Politics

Tom Ehrich 08-08-2012
Stack of newspapers photo, kret87 / Shutterstock.com

Stack of newspapers photo, kret87 / Shutterstock.com

I don't think of myself as a news-reading star; many spend far more time than I do staying informed. But I do recognize that being informed takes effort. As more and more cities lose their newspapers, and as networks like Fox abandon any pretense of journalistic integrity and simply broadcast misinformation, the work of staying informed gets more complicated.

I occasionally read broadsides from Tea Party folks and wonder what alternate universe they inhabit. Their positions seem unhinged from fact, history, and generally accepted reality. I imagine they'd say that a world informed by "liberal media" like The Times isn't any closer to being fact-based.

How do we debate important issues when we don't share a common foundation of facts? Dueling opinions are the heartbeat of politics. Dueling facts, however, lead mainly to shouting, bullying and mistrust.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

By tradition, the storied Al Smith Dinner has provided a few hours of comic relief from the angry volleys of the campaign trail – a white-tie charity banquet held in the weeks before Election Day, hosted by the archbishop of New York and featuring speeches by the two presidential candidates on the condition that they lob nothing more than good-natured jibes.

But the Catholic hierarchy’s fierce feud with President Obama, abetted by the increasingly sharp tone of the 2012 elections, is threatening to invade this demilitarized zone and give New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan a case of pre-dinner agita.

Dolan has reportedly extended an offer to Obama (as well as his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney) to attend this year’s dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, scheduled for Oct. 18, and the president has accepted. That has mobilized abortion opponents, who view Obama as the worst thing since Roe v. Wade and an enemy of religious liberty because of his administration's controversial birth control mandate.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, a leading abortion opponent based in Staten Island, said on Aug. 6 that “the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.”

Tom Getman 08-02-2012
Daniel in the Lion's Den, Nicku / Shutterstock.com

Daniel in the Lion's Den, Nicku / Shutterstock.com

I have so often pondered what might have happened if the media had covered more honestly the stifling of protest that Nakba Day in 1999 and as a result the local officials and the world community had heard the cry?  Could the disaster have passed and peace with justice been advanced.

Today the media is much more candid. One wonders if we have received a rare gift of unaltered reality in this period of deepening crisis in the Holy Land and overheated atmosphere in the American presidential campaign. For this week it is being reported clearly that we have a presidential candidate, and probably millions of likeminded uninformed voters, who are apparently oblivious or uncaring about the explosive oppression of Palestinians.  

Duane Shank 08-02-2012

 Quote of the day.
"People are terrified. They fear a situation that is becoming more and more violent and uncertain." Chaldean Christian Bishop Antoine Audo after a prayer service for peace at St. Joseph''s Church in Aleppo, Syria.
(Chicago Tribune)

Sen. John Marty 08-01-2012

Money, Ryabitskaya Elena / Shutterstock.com

If we want a democracy that represents the public interest, we'll need a system where politicians are no longer bought and paid for by the highest bidders.

Nick Penniman 08-01-2012

With political integrity drowning in big money, it's too late for small tweaks. The whole system needs a reboot.

Laura Petrecca 07-31-2012
RNS photo by James Duncan Davidson via Flickr

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos starts his High Order Bit presentation (2005). RNS photo by James Duncan Davidson via Flickr

In an unconventional move, a number of high-profile business executives have come out on the issue of gay marriage.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is the latest to say "I do" to supporting same-sex unions. On July 27, Washington United for Marriage, a coalition that seeks to uphold a gay marriage law that passed in Washington, announced that Bezos and his wife MacKenzie will donate $2.5 million to its cause.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer have each donated $100,000 to the effort to keep gay marriage legal. Ken Powell, CEO of food behemoth General Mills, has publicly spoken out against Minnesota's proposed amendment that would ban gay marriage. And Paul Singer, founder of financial firm Elliott Management, recently contributed $150,000 to Freedom to Marry, which fights for gay marriage across the nation.

... Yet there are also many who support Chick-fil-A and Cathy.

For example, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he's "incensed" by the negative feedback, and in turn has deemed Aug. 1 "Chick fil-A Appreciation Day," when he's asking consumers to support the chain by eating there.

Brian E. Konkol 07-23-2012

It is difficult to discuss "hard topics" with people with whom I disagree.

When someone supports a political candidate whom I resist, holds to a theological understanding that I find confusing, or when I hear opposing points on climate change, poverty, global economics, human sexuality, etc., it is challenging to listen with a genuinely open ear. 

However, what I have found is that, even if I feel passionate about a particular point of view, when I am able to open up and genuinely listen to others, great things take place throughout the exchange. Through honest and open interaction, an increased level of mutual respect and understanding is achieved, we learn to understand why things are perceived the way they are, and the overall strength of the relationship grows. 

