Williams: Towards a Moral State

Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke last week about the need for a moral state that is not theocratic or confessional.

Portions of the talk appear as a column in the Sunday Times.

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Moral vision should be at the heart of politics

In his lecture this evening in Hull, birthplace of William Wilberforce, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will urge politicians to rediscover the moral energy and vision which inspired Wilberforce; defend the right of the citizen to call the state to account for its actions; and ask whether we still believe in the notion of "a moral
state."

If we do, he says, we cannot leave the state to decide for itself what is moral: "The modern state needs a robust independent tradition of moral perception with which to engage. Left to itself it cannot generate the self-critical energy that brings about change...for the sake of some positive human ideal."

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Immigration and Churches

Entering into a controversial political arena, some evangelical Christian leaders are beginning to paricipate in calls for immigration reform which has been a long time concern of The Episcopal Church and other mainline churches.
A new coalition of more than 100 largely evangelical Christian leaders and organizations asked Congress on Monday to pass bills to strengthen border controls but also give illegal immigrants ways to gain legal residency.
The New York Times' Neela Banerjee reports:

The announcement spotlights evangelical leaders’ increasingly visible efforts to push for what they say is a more humane policy in keeping with biblical injunctions to show compassion for their neighbors, the weak and the alien.

The new group, Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, includes members like the Mennonite Church U.S.A. and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which represents Latino evangelicals.


More NYTimes stories on immigration and churches HERE

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Ecumenical Efforts for Middle East Peace

Twenty Episcopalians from around the country joined an ecumenical coalition in Washington, D.C., May 6-8 to press for sustained diplomatic engagement by the Bush Administration to bring a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem. Lucy Chumbley of Washington Windows reports:

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic church bodies and organizations, held the conference for 150 attendees who participated in some 65 meetings with Members of Congress and key staff.

Before meeting with the law makers, the delegates worshiped together and attended "inside the beltway" briefings on related issues given by lobbyists, representatives of think tanks, academics and government officials.

A silent processional, broken only by the jingling of an incense censor, set a reflective tone for the opening prayer service at National City Christian Church, which included two songs of peace in Hebrew and Arabic, "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" and "Ya ar-Rub as-Salaami."

"These are real heart songs of Jerusalem," said Ann Staal, a CMEP board member representing the Reformed Church in America, who organized and led the service. "If you were to sing one of these on the streets of Jerusalem, I'm sure someone would join you."

Homilies were offered by Roman Catholic Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church's 25th Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold.

Lincoln D. Chaffee, an Episcopalian and former Republican U.S. Senator from Rhode Island was a keynote speaker for the event.

Read it all HERE at Episcopal Life Online.

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Faith groups pursue federal "earmarks"

From today's New York Times:

"Religious organizations have long competed for federal contracts to provide social services, and they have tried to influence Congress on matters of moral and social policy — indeed, most major denominations have a presence in Washington to monitor such legislation. But an analysis of federal records shows that some religious organizations are also hiring professional lobbyists to pursue the narrowly tailored individual appropriations known as earmarks.

A New York Times analysis shows that the number of earmarks for religious organizations, while small compared with the overall number, have increased sharply in recent years. From 1989 to January 2007, Congress approved almost 900 earmarks for religious groups, totaling more than $318 million, with more than half of them granted in the Congressional session that included the 2004 presidential election. By contrast, the same analysis showed fewer than 60 earmarks for faith-based groups in the Congressional session that covered 1997 and 1998."

The article continues: “Earmarks are bad public policy,” said Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Office of Government Relations in Washington. “If earmarks are not in the public interest, I would wonder why the faith community would be involved in them. It would hurt our credibility.”

Read it all.

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Feedback Policy.

Faith and the farm bill

From the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

Beginning next week, key congressional committees will begin drafting the 2007 U.S. farm bill. The bill affects every American – and most people around the world – in one way or another. US farmers and rural communities. have an important stake in the legislation, as do hungry people in our own country and people living in deadly poverty around the world. To learn more, click here.


Reform of the current U.S. commodity-payment system would allow Congress to invest billions of dollars in farms and rural communities that need it most, and better support programs that fight hunger and poverty at home and around the world.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

During the week of May 27, when lawmakers are home in their districts for the Memorial Day recess, Episcopalians will be joining with other people of faith to visit their Senators and Representatives and share the message of farm-bill reform. The effort will include bishops, clergy, lay people, community organizers, farmers, and others who want to see a fair and just farm bill.

If you have never set up a meeting with your member of congress, it’s easy to do – here are some simple instructions. Ask others in your congregation to join.

Interested, but nervous you won’t know what to say? Register here, so that we can invite you to a special conference call that will walk through the important information.

Together, we can help pass a 2007 farm bill that makes historic strides against hunger and poverty at home and around the world.

To whom much is given...

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and four leaders of Protestant denominations wrote to the U. S. Congress May 10 to urge budget negotiators to preserve important investments in federal domestic and international programs that fight poverty and disease at home and around the globe.

The letter was signed by Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Bishop Beverly Shamana, President of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society and the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ.

The Church's Office of Government Relations has the story.

Washington DC priest takes stand on immigration reform

The Episcopal News Service reports on a Washington DC priest speaking out in favor of amending the present Immigration reform bill making its way through the capital so that it would emphasize family reunification rather than focusing on selecting candidates for immigration solely on needed skills:

"Expressing support for immigrant family reunification at a May 23 Capitol Hill news conference, the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, rector of St. John’s Lafayette Square Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., spoke in favor of a proposed amendment authored by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

The Senators’ amendment would remove barriers to reunification for the nuclear families of lawful permanent residents.

'The Episcopal Church’s 2006 legislative body, General Convention, expressed strong support for comprehensive immigration legislation and regarded family unity as an imperative of any reformed system,' stated Leon. 'Sadly, the Senate compromise legislation includes provisions that devalue family sponsored immigration.' The Clinton-Hagel-Menendez amendment would reclassify the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent immigrants as 'immediate relatives,' thereby exempting them from the visa caps."

Read the rest here (which includes the full text of Leon's remarks): Episcopal Life Online - NEWS

Faith and the campaign

From the Associated Press:

The personal faith of candidates has become a very public part of the 2008 presidential campaign. Seven years after George W. Bush won the presidency in part with a direct appeal to conservative religious voters _ he cited Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher during one debate _ it seems all the leading presidential candidates are discussing their religious and moral beliefs, even when they'd rather not.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have hired strategists to focus on reaching religious voters. Obama's campaign holds a weekly conference call with key supporters in early primary and caucus states whose role is to spread the candidate's message to religious leaders and opinionmakers and report their concerns to the campaign.

Meanwhile, Alan Cooperman of The Washington Post has noticed Barack Obama's new Web based religious outreach.

Senator Brownback's take on faith and science

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who is running for the Republican nomination for President, wrote a column in The New York Times recently defending his views on evolution.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

The Times published eight letters, in response, an unusually high number. Almost all of these took issue with Brownback's view of science, finding it insufficiently, um, scientific. Time magazine writer Michael Lemonick argues likewise.

No one seems interested in exploring the potential theological pitfalls of Brownback's view, so here is a question to get the conversation started: If God created the natural world, and science helps us understand it more completely, shouldn't religious people be its greatest proponents?

Faith and the candidates, in their own words

From the Democrats, we have:

" Sen. Clinton: Faith got me through marital strife"

... which also contains segments on Barack Obama and John Edwards, including video clips of all three. Clinton provides a rare glimpse into her marriage and how faith helped give her strength when it was strained; Obama talks about the problems in seeing the world through a dichotomous, good vs. evil lens; and Edwards points out that we—including he—are all sinners, and talked at length about his mission to end poverty. The forum, which aired on CNN, was sponsored by Sojourner's/Call to Renewal and moderated by Jim Wallis.

On the other hand, "Debate evolves into religious discussion," also from CNN (and clever puns on creationism aside), takes a look at some faith-related highlights in last night's Republican debate. Among them, Mike Huckabee "offered a spirited defense of the biblical creation narrative"; John McCain, having previously indicated that he "believed in" evolution, also agreed with Huckabee's view; and Sam Brownback made a case for uniting faith and reason.

Additional coverage:

New York Times: "Mrs. Clinton said she took her faith 'very seriously and very personally' but went on to say she came from a faith tradition, Methodism, that is 'perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faiths on their sleeves.' She admitted that talking about her faith in public 'doesn’t come naturally to me,' saying she often flashed back to 'the Pharisees and all of the Sunday school lessons and readings I had as a child.'"

AP: "Edwards, wearing a purple tie to match Sojourners' signature color, promoted himself as the candidate most committed to the group's mission of fighting poverty. He said he doesn't feel his belief in evolution is inconsistent with his belief in Christ and he doesn't personally feel gays should be married, although as president he wouldn't impose his belief system on the rest of the country."

Thomas J. Reese, writing on the Washington Post/Newsweek blog "On Faith," writes: "At the presidential candidates forum on religion, values and poverty, Democrats decided that it was time to show America that Democrats can be good Christians, inspired by Christian values, but not willing to impose their faith on others. The candidates showed themselves to be tempered, moderate and ecumenical. ... Many of the questions from the moderator were personal and obnoxiously intrusive. 'What was the greatest sin you ever committed?' 'Did your faith help you deal with your husband’s infidelity?' This has nothing to do with the intersection of faith and politics."

"On Faith" also continues the conversation with additional columns and comments here.

Sanctuary

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports:

The sanctuary movement has come to Long Beach. California.

On Friday, St. Luke's Episcopal Church announced it had begun sheltering Liliana, an undocumented woman facing a deportation order, as well as Pablo, her three-month-old boy.

Liliana's last name is being withheld. She is married to a U.S. citizen and is the mother of three children, all of whom are citizens, but she is ineligible for citizenship herself.

Liliana's family is the third in Los Angeles County to seek sanctuary and is one of about 13 families nationally who have, or soon will, go public with their requests for shelter.

St. Luke's is part of a faith-based effort calling itself the New Sanctuary Movement. It is a national coalition of congregations and religious organizations that promises "to protect immigrant workers and families from unjust deportation" by offering shelter and aid.

Read it all.

It would be interesting to know what some of the high-profile allies of the so-called Global South Primates think about offering sanctuary to people from the global south.

While running for President, cradle Episcopalian worships Baptist style

Should John McCain be elected President, he will feel right at home going to worship at St. John's Church at Lafayette Square. McCain is a Episcopalian who attends North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Sacramento Bee's Matt Stearns reports that while McCain has been courting evangelical Christian voters, telling them about "how his faith helped him survive 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam...he says little about the current role of religion in his life."

"I think it's something between me and my creator," McCain said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. "It's primarily a private issue rather than a public one. ... When I'm asked about it, I'll be glad to discuss it. I just don't bring it up."

McCain is a cradle Episcopalian who attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia and the United States Naval Academy. He says he attends the Southern Baptist North Phoenix Church because they are "strong on redemption and so am I."

According to the story, conservative evangelical political activists want McCain to tell more of his story. In the evangelical tradition, making a testimony about the life-changing power of faith is as much a hallmark of faithfulness and reception of the sacrament and the beauty of worship is in the Episcopal tradition.

McCain "seems to have a difficulty in discussing it in terms that people relate to," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a leading conservative evangelical organization. "I think people want a sense of where someone stands in their relationship with the Lord. I think George Bush was able to do that in the way he communicated, using terms that evangelicals are familiar with."

The paper describes some of that faith journey as described by McCain himself in his autobiography Faith of Our Fathers and in interviews.

McCain was raised an Episcopalian in a family that "observed our faith openly and without reservation."

In his memoir "Faith of My Fathers," McCain recalled the religious model his father provided: "(He) was devout, although the demands of his (naval officer) profession sometimes made regular church-going difficult. ... My father didn't talk about God or the importance of religious devotion. He didn't proselytize. But he always kept with him a tattered, dog-eared prayer book, from which he would pray aloud for an hour, on his knees, twice a day."

Comparing his practices with his father's, McCain said ruefully, "I'm not as devout or as good."

Cindy McCain, wife of the Senator, and two of his children were baptized in the 6,000 member congregation, but the candidate himself has not been. "I didn't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs," he said.

McCain still identifies himself as Episcopalian, so when he's in Washington, and should he gain the White House in 2008, he will not be the first president formed in the Episcopal Church who have journeyed through other traditions along the way. He should feel right at home in the Church next door.

Putting poverty in the presidential race

The ONE Campaign's commitment to make poverty history was stepped up June 11 when a mass media and mobilization effort to make global poverty a fundamental aspect of the 2008 presidential race was launched at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The new initiative, "ONE Vote '08: Saving Lives, Securing our Future," promises to energize presidential candidates and ONE members "to make the fight against global poverty a key foreign policy and security issue at the 2008 ballot box."

Matt Davies has the story.

Howard Dean, Scripture scholar

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, who left the Episcopal Church in a dispute over the route of a bike path, and who once identified Job as his favorite book in the New Testament, has weighed in on the Biblical evidence on gay relationships.

"I haven't seen gay marriage in the Bible once," Dean said in the keynote address at a Democratic fundraiser at a Reno hotel-casino, perhaps not the best venue for a disquisition on traditional values.

AP has a story that will have gays, lesbians and their allies wondering whether they are about to be sacrificed to Democrats' desire to cut into the evangelical vote. It includes this paragraph:

Rick Warren, a best-selling author and pastor at a Southern California church, is an example of an evangelical leader who is setting aside "those things that divide us" and doing things "that bring people together — things that really are in the Bible," Dean said. He said those priorities include fighting poverty, global warming and the bloodshed in Darfur.

Warren, remember, is among Peter Akinola's loudest cheerleaders, having written a brief profile of the Nigerian archbishop when Akinola was first named one of Time 's one hundred most influential people.

Warren noted that men like Akinola are "bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches." without ever mentioning that Akinola lobbied for anti-gay legislation that had been condemned by the European Parliament, the U. S. State Department and every major human rights organization.

Becoming ONE

Coverage in the major media today on the launch of ONE Vote '08 focuses on politicians reaching across the aisle and Bono's increasing influence on world politics.

The New York Times reports on the unlikely pairing of former senatorial leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, who were "fierce adversaries" during their time in Congress. They stand united against global poverty as co-chairmen of the One Vote ’08 effort and spoke at yesterday's launch of the initiative at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

“It is in the strategic and national interest of the United States of America,” said Mr. Frist, a Republican and former Senate majority leader from Tennessee. “People do not go to war with people who save their children’s lives.”

Both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates will be asked to sign a pledge in the fall saying they will offer proposals to fight H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, improve children’s health in other ways, increase access to education, provide access to clean water and reduce by half the number of people who suffer from hunger.

“Through the extraordinary challenge we now have, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize that this must be a key part of American foreign policy,” said Mr. Daschle, a Democrat and former Senate majority leader from South Dakota.



More here.

ABC reports on Bono's increasing influence on the world stage, noting the launch of ONE Vote '08 follows closely on the heels of his presence last week at the G-8 Summit. The story also covers the initiative's bipartisan support and the significant investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"The number of people whose lives will be affected by the choice you make next November is much higher than the population of America," said Bono in a video released at the ONE Vote '08 launch. "Do we have the political will to end this?"

