About Me

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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Christian Community Development is one of the most promising movements of faithfulness in the U.S. church, and beyond, in the current time. I have been in Philadelphia at the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association. It has included inspiration, encouragement, and training for a wide range of concerns for churches.

The opening session's keynote speaker, Rev. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, set a tone of high expectation for what churches should dedicate themselves to do in their communities. The next evening, Tony Campolo spoke on leadership as service rather than titles. He quoted his pastor who said we much choose how we want to be remembered--do we want titles in our obituaries or testimonies from the people whose lives we touched through loving service. He said he would choose the testimonies.

Also on the topic of leadership, Ted Travis of Neighborhood Ministries in Denver, Colorado, said that churches need to give young people opportunities to lead, and that adults need to get out of their way to let them learn to think on their feet, make their mistakes, and grow in confidence.

Ecclesiology came up often in the sessions I attended, and more than one speaker referred to the parable of wine and wineskins. If churches are going to make room for the gospel to speak in any time and place, they will have to be willing to change the wineskins so that the new wine of the gospel can be free to do its work.

Local ministries such as the simple way, Camden House, and Yes! And . . . CAMP, all demonstrated the power of new wineskins for preserving the gospel.

As always, John Perkins was inspiring and powerful in his witness.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On September 11 I posted a letter and some documents about military recruiting. As a follow up, I'm posting the response I received from the Superintendent of the Durham Public Schools. It is a good response which shows that he has made sure the policies are in place for distributing information. He has contacted the school board and the executive leadership of the district to remind or inform them of the same information. And he promises to ask the principals to bring this up with the PTAs of their schools and put it in their student newspapers. It does not, however, make any response to my remarks about sexual assaults by military recruiters.

I don't really expect the school system to become my advocate in opposing military recruiters in schools, and so this prompt, judicious response is what I had hoped for. Other steps, such as counter-recruitment, will have to originate outside the school administration. I'll try to be more alert and prepared when these events come up.

Here is the letter.

September 15, 2006

Dear Dr. Broadway:

Thank you very much for your letter of September 10 regarding the release of student information to military recruiters. I agree with you that it is important that we communicate with parents regarding all of their options for their children, including making sure they are aware of the availability of a form to request that DPS withhold student contact information from military recruiters without prior written consent.

Following are the steps we are taking to ensure that parents know of the option to request we withhold their children's information from recruiters:

• We have made the form available on our district Website, as well as referenced the form in our student/parent handbooks;

• We have provided all high school principals a letter to send to their students' parents reminding them of the option and where they can access the form to complete, return and file at their school; we also will encourage principals to publish this letter and advertisements that we prepared in their student newspapers;

• We included an article reminding parents of this option in our September Parent DirectLink newsletter; and,

• We will ask principals to work with high school PTAs to get this message out to their parents.

Dr. Broadway, it is refreshing and encouraging to hear from parents who are involved and concerned about increasing the awareness of options not only for their own children, but for others. Thank you for your commitment to the students of Durham Public Schools.

Sincerely,

Carl E. Harris, Ed.D.
Superintendent

c: Executive Leadership Team
Board of Education Members


I also had responses from school board members, so I think this action had at least an overall good result. Now for a few more thoughts on the issue.

The language of "opting out" frames this as if it were not a life and death situation or a first amendment issue. A doctrine of non-violence is an interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and the command to love the neighbor. It is, therefore, a doctrine central to the confession of many Christians. No doubt, people of other faiths or convictions may also hold this doctrine.

For that reason, government sponsored proselytization of youth with the purpose of converting them to a doctrine of state-sponsored violence is an infringement on the free exercise of religion. Moreover, I would characterize it as an establishment of religion in that it is a moral, even theological, doctrine about how human beings must live in the world. Participating in state-sponsored violence may be a kind of service and sacrifice to a god resembling Ares or Mars from ancient European religions, or perhaps merely the deification of imperial goals or the almighty dollar, "idols" in the language of Christian tradition.

I doubt many people would go along with me on the second claim about establishment because the whole tradition of modern liberal democracy, the nation-state, republicanism, and capitalism claim (again I would call this a theological claim) that the state and the economy are outside the realm or sphere of religion. That is a theological challenge to those who would claim that there is only one Lord in whom, through whom, and by whom are all things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pauli Murray's autobiography--I finally finished it yesterday. It was a very interesting, impressive, and insightful account of both a gifted actor in history and a historical period.

I speak for my race and my people--
The human race and just people.

