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A bigger circle in Baltimore and Burundi

May2

by: Brian McLaren on May 2nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

BaltimoreThere’s trouble today in two places I know and love: Baltimore and Burundi.

Baltimore

I spent over forty years of my life in Maryland, not far from Baltimore. During the last six or seven years of my work there as a pastor, I was blessed to have friends who worked in the neighborhoods of the city that are on TV this week. They regularly invited me to spend time with them and learn what life was like for them.

I recall a walk down some of those streets back in early 2009, just after the economic meltdown. I was spending the day with a pastor who loved the city and was showing me what he and his congregation were doing to make a difference.

“It’s ironic,” he said. “Everyone is in a panic because the national unemployment rate is around 9 percent. Let me tell you — the unemployment rate in this area has been around 18% as long as I’ve worked here.”

Then he added, “When unemployment for white folks hits 9 percent, it’s called a great recession and a national emergency. When unemployment for African Americans is 18 percent, it’s normal and no big deal.”

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Print Exclusive: Check out an article on the Hope Industry (for free!)

Apr30

by: Tikkun on April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

Content from our print issue is usually only available to subscribers, but right now we’re offering free access (for a limited time only!) to one article from our current issue on The Place of Hope in An Age of Climate Disaster. Click here to read the article, “Hope Requires Fighting the Hope Industry.

If you are already a subscriber, please share this article with your friends! And if you have not yet subscribed, we invite you to check out this critical and engaging article to see what you are missing.

Though hope is critical to any political or social activism, big energy, along with Republican climate change-deniers have created an illusory hope industry founded on American Exceptionalism. We cannot throw our hands up and leave the health of the planet (and humanity) to be secured by technology, capitalism, or future generations, writes Charles Derber. This piece offers real resistance to the hope industry based on diffuse justice movements’ shared goal of systemic transformation. Read his article now to learn how activists are joining together for unified environmental change.

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On Power and Violence (Baltimore, for example)

Apr30

by: Aryeh Cohen on April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

A black and white photograph of a black woman holding a sign that says "Unite Here!"

Credit: CreativeCommons / Dorret.

Watching, reading, and thinking about Baltimore, the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, and the current nonviolent and violent reactions to that killing, I keep going back to Hannah Arendt. Arendt, in her essay on violence, draws an important distinction between violence and power.

Politically speaking, it is not enough to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course its end is the disappearance of power. This implies that it is not correct to say that the opposite of violence is nonviolence: to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it. (Reflections on Violence)

The power that concerns Arendt is the power of political communities. Power is the result of people coming together for political ends. Or as Arendt says: “Power needs no justification as it is inherent in the very existence of political communities.” However, Arendt here adds a supremely important caveat: “What, however, it does need is legitimacy.” Power is dependent on legitimacy. This is why violence is the opposite of power. When the power of a political community is legitimate, when it is recognized as legitimate by those who form the community, then there is no need for the violence of domination. It is only when legitimacy disappears that violence takes center stage.

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An Answer to Pam: A United Front Between Jews and Muslims

Apr28

by: Lubna Qureshi on April 28th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

An Islamophobic bus ad that reads Muslims are savages.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is continually allowed to run such repulsive ads as the one above. But free speech, when based on religious hatred, is detrimental to the morals of a society as a whole. Credit: CreativeCommons / OneCitizenSpeaking.com.

A recent ruling by a federal judge permitted the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) to display hateful advertisements on New York subway cars and buses. The tasteless ads relate the killing of Jews to Islamic teachings. This is nothing new for the AFDI. Since its inception in 2010, the AFDI has taken it upon itself to promote hateful advertisement by maligning the religious teachings of Islam under the flag of free speech. Pamela Geller, the self-proclaimed Islamophobe, organized the ad campaign. However, Geller fails to comprehend the long term consequences of the hate messages that may incite more anger and detestation in an already turbulent landscape. Although AFDI claims to exercise its right to free speech, it fails to realize the responsibilities that come with practicing the first amendment. The neglect of such responsibilities may be more harmful than even imagined.

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Social Justice Warriors, Unite!

Apr27

by: Reid Madden on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

“Why is ‘Social Justice’ a toxic phrase in common conversation?”

My roommate recently showed me something online, but what he said got me thinking. He told me “social justice warriors probably hate this.”

What does that phrase even mean, “social justice warriors?” I decided to look up what it meant on Urban Dictionary – admittedly not the best source for information, but this is what I found: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow and not well-thought-out way.” These people do not “necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.” They do it to be popular.

