Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Archive for February, 2010

Saving the world is not just for liberals

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 28, 2010

Here’s a mostly balanced op-ed piece from Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times. I say “mostly balanced” because I don’t think we should blame the Vatican’s “hostility to condoms” for the growth of AIDS. That’s just my opinion.

Learning from the sin of Sodom

For most of the last century, save-the-worlders were primarily Democrats and liberals. In contrast, many Republicans and religious conservatives denounced government aid programs, with Senator Jesse Helms calling them “money down a rat hole.”

Over the last decade, however, that divide has dissolved, in ways that many Americans haven’t noticed or appreciated. Evangelicals have become the new internationalists, pushing successfully for new American programs against AIDS and malaria and doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.

A pop quiz: What’s the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization?

It’s not Save the Children, and it’s not CARE — both terrific secular organizations. Rather, it’s World Vision, a Seattle-based Christian organization (with strong evangelical roots) whose budget has roughly tripled over the last decade.

World Vision now has 40,000 staff members in nearly 100 countries. That’s more staff members than CARE, Save the Children and the worldwide operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development — combined.

A growing number of conservative Christians are explicitly and self-critically acknowledging that to be “pro-life” must mean more than opposing abortion. The head of World Vision in the United States, Richard Stearns, begins his fascinating book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” with an account of a visit a decade ago to Uganda, where he met a 13-year-old AIDS orphan who was raising his younger brothers by himself.

“What sickened me most was this question: where was the Church?” he writes. “Where were the followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time? Surely the Church should have been caring for these ‘orphans and widows in their distress.’ (James 1:27). [Read the entire verse here.] Shouldn’t the pulpits across America have flamed with exhortations to rush to the front lines of compassion?

“How have we missed it so tragically, when even rock stars and Hollywood actors seem to understand?”

Mr. Stearns argues that evangelicals were often so focused on sexual morality and a personal relationship with God that they ignored the needy. He writes laceratingly about “a Church that had the wealth to build great sanctuaries but lacked the will to build schools, hospitals, and clinics.”

In one striking passage, Mr. Stearns quotes the prophet Ezekiel as saying that the great sin of the people of Sodom wasn’t so much that they were promiscuous or gay as that they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49.) [Read the entire verse here.]

Hmm. Imagine if sodomy laws could be used to punish the stingy, unconcerned rich!

The American view of evangelicals is still shaped by preening television blowhards and hypocrites who seem obsessed with gays and fetuses. One study cited in the book found that even among churchgoers ages 16 to 29, the descriptions most associated with Christianity were “antihomosexual,” “judgmental,” “too involved in politics,” and “hypocritical.”

Some conservative Christians reinforced the worst view of themselves by inspiring Ugandan homophobes who backed a bill that would punish gays with life imprisonment or execution. Ditto for the Vatican, whose hostility to condoms contributes to the AIDS epidemic. But there’s more to the picture: I’ve also seen many Catholic nuns and priests heroically caring for AIDS patients — even quietly handing out condoms.

One of the most inspiring figures I’ve met while covering Congo’s brutal civil war is a determined Polish nun in the terrifying hinterland, feeding orphans, standing up to drunken soldiers and comforting survivors — all in a war zone. I came back and decided: I want to grow up and become a Polish nun.

Some Americans assume that religious groups offer aid to entice converts. That’s incorrect. Today, groups like World Vision ban the use of aid to lure anyone into a religious conversation.

Some liberals are pushing to end the longtime practice (it’s a myth that this started with President George W. Bush) of channeling American aid through faith-based organizations. That change would be a catastrophe. In Haiti, more than half of food distributions go through religious groups like World Vision that have indispensible networks on the ground. We mustn’t make Haitians the casualties in our cultural wars.

A root problem is a liberal snobbishness toward faith-based organizations. Those doing the sneering typically give away far less money than evangelicals. They’re also less likely to spend vacations volunteering at, say, a school or a clinic in Rwanda.

If secular liberals can give up some of their snootiness, and if evangelicals can retire some of their sanctimony, then we all might succeed together in making greater progress against common enemies of humanity, like illiteracy, human trafficking and maternal mortality.

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Posted in God, religion, volunteering | Leave a Comment »

Fighting Crohn’s disease

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 20, 2010

Anyone who has read this blog in the past couple of years knows that Crohn’s disease has been a major part of my 12-year marriage to Bruce (he was diagnosed in December 1998, just before our first anniversary). (Click “Crohn’s disease” in the category cloud at left to read some of the archived posts.)

Bruce has had three flare-ups in the past 11 years, the most recent of which started three years ago and lingers still.

Crohn’s has taken Bruce’s job, a lot of our money and a good deal of our energy (I never thought I would be this tired at 47!).

