September 10, 2009

Care for all God's Children

As a Christian, I support health care reform because God calls me to care for my neighbor and to seek justice.

As a husband, I support health care reform because my 26-year-old wife was denied health insurance coverage because of childhood operations.

As a friend, I support health care reform because I have friends who have had to gamble with their lives and their livelihoods because they could not afford health insurance.

As an American, I support health care reform because I value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.

Will you join me in working to ensure that quality and affordable health care will be an option not just for some but for all of God's children?

(This was a Letter to the Editor I wrote for the Argus Leader. It appeared on September 9, 2009)

ACT: You can write a letter too. It's easy. Just go to this website to get started. You can find your local paper, see a list of talking points, and write your letter all in one spot.

September 2, 2009

Torture is Wrong

Over the weekend there were several conversations about investigating torture and the morality of torture. I was very disturbed to hear numerous people repeat the idea that if the torture was effective, then it is ok. During a discussion on ABC News, columnist George Will stated "[Whether] or not these techniques are immoral, or how immoral they are, surely depends on whether or not they worked." To Mr. Will and others I say, positive ends do not justify immoral means.

During a weekend discussion on Fox News, Juan Williams of NPR spoke up against this twisted logic.

But let me just if I could say quickly, two quick things. One is, in a democracy you don't torture people. It's against the law. We're having this discussion here like oh well, you know if it works, it's okay. No. It's not okay. You don't torture people.

I think NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard could benefit from talking with Juan Willams. Shepard refuses to describe what Americans have done as torture. But she will refer to what other countries do as torture. This affects all of NPR's reporting.

NPR will use the word "torture" to describe what other governments do because they do it merely to sadistically inflict pain on people while the U.S. did it for a noble reason: to obtain information about Terrorist attack (Salon)

In addition to being waterboarded, it has been revealed that many detainees suffered some of the following acts of torture and abuse:

(a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle (Glenn Greenwald)

In my opinion, it doesn't matter who the person is, because torturing human beings is wrong. God created EVERYONE is God's image, Jesus commanded us to LOVE our neighbor, and how we Treat Others is directly related to how we TREAT CHRIST. It's as simple as that.

Earlier last month there was a story about a 6 year old boy kidnapped by al Qaeda operatives in Iraq and tortured. His captors pulled out each of his tiny fingernails, broke both his arms, and beat him repeatedly on the side of the head with a shovel" (CNN). Torturing children is wrong. Torturing human beings is wrong. Torture is wrong.

For more on why torture is wrong, check out David Gushee's article in Christianity Today
(5 Reasons Torture is Always Wrong)

ACT: Endorse the Call for a Commission of Inquiry (NRCAT)

July 30, 2009

When Pro-Life Purity Kills

While at Faith in Public Life this summer I have had a second row seat watching the efforts to find common ground on abortion. Last month I blogged a little bit about my position, what Obama's been doing, and the new Common Ground blog at RH Reality Check.

Last week the movement for common ground on abortion picked up steam as an exciting new piece of legislation went public. It is called the "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act."

More than three dozen religious leaders and groups from across the ideological spectrum announced their support for landmark legislation unveiled today by Representatives Tim Ryan (OH-17) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) that makes concrete progress toward the shared goal of reducing the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and families (Faith in Public Life Press Release).

When they say "from across the ideological spectrum," they're not joking. We're talking about Jews, Evangelicals, and Planned Parenthood. This legislation has support from pro-life and pro-choice religious leaders, and pro-life and pro-choice secular leaders. It also has support from people like myself who indentify themselves more in the middle.

Despite the legislation having broad support, several conservative organizations and religious groups would not support the legislation and are in fact actively opposing the legislation, as well as criticizing persons who endorsed the legislation.

Commenting on the new divide that has emerged between people, William Saletan writes, "A new fault line has opened in the abortion debate. The fight is no longer between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. It's between militants and pragmatists." Even though "pro-choicers got money for contraception and sex education, [and] pro-lifers got abstinence-friendly curriculum, a bigger adoption tax credit, and financial support for women who continue their pregnancies," pro-life extremists are refusing to have anything to do with pro-choice organizations

But pro-lifers are not fooled -- a vote for either Ryan/DeLauro or the health care bill is a vote to increase abortions." Focus on the Family's activism arm, CitizenLink used a quote to tell their supporters that the legislation was about "death." I believe these statements are not only baseless, but they also represent an immoral and distorted pro-life position.

I understand not wanting to compromise or work together with your rivals, yet I believe there is an unprecedented opportunity before us to actually reduce the number of abortions in America. For over 35 years, millions of Americans have been fighting each other on abortion, and they have spent millions of dollars in the process. Meanwhile there are nearly a million abortions every year in this country. The time has come for a new approach. I hope individual pro-lifers will not stand on the sidelines or stand in the way for common ground on abortion. For to do so, I believe, would be a fatal mistake.

*You can find a 4 page summary of the legislation, as well as the full list of sponsors and their statements over at Third Way.

July 24, 2009

Beer & Conflict Resolution

In case you didn't know, racial tensions still exist in America. We can see this quite clearly by the response to the recent incident in which a Harvard professor was arrested at his home. It's not exactly clear what happened, but basically the police saw Dr. Gates trying to get into his home, however they thought he was an intruder. Tensions arose as Gates felt he was enduring another incident of police misconduct and racial injustice. From the perspective of the police officers, Gates appeared suspicious. When they confronted him, he did not cooperate and he became belligerent.

Obama stirred the pot on Wednesday by suggesting that the police acted "stupidly." Since then allegations have been flying from all over as to the appropriateness of the conduct of the police, the professor, and the president.

Today Obama weighed in again on the situation when he spoke at the White House press briefing. I believe Obama's profound, humorous, and humble remarks, reflect true leadership.

In his remarks, Obama said he'd called Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, and spoken with him. He made some attempts to tamp down the furor, saying his impression of Crowley is that he's "an outstanding police officer and a good man" and that he'd talked with him about the three men -- Crowley, Gates and Obama -- having a beer together in the White House (Salon).

His entire remarks can be found on the link and are worth a read, but here's an excerpt.

My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved...My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what's called a "teachable moment," where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.

Now I'm not much of a beer drinker, or an alcohol drinker for that matter, nor do I think Obama is perfect, but I think we could all benefit from learning from Obama's approach to this conflict.
  • Courageously speaking up for those who are mistreated
  • Knowing when to back off and restate your opinion
  • Praising the positive qualities of your opponents
  • Speaking directly with your opponents
  • Addressing the larger issues at play
  • Finding common ground and humor
  • Working for reconciliation between people
  • Getting together with folks for drinks