Friday, April 30, 2010

Federal Response

Currently reading a book on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. There have been many interesting things, but one today struck me in comparison to how Hurricane Katrina was handled. The earthquake occurred at 5 am. Less than 18 hours later a train had arrived from Los Angeles full of food and medical supplies, and others were coming from Oregon, Washington and Nevada. The president immediately issued an order to the military to assist, and within a few days 10% of the standing military were in San Francisco and every available military tent was also there. Remember, there were no airplanes to transport this. It all came in by train and wagon. In other words they responded my quickly and more efficiently than did FEMA after Katrina.

I have heard good things from those dealing with FEMA following the flooding here, and I can't help but wonder if that is because we now have someone in charge of FEMA (as well as all other governmental agencies) that feel it is the government's job and responsibility to do these things. I once worked for someone who was whispered as a potential nominee to head the Department of Education under the younger Bush, and it was his position that the department should be abolished. How good of a job running the department do you think he would have done?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Social Security

On this date in 1937, the first social security payment was made. I am a big believer in the construction of a safety net, which I will discuss at another time, and social security plays a large role in that. But social security has gone off track and needs to be corrected.

In 1937, the average lifespan for women was 60.1 and men was 64.4. Social security begins at 65, so the average person would never live to collect. In addition, it was a safety net not a retirement program. In the initial conception not everyone over the age of 65 would collect. If you didn't need the money then you wouldn't collect on it. It was to help protect those who, in most cases, had lived in poverty even when they worked, and when they stopped working it became even worse. Today, it is estimated, that social security keeps 40% of our elderly population above the poverty line. That is what it was intended for and what it should be used for. It is not supposed to be something everyone is "entitled" to because they have paid into the system.

The money we are paying right now is not going into an account for us, like a 401K, etc., but instead is funding the people who are retired right now. That is why the personal account/stock market idea of social security makes no sense (as well as being ridiculous since we have just seen what happens to retirement money invested in the stock market).

I once worked for a company whose owner was very well off and he spent his social security checks on ads saying that people like him shouldn't get any money, and apparently he could not stop receiving the checks. Of course, he was paying his employees a pittance and after being denied a raise from $9 to $11 an hour when they wanted to make me a supervisor, and then hearing him brag about how he spent his social security money, I promptly quit the company.

Of course no one is ever going to touch social security because of the ramifications from all those people who are "entitled" to the money, although a large percentage of these people rail against all other government spending and entitlement programs. Social security is a program that has worked well, along with medicare (you know, socialized medicine) in protecting some of the most vulnerable of our society, which is what it was supposed to do. Let's celebrate it for what it has done, but let's reform the system so that it continues to do what it is supposed to do.

Here are two pieces from the Social Principles that can apply to this issue:

Rights of the Aging -- In a society that places primary emphasis upon youth, those growing old in years are frequently isolated from the mainstream of social existence. We support social policies that integrate the aging into the life of the total community, including sufficient incomes, increased and nondiscriminatory employment opportunities, educational and service opportunities, and adequate medical care and housing within existing communities. We urge social policies and programs, with emphasis on the unique concerns of older women and ethnic persons, that ensure to the aging the respect and dignity that is their right as senior members of the human community. Further, we urge increased consideration for adequate pension systems by employers, with provisions for the surviving spouse.

Poverty -- As a church we are called to support the poor and challenge the rich. To begin to alleviate poverty, we support such policies as: adequate income maintenance, quality education, decent housing, job training, meaningful employment opportunities, adequate medical and hospital care, humanization and radical revisions of welfare programs.... Since low wages are often a cause of poverty, employers should pay their employees a wage that dose not require them to depend upon government subsidies such as food stamps or welfare for their livelihood.

Random Musings

Saw in today’s headlines that Kerri Strug has gotten married. You may remember her from the 1996 Olympic gymnastics teams. She injured her ankle but still landed her vault to seal the gold medal. I met her once and then hit her on the back of the head with a baby bottle.

