April, 2009

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Shopping Sickness — Paul Solman talks with Paco Underhill

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

It was only a five-minute interview on The News Hour last night, but it contained a wealth of great quotes.
thumbnail for PBS Newshour interview with Paco Underhill
A few gems:

“We cannot sustain the juggernaut of consumption that we have had here in the United States over the past decade….. Our houses are too big, our cars are too big, our debts are too big, our bellies are too big, and it’s time to go on a diet.”

“Sixty percent of discretionary income of people in North American is held in the hand of people who are 55 and over…. [Those of us of that age] could live the rest of our lives on fruit, vegetables, pasta, olive oil, wine, and yearly doses of socks and underwear.”

“Our basic marketing engines are in the hands of people who are thirty-something, and they like selling to themselves, and they like selling to a younger generation.”

“One of the fundamental issues that we’re trying to discover as consumers is that there are no acquisitions that are transformational. Acquiring that iPod or that tube of lipstick or that Maserati doesn’t change us into anyone other than what we were to start out with.”

A Christian Argument for Progressive Taxation – Diana Butler Bass – God’s Politics Blog

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Here’s Diana Butler Bass in her typical even-handed way offering a rebuttal of the “tea-party” tax protests of the last week:

When I handed [my tax payment check] to the clerk, she said, “I hate tax day.”  I replied, “Not me.  I don’t love parting with the money, but I kinda like it.  That check is a bargain — roads, schools, medical care, social security, and the freedom of living in the greatest country in the world.  It is patriotism by checkbook.  Why should I hate it?”  She replied, “Why, I’ve never heard anybody say that  It isn’t such a bad deal when you put it that way.”

Comparing today’s tax protesters to those who resisted the establishment of the progressive income tax in 1913, Bass restates the arguments developed then by progressive Christians to show the positive social and spiritual benefits of taxation that would “increase the overall morality of society.”

Read A Christian Argument for Progressive Taxation – Diana Butler Bass – God’s Politics Blog.

Wendell Berry’s Whitefoot

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Catherine Falsani, writing on the Sojourners Blog, reviews Whitefoot, a children’s story by Wendell Berry that she calls “a beautiful, subtle book,” surely in part because of Berry’s luminous writing, and also due to the illustrations by Davis Te Selle.

Wendell Berry’s Whitefoot – Cathleen Falsani – God’s Politics Blog.

As compelling as the book seems, based on the review, I was equally taken by the Berry poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” with which she ends the review:

As I read and re-read Whitefoot, I was reminded of Berry’s famous poem, “The Peace of Wild Things.” In this moment when the foundations of our world economy are trembling (along with our souls), it bears repeating:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Flood Recovery in Cedar Rapids

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

I spent Sunday evening, Monday, and Tuesday with seven other First-Congo folks on a mission trip to Cedar Rapid, Iowa, to help with recovery efforts from the mid-June 2008 flooding that affected the Cedar River and Iowa River basins in eastern Iowa. The highest previous recorded level of the Cedar River was 19.3 feet in 1993 — the 100-year flood level. This time, the crest reached 31.2 feet, making it not the flood of the century, but the flood of the millenium!

News of this disaster flashed briefly on our television screens last summer, but has long since faded from view. Meanwhile, the people of the Cedar Rapids area are still reeling from the blow and struggling to make a come-back.

The devastation was enormous. By one reckoning, it’s the fifth-worst natural disaster ever in the United States. The total cost to the region will be over $5 billion dollars. Nearly 5,300 homes and 700 businesses were destroyed in a community with population just over 125,000.

AmeriCorps/VISTA is playing an important role in organizing, training, and supporting many of the volunteers who are working on restoration efforts. In our experience, they deserve high marks for their enthusiasm, dedication, and effectiveness. Their website, VISTA Corridor Recovery, tells the story in detail. I have a few photos to share and stories to tell, and more will be forthcoming over the next few days. Take a few minutes to review the website.