Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

War Against Women in the (DR) Congo

Last night CBS’ famed 60 Minutes weekly newsmagazine aired an excellent segment by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “War Against Women in the Congo.” It concerns the systematic use of rape against women and children in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tragedy of the Darfur region of the Sudan is horrid and should not be underplayed, but it gets far more coverage in the U.S. than the horrors in the DRC–even though both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch conclude that what is happening in the DRC is the worst human rights tragedy in the world, currently. Further, although women have been raped in all wars, this is the most systematic use of rape as a weapon of war anywhere–making even the rape camps during the Balkans civil war which broke up Yugoslavia in the ’90s or the rapes in the Darfur refugee camps now look small in comparison. DAILY GANG RAPE is now the norm–and reaches children as young as 3 and women in their ’90s–and is leaving entire villages traumatized.

The video is disturbing and not for the squeamish. We need to make ending this a high priority of the U.S. State Dept. and the U.S. and international human rights groups and campaigns.

The blog, Texas in Africa, run by a Texas poli-sci grad student whose dissertation is on Congo’s health system and who has spent considerable time in Africa, has regular updates on all matters African, especially Congo related. Texas in Africa is a pseudonymn for a young Baptist woman (a graduate of Baylor University, Yale, University and now finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin) who also lived for some time in Kenya.  One can also find good information on the crisis in Kenya by regularly reading her blog.

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January 14, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Baptists, blogs, human rights., torture, war, women | Comments Off on War Against Women in the (DR) Congo

New Blog

In order to keep this blog focused on theology, ethics, and the intersection of faith and progressive social change, I have decided to spin off another blog that will be more overtly political (and thus, this one will be less so).  My new blog, Kentucky Fried Politics will work in concentric circles–commenting on politics in Louisville, throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky, in the U.S., and, globally. I will solicit guest posts for many.  On that blog, I will feel free to endorse specific candidates from time to time–in a way that I believe inappropriate for this forum.  Also, although I will not hide my own pacifism, I will be working for a progressive coalition for peace and social justice–and will gladly cooperate with those who, while working for peace and justice, still believe that standing militaries and military action (war) are sometimes necessary. (I may challenge them even while cooperating with them, however.) Coalitions are formed with people who have goals in common–but don’t necessarily agree on everything.

I will, of course, interact with conservatives, reactionaries, Republicans (not always the same thing!), and critics. All are welcome.  The blog is just getting started: New features and links, etc. will be available soon. I am not certain how long I can maintain both blogs–hopefully for some time, which is why I will be inviting guest posts. But I wanted to use my blogging for organizing and activism–and this blog, Levellers, has felt more like a discussion forum–specifically a Christian one. The Body of Christ is not identified with any one Party or Movement or nation, etc.–and endorsing or working for such here would feel like wearing a campaign button to a Sunday Service–something I would never do.

Check it out and let me know what you think–as it gets started.

Update: Well, I’m getting features installed, links, etc. But I forgot how lonely a new blog is.  This blog gets so much regular traffic and great feedback (and some not so great, but that’s also cool) that I forgot just how hard it was to build a readership.  When Levellers started in January ’05, I was lucky to get anyone stopping by once a month! It was almost a year before people started coming by in any numbers and the blog got better as a result of interaction. Since I want Kentucky Fried Politics to have an impact in and beyond the Commonwealth of KY, I hope it doesn’t take that long before folks start dropping by.  Thanks to Marty, Kevin and a few others for checking it out and encouraging me.  Tell your friends.

December 15, 2007 Posted by | blogs, U.S. politics | 2 Comments

Spam

Question for fellow bloggers among my Gentle Readers?  Are you plagued with spam in your comments section? I am. It is one of the things I spend the most time weeding out. I am not talking about people who disagree, nor even comments from people who dislike me. That goes with the territory in having a public forum like this.  I mean real spam:

  • I get links to commercial products
  • a flood of comments linking to pornographic websites (which, fortunately, I can delete without visiting!)
  • links purporting to be from Hillary Rodham Clinton (but which are actually from rightwing Hillary-hater sites)
  • links purporting to be from Barack Obama or Oprah Winfrey or, on the other side of things, from Bill O’ Reilly. (If I really had Bill O’Reilly notice my humble blog enough to get mad at it, I would think I had done something right!)

