Metacentricities

  • Libertarian?

    In the midst of the 2012 election, which for some reason I was more obsessed with than any in recent memory (even 2008), I spent a fair bit of time thinking about what my own real political perspectives were. And in the fallout of the 2012 election on the Republican side, I've been watching the Republicans, particularly the Republican libertarians pretty closely.

    Wikipedia is my friend. It articulated in one neat clause what I understood about libertarians in the United States: "...people commonly associate the term libertarian with those who have 'economically conservative' and 'socially liberal' political views..."

    But libertarian philosophy as a whole is actually quite broad, including those who eschew capitalism. That strain of thought is called "libertarian socialism." (It is also sometimes called social anarchism - something that should be familiar to those involved in Occupy.) This pretty broad set of ideas is by far the closest that I come to calling my political home (even closer than democratic socialism.) I have great company, though. Apparently, Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist. I should have known that.

    I've actually had this set of ideas for a very long time, just not fully articulated. Every year since I first voted in 1980, the exercise was largely a practice of nose-holding while flipping the lever (or filling in the circle.) No candidate I've been able to vote for (that had a chance to win) has ever been on board with where I am politically. Those of us that are generally considered to the left of the mainstream Democratic party feel this way, and I'm sure that just as many people on the right feel the same.

    And, of course, the whole idea of "Left" vs. "Right" is problematic. There are at least four major policy threads in US politics: the …

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  • Will Work For...

    I wrote this essay this summer, before I moved out of Oakland.

    I'm in West Oakland, at the gas station on Market and West Grand. I am on my weekly sojourn out of the city. On my mind is the quiet that will soon greet me and the sad and disturbing memory of a week of two murders on our street. I pull into the station and put my car in position so I can pump gas. I get out of my car and go to the little kiosk between the pumps to pay.

    A man stands looking at me while I put my card into the slot. He seems to be about my age, but I can tell it has been a longer, harder life for him than for me. His ebony skin is dull, his mouth is mostly bereft of teeth, and his face is worn. He's distracting me from my task of paying for gas.

    He says, "I can already see that smile on your face that says 'I don' have nothin’.'" It's disarming, and his eyes shine. "I'll pump your gas, even if you don' have nothin’."

    Before I stopped for gas, I had passed one of the recyclers. There are a lot of recyclers in our neighborhood. That one had erected a tent-looking thing made out of blankets, and seemed to be creating a kind of protective nest for him and his bags of bottles and cans.

    There is one familiar recycler who is herculean. I've seen him pulling six or seven shopping carts with cans and bottles. The carts have full bags piled high on top of them and fastened to the sides. His body is ripped: I can see the muscles through the tears in his shirt and pants.

    I know that he's …

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  • On the elimination of borders

    Once upon a time... Actually, not all that long ago, human beings were divided into tribes. Survival depended on small groups of individuals living and working together to hunt, gather, raise children, migrate when needed, etc. The distinction between "us" and "them" - those who were not of the tribe, was clear. Tribes certainly cooperated, interbred, and, of course fought. But the survival of the few in the tribe depended on the few, and was not greatly affected by tribes even a hundred miles away.

    Tribes evolved into city-states, then empires and colonies, and finally, the collection of nation-states we have now. (Yes, I'm oversimplifying a few thousand years of history into one sentence.) And now, the struggles and survival of people thousands of miles away have very definite effects on us. This is unprecedented in history.

    These reflections come from thinking about Israel and Palestine. In some ways, this long-time struggle between two badly-matched tribes has been in basically active conflagration since 1967, with a few moments of calm over that last 45 years. I mean badly-matched in that one, Israel, has had enormous of power over the other, was created by a colonial power, and is supported by arguably the biggest power on Earth (that would be us.) The origin and reasons for this conflict are many, and I won't even try to describe more than 60 years of history and analysis here. But one thing is clear: this one conflict (and our role in it) has had enormous effects, some of which include effects close to home: dead people in Manhattan.

    A friend of mine has been an advocate for the "one state" solution for a very long time, long before Michael Lerner published a book about it. I would go further. It's time for the world to …

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  • Ministry Essays

      ***These blog entries were written from 2005-2006, during my time just before, and in seminary. Upon re-reading these, and reflecting on them, I realize that there is a willingness to engage in spiritual and religious thinking and teaching that I seem to have become reticent to do since leaving seminary in 2006. I thought it would be worth sharing these, and perhaps they will encourage me to do more writing of this sort.***   **Self-fulfilling prophecies 05/16/2005** I'm beginning to think that many prophecies are self-fulfilling, once they are believed to be real. I'm talking about prophecies as small as "I can't possibly climb that mountain" to as big as "Jesus Christ is coming again" (more on that one later.) I think it's human nature. We tell ourselves stories, some of which we really want to be true (changes we want to make, or things we want to see happen), and some stories we tell ourselves because we've learned over many years to tell those stories, and assume they are true, even if they are unpleasant. An example. When I was 16 and 17 years old, I had hip surgery. At 16, I had a sports accident, and my hip joint moved out of it's socket. Because I hadn't finished growing at that point, they had to put a pin in my hip, so that my leg would continue to grow properly. At 17, they did another surgery to take the pin out. The orthopedic surgeon told me that "in 10 years, you will have arthritis in that hip." Precisely 10 years later, the hip started to hurt when it rained, and I started to limp, and, yes, indeed, I had arthritis. Now it could be that he was an amazingly good orthopedic surgeon, or that 75% of all …
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  • Faith Unrecognizable

