Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Losing Our Religion Screening at Southminster

Brendan is a pastor in a small, evangelical church, and he has a secret. 
He doesn't believe in God anymore. His wife is still a true believer - and she just told the wrong person.  
Losing Our Religion is a feature length documentary about preachers who are not believers, and what atheists do when they miss church. Allowed access to the 600 members of The Clergy Project – a safe haven for preachers from all faiths who no longer believe – the documentary follows ex-members and clergy who are still undercover.

We will be screening this important film on Thursday November 30th at 7:30 pm at Southminster. Join us at 7:00 for a pre-screening conversation. I am a member of the Clergy Project and have a small part in the film. I will talk about the protesters Southminster received after I posted an article in the Friendly Atheist about the need to move beyond the requirements of belief if faith communities wish to survive in the 21st century. There will be a donation request for the cost of screening the film.

Why this film? From my perspective, it is not to push "losing religion" or to push "anti-church." I am in the church. I like my job. I would not like it if I were forced to lie about who I really am. The church can be deadly when it lives within its own box. This film is about promoting freedom to question, to grow, and to change. I show it for all my clergy colleagues, past and present, who have devoted their lives to truth and compassion but have been boxed in by beliefs that no longer resonate. Someone asked me why I would show this in a church. It is exactly in the church where it needs to be shown. I also show it for my congregations who have demonstrated that it is possible to grow and be a place of acceptance and encouragement for all people on their various paths.

Other Links:
Southminster Facebook Event.
The film's website.
An interview I had with the producer of the film, Leslea Mair on KBOO's The Beloved Community.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Out of Order: Queer Pastors Redefining Church

On Tuesday October 17th at 7 p.m., Southminster will screen the new film Out of Order: Queer Pastors Redefining Church.
Out of Order is a groundbreaking feature documentary revealing the complex and painful struggles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) faith leaders as they confront entrenched bigotry and work to build loving support within their churches.... 
The leaders of this movement are young LGBTQ people of faith claiming a place in their church pulpits — and recognition in the everyday moments of church life. 
The film draws timely attention to the joyful experiences and complex struggles of queer young people, the need for greater awareness and understanding of bisexuality, and the growing visibility of transgender individuals, offering a unique perspective on a trans person of faith. 
Out of Order offers audiences a glimpse into what it looks like to navigate the reality of gender transition and lived sexual identity as a person of faith.

Here is the Facebook event.

Again, please attend and share widely among all your networks.

A five dollar donation will be encouraged for screening costs.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Justice and Love for the T in LGBT

Southminster is hosting two events regarding justice.

On Tuesday, October 10th at 7 pm, eight panelists will tell their stories and take questions regarding the challenges and joys of being transgender. The panel discussion is called "The Church's Response to the T in LGBT."

The panel will include Emma Lugo and Nicolette James of Transpositive PDX radio show on 90.7 KBOO. (Facebook). From the website:

Transpositive PDX Logo
"Transpositive PDX explores the vibrant activism going on in Portland reflecting the Transgender, Two Spirit, Non Binary and Gender Non-Conforming Community.  Through the strength of our vibrant and diverse Trans and Gender Queer communities. 
Transpositive PDX connects listeners with the ongoing activist, arts, culture, and dialogue happening in Portland and beyond.  Transpositive PDX is especially concerned about the underrepresented voices of Trans People of Color, Homeless Youth, and the most vulnerable in our communities."
Leo Bancroft describes himself as
"an out bisexual trans guy who is a mission developer/intern pastor for the Oregon Synod of the ELCA (Lutherans). In this role, I have started a small LGBTQIA and ally church called The Flame." Facebook

 Leo blogs at One of the Boys PDX.

Also on the panel Lurissa Sponsler-Overby and Eric Overby of PFLAG East Multnomah County. Lurissa and Eric are parents of a trans daughter. Lurissa said to me that she
"knows what it feels like as a parent to have your child rejected due to religious beliefs." 

Among many projects, Eric and Lurissa are leaders of PFLAG East. Facebook

The panel will also feature Southminster member, Jaimee, and her friends, Amber and Blair who will share their experience of being trans in Washington County.

Here is the Facebook page for the event.

Please share widely.

This is an important opportunity for trans understanding and trans justice.

On Tuesday October 17th at 7 p.m., Southminster will screen the new film Out of Order: Queer Pastors Redefining Church.
Out of Order is a groundbreaking feature documentary revealing the complex and painful struggles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) faith leaders as they confront entrenched bigotry and work to build loving support within their churches.... 
The leaders of this movement are young LGBTQ people of faith claiming a place in their church pulpits — and recognition in the everyday moments of church life. 
The film draws timely attention to the joyful experiences and complex struggles of queer young people, the need for greater awareness and understanding of bisexuality, and the growing visibility of transgender individuals, offering a unique perspective on a trans person of faith. 
Out of Order offers audiences a glimpse into what it looks like to navigate the reality of gender transition and lived sexual identity as a person of faith.

Here is the Facebook event.

Again, please attend and share widely among all your networks.

A five dollar donation will be encouraged for screening costs.

Monday, September 18, 2017

KBOO: Support One of Portland's Greatest Treasures

KBOO's Fall membership drive has begun!

KBOO is a Portland treasure. It is going to be fifty years old and it can kick, stretch, and kick.

I am thankful that KBOO is here doing justice and bringing diverse voices of the Pacific Northwest to the airwaves. I interview guests and produce Progressive Spirit and the Beloved Community at KBOO. I wouldn't be able to do this without KBOO.

I am on the KBOO Foundation Board and know a little bit about what it takes to keep this station going. It requires a lot of love, hard work, and members who give time and money to keep KBOO on the air and offering non-commercial, non-corporate truth.

This is the resistance.

Go to the website and click Donate or call 877-500-5266 from now to September 28th and become a member with a one-time gift or a recurring gift ($5, $10, $20, $50, etc. per month).

