Related Post: Oregon GOP Must Fire Dennis Oliver Woods
Update: I'm glad to note that the Oregon Senate Republican Caucus released a statement today announcing that in response to the letter that I sent with Governor Roberts they would no longer do business with Dennis Oliver Woods. It is disappointing, however, that rather than admit their mistake in hiring Mr. Woods and taking this opportunity to condemn his radical beliefs they simply launched a partisan political attack. Never-the-less, I am glad the GOP Senate Caucus has ended their relationship with Mr. Woods. This was the correct course of action to take. I will be watching to see if Mr. Woods' other political clients - including Oregonians In Action, the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, Oregonians For Immigration Reform, the Oregon Family Farm Association and the Leadership Fund - follow suit.
Two of my political heroes are Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield. In fact, the only portrait of a politician that I own is one of Governor McCall and when Hatfield was in the U.S. Senate I was proud to work with him on legislation to help homeless Oregonians. These two Republicans always put the common good ahead of partisan politics when they served in public office. Of course, Senator Hatfield's Christian faith guided his decisions on issues like military spending and the death penalty. I have met few people that I admire more.
It is disheartening that today's GOP in Oregon has moved so far away from the ideals of tolerance and community advanced by McCall and Hatfield. No example demonstrates this better than the relationship GOP leaders have with Dennis Oliver Woods, a man who has advocated the death penalty for gays and lesbians, written that slavery in the American South was akin to kindly "overseas adoptions," and who objects to letting women have the right to vote. Mr. Woods bases his views on his understanding of the Christian faith. How we read the Bible matters and as an ordained minister, I would argue that Woods perverts the Gospel teachings.
As Willamette Week has noted, GOP-related groups, including the Oregon Republican Senate Caucus, have "regularly hired Woods to gauge and help shape public opinion."
Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli says that he won't impose a "litmus test" on those the GOP employees. Some views are so extreme, however, that they must be condemned. Oregon republicans offer Woods legitimacy that he doesn't deserve.
The Oregon GOP and their affiliates need to immediately fire Mr. Woods and promise not to work with him in the future. His political views are the antitheses of the values we as Americans - democrats and republicans alike - hold so dear. Racism, sexism, and homophobia have no place in our politics and those that advocate such views shouldn't have a seat at the table. Oregonians need to know the GOP strongly reject these views. Right now that isn't clear. The party of Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield shouldn't be allowed to become the party of Dennis Oliver Woods.
The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life has released a new survey and there is nothing surprising about the results:
While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own. Many people also think that the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.
These are among the key findings of the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey," a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 adults.
Additional findings include:
• More than four-in-ten Catholics (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize, but actually become, the body and blood of Christ
• About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity
• Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish
• Fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist; fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly identify Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism; and only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) know that most people in Indonesia are Muslims
• There is widespread confusion over the line between teaching and preaching in public schools. Nine-in-ten Americans (89%) know that U.S. Supreme Court rulings do not allow teachers to lead public school classes in prayer. However two-thirds of people surveyed incorrectly say that Supreme Court rulings prevent public school teachers from reading from the Bible as an example of literature, and only 36% know that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools.
• Most Americans are able to correctly answer at least half of the survey's questions about the Bible. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. More than six-in-ten (63%) can correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible.
Data from the survey indicate that educational attainment—how much schooling an individual has completed—is the single best predictor of religious knowledge. On average, college graduates answered nearly eight more questions correctly than those with a high school education or less. Religious knowledge is also higher among those who have taken a religion course in college. Other factors linked with religious knowledge include reading Scripture at least once a week and talking about religion with friends and family.
As a pastor, I've found that Biblical literacy is very low among parishioners. There are, I believe, two general reasons: First, our Christian education programs for youth are often absurdly inaccurate and don't reflect the same theology being preached from the pulpit. Second, besides Bible study most churches offer few meaningful adult education programs. As the survey notes, most Americans also have little understanding of traditions beyond their own faith.
Let me offer two educational resources that I have found helpful:
Remedial Christianity views Christianity from both within and without. With a wide angle, it views Christianity as one of the world's major religions and contrasts and compares its doctrine and practice with those of other great religions. In narrower focus, it examines not only the distinctively Christian beliefs, but the breadth of Christianities within Christianity. Written clearly and with humor, Remedial Christianity provides a valuable tool for everyone seeking to understand Christianity and to forge a viable and sustainable personal faith. Illustrated and includes "Discussion Questions and Exercises" and a "Recommended Reading" list for each chapter.
I've used this book now in two churches and frankly think it ought to be required reading for all members.
Living the Questions is a source of curriculum and media for both seekers and "church alumni/ae" convinced that Christianity still has relevance in the 21st Century. Providing a variety of flexible resources, Living the Questions can help people explore the future of Christianity and what a meaningful faith can look like in today's world.
This series of interactive DVDs - with accompanied readings - is a great tool for a more in-depth exploration of the Christian faith. It helps church members develop critical thinking skills that are much needed in the church today. But you need some basic understanding of what Christianity is to participate. Thus, I'd recommend a book group using Remedial Christianity as a first step.
There is clearly a hunger for knowledge out there. Whenever I've put together a book group for Remedial Christianity or used one of the several Living the Questions DVD series there has been high interest and involvement. People want to know more about their faith. I'm convinced of that.
I'd be interested in learning of other good resources out there.
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) - our state's council of churches - has released a Voter's Guide for the November elections. The guide only deals with public policy initiatives. EMO does not endorse or rank candidates for political office.
Why publish a Voter's Guide?
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon believes that the demands of the Gospel and our understanding of our diverse religious traditions call us to participate in civic life. Our faith traditions give us a unique and important perspective to offer the community in deliberations on civic, legislative and governmental matters. EMO believes that every person should be given the opportunity to be informed about the policies and processes of government at every level.
The positions taken by EMO should be seen as recommendations. While these recommendations have been made after careful thought and prayer people of good faith can come to different conclusions.
EMO recommends the following:
Measure 70: Veterans Home Loans Expansion. Vote YES
Measure 71: Oregon Legislature Annual Sessions Amendment. No Position
Measure 72: Authorizes exception to $50,000 state borrowing limit for state property projects. No Position
Measure 73: Increases mandatory minimum sentences for specified crimes. Vote NO
Measure 74: Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System Act. No Position
Measure 75: Authorizes Multnomah County Casino. Vote NO
Measure 76: Continues dedicated funding for parks, wildlife and water shed protection. Vote YES
City of Portland Measure 26-108: Continues City public campaign financing for Mayoral, Commissioner and Auditor candidates. Vote YES
Click here to download the full guide. You'll find information on all the measures and can read EMO's reasoning on each.
Allegations of sexual impropriety have been made against influential mega-church pastor Eddie Long of Georgia. Long, a vocal opponent of gay rights, has been accused of using his position to groom young men for sexual relations. If true, Long is a hypocrite at best. Worse yet he would have betrayed God and his parishioners by using his position of power to take advantage of younger church members seeking spiritual care and mentorship.
We will have to wait for the legal process to move forward before learning more concerning the truth of this matter. In the legal sense, Bishop Long is innocent until proven guilty (or libel in this case). However, he should be removed from his pulpit until this matter is resolved. He says, however, that he'll be back in the pulpit next week. That would show the world that Bishop Long considers this church to be his domain and not God's.
