A Brief Introduction

Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Update: SFNYC, Giving, and Bible discussions at CMU

First off, Soulforce NYC is in gearing up in many new and exciting ways like never before. We're collaborating with Vassar College's Act Out for an event in a few weeks, moving forward with a spring campaign, and finally finally bringing in new voices and ideas. It feels soooo good and I've been waiting close to a year for the wheels to finally start spinning.

As the economic uncertainty continues, I recently read an article forecasting that Americans would simply find new and cheaper ways to indulge, rather than question the consumerist me-at-the-cost-of-others centered attitude. While I've given money recently to the Equality Ride and to No On 8 in California, it's been awhile since I've invested in small businesses worldwide through Kiva. Aziza Khamis and her friend Mtumuwa own small business making and selling "chipsi" (french fries) in Zanzibar. Through her business, Aziza is able to bring in $240 in profits each month. The loan, which I'm a part of, will help her buy ingredients to expand sales! My other Kiva loans are in the process of being repaid so I only had to contribute an additional $8.25 ... easy!

Micah and I returned from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA last night and I have many reactions to share. As I process them myself, I'll put them up here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with a music video?

Hacking Christianity posted this video and wondered if the ending didn't completely undermine the message. I can't decide if the ending is purposefully vague--leaving us with the reality that we are free to to decide how to react to Jesus's sacrificial death--or if the filmmakers buy into (the myth of) redemptive violence. In either case, the cinematography is beautiful.

Awake O'Sleeper from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meet A Rider: Alex Lundy

I think the Equality Ride is distinct in that it acknowledges the connection between religion and heterosexism. It does not discount it from the discussion or demand that folks "get their Bible out of school policies." Instead, it boldly meets people where they are. It affirms my unwavering personal stance that all people have the right to be freed from prejudice, no matter what their sexual orientation, faith, or personal beliefs may be. Every person has the right to feel empowered by truth and knowledge, and not become a victim of misinformation. Everyone is entitled to experience love, to love themselves and to love others. All people have to right to feel safe in their schools, churches, communities, and homes. And all students have the right to participate in higher education.

I am a living embodiment of change.

Support the Equality Ride by sponsoring Alex.

Meet the other riders.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When it comes to power, under is never equal

It's a busy day and I do not have time for my own writing today. Hectic work schedule followed by phone banking at the Task Force tonight. However, a post by Mimi Haddad came across my reader that I had to pass along.

Here is a fierce excerpt:

Gender is not the basis upon which authority in marriage or the church is determined. Remember, Paul tells all Christians to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). Wives have authority over their husbands’ bodies, just as husbands have authority over their wives’ bodies (1 Corinthians 7:4). Paul celebrates the spiritual authority of female apostles (Romans 16:1); prophets (1 Corinthians 11:3-5, 1 Corinthians 14:31, Acts 2:17; 21:9); house church leaders (Romans 16:13-15, 40, 1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Philemon 1:2, and 2 John 1:1); deacons (Romans 16:1); teachers of the gospel (Acts 18:26); evangelists (Philemon 4:3, Romans 16:3); and those who do the very heaviest of gospel-labor (Romans 16:12). Paul calls others to submit to Stephanas’ entire household (1 Corinthians 16:15-16), including slaves as well as women who were part of this household ministry. Slaves, free, Greeks, Jews, men, women, the educated, and the illiterate shared spiritual authority — as they shared in the risen life of Christ (Galatians 3:27-29). And, this oneness in Christ would one day overturn slavery and the subjugation of women.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What have we become?

I was asked to join the 2008 Equality Riders in Baltimore before they hit the road for some video training, song singing with Micah, and general passing of the torch. They shared much with me. As I follow some of them through blogs and Facebook, removed from the immediacy by a computer screen, observing from a safe distance; my heart aches.

This is Lauren Parke.

She was attempting to enter chapel with students who invited her, to worship with them, and to continue in conversation. When did the Christian faith become mediated by handcuffs instead of prayer, when did the fence replace the communion table?

When did Christians arresting each other become acceptable? And how much longer will it last? It is more heart-breaking every time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Meet A Rider: Taueret Manu

I first met Taueret here in New York City through friends from the Equality Ride. I immediately knew that she would be on the next bus. Don't forget to meet the other riders.

"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours." It's time to speak for those whose voices are methodically silenced and inspire them with the tools to find their own justice and empowerment. I will challenge myself to overcome my own prejudice against those who would see my soul silenced and my rights taken away, and find the beauty and grace in every individual whom I encounter on this fierce adventure.

Support the Equality Ride by sponsoring Taueret.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Poverty -- Do Something!

Now that we're thinking and talking about poverty, it's time to do something. I sometimes find myself trapped in a cycle of researching and discussing, unable or unwilling to break out of my comfort zone and take action. Since returning from the Equality Ride, I have been intentional about finding ways to take action--and then following through. Here are some ways that you can help address poverty in our world.