These words appeared in the front pages of her book of poems, Dark Testament. Carolyn Ware offers them in tribute to her in the Epilogue of the book.

I was fascinated by her early life in part because of its constant references to Durham, NC, where I live. The later years of her life become amazing because of the range of activity, leadership, and accomplishments.

She became an authority on laws concerning race across all the states of the U.S. She taught in Ghana at the opening of their first law school and influenced major figures in the interpretation of constitutional law and civil rights. She wrote decisive papers on the application of equal employment laws to women, and influenced the key legislation on this matter in the Civil Rights Act. She helped to initiate the meetings which led to creating the National Organization for Women, and she was a founding member. She helped Benedict College in South Carolina create programs to move their students from marginal to capable in college level work. She was a pioneer in the fields of African American Studies and Legal Studies while teaching at Brandeis University. She helped to press the World Council of Churches and the Episcopal Church toward acceptance of women in ministry. She was one of the many women ordained to Episcopal ministry during the first weeks of 1977 when the church officially allowed ordination.

Ironically, it seems to me that she barely managed financially for most of her life, often searching for employment to support her main work as a writer, activist, and scholar. Certainly some of her opportunities in the last couple of decades of her life were more financially adequate, but even then her jobs were not long term and left her future support uncertain.

With reference to my life, my imagination has been captured by what seems to me to be a necessity of finding a job I can count on to make my way. Perhaps it was not at all by choice for Pauli Murray that she did not live this way. But part of her situation also was her commitment to deal with the work at hand. Her unwillingness to put off the tasks that pressed themselves on her is a compelling witness. I find myself looking at that kind of life and saying with those Greek seekers of Jesus, "Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Today Is a Day for Reflection

While taking care of some business matters this morning, I was listening to live broadcasts of the commemoration ceremonies for the people who died in the planes and buildings on September 11, 2001. It was a solemn occasion, and the voices of people talking about the fears and pain of that day still usually put a lump in my throat and bring tears brimming in my eyes. The pain of people who have lost family members is something that always gets inside of me. In addition, I also am stirred by the pain of remembering the constant cry of those who suffer because of the level of hatred and bloodthirstiness in the powerful Western Nation-states and of the radical anti-Western Middle Eastern movements.

As I listened to the speakers at the site of the crashed airliner in Pennsylvania, I was more than once troubled by the public officials who spoke, giving hollow words of sympathy and representing the solidified machines of violence. I remembered my brief visit to the Spring Hill Community of the Bruderhof in April of 2002, when I learned that the children of this Bruderhof community had become involved in efforts to memorialize those who died in that crash. I knew that there must be members of the Bruderhof present, but I did not spot them when I now and then looked at the pictures on the screen. (For more information on the Bruderhof, go to the end of this post.)

At the end of the speeches and other observances, the speaker announced that the last event would be songs from a combined choir of children from a local school and from the Spring Hill Bruderhof. I was filled with joy in seeing the children gather in the tent to sing, and heard their voices. My heart was troubled by the contrast between certain public officials who wanted to assure the toughness of the U. S. government and people, and this beautiful song which called on all children of the world to gather for peace. The first song they sang was written partly in one of the languages of the Philippines, and partly in English. I am sure I have heard it before, but here are the lyrics of "I Am But a Small Voice." I can't vouch for the spelling of the foreign words.

I Am But a Small Voice
(r. whittaker/d. batnag)

Akoy munting tinig
May munting pangarap
Samyo ng bulaklak
Sa hanging malinis

May ngiti sa araw
At kung umuulan
Makapagtampisaw
Malayang daigdig
Ng kawalang malay

I am but a small voice
I am but a small dream
The fragrance of a flower
In the unpolluted air

I am but a small voice
I am but a small dream
To smile upon the sun
Be free to dance and sing
Be free to sing my song to everyone

Chorus:
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one

We have one hope
We have one dream
And with one voice
We sing...

Coda:
Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

(instrumental)

I am but a small voice
I am but a small dream
To smile upon the sun
Be free to dance and sing
Be free to sing my song to everyone

Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one

We have one hope
We have one dream
And with one voice
We sing, we sing

Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind


This event again reminds the rest of us of the importance of a peace witness, which among many things that make more mainstream Christians uncomfortable, is surely one thing that the Bruderhof continue after a century to have gotten right again and again.

A second matter for commemoration today is the hundredth anniversary of the first act of satyagraha by Mohandes Gandhi and a group of 3000 who protested the institution of the Asiatic Registration Act, part of the structure of apartheid in South Africa. On September 11, 1906, they held a public protest and civil disobedience in Johannesburg, South Africa, the first trickles of what would become a mighty rushing stream of non-violent resistance in the 20th century and beyond.

