Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Drilling Moratorium is a Matter of Survival in a Post-Oil Spill La.

Right now, down here in southeast Louisiana, it has been interesting to see hardcore Republicans and Democrats agreeing that we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Back in the 80's we learned a hard lesson about how foolish it was to base our economy on the oil industry. As the years passed, some people forgot about how disastrous that was and began to see the oil companies as some sort of benign industry that still benefited to our economy. Now that British Petroleum has shown its true colors, a lot of folks who were formerly supporters are feeling more than a little bit bitter. They are downright angry and they have every reason to be.

What BP's existence might have contributed to our economy is nothing compared to the damage that it has done to it. And that's NOTHING, NOTHING compared to what it has done to our lands. Some folks from up north don't realize how much many Louisianians still live off of the land. I'm a city-dweller, but even I know folks who are so far from a grocery store that they have to hunt and fish for most of their food. What are they supposed to do when the animal populations begin to decrease?

Given how much of our plants and animals are going to die from this current fiasco, we simply can't afford to allow the oil companies to keep on drilling until we can be sure that they've fixed all of their problematic practices. The proposed moratorium on drilling is a matter of survival, but now it has been struck down by a U.S. District Judge who has extensive investments in the oil industry. Folks like him care about their money more than they are interested in the survival of poor people, so it's not surprising that some folks still want to "drill, baby, drill".

Friday, June 11, 2010

To Those Who Think That Islam Does Not Allow for Diversity of Thought

Have you ever ridden down a highway? Though you and I can both be traveling down the same highway, we may travel in different lanes. We can both end up at the same destination, but take slightly different paths within that same highway system. Perhaps, you will have to dodge a few obstacles that I may manage to avoid completely and vice versa. None of this changes the fact that we are still traveling down the same road, going to the same place.

For Muslims, through Islam, Allah sets the parameters and allows a great deal of freedom within those parameters. Personally, it annoys me to no end when non-Muslims say that Islam takes away all of a person's freedom, because we (i.e. those who have an intimate relationship with Islam) know that it is through Islam that many of us have been made free.

I also get a bit irritated when I hear certain Muslims making very similar comments. There are those (within the Muslim communities that I have been privileged to be a part of throughout the years) who I've seen make it easier for this charge to be made against Islam and Muslims. They do this through their words when they claim that there is only one correct way to practice Islam.

Even the most pious of the Muslims don't live identical lives. Though they are all striving to be in submission in everything they do and think, they don't all reach the same conclusions. If humans try to regulate those things that Allah has seen fit not to regulate, then they are the ones lacking in submission--not those they are trying to rein in.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Haiti and the Social Gospel

Today, I read a tweet from a local (rich, white, cisgender, male) youth pastor talking about Haiti. He was saying how we need to see food, clothing and shelter as secondary and that we should view the gospel as what they need the most. To me, this was a rather flawed way to view things.

I grew up in a religious tradition that did not much believe in getting involved in social justice. If there was a hurricane or tsunami somewhere, the people from the associated churches would all create a little fund which was sent to the main organization and they would use the contributions as they saw fit to help whomever they saw fit for a very limited period of time. After that initial contribution, they basically went back to just proselytizing in the usual ways--inviting people to church, preaching to people in public spaces, offering salvation in the form of baptism.

Each year, they raked in millions of dollars from all across the world, yet they never built one school, created one clinic, or ran a single food or clothing bank. This never sat well with me. I have a hard time respecting any organization that would gladly take money from already-impoverished people, but offer them nothing more than intangibles in return.

I love beautiful churches. I enjoy visiting the ornate surroundings of many cathedrals and mosques and synagogues. At the same time, I do feel a bit uncomfortable with all of the froufrou, knowing that millions of people are still dying of starvation each year. I can't help but think that at least some of the money spent on these works of art and wonders of architecture could have been better used providing for the needs of the poor.

There's a chapter in the Bible that I thought about when I read that pastor's tweet today.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Matthew 25:34-46
Notice who was pronounced righteous in this chapter. If we are not feeding and clothing and putting a roof over the heads of people such as those now living in Haiti, then all of our good intentions are for naught--we will still end up facing eternal punishment. Mohandas Gandhi once said, "There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread". I think that where the youth pastor went wrong was in thinking that providing for the physical needs of others is somehow separate from the gospel of the Bible. Instead, I see it as the very core of what it means to live the gospel and if we are not living the gospel, we certainly can't spread it to others.