God and not God better--y'know, overall i thought my yearly meeting had a pretty high view of scripture and the person of jesus as the Son of God. but compared to the reformed tradition, we don't place much emphasis on (the historical) jesus and the bible at all.

reformed theology, at least my rudimentary understanding of it thus far, says that jesus is the Word of God incarnate--he is revelation and there is no other. although people can catch glimpses of the character of God through nature and history, the bible is our only access to the special revelation of God which is jesus christ. the holy spirit is there in the sacraments and floats around in our life to make sure that we receive salvation.

i can go along with some of this. i think jesus was the physical expression of God's Word in the world, and that the revelation of God that occurred in his life on earth is important and unique. God is revealed to people in the life and witness of jesus. we can catch glimpses of God through natural means and this view of God is always going to be kind of fuzzy, so it helps us to have the bible and tradition to help us see what God's activity in the world has looked like in the past.

but the bible is not by any means our only access to revelation. i could say that perhaps jesus is the only revelation of God to the world, in that, since he is still living and speaking to us we can come to know God through knowing him. but revelation from God occurs in my life every day, every moment (if i'm paying attention). God is present here and now, speaking to me, guiding me, teaching me. i think this is the part of God that people label the holy spirit, although it doesn't make much difference to me if we call it God, jesus, the holy spirit or whatever--the important thing is that the divine is interacting with me personally, helping me to understand things and grow, challenging me to new thoughts and more courageous actions on behalf of others, etc.

i could easily think that something else was God's spirit interacting with me, and follow that by accident. therefore it is helpful to have the bible as something to check my own perceptions against. but the bible isn't God.

further, we need the spirit to interpret everything for us anyway! if i read the bible on my own i could come to some pretty wacked out conclusions about God and how i'm to treat others. what if (like most christians until a couple hundred years ago) i looked at scripture and saw that slavery was ok, and used it to prove my own beliefs? in this case, the bible is just another book. but with the spirit there to interpret for me, i am better able to see the truths laid out in the bible and to be challenged toward right action by it.

also, if i had been alive when jesus was, would i have been able to recognize him as God by myself? no. i would still have needed the spirit to nudge something in me, to open my spiritual eyes to the truth he incarnated.

i have experiences throughout life that i think of as "spiritual" experiences, and i could not have those if not for the spirit being active in me. they would just be normal moments of my day to which i attached no significance, because my eyes had not been opened to a new truth. i would not have come to some of the conclusions i've come to if i hadn't been attending to that spirit in me.

so all the levels of "revelation" that reformed christians talk about--jesus as the ultimate revelation, seen through the lens of the bible and then proclaimed in human language, are all based on the interpretation that can only be given by the spirit. without the spirit as our interpreter, showing God to us in all these things, we would not see God. likewise, the spirit can show us God without having to use scripture, and if one never heard about jesus one could still know God.

without a direct connection with the spirit of God, how do i know i'm following the right path? let's think about it this way: i choose to be a christian and believe in the bible. why? because the church believes these things. why do i believe what the church says? because i was raised in it. why was i raised in it? because my parents were, and theirs before them, and so on back to someone who was convinced it was true. but how do i know it's true? is it only because of tradition and because that's what the bible says, and because so many people before me have believed it? if so, i don't want to be a christian! what's the point? why not be a muslim or a jew or a buddhist or an atheist?

but most christians would tell you that this is not the only reason they're a christian (if they're the kind of people who think about things). most people would say they've been convinced in some interior way that this is truth for them. they know beyond anything they can explain objectively that something has struck them as important and uniquely truthful about this person who we call jesus christ, there is a deep internal resonace with something that leads them to believe in him. the bible plays a role in this, telling the story of jesus and of other people who have interacted with this God, and there is a recognition that this is the same spirit with whom they have unconsciously interacted. i believe--or at least i hope--that this is the actual process most christians go through, and that they do not only continue to espouse christianity just because it is what has been taught by the church over the last almost 2000 years.

and yet to label it this way is too scary for most denominations. this can be too easily taken advantage of--people can say that anything comes from God and get away with it. and as we have seen, this is the danger that has faced quakerism. but if we say that the Word of God, the revelation of God to humanity, is "contained in the bible" (as one of my classmates said today), we have made for ourselves an idol of a book. and if we say that God only specifically revealed God's self to humanity through jesus as a living human, we have limited the power of God to interact in the world God created. if we suggest that God only interacts with us through a mediator we are in much more danger than simply mishearing God.

we are in danger of not hearing God--we are in danger of not listening, not waiting expectantly for God's transforming power to break into our lives. we are disallowing the power of God to once again incarnate human flesh through our own persons.

i don't know about you, but i would much rather listen for God, running the risk that sometimes i'll hear wrong and need correction from my community, than throw out the idea of trying to hear God altogether because it's too risky. yes, it's risky, yes it's scary and it's hard and it's not predictable and God might ask us to do things that do not make us comfortable. but this is what life is for! what's the point of faith in a dead god--or a god who died and rose again just to leave us?

