Friday, October 7, 2011

End of the Blog, A New Page

Since September of 2009, I have been blogging at this site on issues at the intersection of faith and law. It has been an interesting experiment. I have had many more readers and followers than I would have ever imagined. And I appreciate the time that each reader has devoted to stop by this site to read my posts and those of the guest bloggers. Thank you.

When I began this blog, I shared with readers my struggle to find an appropriate name. Ultimately, I chose “Progressive Christianity and the Law,” but I expressed that it was not a perfect fit. As time has gone on, I have felt less and less comfortable with the “progressive” moniker. I do think that term probably describes me fairly well in many respects, but not all. Many of my progressive friends think I’m pretty conservative in some respects.

But that is beside the point. The term “progressive” in this blog’s title is modifying Christianity, not me. And I have never believed my religion to be progressive, conservative or moderate, at least not in the political sense of those terms. Those politicized terms just don’t fit well with a faith based on the resurrection of the tortured Prince of Peace who ministered to outcasts, demonstrated respect for secular authorities but had no interest in acquiring their power, and instead taught about the Kingdom of God whose values were quite at odds with earthly priorities.

As I’ve contemplated this dynamic over time, I eventually felt that I needed to put this blog to bed and start anew. To that end, this is my last post on “Progressive Christianity and the Law.”

I will continue to blog on similar faith and law topics at a newly founded blog with a slightly simpler title: “Christianity and the Law Blog.” I invite you to join me at that new blog, which can be found at:

In the meantime, I thank all the readers, commenters, and guest bloggers of this site for your attention, your engagement and your contributions. Without you, this experiment in blogging would have been pointless. Without you, it would simply have been a personal journal. I encourage you to continue your engagement at the new blog.

Peace and blessings!

Ezekiel 36:11

And I will multiply upon you man and beast, and they shall increase and bring fruit. And I will settle you according to your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tibetan Refugee (2004)

I recently came across a short, low-budget documentary about Tibetans who have fled their homeland because of oppression by the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China. I must admit I have never followed the saga of Tibet that closely, so I gave this film a try because I wanted to learn more.

This particular film appears to have been made by novice filmmakers on a shoestring. As a result, I’m not sure I learned quite as much as I might have learned from a more expertly made film. Nonetheless, I was quite moved and would definitely recommend Tibetan Refugee to others.

The bulk of the film is simply spent interviewing Tibetans in exile in India. The vibe is less that of a documentary film, but more like a collection of Tibetans’ testimony to prove up the oppression that the People’s Republic of China claims is not happening. Common people--not celebrities--tell about their experiences in Tibet under Communist Chinese rule.

From children to young adults to older exiles, their stories are heartbreaking. Over and over again they tell of religious oppression and ethnic marginalization. Young kids tell of making the journey to India on their own because their parents wanted them to have a better life. Monks tell of torture and abuse at the hands of Communist authorities.

Over and over, inteviewees describe their dreams that motivated them to leave Tibet—they sought education and they sought the freedom to practice their religion. Those two dreams seem so simple, so basic to us in the United States. Our nation was founded on the dream of religious freedom. And despite the many serious problems we have in our educational system, there are a lot more educational options and opportunities in this country than people have in most places around the world.

I felt humbled and quite moved as I listened to the interviewees. I am not Buddhist, but I certainly sympathized with their cause. I cannot imagine being tortured for wanting to practice one’s religion openly. After watching the film, I felt gratitude that I could go to church, read my bible, display crosses in my home and talk opening about my faith. Those are privileges that not everyone around the world enjoys.

Psalm 119:134
Redeem me from the people who oppress me so I can keep your precepts.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mary Harris Jones (a.k.a. “Mother Jones”)

After reading Mother Jones magazine for the first time, I became interest in its namesake and did a little research. I learned that “Mother Jones” (the woman) had a fascinating perspective, which in many ways is actually quite apropos to the focus of this blog.

Mary Harris Jones lived a long life from 1837 until 1930.

Mary Harris was originally from Cork County, Ireland. Her family were Catholics. They were tenant farmers in Ireland. She immigrated to North America with her family as a teenager.

Miss Harris received a Catholic education in Toronto, Canada. She later worked as a teacher in a convent. Eventually, she moved south to the United States and married George E. Jones of Memphis, Tennessee. He was active in an iron molders’ union.
Early in her adult life, Mrs. Jones tragically lost her husband and all her children in a yellow fever outbreak. She had had four children. They were all under the age of five when they died. What an unimaginable loss for someone to bear.

However, Mrs. Jones apparently did not wallow in her grief. Instead, she turned her sorrow into productive outlets by pouring her considerable energies into labor organizing. “Mother Jones,” as she became known, was active in helping to form unions and was affiliated with the Socialist Party of America. She is particularly remembered for her leadership in fighting against the exploitation of child labor.

