Yesterday, as the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law, people of faith capped off 48 hours of prayer with a biblically-inspired “Jericho March” around the Supreme Court. More than 150 participants from diverse faith traditions wore white and marched to the sound of trumpets in silent solidarity with those impacted by anti-immigrant laws.
The concept of a “Jericho March” comes from the Book of Joshua:
The LORD said to Joshua…’You shall march around the city… seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. “It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.” (Joshua 6:1-6)
The faith community has been an omnipresent force in the fight to overturn SB 1070 and similar laws across the country on grounds that it criminalizes faith and impugns human dignity. We’ll soon find out whether the Supreme Court agrees with them.
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Clergy members of the PICO National Network are putting their money where their mouth is. As part of an ongoing campaign to hold big banks accountable for immoral predatory lending practices and foreclosure fraud, individual congregations and clergy members have been doing their part by divesting from the banks:
[Rev. Jane Quandt] and other Inland religious leaders say they have heard too many stories of banks’ ill treatment of homeowners who have struggled — and often failed — to hang onto their houses as the economy spiraled down. They are part of a growing group of clergy and congregants who are abandoning giant banks in favor of smaller community institutions to avoid taking part in what Quandt calls “institutional sin.”
Christian churches tend to think of sin in personal terms, but it’s not just personal, Quandt said. There are times when it’s embedded in institutions and it’s embedded in systems.
The campaign has already gained significant momentum; according to the article, “25 congregations, along with clergy and community groups, have moved at least $30 million from big banks to community banks and credit unions.” In this inspiring way, the faith community continues to hold bad actors accountable for the institutional sin of unjust economic practices and policies.
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Congress’ pre-Christmas approval of a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut came with a lump of coal for President Obama: a provision that forces him to make a decision on whether to allow construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, which would carry millions of barrels of toxic tar sands from Canada across 1,600 miles to Texas, has been fiercely opposed by the faith and environmental community. A petition by Faithful America opposing the pipeline already has over 5,000 signatures and Interfaith Power & Light, which works with over 14,000 congregations nationwide, has mobilized its network in opposition to the proposed project.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped proponents of the pipeline from making inflated claims about its ability to create jobs and using the issue as a political hostage. Moreover, the entire debate has brought into sharp focus the influence that the oil and gas lobby has over our political process. Until our leaders decide to seriously invest in a national clean energy strategy, Big Oil’s lobbyists will continue to have a stranglehold on our environmental and energy policy.
The good news is that President Obama still has the ability to delay or stop this dangerous project. But even that is unlikely to be enough to permanently stop the pipeline. If the oil companies make a renewed push, expect the faith community to raise their voices even louder in opposition to this assault on God’s creation.
Photo credit: tarsandsaction, Flickr
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With Occupy protests spreading around the country (indeed, the globe) and faith leaders lending their support to the nascent movement, the media appears to be waking up to the unemployment crisis that has affected millions of Americans.
But one courageous media figure has been ahead of the curve. Taking an in-depth look at the growing inequality gap in America, PBS host Tavis Smiley embarked on an ambitious 18-city bus tour with Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West to expose the scandal of nearly 50 million Americans now living in poverty. “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience” was the focus of five special episodes that aired last week on PBS, the last of which featured the Rev. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners and tireless champion for the poor.
The segment starts out with a head-turning clip from MSNBC host Joe Scarborough:
To hear this kind of faith-based critique of the Right from a prominent conservative media figure is both rare and audacious. It also elucidates a clear truth about the heart of Christ’s mission that crosses partisan and ideological lines: caring for our neighbor makes us stronger. This philosophy stands in stark opposition to the individualism and selfishness embodied in the budget proposals of Ayn Rand devotees.
As people like Smiley, Wallis, and Scarborough continue to shine a light on the moral travesty of poverty in America and the obligation of Christians to remedy this injustice, they should also hold our political leaders accountable to the commandments of our faith. As Wallis says later in the interview (about 6:40 in), “Any candidate who says they’re a Christian and are not dealing with [poverty,] are not really raising the true religious issue.”
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With Congress poised to pass three sweeping Bush-era trade deals with Korea, Colombia, and Panama next week, both conservative think tanks and the Obama Administration are getting ready to celebrate a legislative victory. But what kind of victory are these deals for the millions of people whose lives will be directly affected by them?
First, the notion that these deals will actually create jobs in the U.S. is dubious at best. We heard the same promises during the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) debate but recent economic analysis has proven the opposite happened.
The President himself seems to recognize this given that he made passage of the deals contingent on approving more assistance for workers who have lost their jobs as a result of free trade. The current jobs crisis we face only compounds the immorality of pushing unfair deals that will leave American workers further and further behind.
Faith communities, in particular, are shedding a light on the troubling human rights abuses in Colombia that could be exacerbated by that trade deal. The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness recently organized a protest against the deal:
Along with other groups, OPW and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship helped organize the protest. Leaders from both groups spoke alongside environmental activists and trade unionists from the United States and Colombia about the devastating consequences the free trade agreement would have on laborers, farmers, Afro-Colombians and other Colombian citizens.
Participants surrounded the stage with 51 cardboard coffins representing the 51 trade unionists killed in Colombia in 2010 — more than the number killed during the same time period in the rest of the world combined.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also warned that, “Further displacement exacerbated by inadequate trade agreement provisions will hurt the poorest people in Colombia’s rural areas.”
While some in Washington may see passage of these deals as a victory, faith communities agree that there is no victory in punishing American workers and hurting the most vulnerable around the world.
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