Posted by Ivone Guillen, Beau Underwood 3 weeks 4 days ago
If Congress passes immigration reform, much of the credit will be given to the broad and diverse voices that have lined up in support of fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. Both the labor and business community have been instrumental in moving legislation forward, while the evangelical community’s call to “welcome the stranger” has received significant attention by politicians and the media. The coalition of supporters continues to grow, as last week the Sierra Club, the oldest environmental organization in the country, announced its support for immigration reform.Why would an environmental organization get involved with immigration reform? What could they possibly have at stake?A lot.
Posted by Beau Underwood 5 weeks 5 days ago
Guns are dangerous idols. While mass shootings are happening at an alarming rate and an epidemic of gun violence plagues our nation’s cities, our society’s fanatical devotion to weapons prevents us from enacting solutions to curb the violence. The cost of worshipping these false idols continues to rise, as firearms kill more than 80 people a day. Since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newton, Conn., nearly 3,500 people have died because of a gun. Some of them were suicides. Some were gang-related gun deaths. Many use these facts to insinuate that the deaths somehow aren't equally tragic. But as Christians we know that all of them were children of God created in the Divine image.While the idolatry rages on, prophets are beginning to speak out.
Posted by Beau Underwood 6 weeks 3 days ago
While immigration and gun violence issues are capturing most of the week's headlines, the budget battles have re-emerged in Washington, D.C. Last month House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released competing budget proposals. And today, President Barack Obama released his own plan, which aims to reduce the deficit through a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas note:Today’s budget is the White House’s effort to reach the bedrock of the fiscal debate. Half of its purpose is showing what they’re willing to do. They want a budget compromise, and this budget proves it. There are now liberals protesting on the White House lawn. But the other half is revealing what the GOP is — or, more to the point, isn’t — willing to do. Republicans don’t want a budget compromise, and this budget is likely to prove that, too.As the White House sees it, there are two possible outcomes to this budget. One is that it actually leads to a grand bargain, either now or in a couple of months. Another is that it proves to the press and the public that Republican intransigence is what’s standing in the way of a grand bargain.
Posted by Beau Underwood 23 weeks 4 days ago
In the church where I grew up, the first Sunday in Advent was dubbed the “hanging of the greens.” On that special Sunday, we sang carols in the decorated sanctuary, all culminating in the children’s live nativity scene. The service never changed from year to year. The only variables were how many kids needed roles and which young child would get stage fright, thus leaving part of the the story without visual representation. It always seemed like the doves were cursed. The doves rarely remained on stage for the entire performance. Over the years, I was a variety of animals — a wise man, a shepherd, and finally Joseph. I never got stage fright. I was never a dove. I can only imagine what my mother would’ve done if I had been that kid. It took me years to realize that there was a character missing from my congregation’s telling of the story. We always left out King Herod. This was a huge oversight, because Herod plays a major role in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth.
Posted by Beau Underwood 24 weeks 1 day ago
“Faith is recognizing that if at Christmas Jesus became like us, it was so we might become more like him,” wrote the well-known preacher and activist William Sloan Coffin. He goes on to add, “We know what this means; watching Jesus heal the sick, empower the poor, and scorn the powerful, we see transparently the power of God at work.”*Christmas really is about seeing the power of God at work, but far too often pastors and churches fail to tell this story. Oh sure, we preach about Mary and Joseph, Jesus being born in a Bethlehem manger, and the Magi following a star to find him and offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh. My fear is that the story has grown familiar and routine. We have forgotten its power and no longer see its challenge. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Magi seek out Jesus after hearing of his birth. In order to find him they ask King Herod where they can find the new king. This, of course, is news to Herod who is surprised to learn that his title has been claimed by a baby. Herod consults his advisors and then reacts with the expected calmness of a leader anticipating a conflict, which is to say his response is not calm at all. This story is an announcement that Jesus has arrived to challenge the powerful. The Messiah was not born meek and mild.
Posted by Beau Underwood 25 weeks 2 days ago
Now that the election is over, policymakers and the media have refocused their attention on the looming budget battles in Washington. In January, a variety of tax increases and spending cuts will go into effect unless Congress and President Barack Obama agree on a plan to avoid what has been deemed “the fiscal cliff.”As the country braces for another fiscal showdown in the nation’s capitol, here are five things you need to know on the issue likely to dominate the news over the next several months.
Posted by Beau Underwood 34 weeks 3 days ago
Global tensions between Christians and Muslims are high as reactions to a stridently anti-Muslim film rage on in many countries. By now, most of us have heard about the video, followed the media coverage of the protests, and mourned those, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, who have died from the violence.In the midst of all this, an organization deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center has decided to run ads in New York City subway stations that imply Muslims are “savages.” Many faith groups have spoken out to denounce the offensive ads, but the horse is already out of the barn, as the ads already have been posted and will be seen each day by countless New York City commuters.
