Yesterday, The Forest Grove Leader / The Oregonian published my latest op-ed:
NRA supporters took to Twitter to support opposition to my argument. They disagreed with my basic point:
But they also dismissed my views for other reasons. For example, because I support marriage equality:
They engaged in Islamaphobia and questioned President Obama's Christian faith - strongly:
They have issues with basic civil rights and civil rights leaders:
And they don't like when clergy pray for civil rights...
And these are the folks who want to keep assault weapons on our streets. There is too much violence in our nation - too many of these mass shootings - and we can do something about that. Intertwined with the issue of how to prevent gun violence are issues of bigotry directed toward people of color, different faiths, and women (as some of the tweets I got about Secretary Clinton showed). This makes the work of faith communities even more important. Creating justice includes creating space for reconciliation. But for progress to be made we have to recognize how these issues are intertwined.
My latest oped in The Forest Grove Leader, a publication of The Oregonian:
My latest on The Huffington Post:
Most Americans want civility in our politics. Most. But not all. U.S. Rep. Randy Weber was busy being uncivil before the speech even began. I wanted to respond to this as a minister and American -- and did so.
Do Americans put more faith in guns than in God? It is idolatry to worship false idols but the NRA and their allies tell us to trust in weapons as the last refuge of safety. Scripture tells us to trust to God "though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult." (Psalm 46 NRSV)
Arm the teachers, cried the NRA after Sandy Hook. That will stop the massacres. Then came the shooting this year at the Navy Yard where 13 died. Even soldiers at a military compound are not safe from gun violence.
President Kennedy had the best security available of his time and still a gunman took him down and changed history. Later, President Ronald Reagan would be a victim of gun violence. Power and privilege cannot always protect.
The NRA, once a respected hunting organization, has become over years the last defense of terrorists, child killers, and political extremists. Their money and influence controls the debate over how to combat gun violence in America. They are powerful. Yet they wield their power not in defense of the most vulnerable but in support of the most violent. In the end, they have become the greatest obstacle of the Prince of Peace and the Prophets of God who called for weapons to be turned into plowshares.
President Kennedy once said: "Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future."
The NRA must shoulder some blame for the shooting at Sandy Hook that took so many children from us. That day so much hope and promise perished. Every day since gun violence has taken more Americans in senseless acts that could have been prevented if common sense gun control measured proposed by President Barack Obama had been enacted. Even a majority of NRA members supported President Obama's proposals. Tragically, the NRA's allies in Congress put their faith in guns instead of God. That is simply sin. So each day more children die.
Lord have mercy.
I've joined colleagues Sr. Simone Campbell, Jim Wallis and 60 other faith leaders from across the nation in telling Congress: "There is nothing 'pro-life' or Christian about taking food away from pregnant women and babies. It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference."
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"Tea Party Republicans, who so often argue that America is a Christian nation, have turned their back on the most basic of Christian values: concern for those in poverty, compassion, justice, and setting the captives free."Shutdown Turns Americans Into Captives In Need of Delivery
regarding the on-going crisis in Syria tonight. He spoke in deeply moral terms about the world’s responsibility to protect civilians from the use of chemical weapons and other WMD. Barack Obama is no George W. Bush.
The current president has argued that a military response is needed to deter Syria from further attacks against civilians using chemical weapons but at the same time we now know the president and Secretary of State John Kerry have been negotiating with the Russians on a proposal to place all of Syria’s WMD under international control so they can be destroyed – a long sought goal.
President Obama is seeking with intention to avoid military conflict as a first resort whereas President Bush used the pretext of 9/11 to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with those terrible terrorist attacks. At the same time, President Obama is honoring the democratic institutions of our nation by calling on Congress to debate the path forward in Syria. Balance is being restored between the three co-equal branches of government – balance under assault since the start of the imperial presidency.
The worldwide Christian community has been nearly unanimous in arguing against military action in Syria. There are many good arguments not to engage in this conflict but I believe very seriously that the world does have a responsibility protect those who cannot protect themselves. We ought to mean “Never Again” when we talk about holocaust or genocide or the use of WMD.
The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is right, however, when she notes that often such military interventions meant to protect civilians end up causing more harm.
Like other people of faith across the globe, I pray for a peaceful resolution that not only ends Syria of their chemical weapons but also ends the bloody civil war there that has cost over 100,000 lives. The diplomacy undertaken by the Obama Administration with Russia, soon to be debated as a resolution by the United Nations, is a much better option than more war.
As the Obama Administration considers how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, religious leaders are weighing in. Normally Dr. Susan Thistlewaite and I draw similar conclusions in policy debates but these two op-eds show a difference of opinion on means - though not goals or ideals. Former U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin and other military experts have told me that the arguments I've presented will not, as Dr. Thistlethwaite would also argue, achieve the aim I want of protecting civilians in this conflict. We do have a responsibility to protect, I and Dr. Thistlewaite and Rep. AuCoin, would all argue, but how and under what circumstances? Read and consider the theological and moral issues for yourself:
Lines Must Be Drawn In Syria
by Rev. Chuck Currie
Syria and the ‘moral obscenity’ of war
by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
What course would you advocate?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"As a minister, I want both reconciliation and justice. If you think there is no racism in this nation, you are willfully blind. If you believe there has been no progress towards racial justice, your eyes are not open. But we are still far from being the Beloved Community and the fact that a boy with iced tea and candy could die while doing nothing illegal, and his killer walk free, is evidence of that."
The Courts Failed Trayvon Martin: Can the Church Step Up?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
We've watched poverty grow ever since 2001. Without President Obama's effort that growth would even be more stark. But we need a plan to reduce poverty, not just slow the growth, and that is why the National Council of Churches and other people of faith, are supporting the Half in Ten Campaign. Now is your turn. Your member of Congress needs to hear that you want them to co-sponsor the Half in Ten Act of 2013.
Action Alert from the Half in Ten Campaign
On May 23, 2013, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the Half in Ten Act of 2013, calling for poverty reduction to be a national priority. This bill will help mobilize public and political will toward our shared goal of dramatically cutting poverty over the next decade and promoting shared economic growth that renews the American Dream.
