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Reading Maya Angelou

IMG_5286I owe a debt of profound gratitude to my friend Vill Harmon (second from left in this photo with my good friends and two ACT3 board members). Vill is the secretary in the office of Ecumenical and Interreligious for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In July (2015) Vill and I shared a conversation about our background, especially in terms of race and the South. Vill is African-American, and a great friend. I have come to cherish her advice and joyful spirit. When Vill encourages me to think about my past, and the present issue of race in America, I try to listen. In July she told me I should read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), written by the famous Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014). (Maya’s first name came from her brother Bailey when she was a child.)

9780812980028Maya Angelou was an author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of

Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich’s Response to the Supreme Court’s Ruling

bioIn my post yesterday I referenced the response of some conservative Christian ministers and leaders to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage announced last week. A Chicago news report noted that Archbishop Blasé J. Cupich, on Sunday, July 5, urged Chicago’s Catholics to adopt “mature and serene reflections as we move forward together.” Cupich noted that the Court’s decision had “redefined civil marriage.” He also said that the Catholic Church has “an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons.” But, he added, “It is also important to stress that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony in which the marriage of man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church. In upholding our traditional concept of marriage, we are called to support those who have entered into this sacred and loving bond with God and each other.”

Can you not see the striking difference in both wording and tone in the archbishop’s response and that of stridently conservative evangelicals and Catholics in other parts

How Should Christians Respond to the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Marriage?

Readers of this blog range across a wide-spectrum of Christian believers. Some readers favor same-sex marriage and (very likely) most do not. While I do not advocate for same-sex marriage, based upon my understanding of marriage primarily (not sexuality), I believe the church has lost its way in regard to mission and purpose. This is why the Christian response to this court decision reveals the deep divisions within our ranks. My friend Dr. David Lescalleet offers us a balanced perspective from the position held by the vast majority of Christian churches around the world. I offer it as a helpful reflection for all of us to ponder prayerfully.

Lescalleet (Dave)What Now?  A Response to the SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

The decision by the United States Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage is now about a few days old. During that time I have read through different articles, commentaries, op-eds, along with a whole host of Facebook posts and twitter feeds. In response, I initially thought it best to refrain from adding to the noise that is, at

Are We Ignoring Domestic Violence?

20138370-domestic-violence-and-abuse-as-a-abstractThe growing problem of domestic violence has come under profound scrutiny in recent months because the problem has surfaced quite often in the world of professional sports. Sports Illustrated, which has a great knack for solid journalism and good writing, has done some remarkably insightful reporting on the problem in several recent issues.

In the April 13, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated, in a column called “Say What?,” the magazine reports that Dallas radio broadcaster Tim Cowlishaw asked female Dallas Cowboys fans to call into his program to complain about the team’s signing of defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy, a talented and needed defender, recently had charges of domestic violence against him dropped. Cowlishaw writes that, “We got [only] three callers, and [they were] fully in support of it [signing him].” Cowlishaw added, “Cowboys fans want to get that next victory more than they care about moral implications.”

Before you castigate sports in general, or even Dallas in particular, think about this again. 20134666-illustration-depicting-a-set-of-cut-out-printed-letters-arranged-to-form-the-word-abuseWide-scale cultural shifts are not created by sports but

Facebook & Twitter: My Life Course Corrections (2 of 2)

ArmstrongFamily 220Yesterday I wrote about my personal journey in using the social media. In particular I wrote about Facebook and Twitter. I am not an expert on these media resources by any stretch. I do know how they have impacted my personal life. As a result of reflecting upon these social media resources I shared in that previous blog post how I will make changes beginning this week.