    I have no regrets about attending seminary, but my one regret in leaving was that I didn't get to take Christian history and theology. So I'm working to make up for that now, in reading theology and Christian history. One of the first books I've picked up is Diane Bulter Bass' "[A People's History of Christianity.](http://www.amazon.com/Peoples-History-Christianity-Other-Story/dp/0061448702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259359268&sr=8-1)" If there were a progressive Christian "must read" list, this book would be on it. In reading Christian history, and the evolution of Christian theology, I've learned that some tenets of Christianity that I learned from my youth, and thought, in some ways, inherent to the faith, in fact came about relatively late in Christian history. One of those basic tenets is the idea that human beings are by nature sinful, and it was Jesus' sacrifice on the cross which provides for salvation for humankind. If one accepts this sacrifice (by becoming a Christian, or being baptised, depending on the particular denomination,) after death, one gets to hang out in bliss with God. If one does not accept, one gets to burn eternally in hell. Most progressive Christians (including me) have chosen not to adopt that particular tenet (which many do see as central.) Many are universalists - Jesus died not just for some, but for everyone. But this still suggests a vengeful God who only could be satisfied with blood of some sort. There is a really interesting piece of Christian history, around the 10th and 11th centuries, between the theologians Anselm (1033-1109) and Abelard (1079-1142). It was apparently Anselm's who "proposed that Jesus died to satisfy the divine justice of his Father, as a payment of a legal debt required as recompense for sin and to restore God's honor …
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  • Discerning my way out of seminary

    Note: I wrote this in Summer 2006, on my decision to leave seminary

    One of the words I will leave seminary with that I didn't have when I got here is “discernment.” Discernment is a great word. It's a much better way to describe an organic, unpredictable process than, for instance “deciding.” I didn't really “decide” to come to seminary. In one sense, of course, every step along the way between first hearing “the call” and coming to seminary, then, most recently, deciding to leave seminary, was a decision. But the word “decision” has a two-dimensionality to it. “Discernment” seems to enclose in it a richness, depth, and dimensionality that speaks to the unpredictability of the process.

    I decided, for good reason, to take the summer off – to unhook myself from projects, or responsibilities, to give myself room to take in the year's experiences, and to spend some time at “home” in Western Massachusetts, which is where I'd spent the largest chunk of my adult life. Unhooking left me open, and a surprising number of things came out. I finally wrote a science fiction novel that I'd had in my head for at least five years. I reconnected with my home, and with friends I'd left. I thought deeply about what the year in seminary had given me. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I felt about what was following me after seminary. I spent time avoiding church.

    One of the things that I realized this summer was that I loved seminary. I loved learning, I loved exploring spirituality and theology, and being with people who were doing that exploring too. But I wasn't all that excited and engaged by what was supposed to follow. There were four basic threads that came together for me by the …

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  • Why I am going to call myself a Christian

    I came into this world a daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Christians, most of whom were active churchgoers, some of whom were in ministry. I was baptized first in the Presbyterian Church, when I was a baby. I spent the first years of my life as a Presbyterian - our family went to a fairly liberal church in Queens, NY. The minister of this church was, and still is, a good friend of the family.

    When we moved away from the neighborhood of that church when I was 9, to a largely Jewish suburb on Long Island, called Great Neck. We didn't attend church anymore. I missed it. I don't remember why I missed it, but I know I did. I finally asked to be confirmed in that church, which required some effort on my parent’s part, to drive me to church regularly to take classes, etc.

    At 16, my best friend began to go to a church in Valley Stream, NY, which was a Nazarene church (part of the holiness tradition.) She went because another friend of hers had started to go, and she met this guy there, so she became invested. They had a Friday night coffee house - designed for young people. She invited me to go, and I went mostly to please her. But there was something I found there. And I kept going back to coffee house, then finally, to Sunday service.

    I soon became heavily involved for the year before I went to college in 1977. I'd sometimes be there 4 times a week (Tuesday night bible study, Wed night service, Friday night coffee house, and Sunday service, sometimes also going to Sunday night service.) When I went to college (Bennington College, in Bennington, VT) I fairly quickly found a church to go to, called …

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