By creating a Federal Interagency Working Group, a coordinated effort across federal departments and offices charged with developing within six months a national strategy to cut poverty in half in 10 years and eliminate child poverty and extreme poverty in our nation, the bill promotes accountability for progress by helping identify problems and successful initiatives and ensures that those with the greatest barriers to joining the middle class are included in efforts to create greater opportunity for all.
Importantly, the bill recognizes that cutting poverty in half in 10 years will require steps to create good, family-supporting jobs as well as to strengthen our network of work and income supports to provide greater economic security to millions of families.
We must build support for this critical legislation and for the policies that will enable us to reach the Half in Ten target. Poverty must be a national priority, and the Half in Ten Act of 2013 is the first step. But this will only happen if we tell our elected representatives to support the bill.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" does what Star Trek has always done best: holds up a mirror to the United States and asks, "Are we the moral people we want to be?"
Photo credit: http://www.startrekmovie.com
My latest on The Huffington Post:
"Judy Bright -- a certified nurse midwife, advanced nurse practitioner, public health administrator and my mother -- died before she could take advantage of Obamacare, but as an advocate for public health and someone with a pre-existing condition, she knew the difference it would make for millions of Americans."Why Judy Bright Supported Obamacare
News that the IRS targeted conservative organizations for special review as part of the non-profit certification process is deeply concerning. It reminds me of the Bush-era IRS investigation of the United Church of Christ. The Obama Administration needs to quickly fix the problem but much of this is the messy result of the Citizens United court decision and thus the fix will require an overhaul of corrupt campaign finance laws. The Washington Post notes:
Campaign reform groups have been pressing the IRS for several years to conduct greater oversight of nonprofits formed in the wake of the Citizens United case, given that many have become heavily involved in elections.
“But this isn’t the type of enforcement we want,” said Paul Ryan, a senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “We want nonpartisan, non-biased enforcement.”
Our government should work better than this. No one should be targed simply for their political views. At the same time, our election system should not be the rigged, corrupt system put in place by Citizens United.
Today I've joined Sister Simone Campbell, leader of "Nuns on the Bus," in co-authoring an op-ed published in The Hill critical of the budget choices under consideration in Washington:
"As faith leaders, we have spoken out consistently about the moral bankruptcy of Republican federal budget proposals over the last 2 years, and we have supported President Obama’s commitment to protecting the poorest Americans from cuts to crucial programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The president's just released budget, however, falls short of the moral vision many faith leaders have for this country and the president's own ideals as embodied in his second Inaugural Address. While the Obama administration’s 2014 budget has some admirable measures and is far superior to the House GOP plan, it does not go far enough in promoting the common good and protecting the vulnerable."President's budget doesn't reflect our values.
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"America can and should be better than Paul Ryan envisions it. Our nation should be a place where we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. We are not a morally bankrupt nation, and so we must oppose Paul Ryan's proposals."Ryan Budget Offers Vision of Morally Bankrupt America
Today at Sunnyside Church members took time following worship to write letters to members of Congress and the White House encouraging our national leaders to do more in the fight against poverty as part of Bread for the World's annual Offering of Letters.
This is a wondeful way to engage congregations to the fight to end poverty in America:
Each year, Bread members write to their members of Congress, advocating for policies that help end hunger in the United States and around the world. Often, letter writing is organized in churches and taken up as an offering before sending them to Congress. But we encourage all people who care about hunger to write to their representatives and senators, whether in groups or individually.
The Oregon Family Council (OFC) called my office this morning to see if I’d be joining their "Pastors Day at the Capitol." This is where they bring “Tea Party Jesus” to the politicians.
On Facebook, the OFC has stated that the “Oregon Family Council serves over 2,000 Churches and over 40,000 families from across the state who come from a broad spectrum of denominational backgrounds within the Christian community” and that as a 501 ( c ) non profit they “are not affiliated with any political party. Party platforms or points of view play no role whatsoever in our evaluation and recommendations on ballot measures.”
What they fail to mention is they also operate a political action committee that gives 100% of their money to GOP candidates.
What ballot measures have they endorsed in the past? Those that benefit the wealthiest Oregonians at the expense of those Jesus would have called the “least of these.”
Their stances have been opposed by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, our state’s association of churches and other faith leaders who view public policy through Christian theology and not just a political agenda.
Let’s be clear: this isn’t a Christian organization but rather a political machine to support GOP candidates and causes.
At their "Pastors Day at the Capitol," the OFC claims to be coming to protect religious freedoms under attack:
Our religious freedoms are under direct assault on many fronts today. This year’s event is a must for every pastor and church leader from around the state. Local and national experts on religious liberty will be in attendance to address where we stand in regards to our religious freedoms and how we can preserve these freedoms for future generations.
The most hotly debated issue concerning "religious freedom" has centered around President Obama's health care law - passed with the strong support of the National Council of Churches - and the argument that it infringes on religious liberty has been rejected by nearly all.
Sally Steenland, Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, notes this is part of a national movement that has nothing to do with religious freedom:
…conservatives are setting up religious-liberty caucuses in states across the country. One of the goals of this effort is to pass laws with broad exemptions allowing those who oppose reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, and other measures of gay and transgender equality the ability to opt out of antidiscrimination laws and policies without being sued. This is not a new political strategy. It turns out we’ve been down this road before. In fact it is a road that has deep and all-too-familiar ruts from similar fights decades ago.
During the civil rights battle in the 1960s, for example, segregationists used religious justifications to oppose interracial marriage and integration. God created the races to be separate, they argued, which was why he put them on separate continents. To support any kind of race mixing—whether in stores, restaurants, movie theaters, schools, churches, or businesses—was a sin. Civil rights opponents denied they were bigoted. On the contrary, they were simply following biblical teachings and obeying God’s will. Forcing them to abide by civil rights laws would be a grave violation of their conscience and an assault on their religious liberty.
Fortunately, segregationists did not get the religious exemptions they desired.
It is important that people of faith stand up to political groups like the Oregon Family Council and their agenda that in the name of Jesus seeks to shift ever further economic policies so that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, while at the same time they advance proposals to discriminate against people all in the name of religious freedom.
I told the caller I won’t be attending the Oregon Family Council’s "Pastors Day at the Capitol." Instead, I’ll be joining with people of faith to oppose their plans.