in this case i have much more in common with a sufi (muslim) prophetess i heard about, who was walking around with a torch and a pitcher of water. when she was asked why she was carrying these things, she said it was because she wanted to set fire to heaven and douse the flames of hell so that no one would believe in God for desire for one or fear of the other. instead they would just love God because God is God, and no more reason is necessary.

if God is not present here and now, why should i be a christian? i'll never get to know God until i die anyway. but this is not the case. God is present here and now, and for the love of God i desire to live my life to its fullest capacity, loving God with all that i am and all that i do, listening to God with my full being and acting on that, even when it's hard and when the lines between God's voice and other voices are fuzzy. i desire to throw myself so completely into the passion of my love for God and God's love for me that there is room for nothing else.

this is living in revelation, this is God's living Word active in the world, this, i believe, is the message of christ.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"the grist" is awesome!

i have too much homework today to write about my theology class--that will have to wait for the weekend i guess. so i'm going to steal an article from elsewhere...

so do you all know about the grist magazine? it's an online eco-news magazine that's hilarious, and they'll deliver it free to your email account every week day if you want. go to www.grist.org.

anyway, pertinent to yesterday's post, they had a great article today about the state of the union address. i'm not sure if it's legal to post stuff that others have written without permission, but oh well--here it is:

Feds Say the Darnedest Things
Bush's quasi-bold pronouncements on oil prompt criticism, backpedaling

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Bush declared that "America is addicted to oil" and that he would "make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past." Within 24 hours, fiasco ensued. Saudi Arabia's ambassador said he would ask Bush, ahem, "what he exactly meant by that." Oil industry lobbyists squealed; libertarians nigh fainted. Energy experts (read: the literate) pointed out that most of the R&D programs mentioned in the speech -- "clean coal," nuclear, wind, solar, etc. -- are designed to generate electricity and wouldn't have any effect on oil consumption. And to cap off the furor with appropriate absurdity, administration officials said Bush's declaration that the U.S. would cut its Middle East oil imports 75 percent by 2025 was not meant to be taken literally. It was meant to dramatize the issue in a way "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." So ... lies lead to understanding. We're starting to get the whole WMD thing!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

so many soap boxes, so little time...or "the state of whose union?"

i'm torn today between writing about the state of the union address last night in all its inaneity and blunder, or my ststematic theology lecture today...which i agreed with perhaps less and which distressed me perhaps more because it's not just politics, it's religion! but i think i'll save the theology soap box for tomorrow because it might not be the best policy to write while still angry. plus my prof will post his lecture for us, so i can show you quotes.

so that leaves the president...

it's amazing how one can say so many words and really say so little. and it's amazing what people will clap for. and it's amazing how with the angle of the camera you can't always tell that only half the crowd is standing...hmm...interesting. (we don't have a tv so we watched a live web feed from the whitehouse.gov website. bailey's and hot chocolate made the event much more palatable--and we also had good company.)

where to begin? i think the energy crisis. ok, so he's right--our country is addicted to oil. (that and about one other comment, that our country needs to provide affordable healthcare for everyone, were about the only things i agreed with from his speech.) so our country's addicted to oil, so we're going to cut down our dependency on foreign oil by 2025 by 75% and beef up our domestic oil production. hmm...that doesn't sound like it will solve the problem of addiction to oil, but maybe i'm missing something? it sounds to me like a not-so-veiled attempt to give an excuse for further alaskan and gulf coast oil drilling. he says cars that can run on ethanol and bio-diesel, as well as hybrids, will be made marketable in 6 years (when he's safely out of office). if that happens, excellent.

but the other solution to the energy crisis, according to bush, is "nucular" energy. so that might solve the energy crisis, but what about the environment and soil, air and water contamination and everything? this he did not address. he only addressed his mispronunciation of nuclear with the adjectives "safe" and "clean," clearly indicating their may be some doubt in other's minds as to whether this would be safe and clean.

i thought we were done talking about the social security thing, but apparently he didn't get the message when congress vetoed it. amusing when all the democrats clapped at that, though! ha!

and then there's iraq...the beginning of the speech sounded more like a "state of iraq" address than a state of our union. he says he'll cut the budget deficit in half and keep from having to tax people in the next few years while he's in office, but i'm not sure how he'll do that when he's pleaded for over $80 billion dollars to be spent on the iraq war (or whatever it's technically called). i'm not mathematician but...how exactly is that going to work?

that was pretty much my question about most of his speech: ok, sounds like an interesting idea--how do you plan to do that? yes, we need better schools, we need to show compassion to the world, we need to create a place where freedom can exist for everyone. how are you going to go about doing that, gw?

i could go on and on, but i think that's enough ranting for one day.