Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tell President Elect Trump to Appoint Cabinet Members Concerned with the Rights of the Poor: an open letter to the Christian Community Development Association


 Nov. 30, 2016

Dear Friends at Christian Community Development Association (CCDA):

I feel compelled to write this open letter to CCDA in the prophetic tradition because I feel strongly that President Elect Trump’s choice for treasury secretary would be very detrimental to those that CCDA cares so deeply about. 

I have followed Dr. Perkins for over 35 years, and lived and worked at the Harambee center. My Christian faith has been deeply shaped by the mission of CCDA. As a Christian missionary, I was led to live in an African American neighborhood of Pasadena and committed myself to learn from my neighbors. Over the years I have witnessed gentrification and the exodus of African Americans from my neighborhood. This led me to become concerned about housing justice—writing, teaching and giving workshops around the country. I edited Making Housing Happen which features many CCDA leaders who have addressed the housing crisis and they have had a profound influence on me. Because of deep concern for housing justice, I am heart-sick to witness the cabinet choices of President Elect Donald Trump, especially his choice for treasury secretary.  According to a report from Democracy Now:

…..[ President Elect Trump] named billionaire Steven Mnuchin to be treasury secretary. Mnuchin has deep ties on Wall Street, including working as a partner for Goldman Sachs, where his father also worked. Mnuchin’s hedge fund also played a role in the housing crisis, after it scooped up the failing California bank IndyMac in 2008. Under Mnuchin’s ownership, IndyMac foreclosed on 36,000 families, particularly elderly residents trapped in reverse mortgages. Mnuchin was accused of running a "foreclosure machine." The bank, which was renamed OneWest, was also accused of racially discriminatory lending practices. In 2015, Mnuchin sold the bank for $3.4 billion—$1.8 billion more than he bought it for.

Living in Pasadena, CA, home of IndyMac later named One West (by the investor pool led by Mnuchin in 2009) I experienced first-hand the effects of this “foreclosure machine.” I have friends who worked for IndyMac and together we watched it follow the path of providing subprime loans to people who could not afford them. Loans were given to two immigrant families I knew who had high hopes for the American dream of homeownership. The documents, required to be in Spanish, were offered only in English. These families were not required to state their income. The loans were intentionally made so that the borrowers would not repay them. This led these families into serious financial difficulty. That’s where I came in, helping to save their homes. It was a race against time. Phone calls to the bank were never responded to, while foreclosure proceedings proceeded faster than we could fill out loan modification paperwork. After applying for programs designed to help, help never came. Their home was lost. The parents and their seven children were given 15 minutes to pack up and leave.

“Despite its secure financial footing, OneWest had a history of problems with regulators over its foreclosure practices and lending and has been accused of being unwilling to work with borrowers seeking mortgage loan modifications despite promises to do so. Community groups have accused the bank of being particularly aggressive about foreclosing on properties in minority neighborhoods.” [1]

In my book I feature Rose Gudiel who stood up to IndyMac when they tried to foreclose on her home. Courageous people, including the religious community, began an around-the-clock vigil preventing the sheriff from evicting her. Others protested at the home of the Steven Mnuchin, then president of IndyMac,  who lives in a 26 million dollar mansion in Bel Air. Only then did the bank decide to renegotiate her loan.

This is the bank president that President Elect Trump chose for treasurer secretary. His approach to banking reminds me of what one of my favorite theologians Walter Wink referred to as “powers and principalities”—the forces of Mammon, the God of Wall Street.

