Pastor: If DOJ Officials Won’t Read the Torture Report, I'll Read It to Them

Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Left to Right: Rev. Ron Stief, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, Colin Jager. Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J., travelled to Washington, D.C., on June 3 with a simple task: to read the torture report outside the Department of Justice.

“As a pastor, I know that admitting the truth is the first step toward redemption,” said Kaper-Dale.

“When the DOJ admitted in court that it hadn’t even opened, let alone read, the full Torture Report, I knew I had to help the department start the path toward redemption. By reading the report outside the DOJ, I hope to open the hearts of at least a few DOJ employees.”

A Duet of Demise

Sepp Blatter & Dennis Hastert

Sepp Blatter in 2007 kojoku /; Dennis Hastert in 2005 by Doug Bowman via

My experience in the worlds of both religion and politics convinces me that one of three issues is at the heart of the catastrophic demise of any leader — money, sex, or power. Sometimes it’s a trifecta of all three together, like the case of John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate. But in virtually every case, a leader’s personal inability to exercise appropriate constraint and control over one or more of these three dimensions of life can lead to careers that crumble and reputations that become shattered.

That’s why, despite all the fascination on the external qualities, traits, and strategies of successful leaders, it’s their internal lives that can be far more decisive in their long-term ability to be transformative leaders — or not. But that requires attentiveness to the powerful but often hidden dynamics of one’s interior life, which “successful” leaders rarely have the time or courage to undertake.

Evidence for the Abnormality of Violence

Naufal MQ /

Naufal MQ /

The faces of children show us just how foreign to human nature violence actually is. Children shrink from violence. They withdraw inside of themselves, and the face they turn outward to the world is one stripped of their personalities. They lose their affect, are unable to smile or respond to overtures from others. I suppose if you think that joyless, lifeless, blank stares are “normal,” then violence can be thought of as essential to normal human functioning. But if you think that children like this are abnormal — in other words, if you think that violence has prevented them from developing normally — then it’s fair to conclude that violence is anathema to human life and therefore cannot be part of our DNA. Violent behavior must be contingent, just one possibility among others in the vast repertoire of human behaviors. One we can opt for or opt out of as we choose. A choice that a careful study of mimetic theory forces us to face.


Scandalous Leaders, Scandalous Power

Photo via mariakraynova /

Photo via mariakraynova /

Political scandals are evergreen.

On any given week, one or another political leader, cultural star, or renowned athlete are experiencing an embarrassing and public downfall. Recently, we’ve born witness to the fall of a former Speaker of the House and a reality television celebrity. Next week, a new cast of characters will take their place. So ubiquitous are such scandals that they are the backdrop for the television show Scandal, a show I know is on because my Facebook page explodes with conversation about it!

But here’s the odd thing about these scandals, these falls from grace: they are so common that they shouldn’t shock us anymore. And yet these scandals sell newspapers, draw eyes on television. We can always muster some outrage at these all too common crimes.

Every Temple Falls

Photo via Timothy King

Photo via Timothy King

The fate of the Temple of Artemis, the fate of any temple, is one that need not be feared. Death, and collapse, have lost their sting. This process of decay is not an inherently ugly one. There was beauty in those remaining stones and still value in the ones that had already returned to the ground from whence they had been pulled.

Whether human or stone, from dust we have come and to dust we shall return.

Iraq, ISIS, and Our Need for Repentance

DavidTB /

DavidTB /

What we have yet to hear from Republican presidential candidates or the habitual hawks is the appropriate spiritual response to the war in Iraq — repentance. Instead, we hear this defensive language: “Everybody got it wrong.” Well that’s not true. The people who ultimately made the decision to invade, occupy, and completely destabilize Iraq did indeed get it wrong. But so far, they have been unwilling to admit their incredible mistakes that we all now have to live with: the enormous number of lives lost or permanently damaged; the extremely dangerous exacerbation of the sectarian Sunni/Shia conflict that now rules the entire region; and the creation of the conditions that led to ISIS. Except for Rand Paul, none of the Republican candidates has been willing to admit that ISIS is a consequence of our complete devastation and destabilization of Iraq — leaving us with the greatest real threat the international community has faced for some time. Yet we’ve heard not a word of apology for mistakes or any spirit of repentance from the neoconservative hawks.

The Nuance of the 'Nones'

Rawpixel /

Rawpixel /

The rising number of people choosing “nothing in particular,“ a subset of the "unaffiliated” label, has raised hackles across the theo-political spectrum, from some fundamentalist evangelicals decrying the de-Christianizing of the nation to more mainline Protestant handwringing over the loss of current and future members from already-struggling denominations.

The problem with this range of views (as far as I’ve read) is that, while certainly broad, it’s pretty shallow. There’s nuance to the “nones.” I can say this with confidence as someone who has drifted across the borders of that category once or twice or every other day. While there are certainly those in the group who don’t care about religion, there are also those with complicated feelings. These are people who still see their lives, maybe all life around them, as uniquely religious. Many have even done the work to interpret such complicated feelings, which is no small task.

Pope Francis Hasn’t Watched TV Since 1990. Here Are Some Key Moments He Missed

Illustration by Tiffany McCallen / RNS

Illustration by Tiffany McCallen / RNS

Pope Francis told an Argentine newspaper on May 25 that he hasn’t watched television since 1990. Think of all he’s missed, not just in terms of popular culture, but also in terms of American Catholicism. Here, in no particular order, are seven television shows the pope might want to catch up on before his September U.S. trip.

New Jersey Priest Fired as Seton Hall Chaplain Comes Out as Gay

Photo via Frances Micklow / The Star-Ledger / RNS

Father Warren Hall gives Mass at Seton Hall on February 14, 2014. Photo via Frances Micklow / The Star-Ledger / RNS

A Catholic priest in New Jersey who says he was dismissed from his campus ministry job over a Facebook post against anti-gay bullying and racism has come out as gay.

The Rev. Warren Hall told Outsports, a magazine for gay athletes, that while he remained committed to his vocation as a priest and to his vow of celibacy, he was not going to hide his sexual orientation.

“I have to be myself,” Hall said.

“I can’t worry what other people think.”

As Nigeria Prepares to Install New President, Female Suicide Bombings Spike

Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari addresses the media on May 13, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s newly elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, promised during his campaign that he would tackle the militant terrorist group Boko Haram.

On May 29, he will be sworn into office, just as the extremist group is ramping up its use of female suicide bombers.

Buhari, who is Muslim, replaces Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the country’s south. Both Christians and Muslims voted for Buhari in April, convinced he could stop the terrorist rampage.

Nigerians fear violence may escalate if female terrorists are deployed because they can hide explosives under their long Muslim abayas, or gowns.