About the Bruderhof, if you are wondering who I was talking about. The Bruderhof are a community of Christians which originated in Germany about a century ago and advocated a radical form of community life in the tradition of certain Anabaptist groups. They were persecuted by the Nazis and immigrated to the UK, to Paraguay, and ultimately to the US and Australia. They have several thriving communities in Pennsylvania and New York. Their best known public figure is Johann Christoph Arnold. The Bruderhof experimented with a significant internet presence for several years, but have removed most of their links from the web in the past year or so. They became well-known especially for the Daily Dig, an inspirational quotation and discussion board which was very widely cited until it ended last year. They still maintain a welcome page and a collection of online publications, including many excellent books which a person may download free of charge. Many church and school workers know them for their furniture manufacturing called Community Playthings and Rifton Equipment.
Military Recruiting in Schools

I wrote a letter to my public schools superintendent and school board members on Sunday. I don't want my children to be harrassed by military recruiters, even though NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (aka No Public School Left Open; aka No Child Not Recruited) demands that schools release directory information on students or face loss of federal funds. When the rule was first sneaked through in the so-called school reform legislation, there was activism to have schools offer an "opt-in" policy so that the privacy of students was the presumptive approach. After a number of school systems adopted that policy, the Pentagon issued a letter saying that "opt-in" was a misconstrual of the law. Only "opt-out" policies would be allowed. So I had been eagerly waiting for my opt-out form, which I finally have filled out for my daughters 2 weeks into the school year. Here is the letter I wrote, and I've noted a couple of articles which raise concerns about military recruiting and sexual assault.

September 10, 2006

Dr. Carl Harris
Durham Public Schools

Dear Dr. Harris,
I wish you well in your new responsibilities as superintendent of DPS. I know you are working hard, and I especially appreciate your continued efforts to seek community input on the work of the school system.

I am writing about a matter of great concern in my family: military recruitment in our schools. It is first of all a concern because of my deep Christian convictions against participation in war. In respect of the constitution and my family’s convictions, I am strongly opposed to allowing military recruiters to have opportunities to try to influence my children. Speech promoting the training of young people for killing other people transgresses religious doctrine and interferes with freedom of religion for those of us who believe in non-violence.

Secondly, I am also a concerned parent of two high-school daughters, one at Riverside and one at DSA. I have included with this letter two articles about the widespread occurrences of sexual assault by military recruiters and in the military academies. These articles do not include the disturbing statistics reported by the military which show a 25% increase in sexual assaults within the active military from 2003 to 2004, and a further 40% increase in 2005, reaching above 2700 reported sexual assaults. Of course, the immediate concern is the sexual assaults on teen-aged girls by military recruiters. The sexual assaults are not only against females, by the way.

I had become alarmed that I had not been given an opportunity to “opt out” of the directory information for military recruiters until today. After two weeks of school, one of my daughters showed me the Parent/Student Handbook she had just received on Friday. It directed me to find the form on the dpsnc.net web site. I have filled out these forms and will send them with my daughters on Monday morning.

Yet it does not seem that this information is widely known. I urge you to make this a matter of utmost concern for high school principals and leaders at any other schools where recruiters may be doing their work.

I will be sharing this letter and these articles with the school board members whose districts include voting precinct 1, and with my pastor at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. William C. Turner, Jr.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Mike Broadway


The information about sexual assaults by military recruiters is an AP article by Martha Mendoza that first appeared in newspapers on August 19, 2006. It can be found on many websites, and I'm putting in a couple of links for your convenience. If you can't get to these, you can find it easily with a web search.

http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/ap/2006/08/20/ap2960740.html

http://159.54.227.3/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060821/NEWS/608210337

The other article is from the Durham Herald-Sun. You probably can't access it in the archives, so I am putting the text here for you to read. Remember, this is a copyrighted article.


Ex-cadet: Sexual assault response falls short


Published in: The Herald-Sun
Page: A4

Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BY KATY STAFFORD Herald-Sun Washington bureau news@heraldsun.com; 419-6630
WASHINGTON -- Beth Davis of Durham, a former Air Force cadet allegedly raped by a classmate, criticized a Department of Defense report on sexual assault at a congressional hearing Tuesday, saying its solutions to sexual assault at military academies were inadequate.

Davis told a House government reform committee hearing that the report, issued last year, also did not completely convey the prevalence of sexual assault at the academies.

