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Does the Bible Endorse Capitalism?

February 2, 2012, 10:58 am | Posted by

Tim King at God’s Politics has an excellent rebuttal of a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed from Rabbi Aryeh Spero suggesting the Bible endorses free-market capitalism (as the only alternative to “socialism”):

The primary political conversation that is happening in our country isn’t a dualistic battle between a “free market” system and a “statist/socialist” one. It is determining which mix of institutions and organizations are best equipped to meet societal challenges and achieve collective goals while allowing for individual freedom and human flourishing.

Rabbi Spero makes some important scriptural points as to the importance of personal responsibility, human creativity, and freedom, but fails to deal with any passages that might temper or balance his views of capitalism. (You can read about Gary Bauer’s recent problem with scriptural accuracy here.)

Tim goes on to explore the Biblical teaching on practices like gleaning, Jubilee years and interest, a good reminder that religious texts can’t be interpreted as providing a blanket endorsement of any particular modern ideology.

The whole piece is worth a read.

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Minnesota Faith Leaders Call for Moratorium on Foreclosures

December 14, 2011, 1:45 pm | Posted by

Foreclosure SignContinuing the strong work of people of faith across the country, a group of interfaith leaders in Minneapolis have called on banks in their city to hold a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures, commit to working on loan modifications with struggling homeowners instead of kicking them to the curb.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Rev. Jerry McAfee of the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church and the head of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention, said that if the banks reject the moratorium, “We will have to join our brothers and sisters of Occupy Minnesota and occupy the banks.”

The coalition consists of Rev. McAfee, Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple, Rev. Dwight Seawood of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church, Scott Grey, president of the Minneapolis Urban League, Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action and Dave Snyder, an organizer with Jewish Community Action working with the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Photo credit: BasicGov, Flickr

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Interfaith Leaders, Jobless Workers Hold Flower Prayer Vigil on Capitol Hill to Call on Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits

December 7, 2011, 12:02 pm | Posted by

Community members, jobless workers from around the country, and interfaith clergy leaders will hold a flower prayer vigil at Upper Senate Park on December 8 at 11 a.m. to call for justice for the jobless.

Millions of jobless workers and their families are at risk of losing their unemployment insurance lifeline if Congress fails to pass an extension by the end of the month. The prayer service will include stories from jobless workers and an action with thousands of white carnations that symbolize jobless Americans. It will lead into a day of lobbying Congress to extend unemployment benefits immediately.

The vigil on the Hill is one of many taking place across the country for a national day of mobilization to urge Congressional leaders in D.C. and in their districts to pass the extension of unemployment benefits.

WHO: Unemployed workers and interfaith clergy leaders including:
Rev. Paul Sherry—Director, DC Office, Interfaith Worker Justice and Coordinator, Faith Advocates for Jobs Campaign
Rabbi Elizabeth Richman—Jews United for Justicee
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik—Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Rev. Jennifer Butler—Executive Director, Faith in Public Life
Rev. Michael Livingston—Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, Senior Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church

WHAT: Interfaith prayer vigil for unemployed workers

WHEN: Thursday, December 8 at 11:00 A.M.

WHERE:    Upper Senate Park
New Jersey Ave and Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C.

Reporters interested in attending please contact: Amaya Tune: atune@aflcio.org

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Media Hit of the Week: Interfaith Understanding in Tennessee

September 19, 2011, 12:20 pm | Posted by

ClergyBeyondBorders.jpgJohn mentioned the Clergy Beyond Borders interfaith “road show” earlier this month. The participants are traveling the country demonstrating the value of interfaith dialogue and pushing back against rising anti-Muslim bigotry. This week FPL helped helped place an opinion piece in The Tennessean by three clergy involved in the effort:

As Jews, Christians, and Muslims, we believe that freedom of religion and our nation’s core values are threatened when any faith is singled out for attack. The diverse religious traditions that enrich our democracy are a beacon for the world. This proud heritage is a fragile gift that must be protected in every generation.

As we drive across this great nation, we carry with us the dreams of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other towering leaders that believed in an America where people of all faith or none could find hope, opportunity and freedom.

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Rabbis to Hyatt: Dangerous work conditions aren’t kosher

August 9, 2011, 3:18 pm | Posted by

Back in June, a group of clergy released a report on working conditions at Hyatt hotels, based on conversations between faith leaders and Hyatt workers. Their findings, that workers have dangerous workloads (housekeepers cleaning many as 30 rooms per day) and the hotel chain has implemented aggressive anti-union policies, prompted the rabbis in the group to declare the hotel chain “lo kasher” – not kosher. James Parks explains:

While the term “kosher” most often refers to choosing food that has rabbinic supervision or that follows Jewish dietary restrictions, it can also refer to practices or institutions that are “unfit” in an ethical sense. By claiming that Hyatt’s hotels are not kosher, the rabbis are pronouncing the hotels “unfit” in an ethical and spiritual context and urging Jews to avoid contact with Hyatt.

These rabbis aren’t shy about making the explicit connection between Jewish ethics and the struggle for just working conditions at Hyatt. An editorial in the Jewish Daily Forward cheers their efforts:

The extensive documentation and textual support in the rabbinical report is a welcome addition to a growing number of efforts to link Jewish law and scholarship to timely social concerns. Advocates for the environment, labor, sustainable agriculture and development policy increasingly use Jewish language and teachings to frame their arguments. The rabbinic report on Hyatt calls social teachings on labor “the best kept secrets of our religious tradition.” Not anymore.

So far, Hyatt has responded to protests from housekeepers and other workers about these unjust working conditions by cracking down and digging in their heels. Particularly given that Hyatt was for many years owned by a prominent Jewish family, a message that hinges on Jewish ethics seems particularly relevant to the unfolding debate.

You can read more about the campaign and the full report here, as well as learning how you can help with their efforts.

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