Sony has officially announced that they will stop manufacturing 3.5” floppy drives. Of course these weren’t actually “floppy” as those went out a long time ago when the 5.25” floppy went the way of the dodo bird. To be honest, I was surprised to hear that Sony was even still making these disks as I don’t know anyone who has used them for a long time. It’s really amazing where technology and memory have gone. I recently purchased an external hard drive with one terabyte of memory for $99. Not only can I remember true floppy drives, but I remember buying SyQuest disks with 25 megs for $200 and being blown away that they could store that much information. Then came the zip drive, 100 megs, amazing, then the jaz drive with 1 gig, even more amazing. Now those are pathetic as you can be a miniscule usb drive with 4 gigs on it for $20. What will replace this?

Airlines, ever in search of new revenue, are now actually talking about charging a fee to use the restroom on flights shorter than an hour. This follows up on some talking about charging for carry-ons, and of course just about everyone now charges for luggage. I have several issues with this. The first is that if a passenger was traveling without luggage, especially on a one-way ticket, this was a red-flag for security personnel. Now it means they probably just did some shopping to get the lowest fare, which is often done using a one-way ticket, and they don’t want to pay the additional fee to actually take stuff with them. Is this making us safer? Second, in most of the articles on this (and in Southwest’s ads) they say luggage was/is free. It was never free. You paid for it in the price of your ticket, and anyone who isn’t figuring that into the price of their ticket when they book an airline ticket now is just foolish.

Do the airlines really think they’re fooling anyone when they say that the ticket is only $200, but by the way you’re going to have to pay another $150 in order to actually get on the plane and have a seat reserved for you. Just charge me $350 and stop it! Would we put up with this anywhere else? If you went to a restaurant and the menu said the entrée was $8 but in fine print it says that the plate is $15 and silverware is $7 would you ever go back? No, and the restaurant would quickly change their policy or they would go under. Instead, the menu says that the entrée is $30. (we’ll discuss not charging for service another time) So, airlines, get with it. You’re not fooling anyone. You’re just making us more upset, so stop it. Just tell me what it will actually cost me to fly and stop putting fees on everything else!

Yesterday the Yankees visited the White House in order to celebrate their World Series victory. Can someone possibly tell me why this is necessary? I can maybe understand the collegiate water polo champions going because no one knows who they are, and this is there one chance at having someone important care, although the cost of getting the team there probably isn’t worth it. But these are professional athletes. They’ve been feted and cheered everywhere they went, including having a ticker-tape parade in New York, so why are they wasting the president’s time with this? I think it’s all about publicity. The president looks good standing with all these famous people and he builds “buzz.” Someone once recommended that we actually have two presidents. One who actually governs and one who does this ridiculous publicity stuff, and maybe they're right. I’m tired of seeing the president wasting his time. There are more pressing issues than to be having your photo taken with Jeter and A-Rod.

Traditionally the team has presented the president with an autographed jersey with his “number” on it. Obama is the 44th president, but in a breach of protocol, the Yankees gave him number 27, which is the number of titles they have. They could not present him with 44, because that is a retired number held by Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.” There was some discussion that they Yankees would unretire the number for a day for Obama. I am glad they did not. And on this subject, even though the “gave” the jersey to Obama, it is not his. He cannot keep any present he receives while president, nor can other members of the government. Instead the gifts are catalogued and put into storage never to be seen again. My first question would be why, knowing this, anyone still gives gifts to government officials? My second is why the government does not offer these items for sale with the money going into either the general budget or to a special cause, like say education, AIDS relief, national healthcare, or paying down the national debt? Why continue to pay for storage space, and the personnel to take care of items that no one is ever going to see again. Sell it! That’s what EBay is for!

