A Clergyman’s Support for Striking Janitors

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 26, 2008. 

Last week Maria stopped by my office to talk to me about her desire to get out of poverty.  For thirteen years she has worked 40 hours a week as a janitor at the Palo Alto headquarters of Hewlett Packard, one of Silicon Valley’s largest and wealthiest corporations. Under the terms of her current contract with Somer Building Management, the janitorial contractor who employs her, she is unable to earn more than the eleven dollars an hour with which she supports a disabled husband and a teenaged son.

Those eleven dollars an hour don’t go very far. Continue reading

Book Review: “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet

This column was first published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 26, 2008.

Jeff Sharlet is the best journalist currently covering American religion. Among those who connect subject to predicate, there are few who do so with Sharlet’s grace, insight, or humor. His recently published book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper Collins, 2008, $25.95 cloth) was every bit as good as I expected it to be. Often, while reading The Family I found myself interrupting the conversations of those around me to read aloud Jeff’s well-crafted insights.

The subject of Sharlet’s book is “The Family,” also called “The Fellowship,” a self-identified “Christian Mafia” which, for seven decades, has operated in the shadows of American power, exerting great influence without accountability or oversight. They are evangelists and powerbrokers with a theocratic agenda, a lust for power, and a strange fondness for such creeps of history as Adolf Hitler, Mao Tsedung, and Genghis Khan. Continue reading

From the Archives: A Perspective on Proposition 22

In celebration of the California Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws baring same-sex marriage, I have pulled the transcript of my first radio commentary from the archives. This commentary was broadcast in February of 2000. An extended version of this commentary ran on Beliefnet, opposite a piece by James Dobson, who–naturally–supported California’s Proposition 22, which provided for a strictly heterosexual definition of marriage in California


Soon Californians will be privileged to vote on a ballot initiative, dubbed Proposition 22, which, if passed, would enact a statute whose entire wording, written in ten point font, could fit inside a fortune cookie: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

And so it is that our own dear state which gave the nation the Free Speech Movement, the legalization of medical marijuana and Boogie Nights now stands poised, at the cusp of a new millennium, ready to position itself in the avant garde of the Reactionary Right. Continue reading

Rejecting the Racist vote

This column also was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Page on May 12, 2008

OK, so the Democratic primary season is just about over, and this may be a moot point, but as Hillary Clinton wages her final efforts to convince Democrats that she should be the nominee in November, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with her rhetoric because it seems to contain a racist subtext which panders to the worst elements of American society. Continue reading