What Does It Really Mean to ‘Believe?'

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA

Photo courtesy InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA

Last week, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was derecognized at California state schools, barring the group’s access to on-campus meeting rooms, school funds, and other student functions. While InterVarsity welcomes all to participate in its campus-based student groups, it was derecognized because their leadership policy, which requires students in positions of leadership to sign a statement of belief, conflicted with state-mandated nondiscrimination policies.

From the standpoint of religious liberty in this secular age, it’s hard to get around the troubling nature of this policy. Part of me squirms and rolls my eyes at the increasing irony of the intolerance of tolerance. Why can’t we — as a religious community born of a 2,000-year-old tradition — retain some beliefs that have become out-of-style in the modern academy? The principle irks me: Shouldn’t Christian groups be allowed to require that their leaders are Christian?

On the other hand, might this be another example of evangelicalism prioritizing doctrines over compassionate love of the world? I mean, can’t InterVarsity recognize why nondiscrimination policies exist, stop complaining about persecution, welcome their LGBTQ members into leadership, and get on to the real business of redeeming creation to the glory of God? Is this yet another haunting specter of fundamentalism clinging to its evangelical host?

Given that the crux of this issue revolves around what InterVarsity’s student leaders ostensibly do or do not believe, perhaps this is an opportunity for Christians to (re)consider their affinity for “belief statements.” Are they really that important?

Now, wait — before you throw your hands up and shout “liberal postmodern relativism,” let me explain.

Drawing on sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith writes in Imagining the Kingdom that belief is not primarily “assent to propositions but rather a functional, enacted trust and entrustment to a context and a world.”

In other words, it is not primarily our intellectual assent to a correct doctrine that constitutes belief. To our enlightened modern minds, this may sound frightening. What we think doesn’t matter? Aren’t propositional belief statements the very bulwark which has preserved Christian orthodoxy against centuries of secular onslaught?

But consider: what does it really mean to believe in something?

California Judge Rules the Death Penalty Unconstitutional

A U.S. District Court judge declared the death penalty "unconstitutionall" in the State of California.

In the ruling that was released today, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney wrote that, an "inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State."

NBC Bay Area first reported the ruling:

In his 29-page ruling on the Jones vs. Chappell case, Carney wrote that when an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it the promise that it will actually be carried out.

That promise is made to citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones and to the hundreds of individuals on death row, he wrote.

However, Carney argues, “for too long now, the promise has been an empty one.”

Read the full story here.

'The Children Come': A New Hymn on the Exodus of Children from Central America to the U.S. Border

Children playing at sunset in Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India. Image: Seema Krishnakumar/Flickr

This new hymn is inspired by the crisis in Central America that has caused over 70,000 children to take the dangerous journey to the United States in recent months. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has led many mission trips to Honduras for the past sixteen years. The brother of a child that Carolyn sponsored in Honduras was recently killed there.

The hymn’s reference to “On one boy’s belt, a number carved in leather” is from a news report ("Boy's Death Draws Attention Immigration Perils") of a body of a dead child found with his brother’s phone number on his belt.

“As angry crowds are shouting, “Go away!” comes from the news reports of Americans yelling at the detained children on buses in Murrieta, California. Jim Wallis of Sojourners reflects on this incident in his powerful online essay “The Moral Failure of Immigration Reform: Are We Really Afraid Of Children?" Biblical references in the hymn are Matthew 25:31-46 and Matthew 19:14-16.

Busloads of Turned-back Immigrants, an Image of Shame

A protester holds a sign for immigration reform in Washington, DC on May 1st, 2010. Photo: Nevele Otseog/Flickr.

Sometimes a picture says it all.

Consider the 1963 picture of fire hoses and snarling police dogs in Birmingham, Ala., used against African-American students protesting racial segregation. Surely not our civil servants at their best.

Or the 1972 picture of the little girl in North Vietnam running terrified and naked with burning skin after South Vietnamese planes accidentally dropped napalm on Trang Bang, which had been occupied by North Vietnamese troops. The world then saw how war could hurt children.

