I love to receive letters. When I was a little boy, I lived on a long, straight street and I could see the mail truck coming from a long way off. After the mailman stopped in front of our house, I ran with hope in my heart down our front walkway, between our two giant maple trees and across the street to our mailbox. Would there be a letter for me? Was someone in the world thinking of me?
One day last year it was not the mailman, but a second-grader on the school playground, who handed a letter to me. I unfolded it.
"Dear Mr. Barton, hi it Odeth from 2th grade I miss you a lot I wanted to know about you so much I am being good I am in 4th grade Do you miss me. I live in __________ I go to school in __________ I hope you will come to my school … can you come visit me in school ask for my name…I am 10 year old I want you to come to my school.
Your best student,
What a wonderful thing, to be remembered by a student.
Every morning at 7:15, the doors of our school open wide to a line of bus riders ready to come inside. "Hello, Jaheem. Hi, Kiara. Hey, Imani. Hope you're having a good day, Omar," I call out as the students walk past me to the cafeteria for breakfast. I stand at the doors for a moment and watch the big, yellow buses puff their diesel exhaust and chug their way to the garage until it's time for their afternoon run.
Is there a more universal symbol for public schools than a big, yellow school bus?
The need for Red Letter Christians to no longer be labeled "evangelicals" became abundantly clear this past Saturday following the South Carolina Republican Primary. Most Evangelicals claim to be politically non-partisan, and say they only identify with the Republican Party because the Republicans are committed to "family values."
The truthfulness of that claim became questionable this past Saturday when South Carolina Evangelicals voted in surprisingly large numbers for Newt Gingrich, in spite of the fact that he's hardly a model husband in their eyes. Not only is he on his third wife, having had divorce papers served to one of them while she was lying in a hospital bed recovering from a mastectomy for breast cancer, but, if his second wife is to believed, wanted an "open marriage" so that he could have a sexual affair on the side.
Now Mr. Gingrich has been converted to Catholicism, and has, as part of his conversion, confessed his sin and asked for God's forgiveness. Evangelicals will say that this being the case we should forgive, forget and move on "to other concerns." I have to ask, however, why they didn't do this when a Democratic president repented of his sin?
With the Iowa caucus, the "First in the Nation" New Hampshire primary, and South Carolina's primary now behind us, the field of contenders for the Republican nomination continues to shrink. I've watched with great interest as the spectacle rolls on and a parade of non-Romney's (Non-Roms, going forward) rhythmically rise and fall. What is perhaps most interesting about the current frontrunners is the lack of an obvious evangelical candidate. For all the talk that we hear about the importance of the evangelical vote, one would suspect at least one of the potential nominees to be, you know, an evangelical.
But Michele Bachmann is out of the race after a promising start in the Iowa straw poll. Perry, whose entrance into the race as a more "electable" evangelical candidate may have contributed to Bachmann's quick downfall, all but eliminated himself in a number of now infamous debate flops. That leaves one not particularly religious Baptist, two Roman Catholics, and a Mormon. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, is perhaps the most socially conservative and thus the most evangelical-looking of the Non-Roms, but many evangelicals have a deep mistrust of Catholics, so it is doubtful that, as they did in Iowa, evangelicals will support him despite his Catholicism.
So what happened here? Back in 2004, when talking about the evangelical vote was all the rage, one could presume that evangelicals were a unified political front—that denominations or non-denominations within evangelicalism didn't matter, theological differences were moot, and ending abortion was enough to tie them all together. The problem with this presumption is that it was never true. There was never one kind of evangelical. If there was, self-identified evangelicals wouldn't have to add a definition or disclaimer every time they identify as such.
It’s hard to remember the warm-up to the Iraq war now almost 10 years old. Following the devastating experience of 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001), the United States experienced enormous national feelings of anger and sought a means to identify and punish those who were guilty of this horrendous act of terror. We now know that within days, the White House (in particular, the vice president’s office) was pointing a finger at Iraq and within 12 months, any observer could tell that we were on our way to war.
On March 19, 2003, when the invasion began I remember telling a class of students that they ought to remember this day well. It might be a war the U.S. would regret and it might lead to an involvement in the Middle East we don’t know how to end. Now ten years later we’re still mired over there.
What were the reasons for the war? Let’s make a list:
We’ve been watching the shifting evangelical vote in the primaries thus far, and NPR just took another look at it — from the King Makers on their way to Texas to try and find the Anti-Mitt. It’s not a question of if they can do it, but can they do it in time? S
outh Carolina is quickly approaching and their timetable is getting shorter and shorter.
And if they can, will it even make a difference for today’s evangelical voter?
Social justice index: USA No. 27 of 31. Democrats in Congress attempt to eat on $4.50 a day to protest potential budget cuts. Republicans shift focus from jobs to God. OpEd: Obama, the G20 and the 99 percent. In Congress, the rich get richer. The Shadow Superpower. And the U.S. sues South Carolina over immigration law.
When the Alabama legislature passed their infamous, anti-immigrant law (HB 56), the religious community in the state immediately cried foul. Jim Wallis and other national leaders condemned the law as unjust and immoral.
HB 56, which will go into effect September 1, attacks virtually every aspect of immigrants' lives. Among many punitive measures, it authorizes police to detain anyone they suspect is undocumented, mandates criminal penalties for those who transport undocumented migrants, and demands that public schools determine the immigration status of all students.