Yesterday supporters of President Obama's gun violence prevention measures - including people of faith - rallied across America to demand that Congress vote on the proposals. I spoke at the Portland press event. Over 70% of NRA members support President Obama's call for universal background checks. This isn't a fight between the White House and gun owners but a fight between Americans and a radicalized NRA leadership that has lost touch with their membership. A few of those out-of-the mainstream voices tried to shout down speakers yesterday - one of them yelling a racial slur - but the vast majority of Americans reject such views and believe that in a democracy it isn't the loudest voice but the strongest ideal that should win the day.
Statment in Support Of Universial Background Checks Delivered
by Rev. Chuck Currie at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Feb 22, 2013
Last month I joined President Obama and Vice-President Biden at the National Prayer Service in Washington, DC as part of the Inaugural celebration. There we prayed for an end to violence in America. Certain issues sometimes divide people of faith but there is strong agreement from the National Council of Churches, representing Protestant and Orthodox Christians, and the U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops - along with the larger interfaith community – that we must support common sense proposals to reduce gun violence in America. Our schools, houses of worship and movie theaters are places we should expect to be safe. In these places we worship, we learn and we are entertained. But in recent years all these places -- along with shopping malls and restaurants and public parks -- have in moments of terror become killing fields as people with often great mental instability who have access to weapons meant for battlefields open fire on innocent crowds causing mass deaths. President Obama has proposed several important measures, including universal background checks for those purchasing guns, which would make America safer. People of faith support efforts to reduce gun violence. NRA members, many of who are people of faith, support universal background checks. I call on all members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation – both Democrats and Republicans – to put the common good of our nation and the safety of our children before the out-of the-mainstream demands of a radicalized NRA leadership that is out-of-touch with their membership.
Organizing For Action call on Congress to support plan to close background check loopholes. twitter.com/MikeTurnerKXL/…— Mike Turner (@MikeTurnerKXL) February 22, 2013
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"The faith community has an important role to play in advancing an agenda that addresses the important moral issues faced by our nation. We have a big job ahead of us but there is hope."
Repairing the Breach in the Union: A Respone to the President's Address
President Obama is set to soon deliver his State of the Union Address. We need the president to follow-up his powerful Inaugural Address with a serious discussion about how to reduce poverty in his message before Congress. That is what I shared with President Obama in a letter earlier this week. You can send a message to the president as well.
Via the Half in Ten Campaign:
Use social media to inspire President Obama to: (1) speak out for struggling families during his address, and (2) protect critical programs that reduce poverty in his budget request to Congress. February 12th is the President’s first State of the Union address in his second term. The fiscal showdown didn’t end on January 1st. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road and many of the most important programs that support struggling families in our country are still under threat. So, let’s take to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to support the President’s statements on cutting poverty in his inaugural address and ask for continued support of low-income programs in the state of the union and budget proposal. Together we can show the White House why these programs are so important, and who has inspired us to support them.
The Half in Ten Campaign is support by the Juctice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, along with many others in the faith community.
Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_State_of_the_Union_Address
I'm not Mark Driscoll.
You'd think that would be obvious.
"Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know."
It is hard to imagine a minister being so hateful. Driscoll doesn't even represent most conservative evangelical Christian thinkers. Back in 2010, I joined Christian leaders in releasing a letter that read in part:
As Christian leaders— whose primary responsibility is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with our congregations, our communities, and our world— we are deeply troubled by the recent questioning of President Obama’s faith. We understand that these are contentious times, but the personal faith of our leaders should not be up for public debate.
President Obama has been unwavering in confessing Christ as Lord and has spoken often about the importance of his Christian faith. Many of the signees on this letter have prayed and worshipped with this President. We believe that questioning, and especially misrepresenting, the faith of a confessing believer goes too far.
This is not a political issue. The signers of this letter come from different political and ideological backgrounds, but we are unified in our belief in Jesus Christ. As Christian pastors and leaders, we believe that fellow Christians need to be an encouragement to those who call Christ their savior, not question the veracity of their faith.
Yesterday morning I attended the National Prayer Service that President Obama, Vice President Biden, the First Lady and Dr. Biden participated in. Many of the people who signed this letter where in attendance as well. Not all of the people at the service voted for President Obama but none question the president's faith and all of us, regardless of important differences, believe that faith should bring us together in the pursuit of justice. Faith shouldn't be used to tear us apart.
Twice in recent months people looking for Driscoll's Portland church have attended Sunnyside Church by mistake. One woman demanded a rebuttal to the sermon. Another man walked out yelling obscenities.
My theology is very different from Driscoll's. God's love for us is radical and God's hospality great. We are called to build up the Beloved Community. Driscoll reads Scripture differently.
If you're looking for a place to worship in Portland where all are welcome - where you are encouraged to think for yourself and not bound by the leadership of a minister who preaches what you must believe - visit Sunnyside Church or University Park Church anytime.
This sermon was deleived by The Rev. Chuck Currie at a special joint service of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church in Portland, Ore. on Sunday, January 20, 2013. Our Scripture readings were Amos 5:21-24 and Isaiah 11: 1-9.
You can download the audio of the sermon here:
(some browsers - like Firefox or Google Chrome - will allow you to simply click on the link and listen...otherwise click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose “Save Target As” and save to your desktop or other folder – once downloaded click on the file to listen).
The text is below:
This Sunday – this special day when we celebrate the life and ministry of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – we have cause to celebrate.
Tomorrow our nation will witness the inauguration of Barack Obama to a second term as President of the United States of America, the first African-American to hold that position. He lives in the White House, a grand symbol of freedom, but a building created with slave labor. How far we have come.
What political party Barack Obama and Tina Kotek represent is unimportant to us this morning.
It is unimportant what political party Tim Scott of South Carolina belongs to. What is important is that this month he becomes the first African-American to represent a Southern state since Reconstruction in the United States Senate.
The walls of injustice are tumbling down. Frances and Katherine, my daughters, can dream any dream thanks to Harriett Tubman, Susan B. Antony, Hilary Clinton and Tina Kotek. Our children have opportunities that once seemed impossible because of discrimination of all kinds. Change has come.
