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Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square’s God Squad is on duty for lunch today

fff-eventThe communal hall in the elegantly appointed First Baptist Church in downtown Tallahassee is packed with noontime listeners this mid-September Friday. They are also lunchers, filling their plastic plates with tacos as they prepare to listen to ‘The God Squad’, five Tallahassee faith leaders perched on stools, who, as they have monthly for the last five years will talk about those places where religion, politics and societal issues bounce against each other like so many boats on a stormy sea. For this Faith.Food.Friday program, the crowd of nearly 200 people seems ready to eat it up. Today’s program (Friday, Oct. 9) is on Religious Freedom and will be held at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church. Tickets for food are $8 with reservations and $10 at the door.

Read the full article in the Tallahassee Democrat.



Jonathan Haidt in the Tallahassee Democrat: It helps if you can see the other side’s asteroids

asteroidsclublogoThe asteroids are coming! The asteroids are coming!

OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us.

If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. In fact, I’ll bet you spotted those two asteroids back in the 1990s, when it would have been so much easier to deflect them, and you’re angry that conservatives are still deep in denial. What’s wrong with those conservatives?

On the other hand, if you’re on the right, you’ve probably been tracking our nation’s entitlement spending and the rise of nonmarital births for a long time now. You’ve been ringing alarms about those two asteroids since the 1970s, but liberals have treated you like Chicken Little, completely unconcerned. Caring is spending, they seem to believe. All forms of family are equally good for kids, they assert in spite of the evidence. What’s wrong with those liberals? Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com.



This Friday, December 6th is “Faith, Food, Money? Faith & Capitalism”

Aktas_ElvanThis Friday December 6th, FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY, (“Improbable conversations for people of faith and no faith at all”) continues with “Faith, Food, Money? Faith & Capitalism.” Our guest panelist is Dr. Elvan Aktas, Associate Professor of Finance Valdosta State University.

We wonder where else you’ve ever seen this topic?

To get more information or reserve your seat for this program click HERE. (Lunch is Penne Pasta and Chicken Tenders with Marinara Sauce and Mozzarella – Penne Pasta with Mushrooms, Peppers and Onions in Marinara Sauce and Mozzarella for vegetarians – Chopped Italian Salad, Bread Sticks and Dessert Bars. Oh and you’re always welcome to bring a bag brown lunch.) NOTE: The program is at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. RSVP by Tuesday for the early bird lunch price.

Each program is from noon to 1pm and is free and open to the public. If you’d like to eat the hot lunch offered, it is available for $8 through the Tuesday ahead of the program ($10 after). For more information, you can email fff@tothevillagesquare.org or call 590-6646.

You can see “Faith, Food, Friday” dates and topics for the entire season and even RSVP for any of this year’s programs online HERE.



St. Pete Village Square on December 5th!

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 4.25.53 PMIf by chance you’ll be in the Tampa/St. Pete area December 5th, the Village Square St. Pete is hosting a program you shouldn’t miss, “Oh Florida, Capital of Weirdness… “From Elian Gonzalex and Ballot-Chasing Lawyers to Ponzi Schemers, Face-Eating Cannibals and Child-Eating Pythons.” It features Dr. Gary Mormino, Professor Emeritus of Florida History at USFSP. Yep that’s our state. While you’re at it, why not visit the St. Pete Village Square website at online here.

Click this link to register.












This Friday: Faith, Food, Friday “After the Trayvon Martin case,” featuring leader of Dream Defenders | Early bird meal prices through Tuesday

Ahmad AbuznaidThis Friday November 8th, FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY, (“Improbable conversations for people of faith and no faith at all”) continues with “After the Trayvon Martin Case.” Our guest panelist is Ahmad Abuznaid, one of the founders of Dream Defenders, the organization that occupied Florida’s Capitol after the verdict in protest over Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law. This has been a topic that has driven lots of national passion… we’re delighted it’s finally in the capable hands of the “God Squad.”

To get more information or reserve your seat for this program click HERE. (Lunch is pizza, salad, cookies, lemonade, tea – and you’re always welcome to bring a bag brown lunch.) NOTE: The program is at Temple Israel. RSVP by Tuesday for the early bird lunch price.

Each program is from noon to 1pm and is free and open to the public. If you’d like to eat the hot lunch offered, it is available for $8 through the Tuesday ahead of the program ($10 after). For more information, you can email fff@tothevillagesquare.org or call 590-6646.

You can see “Faith, Food, Friday” dates and topics for the entire season and even RSVP for any of this year’s programs online HERE.



“Caucus” this Sunday @ Challenger Center; humanizing rather than demonizing?