At the campaign's launch in an Episcopal church, supporters of the campaign joked about Bono's power.

"I don't think it's written in the Bible, but if enough people suffer in the world, rock stars will start crying out," joked evangelical Pastor Brian McLaren at the campaign launch Monday in Washington, D.C.

"We're going to make sure that every candidate gets asked again and again and again what they're going to do about poverty," said McLaren.

CBS and other media outlets have picked up the AP coverage of the event:

For months, scores of volunteers wearing black-and-white ONE T-shirts and carrying placards have been attending presidential debates and some campaign events by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and other Democrats, as well as Republicans such as John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Activity will only increase in the coming months, with town-hall-style events, mailings, a celebrity bus tour and TV advertisements.

For now, the focus is on the early primary states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But the effort eventually will be expanded to the more than dozen states holding contests on Feb. 5, and will continue through the general election.

Read it here.

Stay tuned to the ONE Vote '08 blog here.

What's wrong with the American left?

Writing in Adbusters magazine, Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, who identifies himself as a liberal, says liberalism "needs to be fixed."

A few choice quotes:

A lot of it, surely, has to do with the relentless abuse liberalism takes in the right-wing media, on Fox and afternoon radio, and amid the Townhall.com network of newspaper invective-hurlers. The same dynamic that makes the junior high school kid fear the word “fag” surely has many of us frightened of the word “liberal.” Mike Savage says liberalism is a mental disorder, Sean Hannity equates liberals with terrorists, Ann Coulter says that “liberals love America like O.J. loved Nicole.” These people have a broad, monolithic audience whose impassioned opinions are increasingly entrenched. In the pseudo-Orwellian political landscape that is modern America, to self-identify as a liberal is almost tantamount to thoughtcrime, a dangerous admission that carries with it the very real risk of instantly and permanently alienating a good half of the population, in particular most of middle America.

And:

At a time when someone should be organizing forcefully against the war in Iraq and engaging middle America on the alarming issue of big-business occupation of the Washington power process, the American left has turned into a skittish, hysterical old lady, one who defiantly insists on living in the past, is easily mesmerized by half-baked pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and quick to run from anything like real conflict or responsibility.

It shies away from hardcore economic issues but howls endlessly about anything that sounds like a free-speech controversy, shrieking about the notorious bugbears of the post-9/11 “police state” (the Patriot Act, Total Information Awareness, CARNIVORE, etc.) in a way that reveals unmistakably, to those who are paying close attention, a not-so-secret desire to be relevant and threatening enough to warrant the extralegal attention of the FBI. It sells scads of Che t-shirts ($20 at the International ANSWER online store) and has a perfected a high-handed tone of moralistic finger-wagging, but its organizational capacity is almost nil. It says a lot, but does very little.

And:

Here’s the real problem with American liberalism: there is no such thing, not really. What we call American liberalism is really a kind of genetic mutant, a Frankenstein’s monster of incongruous parts – a fat, affluent, overeducated New York/Washington head crudely screwed onto the withering corpse of the vanishing middle-American manufacturing class. These days the Roosevelt stratum of rich East Coasters are still liberals, but the industrial middle class that the New Deal helped create is almost all gone.....

Thus, the people who are the public voice of American liberalism rarely have any real connection to the ordinary working people whose interests they putatively champion. They tend instead to be well-off, college-educated yuppies from California or the East Coast, and hard as they try to worry about food stamps or veterans’ rights or securing federal assistance for heating oil bills, they invariably gravitate instead to things that actually matter to them – like the slick Al Gore documentary on global warming, or the “All Things Considered” interview on NPR with the British author of Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. They haven’t yet come up with something to replace the synergy of patrician and middle-class interests that the New Deal represented.

Read it and weep.

The few, the proud

Writing on The American Prospect's Web site, Paul Waldman says research shows that the more secular people there are in a county, the more likely that people from evangelical denominations who live there will vote Republican.

One explanation:

The idea of religious conservatives as a surrounded minority, bravely holding the battlements of morality against an onrushing tide of cultural barbarism, is more than a convenient message that conservative pastors offer to their flocks. It is a key part of how the group defines its identity. And, critically, telling people they're under assault not only serves to keep them within the tribal borders -- it lends the entire enterprise an emotionally satisfying, even epic feel. You're not just a plumber or an insurance adjuster or a bond trader; by the very fact of believing what you do, you become a heroic warrior fighting a grand struggle against the enemies of all that is right and good.

Read it all.

"Following the Money" goes to Washington

If you aren't familiar with "Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right," drop in to the Diocese of Washington Web site, then read this exchange between Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and James Tonkowich, president of the right wing astroturf organization, the Institute on Religion and Democracy that occured when Tonkowich visited Capitol Hill recently to give reliigous cover to the oil industry's views on climate change.

Note the part where Tonkowich seems to say that he represents the views of everyone to whom he sends a piece of mail, but then adds that the IRD sometimes culls addresses from church directories.

Read more »

How conservative are conservatives?

Are Republican voters really "conservative" in the culture wars sense of the word? Not really, suggests a poll from Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, which you can find on MSNBC's blog, First Read.

Among the more interesting findings:

On abortion -Fifty-two percent believe abortions should be legal under certain circumstances.

On health care
-Fifty-one percent of Republicans agree that universal health care should be a right of all people. The moralists are also split on the issue.

On social welfare
-Half believe the government needs to provide a “helping hand” and safety net.

On gay rights
-Almost half of all Republicans favor gays serving openly in the military. Even four in 10 moralists think gays should be allowed to serve openly.

-Seventy-seven percent believe companies should not have the right to fire employees based on sexual orientation.

On global warming
-A third say the government isn’t doing enough on global warming.

On defense spending
-Fifty-five percent say the government is spending enough or too much on defense.

On God and politics
-Fifty-two percent believe public policy should not contradict God’s law, but moralists – who are overwhelmingly in favor of this -- drive this number.

(Hat tip, Andrew Sullivan.)

The politics of moral purpose

Conventional wisdom is that Democrats learned about the importance of talking about faith after the election of 2004. Madeline Bunting, writing in The Guardian, says that Gordon Brown is the third Prime Minister in a row in Great Britain to “do God.” The son of a Church of Scotland minister, he says he will bring “competence and serious moral purpose” to government.

It's a curious phenomenon that at a time when Christianity continues its steady decline in this country, religion has re-emerged as a central inspiration of political rhetoric - not as the flash-in-the-pan aberration of one individual but now well established as a convention of the centre ground, acknowledged by the Cameroons as much as by Labour. This strange afterlife of religious belief must be pretty galling to secularists and humanists.

But even as Brown talks about “moral purpose,” and is comfortable with integrating his faith into his political talk, there are differences between him and his predecessor, Tony Blair.

It's very hard to imagine Brown praying with anyone, let alone George Bush, nor is he likely to make references to God's judgment on his Iraq policy, and least likely of all is his being tempted down the path to Rome. Blair found God in emotionally charged prayer meetings in Oxford hosted by a gregarious Australian vicar. In contrast, Brown saw faith sustaining communities through hardship in his father's ministry - he describes it as "social Christianity". He was not interested in theology and personal salvation in the hereafter, the hellfire and damnation side of Presbyterianism, but in how religion inspires bonds that help individuals and communities through hard times, how it provides solidarity and ensures resilience - and that still fascinates him.

She continues:

Brown's faith bears the hallmarks of his origins. He may have done away with hellfire but he's replaced it with a dour if noble vision of endless duty, effort and obligation - his school motto of "I will try my utmost" - without even the promise of celestial reward. Self-restraint and self-discipline are principles written into the Brown DNA but to a consumer-obsessed, debt-ridden electorate, they are as foreign as Mars.

Read the rest: Madeline Bunting: The church may be struggling, but in politics its rhetoric is on the rise.

Meanwhile politicians in the U.S. continue to play the God card. Recent evidence:
-Stump Speeches Taking a Page from the Bible
-Op-Ed: The Gospel Of Obama
-Faith Has Role in Politics, Obama Tells Church

In search of "the common good"

Who said that "democracy cannot live without that true religion which gives a nation a sense of justice and of moral purpose"? Why, it was that nominal Episcopalian FDR, as Lew Daly points out in his Boston Review essay on religion, politics and the concept of the common good.

Abe Lincoln on avoiding a tribal God

John Buchanan, editor and publisher of the Christian Century, has written an interesting essay reminding us of wisdom of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address. In particular, it is a useful antidote to a religious tribalism that is beginning to infect political life:

Like the Gettysburg Address, [Lincoln's second inaguaral address] was a relatively brief speech in a day when public orators, particularly politicians, spoke for hours—only 703 words, 505 of one syllable. (What a model for preachers.)

Frederick Douglass said of the Second Inaugural: "The address sounded more like a sermon than a state paper." White cites Reinhold Niebuhr's comment: "Lincoln's religious convictions were superior in depth and purity to those held by the religious as well as the political leaders of the day."

The Second Inaugural contains Lincoln's notable words about the war: "Both sides read the same Bible," Lincoln said, "pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. . . . The prayers of both could not be answered: that of neither has been answered fully." White says that Lincoln was "inveighing against a tribal God" who would take the side of one part against the other, "and building a case for an inclusive God."

I can't think of more relevant words in a time when religion is used for partisan political purposes. And I don't know a more noble or apt sentiment for our time than the one with which this president concluded: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Read it all here.

I am also reminded of the famous story of Lincoln being asked whether God was on the side of the North. He responded simply that the more important question was whether he and the rest of the Union were on the side of God.

Democrats' "Great Awakening"

TIME's lead story right now is "Leveling the Praying Field: How the Democrats Got Religion." The article explores what is happening as devout Christians start looking elsewhere for political leadership as the Republican strongholds no longer measure up:

The Democrats are so fired up, you could call them the new Moral Majority. This time, however, the emphasis is as much on the majority as on the morality as they try to frame a message in terms of broadly shared values that don't alarm members of minority religions or secular voters. It has become an article of faith among party leaders that it was sheer strategic stupidity to cede the values debate to Republicans for so long; that most people want to reduce abortion but not criminalize it, protect the earth instead of the auto industry, raise up the least among us; and that a lot of voters care as much about the candidates' principles as about their policies. "What we're seeing," says strategist Mike McCurry, "is a Great Awakening in the Democratic Party."

The revival comes at a time when the entire religious-political landscape is changing shape. A new generation of evangelical leaders is rejecting old labels; now an alliance of religious activists that runs from the crunchy left across to the National Association of Evangelicals has called for action to address global warming, citing the biblical imperative of caring for creation. Mainline, evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations have united to push for immigration reform. The possibility that there is common ground to be colonized by those willing to look for it offers a tantalizing prospect of alliances to come, but only if Democrats can overcome concerns within their party. "One-third gets it," says a Democratic values pioneer, talking about the rank and file. "A second third understands that this can help us win. And another third is positively terrified."

Among the assertions:

  • When you wipe abortion from the values debate, a landscape of other issues opens up that Democrats are most poised to address, such as environmental stewardship, social justice and racial equality.
  • 40 percent of Evangelicals now identify as Independent voters, a number that's grown rapidly in just three years even as they stop identifying as Republicans at an even faster clip.
  • The Kerry campaign discovered how it was resonating with religious voters totally by accident and way too late.
  • Several figures are helping influence how this plays out for 2008, including Mara Vanderslice, Randy Brinson, Jim Wallis, and others—and this isn't sitting well with organizations with more, shall we say, traditionally leftist positions.

Read it all here.

Bishop Chane speaks out on fixing the Farm Bill

http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/newsletters/article.cfm?id=6756At a multi-denominational press conference on Capitol Hill on July 17, Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Diocese of Washington and five other faith leaders called upon the leadership of the United States Congress to stand for a farm bill consistent with "our nation's fundamental values of fairness and opportunity for all people." according to Alex Baumgarten, reporting for Episcopal News Service.

"Current U.S. foreign policy is a broken promise to American farmers -- especially small rural farmers -- and also is a threat to the world's poor," said Chane, speaking of the Episcopal Church's commitment to farm-bill reform to national reporters gathered one room away from where the House Agriculture Committee was slated to begin its final consideration of the U.S. farm bill later in the day.

Noting that the Committee thus far has rejected calls for reform of the U.S. commodity-crop payment program, Chane said that "the House leadership must now begin to address this bill from a moral perspective and center that transcends the typical as-you-go-politics that have sustained U.S. agricultural policy" in recent years.

Chane was joined at the press conference by Father Andrew Small of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World; Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby; the Rev. Earl Trent, director of missions for the Progressive National Baptist Convention; and Bishop Theodore Schneider of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Metro Washington, D.C. synod.

The press conference also marked the public release of a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the heads of 13 Christian denominations and faith-based advocacy organizations, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Stressing that "the vision behind the first U.S. farm bill in the 1930s -- an economic safety net for farmers during difficult times -- is barely recognizable in today's farm bill," the leaders called for Congress to enact a "new covenant with rural America" and people living in poverty around the world.

Read it all, including the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi here

Interested persons can sign up here, and learn more about the farm bill here.

Ethics Daily has more from Bishop Chane and others. A comprehensive roundup can be found here.

The politics of adultery

Senator David Vitter's (R-LA) association with the woman known as the D. C. Madam has touched off another round of journalistic rumination about whether private sins are a public matter. The Washington Post has featured three columns on this issue in the last five days, all by veteran Washington journalists.

E. J. Dionne raised the issue first on July 13, writing:

My defense of Vitter is qualified because I believe that married guys have a moral obligation not to seek the pleasures of "escort services."

Nor do I like hypocrisy. During the battle over the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Vitter wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that if no "meaningful action" were taken against the president, "his leadership will only further drain any sense of values left to our political culture." Vitter, then a state representative, suggested that Clinton was "morally unfit to govern."

But a big part of me is rooting for Vitter to survive because I so want to return to a time when we -- that "we" includes the media -- chose to pay little attention to the extracurricular sexual activities of our politicians. The magnitude of our public problems does not afford us the luxury of indulging in crusades about politicians' private lives, even those involving a high degree of hypocrisy.

David Ignatius visited the subject in a sidelong sort of way two days later, pointing out that in the age of the blog, where anybody can report on anything, it is no longer clear what sorts of conversations and activities are "on" the record:

What are the ground rules of life? Can we assume any "right to privacy" in this digital age when everything we say or do can become part of a permanent record that anyone -- friends, enemies, the government -- can access? With cameras sprouting on every street corner in Washington and New York (and have you checked out your nearest interstate lately?) should motorists just assume that their zone of privacy ends when they leave their driveways?

Privacy isn't what it used to be, certainly. A woman known as the D.C. Madam disseminates her phone records to fight charges that her "escort service" is a prostitution ring. The disclosure exposes a first-term senator named David Vitter. Well, fine, you say, Vitter is a noisy "family values" conservative who should be indicted for hypocrisy if nothing else. But what about the thousands of other people whose phone numbers are on the D.C. Madam's call list? Are they fair game?

But yesterday, Ruth Marcus, announced htat she planend to "opt out of the 'whatever happened to privacy' pity party that's convened in the aftermath of the Sen. David Vitter sex scandal.