By far, the most common of these are simply attempts to sell something. And, usually, the spam blocker catches them. I spend too much time deleting them, but, I am usually able to do so before they appear on the comments site.  But it is all tiring–and would be much worse if I allowed comments with no screening at all.

How widespread is this problem? I am wondering if I attract more than most, less, or about average. Currently, my spam blocker has nearly 700 comments. That’s about how many I get on an average month.

Personally, I would rather hear from more of you readers who lurk without commenting than to hear from advertisers, nasty porno purveyors, or whatever.  Agree, disagree, like what you read here or want other things, please let me know. I read all the comments, anyway, including enough of the spam to see what it is. I take all REAL comments seriously–friendly or otherwise.  After all, my critics are my teachers–yes, including my virtual friends, Chance (of the blog Zoo Station), Looney (of Looney Fundamentalist–a self-description), and D.R. Randle–my most prolific critics.

December 14, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 13 Comments

50,000 plus!

When I packed up my computer last week, my counter showed some 49,000 plus visits since I moved this blog to WordPress (and began keeping track). Now, more than 51,000 have visited–and from all over the world!  This is small potatoes to some blogs that I admire like Faith and Theology, but I am overwhelmed that so many people would think it worthwhile to read this blog–far more than ever comment.  Thanks to you all, Gentle Readers, for stopping by–both supporters and critics and those who are both! (Critical friends are a must!) 

November 1, 2007 Posted by | blogs | Comments Off on 50,000 plus!

Back Online

Well, the move is “complete” and I am back online, and I even have most of my library set up.  But I won’t have any real time to blog for a bit. Still unpacking boxes.  Many thanks to the “Middle Aged Moving Company” from my church.  Although most of us may have had to reach for aspirin and Ben-Gay on Sat. Night, we made most of the move a “done deal” in 6 hours.  Grace and peace, friends.

October 29, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 6 Comments

Hiatus

I will be offline until sometime next week as we move to our new home.  Same zip code. Same email. Same phone. Better house.  But, I hope to be “wired” once more by the end of next week. Then, as I get my library out of boxes, etc., I will be able to get started on the “reader-chosen” series.  See you soon.

October 23, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 1 Comment

Upcoming Blog Series: The Decisions

Okay, Gentle Readers, I asked your views and you gave them.  Between comments on the blog and emails, it appears that of the topics I suggested for upcoming series, the greatest interest was for:

Baptism, Eucharist, & Ministry,  an exposition of the World Council of Churches document of that name with commentary (including some dissent) from a committed baptistic/Believers’ Church perspective.

Creation, Evolution, and “Intelligent Design” came in second. 

So, those will be the two series I tackle in the near future–considering that I am in the middle of moving, probably at the end of this month. 

Instead of a series, I will make my planned comments on ecological virtues into a single blog post.  It didn’t get many votes, but I consider it an important topic for our age.

I still have things I think are important to say about the relation of ethics and theology, but given readers’ interest-level, I will postpone that until the new year. 

And, yes, Bob Cornwall, I will take the question of Baptist identity closer to 2009, when this movement to which I belong turns 400.

I like profiling champions of nonviolence so much that I will do so–but will space them out much more than I had envisioned if that choice came in close to the top (it didn’t). I’ll postpone the first such profile until the beginning of Advent thanks to less reader interest than expected.

Since the question of Christians and education received not a single vote, I will simply bow to readers’ lack of interest and not write on that at all.  I find the subject fascinating, but apparently no one else does.  

Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.  Thanks for playing, friends.

October 12, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 5 Comments

Moving Pains

The Westmoreland-White family is moving this month–in town.  It’s a good deal, but there could be interruptions, etc. on this blog. I’m busy today, for instance, in packing books from my library. So much fun. 🙂

October 9, 2007 Posted by | blogs | Comments Off on Moving Pains

What Series Should I Tackle?

