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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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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Improvised Egg Hunt

This is a funny story I posted on facebook.  I thought some of you might like it.

We have a few plastic Easter eggs somewhere in a box, but I could not find them. So after lunch, I got 7 egg cartons (1.5 dozen each) full of golf balls my dad has found in his yard.

That makes 126 golf balls. I tossed them around the yard for an egg hunt for the young adult chirrens.

They groaned about having an egg hunt.  Lydia even made the excuse that she had homework to do.  What's up with that?  I mean, they are only 19 to 24 years old.  Surely they still like egg hunting. 

Everly said it was because there was no candy reward.  We made the strategic mistake of handing out all the candy at lunch time.  So we came up with an other reward.  That made sense.  The egg hunts back in the day usually had a few eggs with money in them.  We did a little math, grouping the factors 7 x 3 x 3 x 2 until we came up with a plan.

I announced a bounty of $1 for every three golf balls, and they flew out of the house to get their share of $42.  I got just what I wanted:   David, Naomi, Lydia, Megan, and Casie (Lydia's buddies from Baylor who live too far away to go home for the long weekend)  giggling and running around the yard like old times.

We tallied up the collections:  19, 22, 23, 27, and 33.  Of course, David has always taken on egg hunts as serious business, and he got the most.  I think it's time for him to go professional.  All but two golf balls got picked up.  We rounded up to the nearest dollar, then scrounged together dollar bills, dollar coins, quarters, fives, and tens.  Everybody got a nice payout. 

For me and Everly, Hugh Delle and W. D., it was $42 very well spent.  Quoting a lyric from Michael Card:  "I would wander weary miles, and welcome ridicule, my child, to simply see the sunrise of your smile, to see the light behind your eyes, the happy thought that makes you fly."

The joy kept on giving.  W.D. came in the next morning having found one of the stray golf balls, and he was as happy as could be.

These few minutes of joyful play are not all that we did on Easter.  Earlier in the day, we worshiped at First Baptist Church, Austin, where I raised the eyebrows of the girls by singing loudly on all the harmony parts.  Roger Paynter preached an excellent sermon, almost slipping into a hoop, about the way that the greeting from Jesus to the Marys was one word that changed everything.  One good turn of phrase said, "He had us from 'Hello.'"  Out front of the sanctuary, church members had brought and placed flowers on the Easter Cross.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Storm at Shaw University on April 16

It occurred to me that some of you may have heard about the tornadoes that swept across parts of the Midwest, South, and Southeast in the past two weeks, and particularly about a tornado that hit Raleigh and Shaw University's campus.  I was present and teaching on campus during that storm, so I am posting the report I gave to my dean about the events of that afternoon.

Hello, Dr. Grady, 

As you requested, I am sending you a narrative of the events of yesterday afternoon on the Shaw campus.  Around 1:30 pm, a student spoke with me about the anticipated storm and its effect on our schedule for divinity classes.  I told him my opinion, which was that we would be safer in the building than we would be out in our cars if a dangerous storm did hit.  I went online to WRAL and checked the live radar reports on the storm.  It was still in the Winston-Salem area at the time and not anticipated to arrive very soon. 

After meeting with a student until about 2:30 pm, I went to meet my class in room 302 of Leonard Hall.  I noted to the students that the attendance was low, and they responded that some students had stayed away because of the predicted storm.  I repeated my opinion that we would be safer in the building tan out in our cars.  We checked the radar, which I projected onto the wall.  It showed storms which would arrive in our area in the next hour or so.  Then we proceeded with class. 

With occasional checks out the window, we proceeded with classes.  Apparently, at least two other classes were meeting in the building.  Sometime near 4:00 pm, we noticed the storm becoming much more intense outside.  Within a brief period, several things happened to alert us.  A student received a phone call from his wife, reporting that the TV weather report was placing a serious storm approaching downtown Raleigh.  Another student whose laptop was online received a weather alert about severe weather approaching downtown Raleigh.  And I noticed that the scene outside the window had become a blur with objects moving horizontally and none of the usual buildings, trees, parking lot, etc., visible. 