Here is a fun fact.  Typically in music-formatted radio, commercial stations run 12-16 minutes of commercials per hour. Talk shows often up to 18 minutes per hour or more. Every freaking day.

If that is not enough, commercial stations speed up Rush Limbaugh’s chatter so they can squeeze more ads in per hour!

KBOO makes an appeal for a couple of weeks three times per year. Volunteers make KBOO sing. And we don't speed up their voices.

These volunteers need to eat. I am soliciting restaurants to provide a meal for 15 volunteers. Know of a restaurant that can help? KBOO will thank them on the air the day they offer a meal.

I have a few openings. Email johnshuck [at] kboo [dot] fm.

With Appreciation,

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering 9/11 for What Purpose?

This is the day on social media where we dutifully post where we were and when and what we were doing when we first learned that the World Trade Center Towers had been hit by airplanes. On the anniversary we repeat the slogan "Never forget." But why? What are we not supposed to forget? Obviously, it can't be that we are supposed to forget it happened. The images are burned into our memories. Of what are we in danger of forgetting? I certainly have not forgotten 9/11 and until death or the onslaught of dementia, I likely won't ever forget that day. So why do we need to remind each other, "Never forget?" Never forget, what?

I suggest that the "never forget" command refers not to what but to who. We are never to forget who did this to us.  As Christians since the medieval period remembered the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, they recalled a who. Who killed our Lord? Never forget it was the Jews, so they believed.  Why did they believe it? They believed what they were told in sermons by those in authority. They believed interpretations of their holy texts that were ritualized in worship.
24When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (Matthew 27:24-5 KJV).
Who are "all the people?" Everybody knows, the Jews. It isn't until modern scholarship that these texts have been exposed for the false history they represent. As John Dominic Crossan wrote:
Here is the question at the heart of my book [Who Killed Jesus?]. Jesus stands before a Roman governor who declares him innocent and wants him released while a Jewish crowd declares him guilty and wants him crucified. The crowd wins. Is that scene Roman history or Christian propaganda?
Never underestimate the power of propaganda. Why would the gospel writers focus on the Jews rather than the obvious culprit, the Roman Empire, for executing a Jew, Jesus? If you are believers in Jesus writing after the Jewish Revolt and War in 66-70, you might want to distinguish yourself from that unpleasantness and let the Roman authorities know that you won't be making trouble. They painted the Roman Empire innocently washing its hands, while the murderous Jews scream for the death of the messiah, even as history shows that imperial Rome crucified Jews by the thousands.

Propaganda serves a purpose. Propaganda keeps us on message. Propaganda keeps us focused on the enemy and what is necessary to combat the enemy. Since 9/11, we need to keep focused on the Global War On Terror and never let up.

Who are we never to forget on 9/11? Muslims. Particularly, radical Muslim terrorists. Never forget that the Muslim terrorists attacked us on 9/11 because they don't like our freedoms. On this high holy day, 9/11, we remember why the Patriot Act is necessary, why we need to allow the NSA to spy on us, why torture is necessary, why we need killer drones, why we need to topple governments and why we need to spend obscene amounts of money on military equipment and personnel all over the Middle East, and indeed, the world.

The latest book by David Ray Griffin, Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World, (my interview with Dr. Griffin is here) spells out the consequences of 9/11. At the conclusion of his book, Professor Griffin includes a quote from William Rivers Pitt, "recalling that on 9/11 people in New York City were running for their lives, said:
We are still running because September 11, never ended. To the contrary, it grew, expanded, metatisized and ultimately subsumed this nation. We are a wildly different place, and a wildly different people than we were fifteen years ago....We accept [demeaning] things after a decade and a half of taming and training....September 11 gave us the horror and shame of Abu Ghraib as well as the disgrace of Guantanamo Bay. It gave us the concept of the Unitary Executive through which the president wields unlimited power in defiance of constitutional law. The PATRIOT Act exploded the surveillance dam and flooded the nation with watching eyes and ears....Fifteen years later, the pall of poison smoke from the day still hangs low over us all. The great mission for the remainder of this century is plain: We must get out from under the control mechanism September 11 has become." pp. 304-5.
Professor Griffin concludes his book with this:
The argument of this book is that we will not get out from under it unless the Big Lie of 9/11 is publicly exposed. p. 305
In my interview with Professor Griffin, he said that most people don't know about the 9/11 Consensus Panel. I didn't know about it. Professor Griffin writes:
In writing about skeptics regarding the official account of 9/11, newspapers have often not distinguished between 9/11 scholars and other skeptics, who may be uninformed or irrational. Ignoring this distinction has allowed the press to quote some silly statement by non-scholars and say, "This is what 9/11 Truthers believe." To try to reduce this problem, an organization called Consensus 9/11: The 9/11 Best Evidence Panel, was formed in 2011. 

The panel reminds me of the Jesus Seminar, except that I think the 9/11 Consensus Panel may be even more stringent as to how they to come to consensus on the evidence. Of course, the sources and evidence regarding the events of 9/11 are more easily tested and evaluated than the sources and evidence of early first century Palestine.

Nonetheless, both groups state their methodology, evaluate the evidence as their professions dictate, are transparent about their processes and results, and invite others to peer review their work. It is not propaganda. It is reason.  Both groups have been dismissed by the mainstream media because their conclusions upset the beliefs of established orthodoxy.

How to get people even to look at the work of the 9/11 Consensus Panel or Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth? That is the trillion dollar question.

I think for me it took a realization that being open to the evidence and all that it implied would not cripple me. I could look at it, discuss it, and share it and not be afraid of the consequences. What keeps me going when fear does creep up upon me, is that I cannot in good conscience allow the blame for 9/11 to be misplaced on Muslims any more than I can allow the blame for the execution of Jesus to be misplaced on Jews.

As I light a candle for the thousands who were murdered on the day of 9/11, I also light a candle for the destruction of the Middle East and for the millions who have been murdered since 9/11 by US imperialism fueled by propaganda and fear.