The prophets always spoke to nations, cities, kings and leaders, warning them to care for the most vulnerable. This incident causes me to recall the prophet Isaiah’s lament over Jerusalem:
Your leaders are rebels,
    the companions of thieves.
All of them
 love bribes
    and demand payoffs,
but they refuse to defend the cause of orphans
    or fight for the rights of widows.  Isaiah 1:23

I know that when we Evangelicals voted in the current election, we did not vote for a repeat of what happened in 2008 when low-income people were targeted for bad loans and lost not only their homes but most of the life savings. Many have not yet recovered from this devastating economic setback caused by bankers like Steven Mnuchin. Trump won support of the middle class by declaring “I will protect you from Goldman Sacs.”[2]   Now he is appointing a partner with Goldman Sachs. This is being called “a flip-flop of historic proportion.”[3]

As Christians, we are called to defend the rights of the poor. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed, yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Therefore, I urge you to call upon President Elect Trump to reconsider appointing Mnuchin, and to urge your Senators not to confirm him. We need to insist that our President choose cabinet members who are concerned about the rights of the poor.
                                                                                                                                        
Here you can contact President Elect Trump, https://www.donaldjtrump.com/contact

I love our county and thank you for taking action.
           
Jill Shook


Jill Shook, Missions Door, Catalyst http://www.missionsdoor.org/missionaries/shook-jill
Doctor of Ministry, Bakke Graduate School
Blog: makinghousinghappen.net  Website: makinghousinghappen.com
Author/Editor: Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models
Jill@ makinghousinghappen.com

Making sure that wall steet is in the drivers seat. Elizabeth Warren, “managed to participte in all the worse practices on Wall Steet.
Accused of descriminatry lending practices.


Friday, November 18, 2016

The Rights of the Poor In the Jesus Administration


This is a message I am sharing at the Sunday evening service of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, where homeless and housed people come together to sing hymns, worship, break bread and seek to follow God's Word together. 
November 20 is a special day in the church calendar in which Christians celebrate Jesus as the king of kings, Lord of Lords, leader of leaders, President of Presidents.
 Right after the election of our President, I went to our nation’s Capitol with around 350 other people of faith to lobby Congress to help reduce long mandatory sentences for those in federal prison. Our theme was “love your neighbor.” Each year thousands of people of faith from all denominations and from all parts of the country come to DC to be a voice of conscience and compassion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you don’t hear much about our work although we have more influence than you might think.  It’s been a very hard week for those of us who care about the people that Jesus cared about: the poor, the sick, the prisoners, the immigrants. Programs that benefit these groups are coming under fire. Many people are frightened and angry. Tens of thousands are protesting in the streets. Others are working behind the scenes to make a difference.
Where is God in all of this? Where does God stand on issues of poverty and justice? That’s what I’d like to talk about this evening. That’s why I’d like to share with you one of my favorite folk songs, written by Woody Guthrie, a man of the people, who celebrates Christ as President.

Let's have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That you call the Nazarene
The only way we can ever beat
These crooked politician men
Is to run the money changers out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in
O It's Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and a pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring
Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars
But with the Carpenter on the seat
Way up in the Capital town
The USA would be on the way
Prosperity Bound!