I advised the students to come out of the classroom into the hallway between the classrooms.  About that time the electricity went out in the building.  I closed every classroom door so that there would be no direct line to a window from which flying glass might approach us.  Some students asked whether we should move to the central staircase.  Certainly, a lower floor would be better, but passage to the staircase would require moving into the hallway between the restrooms and the main building, and I thought passing through there would be unsafe.  I urged students into the short hallway of the classroom wing, and we waited while the building shook violently for some time. 

When the intense storm had passed, and light began to come from windows around the building again, we reentered the classroom.  The outer window had bowed inward but not broken.  Water and debris had entered the room, getting all over Michelle Outlaw's books, computer (a closed laptop that seemed to only get wet on the surface), papers, and bags.  Otherwise, the room was in the same condition as before.  There were no broken windows on the third floor.   Cornelius Atkinson checked the restroom and told me that there was considerable water damage in the men's room.  I later went to check and found that light was coming through from above the false ceiling and some ceiling tiles were broken or damaged.  The women's room also had damaged ceiling tiles. 

Students milled around, talked with one another, and made phone calls for a few minutes.  We had a prayer of thanksgiving led by Horace Mason, and then we began making our way out.  I looked around the building.  In the Lewis Lecture Hall, at least one window had bowed under pressure sending water and debris into the room.  Overall, no damage was visible there.  I did not check the second floor, although other classes may have been meeting there.  I checked all the Wiggins Library windows, and no water had come in through them.  I saw Dr. Greaux also scouting the building before he left. 

A number of students, Mrs. Goldston, and Dr. Brock continued to assist one another and check out conditions in the building and parking lot.  Dr. Walker-Barnes, her husband, and her son were in their car as the storm approached, and they drove to the Leonard Building for shelter.  Students went outside to find that their cars had been damaged by broken trees and flying debris.  Claudia Cofield had a very large dent in the driver's side of her car from a fallen tree.  Cornelius Anderson had a broken window.  James Collins had the rear hatch of his vehicle pulled open by the storm.  Other students had windows broken.  My raggedy old 1989 Corolla was untouched. 

A tree was blocking the entrance to the Leonard parking lot, so people had to drive over the curb and grass to exit to the road.  Some of us attempted to pull the tree out of the way, but it was intent on staying where it was.  Two oil tanks were pushed over by the wind.  Between the two doors at the end of the Duplex building there is a tank painted silver.  It was lying on its side.  As best I could tell, it is not currently in use and likely had no fuel in it.   Around the back of the Duplex another oil tank painted brick red had been knocked down and pulled around the AC unit and the back porch until it reached the limit of its fuel line going to the furnace.  I sniffed around and smelled a faint whiff of oil when I got right next to the fuel line.  I could see no obvious leak at any of the joints, valves, or pressure points. 

I attempted to report the roof leak and the oil tank to security numerous times, but the power outages prevented my getting through to them.  Sometime after 4:30 pm I left to return home.  A few students were working together to tape up their car windows.  Dr. Brock, showing his pastoral heart, was doing his best to take care of everyone that he could.  Mrs. Goldston was also still in the building.   

You spoke with me around 5:00 pm as I was driving home, and you took an oral report on these events.  At that time I brought these two matters of the roof and oil tank to your attention.  I have seen reports of the Fire Department inspecting the Shaw campus today, so these matters should be inventoried and resolved soon.  It still may be advisable for you to forward this information to persons in charge on campus. 

After seeing the damage to the cars outside, I was glad that I had advised students to stay in the building rather than risk driving through the storm.  Of course, none of us could have predicted that Shaw's buildings would be right in the path of such an intense storm.  Even so, all who were in the building were safe with no injuries. 

Submitted respectfully, 

Mike Broadway 

Theology and Economy Update

For those of you who check in here now and then, you probably know that in 2009 a group of theological professors in North Carolina and South Carolina distributed a working paper, "Theological Reflection on the Economy."  It was an early step in a series of actions and campaigns through which faith communities have organized around economic justice in the current economic crisis.  Since that time, I have occasionally communicated with the group of professors about active campaigns, particularly the "10% Is Enough" work on usury pertaining to credit cards and other consumer interest.  This week, I sent a note to update them on the range of actions and campaigns in which North Carolina United Power has continued to organize in the past year and a half.  Here is an excerpt of the note I sent them.

