Christian Leaders Applaud and Urge Passage of Two-Year Budget Deal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                      

October 27, 2015                                                                                                                                                   Contacts:


                                                                                          Chris Ford, Bread for the World, (202) 688-1077,

La Visita del Papa

Sophie Cruz meets the pope to deliver a letter about immigration reform. Photo via Hopkins/REX Shutterstock.

And Pope Francis has shaken up Washington politics. 

While done in a subtle manner, the pope’s speech to Congress was forthright and unyielding in reminding each lawmaker of the responsibility they have to “defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good…”

His bottom line message for the multiple issues he raised and one Congress seems to have strayed away from in recent years was, “Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’” (Matthew 7:12).  Simple, right? Yet Congress seems to be out of touch with the needs of the American people.

Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home

Image via Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners

Stunning is the word that most comes to me after Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Washington, D.C. The country and the media was reveling in his presence, using language like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “wonderful” in response to this extraordinary moral leader who literally transformed our public discourse in the 48 hours he was in the nation’s capital. What these two extraordinary days mean going forward is the big question on all our hearts and minds.

At the formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House, a very traditional template was transformed by the “Vicar of Christ,” whose presence turned everyone’s language to one reference after another to those Christ called “the least of these” in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Never have I heard the most vulnerable being the most talked about in this city.

President Obama began the pope’s visit with these words, “What a beautiful day the Lord has made.”

Indeed. Then Pope Francis introduced himself to America as “a son of an immigrant family” who was “happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”

Point made.

What Pope Francis Can Teach the U.S. Catholic Church about Thomas Merton

Jim Forest / Flickr / RNS

Thomas Merton portrait by John Howard Griffin. Photo via Jim Forest / Flickr / RNS

At his speech before Congress on Sept. 24, Pope Francis listed Trappist monk Thomas Merton as one of four exemplary Americans who provide wisdom for us today.

Out on the National Mall, thousands cheered when the pope named two other exemplary Americans: Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Fewer recognized Merton (or the fourth exemplar the pope mentioned, social activist Dorothy Day.)

The pope did not choose to hail anyone associated with the institutional Catholic Church as his models. Instead he chose a former president, a Protestant minister, a lay Catholic, and a monk.

Support the Iran Deal: It's Time to Be Peacemakers

Here are the politics of the Iran nuclear deal: Congress returns next week from its summer recess, and among the first orders of business will be taking up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program, recently negotiated with Iran in Vienna by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

Congressional Republicans Launch Push to Defund Planned Parenthood

Image via Dominick Reuter/Reuters/RNS

House Republicans began their effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood Sept. 9 with the first in a series of hearings intended to make the case that the group is illegally harvesting and selling tissue from aborted fetuses, a claim the group vehemently denies.

The hearing in the House Judiciary Committee — titled “Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider” — is the first of several hearings expected this fall as three House committees pursue investigations of Planned Parenthood. House Republicans also launched a website Wednesday to track their investigations into the group.

Beyond the specific techniques under scrutiny, the hearing became an opportunity to air a broader agenda of reducing abortions generally. Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., opened the hearing with a call for Congress to pass legislation to bar all abortions after five months of gestation, which would “help ensure that the body parts of late-aborted babies cannot be sold because late-term abortions would be generally prohibited.”

A Primer on Fast Track Trade Authority for People of Faith

Image via pogonici/

Image via pogonici/

t’s also one of the most divisive political issues on the Hill right now. Here’s why: The notion of "fast tracking" trade deals with almost no congressional oversight has led to the creation of odd alliances — putting the Democrats and Tea Party in one camp (against), and the Republicans and Obama Administration (for) in another. Pro-business Republicans are long time supporters of free trade, while members of the Tea Party are against most anything that would allow the President to usurp legislative authority. As for Democrats, they argue that the TPP would allow multinational corporations to undermine labor safeguards, civil rights, environmental protection and healthcare, and derail urgent efforts at fighting climate change. Organizations typically aligned with President Obama are against him here: labor unions, environmental groups, and even traditionally non-political groups have fought hard against Fast Track and the TPP.

Indeed, the potential harm from the trade deal seems to leave few interest groups untouched. To provide just a few examples, Doctors Without Borders has called the TPP the "worst trade deal ever," claiming that it will cause millions to lose access to life-saving medicines; left-leaning Global Exchange has pointed to the increasing number of sweatshops such a framework would lead to; and the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation has expressed its belief that the TPP would put overly restrictive controls on the internet. And we’ve already seen our political leaders weaken standards for protection against human trafficking and child labor should the trade deal move forward.

These are all compelling arguments, and they are ones faith groups are making as well.

Improving Our Safety Net

WITH A LONG history of involvement in the evolution of the Social Security program, Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson are the right analysts to explain the program and demonstrate conclusively that, with careful tending by Congress, Social Security will be there for future generations: a critical part of retirement finances for the vast majority of the American people and, for many, the only retirement support. They argue that Congress should be strengthening and expanding Social Security—and they show how this can be done and the bill paid.

The book makes clear that Social Security is not an entitlement program but a social insurance program with premiums paid through payroll taxes. Its $2.8 trillion trust fund represents the full-faith support of the American people to provide essential insurance coverage for all our people against the universal hazards of death, disability, and old age. It compares how our system stacks up against those of other advanced industrial societies. (We are distinctly less generous to our senior citizens than other developed nations.)

Primarily through the death and disability provisions, Social Security also provides the largest amount of support to children of any federal program, keeping millions of children above the poverty line. Indirect support—helping people not have to bear the full financial burden of caring for elderly parents whose financial independence is assisted through both Social Security and Medicare—increases the number of beneficiaries further.

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