Mother Jones was apparently an effective labor leader in part because she was such a gifted orator. She was famous for using humor and spirited rhetoric to inspire audiences. Some of her more famous quotes include:

“I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hell-raiser.”

“If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout ‘Freedom for the working class!’”

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

“Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”

“Injustice boils in men's hearts as does steel in its cauldron, ready to pour forth, white hot, in the fullness of time”

“Often while sewing for the lords and barons who lived in magnificent houses on the Lake Shore Drive, I would look out of the plate glass windows and see the poor, shivering wretches, jobless and hungry, walking alongside the frozen lake front. The contrast of their condition with that of the tropical comfort of the people for whom I sewed was painful to me.”

Interesting quotes.

Mother Jones is remembered as a passionate fighter for workers’ rights. Many modern people think of her as a godless communist. However, in reality, she had pretty traditional beliefs. Indeed, in many respects one might say she was a “conservative.” For example, Mother Jones was outspoken against female suffrage. She was famous for having said:

“working men deserved a wage that would allow women to stay home to care for their kids.”

I also read that Mother Jones blamed neglectful mothering as the root cause of juvenile delinquency.

As I understand her biography, if she was a radical leftist, it was simply due to class-based, economic concerns. She was not consistently left-wing on all issues. Other famous Mother Jones quotes include:

“I have never had a vote, and I have raised hell all over this country. You don't need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!”

“I preferred sewing to bossing little children.”

“That is, the wife must care for what the husband cares for if he is to remain resolute.”

In light of all this, Mary Harris Jones seems like a rather curious inspiration for the modern magazine bearing her nickname.

Deuteronomy 8:17

If you start thinking to yourselves, "I did all this. And all by myself. I'm rich. It's all mine!"—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mother Jones Magazine

In the 1970s, an underground magazine took the name “Mother Jones.” Over the years, the magazine became more prominent and was no longer underground. For a period in the 1980s, Michael Moore (now known for his films) was affiliated with the magazine.

The magazine touts itself as a beacon of investigative journalism, a type of journalism I think we need more of these days. There is some investigative work in the magazine, but some of it is not very thorough. Much of it is heavily tinged with ideology, which makes the articles less than ideal in my opinion.

Nonetheless, I appreciate Mother Jones magazine. I may not always agree with its ideology or perspective. But despite what the right says, there aren’t really a lot of left wing voices in the media. With the rise of Fox News Channel and talk radio, I think that countervailing voices are important.

Unlike talk radio and FNC, which make lots of money, Mother Jones magazine is produced by a non-profit, the Foundation for American Progress. The magazine accepts donations to support its existence.

Deuteronomy 24:19

When you harvest your grain and forget a sheaf back in the field, don't go back and get it; leave it for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that God, your God, will bless you in all your work. When you shake the olives off your trees, don't go back over the branches and strip them bare—what's left is for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. And when you cut the grapes in your vineyard, don't take every last grape—leave a few for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. Don't ever forget that you were a slave in Egypt. I command you: Do what I'm telling you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

“Political Lying” Article by Rick Perlstein

In the May/June 2011 copy of Mother Jones, which my mother shared with me, there was an article addressing some of the same themes I’ve been describing in recent blog posts. The article is called “Inside the GOP's Fact-Free Nation: From Nixon's plumbers to James O'Keefe's video smears: How political lying became normal.” You can read it at the link below.

The article isn’t necessarily a piece of objective investigative journalism, but I thought the author had some good food for thought.

Proverbs 14:1

Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Texas Democrats

I have always heard of Mother Jones magazine, but never actually read it until recently. In my next post, I am going to recommend an article from that magazine. It is an article that seems pertinent to the recent thread of posts to this blog. But in the meantime, it is sort of interesting how I even came to read an issue for the first time.

I tease my mom that if you look up “flaming liberal” in the dictionary, one might find her picture. This is funny to me for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that she lives in Texas. My home state doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being the home of flaming liberals.

Indeed, when I was practicing law in Texas, I was a semi-closeted Democrat. With regard to non-GOP political affiliations, within my social circle, things were generally on a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” basis. Everyone assumed everyone else was a Republican, and you didn’t volunteer your political tilt if you were not.
In our family, there is an infamous anecdote that exemplifies this experience. At a neighborhood cocktail party in early 2001, my husband mentioned in passing that I had voted for Al Gore. I still question how that fact was at all relevant to anything that had come up in the conversation. And I have always been unsure why he only mentioned the person for whom I had voted. Indeed, my husband had also voted for Mr. Gore. Nonetheless, for whatever reason, my husband innocently and naively spilled the beans—inadvertently outting me at the neighborhood cocktail party.

