Posted by Phil Haslanger 2 weeks 4 days ago
Editor's Note: The following is the text of an invocation being given at the May Day Rally in Madison, Wis.When we gather at a place like our State Capitol, there are people here from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.There are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, Hindus and and Bahai, Humanists and people who are pretty sure they believe something, but don’t know exactly how the heck to describe it.What connects us all this day is a spirit of hospitality, a spirit of compassion and a spirit of justice.At their worst, religious and other beliefs can isolate us in little camps where we see outsiders as threats. At their best, they call us to hospitality, not only to those we know, but to the strangers in our midst – those who come from other places, speak other languages, seek a new life. At their best, they call us to embrace those who seek to be part of our community.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 3 weeks 6 days ago
Last week was on in which what God envisions for our world seemed so very, very far away.We watched in horror last Monday as two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We wept as we heard about the death of an 8-year-old boy, a 23-year-old grad student, a 29-year-old restaurant manager. We shuddered as we thought about the 170 people injured in the bombings, many of them losing feet or legs. We asked why. Why did this happen? How could human beings do this to others?Tuesday, we learned about poisoned letters being sent to elected officials. Real poison, not just the poisonous words that are so much of our political dialogue. Is this really what God envisioned for us?
Posted by Phil Haslanger 6 weeks 5 days ago
A caller into a Christian radio station was telling the hosts about some of the strains in her marriage. Soon, she was talking about the physical abuse she was receiving from her husband.And the response of the hosts of this Christian radio show? “What are you doing that is making him so mad?”There’s a sad history in too many Christian churches of pastors telling abused wives that their duty is, as one author noted, “to trust that God would honor her action by either stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it.”I don’t think that view is as common in churches as it once was. And in many churches pastors and other faith leaders will act thoughtfully and quickly to come to the aid of a victim of abuse. But the undercurrent of tolerating abuse lingers.A renowned theology professor from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bruce Ware, preached a few years ago that when women refuse to submit to their husbands, men will sometimes respond with abuse. He did not condone that, but he seemed to accept it as inevitable.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 12 weeks 3 days ago
The drone operators sit at consoles on military bases around the U.S. They track their targets and when the moment is right, they send the command to fire. And then people die.Drones have been in the news a lot over the past month as Congress has considered the nomination of John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Brennan has been the chief architect of the drone policies of the Obama administration.The constitutional questions have gotten quite a public airing, but drones raise deeper moral questions about what constraints there are on weapons of war.Yes, drones are efficient, effective, and economical. But what do they do to the soul of this nation, to the psyches of those who push the buttons from half a world away? If they are moral for the U.S. to use at will in any nation of the world, are they moral for other nations to use against us?
Posted by Phil Haslanger 15 weeks 4 days ago
So you might think that religious folks for the most part are not big fans of guns, and for the most part you’d be right.And then you run across these comments from a California legislator, who said guns are “essential to living the way God intended.” That was Rep. Tim Donnelly, who told a Christian radio show Jan. 16 that guns “are used to defend human life. They are used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom.”Well, yes, guns are used that way. They are used in lots of other ways too — to kill people we don’t like, to hold up banks, to commit suicide. It’s harder to wrap those under the banner of God’s intent.For Christians, it’s hard to square the deification of guns with Jesus telling his followers to put away their swords, even as he was being arrested and led off to death.That’s why a wide coalition of religious voices are speaking out in the great national debate about how we can live up to the Second Amendment’s call for having a “well-regulated militia.” Notice the words “well-regulated.”As the Very Rev. Gary Hall, the new dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., said two days after the horrific shootings at Newtown: “I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”
Posted by Phil Haslanger 28 weeks 4 days ago
As the winds and the rain of Hurricane Sandy settle down, one bit of the aftermath is going to be another round of conversation about how climate change is affecting our world.It’s not a conversation you have heard much of in the presidential campaign this year. Climate change is one of a quartet of issues that will have a huge impact on the future of this nation that have gotten short shrift by both President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.Poverty. Guns. . Drones. Climate change.Bring up any of those issues and watch the candidates make a quick nod of concern and then scamper away from any specifics. Yet those issues will be with us long after Nov. 6, so it is incumbent on those of us in the faith community to be laying the groundwork now for how we will address them in the coming year.That work has already begun, of course. The challenge is not to let the post-election exhaustion sweep away those concerns like they were potted palms on a pier in the midst of the hurricane.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 30 weeks 6 days ago
On a conference call with people from across the nation who held screenings of The Line, you could hear frustrations mounting from people struggling with the challenge of reducing poverty in America.How do you engage people in rural areas, asked one woman. Why were Native Americans left out, asked a man from Minnesota. A priest who has worked on housing the homeless for a lifetime expressed the exasperation of someone who has devoted much time and seen little progress.The battle against poverty is a long slog. That’s why it was good to hear some of the comments of folks gathered last week at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg, Wis. (just outside Madison) after the opening night showing of The Line.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 31 weeks 3 days ago
