Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.
Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.
by: Jan Bolerjack on April 14th, 2015 | No Comments »
In anticipation of the national action day Fight for $15 this Wednesday, April 15, I offer this reflection from my recent work in SeaTac, Washington. I encourage us all to keep in mind that although the $15 living wage campaign is a good start for worker health and stability there are other actions that must go alongside this wage increase including shared power and influence by workers with management, sick leave, work place safety, medical/retirements benefits, etc. Let’s be sure we don’t think the fight is over when we get a living wage for all workers.
I saw the jacket several times on a man standing in the Food Pantry line in my church basement. A youngish man with a friendly face and an accented greeting, lined up waiting for a food basket. After several weeks of seeing him there, I finally learned his story. It was not a jacket that he got at a thrift shop, as I had first imagined, but the official jacket he wore to work every day as a ramp worker at SeaTac Airport, just two miles down the road. He worked the night shift and got off work just before our food pantry opened. Twice a month, he would come and stand in line to get supplemental food for his family. I learned that the full time wage he earned wasn’t enough to pay the utilities and rent for the two bedroom apartment he shared with his wife, three children, and mother-in-law.
by: Elena Blackmore on April 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Could society be rebuilt around understanding and compassion instead of shame? The effects would be revolutionary.
Though it creates vicious cycles that stifle creativity, shame is piled onto those perceived as undeserving of social support programs while consumerist advertising bolsters a "not-enough" mentality. Credit: uldissprogis.com.
The binary rhetoric that currently surrounds the welfare state reflects a deep moral narrative with a crippling social impact. ‘Strivers’ and ‘skivers’ are two sides of the same coin. That coin is shame.
One side represents the deserving, and the other side the undeserving. Rachel Reeves, the UK Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, recently said that: “We [the Labour Party] are not the party of people on benefits.” She faced some criticism for these words, but these are messages we hear daily, from government and opposition alike.
We’re here for hard-working families. We’re here for the taxpayer.
In this narrative, employment equals worth, while unemployment casts you into the world of the untouchables.
Economic policies are created around this notion of worth. Unemployment must be a choice — you’re shirking — so let’s coax you out of it. You don’t need benefits in your first week of unemployment since you should be looking for work. We’ll put sanctions on you if you’re unemployed for too long.
Shame on you for being unemployed.
by: Jerry Ashton on April 11th, 2015 | No Comments »
If the very compelling speakers at a recent industry workshop for the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) have their way, not-for-profits would find themselves equal to — if not superior to — the “for-profits” with whom they compete for resources.
The keynote speaker and author, Lynne Twist, offers up a positive re-naming for this industry — “Social Profit.” Equally persuasive was guest speaker, Harvard grad Jennifer Craig, who offered “For Purpose” as a better description.
Let’s think about this.
Exactly why are “non-profits” considered second-tier? Why should a “corporate” business card trump one that reads “non-profit?” Why are (relatively speaking) so fewer dollars directed to social good than to commerce and industry?
by: Jack Gilroy and Sharon Dellinger on April 10th, 2015 | No Comments »
Join Us In Washington, DC April 22-24th – Alternatives
to Violence Days
Are you over the hill with workshops, retreats and conferences and want to roll up your sleeves and do some real peace and justice action? Read on!
A truly sane individual does not continue to make the same mistakes. As a nation of individuals we need to work to end our U.S. Government’s practice of using violence rather than compassion and generosity. We know violence is a mistake. Help us correct our past by promoting the Global Marshall Plan, an alternative to violence.
Congressman Keith Ellison of Minneapolis/St. Paul, one of two Muslims in Congress, has presented House of Representatives Resolution Plan for 2015, the Global Marshall Plan. Congressional Resolutions are a good start to bringing about change. A Global Marshall Plan Act is our goal and it can be achieved.
We will be lobbying Progressive House of Representatives offices on April 22-24 to encourage people of compassion and sanity to support the Global Marshall Plan Resolution and Congressman Ellison’s HR 1464, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, a gateway bill to the Global Marshall Plan. Join us at the office of Jubilee USA, 212 East Capitol Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20003 on April 22nd at 9AM in the conference room (Jubilee is just a few blocks from the United States House of Representatives). As a lobbyist, you will have a packet which includes the Global Marshall Plan Resolution. A sheet with a few questions about how your meeting worked out will also be in the packet, along with an email address and telephone number to report on your meeting. Your feedback on the meetings will help guide us in future endeavors.
by: Gary Yarus on April 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
As Jews around world prepare to remember the Holocaust (Yom HaShoah) on April 16th, they too should pause a week earlier to remember the massacre at Deir Yassin on April 9th, exactly sixty-seven years ago. In both cases, Jews should shout, loud and clear: “Nie wieder!” Never again!
