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“Black Lives Matter” – Michelle Higgins @ Urbana 2015

Many evangelical and conservative Christians, especially older white Christians of conservative persuasion, are weary of the popular slogan: “Black Lives Matter.” Some are even angry at the actual movement that is associated with this name and believe it is harmful to our culture. I’ve heard various responses regarding this negative view of the slogan and the movement but the most common is that this is a bogus notion because Christians should say, and believe, that: “All Lives Matter.” The truth is, as often is the case, much deeper and more socially and personally nuanced.

It is true that “All Lives Matter.” From conception to the grave life matters. This is, at least for the broad tradition of Christian faith and practice, the truth. This is why I believe the death penalty needs to be abolished. It has become a “cruel and unusual punishment” in its present form. (This assumes it was right in the past and I even question this conclusion on ethical grounds as I understand the New Testament and the teaching of our Lord.) I also believe environmental concerns must become the concern of the

Jimmy Carter: A Full Life

Jimmy-Carter-headshotLike so many I have had a mixture of feelings and responses to President Jimmy Carter over the years. It seems to me that most critics, left and right, have freely attributed to him the label of “poor president” or “political failure.” I wonder what history, long after his death, will actually say. Many thought that Harry Truman was a failure until after his death. Maybe Carter’s legacy will meet a similar fate but I have my doubts. If a president is known for his legislative accomplishments then Carter will always be seen as mediocre at best. Among conservatives he is loathed and even seen as the definition of failure and disappointment. (This was true at least until we elected President Barack Obama, who is now classed as lower than Jimmy Carter ever was by the same critics.)

It is ironic, perhaps, that Jimmy Carter is the only U.S. president I actually met in person. (It was brief and not memorable.) I have been to most of the presidential libraries and museums and read a great

International Justice Mission

My very good friend Mark Moore (Plano, Texas) just became a regional director for a mission called International Justice Mission. I am really thrilled for him and thus I am very excited to share this incredibly fruitful mission with you, my online friends. Some of you already know about IJM. Others can learn from seeing this wonderful TED Talk by the founder behind this great movement.

Watch Gary’s talk at the IJM website and learn more here.

The Week That Dramatically Altered the Culture Conflict and the Future of the Church

th-1Response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has been all over the map, to say the least. We have seen some amazing celebrations and all the expected denunciations from many Christians. At First Baptist Church in Dallas the pulpit was adorned with red, white and blue last weekend. The pastor called the ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.” Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Dallas, said the court had acted in a way that represented “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion.” The White House, in contrast, was bathed in the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement. Many other churches, mostly Protestant mainline congregations, called attention to the decision with prayer and joy.

The pastor at First Baptist in Dallas said he was not discouraged at all. He added, “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.” Now, if ever there was a line I personally agreed

James Martin Shows the Importance of the Pope’s Encyclical in Ten Ways

Some readers know that I am a big fan of James Martin, the best-selling Jesuit author who is one of our most powerful Christian communicators today. Fr. Martin summarizes, in this short video, why the new papal encyclical is so important for all Christians.

The Pope’s Controversial Encyclical

Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, the much-discussed encyclical of Pope Francis on human care for the creation, embraces what the pope calls a “very solid scientific consensus” that humans are causing cataclysmic climate change that has been endangering the planet for decades. This conclusion has caused some conservatives, especially talk-show hosts and their followers, to trash the pope’s thought and motives.

One evangelical talk-show host/author called Pope Francis a socialist liberal. He told his audience that the pope has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the real science of environmentalism. But he has bought an agenda and misled the church and the public. Another suggested that the pope needed to study science more closely, an odd criticism since this pope has seriously studied science and is surrounded by an entire body of serious scientists who served his writing of this encyclical.

AP989948985495-1024x682Let’s be honest – the devil is always in the details. Most people admit that the environment is changing, mostly for the worse. What is debated is the cause.

God, the Ebola Crisis and the American Response

You cannot escape it even if you try. The Ebola outbreak dominates the news cycle day-after-day right now. So long as this virus impacts even one American millions of Americans will keep on watching this endless reporting. Once it dies down, at least in terms of being a threat to the US, then we will soon forget about it. Meanwhile West Africans will die by the thousands. I am not cynical about this at all. I simply think that this is the way news goes on day-by-day inside the bubble of life here in the US.

If you’ve ever traveled abroad you will soon realize just how America-centric we are in terms of what interests us. News of the world fills one page in most daily newspapers in the US. It only makes the TV news if it impacts Americans directly. (The one exception happens when a great tragedy strikes some part of the globe and then it will be mentioned once or twice and forgotten.) In Europe the news reporting covers a bit of local interest, the world at large and then America. We have this

Same-Sex Marriage Dividing a Local Parish

On the same day that I read the Associated Press report that I referenced yesterday regarding the new Pew Research about same-sex marriage there was another report from Great Falls, Montana. This story struck me as one filled with profound pain and difficulty.

Church PictureRoman Catholic Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings conducted a meeting with about 300 parishioners from St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown on Saturday, September 20. There is a huge controversy inside the St. Leo congregation. Fr. Samuel Spiering, the priest at St. Leo’s, has decided to prohibit a gay couple from receiving the Eucharist unless they take three steps. First, they must legally divorce. Second, they must live separately. And third, they must write a statement affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman. The 300 people from the parish who met with their bishop were said to be evenly divided about the counsel of their priest. (Note: This is not an urban center where large numbers of gays might live in communities.)

The same-sex couple, in

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

The Reformation of the Vatican – The Sad Case of Józef Wesołowski

JOSEF WESOLOWSKIVatican watchers, especially non-Catholics who love the Roman Catholic Church as I do, watch and pray for further reforms that are needed inside the Church. I was pleased to read this week of the Vatican putting Józef Wesołowski, its former nuncio (ambassador) to the Dominican Republic under house arrest on Tuesday, September 23.

Archbishop Józef Wesołowski was born in Nowy Targ, Poland, on 15 July 1948. He was ordained a priest in Kraków on 21 May 1972 by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II. He was appointed as nuncio to Bolivia on 3 November 1999. On 6 January 2000 he was consecrated Titular Archbishop of Sléibhte by John Paul II. During the course of 2002 he was appointed as nuncio to the Central Asian countries of KazakhstanTajikistanKyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. On 24 January 2008 he was appointed nuncio to the Dominican Republic. In 2013 he was identified by a 13-year-old boy as the man who took sexual lurid photographs of him on his cell phone. He was removed

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