GOP

Our Pastoral Letter on the Budget — And My Hope for the Common Good

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Hart Building on the impacts of sequestration. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The sequester battle is a good but tragic example of how the idea of the common good is failing in American politics. By contrast, the growing bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform is an alternative example of how a moral issue can rise about our ideologically driven politics.

The faith community has stepped into both issues with a call for political leaders to serve the common good. On immigration, political leaders are listening to the faith leaders; on the debates about our nation’s fiscal soul, political leaders need to listen better.

The Night Indianapolis Stood Still

Robert F. Kennedy, Ron Galella/Contributor / Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy, Ron Galella/Contributor / Getty Images

When I stepped back and really thought about what I was experiencing on election night, I started thinking about the night of April 4, 1968, just hours after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  Having not yet been born, I thought about the coverage of it that I’ve seen. About how Robert Kennedy found himself in front of a crowd of supporters for a presidential campaign rally in Indianapolis. Many there that night were black and hadn’t heard the news of King’s death. As he did with most difficult topics, Kennedy laid it all out there. The crowd gasped and screamed and cried. Kennedy said he understood the anger and hate each of the men and women there that night would probably feel. After all, a white man had also killed his brother.

“What we need in the United States is not division,” Kennedy told the crowd. “What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another. A feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”

After Romney Meeting, Billy Graham Website Scrubs Mormon ‘Cult’ Reference

RNS photo courtesy the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Billy Graham offered to "do all I can to help” GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. RNS photo courtesy the BGEA

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed language labeling Mormonism a “cult” from its website after the famed preacher met with Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week and pledged to help his presidential campaign.

The removal came after a gay rights group reported that the “cult” reference remained online even after Graham all but endorsed Romney, a Mormon, on Oct. 11. 

Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday.

“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Nietzsche Dissects American Political Discourse

Political icon image, Gary Hathaway / Shutterstock.com

Political icon image, Gary Hathaway / Shutterstock.com

What if I told you that the political discourse in America has proven for decades what PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ phenomenon has proven recently? What do I mean? It is simply this: people can indeed get tirelessly excited about something that sounds good without understanding its contents. 

Like every election year, 2012 seems to have its own particular set of buzzwords and slogans. From “the forgotten 47 percent” to “you did build that,” those on the left and the right are each trying to infuse the political discourse with their own partisan lingo. But it’s time somebody put a stop to the hype and asks the sensible question: “What is the real meaning behind all of this?”

Truth is, both political parties have been directing their resources to highlight their differences more than anything else. They are platforms defined by contrast, not by real facts. This should lead us to raise the question that is usually unasked (and therefore unanswered) amid the consistent heat of the American political climate: “If the government is designed ultimately for the good of the people, is the political discourse today reflective of that goal?”

To this question, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche answers, “No.” 

A Call to Transform Politics

Democrat and Republican symbols. Christos Georghiou / Shutterstock.com

Democrat and Republican symbols. Christos Georghiou / Shutterstock.com

Someone asked me recently what I thought of something “as a member of the Christian Left.” My insides tightened and screeched into a ball. It was as if Freddy Krueger had run his sharpened fingernails across the black board in history class. Christian Left? Left of what? When did I sign that membership card? 

Maybe it’s the title of my last book, Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, which was co-written with a Tea-Partier who is also an evangelical Christian. The book does frame me as the one on the left, but if you read my chapters you’ll see that is not my mind or my heart.

In times like these, when politicians are sweating to sway voters to their side, or frame their opponents as the polar opposite—the enemy—it is tempting to begin to define ourselves and each other through the frame of politics. We place each other in convenient little political boxes—boxes not made by scripture or the church, but by politicians and the media. 

GOP Convention’s Religious Leaders Agree on Immigration Reform

The Washington Post/Contributor / Getty Images

Photo: GOP tie worn at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The Washington Post/Contributor / Getty Images

If you blink, you might miss the fact that the religious luminaries offering prayers at the Republican National Convention agree on a surprising topic: the need to welcome immigrants and pass immigration reform.

The views of these religious leaders differ sharply from the Republicans’ own platform. Guided by the likes of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the brains behind state-level anti-immigrant laws, the GOP draft platform takes a hardline stance on immigration.

But the Episcopal, evangelical Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Catholic leaders chosen to lead the RNC in prayer beg to differ.

Romney Says Tax Returns Would Publicize Private Mormon Tithing

Maria Dryfhout / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Mitt Romney campaign rally at Holland State Park, June 19 in Holland, Mich. Maria Dryfhout / Shutterstock.com

Mitt Romney says in a new interview that one of the reasons he’s distressed about disclosing his tax returns is that everyone sees how much money he and his wife, Ann, have donated to his Mormon church, and that’s a number he wants to keep private.

“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out on Aug. 26. “This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”

Romney has released his 2010 tax returns in his White House campaign and, so far, a summary of last year’s tax information. But despite pressure from Republican opponents in the primaries and President Obama’s re-election campaign, Romney has refused to disclose more.

While it may not be a major reason, Romney says disclosing his charitable donations isn’t something he wants to do.

The Roots of Rep. Todd Akin’s “Legitimate” Rape Remarks

"From a scientific standpoint, what's legitimate and fair to say is that a woman who is raped has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman who engaged in consensual intercourse during the same time in her menstrual cycle," said Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

One widely accepted study suggests a 5 percent pregnancy rate following rape, resulting in 32,000 pregnancies each year.

The report was from the Medical University of South Carolina and was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But placing an exact figure on post-rape pregnancy is problematic, primarily because rape is thought to be underreported. Another factor is the availability of over-the-counter emergency contraception, which can prevent fertilization when taken after intercourse.

One study from the journal Human Nature in 2003 suggests pregnancy rates are higher after a rape when compared with consensual sex because of the inconsistency of birth control use.

Is Religion Damaging The GOP?

Over the weekend, Salon published an excerpt from Mike Lofgren's new book, The Party Is Over:

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

Read more of the excerpt here

New $6.5 Million GOP Campaign Targets Jewish Voters

Republican Jewish Coalition, screenshot via website

Republican Jewish Coalition, screenshot via website

Michael Goldstein voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and supports gay marriage and an assault weapons ban. Before moving to New Jersey 11 years ago to raise a family, the Brooklyn native fit right in with other lifelong Democrats in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

But Goldstein now says he has buyer’s remorse. And last week the 48-year-old East Brunswick man became the face and voice of a national campaign aimed at converting fellow Jews who voted for Obama four years ago into supporters of Republican Mitt Romney.

In a video on the Republican Jewish Coalition website, Goldstein talks about his disappointment in Obama’s handling of the economy and U.S. relations with Israel.

“I was a big Obama supporter. I really believed in him and believed in what he stood for,” Goldstein says in the video. But, he continues, “when he gave the speech about the ’67 borders, it was nothing that had come up in his campaign originally. That really changed my mind about him.” 

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