Personal History and Racism

25 09 2008

I spoke a few weeks ago about my journey to North Carolina on the train.  One or two things happened which really brought to my mind and heart the effects of racism in this country.

The train ride back from North Carolina back to New York was quite an eye-opener.  To give a bit of background, the train started its journey in Miami, Florida, wound its way up through Georgia and South Carolina, and picked me up in North Carolina before winding its way up the eastern seaboard and terminating in New york.

Here I was, enjoying my time in a modest sleeper car.  Everyone else in the sleeper car sections of the train were white.  Everyone who was sitting in coach, at least those who I saw, was black.  Separating the sleeper cars from coach was the dining car and the cafe car.  The dining car was where we took our meals.  Those of us in the sleeper cars took our meals for free as they were included as part of the fare while those in coach paid.  Those who chose lighter fare ate in the cafe car and paid for their meals regardless of class, and sleeper car passengers got free non-alcoholic drinks.

I went to cafe car once or twice during the trip for a snack or a drink and every time my eyes were opened to the stark reality of how different my life was compared to the others.  While I am not rich by any standards, the distance in income level between myself and the African-Americans in coach was very stark. This was the vacation of a life-time, to ride the rails from the Deep South to the Northeast, gladly spending 10 – 18 hours in crowded cars and seats, while I lazed about in much greater comfort than those who were around me.

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How much is $700 Billion?

24 09 2008

A few random notes on the week …

The big news in the US is, of course, not That Topic I Cannot Speak Of (see sidebar! 🙂 ) but the proposed $700 billion bailout.  To put it in perspective, if he is granted the entire amount at once, the Secretary of the Treasury could be his very own G7 nation.  $700 billion is more than the expenditures of the People’s Republic of China in 2007.  Here is this chart courtesy of the CIA World Fact Book of 2008:

1 United States $2,731,000,000,000
2 Japan $1,575,000,000,000
3 Germany $1,477,000,000,000
4 France $1,372,000,000,000
5 United Kingdom $1,237,000,000,000
6 Italy $1,029,000,000,000
7 China $634,600,000,000
8 Canada $551,200,000,000
9 Spain $544,900,000,000
10 Netherlands $352,300,000,000

John Cole, over at Balloon Juice, does a good job in summarizing what many Americans are probably feeling right now … snippets are below the fold, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Unsentimental, Unfair Inclusive Grace

22 09 2008

Text:  Matthew 20: 1-16

Grace is one of those funny things in Christian jargon.  It has been described as “God’s unmerited favour,” or “God’s mercy poured out to those who don’t deserve it.”  This goes against our human nature, for we want people to be rewarded or punished based on their merits, contributions and character.  In other words, we humans don’t really “get” Grace.  After all, isn’t it a right, good and joyful thing to be rewarded because of the great things we do or how wonderful we are?  Should the wicked be punished for the horrible things and atrocities that are committed?  That’s the funny thing about Grace.  By our own standards, no matter how high or equitable they might seem, Grace just isn’t fair.

It is simply inclusive.

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Understatement of the Year

19 09 2008

The Understatement of the Year award goes to ….

Steve Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group, an investment bank in New York City …

Title of an article on a blog in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago …

“Something is Amiss in the Financial System.”

Uh … yeah.

I have to tell you, though, if there is anywhere safe in this climate, it’s Blackstone.  Those guys are solid.

Click on the title to read the full article.

Blogroll update and New Visitors

17 09 2008

I have added a couple of people to the blogroll …

A very belated welcome to Fran, of Fran I Am who is one of the most savvy bloggers evah!  I had the pleasure of meeting her for dinner once in my ‘hood and we had a wonderful time getting to know each other. She’s warm, funny, beautiful, smart, and she also makes me think.  Go visit if you don’t know her already.  I’m dead serious.  Don’t make me take the corkscrew of Anglican Infallibility after you.

Another new friend is the Wayward Episcopalian, originally from Texas currently living in Idaho.  I look forward to getting to know you! Also check out Rev Bosco Peters over in New Zealand.

If I have forgotten anyone, please let me know.

Secondly, the list of visitors from around the globe just continue to grow. In addition to NZ, we have our first visitor from Africa … South Africa, to be precise.  Wonder Woman has also made her mark on my map as I see her over coming in from Canada…Edmonton, is it?

There’s also China, Japan and some little island off in the Caribbean off the coast of the Dominican Republic.  I pray  you guys survived all the storms and are recovering just fine.  God’s peace upon you all.

Welcome to everyone!

People of Hope

15 09 2008

As Christians, we are if nothing else, supposed to be people of hope and love.  There’s a lot of reasons to be anxious in the US today.  My walk to work takes me past the Lehman Brothers’ building and sure enough, there were cameras all over the place.  Someone having a twisted sense of humour actually placed a “For Sale” sign on it!  The financial markets are reeling from everything that is going on …. Lehman, Merril Lynch, AIG, Fannie / Freddie Mac … I am not equipped to comment about these things, but suffice it to say there is a palpable sense of uncertainty in the city that I haven’t seen since 2001.  Of course, it hits a little closer to home to me because I work in the financial industry.  Overshadowing all of this is, of course, something else.  I draw your attention to the side bar … you know what I’m talking about.

As a person of hope, we are called to proclaim the Good News in all things.  So here’s my little bit of Good News to share with everyone.

1)  Today is Holy Cross Day.  The Cross is our reminder, that no matter what happens, God’s got it covered through Jesus.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself:  Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP, The Episcopal Church)

O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life and peace:  Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (Church of England)

2)  The Kingdom of God continues to break through into the world.  The Miami Herald has a story about how two men are allowed to adopt a teenage boy they have been raising since 2001.  A Monroe Circuit Court judge in Key West (who happens to know one of my friends down there) made the ruling that Florida’s 31-year-old gay adoption ban ”unconstitutional.”  The story can be found here

3)  The next two for me are examples of good things in my life … The investment bank where I work is probably one of the best and safest places to be at the moment in this financial climate.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but we’re gonna be OK.

4)  Last but not least … SIR is coming home today !!!! He’s had a successful, but bumpy season up on Cape Cod this year and it has prevented us from visiting each other much.  Last time we saw each other was late July!

Isn’t he handsome?

Even with all the anxiety in the world .. we can still be people of hope.  What Good News do you have to proclaim today?

Rev’d boy’s Thought of the Day

14 09 2008

The Church is more like a sailboat than a powerboat. A powerboat goes straight to where the Captain wants it to go.  A sailboat, however, is propelled by the wind.  The Church as a sailboat, propelled by the winds of the Holy Spirit, does not head towards the fulfilment of her mission in a straight shot.  Rather, she sometimes must tack one way then the other in a zig-zag kind of fashion, sometimes appearing to fall behind, or stall or even move forward.  However, in every instance, she inexorably moves towards the fulfilment of the mission.