A Little Less Conversation…

July 22, 2008

Brian Jones thinks Christians spend too much time studying the Bible. I really like this post

Here are the comments I posted at the end of the blog:
1 – People…stop jumping to conclusions and reading things that aren’t there! Brian’s not advocating that we throw out scripture stop studying it all together. He’s just saying that there’s more to being a Christian than reading the Bible.

2 – Since when is scripture the ONLY way to encounter Jesus? The Bible that I read tells me that the way to encounter the risen Christ is through relationships with the poor, imprisoned, sick, homeless. (Matthew 25) The NT is filled with ways to be close to Jesus…and none of them mention dutifully studying the Bible.

3 – If people are passionate about truly studying the Bible, they will ultimately be compelled to get off their pious butts and “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” with God.

This was particularly compelling for me in light of the Mexico immersion experience last week. I continue to wrestle with all that I saw and experienced.

Props to Jake Bouma for calling my attention to Jones’ blog…


Immigration Discussion

July 16, 2008

We had an interesting discussion on immigration, from the Mexican perspective.  This is a very complicated issue; one that I have not reached my own conclusions on yet (as I mentioned late last week).  However Pastor Kim made some compelling arguments for why the current immigration policy is ineffective.  Below are the notes I took from his presentation.  I’m curious to know what y’all think…

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Operation Gatekeeper (1994 → same as NAFTA)
•    Militarization of the US / Mexican boarder
•    Creating walls in boarder towns where people tend to cross
•    The walls are created from old helicopter landing pads, used in Vietnam & Iraq

Prior to NAFTA, about 250,000 Mexicans / year crossing illegally
Post NAFTA, over 500,000 Mexicans / year crossing illegally

There are more undocumented Mexicans in the US than ever before.  Once Mexicans cross the boarder, they stay in the US.  It’s too risky to go back & forth for seasonal work; like Mexicans used to do prior to NAFTA.

Agricultural workers
•    In the US – 53% undocumented
•    In California – 90% undocumented

Mexico considers the boarder the result of an unjust war of aggression, instigated by the United States.

“Coyotes” charge $3,000 to facilitate the safe passage of an undocumented worker from Mexico to the US.

The flow of immigration traffic
•    comes up from the south of Mexico (campesino-saturated states)
•    arrives in Altar, MX
•    continues through the desert (2 hour drive) and cross in Sasabe or Nogales
•    walk around the “Minutemen” camp and immigration office into the desert mountains
•    walk an additional 6-7 days through the mountainous desert
•    arrive in Tucson.

Peak crossing months are January – May.
•    2,000 migrants cross per day during that period

It’s impossible to take enough water into the desert mountains, because it’s too heavy.

1994 – present → 4,000 people have died trying to cross the boarder

Some of the people who report illegal immigrants to the boarder patrol are actually people who hire them.  They’ll get 13 days work out of the immigrant, and then turn them over to the authorities before they have to give them their two-week paycheck.

“A Day Without Mexican” → mockumentary film

Mexico pays 50% of its budget to service debt to the IMF & World Bank

The Global Banquet

July 16, 2008

Today we saw an interesting documentary called “The Global Banquet”, which takes a look at food security issues throughout the world.  I offer the notes I took without comment or editorializing from me…at this time.

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Bio-tech companies are copyrighting the various hybrids of seeds because they have developed the technology required to analyze the seed…despite the fact that the current form of the seeds in 3rd world countries have been developed over generations of family farmers.  The claim of the farmer is that you cannot copyright that which the land has given you.

Food is no longer something that is primarily used for feeding people…it’s primary purpose is as a commodity for global trade.

Food is being sold in the US below production cost.  US farmers are able to survive because of large government subsidies…and the bigger your farm, the more subsidy you receive.

1960 – 1980 → income per person increased by 30+% in Mexico & Africa
1980 – 2000 → income per person decreased 7%

Are Free Trade agreements to blame?

It costs less to produce corn in the US corporate farms than anywhere else in the world.

Hunger is a symptom of poverty & inequality

The most efficient, productive, & sustainable farms in the world are small farms

The FDA doesn’t require the health testing of genetically altered food

In the past 27 years, the median wage in the US has increased 0%.
•    The previous 27 years it increased 80%.
•    Middle class & poor are making the same wage, despite increases in cost of living
•    The corporations keep the increased profits, without passing it along to workers

Book – “When Corporations Rule the World”

Community Owned Agriculture – sustain about 25 people

Small farms (variety of crops) are 200 – 1,000% more productive than mono-crop corporate farms.

Food Security – the ability for a community (town / county / state / country) to feed itself

Mexico By The Numbers

July 14, 2008

Ross Gandy, a sociology professor at UNAM in Mexico City, spoke to us tonight about some of the problems facing Mexico. I present the numbers to you, free from comment (which will be forthcoming).