Can someone tell me why there is a huge disparity between how Ben Roethlisberger is being treated and how Tiger Woods was treated. Although Ben was not charged, he was accused of sexual assault, and this is not the first incident of this. While what Tiger did was despicable, I certainly am not going to defend him, his was at least consensual. I suspect that a large portion has to do with race. Now I don’t think Ben is getting off scot free, but he does not seem to be taking the personal beating that Tiger has taken. And while we’re on the topic, I’m tired of hearing people talk about the fact that this is a free country and that Ben didn’t do anything illegal and he should be able to do whatever he wants and not be punished. Are you kidding me? The NFL is an image driven entertainment product. Ben gets to work in the NFL. It is the NFL’s prerogative to let him play and if they feel that he is damaging to their image then they have to do something. If you doubt what I am saying ask the NBA what the “Malice at the Palace” did to their image, their product and their bottom line. I know lots of people who stopped watching the NBA because this merely confirmed for them that the sport was dominated by hoodlums and the league didn’t seem to care. I’m not sure they have ever fully recovered, and the NFL does not want the same to happen. They are not guaranteed popularity forever. It must be cultivated and protected, and that is what Roger Goodell is trying to do. And do not believe for a second that this is not also true in other arenas. Even companies that you might work for will feel the same way. I have absolutely no doubt that if a similar charge was brought against me even without charges, just like Ben, I would be removed from my current church and not appointed to another church.

Finally, some more points on the NBA. Can anyone give me a reasonable explanation, other than TV, why the NBA playoffs take so long? It seems like they are as long as the regular season. Why do they have so many days off between games? Play the games and get it over with already. And a message to the Cleveland Cavaliers. While it’s great to have “Thanks Fans” painted on the court, you cannot do that and bench your best players at the same time. I understand the risk of injury and all, but people are not paying a lot of money to see the scrubs play. People are paying to see LeBron James play, and this may be the only game they get to all year, so put him out on the court. You, even more than any other sport, are a personality driven league (see above), so put the personality people expect to see out there.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Narrative

Did anyone else watch 60 Minutes last night and their piece about "The Narrative" of Islamic radicals? (You can watch it here) Leslie Stahl interviewed a former Islamic fundamentalist who now works to try and discredit the very beliefs about the west that he formerly held. What struck me in the piece was not only what the narrative is, but also how easy it is to see in other extremist movements today, and even more mainstream movements.

At one of the panel discussions, a young Muslim tells Stahl that if she can convince him of one good thing the US has done than he will discard everything else that he thinks, such as that the CIA ran the planes into the World Trade Center in order to start a war. Of course in hearing him speak you knew that there was nothing she was going to be able to say that would convince him otherwise. As someone once told me, "you have facts and I have my beliefs," and beliefs are not always over come by facts.

What I wondered was how was this any different than many of the groups in the US at the moment. There is absolutely nothing that is going to convince certain people that Obama is not a Muslim, that he was born in this country, that taxes have actually gone down for 95% of Americans and that we are not on the verge of socialism/communism/fascism/(insert ism here). In other words, they have a narrative as well which blinds them to the reality. And the left has been just as guilty of this as the right is.

The problem has become, how do we have rational conversations anymore? Everyone seems to be so trapped in their own ideology that they cannot be open to any other opinion. There is not even a point in which people are simply going to agree to disagree, instead it's just vitriol and the belief that you are wrong if you don't agree with me and therefore you must be stopped.

A while ago I watched an interview with George Clooney and Michael Eisner on the media, and Clooney said something that has stuck with me. He said that in the past, although there were multiple media outlets they more or less passed on the same information. You could be getting your news from ABC and someone else from The New York Times and someone else from Newsweek. You might all disagree on an issue, but there was a common set of information with which to start. Now that common set of information is gone.

If all you do is watch Fox News there is no way you can have a meaningful conversation on a topic with someone who is getting their news from CNN or the New York Times. There is no common basis because both are reporting such radically different information. He said his aunt (not Rosemary) and uncle believed that Hussein was behind 9/11. There was nothing he could do to convince them otherwise because that is what the commentators on Fox had told them was true. Even though the other media outlets said differently, and had the facts to back it up, they were wrong because they were just the "liberal" media out to disparage the president and the country. And he wondered, how do we engage each other, how do we participate in a democracy, when we are not even starting from the same place or with the same basic set of information?