In our current North American climate of political polarization, religious division, and socio-economic seclusion, it is time to have more dialogue on — among other things — dialogue. 

A friend of mine once said, “a true and genuine dialogue only takes place when each person is willing to be ‘converted’ to the other side of the argument.” At first I was skeptical of this remark, as I wondered how I could ever open myself up to being “converted” on certain topics about which I felt strongly. But now I am beginning to see the wisdom in such a statement.

Elaina Ramsey 07-12-2012
http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?safesearch=1&search_language=en&search_sou

Constitution, flag, and Statue of Liberty, Margaret M. Stewart / Shutterstock.com

Big money has corrupted our politics, and We the People want it fixed.

Lisa Sharon Harper 07-12-2012
David Sacks / Getty Images

David Sacks / Getty Images

In the name of protecting the “middle class” some politicians have been pressing for extensions of the Bush Tax Cuts for all earnings up to $1 million. They are calling folks in the top 1 percent “middle class.” This week, President Obama announced that he would extend the Bush era tax cuts for all earnings up to $250,000, but not beyond this threshold. Still hard to swallow the idea of those being “middle class” tax breaks but it’s an improvement from calling millionaires “middle class.”

While Jesus loves everybody, there is no Christian tradition of teaching God’s “preferential option for the middle class.” For Christians, it’s still about the poorest and most vulnerable, and here is why these tax issues matter to those Jesus called “the least of these.”

Sandi Villarreal 07-10-2012
SeanPavonePhoto, Marek Gahura / Shutterstock.com

Charlotte, N.C. and Tampa, Fla. skylines. SeanPavonePhoto, Marek Gahura / Shutterstock.com

They have the two of the most stressful jobs in the country, at least for the next couple of months. Mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Fla., and Anthony Foxx of Charleston, N.C., will play host to the Republican and Democratic national conventions, respectively.

The two sat down with Politico's Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen on Tuesday to discuss the challenges, economic opportunities, and politics of hosting such historic, national events. 

"I don't look at this as a political event," Buckhorn said. "… Yes, I am a Democrat, but I intend to be the best host the Republicans have ever had." 

QR Blog Editor 06-28-2012

Stephen Mansfield writes for The Huffington Post:

T"here are other matters that may drive religion to the forefront of the 2012 presidential election. We cannot be certain of all of them now. What Americans ought to know by this time in their history, though, is that religion is seldom far from their politics, seldom much removed from American culture as a whole. The 2012 campaign is likely to illustrate this as much as any presidential election in the nation's history."

Read the author's full list of the key religious issues in the election here

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Photo via the author's website.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Photo via the author's website.

The better way says, if we follow God’s religious values we can use global technology, green economy, and targeted economic and infrastructure investment, total access to education, and creative job creation strategies to address the ugly realities of poverty. If we follow the enduring ethic of love we can beat our swords of racism into the plows that will till the new soil of brotherhood and sisterhood

If we see the poor as our neighbors, if we remember we are our brother’s keeper, then we shall put the poor, rather than the wealthy, at the center of our agenda.

If we hold on to God’s values, the sick shall have good health care. The environment shall be protected. The injustices of our judicial systems shall be made just. We shall respect the dignity of all people. We can love all people. We can see all people as God’s creations.

We can use our resources to develop our minds and economy, rather than build bombs, missiles, and weapons of human destruction.

Do we want to keep pressing toward God’s vision?  Values are once again the question of our times.

Do we want a just, wholesome society, or do we want to go backwards? This is the question before us. And I believe that at this festival there is still somebody who wants what God wants. Somebody who understands there are some things with God that never change

There are still some prophetic people that have not bowed, who as a matter of faith know that Love is better than hate. Hope is better than despair. Community is better than division.

Peace is better than war. Good of the whole is better than whims of a few. God wants everybody — red, yellow, black, brown and white taken care of. God wants true community, more togetherness … not more separateness. God wants justice, always has, always will.

Because with God some things never change.

Frank Schaeffer 06-26-2012

Frank Schaeffer speaking last week at the Wild Goose Festival. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

The second Wild Goose Festival has just ended. I left a piece of my heart in the hills of North Carolina. Ahead is the third WG fest at the end of August in Portland OR. And then there will be next year and the next... The White House sent the Rev. Derrick Harkins (faith outreach director for the Democratic National Committee) to observe and talk with some of us this year. So I guess WG got noticed.

Last year's WG was the first and there were about 1,300 of us there. This year we were closing in on 2000-plus. And now WG is West Coast bound too. The names of the speakers Jim Wallis and all the rest (I spoke 3 times) added up to a "draw" along with the big name musical performers. But the heart of the festival wasn't in the events but in the conversations.

