Friday, March 31, 2006

but what if God sent you the crackers?

talk about a marketplace...

Collections at the church's service bring in close to $1 million a week, with $20 million or so a year more sent in by mail, said Don Iloff, Lakewood's spokesman and Mr. Osteen's brother-in-law. The money goes to pay the staff of 300, service the debt on the $95 million it cost to turn the Compaq Center into a church (now about half paid off), support ministries in India and elsewhere and buy television time around the country. Mr. Osteen stopped taking his $200,000 annual salary from the church after he sold his first book.

or is equating the obscene amount of cash osteen's church is rolling in to crude capitalism an unfair assumption to make?

Joel Osteen's Credo: Eliminate the Negative, Accentuate Prosperity - New York Times

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

devotioning while...drunk?

so i'm reading today's devotional; it's about the miracle of the fishes and loaves. the devotional is put-putting along in standard fashion and then, this:

"The second part confuses me. It says that Christ blessed the food and broke it and set it down before the four thousand people, yet it doesn’t say how God multiplied the food. All Mark wrote down was that they were satisfied. After thinking, I came up with two answers. Either it was a miracle that God created more food, or, since they began with seven loaves and seven baskets remained at the end, then all that God did was make the crowd feel full without eating. When I thought about this I thought, “Why would Jesus require the disciples to go in search of bread if he knew that God’s miracle would make the people full?” I thought that maybe this was a test for the disciples. How far would they go to help Jesus?"

the tone was so bizarre, i thought, 'Hm. How refreshing (er, strange) to have a devotional that's totally up front with being confused. And what an...interesting (er, weird) way of entering the scripture.'

but then i kept reading and came to this part:
"Believe it or not, I had a lot more ideas about this passage that confused me and probably have confused some other people, too. Perhaps the Bible is supposed to confuse us and not be so descriptive in all the things that it says. If it were clear, then there wouldn’t be any good sermons in the churches."

OK, i thought, which of our pastoral staff submitted a drunk devotional?? (and i will admit i totally thought it was my friend, CM. the devotional was too weird to be american. it had to be the product of some bizarro european.)

but, no.

our candid and thoughtful devotional was written by ...
(wait for it)

a seventh grader.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

he fed them first; then he ministered

I'm about to get wonky on you. Get ready. Bear down.
The point of this post isn’t to make us feel guilty for being well off or comfortable; I’m proud of what I’ve earned and accomplished. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But I’d like us to start realizing what it’s like for people on the other side of the street. And if poverty is a complex social issue, which it is, then why are we willing to fob off uncomplicated and superficial remedies (like marriage policies, like bashing immigrants, like trickle down economics and tax breaks for the rich)?

Note: Most of the numbers mentioned in this post are from a report that can be downloaded from here.

What's poverty?
There are actually four kinds of poverty, based on our federal index which is based on what a family would need annually to earn to feed them (no, it's not a perfect measure, but it's the way we measure poverty now. If you want to read more about how the index is measured and critiques of how it's measured, go here:

Here's our federal poverty level index for 2006:
Family size - 2006 poverty guidelines:
1 - $ 9,800
2 - 13,200
3 - 16,600
4 - 20,000
5 - 23,400
6 - 26,800
7 - 30,200
8 - 33,600

You are Income Poor if you fall within the parameters of the FPL
You are in Deep or Extreme Poverty if you live at or below 50% of the FPL
You are Low-Income or Near Poor if you live at or below 200% of FPL and have trouble meeting your basic needs because of rising costs (child care, housing/rent, health insurance - if you have this at all.)
A household is Asset Poor if it doesn’t have enough net worth to live at the poverty level for 3 months - if you experience one significant life event (medical crisis, job loss or divorce) you can end up homeless or go straight into Poverty.

(While this index is based on food cost, which probably needs to be changed, here's what the index doesn't include: cost of transportation/commute to work, cost of child care, cost of utilities, or the rising cost of housing. Factor those costs and the number of those who qualify as poor would probably increase rather than decrease.)

Who’s poor?
You might be poor if you are old; nearly half of IL seniors would be in poverty if not for Social Security benefits; Social Security benefits are primary source of income for two-thirds of IL seniors; 70% of senior women living alone live near poverty. Senior men had a median income of $20,363 in 2003 and senior women had a median income of $11,845.
(Dude. Who can live on that??)