In order to be an effective advocate and ally, I need to understand what I'm dealing with. I need faces, names, and experiences to ground what might otherwise become abstractions. While "poverty" is a macro-concern, there are families and children, parents and neighbors, who have stories. This is more than an issue to manage, it is lives to support. World Vision Australia put together an excellent resource, appropriately titled Learn About Poverty. In addition to information about poverty, there's also concrete ways that you can get involved:

It is easy for me to think of people living in poverty as victims who need to be rescued. When I understand them as potential partners, everything changes. I don't come alongside people living in poverty out of guilt, shame, or even pride; but rather to learn and grow. As you know, I've started investing in small-business owners by micro-lending through Kiva. That's one way!

You can also sponsor a child through World Vision. This program puts a name, a face, and an experience on global poverty and--I think--enriches the sponsor just as much as the sponsored.

My friend Dave O'Brien (director of Equality U) works for an organization called Causecast which is a place to explore issues while connecting with others who want to make a difference. Surf their site to find life-changing causes which you can support, network with like-minded others, and sound off about what you care about. Charity:Water works to bring life-saving water wells to communities in developing nations.

Tell us what you care about and how you're making a difference. No seriously, leave a comment. Knowing that others are out there makes it easier for me to get motivated. Communication is crucial.

Blog Action Day is about bringing together a chorus of voices together in unison. Together, we are taking poverty awareness to a new level. But what about tomorrow? What will rush in to fill the void? I propose, action. Tomorrow is World Food Day, visit World Vision's World Food Day section to find out how you can get involved. From prayer, to one-time donations, and to child sponsorship, you can take what you've learned during Blog Action Day and put it into action on World Food Day. Come back tomorrow and share what you've done!

"You can do no great things, only small things with great love." What am I leaving out? What will we do today--and tomorrow, and the next day!--to address poverty in our communities and in our world. How will we interrupt cycles which create and sustain poverty? How will we support those working to climb out of poverty? How will we learn from and collaborate with people in poverty? How will we bring the reality of poverty to the public consciousness? Let's start dreaming and see what takes shape!

Blog Action Day: What Is Poverty?

A week or so ago, I stumbled upon a video while surfing the web. It asks, "What is poverty?" Today is Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers around the world come together to raise their collective voices in unison. This year, we're talking about poverty. As I've been thinking about what it means to make a living wage, what community looks like, and what I live for, I have also been asking, what is poverty? Why is there homelessness? How am I part of the problem? And what am I missing out on? This video has given me much to think about. I'll have more posts coming, but first, share your reactions! Have you ever lived in or near poverty? Have you ever been friends with people in poverty? If not, what are some of your assumptions about poverty, people living in poverty, the causes and effects of poverty? Share share!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Non-Violence is a kitchen a sink

In our house, we have a situation of sorts.

Rick really wants the common space to be clean and he keeps telling Ben that it's disrespectful to not clean his dishes right away and to just leave them in the sink.
But Ben keeps leaving them in the sink and when Rick asks him to clean them he says
"I will, I want to eat first, I just put them in there, I will get to them soon."
Often they get left for over a day.
And Rick gets really frustrated
Because he keeps telling Ben that Ben should care about the others, and that Ben should do them right away
And that's just "what is right"
Yet there are still almost always dishes in the sink

And Rick can tell Ben that he "should" do this or that he "needs" to think that or such and such is 'just the way things are"

But that's not going to clean the dishes.

Ben doesn't clean the dishes because Ben isn't invested in having a clean sink
And Rick simply telling Ben that he should clean the dishes isn't going to enroll Ben in having a clean sink, is it?

Our experiment in truth is still in progress.

Monday, October 13, 2008

There Is A Cost

"Why do you want to get arrested?"

We do not want to get arrested, we want to talk and share our experiences and our humanity. We want to find commonality and strive toward reconciliation. Fifteen minutes ago there was silence, now there are dozens of conversations lining the sidewalk in front of your campus. Ten arrests is a small price to pay.

That was my experience outside of Bethany Lutheran University in Mankato, Minnesota on the 2007 Equality Ride. As you know from my blog, the Equality Ride is in full swing again this year and the cost cannot be underestimated.

It is a core tenet of Soulforce to always hold out the possibility for dialogue and reconciliation even under the gravest circumstances. This is not a pre-arrest peptalk that we pay lip service to, but a lived and experienced truth of non-violence. Early on the 2008 Ride, administrators at Liberty University told organizers that no riders would be allowed on campus, when the bus arrived in Lynchburg, five young adults made it on to campus, donated books to the library and spoke with students. When you put your body on the line, mountains (sometimes disguised as police tape) can move.