Clooney's question haunts me at the moment and I don't know what the answer is because there is only going to be a continuing proliferation of opinions and information, not a diminishing. So how do we as a people meet somewhere in the middle in order to make this all work? How do we dismantle our narratives and begin to hear other people's opinions, even if we disagree, and not feel that we have to resort to violence to stop what we dislike?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Am I Blue

With two young children, we watch a lot of Pixar and Disney films, and then watch them again and again. Fortunately, their favorites are really good, with Cars being at the top. It seems that every time I watch it I catch something that I missed before. Pixar did a phenomenal job in the detail and the jokes in the dialogue. But I think one of the messages at the heart of the movie is about friendship and faithfulness, and so Lightning rejects joining Dinoco at the end of the film to stay with Rust-eze. He does this even though being "Dinoco Blue" has been what he has been dreaming about the entire time. It's a good message.

So then when I go to the toy store I'm always caught off guard that they produce Lightning McQueen in Dinoco blue. Why? Doesn't that throw the very message of the movie right out the window? Or is Pixar saying that it's good that Lightning didn't give in, but they have no problems cashing in and not staying loyal. I just don't get it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What You Can Learn About Yourself

I love bookstores. I can go to most stores, even hardware stores, wander around and never spend a dime. However, when I go to a bookstore and leave empty handed it's a true accomplishment of keeping my urges under control.

One of the things I love about Amazon is that it recommends books based on what I'm looking at (are you hearing this library), and not having the book in hand I can better control what I spend. But, you can learn a lot about your life, interests and past buying patterns through the recommendations.

Here is the first line of recommendations for me today:

The Celtic Way of Evangelism
Texts for Preaching
Constitution and Canons
Protestant Reformation

wait for it....

Dozen Jumbo Dinosaurs, up to six inches long.

Amazon knows me so well!

(While I love Amazon, I do encourgae you to buy from a local independent book seller when you can.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Reason to Like April 15

On this day 63 years ago, Jack Roosevelt Robinson stepped onto the field for the first time for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was not the first African-American to play professional baseball, that honor goes to Moses Fleetwood Walker, he wasn't even the first in the last century, but he was the first to have the full backing of the organization and the first to stay. His actions cannot be underestimated in their significance or magnitude.

Bud Selig, in his ineptitude, still gives people a choice of whether they should wear number 42 on April 15 in honor of Robinson. According to the reports today everyone will, but there shouldn't even be an option. It should be mandatory.

But, let's also not forget Larry Doby, the first to play in the American League, or Branch Rickey, the man who made it possible. Here is an excerpt from a sermon I wrote on the eve of President Obama's inauguration on this subject:

“Now I’m going to tell you a story about spiritual courage.” Those were the last words spoken by Wesley Branch Rickey. I’m sure that most of us have never heard of Branch Rickey, but I think he’s someone we should know. Rickey was a lifetime baseball man and also a devout Methodist, having been named by his mother for John Wesley. At the age of twenty, in order to help pay his way through school, he became the baseball coach for Ohio Wesleyan University, and it was while he was there that he had an experience that would change him and ultimately this country forever.

In 1903 his team traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play the University of Notre Dame. Rickey’s best player that year was his catcher, Charles Thomas, who was also African-American. When the team got to the hotel to check in the desk clerk informed Rickey that while he and the rest of the team were welcome to stay there, Thomas was not. Thomas suggested that he return to Ohio, but Rickey wouldn’t allow him to leave. Instead Rickey asked the manager if Thomas could stay with him if he wasn’t registered in the hotel? When the manager protested, Rickey threatened to take his entire team elsewhere, and the manager relented. Rickey sent Thomas up to his room, and got the rest of the team settled in.

When he finally made it to the room, Rickey found Thomas sitting on the end of the bed crying and rubbing his hands saying “black skin… black skin. If only I could make ‘em white.” He kept rubbing his hands as if through sheer friction he could remove the color. “Whatever mark that incident left on [Thomas],” Rickey said, “it was not more indelible than the impressions made on me.” While Rickey went onto baseball greatness the memory of Charles Thomas sitting on that bed rubbing his hands never left him and he worked to find the right place and the right person to make sure that such situations might never happen again. In Jack Roosevelt Robinson, Rickey found his man.

