Today, many Western Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, principally known for the visitation of the three kings with the infant Jesus.
Right on cue, this week’s news includes prominent stories from two more Kings, though the gifts they bring are radically different.
First, the New York Times admonished Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) intention to hold hearings on “radicalization in the Muslim community,” criticism King did not take kindly. (More on that in John’s blog from earlier today.)
Now comes Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) announcement that he will be introducing legislation to end the constitutionally guaranteed principle of birthright citizenship. His “anchor baby” demagoguery is particularly ironic during the Christmas season.
As Pastor George explains, Jesus himself was born in these very circumstances:
It occurs to me that Mary could be accused of this same alleged practice. After all, she was a single mother (“engaged” but never married) from Nazareth who travels to Bethlehem to register herself and her baby as citizens of Rome. Emperor Augustus’ purpose in conducting this census was to make sure that everyone paid their taxes. But it is also true that by registering in this way, Mary claimed all the rights and benefits of citizenship for herself and her child.
On this holiday, the Reps. King would be well served by emulating their wiser predecessors instead of bigoted extremists.
Photo credit to cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and Cagle Cartoons.
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New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has not been shy about weighing in on controversial issues, taking to his blog recently and defending Catholicism’s Culture Warrior in Chief Bill Donohue and blasting the New York Times for its coverage of the clergy sex abuse scandal. The new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops now has another opportunity to address a hot-button issue emerging from his own backyard. Rep. Peter King, a Catholic who represents heavily Catholic Long Island, has announced that as the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee he will hold hearings next month on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community.
This hearing will likely be typical political theater, full of furrowed brows and heavy doses of demagoguery. This could all be easily dismissed if not for the rising tide of Islamophobia that brands Muslims as sinister outsiders hostile to American values. Sound familiar, Catholics? It wasn’t that long ago, historically speaking, when Catholic immigrants were demonized as threats to democracy. Irish Catholics were caricatured with vile stereotypes, Catholic Churches were burned and political cartoons savaged the bishops’ allegiance to Rome. It’s easy to forget that ugly history today when influential Catholics serve in the highest echelons of government and media.
We can find smart solutions to stop terrorism and other threats to national security (whether they come from Muslims, Christians or non-religious extremists) in ways that also preserve our values. Eboo Patel suggests in a recent Washington Post “On Faith” column that along with learning more about why a small percentage of Muslims become terrorists, Rep. King should also help educate the American people about a lesser known fact:
Peter King can shine a light on the role that the mainstream Muslim community has played in these attacks. By and large, it has been to help prevent them. Mainstream American Muslims have been vigilant against extremists in their communities – confronting their views, flushing them out and if need be reporting them to law enforcement. A Muslim Public Affairs Council study found that American Muslim communities had played a central role in helping law enforcement prevent seven of the last ten Al Qaeda related plots. How did the FBI get turned on to Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the young man who planned to attack the Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland? His Muslim father reported him.
Archbishop Dolan, who serves in one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant cities, occupies a powerful pulpit. When he speaks, both privately and publicly, his words are taken seriously. When the archbishop calls politicians and other city leaders, you can bet he is not put on hold. The archbishop is by all accounts an affable guy, a consensus builder who prides himself on his ability to defuse tensions. A meeting with Rep. King should be on his schedule.
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We had an exciting year here at Bold Faith Type. New authors gave us the opportunity to write more posts on a wider array of topics, and our readership numbers continued to climb.
Here’s a round-up of some of our top posts from this past year. Feel free to remind us of your favorites in the comments.
In no particular order:
Working After Christmas? WWJD – Nick showed why Sens. DeMint and Kyl’s complaints about working the week after Christmas ring hollow, with responses from faith leaders.
Donahue defends Beck, but who’s the “phony”? – Beth explained why Catholic League President Bill Donohue’s defense of Glenn Beck’s anti-religious statements misrepresents Catholic teaching.
Faith leaders support Cordoba House, Denounce Anti-Muslim rhetoric – Dan featured the statement of over 40 diverse faith leaders in support of the Cordoba House project and against religious bigotry.
Misinformation in Action: Fox News and the TSA “Muslim Exemption” – Nick tracked down the myth that TSA was exempting Muslims from security screenings at airports.
Keeping our faith in our sights – Kristin highlighted a report from ABC Nightline news that a gun manufacturer was inscribing rifle sights for U.S. soldiers with Bible versus.
Faith Gets Better – Inspired by Gene Robinson’s “It Gets Better” video in response to the rash of LGBT teen suicides, we invited people of faith to submit their own videos to be featured.
Tea Party, Evangelicals and Race – Beth highlighted one of the American Values Survey’s most interesting (and troubling) findings: regressive racial attitudes are widespread among Tea Partiers.
The Real Stephen Colbert – Nick highlighted Stephen Colbert’s powerful testimony on Capitol Hill about his day working with migrant farm workers.
An authoritative analysis of the Senate health care bill’s abortion policy – Dan posted legal expert Tim Jost’s in-depth analysis of why claims that health reform would provide federal funding of abortion are untrue.
Post-Election Breakdown: Religious Voters, the Economy and Moral Values – John crunched the numbers on exit polls from the mid-term elections.
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It’s one of our nation’s most inspiring creeds: anyone can achieve the American dream. The accidents of class or race are no match for ambition and entrepreneurial drive. Celebrated stories of rags-to-riches success (see Winfrey, Oprah or Obama, Barack) keep this up-by-your bootstraps ethos burning brightly in the starry firmament of the American imagination. While it’s no great surprise to most of us that social inequality and the stubborn persistence of poverty conspire to circumscribe the life chances of many, the opportunity gap is widening. Doyle McManus writes in the Los Angeles Times:
Opportunity in America isn’t what it used to be either. Among children born into low-income households, more than two-thirds grow up to earn a below-average income, and only 6% make it all the way up the ladder into the affluent top one-fifth of income earners, according to a study by economists at Washington’s Brookings Institution. We think of America as a land of opportunity, but other countries appear to offer more upward mobility. Children born into poverty in Canada, Britain, Germany or France have a statistically better chance of reaching the top than poor kids do in the United States.
These grim findings raise tough questions for leaders across the political spectrum, especially conservatives who wax poetic about American exceptionalism and the abundant opportunities presented to those who simply work hard and play by the rules. The ascendant libertarians who demonize government and romanticize the “free market” seem either uninterested in grappling with inequality of opportunity or offer unpersuasive arguments. (Chris Beam offers a lengthy and damning dissection of libertarianism in this New York magazine essay.) For most market fundamentalists, private charity is equal to the task of caring for those who don’t flourish in the Darwinian jungle of unfettered capitalism. But charity that simply responds to unjust social structures is inadequate. Just this week, Catholic Charities of Wichita announced that because of declining donations it can no longer help people with rent or utility payments. Charity is essential, but government also has a vital role in ensuring opportunity and serving the common good.
Progressives don’t have a monopoly on good ideas for addressing inequality. We also need serious thinking from conservatives. But as the Tea Party drags our debate further to the right and even mainstream Republican leaders throw around absurd cries of socialism, I’m left wondering who will stand up for those watching the American dream turn into a mythical memory. As a new season of political posturing begins, religious leaders and diverse faith communities will once again make sure debates over the deficit and spending are not abstract arguments or political footballs but profound moral issues central to who we are as a nation. The question is which elected officials will show the courage to resist partisan orthodoxy and begin the task of making the American dream a reality for more than just the privileged few.
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