Deir Yassin was a tiny Palestinian village outside the area assigned by the UN for the future Jewish state. Being on the high ground between Jerusalem and Jaffa, it was of strategic military value. The villagers had sought to stay neutral in the fighting around it, when it was stormed early in the morning of April 9th, 1948, by 130 Jewish militiamen of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stem Gang, one of whose three commanders was Yitzhak Shamir. The assault by the two “Jewish Underground” militias received artillery support from Haganah, the future Israeli army. The resulting massacre, in which more that 200 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed, is considered a turning point in Palestinian history.
Credit: WikimediaCommons / Richard Simon.
There are many ways to interpret the epic story of Moses hearing God’s voice at the Burning Bush. For this Passover season, I share one way that I understand this story and its meaning to our lives in the present time.
Moses, who grew up as a prince of Egypt, had witnessed violence and abuse of the Israelite slaves and was horrified by it – as any person who has not hardened his/her heart would understandably be. Out of rage, horror and grief, Moses reacted by killing an Egyptian who was abusing the slaves. He is then forced to flee the palace (his life of privilege, the only life he has known). Though he was able to create a new and somewhat comfortable life for himself married to the daughter of one of the chief priests of Midian, he could not forget what he had experienced in Egypt. So while tending the sheep of his father-in-law’s house, one lamb wanders off and he chases it as it wanders up a mountain (that tradition later identifies as Sinai). There he experiences most fully the burning message in his heart that simply refuses to burn out. Moses envisions it as a burning bush that is not consumed, and from that fire within he hears a voice that tells him he is to return to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh let his people go.
by: Nomi Prins on April 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Back in the eighteenth century, Voltaire wrote that, “With Great Power, there must also come Great Responsibility.” Stan Lee echoed the sentiment in his first Spiderman comic book in 1962. Recent financial leaders have shown no such affinity toward responsibility. Instead, the Big Six bank leaders exercise a historically dangerous power while enjoying Washington’s full ideological and financial support with no strings attached. Lax regulators, politicians eager for lucrative private sector jobs after public service and we taxpayers, subsidize them. Their firms’ fraudulent practices transcend borders.
During the past three decades, America’s most elite bankers have worked strategically to bend the banking system, the laws, and the federal government to support their supremacy. Their avarice for private gain shows such contempt for the public good, that it’s hard to imagine a time when humbler heads prevailed. So, did bank leaders always exhibit such morally bankrupt tendencies as they appear to do today? The answer is no.
by: Elana Baurer on April 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Each year, we retell the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt as if it were our own liberation. Jews and non-Jews alike gather around the seder table all over the world and go through the steps of the seder. Some choose to commemorate the enslavement of the Israelites under the Egyptians as though it really happened, while others approach the story as symbolic. Exodus is an empowering, joyful story of freedom, liberation, and journey from the small, narrow places to expansiveness.
by: Rev. Rich Lang on April 4th, 2015 | 4 Comments »
Credit: CreativeCommons / Lisa.
This weekend, Christians will remember the last week of Jesus’ life. If you ask Christians what the significance of Jesus is, they will tell you that Jesus “died for our sins,” paving the way for our souls to go to heaven after we shed this mortal coil. This common view is really a rather odd answer.
Some Christians tell the story as if God, the spiritual source of the material world, is really angry with us human beings. We are a rebellious sort who eat apples off the wrong trees and have sex with the wrong people. God the spirit is so angry with us that when our mortal coil is shed, our own spiritual essence will descend into an eternal torture chamber for an afterlife marked by weeping and gnashing of teeth. But thankfully, Jesus takes one for the team, becoming the scapegoat that represents all of us filthy sinners, and in doing so, appeases the God who otherwise would roast and toast us like an eternal marshmallow at a campfire. If you don’t believe Christians talk this way, just ask one: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”