Why Pope Francis' Encyclical Gives Me Hope

Pope Francis, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com
Pope Francis, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

By choosing to focus on the plight of the poor and the groaning of the earth itself, Francis is tapping into something much deeper than denominational squabbles and political maneuvering. He is seeking to make an end-run around the tedious shouting matches of privileged contenders in pitched ideological battles. This is a pope, not of the pundits but of the people – and of the planet.

We’re all connected. Just as the body of Christ is one – despite all of our institutional and ideological boundaries – all of humanity, all life is one. We’re rooted together in the soil that feeds us, in the natural ecosystems that sustain our very existence.

Rachel Dolezal, Matt Lauer, and the African-American Experience

Image: Rachel Dolezal, via Facebook
Image: Rachel Dolezal, via Facebook

I don’t know what Rachel has been through in her life, but Jamelle Bouie makes an important distinction in understanding Rachel’s situation over at Slate. He writes that, “To belong to the black community is to inherit a rich culture; to be racially black is to face discrimination and violence.” Here’s a bit of information about the modern black experience of racism, discrimination, and violence in the U.S. FYI – being black in America is more dangerous than gaining custody of an adopted brother and drawing with crayons.

Pope Francis: Seek Forgiveness for Shutting Out Refugees

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Three hundred sub-Saharan Africans sit onboard a boat during a rescue operation. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis on Wednesday said people who shut out refugees should seek forgiveness, after clashes on Italy’s borders as European countries try to push back against a wave of migrants fleeing by boat from Libya.

Addressing crowds in St. Peter’s Square, Francis drew his followers’ attention to the U.N.’s World Refugee Day this Saturday.

Americans’ Confidence in Religion Hits a New Low

Courtesy Jason Benner/ Shutterstock.com
Overall, church/organized religion is now ranked in fourth place in the Gallup survey. Courtesy Jason Benner/ Shutterstock.com

Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be “losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” a new Gallup survey finds.

“In the ’80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1″ in Gallup’s annual look at confidence in institutions, said Lydia Saad, author of the report released Wednesday.

Confidence, she said, “is a value judgment on how the institution is perceived, a mark of the amount of respect it is due.” A slight upsurge for Catholic confidence, for example, parallels the 2013 election and immense popularity of Pope Francis.

'As a Christian, I am Sorry:' Evangelical Pastor's Reflections on Attending First Pride Parade

Photo courtesy Adam Phillips
Adam Phillips and his wife, Sarah, attend Portland Pride Parade. Photo courtesy Adam Phillips

I walked down Burnside and the first parade on-lookers squinted and began to read my placard. I did not know what to expect at first: Did they think I was protesting Pride? Would they accept my apology?

I was overwhelmed by the response. People began to cheer. Many asked me to slow down so they could take a picture. Some wiped away tears and simply mouthed “thank you,” or “I accept [your apology].” For the next few miles cheers and cameras and tears greeted us everywhere we went. I was grateful I was wearing sunglasses, because there were a few moments where I simply welled up with tears and couldn’t handle it any more.

Jim Crow Again: Lessons for Fighting this Giant

Photo via sakhorn / Shutterstock.com
Photo via sakhorn / Shutterstock.com

One in thirty-one. That’s how many Americans are in in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. In the U.S., our incarceration rate is 10 times higher than that of other countries while our actual crime rate is lower than those same countries. Citing a 600% increase in the prison population since the 1960’s, with no correlating increase in crime, Michelle Alexander has called mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow.” When people of color represent 30% of the U.S. population, but 60% of those incarcerated, we are in league with David, staring at a towering giant, armed with a prayer and a handful of stones.

While the work before us is daunting, people of faith are called to fight giants. The Spirit who we remember in Pentecost, the Spirit who set the world on fire, has trusted us with this work. We are giant slayers, by God’s grace. For this reason, it is fitting that we revisit the story of the first giant slayer, a young boy who tended sheep and fought off bears and lions.

A Tale of Two Pharaohs: On Horse Racing and Transformed Hearts

Diana Robinson / Flickr.com
American Pharoah ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza wins the Triple Crown at Belmont on June 6. Photo by Diana Robinson/Flickr.com

After winning the Triple Crown, American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, showed that he doesn’t live in fear of losing his power. And, as opposed to the Egyptian Pharaoh, he showed he has a soft heart for those who are suffering.

Espinoza reportedly earned $80,000 for his victory at the Belmont Stakes and he’s giving it all away. “I won the Triple Crown right now,” he stated, “but I don’t make any money because I’m donating all the money to the City of Hope.” The City of Hope is a cancer research and treatment center. Espinoza also donates his time at the City of Hope, visiting with children struck by cancer. He says, “The kids [are] 6 years old, 10 years old, it’s just heartbreaking.” Why does he do it? “I just saw one kid with the disease and that’s how I changed my life. I changed the way I think. Pretty much I changed everything … the first change I made was in my heart.”

What Are We Willing to Do?

modera761101 / Shutterstock.com
modera761101 / Shutterstock.com

When we discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ, we realize that it is a revolutionary message asking us to love our enemies, to do good to those who curse us, and even harder, to turn the other cheek. The gospel is going beyond that. It is asking us to receive, stand, advocate for the poor, incarcerated, and those living in the margins who have been pushed out by the institutions of our society. Jesus took many risks at times during his ministry, and when he started turning over tables and exposing the priests’ racket of selling sacrifices, it did not work out so well for him.

I’m not asking people to go and get themselves killed, but just ask yourself, “How much of the gospel am I willing to perform?”

5 Reasons the Future of Faith Depends on the Open Internet

jannoon028 / Shutterstock.com
jannoon028 / Shutterstock.com

Today, the Open Internet Order goes into effect. Many business owners, entrepreneurs, and economists are praising the order as a win for the economy. But there’s an unexpected voice in the chorus of praise: America’s faith leaders.

As a Christian and Sikh, we are celebrating the Open Internet Order, because the communities we serve cannot flourish today without an open and free Internet. The order codifies principles that have governed the Internet in the U.S. for decades. It keeps the Internet an open space for free speech, including religious expression.

'Jurassic World' and the Problem with Hollywood Reboots

Image via Jurassic Park on Facebook
Image via Jurassic Park on Facebook

Among the big releases this summer, two films offer new installments of iconic franchises. One, Mad Max: Fury Road is a master class in how to do it right. Made as a labor of love, not a studio cash-grab, it uses a familiar setting and hero to explore new artistic territory, and still maintains an insanely entertaining level of action.

The other is Jurassic World.

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