I think Woody Guthrie’s song speaks powerfully to us today. If Christ were our President, we would have a very different society. There would no poor among us, no wars, and no exploitation. We wouldn’t be deporting, we’d be welcoming the foreigners and strangers among us.
We wouldn’t see headlines like the one that appeared this week in our local paper: City Cracks Down on the Homeless. If Jesus were President, we wouldn’t be cracking down on the homeless, we’d be lifting them up and treating them like family.
God has an agenda for the poor that He made very clear in his Book. A couple of years ago, I was given the “Poverty and Justice Bible” that highlights in bright orange passages that relate to justice and poverty and you find such highlights on almost every page. Over and over again we’re told the poor have rights and we are obliged to defend the rights of the poor.  Here are a few key passages.
  • Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
  • Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Psalm 82:3 
  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17 
  • The godly care about the rights of the poor; the wicked don't care at all. –Proverbs 29:7.
  • But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. Luke 14:13-14 
Jesus’ brother James, whose nickname was “The Just,” gave a clear explanation about how we in the church are supposed to treat the poor:
My dear brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, never think some people are more important than others. Suppose someone comes into your church meeting wearing nice clothes and a gold ring. At the same time a poor person comes in wearing old, dirty clothes.  You show special attention to the one wearing nice clothes and say, “Please, sit here in this good seat.” But you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit on the floor by my feet.”  What are you doing? You are making some people more important than others, and with evil thoughts you are deciding that one person is better.
 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! God chose the poor in the world to be rich with faith and to receive the kingdom God promised to those who love him.  But you show no respect to the poor. The rich are always trying to control your lives. They are the ones who take you to court. And they are the ones who speak against Jesus, who owns you.
This royal law is found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you obey this law, you are doing right.  But if you treat one person as being more important than another, you are sinning. You are guilty of breaking God’s law. 
The Scripture is so clear, so insistent, that I don’t see why I even need to say more except that most Christians don’t get it. Our country elects leaders who don’t care about the rights of the poor; they are more interested in the rights of the rich, the business interests.  Not all elected officials feel this way. I know many who care deeply about the rights of the poor and we need to support them. Jill has mentioned a City Council woman who allowed permanent affordable housing for homeless families to be built on city land in her district. The Congressional Representative from our district has a heart for immigrants and for the refugee families who came to our country fleeing violence in their homelands. We need leaders like these who care about the people that Jesus cared about.
I know this church cares deeply about the rights of the poor. Some of you went to City Hall to oppose ordinances that would “crack down” on homeless people. Pastor Walter called us “prophets,” and rightly so.  It is the job of the prophet to speak out about the rights of the poor.
After our City Council meeting, Jill and I talked with some of you who are homeless and listened to your stories. A young black man told us: “I never knew anybody cared about us homeless until I went to the City Hall a couple of weeks ago and saw all you guys speaking out on our behalf.”  That’s what Jesus did when he spoke in his hometown synagogue and told them he had come to “preach good news to the poor.” As you remember, his fellow town people didn’t like that message very much and drove him out of town. But his message lives on. As Christians, we are called to preach good news and defend the rights of the poor.
I’d like you to form small groups and make a list of some of the rights that you think homeless people should have.
I am pleased that some organizations are pushing for a Homeless Bill of Rights that would help stop the kind of ordinances that our City just passed. These are just some of the rights that homeless people need. I hope we can do our part to support such efforts.
As the Advent season approaches, and as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we need to remember that Jesus came not only to preach good news to the poor, but to live among them and defend their rights. When someone asked to follow him, Jesus said, “Foxes have lairs, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus choose to live among the homeless and to live like them.
This statue of Jesus on a park bench has become an icon in many cities.  Its creator is a Canadian sculptor and devout Catholic named Timothy Schmalz. From his studio in Ontario, Schmalz says he understands that his Jesus the Homeless is provocative. "That's essentially what the sculpture is there to do," he says. "It's meant to challenge people.”
Pope Francis has paid homage to this statue and would like to see it in the Vatican.  In other cities, however, the “Homeless Jesus” has been called insulting, demeaning and creepy. Some say its $40,000 price tag is a waste of money and should be used instead for food and shelter. Others have suggested it could attract more homeless people to the area. Some churches called the art sacrilegious and have turned down offers to install the piece on their grounds.
I think that “Homeless Jesus” does what good art is supposed to do, remind us of the truth that makes us uncomfortable. This image of Jesus’ nativity set in a contemporary city also reminds us of another disturbing truth: the “king of Kings” was born not in a palace, but in a barn and that the first people to honor Jesus were not kings but the poor. Fritz Eichenberg, the Quaker artist who made this woodprint, was a good friend of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Workers, a group that lives with and among the poor. They have led many campaigns championing the rights of the poor.
Friends, it is fitting that we honor Jesus as our King and our President on this post-election day. Jesus is the one who shows us the way to God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Christ our King and our President came not to reign over us, but to reign in our hearts.  He came to free us from our selfishness so we could truly love our neighbor and help bring God’s kingdom down to earth. As Jesus and the Bible make clear, the best way to honor Jesus as our King and as President is to show love and compassion for the needy, and to defend the rights of the poor.





























