Category Archives: Global Issues

Liturgy for Prayer for Christian U

[Adapted from materials provided by the World Council of Churches ]

Introductory Words

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this year many Christians and churches will be commemorating the anniversary of the Reformation. St. Paul reminds us that God has reconciled us through Jesus Christ and that the love of Christ compels us to be ministers of reconciliation. Let us worship and praise God together in the unity of the Holy Spirit!

Invitation to confession

In the course of history there have been many renewal movements in the Church, which is always in need of deeper conversion to her head, Jesus Christ. Sometimes these movements have led to unintended divisions. This fact contradicts what Jesus asks the Father in John 17:23: “That they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Let us confess our sins and pray for forgiveness and healing for the wounds which have resulted from our divisions. As we name these sins we will see how they become a wall which divides us.

Prayer

Let us pray: God and Father in heaven, we come to you in Jesus’ name. We experience renewal through your Holy Spirit, and yet we still construct walls that divide us, walls which hinder community and unity. We bring before you now the stones with which we erect our walls and pray for your forgiveness and healing.

All: Amen.

(As each sin is named the corresponding stone is brought forward to build the wall. Following a moment of silence, the stone bearer makes the plea for forgiveness ans the congregation responds “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”) 

L One stone in our wall is “lack of love.”

(The stone with the key term “lack of love” is placed.)

R1 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for whenever we have failed to love. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “hate and contempt.”

(The stone with the key term “hate and contempt” is placed.)

R2 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for our hate and contempt for one another. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “false accusation.”

(The stone with the key term “false accusation” is placed.)

R3 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for denouncing and falsely accusing one another. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “discrimination.”

(The stone with the key term “discrimination” is placed.)

R4 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for all forms of prejudice and discrimination against one another. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

Sung response: “Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us,” #750 The New Century Hymnal

L One stone in our wall is “persecution.”

(The stone with the key term “persecution” is placed.)

R5 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for persecuting and torturing one another. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “broken communion.”

(The stone with the key term “broken communion is placed.)

R6 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for perpetuating broken communion among our churches. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “intolerance.”

(The stone with the key term “intolerance” is placed.)

R7 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for banishing our brothers and sisters from our common homeland in the past and for acts of religious intolerance today . We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “religious wars .”

(The stone with the key term “ religious wars” is placed.)

R8 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for all wars that we have waged against one another in your name. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

Sung response: “Lord, have mercy upon us” #750 

L One stone in our wall is “division.”

(The stone with the key term “ division” is placed.)

R9 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for living our Christian lives divided from one another and astray from our common calling for the healing of all creation. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “abuse of power.”

(The stone with the key term “ abuse of power” is placed.)

R10 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for our abuse of power. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “isolation .”

(The stone with the key term “ isolation” is placed.)

R11 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for the times when we have isolated ourselves from our Christian sisters and brothers and from the communities in which we live. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

L One stone in our wall is “pride .”

(The stone with the key term “ pride” is placed.)

R12 Gracious God, the love of Christ compels us to ask forgiveness for our pride. We humbly pray:

All Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

Sung response: “Lord, have mercy upon us” #750

L1:Let us pray: Lord, our God, look upon this wall that we have built, which separates us from you and from one another. Forgive us our sins. Heal us. Help us to overcome all walls of division and make us one in you.  All: Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

L2:  Let us pray for intercession and reconciliation. Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to yourself. We praise you for those whom you sent in the power of the Spirit to preach the Gospel to all nations. We thank you that in all parts of the earth a community of love has been gathered together by their prayers and labours, and that in every place your servants call upon your name. May your Spirit awaken in every community a hunger and thirst for unity in you. Let us pray to the Lord.

All: Lord, hear our prayer.

L1: Gracious God, we pray for our churches. Fill them with all truth and peace. Where faith is corrupted, purify it; where people go astray, redirect them; where they fail to proclaim your Gospel, reform them; where they witness to what is right, strengthen them; where they are in need, provide for them; and where they are divided, reunite them. Let us pray to the Lord.

All: Lord, hear our prayer. 

L2: Creator God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus Christ, your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love. And even in our weaknesses, work to accomplish your purposes on earth, so that every people and nation may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne. Let us pray to the Lord.

