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    • Frank Lesko
    • Glenmary Home Missioners Director of Catholic-Evangelical Relations travels through Appalachia and the Deep South–building bridges between Christian denominations and reflecting on spirituality, social justice, ministry and culture.

Pride: The Root of all Sin and Division

The Medieval church understood that pride is the granddaddy of all the other sins. How can this be?

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A Tale of Two Americas

We have a very difficult time admitting it. But in order to be healthy and whole and to become the people we want to be (and think we are), it is necessary to come to terms with this. The truth will set us free.

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Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue is a Respect Life Issue

Have you ever paused to consider that dialogue between people of different Christian and non-Christian religious traditions is actually a way to respect life itself?

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Can a White Person be a Victim of Racism?

Racism is discrimination with systemic, social power behind it. Racism is more than just one individual rejecting another based on superficial criteria.

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Love the Racism Out of You

Can we convince white people that their future will be better without racism? Can we convince them that there is a place for them in a more open, diverse, inclusive world?

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Why We Don’t Say ‘Illegals’

In much the same way, undocumented immigrants should not be called “illegals” nor should asylum seekers be said to be “sneaking in.” These terms paint a misleading picture—no doubt to discredit and reduce sympathy for these people. However, spreading a misleading testimony about others is a violation of one of the 10 Commandments.

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Negative Racial Stereotypes in Popular Kids Movies

I’ve been immersed in watching animated films these days along with my toddler. Two of the movies in our daily rotation include Trolls and Sing (both 2016). Both are very well done. Both went to great lengths to offer something for parents as well as for children. And both, I believe, made efforts to avoid negative racial and cultural stereotypes. Yet, in both movies, some unfortunate mistakes fell through the cracks.

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Innkeeper Spirituality

The Samaritan does more than he is asked and goes the extra mile. The Samaritan was obviously busy and had somewhere to be, but he still made arrangements for his absence. Hopefully, he also reflected on why the man was injured in the first place and would raise his voice in public so that the road to Jericho could become a safer place in the future.

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Social Justice, the Good Samaritan and Outsourcing Charity

One of the most common arguments I hear against “social justice” is this:

Many Christians believe the Gospel calls us to get personally involved in doing charity. They argue that we shouldn’t work to improve economic and political systems because that would be outsourcing our Christian responsibilities to a third party, such as the government. For example, they would say Jesus calls us to personally feed the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46), not to pay taxes so that the government can do that for us.

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Christians Knowing Christians Without Agenda

I don’t need or want to change you. But I ought to get to know you. After all, we both profess to follow this same guy Christ. And we inhabit the same public spaces. As a Christian, part of my responsibility is to at the very least get to know Christians of other stripes and build positive relationships, perhaps even mutually-beneficial relationships, whenever possible. Many Christians are already doing this.

And sometimes in doing this I pause and say to myself… “I actually like that you are different from me…. it gives me a chance to learn something new and see things differently.” And maybe somewhere in this we find the miracle of the unity we already have—and a taste of the unity to come.

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Terrorism: Playing with Numbers

I was in a debate recently with some friends about the NFL protests over police brutality. Some folks were saying there are no structural injustices in the police force. Rather, they argued there are some isolated “bad apples” who do bad things. The incidents may be bad, but the number of them is not statistically large when you look at a nation of 300 million (I’m paraphrasing a bit here).

Numbers can be funny. You can get them to say all sorts of things.

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One People Living in Two Worlds

My family and I participated in an interfaith prayer and march for immigrant families last night.I had some fear when we started out. Were we putting ourselves at risk? What if some random people saw the march and decided to get violent? Events like this are seldom dangerous as they are in fact protected speech in the Constitution. However, tensions are building in this country and threats are rapidly becoming much more common. It’s worth pondering whether the rules still apply anymore.

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All Christians are Asylum-Seekers

  A Christian IS an asylum-seeker. All of us. Each of us. By definition. As refugees, don’t we need to flee from the sin of this world? Don’t we come to the proverbial Gates of God’s Kingdom …

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The Words of Jesus We Ignore

Imagine a person praying at bedtime. He is confused. Unsure of what to do in life. What are his next steps, he wonders? He prays fervently to God for direction.