Wednesday, November 16, 2016

ICUJP and FCNL: Working Together For a World Free of War







[This is a reflection I gave at ICUJP in November, 2016, after returning from FCNL's Annual Lobby Day.]

It’s good to be back here with you, my friends, after being in DC. During the past week over 350 Friends and friends of Friends lobbied our elected officials and made over 170 lobby visits.
I could talk for hours about this visit but let me simply say that our stalwart band lamented the tragic election results and worshiped together. We heard inspiring speakers like Jim Wallis, who spoke about America’s original sin of racism. We heard reports and stories from enthusiastic young activists.  And we began planning our strategies for dealing with a Trump presidency.
It’s hard to believe that almost 50% of voters fell for this con man and have entrusted their future to someone with no governmental experience: it’s like trusting someone to do brain surgery who’s never been to med school. But that’s what we have to deal with. I was inspired by the gracious concession speech of Hillary Clinton, who quoted Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “Do not weary of doing good, for in due season, you will reap, if you don’t lose heart.”
It was heart-breaking for many women, and men who respect women, to see someone like Trump defeat a woman of Hillary’s caliber. I was very moved hear Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live do an impersonation of Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelejua.” The final words of this song seemed painfully appropriate and brought me to tears:

I did my best, it wasn't much 
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch 
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you 
And even though 
It all went wrong 
I'll stand before the Lord of Song 
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah 

As Kate McKinnon finished singing these powerful lyrics, she looked up to us and said with great conviction, “I’m not giving up and neither should you.” See Hallelujah
I know that we are not giving up at ICUJP. We began in a dark time, right after 9/11, when the world seemed poised on the brink of endless war. We had an incompetent President who, like Trump, lost the popular vote but was filled with a sense of self-importance and entitlement. We endured years of futile war, bad policy, and finally, the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Realistically, we can expect similar outcomes from a Trump Presidency. I’m not here to fool you.
But I am not in despair. I believe, as the Apostle Paul did, the “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.” These were not Pollyannish words. They were written by a man who served time in jail for his religious beliefs, endured torture, and was eventually executed. But he had grounds for hope. He knew that the movement that Jesus started could not be stopped. I feel the same way about the movement that we are part of, the interfaith peace movement. We are called by God to be agents of peace and justice and to transform and heal this broken world.

This is the also goal of FCNC, which is summed up in this mission statement:

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored

They are not unlike ICUJP’s core principles:

·  the power of love to overcome hatred;
· the power of mercy to conquer vengeance;
· the celebration of our common humanity and the sacredness of human life;
· and our calling to build a just, equitable, and peaceful world. 

ICUJP has been meeting faithfully every Friday morning and organizing events and campaigns since 2001. FCNL has been doing faith-based lobbying since 1942. Both groups are committed to the long haul, no matter how rough it gets. The past week was hard emotionally and spiritually, but I'm glad we came together during this dark time. I was especially happy and inspired to see so many young people who are passionately committed to this work and are getting excellent training from seasoned activists. FCNL employs nearly fifty lobbyists and interns, most of whom are under 30 years old. On Spring Lobby Day, 400 young adults come to DC to meet with elected officials; a third of them are people of color.
It is a great privilege to be your liaison to FNCL. FCNL and ICUJP have similar goals and much in common.
I am pleased that Carolfrances has encouraged us to support Black Lives Matter and our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. These are concerns that many people of faith take to heart. We need to be in solidarity with those who are taking action. We also need to take action ourselves.
That’s why I'd like for us to consider supporting the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) which takes an important step toward restoring judging authority to judges, reducing mandatory minimum sentences, and lowering the population of federal prisons. This is FCNL's focus right now. Since this bill has bipartisan support, we feel we have a chance to move the needle towards justice and compassion. For more info see Sentencing reform
Senator Grassley of Iowa and eleven bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, S. 2123, on October 1. This bill is the product of negotiations among Senate Judiciary Committee members and with other keenly interested senators.
I hope some of us can plan and take part in lobby visits over the next few weeks. Even though this is lame duck session and the clock is running down, our elected officials could pass this bill if there is enough pressure from constituents like us. They certainly would appreciated hearing from us at this difficult time. When we visited our California representatives in DC, they were happy to see that we had their backs. They told us we are needed now more than ever.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. I’d like to end with this prayer of Dr. Martin Luther that was shared during our time together in DC:


Eternal God, we thank you for [this beloved community] that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon you. Help us to realize that humanity was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God's children -- Black, White, Red, Brown and Yellow -- will rejoice in one common band of humanity….

