Tag Archives: justice

Music, Art, and Speakers for Peace, Justice, and Hope

The fourth Lion and Lamb Festival is coming back to the Quad Cities on September 17, 2016. Musicians, artists, and speakers are coming together for a full day of inspiration. From its inception, the Lion and Lamb Festival has endeavored to bring people together to talk, learn, sing, and grow together. Its purpose is to create community, and to encourage people to put their faith into action. At its foundation is a love of Christ, and a belief that faith should matter to people. Faith in a God of love, justice, and mercy should inspire people to take action. We are called to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.

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I’ve been to every Lion and Lamb Festival, and without exception, what I remember most is friendships. At each one, I met extraordinary people. I met authors, musicians, parents, and people of faith who are growing. I met people who wanted to experience the world, and make a difference. I’ve created lasting friendships with people I met at Lion and Lamb Festival, and that is why its happening again this year. We want to create a place where people can come together and connect to each other and to God’s higher purpose on all of our lives.

In September, we will gather at Camp Milan Retreat Center for the second time. Camp Milan is a part of the Quad Cities, only a few miles from Moline and Rock Island. There will be a full day of concerts on an outdoor stage. A large grassy area is shaded by huge oaks. There is a small playground for kids and volunteers will lead kids activities inside, too. There’s even a basketball court to blow off a little energy. Local food trucks will be invited to provide great meals and sweet treats. Inside  the retreat center, speakers will share their stories. They will talk about their work, their service, and their ministry. Artists will be given a chance to talk about their inspiration and sell their work.

The Lion and Lamb Festival is named for a part of Scripture where Isaiah describes a time when peace will transcend even the natural laws. There will be a day when swords will be beaten into plows, and even mortal enemies will lie down together. The Lion and Lamb Festival looks forward to this promise knowing that the arts are our best way to get there. The arts are a way for people to be connected, and to imagine a future of peace. Creators, dreams, and those who believe that music and art can change the world, you are invited to come and be a part of something. It’s not something big – at least not yet – but it can be something great.

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Equality and Justice

Equality and Justice

I did not create this, but I think it is a great explanation of the difference between justice and equality. I think you could replace the captions with “Fair” and “Just” too.

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January 24, 2014 · 10:38 am

#JusticeforDaisy

anonymousI’m not sure how I feel about vigilante justice, but I do know how I felt last night as I read Dugan Arnett’s piece in the Kansas City Star about Daisy Coleman.  I made the mistake of reading the article in bed before trying to fall asleep.  The story made that task almost impossible.  The story is told very well by Arnett.  Read it, then come back and skip the highlighted part below where I try to summarize the story.

Daisy Coleman was a 14 year old freshman when she and her 13-year-old friend sneaked out of her room to go to an older boy’s house.  Matthew Barnett was senior.  He was a football star.  He was the object of many a school-girl crush.  By the end of the night, he was the subject of nightmares.

If Arnett’s story is to be believed, Matthew Barnett is a rapist.  He and his friends gave Daisy enough alcohol that she blacked out.  He then raped her in his basement, and left her passed out in her own front yard wearing nothing but a t-shirt and sweatpants when it was 22 degrees outside.  He does not deny having sex with her, he just claims that it was consensual.  At 9 a.m. the next morning, about seven hours after her last drink, her blood alcohol level was .13.  The incident was apparently filmed on one of the boys’ iPhones, shared with classmates that week at school.  Daisy’s friend was also raped.  Though she was not as intoxicated, she claims that she repeatedly told her assailant “no,” while he undressed her and had sex with her.

As if the nightmare of being raped and left out in the cold were not enough, things got worse for Daisy.  Matthew Barnett was arrested, but never indicted.  Never tried.  Never stepped foot in a court room.  Charges against him were dropped.  Matthew Barnett was a football star in a football-mad town.  The ensuing victim-blame that happened in Maryville, Missouri, is enough to make any objective person boil in rage.  Daisy’s older brother, who was a teammate of Matthew Barnett, was threatened.  Daisy’s mother was fired.  Eventually the family moved 40 miles away.  Their house burned down while it was on the market.

Making things even more maddening is that Matthew Barnett is the grandson of Rex Barnett.  Rex is a former Missouri State Trooper and four-term Missouri State Representative.  He, of course, denies using his influence to gain leniency for Matthew.   The claim, of course, is dubious.

Where things stand right now, Matthew Barnett is a freshman at Central Missouri.  Daisy Coleman is a suicidal young woman who had her life turned upside down.  But that does not seem to be the end of the story.

The video below came out yesterday. Anonymous, a infamous group of online hackers have promised to take action.

Anonymous on Youtube

Like I said, I have mixed feelings about vigilante justice.  I’m afraid that in our culture we are much to quick to confuse vengeance with justice.  I understand the desire for someone to be punished, but too often people are quick to be judge, jury, and executioner.   It seems clear that someone needs to answer for what happened.  I am a big believer in grace, but not grace without accountability.  Anonymous has promised action, and though their move has not yet been made, others are sure to follow in some small way.