OK, church folks. Fasten your seat belts. But don’t hunker down.There’s a new study out this week that shows that one-in-five Americans has no religious affiliation. Not Baptist, not Catholic, not Lutheran, not Jewish, not Muslim. For those of us in the world of organized religion, this just adds more data to a trend we have seen accelerating over the last decade.In 2007, about 15 percent of the adult population in the U.S. described itself as unaffiliated with any religion. In a comparable survey done this summer and released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number hit 20 percent. And if you just focus on those under 30, the religiously unaffiliated constitute one third of that group.Among those of us who are professional religious types, this is the kind of data that can prompt a lot of gloomy introspection about relevance and a lot of finger pointing at those who are not interested in the same kinds of religious expression that we are. Let me suggest there’s a less gloomy and less judgmental way to think about this data.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 40 weeks 5 days ago
First, there were the cryptic news bulletins on TV. There had been a shooting at a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb called Oak Creek. Then the details began to emerge. Six people were dead, others critically wounded, including a police officer. The shooter, who had a long history with the white power movement, was shot dead by another police officer, bringing the toll to seven.And all around Wisconsin, people watched in horror as we learned of yet another mass murder, this one in our backyard, this one shattering the tranquility of a Sunday morning worship service.There are not a lot of Sikhs in Wisconsin – about 3,000 in the southeastern part of the state, perhaps 250 or so in the Madison area where I live. Yet people everywhere shared the horror and the sadness of that moment.In the Milwaukee area, a group called the Light Brigade — which had held up illuminated letters with political slogans during the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker earlier this year — stood in Cathedral Square with a simple, powerful message in lights: “Wisconsin Weeps.”
Posted by Phil Haslanger 47 weeks 3 days ago
When the Nuns on the Bus pulled up in front of Rep. Paul Ryan’s home office in Janesville, Wis., earlier this week, they were challenging the theological rationale he has been using for his budget plan that has become the economic banner for the Republican Party.But they were also showing how people can hold strong opinions, get those opinions into the public arena and still engage adversaries in respectful ways. In the process, they called on citizens to get engaged in the same way.“I urge you, urge you, I beg you, Janesville, in this election cycle, please, don’t be a spectator,” Sr. Simone Campbell pleaded with a crowd in the courthouse park as their visit to the southern Wisconsin city came to an end.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 1 year 2 days ago
The crowd in an Atlanta church on Wednesday night was mostly Protestants, mostly preachers. The speaker was a professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City – one of the icons of the mainstream Protestant world.Yet Barbara Lundblad’s message was a call for the 1,000 or so people gathered for the annual Festival of Homiletics to “stand with these courageous Roman Catholic sisters.” She was referring, of course, to the recent crackdown by the Vatican on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the organization that represents about 80 percent of the nuns in the U.S.Lundblad drew on the famous story of Mary, having just learned she was pregnant with Jesus, visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also improbably pregnant.The Gospel of Luke says that Mary “entered the house of Zechariah and visited Elizabeth.” Lundblad pondered why Luke felt it necessary to put Zechariah in the story at this point. She let that hang unanswered.Then she noted that when Elizabeth saw Mary, the baby leapt in her womb in recognition of Jesus – a sign that women often come to theology through the experiences of their bodies. Lundblad said wryly, “Surely Elizabeth would not have been allowed to testify before the Congressional committee on contraception” – an all-male committee with all male witnesses, all representing church groups that do not allow the ordination of women.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 1 year 13 weeks ago
Now we are at Valentine’s Day a year later. For many months last spring, a solitary red heart balloon floated just under the dome of the Capitol. It became a gentle symbol of this powerful people’s uprising.The red heart balloon can serve as a reminder of how God’s Spirit blows whichever way it will, but that God’s Spirit is a spirit of justice and of compassion. As Bishop Burnside said, voices of faith need both a vocabulary of love and a vocabulary of justice as we move into the highly-charged months ahead.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 1 year 18 weeks ago
It was not exactly like the occupations of Wall Street or Boston, of Oakland or Seattle.Rod House’s “wee encampment” was a one-man occupation on the library grounds in LaVeta, Colorado, population 906, some 65 miles southwest of Pueblo. He was so horrified by what he saw happening to protesters in other cities he was at wit’s end.“I’ve got to do something, but I’m 71 years old,” House said.So on Black Friday, that day that represents consumer society on steroids, House, an Air Force veteran, pitched his tent on the library grounds, determined to make his own stand for a better world. He was there simply as individual standing against the power of money that has corrupted politics.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 1 year 45 weeks ago
The email came just a few days before two Jewish rabbis and two Muslim friends joined two of us Christian ministers for a Sunday morning service. This service was part of a national event called Faith Shared.
Posted by Phil Haslanger 1 year 48 weeks ago
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Posted by Phil Haslanger 3 years 36 weeks ago