Truth be told, I've never been a fan of Bishop Long's ministry and thought it was a crime that Coretta Scott King's memorial was held in his church (thankfully The Rev. Joseph Lowery was there to preach what I believe to have been a more authentic gospel message). Long preaches something termed the "prosperity gospel" - a belief that God will reward you with financial blessings if you follow Biblical teaching. Long, as it has been reported, preaches that Jesus was not poor (despite Biblical tradition and all historical evidence available concerning the time in which Jesus lived).
The prosperity gospel is all about how to acquire wealth and power. Left out is justice, kindness and humbleness- the heart of the Christian faith.
As I have said before: Christianity shouldn't be viewed as part of a get rich quick scheme and any serious reader of Scripture will tell you that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament condemn those who seek wealth over devotion to God and God's commitment to justice for the "least of these." Prosperity theology is simply the antithesis of the Christian faith.
If Bishop Long is found to be guilty it won't come as a surprise. He has always appeared to value wealth and power over the teachings of Jesus. People like that are prone to the exploitation of the young and powerless.
"This video celebrates the members, past and present, of the UCC. The song was written and performed by Lost and Found (http://www.speedwood.com/) and the pictures are a mixture of historical images and photos of Eden Theological Seminary students and professors, UCC ministers, members and friends...."
"Our political leaders’ calculated neglect of the poor while courting the votes of the comfortable offends the creator of the universe." - The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
The National Council of Churches in Christ USA is calling on churches across the United States to join the fight to end poverty in America:
This October 2010, the NCC is leading a mobilization against poverty with the Fighting Poverty with Faith coalition.
The goal of the Poverty Initiative is to empower and mobilize the faith community to lend its powerful moral and public voice to the ongoing and urgent debate around poverty.
Churches have been powerful voices for generations on a range of defining social justice issues, most importantly the need to address poverty. Central to any Christian message is the call to care for the "least of these"--to love and care for our neighbors. With more people both in the United States and globally living on the economic margins, people of faith are drawing more deeply upon that rich tradition of social justice engagement to speak out on the need to address the range of poverty issues, and create community practices and national policies that lift people from a life of poverty.
Visit http://www.nccendpoverty.org/ to learn more.
"The NCC's 36 member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation."
Related Post: Poverty Must Be An Election Issue
The Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, was razed by arsonists hours after President Obama's election as the nation's first black president. Two defendants have pleaded guilty to arson in federal court and are awaiting sentencing. A third defendant will be tried this fall. They admitted harboring hatred for blacks and Hispanics and said they set fire to the church to denounce Obama's election. Christian and Jewish volunteers from as far away as California helped rebuild the facility. Commenting on the volunteers, Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., leader of the predominantly black Macedonia church, said a small miracle was born from the ashes (RNS).
Click here to visit the church's website.
Nancy Haught has the story in The Oregonian:
In August, Jennifer Sleeman, 81, urged Catholic women to boycott this Sunday's Mass in protest of their treatment by the church. Half a world a way, a handful of Portland women responded.
"We had been talking amongst ourselves about how to be a woman and be a Catholic, dealing with that angst," says Sarah Granger, 34, who is active in St. Andrew Parish in Northeast Portland. "Her call struck a chord with us. We needed to do something, to say, 'We've had enough.'" But she and other women from St. Andrew's envisioned a "prayerful, positive public witness," not a protest or a boycott.
Sleeman -- who is from Ireland and the mother of a monk -- said at the time that her call was inspired by a Vatican statement in July that seemed to equate the ordination of women with pedophilia. "One Spirit -- One Call"will unfold at 9:30 a.m. Sunday in the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland. The 90-minute program calls for prayers, a gospel reflection, and a litany of women saints. Organizers say they hope participants will attend Mass on Saturday night or stay downtown for a special noon Mass at the Downtown Chapel.
"This is not a boycott of the Eucharist," Granger says. "It's an opportunity for women to tell their stories, for our voices to be heard."
Organizers wrote to the archbishop of Portland, the Most Rev. John G. Vlazny, and told him of their plans. He says he is resigned that "One Spirit -- One Call" would go on.
"I'm not happy about it," he says. "Whenever people are disturbed, it's a good idea to get together and pray. But my job is one that tries to promote the unity of the church, to encourage the church in our evangelization."
The Congregationalists (what became the United Church of Christ) ordained the first woman - Antoinette Brown - to ministry since New Testament times in 1853. But even in the progressive UCC we have often been slow to recognize God's call for women to be preachers and teachers of the Gospel.
My prayers this weekend will be with these Roman Catholic women as they further seek to proclaim God's extravagant welcome to all and with all those in the Roman Catholic Church during a time of discord and change.
You might have heard that a group of conservation clergy are holding what they bill as "Freedom Sunday" this week. They'll be using their worship services to endorse political candidates. That's against the law as all non-profit organizations are barred from partisan political activity. Hopefully, the churches that participate will lose their tax exempt status.
The Interfaith Alliance is asking clergy to take a pledge to "uphold certain standards" this election season:
To educate members of our congregation about how our faith relates to issues of the day. To refrain from endorsing any candidate, either explicitly or implicitly, in or on behalf of our house of worship. To prevent partisan speech from candidates or their surrogates, as well as the distribution of partisan materials, in our house of worship. To resist using or soliciting the resources of our house of worship for the exclusive benefit of any candidate or party. To respect candidates whose religious beliefs are different from my own, and stand against the use of religion to divide our communities. To encourage members of our congregation to take an active role in civic life, including casting informed votes.
I've signed the pledged. As a clergy member, I never talk partisan politics from the pulpit or in church settings. As an individual, I do participate in the political process (including making endorsements) but never in the name of the church.
In "The Politics of Jesus" - a sermon that I delivered in 2007 - I offered my own understanding of how the church and politics should intersect. The podcast and text are available below:
As The Oregonian notes, the city of Portland is about to bestow their annual "Spirit of Portland Awards." Two of my favorite people in the world - Loyd Hubbard and the late F. Gene Ediger - are past recipients. These awards are given out to people and organizations that work to promote to common good of our community. I'm always impressed with the accomplishments of those who receive the award. Portland is a great city and we should stop and recognize those that make it even better. Click here for a full list of the 2010 Spirit of Portland Award winners.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations today and what he said prompted many delegates from across the world to walk out. CNN reports:
Incendiary statements from Ahmadinejad are nothing new for the assembled delegates. But tension grew as he recounted various conspiracy theories about the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., driving multiple representatives from the hall.
"Some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack," Ahmadinejad told the assembly. He followed with the claim that the attacks were aimed at reversing "the declining American economy and its scripts on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people, as well as most nations and politicians around the world, agree with this view."
After that statement, delegates rose and exited the hall. Representatives from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Belgium, Uruguay and Spain walked out while Ahmadinejad discussed claims that the U.S. was involved in the attacks or allowed them to happen as an excuse to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ahmadinejad is a dangerous and brutal leader. He kills his own people and calls for Israel to the wiped off the face of the earth. Iran, which has a long history of aggressive behavior and human rights violations, would be a threat to the world if their aspirations to develop nuclear weapons succeeded. The United Nations and the United States must do all in our power to support moderate and progressive elements within Iran that oppose Ahmadinejad.
