Ethics

Slow Down and Know That I Am God

IN SPRING 1986, a group of Italian activists led by Carlo Petrini launched a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s near the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. This protest marked the origin of the Slow Food movement, which has spread over the last 26 years to more than 150 countries.

Following this Slow Food effort came a host of other Slow movements—Slow Cities, Slow Parenting, Slow Money, and more—that collectively raise opposition to the speed and industrialization of Western culture. Slow movements are beginning to recover what we have lost in our relentless pursuit of efficiency. Many Christians have been challenged by these Slow movements to consider the ways in which our faith has begun to move too fast as we make sacrifices to the gods of efficiency.

This quest has sparked a renewed interest in the joys of sharing life together in local congregations and has intensified into a growing conversation—rather than a movement—called Slow Church. Slowness itself is not a cardinal virtue of Slow Church, but rather a means of resisting the present-day powers of speed in order to be faithful church communities.

The biblical vision of God’s mission in the world is God’s reconciliation of all creation (see, for example, Colossians 1:15-23 and Isaiah 65:17-25). But too often we narrow the scope of our faith and ignore the massive damage that incurs. Some Christians reduce the faith to four easy steps to stay out of hell, others to a set of techniques for growing a large church, and still others to a political ideology (of the Right or the Left). Christianity has also been reduced by some to a feel-good spirituality that has little or no bearing on the rest of our lives or in the public square.

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Disenfranchisement Is the Biggest Threat of All

Of all the ugliness in Election 2012, nothing is more disturbing than attempts to prevent people from voting. Voter suppression strikes at the very heart of American democracy.

The flood of money into this year's campaigns has been bad enough, as wealth has sought to do what wealth usually seeks to do: gain control and preference.

The shouting of lies – not just shading the truth, but outright lies – has cheapened the liars and insulted the public.

Demagogic attacks grounded in religion, phony patriotism and race have undermined public trust in all politicians. It will take years to dig out from under the rot of such scorched-earth tactics.

But denying the basic right of citizenship to millions of voters is an offense we should all be protesting. For if the powerful can deny the vote to their opponents – especially the poor and people of color – they can deny the vote to anyone.

Of Saints and Presidents

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi

Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.

You likely have heard of him. Il Poverello. He's the 13th-century aescetic who founded a religious order.

It was, on one hand, a protest order...protesting how the Church had lost its way in relationship to money and helping the poor. It was on the other hand an opportunity for people to come together and do someting rather remarkable in caring for the poor by joining in solidarity with the poor.

The Friars Minor were formed in 1226. St. Clare of Assisi was co-founder. She has her own feast day, of course, but don't lose this opportunity to get to know her as well. 

(There was also an incredibly trippy movie made about his life titled Brother Son, Sister Moon. Some day, when no one is watching, you should rent that film. Outrageously strange.) 

Francis' prayer is well known, but today I want to offer up this quotation which is similar, but presents a different focus. Less a prayer and more a philosophical edict, these words moved me this morning:

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.”

Why We Eat Organic Foods (in Spite of Today's Headlines)

Hey, is this good news, or what?

Give up organic heirloom tomatoes at $4.99/pound!

Stop paying $5.99 up for a gallon of organic milk!

Buy cheaper ground beef than the organic grass-fed stuff at $7.99+/pound!

Slow down, folks. Read the articles, not just the attention-grabbing headlines. What the scientists discovered was basically this: Take two identical, ripe, juicy, fresh peaches, one of which was grown organically and one of which was not. Analyze the nutritional profile of each. You will find that one peach has just about the same vitamins as the other.

OK, and I'll bet they're pretty much the same color, too. And they probably weigh the same. And if dropped from a tall building, they most likely will go splat at about the same time.

Rabbis Aim to Inject More Morality into Business

Banks make loans they know homebuyers can’t pay back. Conglomerates market unhealthy food to children. Wall Street tycoons bet against their own shareholders.

In an age when the phrase “business ethics” can seem like an oxymoron, a group of rabbis has designed a course to use age-old Jewish teachings to help infuse some morality into economics -- from the household budget to the stock market.

Run by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, which is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Orthodox Jewry, “Money Matters” is offered at more than 350 locations in 22 countries this year, and is proving to be one of the most popular courses JLI has ever offered, said Rabbi Efraim Mintz, JLI’s executive director.

“When students first come to the course, they may respect the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) and the Talmud (a 2,000 year-old compendium of Jewish oral law and biblical commentary), but few see it as something relevant to the here and now,” Mintz said.

“But soon, they are mesmerized and surprised by its applicability to the business issues of the day.”

More than 22,300 people have taken “Money Matters,” which was first offered in January, and lawyers can get continuing legal education credit for it in 22 states.

Let's Hold the Rich and Powerful Accountable

Here's something curious.

Big banks can't make money without cheating, manipulating interest rates, selling overly risky products and betting against their customers.

Big pharmaceuticals can't make money without paying competitors to keep their generic products off pharmacy shelves.

Google and Facebook can't make money without monetizing customers' privacy and violating their trust. Game maker Zynga can't make money, period, but its insiders did sweep $516 million off the table by unloading soon-to-plummet stock before a lousy earnings report.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire can't make money without tapping telephones and politicizing the news on which democracy depends. 

And these are the people we are supposed to trust, admire, treat as superior and as worthy of huge salaries and government bailouts.

Evangelical Group Proposes Code of Ethics for Pastors

The National Association of Evangelicals is urging pastors to seek a common moral ground by uniting under a consistent code of ethics.

NAE leaders said the new code will provide uniform guidance to church leaders across the 40 denominations that comprise the nation’s largest evangelical group.

The new code is a good starting point for ministers in a profession that can be individualistic and entrepreneurial, said David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University.

“In some ways it’s the Wild West out there in terms of the context of preparation for ministry in the evangelical world,” he said. “Any effort to raise the moral bar and establish a minimal set of expectations for clergy — or any profession — is a very good thing.”

New and Noteworthy

Free South Africa
In the five-part documentary series Have You Heard From Johannesburg, filmmaker Connie Field tells the dramatic story of the many-faceted worldwide movement to end South African apartheid. Premieres on PBS’s Independent Lens in January (check local listings). www.clarityfilms.org

To Love More Deeply
In Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis, Ilia Delio, OSF, explores “what expands the human heart for another,” bringing the saint’s life into dialogue with the technological and cultural frenzy of modern life and encouraging a gentler way. St. Anthony Messenger Press

When Disaster Strikes
Connections—Storms of Injustice: From Hurricane Katrina to Your World is a short DVD and study guide with interviews of pastors in New Orleans about how structural injustices intensify the impact of natural disaster. Encourages reflection and action. Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Wrestling with Tradition
Contemporary scholars introduce the issues raised when 21st century questions of race and gender are brought to bear on the work of classic ethicists and philosophers in Beyond the Pale: Reading Ethics from the Margins, edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Miguel A. De La Torre. Westminster John Knox

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