Monday, March 22, 2010

My First 2010 Fantasy Draft

For your consideration, my first team of the 2010 Fantasy Baseball season. It's a 5x5 roto YaHell public league. I went in a little unprepared, but had the first pick for the first time in a decade so actually got to have Pujols for once. That was nice. I finally got past drafting pitchers too early and focused on offense, but I'm still struggling to get better at trade offers. I'm always reluctant to give away much, and I need to get over that. At the moment, I'm trying to deal from saves and steals and get a more powerful bat at SS or 3B. I may also drop Posey for Mike Cameron.

C: Russell Martin
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Jorge Cantu
SS: Yunel Escobar
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury
OF: Jason Bay
OF: Josh Hamilton
Util: Derrek Lee
Util: Michael Bourn
Bench: Todd Helton
Bench: Stephen Drew
Bench: Buster Posey

SP: Josh Beckett
SP: Wandy Rodriguez
SP: Randy Wolf
SP: Mark Buehrle
SP: Erik Bedard
RP: Heath Bell
RP: Huston Street
RP: Frank Francisco
RP: Michael Wuertz
P: Joba Chamberlain

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Asking the Right Questions, Cohen Brothers Style

Here is my column from the March edition of The Flame, the monthly newsletter for the Nebraska church where I work. It's based around the new Cohen Brothers movie, "A Serious Man." Also, here's a Catholic priest reviewing that movie.

Each year, I make a point of watching all of the films nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards. They are not always the best movies out there, but it is as good a viewing guide as any.

One of this year’s nominees is the latest from the Cohen Brothers, “A Serious Man.” The movie is about a physics professor whose wife asks him for a divorce, and the struggles they face in their Jewish community. Critics argue about the film’s message. Is it about the way God works in our daily lives? Our struggles to understand God? A modern retelling of the Book of Job?

Given where I am in life right now, what I got out of the film was probably not what the Cohen Brothers actually intended, but I’m going to run with it anyway: It is not always the answers to our questions that matter, but our struggles with the questions themselves.

At one point, the professor’s rabbi answers three questions from another man, a dentist, who is also struggling trying to figure out what God (or Hashem) is telling him. The rabbi’s answers are at first frustrating but perhaps go deeper than would appear: “The teeth? We don't know. A sign from Hashem? Don't know. Helping others? Couldn't hurt.”

The professor and the dentist are both frustrated by their questions, but ultimately events conspire to render the answers they seek meaningless anyway. It was the process of asking that mattered most, for through their struggles they grew closer to God.

This lesson is one many of you already know quite well. I, however, encountered it for the first time just last year in one of my Native American studies courses at college. From discussions with Father Tom to spiritual direction at Resurrection House, it is a lesson that has followed me to Nebraska.

My six months here have forced me to ask many new questions about life and about myself. One simple example comes from a book I recently read by author Shane Claiborne, who writes, “If you ask most people what Christians believe, they can tell you… But if you ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way.” Prompted by this quote, I have begun to ask not just, “What am I called to do?” but also “Who am I called to be?”

I don’t have the answers to these questions yet, but I continue to ask. Perhaps that’s all God wants me to do right now. Perhaps it is when we struggle with asking that we grow, even more so than when we finally live into the answers.

Why does God teach us the way God does? Don’t know. Why is it so hard to live on God’s time? Don’t know. Should we do more to help others? Couldn’t hurt.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Is Your Pop Culture

I love these two videos, one parodying a generic movie and one parodying a generic newscast. There's got to be a name for this type of comedic parody, where the participants just list the contents rather than actually providing them but do so in a humorous way.

First, a trailer for a "Generic Movie Based on the Movie They've Been
Releasing Every Single Week Since the 1980s." H/T Roger Ebert.

Next, a generic newscast. H/T half my Facebook friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The D Smears Trustee Candidate

Okay, "smear" might be too strong a word for my headline. But turnabout's fair play, right?

A headline in Dartmouth's daily campus paper, The Dartmouth, yesterday read, "Asch '79 withheld business past." That's a misleading headline, and it's unfair to Asch. It implies that the paper just discovered that Asch has been hiding something, when in fact there's no new revelation at all. The D's story is basically, "Asch didn't answer all of our questions in the past, which you already knew, but we figured out the answers anyway, and here they are."

