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Michael Hogue
Michael S. Hogue is Associate Professor of Theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

The GOP and Keynes


by: on September 8th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

Last night’s GOP debate evoked a range of responses in me, from disbelief to revulsion. It was not only the content, but also the form and style of the lineup, the glowing white teeth and slick hair, the token woman and token black man, the cartoonish smiles, the obviously strained civility and the embarrassing pandering of each to distinguish him or herself from the others.

I was particularly horrified by the advance applause of the audience when Perry was asked what he thought of the fact that during his tenure as Governor, Texas had executed more people than any other state. Before Perry had a chance to answer, the audience erupted into wild applause! Perry then went on with great pride to explain his commitment to capital punishment. It was hard to stomach.

I was also in a state of somewhat bemused disbelief as I heard Perry incoherently dodge the question put to him about climate change. When asked which scientists and theories he could draw upon to support his claims that the science was still out climate change, he very awkwardly avoided the question and camouflaged his ignorance with in the rhetoric of “sound” economic policy.

But the most important issue, and I’d love to hear some others’ thoughts about this, was provoked by Romney’s assertion that there is now proof that “Keynesian” economics doesn’t work.


Religious Responses to Budget Debate


by: on April 28th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

This post will say nothing that you don’t already know, though it will provide a couple of very interesting links for you.Though there’s nothing new here, I need to vent.

It is as astonishing to me as to most of you who read Tikkun that there is ANY support coming from religious folks for the Republican budget proposal. It is a revoltingly immoral and unjust attempt to solve a deficit problem (largely created by Republican policies, wars, and tax cuts for the wealthy) on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable.

In order to pay for an unjust war in Iraq, and a highly questionable, perhaps dead-end war in Afghanistan, and in order to sustain the lowest tax rates for the wealthy since President Hoover–the very same affluent demographic that had nearly everything to do with the rise of speculative markets and bubbles and thus the collapse and recession and increasing precariousness of our whole market economy–Paul Ryan’s “courageous” new plan is to cut the deficit by completely gutting and nearly destroying our nation’s already too modest social welfare programs. The moral logic in this is really insidiously wicked.

Now, I completely agree that we’ve got a HUGE problem with our growing deficit. It is as much of a social justice problem as many other issues. The problem with the Ryan proposal, of course, is not that it addresses the deficit, but that it cynically exploits the deficit as an occasion to leverage American conservatism’s increasingly conspicuous Ayn Randish principles [1) destroy the enemy, starve the beast: shrink government to drownable size, or at least maim it to the point that it self-fulfills conservative critiques of government inefficacy; 2) lift up and empower the wealthy through racial and class pandering and moral justification of selfishness and greed; 3) leave the rest to fend for themselves].

There is NO religious framework or lifeway that, except through disingenuous hermeneutical backflipping, could possibly justify these principles. And if that’s the case, and if these principles (which are usually dressed up a bit in public) undergird the Ryan proposal and most other Republic sensibilities about the deficit, then there is NO way that there should be any religious support for this budget proposal. Is there anything in Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or Religious Humanism, or Religious Naturalism, or Unitarian Universalism that so brazenly endorses the accumulation and concentration of wealth among a very few at the expense of the very many, and especially at the expense of the vulnerable? Absolutely not.


Gratitude Rant, Scholarship, Attentive Repair


by: on April 10th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

Simone Weil Fresco

The great French mystic scholar, Simone Weil, writes: “The poet produces the beautiful by fixing his attention on something real. It is the same with the act of love. To know that this man who is hungry and thirsty really exists as much as I do – that is enough, the rest follows of itself. The authentic and pure values, truth, beauty, and goodness, in the activity of a human being are the result of one and the same act, a certain application of the full attention to the object. Teaching should have no aim but to prepare, by training the attention, for the possibility of such an act” (Gravity and Grace, 173).

I am writing this post on my return journey home from Berkeley (home to Tikkun) where I have been conferring with emerging Unitarian Universalist scholars. Hosted by Starr King School for the Ministry in collaboration with Harvard Divinity School and my own seminary, Meadville Lombard, with generous funding from the UUA, the doctoral students invited to this conference work in some of the most prestigious programs and departments in the country.


The Politics of the Present Imperfect


by: on December 22nd, 2010 | 6 Comments »

It is a time of year when many of us take special occasion to reflect on whether we’ve been living our lives the way we mean to, whether our communities and our society as a whole have become a little more sane-minded, more sustainable, more beautiful, a little more just in the past year.

In my experience this exercise often leads to heartburn and nausea: the gap between the way things are and the way I hope for them to be is so vast as to seem impossible to bridge.


An Ancient Take on a Modern Question: Morality in Our Changing World


by: on September 23rd, 2010 | 13 Comments »

Photo by J E Theriot

I mentioned in my last post that the question I was raising – how  to respond morally to change when even our moral sources are changing – is an ancient question.

Consider the story of the ancient Greek philosopher Cratylus, who was influenced by the philosophical vision of Heraclitus. Though the name Heraclitus may be unfamiliar, his dictum that “you can’t step into the same river twice” is probably very familiar. Heraclitus was one of the original philosophers of process and flux – everything is dynamic, whatever is, is in motion.

Cratylus was deeply influenced by this idea and followed it to what he deemed to be some of its logical consequences: he argued that not only can one not step into the same river twice, but one can’t step into the same river once.


How do you live for the good and holy when the world and our moral traditions are changing so quickly?


by: on September 10th, 2010 | 11 Comments »

Photo by Andrew McFarlane (Leelanau County, Michigan)

Dear Readers,

My purpose in beginning to blog for Tikkun is to interpret and comment on an experiment in progressive public theology that we’re running at Meadville Lombard Theological School (Unitarian Universalist; Chicago, IL) (www.meadville.edu). But in this first post, I just want to introduce myself and describe an experience from earlier in my life that led me to what I’m doing now.

Though I’m a professor of theology and ethics, my most important work occurs outside the academy. I’m a father of two and one on the way, married to the best woman I know, a son to some pretty amazing parents and a brother to a brother who constantly inspires me. I try to fulfill my familial vocation as well as I can, but I make plenty of mistakes! Like most of us, I suspect, I disappoint folks nearly as much as I do right by them. I think that being in right relationship is one of the most exalting and humbling tasks of being human.