Friday, October 5, 2012

A Brief Guide to Third-Party Options

After watching the Presidential Debate this week, I'm considering voting third-party. Our political system is so corrupt, something needs to change. I don't for a second think that a minor candidate can win the election, and even if they did, I don't think that any of the candidates can implement the changes needed to fix the system. But I no longer a vote for a minor candidate equals throwing away my vote. In fact, I think it may be the best way to make my voice heard. 

This week, Democracy Now ran a supplemental debate that included two of the three "third-party" candidates who are on the ballot in enough states to be taken seriously.  You can watch the debate here

Here's a brief guide to the three minor parties and their candidates on the ballot, with links for more information: 

Rocky AndersonJustice Party: Launched in November of 2011 as an offshoot of the Democratic Party, the Justice Party is the newest third party on the block. Its mission, as stated on its website:  "We seek to return political power to the people through fair and transparent elections, campaign finance reform, proportional representation, and Constitutional amendment. The Justice Party is a grassroots, broad-based, real political alternative to the corporate-controlled Democratic and Republican parties. We invite you to help build America’s just future."Anderson is the former Democratic Mayor of Salt Lake City. You can find his stand on the issues here. He is on the ballot in 16 states and an accepted write-in candidate in several states, but in eight states no votes for Anderson will be counted. (His official ballot map is available here.) 

Gary Johnson, Libertarian PartyFounded in 1971, the Libertarian Party is the oldest and largest third party in the race. According to its website: "Libertarians believe the answer to America's political problems is the same commitment to freedom that earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings; a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom; and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America's founders."Johnson is the former Republican Governor of New Mexico. You can find his stand on the issues here.  The Libertarian Party estimates Johnson will receive 6-percent of American votes and is on the ballot in 47 states (The official list is available here). According to Democracy Now, Johnson declined its invitation to be included in the supplemental debate. 

Jill SteinGreen Party: The Green Party was formed in 2001 as a revamped version of the Association of State Green Parties (founded in 1996) and is affiliated with the European Federation of Green Parties. Its mission, as stated on its website: "Committed to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing, Greens are renewing democracy without the support of corporate donors. Greens provide real solutions for real problems. Whether the issue is universal health care, corporate globalization, alternative energy, election reform or decent, living wages for workers, Greens have the courage and independence necessary to take on the powerful corporate interests."Stein is a physician, author and environmental-health advocate. You can find her take on the issues here as well as the "Green New Deal". Stein is on the ballot in 42 states and accepted as a write-in in five other states. (Her official ballot map is available here.)

I have not yet made up my mind who I will vote for, but I am going to take the next few weeks to learn more about the minor candidates and hope others will as well. If you aren't already sold on Romney or Obama, please consider one of these alternate choices.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Acoustic Worship Returns

Hi Friends, 

This Saturday evening at 5 p.m., I will be hosting acoustic worship at The Old Stone Church in Upper Saddle River. The church was built in 1819 and is an acoustic marvel. No microphones or amps are needed and the music is 100% acoustic.  I feel incredibly blessed to be able to glorify God in song in this historic sanctuary. We will be holding acoustic worship once a month, on the second Saturday of the month at 5 p.m.

The service is designed to help you unplug from the stress of daily life. It starts with a time of low key music to help you unwind from the world and recharge your spirit. Use the time to sit silently and pray, read the Bible, write in a journal, stare out the window or hum along with the music. 
The service ends with upbeat and uplifting songs. In between, there is a Bible reading and discussion. The Gospel reading for this week is Luke 7 and there will be opportunity for you to share brief thoughts on the reading. 

The service runs from 5-6pm and will be followed with auditions for our upcoming concert series, which kicks off Oct. 7 with an amazingly talented band out of Nashville, The Vespers! These kids have a positive message and a great roots sound. They just self-released their second album The Fourth Wall, which has quickly become my favorite album. Tickets are $10 and available online through the Vespers site or at the Church office. 

If anyone is interested in participating in the services by reading, making music or sharing a testimony, please let me know. Starting a service from scratch is an challenge and any help I can get would be greatly appreciated! 

Some have asked why I am doing a Saturday night service at the Old Stone Church. The reasons are many and varied, but here are a few: 

* To have a Saturday evening service for my own enjoyment and as a place in Bergen County to invite friends who like to sleep in on Sunday mornings. 
* To preserve the building and its nearly 200-year heritage as a place where God is worshipped. 
(The acoustics allow for a wide range of dynamics without any electronic interference or special effects.) 
* To ensure the future of the church congregation (The current average members age is in the 70s) 

I feel so amazingly blessed to have this opportunity and hope it will be a blessing to many others as well. 
I hope to see you this Saturday night at 5pm. If you cannot make it, I would appreciate prayers for this new and exciting ministry!