She writes:

For some people, adultery itself is disqualifying in a politician. I think marriage is too mysterious an enterprise to go that far. It's hard to know -- and therefore impossible to judge -- what happens inside someone else's marriage. People stray; spouses forgive, or not; that's their business. But paying for sex, in whatever form, is both illegal and repulsive. It reveals a view of women as commodities that is relevant to lawmakers' public responsibilities.

She is wise to point out that many politicians base their stand on issues such as this one on the expediencies of the moment:

One man who has understood the importance of dealing with the demand side is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who went after prostitution in the city by targeting customers as well as prostitutes. Under "Operation Losing Proposition," Giuliani's police arrested johns and confiscated their cars. He didn't wring his hands over their lost privacy.

So what does Candidate Giuliani say now -- now that his own marital missteps are campaign fodder, and his southern regional chairman is David Vitter? At a town meeting in New Hampshire last week, Giuliani sounded like my fellow columnists. "I believe," he said, "it's a personal issue."

UPDATE: Newsweek takes a look at the religious and political consequences in Evangelicals and the Vitter Effect.

Reforming the Farm Bill

From the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

Already this year, you've heard a lot from us about the U.S. farm bill – the legislation that governs U.S. agricultural and food policy – and the need for reforms that will strengthen rural communities and fight hunger at home and abroad. The House Agriculture Committee is giving final consideration to the bill this week, and – despite the advocacy of an unprecedented alliance of faith groups and antipoverty advocates around the country – all signs indicate that calls for farm-bill reform have fallen on deaf ears in the committee. This means that the cause of reform is now in the hands of the full House, and that it will be critical over the next few weeks for every member of the House to hear from constituents that the status quo is not good enough. It will also be critical to ask lawmakers to press House leaders to stand with the champions of reform.

Specifically, the farm bill should:

Reform the commodity-payment program so that our nation's farm policy helps U.S. farmers of modest means and does not distort commodity prices and supply in ways that make it harder for farmers in poor countries to feed their families; AND

Increase investments in food-stamp benefits, rural development, conservation programs, and international-food aid programs that encourage local food security. (For more information, click here.)

Click here to email your representative.

Bp. Robinson endorses Obama, but is it appropriate?

Bishop Gene Robinson has publicly endorsed Barack Obama, according to published accounts of a telephone press conference today. On the one hand, Robinson is in the spotlight as a "civil rights leader," but two cautions spring to mind, both issued by the Interfaith Alliance soon after the report of Robinson's endorsement emerged.

While not listed on the barackobama.com website, the release is at Campaigns and Elections here.

Robinson said he believes that Obama’s faith and background as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer make him uniquely qualified to advance our government’s commitment to equality and compassion for those “for whom America is not working so well.”

“As my work shows me every day, leadership means bringing people together and inspiring them to live out their values,” Bishop Robinson said. “Barack Obama sees beyond the partisanship and hopelessness that have dominated in recent years, and the movement he’s building is bringing vital new energy and optimism into our democratic process. I’m excited to work with Barack to bridge the old divides and make this country one again.”

The release notes that Robinson has never publicly endorsed a candidate for office before, which leads to a question of how appropriate it is for him to do so. In a statement released by the Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy notes that the waters are muddy, not only because mixing faith and politics so directly can jeopardize a religious organization's protected tax status:

Today’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president by Bishop Gene Robinson is just the latest example of candidates misusing religious leaders for political gain. Over the last year we have seen many, if not all, of the presidential candidates set up websites promoting endorsements by religious leaders. While endorsements like today’s raise the possibility of legal action against religious leaders, our concerns are rooted more in the impact on the sanctity of religion and the integrity of government.

I encourage candidates to talk about the proper role of religion in public life, and I strongly defend the right of religious leaders to speak out about the important issues we are facing in the world today. However, when candidates turn religious leaders into political tools, they have crossed a line.

This is a dangerous road religious leaders are being led down. I caution them to be careful how far they go.

A short entry on the announcement at the New Hampshire Union Leader notes that a fuller story will run tomorrow.

A living wage

For Labor Day weekend, a meditation on the spiritual importance of living wage legislation from Archdeacon Michael S. Kendall of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. See it here. And read this brochure from the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice.

The passion of Sen. Craig

The Café hasn't kept up with all of the conversations engendered by the arrest of Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), but Unitarian minister the Rev. Deborah Hafner has, and she's presented an interesting perspective in this and other items on her blog.

A sample of her thinking:

I do not believe that I should judge private adult consensual behavior, but when it invades public spaces or when that person is a public figure actively working against the very behaviors that he engages in, then I think we have the right to weigh in. Yes, I expect that many of us are experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (gotta love that word, now someone needs to teach me how to pronounce it), but I also spoke out against Bill Clinton having sex with his twenty something intern.

As I have written here many times, the hallmarks of an ethical, moral sexual relationship are that it is consensual, nonexploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable, and protected -- and that ethic applies to straights and gays, married and single people, teenagers and the elderly. I fail to see how anonymous sex in a public bathroom could ever meet all of those criteria, regardless of the sex of the participants.


Meanwhile, at Salon, Joe Conanson asks:
As one embarrassing episode follows another, with almost predictable regularity, perhaps it is time for Republicans and conservatives to ask themselves an obvious question: What makes the Republican Party -- and the conservative movement more generally -- so attractive to closeted homosexual men?

Electorate losing interest in candidates religions views?

From Reuters:

DALLAS (Reuters) - Religion is not proving to be a clear-cut factor in the 2008 U.S. White House race, taking a back seat to the Iraq war and domestic issues, but most Americans still feel faith is an important attribute in their president, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The Pew Forum survey also found that U.S. presidential candidates need not be seen as very religious to gain wide voter acceptance, noting that the Democratic and Republican front-runners -- Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani -- are viewed as the least religious among the top contenders.

The survey's findings are sure to be scrutinized by both parties as they vie for the vote of the faithful in the United States, where rates of churchgoing and strong religious conviction are far higher than elsewhere in the developed world.

"Religion does constitute a bar that candidates must successfully clear but the poll suggests it is not very high. ... And all the leading candidates seem to be clearing this bar," said Gregory Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Read it all. The findings regarding Clinton must trouble her, because even critical biographers tend to acknowledge that she is quite serious about her Methodist faith.

Taking the Religious Right for granted

Has the Religious Right (aka Values Voters) become marginalized? Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times takes a look.

Many religious conservatives were proud to claim the mantle that Karl Rove bestowed on them as “the base of the Republican Party.” Now they fear they may have lapsed unwittingly into the same role that African-Americans play in the Democratic Party: a dependable minority constituency that is courted by candidates but never really gets to call the shots.

The candidates are certainly sending signals to that effect. While they’re eager to get as many conservative religious votes as they can, they’re no doubt aware of a shift since 2004 — that perhaps these voters aren’t the bloc they were once taken to be, that they don’t all answer to the same leaders, and that they might even be more pragmatic than in the past, more willing to sacrifice purity for viability in a candidate.

Scholars who study the role of religion in politics now say it is possible that the Bush years were an anomaly and that evangelicals, of whom religious conservatives are only a subset, could find themselves back where they were before — divided among themselves and just one of many interest groups vying for attention.
...
Religious conservatives were alarmed last month when none of the Republican front-runners showed up for the Values Voter Debate Straw Poll in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than 40 groups, some of them major organizations known for their capacity to mobilize voters, had put together the event. Questions were directed even at the no-show candidates, and many of those questions were angry.

“Beyond their cowardice, there’s an arrogance on the part of these candidates,” said Janet L. Folger, the president of Faith2Action, who helped organize the debate. “The arrogance is this: ‘We are just taking your votes for granted. You have nowhere else to go.’ ”

Goodstein goes on to point out divisions amongst evangelicals - vying leaders, the varieties of evangelical voters (not all are conservative), and evangelicals calling for a broadening of their agenda to include poverty, AIDS and the environment.

Read it all here.

For more on what the future might hold in store for Evangelicals see Sara Robinson's analysis here. Her bottomline:

Overall, the new Barna study seems to offer some hopeful prospects for a more generally liberal and diverse America in the decades ahead. Evangelical Christianity won't go away -- but there's a shift in its essential character afoot, which may even reverse the trend toward minority status over time. And it seem likely that big changes are coming that will not only make it more progressive in its view of its own mission; but will also make it a much better friend to democracy than it's been in recent years.

Bono dazzles powerful to end poverty and combat AIDS

The Washington Post Style section tells how when Bono speaks, "We want to rush out and do what he says."

How does he get legislators and heads of state and titans of industry together, and get them to offer up billions in debt relief to help lift Africa out of poverty?

According to writer, Sridhar Pappu, "He dazzles them in telling them what to do, and they do it."

As proof of his potency in Washington, one need only look at the crowd that Bono, 47, draws one fall evening on the second floor of Sonoma, a restaurant on Capitol Hill. Surrounded by administration officials and Hill staffers -- Democrats and Republicans -- and musicians from Mali, he mixes easily with these folks, most of whom he knows and greets by first name. Daschle is there, as is Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and Jendayi Frazer, the State Department's top official for Africa. Yes, they are together for Africa. But they're really here for him.

"When I first met him, I was thinking, what does this man have to do with the people I represent?" says Rep. John R. Carter (R-Tex.), a third-term congressman from the district that includes the Fort Hood Army base as well as the blossoming suburbs north of Austin. "But listening to him, well, he's a straight shooter, and that's what we like back home."

The straight shooter has control of the room soon enough. Looking out at the bipartisan crowd, Bono talks about the stats that have been flashing on flat-screen televisions all evening, of the 20 million African children going to school because of debt cancellation.

Read how he re-energized the fight against HIV/AIDS and pushed debt relief to combat poverty here.

Every word is true?

Mark Silva of The Baltimore Sun writes:

For a presidential contest in which religion – and indeed the religious faith of at least one candidate – will play a certain role in the choices which many voters make, two questions loom large here: Is every word in the Bible true, and “what would Jesus do’’ about capital punishment.

Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani and Mike Huckabee all took a crack at responding. Read the rest.

Clergy giving more to Democrats

With a week to go before the Iowa caucuses, clergy and other religious organizations are donating more to Democratic campaigns than they are to Republican ones, according to an article from Religion News Service distributed on the Pew Forum site. Four years ago, the opposite was true. Barack Obama seems to have garnered the most financial support, according to the article, and:

Contributions to candidates, parties and committees from clergy and other individuals affiliated with religious groups has totaled $655,250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations.

Fifty-six percent of that money went to Democrats, based on the center's analysis of Federal Election Commission data on giving in the first three quarters of 2007.

By contrast, at the same point in 2003, clergy and religious staffers had given a total of $461,600 in contributions to candidates, parties and committees, with 59 percent going to Republicans.

The whole thing is here.

The limits of celebrity activism

Daniel Drenzer explains why celebrities have acquired the power to help set the political agenda and what they have done with it.

The goal of most social activism is to bring greater attention to a problem. The assumption is that once people become aware of the problem, there will be a groundswell of support for direct action. This is not how politics necessarily works, particularly in the global realm. Any solution to a problem like global warming, for example, involves significant costs. As people become more aware of the policy problem, it is far from guaranteed that a consensus will emerge about the best way to solve it. It is therefore not surprising that celebs have had their greatest successes in touting humanitarian causes and almost no effect on ending militarized conflicts.
The article is critical, but, to his credit, Drenzer doesn't succumb to too-easy celebrity-bashing. Read it all.

Hat tip: Arts and Letters Daily.

Apocalypse, soon

Frank Furedi writes at spiked-online:

One consequence of Western societies’ obsessive preoccupation with the apocalypse-to-come is that less and less creative energy is devoted to confronting the all too important problems that exist in the here and now. Take the global credit crunch unleashed by the sub-prime home loan crisis this year for instance.

In terms of its material impact, this was arguably the most significant event of the year. After more than a decade of economic stability, the world economy faces the threat of a major recession with important implications for people’s lives. This threat may not make an exciting plot for a sci-fi movie, but it has a direct bearing on the quality of life of millions of people. It also raises important questions about an economic system that is so heavily reliant on using fictitious capital to reproduce itself. Unfortunately, however, today’s future-frightened public debate about economics seems more interested in finding ways to transform capitalism into a carbon-free, green-leaning system than in discussing the steps we need to take to minimise the destructive impact of a global recession on people’s lives and aspirations.

He's cavalier about global warming, and his argument might be stronger if he dealt with the influence of 9-11 on the popular imagination, yet he scores some solid points against the broader phenomena of apocalypse-mongering. Read it all.

Iowa and the poles of Protestantism

There was a great deal of reaction to the results of the Iowa Caucus last Thursday. Among the more interesting comments, however, was by Diana Butler Bass, who notes that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee come from the two very different "poles of Protestantism":

But evangelicals are not the only religion story from Iowa. Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama represent something much more profound in American politics and religion. With Huckabee as a Southern Baptist and Obama as a member of the United Church of Christ, the two men symbolize the poles of Protestantism, the divided soul of America's majority religion.

In the late 19th century, American Protestantism divided into fundamentalist and modernist camps. In the political realm, fundamentalists believed that personal conversion was the foundation of politics. If Jesus changed individuals, individuals might change society if God so called them. But they more typically shied away from politics as sinful, defining it as an essentially hopeless enterprise. They eschewed social change in favor of a kind of feisty Jesus-centered ethics of personal responsibility, private prayer, and morality. They bemoaned the possibility of political change without being born again.

Modernist Protestants argued that politics existed as part of larger social structures—economic, social, and class systems. These structures were corrupted by sin and injustice. Yet, they could be transformed through human goodness and God's justice. Instead of emphasizing individual morality, modernist Protestants extolled a political theology of the common good regardless of personal faith. As a result, they stressed hope, change, and the future in their politics—and its communal emphasis tended to resonate with African-American Protestants.

During the last century, these two visions have gone through several historical permutations. However, they continue to shape American Protestantism. As a Southern Baptist, Huckabee emphasizes Christian conversion, personal morality, and individual character. Obama, as part of a liberal denomination, articulates the communal vision of progressive Protestantism, appealing to human goodness, optimism, and social justice. Whereas Huckabee speaks of the "zeal" of individuals to "do the right thing" and act heroically, Obama preaches on "building a coalition" to transform the nation through innovation and creating a new global community. They are replaying, in dynamic new voices, an old disagreement in American religion.

The Iowa winners represent the two major traditions of Protestant political theology. If Huckabee and Obama wind up as presidential nominees, it would be the first time since the Great Protestant Divide that candidates so clearly articulated these two versions of religion and politics—and so clearly have the opportunity to reshape an old argument. Although it is far too early to make such predictions, the next election could be a referendum on the Protestant political soul.

Read it all here.

Are Democrats not religious?

Mark Stricherz of Get Religion notes the surpising absence of any reporting about the role of religion in the Democratic results in the Iowa caucus — in sharp contrast to the focus on the faith of the Republican voters:

After the caucus results came in, it was natural to assume that reporters would tell us about the Democratic Party’s commitment to religion. So what did reporters tell us? Well, the major papers told us . . . nothing.

