Fred Clark: Are There 10 Righteous Sneetches in Sodom?

It can also be a statement of solidarity or consolation. (“All of my friends have deserted me.” “Not all of your friends.”) And it can be a way of showing that there are other possibilities — alternative ways of being that can and do exist.

“Sneetches hate star-bellied sneetches,” is the general rule. But #notALLsneetches. The exceptions matter. Pointing them out matters.

“Sneetches hate star-bellied sneetches,” says a young sneetch, troubled that they are fated and required to live bound by the strictures of this general rule. “Not all sneetches,” is an important thing for that young sneetch to learn. It reminds them that they have a choice — that something different is possible, that something better is possible. An exception may sometimes prove the rule, but an exception can also challenge its rule.

The Bodies in the River (a Story)

Once upon a time, there was a village that sat just beyond a bend in a great river. One day, the people of the village noted a few people floating past the bend and pulled them out of the water. Some were dead, and the people of the village buried them. Some were sick, and the people of the village nursed them back to health.

A few days later, more people came floating down the river. Then more people. Then more… and more… and more. And every time, the people of the village responded in the same way. They pulled the people out of the river. They buried the dead. They restored the living to health. The work of tending to the people floating around the bend in the river was never-ending.

One day, an intrepid young woman thought to herself, “It is too much for the people of this village to care for the people floating down the river. It would be far better to find the source of the problem and prevent these people from being thrown in the river in the first place.”

So she gathered some of the people of the village and, together, they journeyed upstream.

After many days, the young woman and the villagers she had gathered found another village. They sat on a hilltop and watched as the people in this village carried bodies to the shore and set them in the river to float downstream.

The young woman and the villagers she had gathered went into this village and found its elders. And the young woman said to them, “You must stop putting the bodies of your people in the river. They float downstream to our village and we must pull them out. We must bury the dead and restore the living to health. What you are doing is unjust.”

And one of the elders said, “You have come to us with your people and your demands. And you are all wearing fine clothes. Tell me, where did you get them?”

The young woman said, “From the market in the village to the east, away from the river.”

The elder said, “Ah. And where does the market in that village get them?”

The young woman said, “From the clothiers in the village to the north of it, near the hills.”

The elder said, “Ah. And where do the clothiers in that village get their cloth?”

The young woman said, “I don’t know.”

The elder said, “From here.

“In this village are the textile mills for the entire region, from the river to the hills to the plains to the mountains. People here work long hours making cloth, and it is very dangers. The people of this village set sick, or are injured, or die. And we have no physicians and no room left in the graveyards. So it has become our tradition to let them float down the river.”

And the young woman said, “Well, you must stop. It is too great a burden for the people of my village to bear. You must make your mills safer. You must hire a physician.”

The elder said, “Once upon a time there was a village in the hills that had the textile mills for the entire region. They had safe mills and many physicians. The people of that village were healthy and prosperous and happy. But the cloth they produced was expensive. People didn’t want to pay so much. So they began buying their cloth from us.

“We know that if we make our mills safer and hire physicians, we will have to raise our prices. And we know that if we raise our prices, some other village will begin producing textiles. And the cloth for your clothes will come from that village.

“And this village, like the village in the hills, will become poor. More will get sick. More will die.

“You have a choice. You can pay more for what this village produces, and we can build safer mills and hire physicians. Or you can gather the bodies from the river, and bury the dead, and restore the living to health.”

And the young woman and the villagers she had gathered returned home with their heads bowed in shame. For they knew that they were part of the injustice they hated.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

People I Read: Games

In the early-ish days of blogging, it was normal to have a blogroll: a list of links to other (often more popular) blogs that the author was interested in. The blogroll would sit calmly in the sidebar and let readers browse their way to other blogs and other authors, discovering fresh ideas and insights. Now, nobody maintains a blogroll. The best hope you have of finding someone else is to follow a link in the body of a post or in a comment or in a link dump. Around here, they also show up in link posts that I share fairly frequently.

