Faith and Politics

06-09-2014
Groups like Nuns on a Bus, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, The Cana Initiative, Moral Mondays, Faithful America and many others are consistently witnessing to injustice in visible -- and reportable -- ways. Now, when the mainstream media is looking for a Christian to comment on a story, they have a powerful progressive set of voices to chose from.
06-09-2014
Balmer presents Carter as an icon of progressive evangelicalism, a subculture that was coming into its own in the 1970s as young Christians like Jim Wallis rallied believers for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. These evangelicals traced the roots of their crusade to the abolitionists and other 19th-century moral reformers.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, including June 6, "D-Day." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Just in time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day Friday, the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent passed a bill to include a prayer plaque at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The prayer to be included on the plaque was delivered over the radio to millions of Americans by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the morning of the D-Day invasion, the Allied push into Europe that eventually led to the end of the conflict.

“O Lord, give us Faith,” the prayer reads in part. “Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.” It concludes: “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”

The U.S. House will have to approve the bill, known as the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. But political pundits say there is little doubt the House will approve the measure since it passed a similar version of the bill last year.

Richard Wolf 06-05-2014

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, of Plano, Texas on May 31, 2014. Photo by Mei-Chun Jau, courtesy of USA Today.

GUN BARREL CITY, Texas (RNS) This place got its name because the main road was straight as a gun barrel. Today, it’s at the center of a fight over gay marriage.

That’s because weekenders Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, who bought an A-frame house overlooking scenic Cedar Creek Lake four years ago, have become minor celebrities as the men challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.

Their battle, joined by two women whose Massachusetts marriage the Lone Star State refuses to recognize, is as unlikely as it is uphill. They’ve already won the first round in federal court in San Antonio, where District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled the state’s marriage laws against gay couples “demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”

06-05-2014
Rev. Jim Wallis left evangelical Christianity to fight for social justice—and then found his vocation by mixing them together. Now, he's a spiritual adviser to Obama, a force in immigration reform, and our guest. Plus: a new Win Report.
06-05-2014
Share with us the title of the last book read. God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga prays at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

Taking direct aim at libertarian policies promoted by many American conservatives, the Honduran cardinal who is one of Pope Francis’ top advisers said Tuesday that today’s free market system is “a new idol” that is increasing inequality and excluding the poor.

“This economy kills,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, quoting Francis frequently in a speech delivered at a conference on Catholicism and libertarianism held a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

The pope, Maradiaga said, grew up in Argentina and “has a profound knowledge of the life of the poor.” That is why, he said, Francis continues to insist that “the elimination of the structural causes for poverty is a matter of urgency that can no longer be postponed.”

“The hungry or sick child of the poor cannot wait,” the cardinal said.

Michelle Alexander 06-03-2014

Three steps for building a transformative movement for justice.

Bob Smietana 06-03-2014

External view of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Saleh M. Sbenaty, via Wikimedia Commons.

For years, opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro vowed to take their legal fight to shut down the mosque all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That fight ended Monday, when the nation’s highest court declined to hear their case.

The four-year conflict over construction of the mosque, which opened in 2012, brought national attention to this Bible Belt city of 112,000 about 30 miles south of Nashville.

Hundreds marched in protest after Rutherford County officials approved plans for the mosque in 2010. Televangelist Pat Robertson labeled the Islamic center a “mega mosque” and claimed Muslims were taking over Murfreesboro. An arsonist set fire to construction equipment on the building site.

Mosque opponents eventually filed a suit against Rutherford County, seeking to block construction of the worship space.

Michelle Alexander 06-03-2014

I HEAR A STIRRING, a rumbling. An awakening. Sometimes the sound is so faint, I worry it’s my imagination, my optimism getting the best of me. I pause, listen, and wait. Here it comes again. I want to rush to my window, fling it open, stick my head way out, and look around. Is it happening? For real this time? Is the sleeping giant finally waking up?

God knows we’ve slept too long.

Many of us—myself included—slept through a revolution. Actually, it was a counterrevolution that has blown back much of the progress that so many racial justice advocates risked their lives for. This counterrevolution occurred with barely a whimper of protest, even as a war was declared, one that purported to be aimed at “drugs.”

Really, the war took aim at people—overwhelmingly poor people and people of color—who were taken prisoner en masse and then relegated to a permanent, second-class status, stripped of basic civil and human rights such as the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free from legal discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and public benefits. Branded “criminals” or “felons,” millions of people discovered that the very rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement no longer applied to them.

A penal system unprecedented in world history emerged in a few short decades; by the year 2000, 2 million people found themselves behind bars, and 60 million were saddled with criminal records that would condemn them for life—staggering statistics, given that in the 1970s there were only about 350,000 people in prison.

I am listening carefully at my window now. I hear that rumbling sound, signs of an awakening in the streets. My heart leaps for joy. People of all colors are beginning to raise their voices a little louder; people who have spent time behind bars are organizing for the restoration of their civil and human rights; young people are becoming bolder and more defiant in challenging the prison-industrial complex; and people of faith are finally waking up to the uncomfortable reality that we have been complicit in the birth and maintenance of a system predicated on denying to God’s children the very forms of compassion, forgiveness, and possibilities for redemption that we claim to cherish.

Heather Adams 05-29-2014

Members of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. Religion News Service photo by Heather Adams.

