Religious Leaders Call for Moral Budgeting

March 3, 2011, 6:26 pm | Posted by

Thumbnail image for WallisinDCdemo.jpgThis week as Congress debates deficits and spending, faith leaders are speaking up to make sure our elected leaders remember that budgets are moral documents.

Today, a group of prominent evangelicals held a teleconference announcing their statement outlining principles for moral budget decisions. The statement, “A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis,” calls for “fiscal frugality and compassionate action” and proposes concrete ways of cutting the debt while protecting the poor and making moral investments for the future of our nation and world.

Speakers on the call included Shane Claiborne, Michael Gerson and Jonathan Merritt, as well as Dr. Gideon Strauss and Stephanie Summers of the Center for Public Justice and Dr. Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action.

Today’s call comes in the wake of larger religious mobilization around the budget debates. On Monday, a group of Christian leaders led by Sojourners took out a full-page ad in Politico imploring legislators to ask themselves “What Would Jesus Cut?” and saying:

The deficit is indeed a moral issue, and we must not bankrupt our nation, nor leave a world of debt for our children. But how we reduce the deficit is also a moral issue. Our budget should not be balanced on the backs of poor and vulnerable people.

And Wednesday, Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, published an opinion piece in The Hill scolding representatives who identify as pro-life but support budget cuts that would harm women and children:

As a Catholic sister committed to defending the sanctity of human life, I support common ground efforts to protect life by helping pregnant women and preventing abortion. But it’s hypocritical and just plain wrong for lawmakers who tout their pro-life bona fides to then blatantly undermine life with budget proposals that will hurt pregnant women, mothers and children and likely lead more poor women to end their pregnancies.

As Congress moves forward in this debate, hopefully they will heed the advice of these faith leaders and keep the poor and vulnerable in the forefronts of their minds as they make tough decisions.

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Top 10 Blog Posts of 2010

January 6, 2011, 10:39 am | Posted by

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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Park51 — a symbol of American values

September 1, 2010, 5:15 pm | Posted by

FPL held a press teleconference today featuring national security experts and diverse faith leaders making a compelling argument in favor of the Park51 Islamic Center and mosque near Ground Zero: the project not only has the legal right to move forward, it should be encouraged to do so because it would promote national security and embody American values of pluralism, religious liberty and interfaith cooperation.

Speakers included national security experts Matthew Alexander, a former high-level military interrogator in Iraq, and Andrew Bacevich, a nationally recognized expert on the military and international relations, as well as powerful voices (and strong allies!) from the faith community – Simon Greer of Jewish Funds for Justice, Lisa Sharon Harper of New York Faith & Justice, and David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. (Full-length audio of the call is here.) Individually and as a group, they made a compelling case in support of the Park51 Islamic Center, and gave political opportunists who have used fear-mongering rhetoric to stoke opposition to the mosque the stinging rebuke they deserve. Quotes from each of the speakers are after the jump:

Matthew Alexander:

“Park51 would be a powerful symbol of U.S. tolerance and freedom that will stand in direct contradiction to al Qaeda’s narrative that Americans hate Muslims. As a symbol, its construction demonstrates that the U.S. is not at war with Islam and that Muslims are welcome in America. It communicates a message of moderation that stands in stark contrast to al Qaeda’s bankrupt ideology. Symbols like this matter. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the policy of torture and abuse handed al Qaeda its number one recruiting tool. Those who think al Qaeda will not be able to spin this controversy to their advantage are disastrously mistaken.”

Lisa Sharon Harper:

“As a New Yorker, I feel this debate in a very personal way–the area where Park51 is being proposed is not on Ground Zero. It is in a quiet community that has had an active Muslim population for centuries. The Muslims in the community have loved their neighborhood. They have loved their neighbors. We cannot allow Al Qaeda to gut us of our soul. We need this community center and mosque. It is America’s opportunity to put the words of Jesus to work. It is our opportunity to love our neighbors back.”

David Gushee:

“We seem to be in a fight over what 9/11 is to mean in this country over the long term. We should remember that in the aftermath of 9/11, America came together in a show of unity and cooperation. Let’s hold our political leaders, and ourselves, accountable for returning to that spirit. 9/11 cannot be taken to mean a permanent state of fear, anger, and grief, nor the directing of all of that at our fellow Muslims.”

Simon Greer:

“As a minority community with a history of persecution and exclusion at the hands of the majority, how can we not appreciate the dangers of a society in which it is acceptable to persecute and exclude minority communities, in which the individual is always placed over the collective? Our safety and security and prosperity in this country are directly related to the success we have had, with others, at making the United States a more inclusive place, with more interconnected communities.”

