rights

A Spirituality of Privacy

Facebook screenshot, Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com
Facebook screenshot, Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com

Politically, the right to online privacy seems like a no-brainer. Just as employers, and the government, shouldn’t be allowed to snoop through one’s personal diary or journal, the privacy of our digital records should be likewise respected, in law and in practice.

But biblically, theologically, and spiritually, it gets more complicated. For instance, what would a “spirituality of privacy” look like? At the core of spirituality is a connection with the divine. That begins in our heart of hearts and is by necessity a private, solitary practice. But it doesn’t end there. Genuine, life-transforming spirituality is personal, but never “private,” in the sense of “restricted to me alone.” Rather, spirituality is about the connection between a person and the divine and about the connection between a person and other people. In other words, there is an essential communal, public aspect of spirituality. Genuine spiritual enlightenment leads not only to an enriching of our connection with God, but with one another as well. Thus in some ways the distinction between a “private” spirituality and our public face is an artificial one, and at our best these two aspects of our being will be in harmonious synchronicity.

Working Class Heroes: A Playlist for May Day

A playlist for the working class: Ten songs in honor of May Day and workers everywhere.

John Lennon, "Working Class Hero"

This song from John Lennon's first post-Beatles solo album, 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, is about working class folks being "processed" into the middle class or the "machine," according to what Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview the same year the album released. "A working class hero is something to be," is the song's mantra and refrain.

Fields of Denial

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
Migrant workers pick parsley on a Colorado farm, 2011. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

About every five years the Farm Bill addresses a broad set of food and agricultural policy issues. Commodity price supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, energy, and foreign and domestic food programs were just some of the issues included in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, as the last Farm Bill legislation was officially titled.

The Farm Bill is also known for the broad range of policy stakeholders who work on it, including state organizations, national farm groups, commodity associations, conservation advocates, rural development organizations, and faith-based groups.

But even with its inclusive set of policy issues and actors, the Farm Bill is notable for one issue policymakers and advocates doesn’t touch: People who work on farms.

U.K. Innkeepers Fined for Turning Away Gay Couple

No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/ADRtVi.
No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/ADRtVi.

LONDON — Britain's Court of Appeal has ordered a pair of Christian innkeepers to pay 3,600 pounds ($5,800) in damages to a gay couple that was told they could not share a room in the couple's guesthouse.

The three-judge panel rejected an appeal by the innkeepers, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, in their conviction of telling Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy they could not share a double room.

The court in London told the couple, who ran the Chymorvah House in Cornwall, England, to pay the penalty.

Catholic-Labor Rights

LABOR UNIONS, CATHOLIC health-care providers, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made significant strides for worker justice with the release in June, after a 10-year process, of the document “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions.” The agreement will assist nearly 600,000 workers from a network of 600 hospitals and 1,200 health-care agencies in making informed decisions on whether to be represented by a union, and guarantees employers will support workers’ choices without undue pressure. The document, rooted in Catholic social teaching, states that “health care is a human right” and asserts two key values: the central role of workers in choosing their representation and the principle of mutual agreement between employers and unions to protect workers’ free choice in representation.

“In the midst of the national conversation about the Employee Free Choice Act,” Kim Bobo, executive director and founder of Interfaith Worker Justice, told Sojourners, “the release of this document demonstrates the problems workers face when they try to organize, even in religious institutions, and the need for significant changes in the process for workers making a choice about whether or not they want a union and getting a contract in a reasonable time period.” —Laurel Frodge

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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Not So Fast

The letter “Women and Islam” (Letters, April 2009) points out that Islamic law often forces women into subservient social and religious roles. Lest we forget, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been ratified in this, our “Christian” nation, and it took decades of attempts before the 19th Amendment was ratified to affirm women’s right to vote. In many Christian denominations, women are not allowed to hold high clerical office. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a woman pope.

Misogyny may indeed fester under Islam, but let us not wag our Christian fingers in sanctimonious rebuke until our own house is in good repair.

Evan Jones, Sacramento, California

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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The Woman Who Changed America

When Frances Perkins was appointed Sec­retary of Labor in 1933 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 25 percent of the American labor force was out of work. Perkins, the first woman to hold a U.S. Cabinet position, is widely credited as being one of the prime intellects and moving forces behind Roosevelt’s New Deal. She was FDR’s “conscience.”

Prior to her Cabinet ap­pointment, Perkins met with Roosevelt privately. According to Kirstin Downey’s new book, The Woman Behind the New Deal, Perkins held a scrap of paper in her hand as she addressed the president-elect. Scribbled on it was her visionary platform for a new economy: Social Security, a public works program, the 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, a federal law banning child labor, and health insurance. It would take a complete government overhaul and changes in the Constitution, but Perkins was convinced it could be done. She convinced Roosevelt too.

But there was another side to Perkins. She was a religious mystic in the Anglo-Catholic tradition; when she first moved to Washington, D.C., she had hoped to live simply and quietly with Anglican nuns at a convent in the Maryland suburbs while carrying out her official duties. Though this idea was scuttled when she realized what the press would do with the story and how it might disrupt the lives of the cloistered community, Perkins went monthly to All Saints Sisters of the Poor convent for a day of silent retreat all 12 years she served in the Cabinet. In fact, she drafted our national Social Security program and Fair Labor Standards Act there. “The nuns found her in the early morning hours in the chapel,” writes Downey, “praying on her hands and knees for guidance.”

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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