I will continue to blog. I will post my own material on this (my) blog site. I will also publish material from guest bloggers who hold various viewpoints and who are in my network of friends and Christian leaders. These will not be mere links to public sites and news feeds but articles and opinions that I post on my blog site with my knowledge and oversight. Generally, I will post only once a day. My sense of frequency feels like I will post 3-5 times a week. Most posts will be 300-500 words, some longer. It depends on the content and time I have to write. I will link all

Has the Political Support for Same-Sex Marriage Leveled Off?

imagesHas American political support for same-sex marriage leveled off in recent months? A recent Pew Research Center poll says: “Yes.” After years of continual and dramatic growth for the support of same-sex marriage this growth may have slowed, if not stopped. The poll’s authors caution that it is too soon to make definitive conclusions about this new data. To give but one example of the data, since February this new poll reveals that support for (legal) same-sex marriage has declined from an approval of 54% to 49%. The percentage of those opposed during the same period went from 39% to 41%.

The same survey showed that religious influence in America was also declining. Yet most who were surveyed saw this decline as a negative. Interestingly, about half of the respondents said churches and houses of worship should speak out more openly on public issues. And nearly half of all respondents said businesses should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples if the owners have religious objections.

I think the most amazing number from this new Pew Research was

S. Truett Cathy: RIP – What Can the Church Learn from the Same-Sex Debate?

Unknown-3Last Thursday I noted the passing of the controversial Irish Presbyterian minister, Rev. Ian Paisley. In the same Sunday newspaper (September 14) there was also mention of the passing, at the age of 93, of S. Truett Cathy. Cathy, as many will know by the mention of his name, is the founder and billionaire who built the famous restaurant chain, Chick-fil-A. The chain is known for many reasons, one of which is that it is closed on Sunday. The other, at least in the images and thoughts of millions who view the popular culture, is the amazingly funny commercials that are aired on television with cows telling us why we should “Eat More Chikin.”

Cathy opened his first restaurant in an Atlanta suburb in 1946. His boneless chicken sandwich would propel the franchise to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states. By 2013 the company said that its annual sales topped $5 billion. The company is family-owned thus it is the Cathy family who seem poised to continue to hold to the core values that their father promoted. Cathy’s personal fortune

Divorce, Remarriage and the Insights of Deep Ecumenism

One of the enduring problems that all churches face is how to deal with the moral and ecclesial questions related to divorce and remarriage. The most obvious difficulties have ensued in the Catholic Church due to its interpretation of Matthew 19 as a prohibition against all divorce. Here Jesus very clearly speaks about divorce but the understanding of this text has presented no small problem for Christian interpretation.

Our Lord says:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause? He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They

He Who Finds a Wife Obtains Favor From the Lord

img_0006“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Forty-three years ago, on this day, I “found” a wife. My bride, Anita Ruth Siml, became Mrs. John Armstrong, my beloved companion and best friend. She always told me that the name Mrs. Armstrong sounded like my mom so I never actually called her that, in public or in private. Yet that is what the minister said to us once he pronounced us husband and wife: “I present to you Mr. and Mrs. John Armstrong!” Never have I heard words that thrilled me more.

It did not take long for Anita and me to realize that we were truly in love but just as truly that we were so opposite of each other in a number of ways. As we discovered just how different we really were we began to realize, slowly at first, just how much we had to change in order to grow in true love. Change we did, by God’s grace and Anita’s patience with me. I learned

By |December 26th, 2013|Categories: Love, Marriage & Family, Personal|

“Crips and Bloods: Made in America” – A Disturbing Film That Needs to Be Seen

220px-Crips_and_Bloods-_Made_in_America_FilmPosterThe first image that you see, in the opening scenes of Stacy Peralta’s powerful documentary, “Crips and Bloods: Made in America,” is the central Los Angeles skyline turned upside down. I was enraptured with this image and thus was immediately taken into this urban scene in a unique visual way. It is both striking and unnerving. With this image of Los Angeles, Peralta telegraphs a theme that will resonate in chilling ways throughout this film–geography matters. Through the medium of this film you are entering a world that’s been truly turned upside down over the last five decades, the world we know as south central LA.

This geography has been more violent than any place of geography in the United States for the past twenty-five years. Into a social and cultural vacuum created by numerous social and familial problems arose the famous gangs that we know as the Crips (Blue) and the Bloods (Red) gangs. But where did this story begin? How could more people die in these few square miles than have died in most war zones

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