Carnival de Resistance

Expressing alternatives as a spiritual discipline

I’m joining an expression of alternativity today as part of the Carnival de Resistance for part of the month-long Minneapolis residency. Belle Alvarez has begun early stages of forming a mission team to help our church relate to a possible Kensington 2017 residency, and she, along with Tevyn and Jay, Jenna, Helen, Stephen, Joby, and Rachel, have been training with about 20 other Carnivalistas for two weeks. One carnival member just got back from Sacred Stone Camp, ground zero of the water defense movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and others are traveling up from Mexico and Honduras to join in creating playful space to allow prophetic Scripture speak to our current ecological crises. We’ve been partnering with some amazing people in the Harrison neighborhood of North Minneapolis, including our host Redeemer Lutheran. With a large Native population, some of our most important connections have been with indigenous leaders like Rev Bob Two Bulls, a talented artist and liturgist whom we’ve known for a few years. Black Lives Matter has been quite active in the face of fierce police response, and as of a month ago the officer who killed Philando Castile 30min away is back on the street.

You can read about my experience last year or ask me about the other times I’ve been involved personally with the project. I look forward to not just repping our church community and city while on vacation over the next 10 days, but practicing creative thinking so I can be a more mature, grounded, and flexible leader. For me, the Carnival helps me not be so uptight in my thinking when processing all the above hyperlinks (and other oppressions). God uses the playful space to help meYou can follow daily updates with photos and videos on Facebook if you like the Carnival’s page

Our teams help us get out there

One of Circle of Hope’s strengths flashes when our simple structure (cells and Sunday meetings) bears fruit and gets us out touching our communities together with a common purpose. Our Compassion teams and Mission teams run on the steam of those who form them, with support from our leaders and partners. Many of the teams help us do things together like service, expressing Christ’s compassion and ours. Others take us into new territory and help us think and act differently, even through doing something like playing table top games or holding space for a playgroup with different intention.

Feeling jammed up?

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people this year about feeling the pressure to be this or that, how not being something is important, and how being right/correct seems really important. Some are part of the church and struggle in various ways: calling themselves a Christian, making prayer or reading the Bible important spiritual disciplines, following our basic agreements for leaders (like attend monthly trainings), or living out basic applications of our covenant like regularly sharing in our common fund. If any of this touches on your experience lately, I feel for you.

Our spiritual discourse this year brought the concept of alternativity front and center. Rather than feeling beat down by a series of bad A or B choices like Coke/Pepsi, Red State/Blue State etc, we focus on birthing new possibilities and investigating new ways of thinking. Our problems and responsibilities grow more complex. Our responses grew more creative. It’s lovely. Exploring our own alternativity means enjoying our uniqueness as a church in the Philadelphia region. Our region, while enjoying some of the best of many traditions, has also become a hotbed of young NeoCalvinist church upstarts and dying Baby Boomer-dominated odes to yesteryear. I get their slick flyers in my mailslot. I hear from them a focus on their technified Sunday morning buildings, individual salvation through their specific doctrine (see my post about taking the Mormon Temple tour), and repression of women leaders. Rather than feeling daunted by Christians mainly not working together for holistic (or even holy!) transformation, I feel revved up to do something with our five congregations and other networks we are connected closely to. 

Jesus leads us not just to think different, but to embody our ideas

I’m glad we are doing something else—not merely in spite of other Christians, but out of inspiration from our Creator Jesus. I’m glad there is room for some bold expressions against rather bold structural forces of oppression. While embodying alternatives is what we’re all about, we also arouse expressions meant to pique curiosities and suggest wonder to those yet to join. I was talking with Shane Claiborne the other day about the strong possibility of The Simple Way being the primary host for a 2017 Philadelphia residency in Kensington. That would be something special! If you are part of Circle of Hope, thank you for allowing me the privilege of being away for something so energizing for me. I’ll miss worshipping with you on Sunday night and being with the Leadership Team on Monday, but you’re in my heart and on my mind.