Amazingly enough, God answers!

Love God
Love one another

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River Current: The Physics of Prayer

Most religious traditions affirm the practice of prayer. But have you ever thought deeply about how prayer works?

Do we think there’s a man up in the clouds who hears our prayers and decides whether or not to grant them? Why do we need to pray over and over for something—why isn’t once enough? Why do we pray at all if God already knows our thoughts and desires? Do we think God will be more likely to grant our prayers if we pray for something fervently and repeatedly? Are we trying to prove to God how important something is to us by praying so hard? Are we trying to control God?

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Ecumenism: The Narrow Path that Avoids Cheap Grace

In working toward better relationships–and ultimately unity–among followers of Christ, I often find people who hold two extremes views. Both of them can be guilty of fostering a kind of cheap grace.

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In the Walking, Talking and Breaking of Bread: The Road to Emmaus and Immigration

  I usually like to have things all figured out before I do something. I don’t support charities without researching them nor vote for politicians without applying the same scrutiny. You can get burned if you don’t …

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“We’re a Nation of Laws…”

I often hear the retort “we’re a nation of laws.” Usually, it is given by someone justifying the exclusion of immigrants and a lack of compassion for their very difficult, often mind-numbingly horrific circumstances.

But what these folks probably don’t realize is that they are saying more about who they are than about immigrants. When you say “we’re a nation of laws,” you are setting a standard for yourself–and a good one.

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How White Male Privilege Leads to Fragility and Violence

Society can be tough on white males these days, especially if you are a white male with a conscience. White males have had a disproportionate amount of power for a very long time. The rest of society is clamoring for justice and equality. And rightly so. We are becoming increasingly aware of just how much power and privilege white men have had and just how much that power has been abused.

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Secure Borders in a Christian Contest

Jesus commanded us to “love one another.” A lot of Christians today talk about having “secure borders” in response to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Loving one another and having secure borders are not necessarily opposites—but they can be.

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Racism at our Core: The Divided United States

The US is built with layer upon layer of racism. The most obvious example is that the US was populated mostly by western Europeans who massacred their way across the frontier, wiping out whole cultures of people along the way.

Racism is a driving force even in our education and health care systems. How can this be?

We Americans just don’t see each other as members of the same family and society. If we did, it would be easy to convince each other of the value of investing in each other. We act very differently when we have that sense of shared commonality with others.

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A Climate of Trust

Why are so many people opposed to the conclusions that scientists have reached? No amount of scientific data seems to change some hearts and minds on this issue—even though it should. Sharing statistics, charts, data and reports doesn’t seem to budge the opposition. Most of us do not have advanced degrees in science but usually we do not need that to take what scientists do seriously.

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Should Bloggers Smell like the Sheep, too?

Pope Francis is famous for saying that priests (and presumably other church leaders and ministers) should “be shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.” This statement is often repeated and resonates like a mantra. And rightly so—it reflects a powerful vision of accompaniment, solidarity and servant leadership.

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The Darth Vaderization of America through Guns

There is a cost to living like Darth Vader. Every piece of armor replaces your own flesh and blood. Every wall between you and someone else means another wall between a part of your own self. You could drape armor over yourself, never leave home without packing firepower and be always on the lookout for danger. Somewhere along the line, perhaps in shades of gray, you lose your humanity and become a hunted beast— always on the lookout, always afraid, always griping this metal extension of your body tightly. No one can shoot you, no one can beat you . . . but is there any “you” left?

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The Most Overlooked Reason for Universal Healthcare

We are the richest, most productive nation on earth. Why shouldn’t we enjoy that? Why shouldn’t we make life better for both ourselves as well as fellow members of society? Health care is something everyone wants, and at some point or another everyone will need it. Let’s do it! We have public parks, public schools and public roads. Why not have public access to health care?

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9 Reasons I Never Became Protestant

I have read a lot of articles from my Protestant friends and colleagues celebrating the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation this past year. They varied in timbre and tone—some were overtly triumphalistic while others offered a balanced treatment of the pros and cons.