Now, in 2014, we see citizens of Murrieta, Calif., turning back buses of women and children headed for a federal processing center, a day after Mayor Alan Long told them to let the government know they opposed its decision to move recent undocumented immigrants to the local Border Patrol station.

Judge Rejects California City’s Religious War Memorial

Photo illustration of planned monument for Lake Elsinore, Calif. Courtesy: The American Humanist Association, public record.

A California federal judge has rejected a proposed religious memorial at a publicly owned baseball stadium as a violation of both federal and state laws.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of California’s Central District ruled that a granite monument depicting a soldier kneeling in prayer before a cross lacked “a secular purpose” and has “the unconstitutional effect” of endorsing religion over nonreligion.

The decision came nine months after a lawsuit was filed by the American Humanist Association, a national organization of nonbelievers. The memorial was planned for city property in Lake Elsinore, Calif., a community of about 53,000 people in Southern California’s Riverside County.

Who Elected These Clowns?

Photo via Shutterstock, by Sergey Sukhorukov

In a world far removed from the tragic cesspool of Washington scheming and maneuvering, real people flocked to Central Park on El Camino Real for this town’s first Bacon & Brew Festival.

It was wildly successful. Vendors ran out of food and beverages; sponsors closed off ticket sales early. The parched and mean-spirited landscape that ideologues are trying to manufacture seemed distant.

As they stood in line for burgers, barbecue, fries smothered in cheese, and microbrewed beers, young adults eyed each other’s pregnant bulges and baby strollers. I heard no muttering about Obamacare. People have better things to do than to defund a program that benefits fellow citizens.

Young Adults Reluctant to Enroll in the Affordable Care Act

California is the facing a new challenge: getting young adults to enroll in the Affordable Care Act.  More than 2 million Californians, ages 19 to 34, are uninsured. Getting these individuals enrolled is crucial to balancing the cost of older, sicker patients. The state is developing media strategies to specifically target young adults and encourage to them buy insurance. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The success of the healthcare law "depends on reaching everyone who is uninsured, but particularly young people who may feel like they don't need insurance," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Read more here.

Hunger Action Day in California

Image via Karla Vasquez

Image via Karla Vasquez

Where there is hope, there is future.

Today is Hunger Action Day.

For many in my beloved Golden State, today will go unnoticed. It will be what it always is — a Wednesday full of its special nuances with perhaps homework, meals and snacks, pleasant weather, and most definitely, a dose of stressful traffic. It will be normal. Life will be as it always is. For others however, myself included, this is the day we have been waiting for. In fact, you could even say, that this is the day we’ve been hungry for.

More than 300 California residents from all around the state — from the beach towns to the gritty parts of the city — have committed their day, their energy, and their hearts to visiting with their representatives to advocate for their neighbors and friends who every day face hunger. To these few hundred residents who have taken the time to journey to Sacramento, the opportunities that today provide could be life changing for thousands.

1 in 10 Los Angeles Residents Are Undocumented

A study by the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration used California as a microcosm to see how immigration reform would affect America. The study estimated that 7 percent of California residents were undocumented. In Los Angeles County the number jumped to 10 percent. Christian Science Monitor reports:

“What sticks out to me about this report is that it shows how many immigrants have been in the country more than 10 years that are not just migrants, and who have children born here who are naturalized citizens,” says Michael Moreland.

Read more here.

California to Polluters: Go Green or Pay Up

Mother Jones reports:

"Cap and trade" may be a dirty expression inside the DC Beltway, but as of today in California it's the law of the land. Gov. Jerry Brown has brushed aside dire warnings from the fossil fuel industry to forge ahead with the state's first-ever auction of emissions permits under its groundbreaking climate law, AB 32. This morning's auction marks the official launch of the world's second-largest carbon market.

At heart, the concept is elegantly simple. Suppose you wanted to persuade a group of 10 pack-a-day smokers to cut back, and you controlled the cigarette supply. In the beginning, you'd provide the group with 200 cigarettes (10 packs) a day, which they'd have to bid for. That's the "cap." Then, each month, you would reduce each person's daily allottment of smokes, gradually lowering the cap. The people who managed to smoke less could sell their extras to the more hard-core smokers for whatever they were willing to pay. That's the "trade" part.

Read more here.