Okay, Gentle Readers, here’s your chance to influence the direction of this blog in the near future.  I am considering several different options for a series of posts. I can’t do them all with the time I have available. I might do more than one if there seems to be interest. Even anonymous people get to vote, though I take people who sign their names more seriously. So you get to help me decide which would be more helpful:

  1. Creation, Evolution, and “Intelligent Design”  I’d explain the theological doctrine of creation and why it is perfectly compatible with evolutionary biology and geology. I’d explain what makes a theory scientific and why “Intelligent Design” is not a scientific theory and, therefore, should not be taught in science classrooms–although it would be perfectly fine as an alternative in a comparative religions course or a philosophy course. 
  2. Ethics and Theology  Taking back up my brief series on Theology as a Craft, this would explain the relationship of Christian ethics and theology.
  3. Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry.  My 2 posts on baptism, stemming from reflections on my oldest daughter, Molly’s recent baptism, have led to a controversy on another blog, with believers’ baptism being challenged both by a priest in the Independent Catholic movement (as a form of heretical “rebaptism”), and by a former Quaker.  Following the lead of Disciples’ blogger, Bob Cornwall, I thought I might take the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order document Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry and exposit and critique each section from a Believers’ Church perspective, beginning with baptism.  It’s not meant to be Anti-BEM per se, however, as the document is a fine piece of ecumenical theology–striving for consensus.  I will state my affirmations wherever I can and my reservations only where I must.  When I first read it, I was surprised to find that I had more objections in the “ministry” section than the other two put together–stemming from my strong belief in the priesthood of all believers.
  4. Ecological Virtues: What skills, habits, and practices should characterize individuals, congregations, and societies in an age of ecological crises?
  5. Champions of Nonviolence:  Profiling heroes/heroines of nonviolent struggles from different cultures, contexts, and eras.
  6. Exploring the Baptist Vision:  In 2009 the Baptist movement of which I am a part (a section of the larger “small b” “baptist” or Believers’ Church or Free Church movement) turns 400 if we date things to the transformation of John Smyth’s exiled congregation in Amsterdam from a Separatist to a Baptist congregation in 1609. (Since Smyth and most of this congregation soon merged with the Waterlander Mennonites, some would postpone the birth of Baptists per se to 1611, when Smyth’s protoge, Thomas Helwys, took a few that refused to merge with the Mennonites and founded the first Baptist congregation on English soil at Spitalfields, outside London.) This series would explore what has been most distinctive about Baptists over the centuries and ask what, in a post-modern, ecumenical, (post-denominational?) age is still worth preserving and what needs abandoning or modification or re-thinking.
  7. Christians and Education: Exploring contributions and controversies.  Especially would focus on the role of churches in the founding of universities.

Or you can suggest another topic, but if you feel strongly about it and I don’t–then get your own blog. 🙂  Any series will doubtless be interrupted by comments on events large and small or what pleases or irritates me on any given day.

October 7, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 35 Comments

Great Blog Series Alert: My Peace I Leave Unto You

Over at his great blog, Inhabitatio Dei, theologian and peace blogger, Halden Doerge has begun a series of guest posts called “My Peace I Leave Unto You” on varieties of Christian pacifism and how they relate to different Christian theological traditions.  Thom Stark of Semper Reformanda began the series with a post on his pacifism as a part of the Restoration or Stone-Campbell movement (i.e., the Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ, and independent Christian Churches–the movement is less fragmented outside the U.S.).  Kim Fabricius, ex-patriate American living as a university chaplain in Wales (and the most prolific “blogger without a blog of his own” in the theo-blogging world) has continued with a post describing his journey to a Reformed/Barthian form of pacifism.

Future contributions will include at least the following: An Eastern Orthodox pacifism, an Anglican pacifism, an Evangelical pacifism, and a Baptist pacifism (contributed by yours truly).  Stay tuned to the series. If you want to contribute to the series, especially if you come from a tradition not included yet, contact Halden here. But many traditions are large enough that more than one contribution could be illuminating. For instance, if one was a non-Barthian, traditional 5-point Calvinist and a pacifist, that perspective would make a fascinating addition to Kim’s Barthian-Reformed perspective.  And a pacifist from the Disciples of Christ would probably approach the problem differently than Thom did as a conservative Restorationist.  But I hope that before the series is concluded we see at least one Catholic perspective (the number of Catholic pacifists seems to be growing exponentially), a Pentecostal contribution (especially since pacifism was dominant in first generation of Pentecostalism, but is a small minority, now), a Lutheran essay, a feminist contribution, at least one essay from a Black Church perspective, a Wesleyan-Methodist essay, etc.  The series looks extremely promising. Check it out–and thank Halden for his work in creating this series and hosting it on his blog.

August 24, 2007 Posted by | blogs, pacifism | 1 Comment