All: Lord, hear our prayer. 

L1: Holy Spirit, Giver of Life, we are created to become whole in you and to share this life on earth with our brothers and sisters. Awaken in each of us your compassion and love. Give us strength and courage to work for justice in our neighborhoods, to create peace within our families, to comfort the sick and the dying, and to share all we have with those who are in need. For the transformation of every human heart, Let us pray to the Lord.

All: Lord, hear our prayer. 

Amen.

Declaration of Reconciliation

L1: We have confessed our sins and prayed for reconciliation. I declare in the name of Jesus that this wall be torn down and that we work to remove divisions and seek reconciliation in whatever we do.

Volunteers will take the stones from the communion table and lay on the floor in the shape of a cross while we sing Hymn # 575 “O For a World”

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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Sermon preached at Epiphany United Church of Christ, St. Louis, Feb. 23, 2014
(Scripture: Leviticus 19:1-5, 9-18 Matthew 5:38-48)

Some of you remember Dannie Rosen’s three grandchildren, Jordania, Jason and Scarlett, who spent a year with us while their parents were in Afghanistan a couple years ago. I was privileged to get to know them in Sunday School. During one of the first classes, I asked what they knew about the Bible, and they said their father had told them what it stands for.

“What it stands for?” I asked.

“Yes,” they chimed in together. “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” B-I-B-L-E. I get it.

At the time, I suggested to them, gently, that the Bible was a lot more than just instructions. It is full of stories, I told them. And we can learn a lot about God and our relationship with God by reading or hearing the stories.

Stories mean a lot to me for several reasons, and I have embraced the narrative style of preaching, which starts with a story from scripture. So here we are today, with two scripture passages that have NO story. But they are good examples of the Basic Instruction that so many people think of as being in the Bible.

You could interpret the phrase “before leaving earth” as a suggestion that you’re supposed to follow these basic instructions so you can get into heaven, or maybe even to qualify to be taken up in the rapture of the Second Coming. But I think the phrase might be more appropriately interpreted as rules to live by right here, right now. For, as Jesus said, the kingdom is at hand — God’s kingdom is in each of us and we can, by our behavior, help create a fellowship of God’s children by following the Bible’s basic instructions.

Take the Leviticus passage. This passage surprised me, because I am accustomed to thinking that the 10 Commandments are found in Exodus and Deuteronomy. And here they are — six or seven of them at least — in Leviticus, along with several more, a total of 16 or so commandments in the passage we read today.

What’s different about these commandments compared to the list we’re more familiar with? Well, for starters, there’s more of them. Here are the additions:
‘When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. … Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.
Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life.
Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.

I think we could sum up all of those with the last line: Love your neighbor as yourself. But in case we don’t understand the specifics of that commandment, the writers of Leviticus spell it out for us. For instance, If you’re going to make a big deal of roasting meat to honor God — a fellowship offering — prepare it so it can be shared with others, and let others eat it, rather than just burning it up or putting it on display in a show of wealth. As my mother would say, “don’t waste good food,” share it.

Or the next one, about leaving some of the harvest in the fields for the poor to gather. I could preach a whole sermon on this commandment, interpreting this as an endorsement for taxing the wealthy to fund food stamps for the poor.

These all have to do with getting along with each other, sharing and treating each other fairly. I didn’t realize that Leviticus gives us a biblical basis for supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act, or scriptural support for raising the minimum wage and other legislative actions to require employers to treat their workers fairly. But here it is.

This passage alone redeems Leviticus for me. It has been among my least favorite books of the bible, not only because it has few familiar stories. But mainly because some isolated passages of Leviticus have been lifted out of context and used to beat some of us over the head with condemnation. These abuses of the text might make us so shy of Leviticus that we might not realize the underlying goodness of many of the commandments contained in this book of the Bible.

This passage tells us to be good to each other, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and it speaks to us as a community, not just as individuals. These are indeed “basic instructions” for living. I’d like to put a couple of these on a big poster — “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart,” for instance — and hold it up at an anti-gay rally. Or maybe “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life” at an NRA meeting.