But the fact is that I kind of miss the blogroll, and I think that it’s worthwhile to share some of the blogs I read and a note one why I read them. I’ll try to put up one example every couple of weeks.

Christmas is almost upon us! I’m too caught up in the holidays (and end of year fundraising tasks) to put together a proper post at the moment. So instead of the usual People I Read post, let me indulge in some geekery.

I play roleplaying games. I’ve played them on and off since high school and got back into them a year or two ago. About once a week, some friends and I get together, drink some beer, and roll some dice. It’s a great experience of fellowship and collective storytelling.

So, in honor of that little hobby, here are a couple of roleplaying game blogs that I read:

Go Make Me a Sandwich is a great blog about gaming and accessibility, meaning the degree to which roleplaying games are accessible and enjoyable to women, people of color, people with mental illnesses, and so on. It’s an insightful look at the ways that the roleplaying industry and culture are exclusive… and how we could change to be inclusive.

Mythcreants is an all-around roleplaying and storytelling blog. If you’re looking to become a better storyteller, this blog is for you.

Vox: I Rely on Thrift Stores to Keep My Family Clothed and Fed. What You Donate Matters.

Wherever and whatever you choose to give this Christmas, the most important thing is to make other people’s lives a little better. Thinking a bit about how your donations will be used, and who could benefit from them most, can increase your power to do good with all of the old junk that’s cluttering up your space.

And from my family and me, thanks.

Talking about Doom in the Present Tense

Like many of my friends and colleagues in ministry and the nonprofit sector, I’m deeply troubled by the prospect of Donald Trump’s presidency. I’m especially concerned given that every branch of the federal government, along with numerous state governments, will be controlled by the Republican Party. I believe that we’re facing at least two years of conservative policy proposals – from repealing the Affordable Care Act to privatizing Social Security – becoming law.

I am concerned about those policies, of course. I’m concerned about Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. I’m concerned about his potential cabinet’s conflicts of interest. I’m concerned about the presidency of the United States becoming a tool by which some people who are rich and powerful will become richer and more powerful. I’m concerned about democratic norms being thrown out for the sake of power.

I am worried about my friends. I’m worried about people of color who will be abused by emboldened white supremacists. I’m worried about non-Christians who will abused by Christian nationalists. I’m worried about members of the LGBTQ community who will be abused by homophobes and transphobia.

I am, in short, deeply troubled by the prospect of living in Donald Trump’s America.

But I take hope in the fact that, despite what some of those friends and colleagues have suggested, I do not yet live in Donald Trump’s America or Paul Ryan’s America or Ayn Rand’s America.

There is still time to feed the hungry, to give something to drink to the thirsty. There is still time to welcome the stranger and give clothing to the naked. There is still time to care for the sick and visit the prisoner. There is still time to deliver good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free. There is still time to proclaim a time of God’s favor.

And, of course, there is still time to work for policies that will do just that.

So this is a message for all of my friends who are worried about the doom that might come. Let’s not talk about what might happen in the present tense. Let’s not pretend that a world we don’t want to see – a world that we must fight against – is already here. Let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work, and make sure that the world we fear never becomes a reality.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: What Missouri’s Blind Pension Can Teach Us about the Homeless

Thomas Harvey, the chairman of the Continuum of Care umbrella organization that helps guide homeless services in St. Louis, says the solution is easier than cities make it out to be. The housing exists. But we — taxpayers, citizens, businesses — have to commit the funds to connect those who need a roof with the spaces available all over our city.

3 Big Reasons to Stop Asking for Salary Histories

Last week, I saw a posting for a high level job that, along with other things, asked applicants to include their salary history. I know that this is a common practice in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, but it’s a bad practice. It’s a bad practice for a lot of reasons, but here are three big ones.

First, It Takes Agency Away from the Applicant

Salary histories are used for many reasons, and one reason is to weed out applicants who might be too expensive. But it’s a weird way to figure out if an applicant actually would be too expensive to hire. After all, an applicant who is thinking about leaving a high paid position might be happy to take a pay cut in a position for a cause she’s more passionate about. Alternatively, she might be willing to take the pay cut in exchange for additional vacation time. By using a history of high salaries to eliminate potential candidates, an organization might be missing an opportunity.