Engaging while our city hosts the DNC


Like many of you that will actually read this post, I am utterly unimpressed with the Republican National Convention last week in Cleveland—including how the police state handled demonstrators. This article describes a little bit about why it was kind of quiet, despite the national unrest/love/rage/ambivalence over Donlad J…”A big part of the reason was that protesters just did not descend on Cleveland in the numbers predicted. Black Lives Matter instead devoted its efforts last week to occupying the police union headquarters of New York and Washington, D.C., and many progressive groups opted to instead put their energies toward protesting the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia this week.

I’m feeling pretty unimpressed with the Democrats as they have begun their attempt to get people excited to not elect Trump, and see if more people will slide into support for Clinton and her new running mate and Asian Free-Trade advocate Tom Kaine. I am impressed, however, by how many of my connections in Philadelphia want to re-frame the discourse from talking about how electing one person will lead to the end of the world and the other to paradise. I know most people aren’t actually that deluded, but the anti-Donlad rhetoric could use some feet in the streets rather than just internet comments.

Psalm 150 and Praising

I’m moved by the final Psalm (150) this morning.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary!
    Praise God in his fortress, the sky!
Praise God in his mighty acts!
    Praise God as suits his incredible greatness!
Praise God with the blast of the ram’s horn!
    Praise God with lute and lyre!
Praise God with drum and dance!
    Praise God with strings and pipe!
Praise God with loud cymbals!
    Praise God with clashing cymbals!
Let every living thing praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

I’m going to be praising the Lord Jesus this week with drum and dance/marching. I hope you feel like you can get into some of this stuff, even if it may not be your thing. These politicians and their corporate sponsors have come to our city, and I’d like to meet them with the praise of God and assertion of embodied alternatives to red/blue binary conversations towards moving hearts and minds.


A bunch of Circle of Hope folks asked for some of us to curate opportunities to get in where you will know someone and can process it together. Not everyone can go to these, and not everyone wants to. Our church is full of all different kinds of people, and I love that we make space for dialogue from where people are actually at—not where I think they should be. So here are a few opportunities in which I will be participating. You can add to the list if you want. I bring Jesus when I march and drum. I’m looking for partners when I do it. I’m happy to add what I’ve been given to this good mix of important issues that can help people come together.


3pm March For Our Lives at City Hall (South side) walking South. Shane, Blew, and I have been involved in different levels of planning. The elders, children, and people with mobility issues will be at the front of this march to get issues of poor people & poverty in the front of conversations about policy.

6:30pm Repairers of the Breach Moral Revival at AFSC (1501 Cherry st). I respect the work of Rev Barber and the Moral Monday crew in North Carolina. Shane helped get this event going in Phila.


2pm Black DNC Resistance March at Broad & Diamond, walking South to City Hall. I’ve marched with Phila Coalition for REAL Justice several times, and I find Black Lives Matter actions to be profound and full of righteous indignation and so much beauty and hope. 

I won’t be going to the South Phila Blue Line Up Rally For Peace #alllivesmatter in August, but that vibe will be around this week, too. All sorts of people will be out this week and during this overblown election season. I still think our vocation is embodying alternatives with Jesus, not jumping along party lines or bowing out of the discourse.  

Experiencing another Holy Disturbance on the lake

I love living in the city. Between Buffalo and Philadelphia it’s been 3/4 of my life. I love people who learn how to share, the convergence of cultures, the creativity, and the ability to walk/bike to most places I go. I don’t love various forms of pollution we have to adapt to, especially light pollution. It makes the stars really difficult to see.

I learned three important disciplines that help me stay even though I’m privileged with the mobility to live in another context. The first is to take care of whatever creation I’m living on. That started as spider plants in the house, then growing herbs in pots and now into a backyard garden. Secondly, take advantage of the open/green space we have. Play outside. The third is to leave regularly and enjoy God’s creation in the larger region. This past week I got to enjoy two separate trips to the Poconos – one for a wedding and the other for a two-day mentalizing session with the other Circle of Hope pastors.


