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Culture War: Teach Your Children Well?

Drawing the appropriate line between parental rights and the states interest in the welfare of children can be a complex consideratio n. The emergence and prevalence of homeschoolin g has further complicated the equation. A ruling by a California appeals court will likely catapult the topic into the mainstream and it will undoubtedly become the […]

Separation of Church of Latter-day Saints and State - The Romney Dilemma

Pundits have been urging Mitt Romney to pull a John Kennedy - to take the issue of his religious affiliation head-on. Second only to Giuliani in fundraising, and in the lead in the GOP polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, Romney seems to have just two main negatives to overcome; his “flip-flops” on social issues […]

God, America, and Iraq

(Below is an expurgated comment I posted on the Tygrrrr Express in reply to a fascinating character who goes by the moniker Hueguenot. The link I just added now.)
Allow me to share my variant opinions.
(Hue) asked (of what I would consider as evidence of God), “I’m not sure what you consider evidence. Do you mean […]

Honest to God

There’s no shortage of debate over Islam. Depending on your point of view, Muslims are either violence-cra zed zanies with a taste for camel milk and Molotov cocktails or misunderstoo d practitioner s of a religion of peace, love, and kindness - think Amish with headdresses. But for the most part, there isn’t much talk […]

The GOP Dilemma: “Pro-Life For Hire” Candidates?

They say it’s not nice to enjoy the misfortune of others…and while I generally support that notion…when it comes to politics, I’m willing to make some exceptions. I have to confess that a New York Times article discussing the predicament facing the Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election with regards to the issue of […]

Chris LaTondresse: Conservative Kingmakers at Work

An interesting and important development in the 2008 race for the White House: conservative evangelical hatchets are out in force, trying to cut down a prominent 2008 presidential hopeful. Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama? John Edwards? Wrong on all three counts.

Having already publicly attacked Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani in a remarkably candid editorial last month, Focus on the Family and Family Research Council have now unleashed their political machine against none other than Mitt Romney, working in tandem with some of Fred Thompson’s online organizers. It’s fair to interpret this as an early signal about where these groups are likely throw their political weight in the lead-up to Super Tuesday.

Read The Nation. article:

With onetime Republican presidential frontrunner Senator John McCain in meltdown, Mitt Romney suddenly finds himself under fire from some of the Christian right’s most influential activists. Romney’s evangelical critics claim the former Massachusetts governor and devout Mormon was complicit in the Marriott hotel chain’s sale of pay-per-view porn on its in-room television sets when he served on the corporation’s board of directors from 1992 to 2001. Two Christian-right operatives involved in orchestrating the charges have enlisted as Internet organizers for former Senator Fred Thompson, who is preparing to enter the race formally. The tactics of these religious-right players, targeted below the radar against Romney, are calculated to alter decisively the outcome of the Republican primary contest.

The assault was launched on July 5 with an opening shot in the form of a breathless press release issued through the mega-ministry Focus on the Family. In it, veteran antiporn crusader Phil Burress called Romney’s failure to take action against pay-per-view hotel porn during his tenure on Marriott’s board “extremely disturbing.” That same day, a Focus on the Family spokesman took to the radio airwaves to ask whether Romney would “turn a blind eye” to pornography if elected president. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which functions as Focus’s Washington lobbying arm, immediately joined the pile-on. He briefed the Associated Press on the record, explaining that Romney must “take some responsibility” for his supposed connection to Marriott’s porn profiteering. The AP report on the accusation against Romney was subsequently reprinted in the pages of major outlets from The Boston Globe to The Washington Post. It only took a full six years after Romney resigned from Marriott’s board for the Christian right’s leading lights to profess their outrage—and only hours for the press to echo it.

Chris LaTondresse is the special assistant to the CEO at Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

Jim Wallis: The Timetable Begins Now

In the few weeks of the defense authorization debate in the Senate, Republican senators began falling like dominoes—Chuck Hagel (NE), Susan Collins (ME), Richard Lugar (IN), George Voinovich (OH), Pete Domenici (NM), Olympia Snowe (ME), and even John Warner (VA) are looking for a way out, although not all are willing to vote for a withdrawal timetable. The Republican defections are bolstered by public opinion. Columnist Robert Novak wrote about Sen. Hagel: “As the first in a succession of Republican senators to be critical of Bush’s Iraq policy, Hagel feared the worst when he returned home to conservative Nebraska for Fourth of July parades. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised by cheers and calls for the troops to be brought home.” And the Democrats seem to be getting stronger in their willingness to follow the public mandate against this war that gave them a congressional majority in 2006.

The most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll showed that change in public opinion. Sixty-two percent now say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, the first time that number has topped 60 percent.

U.S. casualties now exceed 3,600, with the number of those wounded or emotionally and mentally scarred almost as countless now as the stories about returning veterans not receiving the help and attention they need. The human cost of this war has been as enormous as it has been discriminatory and unjust, with almost all the burden borne by working-class families whose sons and daughters chose military service, and not by the families and children of the elites who fabricated the case for it, grossly mismanaged its prosecution, and politically force its continuance.

The financial cost is staggering—a new Congressional Research Service study reported that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now cost $12 billion per month. When that monthly price tag is compared to the $10 billion per year it would cost to educate the world’s 800 million children under six years old, the contrast opens up a real debate on what truly makes for national and global security.