To Recap: 

Acoustic Worship at The Old Stone Church
Saturdays, Sept. 15, Oct. 13, Nov. 10 & Dec. 8 at 5 p.m.
481 E. Saddle River Road
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458

Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.

Love & Blessings, 

PS: Sorry for the bulk email! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Some of My Best Friends are Gay

I don't know if that headline is as offensive as the racist version of that phrase and I certainly don't intend it that way. It's the truth: Some of my favorite people are gay or lesbian. Lifelong friends and family members who are in committed, loving same-sex relationships or seek to be. I am a firm supporter of gay marriage and I cannot understand the hoopla of protests against it. Marriage is a serious commitment and if two people want to share their lives together and celebrate their love in a marriage ceremony, why should anyone interfere?

Kevin & Patrick eating their wedding cake! I don't think I've ever seen Kevin so happy!! 

As a Christian, it used to be difficult to rectify my love of my gay friends and family members with the typical Christian stance that homosexuality is a sin. I been told to "love the sinner, hate the sin." But in truth, I don't hate "the sin" of homosexuality. I hate the way society treats my gay friends.

I remember when one of my childhood friends came out in college. It wasn't a surprise, but when the realization of his "lifestyle" hit me, I was so terribly sad for him. I was dating random guy after random guy, and it was perfectly fine for me to walk into the diner holding "man of the week's" hand and to kiss him goodbye in front of people, but my friend wasn't free to do that with his longtime boyfriend. (And still isn't) It didn't seem fair, and it didn't make sense.

These guys always sat so far apart. Who could've guessed they were a couple? 

I have been Christian my whole life, but it wasn't until I started attending a "Bible-believing" church that I found out "the truth" that "homosexuality is a sin". It says so in the Bible. When I found out, I was really surprised I didn't learn about this in Sunday School. There were a few years where I prayed for my gay friends to be "healed" of this sin. And then, by accident, I found The Christian Left.

There is a wonderful (albeit long and somewhat irreverent) article, "Clobbering Biblical Gay Bashing," that put a completely different spin on the Bible's stance on homosexuality. Here are some brief key points from Rev. Mark Sandlin's post:

borrowed from 

1. When you say "love the sinner, hate the sin" and the "sin" is "being homosexual", you are actually telling the person that you hate who they are. This is not a Christian attitude.

2. The concept of sexual orientation and homosexuality did not exist until the 1800s. The Bible was written long before that. And it was not written in English. Anything that has been translated to read "homosexual" is an inaccurate translation, because the term and concept of homosexuality didn't exist.

3. Rev. Sandlin then points to several "clobber" verses and explains how in the original Greek and Aramaic, the Bible authors are not talking about monogamous, loving, same-sex relationships. For example, Genesis 19:1-11 and the "sin of Sodom," which many say the sin is sodomy, but I read it as forceable rape of other men. Other verses, like Leviticus 18:22, refer to pagan practices of making "offerings" to temple prostitutes.

I have asked several of my Biblical scholar friends to read Rev. Sandlin's article and, if it is not accurate, to write up a detailed refute of it or call me to explain how it should be refuted, and thus far, no one has. I have been told it is the "same old liberal gibberish," or the article is "irreverent," but I have not been told specifically what is wrong with Rev. Sandlin's assertions.

The girl in the black suit crashed my 10-speed when we were kids, but I love her regardless. And how pretty is her wife??? 

(Side note: If you would like to explain how Rev. Sandlin's article is wrong, using scholarly language and not name calling, please either email me or post it on your own blog and share your link in the comments, or leave a detailed comment explaining where Rev. Sandlin is wrong or misguided. But please keep it to a scholarly argument and not just that he is "irreverent" or "liberal" or "misguided." And please note, if you email me, I reserve the right to quote from your email in my blog.)

One of my "Biblical scholar" friends told me that homosexuality has been growing over the past decade and it is an epidemic of sin. Shortly after my conversation with him, I found out that as late as the 1960s, IT WAS ILLEGAL TO BE GAY!

I was completely shocked to find out that "gay bars" were routinely raided as illegal; that people could be fired for being gay (and still can in some states!); that it wasn't until 1961 that the first state (Illinois) removed anti-sodomy laws from their books and it wasn't until 2003 that the Supreme Court declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Of course there are more openly gay people today than a generation ago. IT WAS ILLEGAL TO BE GAY 50 years ago.

I brought my questions about Rev. Sandlin's article to my childhood pastor (at the church where I never learned homosexuality was a sin), and he explained that he has studied the issue extensively, initially with the belief that "homosexuality is a sin" but as he studied the original texts, he found the opposite is true. He affirmed the key points in the Clobbering Biblical Gay Bashing article.