When he did so, I was several yards away chatting with some other neighbors. It was like one of those old E.F. Hutton commercials from the 70s. Everyone in the room stopped and looked at me with dropped jaws. One gentleman was sincerely flabbergasted and asked in a loud, puzzled tone, “Claudine, why would you have done such a thing?” He just couldn’t fathom. And from then on, the neighbors seemed to think I was a nice but misguided woman.

Interestingly, during the same time and up to the present, while in the same state, my mom surrounded herself with senior citizen women with a decidedly progressive bent. That just astounds me. When we lived in Texas, we only knew a couple other Democrats. Indeed, there were so few in our community that on one primary day, I showed up at the Democratic polling place and the election workers were so delighted to just have someone come to vote. It was almost closing time and they had only had a handful of Democrat primary voters all day. It had apparently been a boring day.

After I voted, they asked if I wanted to sign up for the local Democratic Party distribution list. They were going to have a potluck so folks could meet one another. My gosh, there were so few of us that we apparently would all fit in one family’s living room!

Anyhow, my mom must have a sixth sense for finding Democrats because she has quite a few friends who are openly progressive. They are sweet ladies who do volunteer work with the homeless, participate in walks to raise money to fight hunger, sew quilts to donate to soldiers’ families, and went to hear Bill Clinton when he came to town for a lecture.

On a recent visit to our home in Arizona, my mom brought me a stack of magazines she had finished reading. She included a copy of Mother Jones with the address label of a friend of hers. The friend is apparently a subscriber. I had heard of the magazine, but did not know much about it and had never seen it on sale anywhere. I just had this vague sense that it was an ultra-left wing periodical that was probably only read by people who wear clothing made from hemp, are into composting, and bake their own granola. As a result, it surprised me that I first received a copy of the magazine via a straight-laced senior citizen who lives in suburban Texas. That should teach me to not think in such stereotypes!

2 Chronicles 1:10

Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can lead this people, because no one can govern this great people of yours without your help.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Prayer On 9/11

Dear Lord,

Thank you.

Thank you for our lives.

Thank you for the privilege and blessing of being able to live in this country.

Thank you for the sacrifices our forbearers made to establish and preserve a representative form of government. Thank you for the abundant natural resources and natural beauty of our land. We live a life of relative bounty compared to our brothers and sisters around the world. We also have more input in the governing of our nation than most in human history. We thank you for our material blessings and our good fortune to not live in a nation of tyranny. We thank you for entrusting us with the responsibility of living in a democratic nation.

Lord, thank you also for the diversity of our people. Thank you for the various cultures that have made their home in this land. Thank you for the native peoples, the people who came here in hopes of creating a better life, and the people who were kidnapped and brutally forced to work the land to the enrichment of greedy men. I thank you for the sacrifices all of these people have made, the endurance they have shown, and the brilliant contributions they have made to create a country like no other in the world. When I have traveled in other countries I have been particularly cognizant of the richness our multicultural heritage has given us. We take it for granted when we see faces with different shades of melanin in a single family or in a school or a battalion of soldiers. We take it for granted when we hear different languages spoken in the same community. Jazz and Country & Western. Dim Sum and Creole. Ballet Folklorico and Clogging. Our diversity sets us apart from other natiosn and makes us infinitely richer. Thank you.

Lord, thank you for the people who lost their lives on 9/11. We thank you for the time they had on this earth, and we thank you for welcoming them with open arms to the eternal reward of being reunited with you. We thank you for their bravery and heroism. The firefighters who ran into burning buildings so that others might find safety. The police who tried to instill order when chaos reigned. The school teachers who guided their young students to safety, risking their own lives and bringing comfort to scared children’s hearts. The ordinary people on Flight 93 who stood up to violence and hatred, refusing to be victims and giving us all amazing examples of democracy and heroism. We thank you for the many less known acts of bravery and compassion in New York, the D.C. area, St. John’s and countless places across this land on 9/11 when our nation was in the chaos of a surprise attack and we weren’t sure where the next act of terrorism would occur. Thank you for the courageous voices after 9/11 who preached peace and counseled against pointless acts of violence as a response to the unspeakable evil we had encountered.

Thank you, Lord, for the wondrous plans you have for our nation and its people. I thank you for the courage, wisdom and guidance you bestow on us to carry out your plans. Help us to stay faithful to you and become the people that you intend. Help us to be good stewards of the riches you have entrusted.

In your name we pray. Amen

1 Chronicles 29:11-13

To you, LORD,
belong greatness and power,
honor, splendor, and majesty,
because everything in heaven
and on earth belongs to you.
Yours, LORD, is the kingship,
and you are honored as head of all.
You are the source of wealth and honor,
and you rule over all.
In your hand are strength and might,
and it is in your power to magnify
and strengthen all.
And now, our God, we thank you
and praise your glorious name.

Jeremiah 29:11

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.