World religious leaders can play a constructive role as well by establishing dialog with the many religious leaders within Iran that seek peace over conflict.
All the people of the world should applaud those delegates who today walked out of Ahmadinejad speech.
I hate to lose at anything but it wasn't hard to get over being crushed in the primary election last May for Multnomah County Commissioner. That's because voters advanced two outstanding individuals to compete in a run-off this November. Multnomah County residents are fortunate to have a choice between good progressive candidates who care about the future of our neighborhoods, schools and county-run programs.
Ms. Smith and I don't agree on every issue. We disagree, for example, on the impact the Columbia River Crossing will have. But I've never voted based on single issues. What I want in elected officials are smart people who think critically. Ms. Smith is that kind of leader. In her campaign she has shown an ability to bridge divides and build coalitions. She doesn't close the door on those she disagrees with. Instead, she invites people in and seeks common ground. We share the same basic values.
As Senator Wyden's long-time liaison to Multnomah County, she knows the issues, people, businesses and neighborhoods. She cares deeply about the people of Multnomah County and how our local government functions. Based on her experience, shared accomplishments and proven dedication to the community in which she raised her son, I will cast my ballot for Loretta Smith.
As the White House noted today, the passage of the historic health care reform bill was six months ago today. Parts of the plan are already being implemented and today the new Patient's Bill of Rights went into affect:
The Patient’s Bill of Rights:
- Bans discrimination against kids with pre-existing conditions.
- Allows young adults to remain on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday.
- Prohibits insurance companies from cutting off your coverage when you’re sick if you made a mistake on your application.
- Prohibits insurance companies from putting a lifetime limit on the amount of coverage you may receive, and restricts the use of annual limits until they are banned completely in 2014.
- And if you join a new plan:
- You have the right to choose your own doctor in your insurer network.
- Your insurer is banned from charging more for emergency services obtained outside of their network.
- You will be guaranteed the right to appeal insurance company decisions to an independent third party.
- You will receive recommended preventive care with no out-of-pocket cost. Services like mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, pre-natal and new baby care will be covered, and insurance companies will be prohibited from charging deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance.
This is good news for the American people. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid should be applauded for their leadership on this critically important moral issue. Learn more about how health care reform works at www.WhiteHouse.gov/HealthReform.
"This morning the Oregon Department of Education announced that during the last school year (2009-2010) that state public schools served over 19,000 children experiencing homelessness. Those numbers represent a 5.5% increase over the previous year and a 134% increase over the last seven years. That over 19,000 children were homeless in Oregon last year - and we know there were many more who did not enroll in school - shows that our state faces both an economic and a moral crisis.
So I ask: as the 2010 election campaign rages where are the politicians and how will they address growing poverty and homelessness, particularly the needs of homeless students? Where are their plans to substantially reduce poverty in Oregon? As usual, I hear little to nothing from the candidates of either major political party as this moral crisis continues to grow like an Oregon forest fire. How many more of our kids will be forced into poverty and homelessness before the politicians take notice and the public demands economic programs that lift people out of poverty? No one should be forced to live a third world life in a first world country."
For more information visit my post on Blue Oregon:
‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan,
and the widow of justice.’
All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
- Deuteronomy 24:19 (NRSV)
The GOP killed off the Dream Act today with the threat of a filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Resurrection of the legislation is uncertain.
It is a defeat for justice and a sign of things to come.
The Dream Act is supported by the National Council of Churches and Church World Service (CWS) - along with evangelical Christians and many people from other faith backgrounds. CWS explains the act this way:
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act) would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before age 16 and who have been in the U.S. for at least five years to earn legal status if they pass background checks, attend college, or serve in the military for at least two years.
Church World Service says its support for The DREAM Act is consistent with the agency’s 64-year-old commitment to providing disaster assistance, social and economic development, and protection for displaced persons domestically and worldwide.
“These are young people who have grown up in our communities and mastered English. They include honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists, and aspiring teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs,” said Erol Kekic, Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program Director. “They dream of contributing to the future of the United States. In many cases they don’t even remember their parents’ home country and consider the United States their home.
“Through no fault of their own, they face unique barriers to higher education and employment,” he said. “Denying them opportunities will only stifle their potential to benefit the U.S. economy by pursuing higher education and serving the United States.”
And what would be the impact if the Dream Act failed to pass Congress, as happened today:
Kekic says if Congress fails to act this year on at least The DREAM Act, “Another entire class of outstanding, law-abiding high school students will graduate without being able to plan for the future. Some will be removed from their homes to countries they barely know.
“This tragedy will cause the United States to lose a vital asset: an educated generation of promising immigrant students who have demonstrated a commitment to hard work and a strong desire to contribute to the United States. Their future is dependent on a pathway to lawful permanent residence and eventual citizenship,” he said. “We must consider and prioritize the future of this nation, the future of those who can be among tomorrow’s leaders, by enacting The DREAM Act.”
Today's failure to pass the Dream Act puts the United States on the wrong side of justice. Those who failed to end the threat of a filibuster may have made partisan political points but they hurt children and that will forever be part of their legacy - and ours.
This is not the Beloved Community that The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. dreamed of or the community God calls us to be.
U.S. Senator John McCain's promised filibuster of legislation that would have ended discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military will forever stain McCain's legacy. Along with men like Strom Thurmond, he will be remembered for using his seat of power to discriminate against a minority of his fellow Americans. And like Thurmond, McCain will forever be remembered as a hypocrite. We learned after Thurmond's death that while he had been fighting civil rights for African-Americans he had fathered a daughter with an African-American woman. We know as well that on September 11, 2001 a San Francisco resident, Mark Bingham, helped overpower the hijackers aboard flight United Flight 93. Bingham was a gay man who defended his country. "I may very well owe my life to Mark," said McCain in the aftermath of 9/11. It was believed the terrorists hoped to crash their plane into the U.S. Capitol, where McCain was at work, or perhaps the White House. Bingham, a rugby player and business man, helped to overpower the terrorists. The plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania and countless lives, including perhaps McCain's, were saved. Bingham once again showed Americans that sexual orientation shouldn't be used as factor on which to discrimination against people. A gay man helped save McCain's life on 9/11 and today McCain told all gay and lesbian Americans that their lives and contributions are not as valid as the sacrifices made by straight Americans. McCain's actions today were the worst kind of political hypocrisy. McCain not only dishonored Bingham's memory but dishonored all those who are gay and lesbian and who serve in our military.
Today is International Day of Prayer for Peace. "The World Council of Churches-sponsored International Day of Prayer for Peace takes place on the same day as the UN International Day of Peace," notes http://www.oikoumene.org/.
This prayer for peace was written by members of the World Council of Churches for use today. I have adapted the language just slightly to make it more inclusive:
Our Lord and God Almighty,
we praise you,
for you created us all and made us
into many different tribes and nations,
that we may befriend one another
and that we may not despise each other.
Open our hearts, we pray,
so that we may respond to the needs
of all our brothers and sisters.
Oh Lord Jesus, bless all our lands
with more lasting peace and fraternal understanding.