This is a happily married couple of three years, with a baby! (And I could not be more HAPPY for them!) 

Another really good article I read this week: Six Things Straight People Should Stop Saying About Gay People. The key points:

  • Don't use the phrase "gay lifestyle." Gay people have lives, not “lifestyles”.
  • Don't say that same-sex parts don't work together. God is a clever designer. And (TMI, perhaps) the parts do fit and work quite well for same-sex loving couples.
  • Homosexuality is a natural expression of human sexuality.
  • People do not change sexual orientation. Christian groups that have claimed otherwise are starting to recant their testimonials. 
  • Marriage is a civil right in the US. Denying marriage to consenting adults is violating civil rights of others. 
  • The Bible is being wrongly used to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. 

  • The bottom line, for me, is that I choose to embrace loving, monogamous couples regardless of who they are. Love is love. I will not choose hate and discrimination, and claim I am upholding Biblical truths. I support gay marriage and will continue to fight for my friends' civil rights until my dying breath if need be, but I really hope I won't need to!  

    Kevin & Patrick's wedding ceremony. I wish I could have been there! 
    Special thanks to all my friends who allowed me to use their private photos in this post. I love you all and have such respect for you for having the courage to just be yourself! Thanks for being wonderful examples and role models, and I am sorry for any discrimination you have faced from society and especially from the Christian community. 

    For further reading: 

    What does Leviticus 18:22 really mean?

    Do You Love Us Enough To Hear Our Heart? 

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Is There Really Such A Thing As A Poop Time Capsule?

    I saw this photo on Facebook along with the caption, "Something to think about — every conventional disposable diaper sent to landfills since their invention in the 1950s is still there and will be for generations to come." (Not sure of the original source, I grabbed it from a friend who shared it from Itsy Bitsy Bums LLC's page.)

    I will admit that while I was going through my "Green Mama" phase, this "fact" that appalled me. I first learned this staggering statistic from gDiapers: "a single disposable diaper can take up to 500 years to biodegrade in the landfill." (You can read more of the gDiapers story here.)

    That shocking statistic — 500 years!! — spurred me into action, so I ordered a starter set of gDiapers. For those not familiar, g's are a unique diaper that uses a biodegradable liner with washable outerwear system. They worked pretty well, but we had a lot of leaks and the liners were expensive. So I upgraded the system to cloth, and eventually made a switch to different brands of cloth diapers.

    On the outset, the initial investment was costly and it generated an additional 3-4 loads of laundry a week, but I was helping the environment. And doing so gave me a feeling of superiority over those moms and dads with diapers in their carts. I was saving a ton of money. I was saving the planet.

    And my child wasn't creating poop time capsules that last 500 years! Boy did I brag about that one to all my friends, both in real life and online friends. I'm pretty sure I drove my cousin "Chicken" absolutely crazy spewing all my anti-'sposies rhetoric.

    Well Chicken, let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize and admit that I gave up on being super green mama. While researching this article last Earth Day, I found out the 500 year statistics I repeated ad nauseum isn't true.

    I can't recall the exact figure I was quoted, but I was shocked at how minimal it was compared to five centuries. It was more like several months to a few years. I have a call in to the initial source to confirm the actual statistic, but since the photo is going around Facebook, I wanted to speak up and try to set the record straight.

    To anyone who had to listen to me rant about the "Poop Time Capsules" in your diaper genie, I am truly sorry. There is no such thing as a Poop Time Capsule. It is apparently an Urban Legend. I'm hoping Snopes will look into it soon.

    Thankfully our diaper days — cloth or otherwise — are over in our house!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Today is World AIDS Day

    I wasn't going to blog about it because I hardly feel qualified to comment on it. To my knowledge, I don't know anyone who has or had AIDS, so other than growing up in the shadow of condom billboards, my life hasn't been touched by the disease.

    But from my Christian perspective, I realized I do have some things to say.

    In its early days, AIDS was miscast as a gay disease. I have heard loud Bible Thumping televangelists declare that AIDS is God's retribution for gay sin.

    This is clearly not how I see the issue. Because this is not how I see God.

    My God created Heaven and Earth. He created Man in his image and we are all perfect in His site, even if we are flawed by sin. We are all perfect creations of God. Born just as God intended each one of us to be.

    I have spoken to enough gay people to know that they were born gay. I have grown up with enough gay people to clearly see— sometimes before it was even clear to them — that they're gay. I know being gay isn't something a person chooses. It is just who they are.

    The God I know, the God I believe in, wouldn't punish someone for being who He created that person to be. I can't and won't believe that. The God I know is merciful and forgiving. Slow to anger and loves righteousness.

    I have often wondered if God's intended purpose for homosexuality — or same-sex attraction as some churches call it — is to test pious religious people.

