Monday, August 30, 2010


WWJD? ID Bracelet

It seems every election becomes more vicious than the last. Of course, this is nothing new in American politics; it could be argued that Andrew Jackson's wife was hounded into an early grave by the election of 1828. What is new is the inescapability of it all. TV, radio, and internet conspire to keep us angry. Every year, the politicians swear off "negative campaigning," then let loose with both barrels, aided by the media, who really prefer this style anyway. It sells.

Though politics has been an armchair sport in my family for as long as I can remember, I shut off my TV a few days ago to take a break. After a week of Tea Party politics and ground zero mosques, I certainly needed it. The mix of religion and politics left me wondering: "What would Jesus do?"

The question is almost as old as Christianity itself. Yet, in its current form, it first appeared not on bracelets in the 1990s, but in a book in the 1890s: Charles Sheldon's In His Steps, subtitled What Would Jesus Do? I find it ironic, in the current climate, to note that Sheldon was not only a Congregationalist minister in Topeka, Kansas, he was also a committed Christian Socialist. Interesting.

The question is fine, as far as it goes. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Jesus ministered to outcasts: the blind and the lame, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. He calls us to do the same: to recognize the humanity of all of these, to see something of him in them. Yet the question is also problematic. In pride and anger, we can too easily decide that Jesus would horsewhip certain people, curse them like the fig tree, and damn them for all eternity. Perhaps he would, but I don't feel too secure in making that judgement.

No. In those cases, the proper question is not "What would Jesus do?" but "What did Jesus tell us to do?" That is, if we take our Christian vocation seriously. In all the furor over Muslims and mosques, honor and country, we would do well to consider what Christ himself taught before we react.


You have heard the commandment, "You shall love your countryman but hate your enemy." My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5: 43-45

Forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us. If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you.

Matthew 6: 12, 15

If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink; For live coals you will heap upon his head, and the Lord will vindicate you.

Proverbs 25: 21-22

Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; any man who uses abusive language toward his brother shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and if he holds him in contempt he risks the fires of Gehenna.

Matthew 5: 22

Say not, "As he did to me, so will I do to him; I will repay the man according to his deeds."

Proverbs 24: 29

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7: 12


This is what we are called to do. This is what the book says. It does not tell us to do these things unless it is difficult, unless your brother is a Muslim, unless your brother disagrees with you. This is the Christian vocation. Of course it is difficult. This is why Christ said Take up your cross and follow me.

We can always ask "What would Jesus do?" There's nothing wrong with that. Still, we shouldn't presume that question has an easy answer. The more important question is "What did Jesus tell us to do?" The answer to that question is often clear. And difficult. But there it is. This is what we are called to do.

Even, and especially, when it is difficult.

Respectfully Yours,


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time Out

Corporate America Flag

I need to take a break from the news. It's bad for my blood pressure. It leaves me thinking too much about what I am against. It depresses me to see racism, bigotry, and naked worship of money pass for political debate. I majored in History, after all. I could make, I think, a fair prediction of where this is leading.

But who wants to play Cassandra?

Instead, today I will think about some of the things I am for. The following is reprinted, in its entirety, from Common Dreams.


It’s time we the people declare our independence from the money-favoring Wall Street economy.

by David Korten

I find hope in the fact that millions of people the world over are seeing through the moral and practical fallacies underlying the Wall Street economy and—by contributing to the creation of a New Economy—are taking charge of their economic lives.

Here are ten common sense principles to frame the New Economy that we the people must now bring forth:

1) The proper purpose of an economy is to secure just, sustainable, and joyful livelihoods for all. This may come as something of a shock to Wall Street financiers who profit from financial bubbles, securities fraud, low wages, unemployment, foreign sweatshops, tax evasion, public subsidies, and monopoly pricing.

2) GDP is a measure of the economic cost of producing a given level of human well-being and happiness. In the economy, as in any well-run business, the goal should be to minimize cost, not maximize it.

