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

BPFNA Conference Update

Well, this remote blogging is trickier than I thought. My first update went only to my church’s blog (Life at Jeff Street) and the second one didn’t go anywhere–lost in cyberspace. So, let me try to convey a sense of these exciting days. Thanks to portable DVD players, we got all the way from Lousville to Chattanooga before the first “Are We There Yet?” came from the back seat! Molly (11) and Miriam (7) were much better behaved on this trip to Atlanta than I remember being as a kid in car trips.

The opening plenary Monday night was rich–but very long! We awarded Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who is living proof that the U.S. electorate sometimes gets it right, a peacemaker award for her solitary “no” vote following 9/11 to giving W a blank check to wage war with whomever he wants under the guise of a war on terror. Rep. Lee, a Baptist and member of Allen Temple BC in Oakland, CA (a BPFNA partner congregation), has also led the congressional concern about Darfur, formed the “out of Iraq” caucus, has been part of the effort to impeach based on the Downing Street memos, and is a co-sponsor of the legislation to create a cabinet level Department of Peace. Her mother was facing surgery, so Ms. Lee had to leave that first night, but it was great to have her.

Rabbi Michael Lerner was with us Mon & Tues. Check out the “Life at Jeff Street” blog for what he said to us Monday night. The link is on the right of this blog. On Tues. Rabbi Lerner gave a worskshop on his attempt to create a Network of Spiritual Progressives with a 3-fld task: 1) Countering the misuse of God and religion in public life by the Right; 2) Countering the phobia of the Left to all talk of faith or morality or values. Insisting that, without violating church/state separation, there can be a valid spiritual voice in politics–but it must be pluralistic (not just evangelical Christians) and not treat people without faith as second class citizens. 3) This
network must move for a new bottom line that does not judge everything solely in terms of

Then R. Lerner closed out our worship Tues. night at Ebenezer BC with a traditional Hebrew prayer for peace, that he translated freely into English in song form set to an old Gospel tune. It was beautiful. R. Lerner said that one(of the many) sad results of the history of Christian persecution of Jews is that until recently Jews had lost Jesus as one of Judaism’s greatest prophets. Christians, of course, believe that Jesus is more than a prophet, but he
was definitely a prophet–something on which Jews, Muslims, and Christians can agree and use
as a beginning point in dialogue. I know that Jewish scholars have really helped this Christian’s picture of Jesus!

On Monday night, I go to introduce the legendary C. T. Vivian who spoke on fulfilling Dr. King’s Dream today. Because I find typing on this laptop difficult,I won’t attempt to summarize his message. I’ll wait until I get back. Tomorrow night, I get the honor of presenting the Bill Moore Lifetime in Peacemaking Award to Dr. Vivian.

Dr. Peter Paris has been leading us in a series of reflections on types of violence and responses: We have covered war and poverty, and will also discuss sexism, and racism as types of violence.

Today, I went to a went to a workshop on “understanding whiteness,” something this whiteboy has been trying to do for 44 years! Whiteness is a pseudo-scientific cultural construction that brings privilege—but at a price.

More later, with more detail once I am on my home computer. Please feel free to post comments, but they won’t showup until my return.

July 12, 2006 Posted by | Baptists, Jews, Judaism, peacemaking, poverty, prejudice, race, sexism, social history, violence | Comments Off on BPFNA Conference Update