Consider the major poll of those who attended the Iowa caucuses; it was done at the behest of the four major television networks plus CNN and the AP. Republicans were asked two questions: whether it mattered that the candidate shared his or her religious beliefs and whether the voter would describe himself or herself as a “born-again or evangelical Christian.” Democrats were asked — well, they were not asked anything about their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

The Washington Post and The New York Times, two rivals to the media behemoths that commissioned the Edison/Mitofsy poll, might have been expected to note the absence of religious questions to Democratic caucus-goers. Did any reporter at either paper do so? I didn’t see anything.

. . .

The absence of coverage about the Democratic Party’s faith is a major oversight, tantamount to not covering the religious faith of Republicans. By not following up on the Democrats-have-gotten-religion story, reporters further the idea that Democrats are basically a secular party. Conservatives like Ann Coulter can claim that Democrats are godless.

So what’s the deal?

Read it all here.

Melissa Rogers makes a similar point:

No wonder I was having such a difficult time yesterday finding the results of the surveys on the religious affiliations/beliefs of Democratic Iowa caucus-goers—the media apparently only asked those questions of Republican Iowa caucus-goers.

. . .

[T]he decision to ask this question of Republicans but not Democrats has a significant impact on how the media cover the election results, and it tends to strengthen the common but mistaken theme that religious people are a big factor in the Republican party but not in the Democratic party. That's a problem that needs to be addressed.

Read it all here. A similar point was made here at the Faith and Public Life blog.

And there was indeed a story missed by most of the media, as explained by Kim Lawton on PBS:

Kim, welcome. Let's start with Obama. To what extent did religion play a role in his campaign?

KIM LAWTON: It played a huge role and one that I think is not widely acknowledged. He had a very active effort to court people of faith, including some of those evangelical voters. He held a series of faith forums across Iowa. A lot of times he didn't personally show up. His campaign had these meetings for people of faith, so it was under the radar partly because he wasn't there, but he brought people together to talk about social justice and moral issues. His campaign, actually on the Web site, had a phone number that the week before the Iowa caucuses every day people could call at 8:30 in the morning and pray for Barack Obama's campaign there. So it was very intense and very targeted.

. . .

ABERNETHY: And Clinton and Edwards in Iowa?

Ms. LAWTON: In Iowa, they didn't have as strong of a faith-based outreach. Certainly it was there. Hillary Clinton's campaign does have a faith and values strategy. It's been a little more active in South Carolina than it was in Iowa, and I think that that's going to come into play for her, coming up in South Carolina.

Read it here.

Like Mark asks: So what's the deal. Would it not be all interesting to see if many evangelicals crossed over to support of the the Democratic candidates? Given that Obama's faith (as well of that of Edwards and Clinton) were big news stories just a few months ago, why is the media assuming that faith is important only to Republican voters?

The lost art of cooperation

In a delightfully incisive essay in The Wilson Quarterly, Benjamin R. Barber writes:

Whatever we make of it, today competition dominates our ideology, shapes our cultural attitudes, and sanctifies our market economy as never before. We are living in an age that prizes competition and demeans cooperation, an era more narcissistic than the Gilded Age, more hubristic than the age of Jackson. Competition ­rules.

We need only look at America’s favorite ­activities—­sports, entertainment, and ­politics—­to notice the distorting effect of the obsession with competition. Sports would seem to define competition, as competition defines sports. But beginning with the ancient Olympics, sports have also been about performance, about excelling (hence, excellence), and about the cultivation of athletic virtue. It is not victory but a “personal best” that counts. In the United States, however, athletics is about beating others. About how one performs in comparison with others. Ancient and modern philosophers alike associate comparison with pride and vanity (amour-propre), and have shown how vanity corrupts virtue and excellence. When Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar protests, “Such men as he be never at heart’s ease/While they behold a greater than themselves,” he captures what has become the chief hazard of a ­hyper-­competitive culture. No wonder ours is often an ­outer-­directed culture, unreflective, grasping, aggressive, and ­cutthroat.

It is, ironically, a culture that tries to pin on the animal world responsibility for human viciousness. Michael Vick, one of our great gladiatorial football competitors, recently admitted to sponsoring brutal dogfights. The real dogfights, of course, are the football games he played in, where injury and even death are not unavoidable costs but covertly attractive features of the sport. Where steroid use is forgivable, or at least understandable, on the way to a winning record. And where dogfighting itself (like bullfighting and cockfighting) is justified by an appeal to the “laws of nature,” though it is men who articulate those laws to rationalize their own warlike ­disposition.

It is much the same with entertainment. Our most successful shows, themselves in a competition for survival with one another (sweeps week!), pit ­on-­camera competitors against one another in contests only one can win. The eponymous show Survivor is the Darwinian prototype, but the principle rules on all the “reality” shows. On American Idol, singing is the excuse but winning the real aim. In the winners’ world of television, nothing is what it seems. Top Chef is not about excellence or variety in cooking, but about winning and losing. Project Runway turns a pluralistic fashion industry that caters to many tastes into a race (with clocks and time limits) in which there is but one winner. The competitive culture hypes winners but is equally (more?) fascinated with losers. “It is not enough that I win,” proclaims the ­hubris-­driven American competitor, “others must lose.” And Americans have shown themselves ready to become big losers in order to be eligible to become big ­winners—­however remote the odds. We are a nation of gamblers willing to tolerate radical income inequality and a large class of losers (into which we willingly risk being shunted) for the chance to ­win.

American politics too is founded on competition. Contrast electoral politics in our representative democracy with citizen politics in a participatory democracy, where the aim is not to win but to achieve common ground and secure public goods—a model of politics in which no one wins unless everyone wins, and a loss for some is seen as a loss for all. The very meanings of the terms “commonweal” and “the public interest” (the “res publica” from which our term “republic” is derived) suggest a system without losers. How different from this the American system has become. As each election rolls around, we complain that ideas and policy are shoved to the background and personality and the horse race it engenders are placed front and center.

What’s gone wrong here? Why, as a nation, are we so obsessed with competition, so indifferent to cooperation?

Read it all.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.

Religious Democrats write the pollsters

In response to exit polls in Iowa that asked Republicans numerous questions about their religious beliefs, but asked Democratic voters nothing about their faith, several religous leaders, including Joel Hunter, David Neff, Jim Wallis and Brian McClaran have written an open letter to media political and polling directors:

Your entrance and exit polls at the Iowa caucuses asked Republican caucus-goers if they were “bornagain or evangelical Christian(s),” but did not ask the same question of Democrats. This omission left a substantive hole in subsequent news coverage of the caucuses. Based on your polling, the public helpfully learned that born-again or evangelical Christians played a central role in Mike Huckabee’s victory, but received no information about the impact of evangelical voters in the Democratic race.

As reported by numerous news organizations, candidates of both parties spoke explicitly of their religious faith while campaigning in Iowa and have robust faith outreach operations. By omitting the question of evangelical/born-again identification from the Democratic polls, you prevented the public from seeing the full picture of how the bipartisan courtship of evangelical voters affected the outcome of the first contest of the 2008 campaign and perpetuated the misperception that all evangelical Christians are Republicans.

No party can own any faith. Evangelicals have broadened their agenda to include care for the planet, the poor and the stranger, and as a result are increasingly diverse politically. Your New Hampshire exit polls gathered much more detailed information about voters’ religion but still
asked only Republican voters if they were evangelical or born-again. The data revealed a significant difference between the voting patterns of Republican evangelicals in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, Mike Huckabee dominated, claiming 46 percent of evangelicals’ support, with no other candidate receiving even 20 percent. In New Hampshire McCain, Romney and Huckabee split the evangelical vote almost evenly. The disparity of these results suggests that evangelical voters’ behavior may not conform to expectations, which further shows the need to measure it in both parties.

With voters entering polling sites in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina in the coming days and weeks and Super Tuesday following shortly thereafter, it is imperative for you to remedy the imbalance in your exit polling immediately. Evangelicalism is not a monolithic movement that fits neatly into one party. For the sake of accuracy and dispelling shopworn stereotypes, we urge you to allow all evangelicals an opportunity to be represented in your surveys and polling data.

Read the entire letter here.

Huckabee: "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards"

Is religion in America protected by enshrining in the Constitution one view of God's word?

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."
- Mike Huckabee, January 14, 2008 (video)

The Faith in Public Life blog, Blogging Faith, notes that about the time "more than two dozen Catholic, Evangelical and Mainline Protestant leaders issued a statement asking candidates to respect religion's proper role in public life. The statement, Keeping Faith: Principles to Protect Religion on the Campaign Trail (PDF), released by Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, expresses concern about divisive rhetoric and identifies three basic principles to protect religion in public life."

Those three principles:

* No person should be expected to leave their faith at the door when operating in the public square. But it is inappropriate to use religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage candidates, by either comparison or assertion. No religious test may be applied to candidates for public office - not by the law, not by candidates, not by campaigns.

*Candidates for public office should welcome the contributions that religion brings to society. But just as government may not endorse or favor a religious faith, candidates for public office are obliged, in their official capacity, to acknowledge that no faith can lay exclusive claim to the moral values that enrich our public life.

*Just as government policies must be in service to the nation and not to any religious faith, the same holds true for candidates' positions on policies. While it is appropriate for candidates to connect their faith to their policy positions, their positions on policy must respect all citizens regardless of religious belief.

Addendum: The Christian Science Monitor reports 'Only a slim majority (56 percent) of Americans said in a 2007 survey that freedom of worship should extend to people of all religious groups, no matter what their beliefs (down 16 points, from 72 percent in 2000).'

Congressional food and indulgences

The Democratic majority has changed the food at the Congressional cafeteria, and the Republican minority is unhappy:

"I like real food," proclaimed Republican leader John Boehner when asked about the new menu by a producer for another cable news outfit. "Food that I can pronounce the name of."

Boehner is now forced to wrap his lips around such phrases as "broccoli rabe and shaved persimmon," "balsamic glazed butternut squash," and "calico pinto beans"...all on this afternoon's menu, along with the downright patriotic "American Regional Yankee Pot Roast," which, even Boehner would have to admit, kind of rolls right off the tongue. On Fridays, there is a real sushi bar tended by a bona fide Japanese sushi chef. Gone are such grade-school cafeteria specialties as Salisbury steak and fried chicken, slathered in gravy and served with a side of chips. Debate rages among regulars about the merits of the new offerings. One consensus downside: the prices have gone upscale right along with the fare.

The company that Nancy Pelosi and her people have hired has a mandate to "Go Green," complete with a mission statement posted outside the cafeteria on an eco-friendly LCD screen and a requirement to buy carbon offsets. Boehner doesn't think much of that either.

"It reminds me of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, when we had indulgences," says Boehner of the offsets. Perhaps he will nail his theses to the cafeteria door.

Read it all here.

Is capitalism good for the soul?

In this essay from the Australian magazine Policy, Peter Saunders argues that while capitalism lacks romantic appeal, it "offers the best chance we have for leading meaningful and worthwhile lives." Socialism’s history, he writes, "is littered with repeated failures and with human misery on a massive scale," yet it is attractive to "people who never had to live under it."

Is there any sense in which capitalism might be said to be good for the soul? The Judeo-Christian tradition doesn’t offer much help in building such an argument. The Christian idea of the ‘soul’ refers to the spiritual essence of a human being created in the image of God, and there has been no shortage of theologians claiming that capitalism is incompatible with the full development and expression of this spiritual essence. For some church leaders, the basic principles of capitalism (private property rights, competition, and the pursuit of profit through free market exchange) seem incompatible with Christian ethics. Their arguments are familiar—inequality is immoral, the pursuit of wealth is ignoble, private property is selfish—and these claims are commonly backed up with the authority of scripture. Didn’t Jesus preach that it is ‘easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’? Doesn’t the first epistle to Timothy warn that ‘love of money is a root of all sorts of evil’?

However, not all theologians interpret the scriptures in this way. Some suggest that it is not profit, private property, or free markets that the Bible condemns so much as individual greed and covetousness. Paul taught that ‘greed … amounts to idolatry,’ but his message was not that riches themselves are bad. He simply warned rich people against allowing the pursuit of money to eclipse what is really important in life. Much in the Christian tradition emphasises God’s desire that we should be innovative in developing and improving the world. In the parable of the three talents, for example, the master rebukes the servant who buried his money, but praises those servants who invested and created more wealth—which is precisely what modern capitalism is about.

It is not difficult from within the Judeo-Christian tradition to argue that capitalism is ‘a highly moral system, nourishing the best that is in us and checking the worst.’ But as Michael Novak reminds us, the revelations of God recorded by Jews, Christians, and Muslims centuries ago were intended to be universal, and were not tied to any one system of organising human affairs. Therefore, it is probably a mistake to trawl through the scriptures searching for nuggets that might support this or that system of political economy, for the word of God was never intended to be used as a blueprint for designing socioeconomic systems.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.

Hispanic evangelicals moving to the Democrats

Christianity Today is reporting that the Republican Party's hold on Hispanic evangelical votes is slipping, and the rhetoric about immigration is a leading cause. While this vote is small, it could make the difference in several swing states:

Nearly four in ten Hispanic voters and two-thirds of Hispanic evangelicals backed Bush in 2004—and those numbers were headed up for 2006. "Conservative projections had 53 percent of all Hispanics and 80 percent of born-again Latinos going Republican," said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Then immigration came to the forefront of national discussion. Republicans generally pegged it a law-and-order issue and talked tough, leaving an opening for Democrats to appeal to Hispanic voters. "Democrats are saying, 'Let's talk about your family and your faith,'" Rodriguez said. "They're saying, 'The other side doesn't want you.'"

In the 2006 midterm elections, Latino support for Republicans sank. "Exit poll numbers showed Hispanics shifted away from the Republicans," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "Latinos gave 30 percent of their vote to Republican candidates, a 10-point swing."

If the pattern continues, the resulting double-digit dive could mean millions more lost votes for the Republicans in 2008. Although Latinos will likely cast only 6.5 percent of the votes in November, according to Lugo, they may double that showing in swing states like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado.

And the issue of immigration is creating a schism between white and Hispanic evangelicals:

White evangelicals and Hispanic evangelicals are deeply split on the issue. While white evangelicals have polled higher than the general population in considering immigrants a burden to society, for instance, nearly 60 percent of Hispanic evangelicals believe immigrants strengthen society.

"A divide is an understatement," Rodriguez said of white and Hispanic evangelicals' differing views. "The term is schism."

Read it all here.

From tennis star to nun

Remember tennis wonderkid Andrea Jaeger? She's been a Dominican nun in the Episcopal Church since 2006.

The Denver Post reports

Last week, Sister Andrea jetted off to Atlanta to accept the 2008 John Wooden Citizenship Award, presented by Athletes for a Better World. As always, she made time for kids, leading a program at Atlanta's Children's Hospital. She also attended the funeral of a child who had once attended her camp. In Sister Andrea's world, hope and heartache are constants.

Friday night, Jaeger, who has lived in Colorado since 1989, will be inducted into the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame, largely for her contributions as a humanitarian.

