Category Archives: Ecology, religion, justice

New eco-blog

A big welcome to a new eco-blog, Flowscapes: Everday Adventures for Ecological Resource Solutions. It’s not your average eco-blog. There are thoughtful posts considering ecological issues you’ve never even considered, like why the World Toilet Organitzation’s “Big Squat Day” might not be a good idea. There are posts offering different perspectives on topics you’ve probably been thinking about, like whether wind turbines are too loud or not. There are posts on bigger issues, like the importance of “followership.” And there’s fun random stuff, like a photograph of an art car. Did I mention this new blog is written by my sweetheart, Carol Steinfeld? So what are you waiting for? Go check it out.

Look up

The sky above, its sun and stars,
declares the order of the world.
The sun pours down its words by day;
the stars at night their knowledge show.
Though neither sun nor stars can speak,
yet still their voices loudly sound
unto the very ends of earth.

Paraphrase of Psalm 19:1-4

Moral vs. immoral banking

In an article titled “Where’s Your Church’s Money? : Banking for the Common Good,” in the September 21 issue of Christian Century magazine, Scott Bader-Sayre quotes John Calvin as saying that “Usury [i.e., lending at interest] almost always travels with two inseparable companions: tyrannical cruelty and the art of deception.” Calvin was willing to allow lending at interest, however, as long as such lending adhered to moral principles; thus, Calvin said that if you lend money to the poor, you should not get interest.

Calvin’s words seem prophetic in light of the recent banking crisis, which exposed the immoral and predatory practices of the banking industry. Bader-Sayre then asks, What can we do about this? He believes that part of the answer is that local congregations should place their money in places where it will do good, e.g., in banks that invest locally:

Few … have any lingering questions or qualms about usury. Perhaps we should still worry that interest as such fails to serve a good human economy. But given that there are faithful precedents for brokering just loans in service of real need and given our practically inescapable participation in an interest-based economy, the relevant question may not be “Should Christians* loan at interest?” but “What would it look like today to participate in lending and borrowing in such a way that it served human good and benefited all parties involved?’ Such a question might, in fact, lead us to more radical proposals for social change than would come from simply rejecting capitalism from the sidelines.

* Obviously, this statement also applies to religious liberals who are not necessarily Christians.

Bader-Sayre points us to an organization called Move Your Money, which is encouraging people to move their money out of the six biggest banks into local banks. Here’s a video from Move Your Money, featuring George Bailey and Mr. Potter:

The problem with local congregations moving their money into locally owned banks is that many congregations have become overly dependent on receiving high rates of interest in order to fund their operating budget. If our congregations are going to use their money responsibly, maybe we’ll all have to start giving 5% of our gross income to our congregations to support our moral goals.

It’s all about religious tolerance

Joe Volk of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) just sent out an email message encouraging all Quakers to “state publicly that you stand with our brothers and sisters in the American Muslim community” in the days leading up to September 11.

I heard about this from my friend E, a Quaker and a yoga teacher, who writes on her blog: “It has been heart-rending for me to read about the growing rancor and bigotry about religion and race…. My great grandparents fled the pogroms, and my parents felt free to become members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)….”

We’re not quite at the level of pogroms yet, but Rev. Meredith Garmon, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, Florida, writes in a blog post today that anti-Muslim hate crimes are increasing; in addition, “Here in my home of Gainesville, Fla., a local fringe church known for its anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT rhetoric has been getting national media attention for their planned ‘Burn a Qu’ran Day’ on Sept. 11th.”

Whatever you may think of the proposed Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan, I know you’re not going to burn a copy of the Qu’ran, or pee on a mosque, or stab a Muslim taxi driver. Whichever side of the issue you’re on, I know you’re not going to spout increasingly inflammatory rhetoric in the days leading up to 9/11 (which this year are the final days of Ramadan). Nope, we’re all going to show the best of religious liberalism, and spend the next two weeks thinking peace and publicly supporting the principle of religious tolerance.

Below is the text of the FCNL email message. Continue reading

We’re happy, but…

This afternoon, federal judge Vaughan Walker of the Northern California District Court released his decision: Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

This evening, the mood at the rally outside San Francisco City Hall was ebullient.

Sign at tonight’s rally at San Francisco City Hall

There was also a serious undercurrent. Everyone present knew that Walker’s decision would be appealed by the supporters of Prop 8. Everyone knew the odds are that this legal battle will be fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Everyone present knew that there is a good chance that supporters of marriage equality won’t wait for a Supreme Court decision, and that we’ll try to have an initiative on the ballot in 2012.

