Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2/13 Rally for food justice

Last Wednesday, after wandering through San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza and accidentally walking into the federal office building (though the security screening did hamper my "accidental" spirit), I finally located the California Food Justice Coalition's rally concerning the Farm Bill. The event was entitled: "Food Advocates Tell Pelosi: This Valentine's Day Have a Heart. Give Us Food and a Farm Bill We'll Love" and was located exactly where it should have been: smack dab in the middle of the weekly farmers' market.

I know what you are asking. What's the US Farm Bill? Why does this seminarian care and why should I? In a nutshell, the Farm Bill is a piece of federal legislation that determines who gets farming subsidies and how much they receive, what kinds of crops are grown and how they are distributed. It allocates money for nutrition programs in schools and low-income communities and tackles questions regarding food access. One shocking fact I learned listening to a speaker at the rally: West Oakland is a community of 30,000 people. There are 53 liquor stores in the area and not one grocery store. No wonder it is difficult for people to make healthy choices! A reformed Farm Bill could help to address this and similar inequalities, insuring that all people have access to organic and locally-grown foods. This rally was not simply about food or farming, but about creating communities that are healthy and just---the kind of communities God wants for us. For more information visit

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

God Rides BART

Ah the Bay Area!

As of December, BART trains have featured advertisements which pose theological questions such as "Can the finite know the infinite?" or "Does God get involved in American politics?" followed by the statement, "God Rides Bart."
According to these somewhat cryptic posters "exists to encourage and facilitate a discussion about God and Life." If you're not comfortable talking to the BART rider next to you, or even your friends and family, the website offers a forum where wired individuals can engage in theological conversation anonymously.
There are currently five topics on the website, each with an initial essay written by the site's authors, one a Southern-Baptist-turned-atheist, and one a "dedicated follower of Jesus Christ" who believes "in the inerrancy of the Bible as the inspired word of god." Visitors can then post comments on the two essays.
While the site's mission statement claims to be an open environment for "Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Jewish, Buddhist, Agnostic or [those who] have never thought about it," the conversations are framed by the two authors whose views on religion are clearly influenced (positively or negatively) by conservative evangelical (in the non-Lutheran sense) Christianity.
Still, the occasional Buddhist and Rabbi does comment, and, as opposed to the majority of online discussions about religion, the conversations are actually relevant and considerate.
The only major shortcoming of the site is that not very many people are using it. So the next time you're riding BART with your Blackberry and are bored, check out

Friday, February 8, 2008

J-term border crossings

During the last week of January, I participated in a conference called "Developing Hearts that Yearn for Justice" in Tijuana, Mexico. The event brought together over 100 representatives from eight different faith traditions to learn about the reality of life on the US-Mexico border and the brokenness of current US immigration policy. The ELCA was well-represented both in the organizing committee and event sponsors. We stayed at Casa del Migrante, a home for migrant men, the majority of whom have recently been deported from lives in Southern California. Speakers from Mexico, Costa Rica and across the United States offered frameworks to help participants understand the issues and imagine our possible responses as people of faith. One afternoon, we visited a community center, bakery and beauty shop organized by a group of women as an alternative to making a livelihood digging through trash in the city dump. We also visited, Cafe Justo, a coffee cooperative based in Southern Mexico, but with a new roasting facility in Tijuana. We learned how important responsible consuming is to producers.

Throughout the conference, I found myself easily frustrated---frustrated by how poorly the United States treats immigrants, frustrated by the complexity of the issues, frustrated by days consumed by talking without action, frustrated by the fact that I was one of only a handful of seminary students in attendance. I know how the story will turn out. God wants so much more for us than what we have managed to create for ourselves thus far. But, I continue to worry. I don't know how things will change, only that they will, and that somehow, a more just world will take the God-centered engagement and creativity of us all. For more information about the conference and on-going ways to be involved in immigration issues visit

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Road Trip!

The ELCA's multi-year and divisive study and statement on sexuality is creeping forward. Everyone I have talked to feels that this discussion has gone on far too long. Everyone in my generation that I have talked to feels that the reason for this stagnancy is that older generations are shackeled to archaic prejudices rooted in ignorance and fear which not only deny the truth of the world, but also the very heart of Christ's message of love for all people. Many in my generation are thus frusterated with the ELCA. To these people, I would like to suggest a means to channel their frusteration.

On March 13, noon, CDT, a draft of the social statement on human sexuality will be released. It will be available at and a copy will be mailed to every rostered leader. A series of hearings will then be held around the country. In these hearings, leaders and members of the Church are invited to share observations, concerns, and ask questions about the statement draft. I encourage everyone who is able, and especially the youth, to attend these hearings and let their voices be heard.

For those of us in the PLTS community, it is important to note that nearest hearing that has been scheduled so far will be in Temecula, CA on March 26, 2008, which happens to be the week of our spring break. It is a 7 hour drive from Berkeley, but might I suggest a road trip? Also, perhaps we could encourage our friends in the Sierra Pacific and Oregon Synods to see the value in scheduling their hearings at a time when the future leaders of the Church would be able to attend...