Robinson was born in Georgia, the grandson of a former slave, and the fifth child of a sharecropper who deserted the family. He grew up in Southern California where his mother and her desire that her children excel dominated his life. In 1944, after graduating from UCLA, Robinson joined the military as a second lieutenant and was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas. While there, he was forced to stand trial on the charge of insubordination, after refusing to sit at the back of a military bus. He was found not guilty by the military judges, but Robinson said, “It was a small victory, for I had learned that I was in two wars, one against the foreign enemy, the other against prejudice at home.” This double standard was nothing new to him or to other African-Americans. Earlier, Robinson had watched his older brother win a silver medal in the 1936 Olympics, finishing a half second behind Jesse Owens, and be hailed by the American public only to return to LA and be forced to take a janitorial position, because it was one of the few jobs available to African-American men.

Following his discharge from the army, the Kansas City Monarchs, the best team in the Negro Leagues, offered Robinson a job as a shortstop. Buck O’Neil, whom I had the enormous privilege to meet, was the manager of the Monarchs at the time, and recalls that Robinson had an immediate impact on the team. O’Neil said that they had been going to a particular gas station in Oklahoma and filling up the two 50 gallon tanks on their bus for years, but had never been able to use the restrooms. When they stopped that first time with Jackie, he said he was going to the restroom, but the owner said “Boy, you can’t go to that restroom.” Robinson told them to stop pumping the gas, and told the owner that if he couldn’t use the restroom then they would get gas somewhere else. The owner thought about it, and then replied “Well, you boys can go to the restroom, but don’t stay long.” This then became how the team decided where to fill-up. If they couldn’t use the restrooms, then they wouldn’t get gas. Robinson was not the best player in the Negro Leagues, he didn’t even start for the Monarchs, but he had the unique characteristics of talent and personality that Rickey found attractive.

When Robinson entered Rickey’s office for the first time, Rickey sat him down and for three hours yelled every profanity and expletive at him that he would have to endure, and then told Robinson that if he agreed to play for the Dodgers he would have to pledge not retaliate for three years. “Mr. Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?” Robinson asked. Rickey responded, “I want a ballplayer with the guts enough not to fight back. You will symbolize a crucial cause. One incident, just one incident, can set it back twenty years.”

Robinson initially broke in with the Montreal Royals, the top farm team of the Dodgers, leading them to the league championship. The next year it was decided that Robinson was ready for the Dodgers, but the Dodgers were not ready for Robinson. A petition saying the Dodgers’ players would rather be traded than play with a black was started by backup catcher Bobby Bragan. At Rickey’s request, Manager Leo Durocher went in and told the players in unconditional terms that if they didn’t want to play for the Dodgers they didn’t have to, there were plenty of other players who would take their positions and the revolt was ended.

On April 15, 1947, 26,623 fans, more than half of whom were African-American, were on hand at Ebbets Field to see Jackie Robinson make his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ira Glasser, former national executive director of the ACLU, who was there, said it was as if the entire world had changed in one day. Everything that Rickey had warned Robinson about and more happened. Robinson took it all in and did not retaliate. But, Robinson succeeded beyond all expectations, leading The Sporting News, which had opposed integration, to name him their first Rookie of the Year. Jackie Robinson was not the first African-American player in the Major Leagues, that distinction goes to Moses Fleetwood Walker, he was not even the first to play in the 20th century, but he was the first to stay and the first to have the support of the entire organization behind him. As a side-note to history, the Red Sox were the first team to have Robinson try out, but instead of becoming the first team to desegregate they were the last, 12 years later.

Robinson stepped onto that field one year before Truman decided to desegregate the military by executive order, and 7 years before the Supreme Court would make their landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Rickey and Robinson were trying to articulate a dream 20 years before King articulated his. This dream was not the completion of a process, as dreams seldom are. Instead, it was setting the country on a new path, a path we are still on. That day in 1947 marked a milestone, a day in which everything changed and in which nothing would ever be the same.