I light a candle because I trust that we can heal from this. We can follow where ever the evidence leads and we can be free. It is our great work. As more and more people dare to challenge the propaganda for themselves and look at the evidence itself, the movement for justice and truth will emerge. If the evidence leads us to prosecute criminals within our own government, then it will be because of true patriots who have shown us the way.

Rather than "never forget" I invite readers of this blog post to consider the evidence and be brave.

Other links of interest:

A review and summary of David Ray Griffin's book by Edward Curtin, The Lies of 9/11 “Miracle Workers”. Bush and Cheney, How They Ruined America and the World.

My interview with David Ray Griffin, Bush and Cheney: How they Ruined America and the World.

My interview with Dr. Niels Harrit, The Science Behind the Destruction of the Three World Trade Center Towers on 9/11.

My interview with Frances Shure, Why Good People Become Silent (or Worse) About 9/11.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Community Radio, Podcasts, Religion, and Money (Yowza)

I have been trying to figure out the direction for Progressive Spirit in terms of making it sustainable and connected with the two entities that make it possible, my congregation and the radio station where it is produced. The content of the show is mine. It serves a niche. Progressive, sometimes radical, politics, values, education and activism.  The tagline is spirituality and social justice.

There are a number of interesting complications to all of this. My congregation and I are working out a "memorandum of understanding" between my show and the church. In essence, the show is supported by the church but is distinct. We are working out the details of that and I am exploring the option of a non-profit board to support the program.

On one hand, the show is part of my job as a minister. I fund books, equipment, websites from my professional expense, a budget item for the show from the church, and my own personal expenses.  At this point, to run the show takes probably $2000 a year. I want to add transcripts and other things to make it more accessible.

But, I have studio time at KBOO to interview guests, produce the podcast and my monthly show, Beloved Community, that airs every second Friday at 9 am. In addition to my own website, KBOO posts my podcast on its website.  I do have a home studio, and I do a lot of production from it, but it isn't at all as cool as the radio station is for recording interviews. The radio station is an important part of this. I am indebted to it and happy to be so.

I also support the radio station with volunteer time and membership and I serve on the KBOO board until my term expires September 2018.  For the next few weeks, I will be working on getting restaurants to supply food for the station for the volunteers during the upcoming fund drive.

I really love the vision, work and mission of KBOO and want to do my part to make sure it is running and healthy and providing access to many diverse voices. I also love the work and mission of my congregation and I think it is great to connect these communities.

But it can be tricky. We have a religious institution, a community radio station, and me.  And not just one community station. Progressive Spirit currently airs on six stations weekly and others sporadically. It is a podcast and radio show. When we bring money into the equation, it gets way more tricky.

I was exploring at the suggestion of a friend, Patreon.  Out of curiosity, I set it up. So far I have one patron, my beloved wife who pledged a dollar an episode.  She hasn't paid. Obviously, I haven't done much with that. It seems complicated. I think it would be fun to set up Patreon and have the money go to KBOO. Would that work?

Even if that were possible, I still need to fund the show.  Frankly, I don't like asking for money. I have a service that is worth something to others. It is cleaner on one level to sell advertising. Since my podcast is on Podomatic, they have some kind of offshoot thing called Advertisecast. So, I set it up to see how it works.

I sold one ad. It was an app for Simply Zen. The ad was for $5. Advertisecast took $1. Then I went and purchased the app for $2. It is pretty cool, actually.  I made a $2 profit. I will donate it to KBOO.  I was curious how it all worked and how podcasts get monetized. I went and talked to some folks at KBOO about this and then decided to put the Patreon and Advertisecast accounts on the shelf.

I don't know how to do all of this and do it correctly and legally and with love and peace and justice for all parties.  I would love to share the wealth of my vast media empire with my two favorite non-profits, KBOO and Southminster as well as fund and improve the show. My guess is that a separate non-profit entity to fund the show is the way to go, perhaps similar to the way New Dimensions works it out.

Anyone else traversed these murky waters?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Shuck and Jive is Eleven

I started this blog on July 4th, 2006.  Here is that first post.  I sought to write a blog about truth and goodness, with the ironic title, Shuck and Jive. One of my favorite phrases that guides my ministry is from the Presbyterian Book of Order.

Truth is in Order to Goodness.

Here is the complete text:
F-3.0104 Truth and Goodness
That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can either be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.
Truth matters. Duty matters. I have not become so cynical, so post-modern, that I no longer trust that truth and goodness are ideals still worth pursuing. We live within the fog of spin and marketing. What is spoken is not important. What is done is not important. What is important is what a person with power can make people believe is true and good.

The mainstream media is purchased. Every politician is purchased. The presidency is nothing more than a new mask on the same empty suit.  Whether that mask looks like George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, or Donald J. Trump, (or had it been Hillary R. Clinton) the hollow empty container is the same. It is the hole of spin and marketing that exists to sell Americans that we are exceptional and thus deserve "the American Way of Life." This way of life is the consumption of 20 million barrels of oil per day when we produce 9 million bpd. This way of life is using 25 percent of the world's resources while we are 5 percent of the world's population.

Whether that is morally wrong or right is beside the point. The point is that this discrepancy does not exist without militarism, subterfuge, murder, and lies disguised as morality and goodness, in other words, this discrepancy does not exist apart from evil in high places.

America is not good. Charles Krauthammer whines that American children are not learning enough nice things about America. I wish what he is concerned about was happening. The truth is that neither American adults or children know what actually built America (genocide and slavery) and what sustains it (military dominance of fossil fuels). We follow the adage never to look a gift horse in the mouth. Because of corporate influence on politics and media and cheap toys for the consumers, nothing of substance will ever change. Unless...