We read in Scripture today that what impresses God is not the grandness of our buildings or the pomp and circumstance of worship but the boldness of our vision, and the focus of our actions in building up the Kingdom of God, which Dr. King called the Beloved Community.
Whatever progress we have made has been hard won and while we have every reason to celebrate we also have every responsibility as the church to bring light to dark places and there is still too much darkness in this world.
Dr. King was more than just a civil rights leader. That would by itself be an honorable legacy. But he was a Christian minister, a prophet even, who challenged the church to build up the Kingdom of God. That's radical. That's transformational. And for those of power and privilege it was terrifying because in the Kingdom the last come first. The Holy Spirit worked through King to break-up the evil of white supremacy and to lift up the needs of those oppressed by economic systems that failed to address the condition of poverty. The task of the church, in this day, is to continue that ministry in new ways and to continue -- as Jesus did himself -- to confront oppression wherever we find it: to set the captives free.
The Civil Rights Movement was grounded in the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets who remembered when the people were slaves in Pharaoh’s land, and both their escape from captivity and deliverance to the Promised Land.
When Africans were ripped from their homeland and brought into the colonies, and later the United States, their masters often forced them to convert to Christianity. We have in our history books a copy of a baptismal rite used for slaves in South Carolina that shows slaves were forced to vow obedience to God but told not to take the stories of God’s liberation from captivity seriously. But it is impossible not to hear the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures and the promises of Jesus and not be transformed. The Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of slaves and within the Christian faith they found hope and promise – a hope that sustained and guided them through the Civil War - and their decedents into the great Civil Rights Movement. This was not what the slave owners of South Carolina, my ancestors, assumed would happen but God is more powerful than any human system of oppression.
In what is commonly called Jesus’ inaugural sermon he quoted from the Prophet Isaiah:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4 NRSV)
That is still the task of the church today.
Too many people live in captivity: caught up in on-going systems of racial oppression that still exist despite our progress, kept down by gender discrimination that allows us to place limits on what women earn or what jobs they might hold, trapped in broken immigration systems that don’t “welcome the stranger” but imprison and deport.
Children are captives of underfunded schools that ought to be cathedrals. Sick people are captives of a system that puts profits before people. All of us are captives of human caused climate change, gun violence and violence of every kind, along with oppressive poverty that stains our land. And if we truly believe that war is contrary to the will of God we need to be peacemakers in our time.
We are still not the Beloved Community that Dr. King dreamed of.
The church universal is not doing enough to build up the Kingdom.
This isn’t new.
Dr. King preached just a year before he died that:
"... when the church is true to its guidelines, it sets out to preach deliverance to them that are captive. This is the role of the church: to free people. This merely means to free those who are slaves. Now if you notice some churches, they never read this part. Some churches aren't concerned about freeing anybody. Some white churches face the fact Sunday after Sunday that their members are slaves to prejudice, slaves to fear. You got a third of them, or a half of them or more, slaves to their prejudices. And the preacher does nothing to free them from their prejudice so often. Then you have another group sitting up there who would really like to do something about racial injustice, but they are afraid of social, political, and economic reprisals, so they end up silent. And the preacher never says anything to lift their souls and free them from that fear. And so they end up captive.”
He went on to preach:
You know this often happens in the Negro church. You know, there are some Negro preachers that have never opened their mouths about the freedom movement. And not only have they not opened their mouths, they haven’t done anything about it. And every now and then you get a few members: 'They talk too much about civil rights in that church.' I was talking with a preacher the other day and he said a few of his members were saying that. I said, 'Don't pay any attention to them. Because number one, the members didn't anoint you to preach. And any preacher who allows members to tell him what to preach isn't much of a preacher.'
If we want to be true to our calling as Christians we need to address the challenges of our time with courage and conviction, unafraid of whether or not we are winning any popularity contest.
So we have to say to those in power that it is morally unacceptable that 20,000 children were homeless in our school system last year. No one should live a third world life in a first world nation.
We need to stand up to the NRA and rouge sheriffs doing their best Bull Connor imitations by saying that federal laws don’t apply to them when we need laws that protect us from gun violence.
Our political leaders need to know that growth cannot come at the expense of our health – and so as people of faith we must challenge policies that will negatively impact our environment, including those that disproportionally impact communities of color.
And I want Sunnyside Church and University Park Church to be leaders in the fight for marriage equality in Oregon because until everyone has their civil rights protected none of us is truly free.
Dr. King said:
"More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."
What was true then is true now. We are the inheritors of the dream. But the dream is not yet fulfilled. So God calls us to action. Dr. King died the year before I was born. But his words are for every generation. As we leave this place let it be in a spirit of social action that keeps the building of the Kingdom front and center in our lives. Faith without action is empty. Faith combined with action can transform the world.
Update: Rev. Louie Giglio's decision to withdraw from the inauguration seems approrpriate considering the circumstances. I'm concerned, however, that in the age of You Tube and Twitter and we are judged on our worst moments and not the fullness of our work.
Questions today concerning a sermon given sometime in the mid-1990s by The Rev. Louie Giglio broke because he'll be giving the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration. My only concern in regards to these matters continues to be what views the President holds.
As president (informed by his Christian faith), President Obama supports gay marriage, ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and has fought hard to end hate crimes and to expand civil rights for the LGBTQ community. That's what matters.
What are Rev. Giglio's views today? I don't know but he should be provided at some point the opportunity to explain them. He certainly does not appear to be an anti-gay zealot. Instead he has focused his ministry on ending human trafficking - the forced slave labor of young women and girls into the sex industry. People of good faith often come to different conclusions on difficult issues but on ending human trafficking we stand united.
I'm thrilled that civil rights hero Myrlie Evers-Willams will offer the invocation. Few in America symbolize better the fight for justice and equality.
Like President Obama, my Christian faith calls me to fight for the full inclusion of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, into the full promise of America.
In the end, the only vision that will really matter on Inauguration Day is the one presented by President Barack Obama. I'm fully confident it will be a inclusive vision all Americans can be proud of.
My latest in The Huffington Post:
"In the end, I believe that the NRA will find out that the Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall, Dean of the National Cathedral, was correct when he said: 'I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.'"