In the New Testament passage we read today, Jesus expands on such commandments as we find in Leviticus and Exodus and Deuteronomy. “Love your enemies,” Jesus says. And “Do not resist an evil person.”

The Old Testament commandments were hard enough. But Jesus lays it on even harder, doesn’t he? Love your enemies?

I think it’s revealing to compare the people who were being given these commandments. Moses was talking to people who were about to go into the Promised Land and establish the land of Israel. This was, in effect, their constitution. Their guidelines for a good society. Other passages in Leviticus include punishments for breaking the rules, but in this list of basic instructions, the emphasis is on mutual cooperation, and the reason for doing so is that God is holy, so God’s people should be holy.

Now look at who Jesus was talking to in the Sermon on the Mount. In their towns and villages they probably were still trying to be good neighbors to each other. But they no longer had leaders who felt answerable to the God of Israel. They were all under the thumb of the Roman empire. Their land, their commerce, even their bodies were not their own. Jesus was speaking to the oppressed, the captives that he had said he had come to make free.

So what does he tell them? Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. That doesn’t sound like freeing the captives, does it?

Whereas Moses in Leviticus gave the Israelites good standards for living together in a society that intended to live as God’s people, Jesus gave his listeners good standards to function in a society in which the community itself works against fostering love of neighbor.

Even in the Land of Milk and Honey, and among people who took seriously the commandment to be holy as God is holy, there must have been evil doers. Certainly by the time of Jesus, anyone looking back at the optimism of those people led by Moses who had been so eager to establish the land of Israel — looking back at that time, they would have realized that the hoped-for perfect kingdom didn’t last long.

Can’t you hear the cynic? “Love your neighbor, eh? How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

So Jesus suggests another way, and it works just as well for us today. He’s not really saying that we should give in to evil. He’s giving good tactics for turning evil aside.

As we discussed in the message to the young at heart, when someone gives you the back of his hand and you turn the other cheek, you’re forcing that person to treat you as an equal instead of a slave if he wants to hit you again. Jesus is saying, look the hitter in the eye.

In modern times, Martin Luther King explained the strategy when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We have an example of love driving out hate in our own state just last week. (And now, finally, I get to tell a story). You perhaps heard about or read about Michael Sam, a star player on the University of Missouri football team. He’s graduating this year and looking forward to playing for the NFL. Just before the pro teams began final decisions for drafting new players, Sam held a press conference and announced what his teammates had known all season — that he is gay.

It made big news, because Sam will probably — if he’s drafted that is — be the first NFL player to come out of the closet even before he makes a team. And here’s where the non-violent love driving out hate comes in. You probably read about this too.

Westboro Baptist Church — which is not a church but a family of litigating lawyers that goes around provoking people by picketing with hateful signs at events like funerals — Westboro planned to picket the Mizzou basketball game where Sam and the rest of the football team were going to celebrate the trophy they won in the Cotton Bowl championship game.

Word got out about Westboro’s plans and a crowd of hundreds of people gathered to surround them and their hateful signs with equally large signs of love and support — for Sam and for his coaches and team mates.

In the comments under one of the online news stories I read, someone posted guidelines for opposing the Westboro group when they picket.

Assemble a LARGE crowd of well briefed peaceful folk and Stand Between the WBCers and those who are the object of their protest. If you cannot take this position, set up as near to them as you can. 

2) DO NOT interact with them. Shun them. No talk. No eye contact.

3) YOUR CROWD SHOULD CARRY SIGNS WITH WORDS LIKE THESE:
God is Love

Judge Not Lest Ye Not Be Judged

Be Not Afraid
The Souls of the Just Rest in God

What God Asks: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
Blessed are They who Sorrow for they shall be comforted

4. Use “Angel Wings” (large shrouds of light translucent material attached to light rods which can be waved up and down from four feet over one’s head, and four feet out from one’s arms) to provide a curtain between the WBC crowd and your sign carriers.

5. YOUR crowd should chant WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT FOR THOSE YOU CAME TO  WITNESS TO.

6. And/or sing
”Peace is flowing like a river” or “Let there Be Peace on Earth” or “Kumbaya” or……

Again, do not engage anyone from Westboro “Baptist.”
Don’t speak to them.
Don’t look at them.
Stand with your backs to them holding up your signs high, chanting and singing.