This coming Sunday, Tallahassee Film Festival is bringing Caucus to Tallahassee, 3:30 pm at the Challenger Center. Jump below the trailer for all the details.

Caucus – A New Film by AJ Schnack from AJ Schnack on Vimeo.

When: November 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM
Where: Challenger Learning Center IMAX, 200 S Duval St
Tickets are available online or at the show:
$10 – General admission
$8 – Students/seniors/active military (w/ valid ID)
$7 – TFF Members



“Caucus” this Sunday @ Challenger Center; humanizing rather than demonizing?

This coming Sunday, Tallahassee Film Festival is bringing Caucus to Tallahassee, 3:30 pm at the Challenger Center. Jump below the trailer for all the details.

Caucus – A New Film by AJ Schnack from AJ Schnack on Vimeo.

When: November 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM
Where: Challenger Learning Center IMAX, 200 S Duval St
Tickets are available online or at the show:
$10 – General admission
$8 – Students/seniors/active military (w/ valid ID)
$7 – TFF Members



“Caucus” this Sunday @ Challenger Center; humanizing rather than demonizing?

This coming Sunday, Tallahassee Film Festival is bringing Caucus to Tallahassee, 3:30 pm at the Challenger Center. Jump below the trailer for all the details.

Caucus – A New Film by AJ Schnack from AJ Schnack on Vimeo.

When: November 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM
Where: Challenger Learning Center IMAX, 200 S Duval St
Tickets are available online or at the show:
$10 – General admission
$8 – Students/seniors/active military (w/ valid ID)
$7 – TFF Members



Tuesday night (register now): Could you survive a month in poverty? A Virtual Experience of Life on the Edge

UWBB Poverty Simulation_Oct22

The program is free and presented by the United Way of the Big Bend and the Village Square.Register online here.



“Capitalism lacks a strong lobby.” Huh?

Today is the last day for early bird seats to American Dream Lost where we’ll talk about “rising economic inequality” as an American asteroid.

rent seekingFrom Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats:

“Capitalism lacks a strong lobby. That assertion might appear strange in light of the billions of dollars that firms spend lobbying Congress in America, but that is exactly the point. Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another – not to level it. Most lobbying are pro-business – in that it seeks to support the interest of existing businesses – not pro market in the sense of fostering truly free or open competition. Open competition forces established firms to prove their competence again and again. Strong successful market players, therefore, use their muscle to restrict such competition and to strength their possessions. As a result, serious tensions emerge between a pro-market agenda and a pro-business one.”

When Americans turn their nose up at some less attractive aspects of capitalism, it’s likely that they’re often really objecting to what’s referred to as “rent-seeking” behavior by individuals and firms seeking an unfair advantage in the marketplace more than they are at a vibrant competition that is fundamental to free market principles. It’s a distinction worth lingering on, given that agreement would be so much more broad that rent-seeking is both antithetical to fairness, likely in part driving the increasing economic inequality between the haves and the have-nots, and not representative of a vibrant capitalism supported by conservatives. We all agree we don’t like people getting something for nothing…

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Illustration credit.



News Release: Village Square Launches New Season “The Asteroids Club”

VILLAGE SQUARE LAUNCHES NEW SEASON “THE ASTEROIDS CLUB”
Programs to examine six American “asteroids” that threaten our future

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 8, 2013 – Imagine there is a giant asteroid heading to earth, expected to destroy life as we know it. We’d stop the incessant partisan bickering and do everything within our power to deflect the asteroid, right? Like in the movies?

During its 2013-14 Dinner at the Square season, The Village Square examines six American “asteroids” headed directly at us – each a problem that will only grow bigger and harder to “deflect” the longer we ignore it. Stuck inside our feuding partisan tribes, we’ve failed to find common cause against common threats – preferring instead to argue in the public debate about whose asteroid is real; all while the threats continue to build.

This year’s season of programming – which will also include a look at “asteroids” Florida must deal with – is a joint project of The Village Square and Dr. Jonathan Haidt of NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” The Village Square’s unique model of civic engagement continues to draw national attention, recently named by Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations in America seeking to grow political common ground (the only one hometown-based).

The first program of the season – “American Dream Lost?” – will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. This discussion will take on the liberal “asteroid” of rising economic inequality and the conservative “asteroid” of breakdown of the family – both data-supported problems that are threatening to damage the fabric of American society. In a time of unparalleled creation of wealth, the spoils of the American dream are increasingly going to the top 1%. At the same time, the family has taken a hit – with 40% of births now occurring outside of marriage. These two trends are highly correlated and worth joint effort.