"Withholding" implies that the man had something he was supposed to give up but didn't, like withholding evidence from a defense attorney. No, he just didn't answer a college kid's questions. It might have been fair to run a headline a few weeks ago saying, "Asch Declines To Comment On Business Past," but it's pretty bogus to use the past tense "withheld" as if something ethically shady is just now coming to light. This is what we call trashy tabloid journalism, but I've come to expect little better from The D.

Asch is no angel in this story. He did indeed decline to tell The D that he ran a medical needle manufacturing company, which in and of itself would be fine, there's nothing wrong with not telling a student reporter everything about your private life, except he's tried to make his opponent for trustee's past a major issue in the race. Even though I'm supporting Asch, I have to be candid, it's a little hypocritical to harp about your opponent's past while refusing to discuss your own. Still, though it's not great, it's also not the scandal reflected in The D's headline.

I haven't mentioned the reporter's name in this post because usually reporters don't write their own headlines. I certainly never did at the Spokane Spokesman Review, and rarely did at the Dartmouth Free Press. Whoever it was, though, certainly screwed up. I support Joe Asch for Trustee, and The D owes him an apology.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

On Civility and Social Justice

You've probably heard by now about Glenn Beck's outrageous attacks on Christianity. I've written two posts on the subject at MyDD: "Glenn Beck Attacks Pastors, Doesn't Understand What Church Is" on Friday and "Glenn Beck Godwins Jesus, Part 2" this morning.

My favorite quote on the matter comes from Br. James Patrick Hall on Facebook: "I am concerned that too many Christians get most of their understanding of how to treat others from Rush, Glenn, Sean and Bill, rather than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels or the Hebrew Prophets, even the Law, shows God's immense care and concern for the poor and how we as people of faith [are to] treat them!!"

Jim Kim Dances To "Thriller"

Greatest. University. President. Ever.

In this clip, the case of "Dartmouth Idol" performs a tribute to Michael Jackson, and are joined not by Vincent Price but by... a dancing College President Jim Kim. YES. AWESOME.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I AM: Learning to Trust God in God's Time (Sermon)

Delivered at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit; Bellevue, NE; 03-07-10. Year C, Third Sunday in Lent: Exodus 3:1-15 • Psalm 63:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 • Luke 13:1-9.

My dad has had lousy health pretty much since I was born. He’s fine now, and in fact, thanks to a kidney transplant he got about two years ago, he’s actually in the best health of my life. But it was an extremely rough 20 years getting there.

It started when I was about nine months old and Dad was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive form of vasculitis. His lungs were virtually destroyed, his kidneys were kaput, and he was put on dialysis, oxygen, feeding tubes – you get the picture.

I was just nine years old – I couldn’t have cared less. But as you may imagine, this was all very rough on my mom. She’s a very strong woman, but she was absolutely terrified about losing Dad and facing life, and motherhood, alone. The day the weekend doctor quite impatiently told her that Dad wouldn’t make it through the night was one of the hardest days of her life.

And then, just as she had no idea what to do next, she heard a voice. There was no one else in the room, but the voice was very real, and it said,

“It will be okay.”

No details, no instructions – just, “It will be okay.” Things didn’t get any easier, but my Mom now knew that God hadn’t gone anywhere and that whatever happened, it would be okay. And indeed, it was, and still is, okay.

When we trust God to do what needs to be done and to do it in God’s time, things always wind up okay. But, when we trust ourselves even just to know, much less to do, what needs to be done, it’s usually a different story. This message, trust in God alone, may be clich├ęd, but it runs deeper than any inspirational Hallmark card, and it starts with today’s Old Testament lesson.

This story, of God leading the Israelites out of Egypt, is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith as well as the heart of liberation theology, the 1960s Latin American movement. Liberation theologians teach that Christ came to liberate the poor from unjust political and economic circumstances. They come to this faith from Scripture, pointing not only to the Exodus but also to Christ’s rebukes of Rome and to passages like the Magnificat, where Mary says that God casts down the mighty and lifts up the poor.

This theology has its critics, some of whom claim that yes, God does liberate us, but not from El Salvadorian death squads or other political injustices. No no, God liberates us from sin, and from ourselves!

Eh – I would certainly agree that God liberates us from sin and that most liberation theologians have too narrow a view of Scripture, but, the burning bush itself said that God will take on unjust governments, and who am I to argue with a burning bush?