Making them and their venom disappear in the light of your support. Ask the press and other media to ignore them

If this goes as it has gone before, they will withdraw in frustration and disappointment.

The Supreme Court may have ruled that they have the right to be there, and it may be tough to get their tax exempt status revoked, but they do not have the right to be noticed. Treat them as the tiny nasty gnats they are.

GOD IS LOVE, this list of guidelines said, and then closed with, 

BUT I SUSPECT THAT EVEN GOD DISLIKES THESE HEATHENS A WHOLE LOT.

I didn’t know, until I read those guidelines and the comments about them, that the Westboro group’s goal is to provoke people to react violently to their hate signs, so they can sue them.

Here’s what one commenter said: “I had not considered the money-making advantage that comes from aggravating one’s foes….I looked it up and they have won a number of settlements…..many fewer in recent years, because those opposed to them have found ways to take them on without violating their access.”

Don’t hit back, turn the other cheek. You cannot drive out hate with hate, only love can do that.

We have international models for carrying out Jesus’s new rules. When I was a student pastor, I got to know some Liberian refugees. They told me how rebels led by Charles Taylor attacked their city. They were eating dinner when the soldiers invaded their neighborhood. Most of the family fled — David and his brothers and their wives and his brother’s baby boy, Oliver. David’s father and mother stayed behind. His father was killed, his mother was abducted and they didn’t know what happened to her for years.

David and his family and many other refugees fled to neighboring Ghana to a refugee camp set up by the United Nations. They thought they’d be there a couple of weeks. But they stayed for 15 years, and eventually came to the United States.

Many Liberians were unable to get out. They suffered with civil war for years. It was the most vicious kind of fighting and included the rebels’ tactic of forcing men and boys, some only 10 or 12 years old, to become soldiers by threatening to kill their families. Sometimes they killed a boy’s mother or sister before his eyes. Talk about evil doers.

Then one day, a bunch of women decided enough was enough. They gathered in a soccer field near a fish market that was on a main road in Monrovia, the capital, and they started a peace sit-in. They attracted news media, including a documentary film maker. I saw the movie this film maker released in 2008, called Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In 2011 the documentary was included in a PBS series called Women, War and Peace, and it’s available online today.

Here’s the online summary of the documentary:
“Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the astonishing story of the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictator Charles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war, and won a once unimaginable peace for their shattered country in 2003. As the rebel noose tightened around the capital city of Monrovia, thousands of women – ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim – formed a thin but unshakeable line between the opposing forces. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they literally faced down the killers who had turned Liberia into hell on earth. In one memorable scene, the women barricaded the site of stalled peace talks in Ghana and refused to move until a deal was done.”
What this summary leaves out is how these women forced the men in the peace talks to listen to them. When the Ghanian authorities told the women they would be arrested if they didn’t move, the leader, a tall matronly woman, stood and began removing her clothes. “If you arrest me,” she said, “I will strip naked.” With news cameras running, other women followed her lead. They stood and started stripping.

The leader explained in the documentary that for an African man to see his mother naked was the ultimate shame, especially if she did this voluntarily. None of the men involved in those peace talks could face that shame, especially with the eyes of the world on them. These warlords, who had not flinched at ordering mothers to be killed in front of their children, backed down when a mother threatened to make them see her naked in front of the world. The peace talks resumed with more seriousness and in two weeks an agreement was reached.

In the same way, when TV cameras in 1965 showed police in Alabama turning fire hoses on people, including children, peacefully marching in Selma for the right to vote, the public outcry led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.

And in a twist on this practice of non-violent resistance, in the Ukraine last week, a day after government forces killed protestors in a public square, dozens of Ukrainian police officers took off their riot gear — helmets and bullet-proof vests — and gave them to the protestors.

Another New Testament writer in First Peter expresses it this way: Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

Basic instructions before leaving earth: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Behaving in this way not only helps us to be holy and helps us to behave as God’s children. Loving our enemies and praying for them is also good strategy for uncovering the reign of God and nurturing the fellowship of God’s children right here, right now . . . before leaving earth.
Praise God. Amen.

