Money

Reality TV’s ‘The Briefcase’ Looks at Line Between Need, Greed

Photo courtesy of ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc / RNS

The Wylie family from Rio Vista, Texas. Photo courtesy of ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc / RNS

If a briefcase of money fell in your lap, would you keep it, share it, or give it all away?

The new reality show The Briefcase is asking that question. But viewers and ethicists are asking more:

How could CBS put this on the air? Are there better ways to address the financial challenges of the middle class?

The hourlong show, which airs its fourth episode June 17, introduces two families each episode with the struggles of bills and not enough money coming in to achieve all their goals — whether dealing with a lost job, medical bills, or the potential costs of in vitro fertilization.

Divest!

This is an introduction to five-part series in Sojourner's June 2015 issue about divestment; to read the rest, click here.

IT WASN'T A HUGE surprise last year when Union Seminary announced that it would become the first seminary in the world to divest from fossil fuels. Union, after all, has long been a leader in progressive causes, and President Serene Jones said that “divestment of our endowment from fossil-fuel companies is one small step” toward stopping the catastrophic threat—the “sin”—of climate change.

But a few months later, the divestment movement reached an altogether different level when the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced that it was moving its money from fossil fuels, starting with the worst carbon polluters, coal and tar sands. The Rockefeller money, of course, came from oil—patriarch John D. Rockefeller was the co-founder of Standard Oil—and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund controls $860 million in assets. All in all, 180 institutions have pledged to divest more than $50 billion to defund climate change—and, as they say, with billions in assets moved, pretty soon you’re talking real money.

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The World's 4 Most Popular (Non)Religions

Online shopping illustration, Fotinia / Shutterstock.com

Online shopping illustration, Fotinia / Shutterstock.com

For Christians, it’s sometimes hard to admit believing in the supernatural, the legitimacy of miracles, an afterlife, and following an ancient text written thousands of years ago by numerous authors that have been divinely inspired by an all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent God.

At first glance, Christianity seems at odds with an increasingly “secular” culture that views spirituality as old-fashioned and irrelevant, but our society reveals that everything — and everyone — is spiritual on some level.

At first glance, Christianity seems at odds with an increasingly “secular” culture that views spirituality as old-fashioned and irrelevant, but our society reveals that everything — and everyone — is spiritual on some level.

 

1. The Religion of Sport

Few people pray more fervently, earnestly, and passionately than when their favorite sports teams — and athletes — are competing.

With arms outstretched, they wildly clap, cheer, chant, cry, and scream at the top of their lungs. Wearing costumes, jerseys, and following

The Old Man and the C-note

IN THE LARGEST currency change that the world has ever seen, the euro was launched on New Year’s Day 2002 with great excitement and ceremony in 12 eurozone member countries. At the time, the shared currency was considered to be a vehicle for tying together separate states and cultures with numerous economic benefits, particularly to trade, employment, and tourism.

Now imagine a humble, 90-year-old Catholic priest, vibrant yet shrunken and bent with age. In Italian, he addresses a group about the euro in the celebratory year of its launch. In one hand he holds up an unconsecrated host; in the other, a one-euro coin. They are the same shape, and nearly the same size. But the coin is shiny silver and gold. The priest speaks simply and directly about how, despite their similar appearance and promise of life enrichment, the euro is deceptive. The dominance of finance and capitalism that it supports is a false idol, he says, which leads to addiction.

This story was recounted by a number of Italian press outlets at the time. It contributes to the mythos of this man who writes extensively about the Eucharist, which he believes, in contrast to the euro, creates a relationship not just with God but with our fellow human beings.

That priest is Arturo Paoli, now 102 years old and still quite active.

After spending most of his life overseas, Father Paoli returned to his native Italy in 2005 and lives in Lucca. Despite being a prominent activist, writer, and thinker in Catholic circles for nearly 70 years, he is largely unknown in the English-speaking world. (I am aware of only three of his 50 books having been translated into English: Freedom to be Free [1973], Meditations on Saint Luke [1977], and Gather Together in My Name [1987]. Of Paoli’s countless articles and public addresses, only rough web translations are available.)

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5 Ways We Complicate God's Love

Abstract image of Jesus' crucifixion, lubbas / Shutterstock.com

Abstract image of Jesus' crucifixion, lubbas / Shutterstock.com

The gospel message of Jesus is about love. God is love, and God wants us to reflect this reality to the world around us. But while Christians have been taught this simple reality for years, it’s easy to complicate the love of God. Here are five common ways we continually mess it up.

1. By Idolizing Theology

If theology doesn’t help you love God and love others more passionately — you’re doing it wrong.

Unfortunately, too many Christians, pastors, theologians, churches, and institutions use theology to withhold the love of God. They idolize theories, formulas, ideas, doctrines, translations, interpretations, and denominations instead of loving their own neighbors as they would themselves (Matt. 22:39).

Suddenly, instead of looking at people with a Christ-like love, we start judging them. We ask ourselves: Are they sinning? Are they going to hell? Are their beliefs absolutely correct? Subtly, we start putting qualifications and limitations on our love, categorizing others and wondering if they even deserve to be loved — they do!