Jaeger considers it an ironic blessing that although she quit the professional tennis circuit 23 years ago, her meteoric athletic career continues opening doors and helps raise the $4.5 million needed annually to keep her foundation running.
...
None of her struggles today, however, compares to the shallow, empty, lonely feeling Jaeger felt on the tennis circuit after turning pro at age 14. She soon found that her real joy came from helping sick children.

One day, on the spur of the moment, she sold an $18,000 gold watch she received from a commercial endorsement and spent the money on presents for children, which she anonymously donated to hospitals near her home in Florida.

Though she loved the athleticism involved in tennis, she didn't put her heart and soul into matches in part because she didn't want to win at someone else's expense.

Read it here. The link includes a video of an interview with Sister Andrea Jaeger.

Here's an earlier Lead story on Jaeger.

Younger Evangelicals come of age politically

A younger generation of evangelical Christians is coming of age -- and as they head to the polls, they are breaking from their parents and focusing on a broader range of issues than just abortion and gay marriage according to ABC News.

This weekend at a concert and a rally in New York City, a huge gathering of Christian youth came together to decry the coarsening of culture.

"What should be done to stop glamorizing the things that are destroying my friends, your friends -- like drugs, alcohol and sex?" cried a young evangelical.

The top three issues these young evangelical Christians said they most want the presidential candidates to address are Internet pornography, media glamorization of sex and drugs, and children orphaned by AIDS. Abortion and gay marriage were not at the top of their list.


Read it all here.

Faith and the election, frontrunner edition

Now that the field has been winnowed down, Time is taking another look at the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, recounting the mistakes made in 2004 and how today's candidates seem to have learned from them in a sidebar to coverage of Super Tuesday.

Backstage at the Target Center in Minneapolis before a rally earlier this month, Barack Obama engaged in one of his pregame rituals: the presidential candidate joined a circle of young campaign supporters and staff, clasped hands with those on either side of him and prayed.

Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, has talked on the campaign trail about the "prayer warriors" who support her, and her campaign has made sure that primary voters know that Clinton used to host church picnics at the governor's mansion in Arkansas.

If the Democratic ticket in November is able to capture a greater share of religious voters than in previous elections, it will be because both Obama and Clinton have rejected their party's traditional fight- or-flight reaction to religion. For decades, the men and women who ran the Democratic Party and its campaigns bought into the conservative spin that the faithful were pro-life, right-wing and most certainly not Democratic voters. Armed with this mind-set, political professionals gave themselves permission to ignore religion and the religious. And in 2004, John Kerry paid the price for that decision.

That's here, and adapted from Amy Sullivan's forthcoming book, The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap.

What makes this even more notable is that on the Republican side, McCain's emergence as the frontrunner has prompted Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and anti-abortion activist, to announce that he will be "working in other ways to see that we have additional choices as conservatives," according to an Associated Press story:

He declined to elaborate, but held out hope that Mike Huckabee might mount an improbable comeback, or that another "good conservative, Godly, Christian pro-life" GOP candidate somehow emerge to supplant McCain. The Arizona lawmaker has opposed abortion during his four terms in the Senate.

Fischer also volunteered an alternative scenario: supporting the nominee of the fledgling Constitution Party.

...

Last fall, Fischer called a meeting in Salt Lake City as Christian conservative leaders attended a separate gathering of the ultra-secretive Council for National Policy, an umbrella group for the movement.

Most attendees of Fischer's meeting, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, agreed to support a minor-party candidate if Giuliani emerged as the Republican nominee, according to Dobson and others in attendance. Another group suggested creating a new party, but no consensus emerged, Dobson wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times.

Several Christian conservative leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Fischer has invited them to a follow-up meeting next month in New Orleans coinciding with another Council for National Policy meeting.

Fischer would not confirm nor deny a meeting, but said, "If I told you we were, I think the success of that meeting would be greatly compromised."

That's from here.

Obama rebukes former pastor; Wright out of campaign

Barack Obama credits the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. with having a profound influence on his return to faith and credits him with the now-famous tagline "audacity of hope" that Obama titled his book with. The minister also was celebrant at the Obama wedding and baptized their daughters. But Wright has drawn a lot of criticism for making inflammatory statements and incendiary sermons, and as of yesterday is no longer affiliated with the Obama campaign.

Wright had held a "largely ceremonial" post in Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee, according to a Washington Post writeup noting Obama's strong denouncement of Wright's controversial pronouncements on the Huffington Post yesterday afternoon and in a later interview with MSNBC:

Obama went further than he has previously gone to distance himself from Wright's comments, while urging voters to judge him "on the basis of who I am and what I believe in."

"All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn," Obama wrote. "They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country."

Obama said in the MSNBC interview that he did not "repudiate the man."

"I have known him 17 years," Obama said. "He helped bring me to Jesus and helped bring me to church. He and I have a relationship -- he's like an uncle who talked to me, not about political things and social views, but faith and God and family. He's somebody who is widely respected throughout Chicago and throughout the country for many of the things he's done not only as a pastor but a preacher."

You can read the piece here.

Asymmetric politics

Editorial in The New York Times:

It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation’s history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden.

Senator John McCain has continued to embrace a prominent white supporter, Pastor John Hagee, whose bigotry matches that of Mr. Wright. Mr. McCain has not tried hard enough to stop a race-baiting commercial — complete with video of Mr. Wright — that is being run against Mr. Obama in North Carolina.

If Mr. Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, we fear that there will be many more such commercials. And Mr. Obama will have to repudiate Mr. Wright’s outbursts many more times.

This country needs a healthy and open discussion of race. Mr. Obama’s repudiation of Mr. Wright is part of that. His opponents also have a responsibility — to repudiate the race-baiting and make sure it stops.

Read it all here.

McCain has not been pressed little about his relationship with Hagee. A recent exception did not result in a denouncement or disassociation:

When asked in an exclusive "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos if it was "a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement", McCain replied "oh, probably, sure." Despite admitting his error, McCain made clear he's still "glad to have his endorsement."

Where's the memo on the meaning of "straight talk" ?

Sarah Posner is also drawing parallels between Hagee and Wright today.

Let us trust that we are not bound by what Hagee or Wright say.

Alan Jones on Wright and Obama

Alan Jones, the Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, has written a commentary on the controversy surrounding the statements of The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and those of his parishioner, Barack Obama about him.

In the op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dean Jones writes that the underlying reason for the nation's reaction to the controversy is due to our inability to place the events into historical context:

"As a people, we are in great danger because of our poor short-term memories; our state of perpetual amnesia puts our fragile democracy at risk. Imagine, for example, what it was like for the parents and grandparents of Rev. Wright growing up in the 1920s. The worry then, among some white 'intellectuals,' was why America was growing stupid! There must, they thought, be a 'scientific' explanation.

Pseudo-scientific racism became very popular. Why were we so stupid as a country? Immigration, of course! Despite the evidence that the longer immigrants were in the United States, the better they performed on IQ tests, the aim of Princeton psychologist C.C. Brigham's 'A Study of American Intelligence' was to show that the southern and eastern peoples of Europe, and Negroes, were of inferior intelligence.

[...] In the late 1980s, American Enterprise Institute Fellow Ben Wattenberg created a firestorm with his book, 'The Birth Dearth,' which forecast the dilution - even destruction - of Western culture by comparatively greater birth rates among non-white peoples of the world. Wattenberg, reflecting fear and disdain, wrote, 'Will we worship cows? ... Will the world backslide?'

It would be a great exercise in patriotism to place the Rev. Wright's possibly-intemperate remarks in the context of history. Obama was right to comment on his pastor's 'memories of humiliation and doubt and fear.'

It's hard to imagine now that many TV commentators or journalists have read any history. We don't expect it of political strategists. It's their job to exploit our ignorance, but journalists have no excuse. We need to know our history because the present is what the past is doing now."

Read the full op-ed piece here.

Guiliani draws fire for taking communion

In other matters we might have missed during this incredibly busy month of news from various faith channels, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apparently caused quite a ruckus last month by taking communion at a papal mass held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Seems he and Cardinal Edward Egan had a "tacit understanding" that Giuliani wouldn't take mass because of his support of abortion rights, according to an RNS story picked up at the Pew Forum. When it happened, Reuters ran the story that it was his divorced-and-remarried status that barred him from receiving communion, and tabloids ran rather amok with the report.

But Egan seems to be taking the matter very seriously. The RNS report published at Pew notes his official response, earlier this week, as well as a spokesperson-issued response from Giuliani that highlights the tension between faith-corporate and faith-personal that exists for many people of faith:

Egan said Monday (April 28) that he had a tacit agreement with Giuliani that "he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion."

"I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the papal visit here in New York, and I will be seeking a meeting with him to insist that he abide by our understanding."

Sunny Mindel, a spokeswoman for Giuliani, told The New York Times that Giuliani considers his faith "a deeply personal matter and should remain confidential."

The RNS report is here.

CA Supreme Court strikes down gay marriage ban

From the LA Times story:

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.

The state high court's 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.
...

Today’s ruling by the Republican-dominated court affects more than 100,000 same-sex couples in the state, about a quarter of whom have children, according to U.S. census figures. It came after high courts in New York, Washington and New Jersey refused to extend marriage rights to gay couples. Before today, only Massachusetts' top court has ruled in favor of permitting gays to wed.

(The New York Times' story is here.)

From the decision:

Accordingly, we conclude that the right to marry, as embodied in article I, sections 1 and 7 of the California Constitution, guarantees same-sex couples the same substantive constitutional rights as opposite-sex couples to choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.

And this:

After carefully evaluating the pertinent considerations in the present case,we conclude that the state interest in limiting the designation of marriage exclusively to opposite-sex couples, and in excluding same-sex couples from access to that designation, cannot properly be considered a compelling state interest for equal protection purposes. To begin with, the limitation clearly is not necessary to preserve the rights and benefits of marriage currently enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. Extending access to the designation of marriage to same-sex couples will not deprive any opposite-sex couple or their children of any of the rights and benefits conferred by the marriage statutes, but simply will make the benefit of the marriage designation available to same-sex couples and their children. As Chief Judge Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals succinctly observed in her dissenting opinion in Hernandez v. Robles: “There are enough marriage licenses to go around for everyone.” Further, permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not alter the substantive nature of the legal institution of marriage; same-sex couples who choose to enter into the relationship with that designation will be subject to the same duties and obligations to each other, to their children, and to third parties that the law currently imposes upon opposite-sex couples who marry. Finally, affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 4.)

While retention of the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples is not needed to preserve the rights and benefits of opposite-sex couples, the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage works a real and appreciable harm upon same-sex couples and their children. As discussed above, because of the long and celebrated history of the term “marriage” and the widespread understanding that this word describes a family relationship unreservedly sanctioned by the community, the statutory provisions that continue to limit access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples — while providing only a novel, alternative institution for same-sex couples — likely will be viewed as an official statement that the family relationship of same-sex couples is not of comparable stature or equal dignity to the family relationship of opposite-sex couples. Furthermore, because of the historic disparagement of gay persons, the retention of a distinction in nomenclature by which the term “marriage” is withheld only from the family relationship of same-sex couples is all the more likely to cause the new parallel institution that has been established for same-sex couples to be considered a mark of second-class citizenship. Finally, in addition to the potential harm flowing from the lesser stature that is likely to be afforded to the family relationships of same-sex couples by designating them domestic partnerships, there exists a substantial risk that a judicial decision upholding the differential treatment of opposite-sex and same-sex couples would be understood as validating a more general proposition that our state by now has repudiated: that it is permissible, under the law, for society to treat gay individuals and same-sex couples differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals and opposite-sex couples.

In light of all of these circumstances, we conclude that retention of the traditional definition of marriage does not constitute a state interest sufficiently compelling, under the strict scrutiny equal protection standard, to justify withholding that status from same-sex couples. Accordingly, insofar as the provisions of sections 300 and 308.5 draw a distinction between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples and exclude the latter from access to the designation of marriage, we conclude these statutes are unconstitutional.


Read the decision.

Andrew Sullivan reacts.

Also:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was quick to issue a statement. “I respect the Court’s decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling," he said. "Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

Integrity has also responded. Click Read more to see their release. An excerpt:

"As we rejoice in this movement forward on civil marriage equality, Integrity is working hard as to move the Episcopal Church forward on sacramental marriage equality," concluded [the Rev. Susan] Russell. "Although same-gender blessings are permitted by the Episcopal Church and are performed in a many dioceses and parishes, we believe the time has come for an official rite for blessing same-gender couples. Committed to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments, we will be asking General Convention to authorize such a rite a year from now in Anaheim."

Read more »

Robinson on endorsing a candidate

Bishop Gene Robinson has taken plenty of flak during the past five years, but according to what he says in a new video post on the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly blog--probably an extra take from last week's feature on him--he's gotten the most grief for endorsing a candidate during the primary season earlier this year.

In the video, he clarifies that he doesn't want to talk about politics at all in his capacity as Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church. Rather, his endorsement came from a reflection on values and was made as a private citizen after reviewing IRS guidelines on the matter.

He continues on to say that it's important for voters to mix faith and politics insofar as remembering what our values are as people of faith, look for the candidate who best embodies those values, and get involved in that campaign, regardless of what our faith is or what party we favor.

You can see the video here.

Obama quits Chicago church

Tongues wagging on the blogosphere hinted that Obama was going to break from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, whose former pastor has made headlines for his controversial sermons. Today, we have confirmation that he has resigned his 20-year membership at the church. Details are still emerging, but the Associated Press has confirmation and background on the story here.


Campaign to End Torture Declaration

Earlier this week, the Campaign to End Torture released a declaration signed by a wide variety of former military leaders, religious leaders and former government officials, that called on President Bush to issue an Executive Order that would clearly ban torture.

Sarah Posner describes the declaration and notes the large number of Evangelical leaders that have signed the declaration:

Today the Campaign to End Torture unveiled a declaration, signed by a wide-ranging coalition of religious leaders, former military officers, former Defense and State Department officials, national security and counterterrorism experts, and others, calling on President Bush to sign executive order unequivocally banning the use of torture in interrogations. Military signatories include Alberto Mora, the former Navy lawyer whose efforts to end torture from inside the Pentagon were thwarted, and Paul Kern, who led the military's internal investigation of Abu Ghraib.

David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights, described many of the evangelicals signing on to the Declaration as "theologically conservative, not very politically inclined, a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents," who didn't expect to get involved in such a campaign but "we cannot endorse or accept the cruel treatment of another human being."

The Campaign now is soliciting more signatories to the Declaration, and is launching grassroots efforts in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, three states rich in evangelicals (but, I'm told, not targeted for any reason related to the presidential campaign). The organizers intend to present the Declaration to Bush because getting an executive order, said Mora, "is the fastest . . . most dramatic, powerful, and immediate way, the most powerful signal we could give to the world." Even if the next president has to sign it.

Read it all here.

I don't see many (any?) Episcopal leaders on the list. Do you think we should do something about that?

God Gap gone

Stephen Waldman of BeliefNet writes: "Buried in the spectacularly deep U.S. Religious Landscape Survey are some statistics of great interest to politicos, especially on the three big religion-and-politics questions of 2008."