"The recommendations are devoid of any leadership accountability," Davis said. "Cadets believe that if their leadership isn't held to the standard of academy life, they shouldn't be either."

In emotional testimony, Davis recounted the story of her alleged rape and gave eight recommendations to help prevent and respond to sexual assault incidents. Among them: allowing a victim to consult civilian legal counsel and commissioning an independent, nonmilitary congressional investigation into the problems of sexual assault at the military academies and the military at large.

The House committee was reviewing the 2005 Department of Defense task force report, which made several recommendations including changing the service academy culture toward women, protecting communications made by sexual assault victims and incorporating sexual harassment classes into the curriculum.

There were 2,374 reported cases of sexual assault last year, a 40 percent increase from 2004, according to the Department of Defense. The task force found that "sexual assault has been inadequately addressed at the academies."

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who said Congress needs to hear more stories like that of Davis', organized the hearing to analyze the progress made by the military academies in preventing and responding to sexual assault incidents. Shays said he wants to revise the hearing schedule to include more testimony from alleged victims.

Davis alleged that a cadet in her squadron raped her repeatedly during her freshman year. "In a situation where I was blackmailed, degraded and threatened daily, I found myself utterly distraught."

Davis said older female students warned her not to report incidents of sexual assault.

"Upper-class women cadets informed us that it was very likely we would be raped or sexually assaulted during our time at the academy, and they instructed us that, if we were attacked, to not report it to authorities because it would effectively destroy our career," she said.

Davis eventually went to the Office of Special Investigations. She said her commander closed the case after six months. She was later dismissed from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"As my world and everything I believed in crumbled before me, I realized I was being castigated and thrown out of the academy for reporting the heinous crimes
that had been committed against me," she said.

The Air Force Academy did not immediately return phone calls to discuss Davis' allegations.

But representatives from the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Military Academy and the Coast Guard told committee members about changes made at their institutions.

"We have made significant progress, but we know and understand the challenge remains to keep the focus on this national problem of sexual assault and to continue our journey for long-term cultural change," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Desjardins. "We have refocused our efforts on building leaders of character that reach and exceed these higher standards."

COPYRIGHT 2006 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I have been reading the autobiography of Pauli Murray. The fact that she grew up as part of the Fitzgerald family in the Brookstown neighborhood of Durham, not far from where I live, has increased my engagement with her story, especially when she remarks about locations and people in our fair city.

For those of you like me, who did not know her story, Pauli Murray was a writer, a civil rights activist, a lawyer and legal theorist, a poet, a feminist, and in her later years an Episcopal priest. She was instrumental in forging strategies for more than one of the major breakthroughs against segregation and Jim Crow laws. She had famous cases of missing out on opportunities because of her race and gender. Indefatigable, she pressed on to achieve many "firsts" for her race and gender as well. She was one of the most important influences in seeing that Title VII of the Civil Rights laws included prohibitions against gender discrimination in employment practices.

I have been particularly interested in some of her insights about the psychological and ultimately social results of the Jim Crow system. She writes about one incident in her mid-twenties when she was denied entrance to UNC-Chapel Hill graduate school because of the NC Jim Crow laws:

At the time, however, what I felt was the galling disappointment of personal defeat. . . . Much of my life in the South had been overshadowed by a lurking fear. Terrified of the consequences of overt protest against racial segregation, I had sullenly endured its indignities when I could not avoid them. Yet every submission was accompanied by a nagging shame which no amount of personal achievement in other areas could overcome.


She boldly challenged President Roosevelt and many others about the coming reckoning for fighting Fascism and racism in Germany and Italy while tolerating it and practicing it in the U. S. As part of a direct action campaign against Jim Crow in Washington, D. C., she notes posters about the war effort against Naziism which stated, "We Die Together. Why Can't We Eat Together?" and "Are You for HITLER"S Way (Race Supremacy) or the AMERICAN Way (Equality)? Make Up Your Mind!"

She refers to a deep "disgust" and despair that every African American feels at least one out of every few days when dealing with the intransigence of racism in the U. S. Thus it was no surprise to her and other African Americans when riots broke out across the country in 1943.

Murray also comments on the psychological effects of direct action. She writes that she and a large group of Howard University students began a direct action campaign against segregated restaurants in Washington, D. C., in 1944, pioneering a methodology that would pick up again in decades to come. "It is difficult to describe the exhileration of that brief moment of victory," when the restaurant management at one cafeteria began to serve the students a meal. She adds, "The most abiding gain, however, was in our own self-respect." The deep personal effect of direct action in the cause of justice is a primary theme of her autobiography.

