A Whopper of an Injustice

This column ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on November 26. 2007.

Those who, like me, were lucky enough to enjoy the blessing of a well-cooked and lovingly shared thanksgiving meal last Thursday already have a good reason not to eat at Burger King; after all, eating fast food is an assault upon the blessed memory of wonderful meals. However, if eating a well-trimmed turkey in a state of gratitude and grace has not cured you of your Whopper jones, consider this: unlike Yum! Brands (a family of businesses that includes Taco Bell and KFC) and McDonalds, Burger King has yet to commit itself to guaranteeing that none of the food in its supply chain was produced using slave labor. Continue reading

Torture is Sin: My Speech in Front of Jeppesen

On Friday, November 16, I spoke at a rally in front of a building in downtown San Jose, California in front of the offices of Jeppesen International, a flight planning company that reportedly is in charge of organizing the flights used by the CIA to move terror suspects to countries where they are tortured. The text of my speech is below. This speech was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on Nov. 19, 2007.

Before I get started I have to say to you that my remarks contain a lot of old fashioned religious language. You see, for me it is painful to be standing here, in the city that has become my home, talking about how my government has chosen to use torture against real and perceived enemies, and about how so few of our elected leaders—both locally and nationally—have had the courage to join us in speaking out against the use of torture. My path to understanding what I feel about torture has taken me back to a religious place I seldom visit.

Ever since the New Yorker broke the story of Jeppesen International’s alleged involvement in the rendition of American-held detainees to countries where they might be tortured, I have been convinced that people of faith cannot talk about the American use of torture in the so-called “War on Terror” until we reclaim the language of morality and sin. Continue reading

Living in a World of Wonder

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on November 12, 2007.

I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
in spite of the best advice.

—Wendell Berry, from “The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer”

As a clergyman, I have grown used to the fact that no matter what else a person may say about my vocation, it really isn’t cool to be a man or a woman of the cloth. Oh, being a minister is dignified, but no matter how well you accessorize, a clerical collar never is hip.

So imagine my surprise when a kid from two doors down showed up to play at our house wearing a tee shirt bearing the image of a handsome young man in a dog collar.

I almost fell down and kissed his feet. “Bless your three-year-old heart! Maybe my kids will grow up thinking I’m not a dork after all. Someone like me is on a shirt!” Continue reading

Seeing Through Fear at The X-Ray Project

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on November 5, 2007.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

On a recent visit to San Jose State University I picked up a brochure for what promises to be a complicated and disturbing art installation set to open in San Jose this week. The X-RAY Project is a collection of x-ray and MRI images gathered from hospitals in Jerusalem and arranged for display by an artist named Dianne Covert. The diagnostic images are of the injuries sustained by victims of terrorism, and they show with clinical sterility what pain and suffering is endured when terrorists strike.

According to The X-RAY Project’s website, the traveling exhibit’s aim is to “explore the most important social issue of our time: the effects of terrorism on a civilian population.” The project was born of the artist’s desire to push back against those who might condone terrorism.

I’m conflicted. Continue reading