Aired this weekend, PBS’ NOW focused on the 13-member team from the NCC which met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, top officials in the government, and several of the ayatollahs who have a powerful influence on government policy. “When political leaders mess up, religious leaders ought to be here to go and build up the people, build up relationships, and bring the conversation up the high moral ground,” said one of the U.S. delegates, Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, who represented Episcopalians, Methodists, Evangelicals and dozens of other denominations.
The Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations, National Council of Churches USA, Rev. Dr. Premawardhana has received criticism from Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee, who called the visit “An Exercise in Spineless Christian Diplomacy.”
On his blog, Premawardhana recently responded:
“Ahamdinejad told us he is not building nuclear weapons because Iran is an Islamic country and Islamic Scripture forbids them. Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has issued a fatwa against such weapons. On the other hand, as a signatory to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he said, Iran has every right to develop nuclear energy.
Rudin, rather than seize the slight ray of light that is in that statement, would disregard that comment and continue as if Iran is building nuclear weapons. And to what end? Would he encourage President Bush to attack Iran? Would he encourage Israel, which unlike Iran is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to use its nuclear weapons against Iran?”
If you have a few minutes, the video, available here from PBS, is worth watching just to see the kids trying out their English on a Mennonite delegate, and then half-heartedly chanting “Down with USA” while smiling.
Faithful Progressive asks: Is the US ready for the Christian Left? And then answers, Doesn’t Matter, They’re Here.
He comments on an In These Times article, which notes:
left leaning Christians have been regularly attracting bigger and more passionate crowds than the Christian right recently. In St.Paul, MN, Jim Wallis had much a much bigger crowd in back to back nights than James Dobson. ‘One of the Dobson organizers came over and told me, ‘If they make us keep focusing on just two issues [abortion and gay marriage], they’re going to lose all of us,’ he says. But some people I know actually take the ministry of Jesus seriously. This can lead to some very radical and even lefty behavior.”
Retired seminary president Del Brown is blogging a book defining progressive, as opposed to liberal, beliefs. He writes, “Christianity did not begin with the Bible. It began with Jesus of Nazareth as he was understood and proclaimed by his followers.”
Speaking of. . .Eamon quotes the Pope on the Iraq war: “War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions.”
Quaker blogger, Gathering in Light, just bought a bunch of books for a Fuller Theological Seminary class on emerging church as social movement.
Over at the Christian Century blog, Theolog Debra reads former New Republic editor, Peter Beinart’s book. She writes: “Beinart’s confession to being “intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the United Statesâ€ reminds us to be skeptical about notions that the U.S. is somehow an exceptional nation with a exceptional mission in the world.”
“And so it’s natural that, to conservatives, the phrase “I support the troops” signifies a profession of faith — faith in the mission that the troops are undertaking. It means avoiding saying things that might, in the short-term, be construed as demoralizing. And it means pretending — eternally, one suspects — that this war is still winnable. To progressives, supporting the troops means something far more profound. It means treating them with the love and respect they deserve. It means doing what we must as citizens to protect them. It means honoring the sacrifices of generations past by enjoying our liberties at home and refusing to spill more blood abroad unless it’s truly necessary.”
Do you have thoughts about The Evangelical Vote? Well, Street Prophets’ Pastor Dan does and writes, “I wish I could believe that the conservative megachurches are ripe with progressive converts, but the numbers simply don’t bear that assertion out.”
OT or Hebrew Bible? Weigh in here with Cross and Flame, a Street Prophets diarist.
Navroz Mubarak 2007. Islamicate notes that “the holiday is now hybrid. Little bit of Zoroastrianism, little bit of Iranian nationalism, little bit of Islam, little bit of 21st century style globalization.”
And finally set your TiVo. The NCC Interfaith blog notes that the Iran delegation will be featured on PBS’ Now this weekend.
Last week, members of Franciscan dioceses and orders gathered in Washington, D.C. to form a new Center for Action and a broad-based Franciscan Family Commission for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. More than 130 leaders and social justice and peace representatives from the Franciscan provinces, congregations, Secular Franciscan Regions, and Ecumenical partners approved the new initiative in Baltimore last week.
The move represents an unprecedented effort within the Franciscan family to focus combined resources on social justice and peace advocacy. With the Center for Action, the Franciscan community – which comprises tens of thousands of Franciscans in the U.S., and the millions whom they serve – hopes to effectively influence social policy in order to transform the world.
We Franciscan brothers and sisters, Religious and Secular, from throughout the United States, gathered together in Baltimore, Maryland, to discern the possibility of a unified Franciscan Voice for justice. With great concern for dehumanizing issues in our society, we recognized trends contrary to our calling as followers of Christ. We see that we have the power to effectively advocate for the redistribution of resources, the responsible care for creation, and the healing of relationships within the Franciscan Family, the Church and society. To these ends, we commit ourselves and call all members of the Family to speak with one Franciscan Voice to effect the transformation of national social policy. By walking with our brothers and sisters who are poor and marginalized, we intend to advocate for peace and to reaffirm the dignity of all creation.
This is a notable step in the development of the Catholic social justice and peace movement. The Center for Action will provide Franciscans with a powerful voice on a wide array of issues, such as war, oppression, poverty, and the global climate crisis.
To find out more about the Franciscan community’s efforts, visit their web site at www.hnp.org.
Bonus: Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, speaks beautifully about his faith and how he is utterly humbled by mystery. Listen to him on NPR’s This I Believe.
I know, I know. Me? I was surprised too. But don’t worry. I didn’t hold any angry signs or yell obscenities. All I had was a small electric candle, symbolizing the light of Christ and his call for peace. And all I said, aside from conversations with my friends and strangers along the 4-mile walk from the National Cathedral to the White House, was “Peace,” which we chanted at the White House. . . .At any rate, it was a beautiful, worthwhile event, and I am glad I went. Even though I never thought I would go to a protest:
From the Back Pew writes, “Even the name — the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq — is a revolutionary act.”
On his MySpace blog, 28-year-old Hammer of Truth writes, “I felt the need to help sound the trumpet myself.”
Don’t Eat Alone notes: “A significant part of the protest was the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, the combined conspiracy of most everyone from Adventists to Catholics and Pentecostals to the UCC.” And the restaurateur adds,
“One of the reasons it is significant to me that this particular protest was explicitly Christian is the justification of the war in Iraq often carries religious overtones, as if the war is Christian vs. Muslim. Bush intimates, often without much subtlety, that God is on our side because we are fighting for freedom and God is for freedom. I’m proud of the people who conspired to say God is for peace and so are many American Christians.”
“We would need to be at the Cathedral at about 5:00pm and were not sure when we would have another opportunity to eat. When feeding times are not certain, the only logical thing to do is eat big when the opportunity presents itself. We sat down to a fantastic lunch at the Old Ebbitts Grill. After cups of seafood gumbo and a crab cake, we again considered the uncertainty of supper and decided it would only be prudent to have some pie and ice cream. In these uncertain times, one cannot be too careful.”
Hoosier Daddy takes issue with the MSM coverage, noting the tendency for the media to lump the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq with the regular “anti” protests. He writes:
“However, this event Friday was in a whole different category of its own. It attracted no counterdemonstrators whatsoever. It was rooted and grounded in worship which filled the National Cathedral and in “divine obedience” in the middle of the night at the gates to the White House. It was definitely FOR something – for important and constructive goals that honor people, preserve life and work towards justice.”
Unexpectedly for herself, Margaret feels patriotic: “It’s a pretty incredible country that will allow several thousand Christians to process down Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC carrying electric candles and various banners.”