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Archive for the ‘politics’ tag

Michelle Obama: “No Place Better” for Political Issues Than in Church

Photo Credit Wikipedia

First Lady Michelle Obama

by Adelle M. Banks
from Religion News Service

First lady Michelle Obama held up the church as the place to deal with political issues and the catalyst for getting people to the polls in a keynote speech Thursday (June 28) to members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“You see, living out our eternal salvation is not a once-a-week kind of deal,” she said in a keynote speech at the historically black denomination’s quadrennial General Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“And in a more literal sense, neither is citizenship.”

She noted that Jesus, too, did not keep his work within the walls of the church.

“And to anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better — no place better,”   she said. “Because ultimately, these are not just political issues — they are moral issues.”

Click here to read full article

 

The Power of Interfaith-Based Community Organizing

LA Voiceby Minister Zachary Hoover

On May 15, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the Responsible Banking Ordinance, which requires banks seeking city contracts to disclose detailed information about their lending and foreclosure practices. This victory allows people to see which banks are investing in their community or being responsible neighbors and which ones are not. Big banks are incredibly powerful and pay millions of dollars for lobbying to write rules that benefit them. Angelenos won a rule that shifts some power back into the hands of the people. And that rule would not have been won without the power of organized religious communities under a common banner.

I am blessed to lead LA Voice, a multiethnic, federation of 25 churches, synagogues, and mosques that is striving to be something healing and striving to do something healing. The climate of racial anxiety, divisive politics that pull at our implicit biases, and the growing diversity of our country urgently call all of us to speak, listen, and struggle together for a different set of outcomes for our cities. Our organizational leaders, clergy and lay, are striving every day to shift the balance of spiritual and political power so that our great city might truly reflect its glorious name and the dignity of all—not just the dignity of those with the means and privilege to protect their opportunity and promote the future of their children, but of all those who have been left out or pushed out of the land of opportunity we claim to inhabit.

Pastors, imams, rabbis and laity from the member congregations of LA Voice have played key leadership roles in the struggle to gain leverage to end unfair foreclosures, to increase small business lending to communities of color, to end costly, unjust police impounds of immigrants’ vehicles—immigrants whom our state does not afford the opportunity to get a driver’s license; and to increase access to food in public housing in East LA. These same leaders have sent clergy to represent them with the Governor of California to influence the outcome of much needed revenue initiatives for our schools, and they have sent thousands of letters and made countless visits to state political offices to write new rules that make life fairer for suffering communities. The power of faith and interfaith struggle is alive and well in many places, including in PICO National Network organizations like LA Voice.

In acting together for justice, our leaders find their voice and voices. When sixty African American Muslims join 700 Christians of all colors and 50 Jews at a gathering to launch a campaign, and their leaders sit together onstage with political and business leaders, I see interfaith power. When Fr. Margarito goes to Shabbat services at a neighboring Jewish community to tell his community’s story and proposes going to city hall together, with translation, new ground is broken. When I, an American Baptist Minister, have the honor to sit with five respected Imams and dream about what we might change together about mass incarceration, as we speak about li ta’arafu and how knowing one another is something God desires for us, I hear interfaith dialogue. When our Jewish leaders from West LA journey to East LA to fight together for a better life for those whose migration is more recent, and they share their personal Exodus stories, and they take the power of that bond into meetings with LAPD, they live interfaith peacemaking. When 250 PICO affiliated clergy gathered in New Orleans last fall to launch an initiative to bring a bolder prophetic voice and the power of organizing to bear to bend the arc of U.S. history toward justice, and those leaders experience moments of discomfort at the different approaches of their fellow clergy, we build new life as they commit to each other despite those gut rumblings. When passersby see clergy of different colors and creed standing together at a press conference, defying what they have heard in the media about how much we all really hate each other, there is a witness to a more powerful Spirit.

I truly find God’s Spirit alive, and where we find power to change our world for the better, is in the messiness of our stories and contending for our public space together. Those same Jews and Christians and Muslims who have won real change have plenty of moments where understanding each other isn’t the first thing that happens—whether it’s a Jewish leader cringing at the “in Jesus’ name,” or a Muslim leader wondering why we haven’t thought about a space for their afternoon prayer on the agenda, or a Christian pastor explaining to a congregant why it is OK for them to be in relationship with non-Christians without aiming for their conversion, or explaining to another Christian how real the power of prayer is in his church.

