Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Senior Editor and Training Coordinator, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.
Posted by Johnny Jackson, Jr. August 29, 2007 2:16AM
My first encounter with an angel who happen to be members of a fishing club from the Baton Rouge area. I was caught in the flood waters of hurricane Katrine with my 81 years old mother, my mentally and physically challenged brother and my fragile nephew at my mothers two story home in the Press Park community of the upper 9th ward.
They rescued us in the dark of early morning and risk their lives trying to get her and my brother in the small boat. Even after two failed efforts, they stayed until all of us were safe in the small boat. After two day of not seeing anyone coming to provide any assistance, truly they were Angels to us.
When works bring faith
Posted by Barbara Evans August 29, 2007 2:14AM
I am a single mom with 2 children. My house was badly damaged by Katrina. It got flooded and had significant roof damage which caused major destruction upstairs and down. Super Bowl Sunday I was introduced to a guy, interested in seeing my house.
After seeing the devastation, he said he wanted to help me, calling himself a real “handy man.”
I thought his offer would only last a short time. He lived 1 1/2 hours away from my house. He worked on my house approximately 4-5 days a week for 9 months. He repaired my whole house; construction, electrical, plumbing,and painting.He did all this in his spare time; he had a full time job 8:00 to 5:00.
He would work long hours, sometimes till 2 a.m. and then still have to drive home.
He was determined to get us out of the FEMA trailer as soon as possible. He never accepted money; he just wanted to do his part to help. I don’t know why I was chosen, but I don’t think I could have done it without him. This man was my guardian angel and I will forever be grateful.
A gathering of angels
Posted by Bill Sanchez August 29, 2007 1:54AM
Touched by an angel? How about touched by 15 Angels? The capitalization on the term Angels was no accident. The group of teenagers that sacrificed not only their summer, but exposed themselves to untold hazards to come here and gut houses after Hurricane Katrina restored my faith in the future of this country.
One,in fact, had to be taken to the hospital with a severe infection of a minor cut. These heaven sent young volunteers not only gutted our house, they did it with grace and dignity, asking that one of us be present to preserve whatever of value (monetarily or sentimentally) they uncovered. There were more sentimental items than valuables left, I assure you.
Perhaps the most moving jesture they made was a purely personal one. As they cleaned out my office, they noted the loss of several Bibles and study references I had. These wonderful kids autographed and anotated a Bible they had been given to use for group devotions and presented it to my wife. I will never forget this act because it hepled me reach deep down inside and open up the door of my own faith that had almost closed. They provided me with the slogan that brought me through this mess, “I lost everything but my faith”.
Therefore, shamelessly do I solicit everyone to contribute to “Samaritan’s Purse”, the organization that sponsored these Angels on their mission of mercy. They themselves would accept nothing in return, not even a warm home cooked meal my wife offered.
I have no affiliation with that organization other than a warm spot in my heart that not even the Artic Circle could freeze over. I will cherish that Bible the rest of my life.
The Census Bureau’s annual social and economic data report on income, poverty and health insurance came out today, bringing mixed news about Americans’ unmet needs. On the plus side, the poverty rate fell from 12.6 percent to 12.3 percent — 490,000 fewer people living in poverty. On the minus side, the poverty rate was still 12.3 percent, or 36,460,000 people.
One thing that often gets lost when we talk about poverty is the human face of it. Poverty is not a percentage. It’s a little girl who goes to school when she’s sick because she needs the free lunch. It’s a father who knocks on a neighbor’s door to ask for food for his children. It’s a family of four living in a tiny, noxious FEMA trailer that bakes in the sun and trembles in the wind. It’s a daily state of privation and insecurity endured by 36.5 million Americans, and the fact that we accept it is a serious moral issue. The decline in poverty is good news for 490,000 people, but that is dwarfed by the bad news of 36.5 million people still unable to meet their needs. We need to remember that when we order our political priorities.
PS, the adequacy of the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold isn’t something to be taken as valid on its face, but that’s a topic for another post.
Rev. Gaddy did a good job of pushing me to explain why I was glad last week’s Iowa debate featured a question on the candidates’ beliefs about the power of prayer. In defense of the validity of asking personal questions about candidates’ faiths, I said
People aren’t electing platforms, they’re electing other human beings, and they really want to get a sense of who these human beings are. Identity is a very significant component of political campaigns, and this is one manifestation of that.
