PICO’s “Recovery Express” in DC

March 12, 2009, 11:31 am | Posted by

Earlier this week, PICO’s “Recovery Express” campaign brought 20 bus loads of religious leaders and people whose homes had been foreclosed to DC. It was the end of a cross-country tour gathering support for an economic recovery plan focused on mortgage relief and bankruptcy reform, which made stops in communities hit hard by the economic crisis, such as Flint, Mich. and Camden, N.J.

Here’s video of the rally on Capitol Hill from local ABC station WJLA:

The caravan earned media attention all along the way, too. PICO’s web site has a full list of stories about the Recovery Express, including video of a CNN report on it.

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Vatican Economics

March 6, 2009, 12:29 pm | Posted by

Contrary to popular perception, the Vatican cares about a lot more than just abortion politics.

From the environment, to peacemaking, to religious freedom, to poverty the Vatican has a diverse (and in some cases pretty progressive) set of policy priorities.

Recent coverage from the official Vatican newspaper on HHS Secretary Designate Kathleen Sebelius and the president’s budget proposal shed needed light on these generally under-reported positions.

Most striking was this line:

After a decade of exaltation of individual enrichment, today the USA, struck by the economic crisis, is witnessing instead the pressing resurgence of the values of solidarity.

The principle of solidarity–key to Catholic Social Tradition–roughly translates to “we’re all in this together.” The Catholic Church urges individuals and government to make decisions that will benefit society as a whole, rather than just a few powerful individuals.

With people of faith (and Catholics especially) placing such a high priority on fixing the economy, it would be nice (and helpful!) to see signals like these from the Vatican get a little more ink.

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Religious leaders conduct values audit of federal budget

March 2, 2009, 9:31 am | Posted by

Today at noon Christian leaders of faith-based non-profits are holding a press conference call to discuss how the budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration last week is a major shift in prioritizing domestic poverty that can really help level the playing field. The faith-based groups on the call serve millions in low-income and poor communities around the nation and are facing a massive spike in demand for services at a time of shortfall in revenue and charitable giving.

Speakers include Noel Castellanos, CEO of Christian Community Development Association; Candy Hill, Senior Vice President of Social Policy and Government Affairs, Catholic Charities USA; Mary Nelson, founder of Bethel New Life, an urban ministry that serves as a model for national programs that promote the social, economic, and spiritual welfare; and Sojourners’ Jim Wallis.

Budgets are moral documents that reflect our values and priorities as a nation. These leaders will call upon Congress to make sure this one preserves funding that prioritizes the poor. The current economic recession threatens to push 9 million more Americans into poverty while funding continues to decrease for faith-based non-profits serving these communities, so the moment is especially critical.

We’ll have audio later!

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A spiritual reflection on Slumdog Millionaire

February 23, 2009, 9:31 am | Posted by

After attending a marathon screening of the Best Picture nominees Saturday and staying up late last night to watch the awards, I was looking for an excuse to post about the Oscars today. I’ll start just by directing attention at Vineet Chander’s reflection on Slumdog Millionaire over at Progressive Revival. (Note: I am making a conscious effort to not refer to it as “Slumdog.”)

But to get mired in the “is-it-or-isn’t-it pro-India” debate misses the forest for the trees, and robs the film of its subtle but powerful spiritual message. At its heart, “Slumdog” owns the paradox and discovers meaning in the contradictions. At its core, it is the story of miracles hidden in those contradictions¸ of choosing to see a divine author’s hand behind the writing on the wall. It is God – or, according to “Slumdog”, *destiny* – in the details.

How does Jamal Malik know all the answers? They’ve been there all his life, waiting for him to notice. And that is the beauty of “Slumdog Millionaire.” It calls us to embrace hope in the face of the hopeless, to recognize purpose in the seemingly senseless. “For one who sees Me in everything and everything in Me,” Lord Krishna says in the sacred Bhagavad Gita, “I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” Oscar wins or not, that is worth celebrating.

And check out this picture of an audience in Mumbai.

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The Cost of Cheap Flowers

February 13, 2009, 10:33 am | Posted by

Before you bolt out to pick up a bouquet before Saturday night, have a look at what your purchase might be be supporting. Workers in the cut flower industry often face brutal working conditions, as the video (h/t Change.org) below describes.

Since I’m certainly not trying to bust anybody’s Valentine’s Day bubble, I’d recommend reading all of Change.org Fair Trade blogger Zarah Patriana’s post for suggestions of how to “fair up” your Valentine’s Day celebration (including coupons for fair trade flowers!)

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