Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 12 weeks 3 days ago
Last night, the United States Capitol building overlooked an unusually frolicsome scene: a DJ spinning Rihanna and Calvin Harris, glow sticks bobbing on wrists and ankles, and dozens of young people dancing across the soggy West Lawn.“It’s not the craziest thing we’ve seen at the Capitol,” said a police officer observing the after-sundown boogie. “But I don’t really know what’s going on. I think it’s some kind of Christian dance party.”The event, billed by organizer Two Planks Productions as the “first-ever dance party held on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol”, sought to bring unity to the nation’s divided capital and “put people over politics” through a night of dance music hosted by Washington DJ Stylus Chris. More than one hundred dancers, including some passers-by, joined throughout the night.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 14 weeks 4 days ago
Yesterday’s “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony in Washington, D.C., honored the nation's substantial advances in racial equality in the fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now-iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.But events this year — from the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act to the House eliminating funding for food stamps to the Trayvon Martin trial — are posing serious challenges to our national progress towards true equality for all.An infographic from the Public Religion Research Institute, "The Dream by the Numbers," highlights systemic inequalities that still work against communities of color today. The statistics are grim: black communities are unemployed at nearly double the rate of white communities. Fewer than 20 percent of black youth will receive a college or graduate degree. Twice as many blacks lack health insurance as whites. And nearly 70 percent of blacks surveyed mentioned “lack of opportunities for young people” as a top concern for their community.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 19 weeks 5 days ago
More Light Presbyterians, a network of congregations and individuals in the Presbyterian Church (USA) that advocates for LGBT inclusion, today announced Alex McNeill as their new executive director. McNeill is the first openly transgender person to lead a mainline Protestant organization.McNeill, a longtime advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer Christians, has longstanding roots in the church.“[The church] embodies the belief that faith calls us to action. We have a commitment to live out our call to care for the poor, for the hungry, and for the outcast. So we seek to not just teach values, but to equip people with tools for social justice,” he continued.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 22 weeks 8 hours ago
Unfortunately, sexual violence on college campuses is a widespread reality. As many as 20-25 percent of women will face attempted or completed assault over the course of their college tenure. Contrary to popular myths about “stranger-danger,” 9-in-10 of those victims will know their attacker. For Christian college administrators, who take seriously the formation not just of mind but of spirit, the reality of campus-based sexual violence is challenging for many to admit. Yet it has serious implications for how students learn, understand, and develop self-respect and love for their neighbor.In speaking with students, former students, and staff at Christian schools across the country, what’s revealed is that education about the realities and effects of sexual violence among college students remains anemic at best. There’s much to suggest that students are finding their way, but many — particularly at more sexually orthodox campuses — face frightening barriers to knowledge. When it comes to educating mind and spirit on sexual violence, Christian institutes of higher education still have far to go.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 24 weeks 5 hours ago
This week the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions on two significant cases for same-sex marriage: United States v. Windsor (regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry (regarding California’s Proposition 8).At the Supreme Court this morning, an expectant crowd gathered hoping to catch the decisions firsthand. Most in attendance were visibly supportive of same-sex marriage, and many were cautiously optimistic that the Court would strike down DOMA, Proposition 8, or both.See our slideshow and interviews with those gathered at the Supreme Court, below.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss, Brandon Hook 24 weeks 6 days ago
Days before President Barack Obama's high-profile speech on drones and U.S. counterterrorism efforts, Sojourners sat down with investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill to take an inside look at U.S.-led covert wars and the drones that have become an integral part of our global “war on terror.”His thesis?"After years of traveling in these countries, I really believe that we’re creating more enemies than we’re killing.”In some respects, drones are simply a new tool of old empire. Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and producer of the documentary of the same name, now in theaters, calls this an "unending war ... being legitimized under a popular Democratic president, who is a constitutional lawyer by trade.”Indeed, within five years, the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq for terrorist attacks the country did not commit has transformed under the Obama administration into pre-emptive assassinations halfway around the world, for crimes citizens have not yet committed. The result, Scahill suggested, is our collective complicity to “unending war.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 26 weeks 7 hours ago