Hey, folks,

A year and a half ago I was sending you lots of emails as we started work on a major organizing campaign dealing with economic justice issues.  As theological scholars and servants of the church, we recognize our responsibilities to follow Jesus in the task of serving the poor, offering ministry of relief, building ecclesial structures to reshape economic life in our neighborhoods, and seeking justice in the face of economic powers.  Thus, the theological reflection leading to the "Theological Reflection on the Economy" of 2009 was an exercise of our vocation which helped to provide grounding for faith-based people's movements which have gone many directions.  The document has been studied in churches, in minister's conferences, in seminary classes, and far beyond North and South Carolina. 

The paths of discipleship continue to open before us even now.  Let me highlight some of the work linked to our efforts of 2009.

1.  The "10% Is Enough" campaign in the Eastern US, London, and Berlin, has continued to bear fruit.  We did not convince banks to voluntarily cap credit card interest rates, nor did with convince Congress to cap consumer interest rates.  But we have built relationships with bank executives which are paying off in continued access and influence.  Moreover, leaders of the "10% Is Enough" campaign have met with Dr. Elizabeth Warren to help shape the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  Caps on interest rates continue to be a lively topic, in part because of the strong work of MetroIAF, of which we have been a part.

2.  The "6% Is Enough" campaign to protect military families from predatory credit practices and foreclosure has been an overwhelming success.  This is a NC United Power campaign, and we have worked with Wachovia/Wells Fargo and Bank of America.  B of A held ongoing conversations with us for over a year.  Last summer they agreed to everything we were asking for, extending benefits beyond the legal requirements for nine months of protection from rising interest rates.  For several months, they were reluctant to admit publicly that they had changed their policies in response to negotiations with NCUP.  This month, in a surprise turn, CEO Brian Moynihan publicly thanked NCUP and Gerald Taylor for our work in this crucial area.  Our fellow signatory, Dan Rhodes, was present to meet personally with Moynihan, the first time he has met personally with members of our organization.

3.   The effort to bring justice to the foreclosure crisis has taken off in recent months, in part because of the attention that NC Attorney General Roy Cooper has given to foreclosure fraud as President of the National Association of Attorneys General.  For this work, NCUP (also going by the name IAF-SouthEast) has made partnership with People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO), National People's Action (NPA-US), Alliance for a Just Society, and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), all faith-based community organizing groups, stretching our organizing from the west coast to the east coast, from the Rocky Mountains to the midwest to the south.  We have met with key leaders, including Iowa AG Tom Miller and NC AG Roy Cooper, all the while keeping our efforts alive with Bank of America.  One summary of our proposals, "The Homeowner's Bottom Line," has gained significant interest, and most of its proposals remain on the table in the nationwide AG's investigation and potential settlement with the major banks to improve the foreclosure process.

4.  In conversation with a major funding organization (no funding yet) for theological education research, I have piloted a course at Shaw University Divinity School, "Pastoral Readiness for Economic Crises."  We covered financial literacy and financial freedom for pastors as well as a form of Christian formation for churches and their communities.  We looked at a wide range of theological sources on money, possessions, economics, and consumption from the earliest churches down to our times.  We looked at tools for churches to evaluate their relationships with banks that may or may not be serving poor communities.  We looked at models of community development, such as the Christian Community Development Association model of ecclesial politics of neighbor love.  Finally, we looked at faith-based community organizing.  With this trial run under our belt, I am hoping to work with some of you as partners in developing a proposal for adapting this sort of clergy training to other seminaries and to continuing education programs for current pastors.

5.  The predatory practices of payday lenders and car-title lenders will not die without a fight.  From Texas to North Carolina, from Mississippi to New Hampshire, strong lobbying efforts to open the door to astronomical interest rates on small dollar loans are alive and well in the state legislatures.  I've testified before legislative committees in Texas, mentioning you all and our work.  Just this past week, a bill was introduced in the NC legislature to reopen the door to usurious rates.  When there is the chance of ripping people off legally, there will always be people trying to do it.  Contact your legislator right away to stop the progress of HB 810.  South Carolina, having passed important reforms in 2009, seems not to have any pending legislation at this time.