With a disease like Crohn’s, you feel helpless much of the time. Its cause is a mystery, its cure nonexistent. Today.

Tomorrow, we will find a cure.

Today, we are working toward that cure, not as scientists but as advocates – for education, awareness and research.

Because, in some things, we are not helpless. We have choices. We can decide.

I have decided to fight.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I made myself a goal for 2010. This year, I’ve committed to helping bring to Arkansas a chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

The nearest CCFA chapters are in Dallas, Tulsa, St. Louis, Nashville and New Orleans. A little too far to drive, if you ask me.

CCFA is dedicated to finding a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and “to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.” Read more about CCFA’s mission here.

It is one thing when your 39-year-old husband is diagnosed with such a devastating disease. It is another when your cousin’s 10-year-old son is given the same diagnosis.

Ten percent of the more than 1 million Crohn’s sufferers in the United States are children, including my young cousin, Spencer. He was diagnosed last summer. He’s 11 now, and his little brain has had a lot to absorb in the past several months.

Spencer has probably done more research on Crohn’s than many adults have. He’s super-smart and ultra-aware. He knows stuff that an 11-year-old boy shouldn’t have to know about himself and his body. Not yet.

But maybe Spencer will be the guy to find the cure someday.

Meanwhile, he’s part of the movement to bring a CCFA chapter to Arkansas.

On Saturday, May 15, at 5 p.m., we will walk for Crohn’s and colitis. Read more here about the Little Rock Take Steps Walk. It will be a casual stroll (less than a mile) in a family-friendly, festival-type atmosphere.

To join Team Taylor Trotters (Taylor is the maiden name of Spencer’s mom, her sister and me) or to donate, click here. Our team goal is $5,000. Every donation of $5, $10 or more will help us reach our goal.

To all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, sibling, future sibling-in-law and friends around Arkansas: April or I will be contacting you to walk with us, but feel free to post a comment below (or click the above link and join) if you’re ready to get on board now! (And if you are a designer, we need help with a T-shirt design. We’ll have Team Taylor T-shirts, but we haven’t gotten that far yet. We’ve been busy working on tomorrow’s Walk kickoff party in Little Rock.)

2010 is the year that Arkansas will establish its very own chapter of CCFA. Be a part of it!

Today.

Posted in Crohn's disease, family, health, volunteering | 7 Comments »

Spicy Sausage Jambalaya

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 8, 2010

Folks, here’s a great jambalaya recipe that’s healthy! Instead of using the typical andouille sausage, you use turkey andouille. And brown rice instead of white. And it’s wonderful!

In an unusual development, the only thing extra that I decided this might possibly, maybe, need is a dash or two of Louisiana hot sauce, although it’s actually pretty good without it. I did not add it to the pot, because Bruce said it was good just as it was, “although you’ll probably want to add something.” (I usually complain that these recipes are too bland, and I frequently will add garlic or some type of spicy ingredient.) But it’s great without it, although it would be a smidge – just a smidge – better with a dash of spice.

I think the spicy turkey sausage you choose probably makes a difference. I used Butterball, and I probably will continue to choose that brand because it was so delish in this jambalaya. But next time I go to Whole Foods, if I find a natural turkey sausage without all the additives, I’ll probably use that.

I made it yesterday afternoon for Super Bowl Sunday, and as the only guests at our “party” were Bruce, the Spice Dogs and me, there is  plenty left over! (I love leftovers!)

And you wanna know what the best thing is? It doesn’t take long at all to make. The only things you have to cut up are the meat (sausage, chicken), bell pepper and green onions. (I bought a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that were on sale instead of buying the more expensive, already-cut-up chicken tenders.) The rest is just dump and stir. But don’t make the mistake I did in not realizing that you have the long-cooking brown rice instead of the instant. I was ready to put the rice in and realized the recipe said instant rice. So I had to cook a pot of rice for about 35 minutes, then add it to the jambalaya skillet.

But it was worth the wait, and I know you’ve been waiting for a good, easy recipe like this one, which I got from Good Housekeeping. (The only modification I’ve made is adding the hot sauce. Oh, and I used a red bell pepper instead of green or yellow.)

Spicy Sausage Jambalaya
8 ounces turkey andouille sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick
1  green or yellow pepper, chopped
1 14½-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice
8 ounces chicken tenders, each cut crosswise in half
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Dash of Louisiana hot sauce or other hot sauce (optional)

Heat 12-inch skillet on medium until hot. Add sausage and pepper, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes with their juice, rice, chicken, water, hot sauce and salt; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is just tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in green onions.

Serves 4.

Nutritional information (per serving): 265 calories, 6 grams fat (2g saturated), 73mg cholesterol, 830mg sodium, 30g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 26g protein.

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