America can be good. Representative democracy (thanks, Presbyterians) is not a bad form of government. The problem with it is that it requires every citizen to participate by seeking truth. When our paychecks are based on avoiding truth, we tend not to participate in truth-seeking and we fight over partisan politics that get us nowhere. The empty suit (whether Democrat or Republican) regardless of rhetoric, regardless of charm, regardless of whether he is a black guy who reads Niebuhr or a white guy who tweets, neither does anything to end the wars. Neither does anything to end our march to extinction.  Still...

America can be good if we want it to be good. There is a price. If we want goodness we must seek truth. Truth hurts before it heals. The truth that will end our wars is possible to uncover. When enough people say truth matters and act on that truth as patriots, change will come.

This is a revolution.

Happy Independence Day.

John Shuck, Signatory
Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth
9/11 Truth Action Project

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

KBOO Stands For Love

KBOO has released a statement about the death threats to the organizers of the Good in the Hood event this weekend.   I was happy to work on this statement with others.   We hope that the multicultural celebration will get a great turnout and show that love not hate is our guiding ethic.

I would certainly be there this weekend, but Lovely is taking me on a cruise as summer vacation begins for her on Friday.   Anyway, here is the statement from KBOO.


Published date: 
Friday, June 16, 2017 - 3:00pm
Contact Information
Gil Cardon and Delphine Criscenzo
KBOO Station Co-Managers
- See more at:

KBOO Takes Stand for Love
PORTLAND, OR ­­­-The KBOO Foundation Board and its staff denounces violence and threats of violence in the Portland metro and reaffirms its commitment to resist hate with love. In response to:
  • attacks on the MAX that resulted in the stabbing deaths of Rick Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, the wounding of KBOO volunteer Micah Fletcher, and the harassment of two young women
  • a letter containing death threats to Good in the Hood president, Shawn Penney, and a threat of violence to the upcoming Good in the Hood event, June 23-25
  • transphobic graffiti in a Beaverton school
  • and a rise of Islamophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and white supremacist rhetoric and actions in the Portland metro…
KBOO reaffirms its commitment to resist hate with love, ignorance with understanding, fear with courage, and despair with hope.  
For nearly 50 years, KBOO Community Radio has devoted its broadcast frequencies, and more recently its web presence, to the diverse voices of our community. We must step up to be even more assertive in resisting oppression and our KBOO community is committed to respond to hate by understanding its systemic structure and taking courageous action.
In addition to broadcasting dynamic programming from diverse sources to engage Portland and the world with radical love, and supporting conversation about oppression within our own community, KBOO has developed a strategic vision for 2017-2020 “to deepen its internal and external connections to build "The Beloved Community."
The KBOO Foundation Board and its staff encourage the community’s organizations, businesses, schools, religious institutions, police forces, media outlets, and government offices to join us to consciously and actively reduce systemic oppression within their organizations. KBOO also encourages all individuals to attend the....
June 23 - 25, 2017
LIllis Albina Park (North Flint Street & Russell Street, Portland, OR 97227)
KBOO invites everyone in its listening area to partner with us and build the Beloved Community.
KBOO broadcasts at
90.7 fm in Portland
104.3 fm in Corvallis
91.9 fm in Hood River
and worldwide at www.KBOO.FM

KBOO Community Radio's Mission: KBOO is an independent, member-supported, non-commercial, volunteer-powered community radio station. KBOO embodies equitable social change, shares knowledge, and fosters creativity by delivering locally rooted and diverse music, culture, news, and opinions, with a commitment to the voices of oppressed and underserved communities.

Monday, June 19, 2017

My Greeting at the Embrace Festival

 I thought I would share the text of the presentation I gave at the Embrace Festival that took place May 4-6 in Portland.  I was on the panel that opened the event.


My name is John Shuck. You can remember my name by thinking of Oh Shucks, or shucking corn or shucking oysters, or shuck and jive. That is the name of a blog I wrote regularly for awhile, since 2006 and now sporadically. Shuck and Jive.

I have been a Presbyterian minister for almost 25 years.

I currently serve a congregation in the Portland Metro called Southminster Presbyterian Church. It is in Beaverton. It is one of the sponsors of this event. It is my fourth congregation.

I also host a radio program and podcast called Progressive Spirit.  A weekly hour long interview show with authors, scholars and activists about social justice, spirituality, religion, politics, science, sex.

I record and produce the program at a community radio station here in Portland, 90.7 KBOO. I volunteer there and engineer and host Democracy Now on Mondays and Thursdays and I currently serve on the board of KBOO. I want to talk about this station a little bit because this radio work is my avocation, my hobby, my passion. My wife says I have two fulltime jobs, my church job and my radio work. Only one of them pays.

But the radio work pays in important ways. My radio work keeps me sane. It also keeps me informed. It requires me to speak from the heart in my job as a minister. The Latin root word for heart is cor. Think coronary. Also think courage. Same root word. Courage and heart. To have a heart, a big heart, is to be courageous and to be courageous means having a big heart. My work at KBOO is the inspiration for me to be courageous to have a heart.

KBOO has been in existence for nearly 50 years in Portland. It is one of the early community stations. It provides a variety of programming and at the center of it are its volunteers. I want to share with you KBOO’s vision statement:
Vision Statement and Charter:
  • KBOO fearlessly strives to deliver powerfully just, lovingly eclectic, vibrantly provocative grassroots content while honoring our growing radical revolutionary legacy. 
  • KBOO commits to providing an inclusive, empowering atmosphere to decolonize mass consciousness with humility and integrity, making a lasting and evolving impact on our communities. 
  • KBOO embraces a creative climate that emphasizes fun, truth, beauty, joy, peace, love, and justice.
This community radio station is in effect a sacred community that participates in social transformation.

Is it perfect? Ha! Of course not, it is filled with humans. Of course, we have conflicts and hassles and budgets and everything else. But it is a community. A community that has heart.

Here is my point. We need communities with heart. I will speak for myself. I need such a community. I need it because I need to be reminded, prodded, and challenged to speak from heart, live from the heart, and be courageous. Courage and heart to speak truth.