My latest op-ed today in The Huffington Post:
The agenda before the nation is large and includes growing poverty and climate change. To be successful, President Obama will need people of faith at his side.
Paul Ryan said today that President Obama compromises "those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place." Ryan is wrong, of course. It is a sad and desperate religious attack against a faithful Christian from a politician who cannot debate on the issues. Our politics should be better.I've endorsed President Obama because of his values. He cares about the "least of these" in society. Barack Obama believes that we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. That is why he has fought for health care reform - long a goal of America's churches. The president is a good steward of our environment, God's creation, and we need that to combat climate change. President Obama also believes deeply in religious freedom and honors the religious pluralism of our great nation. He doesn't see faith as a tool to tear people apart but as a way to bring people together.
Election Day will matter. But people of good faith can come to different conclusions about how to vote. I agree with the philosophy advanced by President Obama. I believe his policies will continue to advance the common good and that the policies advanced by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan - which helped create the crisis we face today - are morally troubling. We ought to debate the issues. What I find most distateful is when politicans misue faith as a political weapon. It should not be done.
As the nation deals with the impact of Hurricane Sandy it ought to be a time to set aside partisan politics - even with the election just a week away. But Mitt Romney has decided to continue campaigning in the battleground state of Ohio (renaming his election rallies "Storm Aids Rallies"). He is putting politics before country.
Press badge for today's "storm relief event" in Ohio: twitter.com/Ari_Shapiro/st…— Ari Shapiro (@Ari_Shapiro) October 30, 2012
Compare that to the response of people like President Obama and GOP New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a strong ally of Governor Romney. When asked about the election, President Obama (who has returned to the White House to oversee relief efforts) said:
I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation.
The election will take care of itself next week. Right now, our number-one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives, that our search-and-rescue teams are going to be in place, that people are going to get the food, the water, the shelter that they need in case of emergency, and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track.
Governor Christie had the same message this morning. When asked if Romney would be joining him in New Jersey this week the governor declared:
“I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff. I have a job to do. I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the Shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”
Meanwhile, federal officials and non-profits, including faith-based groups, are working with leaders like President Obama and Governor Christie to respond.
Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.
Gov. Christie reports on how the federal response is working:
“It’s been very good working with the president,” Christie said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “He and his administration have been coordinating with us. It’s been wonderful.”
On NBC’s “Today,” Christie said the president had been “outstanding” and FEMA’s response has been “excellent.”
As we keep all those impacted by the storm in our prayers today, let's set aside the usual partisan politics and figure out how we can help.
"Founded in 1946, Church World Service is a cooperative ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance around the world." The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ are both members of CWS.
Consider this picture placed on his Facebook wall, a post he has kept up since last month, which compares President Obama to a monkey. Post's only comment on the picture that he allows on his site is that he would like to take a poll on the appropriates on the image.
I urge Mr. Post to remove this image and to apologize to President Obama and the people of Oregon for engaging in race baiting of the worst kind.
Political leaders such as Allen Alley, along with the Oregon GOP, and all those who appear on Mr. Post's program seeking support should urge Mr. Post to take these actions and promise not to appear on his program if he refuses.
Mr. Post often talks about his Christian faith. As a minister, I believe that good people of faith can come to different conclusions on how to vote in this election. But racism is sin.
(Update: I'll note that in a comment left last night by Mr. Post he claims to have condemned this image. That comment is not visible, however. I would hope that he has in some way. What are visible, however, are other postings: One by Mr. Post defending a GOP congressional candidate who has written articles defending slavery and another by one of Mr. Post's listeners suggesting that the president eats puppies.)
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http://www.barackobama.com/faith to learn more about President Obama's agenda to move America forward. And visit The Huffington Post to read about why I've offered the president my personal support. Despite inheriting a wrecked economy, President Obama has indeed moved our nation in the right direction -- by creating jobs and reforming our health care system -- in ways that advance the common good. We need Barack Obama to continue the hard work of repairing our nation.
Are there principles that Christians can agree on when determing which candidates to vote for this fall? The National Council of Churches put forth a set during a previous election cycle that still hold true:
Our Christian faith compels us to address the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another. Public discourse is enhanced as we engage civic leaders on the values and ethics affirmed by our faith. At the same time, religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy will be protected as candidates refrain from using faith-based organizations and institutions for partisan gain. We offer these ten principles to those seeking to accept the responsibility that comes with holding public office.
1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well-being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.
10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God’s children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who will advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children’s services.
Finally, our religious tradition admonishes us not to bear false witness against our neighbor and to love our enemies. We ask that the campaigns of political candidates and the coverage of the media in this election season be conducted according to principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.
I've made clear my personal preference in some races - including the presidential contest. In doing so, I've been clear that I believe there is no "ordained" candidate in the presidential contest or any other race and good people of faith can come to different conclusions as to how they will vote.
People of faith should reject voices like those of Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki - who like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson before him - has argued this year that you can only vote for one party and remain in good standing with God. Bishop Paprocki has confused party platforms with the Gospel of Jesus. That's bad theology and poor pastoral leadership.
Despite inheriting a wrecked economy, President Obama has indeed moved our nation in the right direction -- by creating jobs and reforming our health care system -- in ways that advance the common good. We need Barack Obama to continue the hard work of repairing our nation.
Summer is wedding season and while I'm not overwhelmed with wedding requests I've had a few and there is one that I'm really looking forward to in September. Weddings are, of course, special events. At their best, weddings bring not just two people together but families and even communities in a union bonded together in love. There is a simple joy in all that - even if the reality is that marriage itself is complex and sometimes difficult, just ask anyone who has been married longer than an hour. As we reflect on our reading from Scripture this morning, I want to discuss marriage a bit with you as we understand it in Christian terms, what marriage means as a legal institution, and to share with you some decisions that I have made about my role as a minister as it relates to marriage that have been helped along by my doctoral studies on this issue.
Let me begin by noting the reality that within the United States it is illegal for a minister or any other officiant to marry a gay or lesbian couple, much as it was illegal a generation ago to marry interracial couples. Oregonians voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in 2004 - it is part of our state Constitution - thus banning marriage equality. This state Constitutional amendment plus the federal Defense of Marriage Act will both have to be overturned for gays and lesbians to receive true marriage equality. Federal law does not recognize gay marriages that are legal in states such as New York.