  • Legislative Associate for Domestic Policy
José Woss is the Legislative Associate for Domestic Policy. He leads FCNL’s work on criminal justice reform/mass incarceration and campaign finance reform. He co-Chairs the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition, an alliance of more than 50 national faith groups advocating for a more just and humane justice system.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stories of our homeless friends in Pasadena after a City Council Meeting

Because some members of the City Council left early on Monday, there was no quorum and the Council did not consider the anti-camping and anti-aggressive panhandling ordinances that we came to discuss. Our presence wasn’t in vain, however.  Our homeless neighbors and their housed allies had an opportunity to get to know each other better. Many of the homeless people came from the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, where a service takes place every Sunday night that includes people who are homeless and those who are housed, coming together to sing praises to God, hear a inspiring message, have communion, and shared a delicious meal and fellowship. Around a dozen of us gathered outside the Council chambers to talk. Here are some highlights:
Kim and Jill shared about their survey of businesses in Old Pasadena, where the results were similar to our survey of the Playhouse District. Almost all those surveyed expressed compassion and sympathy for homeless people and did not feel additional police intervention was necessary. Only one complained that homeless people were a nuisance. No one complained about aggressive panhandling. They said that the “Yellow Shirts” are usually able to deescalate problems when they arise. If they can’t, the police are very occasionally summoned. One example given of this police intervention was that it led to further escalation. “The homeless person who acted out was probably mentally ill,” noted Kim. “A civilian woman intervened and calmed things down.”
I shared about a Quaker friend of mine named John who raised funds for homeless people the old-fashioned way, sitting in front of a grocery store with a table showing that he is representing a licensed charity. This mild-mannered 60-year old white male politely asked passersby for contributions. Most didn’t mind, but some complained bitterly and make outrageous claims to the managers. They said that John had harassed and cursed at them. The manager knew John very well and realizes these complaints are pure fabrication but he feels obliged to tell John about them.
This story illustrates the problem with the anti-aggressive panhandling ordinance. It is vague and subjective.  If a mild-mannered white male can be falsely accused of being aggressive and menacing, what would some people say about someone who homeless or dark-complexioned? And if a middle class person files a complaint against a homeless person, whose word would be believed? This could lead to fines, arrest, and even jail time.  No good would come of this approach.
“The mayor hears from the complainers,” I concluded. “But he doesn’t hear from the compassionate, caring members of our community, like the ones that Jill and Kim surveyed. We need to be the voice for the compassionate majority of Pasadenans.”
Our homeless friends shared their experiences.
“I never knew anybody cared about us homeless,” said Martin, “until I went to the City Hall a couple of weeks ago and saw all you guys speaking out on our behalf.”
A black man in his fifties named Melvin shared his story.  He receives SSI--$900 a month, not enough to pay for rent and food. Like many disabled homeless people, he panhandles to pay for rent and food.
“When I panhandle, I say, ‘Excuse me, mister, could you spare some change?’” Melvin explained. “I don’t say,  ‘Could you give me a dollar?’ Because, see [frowning and looking mean],  that’s aggressive.”
I asked Melvin how long he’d been on the street and he replied, “A couple of months.”
“How did you become homeless?” I asked.
“I got sick and had to go to the hospital,” he explained. “Had an infection and they drilled a hole in my back,” he said, pointing to his spine. “Was laid up for a couple of weeks and when the hospital released me, I was kicked out of the room where I was staying. That’s why I been sleeping on the street.”
Sometimes he sleeps on benches but when he does, he is told to move on. 
“They ain’t too nice about it either,” he told us.
Later we walked to our car with Martin and he shared his story.
A young, intense black man with a proud spirit, Martin told us that he is not like others on the street.
 “I’m a musician,” he explained. “They wouldn’t like it if I said this, but I don’t want handouts or GI or welfare or food stamps. I don’t want to be dependent, like my Mom.  I want a job and my own apartment. I want to be independent.”
We expressed appreciation for his integrity and told him that all of us need help sometime. Privileged and white as we are, we received help from our parents, as well as from government loans.  But we also understood and appreciated his need to feel independent. Jill recalled a time in college when she got a job and was able to pay for her room, board and tuition.