We live in a country that lives by lying. In fact, lying, falsehoods, dissembling, has become so popular that our leaders don’t even fake it. None of our institutions from churches, to government, to corporations, to media, to education are speaking primarily from the heart, speaking the truth with courage.

The reason is pretty clear. Truth-telling is not rewarded with promotion or status or material wealth. When I am talking about truth and courage and heart I am not talking about being absolutely right. I am talking about being true to ourselves and valuing what is true.

I am going to speak about three people very quickly who I admire as people of courage and heart. Two of them are here and will speak at this festival.

Matthew Fox is a truth-teller. He told the truth that theological doctrines such as original sin and many others were not true and thus harmful. He wrote a book called Original Blessing. You will hear his story, but in short, he was booted from the Catholic church because he wouldn’t shut up about sharing what he thought was true even as it cost him his ordination. It was no small thing. He continues to tell the truth about our peril and our possibility. You are fortunate to be able to hear Matthew this weekend.

The second person in my trinity is Gretta Vosper. She is also going to be speaking today. She told the truth of what she thought about theological matters including concepts of God and has been viewed as unsuitable by her denomination, the United Church of Canada. I will let her tell her story, but what I found courageous and heart-full about Gretta is that she followed her heart in working with her congregation because she respected them enough to talk about what is life-giving and real. She said honestly what other clergy have for whatever reasons been unable or unwilling to say. You are fortunate to be able to hear Gretta this weekend.

The third person is not here this weekend. I think he will be remembered as one of the most important theologians in the 21st century, even as he did most of his scholarly work in the 20th. His name is David Ray Griffin. That’s right, David Ray Griffin the “conspiracy theorist.” Did you now that the label ‘conspiracy theorist’ was invented by the CIA in the 1960s to discredit critical thinking of official government narratives? Just say “conspiracy theory” often enough and no one will ever have the courage to examine the evidence for themselves.

David Ray Griffin became the first scholarly voice of the 9/11 truth movement, the movement to challenge the official government conspiracy theory. He has written perhaps 10-12 books on the topic, one published by my own denominational publishing house. Those who were responsible for publishing it lost their jobs. I am not saying anything more about 9/11 except as it relates to courage.

Last week the American Institute of Architects had their annual meeting. Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth made a resolution that there is sufficient evidence to open a new investigation into 9/11 because world trade center 7 that was not hit by a plane and that collapsed at near freefall speed into its own footprint later in the afternoon on 9/11 could not have collapsed by fire. The best scientific hypothesis is controlled demolition.

The AIA voted against the resolution just within the last couple of days. Only 4% voted in favor. Why? The Official statement was that WTC 7’s collapse “has been investigated thoroughly by competent authorities with reasonable conclusions.”

Members of Architects and Engineers for 911 truth interviewed about two dozen delegates who had voted no. They discovered this:
The vast majority of these delegates indicated no disagreement with the argument that WTC 7 did not collapse from fire. In fact, nearly half of them agreed that it was likely — if not completely evident — that WTC 7 was brought down in a controlled demolition. 
Nonetheless, most of them voted “no” because, as they put it, this was an issue the AIA should not take on. “It’s not our responsibility as architects,” some said. Others felt it was time to move on. One of those who agreed that WTC 7 was demolished said he thought it would have little impact if the AIA took a stand on the issue. Perhaps most unsettling, though, were the few architects who said they simply didn’t care."
I am sharing this little anecdote because I am grateful for people like David Ray Griffin. I am grateful for people who risk their reputations, often their livelihoods because they feel that a truth needs to be told.

Sacred Communities and Social Transformation cannot be a marketing ploy. Regardless of what you think about 9/11, we are in deep trouble. We are facing serious crises to our planet and we have people in positions of power doing horrible things. They think they will get away with it because they know that like those architects who knew better but kept silent, most people won’t care.

I don’t care what your religion is or how you celebrate and lament and what philosophy guides you, but I do care about being in a community that supports truth-telling, and encourages it.

I hope you have one or find one.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Celebrating Ramadan is The Most American Thing We Can Do

Over 1000 people attended the Ramadan Tent Project PDX Open Iftar 2017 at the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard over the Memorial Day Weekend.    I was able to attend the first night and hear the liberating speech of Aneelah Afzali as she dismantled stereotypes of women in Islam and provided the factual history of the liberating work of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on behalf of women.    She and the university students who organized this event are true American patriots.   They represent a voice of America and Islam that is courageous, compassionate, collaborative, and strong.    I could have listened to her speak all night.

Aneelah Afzali

This first night of Ramadan began with grief and shock as throughout the day we heard the news of the fatal stabbing on the MAX in Northeast Portland.   Two men had their throats slashed as they attempted to defend two young women who were being harassed.   A third man was sent to the hospital with injuries.  The reports were that the assailant had been saying anti-Muslim sentiments at the young women that accompanied a barrage of hateful comments in general.   The men stepped in to protect them and were attacked.

The Muslim community responded by raising funds for the families of these men, and as of this blog post over $450,000 has been raised under the banner "Muslims Unite for Portland Heroes."   The Portland Mercury has a list of other places raising funds for the surviving hero and the for the teenage girls who have been traumatized.

In addition to grief and shock I saw determination and hope at the Open Iftar.   Various politicians were there and some spoke and that is a good thing.   But the revolution needed in our country that will overcome hatred and bullying will be led by the young women and men who organized this event and the rest of us who follow their example.

The Ramadan Tent Project 2017 Team

They gave us a glimpse of what America is becoming by generously offering their beautiful tradition of fasting and service and an open table to everyone.    While I am a strong supporter of the separation of religion and state, still I would like Ramadan to be celebrated and acknowledged by our nation.   It is a celebration that embodies the best of our American values.

The Crescent Moon at Sunset 
I despair daily over America with its legacy of slavery, racism, genocide, imperialism, xenophobia, and selfishness.   This Open Iftar showed me that there is another star rising in our nation.   It is led by the radical hospitality that is embodied in the spirit of Ramadan and in these youth who are inviting us to be human beings.  