I took this pic while thinking about this stuff

My cell talked about two concepts that came to me during an hour chill session on the pastors’ trip while we met at Franny Lou’s Porch this morning. While sitting on the edge of a small lake yesterday, I enjoyed the stillness of the water. It reflected the glorious autumn spectacular of the trees as well as the sky full of chubby clouds. The reflection almost looked like the real thing until something would disturb the water. I think I can sometimes enjoy a copy or reflection of something so much that I almost think it’s the real thing. That might be like listening to a good podcast and imagining I’m in Antarctica or watching my indie sci-fi thrillers and wondering which one of us is a cyborg. While reflecting the Goodness of God is important, we need to experience God directly in order to make a good reflection.

I decided to experiment with the acorn sitting next to me, tossing it into the stillness and got a nice thumpk, producing a perfect circle that rippled out smaller and smaller. I imagined that ideas can be like that – those within the blast radius of it’s goodness feel the big waves, further away you don’t really get it. Experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit is kind of like that, too. We all feel the Holy Disturbance at one point or another, but most of the time we stick to our conditioning and miss the big ripples. We can easily stay behind our screens, fixate on our anxieties, and keep the earbuds in while doing whatever we need to do for comfort and privacy. The ripple doesn’t move us.

When we learn to open ourselves to the experience of God’s Spirit through worship or prayer, we can become like water still enough to be moveable. We don’t just feel the little ripples or reflections, we experience something that makes us want to joyfully throw acorns.

As we gathered in our weekly face-to-face time, I think we all got some strength. It’s wasn’t just putting gas in the tank so we can do normal life, it’s being present to the reality that a once caged birds have been set free to fly and are soaring. It honestly excites me to worship together this Sunday, when Preston & Ellen have been developing a liturgy for us to be able to draw near to God together. I imagine 200+ covenant members getting together later this month for the Love Feast and my heart is further warmed. I want to live where the Holy Spirit is disturbing me and moving me. There’s nothing quite like the real thing.

Being scared can actually help us see

A lot of my friends find the Enneagram useful for gaining personal understanding, discipleship, or team building. For them (and maybe you), it’s useful to know that I’m a 6w7 (six with a seven “wing”) – which among other things makes fear extremely relevant to my process which one can also describe as a need to feel secure. What makes me scared? Lots of things – the dark, flying, heights, public speaking, ticks, fire, snakes, the ocean, dead bodies, gaping wounds, selfie sticks…and lots of situations including but not limited to meeting people, forgetting someone’s name, that someone is mad at me, my wife’s driving, that someone doesn’t like me, conflict, and talking to people that I have known enough to say “hi” to but not much else for over a year.

Knowing what frightens me doesn’t make me stronger, it makes me feel weak – like I have less agency to change myself or a situation. Fear can show us space where God might want to work. I do have an instinct to avoid when I’m afraid, but the stronger instinct I have is to attack what I fear. I end up in some funny/awkward situations as I try to work it out. I wonder if all this being scared means I’m weak, or if it can help me see. I hope that I’m like Tris (Divergent books, films) who is told “fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.”

Especially since 911, fear is our national state of normal. Do you remember that for ten years we lived under “Code Orange” and other constant messages of scarcity, fear, and threat? I don’t think we ever got to live in blue or green – it was always elevated. When the people are afraid, the powerful can do all sorts of wildness with little resistance and help from the masses to quiet the dissent. The War on Terror, Abu Ghraib, lynchings, militarization of the police, Guantanamo Bay…how long will we endure?

The national consciousness got tested this week when 170 bikers were charged in connection to a shootout that killed nine humans. We were so not scared that I heard about the racialized coverage and police behavior before I heard about the incident.