3) A rational reallocation of real resources can reduce the human burden on the Earth’s biosphere and simultaneously improve the health and happiness of all. The Wall Street economy wastes enormous resources on things that actually reduce the quality of our lives—war, automobile dependence, suburban sprawl, energy-inefficient buildings, financial speculation, advertising, incarceration for minor, victimless crimes. The most important step toward bringing ourselves into balance with the biosphere is to eliminate the things that are bad for our health and happiness.

4) Markets allocate efficiently only within a framework of appropriate rules to maintain competition, cost internalization, balanced trade, domestic investment, and equality. These are essential conditions for efficient market function. Without rules, a market economy quickly morphs into a system of corporate monopolies engaged in suppressing wages, exporting jobs, collecting public subsidies, poisoning air, land, and water, expropriating resources, corrupting democracy, and a host of other activities that represent an egregiously inefficient and unjust distribution of resources.

5) A proper money system roots the power to create and allocate money in people and communities in order to facilitate the creation of livelihoods and ecologically balanced community wealth. Money properly serves life, not the reverse. Wall Street uses money to consolidate its power to expropriate the real wealth of the rest of the society. Main Street uses money to connect underutilized resources with unmet needs. Public policy properly favors Main Street.

6) Money, which is easily created with a simple accounting entry, should never be the deciding constraint in making public resource allocation decisions. This is particularly obvious in the case of economic recessions or depressions, which occur when money fails to flow to where it is needed to put people to work producing essential goods and services. If money is the only lack, then make the accounting entry and get on with it.

7) Speculation, the inflation of financial bubbles, risk externalization, the extraction of usury, and the use of creative accounting to create money from nothing, unrelated to the creation of anything of real value, serve no valid social purpose. The Wall Street corporations that engage in these activities are not in the business of contributing to the creation of real community wealth. They are in the business of expropriating it, a polite term for theft. They should be regulated or taxed out of existence.

8) Greed is not a virtue; sharing is not a sin. If your primary business purpose is not to serve the community, you have no business being in business.

9) The only legitimate reason for government to issue a corporate charter extending special privileges favoring a particular enterprise is to serve a clearly defined public purpose. That purpose should be clearly stated in the corporate charter and be subject to periodic review.

10) Public policy properly favors local investors and businesses dedicated to creating community wealth over investors and businesses that come only to extract it. The former are most likely to be investors and businesses with strong roots in the communities in which they do business. We properly favor them.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

David Korten's new book, An Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, to be published by Berrett-Koehler, Feb 2009. This extract forms part of the YES! series, Path to a New Economy. An earlier version of this chapter first appeared as part of David's article in Tikkun, Nov/Dec 2008. David Korten is the author of the international bestseller When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. He is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, and a board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.


The title is linked to the original article, which contains many links worth following. If you disagree with his thoughts on money, look here, follow the links, and see if you still disagree. I find it interesting to note that most of these principles echo the social teaching of the Catholic Church, though not intentionally. Interesting.

If you are under the impression that the Obama administration is socialist, liberal, or leftist, you have been misinformed. Deliberately. Obama gave the health insurance industry everything it wanted and called it reform. He gave Wall Street everything it wanted and called it reform. And the right-wing protests these huge giveaways as socialism? Why might that be? Cui bono? Follow the money.


A thousand plausible lies: not one is preferable to the truth.
The Zenrin

Very Truly Yours,



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Nice Cup Of Tea

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

There. Isn't that clear enough? Even for the Tea Party? That's what it says in the Constitution you claim to love so much. Well, except for the Fourteenth Amendment. Or the First Amendment as it applies to almost anyone else. And parts of the Preamble. And Article 1, Section 8. And the Sixteenth Amendment. And some of you don't seem to think the Thirteenth Amendment was a good idea either.

Yet you seem convinced that the government, which you claim to hate so much, is wrong to refuse to do something unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Yep. That's what it says. Don't forget now, this clause also enables the tax-exempt status of the First Church Of Christ, Republican, where so many of you "worship." Are you still sure you don't like it?