Now We Know

Occupy St. Louis

A Message to the people of Occupy St. Louis, inspired by Occupy Wall Street:

I’ve been saying for at least 10 years that we need to make the tax system more fair — so that rich people pay their fair share and so that governments have enough funds to provide essential services such as education and police protection.
But what I heard on TV and radio and the reader entries in online news forums was that few people agreed with me. I suspected that the Tea Party was as much a media creation as a real movement. I suspected that those of us on the left (who can spell our signs correctly) were not getting our opinions across effectively.
NOW WE KNOW…hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds agree that we need to take our country back from the rich fat cats who are stealing our wages, robbing our 401Ks, illegally foreclosing on our houses and oppressing us at every turn.
NOW WE KNOW…because people took to the streets and parks in non-violent, non-strident ways, simply standing there, sitting there, erecting a tent or bringing a sleeping bag.
NOW WE KNOW…that the media can no longer ignore our message and our opinions, even if many of the tents have been folded.
NOW WE KNOW…just how strong our numbers are. Because for every person who slept in a tent, there were 10 or more people like me — who can’t sleep on the ground, can’t spend all our time in a park, but who came to an Occupy site every sunny afternoon and who support the Occupy cause and the voices of those willing to stand in for us.
NOW WE KNOW. And we will not forget. Not this month, not next year.

Demonstrations Digitally Remastered

St. Louis

I’ve been to many demonstrations over the years, as a reporter and as a marcher/demonstrator. The gathering of folks on the sidewalks by a gas station in St. Louis Wednesday was different, mainly in the way we were called to action – by a broadcast e-mail.

About 40 people answered Adam Shriver’s invitation to participate in the St. Louis version of MoveOn’s “National Day of Action for an Oil-Free President” demonstration at a Shell station at Skinker and Delmar boulevards. We joined thousands of MoveOn members who took to the sidewalks in more than 200 cities Wednesday to call attention to the differences in the proposed energy policies of the presidential candidates, Senator John McCain (Republican) and Senator Barack Obama (Democrat).

We held signs, passed out fliers and attracted several honking supporters at the busy intersection at the eastern end of the St. Louis/University City Loop. It was a varied group gathered at rush hour – teachers on summer break, college and grad students, retired folks, and those with flexible working hours or nearby jobs.

Donna Beard faced the street and raised her sign: “Exxon McCain: Big Oil Buys Another President.”

“I haven’t held up a sign since the 1960s,” Beard said. Back then, she was boycotting Woolworths in Chicago for its lunch-counter segregation in the South. After so many years, Beard was moved to pick up a sign in peaceful demonstration because “there’s gotta be a change” – in gas prices, in energy policy and in the leadership of the country. Like the other MoveOn demonstrators, Beard supports Obama.

“This is the best turnout yet,” Robert Recht told Shriver. Recht, who identified himself as “the oldest member of MoveOn St. Louis,” said he had been to about 10 MoveOn demonstrations.

This was Nick Apperson’s first demonstration. Apperson, 24, said he voted in the 2004 presidential election “against W” rather than for John Kerry, the Democratic candidate.

“This time is different,” he said. “This time I’m definitely for Obama. Of course, he won’t solve all our problems. Change takes more than one person.”

And that was one reason Apperson was moved to pick up a sign and hand out fliers. “This is just the beginning,” he said.

No traditional news media appeared to record the event in St. Louis. A student journalist for Vox Magazine, an online publication of the University of Missouri-Columbia journalism school, and a few bloggers were the only reporters at the local demonstration.

The events in at least a few locations elsewhere did attract mainstream news, although the list was apparently quite short. In a congratulatory e-mail to participants on Thursday, MoveOn spokesman Noah T. Winer mentioned only accounts on a radio station in Duluth, Minn. and a newspaper in Orange County, Calif.

Winer declared the nationwide demonstration a success: “Together, we accomplished our primary goal: now more people will think ‘Big Oil’ when they hear ‘John McCain.’ That is exactly what we wanted — for people and the press to start realizing McCain would be another president who is so closely tied to the oil industry we can’t count on him to lower gas prices or support alternative energy solutions.”