The three are: do Democrats still suffer from a God Gap?, which way will Catholics break in the election?, and can Obama do well among evangelicals?

Read it all here.

Obama reaches out to Christians on the left

Brian McLaren - who will be at Lambeth July 19-24 - is quoted in this CNN story on Obama's move to mobilize Christians on the left, and not so left:

Read more »

Who was the first Christian president of the US?

Andrew Sullivan asks "Who Was The First Truly Christian President?"

Read more »

Religious liabilities on the Republican ticket

Earlier this year, the newswires ran amok with report after report that McCain was no longer an Episcopalian, but a Baptist. But that splits more hairs than some are comfortable with, and the pastor of the Baptist church that McCain attends has actually "dialogued" with him over the fact that attendance at the church doesn't make him a member. (In the meantime, Palin is so closely tied with Pentecostalism that some question how nondenominationally evangelical she is -- more under the cut.)

Read more »

Obama has a rabbi in the family--really

Well here is an interesting twist on this year's presidential election. As the Jewish weeking Forward reports, Barack Obama is related (by marriage) to a rabbi:

While Barack Obama has struggled to capture Jewish votes, it turns out that one of his wife’s cousins is the country’s most prominent black rabbi.

Michelle Obama, wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, is a first cousin once removed of Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of a mostly black synagogue on Chicago’s South Side. Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye, and Michelle Obama’s paternal grandfather, Frasier Robinson Jr., were brother and sister.

Funnye (pronounced fuh-NAY) is the chief rabbi of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in southwest Chicago. He is well known in Jewish circles for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and the much smaller, and largely separate, world of black Jewish congregations, sometimes known as black Hebrews, or Israelites. He has often urged the larger Jewish community to be more accepting of Jews who are not white.

. . .

Funnye converted to Judaism and was ordained as a rabbi under the supervision of black Israelite rabbis. He then went through another conversion, supervised by Orthodox and Conservative rabbis. Funnye has worked to connect his own congregation with the rest of Chicago’s Jewish community. He serves on the Chicago Board of Rabbis and is vice president of the Israelite Board of Rabbis, the rabbinical association for black Israelite rabbis.

. . .

“I think it tells us everything we need to know about modern America and modern Judaism that a biracial candidate has been nominated by the Democratic Party and he’s related to an African-American rabbi,” said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, which has worked for greater acceptance of Jewish minorities.

Read it all here.

Democrats and evangelicals

The Economist has an interesting analysis of the success (or lack thereof) of Democratic efforts to woo evangelical voters:

As Barack Obama and John McCain move into the final two months of this longest of elections, white evangelical or “born again” Christian voters are being fought over more fiercely than at any time in modern history. Both parties employ evangelical outreach specialists. Both are spending a lot of time courting evangelical leaders. And both are holding meetings with “values voters” to try to reassure them.

The Democrats have at last realised that it is foolish to write off a group that makes up an astonishing 23% of the population. In 1988 Michael Dukakis could hardly bring himself to speak to evangelicals. This year all the major Democratic candidates have cuddled up to them. Mr Obama says that he is “somebody who really has insisted that the Democratic Party reach out to people of faith”. His staff has already conducted more than 200 “American values forums” or faith-themed town-hall meetings. The aim, of course, is not to win the evangelical vote: merely chipping away at such a monolith could be hugely useful.

. . .

White evangelicals are the most Republican religious group in the country, with 62% of them leaning Republican, compared with 38% of all voters. Their support for the Republicans is higher than it was in 2000, and also higher among the under-30s than the over-30s: 64% of young evangelicals lean Republican compared with 29% who lean Democratic.

This general preference for the Republicans over the Democrats has also translated into a preference for Mr McCain (for all his faults) over Mr Obama (for all his religion-friendly rhetoric). White evangelicals in general prefer Mr McCain to Mr Obama by a margin of 44 points (the figure for Bush versus Gore in the summer of 2000 was only 30 points). Among white evangelicals who go to church more than once a week, the gap is 54 points. Much of this is driven by suspicion of Mr Obama. Only 27% of this group believe that the deeply religious senator from Illinois shares their values—a figure shaped partly by revulsion for his preacher, Jeremiah Wright, partly by the mistaken belief that Mr Obama is a Muslim, but mostly by his uncompromising support of abortion choice.

. . .

But Mr McCain’s biggest coup by far was picking Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Mrs Palin is an evangelical convert—she was born a Catholic—who is deeply-rooted in the evangelical subculture. Her eldest son, Track, has a tattoo of the “Jesus fish” on his calf. She has pronounced opinions on abortion, gay marriage and creationism. The news of her selection was greeted with standing ovations from leaders of the religious right and near-hysteria on Christian radio stations.

Can Mr McCain ride an energised evangelical base into the White House? He is certainly much better off now than he was a month ago, before the evangelical surge. But he nevertheless confronts two big problems. The first is that evangelical issues have less resonance with the general public than they did in 2004. There has been a decline in support for traditional morality, an uptick in hostility to the involvement of the church in politics, and an increase in support for social welfare. Catholics in particular are shifting back into the Democratic camp. The second is that Mrs Palin and her supporters may energise America’s secularists while also putting off swing voters (who are likely to be troubled by Mrs Palin’s hostility to abortion even in cases of rape and incest). The big problems now facing Mr McCain may not be too little enthusiasm among evangelicals, but too much.

Read it all here.

Minns and his friends

Read what Bishop Martyn Minns of the Church of Nigeria had to say at the Value Voters Summit last week. The speech was covered in World Magazine, which is edited by Marvin Olasky.

Olasky's bio contains this illuminating section:

Olasky has taught in the journalism department at the University of Texas at Austin since 1983, becoming a full professor in 1993. Midway through his term as associate professor, he came to the attention of Reconstructionist philanthropist Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who gave him the editorship of the Turning Point series of books via his charitable arm, the Fieldstead Institute. Olasky wrote its first installment, A Christian Worldview Declaration (1987), as well as the Capital Research Center series Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy.

This initial work brought him to the attention of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which funded him as a two-year Bradley scholar at the The Heritage Foundation. His two 1988 books on the mass media, Prodigal Press: The Anti-Christian Bias of American News Media and The Press and Abortion, 1838-1988 outlined philosophies that harmonized with the Christian agenda of World magazine, of which he became editor in 1992. He was instrumental in that periodical's 1998 spawning of the World Journalism Institute, which seeks to recruit and train Christian journalists and inject them into the mainstream media.

Minns said:

“The real question we have had to face in the Episcopal Church... is how do we separate the values that are worth fighting for from those that are mere cultural preferences? And to what immutable standards do we appeal to make these decisions? These are not just questions for Episcopalians, or Anglicans in the rest of the world, but for all Christians everywhere.”

One can agree with this statement and disagree with his personal choices. For instance, one can believe that homophobia is a cultural preference of Minns, his followers in this country, and the Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola to whom he now owes his allegiance.

Speaking of Akinola, one wonders what he would make of the Obama Waffles that were sold at the Value Voters Summit or the guys who created them.

Poll: California gay marriage ban is losing support

The Sacramento Bee reports of a new Field Poll:

A constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in California has lost support during the past two months and now trails by a 17-point margin.

Just 38 percent of likely voters back Proposition 8 while 55 percent say they will vote against the Nov. 4 ballot measure, according to a new Field Poll. In July, the measure trailed by nine points.

Since then, the heading on the ballot summary – which began with the words "Limit on Marriage" on petitions to gather signatures for the measure – has been changed on voter pamphlets to read "Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry."

Attorney General Jerry Brown decided to change the wording after the state Supreme Court in May overturned a ban on gay marriages in California.

In the new poll, half the respondents were read the original summary and the other half the amended version to test voter reaction.

The level of support did not waver – in each case, only 38 percent of likely voters said they intended to vote for the measure.

Obama's faith initiative hits the campaign trail

CBN News Senior National Correspondent David Brody reports that Obama's faith based initiative is about to hit the campaign trial using surrogates to try to reach the faithful:

An official with Barack Obama’s campaign tells The Brody File that beginning next week the campaign will start an official faith tour in key battleground states called “Barack Obama: Faith, Family and Values Tour”. The subheading of the tour is as follows: “Voting ALL Our Values”

The Brody File is told that top faith surrogates will hit the trail for Obama. Some of those high profile figures include Former Indiana Congressman and pro-life Democrat Tim Roemer, Catholic legal scholar Doug Kmiec, and author Donald Miller. You can also expect a soon to be named Evangelical North Carolina (red state) Congressman to travel the country as well. All of these surrogates are well versed and comfortable talking faith and politics. This is clearly a sign by the Obama campaign that they plan to target red state and swing state moderates.

A campaign official tells me the tour is designed to feature the “strong faith and values” of both Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden. Issues will range from healthcare to poverty to the economy to climate change to yes, even abortion. The campaign understands tough questions may come their way but they’re ready with an answer of how they can reduce abortions.

While conservative Evangelicals have flocked to Palin, the Obama campaign is targeting voters from so many of the other faith traditions. The Brody File has been told that even with Palin now in the race, the Obama campaign’s internal faith polling shows them to be doing better than expected with other denominations besides conservative Evangelicals.

For example, they have their sites on places like Ohio which is home to roughly 500,000 United Methodists alone.

This tour will last about a month or so and will be in a town hall format where these speakers and others will give their talks in community centers and gyms and then take questions afterwards.

Among the states on the list are Colorado Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. Remember, the Obama campaign believes the White Catholic vote is very much in play especially in places like Pennsylvania. Plus, while conservative Evangelicals are not going to head Obama’s way, the campaign believes they can win over those moderate and liberal Evangelicals, Catholics and even some conservative mainline Protestants.

Read it all here.

The most important part of the debate

Walter Dellinger argues that the most important part of Friday's Presidential debate at Ole Miss what was not said by either candidate:

Somewhere in my attic there is a fading copy of a campus newspaper from 1967—my first year as a law professor at the University of Mississippi. The headline, as I recall, says "Negro to Address Ole Miss Class." In the space of my own adulthood, a world in which a guest lecture by a black man was a front-page news story has morphed into a world in which a person of color will be speaking on the Rebel campus tonight as a candidate for president of the United States.

. . .

I can't know for sure whether Aaron Henry was the first person of color to lecture at the university, but the campus paper certainly thought so and made of it a very notable event. One of my students—whose relatives were reputed to be Klansmen—asked whether he could sit in a chair in the hall and listen to Henry lecture through the open door. His religion, he explained, precluded him from being present at an event at which a black person was in a role of authority. I told him it would be up to Mr. Henry, who agreed to this "separation" with a ready smile.

It seemed at the time a historic event, which is probably why I still have that old newspaper. Now, on the day of the appearance on the campus of candidate Barack Obama, I am amazed at how close and how far away that Oxford of the 1960s really seems. . . .

Sen. Barack Obama comes to Oxford tonight in a far more exalted role than Aaron Henry did in his appearance as a guest lecturer 40 years ago. But while the fact of his race is no longer front-page news, I am nevertheless struck by the thread that connects both appearances. Tonight's visit to the home of the Ole Miss Rebels by a person of color seeking the presidency of the United States is just one more step on a journey of redemption for Americans, both white and black. The fact that his race is not front-page news tells me we are on the right track.

Read it all here.

Whose Obsession?

Many American voters have received a copy of a DVD titled "Obsession" in the mail in the past few weeks. But there's no clear answer to who is behind the making of the 2006 movie about radical Islam or who has paid for its distribution.

Adam Shatz has done a little digging:

"The Clarion Fund is a front for neoconservative and Israeli pressure groups. It has an office, or at least an address, in Manhattan at Grace Corporate Park Executive Suites, which rents out ‘virtual office identity packages’ for $75 a month. Its website, clarionfund.org, provides neither a list of staff nor a board of directors, and the group still hasn’t disclosed where it gets its money, as required by the IRS. Who paid to make ‘Obsession’ isn’t clear – it cost $400,000. According to Rabbi Raphael Shore, the film’s Canadian-Israeli producer, 80 per cent of the money came from the executive producer ‘Peter Mier’, but that’s just an alias, as is the name of the film’s production manager, ‘Brett Halperin’. Shore claims ‘Mier’ and ‘Halperin’, whoever they are, are simply taking precautions, though it isn’t clear against what. The danger (whatever it is) hasn’t stopped Shore – or the director, Wayne Kopping, a South African neocon – from going on television to promote their work."

Read the full article here.

The article claims that it's been voters in swing states that have been getting copies of the DVD, but your "editor of the day", who lives in Arizona, received a copy a few weeks ago as well.

The culture war and politics

The Pew Forum convened a panel of experts and journalists to explore the question of how the culture wars may or may not affect the presidential election in November.

For much of the presidential campaign, it has appeared that moral values issues would play only a small role in the November election. Indeed, at various points both Barack Obama and John McCain shied away from talking about abortion, same-sex marriage and other "culture war" issues. But the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate and Catholic bishops' criticism of Joe Biden's comments on when life begins have increased the attention paid to culture war issues. If the candidates focus more on these issues, will it help or hurt them with voters? Will the national and global economic difficulties introduce new definitions of the culture war? Just a few weeks before Election Day, the Pew Forum invited two culture war experts and a group of leading journalists to explore these questions in depth.

Yuval Levin and Todd Gitlin explore the idea that there is always a cultural war behind US politics. Although with slightly different descriptions of the "war" both see it as longstanding and foundational in the US.

Todd Gitlin

The culture wars matter in American politics because it’s the norm for them to matter. They always matter. They don’t always matter decisively, and the sides don’t always line up in the same way. In fact, the outcome of politics frequently hinges on who succeeds in defining what will be the sides this time. But the culture wars always matter because Americans vote not simply, and not even necessarily first, for what they want but for whom they want.
....
But again, the structure, the body if you will, remains the same even as the issues which are the cells change. Culture war is a fixture. So, to the question of how the culture wars will matter this time. Well, we have all the usual dimensions: abortion, gay marriage. We have, I think, an accentuation of the city versus country theme, which is a perennial. We have Barack Obama, of Honolulu, New York, Cambridge and Chicago versus John McCain of Sedona and Sarah Palin of Wasilla. Obviously, the impact of all of these will be muted by the financial and economic crisis to the great benefit of Sen. Obama and the chagrin of Sen. McCain.

Levin:
So I agree that the culture war on our politics is really a – a set of opposing attitudes and dispositions. But I don’t quite – I wouldn’t describe it in the same way that Todd did. It seems to me that the culture war actually takes place within what Todd described as the party of resentment. I think that both parties in our politics, both sides in our politics, actually want to be the party of resentment. And you know, no one wants to be the elite in American politics; they just have two very different ways of understanding what elite means and what there is to resent. And the culture war is a war of two populisms, what we might call in very broad terms, cultural populism and economic populism. For that reason, I think that this election is definitely, and has been and will be, a culture war election – because in fact, in this particular election more than most, we see the war of cultural populism defining the two candidates

Following their presentations a variety of journalists continue the conversation and the discussion of how the culture wars are more than the current representation of them.

Read the transcript here.

Todd Gitlin is Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University
Yuval Levin is Hertog Fellow and Director of the Bioethics and American Democracy Program, Ethics and Public Policy Cente
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Prayers for President-elect Barack Obama

Episcopal Cafe offers prayers and congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama.