It has started.  The article mentioned the A and G Restaurant.  Its reviews on Yelp have been relentless.  The University of Central Missouri’s Facebook page has also been blown up with bad reviews.  There is a lot of anticipation brewing as to just what Anonymous is going to do.  One unfortunate side effect of this desire for justice has been some threats to another Matthew Barnett – the wrong Matthew Barnett, who is a pastor in California.  The Matthew Barnett in question no longer has a public Twitter account, although his last public statement on twitter showed how little he has learned from this experience.

The whole story is heartbreaking.  It seems as if Daisy has been made a victim over and over.  She was raped once, and it seems like she was raped over and over by the failed justice system and the community that turned their back on her.  When I consider this from the perspective of a father of two daughters, the rage is hard to contain.

I would be angry at my 14-year-old daughter if she sneaked alcohol into her room and then sneaked out of the house to party with older guys.  I need to do my best to teach her to be safe.  I need to teach her to make wise choices.  But do Daisy’s actions somehow justify her being raped, left in the cold for dead, and then tormented by a town that wanted to protect their football team?  I’ve written about his before.  It is clear that much more needs to be done.  Our culture of rape acceptance and victim-blame is terrifying.  Just last week a fraternity at Georgia Tech circulated an email that basically taught the brothers how to successfully rape girls. The problem seems to be getting worse, not better.  Luckily, there is another way to teach rape prevention that is probably more thoughtful than my hackneyed list AND avoids victim-blame.  Here is another great article on proper rape prevention education.  We have to do better.  For the sake of both or girls and boys.  We need to do better.

So where do we go from here?  I don’t want vengeance.  I don’t want retribution.  All I want is what Daisy deserves: compassion and a trial.  I want Matthew Barnett to answer for what he did.  Also, I want to know how the people of Maryville that abandoned Daisy in her time of need can sleep at night.

What can Anonymous accomplish in Maryville?

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Girls Fight Back

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“Following Christ means you surrender your right to apathy.”

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May 2, 2013 · 12:54 pm

I’ve lost 70 pounds, but I’m still The Fat Pastor

I high-fived my doctor today.  I had my annual physical.  It was a year and a day after stepping on the scale at that same doctor’s office and reading that I weighed 329 pounds.  Today my doctor looked back at what I weighed last year.  When he saw that I today I weighed 259, he gave me a high-five.

I have gone through a transformation in the last year.  I have transformed my habits.  I have transformed my priorities.  In so doing, I have transformed my body.  More than this, I have experienced spiritual transformation.  I pray more.  I study the Bible more.  I have discovered that when I am more disciplined in my eating and exercising, I am also more disciplined as a follower of Jesus Christ.  I am still transforming.  I am striving every day to Love God, Live Well, and Do Good.

I have lost 70 pounds in 366 days, but let me be clear – I am still The Fat Pastor.  For one thing, I am still overweight.  One year ago I was 34% body fat.  Today I am 25% body fat.  That is a great improvement, but it is still too high.  I literally have too much fat on my body.

Yet even if I lose another 70 pounds, have 7% body fat, and can run a marathon in under 3:00:00, there will always be fat that I can trim from my life.  I am, like John Wesley said, moving onward to perfection.  Until I am there, I will be laden with fat.

The difference between fat and fit is choices.  I make fat choices when I choose a mindless television show instead of time in study.  I choose fat when I spend too much time on facebook instead of cultivating relationships.  I choose fat when I refuse to help a neighbor.  I am fat when I objectify a woman.  I am fat when I contribute to an unjust society. I am fat when I forget the needs of the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the oppressed.  I am fat when I am blind to racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other way that humans try to divide and separate and subjugate.

I’m trying not to be fat any more.  I’m trying real hard.  I draw strength from the love and support of family and friends.  I draw strength from the encouragement of a remarkable facebook “following.”  I draw strength from the words of the prophets that remind me that God’s love and God’s promise of a new day is something for which we can all strive.  I draw strength from the Church as the Body of Christ in the world.  Above all, I draw strength from the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  I draw strength from knowing that it is not my strength on which I must rely.

Jesus said “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

I try to love God.  I worship, and I pray, and I read and listen to God’s Word.  I come to Table of Grace.  I fall down in confession, and I rise up with the Holy Spirit.  I try to live well, because I take seriously the oft-forgotten command to love yourself.  I try to do good, because it is through doing good for others that we best express our love of neighbor.

I am The Fat Pastor.  I’m trying not to be. With God as my strength and my salvation, I will be The Fit Pastor someday.  Until then, I’ll keep on my journey of transformation.  Thank you for going on this journey with me.

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Left: December, 2011.  Middle: June 2012, immediately after first 5K. Right: January 2013.

Left: December, 2011. Middle: June 2012, immediately after first 5K. Right: January 2013.

