Week 2 in London

I have now been in London England for over 2 weeks now and things are going well.  My two classes are very interesting, London City of Change is a great historical overview of the city and an insiders look into many aspects of the city that few know.  My favorite part of the class is that it is taught by a native British woman and we get to do a lot walks and see many neat things in the city.  Even though I am in a city that is westernized, speaks English, and has most amenities I am used to…England and London specifically is still a foreign country.  I have already learned a lot about not only London while I have been here, but also I have learned about international relations and have had access to different viewpoints regarding America and other issues.  I am glad that I have this opportunity.  I have less than 3 weeks left in this sprawling metropolis and I’m sure I will hate to see it go for many reasons, but I am also looking forward to returning to Washington DC and eventually Kentucky and seeing what steps God has orchestrated for me next.  It is funny that in a city as large as London I often times have feelings of solitude.  I think it kind of like “white noise”…there are so many things going on here (everything is going on in London), and so many people and things going and doing, that it is easy to fade back into your thoughts.  I have used this to grow closer to God, think, and grow…definitely a plus to this whole experience.

I hope that all people, especially those of us pursuing higher education can visit foreign lands.  Visiting and living abroad are highly necessary if you are looking to be “cultured,” or you want to be able to relate to all kinds of people.  Londoners expect people (especially Americans) to be rude it seems.  They expect the worst and being able to calm that stereotype and have a normal conversation with someone is or should be a highly desirable skill…and this is a skill I am honing while here. 

I miss home for sure, but I think I would be crazy to say that I havent grown a little wiser, more aware, and more informed because of my summer away.  I just realized that this is the longest that I have been away from the Commonwealth at one time.  I hope the state welcomes me back haha I have represented her well…I even have the state flag hanging in my dorm or “flat.” 

Hopefully, this blog proves useful to someone other than myself and maybe it will encourage others to travel, step out on limbs, and go and do things that are not always comfortable.  I would be a liar if I said that I did not do this for personal gain…my hope is to distinguish myself from others and show that I am more “employable” than some other person, but really I just want to provide for my family, others, and myself…earning my own keep.  I am not trying to step on people to get to the top or anything like that (I have seen the effects of that firsthand this summer) or looking to spend my entire life generating wealth. I simply want to better myself in hopes of using my skills, knowledge, and work ethic to better the world somehow for Christ.  I look forward to the future, but live in the present…or at least try to :) 

Thank you.

CWJ


London

Readers,

I am going to attempt to keep up my blog while in London…hopefully it will work out. In case you didnt know…London is a huge sprawling city and there are thousands of things to do, but I am not the person to exhaust myself by staying out all day and walking mile upon mile.  Instead, I am pacing myself and I have already seen so much.  My classes take place on Monday Wednesday Friday from around 10am till around 6 pm.  The classes are “London: City of Change” which is taught by a British professor and seems to be quite interesting.  We are making a lot of excursions out into the city and seeing many areas that are non-touristy.  The other class is taught by CU’s own Shawn Williams and is on Political Economy.  I am excited to take a course on economy since I have only had one previously in college.

London as a city has many similarities and differences in comparison with the United States.  Obviously, London is very westernized and even though many people would not like to admit it, they are heavily influenced by the U.S.  Do not get me wrong, Londoners are friendly.  In fact, my taxi driver on the way into the city was really great.  We talked the entire time about London and the U.S., his trip to Disney world and culture in general.  Just like any other country, especially America…there is an innate pride present in the UK.  Many times you will forget that you are in a foreign country, but as soon as you hear someone speak or pay for your meal with pounds and not dollars, it becomes reality.  I have to catch myself thinking that 1 pound is equal to 1 dollar because in reality the British pound is stronger than the dollar.  Do not be fooled!  This does not necessarily mean that the British economy is stronger than that of the U.S. (thank you Dr. Williams).

On a lighter note, people obviously know I am not British as soon as I speak or fumble with my currency, but they think I am and would like me to be from Texas.  I think the British also really enjoy plaid shirts and “cowboy apparel” so they hope I am from texas, but are slightly disappointed when they learn I am from Kentucky.  I say slightly because I am still interesting to them.  Apparently the American Southern accent is one that is not “annoying” to the British, so that is a plus.  Kentucky is synonyms with Fried Chicken and Bourbon here and sometimes hillbillies.  I welcome the stereotypes and love pointing out that KFCs in America do not serve fancy ice cream and many serve something called gizzards as well as drumsticks, wings, and thighs…haha. 

Overall, I am enjoying my time in London and adapting well.  It is certainly nice to have internet access now and my only worry is keeping myself busy.  I do look forward to my flight back to the U.S. but I am excited to be here now and am enjoying this opportunity throughly. 