Above all, heavenly Creator,
touch the hearts of our political leaders
and all those in power.
We pray that they may exercise power gently,
that they may humbly seek a disinterested dialogue
that will bring about understanding,
leading us all to a place where all nations and all people
live together in peace and harmony.
Where there is bitterness teach us forgiveness and reconciliation,
replace hatred with love and indifference with care.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Please use this prayer and share it with others today.
Action Alert from the Human Rights Campaign:
The Senate is scheduled to vote in a matter of days on whether to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" – but anti-equality senators led by John McCain have threatened to filibuster the bill; we'll need every single vote to win.
Years of political groundwork are on the line here, and there's no guarantee this will be a victory.
We need your help to show that a majority of Americans want this discriminatory law repealed – once and for all. Every senator needs to know this is important, whether they're already on our side or not.
We have a chance to make history. Please, send your message today.
Here is the letter I faxed Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Oregon's two U.S. Senators:
September 20, 2010
The Honorable Ron Wyden
The Honorable Jeff Merkley
Dear Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley:
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I'm writing to urge you to support the Lieberman/Levin language repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the National Defense Authorization Act. Please oppose any amendments to strike or weaken this language and any procedural maneuvers, like a filibuster, to block the NDAA.
You'll hear voices claiming that a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is immoral. Some will even claim their Christian faith compels them to support further discrimination against gays and lesbians. I believe that good people can disagree over difficult issues. Nonetheless, the United Church of Christ has sought since 1985 "to address the needs and advocate the concerns of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in our church and in society by actively encouraging church instrumentalities and secular governmental bodies to adopt and implement policies of non-discrimination."
The United Church of Christ is not alone. Many Christian denominations - along with other faith traditions- have spoken out in support of full equality for gays and lesbians in American society. " We know, with Paul, that as Christians, we are many members, but are one body in Christ—members of one another, and that we all have different gifts. With Jesus, we affirm that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, that we are called to act as agents of reconciliation and wholeness within the world and within the church itself, " the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has declared.
Sadly, there were many religious voices in America that openly opposed the integration of the races in public life - including the integration of the military. That same way of thinking - seeing people as "other" and not deserving of the full rights that should be afforded all Americans - is at work today in many of the voices supporting discrimination against gays and lesbians not only in the military but also in other areas of our civil society. Please repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. A vote to end discrimination is a vote in favor of a more moral America.
The Rev. Chuck Currie
P.O. Box 18023
Portland, Oregon 97218
 Resolution: Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming [Adopted by the Fifteenth General Synod, United Church of Christ, Ames, Iowa, June 28-July 2, 1985. Vote: 98% Majority]
This morning I had the good opportunity to join All People's United Church of Christ: A Central Oregon Church House for worship. Today congregations across the country participated in Jubilee Sunday and we did the same in Redmond this morning. What is the Jubilee movement?
In the Jubilee Year as quoted in Leviticus, those enslaved because of debts are freed, lands lost because of debt are returned, and community torn by inequality is restored.
Today international debt has become a new form of slavery. Debt slavery means poor people working harder and harder in a vain effort to keep up with the interest payments on debts owed to rich countries including the US and international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The Jubilee USA Network brings together people to turn this reality around by active solidarity with partners worldwide, targeted and timely advocacy strategies and educational outreach. Please join us in working for Jubilee justice.
During worship this morning we prayed for those third world countries being crushed by dept and reflected together on Amos 8:4-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, & Luke 16:1-13 and what it means to forgive debt - both in economic and personal terms.
Click here to learn more.
All People's United Church of Christ: A Central Oregon Church House is a small progressive faith community that meets in Redmond, Oregon. It is the definition of "church house" and there is something very special about that. Being there I was remind of the early church movement when people gathered in homes to share the Gospel message. To learn more about All People's call (541) 388-2230.
The drive there and back was over six hours but I was rewarded with spectacular views driving through Mt. Hood National Forest and witnessed some amazing cloud formations (the bad side of which were the southern-style torrential downpours that brought traffic to a crawl on the way home....worth it all though for the incredible beauty). This photo of Mt. Hood was the only time today the top of the mountain was visible to me. The clouds broke only for a few seconds and fortunately there was a turn-off where I was able to snap a photo on my iPhone.
Steve Duin suggested recently in The Oregonian that Wade Nkrumah had been naive to believe when he took the job as Mayor Sam Adams' communications director that the politician would be honest in his dealings with the press. It wasn't naiveté. It was idealism. Nkrumah, a former reporter for The Oregonian, actually thought the person who held the position of mayor should be forthright and direct and that the mayor's communications director should do the same. But it turned out that Sam Adams didn't understand the definition of honesty and when Nkrumah learned he was being asked to repeat the mayor's lies he resigned only to have the mayor tell the press Nkrumah couldn't handle the stress. Nkrumah sued the city and now that suit has been dismissed (The Oregonian reports an appeal may follow). I for one would like to have more people in politics - not less - who believe that honesty should be a foundational characteristic for political leaders and their staff members. As I've said before, I'm proud to have Wade Nkrumah as a friend.
This election season will produce starkly different proposals for fixing the economic problems faced by our nation. As the National Women's Law Center notes, GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who hopes to become the majority leader after the November elections, has offered up a budget proposal that would further rip at the fabric of the common good in America:
(Washington, D.C.) The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) today released an analysis of the tax bill introduced September 13, 2010 by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which shows that the bill would leave many lower-income women and their families out of his proposed tax cuts. McConnell’s bill extends all of the Bush-era tax cuts, including provisions that benefit only the highest-income taxpayers, and permanently reduces the estate tax for the heirs of multimillionaires. However, unlike President Obama’s plan, McConnell’s bill does not extend recent improvements in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that expire at the end of this year.
“The McConnell plan is insulting to women,” said Nancy Duff Campbell, NWLC Co-President. “Over thirty percent of single moms struggling to support their families will get absolutely nothing, while millionaires will get average tax breaks of over $100,000 next year.”
In 2009, Congress approved improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to reward work and strengthen families. Like the Bush-era tax cuts, these tax changes will expire at the end of 2010 unless Congress acts to extend them.
The improvement to the Child Tax Credit allows more of a family’s income to be counted toward the credit. Without it, the first $12,850 of family earnings would not count toward the credit in 2011. For a single mom with two children, working full-time at the minimum wage for $14,450, McConnell’s exclusion of the Child Tax Credit improvement would means a loss of nearly $1,500 from this credit. For a single mom with slightly lower earnings of $12,500, McConnell’s bill would mean she gets nothing from this credit.
The improvements to the EITC in 2009 increased the EITC for families with three or more children by up to $629 per year and reduced the marriage penalty this credit can otherwise impose when two low-earning parents marry.
An analysis [http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/mcconnelltaxplananalysis.pdf] by NWLC calculated what the impact of the McConnell bill would be on low- and moderate-income families, especially those headed by single mothers:
- 12.9 million taxpayers would lose nearly $8.4 billion from the Child Tax Credit, and 98 percent of this loss would be to families with low to moderate incomes (in the lowest two-fifths of the income distribution).
- 11.7 million taxpayers would lose nearly $3.2 billion from the EITC, and 91 percent of this loss would be to families with low to moderate incomes (in the lowest two-fifths of the income distribution).