What actually frightens the national consciousness? Remember 2010 when people were terrified that group of black teenagers could easily turn into a flash mob like a wildfire? Consider just a year ago when people I know told me emphatically about how the “knockout game” made them not want to live in the city anymore and vehemently fought with anyone (verbally or via keyboard, of course) who said that knockout was a racist myth made up by media or anything contrary that we should fear that the black kids we see are probably about to will punch us in the face for fun.

The national consciousness does not fear that we might actually lose our soul for not helping Nepal that much (in relation to say…military spending post 911) while we continue the War of Terror. I believe most people aren’t afraid of “real life Sons of Anarchy” because their bloodbath didn’t threaten white supremacy or security of white privilege. Ferguson did. Baltimore did. The movement of people, mostly citizens, pointing out a character flaw with the fabric of American society does.

Can a lack of healthy also point us towards where God might want to work? If we can listen to the fear, and admit what scares us – I think we’ll learn a lot about our heart, where we’re really at, and have some conscious space for the Holy Spirit to do some work on us – whether it’s comforting us, healing us, or empowering – we are called into embodying alternatives. Understanding who benefits from unhealthy levels of fear in the national consciousness not only points out where we are sick, but where Jesus might be showing up to either calm the storm or flip tables.

Working out solutions in this dissonance between desensitization and being swept up in lucrative anti-black media campaigns can be really maturing. I think our anger can get misplaced if we’re not careful. There are people out there who I think want to embody a different reality with the Holy Spirit – one that can see past the veneer of a corrupt society with enough possibilities left can be One with God and each other. Our invitation must go deeper than consciousness, awareness, or enlightenment – Christ has opened eternity. I want to be transformed together into a community that can speak and act in our moment in time with a compelling demonstration that has an answer for “what next?” by being. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to fill our sails so we can do more than avoid fear – we can gather the afraid ones and the angered ones to show the fearmongers Christ’s love that does a lot more than cast out fear. We are about the celebrate Pentecost on Sunday – let’s see if we can allow it to be really special – come be with us at 2007 Frankford 5PM or 7PMThe Holy Spirit forms us into a community that can get deeper and fuller than media problems, social constructions, worries, wounds, and conflict because we Jesus is with us and Jesus is leading us. This reality is better than the one we can make by voting and it needs to touch those who don’t know about it yet.

Feeling, healing, and embodying

Philadelphia has been in touch with suffering this week. The Phillies (for a day) had the worst record in baseball and Utley can’t get over .130. We marked the 30th anniversary of the state firebombing a whole block with impunity (until a civil suit in 1996, no criminal charges). Less than two miles up the road from me a train going 106 in a 50 went off the tracks, killing at least seven and injuring over 200.

I spent a few minutes near the scene yesterday morning, but couldn’t get close enough to see too much. I did see the looks on many faces of people who had been there for a while. Whatever prevented me from really feeling it before then was removed. Reading stories, seeing helicopters, and understanding numbers got me interested and sort of vaguely sad, but I drove away from the scene in tears.

When Scotty wrote We Are All Lepers Here he had been studying leprosy, a misunderstood disease. Rather than being a disease that makes limbs and whatnot look gross and fall off, it’s a neurological disorder caused by bacteria. The disease often makes one unable to feel – at least certain parts of the body, thus not pulling one’s hand away from a candle while sleeping or attending to early infections. As a metaphor for the Body of Christ, the song asserts that in order to feel the pain of the Body – we need Jesus to help us feel again rather than just “tending to our own.”

My brilliant friend Randy Woodley takes this body image a step further in his book Shalom & the Community of Creation that it’s not even just Jesus’ followers that He made us one with, through discipleship Christ restores us back into a natural harmonious rhythms as part of creation.

How I wish more of us in the US could feel the sting of Nepal’s earthquakes this month. Over 8,000 are dead from the quakes, aftershocks, and tremors. That number doesn’t register very easily with us but when experts say over $5 billion in damage (over 25% of their GDP) we sort of get a better sense. If we felt it – I’m not just talking about tears, now – couldn’t we shave a little off of the federal $600 billion “defense” spending to help out?