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. (BCP p. 180 #19)

Prop 8 in the balance

Corrected and revised

With 95% of precincts now reporting it appears CNN's exit poll call on Prop 8 was premature. The LA Times anticipates the gay marriage ban will win.

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Update on status of Prop 8

From No On 8: Nov 05, 2008

Results Status

Roughly 400,000 votes separate yes from no on Prop 8 – out of 10 million votes tallied.

Based on turnout estimates reported yesterday, we expect that there are more than 3 million and possibly as many as 4 million absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted.

Given that fundamental rights are at stake, we must wait to hear from the Secretary of State tomorrow how many votes are yet to be counted as well as where they are from.

It is clearly a very close election and we monitored the results all evening and this morning.

As of this point, the election is too close to call.

Because Prop 8 involves the sensitive matter of individual rights, we believe it is important to wait until we receive further information about the outcome.

Proponents of Prop 8 claimed victory yesterday.

Social issues on state ballots

In addition to gay marriage other social issues were on state ballots, issues like issues such as abortion, euthanasia, gay adoption, and embryonic stem-cell research.

AP:

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Affluent voters one key to Obama's win

Mark J. Penn, chief adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election and to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her Senate and presidential races writing in Politico:

...the fusion of expanded minority voting and the expanded upper class, combined with shifting demographics, were key to Obama’s victory. But while demographers have been predicting the growth in minority voting — especially the Latino increases — for decades, they did not predict the upscale income changes in the electorate or focus on them. Most people in America (over 80 percent) no matter what their income, say they are middle class, which is why that phrase is so powerful on the stump.
...
69 percent of all Americans in polls I conducted in recent years now also call themselves “professionals,” a new class transcending the old class labels or working or middle class or the wealthy. They have white-collar jobs requiring higher education and are earning more than ever before. Because of layoffs and business scandals of recent years, they have become increasingly embittered toward the corporate cultures that would have otherwise been their natural home base.

Unlike the small-businessman who is typically anti-government, these professionals come out of the era of the growth of global corporations believing more than ever before in government intervention, teamwork and collective action. They are the voters who favored the bailout, while the left and the right saw it as a betrayal of their fundamental principles.

These higher educated voters generally believe more in science than religion, in the interconnectedness of the world, and in pragmatism over ideology. They see us all living in a new world and are watching their kids enter it taking new economy kinds of jobs in places increasingly far away from home.

Priest calls for penance for presidential vote

The Roman Catholic bishops of the US have come out pretty clearly against supporting any candidate they deem to be "pro-choice". The problem has been though that many Roman Catholic voters have ignored that advice. Now a priest is suggesting a way for wayward RC's to repair the damage to their souls for voting for Obama last week.

"The Rev. Jay Scott Newman told The Greenville News on Wednesday that church teaching doesn't allow him to refuse Holy Communion to anyone based on political choices, but that he'll continue to deliver the church's strong teaching on the 'intrinsic and grave evil of abortion' as a hidden form of murder.

Both Obama and Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, support legal abortions. Obama has called it a 'divisive issue' with a 'moral dimension,' and has pledged to make women's rights under Roe v. Wade a 'priority' as president. He opposes a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court decision.

At issue for the church locally and nationwide are exit polls showing 54 percent of self-described Catholics voted for Obama, as well as a growing rift in the lifestyle and voting patterns between practicing and non-practicing Catholics."

Read the full in the Greensville News here.

Obama and religious voters

The exit polls from last week's presidential election are starting to show us who voted for whom. One of the most interesting facts that's being noticed is that the "God Gap", the way religious voters tend to vote for Republican candidates, is still present in American politics.

President-elect Obama reached out throughout his campaign to religious voters in the Mainline, Catholic and Evangelical churches and to a degree far greater than any recent democratic nominee had done. Yet in spite of this there was still a clear preference for John McCain when most religious voters cast their ballots.

Yet while the gap remains, it was narrowed significantly. The President-elect did much better than any recent candidate has in actually narrowing the gap.

According to polls by Pew Research:

"Analysts pointed out two major reasons for the shift:
  • Most important, perhaps, voters said their decision-making was dominated by economics, not cultural issues with strong religious dimensions such as abortion and same-sex marriage that were so important in 2004.

  • Moreover, Obama worked harder than Kerry in reaching out to faith groups; he also won some hearts in faith communities by speaking about faith in his own life more fluently than Kerry did.

Within religious affiliations, Obama won over Catholics and made inroads among Protestants compared with 2004. He even made a measurable dent among white evangelical Christians, the religious group least disposed to him overall."

Read the full article here.

Why we lost: An analysis of the "No on 8" campaign

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a student at Harvard Divinity School and the director of The Progressive Project (which was active in the No on 8 campaign) offered an analysis of why the campaign lost, with a focus on the failings of the field campaign:

On November 4, Proposition 8 passed in California, enshrining in the state constitution a ban on same sex marriage. Similar amendments also passed in Florida and Arizona. We have now lost campaigns like this in 29 states; we have won only once - in Arizona in 2006. On a human level, these defeats are a blow to people across the nation who care about civil rights and equality. On a strategic level, they are explicable; after all, we continue to rely on the same strategies despite mounting evidence that they do not work.

What is required as the LGBT movement goes forward is a commitment to permanent political engagement and a national grassroots strategy and infrastructure that complement our national legal strategy. We must also finally do what our opponents have long been doing: treating each statewide ballot measure as a national campaign.

. . .

Proposition 8 passed by 510,591 votes. We don’t know if that gap could have been closed. But we do know that the "No on 8" campaign could have run a more visionary, nimble and aggressive field strategy. Ultimately the field strategy came up short in two critical, related areas:

First, the "No on 8" campaign did not become national until October, limiting both the volunteers and donors it could engage.

Second, the campaign’s field strategy failed to effectively reach enough swing voters enough times to turn them out as “no” voters.

. . .

Geography is no longer a barrier to engaging in political campaigns: new media technology, social networking features, and online predictive dialing systems mean that people can participate in a campaign from anywhere in the country.

The "Yes on 8" campaign was able to make this a national effort from the start, by tapping into the infrastructure of churches and online networks like Focus on the Family that know how to mobilize quickly. Additionally, they immediately saw both the national and historic implications of this campaign, arguing that it mattered at least as much as the presidential race.

In contrast, the "No on 8" campaign did not become national until October and even then it remained challenging for people outside California to engage as anything but donors. The common explanation for this is that there simply wasn’t enough time. Yet as early as 2006, I was told by strategists at a national LGBT organization that they fully anticipated fighting an anti-marriage ballot measure in California in 2008, and that it represented a rare chance to win. During the last two years, it would have been both prudent and strategic to develop a blueprint for a national campaign that could be quickly activated when the ballot measure was announced.

Instead, the campaign got off to a fitful and inaccessible start in May. It was not until June that volunteers in California were able to participate meaningfully in the campaign; and not until September that out-of-state volunteers were able to do anything more than give money. During this time, efforts to engage (by hosting remote phonebanks, and by coming to California to volunteer) were met by near radio silence from the campaign.

Read it all here.

For those involved in the No on 8 campaign: does this analysis ring true?

Bait and switch in New York?

The NY Times is wondering if New York Democrats pulled a bait and switch on gay rights supporters.

After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.

But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.

The question of how aggressively to proceed has touched off an intense debate among legislators and gay rights supporters about how ready the broader electorate is to embrace same-sex marriage, both in New York and across the country.


Gary Paul Gilbert, marriage equality activist in Jackson Heights, Queens, thinks the NYTimes is wrong on this and offers his analysis of the situation. He writes his response in an email:
As things stand now, we have to wait till January to find out if Malcolm Smith will be the State Senate Majority leader. If that happens, then the marriage equality bill will be openly gay State Senator Tom Duane's baby. Smith won't want to bring this to a vote until he knows he will win.

It will also depend on how strongly Duane will work for this. Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell devoted himself exclusively to passing the mariage equality bill in the Assembly in 2006. Dick Gottfried had been in charge of it before 2006 but he had many bills to work on and couldn't give it his all. Even in this NYT article, Tom Duane is quoted that he is not a patient sort. Senators who owe Duane for his support on other issues will eventually have to reciprocate.

I see no reason to fear rightwing moneybags coming to New York State because we don't have a referendum system like they do in California. In New York State, the legislators make the law and our assembly has already voted for marriage equality, and Governor Paterson supports marriage equality as well.

New York State has defacto gay marriage because since Martinez versus Monroe County, marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions have been recognized. The decision was unanimous, which made it difficult to appeal anyway. Martinez was decided in February 2008. Read the decision here.

Last Friday Monroe County said it would not appeal the decision, so same-sex couples who married elsewhere are definitely married in New York State and entitled to all 1324 protections which come with marriage in this state. The insurance commissioner said insurance companies in New York State must offer insurance to spouses of same-sex couples.

In any case, LGBTs and liberals in New York State will have to do a lot of work in New York State to demand equality in the Senate.

Something working in our favor is that Connecticut, which is not that far from NYC, is marrying couples, so there will be plenty of same-sex couples who will go there to get married and then claim benefits under NY State law. Eventually, New York State will be forced to compete with Connecticut for the marriage business. And New Jersey is on the verge of getting marriage equality too, which would put more pressure on New York because a couple could cross the river from NYC in fifteen minutes, get married, and come back to NYC legally married in New York State.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson issued a report in 2005, "Love Counts," which estimates that New York City alone would make about 149 million dollars the first three years of allowing same-sex couples to marry. New York City would make 140 million and the total for the state would be 247 million. Read the report here.


Gay City News', Andy Humm, writes:
Duane said he wasn't "overly concerned" about the three Democratic senators -Pedro Espada of the Bronx and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, in addition to Diaz - who have not yet pledged to vote for Democrat Malcolm Smith of Queens as their new majority leader. That vote is January 9. Duane said Smith is "100 percent committed to same-sex civil marriage and 100 percent committed to bringing it to the floor."

Duane and Van Capelle emphasized the need for Republican votes for marriage equality, though Log Cabin's Jeff Cook said later, "We believe we will have Republican support, but we're not talking names yet."

The Pride Agenda keeps a running tally of the positions of senators on these and two other issues - transgender rights and a school anti-bullying bill - on its website.

Van Capelle said that while 55 percent of New Yorkers polled support opening marriage to gay couples, the more important figure to politicians is the finding that the issue was only important to 9-12 percent of voters making a decision in the booth. Many elected officials could be convinced that there is less downside to a pro-marriage vote than they might suspect.

ed. note - We have had some trouble with the comments over the long weekend - fix coming on Monday.

UPDATE: More below

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Gay men's chorus to sing at inauguration event

A local gay men’s chorus has been invited to perform as part of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremonies next week, according to a statement from the group, and reported in the Washington Blade

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington will perform during a pre-inauguration event Sunday that will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial. Among the 800,000 attendees expected at the concert are Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, the statement says.

Taunee Grant, a chorus spokesperson, said HBO, which will broadcast the performance live, tapped the group to sing at the concert.

According to a former member of the chorus they will be singing an arrangement of “America” (My Country ‘Tis of Thee) at the same event where The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, will give the invocation.

Chane, Jefferts Schori to participate in Obama's National Prayer Service

Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Diocese of Washington will give the invocation and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will offer the closing prayer at the National Prayer Service organized by the Presidential Inaugural Committee at 10 a. m. on Wednesday, January 21 at Washington National Cathedral.

The Cathedral will webcast the service live from its Web site.

The names of other participants, including the Cathedral's Dean Samuel T. Lloyd and its precentor Canon Carol L. Wade are also online.

For more news from Washington National Cathedral click Read more.

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Who muted Bishop Robinson?

Who made the decision to mute Bishop Robinson? HBO has blamed the Presidential Inauguration Committee (see coverage on After Elton). Politco's Ben Smith has this:

“We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson’s invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday’s program. We regret the error in executing this plan – but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event," emails PIC communications director Josh Earnest.

The statement is inadequate to the offense and explains nothing. Bishop Robinson's invocation was moved forward in the program, and the effect of that move was most likely apparent to the people who made it. The PIC owes the bishop and his supporters an explanation.

Pam Spaulding has done a round-up of some reaction, and the Huffington Post is also on the case. Jason Linkins writes:

HBO comes to this controversy without any sort of significant reputation for being a network or a workplace hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In fact, the network is responsible for airing the drama Six Feet Under, which depicted gays in complex relationships unflinchingly. The Obama camp, on the other hand, has courted controversy already with the decision to include in the inauguration Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, a supporter of Proposition 8 in California. The appearance of a snub in the case of Bishop Robinson has successfully raised the temperature among Democratic activists and in the liberal blogosphere, where outrage is being pointed mostly at the incoming administration and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Obama makes it right (& Gene Robinson on Talk of the Nation)

(Updated: Bishop Gene Robinson's interview on Talk of the Nation. Conducted before events reported in this post.)

From the Huffington Post's Leath McElrath Renna:

A PIC source reports that some clips from the Lincoln Memorial event, including Bishop [Gene] Robinson's prayer, will be played on the Mall prior to the swearing in ceremony. In addition, there are reports that HBO will likely include the prayer in its re-broadcast of the event.

Confirmation from Ben Smith at Politico:

Citizens turned out on the Mall to watch the event on giant screens tomorrow will have a second chance to see the invocation by Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop, a source at the Presidential Inauguration Committee said.

"Yesterday's program will be shown on the jumbo screens on the Mall to entertain the assembled crowd. Tomorrow's version will include Robinson's prayer," the source said.

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic is on it as well. And the NYT confirms that HBO will include Robinson in future broadcasts.

Here at the Cafe, we've been told that Bishop Robinson will also be attending the service at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square tomorrow morning, and will be sitting with the President and his family at the parade. If all goes to plan, he will be on the Daily Show TOMORROW night (not tonight, s we had reported).

And here is Gene's interview with Andrea Mitchell today on MSNBC.

Praise Song for the Day

Congressional Quarterly has a transcript of the inaugural poem written and read by Elizabeth Alexander.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer consider the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Preaching God's word with an eye on politics

Rich Barlow of The Boston Globe profiles the formidable Katharine Ragsdale, executive director of Public Research Associates and FOtC, (friend of the Cafe):

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Breaking: Vermont overrides governor's veto

Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage -- and the first to do so with a legislature's vote The Huffington Post reports:

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All that's certain is dog lovers and taxes

It's April 15th. Time for prominent politicians to make their tax returns public.

The AP reports:

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, millionaires from his best-selling books, made $2.7 million last year and paid just under one-third of their adjusted income in federal taxes.

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Poll finds more favor of gay marriage than oppose

An ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that 49 percent support gay marriage in the US and 53 percent of those polled think that gay marriages held in other states should be honored in their own.

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Obama calls for civil discourse

There are numerous stories popping up today about the President's address to the graduating class of Notre Dame yesterday. The invitation was offensive to some in the Catholic Church because of the President's pro-choice stand.

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Pause button in NH

A bill to legalize gay marriage in New Hampshire failed in the state House Wednesday by two votes but was sent back to a House-Senate conference to work out a compromise. If successful, the compromise should come back for a vote on June 3.

