News that there is a person possibly with Ebola undergoing treatment in Oregon should not be reason for panic or great concern. Using best public health practices, the Obama Administration and Center for Disease Control and prevention has put into place policies to protect the health of Americans. No one is at risk of Ebola unless you come into contact with body fluids of an infection person. We are all at greater risk of the flu (get a flu shot). Oregonians should offer compassion to the person now under care, we should offer our thoughts and prayers, and we should do the same for those providing treatment. Health care workers deserve every ounce of respect. During this last week of the election campaign it would be a tragic mistake for any politician to use this issue as an attempt to divide Oregonians. Our attention should be focused most on efforts to stop Ebola in Africa where there has been untold human suffering. Faith leaders have been in direct contact with federal officials as this international crisis has unfolded. Fear should not define our reaction.
It is with great appreciation that I join with you all this evening.
We are, as you all know, near to an election. There is always cause to celebrate the democratic process. We live in a nation where the people decide on those who will occupy elective office.
For all the gifts of our democracy, however, we are a nation not fully free. A broken system allowed the loser of the popular vote to take the presidency in 2001. Our political system has never fully recovered.
Since then we have given corporations the rights of people and taken away from certain people the right to freely vote. We are not fully free.
The United States keeps company with nations like Russia in incarcerating large numbers of our fellow citizens, and in America those jailings are disproportionally based on skin color and not on crime.
We are not fully free in Missouri or New York or California or Oregon when unarmed African-Americans are killed by uniformed police officers and we know the process of investigation will be neither fair nor balanced.
We are a little less free in Portland, Oregon this month after the Portland City Council decided to fight a judge’s oversight of reforms of the Portland Police Bureau that have been mandated by the federal government which would make us a little more free.
Ours is a disconnected reality. We live in an age where an African-American can be elected president of the United States. We live in an age where a Latino can serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. We live in an age where a lesbian woman can serve as the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. All of these people serve based on the content of their character.
These victories are a reality because of the work undertaken by many of you in this room here today.
But we are less free when our people are hungry. We are less free when our children are homeless. How can we make the claim that we are the “greatest nation on Earth" when 20,000 or more students will experience homelessness just in Oregon this year? Neither political party pays enough attention to poverty and economic inequity but the harshest judgment must rest with those who have fought investments in jobs, expansion in health care…and with those who have simply turned a blind eye to the people Jesus called the least of these.
The crisis of Ferguson is not an isolated incident but indicative of larger social ills that infect the whole body of our nation.
Only when we recognize the common humanity that we all share will we all be free. We cannot treat one another as if we can do without the other. We are too interconnected.
In his letter 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about the church being the body of Christ. These are the words his used, as translated by Eugene Peterson:
For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
This is a good message for us as the election nears. We are not fully free because we do not treat the “other” as necessary, as integral, when there is no one, not a soul, that can be left behind. If we do not love neighbor as ourselves, we have no hope.
So I leave you with this prayer, one based on a prayer organically penned by Phillips Brooks, that we often share in the United Church of Christ:
Jesus said, "You ought always to pray and not to faint." Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger women and men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but for power equal to your tasks. Then, the doing of your work will be no miracle - YOU will be the miracle, and every day you will wonder at yourself and the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God. Amen.
Rev. Chuck Currie with OLMV director Promise King and members of the Muslim Educational Trust
What you'll read are the careful theological reflections of Christian leaders trying to discern how the different measures before Oregon voters will impact the common good. Candidates are not ranked or endorsed.
On some issues, EMO makes no recommendations either because the measures do not warrant input from the faith community or because the member bodies of EMO were not able to come to consensus.
You won't be reading a partisan document - like the voter guides published by the Oregon Family Council, a purely political organization complete with a PAC that donates 100% of their funds to GOP candidates all while claiming to be a church council - or a document that insists you must vote with EMO's recommendations to be a good Christian.
SC GOP figure Todd Kincannon wants to execute Ebola victims. He claims a Christian faith but betrays God and seemingly has lost his humanity. His comments, fueled by racism, are a deep embarrassment to South Carolina, a state I love. SC church leaders should take the opportunity to condemn his beliefs and ask that he repent from his sins. We should all seek to show love and compassion for those across the world with Ebola, and not stigmatize those who are ill and suffering. Jesus stood with outcasts, including the sick. He offered healing, justice and reconciliation. There is nothing Christian about Mr. Kincannon's hatred.