At my cell’s meeting this morning, we talked about how depressing it can be to learn or think about some of these situations and facts – feeling isn’t always our problem in the same way. Rather than feeling our limits as in a place to reach out for God we feel powerless and often ambivalent about faith. I know what that’s like, I’ve even described it as feeling too much.

If you have that kind of sensitivity today I hope you can allow that to be a space for you to acknowledge Jesus – the very sensitive person of God. Not only does Jesus come into the suffering of the world, He offers hope that our work is not in vain, that doing our small part is worth it, and that being faithful to the cause makes ripples throughout time that we can’t even fathom yet.

If you are not feeling very sensitive to some of these issues (or others), I hope that space can also be ripe for Jesus to bring some feeling back into your body. I hope that your emotional and spiritual scabs might fall off or that God will touch you and you’ll help pull the proverbial hand off of the hot stove before it gets too badly burned.

We are all connected in this great big Community of Creation, and those trying to walk with Jesus can have a richer sense of what it means to feel pain as well as heal and to shine hope in the face of despair. There are a lot of folks who want and need to be made alive again. Let’s embody what it looks like to be a people who bring hope to the challenges of our day.

Holy Week celebrates Exodus from Iron Cages and Freedom from Faith in Powers

While studying at Temple University, John Balzarini taught me about Max Weber (“VAY bur”) and the Iron Cage of Bureaucracy. I bet most of us are unfamiliar that the societal systems of dehumanization we’re so accustomed to ever did NOT exist. It’s normal for us to deal with bureaucracy (that no one seems to like, btw) all the time but since no one seems to be personally responsible we stay irritated and docile. “Just doing my job” is a close second to “just sayin'” in my book of irritating common phrases. Does one mean that since it’s only one’s job, they don’t have any agency to choose human interaction over blind obedience to abstract and unchangeable policy? Whether it’s  talking to an aggressive telemarketer, a Comcast tech support, Eichmann claiming he was solving a math problem, or most governments – at some point we feel that what’s right won’t be done for unimpressive reasoning.

Christian cake makers or fast food cashiers in Indiana have a new law so they don’t have to serve gay people because of religious freedom. Maybe a gnarly church spawned up as an unexpected application of the new legal freedom. Now that there is a law, we don’t have to relate. SEPTA lost a free speech case (they won’t appeal) so they will run anti-Muslim ads on 84 buses starting next week. They changed their policy for the future so no more political messages can be placed, but I doubt they are giving back the $30k to Stop Islamization of America out of protest. The law does not save us, neither does free speech. 

Jesus violates bureaucratic ties between religion and state – especially the economics when he thrashes an area of the Temple where non-Jews were allowed. In that area, exploitation of a rule to not use empire’s currency for worship was permitted. Someone asked me one time whether ArtShop was like that (holding a market of 50+ local artists in the building we use also for worship) or offering our music for donation was sort of like that because they heard megachurches have gift shops with lattes and dvds of the meeting you just watched. I think we are wise to be suspicious of weird practices of churches – but let’s also watch out for companies who make a buck off of your generosity. I am more suspicious of PayPal, who takes 3% of those electronic donations you might make to the church. Square Reader takes a little less, but was a big compromise for us to make available (cash, check, or Bill Pay cuts out the e-money changers on that gift).

Sometimes the law helps. 150 people (including a few from Circle of Hope) were in the Caucus Room at City Hall today for the release of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities’s new report: “Development Without Displacement: Keeping Communities Strong.” This coalition work has been going for almost a decade and helping Philadelphia to become the largest city to adopt a Land Bank might be some good fruit, the joy of connecting and working together will outlive any legislation. We all have certain bugaboos about laws or lack thereof – like the US Immigration Policy that just deported a Mennonite Pastor or Fracking in PA. Even with better legal stuff, even if everyone had everything they needed – would that kind of law save us? 