The rally ended fairly quickly (and it would have ended earlier but for some long-winded clergypersons; boy, people in my profession do like to hear themselves talk). I was just as happy it ended fairly quickly; it was a typical San Francisco summer evening, cloudy, with a chilly damp wind. My favorite quote from the evening: “There is nothing more delicious than being a love warrior today.”

Prop 8 court decision tomorrow

From a U.S. District Court announcement dated today:

Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al
Challenge to “Proposition 8”
Chief Judge Vaughn R Walker
United States District Court for the Northern District of California

On August 4, 2010, the court will issue its written order containing findings of fact and conclusions of law following the court trial held in January and June of this year. The order will be e-filed in the court’s Electronic Case Filing system, and will be immediately available thereafter through ECF and PACER. There will be no court proceeding associated with the publication of the order.

Read the full announcement here. The decision is supposed to be released between 1 and 3 p.m. Pacific time.

In my area (Bay area, the Peninsula), I know there will be a rally of celebration or recommitment here in San Mateo tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time, corner of Fifth Ave. and El Camino Real. There’s also one being planned for Mountain View, 6:00 p.m., City Hall and Caltrain station. And of course, San Francisco: march stepping off from the Castro 5:00-6:00 p.m., rally at City Hall at 6:45.

Gayapolis lists some nineteen rallies in California, and a few others across the country, including several places in Texas, as well as Denver, and Rochester, New York..

There’s another, longer, listing of rallies on the Prop 8 Decision Ning site. Note that there will be a Prop 8 rally in Phoenix!

For my friends back in Massachusetts, Join the Impact is going to have a rally at Copley Square, Boston, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, and you can find details on their Facebook page.

If you attend one of these other rallies, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll be at the rally in San Francisco, and will report back in a couple of days.

June 21 is the day to “peecycle”

In case you’ve forgotten, Pee-On-Earth Day (in the northern hemisphere) is tomorrow, June 21, the date of the summer solstice. According to my partner, Carol, describes it: “Pee-On-Earth Day is a day to bring your urine outside to nourish plants and avoid using water to flush your toilet! Fertilize plants with your urine’s nitrogen and phosphorus. PEECYCLE either directly or by depositing your contribution in a container you take outside….”

Carol’s favorite way to peecycle at our house by pouring the pee into our compost pile — it doesn’t smell, and we wind up with nitrogen-rich compost. Look for the Pee-On-Earth Day fact sheet on Carol’s Web site for more ideas on how to peecycle.

And yes, Pee-On-Earth Day is my favorite summer holiday, mostly because I get to make lots of pee jokes.

New Orleans: Final day

On the last day of our New Orleans service trip, we had a short work day. One crew went off to Green Light again; another crew to the Animal Rescue League of New Orleans; and Dave and I stayed at the Center for Ethical Living to finish up one last project.

The Green Light crew went off to St. Bernard Parish to install compact fluorescent bulbs. They discovered that in St. Bernard Parish, swampland comes right up to the road in many places. At the one house they managed to work at, the owner told them that that area was under ten feet of water after the hurricanes in 2005. Our crew saw bare foundations where houses were simply washed away by the flood.

This afternoon, most of our group went in to the French Quarter of New Orleans for a walking tour, though a few of us stayed behind to take a nap. Then all but three of us went to get dinner and hear live music in the French Quarter. We get up at five tomorrow morning, so I’m staying behind in the dorm so I can get enough sleep to make sure we get on the flight and make our connections; two other people who are particularly tired are also staying behind for a little sleep.

Later note: The three of us who stayed behind went for dinner at Pyramids Cafe, just five blocks from the Center for Ethical Living, for a good inexpensive dinner; then we went to The Camellia Grill to get a banana cream pie and an apple pie to bring back to share with everyone else.

Last post in the trip diary.

Excellent suggestions

“Safety Net,” a ministry of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tennessee, has made excellent suggestions for changes to the professional guidelines of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA). Of particular note is a suggested revision to a clause of the guidelines that asks ministers to “strictly respect confidences given me by colleagues and expect them to keep mine.” This clause is legally and morally indefensible, for it means that if another minister came to me and told me “in confidence” that s/he had engaged in sexual behavior with a legal minor, I would violate the UUMA guidelines when I reported him/her to legal authorities. To state the obvious: in California, I am a mandated reporter and would be legally required to report any suspected child abuse, whether or not I was prohibited from doing so by UUMA guidelines — more importantly, as a human being, I am morally required to report any suspected child abuse, again regardless of UUMA guidelines.

This and the other revisions proposed by Safety Net are excellent. The UUMA should adopt them as soon as possible. You can read the full text of the revisions here, and an explanatory open letter to the UUMA here.