The point is, the decision of whether a candidate can be happy with what an organization is offering should involve the candidate.

Second, It Ensures That Historically Underpaid People Remain Underpaid

It’s no secret that some groups – racial and ethnic minorities, women, etc. – are paid less than their white or male (or white male) counterparts. Basing a new position’s salary on the candidate’s salary history only continues the practice. A woman who is paid 23% less than her male colleagues, for example, will only continue to be paid 23% less as long as each new salary is based on the previous salary.

Using salary histories only serves to perpetuate injustice and inequality.

Third, You Already Know What You’re Willing to Pay

The fact is, when an organization posts a position, it knows what it’s willing to pay. If a salary history puts a candidate too low, it’s (hopefully) unlikely to lower the salary range to fit. If a salary history puts a candidate too high, it’s (almost certainly) not going to increase the salary range. Instead, the organization will see where in the range each candidate might fit. Since asking for the history doesn’t – or, at least, shouldn’t – change anything on the organization’s end, asking for the history is unnecessary.

This, by the way, also applies to the terrible practice of asking candidates what salary they feel is appropriate without telling them what salary the organization thinks is appropriate. We can be more transparent than that.

Conclusion: Post the Salary Range in the Job Description

So, how can your organization make sure that it’s not making decisions for candidates, that it’s not perpetuating low salaries for historically underpaid groups, and that it’s being honest about what it’s willing to pay? Post the salary range in the job description.

When the salary range is in the job description, the candidate can decide if she’s happy with the range. A candidate who applies for the job is telling the organization that she’s okay with the potential salary.

When the salary range is in the job description, the candidate doesn’t have to worry about being paid less because she’s been paid less throughout her career. She knows that the range has nothing to do with her history.

When the salary range is in the job description, it tells the candidate what the organization thinks the work is worth. And that tells the candidate a lot about the organization.

So don’t ask for salary histories. Just post the salary range in the job description.

People I Read: Randal Rauser

In the early-ish days of blogging, it was normal to have a blogroll: a list of links to other (often more popular) blogs that the author was interested in. The blogroll would sit calmly in the sidebar and let readers browse their way to other blogs and other authors, discovering fresh ideas and insights. Now, nobody maintains a blogroll. The best hope you have of finding someone else is to follow a link in the body of a post or in a comment or in a link dump. Around here, they also show up in link posts that I share fairly frequently.

But the fact is that I kind of miss the blogroll, and I think that it’s worthwhile to share some of the blogs I read and a note one why I read them. I’ll try to put up one example every couple of weeks.

This post’s person I read is Randal Rauser at The Tentative Apologist.

I’m not sure when I first ran across Randal Rauser, a professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary and, as he would put it, “a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion.” What I do know is that I’ve been following his blog ever since I first read it. While the posts are often short, Rauser is a thorough thinker and, importantly, an author who is happy to engage in discussion – and learn from – people who disagree with him. It is always edifying to read his conversations with atheistic thinkers like Justin Schreiber and John Loftus (even if I tend to come down on one side of the debate).

He has also published more books than I have any desire to list here.

Kill Your Darlings

“In writing,” says William Faulkner, “you must kill your darlings.”

We all have favorites. In writing, we have favorite stories, favorite words, favorite phrases, favorite structures, and so on. We also have our favorites in fundraising: the channel we just have to use, the model we just have the follow, the even we just have to throw. I’d almost bet that our favorites give us a fundraising fingerprint. Someone who paid close enough attention, given enough information about style and demands, could identify each of us.

But here’s the cold, hard fact: it doesn’t matter if something is your favorite. It only matters if it works.

It doesn’t matter if you love your database, or an event, or a letter, or a picture, or a story. It only matters if it generates money for the cause.

There are limits, of course. Some things – the unethical, the illegal, etc. – are absolutely off-limits.

But, in general, if it doesn’t work – even if it’s beautiful – kill it. And if it does work – even if it’s hideous – keep it.