Thursday, June 29, 2006

Why the two party system is deeply flawed

Rev. Darth and I just had a discussion about who we might vote for in the 2008 presidential election. I don't believe Barack Obama is electable right now. He said he wasn't going to run, anyway. I would vote for Russ Feingold. I don't care for any of the other candidates. No Kerry or Gore or Clinton. This post is not about presidential candidates, I only mention the candidates because I told Rev. Darth that the two party system is bogus. I don't have to vote for the Democrats. I don't know if I trust them any more than the Republicans. Even though I voted for Ralph Nader on multiple occasions, I never ascribed Nader's idea that the differences between the two major parties are negligible. They hold vastly different ideas. The issue for me is that I don't trust them to uphold ideals for a democratic society.


Take the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold gerrymandering in Texas. Republicans and Democrats have done this for decades not for the sake of democratic ideals, but for the sake of maintaining their own power--and the Supreme Court just gave this kind of act a rubber stamp. Republicans and Democrats have meager accountability in the system we have. This is CRAP! If you have an excuse for why gerrymandering is a good thing, I would love to hear from you.

Let's compare the US Congress district maps of Texas and Iowa.

The Texas Legislature created their redistricting project. At least the Supreme Court shot down that wacky district you see in southwest Texas. This map represents why the Democrats held hostage the Texas Legislature a few years ago by escaping to Oklahoma. I can understand why no one really responded to their cries of "foul!" I imagine that the Democrats did their own gerrymandering when Ann Richards and her folks were leading Texas several years ago. Gerrymandering is not new, and it shouldn't be supported by the Supreme Court, of all places.

For all the Iowa jokes floating around Minnesota and South Dakota, I admire them for drawing sane (and democratic) district boundaries. Their accountability structures are sound, and the results were determined through an independent commission apart from party leadership. This structure of liberty and democracy is not enough to make me move to Iowa, but it is good to know that democracy is possible.

A congregation member whom I had pinned as a Republican (my mistake, my sin--I would hate to be put in a box as well) told me over lunch that he wasn't a Republican. He loves America, he just doesn't trust government. I'm not sure I agree with him about government trust, but I can understand the sentiment--I don't trust the two party system.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Theories on a sense of place

I repeatedly listen to songs by Great Big Sea these days. Why?

Picturesque scenes in the Sioux Falls metro are not easy to take in. The namesake Falls represent a destination, not part of the daily commute. The Big Sioux River looks more like a muddy creek or an ice skating venue most of the time, although my family and I enjoy the water when we use the trails for a family hike or a bike ride.

In Douglas Coupland's book City of Glass--he writes about crossing the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver and how crossing it grounded him--the way he describes the bridge and its surroundings--I would go as far as to say he is filled with awe upon each crossing. The mountain views and seascape from the bridge represent a constant reminder of place and the importance of place in our lives. I would never say that people who live in the Sioux Falls metro have no sense of place, but from where do they attain their sense of place? The Falls indeed inspire reflection upon the magnitude of what God does through water and stone, but do people constantly think of the Falls in their daily living? Do people wax poetic about the Falls? I'm not so sure...

My next door neighbor grew up on a Hutterite Colony near Huron, South Dakota. He talks about how he loves living in Sioux Falls--but he didn't tell me about how great Sioux Falls is, rather how the Missouri River near Chamberlain inspires awe in him (in so many words--guys can talk about that kind of stuff over a beer). The Missouri River is a deep source of his grounding. I also know how easy it is to go for weeks at a time without leaving Sioux Falls. How does Sioux Falls metropolitan living maintain any connection with the land? For my wife, Augustana College inspires a strong sense of place--though not largely connected with South Dakota.

Our family carved a new ritual for land connection, at least during the summer. Our Saturday morning takes us to the Sioux Falls Farmers' Market--these days for lettuce, peppers, and new red potatoes. We walk by the river, take in the Falls, and contribute to the local produce trade while we take a look at other folk. We may even run into someone we know. Because of this new ritual, along the regular bike rides along the Big Sioux, I have finally developed a budding sense of place in Sioux Falls that is my own (gee, it only took me 5 years). As an interim pastor, I have served in other people's communities--I learned to appreciate the space in which they lived and worked, yet I never developed my own sense of place. Maybe this subject would never have entered my reflections had I always been serving in the place I lived...

The band Great Big Sea sings many of their songs about a life on the sea. Though I have never been much of a boater, my long term sense of place and connection with the land comes from my constant relationship with the water--much like in Coupland's reflections on the Lions Gate Bridge. One does not have to be a seafarer to maintain a relationship with the water. I cannot help water's grip on my soul (sounds like baptism, eh?) I am reminded of that soul grip in my musical rotation of Great Big Sea's "A Boat Like Gideon Brown." The song sings about the hopes of a father and son, the inspiration of the relationship between humanity and the sea, and the realm of possibility. I've listened to the song 15 times in the past three days. In that song I remember the seascapes of my youth, my sense of place, and the realm of possibility.

In the early days of my youth, our daily tasks took my family along the perimeter and across Lake Washington.

