America and Americanism

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ISIS and the Importance of Christian-Muslim Relations in the US (Guest Blog)

tom_ryanThe recent 9/11 anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. also brought with it, especially in light of the present actions of ISIS/ISIL , memories of the backlash against Muslim and even Sikh communities on our own continent. Those memories underline how important it is to build relationships with people of other faiths — especially in our efforts to help those who are the victims of such violence and to seek together the common goal of peace.

The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said as much when it reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions and Muslims in particular in a statement released August 19. The committee listed tensions between Christians and Muslims in different parts of the world as a primary reason for reaffirming the need for dialogue.

“We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,” the bishops wrote. “Along

July 4 – Enjoying Freedom With Caution

UnknownI love my country. I believe that true patriotic love for one’s home and nation is a wonderful emotion. I am troubled, however, by a continual insistence that a certain ideology is tantamount to true patriotism. This ideology grows stronger the more polarized we become in our public life. This ideology is also antithetical to the kingdom of Christ yet it easily gets linked with celebrations like July 4. Balanced and healthy Christian patriotism is not blind nor is it silent.

I saw a T-shirt last night at a baseball game which said: “In God We Trust. Deal With It.”

I wanted to ask the wearer what this meant but I was trying to relax, not start a debate. Something about it really bothered me. If, for whatever reason, I do not believe “In God We Trust” should be a national motto on our coins and in other parts of our reigning opinion then I have only one choice: “Deal With It.” So much for my freedom.

What if a person loves their country but sees flaws in it that are harmful

The Legacy of Howard Baker, Jr. (1925-2014)

170px-Howard_baker_jrThe funeral of one of the finest public servants in my lifetime will be held this morning in a small Presbyterian Church in the tiny East Tennessee town of Huntsville. When I first heard of Senator Howard Baker’s passing last week I felt more than a usual measure of sadness about the death of a well-known American. Baker, the former son-in-law of the famous Everett Dirksen, served as Ronald Reagan’s chief-of-staff, as Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate and as an ambassador to Japan. Howard Baker filled many roles during his illustrious public life but the man Howard Baker was an even better person than he was a political leader. Let me tell you why I believe this is true.

Howard Baker (1925–2014) was 88 years old when he died. He rose to prominence when he famously asked at the Senate Watergate Committee hearings: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” The beginning of the end for President Nixon was clear when the voice of Howard Baker was raised in honest doubt about the

Sex Trafficking in the United States: Do You Know The Problem?

I confess that I knew something about global sex-trafficking. I did not realize that this problem was an issue within the United States. This video stunned me and makes me want to see the whole movie when it is released. It challenges us to pray, get involved, get more information and do something to save lives wherever possible. I will not be the same after watching this trailer/presentation. I hope the same will be true for you as well.

Jefferson and Hamilton: The Greatest American Rivalry

UnknownJohn Ferling, professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia, is a wonderful writer of history and biography. I know his name through his evocative treatments of major figures in early American history. His special interest has always been the War of Independence, and the more prominent figures of early American history. He has done it again in a new book that I find quite exciting.

I recently began working my way each day through Ferling’s newest book, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013). The book can also be purchased in a Kindle version for less than $10. For many years I realized that a number of our modern political debates have their real origin in the views, and even the temperaments, of these two giants of early America. But I had far too little comprehension of just how true this observation was until reading Ferling’s excellent book.

The decade of the 1790s has been called “the decade of passion” for good reason. Fervor for the new

The War on Poverty Fifty Years Later

n-LBJ-BIRTHDAY-large570Fifty years today (January 8, 1964), in his first State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proposed a piece of legislation that came to be known as the “War on Poverty.” This legislation was proposed by the president in response to a national poverty rate that had reached around nineteen percent. The speech led the U.S. Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which then established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty. As a part of Johnson’s vision of the Great Society the role of government in education and health care became federal policy.

Under President Clinton this “war” ended. Aspects of the Johnson policy still remain; e.g. Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America, Job Corps, etc. Some of these programs have worked better than others. But the major aspects of the original program ended in the 1990s. I would argue that the major reason they came to an end was the factual evidence that followed their initiation in the 1960s showed

What Shall We Make of JFK and His Presidency?

Unknown-2After writing my Friday blog (11/22/13) about the day that President Kennedy was killed fifty years ago (November 22, 1963), and the impact this had on my life since that fateful day, I have continued to reflect on a myriad of public responses to the assassination. In fact, I have been processing these kinds of responses ever since my college years in the late 1960s.

Over the last few weeks I have heard more interesting opinion, and endured more nonsense, than I can recall. Perhaps all of this is because of the fiftieth anniversary of the president’s assassination in Dallas. This has led me to form a few personal reflections which I hope explain something of the times then (1963), as well our times now (2013). In writing these personal reflections I seek to understand what this momentous event meant then, and what it means for us today.

First, numerous popularizers continue to lionize Kennedy, almost beyond belief. Some of this is to be expected, given the way in which he tragically died. Some of it is pure nonsense,

The Moment That Changed America: My LIfe Fifty Years Later

1101131125_600TIME magazine’s November 25 (2013) cover story says it as well as any single storyline I’ve read the last two weeks: “The Moment That Changed America.” That moment, the assassination of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, occurred fifty years ago today at 12:30 p.m. CST in Dallas, Texas.

If you were alive at the time, and old enough to have a memory of that incredible day, you will never, never forget it. It seemed impossible to comprehend at the time. In many ways it still seems impossible to comprehend, now fifty years later. I think, for example, that we comprehend 9/11 far better. We can fairly easily picture how and why radical terrorists would strike us. We also know who did this, or at least we are fairly certain that we know since someone claimed it and defended it.

Fifty years after the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories are still contentiously debated and the national psyche seems permanently impacted by the tragedy that unfolded in Dealey Plaza on that sunny day.

The death of our young president was captured on

Waiting for Another MLK – What Can We Do As Christians?

My good friend Rev. Carlos Malave, the executive director of Christian Churches Together USA, shared a lovely meal with me in Louisville just a few weeks ago. Carlos was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist church but eventually became a Presbyterian minister. He was drawn to ecumenism while a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was influenced by another friend, Dr. Cecil (Mel) Robeck, Jr. Carlos says of this part of his journey: “What really clicked was a church history class taught by  Robeck, an Assembly of God pastor but a really strange Assembly of God pastor because he was a leading Pentecostal ecumenist. That was captivating to me, his call to work for the unity of the church.” Carlos finished his degree at Fuller and went on to serve as an associate for ecumenical relations in the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Unknown-3In a recent letter to leaders in CCT, titled “Waiting for Another MLK,” Carlos eloquently wrote this appeal:

Are we waiting for another Dr. King? As I collect

Three Films on Race and Racism That Will Help Us as Christians

Seeing popular movies will never change your heart at the deepest level. Yet movies are a powerful art form that can reach into your human heart and this power can deeply impact us, both personally and corporately. I believe 12 Years a Slave does this as well as any movie about race that I have ever seen. Indeed, it is the only full-length feature film to present slavery from the perspective of the slave. Think about that statement for at least a moment. Amistad was a magnificent movie but it was actually about the social and political struggle for abolition in America. So was Amazing Grace, but it too was about abolition in Great Britain. Both of these superb movies deeply move the heart. Roots was the closest thing that we’ve ever had to 12 Years a Slave but Roots was a fictional television series. 12 Years a Slave is based on a true story and moves the viewer profoundly if you will allow it to touch you.

In the light of the power of this amazing story, and because of the artistic medium of modern film,

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