"Blogger" n. Someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do. This is the blog of Eric Swanson containing the developing thoughts and reflections on the externally focused church, the kingdom of God and what I see God doing in the world, in my life and the life of my family and friends. I also occassionally throw in a little commentary on good restaurants I like along with a few pictures.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Monday, May 29, 2006
Baby Gentry at the wedding
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Great, all-time reception
Saturday was one of the very best and absolutely funnest days of my life. All I can say is Wow! I got to walk my beautiful daugheter down the aisle and then change places with my son, Andy, who did the opening remarks, and then I got to perform the ceremony (This is the view I got to as I performed the ceremony!) Our son Jeff (the one who returned from Iraq) sang a song called "Wedding Song for my Sister" that he wrote for this occassion.
Sometimes during times like this, there is so much adrenelin present that one does not remember much of the occassion (Erik admitted that he did not hear a word I said during the ceremony, for instance. Not so with me. I was totally "in the moment" as I believe Kacey was. I got a bit choked up a couple of times but made it through everything. We kept saying to each other, "This is soooo fun!" The only glitch in the ceremony was when I presented them to the audience and I said, Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure of presenting to you...for the very first time....Mr. and Mrs. Kacey Olson!" (Instead of Mr. & Mrs Erik Olson) Was it an accident, a Freudian slip or said on purpose?
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Great Rehearsal dinner and golf
Had a great rehearsal / dinner tonight. My one regret was that the rehearsal took over an hour. I usually can get them done in around 20 minutes but folks wanted to practice their music, etc. Brenda Lotterhos and Susan Preston are playing violin / piano and it sounds gorgeous. After the rehearsal we adjourned to the Fellowship Hall for a great barbecue dinner hosted by the Olson's.
Later that night Kacey and I had the traditional night-before-the-wedding-I-can't-sleep-father of-the-bride-basketball game. I made the backwards, over the head shot to win it in the final seconds.
Friday, May 26, 2006
The Season of Singing
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come.
Song of Solomon 2:11,12
We are in the "season of singing." Spring is the time of new beginnings with all the possibilities of life before us. There is never a day with more opportunity and promise than today...even if you can't carry a tune.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Family arriving from ends of the earth
We're getting a little closer to Kacey's wedding and family is arriving from around the world. Tuesday my brother Bruce and his wife Lynn Maree and her son Sam came in from Brisbane, Australia and we went up to eat Barbecue at Shorty's in Longmont. Bruce's son, Matt (also pictured), has lived here since 1999 and is married to John and Nancy Lamb's daughter, Leah.
Last night we again forwent watching the finals of Idol to go to the airport to pick up our son Andy and his wife Natalie who flew in from East Asia where they have been living. What a delight to see them. Natalie is around 3 months pregnant so we are going to be grandparents all over again!
Andy Bales and Immigration
My good friend, Andy Bales sent me some of his thoughts on the immigrants of his LA community. Andy is the director of Union Rescue Mission in LA and has worked with homeless and those on the margins for years.
Faith and Reason
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner,(immigrant, alien, undocumented, day-laborer), giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by His name you shall swear.”
“There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger(alien, sojourner, undocumented, day-laborer) among you.”
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirst and you gave me drink, I was a stranger(alien, undocumented, day-laborer) and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirst and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger(day-laborer, alien, undocumented) and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
70% of my neighbors are undocumented. I am commanded by Jesus in Luke 10 regarding the Good Samaritan, to “love my neighbor”, this command is in the context of the Samaritans, a despised group of people, unwelcome, and unwelcome in the Temple, and Jesus said “love your neighbor”.
I heard people on the radio this week laughing at the thought of “illegal aliens” paying taxes. It broke my heart. The undocumented that I know pay every tax that we pay except possibly federal and state income taxes and many do pay income tax through a special ITIN number provision in hopes of some day becoming a citizen. They pay property taxes through rent payments, sales taxes on everything they buy, gas taxes, motel taxes, and those who use false Social Security numbers even buoy our Social Security System at the rate of $7.5 Billion per year, and they will never collect one penny of this. Folks complain that they cost our welfare system $3 Billion per year in California but according to a Federal Reserve report, they actually boost our overall economy by $100 Billion per year with their participation in agriculture, food industry, construction, etc.