Organizing is messy. And leaders are the ones who shepherd their people down a new path that leads to more abundant life and wrestles with the consequences of the status quo. We at LA Voice are interested in being with people who want to be together because it gives them the power to be transformed, to transform others, and to change our world. Transformations aren’t real if they don’t change our transactions.

I am not under the illusion that organizing is equally easy in all of the countries to which this newsletter makes its way. I cannot speak about the dangers and fears that must come with organizing right now in Northern Mexico or Syria. And I can only confess shame at the countless opportunities powerful countries like ours miss to act with our human family in other countries. But wherever we are, if we do not use our shared values, stories, and relationships to build real power to unyoke the burden of disproportionate death and suffering that we all allow to be visited upon some while protecting others, then no God can save us. As Bob Dylan says, “You’re gonna’ serve somebody, it might be the Devil, it might be the Lord, but you gonna’ serve somebody.”

Minister Zachary Hoover is Executive Director of LA Voice, an affiliate of the PICO National Network (a national network of faith-based community organizations working to create innovative solutions to problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities).

 

Obama Pays Tribute To First Sikh-American Congressman

Dalip Singh Saund (C), the first Asian-American elected to the Congress, flanked by US President John F. Kennedy (L) and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

from The Link, Leading Indo-Canadian Newspaper

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday heaped praise on Punjab-born Dalip Singh Saund, the country’s first Indian-American member of the Congress. In his address at the annual gala of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, the US President described the late Saund as a “trailblazer”.

“They were trailblazers like Dalip Singh Saund, a young man from India who came to study agriculture in 1920, stayed to become a farmer, and took on the cause of citizenship for all people of South Asian descent,” the President said to applause.

“And once Dalip earned his own citizenship, he stepped up to serve the country he loved-and became the first Asian-American elected to the Congress,” he added.

Saund was born in 1899 in Chhajalwadi village of Punjab. He came to the US in 1920 to study food preservation at the University of California at Berkeley. He eventually switched to mathematics and earned a master degree and a PhD in the subject.

Despite his educational qualifications, Saund took a job as a lettuce farmer since farm labour was the only work South Asians were permitted to do in the US in the 1920s. Indians were also not eligible for US citizenship at that time.

Following an amendment to the law, Saund became a citizen in 1949 and in 1956 was elected as a lawmaker representing California in the Congress, where he served three terms.

Click here to read the full article

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Sparks Discussion around the Media and Religious Knowledge

by Diane Winston and John Green
from the Washington Post

A new survey of news consumers and reporters reveals a significant gap between the two groups [the media and the public] on what’s important and how it’s covered. Two-thirds of the public says the news media sensationalizes religion, a view shared by a little less than one-third of reporters. Significantly, almost 70 percent of the public prefers coverage on religious experience and spirituality, while reporters’ focus is on religion and politics.

…One reason for shortcomings in current coverage is that many reporters lack expertise. Half of those surveyed say they don’t know a lot about religion. Only a fifth claimed to be “very knowledgeable,” and most in that small segment said their information was from their own religious practice, self-study and their family background. In the past, news organizations encouraged staff to attend seminars and workshops for continuing education. But in the recent climate of cutbacks, journalists are reluctant to spend time away from the newsroom even if enhancing their skills.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read the original report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

 

Americans are Polarized on Religion but Agreeable About It

By Katie Glaeser and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux
From CNN

Forget the economy. Debate about contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, even Satan, has attracted just as much attention on the presidential campaign trail in recent weeks.

While culture war issues make headlines galore, an exhaustive study of Americans’ religious attitudes shows the public as a whole might not find the debate so enticing.

Robert Putnam and David Campbell are authors of the recent book “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us” and say that Americans have a knack for being able to disagree about hot button issues without being disagreeable.

“America is very unusual in being able to live comfortably with the people we disagree with,” says Putnam, a Harvard University professor who also wrote the book “Bowling Alone.”

Putnam and Campbell, of Notre Dame University, spent several years surveying thousands of Americans, seeking to understand how voters deal with religious differences.

Their portrait of the American faithful does reveal some rising tension. Putnam and Campbell found that the nation has grown increasingly polarized as more people either strongly identify with a particular religion or avoid organized religion altogether. But this polarization doesn’t always mean conflict.

“If you only read the newspapers, you’d think that Americans really were at each others throats when it comes to religion” Campbell says.

Click here to read the full article

Why Is Religion So Big in American Politics?