You might be poor if you are a child; 37.2% of children lived in low-income families in 2004; 15% of children in IL lived in houses where the head of household didn’t finish high school (an indicator of poverty); 11% lived in crowded housing.

You might be poor if you are disabled; in IL the monthly SSI payment is $564 (the national average is $617.02); a disabled person would have to spend more than ALL of their SSI income to rent a one-bedroom apartment.

You might be poor if you are a woman; IL women have higher poverty rates than men; 13.3% were living in poverty compared to 11.5% men in 2004; 31.4% lived in near poverty compared to 26.7% of men; compound that with the worst gender wage inequity of the 5 most populous states and you have women working their asses off for not a whole lot in return. Most single heads of households in the state are women.

You might be poor if you are Black or Latino: nearly 30% of the black population in IL lives under the FPL; 16% of the Latino population in IL lives in poverty.

Maybe most of us think of the victims of Hurricane Katrina when we try to envision who’s poor – they were visibly destitute, almost sharecropper poor. But that’s just one face of poverty; not the only face.
I argue that the more quotidian face of poverty is probably the face of someone you already see: the woman who provides you with childcare; your company’s receptionist or assistant; the security guard in the lobby of your building; the woman who checks out your groceries.

You might not be poor if 4 crucial areas of your life’s needs are stable:
Economic well-being. Are you earning a living where all your basic needs can be met? Can you live on your wage? Do you have a ‘cushion’ of some sort?
Health Insurance. Does your employer provide them? Are you relatively confident you won’t have to lose your house if your appendix bursts?
Housing Affordability. Can you pay your rent or mortgage easily and without much stress? Can you afford to live where you live? Have you never had to choose between food or rent?
Education. Do you have a college degree? Do you have a professional degree? Have you graduated from high school? Are most of your friends and neighbors literate?

Before indulging in a superficial discussion of poverty ('poor people suck!'/'poor people are saints!') I think it's important to dispel a couple of assumptions:
* poor people are lazy welfare queens who don't work and
* poverty is about bad financial planning

Poverty is about a maelstrom of bad breaks: illiteracy, generational poverty, economic downturns, cuts in social services, no education, rising costs in the standard of living; lowering wage values, no access to health care. Access to work. In Illinois, one quarter of our work force lives below the federally defined 'poverty line.' These are people (most of them single moms) who work full time jobs; they work 40 hours/week just like you and I work. And yet, they're poor. And these are people who, every day, make crucial financial planning decisions – the thing is, they’re making these decisions with less money than you or I can even think of using to even live.

I was at a retreat for an organization for whom I sit on the Board and a woman made the point that, for most of us, we think of low wages as entry-level wages; we think "Oh, I made 28k when I was out of school for my first job! That's totally livable!" But for many of the working poor, 28k is not entry level. That's a life wage. That's a wage that won't change. Ever. No bonus. No signing bonus. No relocation bonus. No holiday bonus. Through children, illness, divorce, and death - that wage won't change.

Think $30k goes a long way? I earn a little over that amount in my new non profit gig. But I don’t have children, I have health insurance, an education and my rent kicks ass. (And I have a roommate who makes triple what I make and is willing to buy me a beer or a movie once in a while.)

But how far does that $30k go for a family of 4?
Or, maybe it’s $25k.
Or, maybe it’s $19k.
If you made $19k/year and had to support a family of four (or even three), what kinds of decisions would you make?


Yeah, Jesus said the poor will always be with us.
But that doesn’t mean their lives have to suck.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

a modest proposal

why should churches be tax exempt anyway?
they provide services that people pay for, they take in income/revenue, some even have revenues into the milions, some have for-profit ventures, more than some are overtly capitalist in ideology and mission.

so why the tax protection? if we're all going to use our churches as marketplaces and political arenas, then why not strip off the mask and go whole hog?