Both the US economy and the economy of Mexico rests on the backs of these hard working people, as undocumented immigrants send $18 Billion dollars a year back to Mexico to their relatives. This is the second biggest industry in Mexico next to Oil, and we want to build a bigger wall.
What surprises me most is the Religious’ Right’s attitude toward the undocumented, because my undocumented neighbors have the very same family values, work ethic, anti-abortion view as those on the right. They bring to America what the Right says is needed.
This is part of my faith and my reason in speaking up for my undocumented neighbors.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Unwelcome and unwanted immigrants and the economy
Americans and Mexicans have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to the economic rules and principles that we live by. We really need each other to be at our best. Although a popular talk radio conception is “those Mexicans from Guatemala and El Salvador, come here, take our jobs or live off of food stamps our welfare role.” Like the factual backlash to The DaVinci Code, here are a few things I've run across that we can add to the discussion:
Illegal immigrants are not on welfare
“The 1996 welfare reform bill disqualified illegal immigrants from nearly all means-tested government programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare-funded hospitalization. The only services that illegals can still get are emergency medical care and K-12 education.” Though one could build a case for our schools bearing the lion’s share of the economic burden, consider the alternatives. If children are going to stay here, don’t we want them to be part of the educated labor force?
The majority of illegal immigrants pay taxes
"Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers. No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status — a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows.
What's more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks. Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they'll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers — that the Social Security administration stashes in the "earnings suspense file" — added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus. The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year.
Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children. The nonpartisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families — most of whom are illegal — are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume."
“Using data from the Census Bureau's current population survey, Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group in Washington that favors more limits on immigration, estimated that 3.8 million households headed by illegal immigrants generated $6.4 billion in Social Security taxes in 2002.”
Undocumented immigrants bolster the economy of Mexico
Every week Mexican nationals who reside in the US send money back to their families in Mexico in the form of “remittances.” The BBC reports that in 2004 “Mexicans abroad sent back $16.6b, making it the second largest source of income after oil.” (The estimates for 2005 are closer to $20b.) Monetary assistance in the form of foreign aid pales by comparison. In 2004 we gave Mexico $33m for “development assistance, child survival and health, and economic support funds.” Is economic assistance in the form of productive labor a better way to help a country? What new economic pressures would drive illegal entry were remittances to cease flowing?
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Migration patterns--a world on the move
In 2002 Philip Jenkins wrote an eye-opening book entitled The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. With an eye for trends and patterns Jenkins writes about the great global migrations taking place in our world today that are fueled by economic, geographic and political forces. These migrations are creating a de facto ethnic and cultural integration that will not be reversed. The first migration is from the rural areas to the cities--urbanization. Urbanization refers to a process in which an increasing proportion of an entire population lives in cities and the suburbs of cities. Fueled by a desire for better jobs, people are coming to the cities of the world looking for better opportunities. In China for instance, with the move towards a capital-driven economy, between 90 to 300 million people have moved from the hinterland into the bourgeoning cities of China. These are numbers “even at the low end match the entire workforce of the United States.”[i] This is the largest migration in human history. “China has between 100 and 160 cities with populations of 1 million or more (America by contrast has nine).”[ii]
Roughly one half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The implications for the church are mind-boggling. Evangelistic strategies that were effective in rural areas fall on deaf ears and blind eyes with city dwellers. Jenkins writes, “In 1900, all the world’s largest cities were located in either Europe or North America…Today, only three of the world’s ten largest urban areas can be found in traditionally advanced countries, namely Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles…. Currently, 80 percent of the world’s larges urban conglomerations are located in either Asia or Latin America…”[iii] Jenkins continues, “Rich pickings await any religious groups who can meet these needs of these new urbanites, anyone who can at once feed the body and nourish the soul. Will the harvest fall to Christians of Muslims?”[iv] God has localized the Great Commission by bringing the nations to the cities of the world.