“It was wonderful not needing to take money from my parents,” she said. “But later I did take money from them, like when they gave me a down payment so I could buy my house. We all need help sometime.”

As we heard these stories of our homeless neighbors, we gave thanks to God that we can come together as a community and let those who are privileged know these stories. Stories of struggle and resilience, and ultimately of hope, when we recognize that we are all part of God’s family.

The 20th reunion of STARS, the tutoring program that Jill helped to start at Lake Avenue Church

Jill writes: Last Saturday was the 20th reunion of STARS. What a joy to see some of the youth, like Hector and Nacho--who now are 30 and 32! They are both married and Nacho has two beautiful children. Also, what a joy to "circle up" to pray!  When we founded this after school program of Lake Ave Church 20 years ago some of the kids thought you had to be in a circle and holding hands to pray!  Thank you Lake Ave Church for believing in me 20 years ago and the vision God gave for awesome program!  

Here's more info about the STARS program:

STARS Sites

There are currently 3 STARS Sites:
1. Villa 500 Elementary STARS. Run by Elementary STARS Program Manager Rosa Ramirez, this site has a capacity of 50 Elementary students and has been in operation since 1996. (626.817.4594, 500 E. Villa St)
2. North Elementary STARS. In partnership with Because You Matter, Inc, North Pasadena STARS opened October 7th, 2014 with an initial capacity of 25 elementary students. The site is run by Elementary STARS Program Manager Veronica Mendez. (626.797.1134, 1480 E. Washington Blvd)
3. Middle and High School STARS. Run by MS/HS STARS Program Manager Eric Johnson, this site has a capacity of 25 middle school students and 40 high school students. (626.817.4535, 393 N. Lake Avenue)

Our Mission

STARS takes a community-collaborative, asset building approach to after-school programming to provide PUSD students, primarily residing in NW Pasadena, an opportunity to rise above the challenges of their environment to become college-educated, responsible citizens of our community. By providing academic support, enrichment opportunities and family-strengthening activities, and by encouraging growing and accountable relationships with positive adult role models (tutors), we provide an environment where students are challenged to grow towards becoming that which God intended them to be.
We work closely with the Mentoring Program to grow tutoring relationships into mentoring relationships, or simply to connect our students with mentors. (view Mentoring page)

For more info about STARS, see 
http://www.lakeavefoundation.org/stars/



Figure 1 “Circling up” to pray at the 20 year STAR reunion on Sat. Nov. 5th.cid:44ADC346-1391-4226-B7DE-E49BC5B76025


cid:005C21E2-505B-485D-8B6D-370B7BAF2385Figure 2Nacho, married, dad a two kids, one of the 1st kids I recruited 20 years ago.cid:B7A937C4-A68D-49F4-ACAE-8B622BBF5634Figure 3 Jeanette, a longtime friend who has been a tutor in STARS for about 10 years! Thank you Jeanette!cid:02C95B39-EF03-4ED0-9392-0B0A8A1555E7





















Friday, November 4, 2016

Report of the PYM/SCQM Peace and Social Order Committee -- November 5, 2016



The Pacific Yearly Meeting Peace and Social Order (PYM-PSO) Committee convenes monthly conference calls for Southern California Quarterly as well as College Park Friends who have concerns about peace and justice. Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting are welcome to take part and will be listened to and supported as much as we are able, spiritually as well as practically. We help bring concerns to Quarterly and Yearly Meeting, organize/sponsor interest groups, and recommend speakers. Our next monthly conference call will be on Wednesday, Nov 30, at 7:30 pm. Conference call number is: 712-770-4010. Access code: 830-785. Here are some concerns that have been discussed in recent calls.

