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For the Sake of Heaven

Jun23

by: Melissa Weininger on June 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

Close up of a flame.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Oliver.

According to reports, when a young stranger walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday night, the senior pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, invited the young man to sit next to him so that he would feel welcome. It was literally an article of faith that the church should embrace the young man, though he was not a regular member of the community, though he was white in a historically black church. These things didn’t matter to Pinckney and the other members of the Bible study group that met that night. What mattered to them were tenets of faith and the standards of their community, a congregation built on the premise of inclusion, particularly inclusion of the marginalized and rejected.

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Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Welcomes Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change

Jun22

by: Sunita Viswanath and Christopher Fici on June 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

An aerial shot of Herbert Volcano Caldera.

Credit: CreativeCommons / U.S. Geological Survey.

In his recent eco-encyclical (ecology and economy) Laudato Sii (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. The reality of climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25). Humankind is responsible for care of the natural world, and that responsibility extends toward protecting poor and vulnerable people and our children and grandchildren.

Pope Francis made five key points in this teaching document, a new foundation of Catholic teaching on the environment:

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The Villain’s Advantage

Jun19

by: Norman Allen on June 19th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

I walked across Washington, DC, after the shooting in Charleston and was struck by how many good people I know. I spent the morning with a young playwright eager to bring his view of the world’s interconnectedness to an audience. I ran into a school counselor who was a great help to my family during a difficult time. And I chanced upon a former colleague who finds joy in teaching science to struggling high school students.

Gun control activists march in Washington, DC, January 2015.

Gun control activists march in Washington DC, January 2015. Credit: Creative Commons / Elvert Barnes Protest Photography

Living in Washington, I’m constantly meeting such people. My friends include advocates for education, arts funding, marriage equality, voting rights and affordable housing. The city overflows with folks eager to make a difference. This week, though, I was struck by how easy it is to bring all that potential to a sudden and tragic end.

Not usually one to categorize human beings as “good” or “bad,” I do recognize that some people have a more positive view of the world. They see the potential for goodness in others, and they work to nurture and strengthen it. And there are people who do the opposite. For a myriad of reasons, they live in anger and take an aggressive stance to the world around them.

Both groups hold enormous power. The folks able to see the good in people bring that goodness forth. The student who has been beaten down by life and chooses aggression as a defense is transformed by the teacher who recognizes that student’s unique potential and has the patience to wait for it to emerge. Similar scenarios are repeated in a million ways every day.

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Stop the Canonization of Friar Serra, Patron Saint of Colonizers and Racists!

Jun17

by: Matthew Fox on June 17th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Statue of Junipero Serra in profile

Credit: CreativeCommons/ millerm217.

Do we really need a Patron Saint of Colonizers? A Patron Saint of Racists? That is what is at stake in the dangerous canonization of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) that the Vatican is threatening during the papal visit to the United States in Fall 2015. We must stand with indigenous people everywhere and resist loudly this grave injustice. The native people I know are furious and fuming and for very good reasons. As one Native American leader named Toypurina put it, “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

Pope Francis has the support of many vis-à-vis his efforts to critique our failing economic system, clean up the Catholic Church, and pronounce about eco-theology and climate change. We all wish him well and extend him our prayers, but this canonization issue could seriously mar those efforts, as well as his soon-to-be-released encyclical on ecology. After all, indigenous wisdom, unlike most Western religion, has never forsaken the sense of the sacredness of the cosmos. Why continue to insult indigenous peoples? Isn’t their wisdom needed more than ever for an environmental awakening today?

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Jewish Beliefs About GMOs

Jun11

by: Robyn Purchia on June 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A beautiful green field of wheat.
Credit: Flickr / Miran Rijave.

Like most environmental issues, the growing supply of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food raises many concerns. Although GMO crops can feed more people, they also put people’s health at risk and degrade the environment. Small farmers can make more money growing and selling more crops, but buying GMO seeds gives corporations a lot of power over these small farmers. Along with these ethical concerns, religious groups must also wrestle with the theological issues GMOs raise.

When religion tries to apply ancient texts to modern technology there is rarely a clear answer. Application of Jewish laws and ethical traditions has burdened the GMO debate with numerous contradictions. In figuring out Jewish beliefs on GMOs we may be left with only one theological question: Can humans make God’s creation more perfect?

Jewish Law as it Applies to GMOs

Consistent with the principle that anything not expressly prohibited by God is permitted, Jewish law, or halacha, generally takes a permissive position on GMO food. But just because halacha doesn’t expressly prohibit GMO food, doesn’t mean it’s entirely silent on the issue.

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Fear and Learning in Kabul

Jun10

by: Kathy Kelly on June 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Student in Kabul holding a sign that declars "We don't want your charity We want dignity".

Students in Kabul petitioning for a school in March 2015. Credit: Dr. Hakim.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world… Shall we say the odds are too great? … the struggle is too hard? … and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam”

Kabul – I’ve spent a wonderfully calm morning here in Kabul, listening to bird songs and to the call and response between mothers and their children in neighboring homes as families awaken and prepare their children for school. Maya Evans and I arrived here yesterday, and are just settling into the community quarters of our young hosts, The Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs). Last night, they told us about the jarring and frightening events that marked the past few months of their lives in Kabul.