The second migration is people from the South moving to the North in all parts of the globe. This migration is again being fueled by the abundance of jobs accompanied by a shortage of workers in the North. Jenkins notes that “western Europe has between 10 million and 20 million illegal immigrants from Africa and Asia, over and above the legally settled communities.”[v] Jenkins introduces a twist of irony that “the empires have struck back.”[vi] Citizens of an empire where “the sun never set” are returning to England in droves. “About half of London’s people are now non-White and by the end of the twenty-first century, Whites will form a minority within Great Britain as a whole.”[vii] With its declining population, “the French government argued that Europe would have no alternative but to admit 75 million immigrants over the coming half-century”[viii] to fill jobs and pay for social services of existing and aging residents. What immigrant population do we need to sustain our economy?
Even as we tighten our borders in the US, America already bulges with immigrants. The “ends of the earth” have settled in our “Jerusalems.” For example, within the boroughs of New York “is a Dominican City of 500,000, a West Indian city of 800,000, a Haitian city of 200,000 in Queens, two Chinatowns of over 100,000, 80,000 Greeks, 200,000 Jews, 40,000 Hindus, 150,000 Arabs and Middle Easterners.”[ix] Nearly every community in the US has experienced an influx of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. With immigration, the tension between assimilation and maintaining cultural identity has fueled debates in school districts and board rooms. In March 2006 we witnessed Latino immigrants, mostly Mexican, and their supporters taking to the streets and public squares demanding the right to legal status while at the same time rhetoric abounded around closing borders and building higher barriers to fence out our southern neighbors. With diverse cultures come new norms that call for new levels of diversity and tolerance. Whether your metaphor is melting pot or tossed salad, the blending of America is here to stay. Will the church be prepared?
[i] Fishman, Ted, China Inc. Simon and Schuster, New York, (2005), p.7
[ii] Fishman, Ted, China Inc. Simon and Schuster, New York, (2005), p.7
[iii] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P.93
[iv] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P.94
[v] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 97
[vi] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 96
[vii] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 96
[viii] Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press (2002) P. 97
[ix] Christensen, Larry E. in the forward to a reprint of Christianity Today’s article New York’s Hope by Tony Carnes, December 2004
Friday, May 19, 2006
The DaVinci Comatose
I wish I had better things to write about the Movie, The DaVinci Code. Liz fell asleep on three separate occassions, my daugther zzzzzz'd through much of it and I admit dozing off myself. I loved the book but then again I read it as a fictional novel. Ron Howard changed too many things in the movie and in the process lost the essence of a great story. The "story" always involves a battle to fight and a beauty to win. The battle to fight was Robert Langdon and Sofie Neveu's quest to find the "grail." But where was the beauty to win? By casting the young Audrey Tautou alongside the 50-year-old Tom Hanks could only reduce Langdon as a protective father figure. At the end of the movie, he kisses her on the forehead. Battle to fight, beauty to win? No way! As a sidenote, did it ever occur to anyone that in Dan Brown's fictional work, where he writes, (something to the extent that) "Fact: all locations, organizations, documents, etc. are real" is a statement of fiction?
Having read the book, I was pretty disappointed with the movie--maybe...3 stars
Father of the Bride
A week from tomorrow my daughter Kacey is getting married. Our time with her at home, once measured in years, is now measured in hours. She wrapped up her classes at UNC (with 4 A's and a B, I might add) and will transfer to the University of Colorado in the Fall. She's spending her days working out the details of the wedding. Yesterday, Pam Olson (mother of the groom) came to our house to work on the slideshow that will be shown at the rehearsal dinner. She's doing a great job. Around supper time, I threw a few things on the grill and we called Erik's dad, Doug, and invited him over and everything turned out quite nicely. Last night was also the night we had set aside to watch The Father of the Bride, with Steve Martin. Since Kacey was around six-years-old, this movie has formed the template for her wedding and also the input I would have. And it has come true. As George Banks (Steve Martin) says in the opening scene, "Marriage is simple--exchange vows and rings and its over. But weddings are far from simple." I've seen the movie a few times over the years. Before it was watching their story, now it was like watching mine--joy with a tinge of sadness as my little girl will be leaving for good.