1) Police Accountability (Black Lives Matter). Several of our members are involved in this issue and are wondering: What are meetings doing to address issues of racism, militarization of the police, and police accountability? For recent AFSC action opposing police militarization, including civil disobedience and arrests, see https://www.afsc.org/document/report-urban-shield-abandoning-hope-not-building-hope and https://www.afsc.org/story/promoting-security-or-fearmongering-islamophobia-and-policing
2) Sentencing Reform and Correction Act (S 2123).  This will be the focus of this year's FCNL lobby day. For more info, and to take action, go to fcnl.org and see letter below.

3) Standing Rock Statements by AFSC, FNCL and New England Yearly Meeting. These Quaker bodies are calling on us to support the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies who are opposing an oil pipeline and taking a “nonviolent stand to protect the water, land and climate for future generations.” In their call for prayer and support for Standing Rock, New England Friends write:  “We affirm that we see God at work in the courageous action of those in the protector camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, In their ongoing struggles we see the convergence of struggles for indigenous rights, climate justice and liberation from white supremacy, moving with the power of the Spirit, raising up a vision of a world renewed.” Please call the President at Comments: 202-456-1111. Switchboard: 202-456-1414. Statements by AFSC, FCNL and New England YM are available at their websites. See http://neym.org/rsej/news/minute-support-standing-rock-committee-racial-and-economic-justice

4) Follow up on the FWCC Sustainability Minute. The PSO, FWCC and Unity with Nature Committees resolved to work together on this concern. We are asking Meeting to report on what concrete actions they are taking towards sustainability? http://fwcc.world/fwcc-news/living-sustainably-and-sustaining-life-on-earth-the-minute-from-the-plenary

Write to your Senators and thanks them for co-sponsoring the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123). Ask them to help bring it to the floor.  Here some text to consider using:

"Disproportionately long prison sentences for certain crimes, combined with laws that prevent successful re-entry into civilian life, have created a system of mass incarceration that unfairly impacts poor communities and people of color. These bills together reduce several lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, give judges more discretion, and lower the population in federal prisons. 
                                  

"This bill has strong bipartisan support. Please work with your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help pass it into law."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How to Vote Like A Christian in the Upcoming Election (Part 1)

As the day of the Presidential election draws closer, the name-calling and fear-mongering that has characterized this election cycle have increased. Never in my lifetime have I seen an election campaign that is so toxic and divisive.The question of who to vote for has strained friendships and even caused marital problems, as a recent LA Times article makes clear. See http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-split-household-20161027-story.html, Fortunately, Jill and I are on the same page and our marriage is doing very well, thank you. Even though she is Evangelical and I am Quaker, we agree on core values and on which candidate we support. We also agree to love each other even when we disagree. We hope other Americans will follow our example in this regard. 

Like many, we are appalled by the lies that have circulated during this campaign. But lying politicians are nothing new. Deception has been part of politics since the founding of our nation, and was something that our nation's founders expected. The founders believed in original sin and recognized the flawed nature of human beings, which is why they created a system of "checks and balances" so that one branch of government wouldn't dominate the other and so that one flawed individual would never have king-like powers. On the other hand, the founders also had tremendous faith in the potential goodness of each individual (the idea that each of us is "created equal" and made in God's image), which is why they believed democracy (power to the people) was better than monarchy (the rule of one powerful leader.) 

To make wise decisions about leaders, and to discern truth from falsehood,God has given us invaluable tools: our heart, our mind, our soul/spirit and our strength (body). We have also been given God's inspired scripture to give us moral guidance. We need to use all  these tools to help evaluate candidates and change the system.

