Rev. Jennifer Butler writes to us live from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference in New Orleans. She’ll check in throughout the event with updates on this important gathering.
The Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference launched last night with a night. With 1500 in attendance it was the largest gathering of clergy in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina struck. Dr Iva Carruthers, the conference’s General Secretary, has made this conference the “go to place” for social justice oriented African American clergy. The conference is especially attentive to raising a new generation of leaders-150 seminarians from 32 seminaries are present.
The conference opened with a remembrance of the Rev. Samuel Dewitt Proctor. The Reverend Dr. James Forbes spoke to how Proctor mentored generations of social justice oriented black clergy. Proctor once wrote, “Some pastors have given up on filling the shoes of Amos, Micah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah… God bless those pastors who stand tall and who, in love, tell the truth.” Forbes reminded the 1,500 participants that its not enough just to show up; they must “tangibilitate” the Gospel-that is make it tangible and live it out.
The conference opened with two women clergy speaking truth to power. The Reverend Dr. Susan K Smith of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus Ohio and the Rev. Liz Walker of Bethel AME in Jamaica Plain Masachucetts raised the roof, challenging us on our personal faith journey as well as taking on our national leaders on issues like the genocide in Darfur, the War in Iraq, Katrina, the American culture of materialism and corporate welfare.
Most noted by all speakers was the fact that President Bush had failed to even mention the Katrina disaster in his State of the Union Address. Conference leaders in response vowed to meet in New Orleans again next year to continue with this year’s theme, “In the Wake of Katrina: Lest We Forget… Call to Renewal.” Many of the clergy arrived early to tour the Ninth Ward and other affected areas. Tomorrow, conference leaders will hold a sunrise service on the Claiborne Street Bridge, where many of the city’s poor were stopped by police while trying to escape the city.
It’s been an inspired gathering so far, with much more to come!
Many film critics believe that we exist in the golden age of documentary filmmaking. Several recent films shown at the recent Sundance Film Festival fuel the fight for justice and human rights.
Here’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib by Rory Kennedy who is, yes, the daughter of RFK. I really like her film because it explores why ordinary people all too often commit extraordinary acts of violence.
In an interview with New York magazine, Rory says:
I had planned on making a film exploring the question of how ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of evil, and Abu Ghraib kept coming up. It was really with the intention of doing a psychological profile of the MPs –were these people psychopaths? Or was it the pressure of working under these conditions?
So, what did you find?
They’re perfectly normal in many ways. Javal Davis–there’s a sweetness to his eyes, an honesty to him. They did horrible things, but it was pretty obvious that these guys were told to do 95 percent of what they did.
This film will play on HBO on February 22.
Another excellent documentary to appear this year at Sundance is The Bible Tells Me So.
This film is “an exploration of the religious right’s use of the Bible to justify shutting homosexuals out of the faiths in which they’ve grown up.One of the central figures in For the Bible Tells Me So is Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first-ever openly gay man to be elected a Bishop of the Episcopalian Church. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 (at which he had to wear a bullet-proof vest due to death threats) was a historical occasion that caused a rift in the Episcopal church.” The doc also includes conversations with Desmond Tutu, Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer, the Rev. Susan Sparks, Crissy Gephardt daughter of former Presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt, and “the Poteats, an African-American family in which both parents are preachers still struggling to accept that their daughter, Tonia, is a lesbian.”
There’s been quite a bit of dust kicked up recently over the political consulting of Common Good Strategies, a group headed by Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp. Some on the left say they’re selling out progressivism. Others on the right say they’re communists in sheep’s clothing. The debates offer a window into the highly charged ground that CGS is treading. Must be interesting to take hits from both your right and your left…
“Mara Vanderslice’s attempt to convince Christians to vote for pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Democrats (who hide their real goals behind claims of ‘faith’) is working — and the Republican Party should take note,â€ said TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty. “Tragically, Vanderslice’s brand of ‘progressive’ Christianity has more in common with Marxist-Leninist ideals than with orthodox Christianity. I pray that Christians will not be fooled in 2008 — as many were in 2006. Because many evangelicals voted for liberals in 2006, we face a Congress that is openly hostile to biblical values.â€
Casey should have ignored Vanderslice’s reckless counsel for a variety of reasons, including that there was no reason to seek additional support from those who would never provide it. Contrary to Vanderslice’s notions, engaging the leadership of the hard Religious Right does not demonstrate respect for “people of faith.” Instead it sends a clear message of capitulation to the long discredited Aristotelian notion of inherent inequality. Any continued acceptance of this unnecessary strategy of pandering will have its ultimate end in the furthering weakening of liberal democracy.
“Bourgeois suburban Christianity is limited in practice to largely interpersonal matters. It tends to see the command to love others as elevating the personal encounter with another person over working to alleviate the structural conditions that enslave others. [Given the impersonal nature of people's daily lives, this may seem right, but one cannot claim love while failing to address the structures of poverty and classism.] So, they send teenagers on mission trips dressed in GAP clothing, largely unconcerned with their own suburban exclusion, greed, and perpetuation of poverty.”
Upon reading her “beloved” issue of Burma Issues, Brethren Priestess registers alarm that “the military is intent on wiping out Christianity in Burma, according to claims in a secret document believed to have been leaked from a government ministry.”
Over at JSpot, Lenny finds an article on community organizing that kinda convinces him to pay a little more attention to Obama.
If you know what WHINSEC / SOA means, you’ll appreciate that Chuck Currie writes about the Chicago UCC minister who just got a ticket to the grey hotel for protesting outside Ft. Benning in Georgia.
What a lil’ controversy? On Street Prophets a “Pro-Life Secular Liberal” writes about how abortion doesn’t fit with the principles of her childhood Universal-Unitarianism.
CrossLeft posts Olbermann’s recent “special comment” on Bush and terrorism and Jaws 2.
Ryan Beiler blogs at God’s Politics Blog about Sen. Biden’s launch speech to Sen. Obama: “NEWS FLASH TO WELL-MEANING WHITE FOLKS: When you praise people of any minority or ethnicity for being “articulate,” you’re suggesting that you have deeply held stereotypes about people that don’t look like you that are only overcome by what you see as noteable exceptions.”
“Today, the National Prayer Breakfast is a gathering of all faiths, in Jesus’ name. To be fair, the organization that produces it — so deliberately lowkey that they encourage the misperception that it’s an official government event — tones down its true strangeness in honor of the attendance of the president and hundreds of congressmen. For instance, they don’t bring up what they consider the leadership lessons of… Hitler. Yes, Hitler.”
Homogenizing her coffee and recent Catholic news, Pam’s House Blend mixes it up over an Italian newspaper report on the difference between papal moral absolutes and the advice given in the confessional box.