- Over 30 percent of single mothers would get nothing.
- NWLC also calculated the specific impact for many states, available at [http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/mcconnellimpactstatechart.pdf].
“Women are struggling to support their families in these tough times, and it’s shocking that some in Congress would make their lives even harder,” Campbell said. “One-third of working mothers are the sole wage-earners in the family because their spouse isn’t working or because they are heads of households. Women still earn less than men. And yet this tax plan would take money away from hard-working parents and give over $1 trillion in more tax breaks to millionaires.”
Under the McConnell bill, households with incomes above $1 million would get average tax cuts of nearly $104,000 next year, not including the added benefits they would receive from his permanent reductions in the estate tax.
Click here to learn more about issues facing women today.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, issued the following statement in reaction to the Census Bureau release of new figures that show poverty growing in the United States:
Despite two years of historic measures to rescue the U.S. economy from the Great Recession, government figures released today show that millions of adults and children still live in poverty. Thousands of verses in the scriptures of many faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam, express God’s concern for the poor and God’s wrath at the injustices that cause poverty to exist. When Jesus was asked for God’s greatest commandment, he said, Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Even before the economic collapse of 2008, too many lived in poverty. Direct measures need to be taken to ensure that even after economic prosperity is restored that vulnerable populations aren’t left behind in the recovery.
There is little indication that our political leaders—regardless of political party--are taking the need to address poverty with fervor. Most recently, the campaign rhetoric between Republicans and Democrats has focused on tax cuts for the Middle Class and not on helping lift those in poverty out of their plight. Our political leaders’ calculated neglect of the poor while courting the votes of the comfortable offends the creator of the universe. Any measures taken should not only stimulate the economy but benefit everyone, especially those living on the economic margins.
Speaking on behalf of the 36 member communions of the National Council of Churches, who join together in a shared concern for our brothers and sisters in poverty, our hope is that leaders of both parties will recognize that their greatest responsibility is to uphold those who do not have the means or power to support themselves. Let the debate of this campaign season push aside partisan politics and instead identify initiatives for doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with the God who loves the poor.
The Third Annual Auction benefiting Portland Homeless Family Solutions - which operates the Goose Hollow Family Shelter and the Thirteen Salmon Family Center - is being held on Sunday, October 3rd from 5-8pm. They promise "great food & dessert, wines, and entertainment." This event has been very successful over the last few years in raising private donations to support two critically important faith-based programs in Portland. As poverty increases, so do the number of people experiencing homelessness. That was the topic of a press conference that was held today at Thirteen Salmon Family Center. Speakers - myself included - called on the federal government to adopt the goals put forth by the Half In Ten Campaign, a national effort endorsed by the Justice & Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Center for American Progress, among others - to cut the federal poverty level in half over the next ten years. I'm excited to be the featured speaker for the October 3rd auction. As the director of community outreach at Portland's First United Methodist Church, I served as the executive director of the Goose Hollow Family Shelter from 1997-2002. Both the Goose Hollow Family Shelter and the Thirteen Salmon Family Center rely on volunteers and donations.
If you are interested in attending the auction, please send the names and addresses of everyone attending and a check for $35 per person to PHFS, 1838 SW Jefferson, Portland, OR 97201. Or call 503-915-8306 for more information.
You can contact Portland Homeless Family Solutions today via the web through this link. They'll send you all the information on this event being held at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Can't be there? You can still donate or volunteer.
Increase In Poverty Impacts Children, Families
The U.S. Census Bureau, as expected, announced today that poverty levels had grown to their highest level since 1994. "There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase," said the Bureau. These numbers reflect the first year of the Obama presidency and the height of the Great Recession. The presidency of George W. Bush, whose economic policies were in full effect when President Obama took office, saw increases in the poverty rate during each year of his tenure in office after declines during the Clinton-Gore administration.
These numbers reflect real human suffering and a moral crisis faced by our nation. Economic policies that have benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and those living in poverty have pushed our nation to the brink of economic collapse. Only President Obama's stimulus plan kept America from falling off the cliff.
Obviously, more needs to be done. President Obama ran on a pledge to cut poverty in half in ten years. The Half in Ten Campaign - endorsed by the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Center for American Progress, among others - offers a road map on how to achieve that goal. We need the President's forceful advocacy to help dramatically reduce poverty in America. Sadly, the minority party in Congress has worked to advance the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration and have promised to extend those policies if given the opportunity.
Thursday morning the federal government is expected to announce the biggest increase in poverty levels since 1959. Oregonians are feeling the pinch. "Due to extraordinary community need, we opened up our family shelter earlier than expected this week. We were full within the first 3 hours. By the end of the day there were already 6 families on the waiting list," said The Rev. Kate Lore, Minister for Social Justice at First Unitarian Church. "This has never happened before--not even close." First Unitarian Church hosts the Thirteen Street Family Center, a program of Portland Homeless Families Solution.
Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury noted the increase in poverty levels and called on members of Oregon's Congressional delegation to push for additional federal assistance. "Without President Obama's stimulus plan we'd be in worse shape but we need Congress to act quickly to get additional funding for programs that help lift people out of poverty," said Kafoury. "To begin with, I call on members of our House and Senate delegations to endorse the Half in Ten Campaign (http://halfinten.org/) - the ambitious national effort to cut poverty in half in ten years. We've been cutting programs at the county level for ten years. Without federal help more families will become homeless."The Half and Ten Campaign Offers four principles for reducing poverty:
Promote Decent Work. People should work and work should pay enough to ensure that workers and their families can avoid poverty, meet basic needs, and save for the future.
Provide Opportunity for All. Children should grow up in conditions that maximize their opportunities for success; adults should have opportunities throughout their lives to connect to work, get more education, live in a good neighborhood, and move up in the workforce.
Ensure Economic Security. Americans should not fall into poverty when they cannot work or work is unavailable, unstable, or pays so little that they cannot make ends meet.
Help People Build Wealth. All Americans should have the opportunity to build assets that allow them to weather periods of flux and volatility, and to have the resources that may be essential to advancement and upward mobility.
Click here for additional information.
People of faith in the United States must hold the president and Congress accountable for addressing this growing crisis. No one should be forced to live a third world life in a first world country.
News from the Religious Institute:
WESTPORT, CT, September 15, 2010 – The Religious Institute today issued a call to the nation’s religious leaders to raise a prophetic voice about maternal mortality worldwide and promote universal access to reproductive health services.
The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Justice, developed by a group of clergy, theologians and ethicists recognizes that “access to sexual and reproductive health services is a matter of life and death.” Every ninety seconds, somewhere in the world a woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The Open Letter declares, “No woman should lose her life to create a new one.” All women and men must have access to a full range of reproductive health services, including contraception, prenatal care, and safe abortion and post-abortion care.
The Open Letter calls on religious leaders to:
- Educate themselves and their faith communities about the crisis of maternal mortality.
- Publicly advocate for increased support for maternal health and reproductive health services, domestically and globally.
- Work within their traditions to make the reduction of preventable maternal mortality a social justice issue.