Andrew Bacevich:

“Speaking as a Catholic – a religion subject to considerable discrimination – I cherish the fact that I can be a full citizen and also be committed to my faith tradition. I find it unacceptable and deeply un-American to deny adherents of other faith traditions the freedoms I have enjoyed. Whether intentionally or not, the contrived mosque controversy wrongly and wrong-headedly conveys the impression that the United States views Islam itself as a national security threat.”

Other quotes and more information here: http://faithinpubliclife.org/content/press/2010/09/faith_leaders_national_securit.html

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Religious leaders react to Prop 8 ruling

August 5, 2010, 4:41 pm | Posted by

Although the federal court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 yesterday was only the first step toward a likely Supreme Court hearing of the case, it’s still a landmark moment for the LGBT rights movement, and religious leaders and denominations have issued a range of reactions – including many lauding the ruling.

The Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church quickly issued a statement declaring that “Justice is advancing thanks to today’s ruling affirming Californians’ constitutional right to marriage in faithful, same-gender relationships.” Episcopal News Service reported that Episcopalian joined public celebrations of the ruling across the state.

Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations praised the ruling as well, but noted the progress yet to be made:

The ruling today by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker declaring California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional is a victory for same-sex couples, their families, and all Americans who believe in equal rights. Over the past several years marriage equality has become a reality in Spain, South Africa, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Argentina. It should be a cause of national shame that the United States is not yet among those nations.

For many years now Unitarian Universalists (UUs) in California have been at the forefront of the struggle for marriage equality in that state. I applaud their continuing efforts, and I reaffirm the commitment of Unitarian Universalists nationwide to stand on the side of love until marriage equality is the law of the land.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism also issued a statement of approval that noted the Reform Movement’s commitment to the LGBT equality movement:

We will continue to stand with the LGBT community in California, and all who cherish justice, as this case makes it way through the Court system. We are proud of the leadership roles played by so many Reform Movement rabbis and activists, and we stand ready to work with them as we move forward.

When Proposition 8 passed as a ballot initiative in 2008, the role the LDS Church, the Catholic Church, and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church played in supporting it greatly overshadowed coverage of religious groups that opposed it. I mean that as an observation rather than a criticism – Mormons’ extensive financing of the campaign to pass the amendment, for example, had a significant impact on the debate and deserved extensive media coverage. But now, as the issue winds its way through the judicial system, a new opportunity to report the faith community’s wide range of beliefs about marriage equality has arrived. The portrayal of the issue as a conflict between religious opponents and secular supporters of same-sex marriage never reflected the complexity and diversity of views in the faith community. This time around, here’s hoping the whole story gets told.

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Tea Theology

July 23, 2010, 4:34 pm | Posted by

Religion News Service’s Alfredo Garcia has a great story today asking whether the Tea Party is “unbiblical.” Garcia neatly encapsulates the arguments offered on both sides of the question. A couple of choice excerpts:

“I think that the general ideology of the Tea party is not a Christian one,” said David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a faith-based nonprofit.

“This kind of small government libertarianism, small taxes, leave-me-alone-to-live-my-life ideology has more in common with Ayn Rand than it does with the Bible.”

On the other hand, there’s this:

Lloyd Marcus of Deltona, Fla., a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, is a born-again, nondenominational Christian who says flatly that “Jesus was not for socialism.”

“Yes, the Bible advocates giving, but out of the goodness of our own hearts, not out of government confiscation of wealth or re-distribution of wealth,” he said.

An interesting and commonly raised point, albeit one that evades the “render unto Caesar” argument. I’d add that it’d be difficult for Jesus to be a socialist since he lived over 1,800 years before that system was created, but that’s a side point. Garcia’s story dispenses with Marcus’s claim:

But the Bible, and particularly the Hebrew prophets, are also firm on need to protect the vulnerable, which sometimes requires government action, said Simon Greer, president and CEO of the Jewish Funds for Justice, which helped fuel the progressive backlash against Beck.

Greer said his New York-based group is founded on “the fundamental religious call to care for others,” which in turn is based “on the belief that we’re all made in the image of the divine.”

“The only sensible conclusion is that we need mechanisms like effective government … to solve the pressing problems that our country faces,” he said.

Garcia then notes that “American church-goers gave only about 2.5 percent of disposable income to churches in 2007; of that, only about 0.37 percent–roughly $100 per member–went to charities beyond the church. Those figures are down by about half since 1968.” [Another side note: over that period, tax rates have been slashed repeatedly.]

Head-to-head with theologically grounded arguments for the common good and social justice, the Tea Party’s biblical case for libertarianism doesn’t have a prayer.

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