What walls do
Do we really want to build another wall? A bigger question is, Are we in the age where walls are effective? Are walls working anywhere? The Maginot Line was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, machine gun posts and other defenses which France constructed along its borders with Germany to defend its border in the wake of WWI. The Line created a sense of security for the French that was not grounded in modern reality. When Germany did invade they simply went around the wall and entered France through Belgium and the Netherlands and employed planes to simply fly over the Line. The Line was an expensive symbol of security but it did not provide security. Today the term, “Maginot Line” serves as a metaphor for something that is confidently relied on but is ineffectual. So we may think that a wall will keep illegals from taking jobs away from Americans but that’s completely naïve. We are not losing American jobs because illegal aliens are sneaking into our country and taking them. We ourselves are bypassing the world of walls by sending our jobs overseas through outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China and service jobs to India and that has been good for America. Parenthetically, John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 points out that outsourcing is good for America and American jobs. On a program that aired in early 2006, Stossel said,
A Dartmouth study found that outsourcers actually create jobs in America at a faster rate than companies that don't outsource. The same study found that companies that outsourced abroad ended up hiring twice as many workers at home. Allowing outsourcing creates opportunity. It's easy to see the pain of the workers who are laid off; it's harder to see the benefits of free trade, because those benefits aren't news. It's true that in the last four years, America has lost more than 1 million jobs, but those were years when we had a recession. Look at the big picture. Since 1992, America has lost 361 million jobs, but during that same time we also gained 380 million jobs. Millions more than we lost.
The Great Wall of China was built over a period of nearly 300 years (1368-1640) during the Ming Dynasty. It stretches nearly 4000 miles and was put in place to protect China from foreign invasion. It was incredibly expensive to build, maintain and garrison. In the end, it was bribing the gate keepers that allowed the enemies to invade. Last night on Leno I watched comic, Alonzo Bodden do his monologue, which included a bit on the wall? “And who do you suppose is going to build that wall? Who’s going to work out in the hot sun and do back-breaking labor? I’ll tell you one thing it won’t be my people (African Americans). We’ve done our time in the hot sun workin’ and a pickin’.”
The Berlin Wall was constructed after WWII between East and West Berlin. Fifty years later the wall was torn down because walls are ineffective. Thomas Friedman, in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, says that today we are a world defined by webs, not walls. He is describing globalization and the globalized world we live in. Walls make for good symbols but that’s about it. Our solution to illegal immigration will not be found in walls.
  John Stossel's "Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior" http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=448934&page=2
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Thinking a little clearer about immigration
America is a country made up of immigrants who have come to our shores from nearly every other nation on earth. Immigrants come to the America today for the same reasons they have come for centuries—for opportunity. America has been built by those who came to America to contribute to and benefit from the opportunities America offers. The hope of all would be Americans is that here you can make something of yourself, regardless of family status or nation of origin. This hope is captured in the following poem called The New Colossus, written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, which appears on the pedestal of the Statue:
The DNA of American freedom, opportunity and hospitality is known throughout the world. The lamp still shines on the front porch of America. Until opportunities in one’s country of birth are equal or better than those in America, America will be a magnet to the peoples of the world.
The measure of this inequality of opportunity can be measured against the risks people are willing to take to come here. So, to pay $1500 (earned in a country where the average laborer’s wage is under $10 / day) to a “coyote” to smuggle one across the border, to walk across a dessert, to ride in the trunk of a car or in a sealed box car, is the true indicator of their desire for a better life. Dominicans and Cubans who cobble together a makeshift boat on the hope of arriving in Florida are people who have calculated the risk / benefits of living and working in America against the prospects of staying in their native land or dying on the journey. Where prospects are not better here than in the home country, there is no pressing immigration—legal or otherwise. We will not be building a fence along our northern border (even though terrorists could walk across at many unguarded crossings) because the economic incentives in Canada are equal to those in the states. So until disparities are lessened, the pressure to enter the country will continue. What would you risk for the opportunity to increase your income ten-fold to be a better provider for your family?
In the following days I'm going to try to address some of the economic, political and spiritual issues that pertain to immigrants.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Starbuck's Missions Trips
I was in Starbuck's the other day and picked up a brochure entitled "Help Restore a Costa Rican Rainforest." It was a joint project between Starbucks and Earthwatch Institute. I like their missional language. "Expeditions" is what they call these adventures. "Expiditions are not tours or vacations. They are real, working, ongoing research projects confonting critical, current environmental and sociological issues. Earthwatch Institute staff will brief the teams on their projects including wheree they'll live, what they'll eat and the exact type of work they'll be doing with thieir assigned researchers. you will be expected to work and stay with the expedition for the entire length of the program."