Faith and Politics
This semester I’m teaching a course called “Faith and Politics” at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. It’s been a fascinating class for me, and I’m blessed to have very bright students who are required to volunteer for an actual political campaign and keep a journal of their experience.
Their final assignment is to write a paper proposing strategies for healing our divided nation. Our assumption is that all of the major faith traditions have important resources to bring to conflict transformation and reconciling opponents.
There are a few lessons from my class that might be useful for politicians and for the entire nation as we move toward the election.
Catholic candidates are mistakenly seeking to put politics and economics on one side and religion on the other. Such a dividing point misses the point of their faith. Catholic Mass — and worship services of other Christians — remains grounded in politics. Religious worship is political. The religious and political cannot be separated. To reject the politics or economics of Jesus would be to reject the spiritual teachings of Jesus.
We are brokenhearted by the murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. We join our brothers and sisters in deep lament for the lives lost in this evil act, and our prayers go out to all of the victims, their families and their communities.
Atrocities like this wound the very soul of our nation. We must not merely attribute this horror to the depraved actions of one individual, mourn those we have lost, and move on as if there is nothing more to do. In his statement yesterday, President Obama quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words in the wake of the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama in which four little girls were killed:
"...We must be concerned not merely with who murdered [these girls], but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream."
The deep wounds of racism, America's original sin, still linger in our society, our institutions, and in our minds and hearts — sometimes explicitly, but far more pervasively through unconscious bias. Wednesday's terrorist act is the latest manifestation of this lingering sin. Are there no safe places for black people in our country, even the places where they come together to worship?
We all have the responsibility to overcome both the attitudes and the structures of racism in America. Today we mourn, but tomorrow we must act.
Last night while attending Sojourners’ annual conference, The Summit, I heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Jim Wallis, C.T. Vivian, and so many other legends in their fields. Afterwards, I stood in a small circle with others, discussing faith, justice, and reconciliation. I was the lone white face in my group of five; the other four were African-American, faith- and thought-leaders all.
One person, the only man in the group, referenced white supremacy. My ears perked up and I wondered, “Is that really a large part of the issue anymore?” I waited for a break in conversation so I could ask, “Aren’t we dealing more with subtle, insidious, and implicit biases these days?”
I never got the chance to ask. This morning at 5:00 a.m. when I picked up my phone to hit snooze, I saw an NPR alert: nine dead. I knew without question that those nine were black. Turing on CNN confirmed it, and I cried. No one had yet said the gunman was a white supremacist, but what else could he be? Who other than someone who feels his life supreme could take the lives of nine others, cause such aching disbelief and sorrow to their friends and family, and bring such hot pain to those around the nation who, like me, woke to tears and rage and confusion and heartache?
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.
This week, North Carolina’s legislature overrode its Republican governor’s veto to allow magistrates and clerks to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
This unprecedented move — never before have state employees been allowed to simply stop doing their jobs — comes at a time of profound debate regarding same-sex marriage. It is exactly the wrong move.
Pope Francis on June 14 stressed the importance of children having heterosexual parents, just a day after Rome’s gay pride march demonstrated the changing attitudes about same-sex couples outside the Vatican walls.
Addressing around 25,000 followers from the Diocese of Rome, the pope said the differences between men and women are fundamental and “an integral part of being human.”
The pontiff likened a long-lasting marriage to a good wine, in which a husband and wife make the most of their gender differences.
Boycotts are most likely to work when the boycott is very carefully planned; when the boycotters clearly have the moral high ground; when they can convince the broader public that the boycott is a last resort; when they can build a critical mass of public support; and when there is some chance that a boycott can make a meaningful difference.
Graham’s effort to boycott Wells Fargo failed on all five counts.
Pope Francis will meet a gay married activist in Paraguay next month, according to an LGBT rights group in that country.
The pontiff is due to meet Simon Cazal, co-founder and executive director of SomosGay, on July 11 at the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference in Asuncion, the country’s capital.
Catholic conference organizers approached Cazal earlier this month with an invitation in which they noted the “impact of your organization on Paraguayan society.”
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.
1. Masculinity Gets Modern Makeover in Latest Getty Images Collection
Tired of seeing stock images that reinforce traditional gender roles? Getty Images is (finally) changing that with the help of Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.org.
2. The Human Right to Have a Home
As Congress plans to slash funding for housing assistance programs, Catholic bishops in the U.S. are protesting, arguing "housing is a human right."
3. WATCH: ‘What Are You?’ — Multiracial in America
Listen to how multiracial Americans react when they're asked "What are you?" (Hint: I's usually not well).
Most Americans — including people from every major religious group — predict gay marriage will be legalized nationwide when a hotly anticipated Supreme Court ruling is announced later this month.
Among those who favor legalizing same-sex marriage, 80 percent think the high court will rule their way, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released June 11. And among those who oppose gay marriage, 47 percent say that’s the likely outcome, too.
The government of Quebec has introduced two bills, both aimed at Muslims.
The first would attempt to stanch the radicalization of Muslim youth through a 59-point plan that includes expanding the powers of Quebec’s Human Rights Commission to probe hate speech — enhancing training for police and teachers to recognize signs of radicalization, dedicating a police unit to patrol social media, and establishing a hotline staffed by social workers to advise families and friends of suspected extremists.
People must change their lifestyles and attitudes to help defeat hunger, Pope Francis said June 11, a hint of what may be coming in his much-anticipated environmental encyclical next week.
“We must begin with our daily lives if we want to change lifestyles, aware that our small gestures can guarantee sustainability and the future of the human family,” said Francis, addressing delegates at a conference hosted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked off a gathering in St. Louis of approximately 250 of the nation’s bishops by referring to Ferguson.
“We mourn those tragic events in which African-Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement,” said a statement prepared by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., which was read by Bishop Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 10.
“Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our church.”
In the wake of international criticism over Moscow’s role in ongoing violence in Ukraine, the U.S. on June 10 called on Pope Francis to take a stronger stance on the conflict in his meeting with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
“We think they could say something more about concern on territorial integrity, those type of issues,” U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth F. Hackett, told journalists in Rome ahead of Putin’s arrival.