During my high school and breaks from university life, I frequently crossed and drove along the perimeter of the South Puget Sound.

The land and the realm of possibilities...


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Continuing in the love affair for the underdog: public higher education; collegiate baseball in the north; and beavers

Every beaver has their day. Some beavers may have more than one day.

In the realm of collegiate and professional athletics, college baseball attracts little attention. School is not even in session when the annual crowning event of collegiate baseball gathers in Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series. As I do not have cable television that accomodates ESPN, I could not view the games. I did follow the results and stories--I feel a connection with the sport having spent two years of my life devoted to being a baseball "student-athlete." My youngest brother had a solid collegiate career playing at Portland State and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. College baseball is a worthwhile event if you choose to watch sport.

I hoped that Oregon State Univeristy, (aka "The Beavers") would win the College World Series, because I pull for the Pac-10 in general, especially for the non-California schools. Also, a northern school had not won the College World Series since Ohio State in 1966. I have always found warmth and sunshine overrated, and I love to see that good baseball can be played in places where sun and warmth are not regular weather patterns. Go Beavers!

In researching OSU, I discovered that a Beaver alum attained an honored position of Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church, USA. Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori earned two advanced degrees at Oregon State. Without knowing anything about Bishop Schori (although my Episcopalian friend Hawk speaks well of the new Bishop), I like this development for many reasons.

1. The Episcopal Church in the USA did not bow to the pressure of the Anglican Communion by backing away from its election of Gene Robinson, a gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire.

2. With the election of Schori, the Episcopal Church also snubbed others in the Communion who do not believe in the ordination of women.

3. I love to hear about clergy who are given the opportunity to serve in the Church from backgrounds in public higher education. In my experience, people whose primary course of study involves theology in a Church college have superior backgrounds compared to us stiffs who attain their higher education from State U. We State U. folks may have less experience with theological lingo, but God has given us no less ability to engage in sound theology or to lead in the Church. I have not found explicit exclusion because of my educational background, however, the hierarchy seems implicit in favoring folk from Church college backgrounds--at least as I have seen in Lutheran circles. Schori holds advanced degrees in Oceanography. How cool is that for the Church? I would love to know if Bishop Schori has any interesting perspective on Leviathan from the Bible?

I enjoy the underdog story as much as the next person--though middle class folk may not truly live the life of an underdog, stories that reflect the diversity of God's people and creation give me hope that the Church can join what God is doing in the world. Even the beavers.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Time to start a Canada club?

In taking a business meeting on the golf course, Rev. Darth took a look at my golf hat and inquired about the logo.

It's the CBC logo (little CBC logos sit to the right of some of the dates on the schedule below).

Rev. Darth shook his head. "Dude, you need to move to Canada."

I don't know if that will ever happen, but I can dream. If it would be a good move for the whole family, we'll do it. If not, we trust God will lead us to the right place. As much as I hate to admit it, Sioux Falls, South Dakota was the right place for us for this period of time. My wife has a good place to serve, I have learned from a breadth of congregations, we were able to afford a house...all good things. The time will come, sooner than later, when we will live out our callings in some other place. Canada is on the short list. If we do move there someday, this would not be our CFL home team, but "Sasketchewan Roughriders" does roll off the tongue.

Canadian subjects fills my recent reading list. Specificly, Douglas Coupland. I finished JPod last weekend. I loved it, though the reviews out there seem mixed. I like its commentary on technology and culture, neurological conditions, China, and life in Vancouver. Coupland seems married to Vancouver, in that he recognizes its gifts and warts. The depth of that love is supplemented by two previous non-fiction publications by Coupland: "Vancouver: City of Glass" and "Souvenir of Canada". After reading these 3 books in the past two weeks, I decided to fill out the collection. I bought 5 more Coupland books on

I don't think there's a Canada Club in Sioux Falls.


Wanna go suck tailpipes with me?

Where are my colleagues when I need to share some righteous indignation? In the summer people around the congregation scatter into their own Sabbath taking rhythms. I support that movement. However, I have some righteous indignation to share and the people with whom I usually engage in such a discussion are either on vacation or gone for the day.

Apparently, the United States Supreme Court will rule on a case that will dictate whether the Environmental Protection Agency and States can regulate carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles. The debate in principle sounds reasonable. Who gets to regulate and under what auspices seems like a reasonable discussion. Just because the premise is reasonable does not mean the arguments presented are reasonable.

Take this quote on the subject from an article from the Associated Press today:

"Fundamentally, we don't think carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and so we don't think these attempts are a good idea," said John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing oil and gas producers.

Okay Johnny, please join me on 41st Street in Sioux Falls Saturday afternoon, and we can go on a bender where we suck on tailpipes of the idling cars on the busiest street in South Dakota.

Maybe this tailpipe treat isn't as big a deal in Sioux Falls as it would be in Manhattan (New York City, not Kansas), but PLEASE, tell us HOW carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. If carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, why do we need to exhale? If my science is bad, blame my teachers. Kidding, but John Felmy hardly seems like a reliable source, either.

The Associated Press went to a crappy source for a quote on this one.

Have a happy.