CWJ


Collin2London

My blog is entitled “collin2dc” but for 4 weeks it will be collin2london as I am traveling there for a month. Check back for my experiences in the UK and wherever else I End up. Twitter @kentuckycollin


Wrapping up

Well…I have not posted a blog in a couple of weeks :/  I know I am supposed to post every week, but hopefully the length of my posts will make up for it.  haha. 

I will try to highlight a few issues that I have been dealing with and provide my thoughts on those issues.  First, I was at a religious freedom roundtable of about 15 people and an article in the Washington Times came up.  The article was talking about the gay-sensitivity training that the USDA had been putting its employees through.  Everyone probably has differing opinions about this practice, but when you really think about it, I think it is a good idea for some people to learn how to be civil and respectful around homosexuals…unfortunately the USDA has not stopped there.  The USDA has coined the term heterosexism for those people who do not agree with the practice of homosexuality or gay marriage.  The training includes a discussion of “heterosexism” and compares it to racism. It says people who view marriage as being between only one man and one woman are guilty of “heterosexism.”  This term is the equivalent of being a racist.

“The training includes a discussion of “heterosexism” and compares it to racism. It says people who view marriage as being between only one man and one woman are guilty of “heterosexism.”  Washington Times

In my mind, this is very startling.  I completely understand sensitivity training and agree that people should be more civil when it comes to dealing with homosexuals or anyone who has differing ideas or lifestyles, but taking it to the extremes that the USDA has is just that…extreme.  If a person simply believes that marriage is between one man and one woman and respectfully does not agree with the lifestyle of someone, that is not “heterosexism,” that is disagreement or a differing opinion.  Last time I checked there was a little thing called DOMA or the Defense of Marriage Act that Bill Clinton signed, which defines marriage as a union of one man and woman…why would an entity of the government implement a policy or training that completely goes against a precedent that the same government has implemented.  As a Christian, I want to coin a cute little buzz word to go along with the discrimination against me because of my beliefs.  Homosexism.  It really bothers me that people, including the federal government only see one side of an issue and refuse to see that by promoting the rights of one people group, they are in effect, taking away the rights of the majority.  I respectfully disagree with the homosexual lifestyle and gay marriage.  I am not a heterosexist.  Check out the article http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/17/gay-activists-seek-approval-govt-training/

Another project I am working on is a “Creation Care” video contest for high school and college students.  We are basically looking for a short video outlining thoughts about humans role in caring for creation (plants, animals, ect.), how people are caring for creation, and our role as Christians in caring for God’s creation.  I believe that God calls us to be stewards of the earth and take care of plants, animals, others, and nature in general.  Beginning with Adam and Eve, God calls us to be the rulers of the earth and continues in verses like Leviticus 25:23-24 where the Bible says that “Throughout the country that you hold as possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.”  God clearly outlines that we are in charge and we have responsibility.  Our goal, through this video contest is to hear about the creative things that young people are doing and provide that as encouragement to others who are concerned about creation or the environment.  I hope that people (myself included) can get past the bad publicity and controversy surrounding “global warming” and focus on the simple issue of stewardship and responsibility.  Common sense ideals.

The most recent meeting I went to on the Hill dealt with prison rape.  An interesting and many times disturbing topic, the group hosting the meeting had several victims sharing their stories and how it wasnt other inmates violating them, but actually prison guards.  I agreed with the position of the group, which was that prison is the punishment and that no one deserves to be raped.  I think that churches and religious people in general need to be more aware and informed about issues like these and find ways to combat them from a religious or Christian standpoint. 

As I close, I am getting ready to participate in a conference call with the Whitehouse office of faith-based initiative about Immigration reform.  It should be very interesting.  Also, today is my last full day of work because I am leaving for London tomorrow!  I will try to keep up my blog while there.  I am returning to DC in August for another internship and then back to the great state of Kentucky!  I am excited for that. 

CWJ


Weeks 3 & 4

My few readers,

I apologize for not posting last week…work has been hectic, busy, and tiring.  Due to that, I have had some late night meetings and work and in my free time I have been resting, but saturday brings some free time. 

On the work front, I have been avidly planning a consultation on Nuclear Weapons.  This meeting of sorts consisted of faith leaders, advocacy group leaders, experts in Nuclear technology and science, retired military personnel, members of the intelligence community, and even retired ambassadors.  The people who attended had education and work experience that would intimidate the best academic…let alone Collin from Kentucky hah.  Despite my lacking expertise, I was able to contribute my thoughts about the morality of Nuclear Weapons to the group.  I definitely had to think outside of my normal thought and really wrestle with the notion that something like a Nuclear weapon was immoral.  I could not disagree that Nuclear Weapons kill indiscriminately and can claim thousands and thousands of innocent lives both immediately and down the road through fallout.  The group also addressed the argument for “just war” and if there was ever an instance where a Nuclear Weapon could be used justly.  The answer was no.  It was unanimous that Nuclear Weapons should never be used, but how to convince the U.S. and world that global scaling back must take place was a totally different matter.  We struggled in how we would word our statement to the faith community and legislators.  Should we say that our goal is Nuclear Zero or just a scaling back?  Is scaling back enough?  History was permanently changed by the usage of 2 Nuclear Weapons, so even if just two Nuclear Weapons are left in the world, history could be re-written. 

