Monthly Archives: June 2011

What’s the Silver Bullet to Fix What’s Wrong?

When I was in ninth grade American history class, we did an interesting simulation during a unit on the Progressive Era of our country’s history. The teacher divided the class into groups, each of which was supposed to research one social reform of the time (women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, immigration reform, education) and advocate for it with the mayor of the major city in which this simulation was taking place. The goal was to have the mayor pick your group’s issue as one of the top few priorities of the city.

I was chosen mayor, which was fun, but it was a classic case of knowing what I didn’t know. I had a strong sense that certain issues would take care of other ones—that if I only picked the right issues in the right order, there would be a cascading effect on the other issues that were important in their own right but we were perhaps secondary. Trouble was, I couldn’t figure out which issues would start the dominoes falling. So I chose a broad range of things and reminded myself that it was a simulation, after all. (I can’t remember what I picked except that suffrage was definitely one of them!)

I was thinking about that this morning as I read this analysis, which argues that the negotiations over the debt ceiling have broken down. This sentence stuck out:

‎What the two parties are really doing is trying to position themselves politically to survive the consequences of their failure.

I posted the article on Facebook and commented, “That may be the most cynical thing I’ve ever read.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think our political system is broken (speak up if you disagree), and that statement encapsulates a lot of what’s wrong.

A short discussion resulted in which people were proposing various remedies. One person said we need term limits. I chimed in that without meaningful campaign finance reform, and also media reform, nothing else matters. A third person said, if I may quote, “My personal golden bullet is redistricting and the primary process. As long as officials can get away with only/mostly worrying about their base there’s no incentive for them to compromise.”

All worthy places to start. I’m curious. What do you think is at the heart of what’s wrong? What’s your silver bullet to fix what you find broken in our political system?

Obviously there is no one right answer but I’m wondering where various people begin to think about these things.

Photo: Some feisty women from the Progressive Era.

One of My Favorite Blogs Has Moved

Many of you know Jan Edmiston. She recently, accidentally, tragically, deleted her amazing blog, A Church for Starving Artists. She’s shaken the dust off and moved to WordPress. I’m posting this to help get the word out about her change of address—I know many folks who read me also read her—so put her new blog in your Google Reader. She’s awesome.

Myself, I’m still dealing with the stages of grief. I’m on to bargaining: I’ve consulted the Way Back Machine and have a call in to my husband.

Monday Miscellany, Including Wild Goose

We’re back from our Wild Goose excellent adventure. The girls and I had a great time, and the boys? Well! The boys went to the Lancaster County train sites. Thomas was there, and the video of James catching his first glimpse of Blue Engine Number 1 was priceless. They took a ride on Thomas, had lunch on the train, and also saw Cars 2, ate at a restaurant that overlooked a nearby regional airport, and stumbled upon a fireworks display. What could be better?!

I have a ton of writing deadlines this week and next, so this’ll be quick.

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It will take some time to unpack from Wild Goose (literally and figuratively), but here are some highlights:

  • Recording an “It Gets Better” video right in the middle of Jennifer Knapp‘s set. “Y’all know I’m a lesbian, right?”
  • Billy Jonas. Festival organizer Gareth Higgins has said, “We gather to learn what Jesus came to teach us, which is not how to be a Christian, but how to be human.” And I don’t know anyone who embodies that joyful, embodied humanity on stage more than Billy Jonas. (Who’s Jewish, by the way.) Children are treated with great dignity, and adults become children.
  • Frank Schaeffer was deeply entertaining and irreverent.
  • Over the Rhine is my friend Katherine‘s favorite band, but Friday night’s show was my first experience of them (other than Pandora). Such great stuff.
  • Pete Rollins. There really is nobody like him. He shared his latest thoughts on christology, which wove together Miami Vice, infant development, the cross, and Wile E. Coyote.
  • Experiencing The Psalters. So weirdly awesome.
  • Meeting lots of folks, including a fellow Presbyterian pastor who said “Wait, what’s your last name? Oh, I read your stuff!” It’s a small Presbyterian world.
  • Spending a little time with my friend Troy.
  • My brilliant idea of the weekend: bringing a metric ton of glow sticks for the girls to hand out to the other kids to help break the ice. They also make great night lights in the tent. Next year: frisbees and stomp rockets.
  • Watching the girls enjoy the huge slip-and-slide on Saturday afternoon.
  • Spending time with Mom and the girls. The camping aspect went really well. We cooked a little but kept things simple. Saturday night culminated with s’mores on the campstove. Marshmallows cook very differently over a burner but they’re still good.
  • Just the experience of being with 1200+ people in a beautiful place with beautiful music and art—it was a gracious, hopeful space. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Challenges at WGF:

  • The heat was completely brutal, especially on Friday. Our ancient dining fly became a sail and failed catastrophically at the hottest moment of the day. The family camping area was in a large field with NO shade.
  • The girls did not really get into the kids’ program, so we had to punt. Friday afternoon following the dining fly debacle we took a trip to Wal-Mart (also an excuse to spend some time in air conditioning—really, I felt like my brain was being baked) and bought some craft items and battery-operated spritzer fans. For the rest of the weekend we bounced between Talks Tent and the Main Stage, camping out under trees and listening to speakers and musicians while the girls strung beads, made craft-foam butterflies, colored and read. It was quite nice.
  • Part of the ‘zen’ of WGF is the informal conversations that spring up on the paths and over meals. But when you’re tending to kids, there isn’t as much opportunity for that. We bonded with our tent neighbor, but next year I want to encourage people I know (or those I don’t, who have kids) to cluster together so that the adults can talk late into the night and still monitor their kids asleep in the tent. The family camping was in a large field and the tents were around the perimeter, so we were far apart from other folks.
  • To that end, I wondered about providing time and space for people to organize impromptu groups around certain topics. Some of us are introverted enough that just walking up to someone and starting a conversation is tough. I would’ve loved to have had a conversation with other solo pastors serving small, traditional churches in the mainline, for example. Or a conversation about Sabbath. Etc.
  • The only low moment came on Friday night, when we were all exhausted and the girls were saying they wanted to go home. A good nights’ sleep on Friday provided a good reset and the rest of the weekend was awesome.
  • Mom sprained her ankle. She managed to hobble around OK, but still. Big bummer.
  • Even with our liberal use of DEET, the weekend had a tick factor of 6 for our family.

All that said, I hope the organizers feel good about what they’ve accomplished. Sign us up for 2012.

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Lastly: The response to my video for the We Are Presbyterian 2011 project has been fun and gratifying. And now I’m a Christian Worth Listening To on Vimeo!

Well there you go.