Matthew 25 doesn’t say, “As you have done to the middle class you have done to me."
What it records Jesus saying is, “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” Chances are that will never be the central message of political conventions during election years.
But every four years for the last 40 years (even before we were called Sojourners), our community has done what we can to lift up the issue of poverty during presidential elections. While political party platforms have changed, our commitment to the least of these has not.
So it is with that spirit, this election year, that I am proud to present a new short film called The Line.
Written and directed by Emmy-award winning producer Linda Midgett, it chronicles the very real stories of four real people struggling with real poverty in America today.
You’ll meet a banker in the suburban Midwest who used to earn six-figures a year and now, after the economic collapse, must go to a food bank to feed his three kids; a fisherman on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana who has watched his livelihood and his culture wash away in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and a devastating off-shore oil spill; a blue collar guy in North Carolina who worked hard his whole life but lost his job, became homeless, and started over as a restaurant bus boy; and a single mom in Chicago who battles daily to ensure that her son is safe, healthy, and has the opportunity to go to college.
As the Republicans leave Tampa and the Democrats prepare to gather in Charlotte, one dynamic is immediately clear in both parties: For the first time since Abraham Lincoln ran in 1860, no white Protestant will be on the ticket of either major party.
Mitt Romney, the newly minted Republican nominee for the White House, is a Mormon, though he clearly does not want to talk publicly about how his faith shapes his identity and personal values. Paul Ryan, his running mate, is a Catholic, a fact Romney made sure to mention in the vice presidential rollout ceremony. Indeed, Romney’s two closest rivals in the GOP presidential primaries were also Catholics: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
On the Democratic side, President Obama is an African-American Protestant despite the fetid conspiratorial screams that the president is a crypto-Muslim. Finally, Vice President Joe Biden, like Ryan, is an Irish-American Catholic.
There is hardly a more controversial political battle in America today than that around the role of government. The ideological sides have lined up, and the arguments rage about the size of government: how big, how small should it be? Some famously have said government should be shrunk so small that it "could be drowned in a bathtub."
But I want to suggest that what size the government should be is the wrong question. A more useful discussion would be about the purposes of government and whether ours is fulfilling them. So let's look at what the Bible says.
The words of Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans are perhaps the most extensive teaching in the New Testament about the role and purposes of government. Paul says those purposes are twofold: to restrain evil by punishing evildoers and to serve peace and orderly conduct by rewarding good behavior. Civil authority is designed to be "God's servant for your good" (13:4). Today we might say "the common good" is to be the focus and goal of government.
So the purpose of government, according to Paul, is to protect and promote. Protect from the evil and promote the good, and we are even instructed to pay taxes for those purposes. So to disparage government per se — to see government as the central problem in society — is simply not a biblical position.
For The Washington Post, former presidential speechwriter, Mike Gerson, writes:
In Tampa this month, Republicans will cheer themselves hoarse for a Mormon nominee. And a nation that carefully marks and celebrates every ethnic and religious first won’t take much notice. The Mormon church — for which visibility has often brought persecution — is unlikely to crow about the achievement. And Mitt Romney is probably getting advice to downplay his religion. That was the case in 2007, when Romney explained that he liked the idea of giving a speech on his faith, but “the political advisers tell me, ‘No, no, no, it’s not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone.’ ”
This cautiousness is understandable. In the typology of sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, Mormons remain a rejected “out-group,” unlike accepted “in-groups” such as Catholics and Jews. Large majorities of Americans perceive Mormonism as “very different” from their own religious beliefs.
But in this case, the counsel of religious reticence is wrong. Romney should not be afraid to highlight his faith.
Read more of his column here
WASHINGTON — As he competes against a Mormon in the presidential election, President Obama has appointed the first Mormon member of his White House faith-based council.
He is also a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a priesthood order of teachers and administrators.