So how do these people make social justice look bad? After all, protesters all over the world use the Internet to organize and rally support. Social media was a huge force in the Arab Spring protests that eventually toppled regimes. Using these networks at home has created huge firestorms around net neutrality, which recently forced the FCC to adopt net neutral protocols. Using mass media has always been in the toolbox for enacting social reforms. Social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr. are regarded as heroes. Universities from Miami University to Merrimack College to my own, Hamline University, offer majors in Social Justice, training the next generation of reformers.

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Interfaith Service and Vigil Protest Laws Criminalizing Homelessness

Apr27

by: Lydia Gans on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Berkeley City Council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It’s not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within three feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they’re not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building.

Voices of protest are being heard. Members of the interfaith coalition of more than 40 congregations, including Buddhists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, are speaking out against the city’s criminalization of homelessness. On April 9 they held a protest ‘in solidarity with homeless people’ at the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Starting at 5 o’clock with a meal and an interfaith service it concluded with a sleep-out at the Plaza until 6:30 Friday morning.

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5 Ways People of Faith Are Building the Climate Movement

Apr25

by: Claire Curran on April 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

People of faith aren’t just waking up to the climate crisis, they’re leading the way. Across the country, people are bringing the wisdom of their faith traditions to their work on climate change because they know they’re better together. They know its not just about individual faith communities lowering their carbon footprints, its about collaborating around shared values, and building the world they know is possible in practical and systematic ways. Check out these five inspiring stories and then consider how you can be Better Together.

1. Standing Up for Socially just Solar

A man speaking about solar energy indoors at a podium.

People of faith in Minneapolis were excited about promoting solar in their faith communities, but as they started to look at the details, it became clear that community solar gardens were not going to be accessible to low income communities. A team of solar developers, contractors, faith leaders, business owners, and college students, representing diverse faith traditions came together design a community solar garden that is accessible to all.

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The Grandmothers

Apr24

by: Peter Balakian on April 24th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

An aerial view of thousands of people marching for the Armenian genocide.

Formal recognition of the Armenian genocide is growing not only in the countries of the diaspora, but in Turkey itself. Above, the Armenian March to Remember Genocide in Hollywood, CA. Credit: CreativeCommons / JR Woodward.

I was standing under Halogen spot lights spoking the white walls of a chic art gallery on Istiktal Street in Istanbul, a bustling pedestrian avenue of boutiques and restaurants, as I shook hands with three young Turkish fiction writers. Their publicist from their publishing house Yapi Kredir, led us to the table where we each had a small microphone and a name card in front of us, which for me was a kind of identity card. Three Americans, three Turks, all were writers of fiction but me. We had English translations of our Turkish colleagues’ works, and I felt the silence in the room grow as we moved between Turkish and English.

I was here in Istanbul in late October of 2014 to read in public for the first time. I agreed to join a group of American writers organized by the poet Christopher Merrill who directs the Iowa Writers International School at the University of Iowa. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy as a cultural reading tour to Turkey and Armenia. The underlying concept was to foster some kind of dialogue between Armenians and Turks on the eve of the centennial of the Armenian genocide.

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Talk to Others, Transform Yourself

Apr24

by: Tim Brauhn on April 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

I took Interfaith Youth Core up on their challenge for Better Together Day on April 14th and reached out to others of faith or philosophical tradition to have a conversation about what they believe and what values inspire them to do good in the world. I did this because I believe that when it comes to religion, we’re too often told that our differences define us. I’m for fixing that. Join me.

I’m a Catholic. For the past nearly-decade, in my work as an interfaith leader and through my job at Islamic Networks Group, I’ve been lucky to meet a huge variety of non-Catholics. I’m talking denominations and sects and sub-sects and sub-sub-sects of faiths from all around the world, and even a few who believe that they are from another planet. Many of these interactions have been casual, unremarkable even, but on occasion, I’ve found myself challenging my own stereotypes and misperceptions about other faiths.

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In Praise of Botticelli

Apr23

by: Raanan Geberer on April 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

Back in 1985, I started working as an editor at an energy-conservation trade magazine. Sure, it was a place of work and there were deadlines, no question about that. But we often took long lunches and often went out together as a group. Sometimes, during a lull in the work, we’d play a word game called “Botticelli,” whose rules I can’t remember for the life of me, but everybody seemed to enjoy.

I left that job in 1992. What a difference! We were putting out the same magazine with half the staff, we were busy almost every minute (one new worker observed that “everybody seems maxed out”), we were spending longer hours there, and as for lunch, half the time we just ate hurried meals at our desks. No Botticelli now!

After years of reading about the changing American workplace and thinking about my own experiences, I decided to ask some other people in my own age group and older, meaning people who’ve been working 25 or more years, about their experiences, about whether they’d seen similar changes in their own fields.

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