Survey Says Americans More Pessimistic Than Ever. But Here's Why There's Hope.

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Even though the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, 72 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. is still in recession, a figure unchanged from 2014. While that figure has remained steady, this year has seen a dramatic spike of discontent regarding economic inequality. Over the past four years, only slight majorities (53 to 55 percent) have agreed that “One of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.” But in 2015, 65 percent of Americans agreed.

And Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly agree, at least on this: The federal government is looking out for the rich. The American Dream, seemingly in question since the Great Recession, is now only an idle daydream for most.

And as Americans give up on the American Dream, they grow more suspicious of immigrants. In 2012, 57 percent of Americans believed that immigrants strengthened the U.S. That number has now, dangerously, fallen below a majority, to 46 percent. And it has gotten personal — more people report being bothered when they encounter non-English speakers.

COMMENTARY: Anti-Muslim Bigotry Taints Florida Ban on Foreign Laws

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure known as a “foreign law ban.” Photo: Meredyth Hope Hall, courtesy Rick Scott.

This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure widely touted as a “foreign law ban.” But proponents of such bans should not be too quick to claim victory.

The version of the ban that Scott signed merely mirrors decades-old legal principles that Florida courts have used to resolve international disputes — namely, that they will not apply foreign law if it “contravenes the strong public policy of this state or if the law is unjust or unreasonable.”

This is a far cry from foreign law bans in states such as Kansas and Arizona, which demand their courts to reject foreign laws or judgments if they come from a country that does not protect rights in the identical way we do.

A Lenten Commitment to Homeland Insecurity

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'If you see something, say something" outside an airport, Katherine Welles/ Shutterstock.com

We clearly live in a world that is filled with risks and dangers, and because the increased availability of modern technology allows for harm to occur at unprecedented rates and levels, one can argue that we live in one of the most treacherous eras of human history. However, while the need for protection from harm is both natural and commendable, we are forced to consider whether protection itself can eventually become harmful, unnatural, and even condemnable. In other words, with such extensive resources invested in the pursuit of safety and security, one is forced to consider: What are the consequences of such “protection?" And what happens when so much time and effort is dedicated toward protecting ourselves from our neighbors that we eventually lose sight of who are neighbors actually are? At what point does the heightened priority of protection lead to the increased inevitability of isolation and ignorance? And finally, in our efforts to build impenetrable walls of protection (often in the name of freedom), do we not eventually incarcerate ourselves from the rest of the world and thus limit what it actually means to live free?

Commemorating 9/11 by Desegregating Theological Education

I just returned from a very moving convocation at the Claremont School of Theology where I am on the faculty. We were celebrating the historic founding of a new interreligious theological university that brings together institutions representing the three Abrahamic faiths, along with our newest partner, the Jains. The Jains are an eastern religion founded in India over 2,500 years ago who are perhaps best known for their deep commitment to the concept of no-harm or ahimsa.

While each partner institution will continue to train religious leaders in their own traditions, the Claremont Lincoln University will be a space where future religious leaders and scholars can learn from each other and collaboratively seek solutions to major global issues that no one single religion can solve alone. The CLU's founding vision of desegregating religion was reflected in the extraordinary religious diversity present at the convocation held in a standing room-only auditorium. I sat next to a Jewish cantor and a Muslim woman who had tears flowing down her face as we listened to the prayers offered in all four religions along with a reflection from a Humanist speaker.