As a minister, I am asked to be an agent of the state when it comes to marriage. One way for a marriage to become legal is for an ordained minister to sign a marriage certificate. The United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church USA are the only two mainline Christian denominations to support marriage equality, and that allow their clergy to perform such ceremonies. However, my religious freedom to provide pastoral care to gay and lesbian couples is curtailed by the government which says that I cannot legally marry same-gender couples - thus denying these parishioners the same care I can provide to straight couples. It does not seem the proper function of the government to tell me as a minister whom I can and cannot provide pastoral care to. That should be a decision of the church. The United Methodist Church, of course, forbids not just gay marriages but commitment ceremonies that the General Assembly of the church has deemed incompatible with Christianity. I look forward with great anticipation to the day this deeply flawed policy of this faithful denomination is overturned.
The United Church of Christ has developed an inclusive wedding liturgy, in which we pray for couples being married that:
...we come together in the presence of God to witness the marriage of the couple￼, to surround them with our prayers, and to share in their joy. The scriptures teach us that the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God, a holy mystery in which two become one flesh, an image of the union of Christ and the church. As the couple give themselves to each other, we remember that at Cana in Galilee our Savior Jesus Christ made the wedding feast a sign of God's reign of love. (So we pray that we) enter into (the wedding) celebration confident that through the Holy Spirit, Christ is present with us... We pray that (the) couple may fulfill God's purpose for the whole of their lives.
It is this idea of covenant that is so central, so important to marriage and there is no Biblical reason the marriage covenant should not be available to gay or lesbian couples.
Last fall, as I was taking a course in Biblical theology at Chicago Theological Seminary for my doctoral degree program, I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about Chick-fil-A and their opposition to marriage equality. I note this mostly to brag that I wrote about this issue nearly a year before most anyone else was talking about it. ☺
I said then and I'll say now that I love Chick-fil-A. Their plain old chicken sandwich and a sweet tea can send me to heaven. I've always known they were owned by a Christian family and, frankly, I like that they close on Sundays. I'm old enough to remember when more stores did (of course, that often was enforced by law) and I think a (voluntary) day off from shopping and commercialism isn't a bad thing. But I was sad to hear then that the company had donated food to an anti-gay marriage group. Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said the contribution was made because the company believes in a "Biblical definition of marriage." Mr. Cathy has since become even more vocal in his opposition to marriage equality.
What I suggested in my piece in The Huffington Post was that Mr. Cathy ought to read Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, a book from Boston University's Jennifer Wright Knust. This American Baptist pastor and scholar notes that: "When it comes to marriage, biblical laws are almost entirely contradictory." In short, the one "Biblical definition of marriage" that Chick-fil-A wants to promote doesn't exist.
I'm guessing Mr. Cathy never took my advice.
As I've preached, how we read the Bible matters. It is not to be taken literally. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, argued that Christian faith required one to bring Scripture, reason, experience and tradition to the table when trying to discern the will of God. Chick-fil-A is offering fast-food theology to a world that needs more than a bumper sticker understanding of the divine.
In a post for The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog, Knust wrote:
If we do take the time to read the Bible, we are likely to discover that the biblical writers do not agree with us, whatever version of sexual morality we are seeking to promote. Written more than 2,000 years ago at a significant historical and cultural distance, the Bible gathers together a diverse collection of ancient books, edited over time, not a coherent, divinely inspired set of instructions that can easily be applied. Tracing even a few, limited topics from one biblical book to another can make the point: If one book forbids marriage between foreigners and Israelites, the next depicts such marriages as a source of blessing, not only to Israel but to all of humankind. If one insists that women are saved by childbearing, the next recommends that women avoid childbearing altogether in order to devote themselves more fully to God. If one suggests that sex with a relative, the wife of another man, or with a male lover will certainly lead to the nation's downfall, the next depicts heroic kings engaging in precisely these forms of sex. And these are just a few examples.
Knust offers the same argument in her book. Knust writes: "The Bible is complicated enough, ancient enough, and flexible enough to support an almost endless set of interpretive agendas."
That may be true, in part. Taken as a whole, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament offer (for me) a vision of covenant. My sense is that covenant includes within our relationships between one another and with God that we should - in Paul's words - be subject to one another out of love. That doesn't mean we have an anything goes faith without rules or boundaries. In fact, the opposite is true. You cannot, for example, abandon your family and remain in covenant with God or your relatives. Justice and compassion are central to Christianity. Yet, not all teachings from scripture should be practiced today (if they were, we'd still own slaves, as sanctioned in some parts of the Bible).
We must use an interpretative process to discern God's will for us - and do not think for a moment this isn't just what the different authors of the Bible did during the many centuries it was transformed from oral tradition to the written word. Using Wesley's criteria for discernment, it is important that we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit - God's own breathe - to help guide us and for us to undertake this enterprise with humility.
A generation ago, as I have mentioned, interracial marriage was outlawed. This was justified by the use of Scripture. Genesis 28:1 reads: "Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, 'You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women." In the past, this piece of Scripture was interpreted by some Christians to mean that Hebrews and Canaanites were of different races and therefore no races should inter-marry.
We may think this silly today but when Barack Obama was born his father - a black man - and his mother - a white woman - were barred from being legally married in many states and the justification was often Biblical. We have discerned over time, led by the power of the Holy Spirit, to understand not only our own error in interpretation but also the reality that some of what is written in Scripture has no moral authority over us today. Or should I quote from 1 Tim 2:11-12? "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."
You see, I'm willing to make the faith claim right here and now that God has no problems with interracial marriages, wants women to speak boldly with the voice of Sophia (the embodiment of God's wisdom), and that those who use Scripture to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians are making the same mistake in interpretation that we have made as a people over and over again.
So will I marry gay and lesbian couples?
Right now I'm a United Church of Christ minister serving two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church. The United Church of Christ affirms marriage equality. The United Methodist Church says homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. And both Sunnyside Church and University Park Church have pledged to welcome all, and are faithfully engaging the larger United Methodist Church to change the rules and truly become a church with open hearts and open doors and open minds.