For me the highlight of the festival was the fact that there was no wall of separation between us speakers and performers and everyone there. I spent 4 days talking with lots of people from all over America and other places too, about ideas but also about very personal subjects. I met Ramona who was the cook at the Indian food stand and found she is ill and has no health insurance and I was able to connect her with a friend who knew a friend at the WG fest locally to help her get the full checkup she needs. I could do that because the festival was full of the sort of people who help, love and care so for once there was someone to call.

And I watched the sneak preview of the movie Hellbound that will be released this fall. It happens that I'm one of the people interviewed in the movie but that's not why I say it is one of the best films I've ever seen. We watched it at 11 PM and talked until 2 AM. People were just stunned.

Phil Haslanger 06-21-2012
Photo by Phil Haslanger

Sr. Simone Campbell greets supporters outside Rep. Paul Ryan's office. Photo by Phil Haslanger

When the Nuns on the Bus pulled up in front of Rep. Paul Ryan’s home office in Janesville, Wis., earlier this week, they were challenging the theological rationale he has been using for his budget plan that has become the economic banner for the Republican Party.

But they were also showing how people can hold strong opinions, get those opinions into the public arena and still engage adversaries in respectful ways. 

In the process, they called on citizens to get engaged in the same way.

“I urge you, urge you, I beg you, Janesville, in this election cycle, please, don’t be a spectator,” Sr. Simone Campbell pleaded with a crowd in the courthouse park as their visit to the southern Wisconsin city came to an end.

Mike Daisley 06-20-2012
John Edwards in a 2008 Sojourners interview. Photo by Ryan Roderick Beiler

John Edwards in a 2008 Sojourners interview. Photo by Ryan Roderick Beiler

The first time I met John Edwards was in the summer of 1997. He was in Charlotte “for a little case we have in Mecklenburg” and called and said he wanted to talk with me. The year before, I won the Democratic Primary for Congress in the 9th District, and he wanted to tell me of his plans to become the next United States senator from North Carolina in the 1998 election.

We got together on a humid mid-afternoon in the restaurant of a SouthPark hotel, and for about 90 minutes — from start to finish — he listened as articulately as he spoke. He asked broad, open-ended questions but with a focused clarity. He didn’t dodge a single question of mine, answering softly but with a direct intensity that I could not perceive as anything less than absolute sincerity.

At the end of the discussion, he graciously accepted my explanation that, despite my eager willingness to share  any thoughts and insights he might find helpful, my support (for whatever it was worth) was going to my long-time friend D.G. Martin.

The young senator: A rising star

QR Blog Editor 06-05-2012

Keli Goff asks is America would be better off with an agnostic President:

I"t's always refreshing when religious leaders strive to embody the very best values their faith has to offer. I have been reminded of this often over the past year, which is shaping up to be banner one for Christian leaders in the "practice what you preach" department."

Read her full article here

Jack Palmer 05-30-2012

It all got a little much for Illinois State Rep. Mike Bost yesterday during a discussion in the State House on pension reform.

The Atlantic reports:

The longtime Republican representative from a southern Illinois district was mad as hell and he wasn't going to take it any more, unleashing an epic rant at Speaker Mike Madigan.

The top moments are undoubtedly early in the clip, when he tosses a bunch of papers in the air, then punches them on the way down; and when he shouts, "Let my people go!" But stay with it until the end for his excellent variation on the old rap-battle mic drop. Also worth noting: the faces on his colleagues around him, trying to maintain a sense of dignity, except the woman in the burgundy behind him who seems willing to indulge her amusement.

Watch the full rant below:

Tim Suttle 05-24-2012
Image by Sergey Kamshylin / shutterstock.

Flag/scripture image by Sergey Kamshylin / shutterstock.

Both religion and politics are concerned with how we should organize societies. Yet the tendency for Christians has often been to begin with the politics and work backwards to find religious rationale for our political beliefs. As a result, most people read the Bible not to challenge our deeply held beliefs, but to affirm the decisions we've already made with our lives.

If you tend toward the political right you might say the chief political concern of the Scriptures has as much to do with smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedoms and gun rights as any explicit Christian concept.

If you tend toward the political left you might believe the chief political concern of the Scriptures has more to do with reproductive rights, religious pluralism, big government and labor unions.

Too often the ideologies of the secular right or the political left have been allowed set the terms for religious Christians.

the Web Editors 05-21-2012
Graphic by SunlightFoundation.com

Graphic by SunlightFoundation.com

According to the Sunlight Foundation:

Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis of the Congressional Record using Capitol Words.

Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of Congress, others will see as more effective communications. And lawmakers of both parties still speak over the heads of the average American, who reads at between at 8th and 9th grade level.

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