Religious accommodation in the workplace seems to be gaining strength in recent times. Last month, corporate America received a huge setback as retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch was found by a federal judge to have discriminated against a Muslim clerk who wore a hijab to work and was subsequently fired. While that story took the nation, especially American Muslim circles by storm, I refrained from writing about it for the simple reason that there didn’t seem much else to say. A court of law of the United States had already given a powerful message that American Muslims, with our infinite rituals and practices, were part of the fabric of American life and deserved equal treatment under the law. What more could anyone add? Yet here I am less than a month later, writing about this landmark case, not to state the obvious but because it seems that this case may have set some sort of precedent for religious accommodation.
Text: 2 Kings 8; 1-6; Luke 18: 1-8
Last July, the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute published results of a survey which aimed to go deeper with its 2,000 American interviewees than the usual labels, left and right. Not surprisingly, the survey found religious conservatives in greater numbers than progressives. But that is before age is factored in. Among the oldest Americans, about half think of themselves as religious conservatives and only one-eighth as progressives. Among adults born after 1980, however, only one sixth are conservatives, and one quarter are progressives. Robert P Jones, head of PRRI, says, “The percentage of religious conservative shrinks in each successive generation, with religious progressives outnumbering conservatives among the millennial generation.” That’s the generation you Riversiders keep saying you want to open this church up for. The church-wide survey said it, your commentaries at forums we have held say it, the interviews done for us by Auburn Seminary affirm it, as did the 5-year strategic plan which expired in 2010. Is it time to put your money where your mouth is?
Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.
Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.
Credit: Creative Commons
To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”
Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?
The late Hip-Hop artist Tupac Shakur told the truth in the song “Ghetto Gospel” when he said: “Before we find world peace, we gotta find peace and end the war in the streets my Ghetto Gospel.” This is especially important to remember as we observe Peace Day – The United Nations International Day of Peace and Global Ceasefire – September 21. (http://internationaldayofpeace.org/) We ought to honor the day in our secular and in our faith communities and know that peace is a possibility when we understand that world peace begins inside each of us, one person at a time.
Peace Day was established in 1981 as a day to shed light on the universal ideal of global peace and non-violence. Very often when we think of world peace, our minds go to the various wars being fought between or within nations. We do not think of the daily/nightly gunfire we hear in our communities. We do think of the homicides that we read about in our local papers every day. We do not connect events such as the horrific shootings in Chicago with distant wars.
But, every global conflict is someone’s local conflict. The violence happens in someone’s neighborhood. It is local violence that disrupts daily life. Whether it is the violence of civil war in Syria or Iraq or gun violence in Chicago or New Orleans or a mass shooting in Colorado, Connecticut or Washington DC, what seems to be distant violence is up close and personal violence that happens on someone’s block, at someone’s school or at someone’s job. The violence leads to stress caused by the trauma, and it is possible that stress leads to more violence.
Now the question becomes: what are we going to do to end the violence in our communities? I say there are at least two things that we can do. The first is to think about making peace inside ourselves. Life is full of things that cause stress. We ought to learn the techniques that will help us reduce personal stress. One such technique is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Mindfulness is about living in the moment. It means that we do not rehearse the past; we do not fret over the future; rather, we live each day, one moment at a time.
I was on the bus, returning to Washington from New York where I spent Yom Kippur.
I wouldn’t have talked to the kid next to me him except I could not find the outlet near my seat to charge my phone. He saw me struggling and helped me find it. (It was camouflaged under the seat in front of mine). We started to talk and, after I told him I had been in Manhattan for the Jewish holiday, he said that he had been there for the same reason.
We talked about Georgetown and why he chose to go there and then he asked me what I did.
I told him “my story” which led him to say that he had no interest in the Middle East at all. His issue was income inequality in the United States.
A year ago today, my friends Chris and Phileena Heuertz started Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism. In twenty years of working among the poorest of the poor, they learned what we’ve learned here: it’s easy to loose your center. But Christian tradition offers us a wealth of resources to help us find our center in prayer. And we have it on good account that this Center holds. To celebrate the first anniversary of Gravity Center, I wanted to share this reflection on how contemplative, liturgical prayer has saved me and our community.
If the Baptists who raised me in rural North Carolina taught me anything, they taught me to love Jesus and the Bible. Hard-working farmers and factory employees, my people had high hopes for me. They stressed education and sent me with care packages to go out and see the world. But however far I might go, they made sure I knew that Jesus and the Bible were at the center of everything. Jesus was our Lord and Savior, the ultimate answer to life’s biggest questions and my heart’s deepest longings. In Sunday school, I learned that you find Jesus through the Bible. The Good Book was our constant companion. We memorized it chapter and verse.
by: Mark Kirschbaum on September 12th, 2013 | Comments Off
As the “Day of Atonement” approaches I invite you to reflect on two of my previously posted essays.
First, Yom Kippur: Time and Teshuva- A Place for Healing, which explores:
- The relationship between time and teshuva (repentance) and how we can change the past with actions from the present.
- The startling similarity between R. Kook and Nietzsche on the retroactive force of history- and healing the past.
- How Yom Kippur can provide a safe place for self-healing as it places us “outside of time.”
Second, Book of Jonah Dvar: Delivered at Temple Beth Shalom, Las Vegas, Mincha of Yom Kippur 2011, speculates:
- How a traditionally somber day is actually one of the happiest.
- Why we read the Jonah story on Yom Kippur.
Actions speak louder than words. It’s a litany spoken by teachers to students, parents to children, wives to husbands (and sometimes vice versa) thousands of times around the world each day in tens of different languages. It echoes in my mind from my own childhood, and although it irritated me beyond belief as a child, I have often found myself repeating the very thing to my own little ones. “Saying sorry after hitting your sister is all very good, but actions speak louder than words” or “You may say you love your mom, but when’s the last time you helped me out around the house?” Sound familiar? Because despite the fact that this little sentence is so clichéd it ought to be outlawed, it also happens to be the essence of human nature.
In a world reverberating with a cacophony of statements, actions reflect our state of mind more than anything that comes out of our mouths. Whatever we believe, whatever we want outsiders to believe about our group, is completely dependent on how we behave. Unfortunately these five little words that are so easily understood by the youngest of minds are often the most misapplied and ignored by adults. And it is these very words that have been playing over and over in my mind today, the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, when monsters pretending to be my brothers in faith declared a holy war against my home and killed almost 3,000 innocent of my fellow countrymen and women in one terrifying swoop. Certainly their actions were taken by the entire country as a sign that Islam is a violent, bloodthirsty religion, wanting nothing more than to force the West to its knees through murder and mayhem. Ordinary Muslims such as I were aghast that such terrible actions could hold more weight than the statements of millions of Muslims in the United States and abroad who vehemently denounced them individually and collectively. But that’s human nature, isn’t it, that actions speak more clearly and resound louder than mere words do?