Thursday, December 15, 2005

"The Magnificat" and the Scandal of Christmas

Remember Mary's Song, "The Magnificat" (Luke 1:46-53), this Christmas: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty."
This Christmas season, let's stop the irrelevant cries against the supposed scandal of Christmas, the secular oppression of taking Christ out of Christmas and instead seek to right true injustice such as the budget proposed by the House of Representatives that cuts food stamps, health care, child support, and educational assistance to low-income families - while further lowering taxes for the wealthiest Americans and increasing the deficit for all of our grandchildren. Or to feed those who go hungry. Or to warm those without housing. This is the true scandal of Christmas, Christians turning the blind eye to "the least of these" who Christ particularly told us to care for. As the "Body of Christ" let's begin lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things this Christmas season. This is what Christmas is all about, at least it is what Christ was all about. What is the real scandal of Christmas?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The High Cost of Low Prices

WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE is a feature length documentary that uncovers a retail giant's assault on families and American values.
The film dives into the deeply personal stories and everyday lives of families and communities struggling to fight a goliath. A working mother is forced to turn to public assistance to provide healthcare for her two small children. A Missouri family loses its business after Wal-Mart is given over $2 million to open its doors down the road. A mayor struggles to equip his first responders after Wal-Mart pulls out and relocates just outside the city limits. A community in California unites, takes on the giant, and wins!
Producer/Director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films take you on an extraordinary journey that will change the way you think, feel -- and shop.

Read some breathtaking statistics at:

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christian Peacemaker Teams: Committed to Reducing Violence by "Getting in the Way"

On November 29th, the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) confirmed that the four human rights workers who were reported missing in Baghdad on November 26 were associated with CPT.

Tom Fox, age 54, is from Clearbrook, Virginia and is a dedicated father of two children. For the past two years, Mr. Fox has worked with CPT in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations to promote peace. Mr. Fox has been faithful in the observance of Quaker practice for 22 years. While in Iraq, he sought a more complete understanding of Islamic cultural richness. He is committed to telling the truth to U.S. citizens about the horrors of war and its effects on ordinary Iraqi civilians and families as a result of U.S. policies and practices. Mr. Fox is an accomplished musician. He plays the bass clarinet and the recorder and he loves to cook. He has also worked as a professional grocer. Mr. Fox devotes much of his time to working with children. He has served as an adult leader of youth programs and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He has facilitated young people's participation in opposing war and violence. Mr. Fox is a quiet and peaceful man, respectful of everyone, who believes that "there is that of God in every person" which is why work for peace is so important to him.

Norman Kember, age 74, is from London, England. He and his wife of 45 years have two married daughters and a 3-year old grandson. He has been a pacifist all his life beginning with his work in a hospital instead of National Service at age 18. Before his retirement he was a professor teaching medical students at St Bartholemew's Hospital in London. He is well known as a peace activist, and has been involved in several peace groups. For the past 10 years he has volunteered with a local program providing free food to the homeless. He likes walking, birdwatching, and writing humorous songs and sketches. In his younger days he enjoyed mountaineering.

James Loney, 41, is a community worker from Toronto, Canada. He has been a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams since August 2000, and is currently the Program Coordinator for CPT Canada. On previous visits to Iraq, his work focused on taking testimonies from families of detainees for CPT's report on detainee abuse, and making recommendations for securing basic legal rights. James was leading the November 2005 delegation in Iraq when he went missing. James is a peace activist, writer, trained mediator, and works actively with two Toronto community conflict resolution services. He has spent many years working to provide housing and support for homeless people. In a personal statement from James to CPT, he writes: “I believe that our actions as a people of peace must be an expression of hope for everyone. My hope in practising non-violence is that I can be a conduit for the transformative power of God's love acting upon me as much as I hope it will act upon others around me.”

Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 is a Canadian electrical engineer from Montreal. He studdied at McGill University and is now working on a masters degree in English literature inAuckland University in New Zealand to prepare for a teaching career. He enjoys art, is active in squash and worked part time as a local squash coach. His family describes him as peaceful and fun-loving and he is known to be passionate about the plight of the underprivileged around the globe. He works tirelessly in his spare time to educate and help others.

This organization is committed to peaceableness, understands that violence does not lead to peace, and is comprised of people who are willing to risk their lives for peace. They ask the question: "What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?" Which sounds similar to Berry's closing paragraph in "A Citizen's Response", "We can no longer afford to confuse peaceablility with passivity. Authentic peace is no more passive than war. Like war, it calls for discipline and intelligence and strength of character, though it calls also for higher principles and aims. If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we have ever prepared for war."
Check out the website at and especially the Testimonies of Human Rights Abuses at

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Canadian Prohibition and the Rise of the Speakeasy?

In November 2004, the New Democratic Party (NDP) introduced a bill in the Canadian Parliament which would effectively ban trans fats. Click here to read the bill. In response to this initiative, the House of Commons by 193 to 73 passed a motion calling for the establishment of the task force, followed by regulations or a law to limit trans-fat content in all food products. Click here to read the motion and to see how each M.P. voted.
As a direct result of the NDP's initiative, the Canadian Government health ministry, Health Canada, announced the formation of a task force to "develop recommendations and strategies for reducing trans fats in Canadian foods to the lowest levels possible." Click here to read the government announcement.
The NDP's initiative originated with the work of Pat Martin, M.P., the primary anti-trans fat advocate in Canada. NDP leader, Jack Layton, M.P. introduced the motion in the House of Commons and has taken this issue forward with Pat Martin.

Canadian MP Pat Martin,dedicated anti-trans fat campaigner
Incidentally, we have provided information and support to Pat Martin and his excellent staff and will continue to do so.
In August 2005, the Trans Fat Task Force created by the Canadian Government health ministry issued an interim report. Click here to read the report. Click here to read the Canadian Government's response to the interim report.

Will this change due to the declaration of "no confidence" and the upcoming election?
If the newly elected officials pick this up where the liberals left off, will this be the Canadian version of the Prohibition? Will Canadians establish and frequent Speakeasy's to enjoy apple danishes, battered fish, pizza, tubs of lard, or anything else dripping with partially hydrogenated oil?
In a country that helps drug addicts inject, made up an official national greeting ("cheemo") that didn't catch on, and attempts to ban trans fats...time will tell, but anything is possible (and the trip there promises to be interesting).