“As the United Nations General Assembly gathers in New York on September 20-22nd to discuss the status of the Millennium Development Goals, it is essential to recognize that people of all faiths support that the sacredness of life is best upheld when women and men create life intentionally and women are able to have healthy pregnancies and childbirths,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director of the Religious Institute. “Surely it is common ground for people of faith to work to create a world where no woman will die giving birth to the next generation.”
Click here to read the letter.
IFYC seeks to make interfaith cooperation a social norm and builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.Add your name to the petition and donate a dollar. In doing so you'll be standing up for the values of religious liberty and tolerance that make our nation great!
Tea Party Candidate With Racist Past GOP Choice For New York Governor
New York Republicans today voted in Carl P. Paladino as their nominee for governor. He defeated former U.S. Representative Rick Lazio.
I've already mentioned Paladino's campaign pledge to send welfare recipients to jail (voluntarily, of course) to take "personal hygiene lessons."
But to see how far off the deep end the GOP's candidate for governor is you need to read his racist e-mails. The New York Times reports:
ALBANY — Carl P. Paladino, a Republican candidate for governor from Buffalo, drew fire on Monday for racist and sexually explicit e-mail messages that a left-leaning Web site claimed he had sent to friends and business associates in recent years.The messages, which were published on WNYMedia.net, a Web site devoted to politics in western New York, included pornographic images and what appeared to be a video of Africans dancing in traditional dress that was titled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal.”
Another, a picture of a cargo plane crashing into the ground behind a group of black people, was prominently captioned with a common racial epithet for African-Americans.
The messages all appeared to have been sent from Mr. Paladino’s account at Ellicott Development, the Buffalo real estate company that has helped make him a multimillionaire.Paladino has since admitted he sent the e-mails saying he simply thought they were humorous. No surprise that Paladino was the Tea Party favorite in this race. The Tea Party movement has become well known for the racism in their ranks.
The Republican state party that has given us great Americans like Nelson Rockefeller has now become the party of Carl P. Paladino. Rockefeller, who served as New York Governor and later as vice-president of the United States, was a supporter of civil rights and racial reconciliation.
This kind of extremism coming from the GOP isn't good for New York or the United States.
Thankfully, New York State has a good and decent person to vote for this November: Andrew Cuomo, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration.
More Racist Rhetoric From GOP
Newt Gingrich, 2012 presidential aspirant, thinks President Obama isn't just wrong on public policy matters. Nope, the president of the United States is a black African who "played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president."
Sam Stein has the story:
Fueling the myth mongering that Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in a recent interview that the president may follow a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview.
Speaking to the National Review, Gingrich pointed to a recent Forbes article by conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza which attempted to trace the origins of Obama's personal and political philosophies.
"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" Gingrich asked. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."
"This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president," Gingrich added.
"I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating -- none of which was true," Gingrich continues. "In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve. ... He was authentically dishonest."
The Tea Party crowd loves Newt Gingrich and there are clear reasons why.
NPR's offering a free listen to the new album "Wake Up!" with John Legend and The Roots. From their website:
How many would have put money on a resurgence of "socially conscious" pop after Barack Obama's election less than two years ago? Swept up in optimism following the election of a black commander-in-chief, many musicians reacted the same way Obama's 13 million email recipients did: They returned to normalcy and checked out of politics. The Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am, who motivated so many young people with his remix of Obama's signature phrase, went from "Yes We Can" to "Boom Boom Pow."Getting excited about a new album, well, that doesn't happen often with me but I've become a big John Legend fan (I even wrote a sermon that was inspired in part by one of his songs) and I'm so totally bummed that I won't be seeing his concert in Oregon. At least I get this early listen to album. Wake up brothers and sisters!
John Legend performed "Yes We Can" with will.i.am at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, but unlike his friend and frequent producer, he didn't stop once the ballots were counted. During the past 18 months, Legend spent his spare time collaborating with ?uestlove and The Roots on covers of politically motivated soul music from the 1960s and '70s. What started as a potential single turned into Wake Up!, 11 vintage songs which are at turns optimistic and frustrated about the times that birthed them.
Younger fans of Legend's bedroom shtick are about to get a serious history lesson. (Roots fans, not so much.) Most of these songs didn't become timeless hits that slid easily into contemporary playlists, the lone exception being Eugene McDaniel's protest song "Compared to What," recorded in 1969 by Roberta Flack and appropriated in 2003 by Coca-Cola for a commercial starring Common (who, ironically, appears on Wake Up!'s title track).
I'll be the guest preacher this Sunday - September 19th - at All People's United Church of Christ (A Central Oregon Church House) in Redmond. The service will be held at Summer Creek (senior housing complex) in the clubhouse at 10 am.
Finding Summer Creek Clubhouse:
People for the American Way sends out this note today:
The Religious Right's annual 'Values Voter Summit' is set to take place this weekend in Washington, DC, where it will be the usual suspects from groups like Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA), and some Republican politicians eager to maintain strong ties with the party's ideological base. But even among the Christian Reconstructionists, the anti-choice zealots and the anti-gay extremists, one figure stands out: the AFA's Bryan Fischer.
Bryan Fischer has seemingly been trying to set some sort of record when it comes to fomenting anti-Muslim and anti-gay hysteria. In just the last several months he has demanded that no new mosques be built anywhere in America, argued that inbreeding has caused Muslims to be unintelligent and violent, stated that Muslims should be banned from U.S. military service and called for the deportation of all Muslims from the U.S. He also claimed last month that American soldiers who died in Iraq died in vain because the U.S. failed to convert Iraq to a Christian nation.
Fischer said that "homosexuals should be disqualified from public office," and insisted that gays should be banned from serving on the Supreme Court because they are "biased, sexual deviant felons" and "pedophiles." He called gay adoption an "inexcusable, inhumane thing to do to children," said gay sex was a form of domestic terrorism and even made the absurd claim that virtually all Nazi Stormtroopers and Brownshirts were homosexuals because Hitler could not get straight soldiers to muster the savageness and brutality it took to carry out his orders.
The Republican leaders participating in this weekend's event -- which is cosponsored by AFA -- include Rep. Michele Bachmann, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rep. Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich. These are people who are national leaders in one of the country's two major parties... many of whom aspire to lead this nation as president!
Action Alert from United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
At the end of this new school year, approximately 2.8 million students will graduate from high schools in the U.S. But approximately 65,000of these graduates will neither attend college, enlist in the armed forces, get a decent job, nor otherwise live a full life. Their restricted future is not due to their lack of motivation, but stems from the immigration status passed on to them by their parents. These young men and women grew up on American soil and respect the laws of this country, yet they bear the inherited title of “illegal immigrant.” It is not only socially irresponsible but also morally unacceptable to cut off young people from opportunities and the bright future that could be theirs, and to leave them no recourse and without hope. Further, the United States has already made a substantial investment in these youths. It is not good for communities or wise fiscally to throw it all away. The Dream Act will grant these youths the opportunities they now lack: the chance to study, to work, to serve in the Armed Forces, to be a part of the American Dream. We have a short window of opportunity to get this passed. Urgent action is needed!