They described how they felt when bomb explosions, nearby, awakened them on several mornings. Some said they’d felt almost shell-shocked themselves discovering one recent day that thieves had ransacked their home. They shared their intense feelings of alarm at a notorious warlord’s statement condemning a human rights demonstration in which several community members had participated. And their horror when a few weeks later, in Kabul, a young woman, an Islamic scholar named Farkhunda, was falsely accused in a street argument of desecrating the Koran, after which, to the roared approval of a frenzied mob of perhaps two thousand men, members of the crowd, with apparent police collusion, beat her to death. Our young friends quietly sort through their emotions in the face of inescapable and often overwhelming violence.

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Why Oakland’s Crackdown on Protest Is Sure to Fail

Jun9

by: Rachel Lederman on June 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

Peaceful demonstration in Oakland to protest the non-idictment of Darren Wilson.

In Oakland, California, peaceful demonstrators block traffic to protest the non-indictment of St. Louis police officer Darren Wilson, on November 24, 2014. (Photo: Amir Aziz)

The following post was published on truth-out.org on Friday, June 6th. Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

Under pressure from business after a large May Day demonstration, in which dozens of new cars and bank windows were smashed, Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, has instituted a ban on nighttime street marches, which has outraged the Oakland activist community. The mayor’s directive violates a federal court order and has escalated ongoing tension between police and protesters – while doing nothing to address the serious issues of state-sponsored racism, extrajudicial killings and police impunity, targets of the growing movement.

Banning protests doesn’t work as a way to stop property damage or squelch popular anger. Across the Bay, San Francisco tried it in response to vandalism during protests over the 1992 acquittals of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King. The resulting National Lawyers Guild (NLG) lawsuit cost the city $1 million and led to a Ninth Circuit decision recognizing that First Amendment activity may not be banned simply because prior similar activity involved property damage. As the court put it, the constitutional way for police to deal with “unlawful conduct that may be intertwined with First Amendment activity is to punish it after it occurs, rather than to prevent the First Amendment activity from occurring in order to obviate the possible unlawful conduct.”

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Thinking About Open Borders

Jun8

by: Antoine Pécoud on June 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

An abstract painting of a map without borders

Open borders may be an unrealistic goal, but it is one that deserves some contemplation and discussion. Credit: CreativeCommons / Fons Heijnsbroek

The free movement of people across state borders is a taboo in international political debates. Borders, it is often argued, would play a decreasing role in a globalising world. And indeed, there is strong support for the free circulation of goods, capitals, services or information. But when it comes to people, this no longer applies. The idea that human beings could be free to move from one state to another, choosing where they want to live, is usually dismissed as unrealistic. The unchallenged assumption is that peoples’ access to countries other than their own should be carefully monitored and controlled.

Opening state borders to human migration would certainly be no easy scenario. It would constitute a complete upheaval in the world’s organisation and raise more than a few fundamental questions. But does this prevent us from at least thinking about this scenario? Many of today’s realities used to be deemed ‘unrealistic’, from the abolition of slavery to gender equality. Yet, even those who are deeply dissatisfied with today’s world rarely consider this particular scenario. The United Nations repeatedly calls for many goals that are hardly ‘realistic’ – world peace, ending poverty, and so on – but never mentions open borders. The same could be said of NGOs. Most of them, even those that are actively engaged in the promotion of migrants’ rights, take migration control for granted. In other words, many objectives exist that are extraordinarily difficult to achieve yet are never rejected as illegitimate. The free movement of people is not one of them.

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Color Me?

Jun5

by: Jeffery Vogel on June 5th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Black and white photograph of surgery.

"Emphysema and lung cancer don't discriminate, we all bleed red, and when a surgeon cuts through our various skins our vital organs are all the same." Credit: CreativeCommons / Iulian Circo.

Growing up in the 1950s as a white person in an all white, mostly Jewish neighborhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn, I had essentially no contact with darker complexioned people from different ethnic groups. It wasn’t until I started working in hospitals as a respiratory therapist that I began to have consistent personal contact with people of various ethnicities and skin colors both as co-workers and patients. In a society that emphasizes our differences, working in a hospital has brought me face to face with issues and facts that unite us all. In the context of human illness, pain and death, our nation’s long and tragic obsession with skin color seems absurdly superficial. Emphysema and lung cancer don’t discriminate, we all bleed red, and when a surgeon cuts through our various skins our vital organs are all the same.

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You’ve Been Scammed! Kept Politicians and Demobilized Americans in a System Without a Name

Jun5

by: Tom Engelhardt on June 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Students wearing black graduation caps at a ceremony.

How will America's newest graduating students effect transformational change? By going for broke. Credit: CreativeCommons / Jason Bache.

It couldn’t be a sunnier, more beautiful day to exit your lives — or enter them — depending on how you care to look at it. After all, here you are four years later in your graduation togs with your parents looking on, waiting to celebrate. The question is: Celebrate what exactly?

In possibly the last graduation speech of 2015, I know I should begin by praising your grit, your essential character, your determination to get this far. But today, it’s money, not character, that’s on my mind. For so many of you, I suspect, your education has been a classic scam and you’re not even attending a “for profit” college — an institution of higher learning, that is, officially set up to take you for a ride.

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