“The faith-based office is made up of leaders of religions from across our great country, and Elder Snow’s appointment ensures that the LDS faith will have a seat at the table,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Like Snow, Hatch is Mormon.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, is also a member of the LDS church.
Most Americans who know that Mitt Romney is Mormon say the presumptive GOP nominee’s faith doesn’t concern them. But a new poll indicates there may be an “enthusiasm gap” for Romney among white evangelicals, a crucial GOP constituency.
Sixty percent of Americans know that Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to a survey released Thursday (July 26) by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. That number has barely budged since March, despite intense media focus on Romney’s faith.
Interestingly, more Americans know that Romney is Mormon than can correctly identify President Obama as Christian (49 percent).
Although most Americans say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, party affiliation -- rather than religion -- drives voter preferences, Pew found.
President Obama and his likely GOP challenger Mitt Romney called for prayers and reflection after a deadly shooting at a Colorado movie theater, while liberal religious leaders called for stricter gun control laws.
Police have identified James Holmes, 24, as the man who opened fire at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, killing at least 12 and wounding 59 others in Aurora, Colo.
President Obama cut short his campaign trip in Florida, instead delivering a brief address in Fort Myers. “There are going to be other days for politics,” Obama said. “This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”
Obama touched on the fragility of life, his concerns as the father of two young daughters, and urged Americans to "spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us."
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney cancelled campaign events Friday in the wake of the unfolding tragedy in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater early today, killing at least a dozen people (members of the military among them, according to news reports), and wounding dozens of others. Both men made statements reacting to the massacre.
In a statement released early Friday morning, Romney said and his wife were "deeply saddened" by news of the shooting."We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice," Romney wrote.
Speaking at an event in Florida, Obama said in part:
Now, even as we learn how this happened and who's responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It's beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.
And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.
It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose. That’s what matters. At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others. That’s why we’re here.
I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news. My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children. But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.
So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here. I am so moved by your support. But there are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.
So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day. So if everybody can just take a moment.
(Moment of silence.)
Thank you, everybody. I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today. May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.
I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.
In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank raises the question that has (apparently) been on everyone's lips during this election season:
Is Mitt Romney a unicorn?
An interesting question, we can all agree. By why are people asking?
According to Milbank:
The MittRomneyIsAUnicorn.com campaign came about because Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, citing allegations that the birth certificate President Obama released is a fraud, threatened to take the incumbent off the ballot.
Another Post, writer, Alexandra Petri noted that, as many 18,000 people have signed on to a petition "demanding proof that Mitt Romney was not a unicorn", in light of the fact that "unicorns, as the petition pointed out, are ineligible for the presidency of the United States".
We will let you make up your own minds on this one folks...
P.S. Take a few seconds to check out the fantastic artwork that Petri employed to bring some clarity to the Mitt Romney/Unicorn claims. They are, in her own words "some of my best MS Paint work yet."
As I've read and listened to Christian reaction in the wake of Obama's interview stating his personal opinion on same-sex marriage, I've been discouraged with the nature and tenor of the conversation itself. Specifically, I'm troubled by the way many Christians choose to take definitive and certain stances about complex issues, and the rhetoric they use to state and defend these positions, rhetoric that tends to divide rather than unite and close discussion rather than open it.
I'm interested in exploring what it is about the Christian religion, and perhaps more specifically, evangelicalism that results in such an approach.
I fully understand the attractions of certainty. From my study of C. S. Lewis I know that his popularity among evangelical Christians in the 1940s and 1950s was largely due to his style of certitude. Lewis was writing in a time where scientific discoveries and religious liberalism were challenging the assertions of orthodox Christianity. In a period of doubt and questioning, Lewis seemed to have a way of cutting through complex arguments and reaching a simple solution that was convincing to his readers.
From yesterday's New York Times:
"There is nothing a presidential campaign likes less than to be forced to answer for someone else’s actions. And yet President Obama and Mitt Romney are likely to face that challenge repeatedly during this election season as their allies and adversaries in Congress pursue agendas that do not always make things easy on the campaign trail."
