When President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the START Treaty this week — which places additional limits on the circumstance under which use of nuclear weapons is authorized and reduces nuclear weapons stockpiles by 1/3 — faith leaders responded with strong statements of support, which received ample news coverage. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and the Washington Post’s On Faith section placed the treaty in the context of the faith community’s decades-long efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, citing Catholic, Evangelical, Methodist, and Presbyterian advocacy on the issue. Catholic News Service reported that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed the pact, and outlets such as Associated Baptist Press, World Magazine, Religion News Service and the Christian Post reported support for the treaty among evangelical leaders such as Rich Cizik, Joel Hunter, and Two Futures Project executive director Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. (A USA Today article on the treaty also included a quote from Tyler.) The breadth of coverage speaks to the faith community’s dedication to this issue.
And it’s not just statements. People of faith are organizing and pushing for a action, as well. Today, Faithful America circulated a petition from True Majority calling for “a legally binding verifiable agreement, including all nations, to eliminate nuclear weapons by a date certain.”
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As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on the Senate health care bill as soon as this weekend, pro-life Members of Congress and faith leaders spoke in strong support of the bill today, citing not only the Senate legislation’s strong provisions guarding against federal funding of abortion, but also its $250 million investment in support for pregnant women, and its coverage of 30 million currently uninsured Americans — thousands of whom will die every year if reform does not pass.
Reps. Kildee (MI-5) and Charlie Wilson (OH-6), along with NETWORK Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell (who organized an endorsement of the Senate bill by the heads of 60 women’s religious orders representing nearly 59,000 nuns), Francis Xavier Doyle, former Associate General Secretary, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good President Morna Murray, and Evangelicals for Social Action President Rod Sider spoke on the call, explaining the connection between their pro-life values and their support for health care reform. As Sister Campbell said:
Catholic Sisters work with people who do not have access to health care and are suffering because of it. We as Sisters follow Jesus in the Gospel and respond to human need. For us, we can not turn our back on the 45,000 people who die every year for lack of access to health care. We also believe from our study of the bill that other life issues are promoted through the prohibition of federal funding for abortion, financial support for pregnant women and new mothers, as well as good conscience protections for health care providers. Taken as a whole the Senate Bill promotes life in a comprehensive way and that is why we support it.
Most observers see concerns about abortion to be the biggest hurdle left for the health care reform bill to clear, as pro-life Democrats are facing intense pressure from anti-abortion groups. Outspoken pro-life support for the Senate bill could make a key difference in passing health care reform.
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Today, the faith community officially launched a massive new mobilization around immigration reform. The nationwide effort, “Together, not Torn: Families Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform,” includes delivering hundreds of thousands of pro-reform postcards from people of faith to Members of Congress and one hundred local events across the country, from Maine to Texas to Washington state.
Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders, along with Members of Congress, kicked off the new initiative this morning on a telephone press conference with journalists.
Check out the full press release here and an audio recording of the call here.
The testimony was moving, from National Association of Evangelicals’ Galen Carey’s heartwrenching story about the mother in Arizona whose immigration status bars her from seeking justice for her son’s death by a drunk driver, to Rev. Jen Kottler’s powerful invocation of Scripture, to Rabbi Abie Ingber’s impassioned remarks:
“Let us commit today, that this tragedy of injustice in immigration will end; that families will no longer be separated; that fathers and mothers will not cower in darkness fearful of a raid; that men and women of every color in the world will have the opportunity to earn a wage openly, to pay their taxes, to study the English language, to go to school and to pursue citizenship in this great land.”
Especially coming on the heels of the report from America’s Voice about the importance of immigration reform to politically critical Latino voters, we’re hoping that leaders on Capitol Hill are paying close attention to the growing call for reform this year. America’s families simply cannot wait.
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Last week, David Gibson asked “if Uganda executes gays, will American Christians be complicit?” It’s the right question to ask– living out our faith requires examining potential complicity in the face of injustice, whether such complicity be from our actions, or from our willingness to stand idly by. As Dan pointed out, “part of standing up for what’s right is standing up to what’s wrong and calling out those who perpetrate injustice.” In an effort to do just that, American Christian leaders came together today to stand up and call out against the injustices of a proposed piece of legislation in Uganda, the “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.”
The statement grew out of a shared feeling among American Christian leaders that given the long history of US Christian involvement in Uganda and the fact that the influence of US Christianity is being implicated, they needed to make their voices heard. These leaders are speaking out against what they see as an affront to Christian values:
As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda. The “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009″ would enforce lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual behavior, as well as punish citizens for not reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities.
…In our efforts to imitate the Good Samaritan, we stand in solidarity with those Ugandans beaten…and left abandoned by the side of the road because of hatred, bigotry and fear. Especially during this holy season of Advent, when the global Christian community prepares in hope for the light of Christ to break through the darkness, we pray that they are comforted by God’s love.
Click here to see the full statement and list of signatories.
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Commenting on Nate Silver’s new electoral modeling which singles out Southern Baptists as responding distinctively to the economic crisis, Andrew Sullivan speculates that it doesn’t matter to them:
…The reason the economy is playing differently among Southern Baptists may surely be that many are voting primarily on religious, cultural and theological grounds.
The economy is irrelevant compared with religious identity. What this campaign may be doing is stripping most secular Republicans and independents from the GOP coalition…
I don’t think so. According to The Young and the Faithful, which we released yesterday, white evangelicals rated the economy and energy as more important issues than abortion and same-sex marriage, and only 35 percent said they would not vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on abortion. On the other hand, a strong majority of white evangelicals favored a smaller government providing fewer services to a larger government providing more services [despite a 20-point generation gap between younger evangelicals (18-35) and their elders].
It’s fair to wonder what degree of overlap there is between Nate’s Southern Baptists and our white evangelicals, but considering that Southern Baptists are by far the largest evangelical protestant denomination, and that no research suggests they are politically distinct minority subculture within white evangelicalism, we’re probably dealing with similar bodies here.
I’m not saying that “religious identity” has nothing to do with Southern Baptists’ distinct response to the economy, but another important factor to consider is bedrock economic assumptions among evangelicals 35 and over. At the 2007 Values Voters’ Summit, Richard Land extolled the benefits of tax cuts for the rich and equated progressive taxation with socialism, and the mostly middle-aged crowd around me responded as though it was gospel truth. To say that economics is irrelevant misses the fact that many conservative evangelicals just believe “limited government” and supply-side economics work.
it’s encouraging that this belief has less sway among the young.
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