At the end of this new school year, approximately 2.8 million students will graduate from high schools in the U.S. But approximately 65,000of these graduates will neither attend college, enlist in the armed forces, get a decent job, nor otherwise live a full life. Their restricted future is not due to their lack of motivation, but stems from the immigration status passed on to them by their parents. These young men and women grew up on American soil and respect the laws of this country, yet they bear the inherited title of “illegal immigrant.”
It is not only socially irresponsible but also morally unacceptable to cut off young people from opportunities and the bright future that could be theirs, and to leave them no recourse and without hope. Further, the United States has already made a substantial investment in these youths. It is not good for communities or wise fiscally to throw it all away.
The Dream Act will grant these youths the opportunities they now lack: the chance to study, to work, to serve in the Armed Forces, to be a part of the American Dream. We have a short window of opportunity to get this passed. Urgent action is needed!
Politico: First ladies praise heroic passengers
“It was remarkable to have both first ladies here,” said Gordon Felt, who lost his older brother, Edward, in the Shanksville crash. “It was symbolic of the bipartisan support we received after the crash. It’s moving how they came together. It means so much to us.”
Photo Credit: First Lady Michelle Obama and Former First Lady Laura Bush listen to the national anthem at the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, September 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Today - September 11, 2010 - was the day a Florida pastor planned to burn the Qur'an. Now those plans seem cancelled. The world spoke out against his actions (including nearly 19,000 who joined the Facebook site People of Faith Against Burning the Qur'an).
That Florida pastor is saying he cancelled the event because his goal of exposing the "radical" nature of Islam has been accomplished. Sadly, what he truly exposed is that all religions, including Christianity, have their extremists. The world, however, stood up to that extremism. Muslims called for restraint and peace. Christians and Jews stood in solidarity with Muslims across the globe. In an ironic twist, the extremist pastor from Florida helped to bring people of faith together and perhaps defused some of the growing tensions between the American people.
Today, on this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I wrote in an op-ed for The Oregonian - in which I said, in part:
Thousands of religious leaders -- myself included -- released a statement in the days after 9/11 entitled: "Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious Response to Terrorism." It read, in part: "We face deep and profound questions of what this attack on America will do to us as a nation. The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world they would create, where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge -- even against the most innocent. Having taken thousands of our lives, attacked our national symbols, forced our political leaders to flee their chambers of governance, disrupted our work and families, and struck fear into the hearts of our children, the terrorists must feel victorious. But we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims. We must not allow this terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to be. We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions. America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us."
Our government didn't listen to that plea. It began an assault on Afghanistan that seemed more of an act of vengeance than a genuine effort to root out terrorists. Then we used the excuse of 9/11 to invade Iraq. Security experts have since warned that our actions have made the world less stable.
In scripture, Jesus says: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous."
We didn't listen to those words. We chose another path. Americans had just cause to go after those who conducted the terrorist attacks to prevent further violence. Yet our actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq violated the principles laid out by Thomas Aquinas and others in terms of what a "just war" should be. Our response was not proportional. It did not protect civilian lives. And in the case of Iraq, it was pre-emptive rather than in response to any attack on the United States. We never sought to build a genuine peace out of the ashes of war. Still we are not listening.
The recent opposition to plans for a Muslim community center and mosque near the site of ground zero in New York, and the threats from a Florida church to publicly burn the Quran illustrate that anger, fear and even religious bigotry are some of the lessons we've taken away from 9/11. A fever seems to have taken hold of part of our people. Blind hatred seems to have replaced the desire for reconciliation and peace.Perhaps the experience of the last week will bring us closer together and reinforce the positive role religion can play in the quest for peace.
I want to thank all those who became a fan of People of Faith Against the Burning of the Qur'an. Many of you sent respectful and heartfelt letters to the Florida church asking them to call off their plans. Others are attending events today to remember this 9/11.
Let us all join in prayer today for the victims of that terrible day when religious extremists sought to divide the world. Let us pray for peace, reconciliation and justice. Again, thank you for standing up and being a witness for God's unyielding love. Your actions have brought hope alive again.
There are some very angry and hateful people in this country:
The good news, from my perspective, is that people like this don't speak for the vast majority of Americans - conservative, moderate or progressive - who value the great diversity of our nation and the respect for religious pluralism that is a hallmark of our democracy.
Marc RappSeptember 10, 2010 at 3:03am
Subject: Koran Burning
I gotta tell you I just read your article in the Washington Post. It just figures that a putz like you can sit back in the pot smoking, homosexual loving part of the country and spew your own nonsense. Radical Islam could give two craps less about burning a book least of all their own play book. They are coming at us hot and heavy and it's because sit on your thumbs Christians like yourself wish to do nothing about the sin that has enveloped this country. You don't and won't speak out about anything controversial for fear of upsetting a particular group. Like I said before if we hand out any version of the bible in any of these Muslim countries rest assured you will be met with anger and hostility and possibly fear for your life. If you go onto any news outlet be it CNN or FOX or BBC you can find radical Muslims trying to force their beliefs on the people around them. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the same God that sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. He is also the same God that helped David defeat the Philistines and many other peoples that came against his people the Israelites the 12 tribes of Israel. Sorry Mr Passive Preacher
that loves to sit back and do nothing. Yeah that's you and your whole wishy washy congregation of nothingness. Go to church on Sunday, feed the homeless on Thanksgiving have a food drive and toy drive for Christmas and live happily ever after, in the butt hole of the US. Sound familiar? That's you and your congregation. Don't upset anyone, let's be politically correct and kiss everyone's butt. We wouldn't want my congregation and all their money to go away.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR ? GOOD OR EVIL? You would make a great chief of staff for President Obama. You are truly disgusting!
Call me if you have the moxy to debate someone in front of your congregation. (phone # redacted) Marc Rapp. email@example.com
One way I know this is from some of the very kind e-mails sent to me today by people who read my piece in The Washington Post and from the 16,000+ people who have joined the Facebook group People of Faith Against Burning the Qur'an.
Two nights ago - upset that the Dove World Outreach Center had a Facebook page with 9,000+ fans cheering on their plan to burn copies of the Qur'an - I stared another Facebook page: People Of Faith Opposed To The Burning of the Qur'an. In under 48 hours, over 6,000 people have joined. But should we be giving this small church so much attention?
The quick answer is yes. This is just the latest example in a rising sea of hostility and bigotry directed at Muslims (see Mosque, New York) in recent months. An emergency summit of American religious leaders representing many traditions - including Christians, Jews and Muslims - was held yesterday to speak out against this wave of hatred as we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
Just about everyone you can think of - from the Vatican to the World Council of Churches - has condemned Dove World Outreach Center's plans (though I've not yet heard far-right groups such as Focus on the Family weigh in...they're pretty busy bashing gays this week...something they share in common with Dove World Outreach Center).
In any event, most mainstream religious leaders - conservative, moderate and progressive - have spoken out against this small church.
Margret Mead once said: A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
The reverse can also be true. After all, it was a small group of Islamic extremists that attacked New York on 9/11 - killing people of all faiths, including Muslims. They changed the world.
What has made so many people speak up against the Dove World Outreach Center is the collective feeling across religious lines that burning a Holy book is wrong no matter what. The church's hateful teachings on Islam (rants really) are theological malpractice. The pastor and members of Dove World Outreach Center make us feel like we have to take a shower after we see them on television or on the internet because of the filth they spew.