The failure was a surprise to both backers and opponents, all of whom assumed that the vote would pass and be signed by Governor John Lynch. Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire characterized the situation as a pause rather than a setback.

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PB, other Christians leaders praise Obama's Cairo speech

From Episcopal Life Online:

A diverse group of U.S. Christian leaders has written to President Barack Obama following his historic June 4 speech in Cairo saying they stand ready to support "robust U.S. peacemaking efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace."

Signed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and more than 50 Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical and African American church leaders, the open ecumenical letter to Obama noted that "after decades of tragic conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace, yet with your determined leadership we believe the promise of two viable, secure and independent states can be realized."

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Honoring the institution of marriage

William McColl in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post:


I am a gay man. My partner lives 12 time zones away. We are in a monogamous relationship, and we do not cheat. We get to see each other only twice a year for less than three weeks. Although he is a professional in marketing, the United States will not let him immigrate because he was not picked in the lottery. The federal government would not recognize our relationship if I married him. The government will not allow us to be together.

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Ending usury

Action in Montgomery (AIM) a congregation-based advocacy group in Montgomery County, Maryland, has joined with the 17 other groups in the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation in a campaign to cap credit card interest rates called 10 percent is enough.

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Bishops care about health care


Bishops Working for a Just World to lobby for health-care reform

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Irving Kristol and those pearly gates

When a public figure dies, media outlets will often go looking for that person's views about some of the old predictable categories: religion, God, death ... and what comes after death. If a reporter digs up something pithy, it'll often be included.

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Maine voters have opportunity to vote yes to marriage equality

The Right Rev. Stephen Lane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, draws attention to the No on 1 campaign and to the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine. In November the voters of Maine will have a chance to vote on Referendum 1. Regarding Referendum 1, Ballotpedia says,

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Gay marriage loses in Maine

With Maine added to the list gay marriage has now lost in all 31 states in which it has been put to a public referendum.

Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine — known for its moderate, independent-minded electorate — and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign.

With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the votes.

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The ABC and the POTUS: two of a kind?

On the Sojo.net's "God's Politics" blog, LaVonne Neff compares the current resident of the White House with the current residence of Lambeth Palace. After expressing her admiration for Obama and Williams, she asks two important questions.

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Vatican condemns anti-gay laws & violence

The Vatican issued a statement yesterday condemning state-sanctioned violence and discrimination, including the use of imprisonment and the death penalty, against homosexual persons. While not mentioning Uganda by name, the Holy See has clearly condemned both the content and intent of that nation's proposed legislation.

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'Just War' (im)morality and the Cafe

As President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo last week, he invoked the "Just War" formula theorized by Cicero and Aristotle, and theologized over by Augustine and Aquinas.

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DC council votes marriage equality

UPDATE: Bishop Chane, Diocese of Washington (DC) issues statement on marriage equality bill passage - see below:

AP reports:

The Washington, D.C., City Council voted Tuesday to legalize gay marriage in the nation's capital, handing supporters a victory after a string of recent defeats in Maine, New York and New Jersey.

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Danforth gives $30M for Religion in Politics Center

Former United States Senator (and retired Episcopal priest) John C. Danforth's foundation gives $30 million dollars to establish a center which will explore the role of religion in politics:

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Pope Pius XII moves closer to sainthood

Despite criticism from Jews and other groups, the Vatican continues to move the WWII Pope Pius XII toward sainthood:

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New strategy for GOP Congress members

Since GOP Congress members (who are in the minority) can't force a vote in Congress to overturn the DC same-sex marriage question, they have filed an amicus brief in D.C. Superior Court calling for a public referendum on the issue.

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How about something that won't cost a dime?

Pundits are saying that the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts means healthcare reform as envisioned is dead for now, not so much that he represents the 41st vote, but that his election in a liberal state signals a widespread voter concern with backroom deals and special favors. It's not the change they were looking for. Add to that the cost of that reform, government spending, and the appearance of a lack of focus on the economy. At least that's what I'm hearing that resonates as true.

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The MDGs at 10 years old

Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church, has written an essay for the web pages of Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, which calls our attention back to the fact that the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved primarily through acts of personal charity, but through vigorous advocacy.

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Nigerian primate wants his country out of UN

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, has called for his country to pull out of the United Nations because the organization opposes bias against gays and lesbians. Can we expect Rowan Williams to express displeasure as quickly as he condemned the election of a lesbian bishop in the Episcopal Church? No, because that deadline has already passed.

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NY gubernatorial candidate says God didn't make gays

From CNN

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino criticized gays Sunday, saying he didn't want children "to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option," compared to heterosexuality.

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Recruits can be openly gay

"Don't ask, don't tell" law is struck down and now the military will accept openly gay recruits, at least for now.

Military to accept openly gay recruits
From USAToday.com

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The true meaning of Christmas

Senators are debating whether it is right to do the people's business so close to Christmas.

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Ripe for change?

What are the factors that make a country ripe for the sort of change we see in Egypt and Tunisia? Charles Blow in the New York Times looks at some data. He writes:

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King hearings create drama, pain, lack substance

Rep. Peter King's hearings, "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response" opened today.

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Obama: A cold-hearted realist and warm-blooded moralist

A provocative editorial on Religion and Ethics Weekly on Libya and the president's speech, from Professor Charles Mathewes, an Episcopalian and member of the House of Bishops' Theology Committee:

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Alan Simpson calls out the Republicans

Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson speaks out on homophobia and anti-women legislation by Republicans. Simpson is an Episcopalian and was a Deputy to General Convention. He often says he learned all about being a legislator from his days on the floor of General Convention.

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A tipping point on marriage equality?

Adam Liptak of The New York Times writes:

It’s not every day that a leading law firm fires a client for holding a position so extreme that it may be said to be unworthy of a defense. And it is rarer yet — unheard of, really — when that client is the House of Representatives and the position in question is a federal law.

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The Bachmanns and the mythology of 'praying the gay away'

Todd Essig wonders whether presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus - frontliners in the so-called culture wars - are in fact waging a fair battle against homosexuality with their gay-to-straight methodology.

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Obama supports repeal of DOMA

The AP is reporting the President Obama has come out in support of repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. He favors the passage of "the Respect for Marriage Act" which would repeal DOMA.

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Evaluating job creation: politically & through the lens of the church

The question of job creation is the early hot topic in qualifying Rick Perry's run for the presidency. Statistics of Texas job growth under Perry's governance are being used politically to build and attack his bid, and debate rages over how much credit or blame he deserves.

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Poverty an invisible issue in GOP race

Roland S. Martin writes for CNN that poverty is being ignored in the GOP primaries.

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In Mississippi, speaking out on the Personhood Amendment as it goes to the polls

UPDATE: the ballot measure was defeated.

Mississippi voters today went to the polls to decide whether to define legal personhood as beginning with fertilization.

CNN:

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Boston's St. Paul's Cathedral opens up to Occupy

From the site of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachussetts:

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A blessing in Perry’s attack ad

Could the overwhelming negative reaction to Perry's anti-gay rhetoric mark an end to its use as a political tactic?

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Presidential candidates intensify religious symbols, language

Rick Perry's rightward shuffle on abortion was noted in yesterday's news, and now today we have this:

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Bishop Robinson reflects on the New Hampshire vote

Andrew Harmon reports on his visit with New Hampshire's bishop, Gene Robinson, in which Robinson reflected on the this week's actions of Republican voters in that state.

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The rights of citizens and the popular vote

Back in January, Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker told reporters why it is inappropriate to put civil rights issues before the electorate in a popular referendum.

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102 Episcopal bishops ask Obama to intervene in Gaza hospital crisis

From the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs:

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We want more equality, we just don't know it.

Americans want to live in a much more equal country. Dan Ariely of Duke University asked thousands of people to describe their ideal distribution of wealth, from top to bottom. The vast majority -- rich, poor, GOP and Democrat -- imagined a far more equal nation.

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Atheist group takes aim at religion of Obama, Romney

Fr. James Martin, SJ, takes issue with a billboard campaign launched by American Atheists attacking the faith of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney."That billboard makes the most common high-school error when it comes to atheism. It's not arguing against the existence of God, but against religion. The American Atheists need to go back to school on this one."

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Who knew? Mitt Romney, Bain Capital and the Episcopal Church Pension Fund

In accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney said:

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Loving politics

Sam Portaro writes on the uneasy relationship between politics and religion on the CREDO Spiritual Blog, but also points out that the relationship should not be ignored.

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God, Jerusalem reinserted into DNC platform

What do you think about the flap over including mention of God and Jerusalem in the DNC platform? From the Los Angeles Times:

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Politicians are ignoring crisis of poverty in America

The Huffington Post is running a series spotlighting problems that are not being discussed by either political party this election season. As part of this project, Jim Wallis notes that we're looking at the highest rates of poverty this country has seen in 50 years:

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What should be asked at tonight's presidential debate?

ThinkProgress ponders "5 Questions that should be asked at the Presidential debate but probably won't be", along with their analysis of each question. Here is their list:

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A psychologist and historian of morality reflects on the conventions

Gareth Cook of Scientific American introduces us to Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt, he says, "is concerned, like many Americans, with the way our country has become divided and increasingly unable to work together to solve looming threats. Yet, unlike most Americans, he is a psychologist and specialist on the origins of morality. In his book, Haidt examines the roots of our morality, and how they play out on the stage of history. Cook asked Haidt what he made of the recent political conventions, and he said:

I was mostly struck by how much the culture war has shifted to economic issues. These days it’s fought out over the three moral foundations that everyone values: Care/harm, Fairness/cheating, and Liberty/oppression. The Democrats say that government must care for people, and that government programs are necessary to make America fair – to level the playing field, and give people the basic necessities that they need to enjoy liberty, especially education and health care. George W. Bush once called himself a "compassionate conservative," but Republicans in the Tea Party era don't talk much about compassion. For them, government is the cause of massive unfairness – taking money from taxpayers (the "makers" and "job creators") and giving it to slackers and freeloaders (Romney's "47 percent"). Government is seen as the principle threat to liberty. The private sector is much more trusted. This is a huge shift from the period between 1992 and 2004, when the culture war was fought out mostly between social conservatives, particularly the religious right, and the secular left. It was fought out primarily over the three moral foundations that we call the "binding" foundations, because they bind people together into tight moral communities: Loyalty/betrayal (for example, issues of patriotism and flag protection), Authority/subversion (for example, respect for parents, and whether parents and teachers can spank children), and Sanctity/degradation (which includes most bioethical issues pitting the sanctity of life against a more harm-based or utilitarian ethos). This older culture war re-emerged briefly with Rick Santorum's turn in the spotlight, but then it faded away. The Republican Party in particular has changed, and the moral arguments made in this Republican convention were very different.

I can't say I noticed that. Your thoughts?

Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.

The lament of a pro-life lefty

Writing in The New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan, political director of the Huffington Post, UK, says arguments against abortion can be rooted in reasoning that politically progressive people should find persuasive. He writes:

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Marriage equality: it's for the kids

Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post tells one family's story, and in the process captures a) the ways in which laws that prohibit same same-sex marriage harm the children of gay and lesbian couples, and b) how politically potent the message that those children need protection has become. He writes:

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Political rhetoric fails to reflect true value of work

We heard a lot of talk from both presidential candidates last night about the need for jobs in America, but throughout the campaign, neither Obama nor Romney has focused on the concept of truly valuable work, according to Hugh Whelchel, executive director of the Institute of Faith, Work & Economics. He blogs for the Washington Post:

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Election day communion: choose to remember

The Election Day Communion Campaign is a creation of Mark Schloneger (Pastor, North Goshen Mennonite Church; Goshen, IN), Kevin Gasser (Pastor, Staunton Mennonite Church; Staunton, VA) and Ben Irwin (Creator, The Story; Member, Episcopal Church; Grand Rapids, MI) which grew out of "...a concern that Christians in the United States are being shaped more by the tactics and ideologies of political parties than by their identity in and allegiance to Jesus."

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What if the Senate and House sat at round tables?

Just Out News in Portland OR carries a reflection by the Rt. Rev. Michael Hanley, bishop of Oregon:

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President Obama re-elected

President Obama spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in Chicago after the long election night. Some highlights from the reuters transcript:

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More election news and reactions

Before yesterday, popular votes on Marriage Equality had always failed. Current states with Marriage Equality needed either the courts or legislators to intercede on behalf of a minority group.

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Does Catholic support for Obama weaken bishops' position?

Does the fact that Barack Obama won the Catholic vote nationwide (albeit narrowly) weaken the position of Catholic bishops that the contraception mandate within Obamacare represents a violation of their members' religious freedom? Mark Movsesian, director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University, writes:

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Attitudes towards guns and violence

Reducing gun violence isn't just about what policies will work. It is also about changing hearts and minds of the electorate. There is a Christian duty in both. While the focus may be turning to Washington and away from Newtown, we must not forget that politics are also local.

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Pastor pulls out of inauguration program over anti-gay comments

The Rev. Louie Giglio will not be delivering the invocation at President Obama's inauguration after all. ABC News reports that he backed out of the ceremony over criticism of anti-gay remarks he made in the mid-1990s:

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Speed dating with a twist

Citizens and local leaders met across a table for questions, answers, sweet tea and lemonade at an event designed to create dialogue about important local issues.

Tallahassee.com:

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Gun control compromise fails in Senate

Today's Senate vote failed to earn the 60 required votes needed to pass, 54 in favor and 46 against.

The Huffington Post reports:

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Politics of redemption and forgiveness

Mark Sanford's election victory in South Carolina may bode well for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who also left office amid scandal and is pondering a return to politics. Robert Jones writes at the Washington Post:

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Fuzzy logic

As the on-going scandal about the IRS' scrutiny of conservative groups grinds on, the underlying issue--the fuzzy logic that leads to poor enforcement--is almost never discussed.

Gary D. Bass and Elizabeth J. Kingsley write in the Washington Post of a proposal to change and clarify the regulation in question.

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Waiting for a SCOTUS ruling...

Amy Howe and Marty Lederman, in the SCOTUS blog (currently live streaming), set the stage for the anticipated rulings:

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Texas showdown over abortion and the filibuster

A major fight over abortion and women's health and rights went down last night in the Texas statehouse.

Ann Marie Cox says "Don't mess with Texas women" in The Guardian:

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Spitzer goes to church to ask forgiveness

Eliot Spitzer spent the last few days wooing voters at a number of New York City churches. The New York Daily News reports:

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LGBT advocacy groups withdraw ENDA support due to religious exemption

The fallout from the Hobby Lobby ruling continues...

From Lyle Denniston's report on SCOTUSblog:

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The religious underpinnings of World War I

From Religion News Service:

As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I — a conflict that left 37 million dead or wounded and reshaped the global map — a number of scholars and authors are examining a facet of the war they say has been overlooked — the religious framework they say led to the conflict, affected its outcome and continues to impact global events today. ...

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Church's politics in one graph

Linked is the American religio-political landscape in a graph, provided by Religion News Service's Tobin Grant. He writes:

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