Hanan Al-Zubaidy Announcing the Call to Prayer

Hear interviews with organizers, Sadaf Assadi and Hanan Al-Zubaidy:

OPB Think Out Loud
Progressive Spirit (34:48)
Sprouts on Pacifica Radio Network

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ramadan Tent Project Portland!

Ramadan Tent Project 

You are invited to an open Iftar, Saturday, Sunday and Monday  evenings (May 27, 28, 29) at the Muslim Educational Trust.   It is a great opportunity to enjoy a meal (provided by the students) and experience an inter-faith celebration!   It is the Ramadan Tent Project Portland.  It begins at 7:30  pm each evening.  

Here is an interview I had with the two organizers Sadaf Assadi and Hanan Alzubaidy on the Pacifica Radio Network. 

They were also interviewed on OPB's Think Out Loud today.  Listen here.   

They could get a big crowd.  You can help them purchase food by donating here

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Inequality for All

We continue our Tuesday evening study/discussion group, "The Church Beyond Its Walls" with the film Inequality For All featuring former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.   During Sunday's sermon, Yahweh Goes Camping, I broached the topic of inequality and its corrective through the Jubilee Year in Leviticus 25:
I offer a challenge to those of us with modern sensibilities. In Leviticus 25 we learn about the Year of Jubilee or in the Contemporary English Version, the Year of Celebration. Leviticus 25:10: 
“This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families.” 
This is radical. This rule makes Bernie Sanders look like a neo-con. Every fifty years we start over. All the money the wealthy made and the land they possessed gets redistributed. Imagine that. Written in to the constitution is redistribution of wealth so that you won’t end up with a wealthy few controlling the lives of the many.
Here is a statistic that should boil our blood:
With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.
I really don't like Yahweh much. He thinks too highly of himself, is petty, jealous, abusive, and kind of weird. He likes the smell of cooked meat and to be surrounded by nice things.  But, he does kick butt. If Yahweh were real, I bet he'd kick some billionaire butt.
Leviticus 25 that describes this Year of Jubilee is the climax of the Book of Leviticus. The book leads up to this. This is what it is really about. Yahweh says in 25:23: 
"No land may be permanently bought or sold. It all belongs to me—it isn’t your land, and you only live there for a little while." 
Petty, angry, jealous Yahweh said that. It is the most radical verse in the Bible. It is the most radical statement ever made. None of our economists or jurists or legislators or executors or professors or bureaucrats or smart people in general have ever come up with anything as radical as Leviticus chapter 25. 
If you want to be holy as Yahweh is holy, if you want to love your neighbor as yourself, if you want to live sustainably and survive in the land that Yahweh is renting to you, then every 50 years, redistribute. Start over and don’t cheat. 
This rule is not based on charity or voluntarily giving up the wealth. This is the law written into the constitution itself. Justice is not charity. If we are to live justly on Earth, justice must be established by force of law. If this isn’t happening, then it is time for revolution.... 
Inequality in which 400 billionaires own over half the nation’s wealth is not inevitable. It is not part of the human condition. It is not the result of the wealthy working harder than the rest of the population. It is theft at a grand scale. Every day in our country whatever protections we have left are being whittled away by these monsters who are in power and who have been gaining power for a long time. Until we begin to name this theft for what it is, we will never change it.
Where have you gone, warrior Yahweh?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth

Tonight at 7 pm we will watch the film, 9/11: Explosive Evidence Experts Speak Out.   I have determined that AE911Truth is doing solid work and does not chase after "conspiracy theories."  They focus on the science of the destruction of the three skyscrapers on 9/11.   They don't speculate on other issues surrounding that day but instead they present the evidence and the best scientific descriptions of that evidence.   They do seek one thing:  an independent investigation of 9/11.
Our mission is to research, compile, and disseminate scientific evidence relative to the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers, calling for a truly open and independent investigation and supporting others in the pursuit of justice.

Beyond Misinformation: What Science Says About The Destruction of World Trace Center Buildings 1, 2 and 7 is a helpful book that accompanies the film.  Everyone who attends tonight will get a photocopy of the pdf.  

Last week I offered my own personal journey through 9/11 and tonight I let the film speak for itself and invite whatever discussion arises.   If you think enough doubt is raised with the film to at least question the official narrative of what happened on 9/11, you will be interested in signing this petition from the 911Truth Action Project either on-line or I will have paper petitions available tonight as well.  It reads:
I hereby petition for, and demand, an independent, comprehensive investigation, satisfying all standards specified by the 9/11 Truth Action Project, including subpoena power, testimony under oath, and study of all relevant evidence, leading to transparency and accountability for the crimes of September 11, 2001 and justice for its victims. My name, city, and state will be publicly presented to Congress at My other information will remain private and not released to third parties.
I have signed the above statement. If you are an architect or engineer, the AE911Truth welcomes your support.

Invite friends and neighbors.

Tonight, Tuesday May 23rd.  Room 7.  7-8:30 pm.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How I Became A Truther

I have been a "truther" since I read David Ray Griffin's book, Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 that was published by my denomination's publishing house, Westminster John Knox Press. At first, some took what he had written seriously.  A study guide was created for helping church people digest it.