A movement of lay advocates speaking out against sexual violence is gaining steam in the faith communities. But are similar efforts happening inside church doors?When it comes to leading denominational conversations on sexual violence, clergy across traditions express twin reactions: encouragement over the protocols already in place and the efforts of fellow advocates; and frustration with a culture of silence around sexual violence in the church. Despite strikingly different experiences across denominations — and church by church — the clergy, church staff, and seminarians who spoke with Sojourners are in agreement that addressing this issue in one’s own house is complicated at every level.The result: a loss of potential by the American church to be a leading and vibrant institution of radical vulnerability and transformative healing.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 27 weeks 4 days ago
Polley’s theater family has kept a rumor for years that Sarah’s dad may not be her biological father. Nagged by persistent jokes about her striking non-resemblance to the rest of the family, and unable to ask her long-since deceased mother, Polley sets out to put the record, and her family’s memories, straight. There’s much to love here, and what immediately distinguishes Stories is the openness — both uncomfortable and endearing — with which Polley invites the audience to see the intimate process of art-making.In short, we see a family — recognizable, ordinary, and still very much in the process of living — grappling with what it means to be suddenly be subjects in an intimate story no longer their own.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 27 weeks 6 days ago
Though the church remains stuck in a culture of silence on sexual abuse, advocates are steadily building the platforms for individual voices to change the narrative. The depth of reconciliation that plays out upon these platforms can be profound.Rachel Halder, founder of Our Stories Untold — a blog that hosts stories from survivors of sexualized violence within the Mennonite church — has witnessed such moments happen in real time.One of Halder’s first contributors was a woman who was prompted to break her silence after Todd Akin’s comments qualifying “legitimate rape.” By happenstance, the woman’s former dorm-mate, who decades ago witnessed the immediate aftermath of this assault, recognized herself in the survivor’s story.Halder sat in disbelief as this dorm-mate came clean with her own years of shame and regret, expressing sorrow over lessons learned too late.“I just saw this play out on my site, this overwhelming moment of reconciliation and restoration,” Halder said, who later helped the two women reconnect by email. “It was completely unanticipated ... they hadn’t seen each other in 20, 30 years. The healing process in these kinds of stories is really magical.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 29 weeks 5 days ago
Most of us are too familiar with this story: an Upper Midwestern Baptist minister claims that “God made Christianity to have a masculine feel [and] ordained for the church a masculine ministry.” Or a Reformed Christian pastor mocks the appointment of the first female head of the Episcopal Church, comparing her to a “fluffy baby bunny rabbit.” Or a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor in California says physical abuse by one’s spouse is not a reason for divorce. Or numerous young evangelical ministers brag about their hot wives in tight leather pants.Fewer of us are familiar with this story: Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon. Tamar protests her brother’s advances, citing the social code of Israel, his reputation, and her shame, to no avail. Their brother Absalom commands her to keep quiet, and their father, the great King David, turns a blind eye.What do these contemporary statements above, delivered into cultural megaphones with conviction and certainty, have to do with the Old Testament rape and silencing of Tamar? The difficult answer is, quite a lot. The narrative dominance of these stories rests on power and control, which — whether intentional or not — speaks volumes about whom the church serves and what the church values.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 30 weeks 5 days ago
Who is missing from the slew of headlines this week on kidnappings, gender-based violence, and victims' paths to healing? The perpetrators themselves.Which is why this TEDx video is a must-see.“Gender violence issues have been seen as 'women’s issues' that some good men help out with,” Jackson Katz, PhD, Founder and Director at MVP Strategies, says in the video. “I have a problem with that frame, and I don’t accept it. It gives men an excuse to not pay attention."