I don’t think it’s wrong or a waste to pursue justice together – often that’s opposing unjust laws and practices of the powerful. There is more to justice that just-sounding laws. Even if fracking was illegal in PA, we still have a limitless appetite for cheap fuel so we’d allow another practice that was potentially as dangerous to life – just not so close to home. The work needs to go down to a community level and even a heart level. I follow the Way of Jesus that frees us from faith in the Powers – the same Powers that will continue to perpetrate systems that dehumanize us and commoditize creation in one way or another. To escape from the Iron Cage is not merely awareness or personal holiness – we need to co-author with Jesus an embodiment of his world redemption project that began long ago. The social locus of this movement gets revealed during Holy Week. Don’t miss the story, it’s being written again through us.

Let’s un-domesticate the MLK holiday

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that all 50 states officially observed MLK Day. Ronny Reagan went down as the President signing the idea into a law in 1983 (first observed in 1986) after half a million people marched on Washington – even though the first draft of the bill was submitted to Congress four days after his assassination in 1968. I think in some ways it’s still a bit ironic for the US (of all countries) to celebrate such a radical who might be best remembered for galvanizing and leading a movement fighting systemic injustice waged by the same, largely unmoved government. The cunning empire, of course, loves to embrace a sentimental and sanitized version – and why not throw an American flag in there, too? 

For many of you reading this, the years I already mentioned may seem like ancient history – or at least during a different world. It wasn’t for another dozen years after his speech at Riverside Church in NYC 365 days before his murder that King delivered the famous “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech (text and audio here). Among other profundities, he declared “Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

I didn’t know Martin and know very few people who ever even met him. For such a public figure, for a martyr, for a legacy – I think we need to keep learning and trying to finish the work King began. This year we should be celebrating his 86th birthday. Instead we are fighting to supply meaning to a holiday that the state would like us to believe is a marker of progress. I am psyched that a bunch of Circle of Hope leaders – particularly Sara and the rest of the Compassion Core –  are trying to make something special of it this year. Here are three ways to get into it.


Don’t pretend for a second that the man and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s were not soaking in prayer or centered on Jesus. We already have ten people signed up to keep it going for 24hrs on the holiday. Want to add to the growing list? Sign up here.


It’s easier to remember quotes from speeches than it is to march. There are already almost 1,000 FB users RSVP’d to get out to the MLK Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment March (press release for non FB users here). I think ending “stop & frisk,” a $15 minimum wage, and fully funded and democratically run school systems are all good enough reasons to shut down Broad St then Market streets for a few hours. Don’t you?


We schedule 60min per month for the Leadership Team and others interested to stoke our collective fire at the Imaginarium. This time we’re finalizing Circle of Hope’s 2015 Map. Action, Resistance, and Empowerment must extend beyond one day. I think being part of the church is a great way to keep it going.

To a drone-free 2015!

I got to spend about a month in Iraq with Kathy Kelly (and the rest of our delegation) before the US invasion on the Compassion Iraq Peacewalk. A few years later, a younger Joshua did this short video piece for my denomination as they were helping people navigate political engagement as Anabaptists. I’ve only seen Kathy once since, but we got to re-connect a bit. She and her work continue to shape me. She gets in the mix for peace whether it’s in Chicago, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Her warm smile and imaginative dissent make it hard to not want to be like her. 

Kathy is in the news again – this time not for being nominated for a prestigious award but for going to lock up [again]. Here’s a five minute video about how she is getting three months for bringing a loaf of bread to a Drone Command Center.

I’m still pumped up after 50 of us Pennsylvanians gathered to demonstrate and do some liturgical worship of the newborn Prince of Peace at the Horsham Air Guard Station last Saturday, the proposed future home of a new US Drone war Command Center. Like Sandra Strauss in her piece for, many of us question the use of lethal drones. The statistics for drone deaths are hard to calculate, since many are done by the CIA and their stats include lies like counting all men of military age in strike zones as combatants.