I personally feel that Nuclear Weapons should be scaled back and hopefully eliminated.  In the words of Ronald Reagan “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”  I think Reagan said it best. 

The threat we should be worried about as far as Nuclear Weapons and weapons in general come from those “rogue” states or individuals (terrorists) that obtain a Nuke.  We must remember that Nuclear Weapons are not our only threat.  Yes, a Nuclear attack would again change human history, but it is incredibly unlikely because there are only a few groups in the world that would actually push the red button or drop the bomb and even if they do, it may not achieve what was intended.  I had the opportunity to speak with one of the ambassadors that came and spoke with us (I wont mention his name, but his credentials speak for themselves.  The man was an ambassador to several countries, helped facilitate talks with the USSR and many other astonishing things) and I talked with him about his thoughts on the different types of weapons (biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear).  He personally felt that while Nuclear weapons would impose great consequences…biological weapons keep him up at night. 

I took a lot away from the consultation.  Mostly, a more open and informed mind.

Other various things I have been doing include going to various congressional hearings and meetings, mostly dealing with international religious freedom and religious freedom in general.  I would encourage those concerned with religious freedom to really take notice of what is going on in the world and our nation.  Sadly, a lot of degradation is happening or could happen and it may go unnoticed due to the current economic situation.  Note: when I say religious freedom I am not just talking about Christianity.  I have sat around many tables with Muslims, Jews, and Evangelical Christians…all collectively concerned about religious degradation and the consequences it is having.  I could name countless issues that are directly affected by religion and the restriction of it.

Sorry if I am ending abruptly, but I am going to wrap this up.  I now have less than 3 weeks left in DC until I leave for London.  Its flying by. 

CWJ

 


Week two in Washington

It is currently memorial day in washington dc…I know that my third week in DC has technically already started, but I will be covering my second week in this entry. 

At work this week I had the opportunity to get out of the office some and go to some meetings and visit capitol hill.  My first meeting of the week was at the heritage foundation (a conservative think tank located in DC).  The meeting was on “sexual economics”…it sounds like an awkward topic and at sometimes it was.  It was interesting to hear the speakers talk about people my age and how they have observed us dealing with this issue.  I was particularly interested when a speaker starting discussing the “knowledge economy.”  The knowledge economy is basically a term used to describe how the workforce and people in general are becoming more and more educated and how our economy focuses on producing more knowledge. Because of this, many couples are having a tough time balancing the advancement of their careers with their relational or marital plans.  The knowledge economy is not conducive to a family settling down and for many people this is a problem.  For many people (myself included) “settling down” is part  of their ultimate dream and goal in life.  Settling down meaning finding a job, getting married, and laying down roots…this simply is not at easy as it used to be and it is leading to the breakdown of marriage and the family.  Young couples want to be together and enjoy all the benefits of marriage, but the necessary steps they must take to be successful in the world today do not mesh with their ultimate relational goals.  Sadly, I do not see this changing, but instead couples and people in general must adapt.

My second meeting was at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  This meeting was on marriage and the family.  The meeting had representatives from Evangelical churches, the Southern Baptist Convention, Catholic churches and I sat in between a Muslim Imam and a Jewish leader.  Our speaker (a professor at Georgetown University) gave a long list of arguments for Christianity in governmental issues.  For example, Dr. Shah (speaker) noted things like how archeology points to our desire to worship…our ancient ancestors desired to worship before they did anything else.  Shah also pointed out that in areas where religious persecution exists, extremism also existed (ex: radical Islam in middle east and africa).  We talked a lot about how religious orginizations  are being forced to recognize homosexual couples and that our rights are being impeded upon because of the rights being given to these couples.  Christian adoption agencies like ones in Illinois are being forced to allow homosexual couples to adopt when this is against the will of the agency and parents.  An equilibrium of some sort must be established.  Rights are being given to homosexuals (a right not implicit to the constitution) while consequently, the rights of the religious and Christians are being taken away (implicit to the constitution).  I understand the argument that many homosexuals and homosexual advocates are making concerning religion.  They think that we are being discriminatory and granted, some people are, but for most we are simply trying to do the same thing homosexual couples are…exercise the freedoms we believe we deserve.  The major difference in my mind and my personal opinion is that the constitution gives more clout to the argument for religious freedom and more exclusive, specific rights to the Church as opposed to homosexuals.  Overall, I feel that homosexuals can have rights and the Church can be satisfied.  The whole issue of homosexuals adopting from Christian adoption agencies offers a perfect example.  I highly doubt that most homosexual couples are going to look first to a Christian adoption agency instead of a secular one.  If homosexuals go to secular adoption agencies, then the problem does not exist and things can continue to operate as they always have.  The problem occurs when individuals seek to make a statement and disrupt a norm that is mostly not discriminatory.  Homosexuals should respect the views of the religious community and the religious community should respect homosexuals as individuals and humans, while still being able to disagree with their lifestyles…that makes sense to me. 

