Remaking the Tax Code to Help the Working Poor

Through the removal of financial restrictions tacked onto certain marriage policies, President Barack Obama brings hope to low-income couples by acknowledging the financial and moral benefits marriage can have on America's society. Politico reports:

Most benefits for low-income families phase out as income rises. Taken separately, these reductions are understandable and reasonable. But combined, they effectively act as high tax rates — reducing take-home pay for low-income workers — and create a disincentive to work harder. Low-income families can thus find themselves in a situation where receiving a raise or promotion results in losing more in benefits than they receive in additional earnings.

Read more here.


Rick Santorum: Faith-Based Movies Will ‘Rival Hollywood’

Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

It’s not the message you might expect to hear from Rick Santorum, the Christian-conservative former presidential candidate: Faith-based films tend to be lousy, and Christians should quit trying to lock modern popular culture out of their lives.

Instead, Santorum says, Christian conservatives should acknowledge that modern popular culture is here to stay, and use that platform to produce Christian-themed films that will also have quality and popular appeal. It’s a strategy he says he intends to pursue in his new role as CEO of a ground-breaking faith-based film studio.

In an interview here, Santorum also stood by his strong views against same-sex marriage, citing the necessity to adhere to religious teachings — but then disputed his own religion’s leaders on the issue of immigration.

COMMENTARY: The Real Threat to Marriage

Photo courtesy RNS/

“For better or worse” sign illustration. Photo courtesy RNS/

As I officiate at a family wedding in this charming coastal city, it seems to me the institution of marriage is alive and well — and in serious trouble.

The trouble isn’t out-in-the-open homosexuality, birth control, abortion, assertive women, or any of the right-wing alarms.

The trouble is poverty. The less affluent you are, the more likely you are to have a child without the benefit of a partner, at an age too young for effective parenting, and in chaotic living arrangements.

10 Decisions You Can Make to Change the World

Young boy trying to save the world, alphaspirit /

Young boy trying to save the world, alphaspirit /

After traveling the country this spring — while keeping an eye on Washington, D.C. — I am more convinced than ever that our personal decisions, choices, and commitments will change the world more than our politics. The message in the Epilogue to On God’s Side says this as well as I could do again. It’s short and very practical. Here it is:

The common good and the quality of our life together will finally be determined by the personal decisions we all make. The “commons” — those places where we come together as neighbors and citizens to share public space — will never be better than the quality of human life, or the human flourishing, in our own lives and households.

Here are ten personal decisions you can make to help foster the common good.

The Dangers of Christian 'Marriage Worship'

Wedding photo, Mila Supinskaya /

Wedding photo, Mila Supinskaya /

I’ve written before about the seemingly contrasting messages we offer to young people in church about sex and sexuality:

Sex is dirty; save it for someone you marry someday.

Umm, what? Granted, we walk a narrow rhetorical tightrope when discussing sex with our kids. If we tell them it’s actually pretty awesome, and then tell them they can’t do it, that’s a setup for failure. On the other hand, if we focus on the negatives, we risk scarring and shaming them into a life of emotional conflict and struggle when it comes to sexual intimacy.

What we end up with, often times, is a vacuous silence when it comes to the real, difficult issues of sexual identity, impulse, and expression. Add to that the Christian emphasis on marriage, and the result in many cases is scads of unhealthy, sexually awkward young people, married far too early with no idea why.

Godless Funerals Thrive in ‘Post-Catholic’ Ireland

Photo by Paresh Dave

A Patrician cross, Ireland’s dominant religious symbols, marks a burial at Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery. Photo by Paresh Dave

DUBLIN — Patricia Wojnar left a 32-year career in interior design to pursue a degree that wasn’t in demand: a master’s in bereavement studies.

Having seen four family members die early, she wanted to understand how to adapt.

As it turned out, the degree perfectly prepared her to enter one of Ireland’s emerging professions.

Wojnar is now a registered civil celebrant, presiding over funerals and weddings for people who refuse to associate with Ireland’s scandal-tarred Roman Catholic Church. She’s not alone; many newly minted civil celebrants are starting their own businesses as part of Ireland’s “post-Catholic” economy.

Although many observers have noted the impact of secularization and child abuse scandals on church membership and finances, only now are the Irish seeing the cultural and socioeconomic reverberations. These include a class of people willing to observe life’s most significant milestones outside the church.

What If 'Sex Week' Came to First Baptist Church?

Sex education illustration, Rob Byron /

Sex education illustration, Rob Byron /

On April 5-12, the University of Tennessee hosted “Sex Week,” organized by the student organization Sexual Empowerment and Awareness in Tennessee. The week’s activities, ranging from discussions on virginity to workshops on oral sex and a search for a golden condom, sparked the concern of easily provoked and immensely quotable State Rep. Stacey Campfield (he of “Don’t Say Gay” bill fame).

With apologies to Campfield’s ever-vigilant protection of Christian sensibilities, the real problem here is not that mandatory student fees are being used to promote sexual education and awareness. The problem is that our tithes aren’t.

Imagine with me, if you will, what would happen if “Sex Week” came to First Baptist Church . . .

If local congregations joined together to dedicate a week to the promotion and exploration of Christian ethics expressed through sexuality, gender, and embodiment, what might the offerings look like? Perhaps these would be a good start.