The National Prayer Breakfast is normally a time for reaffirming spiritual truths and testifying to the power of faith in people’s individual lives, but not so much a moment for prophetic and controversial social utterances. There have been exceptions – when Sen. Mark Hatfield spoke courageously about the moral "shame" of the Vietnam War in the presence of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (I know a lot about that prayer breakfast speech because I helped write it when I was a seminarian in Chicago); when Mother Theresa spoke about the sacredness of life and raised the issue of abortion with the Clintons on hand; and yesterday, when Bono spoke like a modern-day prophet about extreme global poverty and pandemic disease and called upon the American government, with George Bush and Congressional leaders present, to do much more.
The speech, published below, was the most explicit about religion and the role of faith that I had ever heard Bono deliver, and his insistence on the biblical requirements of justice and not just charity was reiterated over and over again. In a small session with religious editors afterward, Bono spoke about how the churches had led on the issue of debt cancellation with the Jubilee 2000 campaign, on HIV/AIDS, and now on global poverty reduction. "You’re the bigger crowd," he said, "much more than my stadium audiences." He said the church will just hear "fanfare" from musicians.
But Bono is offering far more than fanfare, as his talk below demonstrates. To the religious editors he stressed how the justice issue is "really it," and said that the churches had to figure out how to make that clear to people and that "movement is the way" we will finally succeed. Bono said he believed that something is moving now and we have to create the momentum to accomplish our goals. On the way to the car afterward, we spoke together about how really crucial that movement building is, how nothing else will suffice to make the changes in our world that are so vitally and morally necessary, and how the strategy in the religious community is so key. We also talked about the Isaiah 58 passage he had quoted in his speech – that when we respond to the poor as the prophet instructs, "God will cover your back." This is one speech you will want to read and pass on to your friends.
I did, and I do…
Nancy Barto was selected by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to replace LD 7 State Representative David Burnell Smith, who was forced out of office for campaign finance violations. Although Burnell Smith was one of the six nominated by the LD 7 PCs to replace himself, the PCs were wise enough not to select him as one of the three names to forward to the Board.
The Board selected Mrs. Barto, who was the LD 7 Chairperson of the Republican Party, over Howard Levine and Howard Sprague. Her selection is about as close to re-selecting Burnell Smith as they could get without actually trying that stunt, however. Mrs. Barto is a staunch supporter of Burnell Smith in his fight with the Clean Elections Commission and the courts to keep his job. Mrs. Barto claims that there is still strong support for Burnell Smith in the district, as well as strong animosity toward the Commission.
Barto said, “I’m disappointed that they [the Commission] would go this route. I don’t think they have the authority to overrule the voters of this district.” The Arizona Supreme Court and the voters of Arizona, in adopting and continuing to support Clean Elections, disagreed.
I have been reading a lot about Christianity lately. I recently finished reading “The Five Gospels: What did Jesus really say?” by the Jesus Seminar. As a complement, or in some cases an anodyne, to this fare I also watched the documentary film The God Who Wasn’t There and skimmed “Holy Writ as Oral Lit : The Bible as Folklore” by Alan Dundes, both of which postulate the idea that Jesus was not a historical figure at all, but rather a construct of folklore. In addition, I am currently halfway through listening to the audio edition of “The Gospel of Judas” by Simon Mawer about the discovery of a previously unknown account of Jesus’ life from the viewpoint of Judas Iscariot. In sum, I have of late been steeped in blasphemy.
I didn’t have any particular program or goal in mind in digesting this material, I just felt that I hadn’t taken a good look at biblical scholarship of late, and there might be something of interest in either fiction or non-fiction. With the runaway success of essentially heretical biblical scholarship in “The DaVinci Code” I thought I would get ahead of the curve and see what might be next to hit the Christian cultural zeitgeist.
There has been some talk about differences between two key Arizona Democrats, Napolitano and Grijalva, over strategy and policy concerning border reform. The dust emanates from the AZ Daily Star’s recent interview with Grijalva and some comments made to Bajo El Sol. I wasn’t very clear on what the hubbub was about, so I went back and read the interview more carefully. Because I overlooked some of the implications, I thought it might be useful if I posted what I found for others.
Grijalva is clearly very annoyed, but it is because he is concerned that the Governor’s proposal could harm efforts at comprehensive border reforms, not so much because he opposes her specific policy. He sees a prominent border-state Democratic Governor stepping up with a purely enforcement policy as a betrayal of the political goals of the Hispanic community. He clearly thinks she went off the Democratic message of comprehensive border reform. Let me quote at length from the interview.
Not surprisingly, I was quite unimpressed by Bush’s State of the Union. He started with the lie that our Union is strong, and didn’t stop with the lies and half-truths and terrible ironies throughout. The high point was when Bush alluded to his defeat on Social Security ‘reform’ and the Democrats gave him a standing ovation. The rest was Bush’s characteristic jive of taking our highest ideals and traditions and shitting all over them for the low and corrupt ends of his ‘base’.
But I don’t really want to talk about the SOTU. It is never politically significant, anyhow. Most years, Bush’s ratings have fallen following his SOTUs. And while he didn’t drop any real clinkers this year, such as addressing the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports, neither did he say anything that will have any resonance or ring true outside his base. What I thought was really interesting was the Democratic Response.
There are some countries where the only rational reaction to the police is to run, fight, or bribe, and where the courts are nothing but an extension of a corrupt government. Luckily, America is not such a country… yet.
21 year-old Michael arrived in Phoenix as a refugee from the 30-year genocidal war in Sudan. His story is part of a tragedy that has destroyed 2.5 million humans, and made refugees of 4 million more. Sudan’s legal system has become a system of torture, and the courts simply puppets of a regime bent on annihilation of black Sudanese.
Michael was hit by a car in Phoenix while riding his bike home from work. He was badly injured in the accident, but was given a ticket by the officer who responded to the accident. He was bewildered and frightened; the car had hit him and he had done nothing wrong. What was going to be done to him when he responded to the wrongful citation?