    God calls us to love our neighbor, regardless of who that is. And our neighbor is defined as everyone else on Planet Earth. To not be able to love someone because of their sexual identification, or their race, or because they just annoy the ever-living daylights out of you, is not a true Christian way to behave.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Please Help Reunite This Family

    My rational mind cannot make sense of this. This morning, a couple spoke at Community Bible Study and told a story I just cannot wrap my head around.

    For 593 days, Major John Jackson and his wife Carolyn have been in a fight with DYFS for their five children. To see and hear the couple, it is unfathomable that they don't have their children. They appear to be a God-fearing and God-honoring family. The husband is in the military and the wife is well-spoken, poised and sincere.

    I know that I have only heard their side of the story, and I know that I can be naive, always believing the best in people. But even if only a kernel of their story is true, this is still an outrageous travesty and miscarriage of justice. I will try to make sense of it.

    The back story: In 2006, the Jacksons, who already had three biological children, adopted a little boy named Joshua. He was born addicted to drugs and six-months premature. In his short life, he endured multiple hospital visits (during one of which he developed MRSA) and multiple surgeries. In 2008, he died from a congenital seizure disorder.

    According to the Jacksons, the death was investigated by both State and Federal agencies (because they lived on a military base), as per protocol, and they were cleared of any culpabilities in his death.

    A month after Joshua's death, the couple became foster parents to two little girls (their cousins) under an interstate agreement between Indiana and NJ DYFS. They had to pass home studies and DYFS scrutiny and in July 2009, the Jacksons formally adopted the two girls. The next month, John was deployed to Iraq.

    For Thanksgiving and Christmas, with John still in Iraq, Carolyn took their five children to visit family in Indiana. When they returned home in January, the entire family came down with the flu. The baby, Chaya, was taken to the hospital and treated for extreme dehydration. In follow-up visits with the family doctor, the child was diagnosed with failure to thrive, and underwent monthly doctor visits and blood draws.

    The injustice: In April 2010, Chaya became sick again, and was taken to St. Clare's hospital in Dover, N.J., then transferred to Morristown Memorial Hospital. There, a social worker who remembered the couple from Joshua's trips to the hospital, became suspicious ad contacted DYFS. According the Jacksons, the social worker failed to check records and told DYFS that Joshua died at home (instead of in the hospital where he actually died) and was cremated before an autopsy (which he actually had).

    Instead of verifying the facts, DYFS did the unthinkable. They removed all the children from their care, citing imminent danger. They did not get a court order or followed the routine channels. Instead they took all five children from their home and split them into three homes. The children were denied comfort items from home. As a mom, the thought of Dan being denied his puppy and blanket — because they are reminders of home — is completely unfathomable. The kids were also denied family prayer books and even their Bibles.

    The unbelievable: The DYFS that took these children from their home is the same Social Service organization that failed to act on allegations of abuse of children who ultimately died in both Newark and Irvington. Is the agency overcompensating now? If so, I think they are sorely off the mark.

    John and Carolyn Jackson appear to be upstanding, Godly people. They are well spoken. They are hurting. They are standing firm on God's promises with a faith I hope I am never forced to display.

    I feel very powerless that there isn't more I can do to bring justice for this family. I can send a letter to Gov. Christie. I can pray. I can send money for their legal fund. But that, and this little blog to try to bring awareness, really doesn't feel like much.

    I heard they have a Facebook page, but I couldn't find it. I did find links to other articles about the Jackson Seven:

    Please pray that this family can be reunited soon. (And please, hug your kids extra tight!)

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Green Grappling

    My first Earth Day as a mother sent me on a green spin for a while. I opted for Ecologically-friendly alternatives for everything I did. I started recycling religiously, stopped buying petroleum-based cleaning products, and even cloth diapered for a little while.

    I felt good. I felt smug. And maybe just a little superior. But by the next Earth Day my greening was seriously waning, with the exception of my Green Cleaner and recycling.

    Last Spring, as editor of Franklin Lakes Patch, I produced a Green Patch series for Earth Day. One article for each work day in April. In doing so, I discovered that recycling is actually big business. Our garbage is our largest export, and in this down market, commodities like paper and steel are actually thriving.

    In interviews with local garbage and recycling companies, I found out that recycling helps the economy at the local level. Municipalities are actually get paid by the companies who pick up our recycling, which off sets our taxes. American paper products are particularly valuable. China is paying good money for our paper because our tree-derived pulp is superior to their rice paper.

    With this knowledge in hand, I no longer feel guilty about the huge pile of paper I recycle each month. Instead can rejoice while buying a box of two soy milks, that I'm not only saving a dollar, I'm helping to generate to offset my property taxes. Or something like that.