The St. Louis gathering is perhaps an example of the way political campaigning is changing, as supporters both use and bypass mainstream media and traditional political groups, and mix online networking with older-style street demonstrations. Shriver’s e-mail invitation said the demonstration was sparked by TV ads by the McCain campaign trying to blame Obama for high gasoline prices.

Broadcast e-mail reactions to TV ads and newscasts have become a standard campaign tactic of MoveOn, the Obama organization and other political and activist groups that have my e-mail address. (Republicans may do this, too, but I am not on any of their lists.) Most of the time, these mass e-mails contain a link to the offending video and usually urge the recipients to sign a petition deploring the action or statement. This time, we were urged to show up in person.

The fliers we handed out compared Obama’s and McCain’s voting records and policy statements on energy, including their ranking by the League of Conservation Voters in its 2007 legislative scorecard (Obama: 67 percent in 2007, 86 percent “lifetime”; McCain: 0 percent in 2007 because he missed every vote, 24 percent “lifetime”). We gave these fliers to people in cars leaving the gas station or stopped at the intersection, as well as to pedestrians and bicyclists. A lot of drivers gave us thumbs up or honked their horns. A few declined the fliers or gave us a thumbs down.

Michael Sandler, 22, who works for the Obama campaign, stopped by to register new voters and sign up campaign volunteers. The MoveOn volunteers were already registered, but Sandler found a ready audience for his pitch that they get more involved in joining the Obama organization. Linda Fried, who had been canvassing in my neighborhood a few days before for a candidate in the August primary election for state offices, signed up as an Obama volunteer.

In an odd juxtaposition of new-style/old-style campaigning, Sandler was quite open with folks he was recruiting, clipboard and pen at the ready to take their names and contact information; but he was adamant that he couldn’t talk to news media, including this blogger, because all statements to the press must go through the Obama organization. I guess it’s one thing to accept the endorsement of an independent group like MoveOn and quite another to have to worry about how any and every worker in one’s own organization might be quoted in the media.

The Internet has widened the reach of “word of mouth,” but traditional means of political persuasion still work. Two parents brought their children to the demonstration.

Angela Miller went to demonstrations against the Vietnam War with her father, Dwight Miller, a Stanford professor.

“We were chased down by mounted police in San Francisco,” she recalls.

On Wednesday, Miller brought her son, Jonas Stockie, 12, to his first demonstration. He hoisted a sign and waved to an acquaintance in a passing car. Miller’s daughter, Marisa Miller, 16, said she had been to many demonstrations in the past few years: for living wages for Washington University maintenance staff, against confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, for example.

AnaClaire Bryant, 8, made her own pro-Obama poster. Her father, Sean Bryant, is a student at St. Louis University Law School. He encouraged AnaClaire to participate in the demonstration “so she can learn that she can speak her voice and people will hear it.”

He glanced fondly at his daughter standing in the hot sun. “If you believe in something, you’ve got to say what you believe. Right, Goofball?”

AnaClaire nodded, smiling.

Published 7/14/08 on Huffington Post

Gov. Blunt’s Parallel Universe

When Gov. Matt Blunt declared Missouri a state of ONE I wish I had asked him about the obvious contradiction — that he could blandly agree to support eradicating poverty in Africa and other Third-World countries, while just as blandly cutting the budget of Medicaid programs for children and families right in his own state.
He gave an indication of his ability to live in parallel universes in his speech Thursday. America is the richest, most privileged country in the world, he said. We are generous, and Missourians are more generous than the national average. Gov. Blunt seemed to be saying that individual and corporate efforts at charity were fine — admirable, in fact.
But when it comes to throwing the power and purse of state government behind eliminating the disease and malnutrition that haunt people in poverty in HIS OWN STATE, Blunt is able to disconnect from those noble words and cut programs and aid for children and the poor — even if it means losing matching federal funds.
I wish I had asked Gov. Blunt, what does it mean, to sign that proclamation, if you’re not going to change policy?

ONE Missouri: Fighting to End Poverty

St. Louis — Missouri is as fractious a state as you can get. It was a Republican “red” state in the presidential election of 2004, a Democratic “blue” state in the senatorial election in 2006. The folks north of the Missouri River have different politics from the folks south of that river. The legislators representing rural and small-town Missouri often vote differently than those representing urban and suburban residents.

