If you haven’t ventured off the blog to check out the “Case Studiesâ€ page on our website yet, give it a look today! This page highlights some of the great accomplishments of faith groups in the last few years including two brand-new features: one highlighting the important role of faith communities in the summer’s renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the other discussing the ELCA’s efforts over the past five years to unite congregation based community organizing with the work of its synods and bishops. From these stories and others you can keep up with the exciting work that faith communities are engaged in across the country–plus pick up some pointers from the experts on how to really get things done.
Sgt. Ricky Clousing–a born-again Christian who went AWOL when he realized the war in Iraq was not being fought morally–will be released from military prison on Saturday after serving three months for his decision to leave the army. Quaker House, an organization based in North Carolina that assists GIs in understanding their rights, is holding a “coming-outâ€ party for him partly to draw attention to his story and abuses of power that caused Clousing to leave the army. Read more background on his inspiring story in a wonderful New York Times profile from last month.
Though he was not raised in a religious family, Clousing began attending a Presbyterian Church during high school after having a born-again experience which showed him that “God had another plan for [him].â€ He spent the next four summers on mission trips in Mexico and eventually traveled to Thailand with the evangelical group “Youth with Mission.â€
Clousing joined the army in 2004 thinking that he could serve God and his country at the same time. However, after just a few months working as a Tactical Interrogator in Iraq, Clousing began to see the war as both immoral and illegal, and found that he was forced to “re-evaluate [his] beliefs and [his] ethics.â€ He simply could not reconcile his beliefs and the teachings of Jesus with the horrors and the abuses of power he witnessed each and every day.
After an Army Chaplain dismissed Clousing’s doubts, he turned to Quaker House, where Chuck Fager, the director, assured him that his feelings about the war were neither crazy nor heretic. With this affirmation, Clousing decided he could not go back to Iraq and, seeing it as the only way out, he went AWOL. Fourteen months later, he turned himself in and was sentenced to three month in military prison.
To read more about Clousing’s story, check out his website. The Quaker House website also provides some interesting case studies about GIs who have made similar decisions or whose rights have been violated.
Many in the faith community have been calling for a more just war in Iraq, and stories like Clousing’s simply underscore the need for people of faith to continue this important work.
Anderson Cooper aired a special last night about the many faces of Christianity. The show discusses everything from the unusual alliance between Evangelicals and Jews to “Capitalist Christians” and the Prosperity Gospel.
Although they do a decent job of portraying Christianity from many different perspectives, there was a distinctive tilt toward conservative Christianity. The only progressive church pictured was Unitarian Universalist–and as a member of that congregation myself, I know that there are many (including me) who would not appreciate being labeled as Christians. With so many moderate and progressive Christians in America, why were they so lacking in this special?
A few alternative voices do get some of the spotlight. Jim Wallis and Jim Forbes are both featured, and there is a great section on an evangelical church that’s going green. However, the only faith leader chosen to talk about religion in Ohio is Russell Johnson–where are all the great leaders from We Believe?
There was also a severe lack of female voices represented, which seems to be an all too common problem in the media.
Nevertheless, the special is quite interesting, and definitely worth watching–check out all seven clips inside this post.
Lenny, over at JSpot, writes on the attempt to “move beyond the parochial “environmentalâ€ and “laborâ€ special interests towards a broader progressive vision. This progressive vision, in turn, creates opportunities for strategic collaboration that can build towards a sustainable progressive political majority.”
Progressive Christians Uniting‘s Peter Laarman points out:
“In many moderate to progressive congregations, quite a bit of confusion still persists in respect to the difference between doing charity and doing justice. Many congregations have social witness or social action committees, but a closer look at what that the committee actually does reveals that its operational focus is more on the charity side: connecting church members with various volunteer service opportunities, collecting for the local food pantry, etc. . .It goes without saying that a subset of Christians who start asking hard questions about oppressive systems will run up against others in the congregation who object that raising such issues will move the church into forbidden “politicalâ€ territory. This is why any social action or social concerns committee, or any clergy leader who wants the church to be about justice, needs to proceed with great care and needs to spend a lot of time educating and preparing congregants for the great leap forward.”
PCU can help.
Pondering the right of Rep. Ellison to swear in on the Qu’ran, Pastor Bob takes on Judge Roy Moore.
Velveteen Rabbi writes about dreams and responsibility.
Pam’s House Blend sends prayers out for Sen. Johnson and his family. . .and the nation!
Islamicate brings more history to bear, pointing out that Muslim Americans are no different than Jews, Italians and Polish Immigrants.
Father Jake Stops the World has a sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent.
Seeing new political things (Obama ’08 or Oh No!) , Xpatriated Texan writes:
“Perhaps that is what brings out the negative comments about Obama. Or perhaps the problem is that they understand that he really doesn’t care about creating a permanent Democratic majority. He just doesn’t seem to “getâ€ the far left of American politics. Or, more to the point, they don’t ‘get’ him.”
CrossWalk America blogger, Rebecca says that’s it’s ok to say that “you’re not ok.”
Clarkson / Talk to Action says, “This is the Time.”
Noting the greening of CEO’s, Mainstream Baptist states: “It is about time that some leaders with national prominence step up to the plate on this issue. Energy experts and petroleum geologists have been warning for some time that we have reached the level of peak oil production and that world supplies are dwindling.”
Jim Wallis deals with the question: “Is America a ‘Christian Nation’?”
Recognizing the deep connection between faith and ecology, the Regeneration Project is one of the emerging interfaith grassroots organizations that works directly with congregations in greening houses of worship. In October, it put An Inconvenient Truth in 4000 churches through its state Interfaith Power & Light chapters. According to their web site, “The Interfaith Power and Light effort began in 1998 with Episcopal Power and Light and the support of Grace Cathedral as a unique coalition of Episcopal churches aggregated to purchase renewable energy. In 2001, we co-founded California Interfaith Power and Light, which helps people of faith in California to organize and promote positive environmental change around energy and global warming. Nationally, we are working to establish Interfaith Power and Light programs in every state.”
As a person of faith, here’s 10 things you and your friends can do right now:
1. Sign up your congregation to become an IPL member in your state.
2. Go on a Low Carbon Diet, the 30 day program that helps you lose 5000 pounds. Find out how you can become a cool household by shedding pounds of carbon dioxide from your life.
3. Conduct a home energy audit. Use thermostat settings and insulation to conserve energy with heating, hot water, and air conditioning.
4. Sign up for renewable energy from your utility. In some states there is still no renewable energy to purchase. If this is the case in your state, you can buy wind tags – vouchers to help build wind energy — from Native Energy with whom we have partnered.
5. Ask your religious leader to give a sermon on global warming.
6. Buy energy efficient home appliances and buy a fuel efficient vehicle.
7. Be an Energy Star Congregation by considering ways to improve the efficiency of your buildings and equipment and curtail unnecessary energy use. For information, call 888 STAR-YES.
8. Use a car less and walk, bike, and use mass transit more.
9. Write, call or email your elected officials. Tell them global warming is a religious issue, that the U.S. must participate in strong and fair international agreements and adopt strong national policy. This is the most important thing you can do right now!
10. Stay informed. You can do this by exploring the links on this site. Coming soon! New ideas to help you and your congregation fight global warming.