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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category



How to Start That Difficult Conversation

Nov18

by: Robert Cohen on November 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Difficult conversation on Israel/Palestine between Jews and Christians

Credit: Creative Commons/ Kathleen Tyler Conklin

I want to talk about difficult conversations. Conversations that could put decades of valuable Christian/Jewish interfaith dialogue in jeopardy. It’s risky I know, but I think the stakes have become too high to shy away from it any longer.

Jewish communities receive lessons in Israel advocacy from our leadership, who seem to think the solution to Israel’s growing isolation can be resolved with nothing more than better presentation skills. Meanwhile, Christian communities are morally paralyzed by fear of causing offense to a people they spent so many centuries persecuting.

But it’s time to stop the Jewish moral denial and the Christian moral paralysis. With so much ethical common ground, why not both stand on it for a change and see what happens?

And who knows, through challenging the current no-go-area consensus on Israel, it could take us all to somewhere more dynamic, truthful and powerful in interfaith relations.

But with all that Israel advocacy training taking place in our synagogues, I feel like my Christian friends need some insider guidance on how to get this conversation going.

So what follows is the Micah’s Paradigm Shift Online Guide to Starting that Difficult Conversation on Israel with your Jewish neighbors, friends, colleagues, and local communities.

Feel free to adapt the following to your local circumstances and understanding.

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Of Martyrs and Murderers

Nov14

by: on November 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Students at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota, reenact the slaughter.

Who is a martyr? The question comes to mind twenty-five years after what has become known as “the Jesuit massacre” in El Salvador.

On November 16, 1989, an elite battalion of the Salvadoran military forced its way into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America, or UCA, in San Salvador. Most of the soldiers had received counter-insurgency training in Georgia, at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. They proceeded to murder six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter.

Unlike the martyrs of ancient Christianity, these men were not killed simply because they professed the faith. They were targeted specifically for speaking out on behalf of the impoverished and against persecutions carried out by the U.S.-backed military. Still, in the view of many, they died for the faith no less than the martyrs of old.

This happens to be subject to dispute in some quarters. The argument has surfaced mostly in connection with the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a paramilitary death squad while saying mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital in San Salvador in 1980.

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Economics According to the New Testament

Nov5

by: Kevin Daugherty on November 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

rich and poor

Credit: The Hampton Institute

Growing up, I was often exposed to the idea that capitalism and Christianity go together. Profit and wealth were not simply compatible with Christianity, but were a sign of God’s blessing or your personal piety. I remember going to the Christian bookstore once or twice and seeing large piles of books with that topic specifically in mind, usually by Dave Ramsey, who was recently on the 700 Club for a new book of his. In that interview, one of the first things mentioned is how Ramsey and Robertson agree that wealth is a good thing, and that those who see wealth as bad are wrong, even “gnostic.” I don’t think the heretics here are the “gnostics” who believe that wealth is wrong; rather, I think the heretics here are Ramsey, Robertson, and others in their camp, who seem to have forgotten what the New Testament and early church taught concerning economics.

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Gays and “Unique Gifts”: Is the Catholic Church Ready for Change?

Oct23

by: Michael Orion Powell-Deschamps on October 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Catholic Church

The Vatican released a preliminary document calling out churches to welcome gays into their communities. Credit: Creative Commons/The National Churches Trust

Some big news happened earlier this month. The Vatican released a preliminary document calling for the church to welcome and accept homosexuals. It was the culmination of an expected change during Francis’ tenure. Since becoming pope, Pope Francis has made verbal overtures towards gay Catholics, famously saying, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?”

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New Developments in the Catholic Church’s Stance on Homosexuality

Oct22

by: on October 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Edgar Jiménez

Many years ago, as I walked back to the pew after receiving Communion, I saw the outline of a man kneeling in another pew, his head in his hands. As Catholics often do when they see someone during Mass that they have not seen for while, I wordlessly tapped him on the shoulder to say the silent hello. I was not prepared for the sight of his face. As he looked up, his face was gaunt, and there were dark circles under his eyes that I had never seen before, not even the time he cried in front of me.

Several months prior to that, I drove him back to his condo after Mass, where he finally opened up to me why he was refraining from receiving Communion: having recently had sex with men, he believed he was not in a state of grace, and therefore not worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

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Dangerous Values at Values Voters Summit

Sep30

by: on September 30th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Values Voters Summit

Credit: Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

I perceive so many issues and so much material to critique from the recent so-called Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. that I find it difficult where precisely to focus.

I could talk about the cast of characters invited to present to the largely older, white, conservative Christian confab audience, with such notables ranging from current and former elected political officials including Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and David Dewhurst, to ultra conservative media pundits such as Erick Erickson (Editor-in-Chief of Red States) and Glenn Beck, to heads of far-right organizations like Gary Bauer (Pres., American Values) and Kelly Shackelford (Pres. & CEO, Liberty Institute).

I could center my comments on the “intellectual” and historical bloopers made by a number of the presenters. For example, Ted Cruz lambasted U.S. officials talking with Iranian leaders:

“This week the government of Iran is sitting down with the United States government, swilling chardonnay in New York City to discuss what [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu rightly describes as an historic mistake…setting the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapon capability.”