One sobering estimate that should haunt Americans is that it takes killing 28 innocent brown people for drones to kill one suspected terrorist – and that without any trials. Most reports don’t include that these murder victims are not white – but I have still not heard of any white people getting killed by drone warfare.

What is the church now that we are a decade into a unmanned military state waging secret drone wars that have now stretched into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Libya, Mali, and Lebanon? A year ago, Obama said that 5yrs and 2,400 dead due to drone strikes caused him to wrestle with civilian causalities but it’s really about keeping American people safe. This animation called Out of Sight, Out of Mind show the insanity and a few stories of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Blew shared her moving spoken word piece at the demonstration for peace, here is an excerpt [from the perspective of a mother living in a strike zone]…

We call them “Bangadan”..buzzing of a bee…They hover. All day. Louder at night. No war declared but you bomb my people…I hold my babies tight.

And hope we will see tomorrow together..I hear the wailing of a mother, my neighbor lost their baby before their eyes…All dust. No warning.Wailing all day. Louder at night.Tears find their home on my cheek.Praying for my children, these precious souls that birthed from my womb..”

My prayer today is for a drone-free 2015. Could the Church in the States add one more item to our New Year’s Resolution? Do we have it in our collective heart to stop something that so many know little about? Let’s get loud and put an end to this heinous policy of drone warfare.

Have a good stint, Kathy. Thanks for leading the way.

Our Surveillance Society, the Hawthorne Effect, and Community

I had a tingly moment the other day under the El. A woman, hunched over, was coming into the store I was leaving. I held the door open for her as she shuffled past me mumbling something. I felt an eerie sensation like I was being observed and recorded, like my reaction was part of an experiment as if some twisted Hawthorne Effect cloud was hovering around me. It could be due to the fact that Liberty Choice has video cameras rolling. It also could be a sort of “cough” due to the illness of our burgeoning surveillance society. What kind of medicine is there for such a sickness? What can speak to the fear, the anxiety, or the indifference to a lack of any privacy?

I remember when Candid Camera had a resurgence in the mid 80s, Folgers Crystals was surprise swapped in America’s finest restaurants, and watched live as Chris Farley lost his mind because he unknowingly drank decaf. To me it was so novel, so clever. Could you get people’s authentic surprise to viewers not connected to the situation? How fun it would be to be part of such pranks! My friend Elisabeth got a bunch of us to make a few skits pranking The Pizza Guy in hilarious ways that Jimmy Kimmel may have made famous.

With a growing movement of civilian-led solutions using surveillance like the recent Phila hate crime and this week’s release of footage in Carlesha’s abduction, it seems good to use the technology available to try to solve crimes directly – or even to hold the occasional mirror up to the US about prejudices. ABC ran this 12min story about a white guy, a black guy, and a pretty girl trying to steal a bike. Youtubers Simple Misfits, in less than 2 minutes, show how people in L.A. reacted to a white dude or black dude attempting to break into a car (spoiler alert: the car is owned by the black dude). What path to healing can point out problems and model solutions? 

Should we set limits for technology that are based on how tools have been used well or try to find out more about the abuse and power to use these same tools for evil? How often do we behave like we are part of some experiment or like the camera is rolling –  where it’s basically impossible to act natural. The Hawthorne Effect describes how people act in response to observers when they are part of an experiment, sort of similar to camera awareness or the bystander effect. I think generally people act better when they know another is watching. Like while riding my bike, I ride faster if I notice a stranger coming up from behind. People driving often speed up when you go to pass them. When it’s people and robots watching through cameras, I think it’s a little different. Doesn’t the constant stress or fear of the possibility/likelihood of being watched and listened to eventually frazzle or fatigue us?

I like it that force by police officers drops by 60% and citizen complaints dropped by ten times in one year in Rialto, CA when cops wore cameras. But still…isn’t it kind of freaky to record everything? Can’t it make us less human to know that on some level we are being recorded all the time? I’ve talked to a bunch of people that think God is some kind of cosmic eye waiting for them to screw up so the Great Arbiter in the Sky can swiftly deal out punishment. Yikes.