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MLK quote in cover photo dimensions

MLK quote in cover photo dimensions

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929)

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January 15, 2013 · 12:54 pm

The Unnamed Miracle of Christmas

Mary survived.

She gave birth to a boy surrounded by animals, filth, and dirt.  There was no midwife or doctor or antiseptic or sterile instruments.  There was no one to help.  She was young – probably not fully physically mature.  Still, she gave birth to a boy and survived.  The unnamed miracle of Christmas is that Mary survived.

Healthy Families Healthy Planet

I first heard this statement from Katey Zeh, Project Director of Healthy Families, Healthy Planet.  This initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society is funded by a grant from the United Nations.  Its mission is to educate people about the dangers of motherhood in the Global South, and to advocate for the protection of these mothers.  They have produced this video, which is worth a watch.

A lot of people get very tense when you start talking about family planning.  This is a hot-button issue in American politics.  Yet I believe that this project is one of those things that can and should transcend partisan politics.  Maternal health is a pro-life issue, and so is family planning.  Family planning includes education about contraception, birth spacing, and the importance delaying a girl’s first pregnancy.  Maternal health is not a women’s issue.  It is a human issue.  When women are healthy, their children are healthy.  Education about women’s health reduces abortions, miscarriages, and maternal mortality.  That is something we should all be able to support.

In many parts of the world, where women are still treated much like cattle, family planning and education can be a matter of life or death for a mother and her children – both born and unborn.

This Christmas season, as you ponder the miracle of God becoming flesh, think also of Mary.  Think also of a 14 year old girl you know.  Ponder what would happen to her if she were forced into pregnancy, and was unable to access a doctor, a midwife, or even a clean floor on which to give birth.  Think also of the mother that died in the last 90 seconds in childbirth.  Think of the women that are valued not as people, but for the service their uterus provides.  They are forced into pregnancy too young, and too often.  They are giving birth in terrible conditions.  They are dying.  Their children are suffering.  They need us.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief provides a guide for putting together Birthing kits.  If you are interested in putting these together, you must follow the guidelines precisely.  Follow this link, then click on “Birthing Kits” along the right side of the page.  This is a great way to #BeChristInChristmas.

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So, Is Jesus King?

Follow this link to hear a sermon called “So, Is Jesus King?”

“Sometimes this world doesn’t look like Jesus is king.  We look around and see other rulers.  We see the rulers of war and hunger and poverty, and it is easy to miss the true king.  But I’m here to tell you, that Christ is King.  I am a witness to what its like when Jesus rules.  I’ve seen it.  Have you?

Have you seen someone stretch themselves out farther than they thought they could.  Have you seen someone answer the call of God – that still small voice in the night that tells them to do something that doesn’t make any sense.  Have you seen someone, for whom cure is impossible, find healing anyway?  I’ve seen it. I know what it looks like when Jesus Christ is King.  And I think a lot of us caught a glimpse of it on Thursday (at our Community Thanksgiving Dinner)”

The song in the clip is “Live Like That,” by Sidewalk Prophets.  This version was performed in worship by the Riverside Church youth praise team, OMG (Our Mighty God).

Follow this link to read the blog version called Jesus Didn’t Look Like a King.

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Sweet Justice: Consider Reverse Trick or Treating this Halloween

To shop the Equal Exchange chocolate store, click on the picture above.

Justice can be sweet.  Especially when it is mixed with sugar and milk.  Halloween is approaching fast, and it’s not too late to make your Halloween a just one.  Order fair trade chocolate minis today from Equal Exchange, and you can still get them in time for Halloween.

Our church ordered a case of them.  We are going to use a hot glue gun to paste them to postcards to teach people about the benefits of fair trade chocolate.  My daughter, and other kids from our Sunday school, are really excited about the chance to give people chocolate back when they go trick or treating.  The concept known as Reverse Trick or Treating is designed to help spread awareness about the problem of child labor in chocolate production.

Halloween is about chocolate and kids.  Unfortunately for most kids, chocolate is not a source of joy.  Cocoa farms in West Africa and Central America are often worked by child slaves.  Children are treated as little more than cheap, replaceable labor.  The working conditions are often dangerous and they are paid very little.  By keeping labor costs down, the big cocoa farms are able to sell their beans to companies like Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars at lower rates.

Part of the reason your Hershey chocolate bar still costs less than a dollar is that the child picking the cocoa for that bar is a slave.  That is a real and hard-to-swallow fact.  But we can do something.  Some progress has been made in the last ten years, when this problem came to light.  In February 2012, Hershey’s took an important step in reducing the production of slave chocolate, but they could do more.  Nestle has launched a new initiative to map its entire supply line, making it the first major chocolate producer to do so.

Things like Reverse Trick or Treating help spread awareness of a problem that most people are blind to.  Expose light on the problems of the chocolate industry, and we might make more of an impact.  And remember, if it’s too late for Halloween this year; Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter are just around the corner.  Chocolate is sweet.  Just Chocolate is sweeter.

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True Peace

 


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