Changing the World, One T-Shirt at a Time

Today was graduation at MCC, the college where I teach.  The commencement speaker challenged the graduates to “Change the World.”

And the funny thing is, I think they will.  Three or four (or five or six) years ago, they were awkward, uncertain kids just out of high school, without too many clues.  Some are still finding their way; but some have a sense of confidence, focus, and purpose.

Three of my students and former students–actually, I don’t know if any of them are today’s graduates; one graduated a year ago, the other two have a year or two to go–have a plan to change part of the world.

They are going to an impoverished urban area in South Africa.  They want to empower women there.  One of them, diminuitive in size, has a big dream.  She has supported herself in college the last couple years by making T-shirts.

So this team of three young women from the US is going halfway around the world to help their sisters south of the equator set up a T-shirt shop.  They hope this adventure in small enterprise will do a small part in building a local economy and giving women some control over their own lives.

The alumna in our group will also be working in the public  schools, teaching girls how to reduce their likelihood of contracting AIDS and other STD’s.  It won’t be an “abstinence only” program–but she will be trying to give the girls confidence that they have the right to say “No.”

That will be a completely new concept for some of the young women.  They have never been told they have a right to choose what kind of life they want to have.

Other of our graduates will be doing different things.  Some are going on to graduate school in marriage and family therapy, some will be teachers, some are going into business, others into church-vocations as pastors, worship leaders, youth ministers.

And some are still finding themselves, even if that means moving back home and working for a while to pay off student loans.  There’s nothing wrong with that either.  I’m guessing there will still be things in the world that need changing three or four years from now.

No Compromise? (part 2)

Our political climate is intolerant of compromise.  Two people who tried to bring people together are finding out how hard it is to do.

Richard Cizik tried to lead evangelical Christians to compassionate action on a broader range of problems than abortion and traditional marriage.  For example, he believed that if Christians believe in creation, they should be more concerned about preserving God’s good creation than in trying to caluculate how long ago the world was made.  He also led in efforts to fight AIDS and human trafficking.

Some of his critics thought he was leading the faithful away from “moral issues”–as though issues that effect the life, death, and dignity of all people are not moral issues.  Two years ago they tried to oust him from his job as leader of the National Association of Evangelicals due to his embracing of “Creation Care.”  The plan backfired.  It turned out most evangelicals are fond of this planet.

This week, they finally got him.  On an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, he said he was opposed to same-sex marriage–but maybe civil unions weren’t a bad idea.  His enemies demanded–and got–his resignation.  Nicholas Kristoph called Cizik a “huggable evangelical” and said his resignation made for a sad day.

On the other side of the fence, supporters of gay rights are furious with president-elect Obama for asking Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.  Why?  Because Warren is opposed to gay marriage and abortions that are not medically necessary.  Obama’s stated position is that he does not favor same-sex marriage, but he does favor civil unions.

Rick Warren has raised millions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa, and has encouraged the faithful to support progressive causes.   In fact, he helped get Obama elected when he invited both candidates to a forum at his church.  The president is returning the favor and strenghtening the personal friendship and political alliance he has made (more).  What some would call compromise and bringing people together, others would call betrayal.

That’s Disrespectful

Maybe I’m naive, but I assume people’s good intentions until proven otherwise.  I assume senators McCain and Obama are both honorable, decent men with a genuine desire to serve their country.  But now that the race is coming down to the wire, the campaigns on both sides have started slinging a little mud.

Senator Obama commented that trying to put the Republican party’s failed economic policies in a good light is like putting lipstick on a pig.

What were you thinking, Senator Obama?  How do you expect to get the votes of Iowa hog farmers if you go on insulting their pigs like that?

(By the way, if you like images of pigs–check out Kerfuffles.)

While Condaleza Rice was meeting with Moamar Kadafi, Bill O’Reilly was interviewing senator Obama.  I watched a few minutes of the interview/attempted ambush.  Mr. No-Spin kept trying to indict candidate Obama for his associations.  He kept saying, “you’re comfortable being around some pretty radical people.”

It seems to me, anyone who works in inner city, poverty-stricken areas is going to run into some angry, bitter people.  Anyone who tries to bring diverse groups of people together for the common good is going to associate with some controversial people.  I’m sure Chuck Colson, in his work in prisons, has associated with some unsavory characters.  But Mr. Fair and Balanced kept smiling and interrupting, trying to nail Barack for his associations.

Earlier in the day O’Reilly had criticized those who criticized governor Palin’s church affiliation.  He said as long as they aren’t hurting anybody,  it’s nobody’s business.  I tend to agree with that.  I love the pastor of my own church, for example, but (no disrespect intended) I wouldn’t want to be held accountable for every remark he ever made in a sermon.  And, even though he has allowed me to cover for him when he was away on vacation–I’m sure he would say the same about me.

I’m pretty suspicious of conspiracy theories myself.  But if my ancestors had been kidnapped and forced into slavery, if I had counseled people who had experienced police brutality or profiling,  and people who had experienced discrimination in other forms, I might be a little more cynical.  In light of the Tuskeegee experiment, I might even suspect the government of having something to do with AIDS.

There is disrespectful distortion of the candidates’ words and positions on both sides.  Sarah Palin has been misquoted as saying that the war in Iraq is God’s work.  What she actually said was we should pray for those in uniform that they do God’s work.  A prayer for something and a claim that it has been accomplished are two different things.

If governor Palin slashed funding for teen mothers in Alaska, on the other hand, that is fair game.  It is a matter of policy not personality.  If Obama is committed to his party’s position on abortion, that also is a matter of policy.