• 1,000,000 Mexicans each year try to cross the boarder into Mexico
• Mexico City has the highest pollution index in the world
• 4 million people have no toilet
• 30 million people live in the country-side
• 1/2 the water is toxic
• 1/3 the country has diabetes
• Mexicans drink more soft drinks per person than any other country in the world
• 1/2 the Mexicans live 6 1/2 people to a room
• 1/2 all electricity in Mexico is free
• 1/2 the people have access to a TV
• 1.5% of Mexicans buy a newspaper
• 4% of Mexicans ever buy a book
• 40 million people haven’t passed 6th grade
• 8 million have never been to school
• Middle class professionals make about $400 US each month
• 70% of Mexicans make less than $10 US per day
• 1 million deceased Mexicans cast a vote for President Calderon in the 2006 election
• The hourly minimum wage in Mexico is 50-cents
• Mexico’s Main Exports
1. Mexicans → $20 billion was sent from Mexicans in the US to their families
2. Oil
3. Tequila

Your comments and reflections are encouraged!

Reflections from the Zocalo

July 14, 2008

Some thoughts that were shared with me after our trip to the city center of Mexico City yesterday…

A few years ago, Rudy Giuliani was a consultant to Mexico City for “urban renewal”, also known as Zero Tolerance.  The point is to drive out street vendors, panhandlers, etc. out of the city center.  In Mexico City, over 30,000 street vendors have been driven out of the Zocalo area.  The informal economy (street vendors, etc.) represent the largest “workforce” in Mexico…but they are not allowed to exist in the place where the most people congregate.  There is a huge military presence from the moment you step off the subway, and throughout all of the places we went.  Our leader (Arieadna) had her picture taken “for her security” upon entering the National Palace.  There were very few people selling things in the square – but McDonalds, KFC, and Holiday Inn were quite visible.

On one hand, I can see the need to remove the riff-raff from an area with untapped economic potential, like the Zocalo.  On the other hand, it seems like an unjust practice that deprives people from earning a living…in a country where the minimum wage is 50-cents / hour.  Lots of issues to wrestle with.  More thoughts to come in future days.

Thoughts From Mexico

July 13, 2008

It’s the end of Day 2 on my pilgrimage to Mexico City.  So far, much of the trip has been familiar to me.  This is my 4th time leading a group of youth and adults from Windsor Heights Lutheran Church on this cultural immersion experience.  We are in the very capable hands of Pastor Kim Erno, Pastor Heidi Torgerson, and the rest of the staff at Centro Luterano.

Today we visited the Zocalo, or city center, in Mexico City.  We saw the amazing murals of Diego Rivera, which depict his perspective on Mexican history.  Kim does a magnificent job of describing what is going on in these massive paintings.  We also stopped in the National Cathedral, which was holding Sunday mass at the time, so we didn’t stay long.  After lunch, we went to the Templo Mayor, which are the ruins of the Aztec temples destroyed by Cortez in the 1500s.  In the evening, we attended Catholic mass (in Spanish)…and were asked to sing a song for the congregation.  They even allowed us to participate in the Eucharist, which is very progressive for that denomination.

Tomorrow we are embarking on a new adventure for me.  We’ll be spending the rest of the week in Cuernavaca, which is about 50 miles south of Mexico City.  I’m told it’s a beautiful city, and I’m very excited to visit there.  Part of me is nervous, though, because I am no longer the “resident expert” of the group.  Hopefully there is wi-fi so I can continue to post blogs and stay in touch with my family.

Vaya con dios!

Immigration Reform in Iowa

July 11, 2008

Many of you are aware of the Postville raid that took place earlier this year.  I, for one, am a bit torn on this issue.  My head tells me that if people are willingly breaking the law, and are fully informed of the consequences, then we should not feel sorry for them when they are apprehended.  My heart, however, tells me that we are to welcome the stranger in our midst, even if they are disobeying stupid rules.

This is clearly an over-simplification of the issue (and my feelings pertaining to such), and I’m not prepared to offer a dissertation on my feelings about immigration issues.  Maybe another day…

However, I will say that there’s an informative podcast for you to check out on the Americas Voice Online site.  It’s about 45 minutes in length, and features four religious leaders in Iowa offering their insights on the issue.  (Of particular interest, my dad can be heard at the 15:40 mark.)  The speakers get better as the podcast progresses…and there are some technical difficulties that plague the first 5 minutes.  All that said, it’s refreshing to hear intelligent discourse from a predominantly “liberal” perspective.

If you’d rather not listen to the podcast, here is an article the Des Moines Register about the conference call, and a heart-tugging article in the New York Times.

I welcome your comments on this topic.  I’m sure I’ll have other perspectives to offer after I return from Mexico.