The Bible is divinely inspired to point us to God and isn’t meant to be an academic textbook creating divisions, rifts, and distracting analysis. Don’t let your study of God devolve into an obsession over data, facts, and information, turning into pride, judgment, and a way to alienate others — make it about strengthening your relationship with Jesus.

By doing this, we can achieve what Jesus continually preached was most important: loving God and loving others.

5 Simple Living Tips for Millennial Christians

Gajus / Shutterstock.com

Gajus / Shutterstock.com

Jesus was clear.

You cannot serve both God and money.

Throughout my 20s, this was not a problem I thought I struggled with.

First of all, I didn’t perceive myself as having all that much money. So, how could I be serving it? (I deal with the inaccuracy of how I perceive of my own wealth here.)

Second, money was never a part of my thought process when choosing my career. If money wasn’t the motivator for choosing my job, how could I be in danger of “serving two masters?”

It’s been said that one of the greatest tricks devil ever played was convincing most of the world he doesn’t exist. His greatest encore might be wrapping up vice in the midst of a big ball of virtue and letting the whole thing rot from the inside out.

I might not struggle with being a slave to money in the sense that I obsess about how much I make. But, in looking back over the past 10 years of my life, I’ve found myself serving the master of mammon precisely in the ways that I DIDN’T think about money.

The Biblical Case for Limiting Money in Politics

Sean Locke Photography & Svetlana Lukienko/Shutterstock.com

Sean Locke Photography & Svetlana Lukienko/Shutterstock.com

While there are no biblical texts speaking directly to the issue of money in politics, biblical principles are still relevant, and people of faith have an important role to play in the emerging debate about the future of our democracy. Before exploring those principles, however, it is important to understand the serious issues of inequality currently present in our system, and the correlation between inequality and the money flooding our political system.

The richest 1 percent own more of the nation’s wealth than the bottom 90 percent. The richest one-tenth of one percent have as much pre-tax income as the bottom 120 million Americans.

In Affluence and Influence, political scientist Martin Gilens concludes that, “The preferences of the vast majority of Americans appear to have essentially no impact on which politics the government does or does not adapt.” He details the data throughout his book that clearly demonstrates policy makers are only listening to the wealthy donor class. This situation has been made even worse by the Supreme Court’sCitizens United in 2010, which allowed a huge influx of money to flood our political system after declaring the personhood of corporations. 

The Court’s more recent decision in McCutcheon v FEC made matters even worse. Before McCutcheon, one person was able to contribute up to $123,000 to political candidates and parties. In striking down this aggregate limit, the Court paved the way for individuals to contribute more than $3.5 million directly to candidates and party committees. In a report detailing the potential impact of McCutcheon, Demos predicts the decision could result in more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions by 2020.

Not Just Theology: Catholic Seminarians Go to Summer School to Learn Management Skills

Rev. David Couturier explains principles of what he calls “Franciscan economics” to priests-in-training. RNS photo: David Gibson

“How many of you have ever studied a parish budget?” the Rev. David Couturier asked the 11 Catholic priests-in-training seated before him. After a few beats, just one hand went up, tentatively.

“That’s not unusual,” Couturier told them. “Just unfortunate.”

It’s also why these seminarians were in a classroom at Villanova University in the leafy Philadelphia suburbs, part of a first-of-its-kind program that aims to provide some real-world grounding to the theological studies that dominate their course work.

It’s a bit of “operative theology” to complement the “abstract theology,” as Couturier put it.

MAP: The Keystone XL's Path of Destruction

In “The Earth is the Lord’s (and just look what we’re doing with it)” (Sojourners, June 2014), Cal DeWitt writes that “we are Earth-keepers…commissioned to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” A project that stands in the way of maintaining creation’s integrity, however, is the Keystone XL—a tar sands oil pipeline that would span the U.S from north to south. The pipeline would also drastically accelerate emissions of carbon dioxide.

Take a look at the proposed route of the pipeline, which would wind from Canada to Texas.

Map route information gathered from TransCanada.

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The Expectation Deficit

RECENTLY, the U.S. celebrated the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education that declared unconstitutional state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students. By winning the Brown case, Thurgood Marshall broke the rock-hard foundation of racial barriers between black and white schools in the U.S.

But the civil right of equal opportunity for equal education never ensured the human right of equal access to it. Thus the explicitly racial divide, reinforced by law, was replaced by a close kin: the poverty divide, reinforced by economic blight entrenched by white flight to the suburbs.

Ten years later President Lyndon B. Johnson took a bulldozer to that new economic divide by declaring, in his January 1964 State of the Union address, an unconditional “War on Poverty.” He said, “Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined.” And it did.

EVERY WAR HAS multiple fronts. Johnson’s fight against poverty was a legislative one, which played out in states, cities, and school districts across the country. Within two years Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act, the Food Stamp Act, the Economic Opportunity Act, and the Social Security Act. Each act was a legislative beachhead in the assault against U.S. poverty.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 represented a major shift in the way the U.S. conceived public education. In this act, Johnson took direct aim at the economic infrastructure that barred blacks and other impoverished people from accessing equal education.

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