January 23rd, 2012 at 10:45 am

Jimmy Carter: the Role of Faith in Peace Talks, Politics, and Private Devotions

by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post

Jimmy Carter is the 39th president of the United States, founder of the Carter Center and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He has authored many books, the most recent being “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President.” In this wide-ranging interview, HuffPost’s Senior Religion Editor spoke to President Carter by phone about the role faith played in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the time of his greatest alienation from God, faith in the White House and his personal daily devotional practice.

In addition to being a Governor of Georgia and President of the United States, you are known as a Sunday School teacher. Are you comfortable with that identity?

I started teaching Sunday school when I was 18 at the Navel Academy Chapel. I led services when we were out at sea while I was in the navy; taught Sunday school 14 times when I was U.S. President at First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. I just finished my 650th lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church, so you might say I have been a Sunday school teacher all my life.

Who were some of your most influential religious teachers?

Well, my father was the main one. He was a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher, and I started going to Sunday school when I was 3. He shaped my early knowledge of Jesus, and I was baptized as a Christian when I was 11 years old.

Later, Billy Graham was probably the closest one to me. I believed what my father taught me about the separation of church and state, so when I was President I never invited Billy Graham to have services in the White House because I didn’t think that was appropriate. He was injured a little bit, until I explained it to him.

Among the theologians, I think Paul Tillich is probably the one I have read the most because he shaped my thoughts about the relation between religion and politics and the fact that religious faith was not incompatible with political service. I tried to apply my religious beliefs when I was governor and later president without being ostentatious about it.

But I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about theology. Most of my knowledge comes out of my experience and the lessons in the Bible. Every Sunday I’m home I teach 45 minutes and we boiled them down to one page for the new book, “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter.”

Click here to read the full article

Asking the Right Questions: from the Keystone XL Hearings to an Occupied Wall Street

by Yaira Robinson
from State of Formation

Word on the progressive street was, the Koch brothers and Big Oil were paying for busloads of people to come to the State Department hearings and speak in favor of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The fat-cat-funded union and industry folks would be there early, with signs, stacking the lines, making it difficult for those opposed to the pipeline to speak and be heard. One more example of big corporate money silencing grassroots voices.

That was the story. Whether it’s completely true or not doesn’t really matter; it got the environmental community geared up for a fight. At the hearing scheduled in Austin for Wednesday, September 28th, we wouldn’t be silenced, or bullied. The hearing would start at noon, but we’d be prepared.

The first environmentalists arrived at 7:30 a.m. Already, though, there were about 30 people in line, supporters of the pipeline, wearing matching fluorescent orange and green t-shirts with the word “JOBS” in capital letters. By 9:30 a.m., there were at least a hundred people in line, and many environmental advocates were now wearing matching t-shirts, too—light blue ones that read, “NO tar sands.”

The opposing sides could now be clearly identified by the color of their t-shirts.

I was there representing Texas Interfaith Power and Light, bringing religious voices to the table. That morning, we held a public interfaith service of prayer and purpose, and offered words at a coalition press conference. Later, a number of religious leaders would testify in opposition to the pipeline.

Click here to read the full article

October 14th, 2011 at 10:06 am

Occupy Interfaith: Why Millennials, Including The Irreligious, Need To Care About Religion

by Chris Stedman
from Huffington Post

When I was in high school, civil disobedience excited me. I participated in a school walkout in protest of the Iraq War, staged a demonstration outside of a conference for anti-gay “reparative therapy,” and regularly got together with friends to make T-shirts boasting our political positions. Though the underlying political motives behind these actions were sincere, I recognize in hindsight that a big part of why I was drawn to such activism was that it hinged on solidarity and cooperation.

I was reminded of these efforts this weekend, when I decided to take my Saturday night off to check out the Occupy America (a national movement born out of Occupy Wall Street in New York City) effort in my city.

I decided to go because I have been tracking it online for some time, and many of my friends and peers have been involved from the beginning. While the participants I encountered on Saturday ranged in ages, Occupy America has frequently been referred to as a “youth-driven” movement, and the statement isn’t without merit. Though participation has been and continues to be intergenerational, there seems to be a particularly strong representation from young people.

As a 24-year-old, I’m part of the Millennial Generation – the generation following Generation Y, born in the 1980s and 1990s. We’re a generation that, according to studies by Pew and others, is supposed to be unconcerned and unengaged with the political process. Yet we defied such classification by coming out in droves for the 2008 Presidential election, and I believe that the Occupy America movement is demonstrating once more that we can surprise prognosticators and muster up unanticipated energy and organization to mobilize for social change.