The thing is, though, that God does it God’s way, and in God’s time. The real problem with liberation theology’s narrow view of Jesus is that mortals can also be social revolutionaries. Christ was a reformer, yes, but unlike a Thomas Paine or a Martin Luther King, He was and is one who brings us into a deeper intimacy with our Creator and who reforms on God’s time, not our time.

The thing to remember about that is that we can’t hurry up God’s time, as painful as it may sometimes be.

And it is painful. There’s a reason they say recovery from divorce takes a year for every year of marriage. And there’s a reason that even after coming home, at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer PTSD. Liberation, whether from personal pain or public oppression, is painful, and it takes time.

Getting through that pain is where trusting God comes in. All too often we don’t understand why time has to be liberation’s most important ingredient, but that’s because we run on our time. And when we do so, when we give up on God’s time and decide that we just can’t wait for Him anymore, that’s when we fall in even lonelier ways.

Look at today’s Epistle. The Christian leaders at Cornith were strong, but their strength turned into arrogance and led them to trust in themselves too much. So Paul warns them, stop putting Christ to the test. “If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” He reminds them: the Israelites didn’t lead themselves out of the desert.

We can’t do this alone. When we trust God’s time, we find Cana. When we trust our time, then like the 23,000 felled in a single day, we get in some pretty big trouble.

This is also what Jesus was warning about. We can’t do things our way. Even when Pilate slaughters friends from Galilee in that holiest of places, the Temple, or the sanctuary at the Church of the Holy Spirit, we cannot take up our own arms in our own time and think ourselves capable of wiping out the threat. Bishop Tom Wright, the same one we’re watching in our Sunday evening Lenten series, explains this Gospel passage:

“In line with the warnings he has issued several times already... Jesus is making it clearer that those who refuse his summons to change direction, to abandon the crazy flight into national rebellion against Rome, will suffer the consequences. Luke’s arrangement of the material... leaves us in no doubt as to how he saw the matter: when Jerusalem fell in AD 70, it was as a direct result of refusing to follow the way of peace which Jesus had urged throughout his ministry.”

When we don’t follow Christ’s urgings, when we think we don’t have time to wait for God, bad things happen. How bad? Will 23,000 people – half of Bellevue – be felled in one day?

I don’t know. I doubt it.

I believe God is a God of pure love who, as Fr. Tom said last week, gives the gift of grace even to those who don’t know it. But at the same time, Christ said that if we don’t repent, then we will suffer the same fate as the Temple’s Galileans, and Christ didn’t say things He didn’t mean.

We can’t ignore Scripture’s warnings, but we needn’t dwell on them, either. We should be motivated not by fear but by reverence for God’s glory and by gratitude for the liberation that has come and is to come – even if it doesn’t come on our timetable.

And for all the pain of following the holy timetable, for all the frustration of screaming at God but getting no explanation back, it’s still worth it. Jesus knew that pain too – just look at the Garden of Gethsemane – but He also knew something else. He knew God’s name: I AM.

Those two words represent far more than a simple proper noun. If God wanted to reveal just a name, He would have stuck with Yahweh or Jehovah. But instead, he tells Moses not just a name, but an identity.

I AM not male, I AM not female.
I AM not white, I AM not Arabic.
I AM not rural, I AM not urban.

This is a name that transcends every boundary we know and every label in our language, a name that pulls us from our time into God’s time.

I exist.
I AM here.
I AM present.
I AM for you.

So when Jesus tells me to wait, that it’s not God’s time yet, I’m not going to say no, Rome is at my door NOW, I must ACT! I’m going to say, ok. You’re Jesus and I’m not.

And when God tells me “It will be okay,” I’m not going to say, this is the second time Dad’s been in the ICU in a year and I’m just 19, I can’t handle this! Whaddaya mean, it will be okay? I’m going to say, ok. You’re God, and I’m not.

Maybe your ears will never hear a voice say, “I AM,” nor even, “It will be okay.” But that voice is still for you, and it will never stop whispering,

“I love you.

“Trust me.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Idaho Debates Justice in “Lawless” Indian Country

Cross-posted from MyDD.

1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped at some point in their lifetime, twice the national average. In Idaho, if state lawmakers don't pass a bill before them now, the problem will get worse before it gets better.