Kids in Need

A few weeks ago the school board for the Kansas City School District voted to close 29 of their 61 schools effective at the end of this year. This closing will result in the loss of 700 jobs and the relocation of thousands of students. The Board said the closings were necessary due to deep budgetary cuts as a result of the recession and because of population decreases as more and more people move out of the urban core into the suburbs

One of the things that caught my attention about this story was that last year at Annual Conference, Rev. Adam Hamilton, who is senior pastor at the country’s largest United Methodist church, talked about their church’s sponsorship of the Kansas City School District. Knowing the serious issues that the district faces, Rev. Hamilton challenged his membership, about 18,000 people, to adopt every single teacher and class in the district. He also challenged the church to become more involved in the affairs of these schools, saying that they couldn’t leave them behind simply because they lived in the suburbs.

Last fall I took Rev. Hamilton’s idea and presented it to our outreach commission as something we should consider doing. Knowing that we could not sponsor the entire district, they decided to choose a school in Dorchester near Greenwood Memorial. This is not a community which can hold an auction in which stays at people’s beach homes are auctioned off or can send out a letter to the parents asking for donations and receive $21,000, which were both recently done here in Sudbury. The commission contacted the principal to find out how we could best serve their needs, and she gave us a list of things she thought every student should have. The list was not fancy things; it was basic school supplies.

The outreach commission worked on a plan and came to you with their list, and you stepped up. Two months ago, they delivered enough supplies to give every child in the third, fourth and fifth grades: 2 large erasers, 1 box of crayons, 1 box of markers, 1 box of colored pencils, 2 pads of post-it notes, 12 pencils, 2 glue sticks, a pair of scissors, one 1” 3-ring notebook, 1 spiral notebook, 2 highlighters and a calculator. These items were given to more than 290 students.

In an email with the subject “WOW!!!” the principal wrote “I am in awe of how successful you were in collecting these much needed supplies for our students… the students were so excited. My thanks seems so little compared to the gift you gave our students.” I give thanks to God for your generosity and I hope you can truly appreciate what this means for these children.

The high school that these children will feed into only graduates 40% of their youth in four years, and 42% drop-out and never graduate at all. I don’t believe that we can say this is someone else’s problem or that we don’t have to be concerned because these are someone else’s children. These are children who live just over twenty miles away from us. They are closer to us than many of our extended families, and these are God’s children.

I am grateful for your participation in what we have done so far, and I pray that we will continue to reach out and support these children and their teachers. The outreach commission is already working on plans for next year’s program in which we will supply grades 1, 2 and 3; and if you remember in the fall when you are out buying for your own children, or when you see the supplies in the stores, pick something up because it will go to good use.

Let us be proud of our efforts. It may not seem like much, but we can make a difference in these children’s lives. Let us continue to pray for these children and their teachers, and let us give thanks to God for the success of this program!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Supporting Workers

This is from the conference office and the Massachusetts Council of Churches:

On March 7, about 300 workers at Shaw’s Methuen warehouse went out on strike in a contract dispute over the company's plan to place the burden of rising health care expenses on the workers. On March 22, the company announced plans to hire permanent replacement workers, terminating the union workers. Part of the company’s plan is to lay off 600 non-union store workers and open the warehouse jobs to them.

It is now the fourth week of the strike. The burden is taking a toll on the workers and their families, who have gone without income for a month and lost their health insurance as of April 1.

The Massachusetts Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice invites churches to help provide material relief to the families, especially baby items like diapers, wipes, and baby food. As the strike continues families will need non-perishable food items.

Where to Bring Donations:
Days Hotel and Conference Center, Rooms 615 and 618
159 Pelham Street, Methuen, MA 01844

Relief Coordinator:
If your congregation or community can be of help, please contact
Rev. Richard Capron
Lexington United Methodist Church
2600 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, MA 02421
(781) 861-9301

The Social Principles states the following on collective bargaining:"We support the right of all public and private employees and to organize for collective bargaining into unions and other groups of their own choosing. Further, we support the right of both parties to protection in so doing and their responsibility to bargain in good faith within the framework of the common interest.... We reject the use of violence by either party during collective bargaining or any labor/management disagreement. We likewise reject the permanent replacement of a worker who engages in a lawful strike." (¶163.B)

