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

Pilgrim Pathways Begins

I am beginning Pilgrim Pathways by reviving the Levellers series on “Recovering Neglected Theologians.” I will re-post those entries and take submissions for guest posts on others. Send them to me via email mlw-w@insightbb.com .

To read my new blog, go here.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | blogs, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pilgrim Pathways Begins

The End of Levellers

I will soon delete this blog. I am working to save the parts I like and transfer them to a new blog that will focus more exclusively on theological matters—with nothing on U.S. politics.  I have lost faith in the ability of the U.S. political system to be reformed and work for the common good. We are no longer a democratic republic (with all the fallen limitations of such, but with promise for accomplishing penultimate goods), but a plutocratic oligarchy wholly owned and operated by big business.  My new blog will delete any comment about the politics of the U.S.–I do not want to discuss this or anything related to it. If I can find a way to become a citizen of a real democracy, like Canada (though it will also be fallen and have sinful dimensions), I will take it.  My American dream has completely died.

When I have saved the parts of Levellers that I want to keep, the new blog (which will also be on WordPress) will be called “Pilgrim Pathways: Theological Notes for a Diaspora People.”  Since “justice,” “peace,” “oppression,” “exploitation,” “care or destruction of the earth,” etc. are all theological themes, I will discuss the intersection of faith and social justice–but will avoid electoral politics in the narrow sense.  My sanity demands it.

UPDATE:  I should be able to have the new blog up and running by the end of February.

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 37 Comments

New Year’s Resolution #1 Check and Answer Email

I promise that in 2010 I will work harder to check my email AT LEAST twice a week and to answer it regularly. This is hard for me. I liked email when I first got “online” in ’93, but I have come to resent it as an intrusion. But when I ignore it for weeks at a time, then I pay the price by needing to wade through it–and sometime missing important messages. (Of course, I also miss important messages because they get lost in the tons of junk email I get sent constantly. The internet and email were less crowded in ’93.) I miss real letters–which I also used to WRITE–and phone calls by people who aren’t trying to sell me something.

I am beginning to think that more scholarship was accomplished BEFORE the invention of the “information superhighway.”

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Lyrics “Cry of a Tiny Babe” by Bruce Cockburn

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he don’t understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says “God did this and you’re part of the scheme!”
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says “forgive me I thought you’d been with some other man”
She says “what if I had been – but I wasn’t anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today”

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
‘Cause the governing body of the Holy Land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there’s a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you’ve got [you have] ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It’s a Christmas gift [that] you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

Merry Christmas, everyone.

December 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Rebel Jesus

My friend Paul Whitely, Jr. sang Jackson Browne’s classic “The Rebel Jesus”  today.  You should also read Jesus the Rebel by Father John Dear, S.J. (I met John in 1989 by being handcuffed next to him after committing civil disobedience in an anti-apartheid protest. Sometimes my life is somewhat amazing.)  Here are the lyrics for Browne’s wonderful song:

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by ‘the Prince of Peace’
And they call him by ‘the Savior’
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There’s a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

December 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lyrics: The Christians and the Pagans

In our ever more pluralistic world, Dar Williams’ song may represent something close to your holiday celebrations and tensions.  Here is a prayer for all those for whom family holiday gatherings are as much a source of tension as of joy.

The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle said “We’re up here for the holiday

Jane & I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay,”

And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,

He watched his son hang candy canes all made with Red Dye Number 3.

He told his niece, “It’s Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style.”

She said, “Christmas is like Solstice and we miss you and it’s been awhile.”


So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,

finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,

and just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,

sending hope for peace on eath to all their gods and goddesses.


The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,

’till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”

His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning!” and she hit the kitchen!

And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian.

“But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,

“And you find magic from your God and we find magic everywhere.”


So, the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,

finding faith and common ground as best as they were able.

And where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning,

‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpking pies are burning.


When Amber tried to do the dishes, her Aunt said, “Really, no, it’s no bother.”

Amber’s Uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.

He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,

He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”

He thought of fathers, sons, and brothers, ’till his own son tugged his sleeve

saying, “Can I be a Pagan, Dad?” “We’ll discuss it when they leave!”

So the Christians and the pagans sat together at the table,

finding faith and common ground, the best that they were able.

Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and

Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.


A prayer for all those with interfaith families–May your family holiday gatherings find faith and trust and common ground. Amen.

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2009 Elections–U.S.

Virginia has continued it’s long tradition of electing governors from the opposite party of whomever is in the White House. So, after 2 Democratic governors and a recent trend away from the GOP to the Democrats in the Senate, the Republicans won big in the VA governor’s race.  Bob McDonnell (R-VA) won like 60% of the vote over Creigh Deeds (D-VA). Deeds ran a great primary race, but then just ran out of steam in the general election.  So, VA remains a purple rather than blue state.

New Jersey, the other ’09 governor’s race, is closer.  It should have been a runaway for Bob Christie (R-NJ) because of Jon Corzine (D-NJ–Inc.)’s horrible polling, but Christie is under federal investigation for fraud and several things he did as part of the Bush admin. and all these became campaign issues.  Christie is ahead so far, but the heavily Democratic areas of NJ have yet to report. If Christie holds on to win, he could end up indicted before he is even inaugurated. Update: AP is calling NJ for Christie.  He should have a rocky term–and maybe a short one. Corzine concedes. Well, maybe Goldman-Sachs will hire him back.

Republicans will see these wins (if NJ ends up being a win) as an early repuke of Pres. Obama. But governor’s races are almost always about local matters and the poor economic situation will effect incumbent parties. Also, the president’s party almost always loses some ground in the next elections.

Mayor Bloomberg (I-NYC) has seemed to win a third term, but now it seems too close to call. Democrat Thompson is only about 200 votes behind with only 40% of the vote in–but the NY Times is still calling it for Bloomberg. Update: Bloomberg won.

Democrat Garamandi won a special election in CA.

It’s too early to see whether or not the 23rd Congressional District in NY will stay Democratic or flip to the ultra-conservative after he drove the moderate Republican from the field.  Early votes look Democratic. Update: Democrat Owens won. 

Only 22% reporting, but so far Maine looks like it will keep same-sex marriage by popular demand. Good for Maine.  Update: Marriage equality lost 53-47%, repeating CA last year.  Meanwhile a civil unions bill won in Washington State. GLBT gains are being made, but not quickly–and not without setbacks.

No real trendlines for or against Democrats in ’10. The key will be the economy–especially employment. Whether or not Obama gets a decent healthcare bill this year, THE theme of ’10 has to be job creation. The lower he can get unemployment the better Dems will do in the mid-terms. It’s that simple.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Bloggus Interruptus

Since I am moving this week to our first (and probably last) home that we actually OWN, computer access will be limited until next week. I am not ignoring you fine people, but interaction is not likely or will be sporadic. Normal blogging will be impossible until next week at earliest.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Grieving Tragic, Meaningless Deaths.

Cancelling regularly scheduled blogging.  Two friends, not close, but friends, from college days have committed suicide within a few weeks of each other. 

We need to reach out to each other, hold each other close.  We must also trust that God’s love is stronger than our ability to comprehend matters.

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Coming Soon: A Series on the Biblical Basis of Gospel Nonviolence

This afternoon, I plan to add another installment in my “Economic Justice Primer” and another “Rising Baptist.” But I am planning to start a complete biblical defense of Gospel nonviolence–aimed at those without theological training.  When the series is finished, I hope to edit it into a publishable small book. Your CONSTRUCTIVE criticism on this blog will be very welcome.



September 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments