Greg Williams is the communications (and operations) director at an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.
After completing a fruitful academic career at Trinity School for Ministry and Geneva College, Greg sought to put into action all of the academic sociology, history, and theology he had learned. He shifted from merely studying the problems of the world to doing something about those problems in a year at Sojourners before moving on to his current position. His passion, academically and otherwise, is in enabling the church to use her resources to help bring about a more just society.
As you may imagine, this is fairly exhausting, so at home he usually just naps, between baking bread and biking around his beautiful city.
Posts By This Author
The Pope and the Bomb
Pope Francis is not an innovator in his approach to the topic of nuclear weapons (though he did extend the logic of earlier ethical thought). The consistent teaching of the Roman Catholic Church since Pope John XXIII has been that the use of nuclear weapons in war is immoral because it conflicts with the principles of just war theory. Problematically for the principles, the violence wrought through nuclear war is extensive enough that there can be plausible victor in a nuclear exchange, and no chance to protect noncombatants from becoming involved. In short, the church teaches, the use of nuclear weapons is indiscriminate and always disproportionate to the good that can be hoped to be achieved.
Pope Francis' whole papal agenda was brought into focus by Dr. Love when she summarized his mission as care for the three 'P's — his concern for the poor, for the planet, and for peace. Various elements of this are obvious from his Laudato Si', among other addresses and initiatives, but all three of these come together in Francis' concern to see a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons and potential of nuclear catastrophe.
'Sex Is Great! And Will Destroy Us All'
I do believe that we are called to purity: a comprehensive purity that encompasses our sexual nature and other parts of our life. The apostle James saves harsh words for people who aren’t pure in their words (see his metaphor of fresh and salt water) and in their care for the poor, just as Paul explicitly calls us to sexual purity. Holiness requires a holistic purity. As Augustine — along with the vast majority of Christian tradition — teaches, purity is an attribute of the soul, not of the body.
More than this, a lack of purity endangers not the nation (to which Christians owe respect), but the church (which is our family). This is why Paul is so concerned about impurity in 1 Corinthians 5 — it doesn’t fit with our calling as a church. If we adopt a nationalistic rhetoric around purity, we shift our primary loyalty from the church to the nation, with devastating consequences for our Christian life.
Christians can't ignore an imperative to purity. But we also must avoid shaming people and continuing the toxic messages of apocalypticism and nationalism that Moslener records in Virgin Nation. Contrary to those arguments, our lack of sexual purity doesn’t doom our nation. But a lack of holistic purity might kill our church.
Diplomats Weaken Results of Annual Human Trafficking Report
Yesterday, Reuters reported that top bureaucrats in the U.S. State Department overruled experts and analysts by successfully urging that 14 countries be upgraded in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) due to their strategic importance to the U.S. This report, released last week, evaluates how well 188 countries are fighting human trafficking by ranking countries in three tiers. These rankings are taken seriously in the U.S. government and around the world, with related impact on trade, public perception, and diplomatic relations.
Upgraded countries include those that the United States wants to be friendly with for diplomatic reasons (such as Cuba or China) but also countries such as Malaysia, which could not be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade treaty, if it was ranked poorly in the TIP report.
Iran Deal Announced This Morning
The U.S. and five allied world powers (China, Russia, UK, France, and Germany) have worked out an agreement with Iran restricting its nuclear program, President Obama announced from the White House this morning. The deal limits Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, and thus develop nuclear weapons, in return for a gradual easing of UN sanctions and financial controls on Iran.
This plan, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is years in the making. It took its nascent form in November 2013 with a new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, then was fleshed out in a framework agreement in April this year. The most recent push to the agreement took 18 full days of talks in Vienna among top diplomats from every country involved.
Though a deal has been announced, it already faces opposition, both internationally from Israel and Arab states and domestically from Congress. Congress has sixty days to review the deal, in what is expected to be a difficult political fight over President Obama’s foreign policy.
The full text of the deal is available here.
Free to Be He
MANHOOD SEEMS to be in crisis today, for a host of reasons ranging from silly (a feminized church because of too many altar girls?) to serious (a porn and video game epidemic, alienating boys and men). Carolyn Custis James’ Malestrom gives needed context by pointing this crisis of masculinity back to humanity’s very fall into sin and the patriarchy that sin generated. She calls this patriarchy the “malestrom”—a societal whirlpool that sucks men into a broken way of life and destroys them.
The malestrom is unfortunately familiar to us, although James explores its contours in compelling detail. Sin manifests itself in men through a patriarchal hierarchy that leads us to resort to violence to establish status. The dominant model of what it means to be a man is to father children, provide for them economically, and protect them from the outside world. In light of this, how can we be surprised that we have hurting men and boys in our church who don’t fit in that model?
James tells biblical stories of men who pushed back against the patriarchal order to better reflect the image of God—men and women together in a “blessed alliance” to bring God’s kingdom. These stories culminate in the example of Jesus as the ultimate man who lived fully into a healthy masculine identity.
S.C. House Approves Removal of Confederate Flag
Today, at 4:00 p.m. EST, Governor Haley of South Carolina intends to sign a bill to take down the Confederate battle flag that is currently flying over the state capitol. The flag itself will be removed at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, and moved to a museum.
Calls for the removal of the Confederate flag, seen as a symbol of racism and oppression, have been buildingsince the murder of nine African-American men and women at Emmanuel AME in Charleston, S.C., last month. Dylann Roof, the accused murderer who is alledged to have been motivated by racial hate, has several pictures online posing with the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.
The flag itself increasingly been seen as a symbol of hate, even among traditionally conservative white southern Christians, with Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention going so far as to say that “the cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.”
This decision to take down the flag made its way through a marjoity vote in the South Carolina House earlythis morning. The vote comes nearly two weeks after Bree Newsome, a Christian activist, took down the flag herself in an act of civil disobedience on June 27. For her, this was an act “not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015.”
Most Americans Believe God has a Special Relationship With the U.S.
Following the Fourth of July weekend, a recent Lifeway Research poll shows that most Americans believe that God has a special relationship with the United States.
Evangelical Christians are particularly likely to believe that God has a special relationship with the U.S. — with two-thirds agreeing with that statement — but it has a broad base of support, with even a third of those identifying as not religious agreeing with it.
"53 percent of Americans say they believe God and the nation have a special relationship, a concept stretching back to Pilgrim days. Even a third of atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference believe America has a special relationship with God," says the report.
This belief in a special relationship, often called American exceptionalism, has a long history, from ideas of Manifest Destiny (and whiteness) to calls for justice and a moral responsibility, as in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech.
"Some Christians view America as an archetype of biblical Israel, chosen and uniquely blessed by God," Ed Stetzer, executive director of Lifeway Research, said.
And today, despite social, economic, and political crises regularly in the headlines, American optimism remains high — only 4 in 10 Americans think America’s best days are behind us.
Read the full report here.
Review: 'Understanding Gender Dysphoria'
Transgender people, especially in the church, have a history of being an object of culture war fights, so humanizing personal struggle is important. This is especially true for Understanding Gender Dysphoria’s audience of evangelical seminarians. We should encourage anything such as this that improves pastoral care for sexual minorities within the evangelical church, especially for those of our friends who are not affirming.
Yet I don’t imagine Yarhouse will make many people happy in Understanding Gender Dysphoria — the LGBTQ activist, the secular counselor, and the evangelical pastor will all be uncomfortable at one time or another. He is at a tricky intersection between faith and psychiatry, but one where he needs to be to help conservative Christians attempt to negotiate difficult issues of identity.
I’m excited that the evangelical world is paying attention to these issues, but there is much more that needs to be done to determine what humane pastoral care looks like for people with gender dysphoria.
Welcoming the Undocumented
The primary challenge facing immigration laws in the United States is not people crossing the border without authorization. In fact, a recent study from Pew Research Center shows that fewer people than ever are attempting to cross the border.
Rather, our dilemma with immigration is that people who are already here — some for several decades — without proper documentation face substantial difficulties in trying to integrate and contribute to the country.
If We Love Jesus, We Should Take Care of His Stuff
Why does caring about Jesus mean we should care for the earth? There are plenty of Old Testament passages about the lordship of God over all creation, but let’s limit ourselves, for the sake of evangelical argument, to Jesus. He cares about ecology because of his incarnation into creation, his miracles restoring creation, and his lordship over creation.