Focus on the Family, partisan political hackery and a “Letter from a Christian in 2012”

My lovely wife sent a link to me on Friday that astonished me; as in, my jaw hit the ground.  The link was from a letter written by James Dobson’s political action group on October 22nd entitled “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.”  If you’ve got the time to skim something for about fifteen to twenty minutes, I’d encourage you to follow the link to the letter to get an idea of where Dobson went with it.  If you want my summary of it, I’ll give it to you in precisely sixteen words:  a fearmongering childish unwise piece from a leader I’ve come to expect these things from.

Later in that same day I came across a group on Facebook that I promptly joined called “A Christian Bipartisan Rejection of Focus on the Family’s Letter from 2012.”

I will say this, and I’m not exaggerating.  There have been few times that I’ve been this horrendously horrified to call someone a brother in Christ as I have now with James Dobson.  He is a confused, bitter, co-opted, unwise man.

I made a decision on Friday to write my own “Letter from a Christian in 2012.”  Maybe someone else will read it, but I wrote it to organize some of my thoughts as a counterpoint to Dobson’s rhetoric that smears the body of Christ.  I’d like to encourage you to read my equally long “Letter” that was intentionally written to parallel Dobson’s letter at certain points.  Maybe you can place them side by side and follow along simultaneously.  In case you didn’t see the link above, here’s the link to my “Letter”.

Letter from 2012

Dennis Kucinich responds to the State of the Union (vid link)

Dennis Kucinich is a voice of reason in politics today.  He says what he believes, refuses to spin his positions to ensnare potential voters, and speaks wisely about how a just economic system and country would seek to act.

Here’s his video response to Bush’s State of the Union address

In other news, here’s a link to a story of a 23 year-old Afghani journalist who’s getting the death sentence for “insulting Islam.” You might be surprised what they defined as an insult. I don’t rant and rave about Muslims, but this is a clear case where, if this decision is true to the heart of Islam, there’s a vision for the world there that I don’t want any part of. There’s a place for conversation and listening well, but we’re extremely naive if we think all religions carry a similar vision for the world…or of a Divine Being, for that matter. Killing a journalist for questioning authority. I draw the line there. Not that the church hasn’t done this in the past, but I think I could make a serious case that that sort of action is not true to the vision Jesus called his followers to.

Monday Links

In a hilarious and sorely-needed interview, David Letterman hammered Paris Hilton time and time again with her prison experience. Even when she stated she was over it and didn’t want to answer any more questions, David kept going, and gave his most incisive thoughts after she quit answering questions. It’s almost like he wasn’t willing to enable her in her life decisions, a life skill her parents could benefit from, I do believe. Here’s the link. Watch her squirm. ‘Bout time someone had the guts.

Meanwhile, Peter King and Jack McCallum continue to be two of the most down-to-earth-yet-inspiringly-great-to-read journalists out there. The first page of Peter King’s MMQB where he dealt with Brett Favre’s resurgence is just great stuff, and McCallum’s appreciation for the great tradition of baseball was shown in his most recent article reflecting on the Phillies and his childhood. In a juiced-up age of baseball, there’s a load of lessons to be learned from the past that can inform the present and the future. One of those lessons is a blue-collar approach to the game that the present-day Phils carry; kudos to my second favorite team on their NL East title.

And while I’m providing links to great journalism, check out this article by Gary Smith on Miami head coach Randy Shannon’s life leading up to this job. While sitting in the bathroom doing *ahem* “#2,” I was reduced to the point of tears to see what Shannon has been through in his life, and how his hard-nosed perseverence speaks to those of his players who’ve grown up in the same inner-city hard-scrabble existence. I don’t agree with what Randy thinks a man should be, but for me to say that would almost be patronizing the depth of pain and struggle he’s been through. I’ve learned a lot about my coddled middle class existence over the past year through intentionally exposing myself to thoughts by persons who either grew up in or have intentionally immersed themselves in situations of desperate poverty, and my former presumptions were shallow and exactly what I hinted at above, patronizing. So please, please, take some time out (the bathroom’s a great place) to read the Smith article in full for a shocking, encouraging, sad, hopeful, yet a bit empty, story.

p.s.  My boys are playin’ defense, it seems. They sacked DMcnabb 12 times; 12 TIMES! And DE Osi Umenyiora had six of them! Eli’s coming around as a leader, Derrick Ward’s a nice surprise until the beast man Brandon Jacobs comes back. I’m pleasantly surprised so far. Here’s the link to the game roundup.

Poverty is more complex than you think…

I’ve been reading Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation here recently, and I have been blindsided by the daily reality of poverty as well as the complexity of the problem. As a middle-class white male, I often find myself seeking to give easy answers for poverty like “if they worked harder, they wouldn’t be poor,” and “the system of welfare only perpetuates the cycle of poverty” or some other disconnected theoretical BS. Kozol refuses to allow me to stay in that coolly disconnected state. Here’s an excerpt…a real story of poverty that just may wake you up like it has me.

“‘If poor people behaved rationally,’ says Lawrence Mead, a professor of political science at NYU, ‘ they would seldom be poor for long in the first place.’ Many social scientists today appear to hold this point of view and argue that the largest portion of the suffering poor people undergo has to be blamed upon their own ‘behaviors,’ a word they tend to pluralize.

Alice Washington was born in 1944 in New York City. She grew up in Harlem and the Bronx and went to segregated public schools, not something of her choosing, nor that of her mother and her father. She finished high school, studied bookkeeping at a secretarial college, and went to work, beginning at 19. When she married, at the age of 25, she had to choose her husband from that segregated ‘marriage pool’ to which our social scientists sometimes quite icily refer of frequently unemployable black men, some of whom have been involved in drugs or spent some time in prison. From her husband, after many years of what she thought to be monogamous matrimony, she contracted the AIDS virus.

She left her husband shortly after he began to beat her. Cancer of her fallopian tubes was detected at this time, then cancer of her uterus. She had three operations. Too frail to keep on with the second of two jobs that she had held, in all, for nearly 20 years, she was forced to turn for mercy to the City of New York.

In 1983, at the age of 39, she landed with her children in a homeless shelter two blocks from Times Square, an old hotel in which the plumbing did not work and from which she and David and his sister had to carry buckets to a bar across the street in order to get water. After spending close to four years in three shelters in Manhattan, she was moved by the city to the neighborhood where she now lives in the South Bronx. It was at this time that she learned she carried the AIDS virus. Since the time that I met Mrs. Washington, I have spent hundreds of hours talking with her in her kitchen. I have yet to figure out what she has done that was irrational.”
(from pages 21-22 of Kozol’s book)

Now don’t be deceived. In posting this excerpt of reality, I’m not seeking to occupy the opposite extreme of my cool detached classism and racism where every person in poverty is a helpless victim of the system, because that is just as false as saying the poor “just need to work harder.” The reality in this mess is a need for both individual and systemic accountability for action. But I did post it for this reason.

The situation is complex, and if we are to speak of the poor and pursue concrete solutions to poverty, we must embrace the complexity, we must hear the stories from across the spectrum, and we must prepare ourselves to seek the truth in the tension erected between the poles of individual and system responsibility.

At this point in history, we have to deal with the reality, in my view, that the system should carry a heavy disproportionate weight of responsibility to provide help for the poverty-stricken, especially because urban poverty is often minority-heavy, and for over 80% of the existence of the United States of America, the purported “land of the free,” African-Americans were considered (socially and by law) to be second-class citizens…sub-human. We’re fooling ourselves to suggest that the last forty years has erased this disgusting reality.