Right before our broken vessel image the psalmist has this to say: “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak … I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten as though I were dead.” (Ps. 31:9-12) For those of us who have experienced our lives in a thousand pieces tossed with wild abandon across the floor, we can see our own cries and groans in these heart-wrenching words from our psalmist. We know how our eyes can barely open because of how many tears have been shed. We know the groans that we moan day after miserable day. We know the weakness that happens where we can barely stand. We feel the loss of friend after friend because it all got too sad. We know how we are the forgotten ones where we wonder if anyone will remember us again. “I have become like broken pottery.
Knowing that so many more suffer from inhumane incarceration, I joined with more than 20 interfaith clergy from around Oregon and got arrested “for failure to comply” by sitting in a prayer circle in front of the main gates of our local ICE field office. We were gathered with hundreds of others, lifting up stories of those still detained and separated from families, singing songs of lament and joy, and praying that justice would prevail.
On June 28, 1894, the United States government designated the first Monday in September as a holiday to commemorate the achievements and contributions of American workers. Christians, like other people of faith and conscience, have a complicated relationship with employment, exploitation, and our global political economy. We should explore what it could mean to forge an economy that more adequately respects—and protects—various forms of labor than our current socioeconomic arrangement of racialized capitalism.
Since taking office, President Trump and his administration have strongly championed religious liberty, but only of a particular kind. At this week’s White House dinner for evangelical leaders, Trump emphasized that the U.S. is a “nation of believers” and promised to protect religious liberty.
Pope Francis concluded his recent trip to Ireland with a Mass at the World Meeting of Families, during which he called on families to “become a source of encouragement for others.” What sort of encouragement does he envision, I wonder.
I confess it is so easy, and tempting, for me to become exorcised over Donald Trump’s daily deceits, narcissism, and shredding of public virtue. But a deeper threat looms, begun many decades before. Humanity is destroying the integrity of God’s creation. The most flagrant and catastrophic assaults are now altering the globe’s climate in ways that already are impacting the world’s most vulnerable people and threatening us all. President Trump’s policies are aimed at liberating constraints on the burning of more coal and carbon, come hell or high water.
There is a soulweariness shared by these ecclesiastical cousins on both sides of the Atlantic that pervades in the face of so much pain from the original insult, the resulting denials, obfuscation, and general mishandling; and, ultimately, the hope — that some measure of justice might be achieved and true healing commenced — repeatedly dashed.
What does it profit to gain the whole world but to lose your own soul? —Matthew 16:26. Is there anything more applicable today than these familiar words of a poor Palestinian Jew who conquered sin, injustice, and death on our behalf? We should take note that our savior had a consistent habit of critiquing and challenging the hypocrisy and corruption that he saw displayed by the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of his time.
This is just one of the ways that many Christian groups think they are honoring Judaism and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. But as someone with one foot in both worlds — a Christian with Jewish identity — honor is not what it feels like. Rather, it comes off as exploitative.
“[O]ne reason the people of the United States—from both parties—felt such profound disappointment in [the] sexual misconduct [... of the President] was the poor example it set for adolescent children and, indeed, for the rest of society.” This brief extract is from a book published in July 2018 by Wayne Grudem titled Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning. One might justifiably imagine that this sentence concerns Donald Trump. Not so.
In fact, throughout all 1296 pages of this ethics textbook, Trump appears exclusively as an upright model of virtue. Rather, Grudem here refers to Bill Clinton whose transgressions have, for good reason, received renewed attention in the context of the recent #MeToo movement. Still, many fair-minded readers will find Grudem’s selective moral disappointment to be surprising, if not outrageous. But his seemingly one-sided assessment is not a mere oversight.
Jewish wisdom reminds us that we can’t be daunted by the world’s grief, but instead we are required to respond to it by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. We’re not obligated to complete the work of transformation, but we’re never free to abandon it, either.
The Vatican’s retired ambassador to the United States, Carlo Maria Vigano, has accused Pope Francis and other officials of covering up that they were aware of sex abuse allegations against Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington. Scholars have pointed out the complex challenges facing the Catholic Church today and why, as a result, it has been hard to address the issue of clergy sexual abuse. Here are four highlights.
I kept examining these ancient walls. Often, they were slabs of granite laid on top of one another, with thousands of pieces. Their age and the constant moisture of the air in Galicia, blowing from the sea miles away, meant walls were covered the moss, and vegetation wove through them like a net, holding them in place. Certainly, some of this was engineered as the pilgrimage gained in popularity, and political and religious authorities invested in the Camino’s infrastructure.
Starting in the 1890s, churches began to set aside the Sunday before Labor Day as a time for lifting up working people’s voices and experiences. Some pastors even turned their pulpits over to union organizers, who never failed to bring the fire. On Labor Sunday 1910, one Chicago painter matter-of-factly informed his Presbyterian audience, “Some of the worst enemies organized labor has are very ardent church goers.”
The day that I and my three American companions left the Albergue Turistico de Salceda and walked our final 20 miles into the Santiago, arriving exhausted but thrilled in front of the Cathedral, the city was thronged with pilgrims. This happens day after day. But who are these people? Why do they make this journey? And what does this say about the future of faith?
Camp Manna is the story about Ian, a young orphaned boy who doesn’t believe in Jesus. He is sent to Camp Manna, a Christian camp led by Jack “Cujo” Parrish (Gary Busey). Once there, he’s placed in a cabin of misfits and forced to participate in the God Games, a camp-wide competition. Antics invariably ensue.
The startling finding of the 2000 census that by 2060 there would be no majority race in America sent shock waves through country, terrifying many white Americans. It also set in motion bold efforts to diminish the growing political power of African-American citizens. Among these were the census undercount, gerrymandering to dilute heavily black voting areas, and voter suppression. Today, at least 33 states have intentionally erected barriers to voting by enacting voter suppression laws.
In the midst of recent public sexual assault allegations – including those against various church leaders – some Christians bring up the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. While the ostensible reason for these references is to remind us of the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” in protecting the accused, the implicit purpose and functional result is to discredit victims. If we can find a woman in history who lied about sexual assault, the insinuation goes, then we should hold off on deciding anything until all the facts are in.
Walking the Camino with my companions I’ve tried so far, as a spiritual practice, to stop thinking about American politics and Donald Trump. But then I’ve been given tomatoes, and orange juice, and coffee by total strangers, wishing me well on my pilgrimage. I’ve been a vulnerable one on a journey in a strange place.
Both the Protestant and Roman Catholic worlds have been rocked in the past couple of weeks by news involving abuse and sexual misconduct. Willow Creek Community Church, one of the first churches to popularize the megachurch model, became the Protestant epicenter when more allegations of sexual harassment about its founder came to light. And six Catholic dioceses are now the Roman Catholic epicenter after an 884-page grand jury report revealed a massive cover-up in which priests abused at least 1,000, and likely many more, children over a period of 70 years.