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 31 weeks 3 days ago
Several years ago, Amee Paparella was an eager student at a state university in Ohio. A conservative Christian, she quickly signed up to join the campus ministry. What she found in the group surprised her.“It was so misogynistic,” Paparella recalled. “My leaders perpetuated this hyper-masculinized idea of God as physically a man.”Over the years, Paparella wrestled to reconcile this image of God with her own faith, often to the discomfort of her peers. But an incident of sexual abuse within the ministry proved the breaking point. When it was discovered that a young man had been abusing his female partner, also in the group, the campus minister and student leaders responded by encouraging the young woman to stand by her man and to pray with the other students for his healing.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 32 weeks 3 days ago
One might not expect a blog post from a minister and young father in Houston, Texas to spark widespread outcry over Victoria’s Secret’s spring break-themed ad campaign. But Rev. Evan Dolive's passionate defense of his young daughter’s sense of self-worth went viral on social network sites, landed him on CNN, and wound up being used in high school classrooms in the U.S. and Canada, all in a matter of days. The point: the Victoria’s Secret “Bright Young Things” campaign — depicting young women on Spring Break toto sell underwear with explicitly suggestive messages, with the accompanying verbalized sentiment that young teens dream of being like college girls (i.e., buying from the PINK line)— was objectifying, offensive, and obnoxious.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 32 weeks 4 days ago
Half of young Christians favor the legalization of marijuana, says a new survey out today from the Public Religion Research Institute. Perhaps predictably, survey results break down by age, with 50 percent of Christian young adults supporting legalization and only 22 percent of Christian seniors (65 and older) in support.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 33 weeks 3 days ago
Hours after Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill dropped early Wednesday, evangelical leaders from across the country gathered at the Capitol to raise their voices for comprehensive immigration reform. In the last two years, evangelicals have been a growing voice in the debate over immigration reform, hoping their votes — traditionally a bastion of conservative politics but recently broadening their engagement to gun violence prevention, poverty, and climate change — hold clout on the Hill when it comes to immigration reform.The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum, gathered hundreds of people from 25 states for a day of action on the Hill. At the morning press conference, the Table representatives did not explicitly endorse or critique the Senate’s new bill. Instead, leaders pledged to "come alongside" any bill that supported their unified set of principals, namely immigration reform that: protects the unity of the immediate family; respects the rule of law; guarantees national security borders; and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 34 weeks 3 days ago
Thousands of people flooded the National Mall on Wednesday to call on Congress for commonsense immigration reform that includes a roadmap to earned citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.Coupled with a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill and sibling rallies across the country, Wednesday’s was one of the biggest immigration rallies to date. Sponsored by the Service Employee International Union, Casa de Maryland, the NAACP, and more, the rally began with an interfaith prayer service and featured the voices of faith leaders, including UMC Bishop of Los Angeles Minerva Carcaño, Director of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Hispanic Diocese of Arlington Padre Jose Eugenio Hoyos, and Islamic Center of Maryland Imam Jamil Dasti.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 34 weeks 5 days ago
Human trafficking is one of the top-grossing industries in the world, and claims another victim nearly every 30 seconds. President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a group of religious and non-profit leaders including Leith Anderson, Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Lynne Hybels, spent nine months mapping the scope and scale of modern-day slavery, considering possible responses, and formulating recommendations for the Administration.“The extraordinary reach of this crime is shocking,” they write. “Our country’s leadership is urgently needed to fight this heinous crime.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 35 weeks 6 hours ago
The notion of religious liberty has lately conveyed an impoverished attitude toward the common good among Christians. Namely, “we’ll pay for what we like, and won't pay for what we don’t.”This stubbornness cropped up last week in College Station, Texas, when the student senate at Texas A&M voted for students to have the privilege of diverting tuition payments from services they object to on moral grounds. Named the “Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” the broadened proposal’s original language (“GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill”) specifically targeted funds going to the campus’ GLBT Resource Center.Missing from the media coverage was a real look at the bill’s usage of religious exemption — or more specifically, its misuse. In its bill, the student government at A&M confused religious liberty with religious control, and managed to do a good degree of community damage in the process.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 35 weeks 5 days ago
The Associated Press announced Tuesday it is dropping the term "illegal immigrant" from its Stylebook. Citing concern for “labeling people, instead of behavior,” AP’s Senior Vice President and Executive Editor, Kathleen Carroll, wrote, “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person. ...'Illegal' should describe only an action.”This change is a huge win for those working on immigration reform, including the staff at Sojourners. Last fall, Sojourners joined many others in calling on the Associated Press to change the term.“The media’s usage of the word 'illegal' is dehumanizing and distorting," wrote Sojourners Immigration Campaigns Fellow Ivone Guillen in October. "When used by journalists, it introduces a bias into their reporting and risks prejudicing the reader against the needs, concerns, and humanity of immigrant communities, regardless of their documentation status.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 36 weeks 6 days ago
