1. Bill McKibben on jail and MLK’s “calm power”
You probably haven’t heard much about it, but a group of activists are staging a nonviolent protest outside of the White House in opposition to a proposed oil pipeline stretching from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. Bill McKibben, a leading environmental activist, was among those arrested. He reflects on the example of his nonviolent hero, Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 48 years ago this Sunday, and describes his experience behind bars:
We spent three days in D.C.’s Central Cell Block, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like it might be. You lie on a metal rack with no mattress or bedding and sweat in the high heat; the din is incessant; there’s one baloney sandwich with a cup of water every 12 hours. I didn’t have a pencil — they wouldn’t even let me keep my wedding ring — but more important, I didn’t have the peace of mind to write something. It’s only now that I’m out, with a good night’s sleep under my belt, that I’m able to think straight. And so, as I said, I’ll go to this weekend’s big celebrations for the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall with even more respect for his calm power.
2. The rugged altruists
New York Times columnist David Brooks writes about the “virtues” of those Americans who venture into the developing world trying to do good. It’s not the most profound column he’s ever written, but it’s worth a quick read:
As you talk to people involved in the foreign aid business — on the giving and the receiving ends — you are struck by how much disillusionment there is. Very few nongovernmental organizations or multilateral efforts do good, many Kenyans say. They come and go, spending largely on themselves, creating dependency not growth. The government-to-government aid workers spend time at summit meetings negotiating protocols with each other. But in odd places, away from the fashionableness, one does find people willing to embrace the perspectives and do the jobs the locals define…
3. Richard Mouw on Christian civility
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary where he also teaches philosophy and ethics, was interviewed by Krista Tippett on Being as part of the radio show’s Civil Conversations Project. Mouw is a political conservative and an evangelical and here he is on American Public Media challenging his own people to civil public discourse, and he does so with humility. This sort of message and example is something I think we desperately need, perhaps these days more than ever.
4. The art of asking beautiful questions
This reflection comes from a guy I haven’t met, but who works as a missionary in Guatemala City. In this rather raw reflection, he describes Guatemala City as the “strange context of street gangs in prisons, homeless youth on the streets, teenage prostitutes and families caught in relentless poverty.” It’s worth the read:
The acclaimed English poet E.E. Cummings once wrote, “The beautiful answer is always preceded by the more beautiful question.” Do you believe that? If we really believed as a community that the beautiful question was far more important that the well crafted answer, our ministries with young people would be far more effective. The belief here is that beautiful questions actually reveal beautiful answers. If we really believed that, we as Christians would be the best question askers in the world… I have come to believe with all of my heart that it is a profound and highly successive ministry that learns how to ask beautiful questions of high-risk kids in hard places. I believe this out of the conviction that beautiful answers spring forth from beautiful questions.
5. Asset from Chalmers Center
Here’s a cool two-minute video from the Chalmers Center on a new model for community development they’re trying, linking churches in the US with churches elsewhere, emphasizing microfinance and education. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, as a bonus, there’s even a reference to martians.