On two matters I am seeking your response to moving forward with this work. 

First, . . . we are considering a clergy witness [at an upcoming event], with particular attention to dealing justly in the foreclosure crisis. 

The text of Micah 2:1-11 is directly relevant to this matter (not to ignore Isaiah 5:8-17).  The injustice of Samaria and Judah included coveting and seizing houses, ruining people financially (v2).  The powerful put people out of their homes (v9).  All the while they continue to practice the trappings of faith.  Predictably, they demand that anyone who might preach judgment against their greed should stop saying that stuff (v6).  The prophet says they only want a preacher who says, "Go on and get drunk.  Live it up!" (v11), while they "rise up against my people as an enemy" (v8). 

We hope we might gather 100 clergy and seminarians to speak a word of witness about the injustices of foreclosing on people whose financial security was destroyed by the greed, risks, and fraud of bankers, brokers, and insurers. . . . Details of when and where to meet will be forthcoming, depending on whether we believe we can gather an appropriate-sized group for witness.

Second, I will be trying to convene a meeting of some of you professors in late May.  If you would be interested in meeting for three or four hours to evaluate the course I put together and to brainstorm about expanding clergy training for economic life, let me know. . . .

For more information, see

News coverage of recent NCUP action:  here and here

Foreclosure Justice:  Homeowner's Bottom Line 

Broad Campaign for Financial Reforms:  Showdown in America

Against Usury:  10% Is Enough 

Military Families:  6% Is Enough 

Periodic updates on "earth as it is in heaven"

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Madder as the Day Went On!

Last night, I fell asleep looking at a news story about the bombshell budget proposal whose poster boy is Rep. Ryan, R-Wisconsin.  Then I woke up this morning thinking about it, so I finished reading the article.  Then, as the day went on, I kept reading and kept getting more upset.

As has been the case with the Party of NO for the past few years, Social Security, Medicare, and the social safety net have been held up as bankrupting the country.  There is no doubt that the cost of health care is at the heart of what is destroying the people of the US and the economy.  But Medicare and Medicaid are not the cause.  Medicare and Medicaid are expensive because the health care industry is operating with out-of-control greed, and the health care industry lobbyists are running the government.

Pres. Obama and his advisers offered ideas about reform, but before reform could get started the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, the hospital industry, and on and on had derailed real reform.  What we got was, I think, a step in the right direction.  But it did not do what was needed to slow the growth of health care costs.  Its opponents also have no interest in slowing the growth of health care costs.  They only want to make American safe for health care profits.  So if health care is going to cost more and more, they want to make sure that taxpayers are not paying for the poor and elderly to get some.  That might require the wealthy to pay their fare share of taxes, and the sinister dementia of current right-wing politics is that the wealthy deserve all that they have gotten, and the rest of us deserve to do without.

As you can tell, I have been getting madder as the day has gone on.  I have tormented my facebook friends with post after post, which of course they have been free to ignore.  So I decided I would collect them all into one blog post for those who want to think through this with me.

around 11 am

Thank you, government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. Don't forget, corporations are people, too. In fact, they are special people who get a better deal than the rest of us lowly human people. Mr. Obama, Mr. Ryan, stop posturing and FIX THIS!
10 of the Biggest Corporate Tax Cheats in America
f you or I were running a small business and we kept one set of books showing how much money we were making and a second set for the IRS that painted a picture of an enterprise on the brink of bankruptcy, we'd end up behind bars.