We do have a member of our congregation who is one of those who was laid off and offered a position in the warehouse, which they did not take. I'm sure this issue was not addressed during the national health care debate, but shows the seriousness of the issue. In addition to their loss of income, these workers and their families have also lost their health care and cannot afford the premiums to get new insurance. Please pray for a resolution to this situation and for all the affected workers.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Spent the evening last night with a lawyer going through the creation of wills, medical directives, etc. Not the funnest night but something that must be done. If you have children under your care and you do not have a will please please please go out and get it done. I know how easy it is to put it off because we did so for four years, and fortunately nothing happened. But if something did the girls would not have been in a good situation. For some good information on things to think about, I recommend Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents by Alexis Martin Neely. Some of it is a little over the top, but she recommends things that we would have never thought of.

We also made sure that the church is mentioned in our wills. I will tithe a portion of my estate to the church and her operation through supporting scholarships for M.Div. students at the Boston University School of Theology and to the endowment fund for social justice at the General Board of Church and Society. Is the church, either locally or nationally, mentioned in your will? If not, why not? As you work on your wills, please consider one last gift to the church as well.

Everyone is asking what I think of the Yankees results. While I'm obviously happy, it's only the first three games of the year. There are still 159 games to be played. But, that being said, it was good, exciting baseball, and last night's game was the best match-up of number three pitchers you will see anywhere in the majors. I'm just glad baseball is back, although I'm not sure the family is ready.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Birthday

80 years ago today, the Twinkie was invented by James Dewar. I love the scene in Wall-E in which the cockroach goes into the 700-year-old still fresh twinkie. But anyways, Happy Birthday to Twinkie the Kid.

No To Gambling

House Speaker Robert DeLeo recently introduced a bill which allow for the creation of two casinos in Massachusetts along with allowing slot machines at the four racetracks. Speaker DeLeo intends on pushing through the bill without a public hearing. I encourage you to contact your state senator and representative to stand in opposition to this bill, if no other reason than the tactics that are being used to get it through.

Here is the text of the letter I sent to Rep. Thomas Conroy and Sen. Susan Fargo, who represent Sudbury and the surrounding towns:

I am writing to encourage you to stand in opposition to increasing legalized gambling in Massachusetts, especially the bill proposed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The fact that Speaker DeLeo does not want to even hold public hearings on the merits of the bill is deeply troubling, and is just another sign to me of the dangers that legalized gambling holds for society and good government.

Gambling is a regressive form of taxation which prays on those who can least afford the price, especially during troubled economic times. When I lived in New Mexico, I watched as casino gambling was brought to that state and witnessed the devastation that it caused in so many communities. The common refrain was that casinos would bring in more tourists who would spend their money there, increasing revenues to the state. Of course, that is not what happened. Instead day after day, and night after night, the parking lots were filled with cars with New Mexico plates driven there by people who had dreams of striking it rich but who all too often went home empty handed.

The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church state that “Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship…. The Church’s prophetic call is to promote standards of justice and advocacy that would make it unnecessary and undesirable to resort to commercial gambling – including public lotteries, casinos, raffles, Internet gambling, gambling with an emerging wireless technology and other games of chance – as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue of funds for support of charities or government.”

We as the church, and I personally, stand in opposition to any measure to push for casinos or other forms of gambling in the Commonwealth. I know that in the past you have voted against increasing legalized gambling in the Commonwealth and I encourage you to keep that as your position.

Thank you for your service to this community and to the Commonwealth.

Rev. John W. Nash
Associate Pastor
Sudbury United Methodist Church

Here is the full text of the church's position from the Social Principles:
Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice. Where gambling has become addictive, the Church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual's energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends. The Church acknowledges the dichotomy that can occur when opposing gambling while supporting American Indian tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Therefore, the Church's role is to create sacred space and to allow for dialogue and education that will promote a holistic understanding of the American Indian's historic quest for survival. The Church’s prophetic call is to promote standards of justice and advocacy that would make it unnecessary and undesirable to resort to commercial gambling – including public lotteries, casinos, raffles, Internet gambling, gambling with an emerging wireless technology and other games of chance – as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue of funds for support of charities or government.

For more information, visit the Massachusetts Council of Churches.