SC GOP figure @Todd__Kincannon wants to execute #Ebola victims. He claims a Christian faith but betrays God and seemingly lost his humanity.
Thinking about the pursuit of peace is enough to cause one to get a headache. This is true, in part, because defining peace is so complicated. Is it the absence of war? That is one understanding but the absence of war does not mean the conditions for war don't exist and that a new conflict is not just around the corner. We talk a lot in the United Church of Christ about creating “just peace.” This is the idea that for real peace to exist we must create conditions that make war impossible.
Still, peace is not just about war. Is there peace in Ferguson? Clearly, the answer is no. What about Portland? In this very church my colleague Patricia Ross and I conducted the memorial for James Chasse, a Portlander suffering from mental illness, who was beaten by the police so severely that officers left him with fractures in 16 of his ribs, a total of 26 broken bones, as well as a punctured lung. Still today, Mayor Charlie Hales is fighting federal oversight of police reform mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice after a series of people, mostly African-American, died at the hands of our police force. Is there peace in Portland?
Peace is absent as long as there is domestic violence and sexual assaults on college campuses. Peace is absent as long as there are federal and local policies that promote economic violence that leave our people homeless and hunger in a nation of abundance. Peace is absent so long as we pollute the air and seas and threaten God’s very creation. Peace is absent as long as there is gun violence and a lack of police accountability.
Is there a baseline understanding of Jesus’ teachings that, at the very least, mainline Christians might share, particularly in a world so broken by war and suffering from the lack of a just peace that threatens to destabilize all of creation? Walter Rauschenbusch offered a foundational argument regarding whether or not Jesus took sides in an analysis of Luke 6:20-26, one of our reading for this morning, in 1916’s The Social Principles of Jesus.
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Houses of worship have every right to preach on social issues and to take part in advocacy campaigns. Politicians cannot - no matter where you stand on the central issue involved in this case, LGBT-rights - subpoena sermons from clergy. This is a clear effort by a progressive politician to intimidate conservative clergy. It cannot be allowed, as the Interfaith Alliance has rightfully said. What if an anti-gay mayor demanded by court order to see copies of sermons given by United Church of Christ clergy on behalf of marriage equality? This reprehensible effort by Houston Mayor Annise Parker must be halted to protect the religious freedom of all. I fully support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) as an important civil rights victory. In defense of HERO, however, Mayor Parker has crossed a line no politician in America should cross.
Journalists have the right (even a responsibility) to report on activities within government and so the role played by Hayes, Oregon’s first lady, is newsworthy. This is particularly true if Hayes has used her influence in ways that might be unethical. Such behavior has been alleged by Willamette Week but not proven.
Willamette Week has over the years done some reporting worthy of the awards they have received. Uncovering that Oregon icon Neil Goldschmidt was in fact a child rapist rewrote state history and brought a small measure of justice to the babysitter he victimized.
More the norm, however, are stories like this one regarding Hayes. Nothing regarding her past will impact John Kitzhaber’s term as governor or legacy in the state. Telling this story now simply serves to embarrass Hayes. Willamette Week has a long history of defining people by their worst moments.
As clergy, I long ago came to the conclusion that the human experience is messy. All of us come to the table with a variety of faults (in theological terms we call these sins). Sometimes these personal faults mean that people need to be excused from public life. Other times, particularly when people gain fame from politics or the arts, the media seeks to exploit all too human failings for their own purposes.
The media will now pile on Hayes. Real issues – like poverty, that weren’t being covered anyway – will be ignored even more as “reporters” follow Hayes and Kitzhaber around demanding to know about the state of their relationship.
What will Hayes legacy be in Oregon? That we don’t know. But Willamette Week’s legacy will be part journalistic brilliance that shines way to infrequently and a long record of tearing good people down for the sport (or advertising dollars) of it. On balance, WW has done more harm than good.
Still, no one will ask Kitzhaber or Dennis Richardson how they’ll address poverty if elected in November. I’m certain neither one of them knows.
The sin of poverty ought to be the real story. Hayes' private sins ought to remain private. But there are too few saints in journalism today willing to cover issues of substance over scandal. In journalism, there are sinners too.
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.