PCUSA staff weren't quite sure how to approach the book.  Chris Iosso provided a rather odd review in Presbyterian Outlook in which he tries to distance himself from Griffin "However my own suspicions work against the book's argument" but offers no "suspicions" and essentially praised Griffin's scholarship.    As it turned out, after pressure from conservatives the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation apologized for publishing it, ceased its connection with the book, and "departed" those responsible for publishing it.  (From 9/11 and Nationalist Faith, lecture by Professor Griffin):
Godshall, moreover, did not merely censure my book and Westminster John Knox for publishing it. The two men at the press who made the decision to publish it were soon to depart. 
According to the story in the Louisville-Courier Journal, “Godshall said no one would be disciplined for approving the book” and that “the board would continue to defend the editorial independence of the corporation.” 
In fact, however, Godshall began micromanaging, so Davis Perkins, who was already angry at Godshall for having apologized for the publication of my book, resigned as president and publisher of Westminster John Knox to take another position. One week later, Jack Keller, the vice president for publication, was fired. 
What is the message? While Jack Keller was vice president for publishing at WJK, it had published several books by me. One of them, God, Power, and Evil, rejects the traditional doctrine of omnipotence. It even specifically criticizes this doctrine as held by John Calvin, the founding theologian of the Presbyterian Church. Another book explicitly denies that God can interrupt the world’s normal causal relations, which means that there can be no miracles as traditionally understood and no infallibly inspired scriptures. But no one was fired for publishing these books. No one screamed that by publishing these books, the press was implying that the Presbyterian Church accepted these ideas. 
So what is the message to publishers at church presses? It is that they can publish books that are highly critical of traditional Christian doctrines without losing their jobs. But they had better not publish anything that challenges the idea that America is fundamentally good, the exceptional nation, because this is the one religious belief that cannot be challenged.
Here we are ten years after its publication and sixteen years after the events of 9/11. Does uncovering the truth and demanding a full investigation into 9/11 still matter?    I believe it does because of all the death and destruction that has happened (and continues to happen) because of 9/11.  Most importantly for me it matters because truth matters.   Tonight I continue our Tuesday night series, "The Church's Role Beyond Its Walls."

I tell my own story of how I became suspicious of the government's official conspiracy theory and why I think it is important for Americans to take action and demand an independent investigation.   Next week we will watch the film by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, "9/11: Explosive Evidence--Experts Speak Out."

Here is the description of what will happen tonight and next week on the website:
The Church’s Role Beyond Its Walls, Tuesdays from 7-8:30 pm, Room 7 
May 16 - John’s personal journey through 9/11 tying together 9/11, The Myth of Redemptive Violence, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, and Resource Depletion, especially Peak Oil. 
May 23 - (Film) “9/11: Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out” by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. We will keep options open regarding the remaining Tuesdays if there is interest in discussing these topics further or other topics. John will continue discussions and films for those who are interested. We will decide that on May 23rd.

Childcare is provided.  The public is invited.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Church's Role Beyond Its Walls

"The Church's Role Beyond Its Walls" is the title of a series of educational events at Southminster beginning tonight and every Tuesday through June.   We have started the Tuesday night sessions that are open to the larger community since November.  We have had forums on houselessness and dismantling racism as well as forums on how to respond to the new political situation especially on behalf of those most vulnerable.   We spent several weeks reviewing the history of the Civil Rights movement by watching Eyes on the Prize.  Now we are moving into another phase.

The Tuesday night gatherings called "Building the Beloved Community" are for empowerment and community building as well as education.   The evening runs from seven to eight-thirty.   Some of the topics may include:

  • Sanctuary Churches as a safe place for undocumented workers.
  • Protecting the Right to Free Speech (particularly the right to protest).
  • Freedom of Religion (i.e. discuss ban Muslims from entering the U.S.)
  • A Humane Guest Worker Program
  • Medical Fairness and Care for All A Moral Budget as opposed to a Militarized Budget.
  • Education Fairness (should college be free?)
  • Worker Fairness and the right to unionize.

There is plenty to talk about.  I am going to kick off the series with three presentations entitled "Ethics As Worlds End" on my personal theological/political journey through exploring 9/11, peak oil, and the end of religion.    I suggest that two powerful myths that guide Americans are "The Myth of Redemptive Violence" and "The Myth of American Exceptionalism."   I will try to describe what these myths are and how they operate in our culture toward destructive ends, ultimately our demise.

The task of theology (and thus the role of the church beyond its walls) is to give words and stories to the myths that guide us and to offer counter-myths, myths of resistance and myths of hope.    I think this is what Jesus did when he offered his parables of the kingdom of God in opposition to the kingdom of "this world" (i.e. Caesar).

Some of the thinkers I will draw from are the late Walter Wink (myth of redemptive violence)Stephen Walt (myth of American exceptionalism), and David Ray Griffin, (American exceptionalism and nationalist faith).

This is my personal story.  What I mean by that is that I will present what I think I know and let others draw their own conclusions.  I won't argue about or resist other views.  My ultimate goal is to keep a conversation going about the crucial importance of critical thinking about who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going.

Join us?

Every Tuesday night from May 2 through June 20.    We meet in Room 7 at Southminster.  Seven p.m.  Everyone is welcome.


Friday, April 07, 2017

Calling Out Portland on Its Racism

The Oregonian printed my letter to the editor.
I like Portland. I like it enough to call it out on its racism. Redemption is possible.

Portland, I have heard, is the place where young people go to retire. Unless they are black. The black young people end up being targeted and profiled by police. It is no surprise but a preventable tragedy that Quanice Hayes was killed by Portland police officer Andrew Hearst.

I spoke to Quanice's mother. I read the grand jury transcript. I am not satisfied. Regardless of the justifications offered by the police, the outcome is clear: A kneeling, unarmed 17 year-old child was killed by a bullet to the head and two to the chest. Whatever this child might have done that night, and however scared the officer might have been of him, there is no justification for this. While the police may have thought Quanice was a threat, it is more likely that racism got the better of the officer and he panicked.

That is no surprise. Portland has a long, violent history of racism. If Portland is going to change outcomes and rid itself of the cancer of racism, concrete actions need to be taken.

First, there needs to be a federal investigation into this case. Second, we need a special prosecutor, not a grand jury, when police use fatal force. Third, we need to end profiling. Fourth, police need body cameras.

Portland can do better. We are in this together.

John Shuck, Beaverton
A few days after I recorded the interview on Progressive Spirit with Venus Hayes, the mother of Quanice Hayes, and Teressa Raiford of Don't Shoot Portland, the grand jury decided not to indict Portland police officer, Andrew Hearst.    That decision by the grand jury was expected and wrong.