I am wary of referring to "psychological" effects because of the danger that readers will think of this as some kind of mind game, mind over matter, or split between the body and mind. On the contrary, what I am trying to make note of is the way that mind and body together are transformed through action for justice. It is not one without the other.

It seems that Pauli Murray's point is that she was driven by her convictions to fight racism in essays, poetry, legal argument, ministry, and direct action. What amazed her was the interrelation between her action and her mental and emotional state. The wholeness of the person is clearly demonstrated through such accounts of personal and communal change.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm not sure how plumbing fits into the divine economy.

When I was growing up, I learned a few handy things about yard work, housecleaning (no one would believe this, but I was taught), car engines, and such. But I did not learn much about home repair and maintenance. After having completed a masters degree, I was overjoyed not to be in school. In my first house, a rental, with my own washer and dryer, I started facing what anyone will eventually face--the need for home repair.

I did not want to spend my meager income to wait around for a repair truck to come to the house, only to find out that it would be a few more days of waiting while a part was located. So I decided to put my many years of education to work at the public library. I read about how washing machines work, and I found the problem and solution in a repair manual. I was surprised how simple it was for me to accomplish the repair. I made sure that Everly joined me for an appropriate amount of admiration time, watching the repaired machine do its job.

That was the beginning of my budding confidence for doing home repairs and maintenance. Especially during the leaner years of tight family budgets, I undertook the repair or installation of washers, dryers, electrical outlets and switches, refrigerators, stoves and ovens, doors, broken windows, bunk beds, bookshelves, lofts for beds, and more. I joked often about my home repair average, sort of like a batting average in baseball. If I attempted five repairs, and four were successful, I was "batting" .800 in home repair.

But plumbing always seems to bring my home repair average down. There is very little that is direct or simple with plumbing. Something always comes up, and it takes lots of experiential knowledge to understand how to deal with the variety of possibilities. I don't have that kind of knowledge, so when something unexpected comes up, I have to scratch my head and wonder how to deal with it.

That was the story of Thursday. On Wednesday night we had a toilet breakdown. First the valve in the tank was stuck closed. Flushing required filling a bowl with water and dumping it in the toilet. After I spent some time messing with the valve gadget, I created the opposite problem. The float would no longer shut off the valve, leaving the water in the tank running constantly. I took apart and messed with the contraption, only to find that nothing I could do seemed to make a difference. So I cut off the water supply and we made due.

Thursday morning I went to the big box hardware and bought a replacement valve and float contraption. With very little difficulty, I removed the old one and put in the new one. It worked perfectly. My confidence was up. I started thinking about the shower head. I remembered a couple of kitchen sink items I saw while hunting down my toilet contraption.

Heady with my plumbing success, I returned to the store to buy a new aerator tip for the kitchen faucet and a new nozzle for the shower. Both of these were fairly simple to install, and they produced appropriate "oohs" and "aahs" from the wife and daughters who share my household. Last, I started removing the old and non-functioning kitchen sink sprayer and replacing it with a soap dispensing pump and bottle. I thought that would be the easiest task of all.

Seven and one-half hours later, after a few strategic applications of a power saw with a metal-cutting blade, a few dozen cuts and scrapes on my hands, cutting two washers by hand because I did not have the size I needed, at least forty trips in and out from under the sink on my aching back, and one new thirty-dollar tool, I was able to clean up my mess and admire four jobs well done. But the time required diminished the celebration.

Actually there were five jobs. While working on the sprayer/soap dispenser job, I knocked loose the sink drain and trap, which I then had to put back together, with one of the handcut washers which took about thirty minutes to get right. Someone in my household found that to be very humorous. The kids, on the other hand, were appropriately sympathetic. Seeing and smelling me, my family was hoping to celebrate after I tried out the new shower head.

Plumbing, as a human creation, stands out to me as a clear example of the admixture of good and evil in human accomplishments. I should not pick on plumbing, I guess. But if God had included modern plumbing in the original creation, we might have ended up with an eight or nine day week.

Maybe plumbing is a penance for people like me. It seems so simple, but getting new connections to seal and old connections to unseal is often bewildering. Resorting to brute strength may not move anything, but other times using force leads to disaster when parts break and water flows. The lore of plumbing is far more complex than I have been able to learn through my intermittent dabbling.

I can act so confident in my knowledge at times that I'm sure there are people who take some satisfaction in knowing that I can't seem to get plumbing figured out. So until I decide to take on the seat washers in the bathtub faucet, I'm glad to be leaving that plumbing behind.
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