While the troop “surge” has failed to bring the stability and security it promised, the progress report on Iraqi political benchmarks remains completely unsatisfactory. Nobody even pretends any longer that American young men and women are not dying daily in the cross-hairs of a civil war. Meanwhile Iraq has become an unlivable country, bleeding itself to death in a tribal sectarian conflict that is modeled by its so-called political leaders and not just by its violent insurgents.

And while the president continues to talk about the threat of al Qaeda, the Los Angeles Times reported the following on the author of a new “National Intelligence Estimate on the Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” released this week: “During a briefing with reporters, the principal author of the estimate, Edward Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said flatly that Al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist before the U.S. invasion. He also said that the group’s ‘overwhelming focus’ remains confined to the conflict in Iraq.”

As the legislative battle continues into the fall, our message must be clear. Bring all U.S. troops home safely on a timetable that begins now. They are caught in the middle of a civil war where the U.S. occupation is the problem. The solution to Iraq is political, not military. The war was wrong and it’s time to do our best to right the wrong.

This brutal, ugly, and wholly unnecessary war may finally be coming to an end. And the role of the church could and should be decisive in making it so. I hear no more voices who still say this is a “just war.” Many of us don’t believe it ever was and that the nonviolent path of Jesus has again been vindicated. But regardless of past positions, we should all now agree that unjust wars must be ended as an obligation of faith.

Diana Butler Bass: Loving George W. Bush

Recently, I was talking with someone who serves in Congress, a Democratic representative from a liberal constituency out west. My friend reported that people in the home district—especially those who make up the base—were furious with Congress.

“Over what?” I asked, “That you haven’t ended the war in Iraq?”

“No,” the Member sighed, “that we won’t impeach President Bush.”

This response startled me—perhaps it should not have. According to a poll released last week, 45 percent of American adults think President Bush should be impeached and 54 percent believe that Vice President Cheney should be. A few days before the poll hit the news, I was at my high school reunion in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sipping margaritas at a lovely hotel, many of my classmates—almost all of who had been Teenage Republicans back when—confessed anger about the current administration.

I do not like George W. Bush. I never voted for him. Following Sept. 11, when Bush had a 95 percent approval rating, I was one of the skeptical 5 percent. I think his policies have been consistently divisive, dangerous, and disingenuous. But I do not favor impeaching him.

The last time the nation went through impeachment was, of course, with President Clinton. We now know that the Republican crusade against Bill Clinton distracted that administration from increasing terrorist threats, leading almost directly to the events of Sept. 11. At this moment, it seems like impeaching Bush may play out in a similar way—distracting an already less-than-capable administration from issues with potentially deadly implications. I may not like them, but I want them focused on both terrorism and Iraq.

Of course, the “base” (of which I am part) may protest that Bush’s offenses are far worse than Clinton’s. Therefore, since Congress impeached Clinton, it should impeach Bush. From my perspective, the charge that Bush is worse is true. But the conclusion—that a Democratic Congress should now impeach Bush—strikes me as revenge politics rather than constructive policy. What is needed now is a reconciling national vision to pull troops from Iraq in the least harmful way, to restore American credibility in international affairs, and to direct attention toward the real threat of terrorism.

For religious voters, the call for impeachment should act as a call for discernment. What do spiritual and religious progressives believe God wants us to do? Since 2004, a renewed religious left has regained a voice in the politics. But much of that voice has been around policies—specific recommendations about poverty, immigration, and peace. But faith-filled politics is about more than policies. Progressive Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims ought to engage more than policy concerns. We also bring to the table dispositions and practices of faith, ways of being that strengthen the polis—things like mercy, charity, love, forgiveness, hospitality, and justice—that create more generous, loving, and honest community. Our policies should reflect who we are; our outer concerns and inner lives should interweave.

Impeachment is the politics of retaliation, a tool of political violence that should be used in the most extreme of circumstances (and something that was wrongly used against President Clinton). Religious progressives should not practice tit-for-tat politics. We are supposed to be peacemakers, agents of forgiveness, and those who build bridges across human divides. Drawing from this disposition, we are called to practice reconciliation—to create restorative possibilities for trust, healing, and shalom where no such hope currently exists.

Like many Americans, I am angry. And I am not particularly in the mood to forgive an administration that has endangered the course of human history for the next century. As much as I hate to say it, I am called to love George W. Bush and I do not think impeaching him serves that end. As a Christian, and as a religious progressive, I must move beyond revenge politics to reach deeply for spiritual dispositions and practices that nurture God’s dream for shalom. And I fear that if the religious left only becomes part of the “base,” our desire for a wiser and more just America will fail before it even begins.

Diana Butler Bass ( is the author of the award-winning Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco, 2006). Her fellow 1977 Saguaro High School classmates remembered her as an officer in the Teenage Republicans—and were surprised that she is now a Democrat and writes for Sojourners.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler: Daily News Digest

the latest reports on the presidential campaign, illegal drugs, the Iraq war and policy, Japan’s nuclear accident, Iran, Darfur, the Mideast, human rights, Pakistan, and a bit of satire

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Voice of the Day: Mary John Mananzan

In the early Christian communities, the character of the Jesus movement found expression in the abolition of social distinctions of class, religion, race, and gender.

- Mary John Mananzan

Quoted in Cry Freedom, by Charles Ringma
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