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe that sovereign Indian nations do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives traveling or even living in Indian Country. For a variety of nonsensical and unprecedented legal reasons, Tribal police and courts only have authority over other Indians. This is akin to telling the Montana State Police that the law doesn’t apply to Minnesota residents passing through on I-90.

Except for a few “Public Law 280” states, state and local authorities also lack jurisdiction on Indian reservations, per the Constitution’s commerce clause and a number of Court precedents. That means jurisdiction falls to the feds, who don’t do their job. As Chickasaw Tribal Police Chief Jason O’Neal told NPR in 2007, “’Many of the criminals know Indian lands are almost a lawless community, where they can do whatever they want.’…  A 2003 report from the Justice Department found that U.S. attorneys take fewer cases from the BIA than from almost any other federal-law enforcement agency.”

The real world result? 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped at some point in their life, compared to 1 in 6 women nationally. 41% of those women report being raped by a stranger rather than an acquaintance, compared to 16.7% nationally. As Chief O’Neal points out, these strangers are not from within the Indian communities, so we can’t point to reservation issues as the problem - 80% of attacks against Indians are from non-Natives. Overall, the violent crime rate in Indian country is twice the national average. (All numbers are from various Justice Department reports.)

Last month, it looked like things were going to get worse for American Indians in northern Idaho before they got better, but thankfully the state is taking the right steps. To make up for the lack of federal activity, tribes can make deals with local or state law enforcement agencies to cross-deputize tribal  officers and give them the necessary jurisdiction. Last month, however, Benewah County Sheriff Bob Kirts, whose county includes the southern half of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Reservation, refused to re-instate a cross-deputization agreement with tribal police. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also said he would no longer respond to tribal calls for help, leaving the southern half of the Reservation completely lawless. Of the 10,000 people on the reservation, over 8,000 are non-Natives now free to break the law.

According to the Spokane Spokesman Review, a newspaper I used to report for:

Christie Wood, a Coeur d’Alene Police sergeant and first vice president of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, wrote in the open letter, “The failure of Sheriff Kirts to work with the tribal police has left citizens in bedlam. Perpetrators have been set free that have committed serious criminal offenses against citizens living in Benewah County. The Tribal Police have documented cases of domestic violence, driving under the influence incidents, criminal assaults, and other criminal offenses that have occurred with no arrests or prosecution.”

Kirts said, “My only comment is she’s ill-informed or she’s just plain lying or stupid.” ...

Wood’s letter backs legislation that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is proposing — which hasn’t yet been introduced — to address situations where a local sheriff refuses to cooperate with local tribal police. As currently drafted, the bill would give tribes a six-month window to give a county notice that they want to enter into a cooperative law enforcement agreement. If an agreement isn’t reached within six months, tribal police could begin enforcing state law against non-tribal members on the reservation, as long as they’re certified by Idaho’s state police academy, the tribe carries insurance, and the tribe waives sovereign immunity to lawsuits over officer wrongdoing.

(Disclaimer: This is my part of Idaho. Though I’ve not personally met her offline, my family has had positive interactions with Sgt. Wood, and I do know many of the members of the Task Force. My ties to this issue run far deeper than a degree in Native American studies.)

The bill supported by Sgt. Woods and the Task Force, the wonderful local organization that defeated the Aryan Nations in 2000, was declared constitutional by the state Attorney General earlier this week. This bill is a good patch for the situation in Benewah County, and if Idaho wants to recover from the racially tarnished image given to it by the Aryan Nations, than the legislature must pass this bill. A number of county commissioners have come out in opposition to the bill, and I will be calling and writing both them and state legislators over the next few days to lobby them in support of this bill.

But even if it passes, it won’t be enough. The tribe would have the power they need, but not necessarily the resources. At the national level, we need two things. First, Congress must allocate more resources for tribal law enforcement, something the retiring Senator Byron Dorgan tried to do in 2008. Second and more importantly, Congress must declare that tribes do have criminal jurisdiction on their lands the same as any state or town. Because the Oliphant decision was an interpretation of current law and not the Constitution itself, Congress can take such action, and if we’re to save our country’s youth from gangs and its women from rape, then there is no other option.

For more on the history and larger legal picture of criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, please read this New York Times op-ed by Bruce Duthu, a professor of mine who is a lawyer and now Chairman of the NAS department at Dartmouth College.