Our hearts as well as our minds tell us that our political system is broken. The question is: Why? One answer is that ever since the Supreme Court decision on Citizen United, "dark money" has flooded our system and corrupted our politicians by making them utterly beholden to moneyed interests. This has increased the level of lies and deceit beyond anything we have previously experienced in our political life. In the current election, the only candidate to buck this system was Bernie Sanders, who refused to take corporate money. 

Trump says he is not beholden to moneyed interests, but that's because he is the embodiment of moneyed interests. As a billionaire, he has consistently done what profits himself (including tax avoidance) and is proud of it. 

Born into a middle class family, Hillary has also learned how to play the system to her advantage, while spending much of her career trying to help others through her liberal politics. 

Neither candidate is ideal because they are both part of our corrupt system. 

But we have to make an important moral as well as political decision: which candidate is better for our nation at this time? This is where we need to use our minds as well as our hearts. We also need to listen to the Holy Spirit and to read Scripture to clarify our moral perspective. 

Objectively, evidence shows that Trump lies far more than Hillary. Almost every fact checker agrees on this point. Even Trump's biographer said he had to fact check everything that Trump told him, and found that most of the time Trump lied about himself. This is a fundamental character flaw since Scripture tells us not to bear false witness. (See http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met/)

Second, Trump is far more divisive than Hillary. Trump has divided his own party while Hillary has united her party, gaining the support of Bernie Sanders as well as the support of major leaders, including former presidents. For the first time in history, virtually no newspapers have endorsed Trump, including newspaper that have endorsed Republicans throughout most of their history. Families are even being divided by this election. Not since the 1960s has the US been so divided. Jesus tells us "a house divided against itself cannot stand." 

Trump has insulted more people and even places than any candidate on record, thereby violating Jesus' injunction "Judge not lest ye be judged."  See http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/28/upshot/donald-trump-twitter-insults.html. In contrast, Hillary has for the most part tried to follow Michelle Obama's advice to "go high" when they "go low." Let me be clear what I mean: it is fair for a politician to criticize another politician as long as he or she is civil and reasonably truthful. Saying your opponent is "unqualified or temperamentally unfit to be president" can be a rational assessment in keeping with biblical standards and civil discourse. Saying your opponent is a "nasty woman" or "crooked" is an insult that violates Christian ethics as well as common standards of civility.

I don't think there is a moral equivalency between these two candidates. Trump has violated the basic principles of democracy by threatening to jail his opponent and refusing to accept the results of the election unless he wins. This shows that Trump is anti-democratic in temperament and therefore unfit for office. 

Hillary has been accused of many crimes, but so far, despite intensive scrutiny, there has been no proof to any of the vicious charges made against her. Under American law people are considered innocent until proven guilty in court. Even the current email "scandal" is mainly a political ploy. The Republicans, including the Bush administration, have used private emails and deleted them when they wanted to cover up their activities. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_White_House_email_controversy and  http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/the-republicans-who-did-exactly-what-hillary-did.  These were not seen as criminal acts.

However, it is unprecedented for a foreign government, i.e. the Russians, to intervene in an American political campaign, as 17 national security agencies agree happened in this election. To me, this fact is far more serious than anything alleged about Hillary Clinton. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/politics/us-formally-accuses-russia-of-stealing-dnc-emails.html), What makes Trump's behavior deeply disturbing is that he publicly called upon the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails. Never before in American politics has a candidate called on a foreign power to interfere in our election process. 

America is at a crossroads. We desperately need to reform our corrupt system. We have to get money out of politics and restore the faith of the people in its leaders. We need a faith-based response to the burning issues of our time: poverty, immigration, housing justice, the climate crisis, prison reform, and militarism. We need to listen to our hearts, use our minds, and follow the guidance of the Spirit to discern what we can do to make a difference. And we also need to remember that God is in charge. As Paul says, "all things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose" (Romans 8:28). No matter how the election turns out, we are called by God to work for justice and peace as faithfully as we can.