Most people of faith - regardless of tradition - understand the Divine to be peaceful; concerned with justice and reconciliation (though we often disagree on exactly what that means). Our faith(s) compels us, regardless of differences, to stand united against hatred today the same way people of faith in America united against hate on September 11, 2001. We recognize evil when we see it.
In the end, the Dove World Outreach Center might be doing us a favor (ironically). They're forcing Americans to confront the reality of religious bigotry directed at Muslims. The result of their actions may be to bring people together. Perhaps God is working through them in ways we don't fully understand.
A new school year has begun.
We ask your blessings on all those who teach our children.
Give teachers the strength to face crowded classrooms and underfunded schools.
Help teachers to find patience and compassion as they offer important lessons.
Let teachers feel respected and loved.
A new school year has begun.
We ask your blessing on students everywhere.
Give students the strength to navigate the inherent awkwardness of childhood and adolescence.
Help students to grow into moral beings who respect differences and value diversity.
Let students feel respected and loved.
A new school year has begun.
We ask your blessing on parents everywhere.
Give parents the strength to know when to let go and when to hold tight.
Help parents to lift up their children so that all children know the importance of learning.
Let parents feel respected and loved.
God, you have created a people able to achieve great things.
A new school year is a time of hope and excitement.
Help us all to find ways of supporting our schools - they should be cathedrals, not shacks.
Open our hearts in ways that transform our spirits so that we truly value education.
Let us all be agents of your love for the children of this earth.
Written by the Rev. Chuck Currie
Congregations of various religions come together on anniversary of 9/11 to promote respect, solidarity and friendship among faiths
On the ninth anniversary of
September 11th, a Christian evangelical church in
Who: Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will welcome
speakers and members from the following organizations at this event:
▪ Interfaith Council of Greater Portland
▪ Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
▪ Archdiocese of Portland
▪ Institute for Christian-Muslim Understanding
▪ First United Methodist Church
▪ First Congregational United Church of Christ
▪ St. Luke Lutheran Church
▪ Dharma Rain Zen Center Buddhist Community
What: Interfaith event “Standing Together: A Vigil of Interfaith Friendship”
When: Saturday, September 11, 2010 @ 11:00am
About the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a dynamic, reformist and fast
growing international movement within Islam. Founded in 1889, the Community
spans over 190 countries with membership exceeding tens of millions. Ahmadiyya
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to believe that the long-awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian. Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad’s advent has brought about an unprecedented era of Islamic revival and moderation. He divested Islam of fanatical beliefs and practices by vigorously championing Islam’s true and essential teachings.
A recent article in The Oregonian concerning Beaverton, Oregon's planned celebration of Mexico's bicentennial - which has been attacked by Washington State resident Lars Larson - has produced some pretty heated comments (many in response to my Open Letter to Beaverton praising city officials). Comments like:
They're going to boycott Beaverton?
Actually, those were some of the more polite comments left on the paper's website but both of them reminded me of this photo from a Tea Party rally:
Ok, ok. That wasn't fair. Read a few posts on this blog and you'll see similar errors. But the irony of the mistake on this sign is just sweet.
In the end, Beaverton's celebration of Mexico's bicentennial (which has now been expanded to include other nations south of the border) will more likely than not be good for business. Celebrations bring people into the city and help local businesses.
What's really going on? Some people are clearly upset tax payer money is being spent on the celebration - and you can fairly debate that - but others are clearly being whipped up by racial animosity. Larson has helped to fan the flames of racism. That's the truth of the matter. Check out a few other comments left on The Oregonian's website:
I suspect Larson doesn't actually care about this issue. What he cares about are the mid-term elections and it is clear that he is happy to try and divide Americans along racial and cultural lines if he thinks it helps his partisan political agenda.
Show Beaverton some love and join their celebration on September 16th.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have offered a statement calling for a new social contract for workers:
This Labor Day we must seek to protect the life and dignity of each worker in a renewed and robust economy. Workers need to have a real voice and effective protections in economic life. The market, the state, and civil society, unions and employers all have roles to play and they must be exercised in creative and fruitful interrelationships. Private action and public policies that strengthen families and reduce poverty are needed. New jobs with just wages and benefits must be created so that all workers can express their dignity through the dignity of work and are able to fulfill God’s call to us all to be co-creators. A new social contract, which begins by honoring work and workers, must be forged that ultimately focuses on the common good of the entire human family.Their statement calls for stronger unions, policies that fight poverty, and efforts "to unleash the creative forces of men and women" in the private sector.
I won't say that I agree with all their statements / conclusions but their statement is thoughtful and offers many ideas that all people of faith should reflect on this Labor Day.
For additional information on faith and labor visit Interfaith Worker Justice.
As people of faith who respect and value the deep religious pluralism of the United States, we condemn in the strongest possible terms plans by a Florida church, the Dove World Outreach Center in the U.S.A., to hold what they are billing as ""Burn a Koran Day" on September 11th, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City.
We concur with the National Council of Churches USA which has stated:
"Misguided or confused about the love of neighbor by which Christ calls us to live, leaders and members of this church and others are engaged in harassment of Muslims, and in the planning of an "International Burn the Qur'an Day," to be held on September 11th. Such open acts of hatred are not a witness to Christian faith, but a grave trespass against the ninth commandment, a bearing of false witness against our neighbor. They contradict the ministry of Christ and the witness of the church in the world."We also support the statement issued by the Union for Reform Judaism :
We can scarcely find words to express our revulsion at the Dove World Outreach Center's "Burn a Koran Day," scheduled for September 11. Only those whose minds have been tainted by evil and acrimony would undertake to organize a sacrilegious event such as this and to do so in the name of God and religious piety.
We reject attempts at dividing our nation along religious lines, and, together with the overwhelming majority of America's religious leaders, commit ourselves to standing up to those who wish to ostracize and intimidate our Muslim neighbors. Our fight is not with America's Muslims, but with all those whose extremist views lead them to hateful and dangerous actions. We will not compromise our principles of tolerance and understanding, and we will not defer to those who preach hatred while cloaking themselves in religious garb.Finally, we applaud the call made by the The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) for people to distribute and read the Qur'an so that we might learn about one another and in doing so build up our national community.
The Dove World Outreach Center's planned action stands opposed to all we believe to be true about the Almighty. We pray that they will reconsider.
As peace talks resumed this week in the United States between Israel and the Palestinians violence once again took the lives of innocent civilians.
(Jerusalem) - Hamas should be held accountable for two new attacks against Israeli civilians in the West Bank, and those who ordered and participated in the attacks should be prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said today.The first attack, on August 31, 2010, killed four people and the second, on September 1, wounded two. Hamas's armed wing, Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility and called the attacks part of "a series of operations.""Hamas's deliberate attacks on civilians are egregious crimes," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Legitimate Palestinian grievances about illegal Israeli settlements do not justify the attacks. Attacking civilians is never justified. It should stop."
Read the full story from Human Rights Watch.There will never be peace without a safe and secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. Does either side actually want that or are they willing to live in perpetual war? Both have committed human rights violations.
We should keep the Israeli and Palestinian people in our prayers - along with President Obama and Secretary Clinton - as the parties once again try for peace.