Glenn Beck recently compared prohibiting the building of Cordoba House to Pope John Paul II ordering the closing of the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz. Of course, he omitted one key fact: the Pope can do that. Under the United States Constitution, our government can't. Period.

But don't worry. Here are some things our government could do:

Seize the property by eminent domain.
Purchase the property with taxpayer dollars.

How do those options work for you?

And speaking of purchasing the property, since you also seem to love the free market so much, perhaps you might take up a collection and purchase it yourselves. Wouldn't this be most in keeping with your "principles?" You could use the site for Tea Party Headquarters.

Or perhaps you could create Constitution House: a place where people could go to study the Constitution which, remember, you love so much. Well, except for the Fourteenth Amendment. Or the First Amendment as it applies to almost anyone else. And parts of the Preamble. And Article 1, Section 8. And the Sixteenth Amendment. And maybe the Thirteenth Amendment. Or anything else in there that you don't like.

Let us know which of these options you prefer, won't you?

Very Truly Yours,



p.s. Two more links, just for fun. You do the math.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Front of the Miraculous Medal

Mary appeared to Saint Catherine Labouré, standing atop the globe. On her hands were jeweled rings, most of which were shining light upon the world. When Saint Catherine Labouré asked her why some rings did not shine, she replied: "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask."


Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Rafael Cardinal Merry Del Val


For what graces will you ask today? For myself, perhaps I will ask that one day I will pray the Litany of Humility sincerely.

Respectfully Yours,


Saturday, August 21, 2010

We Make It Up

Faux News Sticker

I've been watching a lot of FOX "News" lately. I suppose that accounts, at least in part, for my seemingly unshakeable prickly mood. The run-up to the 2010 midterm elections doesn't help either. Nothing I vote for ever passes. No one I support ever wins.

In fact, most of the people or policies I support aren't even on the ballot. For me, the election is over before it begins. Year after year, I am allowed to choose between a Democrat beholden to his corporate masters, or a Republican beholden to his. In almost every case, these masters are the same people.

The one thing that is certain is that the winner of almost every election will be either a Democrat or a Republican: two parties that have, in reality, become one. Even a cursory study of the Nixon administration will show that he was much further "left" than Barack Obama. Democrats and Republicans put on a great show for the media, but bargain away behind closed doors to preserve the privileges of their corporate masters.

I recently watched Glenn Beck rail against our inability to look into the "black book" of the Federal Reserve Bank to see its assets. He failed to mention that the Paul-Grayson amendment to the recent financial "reform" would have allowed precisely that. The amendment was co-sponsored by Democrat Alan Grayson and nominal Republican Ron Paul, and championed for inclusion in the bill by socialist Bernie Sanders: a wonderful example of tripartisanship and an example of something the mainstream of both parties cannot allow to happen.

Paul-Grayson was gutted by Democrat Chris Dodd before it was included, in a new, toothless, loophole-ridden form. Those "liberal Democrats" sure seem to be doing their best to help out the bankers. Of course, all of this is a bit too complex for FOX, which really ought to reduce its programming to a single talking head chanting "Republicans good, Democrats bad. Republicans good, Democrats bad."

A commenter on FOX News online left the following gem: Those leftys sure love Big Brother. George Orwell figured them out a long time ago. I suppose, in a sense, Orwell did figure out "those leftys." He figured them out and joined them and became a socialist. I suspect that commenter has never read any Orwell... and watches too much FOX.

On a recent episode of The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly and his guest used the terms, socialist, socialism, and far left to describe Barack Obama so many times I lost count. Barack Obama is not a socialist. You can verify this for yourself by reading any socialist literature. Really. Go ahead and click. I'll wait.

See? Barack Obama does not support socialist policies. Socialists do not support Barack Obama's policies. It seems clear to me. Barack Obama is not a socialist. Not even close. Yet FOX News claims, over and over, that he is: a blatant, easily disproved lie, broadcast daily, in the near certainty that their average viewer will never check and does not care.

Do obvious lies really qualify as news?

It makes you wonder what else they lie about, doesn't it?

Very Truly Yours,