Neither is willingness to submit to arrest an inspiring selling point, it is sacrifice. Today at Palm Beach University, six young adults put their body on the line in hopes of dialogue. The night prior, their bus door was smashed in, yet they continued undeterred. They refused to give up on the administrators and offered them a chance to respond with love to the end. Not only were they arrested; Danni, Enzi, Nicholas, Zak, and Lauren will spend tonight in a West Palm Beach jail. Think of them.

More photos and the full press release available.

Meet A Rider: Abigail Reikow

Each one the 2008 Soulforce Q Equality Riders brings a power and a presence that enriches the group and all those who will meet them along the way. I hope to personally support each one of them and as I do so, I invite you to learn more about them and to support them yourself. Here we go.

It has been over a year since the 2007 Equality Ride ended, and I am still discovering ways in which it has changed me. I now approach conflict with compassion rather than a sense of competition, and I try to find productive methods of resolution between myself and others, others and the world. I see the value in a simple conversation and understand the ways in which our words can punctuate a path towards social progress. Though I am a straight ally, I have even begun to conceptualize my own sexuality and gender identity in new ways. I now understand that much like the LGBTQ community, my freedom to express either is policed by a society that continuously places my body in a box. As my own transformations illustrate the many possibilities of human experience, I have joined this journey again in order to extend such liberty to everyone, to cultivate in the world the awareness that is growing within me.

Support the Equality Ride by sponsoring Abby.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I Don't Want To Know

I don't want to know that child and slave labor is the source of chocolate that I eat--that the Ivory Coast alone has more than 12,000 child slaves. # # # #
I don't want to know that tomato farmers for Chipotle are only paid $50/day for back-breaking labor and a day that stretches from before sunrise to after sunset. #
I don't want to know that 1.5 million people in New York City live in poverty, and that of those in poverty, 1 million have relied on emergency food at some point during the year. #
I don't want to know that over 100,000 people in New York City experience homelessness. #

But I know, so what now?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Everywhere, USA

I drove all night long through middle-of-nowhere Montana in a bus with twenty-four people I'd known for less than two months. Only twenty-four hours prior I stood in the freezing rain with winds up to 30 miles-per-hour for hours on end. We were on our way to North Dakota and in twenty-fours, I would be standing with these people in the middle of a small-town war zone: police cars and vans, wire fencing, concrete barriers, mobile command units, an ambulance, evacuation teams on stand-by and two streets closed down. Ellendale, North Dakota has a population of 3,000; this was big.

What could twenty-five young adults do to provoke responses of such intensity? Proclaim an affirming message to queer young people: "God loves and affirms you just as you are!"

This is the Equality Ride.

It's a two month long, cross-country, take it to the streets, non-violent direct action campaign which seeks reconciliation between faith and identity and today the bus sets out for the first school of the third ride. Modeled after the work of Gandhi, King, Jr., and others, the Soulforce Q Equality Ride recognizes misunderstanding and misinformation—not individuals—as the source of homophobia and transphobia. We confront the hurtful teachings which fuel spiritual violence . Liberation comes not only for the gay and transgender people who are finally able to accept and love themselves, often returning to and reclaiming their faith, but also for the former oppressors who are now able to understand their faith more fully.

Some organizations branded us radical gay activists, but I'm not sure if I deserve that title. You see, I'm really rather ordinary. As I was searching for something to do after graduation, I found the opportunity to share my story with America and ask America to learn from me. I had never participated in an advocacy campaign, nor studied queer theology, nor received any training in public speaking, event planning, community organizing, or any of the numerous other fields I would need to master. But that didn't matter. I was enough.

I have an abiding faith that God of this Universe created me with intentionality. And when God created me, God called the creation good. I have not always known what my purpose was, I still don't. I have struggled to make sense of how sexual orientation and gender identity fit into God's creative plan for humanity. I loved the Equality Ride because I was able to move from theory to reality. Anti-gay rhetoric is devastating. It isolates people from their faith, their family and their communities; it destroys integrity when it forces an individual into the closet; it fosters shame and turns people inward; it inhibits the growth of healthy relationships; and it, unfortunately, often manifests itself through violence, against self and inflicted by others onto queer people. As truth creates justice, lives are released. Gay and straight alike are set free to experience faith, love, and healing in powerful ways. The good fruits of affirming theology are evident: reconciliation with family, friends, and community; return to faith; healthy relationships; holistic understanding of self; outward-focused productivity; and the list goes on. The beauty is that these fruits are not for queer people to feast on in isolation, but to share with heterosexuals. When I ask my straight friends to love me, I don't need them to stand up for me; I want them to grow with me.

The Equality Ride showed me that anyone can be an advocate. I did it, you can do it. My journey was across the country but perhaps your journey is down the hall to a co-worker's office, across town to your church, or back home to your parent's house. Or perhaps your journey is getting on the bus. All around the world, people are waiting to be asked to love their gay and transgender friends and family. Let's tell them it's time.

To see this year's riders, visit: www.soulforce.org/2008riders

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