In this kind of moment, it’s even more important to get to know Christ’s compassion for us. I think it helps us be more human, and truly natural (as in our true selves) when we know Jesus is in our midst and suffers with us. I would rather spying had clear boundaries and we had more privacy, drones did not scout and destroy, and the Google robot recording device did not roam the streets even if it does make my GPS app work better.

The bigger reason why people think we need more surveillance is because they don’t have community. No one will (or can?) hold another accountable for their actions unless they are recorded and can be prosecuted. Wouldn’t it be better if we knew the people who came into our stores, who lived on our block, or had relations with other nations full of mutual respect? Jesus offers this kind of community with himself, others, and all of creation. I’m compelled in the face of nefarious infringement, recording, and snooping to try to walk in that Way.



Catching a buzz on life: six crucial ingredients for unraveling your vexation

You may know already, but I’ve been learning how to assemble electric guitar kits. I love electric guitars for playing and owning but have little experience with tiny tools, finishing wood, electronics, and fine adjustments. I’m glad it was an inexpensive way to spend quiet time alone in my basement workshop learning and failing – as well as finding moments of great joy. I broke through a wall the other night in my first guitar kit (telecaster style) build, overcoming an obstacle that plagued me for about half the project. It was about 12:15am at the time, and the buzz I caught from the sense of accomplishment kept me up for the next hour or so, feeling so great I couldn’t settle down.

When I was there, I was thinking how much I wanted others to experience something similar – or at least tell their story. When I began the project, it was not about feeling good. Actually, the primary motivation was a cost-saving way to have a quality double neck like a Gibson EDS 1275. When I was hanging out with some friends from Neighborhood Film Company and Working Film Estb yesterday, some of these were becoming more clear to me. Dan at Working Film probably said all of these to me as he was describing how wonderful the second round of apprenticeships have been going (follow their link for more). As we at Circle of Hope are discerning our Second Act together, I hope these are encouraging to you. Here are a few crucial ingredients to unraveling a sense of vexation.

You’ll need to pay attention to your attitude. If your experience vexation, your likely to get frustrated or annoyed quickly. Make gratitude part of your daily medicine. Start with the good that you’ve been given rather than what you don’t have yet.

A sense of accomplishment and that lifebuzz really nailed my despair. I don’t think that feeling comes when I stick do doing things that are easy, or filling up my leisure time with entertainment only. Do something difficult – hard enough to need God. Your faith will grow, you will develop trust, and your sense of possibilities will multiply.

Quitting or turning back will likely sink your boat. Don’t give up after failing, or just because you haven’t succeeded yet. Maybe being raised a Buffalo Bills fan was good for my character, but I think the African proverb (at least I’ve read it’s African) “smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors” can bring comfort to the weary. I learned more in the past month about guitar setup through failure than I did in the past 20yrs of playing the thing.

Make a goal that is bigger than your feeling. Sometimes going backpacking gives me the opportunity to “put my horns on” and charge up a steep incline because I know it will feel good to be at the top. That’s a good reason for the day, or maybe even for the gym. If your goal is your feelings, you eventually will probably build up a tolerance to success or accomplishment and will never be satisfied. Make a goal that benefits others, produces something for another, or is something Jesus is giving you to do. You may not get a buzz right away or very often, but your vexation will start to get unraveled – freeing you up for all sorts of goodness.

When you have those rare (if you’re like me) moments of elation, jubilation, or hilltop rally – don’t rush the sweetness. Savor the moment. Every once in a while these moments should be private and are for you alone. Most of the time, I think they are better shared. You don’t need to brag or be proud in a bad way – have some authentic joy and share it. Tell your story.

Lastly, don’t hog the glory. When you do experience a win, acknowledge God’s move as well as others who participated. I have lived in community for so long that I might not even know what it’s like to do something by myself. Even if I contributed, there are always others who went before me or helped the process along. Share the treasure – such goodness is meant to be enjoyed by all.