Despite that, I was struck by how the Reformation just seemed to be taken for granted to be a universally good thing by virtually all Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals. I guess it’s to be expected that people wouldn’t call into question the origins of their own movement. I was still taken aback by how it was simply taken for granted. Whether it is spoken outright or simply implied, the idea that the Reformation was simply a good thing seems embedded within the American consciousness, even at the secular level.

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Abandoning Trench Warfare: 8 Ways to Find Common Ground in the Abortion Debate

More than any other issue, abortion is the poster child of the polarized culture wars. People just scream at each other. They recite talking points, often with their fingers firmly in their own ears. They lob verbal grenades at each other while staying lodged within their respective bunkers. Neither side gives an inch, and, perhaps because of this, neither side advances an inch. These steps are repeated ad infinitum. Many are weary of the fighting but don’t know how to stop.

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A Surprising Place of Common Ground in the Mass Shootings Debate

The best solution is that we as a whole society should come together and make a social contract with each other—making the free choice to give up the use of some weapons because the lives of our children are simply more important—and their freedom to live is more important than our freedom to own weapons of mass destruction.

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Where Charity and Love Prevail: The Matthew 25 Solidarity Test

When people express opinions about a particular issue, I always look to see how charitable they are in this. Do they take the concerns of others seriously and try their best to get to the bottom of it? Or do they simply dismiss their concerns outright without getting involved? That is often a clue as to whether their opinions are in line with Christian discipleship.

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How Toxic Shame Turns Evangelization Into Abuse

Toxic shame is one of the most powerful forces in human culture.

It is commonly discussed in therapy and self-help circles. People also regularly talk about the “guilt and shame” of cultural Christianity, especially as it relates to sexuality.

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What’s Fundamental to a Fundamentalist?

The term “fundamentalism” was first coined in relation to the Christian Fundamentalist movements which originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They largely came out of American and British Protestantism. In particular, the series of books called The Fundamentals, published in 1910-1915, gave the movement its name.

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2 Takeaways from Pope Francis Statement on Capital Punishment

Pope Francis recently made bold comments on capital punishment. He called it “contrary to the gospel” and flat out “inadmissible.” In these words, we are seeing the culmination of what’s been building over the course of several pontificates—John Paul II, especially, but other popes, as well.

There are, at least, two developments happening in Church teaching that I see:

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The Love Affair Doesn’t End With a Few Apologies: The SBC and Racism

The SBC has done much in recent years to leave racism in the past. Public apologies and resolutions have been forthcoming denouncing racism and all its trappings. Milestones include the 1995 apology for its complicity in slavery, the enthusiastic election of an African-American president, Fred Luter, in 2012, and the 2016 repudiation of the Confederate Flag. So this year, when a resolution was proposed to denounce the recent resurgence of white supremacy and the alt-right movement in US culture, it seemed like the stage was set for a routine—but deepening—commitment by the SBC to distance itself from racism in all its forms.

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Christian Unity: Warts and All

I’ve noticed a generational divide in the quest for Christian unity. People of different ages often articulate different priorities.

Many veterans of the work for Christian unity focus on what Christians have in common. Younger ecumenists often talk of finding peace in the midst of real differences.

This divide follows a natural pattern of healing and reconciliation. It reflects more than just two sides of the same coin.

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4 Tools to See the Biblical Big Picture

Scripture is like a tree. Some parts are the roots, some are the branches and others form the trunk. You will run into problems if you correctly read a line that serves as a leaf but try to present it as if it were the trunk. This is partly what it means when experts advise us to read Scripture within its proper context(s). You could even read your favorite lines word-for-word but end up misunderstanding them if you fail to see where they fit within the whole body. This is, of course, the same mistake the Pharisees made. They were so right–and yet at the same time so very wrong.

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Taking One (Knee) for the Team

Race relations in the U.S.A. all too often play out like this:

African-American people: “We have a problem in this country with race, and it is important to us.”
White Americans: “Be quiet!”
African American people: “Lives are impacted both in the past and now.”
White Americans: “Get over it!”

I wish I could say this were an exaggeration. Sadly, I have seen these responses quite literally on the social media pages I manage and elsewhere.

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