So yes, I will marry any gay and lesbian couple that I believe is ready to make that commitment, using the same criteria to make that call that I would for any heterosexual couple. To respect the rules of the United Methodist Church, I will conduct those services at Ainsworth United Church of Christ, my home congregation.
Is there a risk is making this announcement?
I remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who told his church:
No member of Ebenezer Baptist Church called me to the ministry. You called me to Ebenezer, and you may turn me out of here, but you can't turn me out of the ministry, because I got my guidelines and my anointment from God Almighty. And anything I want to say, I'm going to say it from this pulpit. It may hurt somebody, I don't know about that; somebody may not agree with it. But when God speaks, who can but prophesy? The word of God is upon me like fire shut up in my bones, and when God's word gets upon me, I've got to say it, I've got to tell it all over everywhere. And God has called me to deliver those that are in captivity.
So if you're gay or you're lesbian or bi-sexual or transgendered or questioning, I want to make it clear today: I am your pastor too. I am your pastor if you're straight, if you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you're black, white, Latino. And no rulebook or law will prevent me from providing you with the pastoral care I am called to provide.
What I will no longer do after September is sign wedding licenses. Until the day comes when marriage equality is the law of the land I will no longer act as an agent of the state in an institution that is discriminatory. In this, I join a small but growing number of clergy. I will offer you the religious rites of the church but will invite you to have your marriage license signed by a judge or other official of the state.
When the General Synod of the United Church of Christ endorsed marriage equality in 2005, they noted:
The message of the Gospel is the lens through which the whole of scripture is to be interpreted. Love and compassion, justice and peace are at the very core of the life and ministry of Jesus. It is a message that always bends toward inclusion. The biblical story recounts the ways in which inclusion and welcome to God's community is ever expanding - from the story of Abraham and Sarah, to the inclusive ministry of Jesus, to the baptism of Cornelius, to the missionary journeys of Paul throughout the Greco- Roman world. The liberating work of the Spirit as witnessed in the activities of Jesus' ministry has been to address the situations and structures of exclusion, injustice and oppression that diminish God's people and keep them from realizing the full gift of human personhood in the context of human communion.
I find truth in this statement and have love for the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ and the church universal - not as institutions, but as part of the body of Christ. We are all one in Christ. It is in that spirit of love, that I come forth today to share with you God's call to us to love all people in ways that honor and continue the ministry of Jesus. It is a ministry, as we heard this morning in our text from John, that is joyful and where the Disciples - and by extension us - are commanded once again simply to love as Jesus has loved us - without condition or judgment, and centered on God's desire for us to be free from oppression or captivity, in covenant with one another and with God. Amen.
Mitt Romney's new false ad claiming that President Obama is waging a "war on religion" can only be called sad and pathetic. President Obama is himself a faithful Christian who has worked across religious lines to promote the common good of our nation. His health care reform plan has been supported by the National Council of Churches and many religious groups. Governor Romney - who was pro-choice and pro-birth control until he decided to run for president - should be ashamed of the gutter politics his campaign is playing. He is using religious faith as a tool to divide Americans. Someone hoping to be president should have better judgement and ethics.
As the people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church gathered for a joint BBQ and celebration of our shared ministries together we learned of the mass shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. We offered prayers for those killed and wounded. This terrible event reminds us once again that Christians are called to preach a message of love and compassion to a world torn apart by too much violence. Further, it reinforces to need for Christian communities to develop interfaith partnerships and friendships to promote understanding. We are also reminded, without question, that one of the responsibilities of the church universal is to work toward an end of gun violence. No one in a house of worship should be cut down by bullets fired in hate. As we know now, the suspect was a white supremacist. Were his actions motivated by those who preach intolerance towards minority religions? It would not come as a surprise as too many politicians and religious leaders have used faith in recent years as a tool to divide Americans. Our faith should never be so misused and it is certainly the responsibility of Christians across this great nation not only to condemn this act of hate but to work toward reconciliation. This terrible event, just like the mass shooting in Colorado two weeks ago, never should have happened. It is time for all people of faith to join together in opposition to the gun lobby and others who support the legality of weapons of mass killing in our neighborhoods and streets. Enough is enough. Click here to tell President Obama, Governor Romney and Congress that we are better than this.
It was an honor to today spend just a few moments with President Barack Obama before he spoke at an event here in Portland, Ore. Like many people of faith, I have strong personal support for the president. There are always issues where you disagree with politicians - some of them very important issues - but the core values and ideals lived out by Barack Obama are values that I share. The president often says, quoting from Scripture, that we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. It is that belief that has lead this president to fight for health care reform and an economy that works for everyone - not just the wealthy. Today I told the president that I pray for him and his family - and I do, along with all those who serve in public life - because we need people of moral character in this nation today as much as ever.
Disclaimer: As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I trust deeply in the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state and my endorsement is therefore a personal one and does not reflect on my denomination. But as a citizen I believe that all Americans must engage in the political process as individuals for democracy to thrive. So I choose to participate in the political process as an individual when appropriate.
Many people of faith supported President Obama's health care reform plan and today rejoice in the Supreme Court ruling that largely upholds the Affordable Care Act. 30 million Americans will receive coverage under the president's plan. Millions already have. All this moves us closer to the Beloved Community. President Obama and those leaders in Congress who voted for reform are to be applauded for their commitment to fixing a broken system that has long created a moral crisis in our nation. The Supreme Court has surprised many with their ruling and they too must be applauded for a wise decision. There is more to do, of course, to fix the health care system. But President Obama has moved us further down the path toward universal health care than any other president since Teddy Roosevelt first made the effort. This has long been a goal of the National Council of Churches and many Christian denominations, along with other interfaith leaders. Today is a good day for our nation.
GOP leaders in Congress - hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down Obamacare - are looking to reroute funding for health care to military budgets. It's a move people of faith must resist. Politico reports:
That's because Congress could find itself flush, thanks to billions of dollars that were allocated to fund "Obamacare" that won't be spent if parts of the law are knocked down. And that money would be freed up just as a battle over automatic cuts to the Defense Department budget heats up on the Hill.
He explained that the process wouldn't be hard: Any House committee, likely the armed services or Defense appropriations panels, could send a recommendation to the House Budget Committee for consideration. The deal could move through a reconciliation bill, which is a common tactic to move business along in Congress.