Panelists include Kay Hymowitz of New York City’s Manhattan Institute and author of “Marriage and Caste in America,” and Dr. Kathryn Tillman of the FSU Center for Demography and Population Health. Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum and Richard Albertson of Live the Life, a faith-based organization devoted to strengthening marriages and families, will also join the conversation.

In association with this program, The Village Square and the United Way of the Big Bend are partnering to host “A Virtual Experience of Life on the Edge” on Tuesday, October 22, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church. This event is a unique, interactive activity that allows people to experience the day-to-day realities of those living in poverty and provides an opportunity for us to discuss how our community can work together to address the problem. Pre-register for this free event online at www.uwbb.org.

“The Asteroids Club” season will continue through the school year with other asteroids, including entitlement spending, climate change, money in politics and moral behavior. Season tickets are available through October 15. For more information, visit www.tothevillagesquare.org, call 590-6646 or email info@tothevillagesquare.org. A limited number of scholarship tickets is available. To learn more about the Asteroids Club project go to www.asteroidsclub.org.

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Chrystia Freeland on America’s founding ethic of equality (and asteroid #1)

plutocratsRising Economic Inequality is tearing at the fabric of American society. The problem is getting worse the longer we ignore it, making it one of the American “asteroids” we’re going to take on this coming year in our season “Join the Asteroids Club” – a state of mind where we agree that we need to work together across the partisan divide on common threats we face. Find information on the season HERE and on the first dinner of the season on October 15th, American Dream Lost, HERE.

Here’s a take on our founding generation’s view on the uniqueness of America’s economic equality in their day, from Chrystia Freeland’s “Plutocrats.”

“The America of the national foundation story, the country as it was at the time of the American Revolution, was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. That was the proud declaration of the founders. In a letter from Monticello…to Dr. Thomas Cooper… Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of laborers. Our rich that can live without labor, either manual or professional – being few and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families and from the demand from their labor are able to exact from the rich and the competent such prices that allow them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families. The wealthy on the other hand and those at their ease, know nothing of what the Europeans call “luxury.” They have only somewhat more of the comforts and decency of life than those who furnish them. Can any condition of society by more desirable than this?”

Contrasting American with Britain:

“Now let us compute by numbers the sum of happiness of the two countries – In England, happiness is the lot of the aristocracy only. The proportion they bear to the laborers and paupers – you know better than I do. If they are 4 in every hundred, then the happiness of the country to its misery as 1 in 25. In the United States, it is as of 8 millions to zero or as all to none.”



News Release: “FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY” BEGINS A THIRD SEASON

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
October 3, 2013

“FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY” BEGINS A THIRD SEASON
Local clergy and congregations join The Village Square in hosting lunch series

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 3, 2013 – On Friday October 11, a diverse group of local clergy – affectionately known as “The God Squad” – will begin a third year of talking about the topics your mother warned you to never discuss in polite company: politics and religion.

The series began in 2011 in the hope that neighbors breaking bread together could begin to heal the civic division that has so paralyzed our nation, our states and even our hometowns. Seventeen meals later, everyone is still speaking to each other.

People from all faith communities – or those not a part of any faith community – are all invited to participate in these improbable conversations.

The series is hosted by local nonprofit “The Village Square,” dedicated to building community across the partisan divide in order to improve the quality of the civic conversation in America. Organized in Tallahassee in 2006, The Village Square now has a second location in St. Petersburg and has enjoyed national attention as a unique model for civic engagement.

“The God Squad” includes Rev. Dave Killeen of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Pastor Darrick McGhee of Bible Based Church, Rev. Betsy Ouellette of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel and Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church.

For its first topic this season, “Faith, Food, Friday” takes a look at the divisive issue of immigration – now languishing in Congress – from a fresh perspective in “Strangers at the Door: A Conversation on Immigration.” Joining them will be guest panelist Mark Schlakman of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. The program is on Friday, October 11 from noon to 1 pm at First Baptist Church (108 W. College Avenue) with lunch available beginning at 11:30. Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church will moderate.

Other topics for the year include “After the Trayvon Martin Case,” “Faith and Capitalism,” “Restorative Justice: Rethinking the Role of Forgiveness,” “When Religion Becomes Violent,” “Gender and Faith,” and “Character in America.” The location varies each program and is posted online.

All Faith, Food, Friday forums are free and open to the public. Lunch is available for $8 if you RSVP by the Tuesday ahead of the program and $10 with a late reservation or at the door – all lunches are paid cash or check at the door. You may also bring a brown bag lunch. For a menu, more information or to reserve your seat, go online to http://wiki.tothevillagesquare.org/x/e4Df, call 264-8785 or email fff@tothevillagesquare.org.

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