Read the full story here
When Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released his federal tax returns for the past two years, he disclosed that he and his wife, Ann, gave about 10 percent of their income to their church, a well-known religious practice called tithing.
In that way, the Romneys are typical Mormons, members of a church that is exceptionally serious about the Old Testament mandate to give away one-tenth of one's income.
But compared to other religious Americans, the Romneys and other Mormons are fairly atypical when it comes to passing the plate. Across the rest of the religious landscape, tithing is often preached but rarely realized.
Research into church donations shows a wide range of giving, with Mormons among the most generous relative to income, followed by conservative Christians, mainline Protestants and Catholics last.
Over the past 34 years, Americans' generosity to all churches has been in steady decline, in good times and in bad, said Sylvia Ronsvalle, whose Illinois-based Empty Tomb Inc. tracks donations to Protestant churches.
Ronsvalle's research shows that since 1968, contributions have slowly slumped from 3.11 percent of income to 2.38 percent, despite gains in prosperity.
In her view, churches have failed "to call people to invest in a much larger vision." She believes that explains why giving to missions, distant anti-poverty programs or faraway ministries has sunk faster than giving for the needs of local congregations.
They may not be as large as Catholics or as active as evangelicals, but white mainline Protestants have a big thing going for them this election cycle: they are divided, and possibly persuadable.
That's according to a new poll released today (2/2/12), which found white mainline Protestants are more evenly split between President Obama and his Republican challengers than other religious groups.
"They're the most important ignored religious group in the country," said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Religion News Service.
In a matchup between Obama and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, mainline Protestant voters are nearly evenly divided, with 41 percent supporting Obama and 43 percent for Romney. The same holds true between Obama and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — each is the choice of 41 percent of white mainline Protestants.
At NBC's Florida debate earlier this week, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich got into a game of one-upmanship over where Cuban dictator Fidel Castro might end up after his hypothetical death.
You really can't make this stuff up. But you can make it funnier...if you're Jon Stewart, that is.
Watch the video inside the blog...
If the GOP primaries were like Old Country Buffet, I’d be happy.
Think about it. There wouldn’t be so much money involved and we could pick only the stuff we liked and ignore the rest.
And of course, everyone knows the basic rules of smorgasbord grazing, such as you can’t get decent sushi in the Midwest or proper social conservatives from Massachusetts.
Just after midnight Tuesday at The Balsams, an historic, grand hotel nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains, the entire population of tiny unincorporated town of Dixville Notch, N.H., cast the very first votes in the 2012 New Hampshire primary — all nine of them.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tied former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman with two votes each, while Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich both received a single vote. President Obama also won his first votes — three.
Tomorrow, New Hampshire votes. If there is one thing that I can tell you about my home state that might give insight into tomorrow’s voting, it is this:
It’s the only state in the country with the “right to revolution” written into it’s constitution. (Check it out, it’s article 10 in the N.H. bill of rights.)
The old Yankees of New Hampshire don’t like being told who to vote for. And, they especially don’t want to be told who should get their vote by anyone who works for a cable news company.
Remember how Obama was supposed to go on from Iowa to take New Hampshire sealing up the Democratic nomination? If they could throw a wrench into the GOP nomination process, I’m sure New Hampshirites would be proud to do so.
After a poor performance last night’s Iowa Caucus — with a sixth place finish and only 6 percent of the evangelical vote — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann announced earlier today that she is suspending her campaign for President of the United States.
Watch video of her announcement inside...
FoxNews shuns pro-immigrant voices. How do we repair souls returning from the war? Does Christianity translate into public policy? Lobbyists role in 2012 fundraising. Oakland mayor promises "minimal police presence" at OWS protests. Cain says he doesn't need to know foreign policy details. And only 40 percent of Americans correctly identify Romney as Mormon.