Still, we remain a generation that is, in some ways, defined by apathy. This is perhaps no more obvious than it is in Millennials’ relationship with religion.

Click here to read the full post

Out of the Shadows of 9/11

Auburn Seminary, Millennials, Moral Vision, and Movement-Building

by Valarie Kaur

“We need to have an ‘American spring’… nonviolent change where people from the grassroots get involved again.”  – Former Vice President Al Gore, August 2011

We’re hungry for a movement. Faith and moral communities around the globe are tired of politics that maintain the status quo. Here in the U.S., a rising generation is finding brave new ways to channel moral vision into action: we’re marching in the streets for immigration reform, holding the banner of marriage equality, pushing back on anti-Muslim rhetoric, and demanding an end to partisan politics.

But we’re not being heard. A small segment of the American population still holds the monopoly over ‘morality’ on the airwaves and in the halls of power.  As we near the end of the 9/11 decade, these voices continue to dominate public discourse and proclaim the language of faith for restrictive political agendas, stripping the dignity of immigrants, denigrating LGBT people, and fueling anti-Muslim ideologies.

The moment is ripe for people from across faith and moral communities to take action.  This ten-year anniversary of 9/11, our congregations and communities are holding vigils, walks, hearings, screenings, and community service projects that stand for compassion, renewal, and religious diversity in all 50 states.  What would happen if we connected the dots and saw ourselves as part of one movement?  What would happen if we announced ourselves as part of a groundswell of people across faiths and beliefs committed to heal and repair the world?

We could form the beginning of a new multifaith movement for justice.

I’m part of a multifaith coalition, based out of Auburn Seminary in New York City but extending across the country, working to inspire a groundswell of community this ten-year anniversary of 9/11.  We’re chronicling, connecting, and resourcing events across the U.S. that bring people together in healing and hope.  We’re inviting people to sponsor Ribbons of Hope to New York City, which we will weave into a diverse tapestry that represents the groundswell.  And we are mobilizing a multifaith network to surge into national and local media to eclipse anti-Muslim rhetoric and ideologies – now and through the 2012 election.

We believe that the end of the 9/11 decade marks the rise of a new generation ready for meaningful change. The Millennial generation, young people born roughly in the 1980s and 1990s, belong to the most open and diverse generation the country has seen. We form real and virtual communities that transcend old divides: right and left, black and white, religious and secular At the same time, we have come of age in the shadow of major crises: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the threat of climate change, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a punishing economic recession. Many of us mobilized to elect President Barack Obama but widespread disillusionment with the political process has since set in.  We want a movement that’s not about a political identity, particular tradition, but a shared moral vision for a better world.

We don’t need to wait for this moral center to emerge.  Thousands of faith and moral communities across the U.S. are already working from a sense of moral calling that has nothing to do with politics – alleviating poverty, protecting immigrants, and facilitating multifaith cooperation this 9/11 anniversary for example.  They’re just working alone.  The light of social justice flickers in brave corners but fizzles in isolation.  To achieve meaningful change in a networked society, we must shine that light in a bold constellation.

With the rise of a new generation, innovations in online organizing, and widespread hunger to respond to social challenges as interconnected, we can build a movement of faith and moral communities networked for change in the run-up to the 2012 election.  Together, we offer a brand new voice in the political system – faith and moral communities willing to transcend old divides, organize around shared moral imperatives, and take action on urgent social causes.  America needs this voice, now more than ever, to come from outside Washington, rather than from within it.  We just need to proclaim our voice as one, starting now. Join the groundswell.

Valarie Kaurdirector of Groundswell, is an award-winning filmmaker (Divided We Fall, 2008), Harvard-trained theologian, and social justice advocate.  She studies at Yale Law School, where she teaches visual advocacy as director of the Yale Visual Law Project.  Housed at Auburn SeminaryGroundswell is a new multifaith social action network that generates the moral force around urgent social causes.

Want to learn more?  Auburn Seminary will host a special teach-in “Out of the Shadows of 9/11: Millennials, Moral Vision, and the Global Groundswell” with thought leaders, including Valarie Kaur, on September 6th at 7pm in New York City.  Click here to RSVP or to watch live streaming.

Join the groundswell.  Send a Ribbon of Hope to Ground Zero on 9/11/11.