Pastors' Get-Out-the-Vote Training Could Test Tax Rules - New York Times

Friday, March 17, 2006

i just deleted a comment in one of the posts below.
it pissed me off and then, after i had done it, i felt bad that i had broken some sacrosanct blogging 'rule': all comments are equal and must stand.

well, no. all comments aren't equal and comments that make me lose my temper and say something inappropriate get deleted.

blogging is like hosting a cocktail party; some guests have better manners than others. i am the hostess; this is my home. please disagree with me (jesus chick almost always does) but check the rudeness at the door or i'll have to get your coat and escort you out.

there. the hostess feels better now.

it's your fault: housing

thanks to Anonymous who gives me the perfect frame to start discussing economic empowerment and poverty issues here for a bit: It's Your Fault.

so, to kick us off, let's read about how It's Your Fault if you don't have affordable housing.

the mrs. apostle paul

i wonder what paul's wife did when he was away.

i wonder what she was thinking when, one day, after a few good months (or years) hunting down these new jesus people, her husband comes home and says, 'Don't call me Saul. I'm Paul and, by the way, I'm going to be leaving for a while. Some guy in another town is going to teach me some things. And hey! I used to be blind besause this big light thing happened and now I'm not blind, and oh, this is so cool. I wish I could tell you, but I can't. I'll be in touch.' and then he takes his cloak, his tent making tools, shuts the door behind him and goes away.

i wonder what happened to her. did she follow him? i can't recall any mention of her being with him. if she did follow him - fellowship to fellowship, town to town - i wonder what she thought. i wonder if she thought, 'you know, i never liked our old neighborhood anyway. now i get to see the world and take notes for Saul, i mean Paul, all the time. i don't have to sit in the back anymore. i just have to sit quietly. shhh.' i wonder if she thought that.

or i wonder if she thought, 'this sucks.'

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

there once was a boy from seattle...

over at JP's place, he's throwing a little bit of a limerick carnival. thanks to various links, his quiet blog is hopping with limerick-y genius (including yours truly). go visit and leave one of your own.
it's addictive.

here's a sample:

You Don't Know Nothing About It
by John Patrick

I'm not as dumb as you wish
Thought Alma while drying a dish
Left a note in your gear
But when Jack Nasty's near...
Ha! You don't go up there to fish.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


the 10th carnival of feminists is up!
happy reading while i try to rid myself of all this phlegm.

indianwriting: Carnival of Feminists - No 10

i'm hacking up a lung at work so be miserable with me

a message from ding to all the children in middle america who think tweaking is fun: for god's sake, don't do drugs.

i wonder if it's meth that's doing all this damage or if the damage is the result of some attendant behavior while on meth.

Partnership for a Drug-Free America Faces of Meth

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

nope. no poverty post, yet.

i'm scrambling to get out of town to see my sister and dad (ha! my flight leaves so early on sunday i'll have to skip church services) and i'll just have to wait until i'm in los angeles. it'll be perfect, actually.

staying with my sister in sanitary santa monica will piss me off so much, haranguing against a culture of consumption and classism will be no problem.

Monday, March 06, 2006

why i love my friend jp: he's down with the poor

you don't have to read: You'll Have To Arrest Me.

moving away from the abortion posts for a while, i'll start writing on poverty and class.

let's see how many christian conservatives ream me on that.
or is sex the only issue they get upset about?

Friday, March 03, 2006

a little levity

so, before Anonymous down there finishes his sushi and then decides that God told him to track me down and stone me for being an apostate, here's a gem:

The Brick Testament

i love how he gets the battle scenes just right. the circumcision story in joshua is a hoot. really.

but even better? paul's instructions to women (in lego).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

why am i feminist? this is why:

Chicago Tribune Alleged rape victim threatened with jail

so. though she's been cross examined already and has testified she has no recollection of consenting to sex with this group of men, she's basically going to be thrown in jail if she doesn't watch a videotape of her own rape.

before you write me and say something really idiotic, ask yourself this: if she was your 20 year old daughter, would you want her to watch a tape of her rape?

if you're as pissed off about this dehumanization of a woman as i am, contact the men who should know better here:

call the judge: Judge Kerry M. Kennedy at 708-974-6759
call the presiding judge: Judge Anthony S. Montelione at 708-974-6288
call the chief judge: Judge Timothy C. Evans at 312-603-6000

[update: within minutes of me posting this, the Trib updated the story - the judge backed down.]