The Least, First

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How did we get stuck with an empire?

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Bill Maher, whose cynicism is usually a little dark for my taste, asks a good question:
clipped from

‘How Did This Country Get Stuck With an Empire?’

With military personnel deployed in 150 countries, Bill Maher says bringing the troops home from Iraq is only the tip of the iceberg. “Can you imagine if there were 20,000 armed Guatemalans on a base in San Bernardino right now? Lou Dobbs would become a suicide bomber.”
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Quick – name one military base of any other nation that camps on foreign soil.  One. Just one.

It is scarcely conceivable, as his Guatemalan example illustrates.  Yet our nation supports one hundred fifty such bases, at hundreds of millions of dollars per year, each.

Perhaps the answer to Maher’s question springs from something like this:

“We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only about 6.3 percent of its population … our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.” – George Kennan, 1948 (architect of much Cold War U.S. foreign policy)

Does that sound like a force for good?

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Immigration raid in Postville: Justice denied

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Raid in Postville

Raid in Postville

For most of those three hours, this man was just weeping, and he was weeping for his family, worried about his children. He had children back in Guatemala, his mother, his wife and his sister all depending on him. He was the sole earner for the entire family.

So describes Erik Camayd, a professor of modern languages at Florida International University in Miami, who was one of the court-appointed interpreters flown in for the trial of immigrants arrested here in Iowa.  Here’s Amy Goodman’s set-up:

We turn now to Postville, Iowa, a small town of just over 2,000 people. On May 12th, the town became the site of the largest immigration raid in US history. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, arrested 389 workers at Agriprocessors, the largest kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in the country. Nearly 300 of the workers were charged with aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud. Many were sent to prison.

Camayd, who’s been participating in trials for twenty-five years, describes what he saw:

Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see, because cameras were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound. Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment.

Since these people are so very poor, and since they are often the only source of income for an extended family, a jail sentence may mean their children go hungry.  Even if utterly innocent, the decision forced upon them is justice or hungry kids:

I saw immediately that this man had no choice but to plead guilty, if he wanted to return to his family as soon as possible … what made this case unique was that, for the first time, at least in this scale, they were not being deported but actually criminally prosecuted and sent to jail for five months or more. And the fact that they did not have a right to bail and that if they wanted to plead “not guilty” they would have had to wait possibly longer, up to six or eight months in jail without bail waiting for a trial, made this situation very, very difficult to really say that there was justice done in many of these cases. […]

[T]o place them in that position, basically holding their families’ well-being ransom over their heads in order to induce them to accept a plea agreement and plead guilty as the fastest way to get back home and then placing them in jail for that time under that kind of duress, I think that it’s very disturbing. It’s very disturbing. […]

Indeed, it is.

It may be legal, but it isn’t justice.

Read Erik Camayd’s personal account of the raid [Download pdf]

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Written by Monte

July 14, 2008 at 3:37 pm

New Oaks Church

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This blog is my own – I’m not speaking for New Oaks Church when I share blogged opinions. But since it is my privilege to serve as one of New Oaks’ pastors, people sometimes pop up here who are curious about it. Here’s just a little.

Mission Our Mission and Values

Seems to us that Jesus Christ is about extending relationships: from God to us, from us to us (as I come to understand myself through God’s eyes), and from us to others – those who know him well, only a little, or not at all. We keep calling ourselves back to growing relationships in what we do, how we interact, and how we give and spend.

Authenticity in that mission, for us, comprises four values – you see them on the tree. Pursuing the mission needs to be beautiful, and we hope to keep it that way.

Those happiest here are people who assume they will find God changing them into someone they like more and more, and who expect their church to be an aid to that process.

Getting together

We gather to worship on Sundays at 10:30. Same purpose as above: Growing relationships with God, self, and others.
Many of us gather in small groups at different times through the week. Same purpose as above.
And children and their parents gather on most Wednesday nights at 6:30 for Creation Station. Guess what its purpose might be.


If our purpose seems like it might be useful to you, too, you are so welcome at our gatherings.

We do not dress up – for the gospel is for people who have no dress up clothes at least as much as it is for those who do.

In addition, there are many Mexican and Guatemalan families in our town, some of whom wonder if they are welcome at Washington’s mostly-white churches. My answer is Estan Uds. en su iglesia aqui.

Finding us

New Oaks’ building is located at 1506 N. 5th Avenue in Washington, IA, USA. Follow 4th Avenue north about 1 mile from Iowa Highway 92. Turn right at E. 15th. You’ll see it. Click here for a map. Washington is about 35 minutes south of the Iowa City area’s Interstate 80/380 interchange.

Is it part of a denomination?

New Oaks’ full name is Washington New Oaks Church of the Nazarene. The Church of the Nazarene is an international body that seeks to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world. More details on the COTN worldwide are available at

Contact Us

Any comment left on this blog posts to my email as well.
For more private communication, you may email me at
And you may leave a message for me at the church’s office: 319-653-4649 (though most of my work is done away from the building and it may take me a few days to get back to you. Email works best.)

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Written by Monte

August 4, 2006 at 12:10 pm

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