But that's standard operating procedure for corporate America.
around 3 pm
Let's see: spinach, hamburger meat, peanut butter, chicken, tomatoes, and besides food there's lead paint on toys, radioactive compounds in toys. All in all, doesn't Ryan's budget make sense when it fires all the inspectors? Mr. Obama and Mr. Ryan--tell the truth, serve the people, do what is right, FIX THIS.
Congress: Support funding for FDA food safety
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, urged Congress to support funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)s food safety functions in advance of a House hearing on the FDA budget.
around 3:30 pm
I gave some effort but should have tried harder at my kids' high schools. Let's hear it for this Atlanta group's recruitment for non-violence.
American Friends Service Committee/Atlanta: SCAP Brings Non-Military Options to Stephenson High
Stephenson High school invited Student Career Alternatives Program to their first spring career fair, which took place today. This marked our second visit to the Stone Mountain high school. One striking thing that we again noticed today that the student body is over 99% African American, which seems to further confirm the fact that Atlanta Metro school have become resegregated over the past 20 years.
We were all impressed with the counseling staffs dedication to the students and their post high school careers. So many high school counselors cave into parents request to hold career fairs after school instead of during school. The fairs that take place during school hours are so much more accessible to students.
We had hundreds of students come talk to us through the course of the fair. Students explored ways to serve their country, travel the world, find adventure, get money for college, develop artistic skills, and other job skills training without out having to join the military.
around 3:30 pm
Recruiting for nonviolence
Before You Enlist! (2011 revision)
Straight talk from soldiers, veterans and their family members tells what is missing from the sales pitches presented by recruiters and the military's marketing efforts. Produced by Telequest, Inc with support from AFSC. See http://youth4peace.org/ for more info.
around 4 pm
Here is the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the Bill to Massively Increase Senior Adult Medical Bankruptcy presented by Rep. Ryan.
Representative Ryan Proposes Medicare Plan Under Which Seniors Would Pay Most of Their Income for Health Care
That is what headlines would look like if the United States had an independent press. After all, this is one of the main take aways of the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) analysis of the plan proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee.
still around 4 pm
The budget debate is between those who would reign in the mountains of money going to pharmaceutical corporations, physicians, for-profit and "non-profit" hospitals, and private insurance companies, and those who would keep letting them rob the rest of us to pay bonuses to their top executives.  Mr. Ryan and Mr. Obama, tell the truth, stop the "giant sucking sound" of money going from the people to the corporations.
The New York Times Thinks That Congress is Full of Philosophers | Beat the Press
The New York Times apparently missed the elections last fall. This is the only possible explanation for its assertion that the budget debate in Congress "is likely to spur an ideological showdown over the size of government and the role of entitlement programs like Medicaid and Medicare."

The people serving in Congress got their jobs because they are effective politicians. This means that they have the ability to appeal to powerful interest groups; there is no requirement that they have any background in, or adherence to, any political philosophy.

The debates over competing plans for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are most obviously about the distribution of income between the wealthy and the less wealthy.
a little later, around 4 pm 
Look at the third graphic line from the bottom: this is the projected percentage of health care cost turned back upon the retiree on fixed income in Ryan's plan.  Of course, if most of the seniors go bankrupt, then we can put them on Medicaid instead--oops, that will be gone, too.  Sorry, Mom and Dad, but we're better off if you die.  Ryan says this will save the taxpayers $400 billion over 10 years, which may or may not be accurate.  Ten years of war in Afghanistan has cost $400 billion, and eight years in Iraq has cost $800 million.  This year $119 billion is budgeted for Afghanistan alone.  Ron Paul, where are you when we need you?  Cut the cost of these wars and bring the troops home.  That way we can keep medical care available for seniors.  Cutting the cost of medical care is essential, but this is not the way to do it.

around 7:20 pm

Calculating the costs of killing--Cadillac Death Machines and Yugo Safety Nets

MLK, Jr., speaking about the war in Vietnam in 1967:  "You may not know it my friend, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 dollars to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only $53.00 dollars for each person classified as poor.  And, most of that $53.00 dollars goes to salaries for people who are not poor."

Available data on enemies killed per year in the past three years is sketchy, ranging from under 2000 (Army data in mid 2009) in a year to about 4000 (Wikileaks) to 5225 (Afghan government).  At a cost of over $100 billion a year that would mean somewhere between $20 million and $50 million dollars to kill each enemy soldier.  Grisly.  Sickening.  Expensive.

Who is benefiting from such an outsized cost for the blood and guts of war?  Not the taxpayers.  Not the soldiers.  Not the seniors on Medicare or the malaria sufferers of Africa.
So there you have it.  Mad.  Sick and tired.  The world is not the church.   Too often, the church is not the church.  The phrase "hell in a handbasket" comes to mind.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is despair, let me sow hope.  Where there is darkness, let me sow light.  Where there is sadness, let me sow joy.
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