Posted by Beau Underwood 39 weeks 2 days ago
Today, two Christian leaders in Arizona delivered a petition signed by thousands of Christians to Gov. Jan Brewer calling on her to retract her controversial executive order denying driver’s licenses and other benefits to undocumented young people who qualify for deferred action. The petition was signed by members of the Sojourners community and reads:We believe every person, regardless of immigration status, is created in God's image. Your recent executive order denying driver's licenses and other benefits to undocumented young people who qualify for deferred action is harsh and short-sighted. As people of faith, we urge you to reconsider your position and retract this executive order so that all God's children in Arizona can contribute to your state's economy and strengthen its communities.Pastor Yvette Lopez of the New Life Church of God in Tucson, Ariz., also helped deliver the petition.“I’m a conservative, but this is this was the last straw for me,” Lopez said.“This executive order is deplorable, and it must be rescinded; my faith and my politics demand this.”
Posted by Beau Underwood 39 weeks 5 days ago
President Barack Obama recently announced a policy change that would let young people living in the U.S. without immigration status pursue an education and find meaningful work without fear of deportation. As communities continue to suffer the effects of the country’s broken immigration system and families live in fear of their loved ones being deported, this was news to celebrate and an answer to prayer.Apparently Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, had a different reaction to the compassion and progress embodied by this new policy. On the day it went into effect, Brewer issued an executive order denying driver’s licenses to young people in Arizona qualifying for the relief being offered by the federal government.
Posted by Beau Underwood 43 weeks 3 days ago
Living in poverty has always been a struggle, but in Alabama being poor could land you in prison. According to a recent story in The New York Times, Alabama resident Gina Ray was locked up for over a month because she couldn’t pay fees and fines related to minor traffic offenses. Speeding while poor shouldn’t land someone in jail. This punishment doesn’t fit the crime.Why would such morally outrageous penalties be imposed for such minor violations? Because criminal justice has become big business. Private companies are making millions of dollars running prisons, administering probation systems, and providing health care to those living behind bars.
Posted by Beau Underwood 44 weeks 2 days ago
Independence Day in Joplin, Mo. saw fireworks of a different kind. On July 4, the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque was set on fire. While the mosque has only been open since 2007, it has already been targeted twice by arsonists. These hateful attacks must stop.The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.While the FBI is investigating the incident, the fact that a religious community was targeted means the attack should be investigated as a potential hate crime. Christians around the country are speaking out to ensure the Department of Justice gives this the necessary attention it deserves. Add your voice to the petition calling for a hate crimes investigation and show a little love to your Muslim neighbors in Joplin, Mo.
Posted by Beau Underwood 47 weeks 2 days ago
In a widely anticipated and extremely consequential decision, the Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision that President Barack Obama’s chief domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is constitutional.The main challenge to the law had focused on the “individual mandate,” which required people to purchase insurance or pay a fine. In its ruling, the Court upheld the mandate under the taxing power given to Congress in the Constitution.
Posted by Beau Underwood 47 weeks 5 days ago
Today the Supreme Court struck down three central provisions of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. Attempts by Arizona to force immigrants to carry identification, create legal penalties for undocumented workers seeking employment, or detain individuals solely based on suspicions about their immigration status were ruled to interfere with the federal government’s right and responsibility to set immigration policy.The Court let one section, known as 2(B), to stand, which allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals apprehended for non-immigration offenses, if law enforcement has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person violated U.S. immigration laws in entering the country. (Read more on concerns about the racial profiling measure HERE.)
Posted by Beau Underwood 48 weeks 1 day ago
In June of 1998, three presumed white supremacists from Jasper, Texas severely beat and then murdered James Byrd, Jr. by tying him to a pick-up truck and dragging his body for miles. This incident has made the town infamous and, unfortunately, the racial divide continues to linger. According to a report in The New York Times, the city’s first African-American police chief has been fired by a predominantly white city council, prompting the former chief to take legal action and the NAACP to seek a federal investigation.Even more shocking are the sentiments expressed by some of the town’s leaders.
Posted by Beau Underwood 49 weeks 4 days ago
As Congress continues to wage a war of political ideology over budget cuts and entitlement programs, they need to remember that these abstract policy debates have real consequences for millions of Americans. Deciding between funding programs that feed the hungriest Americans versus giving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans is not really a choice, at least not when it comes to the demands of the Gospel.
Posted by Beau Underwood 51 weeks 1 day ago
Recently, the Kansas’ legislature and governor enacted a law to ensure state courts and agencies do not consider foreign laws in legal decision-making. While the language is broadly written, the law’s narrow intention is clearly understood. The Kansas legislature has irrationally concluded that Sharia law somehow threatens the state’s well-being and decisive action was needed.This, of course, is false.
Posted by Beau Underwood 51 weeks 4 days ago
The debate over immigration policy and border security often focuses on the border shared by the United States and Mexico. However, The New York Times recently offered a revealing and troublesome picture of efforts by the U.S. Border Patrol along the dividing line between the US and Canada.According to the report, the border agents “hover outside the warehouse where Mexican immigrants sell the salal they pick in the temperate rain forest. Sometimes they confront people whose primary offense, many argue, is skin tone.”