Cruz, like President George W. Bush before him, shows his utter ignorance of Muslims and their cultures, in Cruz’s case, by his ignorance of their ban on consuming alcoholic beverages.


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What the Changing Face of U.S. Catholicism Means for the Interfaith Community

Sep24

by: Michael Powell-Deschamps on September 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Blase Cupich Cardinal Francis George

Bishop Blasé Cupich is greeted by Cardinal Francis George at a press conference in Chicago, where it was announced Cupich will succeed him. Credit: Creative Commons/WGN Radio

Pope Francis’ recent appointment of Blasé Cupich — a progressive bishop from Spokane, Washington — to replace the reactionary Cardinal Francis George as the leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago shows that Pope Francis is intent on reviving liberation theology not just in the Vatican and in the developing world but also within the ranks of U.S. Catholic leadership.

The leadership of the Archdiocese of Chicago is a huge role, as it involves a position of authority over two million Catholics. The Pope’s new pick, Cupich, is the opposite of Cardinal George, a reactionary who had butted heads with the Obama administration and compared gay pride parades to the Ku Klux Klan. In sharp contrast, Cupich has used his pulpit to condemn as “provocative” the Catholics who protested against abortion rights in front of Planned Parenthood. And during the election cycle of a referendum on gay marriage in Washington state, Cupich even expressed concern about the high suicide rate among homosexual youth.

John Gehring from Talking Points Memo eloquently noted the significance of this move, writing:

 ”By appointing a social justice bishop who seeks common ground to a high-profile diocese, a reform minded pope has sent a clear signal to U.S. church leaders losing their way fighting the culture wars….San Francisco Bishop Robert McElroy has argued that Pope Francis’ emphasis on poverty and inequality ‘demand a transformation of the existing political conversation in our nation.’ Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, the most influential American Catholic because of his role on the pope’s council of cardinals tasked with reforming church governance, has called comprehensive immigration reform ‘another pro-life issue,’ and in a homily before the annual March for Life in Washington last January said ‘the Gospel of Life demands that we work for economic justice in our country and in our world.’”

What does Pope Francis’ bold revival of liberation theology in the Catholic Church mean for the interfaith community?


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Why Noah’s Ark?

Sep17

by: on September 17th, 2014 | Comments Off

Originally published on National Catholic Reporter

Noah's ark climate march

The ark comes to mind as a good symbol for crowded, unpleasant conditions, ones we get when try to repair or resurrect the environment, along with Noah. Credit: Creative Commons/Taiwan boi

We are five days out from the People’s Climate March in New York. The ark, a float in the upcoming march, is built and on its flatbread truck on its way to Manhattan.

You are probably wondering why the ark became the symbol for Green Faith.  Obviously, we are looking for a miracle to happen on September 21. We want God to repent God’s anger and give us one more chance.  We want to see the bow in the sky.  And we are mightily interested in all the colors of all the animals on earth coming together to create a new beginning for humanity.  In fact, the biggest question being asked internally about the march is why people of color should participate in it.  The answers so far are less invitational than they might be.  But I’ll get to that.

We know the march will be big, if for no other reason than our phones are ringing off their hooks. We don’t yet know if it will be a miracle or not.  Miracles are something the divine pulls off, even if we assist mightily as partners in miracle making.  Plus, there is always the possibility it is too late for the climate and that repair, not restoration or new beginning, is all that we can hope for.


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Letter to Pope Francis on Obliterating the Gender Scripts

Sep3

by: on September 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Aleteia Image Department

Dear Pope Francis, Your Holiness,

Word is out that you are intending to travel to the United States in September 2015 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where you will speak at that city’s commemoration of World Family Day. Your arrival here has sparked excitement by United States Catholics and non-Catholics alike who have been encouraged by your efforts to reform and to heal the Church from past policies and actions that have had the effort of turning people away from what has been viewed by many as misinterpretations of scripture and as a massive covering over of sexual abuses.

As a non-Catholic myself, I hope during your talk in Philadelphia you will discuss an inclusive concept of “family” by acknowledging diversity in terms of human sexuality, gender expression, and the multidimensional varieties of human relationships. Unfortunately, your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in my estimation, failed in this regard.

For example, in January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a New Year’s speech to diplomats from approximately 180 countries, declaring that marriage for same-sex couples “threatens human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” And in 2008, during Benedict’s end-of-the-year Vatican address, he asserted that humanity needs to “listen to the language of creation” to realize the intended roles of man and woman. He warned of the “blurring” of the natural distinctions between males and females, and called for humanity to protect itself from self-destruction. The Pope compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”


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Militant Resistance Can Look Like This

Sep1

by: on September 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Last night in Downtown Oakland, supported by dozens of lay Buddhist practitioners, Buddhist monks, and interfaith allies, nine people sat in silent meditation, blocking the doors of the Marriott Hotel, which will host Urban Shield this week. Urban Shield is a militarized police expo and SWAT Team training where police forces from around the country come to learn about and purchase militarized weapons that they will then use on citizenry, as we saw so vividly in Ferguson recently.


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