The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has an updated version of its report, Global Warming’s Six Americas, out this month. The report, which identifies and explores six major attitudes towards climate change, shows that the number of Americans alarmed about climate change has risen from 10 to 16 percent of the population over the last two years. At the same time, those dismissive towards the reality of climate change have decreased in size, from 16 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2012. The “Six Americas” of the title refers to six predominant postures toward climate change in the United States, grouped by researchers along a spectrum of concern and engagement, from “Alarmed” to “Dismissive.” By focusing on attitude rather than demographics, these groupings represent cohesive yet widely diverse cross-sections of the public.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 37 weeks 4 days ago
More than six in ten Americans support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, a survey out today from the Public Religion Research Institute finds.63 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship, including a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, and majorities among every major religious group.“Proponents of immigration reform are unlikely to find a more favorable moment [in the political climate] than now,” said EJ Dionne, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, as part of a survey panel this morning.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 38 weeks 12 hours ago
Louisiana faith leaders hand-delivered a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal this morning, denouncing his proposal to increase sales tax by 47 percent as “unjust” and “regressive.”The state already has one of the most disproportionate tax systems in the country, with low- and middle-income families paying more than twice the rate in taxes as families whose income totals more than $1 million per year. To raise the sales tax even higher, say leaders, would deal a crushing blow to the poor.“[W]e are concerned that your plan proposes to use the increased revenue generated by a heavier burden on poor and moderate income families,” the letter reads, “not to fund any of the important needs and services our State faces, but to decrease the tax burden for those members of our community who are most blessed with wealth and resources. That … is unacceptable.”
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 38 weeks 5 days ago
As cardinals in the Vatican wrapped up the first day of the conclave with no decision on the next pope, a small crowd assembled on the steps of the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle here in Washington, D.C., with signs, a guitar, and fervent prayers that the conclave would usher in a new openness to women in Catholic leadership.The chilly March wind rose as volunteers passed around flickering candles. “There’s too much Holy Spirit here tonight,” one organizer joked. “We should tell her to tone it down a bit.”Those assembled were praying for something popes have long opposed: an active recognition of women as decision-makers in the church.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 39 weeks 4 days ago
This week's viral video is a must-see. The six-minute "Wealth Inequality in America," released Friday, presents the shocking, true size of the wealth gap in the country.In a series of animated infographics, the video lends a visual punch to numbers that are hard to wrap one’s head around. The top 1 percent of Americans hold 50 percent of all investments in stocks and bonds, for example – while 80 percent of Americans share a paltry 7 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 39 weeks 4 days ago
The day after the Washington Post announced it was moving its top environmental reporter off the green beat to cover politics at the White House, this op-ed went up toeing an uncomfortably familiar line: by speaking out against the Keystone XL pipeline, environmentalists are “missing the climate-endangered forest for the trees.”Leaving aside for a moment the uncomfortable irony of being reprimanded for missing the big fight by an outlet that is reshuffling focus on that very front: the editorial board, respectfully, is wrong. Not that it doesn’t have a point, but that point is concrete and incremental – and misses the entire meaning of the forest of protests over the last 18 months.
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 40 weeks 3 days ago
A new documentary from the producers of Food, Inc. premieres today, serving up the critical problem of rising hunger in the United States with a surprising thesis: we’ve already solved it.… Forty years ago, that is. A Place at the Table, the newest documentary from Participant Media, reveals how political will in the 1960s and 70s ushered in an era of bipartisan-sponsored, government-funded programs that “nearly solved” the problem of hunger. Compare that with today, in which 50 million Americans rely on food assistance programs – and nearly one-in-two children will require food assistance in their lifetimes. The stark disparity between then and now begs the question: what happened?
Posted by Catherine Woodiwiss 1 year 4 days ago
I didn’t expect to leave a Friday night screening of Lincoln thinking about Jesus.And I definitely didn’t expect the link to be an Italian political philosopher named Grigorio Agamben.But of Lincoln’s many triumphs as an Oscar-season contender, its lasting effect is its surprisingly mature meditation on wisdom, freedom, and the necessity of employing the former when granted the latter.Watching Lincoln reason aloud his justification for the Emancipation Proclamation, an act he admits to his advisors was dubiously legal at best, we encounter the film’s driving question: in a time of crisis when the rules no longer apply, what kind of moral vision do we want in leadership?