But today, the Republican governor and the Democratic mayor of the state’s largest city declared Missouri and St. Louis to be ONE.

ONE, that is, in seeking to end global poverty by joining the international ONE Campaign, a coalition of more than 100 nonprofit, advocacy and humanitarian organizations to “make poverty history.”

St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay said that he and Missouri Gov Matt Blunt have stood on opposite sides in election politics but “we work on a lot of issues together.” This day, Slay joined Blunt, Republican organizer Jack Oliver and representatives of the academic community at a press conference at Washington University in St. Louis because “we have a common enemy: poverty.”

“All of us should be concerned,” Slay said, when fellow human beings don’t have access to clean water, the “basic essentials” of medical treatment or even enough food to stay alive.

The press conference was held in the Women’s Building of Washington University. Besides the media, the announcement attracted a smattering of students and faculty, church members and ONE volunteers, who handed out white plastic “ONE” bracelets and gathered signatures on the ONE Declaration, a commitment of “one person, one voice, one vote at a time – to make a better, safer world for all.”

Slay said it was appropriate to sign his proclamation declaring St. Louis a “City of ONE” on a university campus, because the issue of global poverty “is rallying students across the country to become more involved.” St. Louis became the second “City of ONE” in the state, following the lead of New Madrid in southeastern Missouri.

With Blunt’s proclamation, Missouri became the ninth “State of ONE.” Blunt praised Americans’ and Missourians’ “can-do attitude” and generosity in giving time and resources to humanitarian causes.

“Addressing poverty knows no political differences,” Blunt said. “We have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate.”

Blunt encouraged mayors across the state to follow the lead of Slay and New Madrid Mayor Donnie Brown, to declare their cities part of the ONE campaign.

With great fanfare, the two political leaders presented their signed proclamations to Stephanie Koh, a sophomore at WU and the president of the campus chapter of Alliance of Students Against Poverty.

ASAP “works to unite WU student groups, to raise awareness and increase involvement,” Koh said. The ONE campaign “will transform the hopes and future of an entire generation” by helping the people of Africa and other extremely poor nations address the AIDS epidemic, fight endemic malaria and make clean water accessible to all.

“Volunteeer at your local chapter, or start one,” Koh urged fellow students “from Seattle to Miami.”

What can ONE members do? Koh said it most succinctly:
• “Engage candidates” in a discussion of how to address global poverty and its attending problems of disease and lack of access to the basics of life.
• “Lobby Congress” to appropriate funds for global efforts and national programs.
• “Sign the declaration,” going on record as a voter and citizen in favor of ONE’s efforts.

ONE Sidebar: The Bible on Poverty

St. Louis – Poverty and its attendant problems of disease and malnutrition is “the No. 1 issue facing our country and our world,” says Clinton McCann, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and professor of Old Testament studies at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo.

McCann gave his biblical interpretation of the importance of the event proclaiming Missouri a ONE state and St. Louis a ONE city.

He joined Gov. Matt Blunt and Mayor Francis G. Slay in declaring “we are united” in the effort to end global poverty. He noted that there are more than 2,000 texts in the Hebrew and Christian Bible that address poverty. A primary text, agreed upon by a number of Christian and Jewish theologians, is Psalm 82, McCann said.

The psalm “has a plot,” he said. It sets up a meeting of the Canaanite gods, to which the God of Israel comes and puts the other gods “on trial” and sentences them for not meeting the criteria for how a god is supposed to act. Kings, and by extension all political leaders, are supposed to meet this criteria too, McCann said. It is to:
“Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ ” Psalm 82:3-4 New Revised Standard Version.

“If we know our biblical roots,” McCann said, “Christians will be committed to the goals of the ONE campaign” and will pressure their governmental representatives to “address the needs of the human family. Everyone here is my brother or sister, my child. I don’t want one of my children dying every three seconds. I don’t want my brothers and sisters in Africa to die of AIDS. I don’t want billions of the world people going to bed hungry every night.

“It shouldn’t be that way, and it won’t be that way,” if people unite behind the goals of ending poverty, McCann said.

Psalm 82