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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As the new Congress prepares to start, House leaders have signaled that repealing the Affordable Care Act will be one of their first priorities. I’m sure for some Members this is a simplistic ideological exercise — if “Obamacare” is bad, then repeal of “Obamacare” must be good, right?
Unfortunately, this partisan effort on Capitol Hill would have terrible effects in the real world. It would allow insurers to spend less on care and more on executive salaries, re-institute discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, make prescriptions more expensive for seniors, raise prices on preventative services, slash funding for community health centers that are the only primary care providers in many low-income communities, and kill other needed reforms before they have a chance to take effect.
Obviously, a very small circle of people determine the legislative agenda. But it’s up to the rest of us – including faith leaders who worked hard to pass the Affordable Care Act — to remind lawmakers, the media, and other political insiders that there are human consequences to political stunts such as this.
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We noted last week that the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact.com gave its Lie of the Year award to the myth that health care reform legislation represented a “government takeover” of the health care system. This has me musing over what the biggest Catholic lie of the year was in 2010. I’m picking the laughable effort that Deal Hudson, the CatholicVote.org crowd and other conservative Catholics made to brand Tea Party ideology as all nice and cozy with Catholic social teaching. This effort was so transparently partisan and willfully ignorant of centuries of Catholic social teaching that it runs away with the award like Cam Newton and the Heisman.
The idea that the Catholic principle of “subsidiarity” fits lockstep with anti-government rhetoric, free-market fundamentalism and lower taxes for millionaires and billionaires is a stunning distortion of papal encyclicals and Catholic social teaching through the ages. The always insightful Vox Nova blog says it well.
Fundamentally, subsidiarity is all about letting human dignity flourish by creating the space for social relations to take place at the most personal level. It is meaningless when stripped away from solidarity. It has nothing to do with low taxes, minimal regulation, or low spending. In the economic sphere, solidarity calls for government intervention in certain core areas (such as determining working conditions and support for the unemployed), while subsidiarity calls for the government to create favorable conditions for the common good to flourish. That, by the way, means correcting the problems that come with the free market. This was patently clear to Pius XI, the intellectual architect of subsidiarity, when he railed against the injustice created by unregulated large corporations, especially in the financial sector. Properly understood, subsidiarity provides a bulwark against both the centralizing tendencies of socialist collectivism, and the decentralizing tendencies of the free market.
Deal Hudson and Thomas Peters might want to put down those Republican talking points and dust off their Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2004, the Compendium describes the “common good” as “the reason that political authority exists.” In Catholic teaching, government has an essential role in helping to create the conditions of a just society where human dignity can flourish. The Catholic Church is not a spiritual subsidiary of the Cato Institute. The Church’s call to reject excessive individualism and warnings about the dangers of unregulated markets don’t sound anything like the Tea Partiers.
Even on the prickly political issues of taxes, Catholic teaching is not shy about urging a more just distribution of wealth (see Church teaching on the “universal destination of goods”). Church advocates for “a reasonable and fair application of taxes,” according to the Compendium, “in which burdens are “proportioned to the capacity of the people contributing.” As Vincent Miller, the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, writes in a recent Washington Post “On Faith” commentary “the late Pope John Paul II, that resolute opponent of communism, nonetheless repeatedly insisted that private wealth was subject to a ‘social mortgage’ to be used for the common good.”
Catholic conservatives have every right to support the Republican Party, embrace Tea Party libertarianism and believe in less regulation of business. These are political arguments I find lacking, but they are longstanding views subject to debate in the robust marketplace of ideas. But anointing them with the imprimatur of Catholic Church teaching is wrong.
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This afternoon the Senate ratified the New START Treaty, with 71 Senators (56 Democrats, 13 Republicans, 2 Independents) voting in favor and 26 Republicans voting against it. Faith leaders across the spectrum strongly supported New START, which significantly reduces nuclear weapons stockpiles and resumes inspection of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Protestant, Catholic, evangelical and Jewish leaders pushed Senators to support ratification in a variety of ways. It’s fair to say that the faith community’s multifaceted advocacy for this nonproliferation treaty brought a needed moral element to an issue that could otherwise have been easily reduced to a purely geopolitical question.
Yesterday numerous clergy published an article in The Hill’s Congress Blog advocating for the treaty, which summarizes much of my own thinking on the issue:
No one of good will wants to see the devastation – the loss of life, the destruction of creation, the political and economic fallout – that would occur if a nuclear bomb were to go off on American soil or anywhere. As Christians, we live in the tension between working toward the time in which “nation will not take up sword against nation” and confronting the realities of a fallen world. We wrestle with the Apostle’s conviction that the state “does not bear the sword in vain” and our call to be peacemakers.
And though this tension can often lead us to divergent stances on war and peace, it is a source of strength as we are able to be neither blindly idealistic nor fatally nihilistic. From this perspective, the measures in New START toward the containment and security of nuclear weapons are vital to our peace and security.
Kudos to the 71 Senators who did the right thing, and to the countless faith leaders who pushed them to do so.
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