Members of those committees said it's an option they'd consider.
"If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, I would certainly support using the savings to replace the cuts contained in the FY 2013 Obama budget. I believe that most GOP Defense appropriators and House Armed Services Committee members would feel the same way," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla), who sits on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
For Christians, the responsibility on how to respond is clear. We need to continue to work towards a health care system that covers every American. It is our moral obligation. Robbing people of their health care to expand military budgets is contrary to the values of our faith.
Christians across the United States have been quick to praise President Obama for his decision not to deport certain young immigrants who came to the United States as children. "As the President has said many times, it makes no sense to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. They have become productive members in our communities. They have grown up swearing allegiance to our flag. Yet they live in the shadows of America, without the possibility to realize their dreams," writes Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Mainline Christians, evangelicals and Roman Catholics - often divided - have been outspoken in their support for immigration reform and President Obama's actions. Why is this the case? We are called to "welcome the stranger" in our midst with hospitality. Laws must be followed and real reform is still needed but the clear Christian response on this issue has always been not to turn away young people trying to better their lives.
“We believe the DHS’s policy that rewards hard working young people sets the right tone. Evangelicals everywhere affirm that young immigrants can and should be allowed to contribute to our nation’s well-being.”
- Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of The National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC)
"The Obama administration’s announcement today that some undocumented youth living in the U.S. will receive temporary relief from deportation and will be able to receive work authorization is an extraordinary way forward for much needed immigration reform. Among the young people who will be blessed by this action are United Methodists with whom we celebrate and give God thanks. This day comes as a result of the diligent efforts of many, including the hard work of Immigration Rapid Response Teams in our annual conferences, the work of several of our general agencies, United Methodist Women, and the clear and steady voice of our Council of Bishops."
- United Methodist Bishop Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the action of President Barack Obama today to defer action to all young people eligible under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, saying that it would permit young people who were brought into the United States undocumented to come out of the shadows and more fully participate in society.
“This important action will provide legal protection, and work authorization, to a vulnerable group of immigrants who are deserving of remaining in our country and contributing their talents to our communities,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “These youth are bright, energetic, and eager to pursue their education and reach their full potential.”
As many as 800,000 young people would be eligible to receive a deferred action on deportation for two years, and a work permit.
Archbishop Gomez said the President’s action is no substitute for passage of the DREAM Act and encouraged Congress to enact comprehensive and humane immigration reform.
- U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops
Jesus said, "Bring the children to me." Our Christian teachings compel us to welcome the stranger in our midst, many of whom are young people innocent of any wrong doing. As officers of the United Church of Christ, we applaud President Obama's decision to grant categorical relief to almost 1 million young people who were brought to the United States when they were children.
Until now these young people — who grew up in the United States, attended American schools and stayed out of trouble — were not able to dream of possibilities for personal or professional advancement in this country. Until now, these young people have been unable to work. They are ineligible for government financial aid to go to college, even in circumstances when they are outstanding students who are committed to being productive contributors to their communities and our society as a whole. Worst of all, they have been subject to deportation proceedings, sending them back to countries in which they have little connection or familiarity.
The Executive Order announced on June 15, 2012, gives undocumented young immigrants, under the age of 30, the ability to apply for deferred action of deportation. They must meet key criteria outlined in the statement delivered by Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. While this temporary measure contains limiting conditions and gives only two years of reprieve, it is a positive step that we pray will lead to just and compassionate immigration reform legislation that is long overdue. As leaders of the United Church of Christ we call for the President and Congress to enact comprehensive social policies that establish a safe and humane immigration system that is consistent with our core values: Continuing Testament, Extravagant Welcome, and Changing Lives.
- The Officers of the United Church of Christ
Rallies being held across the United States today to oppose contraceptive services included in the Affordable Care Act are largely political and do not represent the views of most people of faith. Many religious leaders, in fact, strongly support President Obama's efforts to extend health care coverage to women and his willingness to compromise with churches on this issue.
Organizers claim these rallies are designed to protect religious freedom but look no further than the Portland, Ore. rally and you'll see that the speakers are nearly all right-wing radio talk show hosts or extremist candidates for political office.
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I continue to applaud President Obama and those responsible Republicans and Democrats who support making sure that contraception is available to stop unwanted pregnancies and to fight disease such as cancer. There is no war against religion. This is a political battle that was started not by the president but by some willing to misuse religion for partisan political gain.
Salem-area radio talk show host Bill Post (who not long ago said he wanted to urinate on the corpses of dead Taliban soldiers) says that he's a Evangelical Christian who shares the "world-view" of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson might argue with that but those views lead Post to question President Obama's Christian faith and American values. In fact, those views leave Post very afraid of the future if the president is re-elected. Post writes that electing Mitt Romney, a Mormon, might not be great for evangelical Christians, but consider the alternatives:
1 - Is Obama a Muslim? I don't know for sure, but we all know he has made some pretty big concessions to Muslims as well as some pretty interesting statements concerning Muslims. So, if he IS a Muslim or leans towards them, would you rather have a Muslim or a Mormon President? I haven't seen very many Mormons strap bombs to the jackets blowing up marketplaces, have you?
2 - Is Obama a Marxist/Socialist/Communist? I don't know for sure, but again, his statement and policies sure make it look that way. Have you seen any Mormon gulags, death camps or mass murders committed lately?
Evangelicals, Mainline Christians and Roman Catholics have repeatedly condemned those who question the president's Christian faith for partisan political reasons but that won't stop people like Post who are so far outside the mainstream that they actually believe the president of the United States is planning death camps if re-elected.
We can expect opponents of the president this election - big and small - to attempt to exploit racial divisions and to paint President Obama as something "other" than fully as American. Consider the new racially charged film financed by right-wing billionaire Joe Ricketts that suggests that the president has a Kenyan, not American, world-view.
These campaigns against President Obama are driven by fear, hatred and racism - let's be honest. The good news is that the American people are better than Bill Post or Joe Ricketts. We are an optimistic people at our core. But whether or not we agree with the president's policies - whether we support his re-election or not - all good Americans must reject the division and hatred promoted on talk radio and the web and use the election to engage in a serious debate over the issues this nation faces.