When I say the decision was wrong, that does not necessarily mean Officer Hearst was guilty.   It means that he should have faced trial.   Perhaps the outcome might have been the same and he would have been found not guilty of wrongdoing.    But the trial would have allowed it to be open to the public and to allow for cross-examination of witnesses.   It would have also have allowed the family and friends of the victim talk about the character of Quanice Hayes and see him as a human being whose life mattered.

The 500 page grand jury transcript was released on March 27th.  It is interesting reading.

Officer Hearst admitted that he did not see that Quanice had a gun:
Q.   I understand your testimony, you did not actually see a gun in his hand at the time that you pulled the trigger in your rifle; is that correct?
A. That's correct. I did not see.  (p. 506)
Hearst just believed that Quanice had a gun.   Some have objected to my writing that Quanice was unarmed.   We don't know.  The officer didn't see a gun.  We don't know if Quanice had it on him or not.   It was found on the ground after he was shot.  Why would Quanice reach for a fake gun when an officer with a very real gun is pointing it at him?   If possessing a fake gun is the same as being armed, then I would love to see cops armed with fake guns.

As far as the grand jury testimony was concerned, the questions to witnesses were softball questions without any cross-examination.    All we have is the word of the cops (who obviously will stick up for each other) that the victim didn't have his hands in the right place.  The grand jury seemed to be led to the conclusion that Quanice was some dangerous threat and that the only possible solution was what resulted.

As I said in my letter to the Oregonian:

1) We need a special prosecutor, not a grand jury, for incidents of fatal police shootings.

2) This particular case needs a federal review if for nothing else than to relieve the racial tensions caused by this killing.

3) The police and the entire metro needs to have honest discussions about race, targeting, and profiling.  It needs to end.

4)  We need more police accountability.  Body cameras are a good start.

The killing of a teenager did not make Portland safer.   I am not saying that Quanice did nothing wrong.  Of course not.  If he did what was alleged, he made some seriously bad choices.   He should face the consequences for that.  He will never get to do so now.  But Quanice Hayes was a human being.   He did not deserve death.   There were many other ways to "disarm" him than shooting him dead.   If not, then the populace is in serious trouble.   If the police cannot control themselves more than that then it is the police who threaten our safety rather than act as our protectors.

What does this have to do with racism?

If white people don't think Portland is a racist city, then white people should look at facts.   A good place to start is the recent series by the Portland Tribune entitled,

The High Cost of Being Black in Multnomah County.  
In Multnomah County, ticket by ticket, arrest by arrest, African-Americans are charged three to 30 times as often as white residents for everything from pedestrian and transit fare violations to drug charges and crimes related to interactions with police.  For black people in Multnomah County, unequal treatment in the criminal justice system is nothing new.  Lauretta Reye Austin, 22, described being hassled by a cop while waiting at a MAX station.

Teressa Raiford, 46, and a leader of Don’t Shoot PDX, said it was only after talking to white girls that she learned police didn’t know all young kids by name — just the black kids.
Need a history lesson?

Exclusion Laws and Poll Taxes: Oregon's unquiet history of racial conflict.

Here is some truth:
'The relationship between blacks and the justice community has always been defined by the reality that police were assigned to keep the black population under control.'

That is the reality of Portland.  Police do what the white power structure instructs them to do.  Racism is our problem.  We are all in this together.

It is painful for white people to realize that they benefit from institutionalized racism, but it is far more painful for those who suffer from it.  Suck it up, white folks.   Read this important series:

Investigate West:  Unequal Justice.

White people like to say, "I'm not racist!  I'm not racist!"

Who are we fooling?  Certainly not people of color.

Let's be part of the solution, not the problem.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Say His Name: Quanice Hayes

Quanice Hayes was 17.

On February 9th he was shot three times by Portland police officer, Andrew Hearst.   He was killed.   This is the same police officer who killed Merle Hatch in 2013.  

Why is 17 year old Quanice Hayes dead?  His mother, Venus, would like to know.   She gave a tearful testimony before the city council on Wednesday March 1st.   Here is the transcript:
My name is Venus Hayes and I am the Mother of Quanice, the 17 year old shot and killed by Officer Andrew Hearst February 9th. I would like to thank you all for gathering here today both in remembrance of my son Quanice Hayes and in support of my family’s fight for justice on his behalf. 
It has been 20 days since Quanice was taken from me. The days passing his death have felt like a lifetime for my family, and myself as we’ve patiently waited for city and its officials to provide us answers surrounding the events that took my son’s life. As the details are slowly made available to the public my family has had to bare the burden of piecing together what occurred by fact checking statements given in various social media sites and news outlets rather then receiving them from those working this investigation. 
Since his death we have learned that Officer Hearst, who was also involved in the death of Merle Hatch, shot Quanice a total of 3 times. To clarify earlier statements and news reports my son died immediately as a result of a gunshot wound to his head. 
My son was born and raised in Portland. Quanice was NOT a thug, a gang member or some homeless street kid. He was a funny, adventurous teen who like most kids could at times be a little rebellious. He was my child his life mattered and I want to know WHY he was killed. 
I’m asking the public to stand with my family and me as we seek answers. I am asking the public to stand by us, as we demand justice. Let my son’s life be the means of change. 
We again ask any witnesses of the events leading up to Quanice’s death to reach out to our family attorney Ashlee Albies, the Portland Police, your local pastor or any of the many advocacy groups in Portland. 
Thank you.
What is up, cops?  What is up, Mayor?

We need an indictment.

Portland cops need to stop targeting black people.

White people need to speak up about it.

If it takes disrupting city council meetings to get some justice around here, then so be it.

Don't Shoot Portland.

Black Lives Matter PDX.

Dream Under Siege (conversation with JoAnn Hardesty, Teressa Raiford, Catherine Meeks).

Panel on Racism (presentation by JoAnn Hardesty and Ibrahim Mubarak at Southminster).