I stand by that, but at this early stage of the presidential campaign, the media and the electorate haven’t quite defined the role of religion and the proper way in which to discuss it, and you don’t have to look very hard for divergent opinions.
In Saturday’s Boston Herald, Scripps Howard columnist Bonnie Erbe said
If the Democrats are going to make “running against Bushâ€ a hallmark of the ’08 campaign, they must promise to rebuild the now-wrecked wall between church and state. They must also pledge to keep their own religious beliefs out of government policy-making.
Dismayingly, Sunday’s debate showed some Democratic front-runners still feel the need to cater to the religious right.[emphasis added]
Erbe then critiques the candidates’ responses to the question about whether they believed prayer could prevent natural disasters. She had kind words only for Edwards and Richardson, calling Edwards “a deeply religious man, so confident in the power of his convictions that he can separate them from his role as a government official,” and Richardson courageous and “surprisingly impressive.”
But Richardson said his sense of social justice is rooted in his Roman Catholic faith. So does Erbe not believe Richardson should allow his sense of social justice to influence his policy positions? I’d think not and hope not. She probably didn’t mean to say that, but it’s a clear implication.
Erbe’s column is important because it’s a great example of the consequences of the religious right’s polarization of America. After seven years of an administration guided by a messianic foreign policy and a fundamentalist-influenced domestic agenda, she says that “a national leader’s belief that his (or her) policies are underwritten by God should be viewed in the same ominous light as a cross on fire.” The problem is her unspoken assumption that because religious motivation lay behind the Bush administration’s destructive policies, religiously motivated policies are inherently bad.
The negative results of Bush’s conservative religious convictions does not preclude the possibility that a future president’s progressive religious beliefs could inspire him or her to advance an agenda for the common good that leaves our nation and our world a better place. It’s tragic that Erbe sees “running against Bush” not as running against war, division, and pollution, but as running away from faith. It doesn’t have to be that way, and we need to talk about faith in order to reclaim it.
A recent Mother Jones article (not yet online) about Hillary Clinton’s membership in the secretive Fellowship prayer group and the relationship between her faith and her politics makes some fair observations, but it is also laden with misunderstanding and insinuation.
A conspicuous example is the contention that when the Fellowship “convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics…the politics always move rightward.â€
By its very nature, a politics that transcends left and right requires an ideological flexibility and innovative mindset that enables us to find common ground. This can incorporate several dynamics: liberals moving right, conservatives moving left, finding original solutions, recognizing shared ideals, or any combination of these. To say that among Senate coreligionists the politics always moves rightward ignores not only these other possibilities, but also the recent record of distinctly leftward shifts.
Take health care. Conservatives will always stick to their rhetorical guns about health savings accounts, consumer choice and such, but look at their votes. Shortly before the August recess, 18 Republicans voted for a Democratic program to spend $35 billion to cover 9 million uninsured children, not with tax credits or subsidized health savings accounts, but at the full expense of federal and state governments. That is a leftward swing, even if it’s not universal healthcare.
Take global warming. While we don’t yet have greenhouse gas emission caps or a carbon tax, religious groups and scientific consensus are pressing Republican Senators leftward into the realm of reality. James Inhofe is a stalwart of climate change denial, but only a few years ago his was considered a mainstream conservative position. Talk is cheap, but it’s hard to say there’s been a rightward swing when their entire frame on the most pressing and financially consequential issue of our era has been discredited.
It is certainly possible for a shadowy religious group to exert rightward pressure on liberal members who seek common ground solutions. The Mother Jones article even provides a couple of examples. However, to say that these liberals bridge builders always become more conservative is to ignore the fact that the common ground isn’t always found on the right.
On Sunday’s edition of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos the Democratic candidates answered a viewer’s emailed question about their faith: “My question is to understand each candidate’s view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?”
Interesting that the viewer — and the moderator — chose to ask this question. It’s not about how faith informs policy or civic values. Instead it concerns what I would consider a more private aspect of faith (I am not an evangelical). This was not the first time the Democratic candidates have been asked such a personal, audience-submitted question. It reflects a desire to know not just what the candidates would do in trying situations, but also who they are.
Notice how all the candidates (well, at least the ones who actually answered the question) essentially answered “no.” I’d like to think the American people want a president who will make sure the levees are manned instead of only praying while a hurricane is bearing down.
But even if the questioner wanted to hear otherwise, I’m glad sure he asked the question. Are you? Do questions like this help give you a better idea of WHO these candidates who are bidding to be your president ARE? Or is this kind of information irrelevant to your vote?