I had the opportunity to deliver letters on capitol hill to several senators offices…including John McCain and other high up senators.  It was fun, but walking around in the senate office building for 3 hours took a toll on my feet.  The 95 degree heat outside was not much help…I have given up hope of arriving somewhere and not breaking a sweat. 

I have enjoyed the memorial day weekend in DC very much and have gotten to see a lot of neat things.  I went to the Vietnam Memorial Wall on saturday and witnessed thousands of bikers and veterans making their yearly “run to the wall.”  I have always loved motorcycles so I enjoyed that aspect, but also paying my respects with some very interesting and unique people (unique in a good connotation).  I saw a man who should have been in ZZ Top…his name was dollar or something, but he had patches from Sturgis every year since 1993 and had been apart of the wall run since the early 90’s as well.  My experience at the wall on saturday was very reverent in nature…it was a lot to take in.  Seeing several elderly men bend down, crying, and touch the names of their fallen brothers was truly a unique and thought-provoking experience. 

On Sunday night I went to the Memorial Day weekend concert and was very pleased to learn that BB King would be performing.  The 85-year-old blue legend was in great spirits and put on a good show despite him sitting down the entire time. 

Monday I thought I would go to Arlington cemetery and see the graves with all the flags on them and walk around a bit.  When I got there I walked around some and then was instructed to stay where I was at near the entrance of the cemetery because the presidential motorcade was getting ready to leave.  I was very upset with myself that I did not know or realize that Obama had been speaking at Arlington only an hour before…Oh well.  I did get to catch a glimpse of Barack and Michelle as they were leaving…so the day was not a complete loss. 

Till next time…

CWJ


Thus far

This Blog will serve a couple different purposes for me.  One, being that I am supposed to keep a “journal” about my experiences as a Washington DC intern…a blog is an online journal right?  Two, I think I am getting to do something pretty cool things this summer (2 internships in DC, and a 4 week study excursion to London) and I would like to share my experiences with others.  Last, no one may be interested in what I am doing over my summer “vacation,” but for those few people…here it is. 

My last 11 days in the nation’s capital have went by pretty fast and I have had the opportunity to do many things.  A notable FYI…I am currently interning with the National Association of Evangelicals; you can think of the NAE as a Christian Lobbyist group for the time being…my experiences will shape your understanding of what exactly we do.  Week one as an intern consisted of meetings about science and faith, immigration reform, civil unions and adoption, and nuclear arms control.  It is interesting to me that so many faith leaders care deeply about issues outside of the “norm.”  By norm I am referring to conservative hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage.  While those issues are certainly important, our duty as Christians does not stop there.  When you get right down to it, many issues that face our nation (whether in the limelight or not) have roots or ties to Christianity or religiosity in general.  This fact is one of the reasons that I do not understand the secular Governments weariness of religion.  Sure, I understand that religion in some facets may scare them or make them apprehensive, but without the church and many different types of churches, houses of worship, and even mosques (note: when I say “even mosques” I am not being discriminatory towards the muslim faith, I am simply taking into account the mindset of many Americans) our country and the world would be in an even more bad way than we are now.  Think of all the humanitarian aid that the churches of the world are responsible for or how many children are given the necessities of life thanks to people of faith…why go out of our way to limit this body?  Why pay special attention to churches?  If the Government is not able to help churches be better providers for society then why do things to limit them?  Is the church really that bad Government?  Our Government seems to neglect the fact that Christians and people of faith have the same rights as everyone else and deserve protection from discrimination as well.  Just because we take on views that may be controversial to the secular world does not mean that we are discriminatory, inconsiderate…we simply have beliefs like everyone else in the world does and are exercising our constitutional right to those beliefs and practices.  The majority of believers (whatever god they profess to) have done little to nothing to deserve the limitation of their rights.  It’s arguable that nothing should limit our rights, but I wont get into that.

On a lighter note…Washington is a great city.  I am able to get out of the office every night and walk or bike.  There are thousands of people simply enjoying the weather, eating great food, and conversating about things simplistic and profound.  Diversity is everywhere and beside the fact that I don’t know that many people and the ones I love most are far away…I am enjoying myself.  I thank God for the opportunities I have and I can only hope that I live up to his expectations and desires for me.

My experiences from week one shall follow this shortly…

CWJ


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