Catholic bishops returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday with a renewed push for immigration reform, as Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski called the failure to address immigration reform “a stain on the soul of our nation.”

Before fanning out to meet with lawmakers, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration held a Mass at a Capitol Hill church that recalled a dramatic Mass they held April 1 along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Wenski, the committee’s chairman, said, “When laws fail to advance the common good, they can and they should be changed.”

The bishops’ push was accompanied by a separate open letter to House Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, signed by 30 Catholic leaders, including the Rev. Larry Snyder, CEO of Catholic Charities USA, and the Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, who oversees Jesuit priests in the U.S.

Sen. Orrin Hatch says legal gay marriage is almost certain throughout the U.S. Photo courtesy the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch

Sen. Orrin Hatch says legal gay marriage is almost certain to become a reality throughout the United States.

“Let’s face it, anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” the Utah Republican said Wednesday on KSL Radio’s “Doug Wright Show.”

“There is a question whether [the courts] should be able to tell the states what they can or cannot do with something as important as marriage, but the trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world.”

05-27-2014
In a blistering editorial in the January 1978 issue of Sojourners, Jim Wallis castigated the president for failure to attend adequately to the needs of the poor. “The biblical demands for justice and compassion bring the harshest kind of judgment to the system of wealth and power upon which Jimmy Carter has built his presidency,” Wallis wrote. “It is these standards of social righteousness that our evangelical president has set aside during his first year in office.” John F. Alexander of The Other Side, another signatory to the Chicago Declaration in 1973, was almost flippant about the 1980 election. Although he acknowledged the moral rectitude of Carter’s policy on human rights—“we can be reasonably sure that fewer people are being tortured now than if Ford had been elected”—Alexander expressed doubts that an evangelical in the White House made any difference whatsoever. While he applauded Carter’s cancellation of the B-1 bomber, Alexander criticized the president’s approval of the MX missile. “Personally I see little point in not voting,” he concluded, although he suggested that his readers cast their ballots for Donald Duck.
Kevin Eckstrom 05-22-2014

Supporters of gay marriage rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27, 2013. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom.

What a difference 10 years makes.

In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. Six months later, with dire warnings about schoolchildren being forced to read “Heather Has Two Mommies” and threats of legalized polygamy, so-called “values voters” passed bans on same-sex marriage in 11 states and ushered George W. Bush to another four years in the White House.

Fast-forward to 2014, and the cultural and legal landscape could hardly be more different. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, and federal courts have struck down bans in 11 more states. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages after ditching a central portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act last year, and 44 percent of Americans now live in states that allow same-sex marriage.

After four same-sex couples filed suit Wednesday challenging Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage, neighboring North Dakota is the only state that isn’t facing a challenge to its gay marriage ban — at least not yet.

So what changed?

Robert P. George, chairman of U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom on Thursday. Religion News Service photo by Lauren Markoe.

One of the nation’s leading — and official — champions of religious freedom implored the Obama administration to add Pakistan and Syria to the list of nations that most egregiously violate religious rights.

Before a congressional subcommittee on Thursday Robert P. George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said it makes little sense that the roster compiled by the U.S. has barely changed in a decade.

The congressionally chartered commission George heads recently advocated that the State Department add eight nations to the eight already designated as “countries of particular concern.” But among the recommended additions, he singled out Pakistan and Syria for their deteriorating and troublesome records on religious liberty.

05-22-2014
In the 1970s, evangelicalism had not yet become tethered to conservative politics. Carter, a Democrat, received almost 50 percent of the evangelical vote (Nixon had received 84 percent in 1972). The evangelical left of Ron Sider and Jim Wallis took shape in the 1970s too. In that decade evangelicalism seemed noteworthy less for being conservative than for being cool.
05-22-2014
Editor’s Note: Rev. William Barber will speak atthe New Populism Conference on May 22. We share this piece by Rev. Barber that was originally posted at Sojourners. We will waive conference registration fee for people who want to attend starting after 2:30 p.m., to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders (at 4 p.m.), and Rev. William Barber (at 4:30 p.m.) who will close the conference.
05-22-2014
"Don't go left, don't go right, go deeper." This has been the longtime mantra of Jim Wallis and his organization Sojourners, a Christian social justice group that he presides over and helped found in the 1970s. Today Wallis is a leading voice on the intersection of faith and politics, one often known to counterbalance the religious right (though he himself doesn't identify as liberal).
05-22-2014
In his book, The Great Awakening (2008), Jim Wallis notes that the most common biblical support for an exclusive focus on internal piety is Jesus’s statement in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The assumption is that this means God is not concerned about this world but rather on interior and other-worldly matters. Wallis suggests that such a conclusion is not warranted. He notes that Jesus’ kingdom is not “of” this world in the sense that it is not “from” this realm. This is corroborated in the final part of the verse which says, “But now my kingdom is from another place.” Perhaps the Phillips translation says it best with “My kingdom is not founded in this world.”

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

An interfaith coalition has again asked the U.S. House of Representatives to reject a prayer plaque at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The proposed plaque, which is under the consideration of a House subcommittee, would feature a prayer spoken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the radio on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

“O Lord, give us Faith,” it reads in part. “Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.” It concludes with, “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”

The coalition — a mix of religious and secular organizations that includes the Center for Inquiry, a humanist organization; three Jewish groups; the Hindu American Foundation; and the United Methodist Church – said the prayer does not reflect the religious diversity of the United States.

Pages

Subscribe